Light Blue 8.2.6

We’ve just released Light Blue 8.2.6, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 8.2.6 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • Added “Most Recent Payment Date” and “Most Recent Payment Method” fields to the Purchases section. These fields can be included in list view, queries, or when exporting data.
  • Added buttons to save and reload field import orders to the “Import Purchases From CSV” command.
  • Accepting a contract that doesn’t include a form now takes you to the linked shoot record, just like accepting a contract with a linked form already does.
  • The %SaleInvoiceNumber% mail-merge tag is now blank when you use it in the wrong context, rather than making it look like it was used from an uninvoiced sale.
  • Renamed the “Send Now” buttons in the workflow email and text message dialogs to make it more obvious that clicking the button will convert the message from a workflow message to a normal message.
  • Changed the character encoding of our CSV data exports to UTF8 with a byte order marker. This ensures that Excel and other apps will open the correct encoding.

Keeping in touch with your customers this Christmas

At this time of year, many photographers are getting in touch with their customers in order to send their season’s greetings. You might be sending everyone a festive newsletter or posting them a Christmas card.  You’ve been adding information to Light Blue throughout the year, and now’s a perfect time to get that information to go to work for you.

Using Light Blue you can find the records of customers who matter the most to you, and then use various tools within Light Blue to send them a festive message.

Querying for records

In an earlier blog post, we wrote in some detail about using the query dialog to dig deep into your data & find records that you were interested in.

You can design a query to find the contacts that you’re interested in reaching – perhaps all of your customers who’ve spent over a certain amount?

When you press Query, Light Blue will display a list of records that fit all the criteria in your query. You can use that information in a number of different ways.

Exporting email addresses to Mail Chimp

If you plan to send out a lot of emails in one big festive mail shot, you could export a spreadsheet of your customers email addresses to upload to an email marketing software like MailChimp. Light Blue is great if you want to email a small number of contacts, but you have to be very careful when you start sending too many emails via your own email account: sending large volumes of mail has the potential to flag you as a spammer, and so we recommend using a dedicated service like MailChimp for this.

Using the results of the query you ran earlier, simply click Records > Export Email Addresses to save a CSV spreadsheet which can be uploaded as part of an email campaign.

Sending Christmas Cards

You may prefer to post your customers a Christmas card. Printing your customer’s addresses onto labels or envelopes en mass is really simple. After performing your query, simply click Print/Send and choose the Labels / Envelopes option to print all of the primary addresses of your main contacts onto labels or envelopes.

Using mail-merge documents to send a personalised letter

If you are posting out a Christmas card, you may want to enclose a personalised letter. This could be a newsletter telling your customers about the past year in your studio or maybe letting them know about upcoming offers in the New Year.

We’ve got a handy tutorial all about using your own word processor software to generate template letters:

There’s also a comprehensive list of all of the mail-merge tags that you can use in Light Blue, which will populate your template documents with information from your records.

Once you have created your template document you will need to select the customers to send it to. Again, using the results of the query you ran earlier, go to Records > Add to found set > Document from Template.

Select the template you created earlier, then save the documents to your desktop ready for printing.

You can choose to add a copy to these records’ Activity panel (but this option can use a lot of disk space if your document template is large).

Do you send your customers a festive message? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you keep in contact with customers throughout the year.

Light Blue 8.2.5

We’ve just released Light Blue 8.2.5, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 8.2.5 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

Here’s a list of the changes that we’ve made in this update:

  • Worked around a change in Google’s account authorisation page that could prevent you from authorising Google Calendar publishing on Windows.
  • Changed the character encoding of our CSV data exports from UTF8 to UTF16 to work around a problem where Excel can fail to decode some characters properly when it reads a UTF8 file.
  • Fixed an error message that appeared when you create an email from the Resources panel of the Preferences window.
  • When you accept a contract that includes quotes, Light Blue now only reject other quotes for that shoot that were included in that contract. Previously, it would reject all other quotes for that shoot, even if they weren’t included in the contract.
  • Fixed a problem where mail-merge tags that should contain multiple lines (e.g. %ContactAddress% or %ShootSchedule%) are being displayed on a single line when used in an email.
  • Fixed a problem where the “Check For Updates” command on Windows could display the “you already have the latest version of Light Blue” message twice.

Light Blue 8.2.4

We’ve just released Light Blue 8.2.4, which adds more new features and some bug fixes.

You can update to Light Blue 8.2.4 by using the “Check For Updates” command from within Light Blue. You’ll find that in the Light Blue menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the Help menu if you’re using Windows. You can also download the installer for the latest version of Light Blue by logging into your account on our website.

The main focus of this update is on improvements to our Google Calendar publishing feature and adding some new fields that are particularly helpful when using Light Blue’s powerful querying and marketing tools. For example, you can now limit a query for contact records to just those contacts that are the head of a group (e.g. so that you can build a query for all of this year’s family portrait clients but limit the results to just your main contact).

Here’s a full list of the changes that we’ve made:

  • When you switch on Google Calendar publishing, you’re now given the option of using one of your existing calendars instead of creating a new one. The “Reset Google Calendar” button also allows you to reset your current calendar, rather than creating a new one.
  • Reduced the number of Google Calendar API problems that would cause the “Publish To Google Calendar” checkbox to be automatically un-ticked.
  • Added “head of group” fields to the query dialog, list view, and export fields for contact records.
  • Added an “Is Head Of Group” field to contacts.
  • Added “All Contact Names” and “All Contact Names And Roles” fields to the query dialog, list view, and export fields for shoot records.
  • Reinstated the popup that appears when you click on a link in our HTML editor, so you can edit, clear, or visit the link’s URL.
  • ShootProof orders are now always imported with tax-exclusive pricing, because that’s the pricing that their API provides.
  • Typing into the Inbox search box now only runs the search when you finish typing.
  • Fixed a crash that could occur when importing a CSV file with bad character encoding.
  • Fixed a problem that could cause text to be accidentally deleted when you’re drafting an email.
  • Fixed a problem on macOS where PDFs and printed output would use a slightly larger font size than in previous versions of Light Blue.
  • Fixed a problem where applying a positive font size adjustment didn’t work.

Speed up your workflow by importing your orders from Fundy

As a busy social photographer, you’re always looking for tools that will help to lighten your workload and save you time. Our friends at Fundy help to save time with all your photo design needs.

With Fundy designer you can design albums and signing books, create wall art, design web collages and watermark images all in one software, but did you know they also do IPS?

Selling products to your clients face-to-face after a portrait session is a long-established method of taking orders and making money. Many photographers choose the in-person sales or IPS model as they believe it is part of giving their client a great customer experience. It will often result in better sales than online galleries as it’s much easier to sell wall art and albums in person when the customer can see the different products you offer.

Light Blue is the core of all of your photography businesses admin and there are substantial advantages to having all of your business information in one place. To help you to have the complete picture, Light Blue can import your in-person sales orders from Fundy, a great way to keep on top of your finances!

After an IPS session, recording your client’s order and linking it to their shoot record in Light Blue helps you to see how successful that session was as well as giving you the all-important bigger picture within your business.

“Recording you IPS sales has never been easier with the new integration between Fundy Designer and Light Blue.”

Andrew “Fundy” Funderburg
Founder Fundy Software

In the guide below we’ll show you how to manage an IPS session in Fundy, then export the helpful information and bring it into Light Blue so that you can link everything together.

One of the great things about doing an IPS session is that you can show clients exactly how their images could look as a canvas or frame on the wall. There are a number of rooms built into the software, but you can also upload images of your client’s homes to show them exactly how their wall art could look in their own home.

Once you’ve decided on the size and framing you can add the framed print to your client’s order.

To view the items in your client order click on the image browser button.

Select the orders tab to show you what’s already been added to your client’s order. You can also add extra items to your order such as prints or cards.

Selecting ‘add print’ will bring up a dialogue box and allow you to select sizing and add notes to your order.

When you have finished adding items you will click on ‘view order’ to see the final selection.

You can then export this order by selecting ‘Export> Studio Management XML’.

Once you’ve exported your order from Fundy, you’ll want to import it as a sale in Light Blue. To do this, go to the Records menu, select Import, then ‘Sale From Fundy XML File’.

This will import the Fundy order into Light Blue as a sale. It’s really important to remember that you still need to turn the sale into an invoice, even if you’ve already taken payment for the sale from the customer. Turning the sale into an invoice flags it for inclusion in various reports in Light Blue. You will get a reminder to do this when you import the XML file.

You can choose whether to send the invoice to your customer. If you’ve already given them a copy of their Fundy order at the viewing session, you can uncheck the Print/Send box and Light Blue will simply create an invoice number for the sale.

You’ll also want to make sure that you link the sale to your shoot record. Click on the cog in the linked shoot record and choose ‘Link Shoot’.

Start typing the shoot name and it will appear in the drop down menu.

If the customer has already paid you for the order you can mark is as paid simply by clicking the “Add Payment” button on the sale record.

By importing your Fundy orders into Light Blue, you’ll always have a clear idea of your sales income, as all that information is in one place. We hope you find this helpful in streamlining your order system. We also have integrations from Shootproof and theimagefile which we will cover in future blog posts. We looked at our integration with ProSelect in this blog post.

We’d love to know if you are already using some of these integrations and how you find it helps you & your business!

macOS Catalina

tl;dr: Light Blue 8.2 is fully compatible with macOS Catalina and is a free update for all of our subscribers.

Apple have just released this year’s major macOS update, macOS Catalina. Catalina includes some really big changes behind the scenes, including dropping support for 32-bit apps and introducing new security and privacy measures.

We recently released Light Blue 8.2, which is fully compatible with macOS Catalina. You can update to Light Blue 8.2 by using the “Check For Updates” command in Light Blue or by downloading the installer from your Light Blue account.

Mandatory health warning: As with all major operating system updates, it is a very sensible idea to be cautious about updating all of your computers and mobile devices at the same time. If you rely on Light Blue to run your business, we would therefore recommend holding off from updating your operating system as soon as the latest version of macOS comes out. At the very least, if you absolutely must update on day one, make sure that you have at least one computer on the ‘old’ operating system until you’ve had a chance to test that all of the apps that you depend on are fully functional.

Light Blue 8.2

We’ve just released Light Blue 8.2, which builds on the success of Light Blue 8 by adding new features, improving existing features, and squashing bugs.

Light Blue 8.2 is a free update for all of our subscribers. You can install the update by using the “Check For Updates” command in Light Blue (which is in the Light Blue menu on macOS, or in the Help menu on Windows) or by downloading the installer from your Light Blue account.

macOS Catalina compatibility

This update adds compatibility with macOS Catalina, which is expected to be released in October 2019. Please make sure that you install this update if you’re going to upgrade your Mac to macOS Catalina.

Online contract, forms, and online invoice translations

All of the text in our online contracts, forms, and online invoices can now be translated so that they can be presented in any language! We’ve provided French and German translations as part of Light Blue 8.2, but please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about adding other languages.

Home screen and activity improvements

  • Shoots displayed on the Home screen now include their location summary, so you can see where you’re going at a glance.
  • The task manager now includes totals next to its group headings.
  • The quick query totals for each of Light Blue’s main sections are displayed more quickly when you have large quantities of data.
  • Added a preference for displaying the time and date of all items in the Activity panel instead of just the date.

Email and text message improvements

  • We’ve made it much simpler to include images in your emails and email templates. When you’re adding an image to an email, we can now host that image for you to save you from needing to host the image yourself.
  • Improved the performance of our HTML editor when working with large quantities of text.
  • The “Insert Link” button in our HTML editor now allows you to add links to images as well as text.
  • Removed the ability to add multiple levels of indentation to ordered and unordered lists in emails, because they’re not a standard HTML feature and some email clients (especially Gmail) don’t display them properly.
  • When you’re replying to emails where the email address is of the form “Someone’s name <someone@example.com>”, we now strip the name part out automatically. We can also handle email addresses of the form “Someone’s name [mailto:someone@example.com]”
  • Added support for GroupHead: prefixes for contact mail-merge tags in workflow emails and text messages.
  • Fixed a problem where a manually created text message could be displayed with the wrong time until it’s sent.
  • Fixed a bug where the “Insert Link” button in our HTML editor could remove the first letter of the text you’re adding a link to.

Other client portal improvements

  • We’ve changed all references to “public forms” to “contact forms” because that’s what most photographers use them for!
  • When you receive a new lead from a contact form, we include the name of the lead in the subject line if you have a “main contact” control in your form.
  • The receipt email for online invoices now has more sensible headings when the invoice had previously been partially paid.
  • Worked around a problem where Gmail could fail to display the button text in our client portal emails in the correct colour.

Other improvements and bug fixes

  • When importing a price list from a CSV file, we now automatically handle currency symbols and preserve the order of the items in your price list.
  • You can now save and reload import orders when doing a “shoots and contacts” data import.
  • When you use the “Mark Founds Shoots As Completed” housekeeping command, you now have an option to change the status of enquiries as well as confirmed shoots.
  • The “Add contact” dialog now allows you to set the label for any new addresses that you’re adding.
  • The “Save New Product” button in the sale item editing dialog now allows you to save items with a negative or zero price, as well as items with a positive price.
  • Our Australian English localisation now refers to “State” instead of “County”.
  • The “Update Linked Contact’s Address” command now explains why you can’t update the linked contact’s address when there are no changes to save.
  • Fixed a crash that could occur on macOS when creating a reply to an email containing emoji.
  • Fixed a bug that could prevent the Contacts, Calendars, or Reminders permission dialogs from being displayed on macOS Mojave or newer.
  • Fixed a problem where the records list contextual menu in the Preferences window would never enable any of its items and the “Move Record to Trash” menu item was also disabled.
  • Fixed the title of the calendar note dialog on Windows.
  • Fixed a bug where background threads the load the contents of the Inbox and Outbox could persist after they’ve finished their job.
  • Fixed a problem where the “Skip This Version” button in the Windows version of our autoupdater wouldn’t remember that you’ve skipped that version when you quit and relaunch Light Blue.
  • In the background activity window, if you’re doing a large sync and a temporary error turns the sync status text red, it’s now changed back to black as soon as the error is cleared.

Compatibility with macOS Catalina and iOS 13

Over the next few weeks, Apple are going to be releasing major upgrades to macOS and iOS.

iOS 13 is going to be released on 19 September. We have already updated our iOS app to support iOS 13, so please ensure that you use the App Store to update to version 4.6.2 of our app before you update any devices to iOS 13.

macOS Catalina is going to be released in October. We are currently beta testing Light Blue 8.2, which includes an important change that fixes a printing-related problem with macOS Catalina (as well as exciting new features for all of our subscribers!). We will be releasing Light Blue 8.2 before Apple release macOS Catalina, but if you’d like to join our list of beta testers so that you can start using Light Blue 8.2 straight away then get in touch!

Health warning

As with all major operating system updates, it is a very sensible idea to be cautious about updating all of your computers and mobile devices at the same time. Although our testing of Light Blue 8.2 and version 4.6.2 of our iOS app has been positive so far, there is every chance that Apple could change something that breaks compatibility or that we’ve missed something because we can’t test every conceivable combination of devices and settings.

If you rely on Light Blue to run your business, we would therefore recommend holding off from updating your operating system as soon as the latest versions of macOS and iOS come out. At the very least, if you absolutely must update on day one, make sure that you have at least one computer and iOS device on the ‘old’ operating system until you’ve had a chance to test that all of the features that you depend on are fully functional.

Also, please note that our testing has been has been focussed on the latest versions of our desktop and mobile app. The vast majority of our customers are already using Light Blue 8 and version 4 of our iOS app, and if you’re using older version of either the desktop or mobile app then please update to the latest version to ensure that you’re able to take advantage of all of the new features and bug fixes that we’ve been adding. You can update the desktop app by using the ‘Check for updates’ command (in the ‘Light Blue’ menu if you’re on a Mac, or in the ‘Help’ menu if you’re using it on Windows), and you can update the iOS app via the App Store.

Save time by importing your ProSelect orders into Light Blue

Selling products to your clients face to face after a portrait session is a long-established method of taking orders and making money. In-person sales (IPS) sessions wained a little with the surge in popularity of online web gallery systems, but their popularity is on the rise again. Many photographers choose the IPS model as they believe it is part of giving their client a great customer experience. It will often result in better sales than online galleries as it’s much easier to sell wall art and albums in person when the customer can see the different products you offer.

There are lots of specialist software that can help with IPS sessions. Many even offer the ability to upload room views and frame mouldings that can help clients to imagine exactly how a finished image could look in their own home. One of the most popular is ProSelect.

Light Blue is the core of all of your photography businesses admin and there are substantial advantages to having all of your business information in one place. To help you to have the complete picture, Light Blue can import your in-person sales orders in from ProSelect, a great way to keep on top of your finances!

“Importing the order from ProSelect means I have all the details (which I may not bother to re-type if they have ordered a lot of items and I’m busy). It’s great for reference later and saves going back to ProSelect for the detail. The client gets a printout of the ProSelect order as a receipt on the day, and a copy of the LB invoice when they collect their order.”

Christopher Hill Photography

The first thing you’ll need to do is export your order from ProSelect. There are two ways you can do that. If you’re already in the order there’s a button at the bottom that says ‘Export order’.

In the export dialogue, make sure you select ‘Export to Standard XML’, select the folder you want to export to then select ‘Export Now’.

You can also export orders from the Orders section in the main menu.

Once you’ve exported your order you’ll want to add it as a sale in Light Blue. To do this, go to the Records menu, select Import, then Sale from ProSelect XML File.

This will import the ProSelect order into Light Blue as a sale. Its really important to remember that you still need to create an invoice number, even if you’ve already taken payment for the sale from the customer. Creating an invoice for the sale flags the invoice for inclusion in various reports in Light Blue.

You can choose whether to send the invoice to your customer. If you’ve already given them a copy of their ProSelect order at the viewing session, you can uncheck the Print/Send box and Light blue will simply create an invoice number for the sale.

If the customer has also already paid you for the order you can add the payment, selecting the Paid in Date and the Method of payment. This means the sale will not show as Awaiting payment or Overdue.

By importing your ProSelect orders into Light Blue you’ll always have a really clear idea of your sales income, as all that information is in one place. We hope you find this helpful in streamlining your order system. We also have integrations from Fundy, Shootproof, and theimagefile which we will cover in future blog posts.

We’d love to know if you are already using some of these integrations and how you find it helps you & your business. 

Getting to grips with the Task Manager in Light Blue

In any photography business, you’re going to have things that you need to get done in order to deliver great service and pictures to your clients. Running a small business means that you’ve got to do everything from responding to new enquiries through to handing over finished products to your client, and all of the steps in between!

Light Blue helps you to make sure that you’re keeping on top of your to-do list with tasks. Tasks are reminders for the things that you need to get done, and once you’ve set them up then you can concentrate on other things until Light Blue shows you that you need to start thinking about them again.

One of the first things that we recommend to customers when they are setting up Light Blue is that you create some workflows. A workflow is a series of tasks, emails, text messages, and appointments that walks you through all of the steps that you want this type of shoot to go through. You can keep it really simple with just a few key milestones, or you can get more detailed and even include automated messages that will be sent out to your clients.

If you’re not familiar with setting up workflows, this is a really handy tutorial: Setting up workflows

The tasks you create as part of your workflows can be viewed in the activity panel of the shoot:

The Task Manager on the home screen gives you a handy overview of tasks from all of your shoots:

You can create your own customised view of the Task Manager by grouping by Due Date, Categories, Staff member, or Linked Record. e.g. if you choose to group by Categories you can see all the image editing that you need to do.

The Task Manager also lets you filter by Due Date. This is a really handy way to not get overwhelmed by your to-do list, because you can choose just to view the tasks you need to do today.

While workflows are great for creating tasks that you do regularly, sometimes you may have one-off tasks you want to do. For example, creating a new wedding brochure. It’s not a task that would be linked to a shoot but it’s still something important that you want to remember to do. You can create tasks from the Task Manager.

To create a task in the Task Manager, you click on the green + button at the top.

For each task, you can choose a due date, assign member of staff, link a record, and select an optional category.

By adding all the things you need to do both with shoots and the other areas of your business, you get a clear idea of your workload. Light Blue helps you stay on top of all of those tasks, without them getting out of hand.

For a full run-through of task management within Light Blue, we have this handy webinar.