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.

Using quotes to forecast income in Light Blue

We know that one of the most important parts of your business admin is being able to forecast accurately. Being able to know exactly what is happening in your business at any time helps you to plan for the future.

With Light Blue, you can run various reports to check your business finances, one very useful one is the ‘Income Forecast’ report. This uses the quotes function in Light Blue so will be really handy for wedding and commercial photographers (who often use quotes when confirming a booking with a client).

To run the report select Reports > ‘Custom Reports’ > ‘Income Forecast’ to create an income forecast. This will bring up all quotes with a status of “Accepted” or “Awaiting Invoicing”.

The information from these searches and reports is displayed in the list view, where you can see all of the records that meet your given criteria. The default view shows a list of all future income due grouped by the date the quote was created.

You may want to preview your projected income from a particular type of work over a given period. In that case, you can use Light Blue’s powerful querying tools to find the information that you need

Maybe there’s a month you’re not very busy with weddings and want to run a portrait promotion to fill the shortfall for that month? Without planning you don’t know where your income gaps are.

You can use the query function to search for your expected income over a particular period. In this example we have run a query for quotes where the shoot type is “Weddings” and the start date is “In Next Calendar Year” and the status is “Accepted”. This will show us all next year’s wedding where the client had accepted a quote.

You can adjust the columns within the list view to show whatever you find useful. By going to Window > “Customise List View” and you’ll see this dialog. To view the balance due each month, simply add the “Balance Due”, “Shoot Title” and “To Invoice” fields to the “Columns” section, then make sure they are grouped by “Balance Due Month”.

By using the “To Invoice” column it takes account of the booking fee already paid so this will give you a really clear idea of your monthly wedding income forecast for next year.

How do you use the reports in Light Blue? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep track of your business!

Using Light Blue to handle large numbers of leads

As a wedding or portrait photographer, there are times you need to handle large numbers of leads. You might attend a number of wedding fairs throughout the year and need an easy way to handle all the contacts from that, or maybe you run a busy portrait studio and need to manage lists of leads sent to you. Light Blue can help!

Let’s look at each situation separately.

Wedding fair leads

A popular way for a wedding photographer to get leads is to take a stand at a wedding fair. Some of these can be big multi-day shows, so you need an easy way to get the details of all the couples you chat to and be able to follow up with them afterwards. You may also want to check leads against a date to make sure you are free.

A really simple way would be to set up a form in Light Blue, then get couples to fill in their details using an iPad or your laptop. These leads would then appear in your inbox. You can manage them in the same way that you would any other lead that you get in your inbox, by importing as a new shoot record.

A typical workflow you might add could include an email to remark on how nice it was to meet the contact and send them some information, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a reminder text message to reach out to them as well.

Portrait studio leads

Whilst they may also attend fairs like school or summer fairs to get portrait leads, a lot of portrait studios need a way to handle large numbers of leads that they either purchase or gather through promotions.

With large quantities of portrait leads, we recommend importing these as contacts rather than shoots. These leads are often termed ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ and you won’t convert as many as you would a ‘hot’ lead that you have already spoken to. Rather than having lots of these leads as unconfirmed shoots, it’s easier to add them to Light Blue as contacts.

Quite often you’ll have these in a spreadsheet, and it’s really simple to import these into these straight into Light Blue. Make sure they’re saved as a .csv file then go to the Records menu and use the ‘Import Contacts From CSV’ command.

When importing contacts into Light Blue from a spreadsheet, it will automatically create a quick query that allows you to find the information. Quick queries are saved searches of your current data. You can create your own quick queries using the query dialog. To find out more about quick queries, have a look at this blog post:

Using Quick Queries to find information in Light Blue

Once you’ve imported your leads into Light Blue, you’ll want to call them to get them booked in for a shoot. You could use workflows to apply a series of tasks to a set of records.

First, make sure you have selected the saved query from your leads and then select ‘Add to Found Set’ from the Records menu. This gives you the option to add workflows, send text messages, or add tags to the set of leads. A typical workflow you might add could include a task to make an initial phone call to the lead, then a follow-up phone call a few days later, and possibly a text message to them as well.

When the contact gives some indication that they are interested in booking, then you could create a shoot record linked to the contact to help to convert that into a confirmed shoot and manage things as you normally would.

How are you using Light Blue to run your marketing promotions? We’d love to hear how you find Light Blue helps you to keep on top of successful promotions!

Light Blue 8.1.2

We’ve released Light Blue 8.1.2, which is another free update to everyone who subscribes to our online services or has bought Light Blue 8. This is a minor update that adds new features and fixes bugs that were reported after the launch of Light Blue 8.1.

  • Using “partner” as a contact role now supports all of the same features as using “bride” or “groom”. For shoots with a type of “wedding” or “weddings”, this applies to automatically setting the title, automatically selecting contract signatories when you add a new contract, mail-merge tags that use the couple’s details, and the “wedding couple” section in your forms and questionnaires. The default role for wedding couple controls on forms is now “partner” rather than “bride”. We’ve also added %ShootPartner1FirstName%, %ShootPartner1LastName%, %ShootPartner2FirstName%, and %ShootPartner2LastName% mail-merge tags, which use the first and second contacts with roles of “bride”, “groom”, or “partner” (or their localised equivalents) linked to a shoot.
  • Flagged more mail-merge tags as being available in workflow messages.
  • Added a “Mark As Unread” button to the Inbox and in the incoming email dialog.
  • When accepting a contract with a linked form, the form import dialog’s “Import” button is no longer disabled if there isn’t any updated information to import. This makes it simpler to get forms from repeat clients who haven’t changed their details off your Inbox’s pending list!
  • If you’re password protecting your copy of Light Blue, the staff login dialog is now displayed immediately after your initial data download or a client app reset sync.
  • On Windows, the “Check For Updates” command now downloads the installer much faster. n.b. this will apply to updates that you download from Light Blue 8.1.2 onwards, so downloading this update won’t be any faster.
  • When renaming the “Ungrouped requests” shoot requests group, default the name to that rather than “New group”.
  • Our QuickBooks export now includes separate rows for any percentage discount that has been applied to an invoice.
  • %EventX% tags in a workflow email preview could show the wrong value when linked to an event other than the shoot’s start date.
  • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when generating picture thumbnails.
  • Fixed a problem with the “Issue Refund” button on fully paid invoices, where the credit note would be created with the wrong sign.
  • Fixed some timezone irregularities with displaying incoming emails’ received dates.
  • Fixed a glitch where the calendar resource view includes column titles at top of timed section as well as the all-day section.
  • Fixed a problem where multi-date calendar notes linked to specific resources don’t show the note description on any day other than the first day.
  • Fixed an encoding problem that could occur when exporting a tax report to CSV.
  • Fixed unexpected quits that have been reported to us.

Customer stories – Margaret Soraya

Based in the Highlands of Scotland, Margaret Soraya has run a wedding and commercial photography business for the last 15 years. She also has a love of landscape photography, with a passion for the beauty and wildness Scotland can offer and has recently begun a new business running landscape photography workshops in remote areas of Scotland. 

As a Light Blue user for the past 9 years she freely admits that prior to that, her business organisation was mainly a collection of folders on her computer desktop, manual paper invoicing and booking forms. 

We asked Margaret what her favourite Light Blue feature was:

“Being able to send out questionnaires at set dates before a wedding. I always send out a timings request form and a group shot request a few weeks before each wedding. The couple can easily and quickly fill these in online and send back. Having the ability to deal with this quickly has made the biggest impact on running each wedding smoothly without many individual emails going back and forth. I know a week before each wedding that I simply need to print out or refer to each group shot request list in preparation.”

She also sends out a questionnaire to each participant on a photography workshop so she can get to know a little about them and what they hope to achieve and says it has been incredibly useful. 

Margaret’s passion is being outdoors in the landscape, photographing seascapes. Light Blue has made it much easier and quicker to run her wedding and commercial business.

The business is so streamlined now that booking, invoicing and sending out questionnaires is just a matter of a few clicks. This enables her to be out and about more. 

“The income side of my business is the weddings and commercial work, and being able to handle this quickly and efficiently leaves me more time to be out shooting landscapes. If you are someone who prefers to be out shooting as opposed to behind a desk, then using Light Blue is a must.“

As someone who does not naturally enjoy working with software or spending time on computers, she likes to know that there is support on hand.

“One of the main attractions of Light Blue is the dedicated team behind it. I know for certain that if I have a problem, no matter how small and daft, I can ask and get help solving it very quickly. Knowing that someone will actually talk and walk me through any difficulties is something that is very important to me.  Light Blue does support better than anyone else I have ever known.”

Margaret Soraya

Landscape photography website

Wedding photography website

We love to hear about how you use Light Blue. If you would like to tell us your story please get in touch.

Using Light Blue to manage multiple brands

We know that a lot of photographers run multiple brands under one business. Maybe you shoot both weddings and newborn photography, or you have a separate website for corporate photography. With Light Blue you can run all these brands in a single account.*

This is really handy for a lot of people because, while they may have different websites and logos for the different types of shoots they are doing, they’re still running one business.

You can run as many different brands as you like with Light Blue. Our custom branding means that you can change the logos, colours, and fonts on the emails, forms, contracts, and online invoices that you send to customers.

Setting up your different brands is really easy. You have probably already set up your main brand already if you are using our online services. Log in to your account on the Light Blue website and select the client portal section. Got to the branding area, then run through each section to choose your fonts, header images, background colours and form styling for each of your brands.

You can also apply your branding to the invoices, quotes, and receipts that you print (or PDF) from Light Blue. As well as your main branding (which you set up in the “Printing” section of the Preferences window), you can use separate branding for any of your shoot types. To do that, go into the “Shoot Types” section of the Preferences window and upload a different background PDF.

*Important point: Light Blue is designed to run a single business, but you can use shoot types with their own branding to essentially split up your income into different categories. One of the big advantages of this approach is that you have a single client database, and everything is nice and simple to manage. However, when it comes to things like the built-in reports, we assume that you’re running a single legal entity (e.g. a single limited company) because that’s what the vast majority of our customers need.