Exporting invoices to Quickbooks

Keeping on top of your finances is really important when you are running a business and, while we have some great tools in Light Blue to help with this, some business need even more accounting tools. Many of our customers use QuickBooks to do their accounts and had asked for an easier way to get their information out of Light Blue and into QuickBooks, so they don’t have to enter information twice.

With our QuickBooks export feature, you can export all your invoices from Light Blue to import straight into QuickBooks. This means you have all the benefits of using Light Blue’s online services such as online booking forms and contract signing plus invoicing and you don’t have to create a duplicate invoice manually in QuickBooks. Here is a handy video to see how it works:

We love hearing how this has made your lives easier!

Rose and Garry Stacey from Timeless Images run their portrait studio from Bridgwater, Somerset.

“Light Blue has really helped with the day to day running of the business but with Making Tax Digital coming in, we knew we had to sort out our accounting package. QuickBooks was our choice as there is an import invoices function. So we can within 20 minutes have the month’s invoices imported into QuickBooks ready for the accounts to be reconciled. Thanks to the boys at Light Blue this is quick, easy, straight forward monthly process keeping us in line with government requirements.”

Based in Kent, Manjit Sohal runs Sohal Light Photography offering business headshots and Lifestyle Portraits.

“I had set up QuickBooks before I signed up for Light Blue, I then was faced with how to manage the two. Initially, I was exporting the data to a CSV file and then re-formatting it for QuickBooks and then importing the data to QuickBooks. This took about an hour. Now with the new feature, I’m able to export the data in the correct format for QuickBooks and then import it directly into QuickBooks. This process now takes me about 15 minutes to complete, I’m sure that it will get quicker as I become more practised at it. Now I can easily keep both programs up to date.”

Useful things to have in your camera bag, other than cameras and lenses!

Camera? Check. Phone? Check. Bin bags? Err …

Preparing for a shoot always includes carefully packing your camera bag. But what exactly should you try to squeeze in to all those handy pockets?

And why might those bin bags come in handy?

Here we delve deep into the camera bag essentials that might just become your shoot superheroes.

The bulk of your bag must always of course contain all your kit.

Alongside your beloved cameras, you have lenses, spare memory cards and batteries, a microfibre cloth and flash guns. 

What else?

Depending on your type of photography and what situations you might find yourself in, you probably already have some proven favourites.

Maybe as a specialist wedding photographer you never go anywhere without a stash of tissues and a spare packet of confetti.

Or if you spend your days capturing a newborn’s magical first days, you never dream of leaving the house without at least one packet of baby wipes.

Whatever your niche, here are the camera bag essentials (apart from tissues and wipes) we heartily recommend:

Torch

Indispensable in low light and on night shoots, a torch is your wingman for all things light-related. If you’re using an off-camera flash, you can use it to help you focus and then switch it off for the actual shot. And of course, they always come in handy during a power cut.

Safety Pins

Random? Maybe. Useful? Definitely. Safety pins are your saviour for holding something in place, tidying loose fabric or mitigating a major wardrobe malfunction.

Penknife

Your all-in-one friend, a penknife can be called upon in many an emergency. Alongside the blade, it can compactly hide a pair of scissors, tweezers, carabiner and even a corkscrew if you fancy making a post-shoot toast with your client.   

They’re especially helpful on fashion shoots for snipping off labels and loose threads to make every garment look impeccable.

First Aid Kit

We’re not suggesting the whole works here, but it’s wise to carry a selection of painkillers, plasters and antiseptic cream to soothe minor ailments.

And don’t underestimate how hay fever can creep up on you and possibly wreck a shoot. A packet of antihistamine tablets might make the difference between getting beautiful images and having to reschedule.

Business Cards

Your clients already know who you are but what about the people who walk past your shoot and show an interest? You could just be in a park or school hall but if you’re in the foyer of a multi-national corporation, you’ll want to be ready for every opportunity. 

Shoot Schedule

Even when you can access your schedule on your phone, having a physical copy to stick up on a wall, stuff in your pocket or pass to an assistant and refer to quickly is super-helpful.

With Light Blue, you can easily print off a summary of all the crucial details for the day so you never miss a shot.

Pen and Paper

We love time-saving tech as much as, OK probably more than, the next person, but we’re not ready to abandon pen and paper just yet. In these mobile-dependent days, you could be the only person in the room to have a simple notebook where you can scribble down notes and ideas. 

Snacks and Water

Your talented photographic brain needs fuelling so don’t forget to pack plenty of water and some snacks to nibble on. Nobody likes a hangry photographer …

Bin Bags

Thought we’d forgotten about the bin bags? Apart from using them to actually put your shoot rubbish in, they double up as makeshift ponchos for when the heavens unexpectedly decide to open.

They’ll also come in handy as a barrier between client and soggy bench or log, keeping them dry and reasonably comfortable when they sit down. Just keep the tell-tale signs out of shot – clear/transparent bags make that a lot easier! 

Being prepared doesn’t have to mean carrying a bag that looks like you’re off on a three-week hike.

But it could mean that your clients are dazzled by your helpful, organised approach to the shoot and inspire them to leave you a five-star review. 

How to avoid a data loss disaster

Dealing with a deluge of data is unavoidable when running a business. 

For professional photographers, managing and protecting your client details, schedules, invoices and of course all those precious images is vital. 

Lose it and you’ll end up in stormy waters. You’ll be faced not only with a loss of income and huge administration headaches, but potentially irreparable damage to your reputation. 

Our advice? Be prepared. Anything could happen.

Hard drives fail, computers malfunction and, if you do dodge a meteor strike, you could easily fall victim to a break-in or fire.

Having a robust data backup system in place is crucial.

Without one, at best you could be rearranging a set of corporate headshots and swallowing the extra cost

At worst, you could be breaking devastating news to newly-wed clients when they return from honeymoon: your irreplaceable photos have vanished.

Here we explore and compare the different options for backing up your data. Keep it safe and secure and you’ll ensure smooth sailing for your photography business.

Lean On A Local Backup

Local backup consists of using storage such as a computer’s hard drive, a disc, flash drive or external hard drive. 

It’s the most basic of backups and, because it doesn’t work over the internet, is handy for those with a slow connection.

But while it’s useful as a first line of defence, local backup suffers from major limitations.

Using a straightforward solution like this leaves your files vulnerable. If you store your external hard drive or USB stick in the same physical location as your PC, there’s still a single point of possible failure. Any damage or theft that takes place there could lead to complete data destruction.

Maybe you like the physical presence of an object containing all your data and the security that nobody else can possibly access it unless it’s stolen.

And if you subscribe to specialist photography management software such as Light Blue, a local backup perfectly complements how it backs up your data from the last time you synced.

However, the geo-redundancy theory goes that if data doesn’t exist in at least two different geographical places, it doesn’t exist at all. 

And that’s why off-site backup is so important.

Opt For an Off-Site Backup

Geo-redundancy is critical to your backup strategy: if your primary backup fails, you have insurance at a second physical site.

But off-site means more than just keeping a spare hard drive in the glovebox of your car.

If bandwidth is an ongoing challenge, you could embrace the ‘Sneakernet’ phenomenon: simply transfer your data to an external hard drive and take it somewhere that you visit regularly, maybe a trusted friend or relative.

Leaving one or more encrypted copies of your data away from your own premises in this way will provide a basic off-site backup. One that may prove more reliable and speedier than depending on a slow network connection. 

But the best solution for most is more sophisticated than this. Online backup sends your files over the internet to a secure data facility with remote servers: you upload them to be stored and download them to be restored. An extra layer of security to protect your data from any on-site disasters.

Backing up to the cloud allows you to ‘set it and forget it’: everything happens automatically so you always have a recent backup without having to add another task to your to-do list.

Do be careful not to confuse cloud backup with cloud storage. While backup software does what it says on the tin, cloud storage is based around syncing your files and folders.

So while the likes of Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive do offer some level of backup – any file backed up to the cloud is naturally protected from computer failure – it’s not their primary purpose.

Instead, true online backups preserve all of your computer’s files, not just those that you select within a synced structure and want to access easily. 

Platforms such as Backblaze, Crashplan and Carbonite are designed to recover and restore unlimited amounts of data. 

So to be fully prepared for a potential disaster recovery mission, make sure you opt for one of these comprehensive cloud backup packages that go one step beyond simple storage.

For around £50 per year per user, you can rest assured that you won’t have to make any awkward client phone calls about lost photos.

You can also choose software specifically designed for your computer with dedicated options for Mac and Windows.

While Time Machine is native to your Mac, it relies on an external hard drive so the recommendation is to add a cloud backup service such as Carbon Copy Cloner. This allows you to schedule specific backups whenever it best suits your business needs.

On Windows, software such as Paragon and Acronis are especially suited to protecting your precious PC data.

When it comes to data, never underestimate your clients’ expectations.

Whether the images you’re taking are professional or personal, can easily be taken again or not, it’s important to demonstrate that you take the responsibility of looking after them seriously.

Highlight your professional approach to data storage and protection as part of your service offering: the peace of mind it can give both you and your clients is priceless. 

Ten essential email templates for photographers

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

In any business, effective communication is crucial. In photography, it’s a simple way to set and meet expectations before, during and after a shoot.

Keeping in touch at every stage of the customer journey helps to avoid misunderstandings and ambiguity, clarifies arrangements and establishes a warm relationship, often before you’ve even met your client.

And the easiest method to use? Email: efficiently managed and recorded thanks to the magic of specialist software.

Here, we’re sharing with you a suggested set of email templates to use throughout the lifetime of a shoot. From your initial response to a query to your post-project thank you, using them as inspiration for your own messages will ensure that no vital communication stage is ever overlooked.

Email #1: Automatic Reply To Website Contact Form

Consumers’ email etiquette expectations have never been higher. So rise to the challenge by being the photographer with great manners right from the start of the relationship.

If potential clients get a response immediately after sending their enquiry, you’ll quickly get a tick next to your name on their list of photographer possibilities. Your professional, efficient and helpful approach has been established quickly and with minimum effort.

This is a great opportunity to send them some basic information such as a link to your price list or some sample shoots.

And don’t shy away from telling them that it’s an automatic reply. Pretending that it isn’t won’t fool anybody. Instead, use it to showcase your honesty and, of course, to prove that you’re busy with your camera and not just waiting for an enquiry.

Hi there, thanks for your enquiry! I know that planning a wedding is a very busy time, so I really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch! As you can probably guess, this is an automatic reply to your enquiry. I’ll send you a proper reply as soon as I’ve had a chance to check my diary & confirm that I’m available. In the meantime, I thought you may find it helpful to get a little more information about how I work, so below are a few links to some sample weddings and a few frequently asked questions …

Email #2: Detailed Reply To Enquiry

Once you’ve swapped your lens for a screen and are back in admin mode, you can send a more detailed and personalised reply confirming your availability.

Hi Charlotte & Paul, thanks again for taking the time to make an enquiry about photographing your wedding! I’m delighted to say that I am available on Saturday 20th June 2020, which is great news! Why don’t we line up a meeting to talk through your plans and spend a little time getting to know each other?

You can then use different templates depending on the type of shoot. For example, if it’s for a wedding at a venue you’ve worked at before you can refer to your experience there and add a link to some inspiring images.

Hi Charlotte & Paul, thanks again for taking the time to make and enquiry about photographing your wedding! I’m delighted to say that I am available on Saturday 20th June 2020, which is great news!
Exampleton Hall is such a wonderful choice of venue for a wedding celebration, and I’ve had the pleasure of working there many times before! Sarah and the team at the Hall are fantastic, and I always love working there – you’re going to have a great day! You can see some of my favourite images from weddings that I’ve shot there on my website: www.example.com/exampleton-hall-wedding-photos
Why don’t we line up a meeting to talk through your plans and spend a little time getting to know each other?

Email #3: Follow-Up To Enquiry

If you hear nothing after your polite reply to their enquiry, a gentle email prompt is an ideal way to warm up a tepid lead.

Hi again, Charlotte & Paul, I hope that you’re well and that wedding plans are coming together nicely! I know how much of a busy time planning a wedding can be, and there’s a great deal to think about! I was wondering if you’d had a chance to take a look at the information that I sent over recently in response to your wedding enquiry? I’ve attached a copy of my price list & brochure so you can take another look. Why don’t we line up a meeting to chat about your plans & answer any questions that you may have?

Email #4: Follow-Up To Sending Contract

Email three did the trick: you’ve had an initial chat, the rapport was great and you’ve sent over a contract and then … silence.

If a client is dragging their feet about signing, you could spur them along by sending a polite email reminder. When you get a response, Light Blue’s powerful online contract signing service can do this for you automatically.

Hi Charlotte & Paul, I hope that you’re well. This is just a gentle reminder about the contract that I sent through recently, which you’ll need to review & sign in order to confirm our booking. Please, can you follow the link to view & sign the contract. If you have any questions, please do let me know!

Email #5: Nurturing Messages In the Run-Up To The Shoot

With the contract signed, thanks to your effective email communication, your focus now needs to shift to pre-shoot preparation.

This is your chance to really nurture your client, especially if they’re a little nervous about being in front of a camera. Build on the growing relationship by giving them a regular point of contact, providing advice and offering to answer any burning questions.

You can also helpfully direct them to relevant links on your website, including blogs, to manage their expectations and make them feel suitably looked-after.

Hi Sam, thanks for booking your portrait session with us! We’re really looking forward to welcoming you into the studio. We understand that it isn’t every day that you’re getting your photo taken, so we’ve prepared a handy guide to help you to prepare for the experience. If you have any questions, please do let us know!

Email #6: Excitement Messages Before The Shoot

It’s nearly shoot day so an email sent a day or two before acts to confirm, reassure and prepare.

You can outline what the client needs to do or consider beforehand, e.g. the weather forecast, and start sowing ideas for up-sells afterwards, e.g. albums and prints.

Hi again, Sam, we can’t wait to see you in the studio for your portrait session tomorrow! I’ve attached a guide to help you to prepare for the shoot. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water between now and the session, so your skin looks as good as possible. Also, have a think about the places in your home where you’d like the images to be displayed; we’ll have a chat about that before we start shooting. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Email #7: Sales Messages Before The Shoot

At this stage, you can also send an email aimed at adding other items onto their package, for example booking an extra couple of hours or offering a discount if they order a product before the shoot takes place.

This highlights both your flexibility and generosity, further building on client rapport and trust.

Hi Charlotte & Paul, I hope that everything’s going well in the run-up to the big day! I wanted to check in with you to make sure that you had everything that you need – I’m currently booked to start at 11:00 and wrap up at 19:00. If you need to add more coverage, then I’ve got a special offer available to book additional time at a discounted rate if you confirm it before the wedding. If that sounds like something that you’d be interested in, then just pop a quick reply to this email and I’ll take care of it!

Email #8: Checking In Shortly After The Shoot

Images captured, the client communication continues with a reminder of what happens next and when they can expect to first see their images.

Hi Charlotte & Paul, it was great to be part of your special day, thanks for having me along! I’m popping an email with a quick reminder of what happens next with your photos. I’ve already got everything backed up & safe and I’ll be getting to work on editing the images very soon. It usually takes me around 3-4 weeks to get the gallery ready, so you’ll hear from me then with a link. If there’s anything you need in the meantime, please let me know!

If they haven’t already booked a viewing, encourage them to do this now so you can get your online diary organised.

Hi Sam, thanks for coming in for your portrait experience! Here’s a reminder about what happens next. We’ll be hard at work processing your photographs in time for our viewing session which is booked in for Saturday at 11:00. We look forward to seeing you back in the studio to show you the images – they’re looking great!

Email #9: Sending An Online Gallery Link

Your editing work is done and now it’s time to share your impressive images. If you’re not having an in-person viewing and sales session then this email is the one they’ve been waiting for: the big reveal.

This one will contain the link to their gallery and a password to access it, along with the opportunity to provide feedback and a review of your work.

Hello David, thanks for booking me to photograph your event recently. I’m delighted to send through a link to the online web gallery where you can view your images. Your feedback is important to me, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the images. If you’d like to leave a review, you can do so by following the second link below. If there’s anything more that I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a note.

Email #10: Keeping In Touch After the Shoot

By now, your client relationship and email tone of voice will be well-established. You know you’ve done an excellent job and have received some great feedback.

Next, it’s time to keep building that loyalty with the aim of encouraging further sales and bookings.

Use your database wisely, analysing customers to assess what products and services could most appeal and to precisely target your emails.

Even if one particular client never gives you another penny, your friendly professionalism could inspire them to recommend you to others.

This email can focus on up-selling albums and other products after the shoot, along with suggesting gift vouchers for friends and family.

And of course, you can invite them to book another shoot. After such a fabulous service and awe-inspiring images, how could they refuse?

Hi Sam, I hope that you’re well. It was so great to have you in the studio for a portrait experience earlier this year – I can’t believe time’s flown by! We’ve got a special offer on right now for past clients to enjoy a free session when they buy gift vouchers for their friends & family. They make for wonderful Christmas presents! You can find out more via the link below.

With a straightforward email template system in place, your basic client communication strategy is sorted.

If you use pre-prepared messages with a consistent tone of voice, you’ll not only save time but can also ensure that a crucial detail or vital stage along the customer journey is never missed.

The result? An organised, friendly approach to every shoot that will foster loyalty, build trust and make the whole experience easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

Straightforward, efficient and time-saving, Light Blue makes it easy to communicate with clients.

Learn more below about how specialist software designed exclusively for photographers can help:

Sending emails using Light Blue

Using email templates

Using workflows to send automated messages to your clients

Download the example templates used in the article



Teen portraits – The Next Big Thing in Portraiture in the UK – Christina Lauder

Leicestershire family portrait photographer Christina Lauder is originally from Toronto, Canada. She moved to the UK 20 years ago for a job transfer in software consulting & eventually found herself starting a new career as a portrait photographer, something she’d wanted to do since she was a child.

I’ve had the chance to try pretty much every genre there is within portraiture, from newborn to boudoir and everything in between, however what has captured my interest most is the teenage market. I love that I am still working with children but they tend to be with me of their own free will and therefore willing to cooperate which makes my job a whole lot easier and much more interesting.

Teen portraits are becoming a genre in their own right here in the UK. Much like Prom has reached this side of the water, the ever popular teenage portrait industry that has swept across North America is coming to the UK too.

And why not? This is an important milestone in our children’s lives. I for one want to capture this time in my child’s life and I suspect I’m not alone here. Teenagers have strong personalities, they have hobbies and interests worth documenting and moving away from home is well within their sights so we have to capture them while we can.

We’ve had the pleasure of hearing Christina hold seminars at the SWPP Digital Imaging Roadshow and she talks about the challenges of bringing a previously unknown genre of photography to the UK market.

I’m not going to lie, this market is going to take some selling. It won’t happen simply because we offer it. This isn’t typically an age that parents think of taking their kids to a portrait studio. But it is an age where children can ask for such a service. We just need to show them how wonderful their portraits can be and how amazing it will be for them to share in their social media. Then we can let the kids do the selling for us. Of course showing them how wonderful their portraits can be means we need to create portraits that are wonderful. These must be more than your average studio portrait. Thankfully teenagers provide so much scope that this is relatively simple and its one sure way of separating an average photographer from a great photographer.

Christina’s delivering a series of workshops which will provide a solid foundation in lighting that can be applied to any genre of portraiture, although the focus and subject matter for this workshop is teenagers.

You can find more information on Christina’s site about the workshops in FifeChester le Street & Somerset.

Using scheduling tools to allow your customers to book shoots online with Light Blue’s API

Photographers all over the world are using Light Blue’s powerful forms to streamline their workflows, using them to feed new enquiries straight from their website into Light Blue. They’re really easy to set up and embed in your website, and you can also our forms as part of your online booking process.

Light Blue also offers an API that gives you more advanced options for sending information to your Light Blue account. You (or your website designer) could use the API to link a customised contact form to your Inbox, or you could use in combination with Zapier to link a variety of other services to Light Blue.

Online Scheduling tools

Using a powerful combination of our API and calendar publishing options, can be used to link Light Blue to popular online scheduling systems like Acuity Scheduling.

Online scheduling tools like Acuity can allow your clients to book shoots online, based on your availability. The customer can choose their own session without needing any input from you, and the details arrive in Light Blue without needing to type anything in.

This article focusses on how to set up an integration with Acuity using the middle-man service, Zapier, to send booking information into Light Blue for you.

Give Acuity your availability from Light Blue

Once you’ve created and set up your Acuity account, you’ll need to be able to tell their system when are (and aren’t) available for bookings. There’s a couple of different ways that you can do this, either by publishing events from Light Blue to a Google Calendar, or to your iCloud account. You can then authorise Acuity to synchronise with that calendar. Any events that have been added to Light Blue (like other shoots, meetings & time off) will now block out time that could be booked in Acuity and show that you’re unavailable, so you don’t get double-booked.

Using Zapier with the Light Blue API

The next step is to link Acuity back to Light Blue, so that new bookings are sent to Light Blue using our API and integration with Zapier.

Zapier is a service that acts as a middleman between a variety of web services, with some services providing triggers (e.g. “a new booking has been made via Acuity“) and other services providing actions. Zapier allows you to set up a number of “Zaps” that link a trigger to an action. We’ve written a Zapier action that allows you to send information to the Light Blue API in response to one of these triggers.

Requirements

As well as a subscription to our online services, you need a Zapier account. Zapier offers a variety of subscriptions (including a free one) but please be aware that each subscription level will only handle a certain number of tasks per month.

Setup

The Light Blue action for Zapier is currently a “private” action, so you need an invitation code to be able to use it. You can invite yourself to use the Light Blue action by clicking the following link: Light Blue on Zapier

Creating your Zap

The first step in creating your “Zap” is choosing which app or service will trigger the Zap to start running. Choose Acuity Scheduling from the list of apps and enter your account details.

When a new appointment has been created in Acuity, the Zap will be triggered.

Select the ‘Send to Light Blue API’ action

Now you can select Light Blue from the list of action apps. You might need to type “Light Blue” in the search field to find it.

Enter your Light Blue API key

When you’re prompted to select a Light Blue account, enter your Light Blue API key. You can find your API key by logging into the My Account section of our website.

Match up the data from your trigger app to Light Blue API parameters

Once you’ve set up the trigger app for your Zap and linked your Light Blue account to it, you need to associate data from the source app with parameters that the Light Blue API recognises.

To do this, you need to fill in the ‘Light Blue API Parameters’ section shown in the screenshot below. You type Light Blue API parameters in the left-hand column and select items from the trigger app in the right hand column. You can use the + button to add extra items.

You can find a list of the parameters that the Light Blue API recognises in the Supported Parameters section.

You should leave the ‘Type’ and ‘Source’ fields alone.

Working with dates and times

Different systems show dates and times in different formats, which other systems may not necessarily be able to read or understand. When adding the date and time for a shoot from Acuity to Light Blue, we’d recommend using the ShootStartTimestamp API parameter and linking it to the DateTime value from Acuity.

Test and then save your Zap

Once you’ve linked your Zap to parameters that the Light Blue API recognises, Zapier will ask you to test and save your Zap. If any errors occur (e.g. you don’t provide any parameters that the Light Blue API recognises) then Zapier should inform you and display an error message that you can send to us for further help.

Help & support

If you’re having problems setting up your integration with Light Blue’s API, we’d be delighted to help you. The most useful thing to do is send some screenshots of what you’re trying to do and/or where you’re getting stuck. Screenshots of the settings you’re using in your Zap are most helpful!

Sending text messages with Light Blue

Light Blue allows you to send text messages to your clients, which is great for appointment reminders and marketing.

There are two different ways of sending text messages from Light Blue:

  • Via our dedicated number service, which is available in most countries.
  • Or, if you’re based in the UK, Ireland, or Australia, you can send messages that appear to come from your personal mobile number or a short name.

Dedicated number service

With our dedicated number service, you rent a phone number from us. The text messages that you send from Light Blue come from this number, and any replies that your clients send will appear in the Inbox in Light Blue.

We can also forward clients’ replies to your personal phone number if you want to know about replies as soon as they arrive. This will cost you credits, because we’re effectively sending the message out again.

If someone tries to call your dedicated number, they’ll get an automated message saying that it can’t take calls. We can customise the message for you: just tell us what you’d like it to say.

This service is available in most countries. Renting a dedicated number from us costs £5 per month, and text message credits 7p each for UK numbers (please contact us for international pricing).

If you would like us to set up our dedicated number service for you, please get in touch via email!

Sending text messages that appear to come from you

Customers in the UK, Ireland, and Australia can use a version of our text messaging service where messages sent from Light Blue will appear to come from either your personal phone number or a short name.

This service can work in some other countries, but the local phone companies might change the number that the message appears to come from.

There is no monthly fee for using this version of our text messaging service, and text message credits cost between 7p and 9p depending on the quantity that you buy.

Using a “from name”

If you’re using a From Name, text messages appear from a name that can be up to 11 letters and numbers without spaces. Your customers can’t reply to those messages, because SMS only allows you to reply to a phone number. This is useful when you want to display your business name as the sender and don’t want/need to receive replies.

Using a “from number”

If you’ve set a “from number”, text messages appear to be sent from your own mobile phone number. Replies will go to your own mobile phone number just like any other text message, but replies from your clients aren’t imported into Light Blue (you need to use the dedicated number service in order for your clients’ replies to arrive in Light Blue).

How to send text messages from Light Blue

There’s a short tutorial showing how to send text messages from Light Blue, here:

You can set up text messaging from Light Blue via  your account page:

Set up text messaging with your Light Blue account

Importing Light Blue contract templates issued by third parties

Light Blue’s online contract signing service is one of the most popular features of our online services. It’s really easy to publish contracts for your clients to sign quickly. You need to set up at least one contract template which contains your terms and conditions in order to send contracts to your clients.

We don’t provide any sample contract templates with Light Blue, so you’ll either need to create your own,  copy and paste the text from a contract that you already have in perhaps PDF or Word format, or obtain a contract template from a reputable third party.

Only you can know if a contracts wording is right for you, so if you’re in any doubt then talk to a lawyer.

Creating your own contract template

You can create your own contract template within Light Blue by adding your own terms or copying and pasting the text from a contract that you already have. This tutorial walks through the steps of how to do that.

Adding a Light Blue contract template from a third party

Some third parties have created templates that can be imported directly into Light Blue, without needing to copy & paste any wording. There’s a short video tutorial, followed by some step by step instructions on how to import that template, below:

If you’ve obtained a contract template that’s been provided in Light Blue’s contract template format, it’ll be given to you as an XML file.

To import that into Light Blue (you need to be using Light Blue 7.1 or later), click Records > Import > Contract Template, and choose the XML file.

If the contract template also includes an accompanying form template, you’ll be prompted to choose whether or not to import the form, too. You most likely do want to import the accompanying form.

When that’s done, the contract template & form template (if you imported one) will appear in the preferences pane and will be ready to use.

Finding and deleting old personal data from Light Blue

One of the tools that we added in Light Blue 7.1 is a housekeeping command that makes it easier to find old records that you might want to delete from Light Blue. For example, if the introduction of the GDPR means that you no longer want to keep any personal information about your clients any longer than you need to, this tool will help you to find records that can be deleted.

To use this tool, go into the Housekeeping section of the Records menu and select “Find Old Records…”. You’ll be presented with the following dialog:

Let’s go through the options and explain what they do.

Search for records older than…

The first option in this dialog allows you to pick how old records need to be before this tool will find them. You just need to pick how far back in time you want to go.

For example, if you decide to delete all records that are more than 6 years old because that’s the period of time you’re required to keep financial records, you can select “6 years old” from the menu.

Record types

Next, you need to select which types of record you want to find. For Shoots, Quotes, Sales, Purchases, and Payments these options are really simple: all records with a date older than your chosen number of years will be found.

Contacts

Searching for contacts requires a few more decisions, because you might consider a contact “old” if you haven’t done a shoot for them recently, or you might only consider them “old” if you haven’t heard from them at all recently.

If you’re using this tool to search for old contacts, you need to tell Light Blue which types of record that can be linked to a contact to take into account. In the screenshot above, I’m searching for anyone who hasn’t had a Shoot, Quote, Sale, Purchase, Payment, or Appointment in the last 6 years. i.e. I’m not counting people that I’ve sent emails, etc, to as being “recent” unless they’ve actually enquired about a shoot, placed an order, etc, during that time.

Filtering out tags

The final option uses Light Blue’s tagging system to filter out records from these results. For example, you could tag any shoots that have given you permission to use their images for marketing and then use that tag to make sure that you keep those records in Light Blue.

Checking your results

When you click the ‘Find Records’ button, Light Blue will find all of the old records that match your criteria. Before you delete those records, it’s important that you check them carefully! If you want to exclude a record from the found set, use the “Omit Record” command from the Records menu to hide it from the selection.

When you’re ready to delete the found records, use the “Move Found Records To The Trash…” command from the Records menu.

Asking your clients to opt into your mailing list

New Mailing List Opt-In Form

With Light Blue 7.1.2, you can now send your clients to a special form that allows them to opt in to your mailing list. Each of your contact records has a special URL that identifies them, and you can get that URL in two different ways:

  1. If you only want to send mailing list opt-in links to a small number of clients, you can use the %ContactMailingListOptInURL% mail-merge tag in an email template.
  2. If you want to send mailing list opt-in links to lots of clients, you can export a CSV file of contact names, email addresses, and URLs from Light Blue. You can then import this spreadsheet into a service like MailChimp to email it to your clients.

Your client portal branding is automatically applied to your mailing list opt-in form, and can customise the text that appears on the form by logging into your account on our website.

Read on to learn how to use either of those methods of sending a mailing list opt-in form to your clients!

Using Light Blue

If you want to email a small number of contacts, you could send an email to your clients using an email template.

After you’ve queried for the records that you’re interested in, either by using the Query dialog or one of your Quick Queries, then you could send an email to all of those contacts based on a template that you’ve already set up.

There’s a short tutorial covering how to create your own email templates here.

You’ll need to include the %ContactMailingListOptInURL% mail-merge tag in your email template, so that each contact receives their own unique link to the special opt-in page.

It’s a good idea to try sending  a test message to yourself first, to make sure that you’re happy with how everything appears & works, before sending it out to your customers.

We’d discourage you from using this approach to send more than a small number of emails, because you can run the risk of your mail host temporarily suspending your account for sending too much mail or marking your address as a producer of spam.

Using MailChimp

If you have a larger group of clients you’d like to invite to opt into your mailing list, we’d recommend using a service like MailChimp.

MailChimp is great for sending big mail-outs to lots of contacts. You can personalise those messages to include information that’s unique to each person, too. That means that you can include the unique URL that identifies each client in the email to that person.

In order to do that, you need to add a list of contacts to MailChimp.

1. Exporting a spreadsheet of contacts, including their unique opt-in URLs

The first step is to export your contacts’ names, email addresses, and the unique URLs that they can use to opt into your mailing list. You should use the Query dialog or one of your Quick Queries to find the contacts that you want to include in this mailing, and then go into the Housekeeping section of the Records menu and select ‘Ask Contacts To Opt-In To Mailing List’.

Light Blue will give you a preview of the contacts who will be included. You can remove contacts by selecting them and clicking the ‘Remove From List’ button. When you click the ‘Export’ button, Light Blue will export a CSV file that you can import into MailChimp.

2. Creating a special “List” in MailChimp

Log in to your MailChimp account and then, in the Lists section, click ‘Create List’.


Give the list a name and complete the other required information, then save the list. You don’t need to include the “Enable double opt-in” or “Enable GDPR fields” options for this list: the purpose of messaging contacts on the list is to ask them to complete their unique opt-in form which will update Light Blue.

3. Adding a special field to the list for the unique URL

Once you’ve created the list, we need to set up a special list field to store the unique opt-in form URL. In the Settings menu, click on “List fields and *|MERGE|* tags”:


Click the “Add A Field” button at the bottom:

Choose Website as the type:

Give the field a name & tag name (e.g. “Light Blue Opt-In” and “LBOPTIN”) then save your changes:

4. Importing the contacts from Light Blue into the MailChimp list

You’re now ready to import the CSV of contacts from Light Blue into MailChimp. To do that, click Add Contacts > Import Contacts:

Choose CSV or tab-delimited text file and click Next:

Choose the file that you exported from Light Blue. Now you can map the columns in the CSV file to the relevant MailChimp fields.
Light Blue’s CSV file includes a full name field, which isn’t relevant to MailChimp, so you can click “skip” so MailChimp ignores it:


When you get to the unique Opt-In Form URL column, choose to map that to the “Light Blue Opt In” field that you created earlier:

Click Save, then click Next.
Categorise the imported contacts as “subscribed” so that we can send the email to them:

When you click Import, MailChimp will import the contents of the CSV.

5. Creating & sending the email message

You can now create your email message which will be addressed to the contacts in this list by creating a new email campaign. To do that, return to your MailChimp account home screen and click the “Create Campaign” button.

Choose to “create an email” and give the campaign a name (e.g. “Opt in mailout”). In the To field, click “Add Recipients”, then choose the list you created earlier:


Enter relevant “from” & “subject” fields, then click on the “Design Email” button to design the content of your message.

Choose a layout format that you want to work with and start to compose your email message. Click on the text of your email, choose to edit the text block.

You can now customise the text of the email so that it can include the unique URL. To do that, click on the “Merge Tags” button and choose the “Light Blue Opt In” tag that you created earlier:

Once you’re done, click “Save & Close”. You can send a test message to preview how the email looks. When you’re ready, click the “Send” button to send the email to all of the contacts that you imported.

Customising your mailing list opt-in form

Your client portal branding is automatically applied to your mailing list opt-in form, and can customise the text that appears on the form by logging into your account on our website.

The customisation options for your opt-in form include:

  • Whether or not you want to receive a notification email whenever a client opts in or out of your mailing list via this form.
  • The heading and text that appears on the form.
  • The text of the buttons on the form.
  • The headings and text that appears on the pages that are displayed when a client opts in or out.