You might need to reach out to your clients to give them an update on your policy regarding the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve seen some of these emails that photographers are sending out being reported as spam by the recipients, which can damage your ability to get emails delivered to clients’ inboxes. We’re here to help you to ensure that your message gets to those contacts safely.
Using the right tool at the right time
Light Blue is designed to send “everyday” emails to your clients and is very good at doing so: dealing with new enquiries, responding to your clients’ messages, automated appointment reminders, and so on.
However, when you’re interested in sending a message to a large group of contacts at once (I’m defining ‘large’ as anything more than about 20 contacts in this context) then specialist marketing tools are a better fit for making sure that those messages reach your audience. Sending lots of marketing emails from your own email address risks damaging the reputation of your email account, making it substantially less likely that your prospects (or paying clients) will receive your messages, that’s why it’s best to use a tool that’s designed for the job.
Mass marketing tools like Mailchimp & Active Campaign put a LOT of effort into establishing best practices and building a reputation with the major email providers. They’ve got teams of engineers working on this stuff every day. That means that the major email providers know that what’s being sent via a tool like Mailchimp or Active Campaign probably isn’t spam, and that if any of their users report it as spam Mailchimp and Active Campaign will sort it out really quickly.
Some of the major email providers (especially Hotmail, Outlook and Gmail) are getting a lot stricter about what they consider to be spam and even one bulk email could affect your ability to deliver emails to your clients both now and in the future. Using a tool that won’t leave your email address (and our servers by association) on a blacklist is essential!
Setting up Mailchimp or Active Campaign is really easy to do, and worth doing even for sending out a single important message like this.
How to export your client’s email addresses for use with a mass emailing tool
Light Blue’s mailing list opt-in feature and querying tools will help you to make sure that you’re not sending emails to clients who might report your message as spam.
After you’ve found the records that you’re interested in by using Light Blue’s querying tools, you can export a list of those email addresses. Simply click on the Records menu, choose ‘Export’, then ‘Export Email Addresses’ – you will then be able to save a CSV file which can be uploaded into your mass marketing tool of choice to get the message to your clients.
As always, we’re here to help so please get in touch if you need any help from us with contacting your clients.
The Covid-19 pandemic sadly means that many couples are having to postpone their weddings and are looking for alternative dates.
In order to make it easier for your clients to select a date on which you are going to be available, you may wish to share a calendar of your available dates. Should that be something that you would like to do, this guide illustrates how you could put that in place.
Block off any unavailable dates
The first step is to make sure that you aren’t showing any potential dates to your clients where you know you won’t be able to work. Existing bookings will already be in the diary as shoot records, but you may also have personal commitments that you don’t want to interrupt too.
Light Blue’s time off feature is a great way of blocking out those times to prevent any clashes. To add time off, go to the calendar view and right click on the date you need to block out, then choose to add time off. There’s a few options for different types of time off, adding descriptions and changing durations, so it’s pretty flexible.
Publish to a calendar
It’s possible to publish the events from Light Blue into Google Calendar, and you can set that up via the External Programs preferences window. Be sure to check the Only Show I’m Busy checkbox to avoid publishing any detailed information about the shoots like your clients contact information.
After you’ve set up Google Calendar publishing, you’ll be able to share that calendar with your clients so they can see which dates you have available.
Collaborating with other photographers
It’s very possible that there will be a number of dates that you won’t be able to rebook with your clients as they may still choose new dates that you can’t be available for, and it’ll be a similar case for fellow photographers.
If you share this calendar with a group of trusted fellow photographers, then they will be able to see the dates that you have available and can refer clients on to you. You can reciprocate with any of your clients who booked a new wedding on a date that you aren’t available for.
The Covid-19 pandemic is having an unprecedented effect on photographers and many of you are having to postpone some of your bookings.
This guide shows you how you can reschedule sessions in Light Blue in a way that makes them easy to identify layer. That will leave you in a good position to quickly finding new dates for those jobs when it’s appropriate to do so.
Changing the shoot status
The first step is to change the status of the shoot back to “Enquiry”. The shoot isn’t going ahead right now, but there’s a good chance that it will in the future.
Changing the status means that Light Blue offers to remove any outstanding tasks, scheduled messages, etc and mark upcoming appointments and meetings as cancelled. You can choose which of these things you want to do, but it’s likely that you’ll want to select all of the options offered here.
Adding a tag to mark the shoot for future reference
Next we want to label the shoot so that it’s easy to identify as a postponed booking later on. The Tags feature is incredibly useful for this. You can create new tags in the Preferences window and then add them to shoot records.
Light Blue has some really useful and versatile reporting tools that allow you to find all sorts of information. We recommend creating a query which lists all of your shoots that you’ve added a “rescheduled” tag to. To do that:
Open the query dialog at the top of the screen
Create a query which looks like this one
Click “Save Query” and give it a sensible name (e.g. “rescheduled shoots”)
You’ll find every shoot that has your tag applied to it will now appear in that list.
Planning ahead, you could create two more queries which show: the tagged shoots which remain as enquiries, and the tagged shoots that have now been confirmed again. That’ll allow you to reach out to the clients who have yet to rearrange their sessions so that you can make new plans.
Confirming the new date
If you have a new provisional date, you could enter that into the date field, but leave the status as Enquiry until that’s absolutely confirmed.
You can also send a new contract to your client in order to confirm the new date for the shoot. Once you accept that signed contract, the shoot status will change from “enquiry” to “confirmed” again.
Changing the status to confirmed means that Light Blue will then offer to add your workflows again, this time based around the new shoot date.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us in a variety of ways. We’re a small company and the whole Light Blue team is either currently or previously a professional photographer, so we understand the difficulties that you are going through at the moment.
We’re here to help people run a successful business, and one of the ways that we can do that is to reduce the cost of Light Blue for any of our customers who are in difficulty.
Getting a clear picture of when you’re going to receive income is very important and helpful at the best of times, but during this unprecedented period of uncertainty your businesses ability to forecast its income is essential.
No forecasting model is going to be iron clad, but the ability for you to look ahead will allow you to remove some of the guesswork from this situation and help you to make some informed decisions.
Expected income from accepted quotes
We’d previously written a guide on using quotes for income forecasting, and that continues to be relevant and helpful. Read more
In situations where shoots have been postponed and you have agreed that balances will now be paid at a later date, then updating the Balance Due Date field of the quote will help your forecast to remain accurate and helpful.
Invoices awaiting payment
As well as accepted quotes that you haven’t yet created invoices for, you may also have outstanding sales which have been invoiced but are yet to be paid.
As with your quotes, you should also update the payment due date for your sales.
Light Blue has an existing query that shows all of your sales that are awaiting payment.
By viewing those sales in the List View, and customising that view to show the payment due date and grouping them by payment due month, you will be able to build a picture of the income that you can expect in the next few months.
If you save the list view as a custom report then you can quickly run the numbers again (with the most up to date information) with a couple of clicks whenever you need – just click on the Reports menu, then Custom Reports.
Adjusting to changes
Things will be in a state of flux as you may be in a period of negotiation with your clients, but as you update sale and quote records payment due / balance due fields based on changes then you’ll be able to get a picture of what should be coming in and when.
This article has focussed on dealing with quotes and invoices that are still relevant. There will be circumstances where you no longer intend to peruse the balance of an outstanding invoice, in which case you can issue a credit note. If you have received some money from a client that you have agreed to return, then you can issue a refund.
January is a great time for introducing changes and improvements into your business, investing time now in order to enjoy benefits later in the year.
You want to get 2020 off to a strong start, and we’re here to help! Let’s explore a few ways that Light Blue can make your business easier to run and more effective this year.
Light Blue is a flexible and powerful tool that offers a great deal of value to photographers. Read on to discover a few of the ways that it could help you this year.
1. Email templates
Keeping in touch with your clients is important, but it doesn’t have to take ages! Light Blue’s email and text message templates save you time and mean that you don’t forget to say the important things. There’s no need to type the same messages out again and again, and our powerful mail-merge tags automatically personalise your messages with the relevant details.
Email templates are useful because they can save you a lot of time sending out standard responses to your clients’ queries, help you to use consistent wording, and present yourself with a professional image. You can use email templates whenever you create an email to a client from Light Blue, and you can also use them in workflows to send automated messages to your clients: for example, to remind them about a booking.
When you’ve only got one or two shoots to worry about, it’s easy to remember all of the important things that you need to do. However, once you’re at the stage where you’re dealing with multiple jobs that are all at different stages, keeping track of what needs to be done next can be a headache!
Whether or not you’ve planned it that way, every successful photography business has a series of steps that you need to go through to make sure that you’re delivering the best possible service to your clients. Light Blue’s powerful workflows can add a list of tasks and automated messages based around the date of the shoot, so we can remind you when you need to do something and important emails and text messages will get sent automatically.
Receiving new enquiries is great because it means that your marketing’s working well and people want to work with you! If you install one of Light Blue’s contact forms on your website, all of the useful details of your new enquiry will flow straight into Light Blue – no need to type anything into your database. Your client can get an immediate, automated reply, and you can follow it up with a personalised email or text message template as soon as you’ve checked your availability.
In order for you to deliver memorable pictures and outstanding service to your clients, you need to have the right information. Sending questionnaires to your clients is a great way to capture the important details. Light Blue’s forms can be sent out as a questionnaire from a shoot record and will update your records with the details that you need. Your clients are essentially doing your admin for you, while you appear to be really thorough & organised. There’s no limit to the number of different forms that you can use, so you’re free to ask the right questions at the right times.
Converting enquiries into paid bookings is great, but it’s even better when the booking process is effortless for both you and your client.
Confirm bookings with ease by sending contracts from Light Blue. It’s easy to present pricing options to your client, gather additional details, have them agree to your terms and conditions, and even take payment for a booking fee or session fee in one nice, simple flow!
One of the great advantages of using Light Blue is that all of the information that you need is in one place. That data can tell you a lot about how your business is doing, and help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
That’s where Light Blue’s reporting features are invaluable, allowing you to use everything you’ve entered into it to give you an overview of how your business is performing and where you need to focus your efforts so that you can hit your goals.
You don’t need to spend ages collating the data, there’s no need to be copying and pasting things, formatting spreadsheets or setting up complicated pivot tables in Excel!
Reports & queries pull up your live data, so you’re always seeing the most up to date information.
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.
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:
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.
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!
Photographing newborns is a rewarding experience. You get to share in the magic of their first few weeks on Earth and capture those moments for the proud parents.
But get ready to expect the unexpected.
We’re not just talking about the kind of surprises only a tiny baby can provide during a shoot. They also have their own unique way of testing your organisational skills before they’re even born.
Babies will arrive in this world on the day of their choosing. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve carefully planned your diary to photograph them on September 20th if they decide to stay inside Mum’s tummy until the 22nd.
They’ll definitely set some challenges to your diary and to-do list, especially when you’re booking sessions well in advance of baby’s due date.
So how do you strike the balance between being prepared and professional, while still being flexible enough to accommodate last-minute schedule changes?
Here we explore how using Light Blue can help you stay organised while remaining understanding and unobtrusive towards your clients.
How Are Newborn Shoots Different?
Ideally, you’ll want to arrange the shoot for within 14 days of a baby being born. The client will give you their due date which you can work around to book a provisional date. But with only around 25% of babies arriving precisely on time, this date will more than likely have to shift.
So the task here is to establish processes which make it as stress-free as possible, for you and your client, to adapt to this uncertainty.
Here’s where Light Blue’s clever functionality comes to the rescue, no matter what day baby is planning to arrive.
Adapting the Shoot Record
The shoot record is your go-to information centre for each and every job you do. When it comes to managing a newborn shoot, it has some handy features to help stay extra-organised:
Calendar – when you first take the booking, you can add a provisional date for the shoot to your Light Blue calendar. If you need to reschedule because baby arrives early or late, simply move the booking to a new date and all the tasks associated with that shoot will shift date automatically. Managing your diary is instantly easier.
Custom fields – these can be added to a shoot record to cover specific detail such as contacts, figures, notes and, in the case of newborn photography, Mum’s due date.
Custom fields can be created in your preferences.
This can be allocated its own workflow, for example to send an automatic email one month before to check in with the client.
The job of ticking all the boxes connected with a specific booking demands plenty of organisation. Light Blue’s workflow tool looks after the logistics for you.
It enables you to create lists of all the essential tasks connected with an important date, creating specific workflows for shoots and viewing sessions. A standard shoot workflow will include reminders to confirm the date, send the contract, collect the deposit, check equipment, and the names of those attending.
For newborn photography, a workflow specific to the due date is a great way to manage its inherent unpredictability. It allows you to tackle that ever-changing session slot and will also establish rapport with the client while they’re waiting for their little one to arrive.
Simply click next to the custom field showing the due date and allocate a unique workflow, reassured that if the proposed shoot date changes, all the task dates will change too. Everything will be scheduled at the right time: nothing to remember and no chance of forgetting anything vital.
Workflow tasks based around the due date can be made fully bespoke using offset dates and automated templates:
-30 days: email with tips about what to pack in a hospital bag
-20 days: email with advice on how to make the most of the shoot
-7 days: check-in to see how they are and reschedule if baby has arrived early
-3 days: a second check-in on any news
+3 days: a reassuring message to say you’re thinking of them
+7 days: to suggest moving the shoot date forward by ten days
As the big day approaches, a dedicated workflow makes this nurturing campaign structured, while remaining friendly and reducing stress for all. You’ll know what’s happening with your diary while the client will keep you forefront of mind without feeling hassled.
Making the Most of Forms
Gathering client details is straightforward when you use our forms. From the initial enquiry to pre-shoot, you can install forms on your website via Light Blue. All the crucial detail will be sent back to the system so it’s right at your fingertips.
You can easily create a contact form specifically for newborn shoot enquiries. You can add a field for the expected due date which will help the planning process at the earliest possible opportunity. This can will be imported into a new shoot record which will then contain the key facts.
When the client fills in the form you send an automatic thank you reply to your potential new client.
Once you have imported their details you can apply your normal enquiry workflow.
While you have all the important information about mum and dad, don’t forget about baby.
You can create a pre-shoot form for their parents to complete to gather the new arrival’s name and date of birth. If you don’t already have an address, you can ask for it now by simply adding another field. Or maybe you’d like to know the names of anyone else who’ll be at the shoot, such as grandparents or even pets.
When this questionnaire is sent back to you, a notification will appear to check your Light Blue inbox. You can then add it to the shoot record and you’ll have all the information you need, including when to send baby their first birthday card.
Using Queries to Generate More Business
When a client books a newborn shoot, it’s part of your job to tempt them to arrange more sessions as their baby grows into a smiley small person. This can be a date-juggling admin headache if you don’t have the right systems in place.
Light Blue offers two ways to ease this. You can add a task to the newborn shoot record, triggering an automated email +300 days after the initial session. This will prompt the client to think about booking a first birthday shoot.
Or you can tap into the functionality of the software’s query tool. This helps you keep track of all the crucial dates so you can nurture and follow-up at the appropriate time.
For instance, you can search for newborn shoots you did ten months ago, find all the information you need about the clients, and propose the idea of photos to celebrate baby turning one.
Queries can be fully customised to show the most relevant information in easy-to-view columns. And once you’ve set up a query you know will be used regularly, you can save it to appear in the query list. Next time, in just one click, you’ll have every necessary detail within seconds.
You can also use the query tool to check whether clients have booked a viewing session or not: helpful when reminding those new parents whose lives have become a bit of a blur. Simple specify your search criteria in the drop-down boxes and the software will delve into the data for you. Armed with the information, you can then efficiently follow up.
If you need help with finding information in your own database, the Light Blue team can also design bespoke queries for you to suit the exact nature of your photography business!
Managing Bump to Baby Packages
For those clients who want to document baby’s journey through life from even before they’re born, multiple shoots charting bump to first birthday are popular.
Light Blue simplifies managing the process, giving a clear overview of them all regardless of how the sessions are booked:
When the client takes a modular approach, i.e. they book a maternity shoot, then a newborn shoot later, then decide they’d like photos at 3-6 months and finally for baby’s first birthday. In these cases, you can use a different shoot record for each shoot while also linking them together so they’re part of one client journey. Simply click on the linked records tab and they’ll all be presented to you together.
When the client books a whole bump to baby package in advance with a fee agreed and contract signed. Here, you can create a single shoot record and add the date of each session within it. As Light Blue doesn’t limit you to one date per record, you’ll have all the relevant information in one place. Individual workflows can then be added to each session date for ultimate clarity.
Be consistent in your approach here and you’ll always have easy access to a client’s series of shoots.
Throughout the whole newborn photography lifecycle, Light Blue will keep you organised and the customer informed. From initial enquiry to viewing session and final online payment, it keeps track of every important step.
The result? Happy clients and less admin work for you while you concentrate on producing stunning photographs of beautiful newborns.
Discover more about how Light Blue can transform managing your newborn shoots.
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.”
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.