Light Blue 6

Faster and more intuitive, with some great new features!

Watch a short video or an hour-long webinar explaining more about the great new things in Light Blue 6…

A fresh new look

Light Blue 6 sees our biggest facelift for three years! The new design looks much more at home in the latest versions of Mac OS X and Windows, but we’ve done much more than give it a superficial lick of paint.

One of the key things we’ve done is make it much clearer where you are in Light Blue, where the information you’re looking at came from, and how to get around. You can now see very clearly which section is selected, then the quick queries it contains, and which records the selected query contains. This makes it really clear which subset of records you’re working with, and makes it much more obvious that the quick queries list is there to help you find the information you’re looking for.

New typography in the list of records makes it much clearer and easier to read – especially helpful when you’re working with the large amounts of data that you can build up when you’ve been using Light Blue to run a busy photography business for several years.

It’s not just the biggest, most obvious parts of Light Blue that we’ve been smartening up: we’ve systematically gone through the whole program and made things easier to understand and use, as well as working out better ways of presenting the important information you’ve been entering into Light Blue. We’ve improved lots of the plumbing and wiring that does so much hard work behind the scenes, all of which helps to make Light Blue 6 faster and easier to use.

For people taking a new trial, we’ve completely reworked the sample data that’s set up when running Light Blue for the first time. This helps newcomers get up and running faster, without having to worry about much of the setup side of things.

New features for Light Blue’s online services

Our optional online services offer so much more than just syncing your data between computers! In Light Blue 5.5 we added an online contract signing service that saves time for photographers and is really convenient for your clients. Light Blue 6 adds two great new features that make it really simple for you to get the information you need from your clients, and to help them to pay you promptly.

Online forms (subscribers only)

Light Blue 6 makes it easy to ask your clients for information via our new online forms. You can use our new forms as a contact form, but you can also create forms that gather all of the information you need from your clients when they confirm a booking with you. These forms can be included as part of an online contract, or you can simply add a standalone form to a shoot and send it to your client. When your clients submit a form to you, it’s easy for you to update Light Blue without typing everything in yourself.

Light Blue’s online forms are also designed to be really convenient for your clients to use. Any information that you already have about your clients or the shoot, such as the clients’ names and contact details, is already included in the form – it means that your client can simply confirm that what you already know is correct and fill in any missing details.

You can also use Light Blue’s online forms like a contact form: new clients can fill in the details of their enquiry, and it will appear in Light Blue’s Inbox. We’ve also made it easy to embed our contact forms into your own webiste, so your client doesn’t have to leave your site to use them.

Online invoice payment (subscribers only)

Our online contract signing service already lets your clients pay a booking fee online, and that’s been really popular with both photographers and their clients because it’s so much easier than dealing with cheques or bank transfers. In Light Blue 6, you can now publish any invoice to Light Blue’s client portal. Your client can then view the invoice online, and can pay you via credit card, debit card, or Paypal. It’s really simple!

Text messaging

It’s now easier than ever to stay in touch with your clients, or make sure that they turn up for their appointments because you can send text messages directly from within Light Blue 6.

Text messages can be sent to individual clients, but we’ve also created tools that make it easy to send messages to a selection of clients, or send out event reminders. Your clients’ replies go straight to your mobile phone, and our customisable templates make it easy to set up personalised messages using our mail-merge tags.

You don’t need a subscription to our online services to send text messages from Light Blue, and text messaging credits cost as little as 7p per message. We’ve given everyone five free credits, so that you can try it out for yourself.

(Text messages can’t be sent to US or Canadian phone numbers at the moment. We’re hoping to be able to let all our customers in the USA and Canada take advantage of this feature in the near future.)

Localization

Light Blue was originally designed for English-speaking photographers, but it’s used throughout the world. We’ve made it easier for photographers working in countries that speak other languages to use Light Blue by making it possible to translate our built-in templates, which means that you can print or create PDFs from Light Blue in your own language, using our built-in templates, instead of having to create mail-merge templates.

Please note that Light Blue itself is still written in English. At present, we don’t have any plans to translate the whole application.

Shoot session descriptions

Most photographers only ever need a single date and time for their shoots, but sometimes you’ll have more than one session (for example, if you’re photographing a multi-day wedding and want to show what’s happening on each day in your diary). In Light Blue 6, we’ve made it easier to keep track of what you’re doing in each session by letting you enter a description. These session descriptions are included in the ‘Current Events’ list on Light Blue’s Home screen, in the built-in calendar, and in all of our calendar publishing options.

Improvements to Appointments

Appointments are a handy way of booking out time for meetings, viewing sessions, etc. We’ve made them more helpful in Light Blue 6 by adding a status field (so you can pencil in appointments to be confirmed later, or mark them as cancelled instead of deleting them), allowing you to add workflows directly to an appointment (so that, if the appointment is rescheduled, so are any linked tasks), and letting you log mileage claims directly against an appointment.

Calendar

We’ve improved by Light Blue’s built-in calendar by adding a year view (which makes it easy to get an overview of your busiest times of the year, or to try to find a conveniently quiet time to book a holiday). You can also add notes to the calendar, which are really handy for setting up staff rotas, or making a note of important dates (such as your Christmas ordering deadline).

PDF templates for branding

We’ve always allowed you to add your own branding to our built-in invoice, quote and receipt templates but, up to now, you’ve had to use image files to do so. With Light Blue 6, you can now use a PDF letterhead template. PDF templates offer sharper text and logos, let you use hyperlinks in your invoices, and often produce smaller file sizes that are easier to email when you export a PDF from Light Blue.

Three great new finance features

Accountants love spreadsheets, and we like keeping accountants happy. So, we’ve made it really easy to export all of the information your accountant is interested in out of Light Blue, by adding an ‘Export Financial Information’ command to the File menu. That single menu command will let you choose a period of time, such as ‘Last financial year’, then export all of your Sales, Purchases and Payments, and the items from those records, all in one go.

We’ve also made it faster to enter details of sales you’ve made where you wouldn’t normally want to raise an invoice and send it to your client. For example, if someone pops into your studio to buy something then and there, or if you’re selling prints at an event. In the Records menu is a new ‘Quick sale’ command, where you can add some info about the person who’s bought from you, the price of the goods, and how they paid – it’s really quick to add all the information that’s needed.

And, finally, also in the Records menu, you can now import Purchases from a spreadsheet, which is great for when you use a service like Receiptbank, or if you’ve got a load of historical purchases you want to add to Light Blue.

Other changes

There are many other smaller improvements throughout Light Blue 6, and they’re all designed to make  Light Blue faster, better and more intuitive. Here’s just a handful…

  • We’ve changed the location that Light Blue stores its data in on Mac OS X. You can now find it in your Documents folder, inside a folder called ‘Light Blue Software’. This means it’s more visible, for example if you want to make a backup of it. The data folder is still in its old location on Windows.
  • Our new redesign includes high resolution graphics for Retina Macs.
  • The ‘Transactions’ section has been renamed to ‘Payments’, to make it easier to understand what it’s for.
  • When using the Print dialog to attach a PDF to an email, you can now pick an email template instead of creating a blank email.
  • When you’re importing data from the Inbox, you can now see whether any of the fields you’re important will overwrite existing information that you already have in Light Blue.
  • The Activity panel on the main record screens now tells you when the record was created.
  • In the query dialog, you can now query on a record’s created date.
  • You can now query for records linked to shoot types, price lists, etc, that have had their ‘Hide’ checkbox set.
  • When querying on a date field, you can now query for particular days of the week (e.g. “all shoots that happened on a Saturday”).
  • When you print a shoot’s details, you can now include the contents of the shoot’s Activity panel.
  • You can send emails directly from the Home screen by right-clicking on an event.
  • We’ve added a contextual menu to the Task Manager.
  • You can now email a document that’s already attached to a record’s Activity panel. Right-click on the document, or select the document and use the cog menu at the top of the Activity panel, to create an email with it as an attachment.
  • We’ve created a ‘Housekeeping’ menu within the Records menu – our own bit of housekeeping! – and added a new option that makes it easy for you to tidy up Light Blue’s popup menus. It’ll make it really simple to track down and fix anything that you might have mistakenly typed into one of those fields.
  • If you and your staff are using Light Blue’s password-protection system to log into the desktop app, we now keep track of who completed a particular task (or, at least, who said they did…)
  • The login dialog now remembers the last member of staff to log in to Light Blue on that computer, and defaults the staff menu to that user.
  • When you add a contract to a shoot, Light Blue automatically selects the wedding couple (for weddings) or the primary contact (for all other types of shoot) as signatories – it just cuts down on the clicking.
  • We’ve swapped the ‘Publish’ and ‘Done’ buttons in the contract dialog to make it less likely that someone could click the ‘Done’ button to dismiss a contract, rather than sending it to their client.
  • When you use the ‘Export’ command from the File menu to export shoot information, you can now choose to include contact information (e.g. email address or phone number) for your shoots’ primary contacts. The same goes for the List view.
  • When you use the button in the Contacts detail panel to update a bride’s surname and set her maiden name, Light Blue automatically changes her title to “Mrs” if it’s currently set to “Miss”.
  • In the Inbox, when you import something received from the Light Blue API or one of our new forms and you’re updating an existing record, it’s much easier to see which fields will be updated.
  • We’ve added some new mail-merge tags: %ContactNextAppointmentStartDate%, %ContactNextAppointmentStartTime%, %ContactNextAppointmentEndTime% and %ContactNextAppointmentDescription%, %CurrentUserAddress%, and %ShootNextAnniversary%.
  • Mail-merge date tags could already be turned into a ‘long’ date by adding “Text” to the end of the tag (e.g. %ShootStartDate% could be turned into a ‘long’ date by using %ShootDateText%). We’ve added a mid-length version that you can use by adding “TextShort” to the end of the tag (e.g. %ShootStartDateTextShort%).
  • We’ve made it easier to charge mileage to a client by adding an command to Sale records’ cog menu that allows you to copy over the total mileage from that Sale’s linked Shoot.
  • The Status field on Sale records is now hidden by default because it’s not used by many photographers. You can turn it back on in the ‘Custom Fields’ section of the Preferences window.
  • From a Quote record, you can now create a Sale for two thirds of the balance (as well as the existing options for the full balance, half of the balance, or one third of the balance).
  • On Mac OS X, you can use the Cmd-Shift-F keyboard shortcut to go to the Quick Search box.
  • We’ve improved the way that addresses are formatted for Swiss clients.

Online contract singing

We launched our online contract signing service a few days ago, and we’ve been bowled over by the response. However, our beta testers have been telling us they’ve sometimes mistakenly typed ‘contract signing’ as ‘contract singing’, then hitting ‘send’ without spell-checking.

We don’t like it when people lose face like that, so we’ve teamed up with Cambridge Chorale to launch the world’s first contract singing service with options available for all occasions and budgets. It’s available from today, Wednesday April 1.

With many thanks to Cambridge Chorale (@CambChorale or facebook.com/CambridgeChorale).

Online contract signing

Speed up the booking process and make it really easy for your customers to confirm their shoots with this great new addition to our online services!

Admin without the hassle

When a client decides to book a shoot, you want to make sure that confirming their booking is as simple as possible. It needs to be really easy for your client to sign your contract and pay a booking fee, so they don’t hold up your business by taking ages to email or post things back to you. And, of course, you don’t want to spend more time than you have to on boring admin tasks! Our new online contract signing service makes the whole process of confirming a booking really simple.

Step 1: Add a contract to a shoot

You’ve got full control over all the wording, and can either set up your own templates or import contracts provided by professional photography associations.

Step 2: Publish your contract to your client portal

At the same time, your client receives an email telling them there’s a contract for them to sign, and they can just click on a link to open it.

Step 3: Your clients electronically sign the contract

You can optionally let them choose from a selection of quotes, too.

Step 4 (optional): Your clients pay your booking fee

They can pay by card or PayPal – or you can just ask them to send you money by bank transfer or cheque.

All part of our fantastic online services

Our great new online contract signing features are included in a subscription to our online services, which starts at just £7.50 + VAT per month. As well as contract signing, the online services mean you can hook up your web contact forms to Light Blue, sync data between devices (Mac, PC, iPhone and iPad) and get all the updates we release in future for free!

Video tutorials

It wouldn’t be a new feature without video tutorials! Here are three which will help you.

Setting up the client portal
All about contract templates
An overview of the process, from creating a contract through to signing it and accepting it

A Christmas tech support carol

In other words…

There’ll be no formal Light Blue tech support between 12 noon on Wednesday 24 December and 9am on Monday 5 January. We’ll check our inbox on 29, 30 and 31 December and 2 January, though, in case there’s anything urgent.

Please vote for us!

We’re in the running for ‘Best Software’ and ‘Best Customer Service’ in the SWPP Trade Awards this year – up against some of the industry giants. It’d make our day if you’d vote for us in those categories. It won’t take a moment, and your votes mean a huge amout to us, as a little independent software company.

Is that really Hamish?

Yes, Hamish sang all the parts in that carol. When he’s not in the Light Blue bunker, he sings with Cambridge Chorale, one of the top amateur choirs in the country. If you’re quick (and in the UK) there’s still time to order their Christmas CD or their latest release, ‘Songs and Sonnets‘, out in December 2014 and featuring music with texts by Shakespeare.

Light Blue: The past is our future

Here at Light Blue Software, we’re intimately connected to the world of photography. We live and breathe it, and draw inspiration from both our customers and the trends we see in the wider photographic world. And who can have failed to notice the biggest thing to hit both photography and cameras in the last few years – retro styling?

Take the Nikon DF. It’s a modern marvel that recalls some of Nikon’s historic design triumphs, combining modern technology with classic looks. Likewise, Olympus’ OM-D harks back to the days of chunky steel and leather. It’s clear to everyone: the past is the future.

This is all well and good for companies that have been making physical products for nearly a hundred years, but software as powerful as ours has only recently been possible, so we don’t have the decades of history behind us. At first, this seemed like an insurmountable problem, but we love a challenge, so we locked ourselves in the Light Blue secret bunker until we came up with the answer: Light Blue: Retro.

We’ve taken the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the original Apple Macintosh as a sign that we should take inspiration from that icon of software design: Apple’s original System Software.

Challenges along the way

Bringing Light Blue: Retro to fruition has been the toughest project we’ve ever worked on. We’re used to building software for photographers with high-resolution, perfectly calibrated screens, so scaling the interface down to black and white and just 512 x 342 pixels was a challenge. But that was a cinch compared to the work it’s taken to make Light Blue: Retro run with just 128KB of RAM.

Whilst we think we’ve been true to our desire to take inspiration from classic software, we’ve had to make some compromises along the way. The Internet didn’t really take off until the 1990s, so to be really authentic we’d need to implement syncing simply by telling you to phone up any of your other members of staff and tell them what you’d changed. However, we know that lots of our customers rely on our online services, so we’ve given ourselves a bit of leeway and optimised our remarkable data sync system to work over a 14.4Kbps modem.

What people think

We’ve been testing Light Blue: Retro for the last few months, and our beta group loves it. Ian St Agram, one of the group, comments “The Light Blue team is always innovating, and Light Blue: Retro is just fantastic. They’ve really managed to recreate the spirit of early computers, right down to the blocky fonts, tiny screen layout, and slow response times. It brings back so many happy memories!”

Future plans

We’re banking on Light Blue: Retro being a hit, so we’ve halted all development on Light Blue 5 to really improve the Retro version. Future improvements include a Windows version (compatible with Windows 3.1, of course), support for 28.8k modems, a load time of less than five minutes, and the possibility of shipping Light Blue: Retro on laserdisc. Watch this space for more announcements!

Availability

Light Blue: Retro is available today, 1 April 2014, and is supplied on twenty-seven 3.5″ floppy disks. For full pricing details, visit our website; we’re accepting payment by cheque, which can be posted to the secret Light Blue bunker. We’ll be showing it off at the forthcoming Digital Imaging Roadshows in Dublin, Belfast, Bolton and Bradford, so do come along and say hello to us there.

Light Blue 5: boost your productivity

Light Blue 5 brings a host of new features to our award-winning business management software for photographers, making your admin easier and helping you run a busy and successful photography business. To find out what’s new in Light Blue 5, read on!

Contact grouping

  • This makes it really easy to deal with groups of people on their shoots (e.g. family or corporate photographers). You can specify one Contact as head of the group (ie the one you want to communicate with), and then other Contacts as group members.
  • When you’re working with Contact records – for example, sending emails, mail merging, exporting, printing labels and so on – you can choose to use either information from the Contact you’re on, or information form the head of their group. That means, for example, that you can have a child as the primary contact for a shoot, but use their parent’s information when you’re sending letters or emails to them.
  • For more info, see the Contact Grouping video tutorial.

Contact tagging

  • Contact tagging lets you manually tag individual contacts and quickly pull them out of your database.
  • Tags are great for keeping track of things like categorising leads you’ve received according to the types of shoot they’re likely to be interested in (e.g. you could create tags for ‘newborns’, ‘seniors’, etc).
  • They’re also brilliant for keeping track of which promotions you’ve included contacts in (e.g. ‘2014 New Year promo’, ‘2014 summer promo’).
  • You’ll find them in the right-hand column of a Contact record.

The inbox

  • A hub for your incoming information, the inbox lets you import emails from Mail on a Mac and Outlook on Windows.
  • It’s searchable, and really easy to convert an email into a new enquiry.
  • You can also hook your website’s contact form directly into your Light Blue account, or put up a form requesting information about a wedding so that you clients can fill it in directly rather than posting you a piece of paper.
  • We’ve got a plugin for Gravity Forms on WordPress, which is really easy to use, or (for the techies!) you can write your own connection to our API using your favourite scripting language. Find out more about that on our API page.

Custom reports

  • The List View is a great way of generating your own reports, but up to now you’ve had to recreate them every time you need to run one. Now, using the new Custom Reports, found in the Reports menu, you can save the columns and queries which go with them, to make it really easy to bring up your favourite reports on how your business is doing.
  • We’ve provided some examples of custom reports to show you what’s possible and to get you going!

Edit Sales after you’ve invoiced them

In Light Blue 4, once you’d created an invoice, it couldn’t be edited. Sometimes, however, you need to make a change to one you’ve already sent; in Light Blue 5, you can now edit invoices once they’ve been created, which gives you the flexibility to deal with customers changing their minds.

Saving you time

  • Appointment Types let you create templates for appointments, making it easier to set up standard appointments. For example, you could set up an appointment type for viewing sessions that allocates a particular member of staff, books a room and blocks out a set amount of time.
  • You can now delete more than one entry from linked records, activity, schedule and requests by selecting multiple items before clicking the delete button.
  • We’ve added ‘next’ and ‘previous’ buttons to several dialogs, such as on Shoot Schedule or Requests, making it faster to jump between long lists of items.
  • You an now save field orders when you’re performing a data export, so once you’ve got it set up just the way you like it, it’s easy to come back to.
  • We’ve reorganised the Preferences window to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.
  • Text-based custom fields on Shoots and Contacts can now be changed to auto-complete, saving time when you’re entering data.

Being even more useful

  • You can add pictures to Contact records, so you can get a quick reminder of what your clients look like before meeting them again.
  • Contact Ages are now displayed in months for children under two, to help portrait photographers better prepare for shoots.
  • You can now select options for calendar feeds – so you can have one for just your portrait shoots, or one for a particular staff member, for example.
  • You don’t need to have ‘processed’ and ‘unprocessed’ subfolders in your Shoot folder any more – instead, you can simply import a single folder of images against a shoot.
  • On the Sale screen, we’ve added a ‘Salesperson’ popup that lists the staff you’ve set up in the Resources section of the Preferences window. This lets you track how each of your salespeople are doing. Of course, we’ve added a report to show this information, too; that’s under Custom Reports in the Reports menu.
  • When you’re linking pictures to a Sale Item, you can now choose pictures from any shoot, not just the shoot to which the Sale is linked.
  • You can now group shoot requests together, which is invaluable for wedding photographers (eg ‘Formal portraits’, ‘Intimate shots’, ‘Would like’)
  • We’ve really improved the efficiency of the application, so it uses less CPU (and therefore doesn’t drain your laptop’s battery) when it’s idling.

Keep track of time off

It’s now really easy to note down when people are out of the office, or when equipment or rooms are unavailable, with our new Time Off features. You can block out time from the built-in calendar, with just a double-click on the relevant day, and any sessions or appointments which clash with time off will be shown in red, so you can easily see if you’re scheduling something when you’re not available.

Calendar & Home screen improvements

  • We’ve made it easy to offer alternative dates for your enquiries by allowing you to add extra sessions to a shoot from our built-in calendar. When you confirm the booking, you’ll be asked if you want to confirm just one session or all of them.
  • On the Home screen, today’s events are highlighted to make them more obvious. If you don’t have any events scheduled for today, we indicate where today would be so that you can quickly see which events have already happened and which ones are coming up.
  • There’s now an indication as to whether events are scrolled out of view in the built-in calendar, so you don’t miss anything that’s taking place at a different time of day.
  • You can now set the built-in calendar to start the week on a Sunday – one for our American friends!
  • Our built-in calendar now shows the current time when you’re on week or day view, so you know how long you’ve got left before your next shoot.

Communicating

  • Email templates can now use attachments, so it’s easier to send brochures and forms out to your customers.
  • You can now create emails to a found set of contacts, using your default mail application. (This is intended for when you want to email a few people with things like booking confirmations, etc.; for bulk marketing email we still recommend exporting a set of email addresses from Light Blue for use in a mass-mailing service such as MailChimp.)

Printing

  • You can now print envelopes, or print addresses via a Dymo label writer.
  • On a Mac OS X, we’ve been able to really improve the quality of printed text. On both Mac OS X and Windows, we’ve improved the quality of the customisable branding that you can add to our built-in templates.
  • You can now print the task manager and calendar, as well as being able to print several records in one go, which is great for when you need to resend several invoices to a customer.
  • When you print a price list, we now include your branding; we also ask if you want to hide the cost and profit information – meaning it’s much easier to send price lists to your customers.

Light Blue 5 is available now. It’s free for subscribers to our online services, or available for a fee to everyone else – for more info, hit the Buy link in the top bar.

ThinkSync: a brand-new way of working with Light Blue

Here in the secret Light Blue bunker, we’re always working to make running your photography business even easier. Today, 1 April 2013, we’re announcing a revolutionary piece of kit which allows you to work with Light Blue completely hands free.

Check out our video above for more on how ThinkSync can help you revolutionise your business. And, when you’ve done that, download a free, fully functioning trial of Light Blue!

You can pre-order your ThinkSync headset today; we’re aiming to ship them at the end of April.

Video: Ian Martindale; Talent: Matt Pereira