Scheduled website maintenance

We’re going to be carrying out some scheduled maintenance on our website servers this weekend, which is going to lead to some unavoidable downtime for our account management pages and support resources such as our knowledgebase and video tutorials.

However, Light Blue’s online services will be unaffected and you will be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s features while this takes place.

We’ll be carrying out these updates early on Saturday morning (UK time) to minimise any disruption.

Using Light Blue for Newborn Photography

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.

Streamlining Workflows

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:

  1. 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.

Compatibility with macOS Catalina and iOS 13

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

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

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

Health warning

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

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

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

Save time by importing your ProSelect orders into Light Blue

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

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

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

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

Christopher Hill Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scheduled website maintenance

We’re going to be carrying out some scheduled maintenance on our website servers this weekend, which is going to lead to some unavoidable downtime for our account management pages.

However, Light Blue’s online services will be unaffected and you will be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s features while this takes place.

We’ll be carrying out these updates early on Saturday and Sunday mornings (UK time) to minimise any disruption.

Getting to grips with the Task Manager in Light Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer stories – Lynne Kennedy

Lynne Kennedy is based in the far north-west of Scotland, next to the Isle of Skye, where she specialises in photographing elopements and small weddings. The majority of her shoots are on Skye but she occasionally travels a little further afield to another island or remote part of the mainland. She’s been photographing weddings since 2007.

“I wish I’d started using Light Blue years ago. It really would have made such a difference but I’m just glad I am (almost) utilising it fully now and feel so much more organised in my business. “

“I was using Excel spreadsheets and a paper diary! Until my friend Suzanne Black visited and said she wasn’t leaving until she taught me the basics. Since then, I have never looked back!”

So what is it that Lynne loves about Light Blue?

“I am pretty bad at time management and even though Light Blue has helped me so much since I started using it, I still don’t know what I’ve done with the time! But I love how organised I am now – I feel much more on top of my business and a lot more disciplined about sending out correspondence to clients and making sure I get paid.”

“It’s really handy to be able to send a text to enquiring customers to say I’ve emailed them my information because my emails tend to go in the junk all the time.”

Lynne can be out of the office a lot with her shoots, so finds Light Blue’s iOS app very handy because she can use it even when she doesn’t have phone signal.

“It’s worth having as sometimes you might be out of the office for a few days and not otherwise have access to that information.”

She will happily tell people that she is not the most “techy” person and says she has found the support from Light Blue a great help.

“I’ve spoken to Ian a couple of times and he is really incredible and helpful. I realised I’d been doing something wrong with my invoicing and he was very kind and patient and explained it so thoroughly for me. I feel now that no matter what it is I can’t figure out, even if I think it’s not worth bothering him, I really should, rather than trying to work it out myself, because he can point me in the right direction much more quickly.”

We asked Lynne what other tools have helped her business.

“I love Todoist and that is definitely an app that is worth the money and I’ve been using it every day to keep on top of projects and things I don’t use Light Blue for. Also, QuickBooks is fantastic and my next project is to learn how to integrate that with Light Blue.”

“Once you start using Light Blue, you’ll not be able to understand how you managed without it.”

Lynne Kennedy

Lynne Kennedy Photography

Using Light Blue to follow up enquiries

Do you follow up on enquiries? You could be missing out on work. We loved this tweet from Graham Carruthers.

It can be difficult to keep on top of enquiries, but with Light Blue you can set up a workflow that automatically follows up enquiries. Workflows can be used to add a series of tasks, emails, or text messages to a shoot.

A really simple enquiry workflow might include a task to respond to an enquiry, then an automated email for 5 days later to follow up.

When you’re setting up your workflow you can choose to create a task, appointment, email, or text message. Select the email template you wish to use and decide how long after your initial response you want to follow up. You can choose the time of day you would like the email to send.

Once you have created your enquiry workflow, go to your preferences and set this as your default workflow for enquiries.

When you receive an enquiry and create a new shoot click on the add workflow button beside the enquiry date.

This lets you add your enquiry workflow to the shoot. It will automatically select the default enquiry workflow you selected in preferences along with the enquiry date.

Any workflow items will be added to your activity panel.

If you also look in your Outbox you’ll see any scheduled emails and text messages ready to send.

We’d love to hear how following up on your enquiries has lead to more bookings. Get in touch and tell us if it’s helped!

Using quotes to forecast income in Light Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Light Blue to handle large numbers of leads

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

Let’s look at each situation separately.

Wedding fair leads

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

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

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

Portrait studio leads

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

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

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

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

Using Quick Queries to find information in Light Blue

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

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

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

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