Using quotes to forecast income in Light Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Light Blue to handle large numbers of leads

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

Let’s look at each situation separately.

Wedding fair leads

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

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

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

Portrait studio leads

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

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

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

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

Using Quick Queries to find information in Light Blue

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

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

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

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

Light Blue 8.1.2

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

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

Customer stories – Margaret Soraya

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

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

We asked Margaret what her favourite Light Blue feature was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret Soraya

Landscape photography website

Wedding photography website

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

Using Light Blue to manage multiple brands

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

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

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

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

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

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

macOS and iOS public betas: our annual health warning

Apple have a reliable schedule of releasing major updates to macOS and iOS in the Autumn, and we can expect macOS Catalina and iOS 13 to be released towards the end of September 2019.

For the last few years, Apple have been releasing public betas of their major operating system updates in the Summer. Installing these public betas can be risky because they’re likely to contain bugs, and many apps won’t be updated to support major new OS updates until close to the official release date.

We would advise against installing major OS update betas on any device that you rely on to get work done and – even when they’re released to everyone – we always advise customers to be cautious about rushing to update. This year’s public betas seem to be causing problems with a wide range of apps, so we’d recommend staying away from them unless you absolutely have to install them for some reason!

We’re keeping a close eye on macOS Catalina and iOS 13, so expect to hear more about them from us in September.

Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) support added to Light Blue

tl;dr: we’ve taken care of this so that you don’t need to do anything.

On 14 September 2019, new regulations are being introduced across Europe to protect people using cards to pay for goods and services online. These new regulations are called Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) and will add a requirement for two-factor authentication for many online payments.

The requirement for two-factor authentication means that affected transactions will require something in addition to the card number. Details will vary between card providers, but they might include codes generated by your online banking app, a security dongle, etc.

If you’re using our popular online contract signing or online invoice payment services and accepting card payments from your clients via our Stripe integration, you will be affected by SCA. However, we have already made all of the necessary changes and there is nothing that you need to do. Your clients won’t notice anything different: they’ll still be able to pay you quickly and easily by card.

If you’re not already using our online contract signing and invoice payment services, we’d be delighted to show you why photographers give us so much great feedback about them. Our customers love how easy these services make it for their clients to confirm a booking or pay an invoice.

You can find out more about our online contract signing service in this video tutorial, while this tutorial shows you how to go about publishing invoices for payment online. If you need any help getting started with these services (or with any other aspect of using Light Blue) get in touch with us and we’d be delighted to provide you with one-to-one help via a screen-sharing session.

5 more tips for getting started with Light Blue

We posted part one of our series of blog posts on five tips for getting started with Light Blue a couple of weeks ago. If you missed it, it’s worth reading it first before today’s post!

After part one, you should be getting to grips with the basics of adding shoots, contacts, and workflows. Today we’re going to look at how you can use more of Light Blue’s features to cut down the amount time you spend on admin in your business.

6. Set up text messages

Text messages are a great quick way to keep in touch with your clients. You could let them know an order is ready, or send a reminder of an upcoming appointment or shoot. We have a couple of ways that you can set up text messaging in Light Blue.

You can either use our dedicated number service where you rent a number from us or – if you’re in the UK or Ireland – you can send messages that appear to come from you (either your own phone number or a short name). You can find how to set this up under SMS settings in your account.

Sending a text message is really easy. Just select the contact you want to text from the ‘Linked Records’ tab in the shoot record and then use the ‘Create Text Message’ or ‘Create Text Message From Template’ command from the options menu.

Sending text messages

7. Create a sale and invoice

Once you have set up your shoot you will want to be able to collect payment from your customers for any session fees or products. To do this, you create a sale record in Light Blue.

When you’ve entered the details of what you’re billing your client, you can turn the sale into an invoice and send it to them.

Create an invoice

Publishing invoices for online payment

8. Set up your price lists

Setting up price lists is a great idea as it can really save you time when creating quotes and sales. Instead of having to manually type in each product, description, and price to a sale, you are can simply click on the green plus button to add a product then start typing and Light Blue will show you a drop-down menu of matching products. Select the correct one and the description and pricing will be filled in for you.

You can set up as many different price lists as you want. When you create a sale, you can then quickly select products from the relevant price list for your shoot.

9. Set up a booking or information form

In part one, we talked about setting up a contact form for your website that sends new enquiries straight to your Light Blue account. You can also use forms to gather all sorts of information from clients at any stage of their booking. Maybe you would like to gather some information from a portrait couple before their shoot, like who is involved in the shoot and where the shoot will be. Another great way you can use them is before a wedding. You can ask your couples for information on group shots and schedules, and everything that they enter into the form can be used to update their shoot record.

Creating online forms

10 Create an online contract.

One of the most popular features of Light Blue is being able to create online contracts. Our online contract signing makes it really easy for your customers to confirm and pay for their session.

Online contract signing: setting up your contract templates

Online contract signing: an in-depth look at all the features

Now you’re starting to use Light Blue to manage your enquiries, book your clients in, deliver great service, and invoice your clients. We understand that people learn in different ways and that no two businesses are the same, so if you’d like some more help with getting the most out of Light Blue then we’d be delighted to chat with you over a one-to-one screen-sharing session.

Book a screen share

Getting your Facebook lead generation advert data into Light Blue

For many of our customers, Facebook is a key marketing tool. There are lots of different ways to market on Facebook from organic posting to paid adverts. One of the most popular tools is to use a Facebook lead generation advert. You might be running a competition or have a great offer that will get lots of people into your studio.

Facebook lead gen ads make the lead generation process easy. People can simply tap your advert and a form pops up, it’s already pre-populated with their Facebook contact information and ready to be sent directly to you.

But how do you get all these leads into Light Blue?

There are two main ways of doing it. Either manually or automated using Zapier. We have made this handy video to show you how:

The first is by downloading the leads to a .csv file. These can simply be uploaded as contacts into Light Blue using our “import contacts from .csv” option. This will create a new contact record for each of the leads. You can then attach shoot records and workflows like you would with any other contact.

The second option is to set up a Zap using Zapier. You may already have an account if you are using it to link a booking system like Acuity.

Zapier connects the apps you use everyday to automate your work and be more productive. There is a free version that allows you to set up 5 zaps and a paid version that starts at $20/month that offers more complex integrations and the ability to use premium zaps such as the one we use to connect Facebook lead generation adverts and Light Blue.

You can follow the steps for linking your Facebook lead gen ads to Light Blue in our handy video above.

If you have some ideas of good Facebook lead gen ads for photographers, why not post them in our new Facebook group.

5 tips for getting started with Light Blue

We understand that it can be daunting learning a new software, especially one that’s as powerful and full of features as Light Blue. Its easy to put it off because its all too overwhelming. We want to help!

We have a great “Setting up Light Blue” webinar to help you get set up and if you have a spare hour its really worth sitting down to watch it. Sometimes, you just want some quick start tips. Today’s blog post gives you some easy ways to get begin setting up Light Blue for your business.

1. Input your upcoming shoots into Light Blue

One of the first things we recommend doing is to start inputting any current enquiries or confirmed shoots. It helps get you more familiar with the shoot records.

2. Set up your workflows

Using a workflow is a really quick way of scheduling tasks, emails, text messages, and appointments for a shoot. They’re easy to set up, and help you to deliver excellent service to your clients by making sure that you’re reminded about all of the key steps that you want a job to go through.

We recommend sitting down and detailing all the steps you do for each type of shoot. Include all tasks, emails, meetings you might have connected with the shoot. You will want to create an enquiry workflow, a confirmation workflow and one for each shoot type and think about when you do the tasks.

Eg your confirmation workflow might have the following simple steps:

  • Respond to enquiry (email)
  • Send a text message saying you have emailed them some information (text)
  • Follow up enquiry (email)

A simple portrait shoot workflow might be:

  • Check Portrait shoot details day before (task)
  • Send reminder email with direction for session (email)
  • Send text message reminder about session (text)
  • Download and back up images (task)
  • Post production (task)
  • Arrange viewing session (email)

Once you have detailed your workflow sets you should add them into Light Blue. Setting up Workflows

3. Template Emails

A great way of speeding up your business admin is using template emails. Rather than typing an individual response to each email you receive you can set up a series of template emails that you send from initial enquiry through to a client collection their order.

How to set up and send emails in Light Blue

You may already have a list of emails you send clients as part of the workflow planning we suggested in the previous section. If you don’t, sit down and write a list of all the emails you send a client throughout a job so that you can create templates for each one.

If you are looking for inspiration on some ideas for email templates, our recent blog post “Ten essential email templates for photographers” might help!

4. Set up the online portal

Our online services enable you to share your information between computers, hook up your web contact forms to your account, use our great online contract signing services and lets your clients pay your invoices online.

You will want to set up the online portal with so that any contract, forms or online invoices show your business branding. Some of our customers have more than one brand eg a wedding and a newborn business. You can use as many different brands as you like, there’s no limit!

Setting up the online portal

5. Contact forms

One of the great benefits of using our online services is that you can add contact forms to your website that send enquiries into your inbox in Light Blue. No more manually inputting all the enquiry, you simply import the data as a new shoot record.

How to set up online forms

Embedding a contact form into your website

We hope this helps you with getting set up with Light Blue and allows you to enjoy the benefits of several of its features. We understand that people learn in different ways and that no two businesses are the same, so if you’d like some more help with getting the most out of Light Blue then we’d be delighted to chat with you over a 1 to 1 screen sharing session.

Book a 1to1 screenshare