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