Light Blue’s List View & Custom Reports

In this short series of articles, we’ve been covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue. We’ve previously looked at different ways of finding useful information that’s already in Light Blue, both with Quick Queries and creating your own more specific searches using the Query Dialog.

That data is really useful and can tell you a lot about how your business is doing. In this article we’ll explore how we can step back and look at the bigger picture using List View.

More than just a list of records

When you view the results of a query, you can see all the records that fall into that found set in either Detail View (the default), or List View. List View is a really good way of seeing a big group of records all at once, and the totals and averages that it provides are great for quickly understanding your data.

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When you go into List View, Light Blue will show you a default set of columns, but you can choose to customise this to display the fields that are relevant to you.

For example, you may be interested to see how profitable all your shoots from the previous month were. Having queried for those records, you can now customise the list view (by clicking Window > Customise List View) to show columns of the most relevant information.

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Grouping records together

In List View, you can view the found records as one big list, or you can group them to give you a more helpful view of your data.

For example, it’s really useful to get an idea of how your bookings are doing year on year, so running a query for all of your confirmed or completed shoots in last year, this year and next year is a good starting point.

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While you can sort all of these records by their start date, it can be pretty hard to see where one year ends and another begins, and without totals you’d need to count them up in your head.

Grouping the list view by year means that there’s a clear separation between shoots from one year and another.

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You’ll notice that we’ve now got sub-totals and averages for each group, essentially a list within a list. At a glance we can now easily compare how one year has performed against another.

Grouping records together isn’t limited to just one criteria, either. If you wanted to group your shoots first by year and then by enquiry source, that gives a useful picture of how many shoots you’ve booked for each year and also which types of marketing are proving most effective.

Saving custom reports

There’ll be some cases where you want to run a one-off analysis like this, but plenty of other cases where you might want to keep an eye on a particular set of figures regularly.

Light Blue allows you to save a query and the customised list view as a custom report, so it’s ready with a couple of clicks. It’s a huge time-saver for anyone who’s interested in getting the most out of their data.

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Whenever you want to re-run your report, you’ll find it in the Custom Reports submenu of the Reports menu.

Doing even more with your Light Blue data…

There’s even more that you can do to make the most out of the valuable data in Light Blue, and in the next article we’ll have a look at exporting information from Light Blue for use with third-party tools.

Using the Quick Queries to find useful information in Light Blue
Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data
Exporting Data from Light Blue for use with third-party tools

Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data

This is the second instalment of a short series of articles that will be covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue. That data can tell you a lot about how your business is doing, and help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The great thing about using Light Blue is that all of the information that you need for this is in one place. In the first article, we talked about Quick Queries, which are saved searches of your current data. These queries are automatically updated and show all of the relevant records that match each saved search.

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Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data

Compared to using Quick Queries, Light Blue’s Query dialog allows you to be much more specific about the information that you’re searching for, and construct your own queries. These queries can be as simple or detailed as you like, and all of our Quick Queries were built in the Query dialog and can be loaded into it.

For example, you may be interested in targeting some of your clients for a particular promotion. For example, all of your portrait clients who’ve spent more than £500. You can narrow down the selection of records that the Query dialog returns by adding extra criteria, as you can see in this screenshot.

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Using advanced mode for more detailed queries

 

In most cases, when you’re building a query and want to add extra criteria, you’re adding them to narrow down the selection of records that Light Blue will find for you. In our first example, we started off with all of our portrait shoots, and then narrowed that down by specifying that we were only interested in those portraits shoots that also spent more than £500.

This is an example of what’s know as an “and” search, where you’re looking for records that match all of your criteria. You also have the option of adding more advanced options to your queries, including “or” operators and grouping parts of your query together using brackets.

We’ll go into more detail on these advanced features in a future article, but for now here’s an example of how you could modify our example query to search for portrait shoots that spent more than £500 or wedding shoots that spent more than £1,000.

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Using an existing Quick Query as a starting point for your own custom queries

You may find that our existing Quick Queries are helpful, but that you’d like to refine the search a little more. With the Query dialog, you can load an existing Quick Query to use as a starting point, and then add more criteria to your search.

 

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The “Stale Enquiries” query is shows you all of the unconfirmed shoots that first got in touch more than a month ago, but don’t have any more outstanding tasks.

However, let’s say that you’re only interested in a specific type of shoot you could add that criteria to the query.

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Saving queries saves you time!

Everyone runs their photography business in their own particular way, and that means that the information that’s important to you is likely to be different to whatever’s important to the next photographer. Light Blue allows you to add your own queries to your list of Quick Queries, and therefore makes it easy to keep an eye on whatever’s important to you.

To do that, first build your query in the Query dialog. When you’re happy with it, click the “Save Query” button and give your query a name.

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More detailed analysis…

So far, we’ve talked about using Quick Queries and the Query dialog to find a selection of records. In the next article in the series, we’ll look at how you can use the List View & Custom Reports to analyse data in more detail.

Using the Quick Queries to find useful information in Light Blue
Using List View & Custom Reports to analyse data in more detail
Exporting Data from Light Blue for use with third-party tools

Using Quick Queries to find information in Light Blue

One of the great advantages of using Light Blue is that all of the information that you need is in one place. That data can tell you a lot about how your business is doing, and help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

That’s where Light Blue’s reporting features are invaluable, allowing you to use everything you’ve entered into it to give you an overview of how your business is performing and where you need to focus your efforts so that you can hit your goals.

You don’t need to spend ages collating the data, there’s no need to be copying and pasting things, formatting spreadsheets or setting up complicated pivot tables in Excel!

Reports & queries pull up your live data, so you’re always seeing the most up to date information. We’ve got a lot of useful reports already in Light Blue, and we’ve taken a quick look at those in this handy tutorial video:

Quickly finding useful information in Light Blue

This is the first in a short series of articles that will be covering how to make the most out of the information that you’ve already entered into Light Blue. We’ll be looking at how to create your own reports, with some specific useful examples, and also discussing when exporting information out of Light Blue may come in handy.

Before that, I’d like to tell you more about Quick Queries which are saved searches of your current data. The queries are automatically updated and show all of the relevant records that match each saved search. In each of the main sections in Light Blue, you’ll notice a column on the left hand side which displays a set of Quick Queries.

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You’ll see a different set of Quick Queries, depending on whether you’re looking at the Shoot screen, Contacts screen, Sales screen or Purchases screen, for example.

Keeping an eye on your outgoings is important for any business, and there’s a load of Quick Queries in the Purchases screen to help you. You can see all of the purchases that have been made within a variety of periods – all of last months purchases or all of the purchases you’ve made this financial year, for example.

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In the Sales screen, you can see a list of all of your invoices that have been sent to customers and should have been paid by now, but are currently marked as unpaid. This is really helpful for seeing all of your overdue invoices in one place and allows you to quickly chase them all up at once. You could send an email to all of those billing contacts, so you’re not spending ages sending them all messages.

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In the Contacts screen, there’s a few Quick Queries that help you to see when you’ve got upcoming birthdays within your customer base. That’s great for sending a simple “happy birthday” message, or planning ahead and suggesting that they book a portrait session.

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Giving you control…

One of the really great things about Light Blue is how flexible and customisable it is, and that’s what I’d like to focus on in this series. It’s possible to create and save your own Quick Queries, which we’ll be talking about in our next post.

Using the Query dialog to dig deep into your data
Using List View & Custom Reports to analyse data in more detail
Exporting Data from Light Blue for use with third-party tools 

Using price lists to save time in Light Blue

Price lists are one of the many time-saving features built into Light Blue, allowing you to create a list of predefined products & services that can be used to quickly and accurately enter a quote or sale. They save lots of repetitive typing, or copying and pasting from old invoices.

You can find out how to set up a price lists in our video tutorials section.

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Templated, but flexible…

Light Blue is full of features that allow you to set up templates to save time, but those templates are always designed to give you the flexibility you need to treat your clients as individuals. Price lists are no different.

Sometimes, you may have a client who requests a small change to an existing product or service that you offer. Perhaps you’re a wedding photographer, and they’re not interested in the parent albums that are included in the package that they’ve chosen?

The simplest approach is for you to use your price list, but then adjust the description and value of a product once it’s been added to a quote or sale.

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Keeping an eye on profitability

Another handy feature of price lists is being able to include an estimated cost for each item. These costs are used when creating quotes, and allow you to keep a close eye on your estimated profit for the job when setting up a bespoke quote.

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Offering packages

Many photographers sell packages of products and services, and there are a variety of ways of structuring these in your quotes and sales in Light Blue. Again, price lists can help you to set up them up quickly and flexibly.

The simplest and most popular approach is to create a single item in your price list for the package, give it a sensible name, and list the contents of the package in the description field.

However, some photographers prefer to break the package down into separate items. One drawback of this more granular approach is that this could encourage your client to chop and change things a little more than you’d like, or invite them to scale down their package by more than you are comfortable.

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To avoid that, you could create a dedicated “Bespoke package” price list where the unit price of each item is £0, but you’ve still entered the unit costs as accurately as you can. Then, have another item just called “Bespoke Package”, to which you manually add whatever unit price you intend to charge. That way you’ve got a good idea of your material costs before you decide what you plan to charge for the package.

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Light Blue ‘White Glove’ contract signing

With the online booking forms and contract signing services in Light Blue 6, photographers have been streamlining a key part of running their business. Gone are the days of vast amounts of paper being shuffled back and forth; instead, it’s really simple for your customers to complete their booking online.

But sometimes, you need that special touch – perhaps you’ve got a posh client who’s booking a family portrait, or a celebrity couple confirming a wedding shoot, and you feel that simply sending them an email asking them to fill out a form isn’t classy enough. That’s where our new ‘white glove’ contract signing service comes in. Providing a truly bespoke, personal service, our team of specially trained butlers will receive your instructions, then visit your client and present them with an iPad ready-loaded with the form they need to fill in and the contract for them to sign. They can also handle taking payment by any of the standard methods (card, PayPal etc.), by wire transfer from offshore bank accounts, or in bullion.

To ensure a speedy service, our butlers are permanently stationed at strategic locations around the UK, each with a selection of luxury cars, or a helicopter for clients who have their own helipad. And, if your customer’s not in the UK, we have butlers on standby in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, and Melbourne, each with a private jet ready to fly at a moment’s notice. There’s a selection of vehicles, too, to match your client’s tastes; having a butler turn up in a Ferrari 599 GTO when your client prefers a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta would be a serious faux pas.

Long-time Light Blue user and beta tester Didcott Parqué is a great fan of our new service. “I regularly take family portraits for Premier League footballers, politicians and the like”, says Parqué. “For them, it’s all about image. I’ve got nothing but praise for the three butlers I’ve worked with so far – Gerard, McAlmont and Lambert have all been exceptional, and my clients are so impressed. Light Blue makes the process of filling out a form, signing the contract online and paying the booking fee is already really straightforward, but having a butler on hand to say ‘now click the “Submit” button’ at the appropriate moment makes all the difference to my conversion rate for these high-value clients.”

Photographer Dalston Kingsland agrees. “For many of my customers, clicking a link in an email is far too much like hard work. The new butler service is great, because the Light Blue butler can arrange an appropriate time with my client’s PA, and then arrive in style, at my client’s convenience.”

The new ‘White Glove’ service is available starting today, April 1. Find out more…

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.