I’ve been using a dedicated photo studio management software package for years now. I’ve changed brands countless times, but I always come back to Light Blue. Below is my experience with the latest version of their software, the Light Blue company, and why I think you should be trusting them to help manage your photography business.
Why Light Blue for Me?
I’m not sure how I came across Light Blue originally, but it was probably a Google search if I’m honest. I had worked out that I needed help with simple tasks, you know, the kind that far more organised people seem to do in their sleep. The kind that if neglected can cause major headaches down the road for any small business.
At the time I was looking for the sort of automation that just wasn’t available from any provider, but Light Blue came closest to what I was looking for so I jumped in.
Over the years I’ve been tempted away to other systems, but at the end of the day none offered the versatility, customizability (Is that a word?), or flexibility offered by Light Blue. Also, as things were moving to web based systems, there was the issue of pricing. Many of the other offerings were charging up to 3 times more and didn’t offer a stand-alone app for your computer. This meant you had to operate them through your browser, and if your browser is open then there is a good chance Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or any other distraction was likely to also be open. The whole point was to be more productive, not less productive.
What is Light Blue?
As the title of this post suggests Light Blue is a photo studio management software package. It helps you keep on top of all day to day tasks that photography studios encounter. Whether you are a one man band (like me), a small studio, or even a large studio, Light Blue helps you keep on top of things. If you are more organised your clients are more impressed, and if they are more impressed they are more likely to recommend you to their friends, colleges, and acquaintances.
Light Blue takes the stress out of your business admin tasks, and helps you to manage shoots, clients, and finances with ease. Meaning you can spend more time taking great pictures, and less doing office work.
Built by photographers, for photographers, to run photography businesses (and nothing else). We’ve been where you are, so we know what it’s like, and have built Light Blue to make your life easier and more productive.
What is new?
Before delving into what is new I thought I would touch on what was already available in the previous version. There is quite a lot so I’m going to touch on what I use the most and what I think most other photographers will be drawn to. I am an Apple Mac user so the below is from my experience using the Mac OS version. You will also need a subscription to their online services to make use of all the features.
- A complete business CRM
- Quoting, Invoicing and Receipts
- Reminders (Syncs with iCloud reminders)
- Calendar (Syncs with Google Calendar and/or iCloud)
- Website enquiry forms
- Online contract signing
- Custom Forms (Great for collecting info from your clients before shoots)
- Online payments via PayPal or Stripe (Sadly not really an option for us South African photographers)
- Auto syncing of client communications
- Scheduled sending of emails
- Email Templates with mail-merge functionality
- Text message reminders (with customizable templates) – sms’s are an additional cost
As you can see from the above list the feature set of Light Blue is pretty extensive, but there are a few new additions that are worth mentioning. There is also one other thing that I will leave to last – it is pretty much why I will never change to another system again.
There has been a long standing custom of photographers charging a booking fee up front to secure the booking date. Clients are then asked for the balance that is due a few days or weeks prior to the shoot. Some commercial photographers may ask for the payment within 30 days after the invoice date, but most photographers have fairly rigid terms and conditions with regards to payments. For many, and I include myself in this grouping, it is because it becomes quite difficult to track who owes what, when, and how. Having a single payment option works well for us, but does it always work well for clients?
Payment schedules allows you to setup custom payment schedules with each client and let Light Blue do the remembering and heavy lifting. Emails and reminders will go out automatically to the clients and you can bcc yourself in on the reminders so that you can see if there are any late payment reminders that you may need to deal with personally. This is how Light Blue described the feature in their recent blog post about the new 2020 version of the software:
Payment schedules allow you to easily break an invoice down into several smaller payments. That means that you can offer a payment plan to your clients and make it easier for them to pay an invoice in more manageable instalments. Because it’s more affordable for your client, a payment schedule can help you to make larger sales or get bookings more easily, too.
I know that going forward I will definitely be offering tailored payment plans to suite the needs of individual customers.
Automated Payment Reminders
I touched on this above, but this is a very welcome addition. The reminders can be setup in a number of different ways and it is fully customizable. Perhaps you may want to remind a customer 3 days before the invoice is due, or perhaps you only want the reminder to go out if the invoice is overdue. You have complete control over how it is setup and as it is part of the Payment Schedules feature you can create as many schedules as you like or need.
The last of the main upgrades is the ability to track emails that are sent from the Light Blue servers. You can also see if the links in emails have been clicked, think links to online invoices, which is another handy option. This feature is 100% optional and is turned off by default. Also, as with most email trackers, it is not 100% effective so perhaps don’t depend on it working with every client, but it is a useful feature.
What Light Blue says about the effectiveness of email tracking:
It’s important to note that email open tracking might not be 100% effective, for a variety of reasons. For example, some email providers and email apps can block email open events from being reported back to us. We’ve also heard of email open events being triggered by some automated content filters. If you CC or BCC yourself into emails, be careful not to trigger open or click events yourself!
Light Blue the Company
This is the bit I was saving for last. In all my years of dealing with overseas software companies I have never come across a more helpful crowd as those at Light Blue. Their service, support, advice, and tips over the years have been simply fantastic.
They say that the software is built by photographers, for photographers, and never was that more evident than during the past 6 months. Photographers, like so many other service type industries, have taken a huge knock during the COVID-19 pandemic, and things have been ‘tight’ to say the least. Without missing a beat Light Blue offered a 50% discount to all their existing subscribers – no questions asked. Every little bit helps and I am hugely grateful to them for this gesture. Many other corporates, with presumably far larger budgets, seemed completely uninterested in helping the industry that has in many ways helped put them where they are.
This is the reason why I will be sticking with Light Blue and recommend you give them a try when in the market for photo studio management software.