Light Blue Software's photography software Light Blue: Photo is built around FileMaker, the Apple owned database software for Mac and PC. Light Blue: Photo, the business management software for photographers, provides a range of integrated tools to keep a business running professionally and hassle free.
Last year's prestigious FileMaker CubeAwards ceremony, held at The Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, celebrated the work of a range of developers. Macworld was also in attendance and met with several of the nominees, including one of the eventual winners, Light Blue Software.
Macworld caught up with Light Blue Software's Tom Catchesides to find out more about the company and the latest Light Blue: Photo v2 update released this week.
Q. Before Light Blue: Photo did you struggle to keep things organised as photographers?
Yes! Light Blue: Photo started its life when I was establishing my photography business, building it up alongside a full-time job. Without something to keep me organised and make sure that my clients were being looked after, it would have taken much longer to establish my successful photography business.
Q. At what point did you think FileMaker might be a useful tool?
Immediately. Before I became a full-time photographer I was a software developer, creating bespoke systems for a variety of clients in a variety of development environments. FileMaker lets you turn your ideas into a working system very quickly compared to other systems, whether that idea is a basic contacts database or a highly polished business management system like Light Blue: Photo.
Q. At what point did you think Light Blue: Photo was fit for public consumption?
Other photographers started asking me whether they could use it years ago, but Light Blue Software was only founded in 2008 when my colleague Hamish and I decided to release Light Blue: Photo. From that point, we spent about six months refining it with the help of a team of photographers before releasing version 1.0 in February 2009.
Q. Briefly, what are the benefits over simply using FileMaker or even Bento?
From a features point of view, Light Blue: Photo has been specifically designed to run a professional photography business. Our users don't need to know how to build databases or even have any experience with them, they just download Light Blue: Photo from our website, watch some of our online video tutorials if they need any help, and get on with running their businesses.
Theoretically, if you had lots of experience of building business software and were willing to spend a couple of years writing your own, you could make something similar to Light Blue: Photo. However, we're good at what we do and we think that photographers' time is better spent taking pictures and making money.
FileMaker themselves agree with us, describing Light Blue: Photo as "one of the slickest vertical market solutions [they’d] ever had the pleasure of picking apart, wide in scope with innovative, clever features built to high standards, demonstrating an exemplary user experience".
Even more important than features is our customer service. Our helpful support and willingness to listen to our users is generating really good word of mouth, which is persuading both new users and photographers who have got frustrated with their existing software to start using Light Blue: Photo.
Q. You've recently released Light Blue: Photo 2.0. How do you determine when a full upgrade was needed?
We released a whole series of free updates to version 1, but eventually we got to the point where lots of the new features that we wanted to implement required some fundamental changes under the hood. That gave us the freedom to build some really useful new things into Light Blue: Photo v2.
Q. Are there any additional concerns when writing a cross-platform program such as Light Blue: Photo?
Definitely! We've made sure that, apart from iCal synchronisation, the Windows and Mac OS X versions of Light Blue: Photo are identical. We've extended FileMaker in various ways that makes Light Blue: Photo much more than a simple FileMaker application (how many FileMaker apps can generate web galleries from image files, or integrate seamlessly with calendar systems such as iCal or Google Calendar?) and making all of those features work consistently across two very different platforms is very important to us.
Q. Apart from Mac iCal integration do the two pretty much look and work the same?
Exactly, within the limitations of what a Mac OS X or Windows application is supposed to look like! We're keen to make sure that our users see Light Blue: Photo as an application in its own right, rather than just another database.
Q. Finally, for any part time or new photographers out there with a handful of pro jobs, when would be a good time to start using Light Blue: Photo?
As soon as you decide to start building your business, regardless of whether you're planning to go full-time or if you've decided to establish a successful part-time business. By investing in Light Blue: Photo, you're giving your business a solid foundation that lets you manage your clients, marketing, communications, accounts and image files without getting bogged down in time-consuming admin. Without it, I know that I (and many of our users I've spoken to) wouldn't have a business as successful as it is now.
(Light Blue: Photo v2 is available now. Existing users of v1.x can update their copy for £85 - including VAT; approx. $118, excluding tax - while new users can register their copy for the new lower price of £295 - including VAT; approx. $409 - excluding tax. For multi-seat pricing, visit the website www.lightbluesoftware.com. A free, fully functioning 30-day trial of Light Blue: Photo can be downloaded from the same website www.lightbluesoftware.com).
(For non-photographers looking for a database, FileMaker Pro 10 pricing details can be found here.
System requirements are Mac OS X 10.4.11 or Mac OS X 10.5, Intel or PowerPC Mac, Mac OS X 10.6, Intel only, Windows XP Professional, Home Edition (Service Pack 3) and Windows Vista Ultimate, Business, Home (Service Pack 1.))
Tom Catchesides photography www.catchesides.co.uk.