Image by Gregory Heisler
Stop treating various aspects of your business like it was rocket science - have some fun and mix up the formulas!
I love Sunday mornings, because it's a time to just kick back a little and think about the week that's just closed and the week ahead. For me, it's a time when I just start thinking about things I'd like to do that are different. This morning I'm thinking about how many photographers out there keep doing the same old thing and don't understand why they're business isn't getting more traffic.
Years ago, an old buddy used to remind everybody who attended his programs to save the last frame "on the roll" and just shoot completely different from everything else they'd done. Take the time to experiment. Even though we're back into the busy season
, for many of you there are some pretty slow week days. So, during a momentary lull in business, why not think about mixing up the "formula"?Time Magazine cover photographer, Gregory Heisler
did my headshot a few years ago, which I wrote about in a very early blog. It wasn't your average lighting set up for a portrait, but then again, Gregory is anything but average!
He photographed wide open with a Hasselblad H1
with the 100mm f2.2 lens. A narrow vertical softbox with just the modeling light on was maybe 6 inches from my face and the camera maybe 12-18 inches away. An assistant held in a black piece of card stock just to keep the flair off the lens.
For the most part, everyone has some down time here and there. It's the perfect time to experiment, but not just in the capture of your images. How about looking at doing things differently in manipulation and workflow? Maybe it's time to test a new design on a direct mail piece? How's your website - is it time to update the images with a stronger look?
Whatever changes you make, keep focused on the fun of it! If you let it become a chore, then you've lost perspective on what makes imaging so much fun! Remember, you're an artist, NOT a photographer. That gives you license to break the rules, just make sure you've learned them all before you break them!
From Scott Adams on Quoteland.com: "If you’re going to create, create a lot. Creativity is not like playing the slot machines, where failure to win means you go home broke. With creativity, if you don’t win, you’re usually no worse off than if you hadn’t played."Photo Credit: © shotsstudio - Fotolia.com
"If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person's life in a positive light, and that's what I want to do. That's what it's all about."
It's a great quote, but when you realize who said the words they border on being meaningless. In fact, as poignant a statement as it is, the real meaning is completely lost on what became the brunt of some of Jay Leno's best jokes.
So, the thought for this Saturday morning goes back to an expression my grandmother used, "Practice what you preach!" We all have new expectations, new energy and a new level of hope for 2013. It's actually my favorite time of year, when just the anticipation of what's going to happen next creates energy.
Whatever your dreams and goals are for this year, tackle them with commitment! Don't compromise and don't do anything half- Be true to yourself, your aspirations, your friends and your clients.
Who gets credit for the opening quote? Tiger Woods, who as the greatest golfer of all time, has learned that it's a whole lot harder to walk the talk than the back nine at Augusta!
Illustration Credit: © ojka - Fotolia.com
Social media helps to hold your network together, but don't underestimate the power of meeting people face to face. A solid handshake still trumps the click of your mouse!
by Skip Cohen
Every convention, workshop, monthly meeting of a local PPA chapter you attend building your network is critical. In fact, it's been one of the biggest benefits year after year at our summer program. So much so, that today there are almost 300 photographers who are part of a small, but incredibly strong forum called "Skip's Summer School" on Facebook
I know there are still people who think a good stack of business cards is all you need to build a good network! Sorry gang, if you're just collecting cards that doesn't cut it any more. I'm not sure it really ever was very effective, but here are some thoughts that might help you think through how to build a great network:
- At every program/workshop/class you attend make it a point to get to know the people sitting around you. If you're all there to listen to the same presentation, then right off the bat you've got something in common.
- Never go to breakfast, lunch or dinner by yourself and never go with the same people every time. Getting together with old friends is terrific, but see if you can bring a new person into the group each time you head out. You don't have to make it into a major event - just the casual time over a meal.
- Get to know the people who sell the products and services you need. If for example, you just started working with Venice Album, then how great would it be to put a face with the name of the person you've talked to previously at the company? This industry is built on relationships. Actually meeting somebody you've worked with will buy you so much in the long run. Even better is meeting the key executives of the companies whose products you use. These are the people driving the bus and they're at these shows because they want to meet and talk to professional photographers.
- Diversity is the key to having a great network. Work to develop a network of people with skills who compliment each other. For example, let's assume you do a lot of commercial work, but lately have had a few requests to shoot weddings. Get to know a few wedding photographers whose work you respect, so you can refer business to each other and also learn from each other.
- Use social media to set up meetings in advance. Whether you're on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ whatever - use social media to find out who's going to the same programs you are. Social media gives us all incredible reach, but it's even better when you can actually shake somebody's hand who you've been talking to on line or reading about.
- Talk to the speakers! I know most people get a little shy when it comes to a Q &A session at the end of a presentation, but there's nothing stopping you from going up to a speaker after the program and introducing yourself. There are even a few speakers, who make it a point to get to know as many people in their program as possible, BEFORE things even get started.
- Stay in touch! This is the hardest part of maintaining a good network, but you've got the most vehicles, e.g. Twitter and Facebook especially, to make it happen. Stay connected - and it can be done so easily.
You've got to network to build your Network! The Summer Session of SCU
is the next big event coming up. Meeting other photographers, from your own backyard or other parts of the country and world, is one of the very best reasons to attend any workshop, but remember you snooze you lose! You've got to get involved in every possible program you can and introduce yourself to an industry loaded with creative people willing to shareIllustration Credit:
© jojje11 - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
Every now and then I wander into YouTube to see what I can find. Virtually every time I'm blown away by business concepts, marketing ideas, motivational productions and just plain chuckle power. I found this video looking for motivational pieces last week and it stars some of the greatest actors in Hollywood, together with sports celebrities who are on everybody's hero list.
Some of my favorite quotes were:
"Limits like fears are often just an illusion."
"Don't be afraid to fail. You can't always win, but don't be afraid of making decisions."
"Skill is only developed by hours and hours of working on your craft."
I realize over a million people have already watched this, but I'm betting most of you have never seen it! I hope you find it as inspirational and fun to watch as I did!
This year's SCU Summer Session faculty is there to help you find the route to THRIVE not just survive!
by Skip Cohen
Several times over the years I've found great inspiration in books from WalktheTalk.com.
Well, I was in the middle of cleaning one of the bookcases in my office last weekend and ran across this one, Leadership Lessons
and I started thumbing through it.With Summer Session for SCU coming up in August,
I found myself looking back on the fun of past programs and the people I've met who have become great friends. In the process I started thinking about the stand-out programs for this year from so many leaders in the industry and it struck me how the definition of a leader is so diverse.
Photography is a combination of incredible technology and a creative art form. In the past most of us have considered the leaders to be those photographers who are creating excitement, new directions and new imaging applications. Reading this one little WalkTheTalk publication I found myself thinking about how much deeper the qualities of leadership really go."Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn't, do something else."
Franklin D. Roosevelt"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
Warren Buffet"Apply yourself. Get all the education you can, but then, by God, do something. Don't just stand there, make it happen."
All three quotes are from Leadership Lessons
. All three are dead on target when you think about the people working to change our industry. For example, this year's SCU Summer Session faculty is Clay Blackmore, Bob Coates, JP Elario, Michele Celentano, Justin and Mary Marantz, Joe McNally, Suzette Allen, Roberto Valenzuela, Zach and Jody Gray, Dixie Dixon, Michael Corsentino, Ryan Schembri, Jen Rozenbaum and Bob and Dawn Davis. They are all exceptional photographers and people working to raise the bar in our industry, but I love the way they teach. They're going to work to help you plant that "tree to create the shade"
Warren Buffet talked about.
One more quote from Leadership Lessons:"Leadership is not magnetic personality - that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not "making friends and influencing people" - that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. "
Peter Drucker I hope you can join us in August - it's an amazing faculty and destined to be one of our very best programs yet!
And, like Peter Drucker suggested - the team is going to help you raise your performance to a higher standard..
© freshidea - Fotolia.com
I can't believe it's almost June. Lately I feel like I'm trapped in an old Jimmy Stewart movie and the hands of the clock are just spinning. Now I have the challenge of explaining to too many of you who Jimmy Stewart was! LOL
The big questions on everybody's plate are always the same: How can I grow my business? What do I need to do differently this year? The list goes on and on.
So, while wandering in and out of cyberspace I found a site called Quoteland
and after a little mining uncovered the following gem from Charles Chic Thompson
. While he obviously added some humor to the concept, think about each of his ten points. More than likely you'll agree that he's dead on.
Top 10 Creative Rules of Thumb
1. The best way to get great ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.
2. Create ideas that are 15 minutes ahead of their time…not light years ahead.
3. Always look for a second right answer.
4. If at first you don’t succeed, take a break.
5. Write down your ideas before you forget them.
6. If everyone says you are wrong, you’re one step ahead. If everyone laughs at you, you’re two steps ahead.
7. The answer to your problem “pre-exists.” You need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.
8. When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.
9. Never solve a problem from its original perspective.
10. Visualize your problem as solved before solving it.
Illustration Credit: © peshkova - Fotolia.com
I found this post in Scott Bourne's archives and loved sharing the approach as part of "Marketing Monday." Every photographer can relate to the idea of starting over when it comes to something not working the way you want it in your images, but why is it so hard to think the same way when it comes to your marketing? As I wrote in my post this morning, if something didn't work then it simply didn't work and it's time for a change. Changes are just part of your growth as a business and an artist. Don't be afraid to hit the rest button! Skip Cohen Copyright Scott Bourne 2010 - All Rights Reserved
by Scott Bourne
I had the pleasure of working in my studio last week with one of the artists from the Cirque du Soleil show “Love.” Delphine is a powerful young woman who works on the trapeze – aka a “flier.”
She has amazing red hair. As we were shooting, I realized that in some of my images, her hair was photographing more brown than red. This was fine for some of my shots, but I also wanted to make sure to really capture the fire red of both her hair and her personality in some of the images.
I made a few exposures, checked my LCD, and realized that the problem was simple” There wasn’t enough light on her hair. To show color you need light. But yet, for a minute or two I kept on shooting. Rookie mistake time folks. I knew better. I stopped and heard the words of one of my very first mentors in my brain – newspaper shooter Jack Russell used to say to me all the time. “If you don’t like the light kid – change it. It just isn’t rocket science.”
It’s funny how those lessons we learned sooooo long ago can escape us. While it’s no big deal to burn digital pixels, there’s also no need to waste time. I just wasn’t happy with what was going on. So I remembered Jack’s words and changed the light. I added a strip light in the form of a bare bulb against silver reflector in an uncovered soft box. I moved this very close to her head – and just out of the frame. This allowed me to add some real pop to her hair.
I also remembered the rest of Jack’s words said to me that very first day he worked with me.
“If it isn’t working. Stop – reset – change everything. Go back to step one. Zero everything out and start over.”
I’ve heard great ones say the same thing my whole career. Whether it was Rocky Gunn, Dean Collins or modern day photographers like Joe McNally – I’ve heard this stop – reset – change advice. It’s good advice and even I should take it some times!
I did just that. I stopped. I changed everything. I realized this young woman needed to move. She needed to flow WITH the camera. She wasn’t good at sitting still. So I started moving her. I changed the pose. I changed the angle of the light. I brought in more specularity. I moved the hair light closer. And I love the resulting picture which you see at the top of the page. If you knew Delphine for 15 minutes, you’d realize this shot captures at least one side of her personality perfectly. Were it not for those who went before me giving me that simple advice – “If you don’t like the light – change the light…” I wouldn’t have gotten this shot.
It’s my turn to pass it on and hopefully save at least some of you from the same frustration. If things aren’t working. Stop what you are doing and just start over. Maybe you’ll end up with an even better idea!
It might be time to make a change in your business strategy, but you're the only one who can set the pace.
by Skip Cohen
Just like everybody, I go through stages of focusing on one particular aspect of the challenges of being in business. "Failure" the "F Word" is simply not an option, but it's come up a few times in posts over the last few weeks.
Failure is way over-rated and can only happen if you fall and don't bother to get up. Yeah, I really do believe it's that simplistic...because it's all in your mind or what you let other people put in your head. Success on the other hand is a whole lot harder to define.
I have no idea how "I Am" did as a movie, but the trailer about Tom Shadyac pretty much says it all, because by most of our definitions he had it all. He was definitely successful, but still wasn't happy.
We all define success differently, but a few of my favorite quotes seem to help on the topic...
David Brinkley: "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him!"
Bill Cosby: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone"
Woody Allen: "Eighty percent of success is showing up."
What prompted this short rampage on the success/failure theme was the increasing number of comments lately where I'm hearing photographers who are spending too much time focusing on the slowness of reaching "success". They're acting like they think they've failed!
Well, I live with a very special lady who absolutely refuses to let me even use the word, "failure". If something didn't work, then it simply didn't work, but nothing in life is a failure until you stop trying. So, the challenge today, in terms of your business is really very simple. Notice I'm saying "simple" - not EASY...it still takes work.
Try out the following exercise:
1) Shut off all cell phones, your computer and anything else in life that interrupts your thought process. That might mean locking the kids out of the house for a couple of hours.
2) Find your most favorite place in the house.
3) Whether you like wine, a cup of coffee, a soda, a beer or a martini makes no difference - get yourself something to drink and get a pad of paper - that's right - we're going to do this long hand.
4) Ready? Just start writing down ideas and brainstorm the challenge - write every idea down and no idea is a bad one. What ideas? Let's start with things you could do to get people to know about your skill set, business and passion for photography.
Example: You're a wedding photographer and business is down. What things could you be doing to raise awareness for you and your business?
Do more local advertising? Put together a direct mail campaign? Purchase a list of brides? Take the owner of the local bridal gown store to lunch? Do a Saturday bridal shoot at the store? Who's the biggest hair salon in town - they know everything that's happening especially in small communities. Look at your brochure or website - are the images the best they can be? Would you hire you, based on the information on your website?
How about a joint mailing with several other vendors in town, e.g. a limo company, a florist and a caterer?
5) My suggestion is to spend an hour doing this and then bring somebody else into the discussion, be it your spouse, associate or a friend who knows you well. We're all too close to our own business. I'm always amazed when a photographer shows me something about their work to critique and they're so surprised over my suggestions to make a change - it's because it's the easiest assignment on planet earth - to review somebody elses work/project when you have no direct involvement. So, don't underestimate the value of one of your friends, who's not in the business, to just come in and join you in the process of looking for new ways to attack the challenge.
Most important of all, let's ban the word "failure" from our vocabulary. Nothing is a failure, just a life lesson or an FGO (Friggin' Growth Opportunity) - sorry can't take credit for that last little gem!
Thomas Edison: "I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work."
Illustration Credit: © jojje11 - Fotolia.com
Supposedly it's a lot more work for your facial muscles to frown, than it is to smile!
by Skip Cohen
A few times over the years I've quoted this kitchen magnet statement in various posts:
"Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain!"
It's time to quote another one. The truth is there's a lot of great information on refrigerator doors around the world and it's time I took a shot at capturing some of it. This is a call to action - send me a picture of your refrigerator door along with your favorite words of wisdom posted there. Whenever I get enough to publish, I'll make a blog post out of them! (Send them to email@example.com )
"For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination."
It's signed by "Souza"...and comes from a company called Quotable Magnets. I have no idea who Souza is, but a big thanks is in order!
On a small table stand I've got another one: "Life is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine". There's definitely a correlation between good wine, good friends and enjoying the journey!
You're working hard to build your brand - don't start changing key components just because you think everybody is tired of it!
by Skip Cohen
Over the years I've repeatedly seen photographers, as well as manufacturers, change their advertising because they were tired of a specific ad.
A great ad gets dropped because the manufacturer was tired of looking at it. What everyone forgets is how many times you have to hit a consumer before they remember your ad or your product. Often there are still thousands of people out there who haven't seen the message.
Years ago there was a professional photographer who changed her logo three times over three years because, "I'm tired of it!" Meanwhile, every time she was starting to build up brand identity and a little momentum, she pulled the plug and essentially started over. All because she was tired of the logo - but her fans weren't and neither were all those people who had never seen it before.
It's a great thought for those moments when you have a little down time this weekend - if you're thinking about creating a new look to your branding, seriously consider how much exposure you've given your brand to date. Maybe it's time to make a slight change in your approach to the market, but then again, if you're doing it only because you're tired of it - remember you're not your target audience.
Illustration Credit: © OutStyle - Fotolia.com