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 firstname.lastname@example.org )
"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
A cover shot on a magazine is always the ultimate goal, but in your quest, don't forget all the other outlets for editorial images.
by Skip Cohen
Over in the Webinar Center there's a terrific webinar thanks to Manfrotto with Adam Barker
, From Capture to Cover
. In this webinar, Adam shares a lot of ideas on how to land a cover shot.
Having been on the magazine side of this industry for many years I want to expand on some of Adam's ideas and give you another perspective.
A few months ago I was with a group of photographers who were talking about some of the cover shots on their favorite magazines. Somebody made the comment, "I could have done that!" Okay, it's true, there are very few covers that most of you couldn't have done, but the reality is you didn't! It's that plain and simple - somebody else made the effort.
Cover shots, at least for the professional photo magazines are rarely, if ever, planned in advance. Typically the images come from editorial pieces within the magazine. So the first step to getting a cover shot - make the effort to get yourself "out there".
Let's talk about what it takes to get your work published:1) Patience
- It starts with submitting your work to the editorial staff of the various magazines. You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket! 2) Networking
- It obviously helps if you work to get your work and yourself known by the editors and manufacturers of the products you use. Just sending in some images and a story idea cold to a magazine isn't going to accomplish very much.3) Be involved
- You've got to get your work out there. Enter contests. Look for calls to action where a manufacturer might be looking for images. A subliminal call to action is any mfg introducing a new product. Images taken with that product or application are going to be in short supply initially. Do your own testing of the product and submit images to the manufacturer and magazines.
Here's a prime example. Scott Bourne and I go back about 15 years. He sent me images taken with the new Hasselblad X-pan when I was president of Hasselblad. The images were stunning, but we didn't have any use for them at the time. Studio Photography and Design
was doing a story on the X-pan and looking for fresh images. I sent them Scott's work and they wound up doing a profile story on Scott and the X-pan, but the story gets better. One of their readers loved Scott's work and hired him for a five year project overseas!4) Build relationships
- It's not just about the editorial staff, but the manufacturers whose products you use. I know we'd all like to believe editorial is objective, but it's not all the time and having the support of a manufacturer, who is an advertiser, will sometimes be the link to finally getting your work published.5) Never compromise
- Every image you submit has to be spectacular. Never compromise on the quality of the images you submit.6) Follow the editorial calendars
- Every magazine has a published editorial calendar for the year. Make it a point to follow the themes of the calendar. For example, you'll never get published if you're submitting work that's all landscape when the theme for the month is children's portraiture! Your work needs to have relevance.7) Format
- most photographers forget to look at the format of the cover. Images used for cover shots can't just be beautiful, they have to fit the cover with the magazine title, tag lines and even where the address label is positioned. They also have to be verticals, at least most of the time. I'm always surprised at photographers who think an image would make a beautiful cover, but for example, forget the magazine title is going to run right through their image. If you want to practice with a few images yourself, mock up a cover of your favorite magazine and then drop in your photograph..
Here's a fun exercise to do. Look through the last issue of a magazine like Professional Photographer. Look at all the images in the magazine. I don't know about PPA, but I know at Rangefinder we used to take just about all the images in the magazine and mock them up as covers before making our final choice. If you want to see just how hard it is to pick a cover shot, go through the magazine and envision your favorites as covers. It's a daunting task. 8) Patience
- no it's not a typo. It's first and last on the list for getting your work published. Getting yourself featured in editorial boils down to a combination of everything above, combined with a little luck and timing. You'll never get published if you don't participate in the process, but just like cooking a great steak, rush the process by cranking up the heat and you'll burn it; over season it and you'll ruin it and take it off the grill too early and it'll still be raw.
Take your time. Be goal oriented and don't lose sight of your ultimate prize, being published. Keep building your business and your brand. Things will come together, but it takes time.
Hard to believe that Benjamin Franklin had the idea a few hundred years ago:
"He that can have patience can have what he will."
But I love this quote from Buddhist thinker, author and educator, Daisaku Ikeda even more: "With love and patience nothing is impossible!" Illustration Credit:
© asiln - Fotolia.com
If only jump-starting your business were as easy as a car!
by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot about starting a new business in photography. Even though some of the issues you need to address are the same, let's look at recharging an older business.
We've got to start with the definition of "jump start" or at least figure out what we want to do. Let's look at jump starting a business that's already established and stalled. If we had twenty, fifty or even a hundred photographers in the room right now and they had all been in business for a few years, the room would be split right down the middle between people having a great year in 2012 and those referring to it as the year from hell! Based on their experiences both groups would be right in their perception, but are there things the half having the harder time could do to change the outcome for 2013?
It all begins with getting focused on what it is you want to do. You've got to get yourself psyched up and be not only excited, but really motivated and proud of your career choice in photography. So, as simple as it sounds, it starts with your attitude. Photography is about your heart - and you can't create images that grab people's hearts if your own heart isn't in it.
This is about recharging your battery and right off the bat I'm going to do a shameless plug for SCU's Summer Session in August.
You need to get yourself out of the rut and get a good dose of optimism with lots of good ideas on how to change things. And if you can't make it to Summer Session then look for programs by some of the industry's leading icons to help get you pumped. Matthew Jordan Smith, Dane Sanders, Tamara Lackey, Michele Celentano, Zach and Jody Gray, Justin and Mary Marantz, Kevin Kubota and dozens I've missed, are all on the speaking tour from time to time and you need to tap into their energy.
Then there are specific things to do like launch your own publicity campaign, getting involved in the community, creating buzz for your business. You've got be proactive and offense is always more fun to play than defense! For example, a children's photographer should launch a new promotional opportunity. We're just coming into summer and it's perfect for themed sessions around baseball, 4th of July, summer vacation etc. A wedding photographer needs to do a mailing to past clients about "expanding", new products e.g. albums etc. anything that creates a little noise.
Maybe it's time for this same wedding photographer to expand and diversify into children's photography. How effective would it be to do a mailing to past brides who might be starting a new family and plant the idea for portraits of the new baby. Or let's say you're a commercial photographer and it might be a great time to remind your clients about the need for a good solid new business headshot! Something that goes beyond that old high school senior shot they've been using! Shoot wide angle and bring their business into the shot with an environmental portrait.
And let's not forget the whole world of social media. Are you active in Twitter, Google+ and Facebook, using them as marketing tools? Do you have a blog? Are you consistent in maintaining a constant presence? Check out Shutter Magazine this month for my article
on ways to make your blog more effective.
The point is your business stalled for a reason. I'm not minimizing the challenges with the economy, but too often that's become the scapegoat. If you look at businesses with challenges you'll find there are always things that could be done to turn things around.
Since this is a blog, I've only got so much room before the statistics say you'll lose interest and move on to reading something shorter. The issue is, no business is over until you give up and if you're worried and feel you need a jump start then get some help before you pull the plug. Remember... "It's not whether you get knocked down. It's whether you get up!" Vince Lombardi
These are difficult times with the challenges of the economy and technology both playing a role, but here's the best part! You're not alone in dealing with the challenges and there are lots of us out here willing to give you a hand!Photo Credit:
© Martin Green - Fotolia.com