Today's guest post is part of Bruce's 7 hour program that he gave at Imaging 2014 earlier in January. Most of his presentation dealt with Marketing, Selling, posing and lighting, but he prefaced it with the content below. Check out Bruce's site, blog and Facebook page - you'll always find a lot of helpful information.
Unless we build our foundation properly, how can all the other things we create survive? We can't be like the house built upon sand, shifting to the tide of public opinion whether it's cheating on our taxes or using someone else's copyrighted music on our website. It might be easy, but the better thing to ask is: is it fair to all concerned, is it the right thing to do?
A. Stand behind your commitment. Two years ago I was booked for a simple wedding on New Years Day about 4 months prior. I accidentally put it on my employees calendar and the couple never called me since they had made their payment. Plus, we were closed from Dec 23-Jan2.
Long story short, I forgot their wedding. My heart sunk as I listened Jan 2nd to the answering machine. It was the nightmare all wedding photographers may have had, but in this case, it was a reality. What do I do? Apologizing like crazy and giving them their $2,000 back was the easy part. I said I'd do whatever and they just wanted to forget it.
Sure they were older and had been married before, but forgetting it wasn't an option for me, so I really forced the issue and pleaded with them to let me do SOMETHING. I offered them $2,000 in credit for any other type of session. A few months later, the wife did a glamour session and used her full credit and actually went home happy.
By having integrity, I salvaged a disastrous situation.
B. Help others for helping you. I went to a Christmas Tree farm this fall for Christmas portraits. I called the owner in advance to ask permission. She was actually surprised I called, because "most photographers just show up and don't ask for permission". She said she was getting frustrated about that and I sympathized (and told her they need to show her their business license, but that is another story). I also told her that I wanted to do something to help her. She wasn't interested in a family portrait, but wanted images taken of her cattle to advertise their meat products. So I spent 20 minutes photographing what she wanted a week prior to the actually shooting date. She appreciated the CD I gave her.
When I came out to do the photographs, I had 13 sessions on the books. I told her I wanted to do something to benefit her as well. She said, that she sold her own Christmas ornaments. I told her I'd be glad to buy them. "Okay, I'll sell them to you at wholesale" No way, I said, you are in business to make a living, I'll pay retail. She smiled. Why did I pay retail? Wasn't it the right thing to do by her? It's NOT why I did, it, but will I ever have trouble going back to that farm? And who will she probably recommend when someone is looking for a photographer?
C. Being late with an order... If its going to help, bite the bullet and call in advance, don't wait until they call you. We all like to under promise and over deliver, but when that can't happen, then be proactive and toss in an extra print or two as a thank you.
D. Be Honest. One of the worst things you can do is BS people. When something goes wrong, it's best to just lay it out. You might get away with lies some of the time, but eventually they'll come back to get you. Maybe you don't have to disclose the full story and at times, you can "blame it on the lab", but overall, it's best to say, "I blew it and I'll make it right".
The other elephant in the room is with copyright issues. None of us like it when others copy our work, so shouldn't we respect other artists' work as well? Using a popular song on our website might be "hip", but its also wrong and not legal. With all the options of buying copyright free songs, there is really no excuse.
With the recent revelation that some well known industry "superstars" were plagiarizing other's material or photographs, it was very disheartening. Those photographers who are front and center in our community and hold dozens of workshops a year should be totally ashamed. Of all professions, we are SUPPOSED TO BE CREATIVE last time I checked. And how can that happen if we copy or steal from someone else's work? It's one thing to gather nuggets and knowledge from a speaker or others in or outside our profession, but we can at least twist it to make it our own.
A. Answering your phone & getting back to people. This is a big one. It's one of the biggest complaints I hear about other photographers.. "I tried calling xyz photographer, but they never got back to me. " It not only kills your reputation, it hurts you financially as well.
B. Not being late for your session. OK. I admit that I tend to be late for most things, But there is one thing I try my utmost NOT to be late for...a client. I'd rather take the time, relax and get there early and enjoy the moment than frantically rushing to get there.......four minutes late. When you are prompt it shows that you respect your client's valuable time.
C. Paying your vendors and staff promptly and give to charity. When times are tough, its hard to do this one, but it's key not only for the image of your business, but your sanity as well. The last thing you want to do is to get behind. We also want to honor and respect those who we employ and do business with. It is worth your reputation to pay your bills in a timely manner.
I have found that when I give to charity, my needs somehow get met as well. I don't know if its karma, God honoring a tithe or just some secret universal law, but it does seem to work. I encourage you to go out on this limb and try it.
D. Delivering a high quality product on time. Don't cut corners on your photography-both in the capture and in the printing. The same can be said for packaging, as that is the clients last contact with you and can go miles to enhancing your image to the community. I think I've already made my point about not being late.
A. Have a smile on your face even when you don’t feel like it. Talk about them, not about you. People light up when you sincerely take interest in them and their family. Use their names, touch them when appropriate. In this highly digital world, we are losing contact and intimacy and as ones who capture emotion visually, trying to capture it personally should also be our forte.
Dale Carnegie said it well: "If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend."
B. Have a heart for others. Write those thank you notes. Support others when you can. It can be lonely in this world, no matter how many friends one may seem to have. Our heartfelt response is key not just for them, but for us as well. Our foundation is based on these three key elements: Integrity, Responsibility and Friendliness. You will find that when these are your base, you will not only find great clients, but have a life that shines.