by Skip Cohen
I love videos like this. It's only a minute, but as you watch it, think about how you'd tell the story of a shoot you were doing to promote the quality of your business.
Venice Album is making some outstanding products and everybody I've worked with at the factory is a class act. This isn't about presentation products, but their passion to give you new tools to separate yourself from the competition. I also love the fact that a photo shoot done right is the same wherever you go in the world. Take a minute and just enjoy the presentation. Then, check out Venice Album - you won't be disappointed! Backstage of the Venice Album Photoshooting held at Villa Giustinian in Portobuffolè. A special Thank you to Fausto Sari Dresses, Photographer Gian Paolo Serna, Riccardo Stocco, Alessandro Venier and Paolo Marzocchella.
After all these years in the photographic industry I've got an amazing collection of prints and personal posters. One my favorites is Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl
. It's an amazing image and long before I met Steve, I always thought of it as one of the most incredible portraits ever captured.
If you know Steve or have heard him speak, nobody could be more down to earth. His passion for photography is only topped by his humility. The best part of the image is that we all know he wasn't trying to create one of the most recognizable portraits in the history of photography. It just happened - and, it happened on film, without any manipulation, major retouch work - nothing but a photographer who knew his craft.
So, as you photograph your next job, think about the traits that produced Afghan Girl
. Steve wasn't trying to do anything except tell a story. He understands photography cold, so his understanding of lighting, exposure and composition were completely second nature. He didn't have hours in a studio to ponder how he would create one of the greatest portraits of all time.
And that's my biggest point - when you look for something too hard, it will continue to elude you. Relax your vision and learn everything you can about photography, hang on to every dream and just keep shooting - your own version of Afghan Girl
will be in your portfolio sooner or later!"The starting point of great success and achievement has always been the same. It is for you to dream big dreams. There is nothing more important, and nothing that works faster than for you to cast off your own limitations than for you to begin dreaming and fantasizing about the wonderful things that you can become, have, and do. "
Brian Tracy, Motivational Coach and Author
So, relax! As good buddy Matthew Jordan Smith
says, "Always Dream BIG" and don't compromise!
My guess is that this is the keyboard for most of the United/US Airways staff I tried to work with on this trip.
It’s Marketing Monday and most small businesses forget that great customer service is one of your very strongest marketing tools to build your brand. I can’t think of a better way than to share the incompetence of United and US Airways this past week as a great example of what NOT to do in your own business. They set a new standard in defining the word “clueless”.
Great customer service comes with a series of positive action items:
1) You hear what your customers say, but do you really listen?
My mother passed away and I was booking flights on United and US Airways. United was the lead carrier and handled the ticketing. Just like a sitcom about overseas customer service, I gave all the information to an agent based in India, who made some serious mistakes.
We were all set, but I hadn’t doubled checked the confirmation – my bad. Fortunately my wife did. India had booked us on the wrong day and on an outgoing flight we never talked about. I knew exactly what flight we needed and actually gave her the flight numbers!
Even more frustrating was asking to speak with an American on the second call. I wanted to make sure we avoided further problems and was told there was no other number I could call!
2) Discounts with Value.
I’m amazed that the best discount the airlines could do on a last minute bereavement airfare was only 5%. They did waive the $25 per person ticketing because I was calling in, but their website was so slow and difficult to navigate I really had no choice but to call. It's interesting that on the way back the US Airways crew, if I was willing to apply for their credit card, was willing to give me points and certificates for future discounts and companion tickets! But they could only do 5% against a $530 airfare on flights with open seats!
3) Give people a way to talk to you directly.
Try and find a phone number on the US Airways site to actually talk to a live body. It’s not easy. When you do finally find the number you’ve got a deal with a robotic system that just wants to give you more options.
4) Answer the phone when people call!
On our return flights they screwed up our seats. My Dad is 90 and hasn’t flown a lot. We wanted three seats together. I made three attempts to call US Airways over two days and after 30 minutes on hold each time just finally gave up.
5) Offer your customers “one stop shopping”.
US Airways and United are supposedly one big happy family, but United could NOT handle seat assignments on US Airways. That means a second phone call, which really is a moot point, since nobody answers the phone anyway.
6) Provide great service at all the different points of contact in your business - even if you're being represented by other vendors.
This is the most bizarre part of the fiasco. We needed a wheel chair for my Dad to get from the counter to the gate. We got out of the car and a skycap asked me if we needed help. He had a small flat bed cart and we were doing all carry-on so I said no and Sheila went inside to get a wheel chair.
The next thing that happened was the most absurd. Sheila got a chair and "Mr. Bonehead" took it away from her, and when I went to get it back he yelled at me, “You told me you don’t need any help!”
I went directly to the counter to get some assistance and utilized some of my very “best” vocabulary on this guy. I was wrong to mouth off, but this guy redefined the meaning of the word, "rude". Customer service is simply dead with this crew. Well, the story gets better…
We got our chair finally with the help of another skycap who was in tune with the challenge and most helpful, but as we walked by "Mr. Bonehead", Sheila mumbled to me, “What a jackass!”
He turned and actually said, “If you call me one more name, I’m taking you outside!” Seriously, writers in Hollywood couldn't make this stuff up! I’m really sorry she didn’t push it just a little more…I know my girl and she would have taken him in less than a minute! LOL
And that takes me to the last point…when you do get into a challenge with a customer, resolve the problem as quickly as possible and don’t be confrontational. Empathize with your client and build the trust – you’ll never win going head to head.
There are so many things United and US Airways could have done along the way to make the trip easier and you need to do the same with each client. A great experience brings people back. A bad experience not only turns them away, but gets them talking to other people about their bad experience. A few might even turn it into a blog post! Bad news always spreads faster than good news.
But I did come up with a new slogan for them, used not long ago by a good buddy of mine…
"We’re not happy until you’re unhappy!”
© IckeT - Fotolia.com
Dad, Mom and lots of great memories.
by Skip Cohen
I've been torn about posting very much about my mother passing away and the experience, but I've received so many wonderful thoughts from so many people that this post this morning is simply the right thing to do.
Mom's funeral was Friday in Cleveland and by Saturday night Sheila, Dad and I were home. Getting home brought back a lot of painful, but beautiful realities. While we were gone, Mom's caregivers got her hospital bed out of the apartment along with medications and all the reminders of the pain of the last few months.
What we were left with, when Dad walked in, was the ability to think back to the good times. There were and will continue to be plenty of tears, but at the same time, there are those wonderful bitter sweet moments where we're sad at the loss, but can't help but smile over all the memories and the amazing life my folks have had.
Dad is 90 and Mom was 87. Their wedding anniversary is the end of this month, making it 66 years. She passed away on June 10, her parent's anniversary. There was an incredible rainbow seconds after she passed away.
Of all the condolence cards and comments we've received, nobody put it better than our daughter-in-law, Carole, who expressing both her and Brian's thoughts wrote...
"May time accomplish what no words can do and may God be with you at this time of loss."
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. Your support and friendship mean so much to us. Like I said, "I get by with a LOT of help from my friends!"
Even the most established photographers have a list of things they can do to build a stronger business, but instead of doing that "first thing" they hit the "Later" button and so many opportunities are missed!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I knew now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?Here's the first thing I would do:I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain."The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.As for me and what I'd do differently?I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.I was too stupid to know I could fail
. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way
: "Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for you.Illustration/Photo Credit: © Stuart Miles - Fotolia.com
NOTE: Skip Cohen's mother died this week so the blog will be down a few days in her honor. And instead, I post the poem "In Memoriam," by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Skip had a great relationship with his mother, and while I never had the honor of meeting her, she sounded like a great woman.
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.
Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
What seem'd my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
Every business has ups and downs, but there are some things you can do to even things out and create a more steady stream of revenue.
by Skip Cohen
There seem to be two trains of thought out there in developing your photography business. We've got one school that believes you should develop your core strength and stay focused (pun intented) on that application. In other words, if you're a wedding photographer, stay focused on growing your wedding business. If you're a commercial shooter, stay on top of your marketing efforts to commercial targets, etc.
Personally, I'm in the second school of thought and it's about diversity, but with a logical connection to your core business. You should never stop working to build the main concentration of your business, but there are some terrific opportunities out there that are too often missed. For you non-wedding photographers, my apologies this morning, but weddings make the easiest example for "Continuity Marketing".
Continuity Marketing is nothing more than a ten dollar word for finding new products to sell to your existing customer base. Camera manufacturers have been doing it for years. Once you've bought the camera body, there's a long list of lenses and accessories you'll need to keep building your stash of gear. Seasonal sales, special kits and rebates are just a few of the tools they use to get you thinking about adding more to your equipment list.
Well, switch applications and think of a wedding the same way. If you did a great job on the wedding then why not be there for all the other important events? If the bride and groom loved your work a few years ago, why not contact them today and remind them your second greatest love in photography is babies?
Before you accept the idea though, remember, none of this works if you don't have the skill set. That's why we have such a strong mix of specialties each year at the summer program.
For example, this year a wedding photographer could sign up for a day shooting with any one of several outstanding wedding instructors and then take another day with somebody like Michele Celentano, specializing in children and family or Jen Rozenbaum, one of the leading instructors in boudoir photography.
Let's assume you've been a wedding photographer for the last five years. Between brides, a few bride's maids and the families you probably have a couple hundred names and addresses in your data base. Unless you really screwed up their wedding album, these people know you, they know your work and the trust level with these potential clients is already established.
There's a great line that goes - Screw up a portrait shoot and you can always re-shoot it, but mess up a wedding and you need to leave town!
So, assuming all of you have lived in the same location for the last few years, then think about doing a mailing to your past brides and their mothers.
Here's an example and you're welcome to plagiarize it all you want!Dear _______:
I hope this letter finds you and your family doing well. I really enjoyed meeting your family and friends at the wedding and find it hard to believe it's been ___ years since I saw all of you.
I know you're familiar with my wedding work, but I'm not sure you realize my second love in photography is photographing families, especially children on location. There's a wonderful look and feel to portraits of kids when they're photographed in their own environment with their favorite toys, pets or friends. Plus, I've just added a whole new line of frames and albums that are perfect for displaying family portraits.
Now, add in a special offer that's running for the next sixty days and close with all the warmth and gratitude you displayed when you delivered their album. And, if you don't like my approach, that's fine, write something else, but the key here is to take advantage of the trust you've already worked so hard to build.
Slightly modifying a quote from Robert G. Allen, author of "The One Minute Millionaire"..."No matter what your product is, you are ultimately in the education business. Your customers need to be constantly educated about the many advantages of doing business with you...and taught how you can make never-ending improvements in their lives.
Illustration Credit: © alexmillos - Fotolia.com
Most of you have already been to at least one convention or workshop this year, but there's a great moment in one of my all time favorite movies, City Slickers. (Definitely go rent it this weekend - you'll pick up a few great laughs and even a few great lessons in life!) Think about Curley's "just one thing" as it applies to your quest to build your skill set.
Try his sage advice and see if it makes sense:
So, here's the segway - at every convention or workshop you go to you have an opportunity to attend dozens of different programs. At every program you're bombarded with new ideas. Unfortunately, most of us are alike when we hit information overload. We take lots of notes, we collect various brochures and we store lots of great ideas in a random collection of brain cells - then, we get home and file them away, often not pulling them out until something triggers a flashback days, weeks, months or even years down the line. Think about how many notes you've taken in various programs, but never did anything with! You wrote them down and then life got in the way.
So, at the next convention you attend. or better yet, at the upcoming Summer Session of SCU
, why not try something new? Walk into each program looking for just one thing
you can implement. Take all the notes you want, but focus on finding that one lead thing to learn that will change the way you photograph or market yourself, images and services. With each speaker you're looking for just one thing that gets you excited about changing a specific aspect of your business.
"What's the one thing?...that's what you have to figure out!"
Scott Bourne ran this post a long time ago and I ran it on the PhotoResource blog, but I came across it recently and just started laughing again. Well, that got me thinking about whether or not Scott had covered it all. So, I added more signs of my own and it was just too easy! Enjoy it for the laughs and if you ever find yourself hitting any one of the signs we've listed, get yourself to a decent workshop ASAP...like SCU! (Come on, you'd be disappointed in me if I didn't plug one of the best workshops out there! LOL)
Feel free to send your own additions to the list and we'll make it an ongoing project.by Scott Bourne
(With a hat tip to Jeff Foxworthy!)
You might be a bad photographer if:
1. You think that merely owning a Leica means your images will hang in a museum.
2. You know nothing about and care nothing about your subject.
3. You need to get drunk or stoned before you think making pictures is fun.
4. You think that paying extra for the “PRO” account on Flickr makes you a professional photographer.
5. You spend more time explaining your photographs than you do making them.
6. You think that picking up your camera once a year during a national holiday means you’re avoiding getting rusty.
7. You spend more time on camera forums belittling other people’s photographs than you do trying to figure out how to make your own better.
8. You spend ANY time complaining that your pictures don’t get enough LIKES on Facebook or Flickr.
9. You’re more interested in making photographs that cause the cool kids to promote you on Google+ than you are telling stories with your camera that matter to your subjects.
10. You think that pixel-peeping and measure-beating will cause you to be a successful and famous artist – or – to get that girl you met in college to like you.
Well, those were Scott's, but I want to add a few of my own...
11. You're too tired and hungover at any of the big conventions to make the workshop programs you signed up for, so you spend the day in bed.
12. Your website galleries have way too many images that are no better than what "Uncle Harry" could shoot.
13. You've spent too much time talking about your camera gear instead of showing you know how to use it.
14. Your holiday cards were bought at CVS rather than created with your own images.
15. Your portfolio is loaded with images from workshops where you stood right behind the instructor during a hands-on shooting session.Okay, I'm having too much fun with this, but here's the thing that's so cool. If you're reading this blog you're more than likely not even close to being in the category of a bad photographer. You might lack the experience to create amazing images, but taking the time to read everything you can, says you're doing the things you need to do to grow. Passion will always trump complacency and welcome to the photography industry - you've got passion! Which all boils down to your commitment to grow your skill set.
"The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step."Jim Collins, Business Author
"All photos speak a thousand words. This one contained a library."
by Skip Cohen
A few times over the years I've talked about my blog being therapeutic, often written for my own benefit as much as my readers. Well, today is one of those moments.
Most of the experts will tell you that a blog, while personal, should stay focused on a consistent core theme. For me that's always photography, but I need you guys to work with me this morning because it's a stretch today.
The subject is my mother and Alzheimer's. She's fighting her last round and was admitted into hospice care a few days ago. Within the next week or two my Dad is going to lose his best girl of 66 years and I'm going to lose my mother, but please understand I am absolutely NOT looking for sympathy. Every family goes through similar challenges and at 87, my sadness is more about the destructiveness of Alzheimer's, which comes into so many lives and literally robs us of our memories.
This post isn't about our pain, but the importance of making sure you understand the incredible value of your ability to capture memories. I've been spending a lot of time looking at old photographs. In fact, moving her into Hospice, the first thing we set up in the room, before she even got there, were a dozen prints. Photographs of her children, grandchildren, weddings and grab shots over the years. Every picture has a story, but more important they're little hot buttons of snipets of her life.
Some connect, some no longer have any awareness as a result of the Alzheimer's, but they all serve an amazing purpose of bringing her life into focus whenever she looks around the room. Even with moments that completely lack recognition, those pictures serve to remind each of us that we're not alone in the love as well as the pain we're feeling.
I'm reminded over and over again that "a picture is worth a thousand words." It's all thanks to each of you and the contribution you make every day to millions of people around the world. So, as I've written dozens of times, never compromise on the quality of any image. Expand your skill set to be the very best you can be so that you never miss a shot. Cherish what you've learned to do and be so proud of the path you're on as an artist.
...and so important to me personally, thank you for your support, your feedback, your prayers and giving me a reason to escape to my blog this morning.
*Rivera Sun, Steam Drills, Treadmills and Shooting Stars - a story of our times