by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot about the value of photographs over the years. What I wonder about is how many photographers really take advantage of their personal work to tell a story for their own clients.
For example, my good buddy Scott Bourne has talked a lot about his passion for photographing animals. He's been especially direct in regards to his feelings about "speaking for the animals." The image above is a classic example. As painful as it is to see, Scott helped share a piece of the tragedy of an oil-covered pelican during the BP oil spill. Over and over again, Scott's introduced us to the personalities of the animal kingdom. It's a part of who he is as an artist.
One of the most important ingredients in working with new clients is building trust. They need to get to know you and you need to know them. While a lot of photographers have a hard time getting started in a conversation, here's an easy icebreaker: Have a display of your own family images along with a few of your own personal favorites.
Every corner of your studio or office doesn't have to have images of past clients. Put a little of your own personality into the mix. And, if you don't have a studio or office and meet with clients at their venue, a coffee shop or restaurant, then have a few pages of your own images in one of your presentation albums. Doesn't it make sense to be able to say, "Let me show you what I'm talking about with some images I put together of my own family?" It has a certain ring of credibility and it suddenly puts you in a position of sharing something about yourself, even showing a little vulnerability.
I have a favorite wall in the guest room at my home - it's "Relatives Row" as my grandparents share a wall with Sheila's...here's where you see what a melting pot America really is as my grandfather, who came over from Poland in the early 1900's, shares a space on the wall with Kitty Gentry, Sheila's full blooded Cherokee great-grandmother. Even the furniture in the room ties to family history. The roll top desk belonged to one grandfather, the chair to another and the antique typewriter to an uncle. It's all about roots.
As I was standing in Michele Celentano's office a few months ago there were family portraits of her family everywhere. There were multiple portraits of her daughter, Anna, at different ages and in different frames and mattes. Michele images are a testimonial to what she believes in, the importance and power of a print! (If you've never read it, here's an sidebar opportunity for a terrific selling tool to clients. Read Michele's post, "I Believe..." on the value of a print!)
There's a great quote by Tennyson, "I am a part of all that I have met!" We're all a part of our past, from people who touched our lives an hour ago to past generations no longer with us. We stay connected and often grounded thanks to everyone who makes up who we are.
In 2010, a wedding photographer, Dawn Shields from Missouri, won Album of the Year at WPPI, shown in the video above. It wasn't a wedding album, but a documentary piece she did about her grandfather who spent most of his life in prison, in Alcatraz.
The bottom line is simple, bring a little of yourself into your studio and your business. Don't be afraid to share a little of your past with your clients. It shows your human side and the love you have for imaging and the craft. It also helps to demonstrate the value of the service you provide, capturing memories and being the ultimate storyteller!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.