I've been doing "Sunday Morning Reflections" for a few years now, and I'm still surprised at the response these posts get. I started doing them for my sanity. It was fun going off track and stepping away from business and marketing at least once a week. Each post has always been off the cuff and this morning is a prime example.
I shared a post last week with images from the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West. I was shooting macro of the butterflies with a LUMIX FZ1000. Butterflies weren't the only things to photograph, though, and here and there I grabbed a few shots of some of the flowers in the butterfly sanctuary as well.
Here's my point this morning. I don't do a lot of macro shooting, but it's a kick when you've got the right gear. In the same respect, I love the analogy of thinking in macro. We're taught at an early age to look at the "big picture" but sometimes you need to slow down and just appreciate the individual components of your life. Okay, here's where I risk losing a few of you as I go off track.
When was the last time you just isolated an event, a family member or friend and just thought about one aspect of your relationship? When was the last time you took a close "macro" look at something that didn't work out as planned and saw what you learned and the benefits of whatever else came out of the event?
Years ago a friend taught me to shoot "neuro-chromes" - images you capture in your memory when you don't have a camera with you. Well, I'm suggesting we all need to take it a step further and now and then put our brains into "macro" and examine so many of life's most priceless moments - even the disappointments.
For me my macro moment this morning seems to be taking me to missing my Dad, but instead of the sadness that comes with the dark side, I'm thinking about the moments that always made us smile and often laugh until he cried! There's something to be said for thinking in macro!
Wishing you all a terrific Sunday and one filled with plenty of time with the people you care about most. Always go for those eleven-second hugs and think "macro". As you're in hug mode, think about how much that person has changed your life!
Warning - Sarcasm alert!
Look, it's an expression we've all used when we hear or see something totally absurd. Catch the image on the inside of the elevator doors of the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta. At the bottom, which I missed in the photograph, are instructions on how to take a selfie with this Atlanta image in the background.
By itself it would be fine, but check out the title they've added at the top!
Now, think about the image you're about to take and tell me who you'd send it to! Next, tell me who the bonehead is who came up with the tagline of "It's good not to be home!"
Yeah, we're all going to take a shot with this backdrop and send it to our spouses and families! "Hi Honey, miss you. Sure does feel good to not be home." NOT!
Hey, I warned you it was "Sarcastic Saturday"! I can just see what would happen in my own house and how long it would be before Sheila talked to me.
So, here's my point. I hate not being home. Yes, I love great conventions, networking and catching up to friends, but if I could do it all while staying home and not traveling I'd probably never leave the house.
So, to the moron at Hyatt who thought this was a great idea: I love your hotel, but get your ego in check and pull your head out of your butt. You've got a long way to go before you replace most traveler's homes.
Hit it Dorothy - There's still no place like home!
Last year we lost the best editor this industry has ever known, Bill Hurter. Bill was instrumental in helping launch thousands of careers, special projects and concepts that simply made professional photography stronger. From incredible editorial to establishing the foundation for WPPI's print competition, Bill was always at the heart of imaging, publishing and support for working and aspiring professional photographers.
I couldn't be more proud to have worked with Bill, not to mention shared countless memory-making moments with him. Well, we want to have some fun and toast Bill's memory and the impact he had on so many of us.
Arlene Evans, George Varanakis and I are organizing a get together to honor Bill and his contribution at Batista's Hole in the Wall on Monday night, March 7 during WPPI. We've got a private room and will have time to tell a few classic stories and toast the guy who redefined passion for photography every minute of every day!
Batista's is a great little inexpensive restaurant across the street from Bally's. You don't need to bring a boatload of cash, just enough to cover whatever you order, and definitely bring your favorite Bill Hurter stories!
Just click on the banner above for more information and the link to the event page on Facebook!
Forty plus years ago in a galaxy far far away, five knuckleheads from the senior class at Riverside High School borrowed clothes from the cheerleaders and hit the basketball court. That's me with my long time buddy Terry on the left and in the middle in the picture on the right. Terry's on the top, Mike couldn't get his balance, Bill and Don are flanking me on the bottom row. With Terry standing on my back, this just might be the root of my back problems today! LOL
I found these prints recently while looking through some old files. Not sure why they where even there, but that's the fun of Throwback Thursday. There are often no logical reasons for much of anything. However, there are plenty of reasons to smile and think about any throwback point in time.
One sidebar memory: Notice all the dust in the image on the right. This is a perfect example of what used to happen in the "old days" when you didn't dust things off in the darkroom. Whoever took the shot, printed copies in the darkroom. It was probably me. I was always in a hurry and took a lot of shortcuts just to get fast fulfillment. Years later I have the biggest collection of yellow tinted black and white prints on the planet.
So, it's Throwback Thursday. What have you done to search through your images and find a few memory makers from the past? Remember, if you're a professional photographer, use them to make the point about the value of old photographs and especially prints! If for example these prints had been saved on a floppy disk I'd have no way to look at them today!
"We didn't realize we were making memories. We were just having fun!"
"In the end…We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have,
and the decisions we waited too long to make.”
As we were catching up on auditions from American Idol last night, the quote above came up at the start of one of the segments. It's a little bizarre to get something out of American Idol beyond entertainment, but the quote haunted me enough that the first thing I did when I got up this morning was a Google search to find it.
It was amazing how many great quotes came from Alice, White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat. So many of us have at some point in our careers been afraid to go down the rabbit hole and wasted time over-analyzing which path to take next.
It's a short post with one single point. If we all make 2016 a year of taking chances, building relationships and speed up our decision-making, think about how strong a year it will become.
Stop chasing success! There is no success fairy only hard work, dedication, and passion. Stay focused on your dreams and stop thinking so many of the challenges seem impossible.
"Why sometimes I've believed six impossible things before breakfast!"
Over a year ago we kicked off the concept of Weekend Wisdom. Thanks to your support along with the enthusiasm of each guest, the show has become not only a solid success but one of the projects I enjoy doing most!
I wanted to start out the year with the most relevant topic I could come up with, and while surfing through Facebook one day I came across a video by Becker. He had just had a competing photographer shop his pricing trying to disguise himself as a bride. As only Becker can do well, he posted a short video to both let off a little steam as well as suggest there were better ways for competitors to share information.
The "Rules of Engagement" became the perfect topic to start out the new year. Becker and I talk a lot about how photographers can work together instead of creating more work for each other. It's a great topic and one that started several months ago with a Weekend Wisdom with Dr. Joan Whitman Hoff talking about ethics and building trust.
As always, a BIG thanks to Becker for taking the time and especially SproutingPhotographer.com. Bryan Caporicci and Rob Nowell created Weekend Wisdom, and helped to kick off a friendship that's grown to be one of the highlights of my career!
It's almost a typical Sunday Morning. It's just starting out a simple peaceful day. Sheila's just getting up and I'm enjoying the fun of my usual Sunday Morning Reflections "brain-dump". Here's what hit me today.
Even though the weather was predicted to be lousy, we had an opportunity to head down to the Florida Keys for a few days. Well, we've had a blast and it's occurred to me there are few things in life that beat a great road trip. It was something that happened regularly in my college days, but since I was such an academic screw up, I never really thought of it as having therapeutic value.
I'm not suggesting for a second our life is tough, but as a couple, life does sometimes get in the way. It dawned on both of us it would be fun to get out of town and change the environment. I know I risk a little backlash on the concept since so many of our good friends are being hammered right now by "Jonas" and can't go anywhere. In fact, my roomie from college called me last night to congratulate us on our move to Florida four years ago - he's currently under 32 inches of snow near Gettysburg.
So, here's my point and it's more a "do as I say, not as I do" suggestion. Force yourself to take time off with your significant other. It doesn't have to be extravagant and a trip of a lifetime. Sometimes just a short memory-maker is all you need to help you stay focused on what makes each of you significant to the other.
The shot of the butterfly and the anonymous quote I used for this post today are prime examples. We visited the Key West Butterfly Conservatory yesterday and spent an hour in awe of the beauty and colors in a creature that only lives for two weeks. In fact, Sheila made a comment to another visitor, " I think God made a mistake!" Her response was equally relevant, "Yeah, why couldn't he give roaches just two weeks!"
It's not a heavy concept this morning, but it is important. Take the time to make memories. Recognize when it just might be one of your best decisions to walk away from the business for a few days and spend time with that one person you care the most about.
As always, make it a great day today and give somebody special an eleven-second hug. Pat yourself on the back for working as hard as you do and don't fight change. That anonymous quote I found says it all,
"If it wasn't for change, there would be no butterflies!"
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday!
Intro by Skip Cohen
There's been a lot written about pricing for professional photographers, but this post out of the SCU Archives by good buddy Scott Bourne is still one of the best because he hits on more than just the normal pricing considerations for portrait and wedding artists.
I decided to share it today because it's a new year and if you don't get your pricing right, you'll never make it beyond mac 'n cheese for dinner in 2016!
Last week I got into a discussion with a well-respected photographer at IUSA, and our guess was over 90% of the attendees at the convention won't know if they made money last year until after they've met with their accountants between now and April 15. Even if we're a little high in our estimate, it's a challenge that's so easily changed if you just take the time to analyze ALL of your costs.
So, let's start the year out right and check out Scott's suggestions. There's also a great post by Bryan Caporicci from last year that hits on more ideas as you set your prices for the new year. Bryan even built a "what to charge" calculator on the sproutingphotographer.com website to help you in the process. The link is in his guest post.
You've got to pay attention to ALL of your costs. There are so many of you who forget to consider all the different things you've done to set up your business and then keep it going!
By Scott Bourne
Pricing photography is the second hardest thing you will ever do as a professional photographer. (Finding the right clients is the first hardest.) It’s very easy to make mistakes when pricing and once they’re made, it’s hard to recover from them. So start out right.
One disclaimer: Not every pricing method works for every photographer. Much depends on the current state of the market and the genre (i.e., wedding, commercial, fine art, food, etc.) I’ll try to stick to some universal ideas in this post.
Start at the Beginning
You can’t effectively price your work until you understand what it is you’re selling.
You are not selling square inches of paper for the cost of printing them. For some reason, the first element that seems to enter some photographers’ minds when making a pricing decision is the size of the print. This “brick wall” has cost many photographers money. The most important thing to keep in mind is the value of your work, not the size of the print. You build this value by evaluating ALL the factors that go into making a salable image.
So what are you selling? How about your creativity and unique ability to capture something others do not see? Anyone can buy a camera, but can they capture the image exactly the way you do? How about the time you have invested in training for the moment when you captured the image? That time needs to be taken into consideration. Your mechanic, doctor, accountant, and lawyer all get paid for the time they spend doing the work. Shouldn’t you be paid too? You also have to consider the level of your present technical ability. The casual amateur should not be able to get the most out of the same equipment as an experienced professional.
And, speaking of equipment, you must also take into consideration the value of your gear. So, as you are deciding how to price your work, make sure you take into account and charge for your logistical skills, experience, time and your ability to translate your client’s desires into a visual statement. Know what you’re selling before you try to sell it. This will help you avoid many mistakes later.
In order to price something well, you must know the economics. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
B) Profit margin
C) The market you are serving
Calculating your overhead requires that you consider all the costs associated with being a professional photographer. These includes:
A) Equipment depreciation
E) Legal fees
F) Accounting fees
G) Payroll fees
O) Office supplies
Q) Professional dues
Calculating your profit may be a bit easier. You consider your cost of doing business by allowing for a percentage of your overhead to be applied to the cost of each job. From there, mark up your price to include a standard profit margin. This can be based on any number you want but a good starting point is to double the cost of your product (100 percent profit margin).
Selling or Licensing Images
Now you also need to adjust this figure based on the market type you are serving. Is the image being used in a small or large market? Will thousands of people see it or just a few? What is the perceived value to the client? How does the client plan to use your image? Who is your competition and what choices does your client have besides you for this type of image? Are there 50 photographers in the mix or only two or three? Consider these factors to calculate your fee.
When you sell or license an image, it is likely you will have to negotiate the price with a savvy photo buyer. Knowing how to negotiate can save you time, money and help you close profitable deals. Remember that negotiating is just problem solving. Both parties have something they need to accomplish and the negotiation makes it happen.
You must not take ANY of the issues that arise during a negotiation personally. The buyer is supposed to try to get the best deal that he or she can. That’s their job. Your job is the same.
The essential steps in the negotiating process are: establish rapport, gather information, do research, ask questions, and let the buyer do most of the talking. In any negotiation, the person who listens most is likely to gain more. In any negotiation, it’s always very important that you do more listening than talking. Otherwise, you will miss important clues, both physical and verbal, that will help you resolve the deal.
Before quoting a price, you must try to educate the client and build the value of the image you are selling. Make sure that the client understands the effort, time and expense you invested to make this image. If the image is truly one-of-a-kind or was made at personal risk, those factors translate directly into the value of what you have for sale.
Try to encourage the client to place an opening bid. If the buyer is the first one to name a price, I believe you will be rewarded with a higher fee. A good way to open the negotiation process is to ask a question like, “What’s the most you would be willing to pay to use my image or purchase my print?” If you are forced to begin the negotiation process by offering a figure, an alternative is to begin with a number that is twice your standard price plus 10 percent. Once this figure is given, you can work down from there.
But remember that if you give a number first, you run the risk of quoting a price that is much lower than the buyer was willing to pay, and you’ll never know what figure they were willing to pay. So, let your clients do the talking. Then, you should listen, take notes, and preferably wait for them to tell you what they can afford.
If the client has pricing objections, be sure to return to the rapport building and value enhancement stages outlined above. Usually, a price objection really means that there is another piece of information you have not uncovered. It is likely that there is something else you have not offered that the client really wants or needs. This is why it’s crucial to listen more than you talk and ask plenty of questions to uncover hidden needs.
Once you have taken all the necessary steps, be sure to ask for the order. A surprising number of photographic sales don’t happen simply because the seller has forgotten to ask for the sale.
(NOTE: Negotiating with magazines is not possible unless you are a famous photographer with images that are in great demand. When you approach magazines, understand that you will only get paid their standard rates.)
Last week, thanks to a question by Chris Baylor in Texas, I wrote a post with ideas to help you become a "game changer." However, his question went a lot deeper and related more to creating ideas to promote his work and business. Here's part of his original IM to me once more:
How do I develop an idea into repeatable revenue? If I make the investment in the gear, how can I make it pay for itself and develop my craft and be the Game Changer? Two most simple questions that I would personally love to be the guinea pig and beneficiary of said experienced industry professionals.
I've been involved in some pretty incredible promotions in my career and a couple of real dogs, but each one has brought with it a wealth of information and experience.
Let's take just a second to look at one of the biggest fiascos in my career and, fortunately, I had nothing to do with the parameters for the program. Polaroid in the mid 80's offered a promotion of a FREE companion ticket on Delta when you bought one of their low-end cameras. Just like the old razors and razor-blade model, Polaroid's profits were in the film more than the hardware. Well, thousands of people bought Polaroid cameras that never burned a single pack of film. In fact, I remember hearing a story about a kid who got a dozen Polaroid cameras for his bar mitzvah, all with the UPC code cut off the box!
The program was simply too rich. The value of the offer far exceeded the value of the price of the product and even worse, made the product virtually obsolete the minute it was purchased. There was no brand loyalty to Polaroid, just the benefit of a FREE companion ticket anywhere Delta flew domestically!
So, let's create a list of ideas to help you with the challenge and turn your programs into game changers!
No one blog post can give you every idea you need to make your work stand out and build a stronger brand, but there's a good collection of components here. Start with the "low-hanging" fruit, those ideas that are easiest to implement quickly and then just take the rest one at a time.
Most important of all remember your success as an artist is just as much about your passion as it is your skill set. As I've written before, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't it.
And, if you need a little help and encouragement - you know where to find me!
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met.
William Butler Yeats
I'm laughing as I write this, because recently I was doing a podcast in which we were going to use the word "trumps" as a verb. However, a good friend who's not happy with the word as a proper noun asked me to change it. Well, political races be damned this morning, because it's just the right word. LOL
Five minutes ago I was on "Messenger" with my buddy Steve Rosenbaum. After being friends for close to thirty years, we finally made it a point to get out to dinner last week at IUSA and get some quality time. In fact, that was the theme this year for me at IUSA. While there were a lot of people I missed, I got time with the most people I've ever caught up to at a convention.
Technically it's called "networking", but it goes so much deeper than that. Scott Stratten in UnMarketing talks about the importance of relationship building, and I've mentioned the book many times before. But in all honesty, not until this morning did it hit me how we all get so off track with our focus on business and forget about what it takes to get every job done - relationships.
I'm not just defining the word "job" as a component of a business, but everything that goes into that smile you should be waking up with every morning. It doesn't matter what your religious beliefs might be; we're all here for some higher purpose other than just using up oxygen.
This past week I caught up to so many friends. The trip started off with lunch with Joan Whitman Hoff, her husband, Stephen and son Charles and just kept going. I've admitted I'm the industry's biggest lunch slut, but it goes so far beyond that. I caught up to old friends and new ones, even Facebook friends who helped "free" me during the Skip's Not Your Real Name crisis!
So, here's the point - the trade show and convention season for our industry is just getting started. Make it a point to do some planning in advance. Don't let a meal go by without friends around the table. NEVER eat a meal alone! And, if you plan in advance, you'll find you stay in touch even more because you're looking forward to catching up.
"There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder,
smile a little bigger and live just a little bit better."
To all of you who have become friends over the years, whether we've stayed in touch or not, thank you for making my life richer! And, to you, my readers, thank you for your friendship and support. Make it a great Sunday. Let your friends know they're important to you and go for those eleven-second hugs with those people most special to you!
Photo Credit: Matt Meiers redefines the "selfie with a fish-eye. What a kick!
The other day I posted a video from Profoto's archives. When I shared it on Facebook, I asked a very simple question, "What kind of images could you create if you had no restrictions on the control you wanted over your lighting?" Later in the day, I got an IM from Chris Baylor in Texas. Chris asked if I could take the same type of question and apply it to a business application and here's part of what he wrote:
At the core of this thought is business -- How do I develop an idea into repeatable revenue? If I make the investment in the gear, how can I make it pay for itself and develop my craft and be the Game Changer? Two most simple questions that I would personally love to be the guinea pig and beneficiary of said experienced industry professionals.
I picked up the phone and called him. Out of our conversation comes this first attempt of ideas directed at helping you become a game changer. It's not an easy challenge, and it can't be done in just one post. I want to start with a series of points you need to focus on with your business and then with another post, take the same approach to a marketing campaign. So, here goes - a list of things for photographers to do to become game changers.
So, there it is, ten tips on how you can become a game changer, a leader in your community and an artist people know they can trust.
"Your customers doesn't care how much you know until they know how much you care!"
Photo Credit: © victor zastol'skiy
I apologize once again for wasting time and space on my blog with a Facebook challenge. I'm giving up on writing to FB because nobody pays attention to what I'm asking. I've written to them at least ten times going through just about every channel of communication I can find. In the process I even had to battle it out to prove my name really is "Skip". I get canned responses, and here and there an email telling me I'm reporting the problem to the wrong group. I've just been following their own protocol!
So, in the words of Pink Floyd from one of my all time favorite albums, The Wall...
"Is anybody out there?"
Here are my two problems and I'm hoping one of you has the expertise that Facebook apparently lacks. I haven't been able to find either of them in the Facebook Q&A.
First, I no longer have access to my "Friends". When I click on the Friends tab it just comes up blank. Yet everybody is still there. Notice all the white space in the picture. I've sent the attached screen shot at least six times, only to be told, "Your feedback will be used to improve Facebook. Thanks for taking the time to make a report." Anybody know what's happening here?
Second, I set up a new Facebook page for a non-profit here in Sarasota, the Friendship Centers. It's an incredible group of people with a tag line of "People Helping People". Sadly Facebook behaves like the polar opposite, which is a little ironic.
Here's the problem on their page. I'm trying to add their VP to the administrator list for the page I set up and keep getting the following message. I've blanked out her name just to keep her out of the battle.
We've complied with everything FB says I need to bring her in as an admin. She is one of my friends. She has liked the page. Her privacy settings are open. Her email address matches the email for the organization and she does NOT have a previous role on the page! There isn't anything I can see that contradicts the information I need in the message above.
I need help. I accept that I'm the low-tech poster child of the industry, but I don't accept Facebook's business model of cookie-cutter answers and a complete disregard for an acceptable definition of Customer Service. I'm willing to fix the problem myself - just can't figure out how.
Note: I've cleared my cookies...I get the same results on Firefox and Chrome...I've accessed my page on a PC, iMac and MacBook Air and get the same results.
Apologies again, for wasting time and space, but I'm hoping one of you has the answer. As always, thanks for your help - feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know how to fix the problem or where the answer is in their Q&A if I've missed it.
In the mean time, if you haven't been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, put it on your bucket list. The images were shot with a LUMIX FZ1000 when we were there in August and the Pink Floyd exhibit is always a favorite for me. If you go, give yourself a full day and enjoy the theater presentations of past performances by all of the inductees.
It's Sunday Morning and more than usual I'm going with a theme in my heart, versus what's in my head. This was a bizarre week as I rode an emotional roller-coaster with more highs and lows than Space Mountain at Disney!
It's bizarre that I still can't find a live body at Facebook to listen and understand two key problems I'm having. And, in the process of sharing my frustration, they shut me down and then, thanks to so many of you confirming my name, brought me back to life, but that's not my topic this morning.
I'm out of my usual environment and in my hotel room getting ready to attend IUSA. In this morning's email was Chris Corradino's newsletter. At this point, I don't remember how Chris and I met in cyberspace, but I do remember meeting face to face at PPE in New York. He's a photo educator, and I enjoy his monthly newsletter because there's always something that gets me thinking.
He wrote the short piece below called, "Compose With Your Feet" suggesting artists search for a new spot to shoot whenever you notice the grass has been overly trampled. Well, that got me thinking about everything we do and yes, even Facebook's cookie-cutter attempt to determine what we should all be called.
by Chris Corradino
At nearly every scenic vista or photographic landmark, you'll notice a definitive dirt spot where grass once grew. This well-worn spot is the final destination for scores of tourists who shoot the same photo year after year. Rather than following the crowd, take a quick loop around the area and search for unique perspectives. Perhaps it involves lying down, or finding a raised vantage point. Maybe you'll come across an interesting element to add to your foreground. You'll work a bit harder this way, but the effort can lead to unique captures of a heavily photographed site. In his book "You Can Do Anything," author James Mangan wrote, "The narrow mind stays rooted in one spot; the broad mind is free."
So, no matter what you photograph, let's make 2016 the year where we each set new standards. Mix things up a little. In the film days, my buddy Tony Corbell used to say, "Save the last few frames on the roll and shoot in a way that's different from what you normally do!"
I know for me that's exactly the way I want to live my life because life is simply too short and we've only got yesterday and today in our stash. That brings me right up to two hours from now when I'm going to have breakfast with a good friend here in Atlanta.
The number one reason to make sure you attend at least two of the major conventions during "trade show season" is about relationships. They're at the root of every success story in your life. No matter how you define success, which for me is simply about being happy, you can't do it without your friends. Sometimes it takes a Herculean effort because things just get in the way.
Chris Corradino has suggested we compose great images with our feet. Well, I want to take it one step further and suggest that along with our images, we compose our lives with our hearts. Live your life the way it feels best. Don't be afraid to test out new directions and most important of all smile more and whine less, even when you're talking to yourself!
As always, but especially relevant today after the first full week in the new year, take the time to appreciate everything and everyone in your life. Hug somebody special and make sure they know they play a significant role in your life. Most important of all don't be afraid to tell your friends what they mean to you.
Note: A fun sidebar: I called Chris at 7:15 this morning to make sure he was okay with me borrowing part of his newsletter. I caught him at the airport on his way down here to Atlanta, and I'll catch up to him on the trade show floor later today, helping me reinforce what I so strongly believe in...the importance of friendships!
Images by Chris Corradino. All rights reserved.
"Thank you" doesn't begin to explain my appreciation for so many of you coming to my defense as Facebook challenged my name yesterday! They closed me out in the afternoon and reinstated me at 9:15 pm. I know it never would have happened without your help.
The whole series of events is bizarre. In my entire adult life or, at least, the time I should have been acting like an adult, I've never had to prove what my name was to anybody. However, so many of you came through, and I so appreciate your friendship, support and especially taking the time to help me fight the battle!
January 7 may well go down as the strangest day of my entire life to date.
A week or so before Christmas I had a problem with two Facebook pages. I followed the procedure to report a broken feature and got an auto-response, thanking me for my feedback. After ten days of multiple requests for help I tried Twitter and contacting @Facebook. Again only canned responses giving me a link to their "how to report a problem" page!
Frustrated with their policy of being robots, I published an open letter to Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Less than twenty-four hours later I got a request to confirm my name! I responded with links to books I've co-authored and a screen shot of my name in the Google search box and the first page of links.
I love Facebook and find it's terrific for reaching photographers. Since that's my business, at 4:00 am yesterday morning I sent them more information: my driver's license, gun license and a detailed explanation of why my government issued I.D's are "Steven." rather than "Skip". I got a message telling me my name couldn't be confirmed. Somebody named "Jesse" never read what I had sent and booted me out of Facebook.
I published a new open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. My wife Sheila had an idea to show them my birth announcement that you'll see if you missed the post. Then I had another idea and put out an email for help to a whole bunch of great friends and associates. What happened from that point on was pretty remarkable.
Facebook was buried in confirmations that my name is indeed "Skip". One good buddy even designed the "Free Skip" artwork above. That piece was picked up by even more friends, often people I don't even know. At 9:15 PM I received the email below:
Although I'm back, Facebook still doesn't get it.
The original problems that started all of this still exist. There is nothing in their Q&A that explains what's happened or how to fix it. The mere fact that "Andrei" couldn't just pick up a phone and say, "Sorry" speaks volumes. Plus, they're still trying to send me to their Q&A.
While I'd love to think they've learned a lesson as a few million impressions were created over the issue, I don't think Facebook is about to develop a much better sense of customer service. I'm sure the challenges I had yesterday have already been replaced by the frustrations of thousands of other people in Facebook with issues just as absurd.
However, I've learned a valuable lesson, starting with getting some of my eggs out of the Facebook basket. I've learned to trust my network and I'm especially grateful for the support of an industry I sincerely love. So, I'm back to those two totally inadequate words that mean so much: thank you!
And, yes, my name really is "Skip"!
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:
After seven years with Facebook I've recently been shut out because I couldn't confirm my identity, even though I've sent you copies of my driver's license, gun license, copies of unopened mail with my name on it, screen shots of books I've written, speaking engagements, business cards and even my Google page when you look up my name. Seems a little ironic that in the past my name not matching to my credit card for promoted posts was different, but always accepted by Facebook.
I was contacted by one of your staff named "Jesse" who told me I didn't match my FB page and then proceeded to shut me out of Facebook. So, here's the challenge - on your own policy page you state:
"Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you're connecting with."
Well, my nickname has been "Skip" since birth. It's my name in "real life". As an adult, I don't use my real name. It should NOT be on my Facebook page, my blog, my Twitter account or anything else in social media. However it is the name on any legal documents, credit cards, etc. I even have relatives who don't know my name is Steven. I have sent Jesse, everything I have and even explained that my name is Skip. Yet, I have no access to FB pending review by the Facebook team.
The fact that all of this comes on the wake of my complaining about your lack of service is certainly no surprise. However, wandering through cyber space I found a great article by a science writer for National Geographic, Nadia Drake. Her closing line about the lack of flexibility in Facebook's policy says it all...
"What Facebook has done is create a system that forces compliance or isolation. And worst of all, it places the power with harassers—as if the Internet needed more of that."
And just to further demo my point, that's a scan of my birth announcement above, which was actually pretty clever. It was printed on a diaper with my nickname on the inside. However, in all honesty, me sharing my birth announcement is just about as absurd as Jesse essentially telling me my name on my Facebook page is wrong!
I started out thinking about posting some old images back in my Hasselblad days, but when I found these two classics I decided to start the new year by making fun of my roots! In cleaning out a few closets of my Dad's last month, I found a whole album of memory makers!
The fun of Throwback Thursday is just how many stories you can get out of each image. So, here's what I see with both of the above.
The family shot has a lot of history too.
Old images make us smile, and as I write this, there's a bittersweet tear rolling down my cheek. It's a tear over missing family that has since passed on, but a big smile over the amazing memories and the fact that I have these images to share.
So, it's Thursday and time for you to find some of your Throwbacks! Enjoy them, share them with friends and don't forget to write about them on your blog. Your clients need to be reminded that every day something in their life changes, especially as their children grow. They need your help in capturing those moments that only come once in a lifetime.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Welcome to the lobby of the Union Station Hotel in St. Louis. I ran across this image recently, and it's the perfect example of a whole series of things I've grown to love about ShutterFest.
No one convention or trade show can give you everything you need, but ShutterFest is coming the closest! It's a boutique conference loaded with opportunities to grow your skills and your network. Plus, it's the perfect time to charge your battery one last time before heading into the real start of the season. Just click the banner below to find out more!
I've shared a few excerpts over the years from Melody Beattie. The piece below is for January 7 from her book Journey to the Heart.
I know a lot of you are outrageously cynical when it comes to motivational reading, but this one hits home for so many of us, me included. For example, there are days when things are so hectic, I forget to be happy. I get so buried in the challenges of business, my schedule, phone calls and appointments that I stop smiling. Don't get me wrong, I'm not miserable, just forgetting to take my "appreciation vitamins".
And that's why I love being able to share something a little inspirational now and then. Melody Beattie helps me put things back in focus. Things she writes about help me refocus my energy, just like picking a point of focus in a scene you're about to capture with your camera. Feeding my brain with something motivational helps me prioritize various pieces of my life and I'm able to relax and concentrate on the things most important.
I saw a sign in a gift shop here in Sarasota once that really is true...
Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn!
by Melody Beattie
The sign hangs on the wall of a bagel shop: "Don't forget to be happy."
Sometimes we get so bogged down in dealing with feelings, issues, problems --the realities and details of our lives -- we forget to be happy. Often happiness can be ours if we just remember to be happy.
Joy is a choice -- a deliberate, conscious choice. That choice is available to us each day. Our joy isn't controlled by others or by outward circumstances. Joy comes from a deeper place, a place of security within ourselves. It's an attitude, not a transitory emotion.
Remember to be kind. Remember to be loving. Remember to feel all your feelings and to take care of yourself. But most of all, remember to be happy.
It's a great lesson in customer service and perfect to kick off the new year. Plus, Kmart is just the company of fools to provide an example of what not to do!
Here's the short version scenario:
I haven't been in a Kmart in years. In fact, I'm not sure where there's even a store down here. However, we got a request for the newest baby in the family, and it was a particular kind of play table. Sheila found it online at Kmart.com and ordered it on December 4. It was plenty of time to get it here for a Christmas gift and then get it to our family in Ohio.
Well, it never came. Calling on or about the 21st, I spoke to Kmart's "top notch" customer service people in the Philippines. They were useless, but suggested I wait one more day since they did show a UPS label had been printed. The next day I called again and, this time got lucky with an office in Alabama. The rep there couldn't tell me anything either, but we were at least able to cancel the order.
I then filed a protest with American Express, which they promptly put through. Kmart had charged the order to Sheila's card the minute it was placed. This past Saturday I got a letter from Amex telling me the full credit hadn't been put through due to Kmart.com charging for one of three reasons - a partial return, restocking fee or a shipping and handling fee. Remember, they never shipped the product!
This is hardly a serious challenge, but there are some great lessons for every business owner.
Great service is one of your strongest tools in building your brand. When you do have a challenge, work to fix it as quickly as possible. Deliver things on time, and as promised. Most important of all, remember you'll never lose if you exceed client expectations.
Photo credit: © BlueSkyImages
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.