Everybody has their opinion of when the "recession" hit, but for most, it was in the 2008/2009 time frame. With the economy changing, more spouses and family members started working together. I've seen the same scenario repeated over and over again - one spouse lost their job and decided to join the other spouse and help with the business.
I honestly have no statistics about the number of couples in business together as photographers, but it certainly seems to have grown in the last few years. Go to any major conference or convention and you'll see couples walking the trade show floor together as they look for new products and techniques to raise the bar on their photography.
Bleu Cotton and Alison have been good friends going back to my early Hasselblad days. I first met Alison when she was graduating from Hallmark Institute and knew Bleu from conventions in the early 90's. I've watched them both grow as artists individually, then become a couple right through to today, as a very special family.
"Balance" is an over-used word, but there isn't a better one to describe the challenges of running a business and staying focused on your family. Then comes the challenge of working with your spouse. It's not an easy task, and even Sheila, and I stopped sharing an in-home office, finding it was tough to spend day after day together. So, the word "balance" comes into play continuously.
I'm excited about this new Weekend Wisdom because you're going to get to know two of my very good friends. Plus, they couldn't be more open and honest about what it takes to work together and maintain the balance between each other, their personal life and especially make their son, Fisher a priority.
A Big thanks to Alison and Bleu for taking the time for this podcast 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! After only eight months Sprouting Photographer got Best of iTunes' podcasts in 2014. They've now grown to be one of the most listened to podcast in photography!
Just like stretching exercises before you jog, Sunday Morning Reflections gives me a chance to "stretch" before I start the day. This morning is the time I go off track with my blog and often step away from photography and jump into life. Earlier this past week I posted this quote on Twitter:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
I connected this to people's "About" pages on their websites, which I've written about before. As a photographer your target audience doesn't care what awards you've won; what gear you have or how your grandfather gave you your first camera. All they want to know is "why" you love being a photographer and if you can be trusted to capture the kinds of images they want.
Sadly too many of you write your bios forgetting about your audience. You submerse yourself in meaningless factoids about your skills, when it's time to open your heart. If they're reading your bio, then they're interested in getting to know you better - so, don't bury them in your list of print competition awards, gear details and the history of your business.
Okay, so that was two paragraphs that hardly suggest I'm going off track on this gorgeous Sunday morning. Time to get out of photography and into friendships and relationships.
I started thinking about that quote above. Here in Florida, we live in a community with too many retirees and in fact, just recently put our home on the market, looking to downsize a little and be closer to the water. One thing I've noticed is there are too many people who stopped working too early. There are some great people here, but they can't talk about anything but what they do each day or did, rather than "why".
It's the "why" that makes us all more interesting. It's the "why" that makes my story different from yours. It's the "why" that takes millions of stories from people all over the world and gives them color, emotion, and commitment. I can't help but feel when some people retire they lose their "why." They stop interacting with the working world and move into a world that's more controlled and consistent. Their world becomes smaller.
I live by the "why" every day, and it's thanks to Sheila and an incredible circle of friends. I'm in the photography industry. I've been president of three different companies in photography, including Hasselblad USA and Rangefinder/WPPI and now my own company. That's the "what", but it's the "why" that comes from my heart.
I simply love photography and the business of helping more people to understand its importance. I love working with so many of you to help you see your potential and in turn, you help me see mine. There's a special rush I feel walking into any convention, conference or trade show.
At a time when I could retire, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. I don't want to slow down. I don't want to stop writing or teaching. March is around the corner, and I'm doing two mini-workshops in the Panasonic booth at WPPI. Then I've got ShutterFest, and I've got two programs to teach. At both conventions, I'll be catching up with old friends and making new ones. Every step along the way I'll be enjoying and savoring the "why" I'm in this business and what keeps my heart pumping!
So, it's abstract, but there is a point this morning. Stop worrying about "what" you do and start sharing with people "why" you do it. The "what" is from your left brain and a series of cut and dry statements, the "why" is the right brain and all about your personality, passion and emotion. Plus, your "why" is unique, while your "what" is often the same as everybody else's.
As always make it a great Sunday. Go for those eleven-second hugs with people special to you and remind them "why" they're important to you. Speak more from your heart and less from your brain.
Happy Sunday everybody!
It's time to bring back one of my most favorite topics - great ways to lose customers!
Here's what I see - Every day I read comments from people on Facebook as they share ideas about the challenges of running a business. Then I look at dozens of websites each week that are half-baked. I keep running into people who are "two tacos short of a combo!" So, I might as well stay with a food theme this morning. Many of you have contributed to an entire recipe book, not on cooking but ways to confuse your audience and lose business.
In my efforts to establish Sarcastic Saturday as a national holiday, here are some guidelines to totally screw up your business, brand and target audience. If you're shooting for brand recognition from all your competitors, just follow these guidelines.
Just to wrap it up, this has been a kick to write, but there isn't a single one of the ten points that I haven't seen examples of on some of the Facebook forums, many websites or live conversations. You're in a word-of-mouth business with deep roots in communication, great customer service and exceeding client expectations. It's about your heart, passion and love for the craft. If you're close to any of the points above, then step back and figure out what you need to do differently.
Stop making it easy for your competitors to grow their business!
There have been over five million views of the video below, but I hadn't seen it before. So, I'm hoping many of you haven't either. It isn't very often I watch one of these that hits home.
Lately, I've met too many artists who are caught in the battle of not believing in themselves. The naysayers in their life combined with this being the slowest time of year for most photographers are dragging them down.
There's no need for a long intro to this video, but there is a quote I really liked:
If you're unsure about who you are, then your dreams and goals will never become a reality.
It's only four minutes of your day. Take the time to watch it and then share the post with somebody you know who's having doubts about their goal to be an outstanding artist! So much of success in life is about motivation and believing in yourself.
If you attended any of the major professional photography conventions in the mid-nineties, the relationship between Hasselblad and Kodak was legendary. Terry Deglau was the key Kodak manager at the time and between the two of us we put together one great promotion after another. Unlike Kodak today, the company was a powerhouse built on relationships with both photographers and other manufacturers.
One of the things Terry and I worked on together was essentially joining our booths. Hasselblad was on one side and Kodak on the other, then we shared the cost of the aisle and put in Speakers Corner. I surprised the crew from Kodak and had director's chairs made up in their colors to match the chairs we had in Hasselblad blue and white. Although, it's pretty funny, since our company names were on the back of the chairs and somebody, probably me, put the backs on backwards. You don't see the company names when anybody is sitting down!
Next, we put together a schedule for the speakers. Because we shared so many industry icons, it was easy to come up with a series of terrific mini-programs. Every hour, another 20-30 minute program took place, and both our booths were mobbed.
That's Denis Reggie in the top image, who always draws a crowd. While Denis usually did a program sharing ideas on wedding photojournalism combined with a little business and marketing, Don Blair would do a live shoot like the one on the right. I used to kid Don that he could just lay down and sleep in the booth, and people would still come to watch him!
I love it when I go to a convention today and see speakers in a booth. It's a great way to draw people in, but I'm surprised more companies don't join forces like Terry and I used to do. Even today, I can't recall seeing any two companies combine their efforts and share the cost and the publicity the way we did back then.
I've written a lot about photographers forming partnerships with other artists and vendors. Even a simple direct mail postcard is reduced by a factor of three if you bring two other partners. For example, a wedding photographer doing a mailing with a florist and a venue brings in three non-competing companies and reduces everyone's cost. Plus, each company becomes an ambassador for the others. You don't have to do everything alone.
Meanwhile, it's Throwback Thursday - have you gone off in search of your own classic memory-makers? Better yet, share the value of old images on your blog. It's a great way to remind potential clients about how quickly kids grow up and life changes,
As a past president of a publishing company, you'd think seeing a magazine published each month would be old hat for me.
The same things happens every month. My copy of Shutter Magazine shows up and I come into the house and scream, "Shutter's here!" Sheila laughs at me and then comes to take a look as soon as I let go of the issue.
This post isn't meant to be an infomercial as much as it is a lesson in how we all need to pursue our dreams. I put out a tweet about dreams just a little while ago.
"Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will!"
Well, Sal Cincotta had a dream - actually he's loaded with them! LOL He made us all a promise when he recorded "This is Shutter Magazine". That was over three years ago for the online addition. Pay attention to the picture he paints of his dream and his goal for what a great magazine should be.
Now think about what you'd say on a video about the dreams you have for your business. It's a great exercise. I was buried in catching up to some deadlines on projects yesterday. I stopped and took half an hour to day dream a little and think about how I'd explain my dream if I was recording a video to present to all of you. Just trust me. Watch the video and then take some time to think about your dreams.
Then, a little over a year ago Sal followed up with another dream chaser video, "Dare to Dream". The first issue of Shutter Magazine was literally hot off the press.
While most magazines were scaling down from print, Sal, recognizing that we're a touch and feel industry, chose to do just the opposite and deliver what's become one of the finest magazines in photography. It's only a minute long, but has the impact of a full feature film!
So, here's my point for today's post. We all have dreams and so often doubt takes over. We listen to the naysayers in our lives more than we listen to what's in our hearts. We quietly put our dreams in a shoe box and kick it under the bed!
Since 2009 I've opened every program I've taught with the same slide. The author is unknown, but it's a great reminder of the power we each have to pursue our dreams and succeed.
I do it because I can.
I can because I want to.
I want to because you said I couldn't.
Listen to the advice everyone has to share with you about what you should be doing with your life, then do whatever your heart tells you. True success isn't about anything material, but about the smile on your face when you wake up every morning!
"Making promises and keeping them is a great way to build a brand.”
I shared the quote above on Twitter this morning and then started thinking about it regarding photographers working to build brand awareness. So many of you think your brand is your logo and company name. While your logo and company name are part of building brand awareness, they're only one small component.
It's also important to remember nothing good can happen with your brand if your skill set is mediocre! You've got to make your work better than "Uncle Harry's". Your work needs to be outstanding and your goal is to build a reputation for exceeding client expectations.
Here are few other things to think about:
Building a strong brand isn't just about consistent performance it's about non-stop recognition. You need to get your name out there every day so that when a potential client needs a photographer the first name to pop into their head is yours!
Illustration Credit: © OutStyle
It's Sunday and if you follow me on a regular basis then you already know I'm going off track, but for many of you not as "out of the park" as it might seem. I woke up thinking about my Dad this morning. With his passing in November, things were different than when we lost Mom almost three years ago. When Dad passed away my sister and I had my parent's home to clean out. As a result, there are a lot of memory-makers throughout our house.
Grieving is different for everybody, but it is a process that cannot be ignored or denied. So, every now and then there's something that triggers a flashback. This morning I want to share one of my most fun memory-driving "pieces of Dad".
So, tell me what's in the picture above.
Over the years I've loved a lot of Dan Steinhardt's work, often of ordinary things but photographed in a way that makes them initially unidentifiable. I might stare at an image for several minutes and then give up trying to figure out how he got the shot, or what's in the reflections of a water drop. The item above isn't photographed in any particular way, but it is abstract and yet a familiar item to everybody.
Here's the backstory:
Dad's Caregiver, Joan, missed that his wallet was in his pants when she did a load of wash a few months back. We were all going out to lunch together and as I walked into Dad's place, there was his soaked wallet on the kitchen table being blotted dry between a stack of paper towels.
Well, Mr-Know-It-All that I am, I looked at them both and said, "Give me five minutes and I'll have your wallet dry and ready to go." I then popped it in the microwave and twenty seconds later the piece of artwork above, now proudly displayed on my desk came out.
Even writing about it now still makes me laugh. Dad went into shock, then laughter until the tears rolled down his cheeks. Joan laughed the hardest, mostly thanks to my stupidity getting her off the hook. And while hesitant to even show it to him at first, I laughed until it hurt.
It's a real simple point this morning about grieving and memories. We're all in the business of helping people capture memories and while many of us talk about it a lot, we're not always able to walk the talk.
I miss my folks a lot, but they're around me all the time. I'm wearing Dad's watch. Sheila wears Mom's. Our home is filled with memories and if I've learned nothing else, it's to just go with the tears when they need to flow. Somehow they always lead me to the chuckles and those priceless moments, some captured on film, others just on neuro-chromes.
So, if you're grieving, remember you're not alone. You don't have to keep a "stiff upper lip" for anybody and most important of all, find those moments that make you smile along with the ones that make you sad. And last on the list, never put a wet wallet in a microwave!
Make it a great Sunday everybody! Hug somebody close to you. Smile as you think of the good times with somebody you've lost. Go for those eleven-second hugs whenever possible. Best of all, enjoy the day and make a few memories!
I've written a lot over the years about the importance of feeding your brain and heart with something more than the day in day out challenges of running your business. A long time ago Sheila got me into reading a little Melody Beattie each morning. Over the last few years I added a couple of great quote books along with just about anything 'Walk the Talk" has published. The point is to find something outside your core business for a warm up in the same way you'd stretch before working out.
In the last year or two, thanks to un-conferences like ShutterFest I've met so many new photographers and in turn made so many new friends. In many of the conversations, I've been surprised at the lack of confidence. I've met so many people passionate about the craft and working hard on their skill set. They're doing so many things right, yet they don't have respect or an understanding for their own empowerment.
This piece from Melody Beattie for today, February 17, really hit home.
"Most of us need people around us who empower and help us feel able, on track, in balance, hopeful. We need people who tell us we can. Even if they don't use words, they believe in us and that belief comes shining through. We look at them and what we see reflected back is our own power.
But sometimes we run into those who, instead, try to convince us of their power, convince us that they have our answers, that we need them to be able to see clearly, that without them, we won't be able to find the way. They don't believe in us; they only believe in themselves. That's not empowerment. That's an approach destined to create dependency, often unhealthy dependency.
Cultivate relationships with people who make you feel like you can, who help you know that you're on track,right where you need to be. Spend time with people who help you know that you can trust yourself.
Seek out people who empower you. Learn to empower those you love.
And during those times when no one's around, know that you can empower yourself."
Each of you has something very special to offer the community, your clients, friends and family, but it all starts with learning to trust yourself. You need to have confidence the path you're on is the right one, because nobody knows you better than the face in the mirror every morning.
And, here and there if you need a boost, a cheerleader to help, you know where to find me!
by Skip Cohen
I've written a lot over the years about customer service. Making sure your business is service oriented is critical to your success, but it goes beyond your active customer base.
Let's talk about a friend who's a realtor. Here's the scenario: The real estate market is very similar to photography. It's all about people skills. It's about relationships, trust and communication. It's also seen its fair share of ups and downs riding the roller-coasters of the economy.
Realtors obviously want you to list your house with them. Every time my buddy loses a listing to another broker, which isn't very often, he calls the client and asks the following:
"I know you listed with another agent, but it would really help us a lot to find out what you felt we were missing."
Then he's quiet and just listens. Remember the line - "You've got two ears and only one mouth. So listen twice as much as you talk!" Well that's a big part of his success. It's about listening.
Back in my Polaroid days I wrote some pretty decent marketing programs. The truth was, none of the ideas were ever exclusively mine. All I had to do was ask any retailer or sales rep what they needed to double their Polaroid business. Retailers would tell me they needed better pricing, payment terms, and special programs to get more people into their stores. Sales reps would tell me they needed rebates for their accounts, new products and better advertising.
Today it's even easier to learn more about your target audience. All you have to do is ask and then listen. But, if you just sit and wait for somebody to put the cheese back, like the mice in Who Moved My Cheese? you'll starve. Go out and look around for new cheese and you'll survive, as well as grow.
Start talking to those clients who didn't hire you. Approach them in a way that's disarming, even helpful. At programs in the past I've suggested you start by sending them a thank-you note, even when you didn't get the job. Thank them for their time, consideration and wish them good luck. Then do a follow-up phone call a week later.
Most of you tend to think you lost a job because your price was too high. Remember that we're in an emotionally driven industry and many times it's not about pricing. Maybe the issue was establishing value. Maybe you didn't develop the chemistry during the "interview" process. Maybe they liked the albums they saw at another studio better. Maybe they’ve read or heard more about the other photographer they hired. If you’re a wedding photographer, maybe the other photographer offered them a product you don’t include, e.g. an engagement session, a Facebook page of images, a hybrid e-product video etc.
Take a shot and start to contact a client or two who didn't hire you - you might be surprised at what you learn. And, what you learn will help you create a blueprint for how to grow your business. Just like back in my Polaroid days - all the answers are out there, but you won't get them if you don't ask!
It's Sunday morning, but not just any Sunday - it's Valentine's Day. Yes, I bought Sheila roses earlier in the week, and I'm cooking dinner tonight, but being an old fart clearly has some advantages. I'm not sure this is a Sunday Morning Reflections or a Throwback Thursday theme, but I can't help but think about Valentine's Day when I was a kid in elementary school.
It was a time so much less complex than today.
Valentine's Day was about universal friendship. My mother would let me pick out a box of fifty cards at the drugstore. Total cost was $2.00 or less. I'd have to sign the back of each one and then write the name of the person it was going to on the envelope. I had to have enough cards for everyone in my class, so that was 30-40 cards.
On Valentine's Day everybody would have a brown or white paper bag with their name on it and at the announced time, we'd all distribute our cards. It didn't matter if the recipient was male or female; this message was about friendship. There were no issues with religion, gender or age. For that matter, even if you didn't like somebody they were off the hook on Valentine's Day and still got a card.
Thinking back to those days got me thinking about so many other things that have long since changed and here's where I cross the line into forbidden blogging territory.
So, in terms of today, make it a day with value. Go for the standard eleven-second hug. Be selfish today - if nothing else let Valentine's Day be a day of privacy for you and people who are special to you.
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday and a Valentine's Day of great memories, even with the little things you can do to make it special.
A couple of weeks ago I suggested I might start a new feature, Sarcastic Saturday. Well, here we are on a Saturday morning, and it only took me a few seconds to know exactly what I was going to write about.
I'm frustrated by the way, so many of you undersell your services and products. It's as if you cut school on all the days they talked about adjectives. You describe your services with all the passion of heading to a root canal! And, if corporal punishment were allowed in schools today, and you were a student, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week after the paddling you deserve.
So, let's raise the bar on how you describe everything you do. It's not an album, but the first family heirloom of a new family. They're not proofs if you're still using paper proofs, but unique custom-printed memories. Let's talk about your skill turning intangible moments into tangible memories you can share for years to come. Let's make big prints family fine art heirlooms to be handed down to future generations.
I did a podcast last year with Tim Walden, and he talked about the fact that he and Beverly don't just do portrait sessions, they create an experience. He also talked about how they attach a certificate of authenticity on the back of each portrait that's dated and signed. They're not providing the client with a portrait but a unique piece of fine art. Seriously, look at two of their images I grabbed from their website gallery. They're stunning and unlike anything normally shown on most portrait artists' websites. When you talk to Tim or Beverly you can hear the passion in their voices as artists.
Let's stop thinking about your website as "just my website"...it's the gateway to your heart and skills as an artist. Oops, there's another one - how about stop calling yourself a photographer and use the word artist? Joe Buissink signs one big print for each client. He signs it because he wants them to think of him as an artist and in turn, it's not a photograph, but a work of art.
My point is so pathetically simple this morning - be proud of what you do and show it with the quality of your images and the words you use to describe them. With the exception of modern medicine, there is no group of people who have given society more than photographers. You're the magicians who capture people's most private and memory-making moments every day. It's not about your gear, but the way you see the world with your eyes AND your heart.
It's time to start crowing a little, and you can't do it being a minimalist in your use of language or the excitement and pride you should be showing with every conversation.
Let's make your English teachers from the past proud!
Images copyright Tim and Beverly Walden. All rights reserved.
The first rule of holes: When you're in one, stop digging!
Shortly after posting one of my favorite tweets recently, I started thinking about it. I've met so many photographers in my career who define a problem and then make it worse by reacting to it. Often, they're not even problems, just simple bumps in the road.
Here's a prime example, when business is slow we all do the same thing - we question our abilities. We question the path we're on. We start to question some of our most important beliefs. Over and over again I've seen photographers drop their prices because their competitors were lower than they were. Business was slow, so what else could it be?
It's not a pricing game with your market but an added value and education game.
Added Value: Stop discounting and look for things you can do to add value to what you offer your clients. It could be anything from framed images to special albums to extended coverage at a wedding for example. Just discounting makes your services a commodity item.
Education: It's up to you to help your target audience understand why your skill set is special. It's also up to you to get them to understand the value of the finished product. A wedding album isn't just a book of pictures, but the first family heirloom of a brand new family. A family portrait isn't a big print but a tangible memory to hand down to future generations.
Then there's the issue of how you show your work. It's not about how many images you share in your gallery, but the quality of each photograph. Don't dig a deeper hole by showing average images, thinking that if you show hundreds of images you'll get more attention from your target audience. Instead, only show "wow" prints - images that are so good you get the job showing just one of them! Ten "wow" prints will beat hundreds of mediocre shots any day of the week.
Most important of all, use your network. Talk with friends and associates in your inner circle and just like the image on top, get a little help. So often we exaggerate the challenges we face and need a different perspective from a friend to find our way out. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
I want to wrap it up with one more favorite quote:
Most people give up just when they're about to achieve success.
They quit on the one yard line.
They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.
Right off the bat, I want to preface this post. I'm sharing it because everybody needs a laugh break at some point and it's perfect for a Friday chuckle.
Meet Ben Aaron. Two years ago on the Friendship Centers' blog here in Sarasota I shared his take on "Blurred Lines" with a group of senior citizens. Ben is one of my favorite journalists, an NBC reporter with a few dozen videos on his YouTube channel. He attacks most of my favorite themes with a touch of humor often seasoned with sarcasm.
I shared the video below with my wife, Sheila to test her laugh level and when I got a chuckle, I knew it was worth running here on the blog. So, enjoy the video below and if you're a husband like me, recognize that being a grump isn't exclusive to women. We seem to share an equal number of grumpy moments - the key is for us both to not be off our game at the same time!
Wishing everybody a Happy Friday and if you're up north, stay warm!
I'm guessing it's mid-90's and that's me, Nick Vedros, Don Sloan and Patty Vedros. If I remember right our buddy, Eric Marshall was just across the aisle. But it's more than just a fun night out in New York...there are some serious lessons here.
First, if you do anything with Nick Vedros recognize that he NEVER does anything halfway. Just like his images, you can expect a unique level of quality in everything he does. Second, if you're going to see the BlueMan Group then do it right. Again, it's a "Vedrosism". We were in the third row - right up front in the plastic pancho seats. You miss half the fun if you go to one of their shows and you're in the back.
And the last lesson here is a big one - take the time, no matter how busy you might be, to make a few memories with friends. I called Nick this morning to let him know I was sharing this classic from our past and nothing beats catching up. We went right back to that night twenty years ago and then worked our way forward right up to what's going on now.
One more footnote indirectly tied to Throwback Thursday. One of the really great things about solid friendships is being excited when a friend gets some well-deserved recognition. In our conversation this morning Nick told me about one of his exhibits, Faces of Change. It was recognized by American Photo as one of the top ten best photographic exhibits this winter. This wraps up one more lesson, the fun of the pride I feel for knowing he's a buddy! Here's the link to the American Photo story. It's well worth checking out.
So, it's Throwback Thursday, what are you sharing your blog today?
I've written a lot about ShutterFest over the last couple years. It's an exciting show and every year gets better. I could write volumes about it, but why not let the man himself explain it? This short video features Sal Cincotta, founder of ShutterFest, as he talks about the conference and his goal from the start and even a little peek into the future.
It's not just a conference it's a community!
You'll never find a rainbow if you're looking down!
Twice a day under two different handles I share quotes I find that inspire me. What started out as a way to get more Twitter followers has turned into a daily ritual, but just as much for me as my readers. Every quote seems to find its way into something I've done, might be working on or just reflects a thought about the day-in-day-out challenges of business.
The quote above really got me thinking about Marketing Monday and a theme for this morning's post. It's a simple point I want to make. So many of you keep doing the same thing over and over again. You're not going to knock one out of the park if everything you do is the same. Those "rainbows" only happen when you're looking up.
Diversify: Stop being a one trick pony and think about a little diversity in your work. Wedding photographers should consider learning how to photograph babies and kids because couples start families. Family photographers should focus some energy on pets because families with kids get a dog or cat sooner or later. The list goes on and on with logical expansions of your business. And, if you don't have in interest in expanding your skill set bring in a partner who has the skills, and start referring business to each other. Remember, brides, babies and pets are the winning trifecta of why most consumers hire a professional photographer.
Experiment: You have to learn the rules before you can break them, so start with a solid understanding of composition, lighting and exposure. Then step out of the box and experiment. Mix up your lighting. Change your exposure. Experiment with depth of field. Look at what your competitors are doing, then do something different!
Follow the leaders: I'm not suggesting you copy anybody's work, but pay attention to what the icons in the industry are doing that's different. Pick up any top consumer magazine and look at the trends you'll see in print advertising. Your client base is influenced by their environment and what they see in the magazines they read. You'll also find a lot of great information on YouTube, just by searching for any well-known photographer.
Attend conferences and conventions: It's only February and the best conferences in photography all happen in the first quarter. WPPI is coming up at the beginning of the month. Many state conventions take place in February, March and April. ShutterFest is March 29-30 and an outstanding time to catch some of the best workshops in photography along with hands-on shooting.
Click on any ShutterFest speaker on the right to find out more about the conference. Every year it gets better. Plus there's a terrific little trade show giving you the opportunity to network with key vendors.
Build your promotional and marketing calendar: Most of you are experiencing the slowness in the seasonality of portrait/social photography. That makes this the perfect time to lay out your promotional programs for the year ahead. If you do the same old programs you're going to miss those rainbows! Don't be afraid to consider something new in the year ahead.
I've been writing for Shutter Magazine since the very first issue and couldn't be more proud to be a member of the team. In this month's article I shared twelve ideas to help photographers strengthen their marketing approach. Here's the link to Shutter Magazine - get yourself a FREE online subscription then check out the hard copy. The magazine is stunning and typically runs around two hundred pages. Loaded with outstanding "how-to" content it's a necessary addition to your personal library. (My article is on pages 62 - 68.)
With every online issue, each of the authors provides a video tip to help make their point. The videos get thousands of downloads and then are also available on YouTube. Well, this month's was a classic and since I had so much fun making it, why not share it here and close this post with one more point?
Take the time to think through your marketing plans. Don't just put together a promotion without thinking through your demographics, potential partners, publicity and the potential results. And, remember, you're not alone! You've got knuckleheads like me hunting ducks in a pool just to make a point. Even better, you know where to find me if I can help you think through how to make 2016 the best year yet!
If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems.
For one thing, you'll be dead a lot."
It's one of those Sunday mornings where my brain is on overload, which seems to happen most when I get a full night's sleep. I've got way too much energy for what should be a lazy Sunday morning. As I was thinking about what to write about, I started thinking about a conversation I had earlier in the week with a photographer who was panic-stricken over changing her prices and moving up from having to eat macaroni and cheese every night!
We all get locked into believing certain decisions are under the do-or-die umbrella. I'm not suggesting there aren't times when choosing the right path is more important than others or that you should just charge ahead like a storm-trooper all the time. Just stop dragging yourself down by spending too much time rationalizing on your way up!
Here's a prime example: If I hadn't been turned down for a job I applied for in my early Polaroid days, I never would have been caught in a layoff and joined their consumer relations group, which led to a job in Chicago, A few years later it took me to a job in the international group and a lot of great overseas travel, which after two more positions resulted in leaving Polaroid for the President of Hasselblad USA.
All I remember is tearing up when I got that first turn down, even after the hiring manager had told me she was announcing my selection the next day. I was crushed and carried on a lot more than everybody who went home this week on American Idol!
So, here's the point and here's what I've learned. Everything always works out for the better! Adversity and the challenges of business today take us places we would never go if we were always sailing on consistently smooth seas. Which leads me to one of my favorite quotes once more:
"Smooth seas don't make skilled sailors!"
Make the best decisions you can. Don't waste energy worrying about it, but instead move on and then pay attention to what happened. If it doesn't work out as planned, pay attention to everything you just learned. There's no such thing as failure as long as you get something out of the experience.
Wishing everybody an outstanding Sunday. Take advantage of the time you have with family and friends. Go easy on the junk food during Super Bowl and most important of all go for that eleven-second hug with somebody special. Count out loud if you have to, but make it at least eleven seconds.
...and a big thanks to Kevin A. Gilligan. This is one of my favorite images in his galleries, which although I've shared before raises another point. Smooth seas don't make great surfers either! Check out his website by clicking on the image.
I've written more than once about the potential for Throwback Thursday to be a marketing tool on you blog. Well, here I am once more.
Remember, women make 98% of the decisions to hire a professional photographer. So, you have to remind Mom her kids are growing up and every day they change. Nothing flies faster than time - and once a moment is gone, we never get it back!
I found these three classics in an album my folks had put together of portraits when I was a kid. I guess these are about age two, five and twelve. While we have tons of snapshots and slides taken over the years, the professional portraits of everyone in the family are the biggest show-stoppers.
Throwback Thursday gives you a chance every week to pull an image from your personal archives, whether it's an image you might have captured for a client years ago or an old image of you or your kids. It's a terrific way to remind your customers that it's time for an updated family portrait!
The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot!
Why do I love ShutterFest so much?
A lot of you know me from my days as president of WPPI and Rangefinder Publishing. When I left in 2009 one of many things I wanted to do was start a program like ShutterFest. I started Skip's Summer School, which later morphed into SCU's Summer Session. However, the industry started taking me in different directions. Before I knew it I was knee deep in different events like podcasts, writing for other magazines, consulting, coaching, teaching and building the SCU Blog.
My good buddy Sal Cincotta came along and launched Shutter Magazine and I've written for every issue since it started. Then he launched ShutterFest in 2014 with approximately 500 attendees. He followed up quadrupling attendance last year. Now, we've got the 2016 program which will also be limited in attendance, but with continued growth and new programming.
This might be Sal's dream, but he's sharing it with all of us. Each year Sal, Taylor, Alissa and the team have listened closely to what attendees have said they'd like to see. Well, they have two goals - making ShutterFest better and to keep listening. ShutterFest is about networking, education, hands-on shooting and the opportunity for artists to expand their skill set wherever they need the most help.
This year I'll be speaking for the third year in a row and I couldn't be more proud. Even better than just being there is looking at all the new friends I've made through the conference. I'm not talking about casual friends who do lunch once a year, but close friends I'm in regular contact with. These are friends who watch my back just as much as I watch their's.
So, we're down to less than 48 hours. (The banner above was posted yesterday afternoon!) If you're on the fence, get off it and make the decision to join us! If you know my reputation, then you also know I don't back anything I don't believe in! It's a great opportunity to expand your skill set, build stronger vendor relations through a terrific little trade show, expand your network and recharge your battery before we hit the Spring seasonality of the business.
I've shared a few posts about ShutterFest over the last couple of years. Here are two links below, if you still need convincing!
See you in March in St. Louis!
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.