Here's the scenario: We all have our dreams. Some of them are very private aspirations, while others are on public display with everything we do. Sadly, trolls aren't just on the Internet and every now and then one tries to crush our dreams.
Five years ago this week I had a dream. In general, it was time for me to stop living vicariously through all of you as entrepreneurs and independent business owners. It was time to step out on my own. Well, the trolls lined up to let me know it was a bad idea. The dream wasn't just about my own business, but being happy in what I was doing every day. Thanks to a whole bunch of supportive friends, I started my company and three blogs, five big workshops and a book project later, SCU was born.
Along the way there have been a lot of lessons about business and life learned and many of them are thanks to some of you. One of those important lessons was from my very good buddy, Scott Bourne. It was all about the negative people in our lives and the importance to simply remove them. Nobody has the right to crush a dream!
I've never been particularly spiritual, but that was then and this is now. Sheila got me into reading Melody Beattie and a couple of days ago I read the following:
"Some people are carriers of negativity. They are storehouses of pent-up anger and volatile emotions. Some remain trapped in the victim role and act in ways that further their victimization. And others are still caught in the cycle of addictive or compulsive patterns.
Negative energy can have a powerful pull on us especially if we're struggling to maintain positive energy and balance. It may seem that others who exude negative energy would like to pull us into the darkness with them. We do not have to go. Without judgment, we can decide it's okay to walk away, okay to protect ourselves.
We cannot change other people. It does not help others for us to get off balance. We do not lead others into the Light by stepping into the darkness with them."*
There have been a few tough stretches over the last five years, but in so many ways it's been the most incredible chapter in my life. It takes a lot of energy to remove the negativity in your life and a lot of work to not become negative yourself. What makes it all worth it is the support of great friends and you, my readers, many of whom have become personal friends as well. So, thank you for your support, your encouragement and your ability to inspire so many of us.
It's the perfect quote for how I felt five years ago,
"I do it because I can. I do it because I want to. I do it because you told me I couldn't!"
As always, you guys know where to find me if I can help you with anything.
*The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie - April 26 reading
Illustration Credit: © Gajus - Fotolia.com
Yes, I'm a SmugMug fan and they're also a partner in the SCU project, but nobody asked me to share this with my readers. I'm doing it, because we don't laugh enough anymore and this is all about a bunch of good friends of mine who refuse to take life too seriously. We're so wrapped up in dealing with our businesses that when a company comes along with a sense of humor we miss it! We walk right by it.
Well, I caught this video yesterday and it simply cracked me up. First of all, I've got goggles for Molly the Wonder Dog, just need the bike and the side car! Second, it's a great idea and in an industry that's buried in contests with only a few winners, here's a chance for everybody to win.
It's a great idea and even better is to think about how you'd do a promotion of your own to a target of clients in the community. We're a business run heavily on referrals and it's a service related business too. What could you do with your own referral program?
So, check it out and then hit the button for the promo page at the end of the video or below and get yourself signed up, so you can benefit from SmugMug's Refer a Friend Promotion!
Years ago one of the judges in WPPI print competition talked about the "wow" print. The whole idea was that it simply leaves you speechless as you suck all the air out of the universe sounding like an old Hoover and just say "Wow"!
Well, meet Carey Nash and an image that yesterday morning just made me go "Wow".
Here's how Carey described it...
"As we were walking through the streets with my bride and groom this lady approached us with a cigar. It was a fantastic opportunity and has a great connection to the culture and Chloe's wedding in a foreign country."
So, what makes a "Wow Print"? In this case it's a little of everything. First, is the situation and the humor in the shot, but the more I looked at it the more I liked other things about it. For example, the lighting, the pose, the expressions and even the almost monotone feel to it. But there's another piece of this - Carey had the skill set to get it and then turn it into a signature image.
Looking to see more of Carey's work? Here's the link along with a big thanks to my FWP co-administrator, Chris Fawkes, who featured Carey in a member profile feature yesterday.
This post ran on Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep's Facebook page on Friday. It's one of the best posts I've ever read, hitting hard on a most painful topic. If Baby Milo could have told his story, this probably is what he would have shared. Thanks to an incredibly creative writer and the spirit of a NILMDTS photographer, Baby Milo's spirit and the hope and dreams of his parents will be around for years to come, remembering in a series of incredibly powerful images.
Today is the last day for the Sevenly campaign wiht NILMDTS and your chance to raise awareness for NILMDTS along with the funding they need to grow and keep supporting the amazing charter they've taken on. Here's the link and your opportunity to help and I can't think of a better post for Sunday morning!
And, if you can keep a dry eye you're far tougher than I am...
My name is Milo Juniper Willer and my mommy and daddy struggled with infertility and miscarriage for five years before learning that they were pregnant with my twin sister Matilda Plum and me! They were both overjoyed and cautious about us; they hoped that we were finally the babies who would make it to their arms.
To their relief Mati and I made it through the first trimester. However, my parents traded in their reprieve from worry for heartbreak when they learned at our 18-week ultrasound that I had multicystic kidneys and as a result, had little amniotic fluid around me. The doctor told them that without amniotic fluid my lungs would not develop. I likely would be stillborn or would die shortly after birth. Despite my diagnosis, I was determined to be sure that my twin sister made it to the world safely and to give my mom and dad the chance to meet me. So that’s what I did.
On February 8th, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. Matilda was born and at 10:31 a.m. I made my grand entrance. Before she could get a word in, I let out a giant cry announcing my presence. She was as perfect as could be, and I was too in my own way. The doctors tried their best to help me, but as suspected, my lungs were not strong or fixable.
I wanted to spend as much time as possible with my family, so I hung around as long as I could. We cuddled, read stories, and our photographer from Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep took hundreds of pictures of us. All of this love made me so tired and so at 1:31, three hours after I was born, I say goodbye. Even though I can’t be with them today, my spirit lives in the pictures around their house, in my twin sister, and in the hearts of all who hear my story. Thank you for listening.
With love and peace,
It's Saturday morning and in all honesty, while often I know exactly what I want to post and write about, this morning I'm just feeling grateful for having an amazing group of people who watch my back and in turn allow me to help them. Twenty years ago if you had a good network it simply meant you had a big stack of business cards. Today, thanks to social media, the world is a smaller place and we're able to help each other much faster than once a year when we'd get together at a convention.
This past week at ShutterFest my network grew a little more. I met a lot of new photographers and got in more quality time with them than I get at one of the big conventions. There's something to be said for a smaller, boutique conference. You get time to really talk and get to know people better. It's all about quality time.
So, on this sunny, gorgeous Saturday morning (as buddy Joe Farace might tweet) I want to thank my network. That's right, the whole group of you. You're always there when I need help. You give me new ideas on marketing and business and on those days when I just can't seem to figure out what direction to go, you help me focus. You simply inspire me.
And to a new member of the "family" who wrote, "We are not anybody in this industry right now..." remember one thing. You're ALWAYS somebody in this industry. The industry is filled with people who are just starting out. What's most important isn't the skill set you're working to develop, but the passion you have for quality, integrity and friendship. You're a key part of an amazing industry and I'm excited to have a couple of new friends in my network!
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend! As always, find the time for friends, hug somebody special in your life and don't think about work. It'll all be there on Monday!
Illustration Credit: © -Dragun- - Fotolia.com
We're headed back this morning from ShutterFest. Wrapping things up with old and new friends in the bar late yesterday afternoon, I was reminded why all of this is so important. Sure, it's education, raising the bar and networking, but there's something much deeper that happens, especially with a group like this.
It's about spirit and optimism. It's also about a group of people sharing a common passion for business and photography. There are dozens of new people in my network after the last two days and my own attitude is completely recharged...and that's why you need to step out of your world and participate at every workshop/convention you can attend.
This is intentionally meant to be a short post this morning...think of it as having an amazing dinner at your most favorite restaurant and all you want to is savor the taste of the food and wine.
What an amazing week - put Shutter Magazine on your radar and start paying attention to everything Sal and Taylor Cincotta put their name on.
And, to all of you who became new friends this week - thank you for an amazing attitude, your passion for photography and your willingness to help raise the bar on the quality of your business, your images and our industry.
Safe travels home - you know where to find me if I can help.
Sal Cincotta kicks off the history-making first ShutterFest in St. Louis.
In just a few hours I'm teaching my second of three classes at ShutterFest in St. Louis and as I am with any workshop, I'm totally pumped. Good buddy, Jim Morton, in our Hasselblad days, used to make sure he always gave people a heads-up with "Watchout, Skip's in show mode!"and Tony Corbell would refer to me as "Wound a little tight!" Sheila knows, just looking at my face, if she's going to tell me something important there's a 90% chance I'll forget what she said within ten minutes.
As nuts as I get before a program like this, Monday night, meeting some of the attendees for the first time, I saw the same expressions on their faces over and over again. It's all about anticipation and enthusiasm. We're all looking for answers and when you take the time to step away from the challenges of business and attend a workshop or convention, your quest to raise the bar on different aspects of your career kicks into high gear.
You've chosen a career field where your education can never stop! Technology is constantly changing and putting pressure on your skill set. Social media is growing and changing every day and pushing you to understand marketing and your reach. Consumer trends are NEVER stagnant, but what are you doing to understand them and stay on top of client expectations?
You have to make sure you attend every possible convention, workshop and trade show that comes your way, along with online education, blogs, books and DVD's.
Over the years I've suggested that networking is one of the very top reasons to attend any workshop or convention, but don't just collect business cards.
Your Skill Set
I know not everyone agrees, but I'll continue to argue that diversity is the key to survival. In order to build a strong business today, while there are those who can survive being specialists, I still believe diversity into related specialties can build a much stronger business foundation. For example, brides start families; families grow up and during the process there are opportunities for maternity images, baby portraits, family portraits and seniors. Plus, depending on the client, they might have needs for commercial work and fine art along the way.
You dont need to be an expert in everything, but learning a few skills outside your comfort zone when you're at a program like ShutterFest is going to make you a better photographer. Building your skill set out so you never have to say, "Sorry, I don't that kind of photography," builds a stronger client base. And, if you really don't want to expand your skill set, then at least expand your network, so you know other artists who compliment your weaknesses and you can refer business to each other.
Okay, so it's not one of the "big three", but it is the reason we're in this business in the first place. Sadly, "fun" has been buried under everyone's baggage worrying about the economy, finances, marketing and business. "Fun" is one of those words so often forgotten in business today, but spending time outside your studio at workshops and conventions is one way to bring fun back into your life.
So, if you're here at ShutterFest, welcome to St. Louis. If you're not here then look around for the next workshop series coming your way or make the time to get away to be involved. You've got a choice - you can either stand on the sidelines and watch the parade go by or you can be right in it!
Everyone remembers the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Even if you forgot it, there was a movie released last year all about this story from our childhood. Well, here’s a spin-off of that same fairytale, only it’s real world…Salvatore and the Beanstalk.
Just like our mythical character Jack, Salvatore Cincotta, "Sal", as his family, friends and followers know him, had a bag of magic beans and again like Jack, a dream.
It was two years ago that Sal planted his first magical bean – Shutter Magazine. I remember getting a call and being asked if I wanted to be an editorial contributor. The answer was an instant "YES". Today, Shutter Magazine has over 83,000 subscribers and every issue brings together a group of industry educators who I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with.
But there were a few more beans in Sal’s bag of magic and he planted another one, ShutterFest. In fact, as I write this post I’m on my way to the first event in St. Louis. Unlike Shutter Magazine, which has had plenty of time to sprout, ShutterFest is just a seedling, but with incredible roots in education and again supported by a stellar cast of educators.
Talk about next year’s program has the industry already buzzing. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s Sal’s ability to grow a project and realize a dream. In 2015 ShutterFest is already anticipated to grow by leaps and bounds.
A look in Sal’s bag and another bean planted: Shutter Network has started to sprout. With the first broadcast reaching over 15,000 viewers, there’s no doubt it’s going to extend well into the “Land of Giants”.
Each idea seems to start out almost as mythical as Jack and the Beanstalk. Then, it’s executed with precision and an amazing staff of talented people. Suddenly it’s no longer a seedling of an idea that’s been germinating in Sal’s garden, but reality for thousands of artists to utilize.
But wait…check out Shutter Magazine. Sprouting to the “Land of Giants” it’s got a new shoot about to bloom – the magazine is going hard copy, in addition to its already successful online presence! While the “Land of Giants” is cutting back and their printed publications getting smaller and smaller, Sal’s going in the other direction. Dominating online education in photography, Shutter Magazine is about to have a twin with a completely different persona.
Okay, so enough of the parallel to a mythical universe…this is real. It’s now and you need to be a part of it. As countless leaders in publishing, education and the convention world have scoffed and thought, “Sal will never pull it off,” over and over again he’s proved them wrong.
Even more fun is wondering what Sal’s going to do next. This isn’t about toppling giants, it’s about creating a new way for photographers to raise the bar on their skill set and create a healthier industry.
And for those who’d like nothing more than to slow Sal down, be careful – the harder you push him to brake the more determined he’ll be to succeed.
As my own mantra goes…“I do it because I want to…I do it because I can…I do it because you said I couldn’t!”
Illustration Credit: © matamu - Fotolia.com
This past week was pretty remarkable and while I don't usually do summary posts, there were a few posts I wish I could get everybody to read. If you missed it, just click on the image and you'll get the full post.
Pricing: A couple of months ago a young Canadian photographer started a blog, Sprouting Photographer. I'm amazed at Bryan Caporicci's insight and his SCU guest post on pricing is one of the most in depth explanations I've read to date. As photographers it's always the biggest mystery - how to price your product. It's a great post and one of those topics I wish everybody would pay more attention to!
Illustration Credit: © waldemarus - Fotolia.com
Facebook and Advertising: Virtually all of you are using social media to promote your business and are confused about the changing landscape at Facebook. Blake Sunshine worked for Facebook for three years. In this special guest post, already one of the most read in SCU history, Blake starts to address some of the challenges. You're going to be hearing a lot more from her, but in the mean time read her first post on the topic and start fine-tuning your approach. Facebook is an amazing tool, but you've got to use it right.
Illustration Credit: © artagent - Fotolia.com
Your Current Customer Base: It was Marketing Byte 108 and it hits the challenge of paying more attention to your past clients. Even as a wedding photographer, just because their wedding is over doesn't mean they don't have other friends who will be getting married. You've got to put a serious effort into relationship building and utilize their enthusiasm for your work as a foundation to turn them into ambassadors for your skill set!
Illustration Credit: © Welf Aaron - Fotolia.com
Back to Film: And just to get us back to our roots, thanks to Tamron USA, Liz Huston took us back to Peru traveling only with film from her "double secret stash" in the fridge! If this is your first time getting to know Liz, check out her first guest post where she candidly talked about burn-out and what it took to rediscover her creative spirit!
Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday weekend...hug somebody special! For those of you headed to ShutterFest in St. Louis, see you Monday night and safe travels!
There are dozens of different workshops and programs for you to choose from, but every now and then one comes along that's pretty remarkable. The video is only a minute long, so kick back and just watch it. Even if you're not able to attend this year, it's worth the time just to understand what it's all about and help us spread the word.
It's only a week away: April 27 - May 2. Click the link below for more information!
This post today is straight out of the archives, but I had to share it again. Why? Just read my short note to Belkin...
Had I known I was going to start out my day completely aggravated after spending ten minutes cutting through the plastic of a $25 computer accessory, I would have bought a different product! It's just a USB port. It's not radioactive, it won't stunt a child's growth and nobody is going to die using too many of them!
However, it did remind me of buying fishing lures as a kid. I could never decide if the store had only one left on the display card, did that mean it was their best seller or was it the worst, since it was still there? Well, this Belkin port was the only one left, which after fighting with the packaging, I now realize it was there because everybody knew what I didn't - it would take two steak knives and a scissors to master the security your rocket scientists built into the spot welded plastic hermetic seal!
Here's the background: Scott Bourne's rant just adds to the frustration so many of us feel when buying new gear. Of all the posts he's written, this is one of my favorites. As I wrote almost a year ago, it's one thing to complain about the challenges we all face dealing with the rocket scientists at the corporate level, but it takes a true artist to describe them. So, if there was a Pulitzer for reality and sarcasm, Scott would sure be my nomination.
I know there might be a few of you who read this before, but since SCU's readership is constantly growing, I thought I'd share it again. Feel free to add more frustrations of your own and maybe we'll have enough for an updated post!
Sometimes I just want to run to the printer and have them make 10,000 bumper stickers that say “It’s not the economy stupid – it’s that you suck!”
I’ve been using serious photo gear in a serious manner since the early 1970s. It didn’t used to be this bad – I don’t think. But it seems like the notion of customer service is completely foreign to many camera companies and their related brothers and sisters. So here’s a partial list (just five stupid things in no particular order) that photo-related companies do. I don’t expect these companies to change for the better, but at least I’ll feel better after venting a little bit. Sorry for the rant but at least some of you must feel my pain!
Stupid Thing #1 DO NOT...
Require photographers to enter their camera serial number to obtain a copy of their camera’s manual or other camera info online. STUPID! Why is this necessary? Why does the camera manufacturer care if I already own the camera? Do they think the manual possesses some secret information that will grant me the codes to the Death Star? If so, isn’t that secret information available to the thousands who DO own the camera and who could look at the online manual anyway? What if I am simply interested in buying the camera? Wouldn’t they want me to have access to all the information I need before deciding? Maybe I’ll read the manual and be convinced that I need to buy that camera. Wow – we wouldn’t want to do something that would potentially sell more gear would we? And what would stop me from calling my buddy with a Nikon D3x and asking him for his serial number so I could look at the manual? This is one of the silliest things the camera companies do and it should stop – but it probably won’t.
Stupid Thing #2 DO NOT...
Require photographers to sign in with an email address and password to access basic information about products and services. Okay here we go again. It’s almost as if they are afraid we might somehow sneak into their website and buy something! Don’t create barriers to business. Don’t make it hard for us to contact you. Don’t make us give up personal information just to find out whether or not we want or need what you’re selling. Open the gates. Let us in. We probably want to give you money. You want money don’t you? Why would you do ANYTHING that would make it hard for us to give you money? Get rid of the passwords folks. This isn’t a bank transaction. We aren’t asking for access to the vault at Fort Knox. We don’t even want to know if Donald Trump’s comb-over is real. There are no government secrets. We just want to see how your camera flash sync works, or how many watt seconds your new flash head is, or how much RAM your new software program requires, etc. Really. Take the bullet out of the gun Barney Fife. It ain’t no big deal!
Stupid Thing #3 DO NOT...
Package products in such a complex manner. I recently ordered a camera battery and just about had to call in a full-fledged nuclear strike to get the darn package open. I have actually had to have stitches before when cut by the plastic that some companies use to ship their products in. I understand that some companies package for retail and want to reduce loss to theft. Two points to ponder. If I order it from Adorama or Amazon then it’s coming to my house AFTER I paid for it. No need to force me to get a blow torch to open it up. Second point…if you make it so hard for me to open the package I might just buy something else. So you miss the sale anyway. STOP IT! Use common sense packaging. It’s better for the environment, it’s easier on the customer and it’s less expensive to YOU!
Stupid Thing #4 DO NOT...
Make it hard to register my product under warranty. Okay – so you sold me this thing. You included a warranty card. You want ME to fill it out. You give me about one inch to include the 400 words necessary to get the information to you. You put the serial number in four point black type on a black camera body, hidden in the most obscure place possible. Couldn’t you just pre-stamp the warranty card with the number that matches the product in the box? It would be a good loss prevention tool since you have gear stolen prior to it reaching the customer. Of course we’re not done yet. You ask all sorts of personal and marketing questions that have nothing to do with the warranty. In some states these practices have been ruled illegal but you continue to act in this fashion. How about just making it easy for me? The warranty card has a bar code or a simple key code on it that I enter at your website with my BASIC contact information such as Name, Address, Email or Phone. That’s it! Then you ASK NICELY if I want to participate in marketing research or additional marketing programs. I reply according to my wishes but if I say yes, you have a serious, committed customer instead of someone who resents you for making them jump through all those hoops just to get the warranty YOU PROMISED THEM before they bought your product.
Stupid Thing #5 DO NOT...
Sell us on more megapixels. STOP IT NOW! I beg of you. We’re NOT that stupid – okay at least HALF of us are not THAT stupid. We know that cramming more and more and more and more and more and more megapixels on to the same size sensor is NOT giving us better image quality. It IS making us buy bigger memory cards, hard disks and faster computers. It is wasting more and more of our time while we download files that are least 1/3rd larger than they need to be. Why not stick with 12 or so megapixels and concentrate on great sensors that gather lots of light without aberration? That’s what we want. Really. Megapixel madness does NOT serve your customers. It serves your marketing department. How about a pact? You promise to stop this madness, at least on the prosumer level and above cameras, and we’ll tell all of our Uncle Harry’s that the $199 point and shoot with 400 megapixels will make him a rock star photographer…deal?
I could go on – and that’s the bad news. But I’ll stop because I like to contain my rants to a page or so. At the end of the day so much around us happens for no reason. Worse, most of it happens because it’s ALWAYS been done that way. It would be nice if some enterprising company in the photo business gathered up some key clients, suppliers and staff and just started asking questions like: “Why do we do this?”
Ah – at least I can dream! Thanks for listening to my rant.
Photo Credit: © slasnyi - Fotolia.com
Jim Morton and I have been good friends for a lot of years, starting out when I joined Hasselblad in 1987. We worked directly together for twelve years. Over those years we worked with thousands of photographers, spending a lot of time at conventions, trade shows and on the road with Hassselblad University. This was all back in the days of film and the world was actually a much bigger place than it is today. You didn't have the ability to email or Skype, let alone free calling to any place in the US or even other countries. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google, LinkedIn or Pinterest - just a telephone and a lot of time on the road.
Jim sent me a great quote he found yesterday. He was thinking about all the fights people have on the customer service side of life, but I went in a completely different direction.
His quote got me thinking about all the photographers we met over the years. Then, I thought about all the photographers I "meet" every day on line and the way some of you respond to criticism and suggestions.
Many of you are looking for answers to help you on the career path to becoming a great photographer. You'll ask anybody and everybody their opinion on what you should be doing. You're on a quest for success and you think because somebody has been at it longer than you, they have the answers.
Here's what Jim sent me:
Never allow a person to tell you "No" who doesn't have the power to say "Yes"!
Everyone has a different definition of success. First you have to define your mission - for your life and for your business. Listen to everybody's opinions, but then boil them all down and do what your heart tells you to do. Remember the only opinion that counts is yours. You're the only one who can make the right "yes and no" decisions about your career.
Just to help you on your quest, here's what some remarkable artists and friends have to share with you. These are excerpts from their SCU Faculty pages. If you want to go back and read more and link to some of their images as well, just click on their name.
...Align your creative mission with your life’s mission. Most people need at least two missions; one for their life in general (which includes many things – health, family, finances, etc) and one for a specific area, like their career or creative life, which may or many not be the same. Make sure that your missions share something in common – something other than yourself. The more you can align the them, the more likely you are to achieve them, increase your productivity, and be more fulfilled.
John Paul Caponigro
...Learn to speak visually about what you love. All too often I see young photographers trying to shoot everything and anything, but that only shows you have no focus. Find your focus and stay true to it.
Matthew Jordan Smith
...Photography can be so exciting and it’s easy to be influenced by the comments of your Facebook fans who love your work. My advice is to enjoy the journey, but remember that advancing the art, the science and the business of professional photography never really ends. So, don’t just be waiting for the next great shot. Expand your skills and sharpen those photographic chops and go make that next great image.
...So, in the midst of all the business of making a photo career work, you have to carve out time for your own photographic endeavors, and find that which you feel to be so beautiful that you can't help but shoot it. These types of assignments, be they from a magazine, another type of client, or a self assignment, will keep you alive photographically, and remind you, always, of why you wanted to do this in the first place.
I posted this over a year ago, but the other night it was one of the Dodge ads on during the Academy of Country Music Awards...if you haven't seen it before take the time to pay attention to the images. If you have seen it again, just watch it one more time and then put a smile on your face purely out of pride for being part of an amazing industry.
I love the role photography has played in making this commercial, So God made a farmer.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about putting ColorTRUE to the test. Most of you know how low-tech I am, in fact, if there was a support group for the technically challenged, I'd be their poster child! The truth is, nothing could have been easier, but what I liked the most is what ColorTRUE does.
Most of you understand the importance of showing images that are calibrated beyond "eyeballing". Being shown thousands of images each year by photographers at meetings and conventions, that's what I find the most valuable. However, it's the ease of use that I personally get a kick out of, along with a huge benefit - seeing what images are going to look like based on different papers.
If you haven't taken the time to download the FREE app yet, it's only a click away. What good is working to create the finest images of your life if you're not showing them on a device that's calibrated?
It's a beautiful day and I've promised myself minimum work and the shortest of posts. I found a great quote, which pretty much trumps the old, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
You can complain because
roses have thorns,
or you can rejoice because
thorns have roses.
...and that's my outlook for this weekend. Nothing is getting in the way of just enjoying the day, spending time with Sheila and feeling unbelievably lucky to have so many of you in the "family"! Thanks for your support, your encouragement and never-ending feedback.
Have a terrific weekend and as always, hug somebody you care about!
Photo Credit: © gtranquillity - Fotolia.com
Yesterday's post was about drawing assumptions as members of the photographic community, business owners and managers. It's ironic that later in the day I ran across one of the Walk the Talk books on Customer Service Success called "Serve Right".
In the chapter called "Watch Your Assumptions", author Steve Ventura, hits on five assumptions every business owner should avoid like the plague when it comes to serving customers. Stay clear of:
"You'll never really know unless they tell you...or unless you check. So, if they don't say anything, ASK! (My goal is to make sure you're happy and satisfied with the service you received. How did I do?")
I wonder how many time photographers fail to get clarification and trip over any one of these assumptions later on? It's so easy to make sure everyone is on the same page right up front, long before that first click of the shutter.
Illustration Credit: © PaulPaladin - Fotolia.com
This is really off the topic of photography directly, but it's so relevant to social media. All of our communication in social media is through the printed word. We can't hear the tone in somebody's voice or see the expression on their face or any emotion in their eyes. There's no body language to help us further define the importance or sincerity of what somebody is saying...just the printed word.
This morning I got an email from a member of a forum I co-administrate telling me our "moderators suck and are deleting people at a whim." There are only two moderators in this forum, me and my partner. I haven't been told I suck in a lot of years, but with 17,000 members in the forum, I've accepted we can't keep everybody happy.
My point is, neither of us have ever deleted anybody at a whim. However, we have deleted people who love to be trolls, have attacked other members outside the forum because they disagreed, posted material completely irrelevant to the members of the forum and in short, just want to write their own rule book. We even had a member leave angry phone messages on another forum member's business line! That's why God made the delete button and we only do it when it's appropriate.
We all live a real world scenario of a Verizon commercial, "Can you hear me now?" We draw bad assumptions every day. We do it in business and in our personal lives. I have a whole collection of family members who live on their assumptions and thrive on them, never asking for clarification before they pass judgement.
Here's the bottom line...before you write off another photographer, project, workshop, event, vendor or manufacturer because of something you heard, read or think you witnessed, pick up the phone and call them. Find a way to get clarification. Don't assume the rumor you heard was true. Don't assume somebody's lack of response to an email you sent means they don't care - your email might be sitting in their spam folder. Take your time and don't rush to draw the wrong assumptions.
This an amazing industry and we've all got a chance to raise the bar on the quality of our images, business, communication and relationships if we can just talk more to each other.
The importance of the art of conversation isn't dead. In fact, it has more purpose today than ever before.
Illustration Credit: © Marek - Fotolia.com
"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning!"
It's not a new concept and in fact, I might have tweeted this quote a year or two ago, but in view of everyone's access to social media these days, it just hit home.
Instead of dodging the next upset client you have to deal with, how about directly addressing the problem? How about instead of looking at Caller ID and deciding you don't want to talk to them, you answer the phone on the first ring and simply be upbeat. Plus, if you smile as you're talking, it'll come through in the tone of your voice.
An angry customer, depending on your approach, can do almost as much to help your business as a satisfied client. In fact, some times the relationship will get even stronger. Why? Because they recognize you're standing behind your product; that you're passionate and you believe in your skill set as an artist. An upset customer, even if you did absolutely nothing wrong, is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to empathize and your integrity.
A lot of business owners have a hard time getting started. Here's the easiest one liner on the planet to help you diffuse an upset client:
"I understand you're unhappy. Well, the buck stops here. What can I do to help?" Then, just kick back and listen.
What you don't want to do is ignore their issue, because it'll only get worse. In addition, be careful talking about the challenge in any of the Facebook forums. I'm amazed at photographers who shred a client in a public forum, when there's a distinct possibility it's going to get back to them. Whether the customer was wrong or not doesn't make any difference. That customer who's being bashed is one of the bricks in the foundation of your business. Why not recognize his/her value and solve the problem instead of treating them like they were disposable?
It's another old quote, but so appropriate to wrap up this topic:
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it.
He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Illustration Credit: © MH - Fotolia.com
Keep in mind that while I obviously know a lot about being a professional photographer, the reality is my passion is on the business and marketing side. I choose to not make a living clicking the shutter, but that doesn't mean I don't get a kick out of so many of the same things you do, as working or aspiring pros.
I've been involved with some aspect of the Friendship Centers here in Sarasota for almost two years and started their blog a few months ago, BeAwareBetterCare.com. The other night they had an open house to celebrate the renovation at one of their facilities and they were scrounging for artwork to help decorate. I was flattered that several of my images wound up on their walls, along with several that were gifts from good friends over the years, even if it was just for the night.
That got me thinking about how easy it would be to get your work seen within your community. Think about all the places that could use a little help decorating and then think about images you've captured that would be perfect on loan. Doctor's offices, coffee shops, restaurants all need work on their walls. Helen Yancy talked about how she got started years ago by decorating a small diner in her area. Mary Lou Johnson has her work all over the walls of the Toasted Mango coffee shop, here in Sarasota. Bob Coates has his jazz musicians on the wall of his favorite jazz bar/restaurant in Sedona.
Just an idea th to help you build a little brand awareness. I had five of my prints on loan for the night along with work from Bob Coates, Dave Ashby, Pete Cardello, Bambi Cantrell, Tom Danielson and Joe Elario. Each one exposed the community to some stunning photography and while our home was a little naked for a day, it was well worth it.
What's going on in your community where you can contribute to raising the bar on the artwork, short term or permanently? It's a great way to get your work seen by more people.
Apologies in advance to those of you who just don't feel like a sappy moment, but most of my blogs are fresh off the cuff each day, reflecting whatever has happened in the day or week before in our industry. This morning, while it was an incredible week, my mind keeps going to a couple of new photographers I spoke to last week who seemed to spend more time apologizing for their dreams than working to make them reality.
So, I went off in search of something motivational and found this little piece by Karen Ravn...
Only as high as I reach can I grow,
only as far as I seek can I go,
only as deep as I look can I see,
only as much as I dream can I be.
I'm not a big fan of rhymes, but it does make it easy to remember...so here's my spin on it as it applies to building a business...
Hey, I warned you this morning...this past week several projects came together that were CNC's (Cocktail Napkin Concepts)....it's an amazing feeling. Or as Hannibal Smith used to say on the A-Team...
"I love it when a plan comes together!"
Wishing everybody a wonderful weekend! Let yourself dream, raise the bar on your business, then raise the roof to celebrate. You're part of an amazing industry!
Illustration Credit: faithie @ Shutterstock