Every day I post two quotes, one in the morning and one late afternoon. Sharing great quotes started as a suggestion from my good buddy Scott Bourne as a way to build followers in my early Twitter days, but it's evolved into so much more. While I post the quotes because they're relevant to everything from life to business to friendship, etc. they've actually become a daily vitamin. Here's a prime example.
On Friday I shared the following quote with the picture below:
Missing my Dad, but smiling - "Sometimes when one person is missing the whole world seems depopulated."
Well, Jim Denham tweeted back,
Skip, my Dad's favorite quote was, "Jimmy, shut up!" Wish I could hear it one more time!
Jim and I know each other primarily through Twitter, although we met once years ago, which I had forgotten. I did what I often do, found his phone number and called him. One round of phone tag and a couple hours later we were laughing and sharing Dad stories. It was a great call and left me smiling even more.
Here's my point, too often we forget about the power of an image to take us back to a special moment in time. We also forget how connected we all are through the experiences in life we have in common. On Friday, when I posted that tweet I was just missing my Dad. He's been gone for a couple of years and it's rare that I don't think about him at least once a day, but the photographs and their memories keep me smiling.
My Dad was incredibly disciplined when it came to his health and died at 93, but onion rings were the one treat he refused to deny himself. Square 1 Burgers on "Onion Ring Day" became a regular Wednesday lunch date. I don't drive by one of their restaurants today without laughing.
Dad was my best friend my entire life. I've got memories, stories and plenty of photographs to keep me happy. When those moments of sadness hit, all it takes is a picture or video to get me smiling from ear to ear.
So, I'm wrapping it up this morning by sharing one of my favorite videos. Molly and I stopped by Dad's one morning. He loved Molly and the two of them had a special bond. The wool blanket on his bed made her butt itch and she'd reach back, do what dogs do, lick her butt and then go back to kissing Papa.
Wishing you a Sunday filled with peace, smiles and great memories whenever you need them. Go for those special therapeutic eleven-second hugs. Most important of all appreciate those important people in your life. It's the time with them today that will be the foundation for all those stories, laughs and memories years from now.
Image copyright Skip Cohen. All rights reserved.
It's the first anniversary of "Why?" and what a year it's been. My good friend John Sexton was the first artist in the series, and since then we've shared the work and wisdom from sixty-five other photographers. With each episode, we've learned something about their love for the craft. The backstories have involved great memories and a peek at the passion these artists have been willing to share.
Since it's the first anniversary, I wanted to share one of my favorite images, but not as insight into my skill set, but in appreciation to one of SCU's partners, Panasonic and Tom Curley, who's responsible for their US Luminary Team. Panasonic's tagline is "Changing Photography," and that's exactly what they're doing. Most of you know I don't make a living as a photographer. While I know more than I let on, it's the business/marketing side of photography that intrigues me the most, However, I'll match my passion for having a camera in my hands against anybody and these days I'm never without a LUMIX camera.
Next week we'll kick off a new year of images in the "Why?" series with a favorite of David Beckstead's. It's a new year, and there are at least a dozen different images with backstories ready to go.
Thank you for supporting this series and an especially BIG thanks to all the artists who have shared their stories and favorite images! Interested in looking at the entire series one by one? Just click on my image above.
The year is 2009, and it's October at the PPE show in New York. Wandering around the lower level where the classes are held I bumped into two of my most favorite people, Tony Corbell and Nick Vedros. My life with the two of them in it has been one adventure after another.
At some point years ago and only Nick would remember when, he started doing his superhero pose, sort of a cross between Superman and Captain Chaos, AKA "Him" from the Cannonball Run series. If you know Nick then at least once in an email you've received over the years you've probably got a shot of Nick in pose mode.
The fun of Throwback Thursday though is about memories and in this case nothing but laughs. Hanging out with these two, in particular on the road with Hasselblad University back in the 90's brings back one story after another. Along with those memories comes the purest definition of friendship I can think of. We've worked hard and played hard, and there's nothing we wouldn't do for each other.
Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget.
Even if you don't use throwback images on your blog to remind your clients of the importance of memories, take the time for your own enjoyment and go find an old photograph or two. Then take the time to savor the memories, because there's no such thing as just a picture.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Add-on Sales = Added Value + Higher Consumer Satisfaction
From home entertain systems, to our computers and hobbies like golf, scuba, skiing and boating, as consumers we enhance our experiences by adding accessories. Even something as simple as a purchase at any fast food restaurant will always close with an upselling question, "Would you like fries with that?"
As April comes to a rapid close, winter downtime is over! The ideal situation would be for each of you to have the rest of the year sketched out regarding mailings, promotions, and events you're going to schedule to help build your brand. However, since most of you are typically behind in your annual planning, that doesn't mean you can't be putting new things in place all year long.
It's time to think about add-on products! They're not just about added value, but enhancing the experience, your clients have when purchasing your services.
At Polaroid many years ago I was involved in a series of consumer surveys for product development. The studies repeatedly showed consumer satisfaction for a product dramatically increased with the number of accessories available. As a result, when Polaroid launched the Spectra camera in the 80's, it was a complete system. There was a full line of accessories including self-timers, cable releases, albums, bags, table top tripods, small picture frames and even Cokin filters, just to name a few.
That same concept is in place with most of the major consumer purchases we make today, especially in consumer electronics. Photography isn’t any different, and if you're only offering your clients an album and a few different options on print packages then you're missing an incredible opportunity for more sales!
Let's beef up what you're offering your clients starting with online hosting and slideshows. Then let's move into all the hard goods available. Albums of every color, shape, and size are out there. One of a kind table top books, wraps, metal prints, frames - everything that makes sense based on what you know about your target audience.
And don't laugh, take a look at novelty products. There are some outstanding items out there, and you'll find them all at just about every convention - from mugs to mouse pads to rag dolls. For those of you who are purists and hate the idea, I'm not saying you need to be out there selling coffee mugs or dolls, (like the one I got Sheila years ago) with the bride and groom's face on them, but what an incredible marketing tool. What a way to make a great client laugh and remember how much fun they had at the engagement shoot with you, when you send them a matched set of coffee mugs with their pictures on them!
And for those of you who honestly believe "Uncle Harry" is actually stealing business from you, then you're letting him. I’m not saying the Uncle Harry's of the world don’t create problems, but they don't have access to the hundreds of products and companies that make up the professional photographic market. As a professional photographer, you've got virtual exclusivity when it comes to the broadest most diverse selection of add-on products from the finest group of manufacturers in the history of photography!
Add-on sales create added perceived value and in the end, create higher customer satisfaction and return business, but best of all, it helps add to your bottom line!
It's been a while since I shared a Melody Beattie moment, but coming back from ShutterFest this week I was surrounded by artists in the "zone," working non-stop to learn as much as they could in just a couple of days. That's what ShutterFest is all about, but the more photographers I spoke with the more I realized how hard so many of them are chasing their dreams. They've actually become over-focused - rarely coming up for air and appreciating how much they've already accomplished.
For so many of you success is defined day to day instead of looking at the big picture and enjoying the pride you should have at the choices you've made so far.
"When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It's to enjoy each step along the way." Wayne Dyer
It's ironic the April 23 thought from Melody Beattie is so appropriate and a perfect reminder to all of us to simply slow down now and enjoy the decisions we've made, our accomplishments to date and the friends who have come into our lives.
Give Yourself a Break by Melody Beattie
Learn to appreciate yourself and others.
Knowing we desire growth and improvement is one thing. Constantly driving ourselves and others is another. Maybe the answer isn't that we need to do better, try harder, push more. Maybe the answer is recognizing and appreciating how well we already do things. How hard we try. How much we have done. How well others are doing, too.
Pushing ourselves can become so habitual that we deny ourselves any feeling of satisfaction. No matter how well or how much we do, the urge to try harder, do better, do more keeps pushing us on. It doesn't let us rest. We still feel it isn't quite good enough.
If you've been pushing yourself that hard, you may need more than a coffee break. Take a real break. Give yourself permission to put that drive aside. Quiet that part of you that wants to do more, be more, accomplish more. Learn to value how well you do things, even if no one else sees or appreciates your efforts. Applaud your own efforts and the efforts of those you love. For today and for one week, instead of demanding more from yourself, tell yourself how well you've done. For today and for one week, instead of demanding more from those around you, tell them that they are doing well, too.
Tell yourself how well you do. You may discover you're doing better than you thought.
As always, wishing everybody a terrific Sunday and one filled with peace, lots of love and time to give yourself a pat and appreciate the smile on the face looking back at you in the mirror. And, some time today, go for one of those eleven-second therapeutic hugs with somebody special in your life.
Take the day to enjoy everything around you - work will still be waiting for you on Monday morning!
Intro by Skip Cohen
I'm teaching two classes at ShutterFest this week and talking about mistakes people make with their "About" page is going to be discussed. I'm betting that 90% of you have missed an incredible opportunity to connect with your clients by building trust rather than your resume!
Your customers don't care about how you got started, what gear you shoot with or what awards you've won. Unless it's a Pulitzer, they don't know who or what organizations like PPA or WPPI are. They don't care about your hobbies or whether your married, single or have a family.
What they do care about is whether or not you can be trusted to capture the kind of images they want. They care about WHY you're a photographer, not what you use, who you are or where came from. That doesn't mean you can't weave some of the key points of your journey as an artist into your bio - just stop sharing information they don't care about.
Stop writing in the third person too! Write your "About" page from the heart in the first person. Share the story of what you love about imaging and why your clients trust you to capture the kinds of images they cherish. And, when you're all done, sign your bio with a facsimile of your signature - like an artist's statement.
It's the perfect time of year to share a post of Scott Bourne's out of the archives. After all, it's Marketing Monday, and your "About" tab is the second most valuable piece of real estate on your site, the first being your galleries!
by Scott Bourne
“ YOU are not your photography.” Dane Sanders
So tell us something about what it’s like for you to make a photo. Share your heart. That’s how you write an artist’s statement.
Rather than give you a checklist of what to include in your statement, I’m simply going to show you mine. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do this. I think you just have to write from your heart or be inspired by someone or something else who shares your vision. I re-wrote my statement a few years ago when some comments I received on my images helped me to see what others were seeing in my work, but which I lacked the proper mirror to see. Here’s my artist’s statement.
A pelican caught in the tragedy of the BP oil spill. "I speak for the creatures which have no voice."
Copyright Scott Bourne. All rights reserved.
For me, wildlife art photography is about two connecting themes: extraordinary craftsmanship in terms of technical mastery of photography and a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of the nature behind the image.
At a deeper level, however, I pursue this art form because of its almost religious qualities.
One day, I can have a vision in my mind that represents a photograph I want to make. This vision exists only in my head and my heart – it’s a silent vision which has the power to bring me out into the field, month after month, year after year, for a chance to turn that vision into something tangible that I can share with others.
The other religious aspect of my work is focus and devotion to an idea over which I have absolutely no control.
I learn all that I can about the natural factors behind each photographic opportunity, but I never know how they will play out. My artistry focuses on the beauty of things which are random. Wildlife operates within its own free will. The bird flies its own path.
It’s different than working in a photography studio where I have control over the set, the model and the lights. As a wildlife artist, my gift is to know how to “show up prepared” to interact with beauty that I do not control. I must learn to be at peace with my subject on their terms, not on mine.
I struggle with finding the patience and the path. But when that struggle becomes the hardest, I remember my calling. I speak for the creatures which have no voice. Perhaps this is why the experience is so emotional for me.
Each time I get a perfect moment and capture that with my camera, I experience joy and sadness. I am joyful because the finished work provides me with a lifelong memory of a successful vision. But I also feel sadness that the pursuit is over.
After that moment, the cycle begins again, and I launch the pursuit of the next creative vision. I hope to share that vision well enough that others may someday wish to help speak for the animals too.
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.
Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
It's Easter Sunday morning, and whether your religious beliefs involve Easter, Passover or for that matter any holiday, there's something that happens today more than any other - there's a beautiful silence in the air. It takes me back to days when I was a kid and businesses were simply not open on Sundays. Traffic in Sarasota is almost non-existent, and most stores are closed except an occasional gas station or convenience mart. It truly is a quiet Sunday morning.
I woke up this morning and as usual went bounding out of bed because I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, "anticipation." We're headed to St. Louis this week for ShutterFest and my excitement has little to with photography, but EVERYTHING to do with the Albert Schweitzer quote above.
Over the last three years, the event has brought together an extensive list of old friends and new ones. With each year new people have come into my life and become wonderful friends. From my perspective, the growth of ShutterFest has just as much to do with the building of a community as it does photography.
So, today will be filled with totally random thoughts about friendships. I'll rack my brain trying to remember names of people I've met over the years. Photographs of past ShutterFest moments will be projected in my head almost like watching my Dad's 35mm slide shows when I was a kid with slide after slide, always separated by the darkness of the room as his old Bell & Howell projector moved to the next image.
All of this is accompanied by incredible appreciation and gratitude for so many of you. Why? Because just like Albert Schweitzer's thoughts, your friendship has become the spark that "rekindles" my love for this industry so often. It's your passion for the craft that's contagious. And, it's that mutual love for imaging that's been the foundation for so many incredible friendships making this industry habit-forming!
Wishing all of you a beautiful Sunday and time with people who inspire you, even in the smallest of ways. They keep our "lights" burning and remind me of a sign Sheila has hanging in our home:
Angels exist but sometimes they don't have wings and are called friends."
Nothing beats Throwback Thursday for keeping track of trends and being politically correct...or incorrect.
Well, it's the PMDA Man of the Year dinner in 1990. PMDA (PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association) held their annual dinner the night before the PMA show opened each year. At the time I was on their Board and loved some of the things we did for the industry over the years.
The association was established in 1939 and for years had held their annual recognition dinner under the umbrella of "Man of the Year." However, the name of the event had to quickly change and be more in tune with the times when Mrs. Moriyama, President of JCII (Japan Camera and Optical Instruments Inspection and Testing Institute) was given the achievement award.
Well, it's Throwback Thursday and the perfect day for you to dig through those old images and then share them on a blog post. For me it's got great entertainment value, but for you as working artists, it's the perfect marketing tool to remind your clients of the importance of photographs and capturing those special memories. Remember, for most of you the target is Mom, and you need to remind her about how fast the kids are growing up and life is changing!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
PS A BIG thanks to my good buddy Bob Nunn (last on the right) for pulling this one out of his private stash!
by Skip Cohen
With ShutterFest just around the corner, I pulled this post from the SCU archives. It's the perfect reminder to make some plans for the conference - Not just ShutterFest, but ANY convention or workshop series you attend!
There are two primary reasons to be at a convention: education and building a stronger network. The sad part of the process is, so many of you spend the money and take the time but do absolutely no planning. Time is your most valuable commodity and once it's gone you'll never get it back! So, let's look at ways to get the most out of every convention.
For those of you who are regular readers, I know this is going to be redundant, but as often as I've written about it, even I forget some of the basics. We all get too busy and as recently as ten minutes ago I got an email from my good buddy Bryan Caporicci about finding time on both our schedules at ShutterFest to catch up. We've work on a lot of projects together, but lately never have the time during our regular days.
Here's the first big rule!
DON'T GO TO A CONVENTION COLD! THINK THROUGH WHY YOU'RE GOING, WHAT YOU NEED HELP WITH, WHAT YOU WANT TO COME BACK WITH! WHO ARE THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS YOU WANT TO TALK TO? PLAN YOUR TRIP! Sorry, It's all in caps, a font larger and bold, because I'm yelling at you! LOL
1) Think about what you need most in terms of help with your business. Do you need more education in marketing and business, a better understanding of photography or more products for providing added value to your customers like frames, canvas prints etc? Are you creating slideshows for your clients? When you print your own images are you calibrating your monitor and printer? Maybe you need a few new focal lengths in your camera bag - maybe you need a new camera bag! Have you checked out mirrorless technology? How about the albums you offer? Is it time you had some new things to show your clients?
The purpose here is to establish your priorities - at the bigger shows, for example, there are a few hundred exhibitors and it sure helps to walk in the door focused on where you need the most help. Otherwise, it's simply overwhelming, with too many choices to make once you're there.
Note: My personal top choices to check out at ShutterFest this year? Panasonic for LUMIX cameras, especially the new GH5, Marathon Press for Bella Art Prints and Albums, X-Rite for color calibration, Tamron for outstanding optics, Photodex for slideshows and obviously Profoto for the best in lighting!
2) If you need high ticket equipment - look into leasing if you're worried about tying up capital. You've got time to establish your credit line with a leasing company before you go, then you know exactly what you've been approved for and can work the convention like a pro. This is about using somebody else's assets without depleting yours!
3) Go to print competition judging! If you're in early enough for any convention in professional photography with print competition, it's the best bang for your buck out there! I went in to observe 10 years ago for half an hour wondering how my own entry was going to do (yes, I only had one) - I stayed all day. With the comments from the judges, it's like having class after class in composition, exposure and printing being given by dozens of industry icons!
4) Plan your days in advance. For example, most convention schedules are out early and on line. Think about what classes you want to go to and then be there at least 15-20 minutes early for each one. And, when you get there early, go talk to the instructor - this is just as much about building your network as it is absorbing the content of the class. Programs fill up fast and you don't want to be closed out of a program, but if you are, it's not the end of the world. Yes, it's frustrating, but there's a lot to choose from - so select your programs on where you need the most help, not exclusively on the popularity of the speakers.
5) Pay attention to the lineup of speakers at many of the exhibitor booths. This starts by reviewing any convention's exhibitor list and knowing in advance who their spokespeople are. Many of the exhibitors have some great mini-programs going on in their booth throughout the trade show.
6) Network, network, network - since you're there early to get a seat in a program then utilize the time wisely and talk to the people around you. Try to never have dinner alone or with the same people - bring along a newbie, somebody you've just met at the show. This has always been the coolest part of any convention for me personally - the friendships you can make just sitting and talking to people. Remember, everybody is dealing with the same challenges you are - the economy, creativity, growing the business, marketing and technology. When you exchange ideas, even your frustrations, sooner or later somebody you talk to from another part of the country is going to have a solution that worked for them!
7) Diversify - I've already written a lot over the years about staying diverse, but here's your chance to really start to learn a new skill set. Find at least one program to attend that's completely out of your element - the one that might scare you the most! Do that at every convention you attend. Always have one program on the list to help you expand your horizons.
8) "Working the trade show" is no easy endeavor, but since you're there, at least do it right. You don't need to go straight to that one company you want to see the most - because your tunnel vision will result in missing everybody you walk by on the way. Literally work the room one aisle at a time and do your best to see EVERYBODY. I love ShutterFest because it's a smaller show, but don't underestimate the power of quality! There might be less exhibitors than at a bigger show, but Sal and his team have been very selective and these are all vendors you need to know.
10) Bring some of your own images! I never understand photographers who come to a convention with access to every icon in the industry as well as so many manufacturers and leave all their work at home! You don't need to carry around a 16x20 portfolio case, just a book of a dozen or so of your favorite images, or your promotional piece or even a few images on an iPad - but be careful of boring somebody with too many images on the screen. This is where I really like paper prints at a convention. If I'm working in a booth and busy, I don't have time to have somebody try and direct my focus to their iPhone or iPad, but leaving me a couple of 5x7's in a folder with a business card and more information will stay in my memory a lot longer. Plus, it allows me to examine the material at my leisure when things might be a little quieter.
11) Take a camera with you!!!! I'm not talking about the gear you shoot with for your business, but something better than your phone. Since ShutterFest is all about hands-on, most of you have a decent camera with you. Don't just use it to build your portfolio! Get a few shots of yourself at the show interacting with vendors and other photographers. Do a press release when you get back to the local paper, Chamber of Commerce, post it on your blog or Facebook page - nobody is watching out for you but you!
12) Take advantage of evening programming and special events. Sure, it's important to have a good time, but take advantage of the various presentations. You want to come home from a great convention with more than a hangover and a few good jokes you heard at dinner!
13) Don't be afraid to talk to your favorite speakers. Everybody is approachable and everybody is there because they believe in education and sharing. But, I can't bring this blog to a close without a few words of caution - show some courtesy.
I know it seems basic and maybe insulting to some of you, but when you see one of your favorites stay away from the storm trooper approach, especially if they're already in a conversation. You might have to wait a few minutes for an opening or you might even need to catch them later. It's tough when you're involved in a conversation and somebody just jumps in and interrupts - you'll never get anyone's attention or the respect you want and deserve.
And for me at ShutterFest, Sheila and I will camped out each day at a table in that incredible lobby of the hotel. We've got a couple of breakfast meetings, but we're almost always there by 9:30. And I'm there to not just meet new friends, but to help you with business and marketing issues you're dealing with. Don't be afraid to ask for help. I won't always have the answers, but I've got an incredible network and it's all yours if you need some guidance!
Last but not least - have fun! Seriously, it's one of those words that's lost in business today - you're going to a great convention. You're going to see old friends and make new ones. It's okay to work hard and play hard - just make sure you never miss the bell the following morning!
Image copyright Lou Jones. All rights reserved.
While the core purpose behind "Why?" is to introduce you to artists you need to know, it's evolved into so much more. The featured artists haven't just shared their backstories, but also their passion for imaging, people, and with today's guest, his humanitarian quest to use his skills as a photographer to tell share the backstories of an entire continent.
Lou Jones is in the "Why?" spotlight today. He's an artist, writer, educator and humanitarian who's taken on an incredible task, documenting the private side of one country after another in Africa. It's the side that doesn't make it into the news, but reflects the spirit of the people.
To see more of Lou's work click on the image above and link to his website. And, to find out more about Lou's panAFRICAproject click on the thumbnail to the right.
Part of Lou's image statement describes the project best:
"Using photography and heretofore unavailable technologies, panAFRICAproject will establish a repository of images that represents each of the 54 individual countries devoid of the preconceived, western notions of distress: conflict, pestilence and poverty, i.e. violence tourism. We intend to accurately document the highlights and inner workings of the most progressive twenty-first century continent."
Image copyright Cindy Harter Sims. All rights reserved.
"Why?" is about images, artists and backstories. It's about artists who need to be on your radar.
I'm betting many of you don't know Cindy Harter Sims. She's not typically on the speaking circuit, but she's always at the key conventions. Besides having become an outstanding artist, what I enjoy most about Cindy is her focus on building her skill set. She never slows down!
Cindy was the music teacher in a Georgia school for many years and decided she wanted to be a professional photographer. She took classes, practiced for endless hours, and then in 2011, after five years of saving and planning, opened her studio. In 2013 I shared a guest post from Cindy along with a podcast later that year about her journey. She's never strayed from building her skill set and in the process has worked with some of the finest artists and educators in our industry. Cindy is all about quality - in her images, business, relationships with clients, the community and her friends.
In regards to the portrait above, in an IM she wrote to me:
"I get pretty emotionally attached to my work. This print is my whole heart. I have been feeling the urge to make a portrait of my father for a while...I wanted to recreate that scene as if to live it once more."
To see more of Cindy's work, just click on her image.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Finding this post in the SCU archives from my good buddy Scott Bourne, and meeting so many new artists every day in cyberspace, his ten points are so relevant. So many of you look at today's icons and forget they all started in the same place...AT THE BEGINNING! The common denominators between all the artists you admire most are always the same: passion, quality and a sense of focus that never wavers.
Michele Celentano spoke at an SCU workshop many years ago. She stood on stage, looked at the audience and said, "Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are now and wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" She then proceeded to show us a half dozen horrible images from the first wedding she ever photographed.
As basic as it is, I wanted to share this post from Scott because it's the perfect reminder of so many different things we're all learning along the way. Remember, you can't create images that tug at people's heart strings if your heart isn't in it. Scott's post is all about reminders to slow down and remember the passion that got you here in the first place!
by Scott Bourne
As I was looking at some old portfolios recently, I realized that back in the day – I kind of sucked. Don’t get me wrong, I made some good shots and sold lots of images. But I am shocked at how bad some of that early work was. I didn’t have a clue back then. If I’d only have known just a few of the tricks I know now, I could have been so much better. So with that in mind, I’m sharing some ideas now that I wish someone had shared with me back then.
1. Pay attention to the background. A good background can make an average picture great.
2. Know your gear backwards and forwards. The minute you finally truly understand how to use your gear, you’re freed up to start paying attention to seeing. And seeing is everything in photography.
3. Wait on the light. Really. If you think it looks good at 4PM, wait until you see it at 7PM. Waiting on the best light takes patience and provides great rewards.
4. Slow down. Unless you’re a sports/wildlife photographer, chances are you can take one breath before pushing the shutter button. Take that breath and see what a difference it can make in your images.
5. Get to know your subject REALLY well. Regardless of what (or who) you are photographing, take time to learn all you can before getting the camera set up. It will pay off later.
6. Pre-visualize. Try to imagine what the final print will look like before you snap the shutter. This is a technique pioneered by folks like Ansel Adams. It works.
7. Know WHY you’re about to trip the shutter button before you do it. If you can’t answer the WHY question, don’t make the photo.
8. Pictures with pop get noticed. Typically, a good picture that doesn’t pop – doesn’t get sold.
9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I took so many boring pictures back when I was getting started because they were safe. The results were competent but unremarkable. To compete in today’s world, where people think they are a gifted photographer just because they have a nice camera, you have to stand out. And you stand out by taking chances.
10. Enjoy your time spent behind the camera. Photography is supposed to be fun. When I first started out, I rushed and worried and stressed myself out thinking about having to MAKE THAT SHOT. Don’t be like me. Relax. Enjoy the moment. All too soon it will be gone. Your career will be behind you, and you’ll realize it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. I’m still working on this one every day.
Sheila would love it if just one morning now and then I slept past 7:00, but it's not in the cards. I start waking up as the sun is starting to rise. I'll start thinking about the day ahead and within a few minutes I'm excited to get started.
Sundays are especially fun, because it's a day when, even though I dearly love our industry, I've given myself the luxury of going off topic. So, I started sharing whatever was on my mind when I turned on my computer. With each post, while they're often therapeutic for me to write, I'm hoping to hit on some point in which you, my readers, can relate.
This week, thanks to two incredible artists, I shared some remarkable content, but also understood a little better why I cherish so many different aspects of my life-long journey in photography. If good content is "King" then Don Komarechka and David Akoubian surpassed the legend of King Arthur this week!
I started the "Why?" series because I was teaching a workshop last year and nobody knew who Mary Ellen Mark was. My thought was to start introducing you to the movers and shakers of the industry by asking them to share one of their favorite images. I wanted you to get to know more artists, for many of you, far outside your chosen specialty. However, this week it was a double-header of dedication and emotion.
The first "Why?" of the week was with good friend Don Komarechka. We finished a podcast we did for X-Rite about printing macro photography. As I went to hang up I mentioned including one of Don's images in "Why?" He immediately sent me this image of an ant on a blade of grass. Less than a minute later we were recording his episode.
There were two things that struck me - first, the power of the image. It takes us all to a place we've never been, yet we literally walk through and on top of every single day - the world within our world - the macro community all around us.
Second, as Don talked it got me thinking about his quest to capture the image and the dedication it took to get this shot. It was an all day event. He never wavered from his determination. As he talked he reminded me of the stories I've heard about Ansel Adams spending all day in the darkroom, and then ripping up the print because it wasn't yet up to his standard. It was all about Don being dedicated to the quest for the next ultimate image.
Then came David Akoubian's "Why?" later in the week. David and I have a great friendship, but he's another one of my cyber buddies. We've spent more time on line or on the phone talking, than in person, but he's always supportive of anything I'm working on. Like Don's image, David took me to a place I never expected to visit, that intangible link to the emotion great images bring out.
As David's voice cracked, talking about the connection between looking at the Milky Way and thinking about his dogs, he took me from enjoying a stunning image to reminding me what our industry is all about. We help people connect to memories and emotions often buried under the day in day out baggage of life and business. While I loved his image, the story behind it was even better.
David's post took me to a shot I grabbed one day of Molly the Wonder Dog. He got me thinking about the relationship I have with my dog. But this morning, as I was lying in bed thinking about what I wanted to share today, I realized David and Don took us all some place else.
They both reminded us of the power of great images. They both reminded us of the importance of never compromising on the quality of an image or for that matter our lives. They took us on a journey of dedication fueled by some of the emotions we cherish the most.
So, today's post is both a thank you to not only Don and David, but the sixty-two additional artists who have shared their stories on "Why?" to date. It's also a reminder to all of you about the power of our craft.
As I've written many times before, with the exception of modern medicine, no career field has given the world more than imaging. As photographers you're the greatest of magicians, making the intangible tangible and capturing emotions, events and memories for people to cherish and share for a lifetime.
Wishing everyone an outstanding Sunday filled with quality time with those people...or pets...most special in your life. Go for those therapeutic eleven-second hugs I always talk about and make it a day worth remembering.
"This is what I like about photographs.
They're proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect."
Happy Sunday everybody!
Image copyright David Akoubian. All rights reserved.
With each new episode of "Why?" we're not only seeing some incredibly beautiful images, but learning a little about each artist. We look at hundreds of images every day, but we rarely hear the backstories. This new episode has a story so many of us can relate to.
David Akoubian is in the "Why?" spotlight today. He's a Tamron Image Master as well as an educator, artist and writer. Just click on David's image to visit his website and enjoy the images in his galleries. And, if you're interested in an outstanding workshop, it's just a click away. David has his "Spring in the Smokies Workshop" coming up in early May.
At the end of the podcast David and I talked a little about Tamron's workshops around the country. Just click on the thumbnail to the right for more information on all of their local and nationwide events.
This is what I like about photographs.
They're proof that once, even if for just a heartbeat, everything was perfect.
My best guess is 1995, and it's WPPI, which would have been at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. Part of the fun at this point in my life is the entertainment value of just trying to remember when and where a group shot like this was taken. Don Blair was the photographer, and I know it was relatively early in Tony Corbell's Hasselblad career.
It doesn't matter when or even where this image was captured - for me the kick is everyone in suits. For those of you far younger, there was a time when all of us wore suits to work every day and always dressed for the trade shows. What threw me for a loop was having a photographer tell me when we started to go more casual I was more approachable. I've always thought I was easy to talk to. I never anticipated the double-breasted suits were intimidating. Seriously, I couldn't be a bigger photographer-groupie and always loved working the trade shows and meeting more artists.
One thing I learned years later, which I recall writing about once before - Jim Morton always did an incredible job getting our booth together at every trade show. He knew I wanted to be helpful so he always left a few pictures for me to hang, but only so I'd stay out of his hair during set up!
And, at the NYC show when they let me help break down the booth - it took them weeks to straighten out the mess I made out of the show kits. If an empty spot in the kit called for the 150mm lens and I couldn't find it - I'd put in the 120mm figuring, what the hell, it's close! LOL Needless to say, President or not; I was never allowed to help pack up again!
Nothing beats Throwback Thursday for smiles and trips down Memory Lane. Whether you use old images on your blog to remind your clients of the importance of capturing those memory-making moments or not, it doesn't matter. Take the time for your own entertainment and pull out some of those old photographs and then, just enjoy the ride!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
by Skip Cohen
The slow season is technically over and with April and good weather in most of the country, sales are about to pick up. Yet, every year the doom and gloom crowd rallies and tries to convince us there's simply not enough business to go around.
There's no question it keeps getting tougher, not just for photographers, but any small business to survive, let alone grow. You have to work harder than ever to find your target audience. When you do find them the next challenge is getting them to spend money with you.
For years our industry has been caught in the perfect storm between the economy, technology and changes in consumer habits and spending. As an industry we've been split right down the middle. Put a hundred photographers in a room and ask them how business is and half will be optimistic. They’ll tell you business is terrific. The other half will be doom and gloom, with a few even deciding to step away from photography completely.
Business is out there. I went on a quest for a few updated numbers on potential business in the US market. Feel free to challenge any of my numbers for their accuracy, but for the most part they're right on the money. They all came from various sources using Google. And, if you're outside the US do a little research on your market.
Here's why I love all this data:
In the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer, and I’ve written about this before, the market goes brides, babies and pets – in that order. Brides and grooms get married and start families and somewhere in life, statistically the odds are very high they’ll get a dog or cat.
The 2.5 million wedding number has been relatively stable for many years along with the annual births. Again, opportunities are there, but you've got to focus your marketing efforts on the right target.
Let’s go to the high school and college numbers. It's April and next month across the country high schools and colleges will be presenting the graduating classes to the world. There's not only an opportunity for graduation portraits, but prom season is right around the corner. And, I didn't search out the underclass numbers, which are huge.
Last, in the top three reasons people hire a professional photographer, come the pet numbers and they're also rock solid. Plus, pet owners spend a lot of money on their four-legged family members!
Going beyond the top three, I believe it's children, seniors, family and boudoir. That makes seven different categories in the portrait/social categories all in need of professional photographers. And yes, Uncle Harry is out there competing with you, but only if you're a mediocre artist. No matter what gear Uncle Harry owns, the majority of serious hobbyists don't have your skill set or accessibility to the creative tools in your bag of tricks.
The bottom line is simple – there’s business out there, but you’ve got to be creative. You've got to work to educate your client on why you're work is valuable. You've got to build relationships with your target audience. You’ve got to make your work look better than Uncle Harry’s and utilize all the new products and services your vendors offer, especially your lab. You’ve got to utilize your marketing expertise and plant seeds to grow into future business.
Most important of all, you've got to make yourself habit-forming and exceed client expectations!
Image by Don Komarechka. All rights reserved.
What an adventure "Why?" has become! The idea started out as an introduction to artists you should know, but with each episode we're gaining insight into different aspects of imaging and the passion of each photographer.
Don Komarechka is in the "Why?" spotlight with an image that's simply remarkable! Remember, this is the image Don captured right out of the can. He's affectionately referred to as the "Mad Scientist of Photography." As he talks about in his sound-byte, capturing this image was all day event. If you've met Don or attended his workshops, then you also know every new image is a stepping stone to the next experiment. He never slows down on pushing the edge of the creative envelope!
Click on Don's image to visit his website and discover Don's view of the world from landscapes and the night skies to macro and the world we all live in, but never notice! He'll also be doing a very special FREE webinar on April 12, thanks to X-Rite Photo & Video. Check out his EDU10 podcast about the challenges of printing macro images.
Don is a member of the X-Rite Photo & Video Coloratti team. Click on the link below to meet X-Rite's Coloratti team.
I've written for Shutter Magazine from the very first issue and love the online videos for each article. The magazine, thanks to support from dozens of educators and a terrific staff, has gone from being a complete unknown to 212 pages in this month's "Travel" issue.
Wandering through YouTube it was a kick looking at some of my past videos, and I decided they'd be fun to share in a Marketing Monday blog post. While each one shows minimal viewing on YouTube, the actual numbers have been huge when viewed online through the magazine.
If you'd like to read the original articles, just click on the thumbnail of Shutter Magazine to the right and sign up for the FREE online edition - then sign up for the hard copy. The magazine is the most beautifully produced book in professional photography today. While technology is a kick, NOTHING beats being able to hold a publication in your hands and read it!
So, let's hit two favorite topics this Marketing Monday and see if I can help you get more on track with your business!
I'm always amazed at how many photographers open their businesses and never consider their demographics. For most of you, your target audience should be "Mom." Yet, you fill your blogs with content that has no interest to her. You do very little to remind her of how fast the kids are growing up and the importance of capturing those memories. Even easier is just being helpful. Start sharing picture-taking tips to help her become a better photographer.
Looking at your website design, along with many of the images in your galleries, there's little interest to your target audience. Even your about page bio is all about how you got started. Mom doesn't care - she's looking to hear why she should trust you to capture images of the most important people in her life. Your bio is the perfect place to talk about why you're a photographer!
Take the time to think about who your primary target audience is and then go through everything you're doing or not doing to market directly to them!
This article was published in June of 2016 if you'd like to read the different points I made to help you pay attention to the right target audience. Once your signed up for the online magazine you can go back through the archives.
I wanted to make a point about telling people who you are and being lost in a corn field in Nebraska sure did the trick. With ShutterFest coming up in two weeks, it's the perfect example of an opportunity to get your name out in your community. But, you're the only one who can do it.
You've got to make a point of becoming your own publicity machine. For example, while at ShutterFest get a few images of you interacting with other photographers, attending a workshop and meeting with a vendor or two. Then, write a short press release and send it out to the local papers and publications; your email database; your blog and any other way you have access to reaching your target audience.
Here's a template I've shared for years, and you're welcome to plagiarize. If you hate it, then write your own. While I wrote it for ShutterFest - change the event to any workshop you attend. Most important of all, stop thinking people know who you are simply because you have a mailing address!
For Immediate Release
Your city, Today’s Date
Area Photographer Attends International Photographic Conference
In (his/her) continued efforts to expand the broad selection of cutting edge photographic services, ________________recently attended ShutterFest 2017, a three day professional photographic conference.
“There’s never been a more exciting time to be a professional photographer or, to have images created by a professional. Technology is changing all the time and I want to make sure I’m offering my clients the very best!” said ____________________(your name).
_______________ is the founder of _________(your studio name) and is located here in ______________. The studio offers a full range of (commercial portrait,wedding,childrens, etc.) services. Or use: _________ plans on continuing as a freelance photographer…etc. You don't have to have an address for people - you just want to let them know you're in the community.
For more information contact: Your name, phone and email address
The original article was published in September 2015 if you want to read more. Again, scroll back through the archives once you've signed up for the online edition.
From articles here on the SCU blog to my workshops, magazine articles, guest posts and podcasts there's always a common denominator - helping you build a stronger business. And, if there's a topic I've missed over the last few years, then feel free to comment, email me or IM me on Facebook. You're part of an incredible industry and if you do it right, your business should eventually be just as strong as your passion for the craft!
And yes, I love BassPro's fishing shirts and obviously the light blue one is a favorite - but I do have other colors! I guess I have to start paying attention to which one I wear when recording! LOL
It's not our typical Sunday morning. Sheila's already up and the smell of freshly brewed coffee fills the house. She's up because we decided to sneak in ahead of the snowbirds and hit the beach this morning. We're even doing breakfast at the concession stand!
This is a short post - we all waste too much time worrying about things we can't change. Last night we talked about what we wanted to do today and we both love the beach. It's one of the big benefits of having moved down here. There are few things in life that surpass just sitting by the ocean. We'll catch up on magazines we haven't had time to read, including the wonderful trash in People; we'll talk about the week ahead and we'll watch tourists look for shells.
It's Sunday and while a few of you have events to photograph, most of you have a day off to simply relax and enjoy life. So, like the Nike tagline, "Just do it!" Work will still be there Monday morning, but unless you take the time now to relax, who knows what you'll miss.
The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.
Robert Green Ingersoll
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday, filled with peace, laughter and lots of love. Yes, it's sappy, but it couldn't be more sincere and it's exactly the kind of day we're about to have!
Happy Sunday everybody!
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.