Part of this post is from the archives, so if it sounds familiar, my apologies, but nobody makes the point better about taking a break than my good buddy and long time friend, Nick Vedros.
Three years ago, in another blog I wrote about an email I got from Nick. He's one of the finest, most brilliant commercial photographers on planet earth. If you have a chance to attend one of his programs, usually as part of the venue at a large convention, don’t hesitate – just do it!
But today’s post just like three years ago, isn’t about Nick’s photography, it’s about something he wrote that got me thinking about the importance of taking a break. He sent me an email that said:
"I am in Metropolis, Illinois....on a week long motorcycle trip to North Carolina...Blue Ridge Mountains and Dragon Tail. I am sitting in a Motel 6 motel...$42.00 a night...All this keeps me from slowly being strangled by the noose of sameness.”
Think about Nick’s comment and reference to the noose of sameness. When was the last time you just took time to do something you love doing that wasn’t directly related to your business? When was the last time you took a break? The truth is you should never be asking yourself how long it’s been, but instead, "When am I taking my next break?"
In order to stay fresh and be creative, you’ve got to step out from behind the camera. You’ve got to participate in life, not just stand on the sidelines working so hard you miss it. What’s that line about life not being a spectator sport?
I’ve quoted a motivational speaker, Ed Foreman, who I met years ago at a Polaroid meeting a number of times in various posts. He laid out a typical life scenario, which I’ll do my best to do justice in paraphrasing:
Here’s what happens in life. You’ll say to your spouse, “Next year when the kids are a little older we’re going to take the time for that vacation!” Then, when next year rolls around it’s, “You know when we get all moved into that new house, we’re going to take some time for ourselves!” A few years later it’s, “When the kids are married and out of the house, we’ll really take the time to have some fun!” Then years, later, in your coffin on the way to the cemetery it’s, “Oh my God, I forgot to have fun!”
I love friends who I always learn something from and I’ve learned a lot from Nick over the years. He takes care of himself, not just by working out regularly and staying healthy, but by taking time to really enjoy life, his family, great kids and the dog. This isn’t about his success as an artist, this is about knowing how to keep his battery charged!
Ed Foreman had another great line, “Life is for Laughing, Living and Loving, not for bitching, moaning and complaining!”
Stop what you’re doing right now and think about the next few weeks – when are you taking your next break from the business?
Thanks to e-publishing it's easier than ever to publish your own work, but there's one criteria that's stood the test of time since Shakespeare: Will people want to read it?
The last thing I want to do is discourage anybody from writing a book, if that's what your dream is. However, there are some questions you've got to be able to answer the right way before you start to chase a goal like this. With so many mediocre authors on the scene today, it seems like a great time to help you with a check-off list of things to consider, before you embark on one of the most difficult journeys of any artist's career.
This list isn't meant to be all-inclusive, just enough to help you start the process...
What's the topic going to be? This is more than just figuring out what you want to write about, but understanding what people want to read. It starts with understanding what's missing in an industry filled with self-proclaimed experts. Then, you need to understand how to expand your reach to make it an interesting topic to your target audience.
Are you an expert on the topic? It seems so basic, but just being a good photographer isn't enough for a great book. You've got be considered one of the best in your specialty. You've got to have images people want to see and a reputation for being able to teach and share. People have to be excited to want to invest both their money and time in reading whatever you're about to publish.
Can you write? I know it couldn't be more basic, but most of the best selling books in our industry have been written by the artists themselves. Yes, you can hire a writer and start dictating, but there needs to be a collaboration. All six of the books I've written have been with other photographers. While most of the written words were mine, the concepts surrounding technique and creativity belonged to my co-authors. Working with Don Blair, Bambi Cantrell and Joe Buissink I'd spend hours essentially listening to them teach a workshop and then put it all down on paper. GoingPro was different, because Scott Bourne is a wonderfully talented writer as well as photographer. We both chose topics we wanted in the book and then wrote our own sections where we each felt a level of expertise.
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is …
the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Do you have the time? A deadline is critical, whether for your own e-book or working for a publisher. In fact, usually deadlines are tied directly to some event that's critical to the launch of a new book. That means that during the process of becoming an author you're literally going to have to step away from your business and just write...without interruption from clients, friends, kids and your significant other. You need time to just lock yourself up and focus on one thing, your book.
Self-publish or work with a publisher? Having done both, it's a topic that deserves it's own post, but for right now, it's just something to think about. There are some terrific publishers today in photography and the big advantage is being able to get fast global distribution. They have reach and access to markets most of you don't. On the other hand you give up profit. Regardless, books for the most part are about fame not fortune.
What if you're not ready yet? It's not a sin to want to do a book some day and just not be ready now. This is where special projects come into play. Every photographer should have a special project of photographing a particular subject matter, just to help you stay focused on your passion as an artist. Maybe it'll become a book or a gallery exhibit, but the point is, for now you're just building a collection of images, with only one goal - pushing your creativity to the max and smiling with every click of the shutter.
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. …
It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create,
to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities,
to let nothing go down the drain, to make something,
to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
It's Memorial Day and there are a couple of paragraphs I'm stealing from last year's post, but it doesn't change the sentiment.
From Wikipedia about Memorial Day: Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
When I was a kid, I never really understood the importance of the day. I'd have to march in the band in the parade and we'd finish at the park in town. At some point there would be some speeches and a few guys in uniform, who looked older than dirt, would be honored. I had no idea what they had sacrificed, who they were or what they had fought for.
As I got older, my appreciation grew, especially when I lost a friend or two in Viet Nam. I remember a trip to Washington with my own kids and visiting the Viet Nam Memorial and afterwards, just sitting in the park in silence. Had it not been for that first lottery, I would have been drafted and likely known so many of the names there. Maybe my name would have been on that wall. My silence and the tears as my eyes welled up was for so many lost lives.
Ten years ago, living in California, I remember an artist planting flags in the beach by the Santa Monica Pier for each American lost in the middle east. There were thousands of flags that created the power of his tribute.
Today, there are so many more people who recognize the contribution being made by the men and women in our armed forces. While on a plane a few years ago, one of the passengers in first class gave up his seat and wandered back to coach. Across the aisle from me was a serviceman returning home. He looked at him and simply said, "I sure appreciate everything you've done. Go up and take my seat." As the passenger from first class sat down in his new seat in coach, all of us clapped. It was the smallest of tributes, but it recognized what we'd all wanted to say.
Memorial Day isn’t about the politics of whether or not we should or shouldn’t be in the Middle East or anywhere else - this a weekend of solemn respect and pride, with a whole lot of grateful appreciation for those men and women who serve our country every day. And, I'd like to sneak in another group on this Memorial Day. Since we’re photographers and part of an amazing industry, it’s a time to thank all those photojournalists around the world who help us understand the risk and the effort made by these men and women.
I first met Stacy Pearsall when she spoke at Skip's Summer School a few years ago. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as she went through her presentation of images and her books maintain that power and respect.
So, to my Dad who served in WWII, my son Brian in the military today, to all my friends who served in Viet Nam, to my brother-in-law Randy who always has on his Marine baseball hat, to my pal, Stacy Pearsall twice awarded Combat Photographer of the Year and to every mother and father who have ever stood behind their military bound sons and daughters, thank you.
It seems like such a trite inadequate way to show appreciation, but we're here enjoying a quiet Memorial Day, along with millions of Americans who will also enjoy the day, thanks to what all of you have given our country.
Make it a great weekend. Don’t waste a minute of time…enjoy your family, your friends and think about what Memorial Day really means.
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 didn't know who Karen Ravn was until I read this quote and now I'm about to order one of her books. So many of us put limitations on our capabilities. We define challenges that are beyond our reach, when the reality is there is NOTHING beyond our reach. Sometimes we need a little help and are afraid to ask. We need our friends, family and associates to help us expand our visions and live our dreams.
It's a long weekend and the perfect time to just dream! My buddy Matthew Jordan Smith says it best all the time..."Always Dream Big!"
Wishing you all a wonderful Sunday and holiday weekend and time to just kick back and dream a little!
It's just a short post and perfect for a Saturday morning...
I'm one of the administrators on two different Facebook forums with a total of almost 20,000 members between the two. I easily look at a thousand Facebook pages a week and I'm shocked over people calling themselves photographers, when they often have the worst, not to mention dumbest, head shots on planet earth!
Facebook has become a valuable marketing tool for Internet reach, but so many of you put up bad head shots as you stake your claim to being a "professional photographer". Don't you think it's something most clients would notice? I'm not talking about portraits that lack quality, I'm talking about BAD images that aren't even portraits! Some of you don't even bother and use the Facebook silhouette, while others make an effort to find cartoon characters who symbolize some point you're trying to make...sorry, haven't found one yet that's made sense.
So, this weekend how about updating your Facebook page? Get rid of the selfie you took with your phone and set up a shot that shows what you can do. Maybe, even put a camera in your hand to make the point. Once you get a decent head shot, then let's get to work on whatever you decided to use for your Facebook header...I know that's asking a lot, but I have this silly dream that some day every photographer will only show their best work.
Sorry for the rant if your Facebook page really looks good - it's just one of those things nobody ever talks about!
Wishing everybody, regardless of how bad your head shot is, a terrific weekend!
P.S. Since posting this I've received a few comments - I didn't mean to suggest all of you needed to look the same with your head shots. It's great to be unique, but what I'm ranting about this morning are simply bad images of your pets, your kids, your house and oh yeah, you!
Illustration Credit: © cosfoto - Fotolia.com
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the guy who'll decide where to go!
A while back I wrote a blog post about the importance of making yourself different. Your target audience is being bombarded with marketing pitches on the radio, television, on line, in the newspaper, magazines and literally every where they go. Meanwhile, you're trying to figure out how to keep raising the bar on your skill set and at the same time stand out.
Well, it's the Friday before a long weekend and here are some things to think about:
Fast turnaround time: Crank up the volume on how quickly you return calls, give clients the answers they're looking for and deliver the products they've ordered early. Just a quick response will separate you from the competition. This is all about exceeding customer expectations.
Ask great questions: What do you do when you DON'T get the assignment? How about calling the client and simply ask what they felt was missing from your bid/offer? I had a friend in the real estate business in Las Vegas and whenever he didn't get a listing he'd call the homeowner. Nothing pushy, just a nice call to get some answers and it helped him build a stronger business. We all know what we do right, but we don't always realize what we do wrong.
Talk to your lab: Your lab's got new products and things you can offer your clients that probably haven't been done before, at least not often. Put together packages that are unique to your market. Again, you're looking for things that are different.
Direct mail is back: How about a personal letter to all your past clients? Let them know you're expanding your business and becoming more diverse, adding another specialty to your business. Plan the seed for a new head shot or family portrait.
Cross-Promote with other vendors and photographers: Look for partners to share promotional costs and then cross-promote each others products. There are so many logical connections and each partner becomes an ambassador for your business as well.
Seasonality: I wrote about it in a post the other day, but there's still time for a Father's Day promotion and Dad doesn't need another golf shirt or barbecue tools! He needs an updated portrait of his family!
I've talked about each one of these numerous times in the other blog posts and they represent only a beginning. There's so much you can do, including being more involved in your community You've got a long weekend and the perfect time to figure out what you could do that would make your skills as an artist stand out from everybody else!
Illustration Credit: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
"Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are
two of the surest stepping stones to success."
I've written a lot about "success" over the years and I'm still amazed when I meet or hear about somebody so overfocused on it, that if "success" knocked on their front door tomorrow they'd never recognize it. Some of you have become so dedicated to what you think you have to do to achieve success that you're missing the fact you've already arrived.
So, at the risk of trying to sound like an old fart looking back on his life, here's what I've learned about that elusive critter so many of you are obsessed about.
Everyone's definition of success is unique. We all look at other people and make judgement calls based on our own values as to whether or not they're successful. The truth is, success is personal and can't be defined in general terms. Your definition of success is different from mine.
For many of you success has morphed into being totally business based. You're working the hardest you've ever worked to build your business and there's nothing wrong with that, but here's where you're missing out. You don't take the time anymore to simply stop and smell the roses.
Last night I did a short presentation on social media to a group of photographers, the Lakewood Ranch Digital Photography Club. They did their monthly print competition and I had a chance to see some stunning images from a group that's a mix of young and old, professional and amateur photographers. They're a group of 114 people passionate about photography and I had a chance to meet some very successful artists. "Successful" because they're working to master the craft, because they're passionate and because they're simply happy sharing and helping each other.
A lot of you are relatively new to this industry and you panic when you hit a speed bump, something that slows you down on that quest, a failure. Well, just like "success", the definition of "failure" is also different for each of us.
Here's the bottom line...stop thinking success is defined exclusively by how much you can grow your business or how much money you're making. Don't become so obsessed with your business that you miss the beauty of your family, friends and the people you have a chance to meet along the way.
Last weekend I ran this video in my own tribute to a friend who recently passed away. I know there are so many of you who never watched it, but for me it truly defines success. It's about simply appreciating everything around us and recognizing how our experiences and the people who touch our lives make it richer.
We've got a holiday weekend coming up and all of us have an opportunity to just slow it down and focus on the things that simply make us smile, our families and friends. I apologize for getting sappy this morning, but there are so many of you who I admire and I want to find a way to just help you learn a few of the lessons it's taken me a life time to figure out.
Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.
P.S. Sorry about running this video a second time, but it's too good not to!
Illustration/Photo Credit: © Creativa - Fotolia.com
Intro by Skip Cohen
I run this same post every year about this time. After all, it's graduation season. While the theoretical audience would be graduating photography students, Scott's message is universal and applies to every photographer.
Scott Bourne and I met over twenty years ago when he submitted some work to Hasselblad, but it wasn't until 2009 the friendship kicked into high gear when he spoke at the first Skip's Summer School. He may be officially retired today, but nothing changes how much I learned from him about being an artist, social media and the true meaning of loyalty in your friendships.
Technology, the economy, social media, new concepts and new friends are constantly pushing us to keep learning, to be patient and continue to experiment and push the edge of the envelope. To Scott's point below - pay attention to the special people in your life and never lose sight of their significance in helping you grow!
Commencements are coming up all over the country in the next couple months. As someone with gray hair, I can’t help but have a very different perspective on photography than someone of college age. I am often asked what advice I’d give someone just breaking into professional photography. The usual response goes something like this…
“Be prepared for lots of hard work – sales and marketing should dominate your day – show the work every chance you get – network like crazy – shoot what you love – repeat.”
But while that’s all good advice, there’s more I would say if I were speaking at a commencement.
I’d talk about understanding the high degree of importance graduates should place in each and every relationship they engage in during their career. Whether it’s the mailman or the recent client, these relationships are really all that matters. I didn’t know this when I was young and it hurt me…both personally and professionally.
So obsess over gear and f/stops if you must, but if you really want to succeed, pay attention to the people in your professional life. Build solid, long-term relationships with them. Care about them. Help them. Put them and their interests ahead of your own. You never know where that will lead. You might be dealing with that person 30 years later. They’ll remember how you valued (or didn’t) the relationship when you were young. And so will you.
Check out Scott's faculty page and you'll see his advice is still right on target!
Photo Credit: © xy - Fotolia.com
We're part of an industry with only a couple of strong points of seasonality, outside the traditional spring and summer wedding season. We've got the end of the year fourth quarter holidays and May/June. It started with Mother's Day, then rolls into proms, graduations and finishes with Father's Day.
Well, it's May 20 and you've still got time to get something out there for Father's Day. Plus, it's not too early to write down a few reminders so you don't miss things next year. Think about it for a second - women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories. That means Mom, with a little help from the kids, is trying to figure out what to get Dad for Father's Day.
A New Family Portrait - it's the obvious choice, but unless you plant the seed, Mom's not going to think of it in time. You've got two great options, a portrait of Mom and the kids for Dad or a full family sitting with Dad in the shot. The key to remember is that every Dad is proud of his family and in most cases the photograph in his wallet is outdated, along with the thumb-tacked prints on a bulletin board some place from last year's vacation!
It's Not Just a Photograph - This is where a call to your lab comes into play. You're not just planting the seed to get a new portrait done. Find out what they've got that's new. You've got metal prints, canvas wraps and a long list of other materials, not to mention frames, multiple sizes etc. Even novelty items like mouse pads, coffee mugs and barbecue aprons can come into play with a great image.
What About an Album? A Day in the Life session isn't just about photographing kids. What about an album that's a day in the life of a family? You've got an opportunity to plant an incredible seed with this one - spending a half day and documenting the life of a family, which is then presented in an album that tells their story. It's a little work to get it done for Father's Day, but it's a great idea to have in your product line, regardless of when it gets delivered.
Hybrid - Hybrid - Hybrid: Whether it's called hybrid, fusion or mixed media it's a classic gift - a 60-90 second video card of still images from the shoot with a "Happy Father's Day" video message from the kids. It doesn't get much better and it's a product that's unique. Check out Photodex if you're not already offering e-hybrid solutions and read this guest post from Suzette Allen a short time back.
Date Night: I've written about this before, but here's where you get a chance to remind Mom of how long it's been since she and Dad got out to dinner without the kids! She's got to get the sitter, but it's another idea you've got to promote. It all starts with a portrait session for 15-30 minutes at the start of the evening and then you're going to send the couple off to dinner. Talk to the owner at a favorite romantic restaurant in your community and see if they'll work with you on a discounted gift certificate. Build in the cost of the certificate into your price for the sitting and print. Make it a package deal that essentially becomes a "no-brainer".
Here's the bottom line - this is about your bottom line. You've got these wonderful little windows of seasonality to help you market your skills as an artist. With each one you've got limited time to make it work, but like the title of today's post suggests, you've got to get things going right now and get the word out. Start with your existing client base and then look at other sources to reach your target audience.
The clock is ticking and like I said at the beginning, you snooze you lose!
Sunday mornings are always the same with no particular direction in mind, except after yesterday morning's post about Claudia Kronenberg passing away, I walked away from the computer for the day. For those of you with offices in your home, you understand how hard that it is to do sometimes.
I couldn't stop thinking about that video I included with her post and what the old man said at the end. I've watched it twice since then. There's so much we all take for granted. Every day we wake up, start the day, 12-16 hours later finish it and never notice the amazing things that happened along the way.
I remember a wonderful story from Kevin Ames many years ago about his brother getting Cochlear Implants as an adult and being able to hear for the first time. He was startled by the crinkling of an empty potato chip bag and later the sound of running water in the kitchen sink. Most of us don't take the time to even think about the miracle of sight, sound and being able to communicate.
After sharing my thoughts about Claudia, I just wanted to spend the day with Sheila. I took my GH3 and we headed to the Classic Car Show at the Venice Campus of the Friendship Centers and just played. We made it a fun day with no real purpose except to act like Florida tourists.
I really have only one point this morning...and it's from the video...
"...that everyone you will meet this day will be blessed by you. Just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch, just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you and then it will really be a good day!"
Wishing everybody a wonderful rest of the weekend and a "really good day."
Every morning I get up and start writing a post with a topic normally tied to something that's happened during the week. It's usually about the marketing and business side of photography. Like every blogger, I'm looking for readership, because I'm hoping that what I'm writing about is always relevant and takes you in the right direction, helping you build your business.
Well, this morning's post has nothing to do with helping you with your business or readership, but maybe it will inspire you the way somebody in this industry has inspired me.
Last night I got an IM from my good buddy Brian Malloy in Boston. He shared some sad news about a mutual friend who passed away yesterday morning, Claudia Kronenberg Douty.
When he told me, I just sat and looked at this image, posted by Mark Crosby, for the longest time - it brought back a lot of wonderful memories about Claudia, her love for photography, WPPI and life. I had lost touch with her for many years and didn't find out until recently about her fight with cancer.
I first met Claudia when she spoke at WPPI. I'm guessing it was some time around 2001. She couldn't have been more in love with the craft, with teaching and her passion to help photographers raise the bar on the quality of their images.
That passion was her signature and in trying to find a way to express how I'm going to miss somebody I've hardly been in touch with, I found the video below on her Facebook page. It was posted just four months ago and it's so typical of the Claudia I first met years ago.
You'll have to watch it right to the end, to truly appreciate the fragmented quotes from the video, but if Claudia could talk to each of us right now, I can't help but believe this is what she'd say...
"It's not just another day, it's the one day that's given to you today...it's a gift, the only gift that's given to you right now...Respond as if this is the first day in your life and the last day...open your heart to all these blessings."
There's an expression I've heard and used many times, "God needed another angel!" While it seems so trite to say it this way, it's so appropriate, because God just got one of his best!
My first trip to Japan was in 1983 and since then I've been back five times, three more while I was at Polaroid and twice during my Rangefinder/WPPI days. There's something I can't explain the minute I get off the plan at Narita Airport, but essentially it's a feeling that I'm finally home. Maybe in a previous life I lived in Japan.
I fell in love with the country and the people on that first trip and the mystique has never faded. My image on the left is hanging over our fireplace and every time I look at I remember that day in Tokyo and walking around the grounds of the Imperial Palace.
Skype helped to make the world feel smaller, when Taka's (past VP of Asukabook in Hiroshima) son needed a little help practicing his English. We'd Skype once a week and I'd wander around the house with my iPad, pronouncing the English word for whatever I'd point to and then he'd repeat it.
Getting Sheila to Japan is at the very top of my bucket list and this morning on a phone call with Andrew Funderburg, founder of Fundy Software, I learned an interesting fact about his background. Who am I kidding? It's interesting, but I couldn't be more jealous. Andrew lived in Japan, ran an English school and had the experience I was trying hard to get, back in my Polaroid days, living in Japan.
Andrew and I got on the subject when I was talking about a guest post the other day about a photographer making a major career change. The point is we've all done it and while it might not always be obvious, everything always works out for the better.
A few minutes after our conversation, Andrew sent me the link to some of his images of Japan and here's one more point to remember. I'm constantly reminding photographers to make sure you have some of the staff at the companies you work with in your network, because they have experiences that eventually you might need to draw from.
In Andrew's case he's not only the founder of Fundy Software, but a photographer and in his business background you can count on a whole lot of experiences that every business owner can relate to. In the mean time, with his permission, meet Andrew Funderburg the photographer and one of my most favorite places on the planet, Japan!
Images copyright by Andrew Funderburg. All rights reserved.
Trying to be upbeat on Mother's Day when your mother's passed away is like being single and looking forward to Valentine's Day. You just don't know exactly how you want to feel, but I know I have a choice. I used this quote in a post a few month's ago, but it's still so appropriate:
"The older I get, the more I see there are these crevices in life where things fall in and you just can't reach them to pull them back out. So you can sit next to them and weep or you can get up and move forward. You have to stop worrying about who's not here and start worrying about who is.” Alex Witchel
So here's what's great about this Mother's Day for me...
I know Mom is no longer battling it out with Alzheimer's. I know she's at peace and hanging out with other friends I've lost over the years, Don Blair, Monte Zucker, Dean Collins and Bengt Forssbaeck, just to name a few. I also have this vision of Dean meeting her when she left us last June and saying, "Oh, so you're Skip's Mom," and then proceeding to tell her one crazy story after another about our friendship. I can hear her laughing and doing more than one "OMG".
That's pretty much how I'm going to spend the day - just thinking about Mom as I was growing up and the funny things that happened over the years. Most of all, I cherish the last couple years when I was finally living in the same zipcode with her and Dad; time we had together; Mom's love for me and Sheila: going out for ice cream and those moments when Alzheimer's would take a break and Mom would come back to us.
I'm also going to be thinking about all of you who are mothers. Since most of you are artists too, the respect I have for you and your ability to balance being a mom, wife, friend and business owner runs deep. You're managing the ultimate balancing act and still able to stay focused on life and your subjects.
And for those of you, who like me have lost your mother, I'm a huge fan of Marianne Williamson who talks a lot about death. I've never been particularly spiritual, but that's where Sheila comes in. I know the only thing that's changed is that Mom's left her physical being, but her spirit is alive and well and all around us. Hang on to only the good memories you have of your mother and cherish every smile they give you.
As for us, we might not be able to cook Mom a Mother's Day feast like we did last year, but she's watching over us and I can still wish her Happy Mother's Day.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom - We miss you!
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
For the last ten minutes I've been staring at the computer trying to figure out what to write about today.
Just above my computer is a bookshelf and suddenly there was my answer, "The Book of Awesome". I have no idea where or when I got the book, but I started to look through it. It's built on a foundation of seemingly routine things in our lives that become awesome simply because we think about them. They're little things, but critical ingredients to putting a smile on our face. (click the image on the left for the link to Amazon and the book's page.)
Here are some examples..."Peeling an orange in one shot," "Hanging your hand out the car window," "Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying," "Eating the extra fries at the bottom of the bag." Okay, so I think you get the picture.
What if together we came up with "The Book of Awesome for Photographers"? Here's what I've got so far...feel free to add to the list.
"Finding the lens cap you haven't been able to find for weeks in a jacket pocket!"
"Putting a post up with no typos."
"Vendors at a convention who remember your name."
"Breaking your first 1000 followers on Twitter."
"Buying a camera accessory that comes heat sealed in one of those blister cards and getting it open without cutting yourself."
" The first five minutes at any convention."
"Having somebody write something nice about a post you've written."
"A troll who apologizes."
"A service department telling you not to worry, the repair on your camera is no-charge."
"Having a client send you a note to thank you for their photographs."
"Seeing an old friend at a convention."
"Thinking you lost your phone and finding it slipped under the seat of the car."
"Getting a call or email from a friend on one of those days when nothing seems to go right."
"Getting something done ahead of schedule or the deadline."
Over the years some of you have actually met my Dad at various conventions and many of you have read a couple of his posts he wrote for this blog. Well, today Dad's part of another adventure in building a successful business.
Here's the scenario, once a week Dad and I try and get out to lunch together. We have the same argument every week over whose turn it is to buy and we rarely go to the same place two weeks in a row. Yesterday we simply decided life is too short to eat another salad and we went for Sarasota's best burger at Square 1. Plus, there are few things in life that can make this almost 92 year old happier than a giant order of $3 onion rings!
Already, you're shaking your head trying to figure out how in the world this can relate to a business model for photographers, but here's how it all fits together. Quality, service, staff and the experience all make this one of our favorite places. What are clients saying about the experience with you?
Listening to your clients: Square 1 is the only place I've been in years that when I ask for my burger rare, it's going to come rare. No excuses about the health department and the risk of e-coli, just a terrific tasting juicy burger. I was told they can do that because they raise their own beef. They don't have to worry about health issues because they have complete control over the entire process.
So, think about the services you offer as a photographer. Do you offer everything your clients ask for or do you make excuses based on the limitations of the vendors you use?
Having unique products: That plate of onion rings is $3 on Wednesdays, but even at the usual $8.95 they're a great deal, because they're the best I've ever had. It's essentially their version of a loss leader. Everything on their menu is terrific and if I really don't want Angus beef I can substitute chicken or turkey.
I'm not suggesting photographers need to discount so heavily they lose money, but I do like the idea of having some unique products you can add to your packages. Maybe it's a small album, a canvas print, etc. - something you can offer clients that has great perceived value and they really want.
Great Service: Service is always outstanding, whether we're eating inside or out. They exceed expectations. Everything we order is always served hot with no chance our order has been sitting in the kitchen waiting to be picked up.
What would your clients say about the delivery of your products? Do you keep your promises on delivery dates, costs and follow-up?
A terrific attitude: Then there are little things like the hostess opening the door and catching us before we walk in. How many times have you stood waiting in front of a sign that says, "Please wait to be seated" ? I also love the fact that the wait staff has the ability to make decisions. If you want to substitute something or change the mix of something on your order, they simply do it. They're also consistent from restaurant to restaurant. We've eaten at two different Square 1's and the positive attitude couldn't be more consistent.
When you meet a new potential client, are they picking up on your infectious enthusiasm or do they walk away missing your ability to capture their event in a way that's unique? Think about it, Square 1 is just another burger joint and there are hundreds of them in Sarasota, but they exceed expectations every time and they've definitely become habit-forming. They identified what was missing in other restaurants and then made it their signature.
So there you have it - a business model to create an experience for your clients that exceeds expectations and is habit forming. For Dad and me, it's that now and then treat that makes lunch a little more special and at 92 he can watch his weight tomorrow!
Life is too short to not enjoy a decent burger and rings!
Earlier this week in the AIBP Member Community on Facebook, a photographer asked for help in dealing with her fear of going full time and giving up her regular job. It's a milestone event and one that just about everybody has gone through at one time or another.
I tried to call her with some suggestions, but when she didn't respond (because she was stuck at her day job), I jumped in with some advice. Here's the thing, I've been in this industry my entire adult life and I've seen so many great passionate photographers make the same mistakes. There's nothing wrong with pursuing your dream of being a full time artist, but when you jump in and you're not prepared, that's when the pain starts.
So, let's start with just dealing with your fear. If you've developed a strong skill set, that's the first thing you need on your side. Remember, any moron can get their first client. The key is getting the second, third and fourth ones and then getting that first one to come back. This isn't a career path where you can fake it 'til you make it!
Getting out on your own is supposed to create a little fear - if it didn't then everybody would be doing it. It took me most of my life to finally get out on my own and I was terrified when leaving a great job as President of WPPI and Rangefinder Magazine five years ago.
What was I afraid of? Failure! This is the part where my wife, Sheila, played such an important role and it's something everybody needs when you make a change like this - a great support network, whether it's just one person or a whole bunch of friends and family.
Now, let's hit a few things you can do to help pave the way to building a strong foundation for expanding your business.
Start with a direct mail, personal letter to all of your past clients. Unless you've been a complete bozo your past clients are your best ambassadors. Then, do a similar letter to all vendors associated with your specialty - it's pretty much anybody who might ever need photographic support from a head shot to product images.
Next on the list is your blog...your website is about what you sell, your blog is about your heart. The two play together and it's great to share the topic of exciting things you want to be able to share with the community. Don't express your fears - only the excitement of new products you're going to offer (call your lab, album company and framer). You don't need to show your fears - this isn't about lack of confidence, but your excitement to have so much community support that you have to go full time in photography.
What are you doing to make yourself different from everybody else? Look for things that aren't being done in your community and then make that part of what you offer. Also, get involved in your community! People like buying products and services from companies they perceive as giving back. You want the community to be good to you, so you better make damn sure you're being good to your community.
Do a complete website makeover...seriously, many of you do boudoir and glamour shots, but you never look at your own sites or Facebook pages and consider your own "makeover". Start with your about section and it should be in first person and only 3-4 paragraphs all about why you love being a photographer/artist. This is about writing an artist's statement - nobody cares what you shoot with, how many awards you've won or how you got started - this is about sharing your heart.
Next, CLEAN UP THOSE GALLERIES! Seriously, if it's not a "wow" print then dump it. Always ask, "If this was the only image I could show, would I get hired?" If the answer it "no" then don't put it up on your site.
Pound the pavement - identify every business owner within a couple of square miles of your location and literally walk in and introduce yourself. You don't have to sell anything, just let them know your skill set as an artist and photographer in the community and your availability.
Start a networking luncheon - get everyone together once a month who has anything to do with your target audience. You're just looking for an inexpensive place for lunch, hopefully with a private corner. For boudoir: if you're full time, you'd invite managers from a spa or two, salon, florist, women's clothing, etc. Weddings are more obvious with florists, bakers, venues, salons, tux shops, travel agents, limo companies, wedding planners, caterers etc. Imagine the network you'd start to build if you were seated in between a florist and a caterer. Pets and Children would have the same kind of logical "partners".
Don't forget to include a few photographers in your networking luncheon - you can't shoot every job that comes your way! Look to build relationships with people whose skill sets compliment yours.
Put your phone number on your website! Give people a way to contact you along with your email address - do NOT go with just a template contact form. You want to respond to each request with incredible speed! A fast response time is going to help separate you from most of your competitors.
Start building relationships with potential partners to cross-promote. For example a spa, a makeup artist and a photographer might be perfect to share the cost of a post card mailing along with an email blast to women who fit the demographics for a boudoir session. Wedding photographers could easily partner with a florist and a caterer. You don't need anymore than 2-3 partners in any promotion.
Look, it's okay to be nervous about stepping things up, especially if you're about to give up your day job - but there are a whole bunch of ideas here to help you make those first steps more successful! In fact, the more I look at the list so far, the more appropriate they are not just for starting a new business, but relaunching one that's stalled.
Most important of all stay focused on your dream and don't let the "Negators" in your life get to you. They're only jealous of your passion!
Good luck - you know where to find me if I can help.
Over the last two years I've reviewed a few hundred websites and blogs, helping photographers make some serious, but often easy changes to establishing better content and in turn, better reach. Here's a great way to get some additional help and a fresh look at your website or blog.
At 12:01 pm EST today the 2014 Giving Challenge launched here in Sarasota. For the last two years I've been actively involved in working with the Friendship Centers, starting with their support group for Alzheimer's caregivers that my Dad and I attended when dealing with my mother's dementia.
The Giving Challenge is a 24 hour online version of an old telethon, but with a contemporary twist. I want to help them not just reach their goal, but blow it out of the water!
For every donation from a photographer for $50 or more, I'll donate fifty minutes of my time on the phone (or Skype) to review your website and help you create a stronger presence. You can't beat a dollar a minute and if you donate more, I'll put in the time to match, up to ninety minutes, but you've got to donate today. The program is only for the next 24 hours.
Here's your chance to help an amazing non-profit (your donation is tax deductible) and at the same time pick up some added expertise to help you build a stronger business model. The challenge we all have is being too close to our own business. Having somebody objective look at your site or blog can change so much in how you approach your target audience.
All you have to do is click on the banner above and type in Senior Friendship Centers in the search box and then send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org after you've made your donation with a credit card and we'll start scheduling reviews this week. And, if you're outside the US, I'm on Skype and willing to schedule these at whatever time you need me to be available.
Thanks for all your support. While the Friendship Centers are obviously a local non-profit, the work they're doing has an influence on senior centers all over the world.
I've written a lot about two specific topics, the importance of giving back and second, special projects. Here's an example of what one photographer is doing to cover both.
Simon King is a photographer in the UK who's shared a couple of the most read guest posts we've ever had on the SCU site. His guest post, Time to Act Like a Head Chef, nailed one of the biggest challenges for professional photographers, dealing with price shoppers.
Now he's taking two of his greatest passions and putting them together in one book project, Cowboy Up. Simon has always been fascinated with the American Rodeo and the lives of the last true cowboys. It's a special project that keeps him focused on one aspect of his photographic passion, sports. At the same time this book project is about to help him raise funds for two different children's organizations - one on each side of the "pond" in the UK and US.
As you read through Simon's Kickstarter concept you'll see no mention yet of the names of the specific two charities, but that's only because of the time element required for their approval process. Within the next week or so he'll have final approval and the specific associations will be announced.
What's exciting for me has been watching Simon go from concept to reality. Each step of the way has been another milestone and a key element to making this a success.
Special projects help you stay focused on your passion when your "day job" has you photographing something different - the work that pays the bills. Special projects also help you stay creative and when you can take a project and turn it into a vehicle to help give back, you've got the best of both worlds!
My good buddy, Bob Coates, sent me this and while it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with photography, it has everything to do with photography. Here's my point...
Chase Holfelder is obviously incredibly talented and has an outstanding voice as well. He wanted to experiment with changing music typically in a major key to a minor key and chose the Star-Spangled Banner. Personally, I love the way he's done it, but music isn't the point for this post.
Let's think about your images for a second. What if the next time you're photographing a subject you mix things up a little? What if you completely change your lighting pattern or maybe the posing style? What if you play around with depth of field and experiment with longer exposures? How about using a lens with a focal length you normally might not use?
In the old film days, Tony Corbell used to suggest that we all save the last couple of frames on every roll of film and do something completely different. Who knows how changing things now and then might just give your creativity a boost?
Over the years I've been in a lot of studios and it always hurts when I spot tape on the floor for light placement, backdrops and a tripod. You don't need to follow the recipe every time, but just like Chase Holfelder with his music, you need to mix it up a little. There's no telling where pushing the edge of the envelope will take you!
Illustration Credit: © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
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.