This is what I like about photographs.
They're proof, that even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect.
This morning I discovered a new fun aspect to Throwback Thursday.
In an envelope of old photographs I found my baby portrait. The high-key vignette approach is fun to see, even though it's so out of style today. However, the most fun of the shot was taking a stroll in cyberspace with the information on the back of the print.
The name of the photographer was there along with his address and phone number. I love thinking back to the days when we had a word in front of a four digit phone number. In fact, I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember our phone number growing up, Elmwood 2-3413.
Well, looking up Claude Cassirer, here's what I found in a 2001 article from San Diego's East County Magazine:
Claude Cassirer, who survived an internment camp during World War II and became a lecturer in schools teaching students about the Holocaust, died on September 25, 2010. A portrait photographer, he later became a volunteer and licensed ombudsman for the State of California for more than 20 years, striving to assure proper healthcare for seniors. He and his wife, Beverly, were also prominent political activists and co-founders of the La Mesa Foothills Democratic Club.
Recently, Cassirer made headlines by winning a court battle in September that allowed him to sue the government of Spain. His lawsuit sought to recover a Pissarro painting stolen from his grandparents by the Nazis, but he passed away before he could see his long-time dream fulfilled.
Further into the article,
The couple became active in progressive political politics, including John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, which kicked off in Cleveland.
Although he passed away in 2010, what a kick to dig into a little more of the history of the photographer who did my baby portrait.
Throwback Thursday has so much potential to help market portraiture, and so many of you are always looking for content. Remember, your target is "Mom." The kids are changing every day and her time to capture memories is limited. Use old portraits like this to make a point and then tie it back to a promotional offer for a family sitting.
It's up to you to plant those seeds!
Image copyright Don Komarechka. All rights reserved.
Episode 1: Creative Discovery
We've all heard John Burrough's expression, "Leap and the net will appear!" That's the perfect way to describe part of the foundation behind "The Creative Envelope," a new podcast series Don Komarechka and I just launched.
Here's the background - Don and I met almost four years ago when we were both involved in a live Google+ Hangout in the Panasonic booth at PPE in New York. Don was the "talking head" on the monitor with me and Bob Coates as the guests on site. A few months later Don was my guest on Sprouting Photographer's Weekend Wisdom show.
Just recently we did an "EDU10" podcast prior to Don's free X-Rite Photo & Video webinar on resolving the challenges in printing macro images. Out of that webinar came one of the most viewed "Why?" images I've ever shared, Don's macro shot of an ant on a blade of grass.
With every project we've worked on together there's always been a lengthy old-fashioned phone conversation about some aspect of business, technology, marketing or the state of the industry. I'm fascinated by his mad-scientist approach and his constant enthusiasm to not only break the rules of imaging, but openly share new ways to push the creative envelope.
Here's a prime example - Don's book Sky Crystals was self-published and is a cross between a fine art table top book and a detailed "how-to" recipe book about photographing snowflakes. Before crowd-funding he built up a following on Google+ of over one million fans. Through their support he was able to fund a stunning book on a completely niche specialty - the macro world of snow.
In the weeks ahead we're hoping to combine the passion we share for the industry with topics on marketing, business, technique, social media and anything else that comes along. This first episode is all about NEVER compromising on quality, and the image above is the spider and UV experiment "Dr. Don" talks about in the podcast.
Welcome to The Creative Envelope!
Every Memorial Day I stumble around trying to figure out what to write. I always like to start out the same way, because we've stepped so far away from the definition of the holiday and how it got started.
Here's the definition from Wikipedia:
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
In my family we've been fortunate and never lost anybody on the battlefield, starting with my Dad in WWII. But, Sheila and I have both lost friends over the years going back to the Viet Nam War. And, having a son who's actively serving today, and who has done multiple tours of the Middle East, we're very much in tune with the worries every military parent shares.
This is a short post this morning...
For any of you who have lost a loved one in war, thank you for your incredible service. We all recognize there's no sacrifice greater than the one you've made. For those of you with family members serving now, thank you for your support and dedication.
Lastly, for those of you thinking Memorial Day is simply the kick-off of summer - be safe, enjoy the day, but somewhere in the midst of your holiday barbecue take five minutes and think about our military. Regardless of your opinion and the politics, they always deserve our utmost respect!
"If you can read this, thank a teacher.
If you can read this in English, thank a veteran."
"Your calm mind is your ultimate weapon against the challenges. So relax!"
I've truly grown to love Sunday mornings and the luxury I chose to give myself a long time ago has now become a wonderful routine. The fun of Sunday Morning Reflections is in writing about whatever I want. Since the majority of you are photographers, it's the equivalent of shooting a personal project - I have no specific goals except a little hopefully relevant self-expression.
Let's set the stage. Yesterday was my birthday. I don't have it posted on my Facebook page, although I forgot it was on LinkedIn. While I appreciate everyone's kind wishes, I love having the day exclusively with the most important person in my life, my wife, Sheila. I caught up with a few friends online and then unplugged for the rest of the day.
Yesterday was perfect, and it started with me, camera in hand, chasing a monarch butterfly around the yard, followed by the beach, a little shopping, dinner with Sheila making me a few of my favorites and binge-watching "House of Cards," which we never saw. And there you have it - I barely went online. Didn't think about the business, things I have on my to-do list, or making any notable contribution to society.
Here's my point this morning. It's taken me most of my time as an adult to realize this is my life; it's not a dress rehearsal. We all work hard, and while I love the paths my career has taken me down, there needs to be a time when I can just relax and step away from the business. It's okay to have a "slug day" now and then. In fact, without them, I'd crash and burn!
So, if you're having a tough time with the concept, and it does take a little advance preparation to get the right mindset, here are some suggestions:
And there it is - four ideas to help you create the perfect slug day, but for many of you, it'll be tough. Why? Because you're so focused on defining every minute as productive. You don't realize recharging your battery by just kicking back and smelling the roses might be the most productive thing you could be doing.
"Each person deserves a day in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.
Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."
Wishing everybody the perfect Sunday, and if you need it, a slug day. Go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and be selfish with your time. It's a holiday weekend in the U.S. hopefully giving many of you the time to kick back and relax. Make it a day with as many smiles as you can pack in!
Image copyright Jared Platt. All rights reserved.
Jared Platt joins us on "Why?" today with an intense backstory and a bonus; a lesson in how important it is for artists to learn to see - not just their subjects, but the emotion of the moment.
I started this series to help you get to know photographers who need to be on your radar, but it's become so much more. Each artist, and especially Jared today, has shared not just the why behind a favorite image, but often the why they're passionate about the craft.
Jared is one of the leading educators in professional photography today, and he's going to be on the road a lot this year. If he's teaching in your area make it a point to get to know him. Just click on the image above to connect to his schedule and his website. He's also one of the leading educators for Profoto, and an X-Rite Coloratti. Click on the links below to follow Jared's Profoto YouTube series (16 videos in all) and meet the Coloratti team.
As photographers Throwback Thursday can be a powerful tool for marketing. Using your blog, it's a great way to generate a new post each week about photography and the importance of capturing memories, especially of kids as they're growing up. Every day they change a little more, and it's up to you to plant the reminder with "Mom."
But for me, and today's post is a perfect example, I love wandering through files of old photographs. While I think I shared this once before, it was years ago, so sharing it again is in itself a throwback event! I've got this huge smile on my face just thinking about the day above.
I got certified in the early 90's and scuba became an obsession. With a group of great friends we hit trip after trip throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, Cocos Island and even Truk Lagoon off the coast of Guam. I heard a great expression once, diving isn't a hobby it's a sickness.
Sharing this sickness with me are two great friends, Kayce Baker and Bob Rose. The three of us went all over the world together. The shot above was taken at Catalina Island. They've got a wonderful marine park, all roped off and ready to explore. However, true to form and consistent with my perpetual horrible sense of direction, I managed to get lost and lose the two of them on a dive.
Getting lost in a small marine park supported one of the most important rules on every trip we were ever on: "Never follow Skip!"
Happy Throwback Thursday! And to Bob and Kayce - I miss you guys and the adventures!
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is one of my favorite guest posts from my good buddy Scott Bourne. While it might be out of the archives, the topic couldn't be more appropriate for so many of you...RIGHT NOW!
When I left Rangefinder/WPPI in 2009 to start my own business, I remember having a long conversation with Sheila. She asked me, "So, what are you afraid of?" There was no hesitation in my answer, "I'm afraid of failing!"
Many of us, me included, spend so much time dealing with our fears, when in reality failure is all part of the process. First, there's no such thing as failure as long as you take each setback as a speed bump and learn from it. Second, the only time failure truly becomes a reality is when we let it!
I recently read two quotes I want to share with today's post:
“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,
in which case you have failed by default.”
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it.
And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.”
Whether you're new to the business and just starting out or a seasoned pro, it's a great exercise to take some time and look at your business as of right now. Then, think through everything you've learned and consider what you might have done differently.
The best thing about being an artist is your ability to adapt and change at almost any time, but you can't just talk about it. Nobody ever achieved success on a history of good intentions!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I know now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?
Here's the first thing I would do:
I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain.
"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.
As for me and what I'd do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.
I was too stupid to know I could fail. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way:
"Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for you.
There are some people in life that make you laugh a little louder,
smile a little bigger and live just a little better.
It's a typical Sunday morning - I'm up early, Sheila's still asleep and Molly the Wonder Dog is curled up at my feet. My home office is quiet, although I can't help but smile over how noisy the Hasselblad clock, after twenty years is still so loud. This is just a sidebar - it's the one complaint we always heard, and I don't understand why the Swedes never came up with a quieter mechanism.
As I looked around my office this morning and then into some of the most fun posts I've ever shared this past week, it occurred to me that EVERYTHING in my office, my career and for that matter, my life is all about relationships. I pulled three images from posts this week - each one is connected to the topic.
Even the noise of the Hasselblad clock brings us back to a relationship with a company and people I admired for so many years. And the image I grabbed just to have some fun and include it here was captured with a LUMIX FZ300 and brings me full circle to all my Luminary friends and the team at Panasonic.
So here's my point this morning. Take a few minutes and think about everything in your life. Think about your career to date. Think about the gear you use, the pictures on the wall in your home, office or just sitting on your desk. Look at those messages/reminders on post-it notes and your calendar. Think about family or friends you're likely to talk to or spend part of the day with today.
Everything comes down to relationships. Whether they're big friendships or just small acquaintances just getting started, our world survives on those people, and sometimes critters, who have come into our life. It's not an earth-shaking epiphany this morning, but the exercise of just looking around my office did set the stage.
When Sheila and I moved last December we set out to make the new address more than just a house - we wanted to make it a home. We laugh because everything in the house has a story behind it, a memory and a relationship to another chapter in our lives, either individually or as a couple. And, with each story is another relationship.
Wishing all of you a beautiful Sunday and a day filled with time to enjoy and appreciate the relationships in your life that keep you smiling, laughing and living life just a little better! Go for those long hugs and appreciate their therapeutic value. Find the time to just feel the "wow" in the reflection of the choices you've made and the people who have come into your life who actually matter.
Over they years I've shared a lot of images from photographers I know as well as complete strangers who have shared something beautiful, usually on Facebook.
Well, meet Melissa Albert, a children's photographer from Maine, who I first met two years ago at ShutterFest. Most of you don't know Melissa. She's not on the circuit lecturing and doesn't always make it to every convention or conference, but I'll match her passion for the craft against anybody.
Melissa is a perpetual student, constantly working on her skill set and always in search of capturing the ultimate image. She's regularly going through the same process we all do - building confidence, establishing her style and fine-tuning her business and marketing goals.
This week she launched her blog series and kicked it off sending me the image above in an IM asking, "What do you think?"
There's nothing more I need to write - quality and passion speak for themselves!
"Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still."
One more round of seniors from days gone by, and a big thanks to all those brave souls who participated. This has been a lot of fun to share, but everyone's patience is wearing thin as I hound them for their high school senior shot. So, it's time to wrap it up.
It's a lot of fun looking back, especially when you think about everything on your mind that senior year of high school. Think about some of the things you thought were so important as you wrapped up that milestone chapter of your life.
I especially appreciate a few members of the industry who couldn't find a high school senior shot, but shared one within a year or two afterward - so, we're still in the same relative time frame. Besides, those images are some of the most fun.
Here are the "answers" to last week's group to the right starting at the top left:
Yervant, Seth Resnick, Fran Reisner, Bambi Cantrell, Sherry Hagerman, Nick Vedros, Helen Yancy, Bryan Caporicci, Melanie Anderson, Joy Vertz, Pete Cardello, and Dane Sanders.
Photography is all about memories. Most of you back then had little or no idea of the role imaging would play in your future. For me, the best part is how you've all become leaders in the industry. This isn't just a group of artists sharing their senior headshots from years back, but a mini "who's who" in the photographic community today. What a kick!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Image copyright Kristofer Rowe. All rights reserved.
by Skip Cohen
Going back to the why behind "Why?" - It was all because nobody in a class I was teaching knew who Mary Ellen Mark was. I couldn't do much on some of the legends we've lost, but somebody needed to do something to introduce more of you to today's movers and shakers! What I underestimated was the power of each image and artist to make a point about their careers, lives, inspiration, etc.
Kristofer Rowe is in today's spotlight, and this is the perfect venue for his story. Kristofer is all about being inspired. He's a reminder to all of us that when things might look the worst, we've got the ability to rise above whatever it is dragging us down.
How I met Kristofer is another testimony about the power of our industry. I hadn't heard about him until watching a video produced by Tamron USA. Then came an outstanding post by Jenn Gidman for Tamron's blog about Kristofer's philosophy and the way he shoots. Finally, we connected on a phone call, and a new friendship was launched.
Looking to see more of Kristofer's work? Check out this post I shared last week and watch his video. Then, visit his flickr page. What I love most about his work is the level of creativity to capture the personality of his subjects. And for those of you whose specialties are a long way from birds of prey, Kristofer needs to still be on your radar. He might be photographing a subject you're not interested in, but his philosophy to bring the personality of the animal into each image applies to virtually each person you photograph.
Pay particular attention to his composition, camera angle, and exposure. In a world with plenty of bird photographers, he's making each image different. Put that technique together with his personal story, and you have all the ingredients for an artist who inspires us!
Click on the Tamron logo to visit their product pages and check out some of Kristofer's favorite focal lengths!
Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Looking through the SCU archives, I came across this post from four years ago by my good buddy, Scott Bourne. It's a short read loaded with a lot to think about and perfect to kick off the week.
Your greatest marketing tool is relationship building. Advertising, publicity, promotions, community involvement, a great skill set, etc. all play important roles. However, when it comes down to pure success, it's the relationship you build with your clients and target audience.
To Scott's point about caring about your customers - you can't truly care about them if you don't know them! All the answers on how to build a successful business are out there - you just need to listen to your target audience and understand what's most important to them!
by Scott Bourne
If you want to sell photography (or anything else) you should spend more time caring about what your customers care about and less about everything else.
Your customers don't care what your Klout score is, which of your lenses is the sharpest or which brand you shoot with. Your customers care about having photographs that make them (and their families) look good. That's it. That's all.
The online camera forums are full of discussions about photography but, not the people who buy photography. Want to stand out? Want to get ahead of your peers, including those with nicer gear and more experience than you? Simply start caring about your customers. Put all your focus (pun intended) on them and their needs. This is NOT about you. This IS about them. The sooner you realize that - the sooner you'll start to thrive as a professional photographer.
Let the nerds in the photo forums duke it out about which lens is sharper. You go out and make your customers happy by paying attention to their needs and making them look their best. You'll win every time.
Since losing my mother almost four years ago, I find myself missing her all year long, not just on Mother's Day. Something will trigger a memory, usually followed by a poignant moment of reflection and most of the time a smile.
Sheila will often catch the expression on my face and ask, "Where are you?" That one question will lead me into a story about something that once happened in my life involving my mother. Minutes later the memory is filed away and it's back to whatever I was doing.
So, this morning, I don't want to do a tribute just to my mother as much as I want to do a tribute to all of us whose mothers have passed on. This is a lot harder to write about and explain than I thought.
First, I mean no disrespect to those of you who are mothers right now. In fact, just about all my female friends and associates are Moms, and you're all amazing. You've found that special balance between motherhood and being an artist/business owner. You're working hard in so many different directions and today, thanks to Hallmark and consumerism, it's your day, although hopefully, you know you're appreciated all year long.
Now, to those of you having no place to send a Mother's Day card, except in your thoughts to the heavens, Happy Mother's Day. The key operative word is "happy," which isn't so easy to do. For me, it started with looking at old pictures. Then, I decided to pick out a couple of stories from the archives of my brain to share with Sheila. Last on the list will be to take a few minutes to "talk" to my Mother. Yes, I'm going to say something out loud that I wish I'd said more of when she was here with us.
Sheila and I moved to Florida in 2011 to help my Dad fight the battle with my mother's Alzheimer's. We totally underestimated the love and joy we'd share by being here. Living close by, even with the disease, gave us moments of smiles. I don't wish the challenge with Alzheimer's on anybody, but there is something special that happens - you learn to appreciate the smallest of things. You learn to look for those special moments when the personality of somebody you love comes shining through, and you work hard to let the storms pass.
The thirty-second clip below is a perfect example. Captured with a Flip video camera in 2010, we were laughing the morning after taking Mom and Dad out to dinner. Mom had just been out of rehab a short time after breaking her hip. Wheelchair and all, with my Dad insisting on pushing, we took her to Tommy Bahama's for dinner. She had a couple of pina coladas with dinner and with both drinks immediately sipped the dark rum floater off the top first. This was early on in the Alzheimer's battle. Mom didn't always understand what was going on, but she was happy most of the time, and the days of her smiling were in the majority.
I've got great memories to appreciate today about my mother and I'm wishing all of you, who have lost your mothers, a day filled with smiles as you wander down Memory Lane. And, for those of you who will physically get time with your mother today - go for those eleven-second hugs. Don't waste a minute on anything other than reminding them how important they are in your life.
Happy Mother's Day!
It was a struggle, but between digging through my files from years passed and being a pest, here's a dozen more members of the industry. See if you can figure out who's who.
Here's the answer to last week's mystery of seniors!
Starting at the top left, Lori Nordstrom, Bruce Berg, Chuck Arlund, Roberto Valenzuela, Bobbi Lane, Eddie Tapp, Dawn Davis, Joe Buissink (not high school, but just after getting out of the army a couple of years later - it was just too good not to share!), Cindy Harter Sims, Sarah Petty, Brent Watkins, Vicki Taufer, Me, Kenny Kim and Ralph Romaguera.
I want to thank everybody who sent me images. While I know it's a pain, you have to admit it's a kick to jump into the "WayBack Machine."
As far as any awards in this first batch, I want the award for best hidden unibrow...I was trying to figure out who gets the award for still looking like a kid and gave up, simply because in my book a few of you are still kids! LOL If it's twenty years or more since graduation the honors have to go to Cindy Harter Sims.
In honor of Throwback Thursday, take a few minutes and go find that old yearbook. Yes, I'm suggesting you completely waste a little time.
Read what people wrote and then tell me if it makes any sense today. Even better, check out the change in style, photography and the way the book is put together.
Mosts important of all, think back to that senior year and all the things you thought were critically important versus your priorities today. That's a big part of the fun on Throwback Thursdays!
I'll share the answers to this week's seniors next week. Again, thanks to all the brave souls who participated so far.
If you're feeling slighted because I missed making request for your senior headshot, I've done 5 big email blasts - didn't mean to leave out any educators, noted artists or industry members. Or, maybe you got one of my emails and just haven't had the time to find that old image. So, if you want to be included next week in one last batch, please send your headshot to my email address, skip at MEI.500 dot com.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Image copyright Giulio Sciorio. All rights reserved.
Giulio Scorio, in this new episode, shares one of his favorite images from a project that became the catalyst to establishing his career. Shot for editorial, the image was part of a complete assignment shooting for the Village Voice in Phoenix ten years ago.
Check out more of Giulio's work with a visit to his website. Just click on his image.
Today Giulio is part of Panasonic's Luminary Team, one of the most diverse groups of artists in professional photography. You can keep tabs on what he's working on with a visit to the LumixLounge. Just click on the LUMIX G logo below.
He's also no stranger to SCU and has been a regular contributor. Check out some his past posts, all focused on helping you raise the bar on the quality of your images. One of my personal favorites is his guest post from four years ago about using a small camera. It's also unique because he talked about animating portraits and wanting to bring still images to life.
"Why?" started out as a project to introduce you to the favorite images by the movers and shakers in professional photography, but each artist has shared so much more about their lives than just a photograph.
"Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera."
It's Marketing Monday and one of the strongest tools you have is Customer Service. No matter how big or small your business is, you've got to stay on top of customer issues and provide the very best service. We're a word of mouth business and nothing spreads faster than bad news - so, make it a point to build relationships with all your customers and stay on top of the challenges, always working for a fast resolution.
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work.
He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.
We are not doing him a favor by serving him.
He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Okay, so the quote above is on "He" overload and is certainly a little dated, but it doesn't change the power of the message!
In 2012 I joined Trip Advisor.com. The reason was a request from one of our favorite local restaurants who asked us to put up a post. This is a "Mom and Pop" Italian restaurant - nothing fancy, but their food is outstanding and we've gotten pretty friendly with the owners. I had no problem in helping to spread the word.
Well, I got into Trip Advisor and found it was fun to share our experiences. Stay with me, because there's a really good point to my post this morning.
My first negative post was about a place here in Sarasota called "G. Wiz" and was positioned as the Sarasota children's science center. The post was entitled "What a Waste!" and just from the title, you can imagine my approach was anything but complimentary! We took our granddaughter there and it was truly a waste of time and money.
But I never would have bothered to post anything had it not been for a horrible experience with customer service. We were leaving after less than an hour there and I complained to the front desk. Many of the exhibits weren't working. The place was dirty and tired. It wasn't cheap to get in and wasn't worth our time. Her response was pure arrogance with a touch of attitude. You know the type. Her entire body language and comment screamed, "I don't care -I-didn't-build-it!" She ignored our complaint, telling us there was nothing she could do.
I posted on trip advisor and a year later there were 1300+ reads. To date, even though they closed several years ago there have been almost eight thousand. What makes it so sad is just a little good customer service would have neutralized everything and maybe even got us back when they did some renovations. All it took was a little empathy and good customer service.
Think about the experiences each client has when working with you. You'll never be able to please everybody, but you can build a relationship on trust and your client's belief in your ability to provide great service. Your goal with each client is the same; to exceed expectations and become habit-forming. Maintain that level of service and you'll always be able to bridge the credibility gap when it comes to a problem.
Most of you don't have a big staff, but regardless, remember to train everybody who talks to clients. When you do hit the wall with an unhappy client, work to resolve issues quickly and ALWAYS play the empathy card. You can defuse almost any situation with two sentences,
"I can't blame you for being upset, but the buck stops here. Let's see if I can help."
Years ago, in my Polaroid days, they used to say, one unhappy customer had the ability to influence 3-5 people...Today, because of social media, that number is in the thousands. Virtually everybody has the same potential reach as small magazines and newspapers had twenty years ago!
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!"
PS I really got into Trip Advisor over the years. It only takes a minute and I review just about every place we go. Today, I'm coming up on 70,000 reads since those early posts in 2012.
"My goal is to build a life I don't need a vacation from!"
Rob Hill Sr.
The other day I shared the quote above in a tweet. The more I think about it, the more perfect it is for a Sunday Morning Reflections post.
When I initially read the quote all I thought about was business. I thought about how I bound out of bed every morning excited about the day ahead. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people in the industry and with each day I find myself looking forward to new projects and the people I work with.
But this morning when I read that quote I started thinking about the word "life" being used. Building a life isn't just about our careers and business relationships it's about family, friends and staying focused on those values most important to us. It's about everything we believe. It's about our dreams, our priorities, and our passions.
So, on this beautiful Sunday morning in South Florida, I'm reminding all of you of the importance of doing an inventory every so often. Check out your priorities in life, because now and then under the stress of the day-in-day-out challenges, they get turned around. It's never intentional, just part of life and dealing with everything that's put on our plate!
Here's a fun little exercise I just put myself through ten minutes ago - Look at everything you need to do in the week ahead and include time for yourself and family/friends. I'm betting you're missing any serious time for yourself. As happy with our "lives" as we might be - we forget to take those breaks - those little vacations. I'm not suggesting anything extravagant just those moments when you make it a point to go stress-free for a little while.
For me the concept to "build a life I don't need a vacation from" is always going to be work in progress, but nothing happens by itself. It takes work to stay focused on your dreams, even the small ones. Each day should be a journey of visualization, which as artists you're used to the concept, but how often to you visualize how you'd like your life to be and then do something about it? You know how to focus your camera, but maybe it's time to focus more on your life!
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday. Go for those eleven-second hugs. If you're new to reading my Sunday posts, I read an article a couple of years ago about how hugs lasting at least eleven seconds have therapeutic value. Make today a time when you respect the most important person in your life - YOU! Give yourself the day off. Spend time with family and friends who are important to you and give yourself a big pat on the back.
Before "Throwback Thursday" officially existed, years ago at this time of year, I starting sharing senior head shots of photographers we all know and love. I'm sure a few of my favorites featured in this post forgot they sent them to me!
Well, it's graduation season 2017. I can't find all of the seniors I've collected, but I've done pretty good with this first batch. Hopefully there's another round of well-respected artists coming, but it depends on how brave they are to share a little glimpse into their past!
Just one hint on one image - my good buddy with the beard couldn't find his high school senior shot. So, this was a couple years after graduation - however, it's in the same general time frame and it was too good not to share.
Check back next Throwback Thursday for the names to go with the faces and hopefully a few more new ones to share!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
Image copyright David Beckstead. All rights reserved.
The concept behind "Why?" is all about helping you get to know today's movers and shakers in professional photography. What I never anticipated, when we started the series a year ago, was the variety and depth of the backstories as each respected artist has talked about one of their favorite images.
David Beckstead joins me on this new episode of "Why?" with an image taking us right back to his roots with the U.S. Forest Service. So many of today's successful artists and educators started out in other directions long before their reputations grew to what they're doing now.
In David's "About" section he describes himself as a mountain man at heart and his lifestyle of travel, hiking and loving the outdoors totally supports that claim. He's also a passionate artist, Dad and husband. His appreciation for a never-ending quest to build his skill set is what makes him one of the industry's leading wedding photographers and educators, teaching all over the world.
To see more of David's work just click on the image above to link to his website.
I first shared this YouTube video four years ago. At that time it had almost half the views it has today. Even with millions of views, I'm betting most of you haven't seen it. And if you have, it might just be time to watch it again.
Regardless of how you define success, it's human nature to look at people we admire and not realize the challenges they may have faced along the way. So often I'll hear photographers talk about other artists as if they were overnight success stories when "overnight" might in reality be years in the making!
Many of the motivational videos out there have good content, great music, and might even get the message across, but this one is pretty remarkable. In just over a minute it brings together one famous personality after another, reminding us that "If you haven't failed, you haven't lived."
The last frame simply says: "Life = Risk." It's the perfect reminder of the challenges we take on every day as business owners. I've quoted this old proverb before:
"Smooth seas don't make skilled sailors!"
Between technology, the economy, consumer trends and each of our individual fears, we sail through the perfect storm every day. We get so wrapped up in the day-in-day-out challenges we forget to soar!
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.