by Skip Cohen
This morning I was looking for some old images of my mother to share with my Dad. In the process I found a group shot of all of us together last Thanksgiving. Good friends, Bob and Holly Coates were in Sarasota on vacation then and joined us.
The image is just a self-timer group shot. It'll never win an award for group portraiture, but it would win an award for all the great memories it brings back.
Okay, so there's a segue here that might be hard to follow, but that's what Sundays are all about. This image got me thinking about great images and in turn education and it got me thinking about what Bob is doing in photography now.
Our home is like a gallery, filled with prints that span my entire career, including one of Bob's. Bob has always worked hard to stay cutting edge, but part of the process is experimenting with new techniques. Like all great photographers he recognizes the importance of a never-ending focus on his own education. He also believes in personal projects to help keep his passion for the craft alive and well, no matter what he's shooting day in day out for his business.
I've written so much about the importance of personal projects, never compromising on quality, listening to your heart and expanding your skill set. Bob's images this morning are just one example of a quality that's a common denominator with so many of the people we consider iconic in our industry...he never stops learning and pushing the edge of the creative envelope.Image copyright Bob Coates. All Rights Reserved.
I wanted to share some of his images with you in this post, first, because they're stunning and some of my favorites. Second, they take me to the topic of education and the fact that you can never stop learning.
Even Ansel Adams had thoughts about his own work and how technology would change things. I'm paraphrasing a lot, but in '84 Ansel made a comment about "wondering what people will be able to do with his negatives electronically in twenty years!"
So, here's the real point this morning - as you look at your own portfolio are you producing images that are truly great? Can you look back at a year or two of your images and see your growth in the craft? Do your images represent a continuous expansion of your skill set? What will people say about your images years from now? Most important of all, every time you click the shutter are you keeping your dream alive?
Motivational writer Jack Canfield wrote,
I'm a big believer in growth. Life is not about achievement, it's about learning and growth, and developing qualities like compassion, patience, perseverance, love, and joy, and so forth. And so if that is the case, then I think our goals should include something which stretches us.
And one more that hits home from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg:
Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.
by Skip Cohen
For whatever the reason, this morning I'm aware of the fact that I've really missed the opportunity to just rant a little. Remember, it's the weekend and I tend to go with whatever is on my mind. This morning it's about people who make assumptions.
We all do it, some more than others. We do it in our personal lives, business, on events for the future and on decisions from the past. The big question is, why don't we ever simply just talk to the people involved instead of coming to our own, often misguided assumptions?
Wandering through cyber space a couple of years ago I found this on a site by Ken Lahuer:
"We have a tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we BELIEVE they are the truth. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, we take it personally, and then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.
We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We don't perceive things the way they are; we literally dream things up in our imagination. Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions that we believe are right, then we defend our assumptions and try to make others wrong."
The photo industry is loaded with people who have turned assumption drawing into an art form. I've heard stories about major companies in trouble, cameras being discontinued, even people being let go. I've heard stories so severe that had they been more widespread, the companies involved would have actually seen a drop in sales.
Then there are the personal stories that run through our industry. Assumptions are drawn over why somebody left a company, why a new product was late for introduction, why a policy was changed and the list goes on and on. Assumptions are drawn, then they hit the rumor mill and suddenly they're FACT - and not once does anybody along the way stop and simply call the people involved for verification.
Last on the list are those of you who draw the wrong assumptions about your clients, because you don't ask the right questions and too often stereotype their behavior. Here's a prime example of drawing the wrong impression at the retail level.
I was in my early fifties when I decided I wanted to buy a Corvette. I'd always wanted one and the kids were out of the house and it seems like great timing. I was in an old pair of shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt when I wandered into the showroom at the Chevy dealer in Morristown, NJ. I picked up all the brochures, spent time sitting in one that was in the showroom, looked at a few in the lot and not one person waited on me. There were easily six salesmen working and not one came over to help me.
After twenty minutes or so, I walked into the middle of the showroom and announced, "I honestly thought you guys were smart enough to recognize a guy in mid-life crisis ready to buy his first Vette. Obviously none of you are that smart and I'm leaving now to drive up to Paramus to another dealership where by the end of the day my new Vette will be ordered. You guys need to work on your selling skills!"
They all looked like a deer caught in your headlights! I left and as promised, by the end of the day, the new Vette was on order. And I learned it really wasn't mid-life crisis. It's only mid-life crisis if you order it in red! The bottom line is stop drawing assumptions - meet every client with a clean slate and just see where it goes. If you're worked on developing your skill set you can handle any request they make!
Well, for everyone who draws assumptions, and we're all guilty, the earlier quote is from The FourAgreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. His closing paragraph on the topic hits the nail right on the head:
The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don't understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.
Illustration Credit: © MH - Fotolia.com
There are some exciting updates to this year's program you need to know about!
Marketing Boot Camp: Sunday, August 11, 10:00 - 4:00 PM
We had a number of requests from attendees for more marketing support. So, we've added a day of intense marketing. We're going to help with you with the challenges that haunt you the most. We'll talk about pricing, promotions, your website, social media, partnerships, blogging and branding. And if we've missed something in the list, just say the word and we'll do our best to cover it. Skip Cohen will be taking you through the bulk of the topics with help from Michele Celentano, Bob Coates and Adam Sherwin, just to name a few. Then, during the rest of Summer Session you'll have the support of our faculty to help answer more of your questions. Plus, Zach and Jody Gray's program that evening will add to our ability to help you strengthen your marketing and don't forget their half day program on Monday as well. We want to help you thrive, not just survive!
Networking Mixer: Sunday, August 11, 8:30 - 10:00 PM
Thanks to support from Panasonic's LUMIX team we're going to network the right way! You'll not only have a chance to meet other attendees and the faculty, but the LUMIX team will have a few of the new GH3's everybody is talking about for you to test drive for yourself. Mirrorless technology is changing the way we capture images and you're going to be blown away.
Hybrid 101 with Suzette Allen
Originally Suzette was doing a two day Intermediate Photoshop class, but the popularity of hybrid e-products is off the charts. Here's your chance to get introduced to a whole new product line to offer your clients. The potential for you to increase revenue is outstanding and explained in more detail in Suzette's program description listed on the Summer Session page. Plus, instead of one two day workshop, she's teaching two one day workshops with the same content, so you can now take her class along with another choice for your hands-on programming.
"Save Me a Seat"
We believe this is an industry first. With "Save Me a Seat" you can register for the program with a minimal amount and not have to pay the bulk of the balance until October 1st! That's sixty days after the program is over, giving you a chance to take what you've learned and actually put it to work producing revenue! It's all explained below!
The $100 Alumni discount has been extended right up to the program start date of August 11.
Illustration Credit: © DinoZ - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
One of the most fun things about doing a workshop like SCU's summer session is our ability to change programming as the needs of the market change. Nothing could be more obvious than the excitement being created by hybrid technology. So, we've changed Suzette Allen's two day Photoshop workshop to two one day Hybrid workshops - take your pick, but don't miss the opportunity to learn from one of the best artists in the industry.
Suzette's description for the new program says it all...
We will learn the core skills of creating Hybrid eProducts: terms, shooting techniques, technical settings, template use, equipment and audio gear. Then we will shoot video and stills for an eProduct. (Talking business cards, or engagement/grad cards, etc). Next we will take the videos, edit with Lightroom, export and then create products with eTemplates (auto edited) and ProShows with Photodex, and then an optional custom version with Photoshop CS6.
Take a look at the holiday card below. Is there any client who wouldn't be ecstatic over a product like this? Now think about all the other applications where a skillset like this might apply!
Check out more short videos, each with a different application on Suzette Allen's video page here at SCU.
Some time before Facebook, before Twitter, before email, blogging and the Internet, I actually had a normal life. It wasn't too different from The Brady Bunch minus Alice and just two of the kids. Yeah, I'm dating myself a little, but just look back at how your life has changed in the last ten years!
The Internet changed the way we share images, shop and communicate. Digital photography changed the way we create and capture. Social Media changed the way we connect and with whom. Do I miss my life from ten years ago? - NOT A CHANCE!
To start, I love staying connected to an industry I truly appreciate. Think about the people you "talk" to every day. It used to be a year between friends, often only connecting at an annual trade show or convention. Now I'm connected to those once-a-year friends every day. And, what a kick it is when you meet somebody in person who you've only met through social media!
The world is getting to be a tiny place. I talked to my friend Francesco on Skype last Friday morning at Venice Album in Italy. In fact, when he said "Ciao" at the end of the call I just laughed, because unlike Americans who use the expression, for him it's his language. And I'm connected to my old friend Taka from Asukabook in Japan and his son now and then, again on Skype.
Scott Bourne and his team built the infrastructure for this site and it was all done back and forth on the computer, which is something we all use every day without a thought to what we'd do if tomorrow it disappeared. I've never met Chris Fawkes from Australia, but we're working together to build Facebook Wedding Photographers. As we approach 5000 wedding photographers world wide, I'm blown away by how much I enjoy working with him to build this resource. He's on the other side of the world and we've never actually met.
Then there's the simple act of picking up the phone. I spent an hour last week with Leslie Ball, a photographer who I've never met in person, but in a Facebook forum saw she could use a little help and just made a phone call. New friends, new challenges and new support and it's all thanks to Twitter and Facebook. And, when my mother passed away earlier this month, I had dozens of amazing condolence comments, many from people I've never met.
Trends that used to take months to create, are out there in seconds in front of hundreds of thousands of people. And if a manufacturer produces an inferior product, the word is out on a dozen forums in a flash. Best of all, when you need help with a challenge, especially in photography, just post it on a good forum and watch the number of people, many of whom you've never met, come to your aid!
In fact, these communities, especially Skip's Summer School on Facebook, is what I love most about the Internet. It's not even my page, but was started by Brent Watkins, a photographer from Ohio who came to SSS a couple of years ago. The Internet is bringing people with common interests together to help each other, share ideas and build a stronger photographic industry.
The world shrinks a little with every step you take further into social media, but best of all is the power you have as a photographer to market yourself. If you do it right and build your website and blog with a great attitude and the dedication to stay involved, you've got the power to communicate that just a few years ago only a national magazine might have had!
So, every now and then I'll complain that my day starts out with a couple of hours of tweeting and posting and I'm answering emails before the sun comes up. But, would I go back to a nine to five job and not knowing what was going on until I literally opened my mail? Would I trade in my computer for the silver letter opener my Dad had on his desk? Would I trade in the excitement of "chimping" now and then for the pride of getting 38 exposures out of a 36 exposure roll?
The answer to all of the questions and the dozens we could all add to the list - NEVER! In the history of photography, there's never been a more exciting time and never more tools at our disposal to capture, create and share images.
But, if you're not actively involved in staying on top of technology, as well as social media, you need to take a serious look at how I predict the growth of your business is going to simply be stunted or even die completely in the near future.
I found the following quotes that are so appropriate:
"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road." Stewart Brand
"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential." Steve Ballmer
Photo Credit: © Kadal - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
You're all hopefully in the heat of the busy season and the fall conventions will soon roll around, along with planning for your convention visits next year. At the same time, many of you are headed to SCU's Summer Session in Chicago.
As you attend the various workshops and future conventions, here's a fun thing to remember. For you newbies out there, although it's not exclusive to rookies, you're going to have a chance to meet a lot of amazing photographers.
When you see one of your favorite icons, GO TALK TO THEM! They're icons, because they're special. They're special because they're approachable! They believe in education and want to share the gift they have of teaching. If they wanted anonymity they wouldn't be at the workshop or convention. They wouldn't be lecturing and wouldn't be caught dead walking a trade show aisle.
When you get a chance to talk to one of your heroes - just talk to them. Let them know you appreciated their program, their images or whatever new idea they inspired you to try. You don't have to suck up - just be honest and remember, every icon started out just like you, not knowing what they were doing, scared to death of their first shoot and feeling awkward.
Unlike you today though, if they're over 40, odds are they had no social media, no Facebook or Twitter, no forums and no Internet to really draw from. They shot film and had to know they got they the shot when the shutter clicked. They could share an image without the post office, UPS or Fedex! The world was a much bigger place and there was less information shared and far less tools and techniques to talk about.
But be careful. This is just like getting close to a wild animal, whatever you do, don't let them sense you're afraid! And if you believe that, you really need to stay home and consider a new career!
PhotoCredit: Copyright Scott Bourne. All rights reserved.
This year's program has some of the finest photographers and presentations we've ever assembled for a workshop!
by Skip Cohen
For the past four summers we've done Skip's Summer School and each year it's become even better than anticipated, That result is NOT because of anything I've done. It's thanks to the input from hundreds of photographers who have attended these programs, vendors who have supported us, and incredible photo educators who love their students. We've also listened very carefully to the attendee feedback after each program. As a result, this year we've brought in some new instructors, expanded the quality of platform programs and added a few new events.
So here's the list of why you should join us in August for SCU's Summer Session...
So, here's the bottom line. This program has been recognized as one of the best workshops in the country. It's changed people's lives. It's expanded their network, helped them grow as photographers and grown their businesses.
Summer Session doesn't just end when you go home. In the months following each program, year after year, along with members of the faculty, we're here to help on a wide variety of challenges. Whenever a photographer hits a dead end we try and help. Just check out the 300+ people involved in Skip's Summer School on Facebook and you'll see what I mean.
We're looking forward to seeing you in Chicago!
I write this blog because I truly enjoy helping you guys, my readers and followers. If you've met me then you know how true that it is. If you haven't, then I admit it sounds like a scam. I called or wrote a couple of photographers this week, totally at random, to just give them advice on their websites. One person wrote me back,
"To be completely honest, when I first saw this email, I had no idea who you are or how to process this offer of input from someone I have never heard of. It threw me off, to say the least. :)"
Okay, so here's thirty seconds just about me...I'm the industry's biggest groupie when it comes to photographers. I've spent my entire adult life, or at least the time when I was supposed to be acting like an adult, involved in some aspect of photography. As past president of Hasselblad USA and Rangefinder/WPPI I've worked with some of the very best photographers in the world. While I know more than I let on about shooting and can definitely capture an image, my passion is on the marketing side.
I believe in networking, marketing, education and helping you THRIVE, not just survive. As sappy as that sounds, that's why, with the help of some incredible friends, we built this site and Skip's Summer School, which is now Summer Session in August. And yes, I will plug it and hope you'll consider joining us this summer, because it's grown to be an amazing event, not because of me, but because of the people involved.
On the business side I was laid off three times in my career, twice through cutbacks at Polaroid in my twenties and once as an executive in my fifties when PhotoAlley.com imploded. That was just before I joined Rangefinder/WPPI. I've stood in the unemployment line and I've taken risks with great outcomes and a few that really sucked. In short, I've done smart things and stupid things, just like everybody else. I understand feeling like a failure, because I've been there.
The bottom line this morning is just to remind you that SCU is work in progress to be a resource for education and help you find the tools to avoid feeling like a failure. This video, while I hate my face in it the whole time, says exactly what we're trying to do. It's on the home page, but nobody ever goes to the home page, because there's so much going on everywhere else on the site.
So, if you get an email from me or a call, it's not a scam, it's me doing what I enjoy most - helping you figure out what you can do better and how to build a stronger brand for your business.
My favorite quote is from Zig Ziglar,
"If you wait for all the lights to turn green, you'll never get started on your journey!"
Stop waiting for everything to be just right - it'll never happen and you'll grow old waiting for a level of success that will always elude you. Join us in Chicago and you'll see what I mean...
by Skip Cohen
It's not really written on a magnet, but it's in the category. It's a contemporary illustration framed on the wall in our kitchen.
"Everything changed the day he figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in his life."
Think about that statement for just a second and now think about everything you're hoping to accomplish next week. I woke up at 4:30 this morning thinking about everything I want to do today and was already worrying about whether or not I had enough time to get it all done! Time isn't our enemy, we are. We spend so much time worrying about things we need to get done that we lose sight of the fun of the process.
We live in a world of deadlines. The clock is always ticking - and I actually have an old analog clock in my office and I hear it ticking all day long, reminding me that I'm running out of time in the race to the finish line! Finish line of what? My self-imposed pressure cooker to get everything done - but I'm the one creating the challenges.
The truth is, like many of you, I have a lot I want to do today. The truth also is, there's time to get it all done and whatever I don't get done is still going to be there tomorrow. My good buddy, Julieanne Kost at Adobe has a great line when somebody asks her to take on a project. If her plate's full the response is simply, "Sorry, I'm out of bandwidth!"
So, I'm going to just kick back and enjoy this weekend. On Monday morning I'm going to focus on the most important things first. Then I'm moving to the things I just love doing. We all know how to focus our cameras, but why is it so hard to focus on projects and our own lives! Time to go read that illustration one more time...
"Everything changed the day he figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in his life."
© koya979 - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
Ever missed somebody's birthday or anniversary and then find out about it months later? It's embarrassing. Well, that's how I feel this morning wandering through the Internet and catching my buddy Rich Harrington's post on Power to Create back in April about Drobo hitting a new milestone on storage - they've backed up an "exabyte"...and like most of you - I had no idea what an exabyte even was!
Since we're going to have a couple of Drobo 5D's to give away at Summer Session this year in Chicago, this is just the right time, if you don't already know about Drobo, to introduce you. Check out the videos, especially the intro to Drobo with Cali Lewis!
From Power to Create: Drobo just hit an impressive milestone... they've backed up a WHOLE lot of data. An exabyte in fact!
To understand how much an exabyte truly is, let’s put things in perspective. That’s 1 million 1TB hard drives. If backed up to standard DVDs, you’d need 245 million of them which if stacked to the same 5 ½ mile height as Mount Everest would require 32 stacks measuring 14 feet across.
That's an incredible amount of data in just six years! The first Drobo was released in 2007. Congratulats Drobo!
by Skip Cohen
Just a quick tip to check: BEFORE you hit the road for a convention, workshop or any trip your camera gear is joining you on, including just shooting a local wedding or assignment...Check to make sure you're adequately insured!
Six years ago at WPPI an attendee had all her camera gear disappear from her room. A year before that a photographer had a couple of lenses "walk" out of his camera bag while he was watching a program. I've heard story after story of cameras left out at a wedding venue disappearing.
So, while we simply live in a world that doesn't always work the way it should, we can at least ease the pain and sleep better at night knowing we've got the right insurance. The sad part of the challenge is that so many people think they're adequately insured, only to learn when the chips are down, they weren't covered.
This is going to apply to almost all of you who are part time photographers and think your homeowners insurance will cover you - check again and you'll probably learn that if you're using your camera gear for business purposes you're probably NOT covered for theft.
Just pick up the phone and call your insurance agency...right now. You're working too hard to risk losing your gear simply because you procrastinated and didn't have the right insurance.
Photo Credit: © rugercm - Fotolia.com
This video from two weeks ago couldn't get any funnier and it seems to fit with this morning's post, "You Might Be a Bad Photographer if...(Sorry about the commercial in the beginning, but trust me and watch this. It's got guaranteed chuckle power!)
Last week we had some fun with an old post that Scott Bourne started. Well, I promised to post your feedback with the additions from so many of you. Here's a whole new list! And a big thanks to Everardo Keeme who shared a link for a website that's guaranteed to make you chuckle! Feel free to add new ones and we'll just keep this thing going! Skip Cohen
You might be a bad photographer:
Michael Miller:...if you shoot a baseball tournament with a kit 18-55mm lens (actually got asked advice on that last night)
Michael Van Auken...if you forget to remove the logo of the photographer who's photograph you stole and claimed it as your own on your web site.
Carey Nash...if you think that selective coloring is awesome and about to take off!
Photogenic...if you think that spot colour actually works in wedding photography and your fb page has LOTs of this type of processed image.
Jared M. Burns...if you are a self-declared "natural light only photographer" because you think direct flash looks un-natural and didn't know a flash can (and should) be moved OFF the camera.
Richard Shoaf...if you incessantly reduce your prices to compete with the "photographers" on Groupon and Craigslist in a race to the bottom.
Michael Novo...if your watermark is prettier than your images.
Angel Pachowski... if you add tons of filters to all your images, because that is the only way to make them look good.
Angel Pachowski...if you have not figured out why the camera won't focus where you want it to. Those pesky boxes keep moving. So you just let the camera choose what to focus on, it has to be right. Right?
Brook Rieman...if you spend all of your time online critiquing other people's photography and never let anyone see your own.
Brian Smith...if your dream is to land a job as photographer for the DMV.
Tom Burtchaell...if you think lens flare is artistic
Bec Wolfe-Thomas...if you convert your photo to B&W because it looks like crap in color.
Rolando Gomez...if your primary camera accepts incoming calls! (Rolando didn't really send this to me, but it's a tweet of his from yesterday that I loved)
Skip Cohen...every time you use your tripod you fully extend the center post, but not the legs. (I had to add one of my own.)
Thanks everybody - if you've got more to add fire them off to my email address, email@example.com
Photo Credit: © KtD - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
I love videos like this. It's only a minute, but as you watch it, think about how you'd tell the story of a shoot you were doing to promote the quality of your business.
Venice Album is making some outstanding products and everybody I've worked with at the factory is a class act. This isn't about presentation products, but their passion to give you new tools to separate yourself from the competition.
I also love the fact that a photo shoot done right is the same wherever you go in the world. Take a minute and just enjoy the presentation. Then, check out Venice Album - you won't be disappointed!
Backstage of the Venice Album Photoshooting held at Villa Giustinian in Portobuffolè. A special Thank you to Fausto Sari Dresses, Photographer Gian Paolo Serna, Riccardo Stocco, Alessandro Venier and Paolo Marzocchella.
After all these years in the photographic industry I've got an amazing collection of prints and personal posters. One my favorites is Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl. It's an amazing image and long before I met Steve, I always thought of it as one of the most incredible portraits ever captured.
If you know Steve or have heard him speak, nobody could be more down to earth. His passion for photography is only topped by his humility. The best part of the image is that we all know he wasn't trying to create one of the most recognizable portraits in the history of photography. It just happened - and, it happened on film, without any manipulation, major retouch work - nothing but a photographer who knew his craft.
So, as you photograph your next job, think about the traits that produced Afghan Girl. Steve wasn't trying to do anything except tell a story. He understands photography cold, so his understanding of lighting, exposure and composition were completely second nature. He didn't have hours in a studio to ponder how he would create one of the greatest portraits of all time.
And that's my biggest point - when you look for something too hard, it will continue to elude you. Relax your vision and learn everything you can about photography, hang on to every dream and just keep shooting - your own version of Afghan Girl will be in your portfolio sooner or later!
"The starting point of great success and achievement has always been the same. It is for you to dream big dreams. There is nothing more important, and nothing that works faster than for you to cast off your own limitations than for you to begin dreaming and fantasizing about the wonderful things that you can become, have, and do. "
Brian Tracy, Motivational Coach and Author
So, relax! As good buddy Matthew Jordan Smith says, "Always Dream BIG" and don't compromise!
Please note: Since writing this I've been informed that USAirways and American are the "one big happy family" not United and USAirways - okay, so my bad. It still changes little - United is doing their customer service out of India and I had a rep who didn't listen. USAirways doesn't answer their phone and since United did the ticketing the system still doesn't work when you're trying to get an issue resolved.
It’s Marketing Monday and most small businesses forget that great customer service is one of your very strongest marketing tools to build your brand. I can’t think of a better way than to share the incompetence of United and US Airways this past week as a great example of what NOT to do in your own business. They set a new standard in defining the word “clueless”.
Great customer service comes with a series of positive action items:
1) You hear what your customers say, but do you really listen?
My mother passed away and I was booking flights on United and US Airways. United was the lead carrier and handled the ticketing. Just like a sitcom about overseas customer service, I gave all the information to an agent based in India, who made some serious mistakes.
We were all set, but I hadn’t doubled checked the confirmation – my bad. Fortunately my wife did. India had booked us on the wrong day and on an outgoing flight we never talked about. I knew exactly what flight we needed and actually gave her the flight numbers!
Even more frustrating was asking to speak with an American on the second call. I wanted to make sure we avoided further problems and was told there was no other number I could call!
2) Discounts with Value.
I’m amazed that the best discount the airlines could do on a last minute bereavement airfare was only 5%. They did waive the $25 per person ticketing because I was calling in, but their website was so slow and difficult to navigate I really had no choice but to call. It's interesting that on the way back the US Airways crew, if I was willing to apply for their credit card, was willing to give me points and certificates for future discounts and companion tickets! But they could only do 5% against a $530 airfare on flights with open seats!
3) Give people a way to talk to you directly.
Try and find a phone number on the US Airways site to actually talk to a live body. It’s not easy. When you do finally find the number you’ve got a deal with a robotic system that just wants to give you more options.
4) Answer the phone when people call!
On our return flights they screwed up our seats. My Dad is 90 and hasn’t flown a lot. We wanted three seats together. I made three attempts to call US Airways over two days and after 30 minutes on hold each time just finally gave up.
5) Offer your customers “one stop shopping”.
US Airways and United are supposedly one big happy family, but United could NOT handle seat assignments on US Airways. That means a second phone call, which really is a moot point, since nobody answers the phone anyway.
6) Provide great service at all the different points of contact in your business - even if you're being represented by other vendors.
This is the most bizarre part of the fiasco. We needed a wheel chair for my Dad to get from the counter to the gate. We got out of the car and a skycap asked me if we needed help. He had a small flat bed cart and we were doing all carry-on so I said no and Sheila went inside to get a wheel chair.
The next thing that happened was the most absurd. Sheila got a chair and "Mr. Bonehead" took it away from her, and when I went to get it back he yelled at me, “You told me you don’t need any help!”
I went directly to the counter to get some assistance and utilized some of my very “best” vocabulary on this guy. I was wrong to mouth off, but this guy redefined the meaning of the word, "rude". Customer service is simply dead with this crew. Well, the story gets better…
We got our chair finally with the help of another skycap who was in tune with the challenge and most helpful, but as we walked by "Mr. Bonehead", Sheila mumbled to me, “What a jackass!”
He turned and actually said, “If you call me one more name, I’m taking you outside!” Seriously, writers in Hollywood couldn't make this stuff up! I’m really sorry she didn’t push it just a little more…I know my girl and she would have taken him in less than a minute! LOL
And that takes me to the last point…when you do get into a challenge with a customer, resolve the problem as quickly as possible and don’t be confrontational. Empathize with your client and build the trust – you’ll never win going head to head.
There are so many things United and US Airways could have done along the way to make the trip easier and you need to do the same with each client. A great experience brings people back. A bad experience not only turns them away, but gets them talking to other people about their bad experience. A few might even turn it into a blog post! Bad news always spreads faster than good news.
But I did come up with a new slogan for them, used not long ago by a good buddy of mine…
"We’re not happy until you’re unhappy!”
© IckeT - Fotolia.com
Dad, Mom and lots of great memories.
by Skip Cohen
I've been torn about posting very much about my mother passing away and the experience, but I've received so many wonderful thoughts from so many people that this post this morning is simply the right thing to do.
Mom's funeral was Friday in Cleveland and by Saturday night Sheila, Dad and I were home. Getting home brought back a lot of painful, but beautiful realities. While we were gone, Mom's caregivers got her hospital bed out of the apartment along with medications and all the reminders of the pain of the last few months.
What we were left with, when Dad walked in, was the ability to think back to the good times. There were and will continue to be plenty of tears, but at the same time, there are those wonderful bitter sweet moments where we're sad at the loss, but can't help but smile over all the memories and the amazing life my folks have had.
Dad is 90 and Mom was 87. Their wedding anniversary is the end of this month, making it 66 years. She passed away on June 10, her parent's anniversary. There was an incredible rainbow seconds after she passed away.
Of all the condolence cards and comments we've received, nobody put it better than our daughter-in-law, Carole, who expressing both her and Brian's thoughts wrote...
"May time accomplish what no words can do and may God be with you at this time of loss."
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers. Your support and friendship mean so much to us. Like I said, "I get by with a LOT of help from my friends!"
NOTE: Skip Cohen's mother died this week so the blog will be down a few days in her honor. And instead, I post the poem "In Memoriam," by Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Skip had a great relationship with his mother, and while I never had the honor of meeting her, she sounded like a great woman.
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.
Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.
Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.
We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.
Forgive what seem'd my sin in me;
What seem'd my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
Most of you have already been to at least one convention or workshop this year, but there's a great moment in one of my all time favorite movies, City Slickers. (Definitely go rent it this weekend - you'll pick up a few great laughs and even a few great lessons in life!) Think about Curley's "just one thing" as it applies to your quest to build your skill set.
Try his sage advice and see if it makes sense:
So, here's the segway - at every convention or workshop you go to you have an opportunity to attend dozens of different programs. At every program you're bombarded with new ideas. Unfortunately, most of us are alike when we hit information overload. We take lots of notes, we collect various brochures and we store lots of great ideas in a random collection of brain cells - then, we get home and file them away, often not pulling them out until something triggers a flashback days, weeks, months or even years down the line.
Think about how many notes you've taken in various programs, but never did anything with! You wrote them down and then life got in the way.
So, at the next convention you attend. or better yet, at the upcoming Summer Session of SCU, why not try something new? Walk into each program looking for just one thing you can implement. Take all the notes you want, but focus on finding that one lead thing to learn that will change the way you photograph or market yourself, images and services. With each speaker you're looking for just one thing that gets you excited about changing a specific aspect of your business.
"What's the one thing?...that's what you have to figure out!"
Scott Bourne ran this post a long time ago and I ran it on the PhotoResource blog, but I came across it recently and just started laughing again.
Well, that got me thinking about whether or not Scott had covered it all. So, I added more signs of my own and it was just too easy! Enjoy it for the laughs and if you ever find yourself hitting any one of the signs we've listed, get yourself to a decent workshop ASAP...like SCU! (Come on, you'd be disappointed in me if I didn't plug one of the best workshops out there! LOL)
Feel free to send your own additions to the list and we'll make it an ongoing project.
by Scott Bourne
(With a hat tip to Jeff Foxworthy!)
You might be a bad photographer if:
1. You think that merely owning a Leica means your images will hang in a museum.
2. You know nothing about and care nothing about your subject.
3. You need to get drunk or stoned before you think making pictures is fun.
4. You think that paying extra for the “PRO” account on Flickr makes you a professional photographer.
5. You spend more time explaining your photographs than you do making them.
6. You think that picking up your camera once a year during a national holiday means you’re avoiding getting rusty.
7. You spend more time on camera forums belittling other people’s photographs than you do trying to figure out how to make your own better.
8. You spend ANY time complaining that your pictures don’t get enough LIKES on Facebook or Flickr.
9. You’re more interested in making photographs that cause the cool kids to promote you on Google+ than you are telling stories with your camera that matter to your subjects.
10. You think that pixel-peeping and measure-beating will cause you to be a successful and famous artist – or – to get that girl you met in college to like you.
Well, those were Scott's, but I want to add a few of my own...
11. You're too tired and hungover at any of the big conventions to make the workshop programs you signed up for, so you spend the day in bed.
12. Your website galleries have way too many images that are no better than what "Uncle Harry" could shoot.
13. You've spent too much time talking about your camera gear instead of showing you know how to use it.
14. Your holiday cards were bought at CVS rather than created with your own images.
15. Your portfolio is loaded with images from workshops where you stood right behind the instructor during a hands-on shooting session.
Okay, I'm having too much fun with this, but here's the thing that's so cool. If you're reading this blog you're more than likely not even close to being in the category of a bad photographer. You might lack the experience to create amazing images, but taking the time to read everything you can, says you're doing the things you need to do to grow. Passion will always trump complacency and welcome to the photography industry - you've got passion! Which all boils down to your commitment to grow your skill set.
"The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step."
Jim Collins, Business Author