Image copyright Gareth Rockliffe. All rights reserved.
When I started this series, I underestimated the variety of backstories the artists would share about their favorite images. I also never thought about their wisdom and insight, or their passion for the craft with each click of the shutter.
Gareth Rockliffe is in the "Why?" spotlight today. He's a perfect example of what makes this industry so much fun: the friendships that come along because of our mutual love for everything under the imaging umbrella.
I met Gareth thanks to his submission of a slideshow he put together for a Photodex/SCU contest and won. Later we did a Photodex "Building Your Business" segment and shared Gareth's video trailer for his "Great American Coastline" project. He's a remarkable artist who makes it very clear, with every image he captures, "photography isn't just a job, it's a way of life."
Visit Gareth's website with just a click on the image above. He's an artist who needs to be on your radar!
Lately I've been writing a lot about the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft, and it's kind of ironic that the more I write, the more cool things I read about.
This morning I started my usual routine. I checked email, set up Twitter and then hit Facebook. On my Facebook feed was a posting from a great friend, Dixie Dixon. She shared her excitement over the pre-publishing notice of her new book. Turning to another page on FB, was a notice that today's her birthday.
I first met Dixie when she won the WPPI Hy Sheanin Scholarship and was just starting her career. Just a few months ago she shared an image on "Why?" followed by her Tiny Talk video from Profoto USA. She never slows down and is proof that hyper-active kids grow up and have careers! LOL
Her new book, with the foreword by Kathy Ireland, is scheduled to be released in November and is available to order in advance on Amazon. If you don't know Dixie, click on either of the links above for an introduction.
But the fun of June 29 doesn't stop there. While I know it's considered inappropriate to get personal in a business blog, I'm heading there anyway!
Today would be my parent's wedding anniversary. It's also special because Sheila and I got married seven years ago today as well. Our wedding was on the back porch of our home in Akron at 7:30 am with Molly the Wonder Dog and God as our witnesses.
When Sheila and I picked the date seven years ago we felt it would be good karma to join Mom and Dad on their special date. My parents were very important to both of us, and even with Mom's Alzheimer's we managed to create a few wonderful memories on today's date.
Then, wandering through Facebook and hitting birthdays, it's Lee Varis' birthday. Lee and Bobbi Lane were just here for the weekend in Sarasota a couple of months ago, when Bobbi grabbed the shot at the right.
And once again, there's that photo industry connection - a great friendship all coming out of our mutual love for imaging. Lee's also done an episode of "Why?" with a phenomenal image.
June 29 is simply starting out to be a pretty amazing day, but in all honesty, if you've followed me for even a short time, it's the way every day seems to start. This industry isn't just about imaging and technology, it's about great friendships, new projects and a whole bunch of us who simply love what we do!
As sappy as it sounds, Confucius is credited for the following wisdom:
"Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life!"
So to my wonderful partner, wife and best friend, Sheila - Happy Anniversary. And while a blog post is hardly the most logical place to share a personal moment - since it's 6:45 am and you're still asleep, it's the best way to start the day. Sure do love ya!
To two of my most fun friends, Dixie and Lee - Happy Birthday! It's a kick to have you in our lives. Just wish we could catch up more often!
Last but not least - to Dixie - congrats on the new book. Writing a book takes an amazing amount of focus and commitment. I'm so proud to have been hanging out with you over the years and been a tiny part of your journey!
And to all of you my readers - thanks for being a part of my life. Happy June 29!
Image copyright Don Komarechka. All rights reserved.
Welcome to the second episode of "The Creative Envelope."
The inspiration behind this podcast is based on Don Komarechka and I looking for new ways to help you raise the bar on your images, business, marketing and essentially any topic that comes along under the professional photographer/artist umbrella.
Don and I have worked on a number of different projects together over the years and the depth of our phone conversations are almost epic. I'm fascinated by his insight into the industry and especially his mad-scientist approach to macro photography. His enthusiasm never slows down as he not only often breaks the rules of imaging, but openly shares new ways to push the creative envelope. This week's image above is a prime example.
Don's images are remarkable and we thought it would be fun to start each episode in the future with one of his images together with a behind the scenes shot and an explanation of the technique. Like all of the images he shares there's never a compromise on the quality. Plus, he's always experimenting and stepping into new territory in capturing each vision in his mind's eye.
Interested in seeing more of his work? Just click on the featured image above to link to his website.
In This Episode - Tips on Publishing Your Own Book
In the weeks ahead we're going to do our very best to combine the passion we share for the industry with topics on marketing, business, technique, social media and anything else that comes along. And, if you've got a specific topic you'd like to see us explore let us know here in the comment section or email either of us in the addresses we share at the end of each podcast.
Welcome to The Creative Envelope!
by Skip Cohen
I'm hoping after yesterday's post, at least a few of you found the time to think through your strategy about your blog. With every word you write think about your target audience. It's so important to see the world through their eyes.
The great thing about a blog is your ability to fine tune your style, the content and your approach to opening your heart. Let's keep expanding the list from yesterday.
Stay relevant: It's at the top of the list, and the best way to demonstrate the point is with an easy to understand example. Several years ago I was looking at the blog of a young photographer and read a post about an evening out with the girls the night before. Their favorite band was in town. They had a terrific time hanging out with the band, partying and doing shots all night long. She wrote about the evening in a blog post. The images posted looked like a party from the movie Animal House. It was pretty entertaining, except for one thing...
She was working to build her reputation in the community as a family and children's photographer. Sadly her post is the last thing "Mom" would want to read, especially if she's trying to make the decision for a family sitting. The photographer had an "R" rated post when her audience was looking for "G" rated.
It all goes back to your strategy. If sharing your politics and lifestyle to the world is important then build a personal blog. Your business blog is about reaching your clients and target audience. You need to give them what they want to read and remember:
"The Internet has no eraser!"
Images of your clients: There's nothing wrong with featuring a customer now and then on your blog, but when you do it for every client it becomes a popularity contest, and you get caught in what I call "riptide marketing." As your business grows, you'll eventually reach a point where you have to feature their images to avoid insulting them. Use client images sparingly and try to use them to make a point. For example, using an image to talk about matching outfits, the time of the day or a particular technique used to create a special effect is the perfect use.
Less is more: It goes with client images most of the time, but whatever the topic of a blog post, you don't need to show every photograph taken at the sitting, the event or to demonstrate a point. One to three images is plenty to tie in with a blog post.
Be interesting: Not every post is going to be a potential New York Times best seller, but they need to be interesting to read. Now and then I read a blog post that could put a rock to sleep. Try and keep your blog posts short, to the point and fun to read. Before you publish, have somebody else read your post and then read it out loud a few times yourself.
Build your stash: Not every post has to be written fresh in the last twenty-four hours. Build a stash of posts so when you're stressed for time and can't keep up with the consistency of twice a week, you've got something in the pipeline to draw from. Remember, one of your primary goals is consistency. You need fresh material at least twice a week.
"But what do I write about to build my stash?" There's so much for photographers to write about. Be helpful. Give your readers pointers on taking better pictures. They're consumers and know very little about photography. How about some of your favorite places to shoot around your community? Sharing information about key events coming up in the community is always appreciated. How about gallery openings that might feature some of your favorite photographers or artists? Announcements and details of upcoming fund-raising events are always winners. Tips on better holiday pictures are always good. Advice on things to check when you're hiring a photographer is a great topic, obviously making sure you meet all the requirements you suggest they check.
Every post you write doesn't have to be earthshaking, but it should add something to the lives of your readership. For example, my buddy, Jared M Burns, who I met at Skip's Summer School many years ago, brings the community into his blog a lot. He regularly publishes information about events going on in the area related to photography and the arts. He's shared tips on taking better pictures targeting a more consumer audience. He's even done stories about cultural differences to appeal to different client targets.
Encourage interaction: I've already talked about the interaction you gain by allowing comments, but you can also use posts for calls to action related to different topics. Just something as simple as, "I'm looking forward to this weekend's Breast Cancer Walk. How many of you are going?" You're doing three things with a statement like that, telling people you're going to be there; encouraging them to join you and showing support for the event and sponsoring association.
Provide links: Blogs are perfect for providing links to other events, people, retailers, etc. but don't get carried away. No more than 2-3 links is pretty much considered the maximum to stay effective. In the publicity community, they suggest one link per 100 words in a press release. Just don't overdo it.
Bring in guests: Guest posts are a fun add-on to your content. It's not something I'd do right out of the blocks, but having a guest post now and then from somebody in your network can be interesting to your readership. For example, let's assume you're a wedding photographer. Having a guest post from a florist on centerpiece ideas could be a terrific addition. A travel agent in your community could bring the same results - an interesting story about planning your honeymoon and at the same time a new partner in expanding your reach. Think about the potential for guest posts to be reciprocal and share your abilities with other sites as well. Cross-promoting with that same travel agent gives each of you an added benefit to working together.
Don't worry about the numbers: I wish I could take credit for this one, but it's great advice from my buddy Scott Bourne who's been instrumental in helping me understand social media over the years. Your numbers will come with consistency and patience. Just keep delivering great content, and your readership will build.
Be careful about selling and stay informative: Your blog isn't about direct selling, and I found a quote that says it all:
Selling to people through social media is like going to a party,
meeting somebody for the first time, and then saying,
‘Hey, do you want to buy this Tupperware?’”
Your blog is just one aspect of social media along with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and the list goes on an on. However, it's the cornerstone of your business and today, if done right, can be as important as your website!
Just like your images though, don't compromise on the quality of anything you post!
Image copyright Thomas Roesner. All rights reserved.
The most fun of this industry is about friendships and the artists we meet along our journey. I shared the image below a few years back from Thomas Roesner, who I met at ShutterFest. Most of you would consider it sort of a grab shot, but Thomas doesn't do just grab shots. It's that extra effort and fine-tuning that goes into his images and the end result becomes art.
This image has become a personal favorite. It marked the start of a great friendship with Craig LaMere, who until that moment three conventions ago, I had never met. Check out the "Why?" I recorded with Craig this past February.
Over the weekend I was on Facebook and caught up to Thomas' other half, Marissa. I notice the portrait above of their son, Sequoyah, and asked for permission to feature it here.
I loved the mood of the shot, the lighting and the fact that it was black and white. It's got such a great feel to it and deserved to be shared in a spotlight post.
Thomas sent me the image and what he wrote is as strong as the portrait itself!
A week before this shoot I had began to realize that my son was growing way too fast and I needed to capture that precious time more fervently. I started thinking of the shoot and soon had in mind his outfit and the location. Then, one afternoon, I picked him up after work and we began shooting. Since that day I have been thinking of other shoots involving his likes and personality. I love being able to document my son this way and being able to fill my house with his images helps him see that he too is the center of my universe.
You might not know Thomas Roesner now, but stay tuned. I'm convinced he's an artist we're all going to be following in the future.
“Don’t focus on having a great blog.
Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”
While you can be in business today without a blog, there's no question that a good website combined with the power of an interesting blog is going to help you build a stronger brand, accelerate your marketing, and in general build a more consistent business.
Your website is your retail store and represents what you sell, but your blog allows you to open your heart. Your blog, if it's done right, allows you to enhance the message you're trying to convey on your site.
The challenge today is with so many of you thinking you needed a blog and launched a perpetual disaster in building your business. Instead of helping your business, you're essentially tearing it down with inconsistent postings and often irrelevant/inappropriate topics. Your blog is feeding your ego instead of your client base.
The good news is there's time to change what you're doing and develop some great content, but it takes patience and a strategy.
Your Blog Strategy: So many photographers have a blog where they post random thoughts at even more random intervals. You need to think through what you want to present. Start with this tip I got from a terrific marketing consultant, Ed Foreman, many years ago:
"If I can see the world through my client's eyes, then I can sell my client, what my client buys!"
You have to think like your target audience and literally, work to see the world through their eyes. Recognize what's important to your readership. Provide them with helpful, interesting information. They're also looking for more details about you, not the technical things, but how you think. Do you have the same values they do? Can they trust you to capture the images and memories they want to savor?
You have to decide what your message is going to be. My recommendation is to make sure the message on your site is appropriate to your target audience. If you're looking to reach wedding clients, then write about relevant topics to that audience. You won't hook a bridal client by showing landscape or commercial product shots and writing a post about how you got the images.
In the same respect, if your target is the business community and you're looking to build a commercial reputation, showing wedding shots or children/family portraiture and talking about a family you photographed last weekend will send potential commercial clients running from your site!
Ask yourself the following questions:
The next step is being consistent with the answers to those questions above. It's okay to stray off topic now and then, but be careful. The key issue is staying relevant to your audience.
Here's a list of blogging tips bouncing around in my head.
Consistency: You've got to post on a regular basis. Personally, I believe photographers should post at least twice a week or more. If you can't post twice a week, then put your blog on hold until you've built up a stash of content.
Post Length: Most of the experts seem to agree a blog post should be somewhere between 200-500 words, but I've also seen them go much higher. You can go longer, but it depends on your following and the relevance of the topic.
When to post: Listen to the "experts," and you can find whatever answer you want. While most people agree that weekends followed by Monday and Fridays are slow, we're in the photography business. I've had some Mondays that were record-breakers because so many studios are closed, and photographers are catching up on their reading. Remember everything should relate to your target audience. My preference for photographers posting to their target audience, assuming it's consumer based, is to suggest Tuesdays and Thursdays for new posts.
Images: Always include a relevant image or illustration with every post - it makes it more interesting.
Being a writer: Most of you are artists and typically not good writers. Many of you have told me how much you hate to write, yet you've got a blog. So, if you're going to do a blog then don't be afraid to get some help from a friend, associate or family member. They can proofread for you and help you avoid plenty of silly mistakes.
No matter who helps you, always read your post out loud one more time before letting it go live. And, check out Grammarly. I use it all the time, and while it doesn't always catch everything, it helps make whatever I'm posting better to read.
Also, if you hate writing, then it's time to visit the local high school. Talk with an English teacher and see about an "A" student who might like to work for you part time. Even better, you might find the teacher interested.
Allow comments: Sadly we live in a world with trolls and spammers, so while I'm saying to allow comments, you need to screen them before posting. Every comment doesn't have to agree with you, but everybody does have to at least "play nice." Check your comments every day.
There's too much information for one post on blogging tips, so we'll hit part two tomorrow.
In the meantime pay attention to those four questions up top. You've got to think through your strategy and make sure you understand the importance of your blog so you can maximize your effectiveness. Having a blog is a big commitment.
If you go into building your blog with a half-ass attitude you won't get the traffic you'd like and eventually it'll hurt your business! Your blog should show your personality and needs to represent who you are versus your site describing/listing what you sell.
“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics:
more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive.
It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”
It's Sunday morning and as usual, once the sun comes up whatever sleep I still need is put on the back-burner. Whatever happened to those days when I was younger and could easily sleep until noon?
As I sat down to write Sunday Morning Reflections, next to my computer were three small prints (one of them above) from our friends Russell and Angela Grace. They were gifts that came with the return of my Hasselblad X-Pan I loaned Russell. At that time I shared a post about their fine art business and Russell's infrared photography.
So, that got me thinking about a statement I've shared over and over again:
"The best part of this industry has nothing to do with photography,
but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft!"
This week was pretty remarkable when it came to kicking off new friendships and sustaining old ones.
I was on my way home from a board meeting at a non-profit I'm active with here in Sarasota. I was listening to Classic Rock and the Steve Miller Band was on. I heard the lyrics, "...I really love your peaches, want to shake your tree!" Well, being the crazy fun-loving husband I am, I texted those words to my wife, Sheila, letting her know I was on my way home. Well, the response came from Steve, "I'm not sure you meant this for me!" My last text to Steve was in my phone's history right next to Sheila's. Oops!
This blog post is too small a window to list everybody who had an impact on my life this week, but the snipets above represent what I cherish most about our industry, the friendships. Friendships are the foundation of, as sappy as it might sound, why I feel so blessed to have this career.
I might work solo out of my home office, but thanks to the Internet and the phone, my days are filled with great friends, new ideas and one adventure after another. And on that note - it's time to wish everyone my traditional eleven-second make it a great Sunday hug. If you're tuning in late, according to an article I read years ago, hugs lasting eleven seconds are therapeutic - so make them longer and enjoy them!
Most important of all - let those special friends in your life know how important they are to you. Life is too short to not share the love you have for them.
Happy Sunday everybody and thanks for being in my life!
Family isn't always blood.
It's the people in your life who want you in theirs;
the ones who accept you for who you are.
The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you, no matter what.
Image copyright Dan White. All rights reserved.
"Why?" is all about great artists, their favorite images and the backstories that go with each photograph. And, sometimes there's an even bigger story behind the portrait itself.
Dan White is a Pulitzer Prize winning artist, best know for his commercial and editorial work. Today he's in the "Why?" spotlight with more than just a story about a photograph. This is a backstory behind a passion-defining project for his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
So many artists over the years have talked about the importance of special projects to help you stay focused on your creativity and love for the craft. With Dan, this unique project goes all the way back to his roots as a kid growing up in the Flint community. Click on the image above to watch Dan's Kickstarter video on the project and learn more about his background and why this portrayal of the spirit of the people of Flint is so important.
To see more of Dan's work his website is just a click away. His images are stunning, and I'm sure you'll notice the same thing I did - this is an artist who truly loves the craft!
The two images above have literally lived in a shoe box for a whole lot of years and taken a beating. That's me around age two with my great grandparents. In fact, so far it's the only picture I've found of me with them and it couldn't be a bigger mess in the quality.
The image below is also me, I'm guessing around six months old with my Dad. I've shared it before - what makes it even more fun for me is what's on the back. I must have been mad at Dad for something and written in crayola, where it says "Ralph and Skip" on the back, I crossed out Skip and put in my sister's name. Dad and I laughed about it for years and neither of us could remember what the great battle was about! LOL
Everybody has old photographs stashed away, including your clients. They represent some great memories, but only if you can share them as relatively decent images. Most of you know my reputation as the low-tech poster child of the industry. I don't spend a lot of time on image manipulation and I need the easiest possible fix when trying to clean up something like these old photographs.
Rick Voight recently asked me, "What if you could restore the color (B&W, sepia) IN SECONDS?" Then he gave me a demo of Vivid-Pix RESTORE software.
I first met Rick, now CEO of Vivid-Pix years ago when he was with Kodak and I was with Hasselblad – so you know how long ago that must have been. We caught up to each other at Imaging USA last year where he introduced me to his amazing software. Rick, and his business partner Randy, leveraged insights from their patented Vivid-Pix LAND & SEA software (fixes land and underwater photos) and decided to create RESTORE to fix old photos (patent pending).
Here's what I appreciate about Vivid-Pix - It makes “fixing pics” fast and easy. And, once you've picked the restored image you like the best, you can save it or further fine-tune for color, B&W or sepia with easy-to-use sliders! It's an easy no-brainer approach taking up minimal time.
It's only available for PC at this time, but worth checking out. Try it for yourself.
They have a Free Trial: CLICK HERE
Wishing everybody a terrific Throwback Thursday! Remember to use your old images as a marketing tool reminding all those moms out there how fast time goes by and how much their family is changing every day!
Images copyright Jennifer Smith. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Even though boudoir photography, over the last few years, has become one of the fastest growing specialties, we've never had a post about the topic, and it's long overdue. From my perspective, one of the biggest challenges is building the relationship with the client and establishing a fundamental level of trust with the subject.
Meet a new buddy, Jenn Smith. We haven't known each other very long, but we do share a number of mutual friends. She couldn't be easier to work with. However, there's something else I noticed in our first phone conversation, her communication skills. Jenn's enthusiasm and passion for the craft was obvious from the very beginning. She couldn't have been easier to talk to about the topic and what she was going to write about.
The backstory on how we met goes back to Erin Zahradka of AIBP (Association of International Boudoir Photographers.) Erin is no stranger to SCU and did a fantastic guest post about her photo day camp for kids several years ago. Erin wanted to know if I had an interest in building content about boudoir at SCU and my answer was obviously "YES!" She put the word out on the AIBP Facebook forum, and Jenn was the first artist to respond.
Well, here we are a week later with Jenn's first guest post and the topic couldn't be more on target. Interested in seeing more of her work? Just click on either image to link to her website.
by Jenn Smith
The art of getting people naked, and taking gorgeous images of them, is not for the faint of heart. To be a successful boudoir photographer you have to not only read people, but build a deep level of trust with them. How? Here are my insider tips to building genuine and lasting relationships with your boudoir clients.
1. Set Expectations and Be a Trusted Guide Remember the last time a business or person let you down? As business owners, it’s our responsibility to set proper expectations and follow through on them. A great way to do this is to have in-person consultations with each client. When I book a client I always walk them through the entire experience, step-by-step, so they know exactly what to expect from their shoot.
Throughout this experience your clients are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position. They’re trusting you. In return for their trust, you need to confidently be their guide. Continue to tell them everything that will happen, even if you already explained it during their first consultation. The more they know, and feel confident about your expertise, the more comfortable everyone will feel. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Know Your Shit When a client arrives, you should know exactly what’s going on. You shouldn’t be checking a posing guide or Pinterest, or messing around with your gear. Of course, I always take moments to pause and think, and to take test shots, but during these times I always let the client know what’s going on. Your goal is to make your client feel completely confident about your knowledge.
3. Be Genuine When it comes down to it, the client is hiring you, as much as they’re hiring your work. So be your genuine self! If you’re trying to fake your way to your client’s heart, believe me, they’ll know.
4. Be Empathetic and a Good Listener We do this every day, but our client’s don’t. It is important to be a good listener and show empathy. Recognize their fears and anxiety if they verbalize them. Let them know that it is totally normal to be nervous and their images will be totally gorgeous despite their nerves!
5. Have Many Touchpoints I have 15-20 touchpoints with my clients from booking, to the time their products are delivered. I use a client relationship management software to help me accomplish this. It allows me to set email workflows with the click of a button. This helps my clients feel remembered and valued. I also make sure to respond as quickly as possible to text messages, calls or emails. My goal is to make each client feel like they are the most important part of my day.
Building relationships with clients starts the moment they set up a consultation, and extends past the photo shoot. You’re setting yourself up for success when you take the time to invest in building relationships with your clients. Successful relationship building not only leads to word of mouth referrals but clients who will return for your work time after time.
Model: Beth Claire https://www.facebook.com/bethclairemodel/?pnref=lhc
Makeup artist: Miranda Richards mirandarichardsartistry.com
From home cinema systems to camera gear, scuba, skiing, golf and clothing, we understand the concept of accessorizing. So, why not accessorize your sales with your clients? Create added value instead of just discounting!
Every business today has at some point felt the pressure of competition. Let's use Macy's as an example. There’s never a day when something in the store isn’t on sale. And, if you miss the sale, they’ll price protect if you kept your receipt. Going in another direction, a local furniture store, going back to our Ohio days, did a new promotion every six weeks and left consumers often wondering , “Did I really get the best deal?”
Many photographers are no different and too often they're cutting prices to get the event. They're reducing prices to almost impossible-to-make-a-profit levels in order to beat the competition. If your prices are going so low you can barely afford to feed your family, then it’s time to change your business model. It will NEVER work!
My good buddy Sal Cincotta is quoted as saying, "Nothing can screw up your business model more than bad pricing!" Even better listen to his advice directly in the archived YouTube video from six years ago. I've shared it before, but his topic is so relevant and it's worth sharing again below.
In the mid 80’s Polaroid introduced the Spectra line. It was the first Polaroid camera that came with a full line of accessories, including Cokin filters, wireless remotes, camera bags, a table top tripod, mini-albums etc. It wasn’t just a camera, it was a system. The system concept was based on studies that showed consumers were more likely to get excited and support a product if there was more to it than just a basic camera. The more “toys” to add to the collection, the greater the enthusiasm.
So, what are you doing to sell your clients a complete “system”? What are you doing to hook them on your skill set and get them excited about the other products/services you might add. You've got so much more to build on when you create greater value, rather than trimming down your coverage to keep in line with a lower price point.
There’s so much for you to choose from when it comes to added value:
This is a fraction of what you have to offer. Remember your primary goal is to exceed client expectations and make working with you habit-forming! Learning to accessorize each client's experience really doesn't have to be much more complicated than the kid behind the counter at McDonald's asking, "You want fries with that?
It couldn't be a more typical Sunday morning, with one exception. Ever wake up laughing? I have no idea what my last dream of the night was but I got up this morning with a chuckle and no idea what got it started. All I know is that I woke up and wanted to share something completely different for a Sunday Morning Reflections post.
And, since it's Father's Day and I'm a Dad, why not push the creative envelope with something a little different? So, here it is - my debut as a songwriter! Let's set the stage:
I'm not sure when or why it happened, but I got into country music. It's bizarre that it happened over the last few years. Why not when I managed a rodeo team for Polaroid back in the 80's? From events in Fort Worth to Cheyenne, twice a month I was at PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association) events, but never got into the music that went with the experience. Well, here I am years later with Sirius radio and "The Highway" is always on.
Stay with me, because there's a link...
We were heading to St. Louis a couple of months ago for ShutterFest and one of my favorite songs, by the Brothers Osborne, "It Ain't My Fault" was playing over and over again in my head. So, I decided to write my own lyrics - just for photographers.
It's especially dedicated to those artists who like to take shortcuts and when something isn't right, find somebody else to blame. If only there really was a "Blame Remover" you could just spray over a mediocre print or album!
Well, the only blame remover out there is your skill set. Your clients deserve the very best, but for the moment, it's too much fun not to laugh at the situation.
I doubt that I'll ever win a Grammy, but we laughed the whole trip. Sheila and I had aisle seats across from each other and every time I wrote another line, I'd lean across the row and sing it to her! And yes, I did share it with my class at ShuterFest, reminding anybody who filmed it, I did NOT give permission for its release.
And that brings me full circle to wishing all you Dads out there a terrific Father's Day. Take the time to hug somebody special in your life or better yet - kick back and appreciate the hugs they give you! Wishing you all a terrific day and one filled with peace, love and plenty of chuckles!
Happy Sunday and Happy Father's Day!
PS Just in case you don't know the real version of the "It Ain't My Fault" with a little help from YouTube it's below.
Blame the print on the camera.
Blame the camera on the print.
Blame the know it all videographer who wouldn't take a hint.
Blame the bride for the groom.
Blame the groom for the bride.
Blame the lab for the prints that made you want to hide.
But it ain't my fault!
Blame your lack of cash on the cost of the gear.
Blame all the blurry pictures 'cause the focus wasn't clear.
Tell all your clients don't believe what they heard.
Don't forget with crappy pictures, you can't buff a turd!
But it ain't my fault.
I need more cash flow.
Don't need no skill set.
I got some great gear,
don't know how to use it yet
Just need a little help....and my work will shine!
Image copyright Jonathan Thorpe. All rights reserved.
I started this series a little over a year ago with one purpose, to introduce you to some of the leaders in imaging, but I underestimated the power of the backstories they'd share about their favorite photographs.
Jonathan Thorpe is in the "Why?" spotlight today. He's a perfect example of one of the things I love most about this industry - the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft.
I first met Jonathan through Tamron USA many years ago. He's one of Tamron's Image Masters and an incredibly talented artist. Although he's best known for his commercial/advertising work, there's nothing he can't photograph. One of his signatures is the way each image tells a story. When you listen to Jonathan's on this episode you'll understand why it's one of his most favorites!
Check out more of Jonathan's images with a click on the image above. And, follow Jonathan along with the rest of the Image Masters team. They're a diverse and talented group of artists who never compromise on the quality of an image or for that matter their dedication to the industry!
Intro by Skip Cohen
I don't usually repost other photographer's content, but every now and then somebody shares a piece of wisdom so valuable it needs to be shared and read by as many people as possible.
The post below was shared by JB Sallee earlier today and it couldn't be more appropriate advice, regardless of whether you're a rookie or a seasoned veteran. It's also irrelevant what your business is - JB's comments apply to any business owner.
I first met JB and DeEtte when JB won the Hy Sheanin Scholarship at WPPI fourteen years ago. Since that very first meeting there's never been a minute where I wasn't proud to call them friends. But the true fun of watching them over the years has been in the transformation from two "kids" with a dream to accomplished artists, then educators and while they grew professionally, they became pretty amazing parents.
As I've written numerous times before - the best part of this industry has nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft!
Happy Anniversary as professional photographers JB and DeEtte - the industry is stronger thanks to the path the two of you chose and I'm so proud to have been a very tiny piece of your journey!
This year we enter our 15th year as professional photographers. In those 15 years we have been through our up's and down's but a few things have kept us going and I wanted to share those with you...
1. Find a best friend to split the workload with. Thank you DeEtte for being a partner in life and a partner in this crazy business. Bouncing ideas back and forth has been my favorite part of our path together in this industry.
2. Keep your chin down, work hard and be kind to others. You never know when someone you were nice to in the past will pave your way in the future.
3. Don't listen to the critics, not everyone is going to like you. Brush it aside and be grateful for the 99.9% out there that do like you.
4. NEVER use others as stepping stones. You will get ahead faster in life if you are kind.
5. Others WILL use you as a stepping stone. Don't fight it, it is inevitable BUT remember this... Karma is a bitch! ;)
Be kind, love others and give more compliments than you think are necessary. That one extra compliment may pave the way for someone else.
by JB Sallee
I found a quote recently from the great military strategist, SunTzu, but I modified it just a little. The word "enemies" has been replaced with "competitors"...
It is said that if you know your competitors and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your competitors but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your competitors nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
The Art of War is primarily attributed to Sun Tzu, but what if he had written The Art of Business?
If you know yourself but not your competitors, "you'll win one and lose one." So, doesn't it make sense to get to know your competitors?
If you don't know yourself or your competitors you're doomed to "be imperiled in every single battle." Here's where so many of you drop the ball; It might sound stupid, but you don't know yourself either!
You've taken short cuts to get your site out there, but your site is hard to navigate and loaded with mediocre images. You figured when it came to your galleries the more images, the more professional you'd look.
You're disappointed in the results of your promotions, but you spent a minimal amount of time thinking them through.
You call yourself a professional, but your skill set is weak - best example - you've declared yourself a natural light specialist, claiming you love natural light when the reality is you're afraid of studio lighting because you haven't taken the time to understand it. (Check out today's post from Profoto with a 3 minute lesson in lighting from Sandy Puc!)
I don't mean to be insulting, just hoping a few of you realize some of the things dragging you down. The best part of this is everything is fixable - but it takes a commitment!
Business today is tough enough with just the challenges of the economy, technology and keeping up with consumer trends. Pay attention to that face you see in the mirror every morning. Ask yourself if you're giving that person, the one looking back at you, the tools they need to be successful.
Most important of all, pay attention to your weaknesses and balance them with your strengths. Nothing could be truer than one of Shakespeare's most famous quotes:
To thine own self be true!
After a week out of commission, I was saving this post for tomorrow, but it's sort of the perfect topic for many of you to think about on a Sunday morning. Don't get caught off-guard - it takes so little effort to have a "what-if" plan.
Happy Sunday - wishing everybody a day of peace and time with the people most important in your life! And, don't forget those eleven-second hugs - they're the best when you're working on new ideas and planning.
"Consider This," is all about things you need to think about in your business and your life. I want to share ideas to help you learn from my mistakes so you can make new ones of your own!
by Skip Cohen
Over my career and my adult life, or at least the time when I was supposed to act like an adult, I've made more than my fair share of mistakes, but this past week has been a doozy and one I've even written about in the past. This is my first post in a week and here's why.
"Accidents only happen to other people. So all you other people, watch out!"
I remember seeing a billboard with that message at least twenty years ago and thinking about how true a statement it was. We all believe we're insulated from many of life's challenges. As we grow older, we think we're getting wiser, but so often it's just the opposite.
Here's the scenario - I'm currently battling the kidney stone from hell, which shut down my left kidney and put me in the hospital for a day. It's a 9mm little sucker that will eventually have to be laser-blasted to be removed. For those of you who are good friends or loyal followers - I'm sharing this as a lesson. I'm NOT looking for the sympathy vote. I'm feeling better, in good care and doing everything I'm supposed to be doing. Although a kidney stone is no fun, we all know people battling far more severe challenges.
But, here's the lesson. I've become too comfortable in the routine of my business and the things I do every day. I never anticipated any interruption. I blog post and tweet several times each day. I work with some amazing companies and have built a mountain of content, but when it came to my health - I had absolutely NO BACKUP plan.
I look back on the number of blog posts, articles for Shutter Magazine and workshops I've taught, and how many times I've talked about backup gear, support and the importance of a plan! Like the billboard I saw so many years ago - I honestly had become complacent enough to believe stuff like this would never happen to me!
So, here are some tips this morning, so you hopefully learn from my stupidity and save the time to create your own new challenges. All you have to do is be comfortable with your answers to these five questions:
No need for me to write more on the topic. In the same way, no professional photographer would ever head to an assignment with just one camera body and lens - put together a backup plan for your business. I'm not talking about the kind of Plan B that suggests failure, but a strategy to keep Plan A alive and well when life gets in the way!
It's so easy to do and will save you time and embarrassment when there's a serious change in plans outside your control!
Yesterday I caught up to good pal Matthew Jordan Smith at his workshop in Orlando. We've been friends for a whole lot of years, meeting in my early WPPI days. He's currently on the road with eight cities left to his almost two month tour.
During one segment of his hands-on workshop he was talking with the class about how you define success. Everyone has a their own definition, but the point he made was how important it is for you to be living your dream and not somebody else's.
I always go a little off track from business and marketing on Sunday mornings, so here's my point. Have you taken the time to think through your definition of success? I'm not talking about how you view other people, but the face looking back at you in the mirror. There is no right or wrong definition, but as you get older you'll notice it changes. It took me a long time to understand that happiness was the key to success.
A few years ago I did a podcast with Sandy Puc. She was very open about her revised definition of success and it wasn't about building her business, but about being happy. It's an incredible podcast and worth listening to, if you haven't heard it before.
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday. Don't forget to hit those eleven-second hugs with somebody special in your life. Make it a day of appreciating happiness, and if you're not happy then take the time to step back and figure out what's missing.