It's Friday, and as we head into the weekend the last month of summer is about to start. It's the perfect time to think about the potential for sales in the fall and your ability to take full advantage of the wonderful chaos that comes with an increase in business.
There's an old saying that goes something like this, "Nobody ever learned to sail on smooth seas!"
I realize it's pretty obvious and almost trite, but as we get closer to the last quarter of the year and the industry's only major seasonality, the perfect storm is headed your way. What are you doing to make the most of it?
It's an easy point to remember this morning, but requires time to strategize.
Just as you've got the greatest selection of creative tools to capture images in the history of photography, you've also got the greatest selection of ways to build your business and market yourself. Take the time to think through your goals for the rest of the year and then pull together the ingredients you need to bring it all together.
This is one of the toughest ones to share, but it sure makes the point about Throwback images.
The year is 2007. The year before Graphi Studio had an idea. Every year there would be four photographers chosen to document the WPPI event and put together an album of their images. What and who they photographed was left entirely up to them. The whole idea was to tell the story of the convention through their eyes. Essentially it was A Day in the Life of WPPI.
For the 2007 show the photographers chosen were Catherine Hall, Jim Garner, Calvin Hayes and Victor Sizemore. Graphi did the editing and put together two books, one for them and one for us. I just found one of the books recently, and it brought back so many memories along with a few tears.
The star in the image above is one of the industry's very best friends, Bill Hurter, who just passed away last month. Clowning around with him is another great friend of all of ours as well as Bill's, Cliff Mautner. It's a classic moment back in the days when the show was still at Bally's and the Paris hotels.
Throwback Thursday is all about memories - reliving them and sharing them. Don't miss the opportunity today. Take a few minutes to look through your collection of old images. Let the memories just flow and then think about what every image you capture means to each client.
Nobody can create the magic you can as a professional photographer. Recognize the value of your work and appreciate the trust society puts in you.
(Note: My apologies for the poor quality of the scan. It was from an album with metallic pages, and it was the best I could do - but that doesn't lessen the impact or the memory-making moment.)
Now and then there's a company that comes along that gives such amazing service they deserve to be talked about. Here's the short scenario that happened yesterday with Bed Bath & Beyond along with six points to help you bring your customer service to their level.
Sheila put a relatively new bedspread into the dryer with a Woolite dry cleaning sheet. She's done it a hundred times, and the pattern ran. I went on line found the same bedspread and ordered it for pick up at the store. We packaged up the damaged spread, pillows, etc. and took it back. I didn't have my receipt, but they were able to find it with my credit card number. I explained the problem and within five minutes left with the replacement. That was it - no hassle, no questions. I even asked if she wanted to see where the pattern was messed up. She smiled and simply said, "That's not necessary. Thanks for being a loyal customer."
Providing good Customer Service is one of your greatest elements in building a strong brand. Here are some of the keys to Bed Bath & Beyond's approach every business owner needs to incorporate into your customer relationships.
There they are - six points to help you raise the bar on your service. I know a client who's unhappy with their images isn't the same as a customer with a consumer item at retail. However, the basics of great service involve listening, resolving problems quickly and being pleasant about it.
Now, somebody tell me how to get every Comcast rep and their senior managers/executives to intern at Bed Bath & Beyond before they're allowed to talk with customers!
Last April approximately two thousand photographers attended the second annual ShutterFest. Along with dozens of platform programs, ShutterFest is developing an amazing reputation for hands-on classes and shooting. With an effort no more difficult than taking out a library book, you can "rent a human", borrow lights and shoot to your heart's content.
ShutterFest isn't just a conference it's a community. After some nice IM's from photographers in the Facebook Wedding Photographers forum after I ran some of their favorites in a post, I decided to put out the same request on the ShutterFest Facebook page.
The images below were chosen by the artists themselves and represent at least one of their favorites from the April conference.
Time flies when you're having a good time, and the 2016 conference will be here before you know it. Click on the banner above to find out all about the 2016 conference. Then, once you register get yourself into the ShutterFest FB group. It's a pretty amazing group of artists who all support each other.
By Stephanie Overstreet. Follow her on Facebook.
by Rick Law. Follow him on Facebook.
by Kristina Mccaleb. Follow her on Facebook.
by Jennifer Rutledge. Follow her on Facebook.
by Stephen B. Hoff. Follow him on Facebook.
by Matt Meiers. Follow him on Facebook.
by Jeff Poole. Follow him on Facebook.
It's worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success.
You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure.
The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive.
At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along.
It's a good idea to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you'll probably take a few.
Over the weekend the quote above got me thinking about a group of photographers I hung out with at the MAP Getaway last week along with Beverly and Tim Walden. These artists were business owners from all over the country. They were at the Getaway to specifically learn, exchange ideas and build a stronger strategy for success. They were doing what Bill Waterson said in his quote - cultivating resources.
During the three day event, Beverly and Tim Walden shared some outstanding ideas about how they've built their business. They couldn't have been more honest in sharing the challenges in building their business along with so many creative tools they've discovered along the way. They set the standard for being passionate about imaging and as successful as they both are individually and as a couple, they never stop learning and changing up their game. They're not marketing but building relationships with each client. They listen to their subjects; analyze what's being said and then passionately fulfill the artistic needs they've identified.
Bev and Tim's presentation style is a volley back and forth between technology, creativity, reality, humility and always the love for the craft. They practice what they preach and have built a remarkable reputation for quality, excellence and jaw-dropping images.
I called Tim over the weekend to ask him what he'd say to people who think they're an "overnight success". I loved his response:
People only see us on the back side - they don't see that it was a long, long time to build our business.. Making decisions can be quick, but the execution takes time. No decision is ever dead on - you have to steer in the water you're in. You have to stay passionate, diligent and alert.
Success isn't overnight, but it does appear when you least expect it. However, if you're out looking for it all the time, you'll never hear the bell ring when it shows up at your door.
Take a trip to the Walden's website and you'll see just what I mean. As I was looking for images to share to show their work, even though one image would have been enough to make the point, I couldn't pick just one. In fact, I know this is off the topic, but the images to the right and below are from their senior gallery.
They never compromise on the quality of any image, but more to the point of this morning's post, they never compromise on the quality of their relationships with their subjects. They understand the trust each client has in their ability as artists. They do everything they can to make sure they meet the mindset of everybody who's in front of their cameras!
So many of you spend so much time waiting for success just to drop in your lap and, especially in photography; it doesn't work that way. Stop looking for success, but stay focused on all the ingredients in your skill set and communication skills to get you there. Stay happy and enjoy the "detours" along with the scenery and people you're going to meet along the way.
Images copyright Walden's Photography. All rights reserved.
I woke up thinking about how much we take for granted as part of the photographic industry. We've all taken thousands of images. For many of you, having a camera close by at all times is as natural as having your driver's license in your wallet. As an artist, you look at the world a little differently than the rest of the world. You notice colors, shadows, highlights and geometric lines. You people-watch with a portrait in mind, always noticing how differently people look, their expressions and the lines on their face telling their story.
What got me to this topic this morning was spending a couple hours with my Dad last night. He's dealing with some health issues and at almost 93 things that most of us would never think about, he can't ignore. He was feeling a little anxious, and I had gone over just to help him focus. I had my laptop with me and in my files I had a few thousand images, mostly grab shots. For over an hour we just clicked through images.
I had images from DragonCon last year, fly-fishing with our son in Georgia, pictures from conventions, SPTV, ShutterFest, a Women's Club fashion show Sheila was in, my grandsons and a ton of landscapes and sunsets. It was pure entertainment as I took Dad through a couple of years of events and travel. Each image had a story to go with it, and each story helped Dad refocus.
Here's my point and it's all about what so many of you take for granted - the power of your images and the true importance of the trust people put in you every day. There are few things more important than the value of your skill set - helping people stop a moment in time. You take intangible memories and turn them into a product they can hold, cherish and relive over and over again.
Stop under-estimating your value and the importance of the career path you've chosen. Never compromise on the quality of an image. You never know how important it might become later on.
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday. Make it a day filled with memory making moments and as always, I hope you're going for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs. They'll never let you down.
Virtually every post I share, at least the ones I write directly, are about marketing. Just as many of you have your favorite subjects to photograph, I have my favorite marketing applications to talk about. Well, here's one this morning that I'm betting most of you don't know about, MAP.
The program was created by Marathon Press six years ago and this past week Sheila and I attended their MAP Getaway. MAP stands for Marketing Advantage Program, but it's so much more than just marketing in the way most of us use the word.
Essentially the program is an almost all inclusive coaching program to help you create buzz for your business. It starts with being assigned a personal facilitator who's going to set you up with a monthly conference call to discuss each aspect of your business, but that's only the basic minimum. Most of the MAP members I talked with speak with their facilitator 2-3 times a month.
I did a series of video interviews during the week with attendees, and many of them talked about how their facilitator keeps them focused. The facilitator calls them at the scheduled time each month or more often if necessary always following up on various tasks that need completion.
The best explanation of the program is the way so many members describe their relationship with Marathon's team. One member told me, "My facilitator is part of my staff. I don't have the time or discipline to stay on top of marketing and run my business. She keeps me on target."
I don't think there's another program like this in professional photography. Being in the MAP program involves a monthly fee that then gives you access to all of Marathon's creative team, plus substantial discounts on virtually all of Marathon's printed products. From your personal facilitator to design and creative talent to helping you with everything from business cards to promotional offers, brochures, and mailings, everything under the umbrella of marketing is covered.
I know this post today sounds like an infomercial, but if you know my reputation, you also know I don't write about anything I don't believe in. I've talked with so many of you who are struggling to stay on point with efforts to build your business. The MAP program gives you the support you need, but even better, it expands your staff so that no matter how big or small your business might be, you have a marketing department and a plan.
You wouldn't just jump into your car and drive across the country without a road map or GPS would you? Well, why you run your business without having a specific idea of where you wanted to go.
Check it out and call Marathon today, 800-228-0629. If nothing else, at least find out what you're missing and how MAP can help you raise the bar on your efficiency, brand awareness, reach, and profitability.
One of the fun things about Throwback Thursday is what you find when you go off in search of old photographs. Most of the throwback images I share are all prints, which over the years have wound up in shoe boxes and the back corners of dresser drawers. I've never been organized enough to put them in albums.
This one was in a box of old Hasselblad images, but I can’t figure out why. It’s seventh grade, and I was one of the five winners of the magazine drive. I won an Olivetti typewriter, which a few years later cost me four weeks of summer school when my folks challenged me to take a typing course and learn how to use it! In all honesty, if I look back on all the classes I ever took, typing was one of the most useful.
What I love about this image is the fact that I sold enough magazine subscriptions to win. Or, had most of the other kids already alienated all their family and friends with subscriptions over the years before? I was a seventh grader, and everybody in the picture was a few years ahead of me. I was just starting in Junior High – a rookie who, fortunately, had a big family. My grandparents died when I was in my twenties, and I think they were still getting magazines from helping me win that typewriter! LOL
I make the same plea every Thursday – Take the time right now and go look for a few old images. There’s incredible entertainment value from the stories that every old photograph you coax out of moth balls.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
It's probably been about five years since Chris Fawkes from Australia asked me if I was willing to help him as an administrator for Facebook Wedding Photographers. Since then we've taken the group from around 2500 members to over 23,000 and it continues to grow. Almost two years ago we noticed there were a lot of requests for more advanced conversations and we launched Advanced Wedding Photographers.
When we launched this new site I posted the following in my welcome: Take a look at your best images for the past year and show us your favorite. Pick out that one image that would get you hired. No criticism needed unless you ask for it - just an exchange of artistic talent to get to know everybody.
I love the diversity in the images being shared all the time. Here are a few that were recently posted and the comments from some of the artists themselves. While beauty is always in the eye of the checkbook holder, it's great to see images that are so different.
Remember, you're the only one who can show you're better than "Uncle Harry". Share only your very best images and never compromise on quality!
"Personally I think this is one of my strongest images this year..."
By Chris Smith - Follow him on Facebook.
"The Founders Inn and Spa Virginia Beach"
by Jeffrey Scott-bey. Follow him on Facebook.
"I would say I have booked the most off this image series."
by Anna Johnson. Follow her on Facebook.
by Joshua McDonald. Follow him on Facebook.
"Probably my best this year."
by Elan Fraiman. Follow him on Facebook.
"This is one of my favorites from a wedding we did in Sonoma in Oct."
by Leslie Spurlock. Follow her on Facebook.
I've been writing for Shutter Magazine since the very first issue. Every article I've written has been related to the business and marketing of photography. If you've followed the magazine then you know that with each online issue there's always a short video by the author.
With this particular topic, I chose to do something a little different. Why? I knew every reader was always getting slammed with suggestions on how to run their business. I figured if I was doing something stupid to make my point, maybe they'd remember it more. Also, if you've listened to the "Building Your Business" podcast with Sal Cincotta, this is the basis for his comment about the pool.
What I've never figured out is why the tie and jacket I wore into the pool never shrunk or faded. The tie was a cheap one bought from a street vendor back in the days of trips into NYC. (Hey, I don't remember why, but I wasn't wearing a tie and suddenly needed one for a meeting.) The jacket is your basic off-the-rack navy blazer and was way out of style, but it never faded. In fact, I came out of the pool and left it on a lawn chair for a few days because I forgot about it! There's definitely something to be said in favor of cheap threads, LOL
Here's the point of today's Marketing Monday post. Stop thinking you have to do everything alone, especially when it comes to promotions and marketing.
Very few photographers or for that matter small businesses in general, have the revenue to support 100% of everything they'd like to do to promote themselves. Look for partners in all your marketing efforts and pay attention to how much more bang for your buck you'll get if you're spreading the cost out over several wallets instead of just yours!
"When I was forty and looking at sixty, it seemed like a thousand miles away. But sixty-two feels like a week and a half away from eighty. I must now get on with those things I always talked about doing but put off."
Remember, I always go off track on Sunday mornings and today is certainly no exception. I'm trying hard to not preach to those of you who are younger photographers. At the same time, I hate the idea that I might be boring those of you who are older. The reality is, if you're over fifty, you know exactly how true everything is I'm about to talk about.
So many of you have a complete disregard for time, even though it's your most valuable resource. You'll never have enough of it. You'll never be able to get back what you wasted today. That makes time incredibly precious and as I've gotten older I've found every day seems to fly right by.
How many times have you looked at your kids and tried to figure out where the years went? In terms of your business, look at the way technology keeps moving us along and how we do things today we never thought possible. Then, there's the challenge of communication. Too often, time flies by, and we just don't talk to each other enough - we text, we post, we email and tweet, but direct conversations get fewer and fewer.
This morning's post is nothing more than a plea to slow down and look at your priorities. Harry Belafonte's quote above says it all. Don't wait to knock off some of those things on your bucket list. You've only got so much time and if you put an over-abundance of it into building your business without enjoying life, then what have you honestly accomplished?
Ed Foreman, a motivational speaker from Texas, told a story at a Polaroid meeting years ago. I'm paraphrasing, but you'll get the point.
The husband turns to his wife and says, "Wait until the kids are old enough to go to school and then we'll have time for some fun around here!"
A few years later he says, "Just give me a couple more years to get my business off the ground and then we'll really have fun."
A few years later, "Wait until we get the kids through college and have some time to enjoy each other. Then we'll have some fun."
Finally he says, "You know we're going to really have fun when we retire!"
Then one day he's in his coffin on his way to his grave, and it hits him, "Oh my God. I forgot to have fun!"
So, there it is. There's nothing wrong with working hard or chasing your dreams, just don't forget to have fun. Write down your bucket list. Keep it where you can look at it now and then and work to knock a few things off the list whenever you can.
If you never saw the movie, Bucket List, here's the trailer. It remains one my most favorite movies, and as I get older, there's more and more I identify with.
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday and opportunities to have fun, enjoy your friends, family and whoever makes you the happiest. Go for those eleven-second hugs and don't worry about work today. It'll all be there tomorrow.
“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges. So relax.”
This has been one of the busiest weeks I can remember. New content, deadlines for various assignments and getting ready for a couple of upcoming trips all added to the non-stop days at the computer or on the phone. This morning though, as the sun finally comes out after a solid week of storms, we're headed to the beach. I just want some quality time with Sheila at the one place that always gets me to relax and unwind, the ocean.
It's a very short post and an easy point to make. Learn to recognize the importance of stepping away from the business. Recognize the signs of burn-out before they take hold. Understand the importance of a calm mind and learn to relax.
Had I written this post just a few years ago I would have been a complete hypocrite because it's not something I've had an easy time learning. My entire life I've been wound a little too tight, rarely recognizing the benefits of getting off the clock now and then. It's one of the toughest lessons in business to learn - when to step away.
So, this is dedicated to all of you who need a break, but keep saying, "I just can't get away right now." Take a break while you have a choice versus waiting until you crash and burn and it becomes mandatory. Stop and smell the roses, appreciate your friends, family and the life you have and recognize the business will all be here when you get back. I'm not suggesting you take a summer sabbatical, just a few hours or a day to recharge as soon as you can if you need it.
“Each person deserves a day away 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 a terrific weekend and time to just relax, calm your mind and be ready to be the best you can be for whatever comes along next in your business. And, if you're near Lido Beach, we'll be 50 yards to the north of the refreshment stand!
It’s Friday morning, and I’ve got nothing in the pipeline to share. It’s been a pretty amazing week with lots of new content in just about every section of SCU. However, that doesn't mean there isn't something bouncing around in my head. On Fridays, I always like to kick off the weekend with something you need to think about, and I found the perfect quote:
“You need to be absolutely paranoid about the currency of your knowledge and ask yourself every day:
Am I really up to speed? Or am I stagnating intellectually, faking it or even worse, falling behind. Am I still learning? Or am I just doing the same stuff on a different day? Or as Otis Redding sings,
“Sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away.”
David L. Calhoun
I couldn’t make a simpler point with this post.
Photography combines technology and consumerism in an art form. You’ve got to stay on top of your skill set and understand every technique, even those that haven’t been discovered yet, You need to understand all the creative tools at your fingertips. Lastly, you need to understand consumer trends and what type of images are driving the market and in turn sales. You can never stop learning.
Here’s an easy assignment for the weekend – pick up a few of the most recent consumer magazines read by women and just look at the pictures. Pay attention to the images used in the ads especially, because they’ll give you a feel for the look that represents what’s influencing the market.
And remember, women make 98% of the purchase decisions to hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social categories. For those who don’t, believe me, how often have you had a call from a man to schedule a family portrait session or book a wedding?
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend. Find the time to step away from the business and just shut things off – you know how to focus your camera, but now it’s time to focus on family and friends.
Every now and then, if you're lucky, an event comes along in your life that sets the bar so high nothing ever tops it - especially in laughs, comradery and just plain old experiences.
The year is 1993 and the Hasselblad US sales team won a trip to Sweden for a week, along with the sales teams from Hasselblad Belgium and Denmark. That's the whole crew, minus yours truly in the image above.
On this particular leg of the trip the Swedes took us whitewater rafting. We were way up north and the water temp was 45 degrees. I remember looking at Bob Thompson and both of us saying at the same time, "If we fall overboard we're going to die of hypothermia!"
It was cold, wet and to add to the misery of an overcast rainy day, the Swedes decided to make it a true wilderness dining experience. Lunch was slices of raw reindeer heart with some kind of smoked fish served in the equivalent of a Native American sweat lodge, minus the heat. The idea was to duplicate the experience of being a pioneer on the rivers of Sweden. However, the truth was, we all would have traded just about anything for a beer and a burger, but the chuckles were non-stop!
Well, we went from one extreme to the other and a few days later we were all on three sailboats headed out of Gothenborg to a little seaport village called Marstrand. That night it was beer, wine and all the shrimp we could eat, just sitting on deck of the boats. It was an amazing evening, but here's the classic story to come out of that part of the trip.
It was Jim Ritter's (now with Canon USA) 40th birthday. Jim's wife Martha had put together a little birthday package for me to give to him, but I took it one step further. We sang him happy birthday. I gave him Martha's card and then I made a very short speech,
"Jim, now that you're forty, you might as well know I've been out with your wife a few times!" With that I opened my wallet and there was a picture of Martha. Then one by one, EVERYBODY had a picture of Martha in their wallet. The next morning we got on our tour bus and even the bus driver had her picture on his visor with the rest of his family.
It remains one of my very best "gotchas", along with my best investment - $30 or so for a few dozen wallet size copies of Martha's picture!
Throwback Thursdays are as much about the memories as they are the photographs themselves. Take the time and look through your old photographs and pull a few out and just for laughs think about the memories they bring back. Then, think about the incredible level of trust each of your clients put in you and your camera with every event and portrait.
Happy Throwback Thursday!
"Whatever you do, don't stop. Just keep on going. Because one way or the other,
if you want to find reasons why you shouldn't keep on, you'll find 'em. The obstacles are all there;
there are a million of 'em. But if you want to do something, you do it anyway,
and handle the obstacles as they come."
At least once a week I try and go off track and away from the business and marketing side of photography. I like to focus on some of my experiences. I continue to have a pretty remarkable career, mostly because of the amazing friendships of people who have come into my life, but it's never been all roses.
I found the quote above and found it so typical of what so many of us do at times. We have an idea, and then we over-analyze it; we get gun shy and stop. We don't pursue it; we don't take the risk and eventually it just eats away at us. Then it challenges our confidence in other areas, on other projects until we either face our demons, or they carve out a permanent place in who we are.
Here's a great example, and it goes back to junior high school, ninth grade and became one of the most important lessons I ever learned. I tried out for the basketball team and over a week I made the first and second cuts. I had the height but was hardly a jock. I loved basketball and spent a lot of time shooting hoops in our driveway. I made it to the third round - the final tryouts were on Saturday morning. I remember waking up to go and then deciding not to bother. I wasn't as good as any of the other guys trying out, so I simply gave up.
The following Monday morning the coach called me into his office and said, "Hey Cohen, where were you Saturday?" There was no hesitation at all when I answered, "Coach, I just figured I wasn't good enough and decided I was going to get cut anyway." The coach just shook his head and then gave me a never-ending stare that I can still see. He finally spoke and said, "Too bad - you need to learn to believe in yourself because I was putting you through to the team."
My heart sunk, but it was an amazing lesson and the fact that I can write about it word for word fifty years later pretty much demonstrates the impact.
I post material seven days a week and in six years have probably only missed a handful of days. I do it because I love this industry and know the information I'm sharing can help you grow. I'd rather you learned from my mistakes and then made new ones of your own.
The bottom line is, no matter how many obstacles are ahead of you, don't give up. You've chosen an amazing career path - it requires your total heart and will challenge every skill you have. Photography is about trust, technology, creativity and art. It's about people, whether they're in your images or just enjoying looking at them. I know of no other career I could have chosen that I would have loved more than I do today, and you're on that same journey.
Be proud of the career path you've chosen. Stay focused on your goal of becoming the very best artist you can be and if you get stuck along the way and need some help or a cheerleader, you know where to find me.
Yesterday I was tagged in a post by Caitlin Fuster. In all honesty, I always get a little cynical when being tagged in a Facebook post. So, I opened up her link with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the dentist, but I like Caitlin's approach to building her business and decided to trust her.
She posted the following with a link to focus@will: Ok. Seriously...best discovery this year. I used to listen to baroque music when I was in school to help me study, and now...there is an app for it!!
The music channels are scientifically optimized to increase concentration and productivity. And then you can customize the intensity to match your cognitive type and mood. It tracks your productivity and what songs you find distracting as it builds your personal profile. It's amazing...I'm almost done with my free trial and DEF going to keep using it. I would recommend to anyone...but especially my fellow ADHD people.
Well, here she is, the foundation for a blog post.
I usually have music playing while I'm working all day long and had been using Pandora, but Caitlin's introduction to "focus@will" has been a game changer for me. This is another prime example of the benefits of social media - Caitlin mentioned she heard about it a while back from a podcast with Bryan Caporicci. So from Bryan to Caitlin to me and now all of you.
While I appreciate her comment about ADHD people, the truth is, we've all become ADHD at some level. Maybe we're not clinically diagnosed, but because of the number of things that interrupt our thoughts throughout the day it's still hard to focus. I'm not talking about just the phone calls, but the interferences in our train of thought. I find I'm often completely scatter-brained, and it's the combination of stress, deadlines, clients, new projects and old. The list of things we all have on our minds is endless, but music, the right music, has me staying in focus.
I have no stake in anything to do with focus@will, but the music's that been playing for the last two days has had a remarkable impact on me. I've been able to finish one task after another and just keep moving. I've always had a love for music, and my tastes are bizarre, but now there's some consistency I didn't know I could find.
Be as skeptical as I was, but try the fifteen day free trial. It's certainly making a difference in my efficiency.
Thank you, Caitlin!
Note: The piano image is one my favorites by my good buddy, Bob Coates. Check out more of his work with a visit to his fine art site.
It's Marketing Monday! Years ago my good buddy Dean Collins used to say, "All you need to be a photographer is a roll of duct tape and a yellow pages ad!"
Obviously he was joking, but sadly there are some of you who still act as if it's true, thinking all you need is a website and activity in social media. The truth is; you've got to find things to excite your target audience. Now and then that means you're going to have to offer something special and different.
You need to come up with creative promotions, at least one each quarter. The whole idea is to even out the peaks and valleys in the business cycle. While you can't stop a few of the valleys, you can create programs that limit the extremes, especially during periods you already know are typically slow.
Let's start with a few basics and then we'll move into some specific ideas.
If you're short on ideas for promotions, here are four good ones to get you started:
Date Night: This is one of my favorites. I first heard about it a few years ago from a photographer at Skip's Summer School, but since then a lot of people have put a little different spin on it. Start by finding a great little restaurant in the community and work with them on a discounted gift certificate for two for dinner. Next, your pitch is to Mom, and it couldn't be easier to understand: "When was the last time you and your husband got out to dinner without the kids?" Your promotional offer is a package deal that includes a half-hour portrait sitting, shot like an engagement session and then they're off to dinner, on you. The gift certificate for dinner is included in the evening along with the portrait session. It's up to you what you want to build into the package in terms of prints and the finished product.
Pet Promotions: Vicki Taufer set the standard years ago with her Dog Days of Summer program. That's her original post card and announcement of the program on the right. The promotion was for a free sitting and a 5x7 print in exchange for a food contribution to the local animal shelter.
It's up to you whether you do a small print for free or charge a minimal amount, but the idea is to get pet owners in for a portrait. Remember the hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer: Brides, babies and pets, in that order.
Third Party Promotions: I did a podcast for Weekend Wisdom with Doug Box a short time back, and he shared some outstanding ideas. The summary is pretty simple. Offer a gift certificate to a third party to use for their clients. Doug talks about a photographer he worked with who came up with a special gift certificate for a portrait sitting for her insurance agent to give away to key clients. Because the gift was from the agent to his clients, the photographer was insulated from discounting her products. It drove traffic to her studio and in turn created new business.
Just click on the banner below to hear the podcast and learn more about third party promotions.
Own Your Zipcode: The first time I heard the expression was from my good buddy Scott Bourne. This idea is about making sure every retailer in your zip code knows who you are and your skill set. You've got to knock on doors and introduce yourself, and it doesn't matter what your specialty is! For example, some of you might introduce yourself with:
"I just wanted to introduce myself. While most of my work is wedding photography, there's nothing I can't photograph. I also have a pretty terrific network of photographers I work with. If you ever need help with anything photographic, just give me a call. I love being in this area, and I'm here to help."
I'll share more ideas in the weeks ahead, but you need to remember; creating excitement in your market is your responsibility. Check out your competitors and look at what they're doing...then, do something else!
Okay, right off the bat, this has nothing to do with photography and yet, I've got an analogy that does. It's a Monday morning rant as I wonder what would happen if photographers ran their business the way the networks do.
I admit it, I love a little brainless entertainment now and then. Fortunately, we record our favorite shows and then watch them with minimal interruptions, which is why God created the fast forward button. What I'm tired of is series after series leaving us with cliffhangers and then the networks announcing the series is cancelled.
The four shows above have all been cancelled over the last couple years, just when we were getting into them. While there's absolutely nothing I can do to change anything, it seems ironic that even American Idol gets one last chance with another season, even though their ratings kept dropping. Then there were great series like Justified and Sons of Anarchy, with each announcing their final series and having an ending. We were all able to finish the story, give up our favorite characters and move on. We weren't left just hanging.
So, here's where photography comes in. Being left with a cliffhanger is the equivalent of a wedding photographer waking up one morning and saying, "I don't want to do this any longer," and delivering half an album to the last client.
Okay, end of rant - just an annoying topic on my mind and one I wanted to share. I won't need therapy and life will simply go on, but I can't believe our taste in entertainment seems always to be off a beat. All I ask is the networks finish what they start and stop leaving us with cliffhangers or characters we've grown to appreciate that disappear never to be seen or heard from again.
Momma don't take my Kodachrome away! LOL
Click on the banner above to listen to the podcast.
While all my guests on Weekend Wisdom have been people I admire, this new episode ties together both admiration for my guest along with tremendous pride for a non-profit, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I'm a NILMDTS Ambassador and over the last couple of years I've shared numerous guest posts, but with this interview I had a chance to talk directly with Gina Harris, the CEO for the organization.
With virtually every guest post from a NILMDTS photographer, they've talked about their hesitancy to get involved in this kind of photography. Over and again they've talked about the experience being life-changing for each of them. Why? It's not about photography, but about helping families through the grieving process.
Nobody could understand that process better than Gina herself. She lost two babies prior to getting involved with NILMDTS. Who could understand more the important role photography and the photographer play in the grief a family is dealing with at the time of losing a baby?
Interested in learning more about NILMDTS and how you can be a part of this amazing group of caring individuals? Just click on the links on the summary page on Weekend Wisdom after you listen to the podcast. And remember, they don't just need photographers. As Gina explains, they need support on a lot of different levels.
A big thanks to Gina for making the time to join me on Weekend Wisdom and to the staff and volunteers of NILMDTS. You guys make so many of us proud to be part of the imaging industry.
The other day I recorded a Weekend Wisdom podcast with Gina Harris, CEO of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I'm an ambassador for the association and couldn't be more proud of the photographers involved. Well, the podcast went live yesterday and I'll have a major post tomorrow, but it got me thinking about the topic of giving back.
"Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't,
then you're wasting your time on Earth."
This is just a short post this morning with a simple question, "What are doing to give back?"
Easy right? We're an industry where, no matter what you're doing, you've got either a skill set or a network to help you give back. I'm so often asked for advice on various charities. I'm a huge fan of NILMDTS, but the issue is about giving back at any level. There's no such things as an effort too small.
From mentoring a photographer just starting out, to working with the local high school on a better yearbook, there's something or someone in your community who needs help. Even easier, being involved in your community in some way doesn't have to involve photography, just a little effort and your time.
I'm so surprised over the number of people who do so little and think that a donation to a particular charity once a year is enough. When put on the spot, they'll respond with something about looking for the right charity. You're not buying a car, just getting involved in helping people.
I guess I'm in a sports mode this morning...here's a classic from Muhammad Ali:
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
As always, wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday and time to hug somebody you love for at least eleven seconds; time to cherish the life you have and plenty of laughs and giggles for no reason at all.
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.