Going back to my grandfather's portrait close to a hundred years ago and his in-laws, my great grandparents,
probably fifty years before that - some things haven't changed!
by Skip Cohen
Ever notice how, when you get a group of seasoned professional photographers together the conversation at some point, always goes the same way? People start talking about the "old days". The conversation always highlights how much easier things were or how much less competition there was.
There's sort of an inherited legacy out there starting with the senior crowd, yes, even older than me LOL, photographers who complained about photography going down the tubes because of the shift from black and white to color. It's probably their offspring who years later complained about the move from manual to autofocus and then from film to digital. Now we've got the "thank-God-I'm-retiring-so-I-don't-need-to learn-video" crowd, as hybrid imaging becomes an ideal skill set extension.
Well, the more I think about it, while technology is always changing and new gear and software are pushing us to expand our skill set, there are still a few fundamental qualities of being a pro that have never changed!
For example, new photographers have the same challenges they did years ago: How do I close the sale? Should I advertise my prices? How do I get people to know I'm here? Then there are questions on insurance, promotions and the importance of never compromising on quality. Every challenge has been there for years and in fact, are NOT unique to photography, but important no matter what business you're in.
Just to help remind you of where your priorities need to be:
"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
And that's one more thing that hasn't changed - as a professional photographer you're still part of an incredible legacy of creative spirits like Ansel, Avedon, Scavullo, Karsh, Eddie Adams, Arnold Newman, Dean Collins, Don Blair and Monte Zucker, just to name a few. They gave us a foundation and a legacy that belongs to every professional photographer. While it might sometimes be challenged by technology and the economy, it remains a powerful tribute to pride, quality, creativity, and art.
So, that old quote still applies: As much as things change, some things never change.
by Skip Cohen
Now and then there’s a quote I find that sets the tone for a post. Jim Rembach, a consultant, wrote,
“When cost is number one in importance, you’ve already lost!”
While things have improved slightly, the economy is still tough. Professional photographers around the world are finding new ways to diversify, expand their skill set and develop new revenue streams. However, in the process, I’ve heard the same comments so many times from photographers,"It’s too expensive!" "We can’t afford the change!" "We have to monitor our costs better!”
I’m not saying you shouldn’t monitor your costs. Being a professional photographer is a business just like any other. The difference is remembering you’re an artist. There are certain tools you’ve got to have, and then there are those tools you’d like to have. There’s a huge difference, and so often photographers hit the panic button and become penny-wise and dollar foolish.
The same applies to your marketing budget. You’ve got to advertise and promote yourself. You need to publish press releases to the local paper, on the Internet, and to the community. Here and there you’ve got to make an investment in time and sometimes money. That means you might need to spend some money and hire a publicist or a marketing assistant. You don’t need to completely disregard the cost, just pay attention and make sure you’re investing in the right activities.
When it comes to spending money on new gear - this is a Photokina year. There are going to be a lot of announcements about new products in September. So, if there's gear you're going to need, now is the time to think about your budget and what you'll have to spend. You'll have new products to consider and probably some nice closeouts on "older" models in the same product line. Depending on what you need, consider leasing options. If there is expensive gear you want to buy, with leasing you can utilize somebody else's assets without depleting yours.
It’s an easy point to remember – it’s not the cost but the impact on your business that matters. Cost is short term. However, better efficiency improved quality and expanded diversification lead to stronger revenue streams, and that’s long term!
The image is a grab shot from a very special black tie dinner in the UK in the fall of 2007. I'm embarrassed that I don't remember the name of the professional photographer's group who brought me over, but with a little luck one of you will let me know, and I'll update this post.
The fun of this is the back-story. That's me, Colin Buck, then director of the association and my good friend, Simon Barnard. Simon and I were counterparts when I was president of Hasselblad USA, and he was responsible for Hasselblad UK and later Europe.
Colin, having worked in the US many years ago, knew Simon and I were good friends. He called me and in confidence let me know Simon was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at their upcoming meeting. He asked me to come over to help present Simon's award, and all without him knowing about it.
So off I went to the UK, and the way they did the presentation made it one of the most memorable events of my career. Simon's award/recognition was announced at the beginning of the dinner, and he was brought on stage. Colin announced, "Simon, one of your good friends from America wants to congratulate you on this very special recognition." He and Simon turned to look at the big screen behind them which had sound but nothing but static for the image. Supposedly we were hooking up via Skype, but with a few technical challenges.
Colin said, "Skip, we've got Simon Barnard here, and I'm hoping, even though we can't seem to get a good image, we at least have audio!" Just off stage in the hallway with a microphone, I started talking to Simon. I congratulated him and then added, "You might look more intelligent if you'd stop staring at a blank screen and just turn around."
At that point, I was in the room not more than twenty feet from Simon. I think we both teared up a little over the pure surprise of the moment.
I've written this a few dozen times: The best part of this industry has absolutely nothing to do with photography. It's all about the friendships and the memories we make. I haven't caught up to Simon in a few years, but that doesn't change him being one of my very best friends and most cherished friendships.
Throwback Thursday is a great marketing tool to help you remind your clients about capturing memories. For me, even though that grab shot will never win any photographic awards, nothing will ever top the importance of great friends and so many memories of working with Simon over the years. Even better is hoping the opportunity comes up again soon to spend some time together.
Happy Throwback Thursday everybody! Hope you have as much fun wandering down Memory Lane as I just did!
When it comes to building brand awareness for your business, there's very little that tops being a part of your community. You can't just sit on the sidelines and watch the "parade" go by, you have to be right in it!
Jay Conrad Levinson, better known as the father of Guerilla Marketing, in a presentation I attended many years ago, listed “being involved in your community” as one of the top 100 things guerrilla marketers need to do and for good reason. Simply put, people like to do business with companies they see involved in their community and doing good in the world. If you want your community to be good to you you have to be good to your community. Go figure right?
The worst excuse I hear though is “how difficult” it is to find ways to get involved. This means your view of what to do in your community is incredibly narrow. Don’t believe me? Just look at this list off the top of my head:
So there you have it. This is just to get you started. I know some of these ideas may not appeal to you, but the key is to not lose site of how important community involvement can be. You've got to build a reputation as a photographer who gives back to your community. It's one of the very best ways to build brand awareness.
Going through some old files, I found this shot I grabbed at the beach one day. I don't know who gets credit for the quote or the company who made the t-shirt. I'll also admit it borders on pathetic when inspiration for a blog post comes from a t-shirt at the beach. LOL
However, it's a great line, and it makes a great point. To grow as an artist as well as business owner, you have to take some risks. You have to step out of the box and change your view. You have to look at what all your competitors are doing and then do something different.
There you have it - four easy ideas to help you step out from the masses and stop looking like everybody else. If you take an hour and sit down and brainstorm a little I'm betting you'll find dozens of things you can do differently to help you get that lead dog view!
The other day I shared a few images from Rio thanks to good buddy Lou Jones. He also had some wonderful prose with those images. Well, Lou sent these to me this morning, and they're simply too much fun not to share again, even without his unique writing style to go with them.
You can look at more of Lou's stunning work with a scroll through his website! It's just a click away!
This is definitely a rant and I'll be the first to admit it's not a unique complaint, but I'm tired of so many major companies putting Customer Service offshore!
Here's yesterday's scenario: We're headed to Montana later this week and I had what I thought was a simple question. I wanted to know if we could take our walking sticks and my fly rod on the plane, or did they have to be checked through. Seems easy enough doesn't it?
Well it took me almost two hours to get the answer, because every time I called a different department at United Airlines, I wound up in the Philippines with staff who could only read me whatever they found on line. One woman actually insisted on reading me everything I could take, including food purchased in the airport and personal medications! I even asked to be connected to somebody at Tampa Airport at United Airlines and was given another 800 number, which eventually rang back into the Philippines again.
It's ironic the airlines charge us for everything, but the service never gets better! The only way I could finally get my answer was to dial the special needs 800 number. I got a lovely woman in Detroit, "Flavia" who was wonderful. After I apologized for bothering her on an issue completely outside her department, she chased down the answer for me. It actually turns out to be a TSA issue, which I hadn't thought about calling.
A few weeks ago after a problem with Buick, I was also offshore for Customer Service. Their staff must have been in the same office as United's because they were absolutely of no help and barely understood my frustration. Both offices pretty much redefined "useless" and started out telling me there was nobody to call in the U.S. They also don't know what to do if they're forced to stray from the script.
So, here's my question of the day - what does it take for American corporations to realize the importance of Customer Service and bring those jobs back into the United States? And, for my readers outside the US and maybe in the Philippines, my issue isn't with you, but the shortcuts American corporations are taking at the expense of American consumers.
Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
Henry David Thoreau
It's a typical Sunday morning and while sometimes I'm off track from photography and business, today's post is going to be right on the money for many of you.
I've noticed something about those people in our industry who we consider at the top of their game. Their success is all about their attitude. They work hard and have incredible technical and creative talent. But, when it comes to looking for success, they simply don't worry about it. They trust the hard work is eventually going to pay off.
They've also learned to define success. Yes, lifestyle is a big part of it, but as Sandy Puc and I talked about in a Weekend Wisdom podcast - there's a point in your life when you finally realize success is about waking up smiling every morning - not what's in your bank account.
Now move to the other end of the spectrum, new photographers who aren't established yet. Most of them are preoccupied with making it. They're all looking for success as if it's going to just show up one day.
I can't help but think about my old buddy, Don Blair. He loved to teach. It's what he did best and second to his family and friends; it's what he enjoyed the most. But while other photographers his age seemed to worry about being forgotten or kept trying to reinvent themselves, Don just took it one day at a time. He did what he loved the most and kept teaching. He never had to look for work - it always came to him.
So, on this lazy Sunday morning - for those of you who stay awake at night worrying about your business or wondering when the Success Fairy is going to tap you on the shoulder - relax and just keep working hard. Keep building your network. Keep fine tuning your skills. Stay focused on your marketing, and stop worrying about success.
If I've learned nothing else after all these years in business, great things happen when you least expect them and everything always works out for the better!
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday with family, friends and people you care about. And, if you're smiling all day from the inside out - then consider yourself a success!
Illustration Credit: © Dennis Cox
Image copyright Bryan Caporicci. All rights reserved.
This is the 29th episode of "Why?" featuring one of Bryan Caporicci's images. As I mentioned at the end of the sound-byte, if I had scripted what Bryan would say, I couldn't have come up with a better back story.
That's what the "Why?" series is all about - sharing the back stories behind powerful images and introducing you to some of the leaders in professional photography. With every episode, I've been amazed at the willingness of each artist to share what makes their image a favorite to them.
Bryan Caporicci is primarily a wedding photographer. He's the founder of Sprouting Photographer and Sprout Studio. He's an outstanding artist, writer, podcaster, blogger and educator. All of the hats he wears help him support his most significant hat and real passion - being a great Dad and husband.
Being active in social media, it's so appropriate that Bryan, and I met online through an IM on Facebook. That led to lunch when he was visiting family in Florida and a terrific friendship. Weekend Wisdom, the podcast I do every couple of weeks, is part of Sprouting Photographer and thanks to one of Bryan's visions.
Check out more of Bryan's work with a click on his "Why?" image.
This is a very special Weekend Wisdom. In fact, it's so special, I didn't want to wait until the weekend. It's with Jeremy Cowart one of the leaders in professional photography, not just in the quality of his work and celebrity clientele, but in his vision to always find ways to give back.
Jeremy founded Help-Portrait several years ago, but his newest challenge will leave you speechless. The initial video about the Purpose Hotel is below. Pay attention to the way Jeremy tells the story. It's one of the best videos I've ever seen for this kind of campaign, and a great example to help you think through your own marketing videos in the future.
Jeremy is definitely an artist who should be on your radar. You'll find links to his website on the SproutPhotographer.com page when you listen to the podcast.
Watch the video below, listen to the podcast and then please help with your support as well as spreading the word. This is the kind of project that comes around once in a lifetime and all of us have the ability to help. Even better, imagine joining so many of us who are involved at the Purpose Hotel when it opens. This will be one pretty emotional launch party!
A BIG thanks to SproutingPhotographer.com and its founders, Bryan Caporicci and Rob Nowell. They're creating incredible tools to help photographers build a stronger business especially with the new Sprout Studio. I couldn't be more proud to be part of Weekend Wisdom and a small part of their team.
Two weeks ago I wrote a post about Customer Service and shared several key mistakes made by Buick in servicing a new car. I couldn't have been more honest about my frustration along with the mistakes Buick was making at my expense.
Buick finally got the part to the dealer and my car is back in my garage. It was not an easy process. I started out with their 800 line; later I faxed Mary T. Barra, CEO of Buick; then I posted on Buick's Facebook page, and I repeatedly tweeted @Buick in an effort to get somebody's attention. All I wanted was my car back in a reasonable time.
After the first week, they recognized my complaint and assigned my case to "Caroline" in Executive Customer Service. She couldn't have been nicer or more professional. When she called me to let me know the problem had been resolved, she made a comment essentially stating she hoped I would be as quick to share the good news about Buick as I was to share the bad.
I'm doing my best to do that. They did resolve the problem and there's no doubt in my mind it was thanks to Caroline's persistence. The dealer was terrific and did their best as well. In fact, I'm nuts about the crew at the dealership.
However...Here's another great lesson, thanks to Buick.
If you know anything about people having a stroke, then you know it's critical to get medical care as quickly as possible. An article from the TIME site states: When it comes to successfully minimizing physical — and subsequent mental and emotional — damage caused by stroke, timing is of the essence.
Well, Customer Service is no different and here's a lesson GM and Buick need to learn. The longer it takes to resolve a problem the greater the damage. Taking a new car in for service one would normally expect to have it back within 24 hours. Instead, it was almost two full business weeks. Even worse, I know had I not been the squeaky wheel, I'd still be waiting for my car. I was an ambassador for them before this experience. Now, I'm silent and even skeptical about anything happening again.
Remember with your own customers, this is a word-of-mouth business. I shared these statistics in another post recently after doing a little research on Google: The average Internet active consumer does 36 Facebook posts per month and broadcasts to 130 connections. Every second there are 650,000 Facebook shares, 100,000 tweets, and 48 hours of video uploaded to YouTube.
Handle complaints quickly and professionally. Don't ignore upset clients.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
Don't give your clients a reason to ever go beyond their first contact to you or your staff.
by Skip Cohen
One of the best things social media has given us is the ability to sneak a peek into each other's lives when something special happens. It also keeps us in touch and connected. Meet Tommy Colbért from Massachusetts. Tommy and I met years ago at WPPI, and there's simply a nice friendship. That friendship is often fueled by what he shares on Facebook.
This morning, while catching up on what people have been sharing, I ran across this post from Tommy. It simply said, "Sometimes the stars align, and I have both my children at the beach together... and I didn't forget my Nikon this time."
I immediately caught Tommy on a Facebook IM and asked for permission to share these, but I want to explain why.
They're the perfect reminder of why we're all in this business - to capture memories. Sadly, too often we forget to capture our own. I don't know Tommy's daughters, but that doesn't change the smile the images put on my face - not just because they're fun, but because they capture one of those perfect days for a Dad with his kids!
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Tommy is a terrific photographer and regardless of the subject matter, you'll always find his signature passion for imaging. Click on any image to visit Tommy's website for more great images.
Images copyright Tommy Colbért. All rights reserved.
Image copyright Ed Heaton. All rights reserved.
Everybody enjoys seeing beautiful images, but getting the back-story directly from the artist adds another dimension. That's certainly the fun of the story behind this image by landscape photographer, Ed Heaton.
While there was obviously time dedicated to Ed's visualization and capturing this image over several days of shooting, it's the sidebar story about the circumstances that demonstrates one of my favorite traits about him, his sense of humor. After listening to the sound-byte, imagine the fun you'll have on a workshop with him, along with how much you'll learn! He's got five pretty amazing locations for workshops coming up yet this year.
Ed and I met through his affiliation with Tamron USA as an Image Master. You'll find more about him with a click on the image above as well as his Tamron Image Master page.
Over the weekend I received an email from my good buddy, Nick Vedros. It contained one sentence and the animated image above.
"Shot at the end of yesterday's long project…of the client, agency, creatives, and crew."
Here's why I chose to share it in a blog post:
Think about some of the bigger projects you've been involved in. Maybe you were part of a team covering an event or an unusually large wedding with make-up artists and hair stylists, a couple of videographers and a few photographers. Or, perhaps you were working on a more commercial shoot like the one Nick shared above. How much fun would it be to have one classic image of everyone involved in the project?
I'm not sure whose idea the image above was, but if you know Nick, he's all about having fun. He's a work-hard-play-hard artist and every session for his team, and his clients becomes memorable. Making memories is his signature. And, he never compromises on the quality of anything - from his images to the relationships with clients, associates and friends! Check out his website to see more of his work.
So, the next time you're part of a team working on anything, not necessarily involved in photography, remember to bring everybody together for one last image - the memory-maker of working together! It's a classic image and whether you save it for a Throwback Thursday post in the future or use it for blog content to talk about an event you're involved in, it's the perfect way to wrap things up.
P.S. By the way, that's Nick on the bottom row, the first one vertical in blue jeans and a blue shirt.
It couldn't be a more typical Sunday morning. As usual I still can't find a way to sleep past 7:15. Sheila's out cold and even Molly the Wonder Dog doesn't want to be awake and is curled up in a corner of my office. As I was trying to decide how to go off track from photography this morning, I decided to just open this great little quote book I have and write about whatever came up. Here's the first quote I randomly turned to:
It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.
It couldn't be more perfect for what I've been feeling lately and whether it's totally coincidental or some sort of Sunday morning divine intervention, it's the perfect thought to share.
There's something that's happened as I've gotten older - I've become more fearless at sharing things personal. I'm not afraid to share my thoughts and dreams, because I've already experienced rejection and emotional pain in my life. So, what's the worse that could happen? I've been through enough to know there is no such thing as failure, as long as I get back up. I've learned life is simply too short to deal with negativity. And, most important of all, I've learned everything always works out for the better.
I was with one of my roommates from college last weekend and he said something that's stuck with me all this past week. "The older we get, the faster time is flying by." Well, that could be what my driving force is with everything I do these days.
Knowing how fast time is flying by, I rarely waste it. On the business side I love my job. I love what, with help from so many of you, we keep building with SCU. At a time when most people slow down, for me that would be giving up - I'm simply not done yet. Every day I'm learning something new and I'm constantly blown away by how small the world has become thanks to social media.
On the personal side, maybe that's why, while it hurts now and then, I just can't take the time to care what my dysfunctional family feels about the choices I made in my life over the last few years. Seriously, I've been separated/divorced for almost nine years and they're still passing judgement. I just don't want to waste the time and that takes me to one more quote:
Life is short. Don't waste it with negative people who don't appreciate you.
Keep them in your heart, but keep them out of your life.
That brings me full circle this morning and back to how important it so share your dreams. A dream never shared will eventually just fade away and die.
So, on this beautiful Sunday morning share a dream with those friends and family closest to you. Go for one of those therapeutic hugs lasting eleven seconds or more with one of your dream-sharers. Make it a day filled with, as sappy as it sounds, a smile on your face and a song in your heart. (Okay, I've gone over the edge and I'll lose readers with that last line, but as nauseating an expression as it is, think about it - it really is accurate and you know when you're talking to somebody with a song in their heart.)
As my good buddy Matthew Jordan Smith closes every post with, "ALWAYS dream big!"
Happy Sunday everybody - make it a GREAT one!
February 6, 2017 Update: After you've listened to Sue's sound-byte here on "Why?" check out her short video on "Tiny Talks" thanks to Profoto! It's all just a click away.
Image copyright Sue Bryce. All rights reserved.
Sue Bryce's back-story on this image is the perfect example of what we were hoping to accomplish when "Why?" got started just a couple of months ago. There are two primary goals for this series. First, to introduce you to some of the most respected artists and educators in photography today and second, to share the stories behind each image.
We always talk about the passion great artists have for the craft. Well, the story about this image will give you some great insight into the passion Sue has for her subjects. For her, it's so much more than just capturing and creating a beautiful photograph.
Sue is one of the industry's most inspirational artists and educators, and in this short sound-byte she shares so much of the "why" behind her work. Yes, she has a phenomenal understanding of photography and she never compromises on the quality of an image, but she's so much more. A Sue Bryce image is as much about stunning portraiture as it is about the way she builds a relationship with each client...as well as her students!
Just click the image above to visit Sue's educational site. And, if she's teaching at any upcoming conference you're going to attend, make sure to be there early and grab a seat in the front row! You'll never be disappointed.
A few weeks ago I shared a very important blog post about a very special project, The Purpose Hotel. In fact, in all my years of being in the photographic industry, I've never heard about a more important campaign that has the potential to make so many of us proud to have been involved.
While this technically is Jeremy Cowart's dream, the reality is we all have an opportunity to participate, both in a direct contribution and in helping to spread the word. It's an incredible idea and if you haven't seen the original video, just click on the play button below.
In the mean time Jeremy is only 25% of the way there, but with 2500 contributors so far there's lots of room for growth. He just needs us all to spread the word and encourage more people to be involved. Click on the banner above to connect to the Kickstarter page and help Jeremy turn this dream into a reality. If you think about it, this is a global project that truly defines the meaning of "giving back".
Last week Jeremy shared the update below. Nobody can say it the way he does. Please help spread the word and then on opening day we can all meet in Nashville at the Purpose Hotel and cheer!
So many exciting things brewing around The Purpose Hotel Kickstarter campaign.
Thank YOU, our first backers, for helping us get closer to our goal. But are y’all ready for some honest talk?
$2 million is ambitious. We had a HUGE first day and 2nd day. It’s been slow since. Still steady but slower. MANY of you might be saying “they’ll never hit their goal And honestly, I’ve thought the same thing a few times.
But .... something insane is happening. There is this swelling happening behind the scenes… a *true* movement, a building of believers in this dream. So many media outlets are discovering it. Major influencers are discovering it. The hotel industry is discovering. Word is getting out. And all I can do is humbly ask for you to do is push HARD for the next 40 days. Email, social media, lunch conversations, etc….
Soon I’m going to do a live webinar where I paint the FULL vision of the hotel. Our video only scratches the surface. I want to share so much more with you.
I can’t wait for you to fully understand and see what all we’re trying to do. But we have to fight and work hard for it.
So again, as humbly as I can ask… please don’t give up on us. We need more than one tweet, more than one push. Go as hard as you can. Then one beautiful day in the near future, we’re going to throw the biggest celebration party ever at The Purpose Hotel.
Stay tuned for details about the webinar!
"We didn't realize we were making memories. We were just having fun."
Today's image will have little meaning to you guys, but the story on how it found its way to Throwback Thursday is a great lesson in how small the world has become.
Last Sunday morning I shared a post about hanging out with one of my old roommates from college, "Rich." We hadn't been together in over 35 years, which was the last time we caught up to each other. During that visit we talked a lot about friends from our freshman year at Miami of Ohio. We've both lost track of so many of them.
One of those was "Gary S." That night I jumped on Linkedin and did a quick search and there he was. I fired off an email and yesterday, just in time for Throwback Thursday, I had an response from him with two photographs. My apologies for the quality of the image. It's a scan of an old print close to fifty years old, but it's good enough to make the point.
I have no idea what Rich and I were doing in the shot above. Nor do I know whose hat I stole to ham it up in the hallway. What I do know is that life is simply too short to not take the time to kick back now and then, and just laugh over those unexplainable moments from the past.
Throwback images bring back so many memories. We didn't have cell phones and while photographs were fun they weren't part of our daily routine, as they are for all of us today. And, if you're like me, those old images are all over the place in drawers, shoe boxes and files.
So, here's my point - First, share an old image on your blog as a post to remind your readership how important photographs can become, especially if they're moments captured by a professional. Second, take the time to track down an old friend. The farther you go back the more fun it will be to catch up. Third, protect those images on your phone on a regular basis. Print a few of them and file them away, because years from now they're going to be some of your most valuable possessions!
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.