This week we officially hit the start of the fourth quarter and with it comes some terrific seasonality. While many of you have been thinking and working on your October - December promotional plans, a lot of you are still clueless. I've written a lot about so many different opportunities during the fourth quarter. Here are a few slightly different ways to take advantage of all the opportunities...
Blog Posts: Your website is about what you sell, but your blog is about what's in your heart and that includes being helpful. Use your blog to soft-sell your skill set. For example, we're coming into holiday season. Just about all of you are qualified to do a series to help people take better pictures. Lighting, posing, composition - they're all things you do every day without thinking. Even something as simple as showing images where you've moved in tighter on the subject will help your readers capture better looking images.
"As marketers we should change the mantra from always be closing to always be helping."
One of my favorites through the holidays is reminding people to capture details. Get the shot of the Thanksgiving table before it looks like the apocalypse! Think about it - within five minutes after sitting down, one of the kids has spilled their milk, the turkey is carved and the table that Mom and Grandma just spent weeks thinking about is a disaster. Encourage people to get their memory-making images early and to let their images tell a story.
Publicity: There are all kinds of events in every community during the fourth quarter. From homecoming at the high school to Halloween and on into the November and December holidays. Check out what's going on in town with all the non-profits. Who's photographing the Kiwanis holiday party this year? What fund-raisers need help, with or without a camera in your hand?
Each event you get involved with is an opportunity for you to do a press release. Publicity doesn't just help you build your brand, but it also helps the organization you're supporting. It's a win-win all the way around.
Holiday Cards: I know, I'm a broken record...sadly there are only a few of you who even know what that expression means...LOL. Plan a holiday card using one of YOUR images or put yourself, your team or family in the image. Here's a card from good friends Melody and Eric last year.
Melody is a children's photographer in Las Vegas. She's used her two kids for the card and reminded everybody what she does for a living. On the back she's got her company name at the top. She used a heavy coated stock and it's first class all the way.
The seasonality of the fourth quarter is naturally doing so much of the work for you - people are already in a buying mood. Everyone is trying to think of creative gift ideas - there's no reason good photographers shouldn't be part of the process, but you have to be the one to plant the seed!
This past week I was reading a few comments on a Facebook post and one was from a particularly frustrated photographer in the south. So, I did what I often do, picked up the phone and called him. He was surprised to get the call, but before he was ready to talk about the challenges in his business, he wanted me to know he was "just a little guy" completely unknown in the industry.
When I read the following quote this morning, it got me thinking about how so many of you see yourself...
"Just because people are doing extraordinary things doesn't mean they're not ordinary people."
This industry is as wonderful as it is, because of all you little guys. You're the mortar holding the bricks together and you're doing some extraordinary things. You experiment with technique, you push the edge of the envelope, you challenge all the paradigms and you rarely accept "NO" as the answer to anything.
It's just a short simple concept this morning - stop apologizing for being passionate. Remember that everybody had to start somewhere. Believe in the path you've chosen for a career, because the journey you're on is going to be remarkable.
Found this on YouTube from the Our Gang series in the '30's....
Make it a terrific Sunday...hug somebody special and as I read in an article recently, hugs lasting at least ten seconds can actually have therapeutic value. Try it and you'll see what I mean.
Just a short post for a Saturday morning...
Last night Sheila and I caught up to good buddy, Roberto Valenzuela. He's in Sarasota to shoot a wedding today and in spite of trying to get together both here and in Ohio over the years, his schedule has always been nuts and it's never worked. When he told us he was going to be here, our response was simply, "We'll take whatever time we can get."
We got out to dinner together last night and as with every time we've ever been together, we simply had a blast. We covered just about every topic from religion to the industry to publishing and back. Way too many laughs at our favorite restaurant in town, Indigenous. He had a buddy from Chicago, Collin Pierson, assisting him who we got to meet as well. Collin fit right in and added his own touch of humor to the evening.
Here's my point...this is an amazing industry, but as I've said a few hundred times in the past, the best thing has nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. It's the relationships you have with other members of the photographic community that make it fun and the special business it is.
Your clients are important...constantly raising the bar on your skill set is important...pushing your creativity to the max is important...but nothing trumps the importance of investing time in your friendships.
So, to my good buddy, Roberto, who posted his own shot like the one above on Instagram...great to see you...good luck today on the wedding and come back when you've got some time to just relax. To the "new kid", Collin, welcome to the family, you've got an open invitation down here any time.
And to all of you, my readers...thank you for your support and feedback and in so many ways, friendship. Have a terrific weekend and as always, hug somebody special or for that matter not so special - they probably need it more.
"If no one ever took risks, Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor."
It's a quote by playwright, Neil Simon, but it got me thinking about how many times we've all decided not do something, because it was too risky. In our minds we weighed all the options and so often have exaggerated the real risks. We chose to hold back, because we were afraid of failing.
I've written a few times about my own experience of leaving Rangefinder/WPPI over five years ago and Sheila saying to me, "So, what are you afraid of?" My response was just one word, "Failing!"
Well, here I am today, business is growing and every day is more exciting than the previous one. I wake up smiling every morning and my definition of "success" has been completely redefined. It's all about being happy.
So, this is a short post and perfect for a Friday...don't let your fears hold you back. Appreciate them for what they are, speed bumps to help you slow down. Appreciate the warning signs of risky decisions, but utilize your network and all your experiences to help you follow through. Most important of all, learn to listen to your heart.
And here's the best part - when you do make a wrong decision, nothing is forever. Start again and take another shot at doing it better next time.
"You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take!'
The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.
September is recruitment month for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and I'm one of their biggest fans. It started with my friendship with Sandy Puc, one of the organization's two founders. In fact, it was around twelve years ago she gave me the approval to use two of her images of babies in my marketing presentations, which I've pulled out of my early Power Point slides below. These two images couldn't be more appropriate for "Throwback Thursday".
A few years later, Sandy and Cheryl Haggard founded NILMDTS. It was one of Sandy's hospital displays that Cheryl saw and prompted her to contact Sandy for images of her son, Maddux.
"Maddux Achilles Haggard was born on Feb. 4, 2005, with a condition called myotubular myopathy. It prevented him from breathing, swallowing or moving on his own. On the sixth day of his young life, his parents, Mike and Cheryl Haggard had to make the excruciating decision to take him off life support. Before they did, they called photographer Sandy Puc’ to take black and white portraits of them cradling their son. Puc’ photographed the couple with Maddux at the hospital before he was removed from life support and after — when he was free from the tubes and the wires that had sustained him."
Yesterday I shared a guest post from Amy Hales, one of NILMDTS's affiliated photographers from Utah. As of now the post has had well over 10,000 reads, 371 shares on Facebook and over 6000 "Likes" between SCU and the shared post on NILMDTS's Facebook page.
There are so many worthy charities involved in photography. Whatever you choose, it's important for you to be involved in something that allows you to give back. It's a key element in building your brand awareness as an artist and in general, just as a member of your community.
It's ironic that what I love most about NILMDTS is also the reason so many photographers think getting involved is over their head. It's an emotional roller coaster. Yet, over and over again I keep hearing two similar themes that have become common denominators.
First, is from families who cherish the support they've received from NILMDTS. There's a relationship that's immediately established between the families and the photographers. There have also been dozens of comments, mostly from mothers, who have expressed regrets that NILMDTS wasn't around when they lost babies of their own.
Second, and so significant, is the impact of being involved has had on the photographers themselves. Over and over again, photographers have written about these cherished moments giving their skill set new meaning. Being involved and using their techniques as portrait artists has given them a stronger sense of purpose.
That brings me full circle to this morning's post. I couldn't be more proud to be able to help NILMDTS spread the word. The reaction from so many of you has been remarkable. You've commented, shared the post and done an amazing job, far exceeding anyone's expectations in building awareness for a wonderful group of people and cause. And, to those of you who are affiliated NILMDTS photographers already, thank you for taking photography to a very special level of memory capture. You're providing an amazing service to help ease the pain of so many families.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
"If you decide to run the ball, just count on fumbling and getting the shit knocked out of you a lot,
but never forget how much fun it is just to run the ball! "
I missed "Marketing Monday" yesterday. So, welcome to Marketing Tuesday...
The quote above was just too good not to share. There are too many of you have taken a few hits and forgotten how much fun it is to run the ball! The "ball" is your business and while it has days loaded with stress, you're still running your own company and getting closer to living your dream...or maybe you're already there.
However, if you're feeling a little weary now and then, it's sure something I can relate to. Best example is that it's well after midnight and I just couldn't sleep. So, I got up and started working. It's not something I recommend, but there are days in every business when you just can't let go.
So, it seems like the perfect time to focus on things you can do to make sure you never forget how much fun it is to "run the ball" and avoid burning out...
You're part of an amazing industry, but it's important to remember you're not alone. Everybody has tough days, challenges that seem impossible to resolve and moments where we just question the path we've chosen. The key is to recognize when you're on the edge and utilize all those resources and friends out there who are willing to help.
"You've got to listen to the voice in your gut. It is individual. It is unique. It is yours.
It's called being authentic."
They're just three words, but nobody could demonstrate honesty, integrity and passion better than Sandy Puc in yesterday's second episode of "Weekend Wisdom". Actually, she demonstrated all ten qualities of leadership from the image above. That's why she's one of the most respected educators and artists in our industry.
She gave us all the most honest in-depth background into the rise, fall and rise again of her business and life...or maybe it started with a fall as she talked about being a "kid with issues" and heading out on her own at 15. All along the way you can sense her integrity, holding nothing back, but always staying focused on her goals. Then, there's the passion for the craft and eventually she understands the passion she had to have for her own happiness...Seriously, Hollywood couldn't do as good a job developing the story as Sandy did just telling it.
Bryan Caporicci called it raw, honest and open. Well, I've listened to it a few times now and I've never known a photographer to be as open and sharing with their story. Like I said yesterday, I couldn't be more proud to consider Sandy a good friend.
Here's my point on this gorgeous sunny rainless morning in south Florida - all the skills and great gear in the world won't help you build your business if you don't have, at the very least, those three ingredients in your heart and soul - honesty, integrity and passion.
"We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.
It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. I didn't run away - I rose right where I'd been knocked down. And then that's how you get to know yourself. You say, hmmm. I can get up!
I have enough life in me to make somebody jealous enough to want to knock me down.
I have so much courage in me that I have the effrontery, the incredible gall to stand up. That's it."
This morning's post is a little out of the norm for what I normally share on the weekends, but it's so relevant to all of us.
Two weeks ago, working together with SproutingPhotographer.com we launched "Weekend Wisdom". It's meant to be a very different kind of podcast, with the idea being that we drill down on just one topic, typically the components of a specific project or promotion. We want these podcasts to be relevant and helpful with a "how-to" quality when it comes to marketing and business. Our first episode with Don Komarechka was very specific and talked about self-publishing, covering concepts like crowd-funding, self-editing, printing, customer service etc.
Well, in this second episode of Weekend Wisdom, my good buddy, Sandy Puc, threw me an amazing curve-ball and while it's not specifically a "how-to" about marketing, it's very definitely a "how-to" about defining success. I've never met a professional willing to share so much of the personal details of building a business, the strengths, weaknesses and even what many might call "failures".
In the end we went longer than we anticipated and finished with an incredible definition of success. As "Sam" points out, it's not about the money, the recognition or even the skill set...it's about waking up every morning with a smile on your face and an enthusiasm that only she can describe.
Just click on the banner and you'll go right to the podcast. A big thanks to Bryan Caporicci for creating Weekend Wisdom and obviously to Sandy Puc for her honesty, dedication and passion for helping photographers raise the bar on not only their work, but their lives.
Note: Just a sidebar - Sam is the co-founder of NILMDTS and this is recruitment month. They need more photographers and it's an amazing opportunity for you to give back. Everyone is always a little hesitant about dealing with the emotional side of NILMDTS. Check out this recent video and then take it to the next step and talk with them about how you can help.
I found a terrific quote on perspective in Kathryn and Ross Petras' book..."It Always Seems Impossible Until It's Done".
"Don't believe them when they tell you how bad you are and how terrible your ideas are,
but also don't believe them when they start telling you how wonderful you are
and how great your ideas are.
Just believe in your work and you'll do just fine."
I remember a podcast with good buddy, Matthew Jordan Smith. Matthew talked about the importance of developing your own style and referenced his early days, just starting out. With many of his images he'd repeatedly ask people he respected what they thought, often taking the criticism too seriously. As his skill set grew he learned to develop the self-confidence for a stronger belief system in everything he did.
The same thing happens, especially with photographers who post images in the various forums on Facebook, asking for a critique. Whether they're happy with the comments or upset, they've forgotten the real issue. It doesn't matter what everybody else thinks, but if the client liked the image.
My old buddy, Dean, who I've quoted hundreds of times said it best...
"Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!"
Everybody knows when an image they've posted lacks some key ingredient. It's like Sheila asking me to taste the sauce she's made and saying, "Tell me what it needs!" "More salt" might be the photographic equivalent of "it's under-exposed"..."Too spicy" might mean in photography, "Tone it down a stop"..."More sugar" might be "A little catch light in the eyes would be nice."
Sheila also might completely disagree with whatever I suggest and love it just the way it is. She already knows, given the chance, I'd put more garlic and salt in everything we eat. So if she thinks I'm wrong, it's pretty simple. She's confident that she's dead-on with the right flavors she wants and there is no further discussion.
Posting images on line is no different - we all have different tastes and most of the time if an image is really bad the artist knew it when they posted it. You know when an image isn't your very best work and that's okay, just stop acting hurt and surprised if somebody doesn't like it.
That brings me full circle and back to advice I've been giving new photographers for years...
"Ask for advice. Listen to what everybody tells you. Then, do whatever you want that feels right."
As always, wishing everybody a terrific weekend and one filled with great friends, plenty of good hugs and plenty of time to believe in yourself and appreciate whatever path in life you've chosen.
Every now and then there's a moment in our lives when an icon totally exceeds our expectations. It's one of those "close encounters" that simply makes you smile. I'm sharing this video, which hasn't been released to the general public yet, but here's your chance to see it first.
Somebody shared it on my Facebook feed and now I can't find who it was to say "thanks". Just trust me and enjoy the next minute and a half. The story behind it is great too. Here's the link to AdWeek.
Intro by Skip Cohen
I know this sounds like an infomercial, but on Monday, ProfotoUSA, in celebration of the launch of the B1's new Air Remote TTL-N for Nikon, launched a special video featuring the work of NYC photographer, Brian Marcus. There are tons of promotional videos out there for you to watch, but only one with Brian.
You know an artist's work is solid when you can do screen grabs and still have images with the "wow factor". However, what I love most about the short film is the educational value. Brian takes you through a lot of his thought process as he wanders around NYC shooting in at least four different primary locations.
If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth your time. In fact, it's pretty hard to believe how much is packed into just three minutes. Don't believe me? The video is posted below and as always I love to ask, how would you tell your story?
September is recruitment month for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS).
Each week I've been sharing guest posts and videos, but this one is the best yet, as seven different photographers summarize their experiences being a NILMDTS photographer. What I love about it is the way each artist talks about their involvement. In almost every case they address so many of the most common questions/fears, including the ability to control your emotions as you help a grief-stricken family in need.
If we had Emmys in this industry, this short video would be my leading nomination!
Here's a chance for you to give back in a way that utilizes your entire skill set, not just as a photographer but as a member of your community and society. Deborah Hendrix says it best...
"If you've been blessed, why not pay it forward?"
There two special free webinars coming up for those of you interested in learning more about how you can help. The first is tomorrow, September 18 and another on September 24. Just click the link below to register.
Every now and then I run across a quote that's so classic it needs to be shared in a post, rather than abbreviated to the point where it loses all impact and then crammed into 140 characters for a tweet...
This one is from a little book I picked up while traveling this week called "It always seems impossible until it's done". If you're looking for one of the best collections of quotes for "Motivation For Dreamers & Doers" here's the link.
"The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work.
The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.
He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist."
There are two classic profiles who need to be reminded that there's no such thing as being a fearless warrior or dread-free artist.
First, there are those of you working hard to make the jump from part-time to full time or from serious hobbyist to a dedicated professional. Second, there are a number of you who are established veterans, but you're worried about making changes like diversifying to a new specialty, trying out a new technique, raising the bar on your skill set or raising your prices.
It's a really simple point this morning - just a reminder - there's no such thing as a "dread-free" or stress-free, business. Stess comes with the territory, but it's how you deal with it that counts. You need to believe in yourself, utilize the inner core of your network for support and stay focused on the task. It's ironic we all know how to focus a camera, but so often can't focus on the tasks we need to do most!
And that's the perfect lead-in to my favorite Zig Ziglar quote...
"If you wait until all the lights are " green" before you leave home,
you'll never get started on your trip to the top."
This has been a pretty remarkable week for business, old friendships and family and I've honestly got nothing earth-shaking to write about, except to wish all of you a remarkable Sunday and quality time with people you love!
Most important of all is to cherish your friendships, especially that inner circle of your network. For me, that crew has been doing some unbelievable things and new projects are fast becoming new milestones in my career.
I don't usually quote Hillary Clinton, but remember her comment about it takes a village? Well, it's one of those Sundays where I'm so grateful for so many people in my life and hope you have those kind of relationships too. Nothing you'll every accomplish will be a solo act...there are always special people helping you through the process.
Make it a great day everybody!
You can dress a toad in lace, but the minute you let it go, it'll still poop on your porch!
It's a quote from a book Sheila is reading, The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate, and referenced the risk of judging the character of people too quickly or not at all.
Well, I'm thinking of how that quote applies to our industry and it's the perfect way to describe photographers who think their expertise is all based in their gear.
You know the profile - they buy all the very best, but never really learn how to use it. They take short cuts and don't take the time to learn the craft. They don't have much of a skill set. They call themselves "professionals", but in all honesty, the only thing they have that makes them a professional is a tax-id number.
Being a true professional photographer is about your skills in every aspect of the business. It's about passion for capturing memories, customer service and the quest for the ultimate image. It's about waking up every morning excited about the business you're trying to build and never compromising on anything related to your creative spirit.
Technology over the last decade has made it easy for a lot of people to step into photography and think they can build a business. Fortunately, there are still so many passionate artists who realize, nothing trumps that moment when you know you got the shot!
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend! For me, mine is filled with family and friends and a whole lot of hugs with people I haven't seen in years.
This is one of those posts where I wish I could always follow my own suggestions. I know I've written about some of this in the past, but a few things happened over this past week that make we want to write about it again.
I recognize that sometimes it's simply tough to do. Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my career, this is one of the toughest one to stay on course. Here's the scenario:
You've just been shot at in a comment, a post or an email. Whether it was in a public forum or private, makes no difference. You're upset and the initial reaction we all have is to react and fire back. The problem is, our response is too often based on anger rather than logic.
When I’m in the heat of battle over an issue with anybody over anything, passion takes over. I get caught making statements that are emotional and less than relevant to whatever the issue is. I’ll read whatever it is I’ve written out loud, then if she’s home, I’ll read it back to my wife. Her comment is always the same, “Don’t bomb!”
That always sends me back to the drawing board to rewrite it, be more specific and stick with the topic, the issues on a factual basis and leave the emotion out. Often, just writing the initial response is enough therapy to just walk away and not bother to even respond. I've also found, when the battle is in a public forum, friends often step in and do a better job in responding than I could ever do.
Here are some points to think about the next time you’re in the heat of battle:
Last but not least – don’t sweat the small stuff, because most of the time it’s ALL small stuff.
Wishing everybody a wonderful weekend. As always, take the time to hug somebody special in your life.
Today's Throwback image is a kick to share and it comes with both a story and a request for your help.
In 1990 a group of photographers presented my good buddy, Ray DeMoulin, with a very special gift, the painting below. At the time he was VP of Kodak Professional, but there's a lot more to the story.
Unlike a lot of executives today, Ray was incredibly approachable. He knew the true importance of building relationships and even though, back then, Kodak was a powerhouse, Ray was just one of the guys.
He was on a first name basis with hundreds of professional photographers and there wasn't anything you couldn't talk to him about. Kodak was on top and active in so many different programs and Ray knew that building stronger relationships was a necessity to their success. He remains one of my most favorite people in the industry.
In an earlier Throwback Thursday post I wrote about something Ray did once...
"Ray was considering Rudy Guttosch for a position at Foveon, but Rudy worked for us at Hasselblad. Ray called me to tell me he wanted to hire Rudy. I remember him saying that if I had a problem with it, he wouldn't make him an offer. As much as we hated to lose him, it was the right decision. With his incredible background he just wasn't being utilized. To this day, Ray calling me first, before making Rudy an offer, really set a standard for professionalism...and friendship."
Well, here's where you guys come in. Ray is retired today and would love to chase down the artist who did the painting, just to say thanks for one of his most favorite gifts. We all have special memorabilia and this is one of Ray's favorites. So, help me find the artist, "K. Mack" who did the painting in 1990.
And for those of you who never met Ray - if there was a Patron Saint of Film it would definitely be Ray DeMoulin!
Today is September 10 and in 21 days the fourth quarter of the year is going to kick off, with the last stretch of true seasonality in photography until next spring. Sure, there will be a few isolated opportunities, but for the most part, once the holidays are over it's pretty quiet for the first three months of the new year.
No one blog post could ever cover everything you should be doing to finish off the year strong, but here are a few ideas...
Here's the point, you've got still got time to put some terrific plans in place and finish the year strong, but like any project when the clock is ticking...you snooze you lose!
A little over a week ago I wrote a Throwback Thursday post which had several images of Molly the Wonder Dog. After a couple of fun comments from people about photographing pups at weddings, on the Facebook Wedding Photographer page I put out a request for bridal pets. A big thanks to those of you who shared images from past events. Just click on the image if you'd like to find out more about the artist.
Here's the bottom line...
The top three hierarchy of why people hire a professional photographer in the portrait/social sector goes brides, babies and pets, in that order. This data came out of a Kodak survey at least 15 years ago and I don't believe it's changed at all. What has changed is the growing number of pets in the world.
Just for the U.S. market: Data published on the ASPCA site over the last year or so shows "70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat. (Source: APPA)."
It's a simple point - if pets aren't in your repertoire, maybe it's time to consider. At the very least, expect them to be in the wedding party now and then!
Over the last few weeks in Weekend Wisdom, Mind Your Own Business, SCU podcasts and even a few guest posts, every photographer/artist has talked about the importance of their relationships with their clients.
In Weekend Wisdom, Don Komarechka talked about crowd funding and his relationship with his followers over the two year process to publish his book, Sky Crystals. Michele Celentano talked about the relationships with her clients for family portraiture in Mind Your Own Business. Over and over again, ask any successful photographer the secrets to their success and you'll hear something about building strong client relationships.
It's not rocket science, but it does take dedication and time. With new clients you have to take the time to get to know each other, which for wedding photographers is the biggest benefit of an engagement session. With portrait, children and family photographers, it's about keeping in touch all year long.
So, here are just a few suggestions to help you get stay on target...
Maintaining great relationships is critical to the growth of your business, but don't forget the shooting session itself.
Good buddy, Matthew Jordan Smith, talked about it once in a podcast. He spoke about the importance of doing his homework and knowing what each client liked for music during a shoot, foods...anything that made them feel special and at times beautiful, even with a subject like Vanessa Williams. How you make your clients feel during a shoot will almost always trump your skill set!
In this video, thanks to Profoto USA, Matthew talks about making the shoot fun...again, it's about his long time relationship with the subject.
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.