by Skip Cohen
I realize one of the Cardinal Rules of blogging is to stay away from getting overly personal. On the other hand, if you can't use your own blog to wish your Dad Happy Birthday on his 91st, then what fun is having a blog? So, meet my Dad who's 91 today.
Growing up the poor guy never had a decent birthday dinner, because we were out of the house trick or treating the minute 5:00 PM hit. Then when he finally had a chance to eat, the doorbell rang every five minutes.
A few years ago, when Dad was a kid at 88, I talked him into writing a blog post that was loaded with the wisdom of his years and so relevant to the issues we struggle with in business today. So, in honor of Dad's birthday, I'm running his post here on the SCU blog. Trust, me, it's a good one!
Pop, you've been my best buddy my entire life. I couldn't feel more lucky to be at my age and still have my Dad to hang around with. Happy Birthday! Sure do love ya.
Just Watch the Left Front Fender! Guest post by Skip's Dad
Last week I talked about working to convince my Dad to do a guest post now and then. Well, I finally closed the deal, but only after we negotiated a life-changing compensation program that hopefully won’t disturb his Social Security and is comparable to what he underpaid me as a kid! What I’m most happy with is simply being able to draw from Dad’s years of experience. His message in this first blog is everything so many icons talk about.
This blog is a prime example of as much as things change they stay the same! The principles of business, while the vehicles to deliver the message might be different, the message itself is still the same. So everybody, meet Pop, Skip’s Dad, with some great foundation tips to help you build your business.
Yesterday was my 88th birthday. I have been happily retired for many years, and unemployed for at least 15 of those. Now, out of the blue, comes our son, Skip, threatening me with employment! The pay he considers adequate is $.02 per word. So gathering together, my 50+ years in business experience, I thought this would be a good time to put my two cents in.
I am not a plagiarist, but I must quote my father who spent the last months of his life writing advice to his children:
“Conduct your business in an upright manner and remember, the most important thing in one’s life is to be honest with one’s self. Maintain the high standard and dignity that your business requires. Do not go into deals hastily and be visible in your business as much of the time as is possible. If you take time to play, do it away from your business, because your livelihood needs all the attention you can give to it.”
Early on, I concluded that the best testimonials came from my many friendly competitors. We didn’t really compete with each other, in the true sense. True, we were in the same field of endeavor, but we all knew we were there to help each other. Happily, the “tough competition” fell by the wayside.
I remember giving Skip driving lessons and I told him, “Watch the left front fender…..the rest will take care of itself!” I’ve found this is really true of everything in life.
An old axiom says “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.” That is all part of reputation-building. I found that, sadly, in the field of real estate, truth is hard to come by for many. In our case, it was a major building block in the reputation which we enjoyed, and helped us to thwart the competition.
Goodwill is all of the above, plus a lot of caring for your clients as well as your competitors. If life is a give-and-take situation, giving is the more important of the two. The taking will come with time and be far more appreciative. Just remember - you heard it here! Ralph Cohen, Founder and Creator of Skip Cohen!
...and now for something completely different!
by Skip Cohen
Hopefully I'm not the only one old enough to remember that quote from the Monty Python series...
Two weeks ago we announced the first one day workshop in the 2014 series, THRIVE. You've got a lot to choose from when it comes to education. This is the perfect time to explain what we're doing our best to accomplish. What makes THRIVE different from all the other workshops out there?
I'm tired of programs you look forward to, attend, then return to the challenges of life and business with pages of notes that never seem to get read again. So, instead of a one day program, March 2, THRIVE actually has four segments. On December 9, January 13 and February 10 we're going to do three online interactive webinars exclusively for the attendees registered for the March 2 event. These programs will NOT be the usual one way presentations. In fact, we're going to do our best to keep the presentation part to just 15 minutes for each session and spend the next 45 minutes answering your questions. You'll have a chance to submit questions in advance and we'll take a few live questions during the session.
THRIVE Online will take place from 9:00 - 10:00 PM EST on each date and attendees will receive information on how to join before the end of November. Speakers for each online program will be me and Scott for at least one of them and then depending on the nature of the questions submitted, we'll bring in some of the best experts on business and marketing in the industry.
This is about marketing and building your brand and we're going to concentrate on as much custom programming as we can work into each event. By March 2, when we meet live in Las Vegas, attendees will already have a solid foundation to build on. We want each attendee to leave with a starting blueprint for their marketing plan for the rest of 2014.
We'll be discussing cross-promoting with other vendors, expanding your reach in your community, building a more effective website and blog, pricing, closing the sale and self-promotion. We want to role play and help you through some of your toughest challenges and help attendees build the confidence they need to be a success.
The challenge in building a successful business has a lot to do with the strength of your network and we're going to be part of your team to help you THRIVE - not just survive!
Register now and take advantage of the $79 early bird registration.
by Skip Cohen
A short time ago I wrote a blog about the care and feeding of your network and it's interesting what I see happening. In talking to more and more photographers, so many of you do absolutely nothing to maintain your network. It's as if you view your network like wildflowers along the side of the highway - great to look at but they just grow and require no care.
Just a few minutes ago I was on the phone with Michael Corsentino. He's part of the SCU faculty, a great artist and writer. We caught up to each other in New York at PPE and we're trying to catch up for dinner one of these days down here, now that he lives near Orlando. He's a great instructor and we talked a little about education in the photographic industry. We share a lot of common friends and when Bob Coates and his wife do their annual trip to Sarasota in November, we're all going to get together and you can count on lots of great photo talk during the visit.
So here's my point - the strength of your network is about keeping in touch. It's about TALKING to the key people who you support and who support you. Email helps to keep in touch, but nothing beats an actual conversation. You need to pick up the phone now and then and call the key people in your network.
It's all about give and take and those people in your network who are the strongest and mean the most to you need contact. It takes work to make it happen - we're all so busy with so many different aspects of our lives. No matter what you do life just gets in the way. Just don't let it happen so much that you lose contact with those people who matter most.
If you make the commitment to put in the time and stay in contact, your network will just keep getting stronger. We all benefit from each other's ideas, energy and passion for photography, but it's the effort to stay in touch that will be the most rewarding.
Illustration Credit: © Stefan Rajewski - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
My good buddy, Nick Vedros sent me the link to this yesterday and it's a remarkable message. For as long as it's allowed it'll be up here, but if it disappears as things sometimes do on YouTube, here's the link: http://youtu.be/923jxZY2NPI . And for a Sunday Morning Reflections post, there's nothing more I can add except to ask you to share it.
by Skip Cohen
We've been on the road for a week and headed home this morning. Going through my notes from each day while in NYC I'm thinking about those of you who simply don't get it. I'm talking about photographers who could have made it here, but rationalized their way out of the trip. So, before you decide on whether or not to go to IUSA in January or WPPI in March here are some things to think about...
Events Outside the Convention: Just because the main attraction is the convention doesn't mean that's the only thing to do. Best example for PPE this week was Shoot NYC. Hasselblad started it four years ago and this year they went over 3000 registrations. It was free, ran for two days and gave serious photographers a chance to attend some outstanding workshops running throughout the two day event. Even better was how organized they made it. Plus, it was just a few blocks away from Javits, giving attendees time to attend the PPE Trade Show as well.
Networking: For me personally it was a banner trip, catching up to old friends and getting time with new ones every day I was here. Your network is critical to building strength into your business. You don't need to take the journey of building your career and your brand by yourself. Most important of all, you can't build your network if you're watching the parade go by when you should be in it!
New Products and Services: I had a blast this week catching up to some of the companies I admire most and seeing what was new. Yes, many of them are partners in the SCU project, but that doesn't mean I have enough contact with the staff at each company. You won't stay on top of what's new if you're on the couch at home.
Together we stand, divided we fall! It's an old quote, but it's so accurate in this industry. Attending a national show like this can help you focus on what's really important in building your business. Every day you're hanging out with thousands of artists, who just like you are dealing with the same challenges of marketing, business, technology and building their skill set. Together there's a remarkable feeling that's simply in the air. It's so supportive knowing everybody is dealing with many of the same questions you're facing each day.
Meeting the icons: At a really great convention you get a chance to meet and even more important, talk with the icons, those photographers you admire the most. I was like a little kid this week catching up to photographers I've admired for years and while many of them are close friends who I talk now and then, actually being with somebody and talking with them face to face is a totally different experience in building relationships.
Time with vendors: Every product you use in your business has somebody behind the scenes to help you expand your skill set. Sure, you can talk to them on the phone, but meeting them face to face and being able to leave a show having actually met them makes a huge difference in the quality of the building blocks of your network. Don't forget to include the manufacturers of the products you use in your network. They've got some amazing depth in their experiences in imaging and they're available to help in so many different ways.
Okay, so I've beaten you up for not coming to NYC and hopefully given you some things to think about for future shows. Here's the great thing about this time of year...you've got two months to finish off the year as strong as possible and then 2014 kicks in. The first quarter of the year is loaded with opportunities for you to grow. It's critical to your growth as an artist and business person to attend as many shows/conventions as possible.
Next stop IUSA - see you in Phoenix in January.
by Skip Cohen
A few years ago, frustrated with the economy and spending a lot of time talking to photographers who were finding new ways to "fight the battle", I started my own campaign: "Just because the media says it's going to be a bad year, doesn't mean it has to be!"
Well, here we are with two months to go in 2013. While the government would like us to think much of business has recovered, since they couldn't get their own act together, I'm curious where everybody else sees business headed.
In talking with photographers this week at Shoot NYC and PPE in New York, I'm hearing the usual mixed bag of challenges. One issue that I hadn't heard until recently is about weddings being down this year because too many people are superstitious over the "13". Others have talked about bridal spending down because of the continued fear in the economy etc. Then there have been photographers who are talking about this being one of the best years in their career.
I'm not minimizing the challenges with the economy, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel and I'm seeing it because of photographers who are doing well, but let's define the word "well". "Well" means they're trying new things. It means they're holding their own and still making a decent enough living to support their family. "Well" means they're exhausted, but in a great zone about how they feel about themselves and the future. Lastly, it means they still wake up every morning smiling.
If you want an even more objective definition of optimism, opposite what's typically been one of the biggest shows in the country, PPE, Hasselblad, for the last four years has been doing their own program, Shoot NYC. It's free and runs for two days yesterday and today. What helps in my definition of optimism is ShootNYC had over 3000 photographers register! I had a group yesterday morning in my short workshop on blogging/social media and they couldn't have been more positive about building their business.
Here's what I've learned from so many incredible incredible photographers this year. These are the keys to beating the media and ignoring the economy, at least enough to keep your business strong:
It all starts with your attitude. Stay away from self-fulfilling prophecies. There's that old statement - If you define a situation as hopeless, then it will be! You've got to stay focused on the importance of your contribution as a professional photographer.
Diversity in your skill set: Okay, you're a commercial photographer and you really hate shooting weddings, but do you at least know how to do it right if a client asks? Or, you're a wedding photographer and your brides from the last few years are all starting families - they loved your work the first time around. So, are you going to contact them and do the first portrait of the new baby or sit back and give the work to another photographer?
Listen to your vendors! This one is critical, because every photographer we consider iconic is working closely with several vendors. Every one of the SCU partners has new products to show or services to help you build a stronger business. The vendors are all putting their efforts into finding new tools for their clients to help find new business. They're investing time and money into ways to help you! Is it philanthropic? Of course not - but they know that if they can help you build your business you're going to need their products and services and everybody wins as the economy within photography at least, starts to improve.
Utilize your network! Every photographer I talk to is involved in something outside their direct business. They're blogging, guest blogging, shooting with other photographers, attending other workshops, reading every newsletter and article they can find and they're never slowing down. They're involved in many of the online forums because they believe in working together to find more solutions.
When I ask anybody the question, "How's business this year?" Those who say they're holding their own always finish with the same comment, "But I've never worked so hard in my life!" Nobody said it was easy, but nobody is afraid of hard work either.
I've been accused a lot of being overly optimistic. People have told me I'm too much of a cheerleader. But here's the view that I get to see, which you don't - I'm talking to hundreds of photographers every week. I have an advantage of a front row seat looking at the big picture. I'm getting feedback on new ideas, the economy and technology.
If necessity is the mother of invention then all of our survival is based on the necessity to continue to be part of the industry we love so much and find new ways to make it stronger. The media keeps telling us things are bad and from their perspective they are, but we've all got the opportunity to make changes and best of all as photographers, to make a difference!
Two great quotes I've used more than once in the past, both from Zig Ziglar that bring it all together:
You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.
It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.
Tomorrow morning I'm doing a presentation at ShootNYC, a special two day workshop sponsored by Hasselblad. Actually, it's far more than just sponsored by Hasselblad. It is Hasselblad!
In 90 minutes I'm going to pack in as much information as I can to help attendees better focus on the goals for their blog. A good blog can help you build business, but a bad one, that isn't thought out, can actually drive business away.
The big difference between your blog and your website is simply, your blog is about your heart, while your website is what you sell. A great blog can help you build a strong brand, enhance awareness for special projects and give you stronger reach into the community. It can drive traffic to your website, your email address and your phone. The best thing is that it's really not rocket science. You need to respect the science behind obtaining great reach, but you don't have to understand every aspect of it - just stay focused on good organic content and be patient. If you build it they WILL come!
If you can join me and the crew at ShootNYC, terrific. Hasselblad has received an amazing response with over 2500 people already registered. This program is destined to be a kick and one with an outstanding list of speakers and program topics.
But, there's a sidebar to my enthusiasm. I'm probably most excited about returning to my roots and working with a team of professionals who have the same commitment to education the Hasslelblad team had when I was there. They're working hard to help you build a stronger business and skill set. Just the fact that this two day workshop is FREE, says a lot about where Hasselblad and Broncolor are focusing their energy and how they've made your growth a priority.
See you in NYC!
A couple of years ago Chris Fawkes from Australia started a forum called Facebook Wedding Photographers. About six months ago he asked me if I'd help him and be a co-administrator of the page. In the process we decided to change the dynamics of the site. First, we made it a closed group, so only the members could see what was discussed. Then we slowly started to screen out everybody that wasn't a photographer. We wanted to make it a resource for professional or wedding photographers only. Last on this list we wanted to develop some interactive events, starting with a contest exclusive to the site.
The result is that we've grown from 3000 members to 11,400+ as of this morning. We launched a contest through ViewBug with prizes from Venice Album, SmugMug and Photodex. Resource Magazine is going to be publishing the three winning images judged by two of the industry's finest wedding photographers, Justin and Mary Marantz. We've got some amazing photographers active on the site, but there's one challenge I simply can't figure out how to address.
How do you get people to simply "play nice"? Over and over again I'm amazed at the lack of patience for photographers just starting out. I'm often left speechless by the arrogance of photographers who believe their way is the only way. Over and over again I see people hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens and comment in a way I know they would never do if they were speaking with somebody face to face.
Sadly this is only one half of the problem. As an administrator when somebody doesn't like something that's been said, Chris and I get emails. I've been asked to remove somebody because another person felt their comment was inappropriate. I've been asked to "talk" to members about their comment about somebody's relationship with his ex-wife. Seriously, is this really what people want us to be doing to build a stronger educational resource for wedding photographers?
I wrote a post a short time ago quoting a good buddy, Levi Sim. The core of the post was based upon a point he made at a presentation last year, "Act as if your grandmother is watching you!" That pretty much covers it all, but I guess I want to be a little more specific.
1. If you're sharing images in any forum, be prepared for criticism.
2. No matter what anybody says about your work, remember that it's their opinion. It might be good, it might be totally off the mark, but if you put your work out there then recognize it won't always be sugar and spice! Get a thicker skin!
3. Not everybody still remembers what it was like when they first started. Wherever you are in your career, there will always be somebody with less patience than you wish they had.
4. Just because somebody says something you don't like doesn't mean you've got the right to declare they be banned from society.
5. Whatever site you're on remember that administrators don't get paid a cent for any of this. They're in it because they're passionate. Chris and I are just two examples on the hundreds of sites in cyberspace where a couple of knuckleheads are trying to build something that helps its members.
And if all of what I just wrote isn't hitting home, watch this video from another good buddy from Australia, Ryan Schembri. His tatoo says it all...Strength, Passion and Honesty!
by Scott Bourne
It's one of the oldest and most basic marketing tools in any business. The business card. Or "calling card" as it's referred to in some places.
I read a surprising statistic the other day. Young people are moving away from business cards. I think that's a mistake. I think it's a BIG mistake if you're an emerging professional photographer.
A business card is like a mini post card. You can put an image on one side and your contact info on the other. You can decide to make a graphic that shows your social media presence on one side and your contact info on the other. You can choose to convey quality by getting a highly-designed, expensive letter-press card. There are lots of options. And all of them are good. But there are a few guidelines I've found helpful over the years that I'd like to share.
1. Keep it simple
If you're going to use a photograph use ONE photo - your BEST photo. Don't try to cram four images onto a 2.5 x 3.5" card.
2. Keep it simple II
Don't cram every single bit of information you can think of onto the card. Here's what's important.
a. Your name - or studio name in BIG BOLD easy-to-read letters.
b. Your phone number. Yes your phone number. "But Scott, then people will call me!" Yes - isn't that wonderful? You get calls from clients and eventually they give you money. It's really amazing and something you should be breathlessly waiting for so yes - put your phone number on the card and make it easy to find and read.
c. Your email address. Today people like to email. So put your email address on the card. Note: If your email address is something like "firstname.lastname@example.org that is TOO FREAKING LONG. So get another simple email address that you can link to your primary email account that's easy to type. "email@example.com" etc.
d. Your studio address if you have one - no mailing address otherwise. If you want people to come to your studio, put the address on the card. But this is the least important info on the card. People will call or email before coming by and you can give them the info then.
e. An alternative to some or all of the above is your web gallery URL in big, bold letters. If you prominently display all the information above at your website, then you can get away with maybe just a phone number and a URL.
3. Make it easy to read
PLEASE for the love of Pete do NOT use black type on a black card. Yes I know the beanie-wearing designer told you that looked very cool but it's simply not readable. Avoid a dark background on your business card and reversed type (unless it's very simple like your Twitter handle and nothing else on that side.) Simple white or light colored backgrounds with dark ink are easier to read. I can't tell you how many people have given me business cards that I tossed because I just can't read them.
4. Have more than one business card
Going to a trade show? Have business cards made at someplace cheap like Vista Print that give your basic info. These are more likely to be thrown away or lost so don't spend a lot of money on them. Meeting in studio with high-end clients? Have a nice letter-press card to hand to these people. Try to have at least two or three different cards because not all business cards are right for all situations.
5. Hand them out to everyone
This is my final piece of business card advice. If you're going to make the darn things carry them EVERYWHERE you go and hand them out to anyone and everyone. Each business card is a mini-billboard that can lead to a big client. The more you hand out, the more likely you are to get a call. You never know who will respond or when, but it's worth handing the cards out to as many people as possible. They are one of the most inexpensive pieces of marketing material you can use.
As a side note, I once got a wedding job because someone found my card in the trash. True story. A woman was waiting at the printer to see about invitations for her daughter's wedding. I had been there earlier in the day trying to convince the owner of the printing company to refer me to brides who might need photography. He said he had enough such relationships but I gave him the card anyway. I assume he promptly tossed it into the trash. It just so happens his trash can was full that day and my card landed photo-side up. The woman waiting for her chance to talk to the printer found the card, liked the image, called and booked me. Like I said - hand these things out everywhere. You never know what they may lead to.
As always - each marketing move you make starts by getting off the couch and doing SOMETHING so hop to it. Skip and I are rooting for you.
Michele Celentano's images of Sheila and our grand daughter Isabelle taken as part of her workshop class this summer are family favorites.
by Skip Cohen
Several years ago I ran across a quote that really hit home and became one of my all time favorites:
"Don't expect anything original from an echo." The author was anonymous.
I think we're all tired of hearing about photographers who are working so hard to copy another photographer's style and along the way they just lose their own identity. Their work is hardly unique, but they'll pile in a few different actions and think nobody will pick up on they're being a filter junkie.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is our good friend, Michele Celentano. While she enhances images with some manipulation, her work is outstanding, right out of the can. Monte Zucker was an incredible influence in her life, but she managed to take the best of what she learned from him and mix it with the best of what she learned from other contemporary masters. Then she seasoned it with her very own style. Put all of that together and she's one of the best contemporary family photographers in the world today.
My buddy Terry Clark, when talking about all the trendy image techniques going on a few years ago, had the following comment:
"Style is a way of seeing images, it comes from the heart, soul and eye of an artist. Technique is a way of image treatment. Can a technique alone become a photographer's style?...A lot of people are "going back" to film, or in some cases, using film for the first time. The shear essence of film does not make a true style. A bad picture is still a bad picture no matter what medium is used or how many Photoshop actions you throw on top of it."
So, the message this morning is just a plea to get back to good solid photography. Learn the rules first, then you can break them. Work to have great images right out of the can and enhance them rather than build them with filters that hide mistakes you shouldn't have made in the first place. Most important of all, if you do the best at learning everything you can about photography, you've got an opportunity to develop your own style of perfection rather than developing a reputation for mediocrity.
by Skip Cohen
I've got a minor challenge that came up last week I want to share. At this point it's my own internal wrestling match. I got involved defending a completely absurd accusation and just should have walked away. My wife, Sheila, has a favorite line, "Don't should on yourself!"
I was accused on Friday of misleading all of you by calling this a "University". I was told I was dishonest. I was told, "Until they are accredited by the University System or provide proof of accreditation OUS accepts, they should drop the "university" from their name. It's misleading at best."
We set out to have fun with the university metaphor and we're going to continue to do just that. The site is "FREE" and the partners in the project represent some of the best supporters of education in photography.
However, the best part of all was when my accuser let his ego get in the way with the claim, "I guarantee these people I could give them more of an education for no cost than your "university" at any rate." I'm assuming he's about to take on the faculty: three Pulitzer Prize winners and some of the finest artists, photo-educators in the world.
I have no intention of dropping the "U" in SCU or of slowing down in building content on the site to help you build a stronger business model. The SCU site and content is FREE as well as my time whenever you write or call for help. I won't always have the answers, but I've got an amazing network with people who do and I talk to dozens of photographers every week. We're all here to help. In fact, we're going to ramp up in 2014. Stay tuned next week, because we've got some new features and programming we're going to announce for 2014.
In an attempt to reason with this "stickler for strict interpretation" I even tried to explain my apparent abuse of the word "university" with a few great examples, Hamburger University at MacDonalds, Hasselblad University, WPPI University, Disney University and the list goes on and on...
You simply can't please everybody and Bill Cosby said it best:
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
Have a great Friday and thanks for listening to my rant! Make it a great day and the doorway to a spectacular weekend. I hope to see many of you in NYC next week. If you're headed to PPE check out ShootNYC. I'm the opening speaker on Thursday morning and the two day event is free, but you have to register. Looking forward to seeing you in NYC!
Last week I wrote a post where I took a shot at the Yellow Pages, believing the only thing they're still good for is getting your kids to the dinner table when you don't have a high chair. Bruce Berg wrote the comment below. Since most of you don't follow the comment trail on very many posts, I wanted to share it with you.
Bruce Berg said: Great article Skip. I have eschewed yellow page advertising, but NOT the listing.
Why? Earlier this year I had an older couple hire me for the 50th anniversary portraits. How did they find me? Yep, the yellow pages. Total sale $1006.
A month later, a woman from a town 50 miles away who is in her early 30's hired me for her Pin-up portraits. I was shocked to learn that she found me via the yellow pages-as there are so few photographers in there anymore. Her sale was $840.
So I would say...its worth it to have a listing in the local yellow pages, obviously they are used for more than elevating little ones!
I still think it's a reach, but you can't argue with Bruce's success. While I like to believe the whole world is Internet savvy and rarely uses the phone book, the reality is we're not all there yet. Depending on your market it just might be worth taking a look at Yellow Pages advertising. Go figure.
Photo Credit: © Graça Victoria - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
It's very simple - don't go anywhere without a camera! I know everybody's got a cell phone, but for use of the images later on, I'm still a fan of small point and shoots. I've seen my good buddy Matthew Jordan Smith pull out his Sony a few hundred times over the last couple of years. It's always with him.
If you're at a convention, and there are lots coming up, have a camera in your pocket just to get a couple of PR shots for publicity releases later on. If you're checking out locations, whether for an upcoming wedding or a commercial shoot that camera will come in handy again. If you're on vacation you're out to capture memories and today's point and shoot cameras are memory-sized and easy to always have along.
Years ago I had a chance to spend the day with Richard Avedon. While looking at an exhibit in Phoenix of portraits he did of his father he pulled out an old Polaroid SX-70 to take pictures of the gallery. There I was watching one of the most famous photographers in the world photograph with an over-the-counter purchased Polaroid.
Hundreds of people have written about it, I've tweeted it, you've said it to your clients - "Cameras don't make pictures, photographers do!"
American Express owns the slogan, but it sure does apply to your camera...don't leave home without it!
Wishing everybody a wonderful Sunday. Hug your spouse, your kids and your friends and don't worry about work today. It'll all be there tomorrow!
by Skip Cohen
The year is fast coming to a close and I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm trapped in an old Jimmy Stewart movie and the hands of the clock are just spinning. PPE is in two weeks in NYC...Mystic 2014 comes up in January, followed by CES/PMA, IUSA in Phoenix and WPPI. Odds are you're still thinking about holiday promotions and maybe even starting to get a few Christmas orders, but most important of all is the scattered glimmer of thoughts about 2014.
The big questions right now should be, "How can I grow my business, even in what's left of this year?" "What do I need to do differently next year?" "What worked in 2013?"...and the list goes on and on. So, while wandering in and out of cyberspace I found a site called Quoteland and after a little mining uncovered the following gem from Charles Chic Thompson. While he obviously added some great humor to the concept, think about each of his ten points. More than likely you'll agree he's dead on and maybe even track down one of his books.
Top 10 Creative Rules of Thumb
1. The best way to get great ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.
2. Create ideas that are 15 minutes ahead of their time…not light years ahead.
3. Always look for a second right answer.
4. If at first you don’t succeed, take a break.
5. Write down your ideas before you forget them.
6. If everyone says you are wrong, you’re one step ahead. If everyone laughs at you, you’re two steps ahead.
7. The answer to your problem “pre-exists.” You need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.
8. When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.
9. Never solve a problem from its original perspective.
10. Visualize your problem as solved before solving it.
Illustration Credit: © motorradcbr - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
I wrote about this a few years ago and at the time thought it would be a great learning tool for a newbie. The truth is, it's a good exercise to do no matter what your experience level.
It requires a nice relationship with one of your clients or the videographer at a recent wedding. For many of you, you're getting involved in both aspects of coverage, still images and video, so it might be even easier to do. You want to get your hands on a copy of the video coverage from a wedding you shot. Watch at a quiet time when you feel relaxed and won't be interrupted.
As you watch the DVD, slow it down and see if you can isolate the moments you missed. Look for expressions, things that might have been happening out of view from where you were standing. Look for shadows and shapes, elements that might have an image a little more interesting.
This is NOT about punishing yourself for what you missed, but about training yourself to look more and more for different details. What could you have done to make your images more unique and the album a stronger story? You don't have to watch every second of the DVD. Skip ahead to moments when you were struggling with getting the shots you wanted or maybe just having a hard time with the lighting.
Also, pay attention to the way the video tells the story. Roberto Valenzuela recently told me about how he's learning video. Why? Because by learning another way to tell the story, he's making himself a stronger artist.
Watching a video of an event you photographed is a great exercise, but only if you enjoy the opportunity for more self-discovery. Again, this isn't about beating yourself up on a past event. It's about making you stronger for the one you've got coming up!
Photo Credit: © StudioAraminta - Fotolia.com
On March 2, just prior to the WPPI convention, we're going to launch the first in a series of one day workshops. THRIVE is all about marketing andis explained in more detail on the SCU 2014 Event page, just a click away.
But here's a sidebar fun aspect of this program.
We need help getting the word out and being the social media groupies we are, all you need to do is RT the following tweet:
"Learn photo marketing magic THRIVE. http://ow.ly/pEE5D follow @SkipCohen & RT for a chance to win @Drobo 5D."
That's all you need to do and you'll be entered to win a Drobo 5D. Winner announced on 11/15. And if you don't know about Drobo, check out this short video. This is all about storage and backing up your files and nobody does it better than Drobo or explains it better than Cali Lewis!
by Skip Cohen
It's become one of my most favorite quotes and I love the fact that it's from a good buddy, Levi Sim. I first heard him use it at the TAP Conference last January in reference to how we all interact. Since then it's come up dozens of times and I've used it in other posts. Here's why I thought I'd share it as a direct theme this morning.
I follow a lot of discussions on different forums. One of the biggest challenges is any time somebody puts up an image for critique. There's always one person who likes to dump all over an artist's lack of expertise or they simply don't like the image.
So, we're all big kids and nobody needs me sounding like an over-bearing parent giving a lecture, but there are two sides to this.
First, if you're going to comment then go easy. You don't need to sugar coat it, but if somebody had the guts to post one of their images and ask for opinions, that alone is a sign of their passion. It takes courage to put your work out there. Be constructive if you can and make a contribution to their career growth. Just remember what your images were like when you first started.
Michele Celentano is one of the finest family photographers in the country. She stood up in front of a group of relatively new photographers two years ago and said, "Twenty years ago I was right where you are, wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" She then shared the first wedding she'd ever shot and a dozen of the worst images we'd ever seen. Everybody has to start somewhere!
Second, if you're going to post images for critique then you've got to get a thicker skin. Not everybody is going to play nice and you've got to learn to take the criticism. It doesn't mean everybody is crushing your dream, they just don't like the image. Take the criticism and consider how the image could have been stronger.
Most important of all, everybody needs to remember my other favorite quote, also from a good buddy, Dean Collins. Dean used to remind us all with every image, it didn't matter whether we liked it or not because,
"Beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder!"
by Scott Bourne
Last week I wrote a post called " Marketing Monday Feature: Want to Make More Money From Your Photography? You Need to Learn How to Close the Sale"
Most of you found it helpful. But as with all things, there were two people who left nasty comments about the post on Facebook. They said my approach is "outdated." (Why do 20 year olds think that just because I am a senior citizen everything I do is outdated? But I digress.) They also said (as proof of their first point) that if your work is good enough, it "sells itself."
I won't link to these responses because they are the work of trolls, but I mention them because if you are someone who agrees with such sentiment, plan on being poor.
Here's the deal, the "sells itself" thing is a complete lie. NOTHING sells itself. Nothing! It's the major crutch photographers use to avoid having to work at selling. And relying on the Internet won't solve the problem either.
Kelly Riggs - a younger, hipper guy than me, and experienced sales consultant used this example to prove that nothing sells itself.
He said, despite their best intentions, customers can’t learn and understand an entire industry just by spending a few hours on the Internet. Usually they develop more questions than they started with, and need someone to help them find clarity. Yes, it helps customers to prepare for the interaction with salespeople, and it enables them to sort through a lot of the smoke and mirrors salespeople feel compelled to produce in a sales call. But, the Internet does not necessarily prepare the customer to make the best decision.
There is no magic "Sells-Itself-Fairy." Extra sensory perception is a hoax. Wishing and hoping is not a strategy. You have to learn to sell. My ideas last week were just idea generators. You don't have to use those exact words, but you need to do SOMETHING. Knocking on doors, sending email-blasts (to subscribers who opt=in,) sending post-cards, making phone calls, joining service organizations, etc. These are all first steps in getting yourself out there. But once you are out there and you land a prospect you have to be prepared to ask: "Would you like to hire me?" That is the most basic sales premise in the world and it's absolutely, 100% timeless.
The notion that someone will magically find YOUR website - take time to look at YOUR portfolio and then hire YOU is wrong headed. It works the other way around. You have to go find THEM and then work on making the sale.
It's okay if young, hip photographers want to make fun of my ideas. I am used to it. But don't be fooled into thinking you can thrive in the photography business without learning sales or hiring someone to do it for you. You can't. Even a cure for cancer wouldn't "sell itself."
Sales is hard for some people. I get that. But imagine how hard it is to be a first time/one time buyer of something like wedding photography. It's confusing. We know what the deal is because we do it every day. But the new bride and her mother may be completely unaware of how our business works.
Most people are naturally skeptical, often fearful – of making a mistake, making the wrong choice, wasting their money, or being criticized by others. This is at the heart of almost every "NO" in sales. They need someone to convince them that they are doing the right thing. They need someone to convince them that it's a normal, natural thing to buy professional photography and that it is okay for them to proceed. That is the job of the salesperson. That is why nothing "sells itself."
by Skip Cohen
Years ago I had the privilege of visiting the White House when Senator Howard Baker was President Reagan's Chief of Staff. Senator Baker was shooting mostly Hasselblad and Nikon and just wanted to talk about photography. During the conversation we were talking about how a picture really is worth a thousand words. He told me about a letter he had sent to another Senator once. It started out with:
"I'm sorry this letter is so long. I didn't have time to write something shorter!"
While the statement itself sounds like a complete contradiction, think about how hard it is to write something concise. We all use too many words to get to the point. If it takes more than a paragraph or two to explain something then it's probably too long.
Now, here's a great exercise and it comes in two parts. First, if you could come up with six words to describe your love for photography what would they be? Second, look at the "About" section of your website. Does the description of who you are on your site match up with those six words that describe your love for photography? And, are you able to do it in two paragraphs or less?
by Skip Cohen
Our home is filled with photographs. Many are gifts from special friends over the years, but some of my most favorite are just the images that wound up in a frame on a desk or bookshelf. Over and over again, they serve to remind me of some great moments from days long gone by.
The image above was taken at a Hasselblad Sales Meeting in the 90's. There are two great background stories on the image. First, I remember being furious that Mike Bowen, a good buddy who passed away a few years ago, wore sneakers, when the rest of us were so "authentic". I can only laugh about it now. This is all before digital. Today, we'd just put boots on him!
Second, we actually hired a photographer in Tucson and never noticed what he shot with until the horses had been taken back to the stable and he was packing up his gear. Pretty embarrassing that the image was done with a Bronica, one of our major competitors at the time!
Look around at the photographs in your own home. The fun of this industry is our ability to provide people with images that spark memories. There's no such thing as "just a picture". Every photograph tells a story.
In talking with so many different photographers every day, either on the phone, in person or in cyberspace, I've noticed how few of you realize the power of your skill set. You literally have the ability to help people stop time and turn intangible moments into something they can actually hold, look at over and over again and cherish.
There are two posts written in the last couple months I wish could be made mandatory for every professional photographer. The first is Michele Celentano's "I Believe". If the image above had only been on a CD it wouldn't make me smile every day! She's done an amazing job of helping us to remember the power of a print.
The second post, was just this past week by Liz Huston. Until Tamron USA introduced me to Liz, we had never met. This one single post has had such a strong impact, because Liz hit on something so many of us have felt, but failed to recognize or simply ignored. It's a powerful message she's put in front of us. It's a reminder to keep in touch with your own spirit.
So, each time you click the shutter this weekend, whether you're shooting a wedding, an event, a portrait or just hanging out with friends and documenting a moment - think about the amazing career path you've chosen. Think about the power of each image you create. If your heart doesn't start to race a little and there's no smile on your face, then it might be time to just step back.
You might need to refocus, like Liz did. Most important of all, remember there are so many of us out here to help and we're all just an email or phone call away.
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.