In approximately 14 hours from the time I'm writing this 2015 will be history and I'll be asking Sheila, "Where did the time go?"
It's been a remarkable year filled with some terrific highs and some tough to handle lows. However, throughout 2015 your support, feedback and encouragement have never slowed down.
I've often referred to myself as the luckiest guy in the industry, which is all thanks to the people I've met and continue to learn from. This was a year of new friendships, growth and for me personally, a renewed passion for everything in imaging.
Two years ago I quoted what Melody Beattie wrote for December 31:
"Wait, and expect good things - for yourself and your loved ones. When you wonder what is coming tell yourself the best is coming, the very best life and love have to offer...See the best in your mind; envision what it will look like, what it will feel like..."
Here's our New Year's wish for each of you:
We're wishing you all good things in 2016. We want you to have a year filled with accomplishments from those little new steps to the ones that seem gigantic. It's so important to stay focused on your role in this incredible industry. Remember that it's filled with people willing to help you achieve your goals. Stay focused on your goal to be the best artist, photographer, friend and spouse you can be and never compromise on the quality of anything!
Happy New Year!
"The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do!"
I tweeted the above quote this morning. I had this big smile on my face when I found it, because this has been my mantra, since I left Rangefinder in 2009 and started my own business. In fact, at the start of just about every presentation I've done for the last six years has been the following:
“I do it because I can,
I can because I want to,
I want to because you said I couldn’t.”
In 2009, we were experiencing one of the worst economies in my lifetime. It was certainly not the best time to be starting a new business. However, many of you know this already: New beginnings happen when you least expect them. As a result, there are times when you have to live life like a Nike tagline and "just do it".
At the time, I had been given several directives on how to run the business I just couldn't support, especially when they involved how people were treated. So, I strategized for a few days and knew it was time to leave and head out on my own. It wasn't easy, especially when a few friends and family members told me flat out I was nuts.
It's a short post this morning, but a solid point as we all head into a new year. Believe in yourself. While running a business is often about compromise and patience, if you find you need to compromise your most sincere beliefs, then take some time to think things through. Maybe it's time for a new game plan or just a simple adjustment in the path you're chosen.
Just remember, nothing is ever cast in stone. As you grow as an artist and a business owner you're going to come regularly to crossroads and opportunities to change your path. Surround yourself with positive people and above all, "to thine own self be true."
I can't think of a better way to wrap up Weekend Wisdom for 2015 than a podcast with my good buddy Giulio Sciorio. In addition to being a Panasonic Luminary and an incredibly creative artist, Giulio recently shared a guest post on a sensitive topic, the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone. In fact, the title said it all, "If You're Comfortable, You're Not Doing It Right".
Giulio shares a lot of great ideas in this new podcast, and whether it's a great topic to end on or kick off the new year, it's the perfect reminder that creativity is one of the most important components in your skillset. You've got to keep pushing yourself to not only develop your skills but utilize them in new ways and create your style and new techniques.
When Bryan Caporicci and Rob Nowell, founders of Sprouting Photographer and Sprout Studio shared their idea for this podcast series with me, I had no idea how much fun I'd have, or for that matter how much I'd learn from so many amazing guests. There are now 34 episodes in the series, and each one is loaded with ideas to help you think through how to build a stronger business, keep your creative juices flowing and appreciate the amazing industry you've chosen to be a part of.
A big thanks to Bryan and Rob for everything they've done with Sprouting Photographer and the new Sprout Studio. And, an even bigger thanks to all or you, our listeners. As we kick off the new year, if you have an idea for a topic or a guest you'd like to see join me, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing all of you a wonderful New Years and kick off to 2016!
Every year I love to highlight one of the best cards of the season and this year, Kevin, Clare, Kai and Nikko Kubota win the honor hands down. The portrait quality is stunning, but the message inside the card was just as good.
Do the things you love with the people you love!
Peace, Love and Aloha
Remember these are scanned images, so they're losing a little quality in the process of me sharing. The card was printed with a satin metallic finish and hits on a family trait of the Kubota's - they never compromise on the quality of anything they do! There was a short two paragraph summary inserted on a separate piece of paper with the card adding to their message for the holiday season.
And as always, with Clare and Kevin, their add-on message added to the spirit of the holiday. The closing sentences said it all...
"We've played hard, worked hard, and have been thankful for all the incredible loved ones we have in our lives! There are some changes on our horizons for sure, but one thing we know is that we hope to see more of you, our dear friends and family, in the coming year!"
Great photographs pull us into the image by way of our hearts. They don't need to be technically perfect, as long as they capture some aspect of emotion. You can't create great images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in your work.
Think about it for just a second. You know the minute you click the shutter when an image is about to become one of your signature favorites. Here's a prime example, which I've shared before from my good buddy in Indiana, Randy Baughn. "First Look with Dad" is one of those images that says just about everything a bride needs to know about her photographer's skill set.
We're in between the holidays, and it's going to be a relatively slow week for most of you. So, on this beautiful Saturday morning, I want to share two classic videos.
The first is a 2013 Apple commercial that an old friend from Kodak, Bill Burbank recently sent me. Just watch it and enjoy the message. The second one I run once a year and wish I could get every photographer in the world to watch. It was produced by an agency for Kodak and in all honesty, none of us even know the story behind it.
The quality of the YouTube post, isn't very good, but not one person has ever cared. It's six minutes long, and I've probably shared it more than it originally ran. I've never heard a better story about the importance of pictures. Both commercials are all about emotion, family and our passion for sharing, imaging and creativity.
As the new year approaches think about your galleries; the way you present yourself to your community and the message you want to be known for in 2016. Most of you don't need to reinvent anything, just do a better job of reminding people why you became an artist in the first place.
It's time to let more people know what's in your heart!
Whether your beliefs have you celebrating Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday this time of year I want to wish you all the happiest and healthiest of holidays. I've always been a big fan of December's holiday spirit and as the year winds down, I've found myself thinking about 2015.
It certainly wasn't the easiest year, but loaded with special moments, memories and plenty to be grateful for. There were so many times when my friends and readers came through with guidance, feedback and support. Modifying the Beatles lyrics, "I get by with a LOT of help from my friends!"
I want to share my favorite holiday message of 2015. I manage the blog for the Friendship Centers whose main office is here in Sarasota. The author, "Craig" is married to Erin McLeod, the president and CEO. I love the way he described his life with Erin and the image he used of the two of them. As I read it, I felt like Christopher Robin was going to appear any minute. Craig isn't a professional writer, but he should be!
So, enjoy Craig's message and I'll add my own.
Wishing all of you happy holidays one more time. Take the time to hug those people special to you. Don't hold back from reminding them how important they are in your life. Enjoy the weekend and give yourself a big pat on the back - another year has passed and along the way you worked hard, grew your skill set and have a lot to be proud of. It's time to relax and get ready for a whole new year with new challenges, but even better, new milestones to celebrate.
Not at the beginning mind you, but fairly early along the path did the Blue Jay and the Mole cross. Quite by coincidence really, and certainly out of the ordinary as that’s not normally a pair you’d assume to be friends.
Walking in the forest can be unpredictable. Sometimes you just cross paths, at just the right time, with someone you’re not looking for. And if you happen to say the proper things like “My, isn’t it a lovely day” or “I quite fancy your ugly hat” or “I do,” you both can get lost, obliviously, in that lovely fog of connectedness that ever so rarely reaches the forest floor. The next thing you both know you are QUITE far down the path. Farther than you’ve ever been. So you look both ways; backwards….been there….forward…..yes, doesn’t look totally scary. “I’ll go there with you.”
And so you walk. Together, hand in hand. And time stands still, or so it seems. You make “traveling companions” on your walk, those who started at the same time or love the same parts of the forest that you do. You make a family, or, in this case, Mole Jays (Blue Moles just didn’t sound right). And although you wouldn’t think a Mole Jay could fly away, one day they do. But you keep
walking because there is so much yet to do and see.
All of which leads me to this part of the story.
After walking for days uncounted, the Jay and the Mole came upon an alpine lake in the early afternoon (of their lives) and decided “this is a good place to rest.” They unpacked their toasted tomato and PB/ham sandwiches (respectively) and sat waterside, enjoying the solitude. Perhaps it was the alpine air, perhaps the clearness of the mountain lake, or perhaps, as years before, they had crossed a path together at the same time; but in the quiet and reflection of the water they saw their lives, and how they had been blessed. Their relationship, their children, their friends, and yes, all right, even you! (you’re so needy!).
And it was all wonderful.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from the Mole and the Jay (Craig and Erin)!
For many of you, it's easier to believe in Santa Claus than to believe in yourself. Often you've just fallen victim to the naysayers in your life who can't understand your passion and are waiting for you to get a real job. For others, it's simply a lack of confidence and a desire to rush the process.
Years ago Michele Celentano spoke at a program Scott Bourne, and I were doing with GoingPro. She put everybody at ease with her first words:
"Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are and wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!"
She then shared a dozen of the worst wedding images any of us had ever seen. Seriously, this was the stuff people write jokes about that circulate through social media. Michele never let anything get in the way of pursuing her dreams and even today she is as much a student as she is one of the industry's leading educators.
Here's the challenge we all face: We're bombarded by all the noise in our lives. Our dreams and aspirations often compete with the day in day out challenges in life. Too often we simply get tired and convince ourselves we're burning out; questioning our talent or just wondering if we've chosen the right path. Look, it happens to everybody, including yours truly.
But here's what helps me personally. First, I have an amazing partner to help me stay focused, my wife, Sheila. Second, I have some incredible friends, and we all watch each other's backs. Third, I'm slowly learning to step away from the business when I'm simply on overload. Fourth, I've tried to remove the negative people in my life. And last on the list, I try and read or watch something motivational on a regular basis.
Here's are two prime examples, which I shared in posts a few years ago, and they're perfect to help me make the point this morning:
With the holiday weekend coming up just about everybody is going to have an opportunity to just kick back and step away from the business. Stop wasting time doubting yourself. Believe in yourself and your dreams. I love this quote from Jon Bon Jovi:
Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Claus.
Believe in others. Believe in yourself.
Believe in your dreams. If you don't who will?
Sunday Morning Reflections are always off the cuff. I never know what's on my mind until I sit down and start writing and somehow, with your help, I always try and make a point. Well, this morning, after a rare eleven hours of sleep, I've got this stupid smile on my face. I'm simply happy.
I remember my grandmother, when I was a crabby obnoxious kid in the morning, would say to me, "Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed!" It never made sense to me, since my bed was against the wall and I only had one side I could wake up on.
So, I've got two points this morning to share...
First, don't under-estimate the importance of sleep. Your body is like a bank account and when you're running on minimum sleep, sooner or later you're going to overdraw your account! Lately sleep has been at a minimum and the bags under my eyes are making me look more and more like Yoda!
Second, and here's where the stupid smile comes in this morning...I love this time of year. It doesn't matter whether you're into Christmas or Chanukah - it's a time of year that everybody is working a little harder to be nicer to each other. It's a time when holiday spirit is redefined over and over again in dozens of ways.
So, in the spirit of the holidays I'm sending nothing but holiday cheer your way. And, for those of you who think it's sappy and even a little hokey, it's time to get with the program. The year is coming to a close and a new year is on our doorstep. We've got eleven days left of 2015 and it's the perfect time to thank you for your support, feedback and often inspiration over the past eleven and a half months.
Cherish today and appreciate your family, the love in your life and even the challenges. Hug somebody special and always for at least eleven seconds and most important of all, give yourself a big hug. You're part of an amazing industry and every day you help people turn memories into tangible moments they can enjoy forever.
Happy Holidays, the best is yet to come.
Every now and then there's a moment in this industry that's just pure joy! Here's the back story...
I've written a lot about good buddy Terry Deglau over the years. Well, going back to around 2003, Terry had some health issues and wasn't going to be driving. He lived in The Villages near Orlando and you could go everywhere on a golf cart. So, the industry chipped in and we bought him a golf cart, but not just any cart. The cart was a scaled down version of a '57 Chevy. Adding to the fun of the day, we all showed up at his house in Florida for the official presentation!
Check out the image above and you'll see some of the most respected and FUN people in photography!
The best part of the day though was that Terry honestly didn't realize what was going on. My Dad and I got their first and he thought we were just dropping in. I remember Ralph Romaguera showing up at the door and saying he was just driving by and thought he'd say hello. Terry still bought it, even though Ralph lived in New Orleans! I think Denis Reggie rang the bell next, followed by Jane Conner-ziser. More and more people wandered in and Terry finally figured we were there to stay when the food came out!
For those of you relatively new to professional photography, I know it sounds sappy and a little hokey, but this industry really is a family and you couldn't ask for a better example than the photo above. Terry was a driving force for so many artists in the industry. All of us chipping in for a classic golf cart, along with showing up at his house to wish him well is a textbook definition of admiration, respect and oh yeah, love!
So, it's Throwback Thursday - have you gone through your stash of old photographs yet today? Even better, remember to post the images you find on your blog and keep reminding your audience of the importance of photography!
"Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust"
I posted the above Zig Ziglar quote yesterday, and I can't get it out of my mind. Think about each obstacle and then look at your business. What are you doing to help educate your potential customers?
No Need: This might be one of the more common complaints I hear from photographers who are on the verge of giving up. These photographers have forgotten the value of what we as an industry provide. Watch this video from Bryan Caporicci on why people need prints and a wedding album. Taking it a step further, when working a bridal show he hands out floppy disks and says to future brides, "Take this home and look at some of my images. I think you'll like my work." Well, they look at him as if he was from outer space and then ask him what they're supposed to view the images on. All he has to say is "Exactly" and that opens up a conversation on the importance of printed work.
No Money: It's up to each of you as business people to design packages that have value to your target audience. Often it's not that they don't have the money, but that they don't value what they're about to buy. If somebody wants something, money or not, they'll find a way to make the purchase.
No Hurry: Here's where your salesmanship comes into play. It's easiest to explain with portraiture. First remember that 98% of your clients and future clients are women. They're mothers, and they're watching their kids grow all the time. You need to plant a seed and get your clients to think about all those lost memories flying by every day. You need to remind them that every magical moment that passes with their kids will never come again.
No Desire: I lump desire in with "no hurry" and "no need". Again you have to create products with value. You need to be excited about what you're sharing with the potential client. Michele Celentano refers to herself as a full-service artist. She starts out in the client's home talking about where the images are going to be displayed. And, when the client's images are ready, she shows up with a hammer and picture hooks to make sure the photographs are displayed as originally discussed. She doesn't sell portraits, but creates art. Whether it's a large canvas or a series of smaller images all telling a story, she stays on top of consumer trends and what's hot...and what's not.
No Trust: This is a big one for so many of you. You're greatest marketing tool today is building relationships. Everything you do is built on trust. You have to build friendships with your clients. I'm not suggesting you're going to buy a boat together, but you do need to keep in touch. Follow-up during the year.
Engagement sessions are all about building trust. It's an opportunity for you to get to know your clients, but far more important is them getting to know you. Joe Buissink talks a lot about his relationship with his clients. When he arrives on the wedding day, it's like an old friend making an appearance. That's also a reason he gets so many natural expressions - the couple is relaxed and has complete trust in Joe.
If you're a wedding photographer, remember a couple's first anniversary. David Ziser used to do a free portrait on the first anniversary of his clients. Imagine the impact on a young bride who gets a call from her photographer remembering her anniversary! The younger the bride, the more friends she has and the faster word is going to spread about her photographer.
Here's my point this morning. Most of you are working hard to build your skill set and create stunning images, but you've never really taken the time to consider all the reasons why a consumer might not buy your work. Zig Ziglar just gave us a basic background of five "roadblocks/speed bumps" that slow down closing a sale. Remember, I'm not including a weak skill set in the list. I'm assuming you're selling a product that's meeting the client's mindset and capturing/creating great images.
The year is about to come to a close, and as 2016 kicks off, it's the perfect time to look at your business and create products with value, build trust with your clients and create marketing programs that address each of the basic obstacles.
Most important of all, as Tim Walden talked about in a podcast earlier in the year, you have to make working with you an experience. Stop selling photographs and think about capturing memories. What could be more magical than taking intangible moments and turning them into tangible products, each designed to share with future generations?
There are people who come into our lives who initially seem to have little or no impact. Years later we realize how important they were. They planted a seed that somehow survived all the challenges in life and years later grew into something substantial. Meet one of my high school teachers, Dave Burris the art teacher at Riverside High School.
It's funny, because I never took an art class. However, "Mr. Burris" published my first images in the yearbook one year. At the time, I had no idea photography would play such an important role in my life. In fact, for years I had forgotten about Dave Burris all together.
It was around our 30th high school reunion. We were all at a bar and he walked in, shook my hand and said, "Dave Burris". I didn't remember the name, let alone him being a member of our class.
I got home from the trip and grabbed an old year book. He had always been "Mr. Burris" in high school, so the first name part threw me off. Plus, back in high school, he really wasn't that much older than we were - so thirty years later, being a little over-weight and balding, he just matched the rest of our class! LOL
From that moment on the friendship took off. I'd catch up to him online, at future reunions and even a few phone calls now and then. In fact, when Sheila and I got married we tried hard to get him to the celebration.
This week Dave Burris passed away. Only friends from high school and the community in Painesville, Ohio and his family will recognize the loss, but I wanted to share this with you. Each of us have people in our lives who we've forgotten about. It's not intentional, it's just life getting in the way and time moving on. Maybe it's time to pick up a phone and track a few of them down.
Dave Burris was more than a teacher, he became a friend to all of us. He showed up every year at the annual reunion and often said our class was the one he felt closest to. And, if he said that to any other class, none of us cared.
So, to my good friend Dave Burris - I didn't keep in touch with you enough over the last few years. I just assumed you'd always be at every reunion. Rest in peace and know you touched so many lives and were a teacher who made a difference in all of them!
Over a year ago, Bryan Caporicci and Rob Nowell, founders of Sprouting Photographer and Sprout Studio had an idea - a podcast series with a guest every other week that focused on just one topic with me as the host. Well, here we are 33 podcasts later and each one has been a kick to do! We always try to stay on point and just drill down on the topic as far as we can go in the time allowed.
Click on either image above to view John's Ventana Editions online store.
What I love most about Weekend Wisdom is the quality of the content each guest has shared. This new episode with John Sexton is a prime example. If you don't know John, then you're long overdue with a visit to his website. While most of us think of him as America's premiere landscape/fine art photographer, I don't think there's anything he can't shoot.
In this episode, we talked about quality, for which there is no substitute. There are no shortcuts to creating quality images or for that matter client relationships or in building your business. "Growing up" working with Ansel Adams, John built the foundation for his business on quality and has never compromised.
John's workshops are legendary and filled with information to help you become the best artist you can be. Selected by American Photo Magazine as one of the "Twelve Best Photography Workshops," imagine what you'll learn working side by side with John. Just click on the workshop cover to the right to find out more!
A big thanks to Bryan and Rob. They never compromise on the quality of their images, their business or their relationships. It's a big reason Sprouting Photographer's podcasts were recognized on iTunes with the Best of 2014 Award. Plus, it was the only podcast in photography to receive the recognition.
Images copyright John Sexton. All rights reserved.
I always go off track on Sunday mornings, but this past week tied in a little of every emotion you can imagine and photography was a huge part of it all.
My sister came in from Philly, and we spent the week clearing out my Mom and Dad's place. It was an emotional roller coaster, but loaded with great memories, especially the 2-3 hours it took for us to clean out a closet of photo albums! Over and over again we'd find images that took us both back to events when we were kids along with stories about older relatives long gone.
Every photograph told a story. This one of my mother with her first camera just cracked me up, because as an adult she just couldn't take a decent picture. Every camera was defective, because "it cut off heads"! My Dad was on a never-ending quest to find her a point and shoot camera that reduced the chance of missing body parts in every image. LOL
Often the time span of the images was 100+ years or more. My folks kept everything, and many of the images were of their grandparents and even one that we think would be our great-great grandfather, but there's nobody left to confirm. So, there's my first point for this morning's post. Regardless of your age, take the time and get your oldest living relative to look at some of those old photographs, so you, at least, know your roots. Plus, the stories that will come along with those images should be priceless.
Looking at the title I gave the post this morning, there is no art to letting go. Each of us is different, and, however, we emotionally let go is unique to every situation. So, the art of it all is simply there is no art, no right or wrong and certainly no guidelines. Even with the tears here and there, going through a week of memories was the most fun I don't ever want to do again!
As always, make it a great weekend. Take the time to hug somebody special in your life and don't forget to hug for at least eleven seconds. Most important of all, slow down for a little while - that's what Sunday's are all about, even in peak season. You've got to take the time to recharge a little or you won't be good to anybody, including yourself!
I'm guessing, but these two images have to be from around 1920. It's Rogat Hardware in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Here's the backstory.
Back before the big chains like Home Depot, Lowes and Ace most small towns had a hardware store. My grandfather opened Rogat Hardware and in going through boxes of photographs from my Dad's home, I found these two gems.
Now, here's the fun I'm having with these images.
To start, I loved my grandparents, and although they didn't come into my life until almost thirty years after these pictures were taken, they're all part of my roots. I used to help out in the store, especially during holiday breaks and the summer.
Next, check out the first cases you saw when you came into the store. Rifles and pistols on the left and knives directly in the front showcase. You'll never find that in any hardware store today! Even a bigger change, at twelve I was selling ammo to anybody who wanted it. Because it was too easy to shoplift, the ammunition was kept in the back of the store behind the register.
My grandfather believed in helping every customer who came into the store. He wasn't into self-service, and he trained me always to ask, "Can I help you find something?" Then, all of those showcases down the left side of the store opened up and behind them were items related to what was on display.
And the "BBB" on the front showcases was not the Better Business Bureau, but Bingham's Best Brand, a manufacturing company in Cleveland. A little digging on Google and I found information on BBB, one of the leading cutlery manufacturers in the area at the time. The ad on the right came out of The American Cutler.
The top image is a full print from an 8x10 negative and was printed on heavy stock paper. I'm sure it was a contact print. The second image with both my grandparents in it was take later because it's on thinner more contemporary paper and a 5x7. Also, the flowers from the grand-opening are gone.
Last on the list of fun with this, you really can find anything on Google. I typed in, "When did Rogat Hardware open?" and immediately was taken to The American Artisan and Hardware Record, Volume 82. There it was, an announcement of my grandfather buying out his partner in what was then called Fairport Hardware.
Well, I write/suggest the same thing every Throwback Thursday. Have some fun on your own and do a little exploring. Yes, I know this is the busiest time of year for every photographer, but it's also a time when you need to take a break. Looking through old photographs is therapeutic. They bring back so many memories, but, even more important they remind you of the responsibility you have to your clients. They're putting an incredible amount of trust in you, and you need to NEVER compromise on the quality of the images you deliver!
There have been so many requests for copies of this out of print classic that Don's son Gary and I, with help from the crew at Marathon Press, have decided to go back to print one more time. It's available at a pre-release price of $29.95 until January 8, 2016.
Obviously I'm a fan of the book since Don and I, along with Terry Deglau, and Tony Corbell worked hard to put it together back in the late 90's, but here's a little more of the backstory.
The principles of classic portraiture haven't changed. Clients still deserve to look their best, and great images come out of understanding lighting and posing NOT image manipulation on the computer.
PPA Certification: Because the book covers so many different aspects of lighting and posing, it's been on PPA's recommended reading list for certification for well over ten years. However, the book has been out of print, and it wasn't easy to find.
Stunning portraits have never been in greater demand. There are simply too many photographers who compromise on the quality of a portrait - mostly because they don't know how to light or pose a subject. Here's a chance for you to step up the quality of your images.
Last on the list, the book was designed to go in your camera bag. It contains how-to information to deal with 30+ challenges in portraiture. It's 90 pages with 150+ images printed on heavy stock paper. In a world where everything is digital, these images were created on film and clean, right out of the can. Nothing was retouched with the exception of cropping.
Here's a prime example I shared in a blog post almost two years ago. At the time Peter Ellis commented, "You can't beat the classics if you are taught correctly and Don is the Master. Most new photographers can't pose hands to save their lives."
Click on the images below to read the post and the tips to better ring shots and hand posting taken directly from the book.
The year is quickly coming to a close and especially in December, "service" is the name of the game. I've written a lot about Customer Service over the years because it's the strongest weapon you have in the battle for brand awareness. You've got to exceed customer expectations. And, this month you're going to be buried in last minute requests from customers with less than wonderful timing!
My career is built on a foundation of respect for Customer Service. In the 70's I was in Polaroid Customer Service when the first SX-70 cameras had a 300% defect rate. We offered walk-in service, phone support, written responses and if all else failed roving-rep calls. A roving rep call was essentially a house-call by a rep to help a consumer understand how to use the camera.
But you're not dealing with a 300% defect rate on your images. So, here are some ideas on how to avoid anything that feels catastrophic:
My buddy Tony Corbell, talking about his first studio once said, "I wasn't the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest." The best way to handle Customer Service challenges is to establish a great attitude on the front end. Even the best business models sometimes hit a "speed bump", but building a reputation based upon exceeding client expectations is the best way to put strength into your brand! Just remember always to go the extra mile!
There are no traffic jams on the extra mile!
It's the perfect topic for a Sunday Morning Reflections post, old friendships and the smiles on the five faces above couldn't be more sincere!
Back in the late 80's, Terry Deglau was Kodak's industry coordinator for professional photographers in the portrait-social categories, which essentially was everybody under the portrait/wedding umbrella. Terry was the guy everybody worked with and back in those days Kodak was a powerhouse. So, if you were shooting print film, odds are you knew Terry.
I was just a little over a year into my role at Hasselblad USA and little did I know meeting Terry was going to become the foundation for one of my very most cherished friendships of my career, both in and out of business. Over the years, it was one adventure after another. Winter Yellowstone trips, Yosemite driving Ansel Adam's car, working on Don Blair's book, Body Parts and one history making promotion after another between our two companies top the list of memory-makers.
On Friday night, December 4, St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA honored Terry with an exhibit that touched on many of Terry's most iconic images, including all the heads of state at the U.N. in 2000. It was an incredible evening, and a few of us made it there to catch up to our good buddy.
True to form, it was a reunion that defies an adequate description of emotion and walks down memory lane. All four of us share history with Terry and have remained friends for all these years, and that's my point this morning. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, only because I am, it's so important to recognize that nothing beats great friendships. It's so easy in a world where we're bombarded with the pressure of business and the day in day out stress of life to miss those special moments.
Originally I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to Latrobe and never told Terry I was coming. Walking into the gallery that night and seeing the look on his face and him seeing mine brought us both to tears. The rest of the evening was spent with 230 people in attendance to talk with Terry, look at his work and pay tribute to an artist who in so many ways had an impact on thousands of photographers today.
So, there it is, it's the relationships you build in business and your personal life that make your life. Don't take them for granted and make it a point especially this holiday season to catch up to a few special people from your past.
And to my good buddy Terry - you were always the older brother I never had and like any "kid brother," I couldn't be prouder!
The official convention season for professional photographers is about to kick off in January. I've already written a lot about getting the most out of a trade show or convention, including my article in this month's issue of Shutter Magazine. (If you're not already a subscriber, just click on the banner to the right to connect to the Shutter Magazine subscription page and find out more.
One area I didn't spend a lot of time on in my article was paying attention to which speakers/programs you need to attend.
From my perspective, there are three key reasons to attend any photographic convention. First is networking, meeting and talking with other photographers as well as the staff of the manufacturers/vendors whose products you use. This is critical to having an effective support team. Anybody can collect business cards. However, not everybody builds relationships, and that's your goal at every convention. Second is building your skill set and education. Third is staying on top of technology and the most current trends.
For this post, I just want to concentrate on your skill set. Since you already know what you do well, then spread out your time to attend workshops/programs beyond your skills. Step out of your comfort zone. Attend programs that seem like they're miles away from the direct focus of your business.
Here's a prime example, let's assume you're a wedding photographer. You love it, and you're quite good at capturing the emotion of a wedding. However, you hate children's photography. Attending a convention and a program by Lori Nordstrom, for example, will give you new ideas on lighting, posing, composition and even sales. Lori is one of the finest instructors in the industry. While her passion is babies and children, her skill set is focused on exceeding client expectations. I can guarantee a wedding photographer will pick up new ideas on marketing and selling, just by spending some time with Lori. Plus, couples get married and most eventually start families. Why wouldn't you want to be skilled enough to meet their needs later on when the first child is born?
Here's another example, wedding photographers need to attend workshops on tabletop commercial photography and macro. Why? Because at every wedding many of you are struggling with ring shots, scene-setter table shots, flower and cake shots. A tabletop or macro class will give you ideas on how to expand your skill set to be stronger in capturing the details of a wedding.
And, let's not forget all you "natural light" specialists. Look, we all love natural light, but for most of you the passion for natural light is directly related to your fear of working with studio lighting or simply not taking the time to understand it! Take a lighting course at the next convention. Learn how to light your subjects no matter what time of day it is or under any conditions.
We all have our favorite speakers at every convention, but time is your most valuable commodity. So in 2016, get the most out of the time you're away. Along with your favorite topics and presentations, throw in a few that just don't seem to make sense. Work to make your skill set as well-rounded as possible.
Competition is tough these days, and there's very little room for one trick ponies. Keep working to be the very best at your core business, but recognize the potential to learn new techniques outside your primary skills.
It's Throwback Thursday and this one goes back to the winter of 1999. I've written a few posts about the Yellowstone trips we used to do every year. Organized by my good buddy, Duncan MacNab in Bozeman the snowmobile trips went on for ten years.
There's no way to describe the camaraderie that came out of these trips. And it's the perfect example of how photographs keep our memories alive and vibrant.
The funniest part for me, as I was looking through the images, was the camera I was using. Along with my Hasselblad gear, I had a little Minolta APS camera, which couldn't be more amateur! For those of you who never heard of APS:
The format was introduced in 1996 by Kodak, Fujifilm, Minolta, Nikon, Canon and others. APS was mainly used for point and shoot amateur cameras, although some SLR systems were also created: Canon EOS IX, Minolta Vectis, Nikon Pronea with Nikon IX lenses.
The whole idea was to give the consumer more control over their images and also increase the number of images people printed. When you got your film and prints back you also got a contact sheet showing all the images. You could print panoramic as well as regular prints. However, by 1999 everyone understood the format was a mistake and it was already on the downhill side of the market!
I remember being in one of my Hasselblad dealers shortly after it was announced. They were furious. When the product was introduced, even though the target was the amateur, sales of virtually all point and shoot cameras came to a screeching halt. Everyone wanted to wait to see what the new format would be like before they made a purchase. That meant the retailers had to sit on inventory longer than necessary.
The fun of Throwback Thursday is all in the memories and the back-stories each image creates. So, what are you waiting for? Take a few minutes and go wander through those old albums or shoebox of memory making images. Then, appreciate the moment and what your work means to every client!
Even better share a throwback images on your blog to make a point with your readers/potential clients. Photographs keep memories alive and for those special moments you want a professional behind the camera and shooting with something better than APS. (Ironically it was called the Advanced Photo System. Sadly, it just wasn't advanced enough! LOL)
Lately I keep finding high-impact quotes that hit on some aspect of running a successful business. While most of my readers are photographers, the message with each quote is universal. Here's a favorite that I tweeted earlier today:
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others."
Here's what I started thinking about when I read this quote:
Success isn't overnight! New photographers especially are chasing success almost instantly. While now and then there's somebody who catches an amazing image and becomes a hit out of the box, running a new business is about sustainability. Any moron can get their first customer; the key is getting that first client to come back and spread the word about your business so that you get your second, third, fourth, etc. Repeat business is about exceeding customer expectations and making working with you not just a purchase but an experience.
Stop acting like a lone wolf! "Networking" is one of the most abused words in business these days, but it's your network that's a key to your success. Don't just collect business cards, build relationships. It takes time, but there's nothing you need to do alone. Work together and cross-promote with other vendors.
Partnerships save money! Let's assume you're thinking about doing a postcard mailing as a family photographer. If you do it alone, you've got the burden of 100% of the cost for creative, printing and mailing. However, bring in two partners and your cost drops to a third! That also leaves money to purchase a stronger list for the mailing itself. Plus, with partners you each become an ambassador for the other partners businesses.
Here's an example: For Mother's Day a photographer, florist and local restaurant are perfect partners for an over-sized postcard featuring each of you. Your pitch as the photographer is for a family sitting with the other two partners tying into their expertise. Wedding photographers have a ton of potential partners - florists, caterers, venues, salons, wedding planners, limo companies, tux shops, etc.
Be active in your community! In photography, you need to be active in your local PPA affiliate chapter, photographer's guild or whatever group of photographers meet each month. This not only adds to your network, but it's also going to give you support when you've got a challenge to deal with. Just being able to talk to other photographers about the business is going to give all of you more insight into running your business. Not a photographer? Get active in the local business groups within your community.
Get to know the vendors/manufacturers! Every product you use in your business has a support team, especially in photography. Your lab, album company and frame company all have staff working with other photographers. Also, whatever camera company you're using has tech and sales reps. Get to know them by attending the various conventions. Most important of all, get to know the crew at your local camera store. All of these people are a wealth of information.
More than once, back in my Hasselblad days, a photographer had a problem in a shoot, and our local rep would jump in with additional equipment and expertise to help. Getting to know all the reps in your area is an important aspect of building a stronger business.
There's an easy to understand point to today's post: You don't have to do anything alone. Put your ego on the back burner and ask for help when you need it. Don't be afraid to delegate tasks that are simply beyond your expertise or a waste of your skill set. Most important of all, stop acting like UPS is going to deliver a box of success tomorrow. Remember that success is also about the size of the smile on your face every morning.
Photo Credit: © Kletr