Intro by Skip Cohen
Last Sunday I shared a post of Kevin Kuster's, and since then I've been hooked on following whatever he's sharing. He's in Uganda and posts on Facebook each day.
I'm so proud to consider him a buddy, even though that's based on only one phone conversation and a few emails. But, some people cross our paths on this journey we're all on, and you know right from the start they're in your life for a reason. I don't know if we're honestly "cut from the same cloth," or I just hope we are, because I so appreciate the way he looks at life.
We met through ClickCon, and strictly online, but you can be sure when Kevin gives his keynote presentation at the conference on Monday morning, August 5, I'll be in the front row! As I've written so many times in the past, the best thing about our industry has NOTHING to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft!
And to Kevin, thanks for sharing!
We must all try and choose courage over comfort. In life we all experience uncomfortable positions.
It’s how we respond to that discomfort that defines our character.
by Kevin Kuster
Day 8 at the water well.
I woke up late today. I sprinted to the well because I could tell it was the BEST sunrise yet. I missed it. Old legs, weak back does not a sprinter make.
I sometimes miss “it” in life. Some people are afraid of the unknown. I’ve learned to try and embrace it. What we don’t know we must learn to try and understand. An education is never a burden to carry.
When some of the very small children in Uganda see me for the first time, a white person, they cry and are afraid of me. Not because of who I am but, because of the way that I look. For some, I am the first white person they have ever seen. I have been told they’re scared because they believe I may be a ghost.
Whenever this happens I step away, smile bend myself down to their perspective and try and make myself look non-threatening and small. When this happens many of the locals burst into laughter. It’s a moment I have not yet learned to adequately process.
I appreciate all the joy and laughter from the locals but I am also keenly aware that the young one is afraid of my skin and that makes me contemplative.
It’s hard for people to revel who they are. Everyone wants to erase any flaws they see and be accepted. When we start erasing one flaw we need to keep erasing more and more. One of my flaws I struggle with is I REALY don’t like tension between me and another. I especially feel very bad when I mistakenly make the small children cry on these @wattsoflove trips. Thankfully it doesn’t happen a lot.
We must all try and choose courage over comfort. In life we all experience uncomfortable positions.
It’s how we respond to that discomfort that defines our character.
Again, no one came today while I was at the water well. I could only stay for a few minutes. This is the best perspective I could find for today.Thankfully every passer by both young, old, male and female, smiled and waved to me and said, “Ibutu Aber!” Good morning in Lango.
A smile and a wave in any country and culture always reveals the heart.
From Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King to Wendy's, Subway and Chick-fil-A, and more, fast food is part of our lives. They represent a quick bite and a no-brainer when you're hungry and don't have time to put effort into a full meal.
Well, the "SCU Diner" has been serving up fast easy ideas to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 one of your best years as a photographer. There are so many different challenges to being a small business owner, and this series has grown to be a list of reminders of areas to fine-tune.
Most of them have been relatively specific and related to your website, blog, policies, pricing, customer service, and communication. And, these are just a few of the topics we've covered in fifty-eight previous posts.
Today's "blue-plate special," if we keep playing off of the fast food analogy, is more of a dessert item - so think of it as the giant slice of banana cream pie in that glass case in just about every diner in the United States!
Take time to celebrate!
Along with many of you, I'm on LinkedIn. I don't put a lot of effort into it, just enjoy keeping track of a lot of old and new friends and seeing what everybody is up to. Because LinkedIn tracks everything in your profile, whenever an important date comes up, it's broadcasted to your followers.
This week I started getting "Congratulations" messages from people who follow me. In all honesty, I had no idea why anything came up beyond my birthday. This morning I went into LinkedIn to see what they had me listed as celebrating. I had completely forgotten it's ten years since I started my own company!
I incorporated MEI ten years ago and what a trip it's been. I hesitated about going out on my own for a lot of years prior. When I finally did decide it was time I still had a lot of concerns. I've told the story about Sheila's comment many times. She asked, "What are you afraid of?" My answer was without any hesitation, "Failing!"
Well, I've learned there's no such thing as failure if you learn from your mistakes. I've learned to delegate, to trust my gut and listen to my heart. I've learned the meaning of great friendships, thanks to some extraordinary people in my life. Most important of all, I've redefined my definition of success - it's about waking up smiling every morning and being excited about an industry that's continually changing! And maybe most important of all is learning to celebrate.
This week I'm celebrating ten years of running my own business; learning from so many of you and understanding we all have the power to do and be anything we want. It's not just the significant milestones we should all celebrate, but the mini-events in business and our lives.
And here's my point - take the time to appreciate those "Holy crap - I did it" moments. Maybe it's a client who just told you they love your work or a convention where you connected with some new friends. There are moments in all our lives we miss. They get buried beneath the day in day out stress or the baggage from past events and relationships.
Like I wrote at the start of today's post, it's more of a dessert from the SCU Diner than a main course, but it's something each of you has earned. Take the time to celebrate. Take the time to look back at your life a year or two ago and think about how much you've grown!
"The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is one of my favorite guest posts from my good buddy Scott Bourne. I've shared it twice before over the last ten years. And, while it might be out of the archives, having just returned from ShutterFest a week ago, the topic couldn't be more appropriate for so many of you...RIGHT NOW!
When I left Rangefinder/WPPI ten years ago to start my own business, I remember having a long conversation with Sheila. She asked me, "So, what are you afraid of?" There was no hesitation in my answer, "I'm afraid of failing!" I've shared this story many times in past posts, but it's so timely because there are too many of you letting your fears get in the way.
Many of us, me included, spend so much time dealing with our fears, when in reality failure is all part of the process. First, there's no such thing as failure as long as you take each setback as a speed bump and learn from it. Second, the only time failure truly becomes a reality is when we let it!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,
in which case you have failed by default.”
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it.
And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.”
Whether you're new to the business and just starting out or a seasoned pro, it's a great exercise to take some time and look at your business as of right now. Then, think through everything you've learned and consider what you might have done differently. I hate looking in the rear view mirror, but sometimes it's the best way to see the bigger picture of where you're headed.
The best thing about being an artist is your ability to adapt and change at almost any time, but you can't just talk about it. Nobody ever achieved success on a history of good intentions!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I know now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?
Here's the first thing I would do:
I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain.
"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.
As for me and what I'd do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.
I was too stupid to know I could fail. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way:
"Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for you.
This is a very different Fast Food Friday because it includes a guest post from my Dad, loaded with wisdom. I've shared it before, but so many of you are new to the SCU blog, and there's a backstory about my timing to share this with you today.
With ShutterFest starting next week, over the last two weeks I've had a lot of interaction with many of the attendees. In almost every conversation regardless of whether it was on the phone, texting or through an IM, there's been an undertone of frustration, confusion and a lot of self-doubts. I can't gauge the seriousness in just these short communications, but while the reason for contacting me has been trying to decide what classes to take, for the most part, many photographers seem worried about their speed of success. In so many instances they're looking at everybody around them and feeling like their growth hasn't been as fast.
Ten years ago Michele Celentano got up in front of a group of new photographers and said, "Twenty years ago I was right where you are - wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" Everyone laughed, relaxed and then she showed some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen, all from her first wedding!
There isn't a respected and successful photographer in this industry who didn't start out at the beginning, with little or no experience. Everyone has had moments of self-doubt, frustration, concern, but the low spots are always followed by growth spurts and a few more rungs up the ladder towards success.
So, with a little help from my Dad today here's what many of you need to think about:
"Focus on what you want to become, NOT where you are today."
"Just watch the left front fender!"
I have been happily retired for many years, and unemployed for almost twenty. 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 1/2 the creators of Skip Cohen!
Note: My dad passed away at 93 almost four years ago, but he's still hanging out around me and will always be my best buddy! Looking back I'm so glad I talked him into writing a couple of posts for me.
Intro by Skip Cohen
My long-standing friendship with good buddy Scott Bourne goes back a lot of years and was founded on the respect I have for his business sense. There are a lot of things I do today, thanks to Scott's help, direction, and influence.
Today's post is perfect for this time of year as 2019 seasonality starts to take hold. It's one of the longest and most in-depth posts he's shared since helping me start SCU, and it's loaded with things to think about, especially the importance of being grateful for the career path you've chosen. I first published it in 2013, but there's no expiration date on wisdom and appreciation!
"Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes."
I love that sentence from one of his last paragraphs - we're all part of a fantastic industry, and your clients deserve nothing but the best. If your heart isn't in it, then take a break and figure out what's missing.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it.
by Scott Bourne
Zig Ziglar always used to say:
“Sales is not something you do TO someone. It’s something you do FOR someone.”
Zig honestly believed in his heart, that when we as salespeople (and if you’re a professional photographer - don’t kid yourself, you are (or need to be) a salesperson) were doing important work, folks sometimes needed a little push to get to yes. He knew in the end they’d be happy with what they bought.
I have studied that man’s thinking for 35 years and today I want to write a post about the thankful salesperson. It’s my homage to Zig. It’s also my second - to - the last post here at SCU and I want it to be a good one.
Now you may be wondering - “How the heck does being thankful connect to sales?” It’s a good question and my goal today is to answer it.
You see I believe if your heart is in the right place, i.e. you put your prospects’ needs ahead of your own and you sincerely believe in what you are selling, you can and should be thankful for the opportunity. Come on - how many people get to do a job where they are really helping people? It’s a great honor to be a high priest of memory protection. So with a hat tip to John Paul Caponigro (who turned me on to some of these quotes) here are some ways to be inspired enough to be a thankful salesperson.
Albert Schweitzer said:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
For me, this has happened many times. And for some reason, when it DOES happen, it’s related to photography. I remember selling one of my first weddings. For some strange reason the bride’s mother really liked me. She said they moved their daughter’s wedding date so they could save up to hire ME to shoot the wedding. That spark in her - that happiness that she was going to have someone she believed in shoot her wedding left me very excited. My flame was indeed lit and I think I did a pretty darn good job at that wedding.
Shakti Gawain said:
“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally ‘count our blessings,’ give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.”
I hear many photographers lament the fact that they don’t have the best gear or that they wish they had the money for an assistant or a better studio or whatever. Gawain’s quote served as a reminder to me that some of us go through life missing out on the best stuff because we think we need something else. Yet the best “stuff” is only the “best” if it helps us achieve some human connection. When you make a portrait of someone and they place it on their mantle, for generations to come to see and enjoy, NOBODY is going to wonder whether you had the best camera that was available that day or what version of Photoshop you used or whether or not the equipment van you drive is the latest model. All they will note is the fine expression on their loved one and the memories THEY have of that subject. That’s plenty of motivation for me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don’t.
None other than Albert Einstein said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. I’ve been around the world with my camera. I’ve been toe-to-toe with Arctic Wolves, Coastal Brown Bears, Moose and Great American Bald Eagles. I’ve been mere inches from a wolf pup, a mountain lion cub and baby black bear. I’ve met and photographed famous rock stars, movie stars, politicians, race car drivers, beauty queens and plenty of spectacular regular “Joes.” And if you’d have asked me as a boy if I thought I’d have that kind of life, I would have said “Hell no.” I am the least among you yet I’ve been allowed to have all these experiences because of my camera. What a miracle. If you’re looking for miracles - take this approach to selling. It works.
Oprah Winfrey said:
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’m not proud of every decision I’ve made. I didn’t always have it “good.” My parents beat me, (I probably deserved it,) I made lots of bad decisions as a young man, I’ve suffered serious health problems, I’ve crashed every kind of motorcycle and race car you can think of, and there’s been plenty of bad. Oprah’s quote reminded me that through it all, you have to take it all in - the good and the bad - to be a great story teller. You have to learn to be grateful for night to understand the beauty of daylight. When you can do that, your photography will absolutely, positively improve. Her quote led me to translate what she’s saying from a photographer’s point of view. Light illuminates - shadows define. Focus on the good things you can do with your photography and I am certain that you will find happiness and the business success that goes with it.
Denis Waitley said:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Believe it or not, I have come to learn that photography, practiced at its highest levels, is a very spiritual pursuit. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about spirituality. There is a difference. Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes. That transcends owning the coolest camera or the coolest anything. It’s a payday that the tax man can’t touch. It’s more valuable than money. But here’s the rub. If you are truly happy. I mean really, truly happy, then what ends up happening is that your sales skills increase. People want to do business with you more than ever. The money flows, not because you sought it. But because you did not. Master sales people are happy at their core. They are happy because they know the thing they are selling improves people’s lives. That knowledge is power and that power leads back to more happiness and more success. It’s a perfect circle. I hope you can find it.
I hope this lesson reaches some of you. I am grateful just to have the opportunity to share it with you because it has powerfully impacted my life.
Go out there and be thankful that you get to do this job. That you get to use your cameras to protect memories.
As always Skip and I are rooting for you.
"I'm too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener!
It's a pretty typical Sunday morning, with the exception that I woke up proud of myself for sleeping in, all the way to 7:00! What is it about aging that as you get older, you can't seem to sleep late? I was having trouble trying to figure out what was most on my mind, which is what Sunday Morning Reflections are always about.
So, here's what I did...
Just to the right of the picture above is an outdoor table and chairs. I've got boosted wifi, so I took my laptop and went to work outside. Next, I wanted to write about the experience of talking with photographers about ShutterFest this past week, both on the phone and in IMs. I couldn't find a way to get started and Googled "Quotes about Life."
*POOF* There it was the quote above, like a neon sign on a bar on Route 66. Just as I saw it, the sprinkler came on in the back yard watering the butterfly garden! It was a sign and perfect to start writing.
With ShutterFest just nine days away, the chatter in the SF forum has been deafening. The most common theme comes from relatively new photographers trying to figure out what classes they should take. The questions range from asking for opinions about different speakers to full-blown concerns about their career choice.
The thoughts I want to share this morning are about an industry I've grown to love dearly. It doesn't matter if you're a newbie coming into professional photography or a seasoned veteran needing a little help trying to jump start a new direction for your business.
We're all part of a fantastic industry, and it's loaded with people who want to help you build your career. The better you get as an artist, the more it reflects on professional photographers and the healthier the industry becomes. Sadly, too many of you waste time worrying about success, defining growth as that moment where you capture the perfect image or make the biggest sale of your life.
I won't deny there's an incredible amount of satisfaction when you realize you can make money doing something you love, but if you're having a Ramen noodle moment, and wondering if you made the right choice, think about your passion for the craft and what brought you here. Then think about this - there isn't an artist in this business who hasn't had moments of doubt and even outright fear over their career choice.
We all have heroes, and one of mine is Joe McNally. He spoke one year at Skip's Summer School, and he openly talked about times when business was slow, and he couldn't pay his staff. He shared stunning images that had been rejected by editors at different magazines. He talked about those days when things didn't go as planned. But, throughout his presentation, you couldn't help but notice his passion for the craft and his love for photography. You never heard one moment of doubt that there was any other career he could have chosen to bring him this much joy or make his life so rich.
And here's my point - there is no success fairy in any business, let alone photography. Your success is defined as your growth. You know how to hold focus on your camera, so hold focus on your goals. Define success by how far you've come NOT how far you have to go. Take building your skill set one step at a time. Ask for help when you need it, but stop questioning your decisions. Stop looking at everyone else and appreciate the person looking back at you in the mirror every morning. None of us know the challenges someone else has faced, so the grass might seem greener from where you're standing, but you don't know what it took them to get there...or how long!
And, to those of your worried about what classes to take at ShutterFest...remember, growth only happens outside your comfort zone! Take classes where you need the most help to raise the bar on your skill set, and your understanding of marketing and business.
Wishing everybody the perfect day with family, friends and one filled with a sense of accomplishment for another week doing something you love and growing in the process. Always go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and cherish time.
Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like!
Happy Sunday everybody...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
PS Ten years ago Sheila and I visited the butterfly exhibit at one of the museums in Cleveland. Then three years ago we were in the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West. Finally when moving to this house almost 2 1/2 years ago, putting in a butterfly garden became a priority. In the process I've discovered I love to play in the dirt. The garden has created an endless supply of peaceful and reflective moments for both of us. It's become our own little quiet and secure corner of the world. And, like most things you love doing; each minute of work we put into it seems to come back to us tenfold!
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time you know, I always step away from business, marketing and technique on Sunday mornings. It's my way of recharging my battery, and I'm not sure if it helps me focus on the new week ahead, or it's like a great dessert at the end of the previous week.
What's making this morning different is there's absolutely no hesitation in what I want to write about. The idea popped into my head yesterday when Dawn Davis sent me two more images of her husband Bob with the fast becoming infamous ShutterFest '17 poster.
Here's the short backstory. One of the fun benefits of speaking at ShutterFest is the banners they hang in the trade show area of all the speakers each year. I've had the ones from 2016 and 2017 hanging in my garage for the last two years. They make Sheila, and me laugh, but they also hide a lot of junk in storage. They're like all the sins hidden by wallpaper in a home! LOL
Since the banners at ShutterFest hang with visibility on both sides for two different speakers, when I got mine home in 2017, Bob Davis was on the flip-side. I told him I'd separate them years ago, but never got around to it. When Bob's wife and mother-in-law were coming for dinner a week ago, I knew it was time to have some fun and turned it around. Opening the garage, there he was. It was a classic moment and perfect for a few laughs and a little memory-making.
The poster went home with Dawn and as you can see it's getting plenty of mileage on the laugh highway in Chicago. Bob hung it in their daughter's closet to start and then when he and Dawn were out, his daughter moved it to over their tub in the master bath!
With these images she sent me, Dawn wrote:
So my kids have this ongoing joke with their dad about how everybody knows him everywhere we go. Someone will always says “Are you Bob Davis?” It always makes our kids roll their eyes. So my husband thought it would be hilarious to hang his banner in our daughter’s closet. She found it tonight and texted us saying she literally thought she was going to die.
And that brings me to my first point this morning.
We're in a stressful and challenging business. Any small business owner is feeling the pressure of changes in the economy, customer retention, maintaining a steady flow of revenue and the list goes on and on. In the process, we forget to laugh or for that matter, help others laugh!
Forgetting to laugh or just not laughing enough is the stuff that ages you before your time. Laughter feeds your soul, and your soul is like a locomotive - it's what pulls the train no matter how many cars are behind it!
"You don't stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing."
We're an industry built on a foundation of friendships. Bob, Dawn and I have been "friends" for years, but we never got quality time together. Every conversation was always in passing at a trade show or convention without the time to really share very much. When I heard Dawn was coming down to visit her parents just 90 minutes away, it was the perfect opportunity to reinforce the foundation of friendship we had and invest some quality time.
It's essential for you to build your skill set as an artist, but it's even more important to expand that skill set with great friendships and in turn plenty of laughter. It's an investment in your life that will NEVER depreciate, and in fact, great friends become a critical ingredient to fuel your soul, your creativity and your passion for life!
And to Bob, Dawn and their daughter who I've never met...thanks for the chuckles; thanks for being great friends and Sheila and I are looking forward to more time together and adding to an already great foundation!
"Friends are the people who make you smile brighter, laugh louder and live better."
Wishing everybody an outstanding day and time to appreciate friends - quality time, not a "wave-by" while multi-tasking and doing something else. You've got to stop for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and make an investment of sharing quality time. Recognize how important it is to cherish those people who mean the most to you.
Happy Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world.
"If you don't sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice."
In theory, the slow season is officially over and with April, business for most photographers starts to ramp up. As I was looking for a quote to share this morning the one above stood out and ties directly back to a couple of threads I was reading in one of the forums as well as two personal conversations with friends over the last few days.
It's a short post this morning, so please stay with me!
All the answers, along with the tools to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 your best year to date, are out there. But if you don't take advantage of them and make a sacrifice to get them, then the road to success becomes more difficult and a piece of your dream, at least in terms of a better business, becomes the sacrifice.
I know there are times when life gets in the way, but when an aspiring pro writes about a conference or workshop, "I wish I could go, but just don't have the time right now," or "I just can't afford it," growth and an opportunity to thrive are on the path to the slaughterhouse!
And there's my point - Nothing beats hands-on education especially at a convention/conference. ShutterFest is the next one up this month, followed by state and regional conventions, workshops like JB Sallee's, Photoshop World, and ClickCon in August. Then there are online programs, blogs to read, YouTube videos to watch and the list goes on and on. And there's new educational material out there all the time, like Tim Kelly's Master Photo Techniques, just recently launched.
If you want to thrive in the year ahead, then you have to invest time and sometimes money. A great skill set isn't just about capturing great images and creating stunning photographs - it's also about marketing, building your brand and continually raising the bar on your reputation. It's about a strong network and staying on top of consumer trends and new ways to present images.
You've got to invest in your future. And, when it comes to money, there's ALWAYS a way to pay for a conference. All it takes is learning one new technique, adding one new friend to your network, or figuring out a new way to market your business and the trip pays for itself!
"If you don't build your dream someone else will hire you to build theirs!"
Come on you guys - you know how to hold focus on your camera. Isn't it time you held focus on your dreams?
Over the years I've shared a few of Melody Beattie's more brilliant moments. I try and start each day with a little of her inspiration. This morning hit home and I want to share it with you.
Make Each Moment Count
"A picture isn't taken in a moment," stated the brochure for the Cottonwood, Colorado, hotel. "It's taken of a moment."
It took me a long time to learn that important truth. I spent years trying to get my life together and keep it together, as if it were a solid chunk that could be arranged in a certain place, then made to stay there. It took be a long time to learn about moments.
In many ways, our lives are like a movie reel, made up of individual frames and single moments each one leading into the next. It is a waste of energy to try and hold on to the moments of the past. By the time we begin reaching for them, they're gone. It is just as poor timing to try to jump into moments that have not arrived yet - the future.
Stay in the present moment, the frame you're in now. That's the only moment where happiness, joy and love can be found. And remember to make each moment count.
Wishing everybody a Tuesday filled with moments that help keep a smile on your face! Check out Melody Beattie if you're interested in more inspiration. (This piece came from Journey to the Heart.) You need to feed your head and soul each day, just like breakfast!
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give!
Sir Winston Churchill
I've written a lot about the importance of community involvement over the years. It's so important to give back to your community, and being involved is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Here's how I stumbled upon a wonderful non-profit here in Sarasota.
We moved to Sarasota in 2011 to give my Dad a hand with my mother who was fighting the battle with Alzheimer's. That's when we discovered the Caregiver Resource Center, and we started attending the weekly support group for caregivers.
With our very first meeting, Dad started to change. He learned it was okay to be angry and feel frustrated; he learned he wasn't alone; and discovered it was okay to share everything he was feeling, something his generation was taught NOT to do.
My relationship with the Friendship Centers is going on eight years. And, Sheila's also involved, having volunteered repeatedly along the way. They're a seventeen-million dollar nonprofit providing support to thousands of people to thousands of people in south Florida.
I'm not writing to toot my own horn but reminding you how important it is to be involved in something in your community and the industry. I've heard so many photographers comment, "In my community, there aren't very many things to be involved in!" Seriously? There's a level of pain, frustration, and a place for photographers to lend a hand in EVERY community. Try these on for size:
Those are two of my favorite photo-centric organizations who are involved on a national level that will keep you engaged but let's move to the local level. Here are just a few ideas of resources to identify where you can help.
I know many of you are outside the US, but in every country and every community in the world, there are groups of people needing help. Your community, wherever you are, needs to see you as more than just another retailer. You're looking for your community to be good to you - so you need to be good to your community!
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
The longer I'm in this industry, the more everyday occurrences remind me of things I’ve heard or learned over the years. After a lifetime in some aspect of photography from starting out making emulsions in a research lab at Polaroid right through to yesterday’s phone conversations, email threads, and forum discussions, the non-photography lessons are relatively few in comparison to everything else.
Take this past Monday night’s sunset for example. We were at friends for dinner on Long Boat Key. We hadn’t been there before and didn’t know they were right on the water. While I’m usually not without a camera, with WPPI this week, I’d left everything at home, packed for the next day’s trip. All I had was my cell phone, which honestly didn’t do too bad a job, at least for Internet viewing…so there’s lesson one from Monday night – practice what you preach and don’t get caught short without a real camera.
But lesson two is a BIG one.
Years ago, I did a podcast with the late Mary Ellen Mark. She’d been a nice friend going back to my Hasselblad days in the ’80s. She talked about why she loved shooting analog so much more than digital. As an example, she told me how she made her students cover up the LCD screen on their cameras to help them learn to wait for the “decisive moment.”
I’m paraphrasing a little, but this was her point,
“Shooting digitally photographers check to see if they got the shot and move on, but what if the real moment is yet to come? What if the emotion of grandma’s tears with a bride wasn’t at the hug, but seconds or minutes later?”
Last night’s sunset looked like it was going to be non-existent. It was all clouds and solid gray. Little by little the clouds started to break apart, and while we never got the kind of sunset that graces the covers of romantic novels, the sun found a spot to sneak through, and it was stunning, but only for a minute or two. All I had to do was be patient and wait for it.
And here’s one more fun perspective. Having spent most of my life living inland, I love living near the ocean. Just about every vacation over the years was always near the water. I remember all those bittersweet moments when a vacation was about to come to an end, and we’d sneak in walk on the beach before packing, trying to make the most of the last night.
So, these days, whenever Sheila and I leave the beach one of us always says the same thing...“Hey, it’s not our last night!”
It's no good running a pig farm badly for thirty years while saying,
"Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer." By that time, pigs will be your style.
The other day in the Facebook Wedding Photographers Forum in commenting about a post that was up, a photographer responded with..." wedding photographers are considered the bottom feeders of the business." Yes, I'm taking it out of context, but it doesn't change the nature of the comment.
Having worked with professional photographers for the last 30+ years, I've got a lot of friends on the wedding side of the business. And, while I'll admit I consider photographing weddings one of the very toughest specialties in imaging, it's anything but filled with "bottom feeders." Sure, it's the easiest of the photographic specialties to break into, but that's also because it's got the highest demand with a relatively stable need of 2.5 million weddings each year, just in the US alone.
Wedding photographers, working on a day when Bambi Cantrell has described as, "Logic doesn't reign as king!" they have very little control over the event they've been hired to photograph. They work in some of the most difficult lighting situations, often with unreasonable time constraints and stress. Yet, many of them capture stunning images, tell incredible stories and create the first family heirloom of a new family!
However, what really bothered me was the way a comment like this can be perceived, and I went off searching through the SCU archives, because I know I wrote about being happy with your career choice several years ago. So, if you read parts of this post in 2015, my apologies, but it's too much on point not to share again!
On a fairly regular basis I'll hear a photographer comment about the things they don't like about their career choice. It's always the same tone as they look back and say something like, "I really wanted to get into fashion, but..."
No matter how long or short a time you've been in business, there's always the opportunity to change paths. Nothing has to be forever. And for those of you who are already rolling your eyes and saying, "That's easy for you to say," I know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm the guy who left a great job as President of Rangefinder/WPPI, because I was no longer happy in what I was doing. It wasn't easy, but had I stayed; it would have only been a matter of time until my heart just wasn't in it.
This year it will be ten years since I resigned from Rangefinder Publishing/WPPI and started my own company. It's been an amazing ride and continues to still have me jumping out of bed each day, smiling and filled with the curiosity of a kid on Christmas morning. Adapting isn't easy, but it's incredibly fulfilling. The industry is constantly changing; technology keeps expanding how we communicate and share images; and the world keeps getting smaller. I shared images in a spotlight post last week from Chad Pennington, who I caught up to while he was having lunch in Nigeria!
If you're unhappy with what you're shooting, then you owe it to yourself to identify what's missing. That applies to everything you do, including what's going on in your life. Find the time to stare into space and ponder the meaning of life.
What works best for me is to find a quiet place in the house. We've got this one chair in the living room that's incredibly comfortable. I'll typically get a glass of wine, put on some of my favorite music and kick back for an hour or more to think about a specific task or project. The key here is uninterrupted thought. I might even have a small notebook close by to write down some ideas. At some point, I'll have ideas for a solution, and that's where Sheila comes in.
You need a sounding board, and ideally, it needs to be somebody who knows you better than you do! This is about trust, understanding, and expression. Often, some of the ideas in my head are good, and other times they're horrible, but Sheila's insight helps me focus. This approach works for the significant challenges, as well as the small ones...the key here is being honest with yourself and living by that line from Shakespeare,
"To thine own self be true."
Remember, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.
I'm not sure what sparked my thought process this morning, but the magic of this industry is so much on my mind. This is a short post dedicated to magic - not the magic of love like the Lovin' Spoonful's song from 1965 for you old farts out there, but the magic of our industry.
The magic, when you have a career you love, is universal, but as a professional photographer, you've got the tools to truly be a magician. Think about it for just a second - What could be more magical than your ability to stop time, capture a memory and hand a client that moment in a tangible form for them to cherish forever?
Here's my point - all of us have days when the clouds roll in, and we can't find the silver lining. We get buried in the bullshit of running a business, dealing with the peaks and valleys in sales, paying bills, thinking about the year ahead, dealing with the competition, finding new clients and the list goes on and on. Plus, it's convention season, tax season and we're thinking about what we have to pay a government who's currently showing anything but professionalism and acting like adults. We've all seen more maturity on elementary school playgrounds!
So, when any of these things happen, you've got to take a step back. Recognize the signs of what I call short-term burnout. Step away from the business. Find yourself a quiet place, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a cold beer and chill. Think about what brought you into this business in the first place and if you have to, force a smile - it'll relax your face and help change your perspective on the challenges you're facing.
And yes, it really is almost that easy! The tricky part is forcing yourself to step away and take the time to pat yourself on the back for everything you've accomplished so far!
It's just a bad day - not a bad life!
"Don't anticipate life; meet it. When you try to anticipate, you're being an idiot,
because nobody's got the brain to outwit nature.
I'm talking here about patience, about believing in yourself.
I'm talking here about having courage to wait.
You will get what you deserve.
Typical of most Sunday Morning Reflections, I start out thinking about things I've read over the past week and conversations I've had with various photographers. Often the idea behind a Reflections post begins with something that's come up during the past few days.
Maybe it's because it's the start of a new year or the slow season, but I've picked up on so many artists who are waiting for success. They act like any day now the Success Fairy is going to sprinkle magic dust on them and their images and reputation will skyrocket to the top!
So, they sit and wait. They don't do much promoting of their work; they're not practicing very much to raise their skill level and the longer it takes for "success," the more they blame everybody but the face in the mirror.
This is a tough industry to be in. It's incredibly competitive, and trends and styles seem to be constantly changing, and keeping up with technology isn't easy either. But, if you've got the passion, then most of you find ways to pull the reigns in on your frustration. You've already realized how much you love the craft, and know there's nothing else you'd rather be doing.
So, however, you define success, and we all have different goals, there are two common denominators to achievement - believing in yourself and patience. I guess that's what drew me to today's opening quote.
Always believe in yourself. No matter who's around you being negative or thrusting negative energy at you,
totally block it off. Because whatever you believe, you become.
Patience is not simply the ability to wait.
It's how we behave while we're waiting.
There's my point this morning. If there is a Success Fairy, she's only touching those hearts who believe in themselves and more often or not we think of her as "luck." But luck comes in all shapes and sizes and starts with being thankful for everything and everyone in our lives. The glass really is half full for all of us, as long as we stay focused on the prize, which is all about being happy.
Before technology brought auto-focus to us, we all focused our cameras manually. Looking through the lens we had to decide what we wanted sharpest in every image. And we played with depth of field to capture what was most important. Well, your career path and your life are no different...and there is no auto-focus.
Have fun being patient. Appreciate your growing skill set and everything you need to do to keep raising the bar on the quality of your work, business and relationships. And, all along the way, never give up on believing in yourself.
Two of the significant lessons in my life I've seen proven over and again are: Everything happens for a reason, and everything always works out for the better. That doesn't mean you can just kick back and wait - you've got to stay focused on your happiness and take those opportunities to grow whenever you can. Just don't give up on your dreams!
Never give up on something you really want.
It's difficult to wait, but more difficult to regret.
And as always, I wish everybody a terrific day ahead. For those of you caught in the storm zones which seem to be nationwide...stay warm and dry, go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and most important of all, remind whoever you're hugging how much they mean in your life. Don't forget they believe in you just as much as you believe in yourself.
Everyone in the "kitchen" at the SCU Diner is surprised that we still haven't run out of menu items for Fast Food Friday. However, if you think about how many different aspects there are in running a business, then it really shouldn't be that surprising.
Fast Food Friday blue plate specials aren't always quick meals, but they are nutritional and fortunately, with the government shut down we don't have to worry about dealing with the FDA!
(Sorry, with the nonsense going on in Washington and thousands of people not getting paid while the members of Congress still draw their salaries, it's hard to not have a little sarcasm spill over into today's post. Sheila had a great idea the other night, suggesting every member of Congress also have their pay docked and be fined $20,000 a day.)
Okay, back to this week's special - I do not profess to be an expert on this dish, but it is one I'm cooking today, and it's all from the heart! Let's talk about things you can do to find balance. And, while "balance" is such an abused all-inclusive word, we're really talking about adjusting your priorities.
Wearing Multiple Hats
Today's special is my own recipe. It's taken me years to perfect and ironically, most of what I learned I first heard from my grandmother but wasn't sharp enough to understand! I'm hoping you can learn from my mistakes so you can make new ones of your own.
We all wear multiple hats as business owners, parents, spouses, friends, and children, just to name a few. The challenge comes in remembering you've only got one head! And, while the buzz-word today is multi-tasking, you're still only one person.
So, here's what works for me and it's taken me years to perfect it, and I'm still work in progress. I have a morning routine:
Obviously, there are phone calls and interruptions throughout the day, along with scheduled conference calls, appointments, etc. but at the end of the day, usually around 5:30 everything shuts down, and it's family time. Sheila and I have dinner together and then move to the TV for our favorite shows, a fast run through the news and maybe a movie.
Our day typically ends around 10:00 PM watching a rerun of Friends. Why? Because the news used to be the last thing we watched and it's become so depressing we needed to laugh before going to sleep. I think back to my folks always watching the 11:00 PM news before going to bed. Well, these days it's all nightmare material, so we finish the day watching something entertaining.
That's our routine, but it only works if there's a lot of open, honest communication. Both of us have learned to share the challenges in our life, our aspirations, and disappointments. We've learned to trust each other and for example, when I'm off balance and too focused on a business challenge we talk it out. We're both work in progress and it's not always smooth sailing. But there's also that great quote about calm seas not making skilled sailors!
Most important of all, take the time to be thankful. So many of you are obsessed with finding success, but you've never taken the time to think through what that really means. For me, it's about waking up with a smile on my face every morning.
We've worked together to find balance. We're like a medieval castle. We think of our home as surrounded by a moat. When the enemies are clamoring at the gate, we recognize when we need to help each other and pull up the draw bridge.
One of the things that's surprised me over the years is how often somebody talks about something they're going through, and I'm feeling the same thing. Then there have been comments from many of you about posts I've written, especially on Sunday mornings, when many of you have responded you're feeling the same way.
I'm not about to take up your time getting philosophical about life, but the reality is we all go through similar challenges, doubts, aspirations and even moments of glory. This morning is a perfect example:
Last night I was taking Sheila through our travel plans for February and WPPI. I made a comment about dreading the airport if the government remains in shutdown mode. Sheila responded by reminding me to stop being negative and think positive about the upcoming trip.
This morning I checked in for my daily dose of inspiration from Melody Beattie and the title was, "See How Happy You Are." She went on to write about not wasting energy on negative visualizations, but use our creative powers to think about positive events in our lives. She finished with:
See yourself doing all the things you'd like to do.
Take the time to use your creative power of visualization to create the life you'd like.
But above all, take the time to see yourself being happy.
Since starting the SCU blog six years ago this week, we've shared a few thousand posts about ways for you to build a stronger business, fine-tune your skill set and exceed client expectations. But, there's that old line about you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. There are still too many of you who waste time overwhelmed by the challenges in being a small business owner and an artist. Instead of patting yourself on the back for what you've accomplished and following a path of positive visualization, you freeze up, procrastinate and tread water.
It's January and the start of the "slow season" for most of you. Take the time to follow Melody Beattie's advice - pay attention to your happiness. Throw pessimism out the window and remember that the glass is half full with new technology, new customers, new skills and an industry loaded with people who are here to help you grow - one of them being me! Use this time to experiment with different aspects of imaging and business. And, remember: Growth only happens outside your comfort zone!
Happy Hump Day and Happy Anniversary SCU!
I woke up this morning and went through the usual Sunday morning routine of thinking about something to write about. Several times in the last few days I've looked around my office and our home, doing these little inventories of life like we all do, and said to Sheila, "How did we get here?" Then wandering through Facebook a lot of friends seem to be playing the "Ten Year Game," putting up their first headshot for Facebook with today's.
Well, it suddenly hit me, in one of those OMG-cartoon-character-moments with the imaginary lightbulb going off above my head it's ten years ago this April I resigned from Rangefinder Publishing and WPPI to head out on my own. Why I left is no longer relevant. I look back on that time in my life as one of those "Ah-Ha" moments when I made the right decision. I'm grateful to so many people who helped me realize the dream of my own business; stuck by me through some scary times and all along the way became a part of the fabric of my life - which seems to be a never-ending tapestry that's always changing.
Rather than take a nostalgic look back, I'm more excited about looking forward. After all, through several thousand posts over the last ten years, I've shared just about everything that's happened in my life. It's more fun to look ahead and here are handful of examples:
In looking ahead, there's one last major point that's changing, which started a year or two ago. As I look back, it has a lot to do with aging and time. I'm at a point in my life where I realize every day how fast the hands on the clock are spinning. It has a lot to do with looking at your life and seeing less time ahead than the decades behind.
I want to waste less time in the new year. I'm tired of not getting quality time with good friends. I'm tired of people I care about being out of touch. A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Claude Jodoin, which he referred to as his "annual catch up to Skip" call. It was great, as we covered what's going on in both of our lives, talked a little about the past, our old buddy Dean Collins always comes up, and just reminded each other we're both still passionate about the craft and our friendship.
And there you have it - It's time to make my point. While I love looking in that rearview mirror and the comparisons everybody is doing on Facebook with their headshots - it's more fun to think about what your next ten years are going to be like, starting with 2019. What do you want to do this year to make it different than last year? How are you going to find more time for friends, stay focused on growing your business and bring more quality into your life? What's truly important to you this morning?
Wishing everybody a day ahead filled with optimism and time to appreciate where you're going in the new year more than where you've been. Hug those special people in your life for the full therapeutic eleven-seconds and remember they're a key to your goals for the future. Take the time to appreciate how shallow life would be without them, and then focus on how important they are going forward.
We can't stop time or even slow it down, but we all can create more impact and a life that adds more smiles and laughs than frowns and tears. There's a great line Dr. Phil is credited for, "Would you rather be happy or right?" In this new year, it's more important for me to go bounding out of bed in the morning with a smile on my face than a frown and thinking about the stress of the day ahead. While stress is inevitable as a business owner, you can still work in a stress-free zone as long as you stay focused on things that make you happy.
Anybody want to join me?
Ten years from now you'll laugh about whatever's stressing you out today. So why not laugh now?
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
With my first post of 2018, I talked about Melody Beattie and shared one of her inspirational moments. Getting back into feeding my brain (and heart) every morning with one of Melody's reflections is proving to be one of the best new years resolutions I've made in a long time.
We all live such stressful lives. While we don't always have control over the causes, we do have the ability to control how we deal with the challenges. You need to feed your brain and heart every morning with something outside your business.
I'm only going to share one of her daily reflections now and then, but click on the link to her books on Amazon and start adding them to your own library. You won't be disappointed.
by Melody Beattie
Remember to Be Happy
The sign hangs on the wall of a bagel shop: "Don't forget to be happy!"
Sometimes we get so bogged down in dealing with feelings, issues, problems - the realities and details of our lives - we forget to be happy. Often happiness can be ours if we just remember to be happy.
Joy is a choice - a deliberate, conscious choice. That choice is available to us each day. Our joy isn't controlled by others or by outward circumstances. Joy comes from a deeper place, a place of security within ourselves. It's an attitude, not a transitory emotion.
Remember to be kind. Remember to be loving.
Remember to feel al your feelings and to take care of yourself.
But most of all, remember to be happy.
Six years ago my good buddy, Scott Bourne shared this little gem here on the SCU site. It was one of our first posts. It originally ran on Photofocus.com. The timing for a short "vitamin" like this couldn't be better. It's the first quarter and as you think about your goals for the year ahead never compromise on the quality of the services you provide.
At one of the best programs I've ever heard Scott present, or anybody for that matter, he talked about the responsibility we all have as "High Priests of Memory Protection". Every client deserves the the best images you can capture. The only way you can get to that level is to never stop learning, never stop experimenting and keep taking those "photographic leaps" Scott refers to.
by Scott Bourne
The great and prolific photographer Garry Winogrand used to say you should be risking failure every time you raise your camera to your eye. By that he meant if the scene looks familiar to you, you’ve probably already taken a similar photograph, so try something new. It may not work, but when it does it can take you to the next level. I find that I have to push myself all the time because I lapse into familiar habits: shooting from eye level, same lens to subject distance or comfort zone, don’t move around enough or shoot enough variety.
We have no excuse for not taking photographic chances with digital, it doesn’t cost extra and there’s nothing to lose and extraordinary pictures to gain. So take a look at your stuff, if you’re seeing a lack of variety and similar photographs, grab your camera and take a photographic leap….
Whenever the holiday falls on a Tuesday or later like it did this week, it's always a strange, yet terrific time of year. Many of you are still on vacation. Those of you who are back at work are recovering from the holiday surge in business, and might even have a few last minute orders and loose ends to wrap up.
Technically this is the first Fast Food Friday episode of the new year, but we're going to keep it light and give you a little time to kick back and chill. We're working on lots of great content for 2019, and a few new directions and guest "chefs" to join us in the kitchen of the SCU Diner.
Meanwhile, if you missed last week's wrap-up, it includes the links to all forty "blue-plate specials" in the SCU Diner, starting last February. From your website to your blog to relationship building and customer service, there's not very much we missed in ideas to help you build a stronger business. Take a scroll through last week's post with a click on the banner below. And, if you think there's something we missed, let us know!
As You Kick Back and Chill...
I started this series because so many of you are right-brained artists who need left-brain support. Your skill set depends on the creative juices flowing from the right side of your brain, but your survival as a business is thanks to the left side!
While some experts believe the right brain - left brain theory is a myth, it's still a great metaphor. At least in part, it explains the differences in discipline some of us have in various areas of business.
Click on the illustration on the left to connect to a website I stumbled across called "The Brain Made Simple." It's not my intention to turn today's post into a lesson on how our brain works, but this site does do a nice job of explaining the left and right side functions.
In the meantime next week brings business back into full swing, but you need a fully charged battery to hit the ground running and start building a solid foundation for the new year ahead. Take today and the weekend to kick back a little. Reflect on last year; catch up on your reading; relax and even enjoy a few of the past Fast Food Fridays in those areas where you need the most help.
Most important of all, get your mindset in line with your heart and your passion for the craft. You can't create images that tug on people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!