Introduction by Skip Cohen
During the recent PPE show I was involved in a program that was simply a kick - a live Google+ Hangout in the Panasonic LUMIX booth with good buddies, Frederick Van Johnson and Bob Coates. The topic was fine art photography and we had three great artists participating online, one of them Don Komarechka.
A couple of weeks later Don sent me an email about the event and some of the marketing topics that were discussed during the PPE program. The email exchange led to a lengthy phone conversation about dozens of different aspects to building a successful business, including customer service.
Customer service is one of the most critical components to building a strong brand, but as Don points out in this guest post, sometimes you've simply got to take control over a problem, let everybody know the challenge and come up with a solution.
Don forced the issue of reprinting his new book at the cost of delaying the introduction, but in the process he's demonstrated there is no compromise for quality. You've got to go the extra mile and to quote Roger Staubach:
"There are no traffic jams along the extra mile."
Note: If you’d like to see the results of this project, a copy of the book is just a click away!
Being a successful photographer means being passionate about what you create. Getting enthusiastically involved in a project allows for creative thinking, attention to detail, and plenty of inspiration. It can make you love your job, even if many of these projects are simply a labour of love.
One of the best projects I have ever worked on is about to hit a huge milestone – the release of a hardcover book that chronicles all of the photographic work and knowledge gained along the way. If I can be proud of one thing in my career up to this point, this is it. So what happens when something goes wrong at the 11th hour?
The book features snowflakes; hundreds of photographs of snowflakes, the science detailing how they form, and all the photographic methods used to create the images. Each image takes roughly four hours of editing and combines as many as 70 separate frames with focus-stacking techniques to get the entire crystal sharp. Over 2000 hours have now gone into this project, and a 300-page book is the reward.
Printing books is not cheap. To raise the necessary funds, I used indiegogo to gather the money needed to afford the production run, and blew past my original goal. There is no greater satisfaction then seeing complete strangers (along with plenty of family, friends and colleagues) help turn a labour of love into a viable product for the world to enjoy. Plenty of hard work was still needed: writing the content, checking the science, page layouts and design.
The project was in my hands from the beginning – I had complete control over the final work. No one could step in and tell me what to include, how to say it, what to trim or remove; the book was mine to shape into whatever I envisioned.
The printing industry was still somewhat foreign to me, and so I made decisions based on the recommendations of the printer, within the budget of the project. I asked to improve the quality of the book, and chose upgrades like brighter paper and a scuff-free laminate for the cover. It was all looking great, until the books arrived. We had chosen the wrong kind of printing technology for this book, and the whole project was suffering.
The books had a ripple in the pages, particularly where the ink was heaviest. The type of press used, a heat-set web press, can create this flaw because of amount of liquid in the ink. The books appeared to be suffering from moisture damage, and celebration quickly turned into concern. I know I’m my own worst critic, and the opinion of the public would truly decide what would be done.
I held the book launch event as scheduled and the result was fantastic – so many supporters, so many congratulations. Everyone complimented me on the content of the book, but many also raised concerns over the quality of the printing. At a presentation the following day, someone returned the book assuming it was defective, and I knew I had a huge problem.
E-mails and phone calls began almost immediately with the printing company, trying to establish a solution. A few ideas were given, including storing the books in very low humidity environment in hopes that they would flatten out. While possible, it wasn’t a guarantee and certainly would not meet my deadlines. After further discussions and a determined stance on my part, the book is currently being reprinted. The only way to avoid this problem is to use a different type of press (sheetfed press) and the printer was willing to reprint the entire production for only the cost difference between these two options.
Two and a half weeks had gone by before the reprint was approved. Stress and insomnia were abundant, knowing that the fate of this project in the final mile was out of my control. As soon as I had identified the problem and confirmed the solution, I let the world know and a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I needed perfect books to showcase my dedication to the project, and they’re finally on their way.
Looking back at every step of this project, it’s been driven by passion from everyone who supported the project. Delivering an inferior book wouldn’t be a disappointment for just myself, but for everyone. No matter what you do or what project you’re working on, putting in the extra effort is always worth it.
Image copyright Don Komarechka. All rights reserved.