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!”
Often when I'm teaching a marketing workshop or doing a website review, the importance of accessibility comes up. It happens every time I come across one of my pet peeves on a photographer's website - the absence of a phone number. They've got everything there, EXCEPT a number for people to call. Typically that launches a rant on the importance of giving clients and more importantly, potential clients instant fulfillment in their ability to talk to you.
Many years ago we lost one of the industry's greatest managers and friends, Bruce Landau. Hearing the sad news, a number of us started chasing down people who we knew he was close to. I got to a well-respected photographer and educator on my list, but no matter where I looked I couldn't find a phone number. He'd recently moved, and there was nothing on his website. A few months later I saw him at a convention and apologized for not taking more time to find him. His answer left me speechless, "Yeah, there's no phone number because I don't want people calling me!" He honestly felt phone calls were a bother!
So, fast forward fifteen years and I'm still seeing photographers who don't have a phone number. They use a template contact form for email, but don't respond quickly. They act as if it's the customer's job to become an Internet miner and find them! And when I've confronted some of these artists, their attitude is, "If they really like my work they'll find me!"
Think about your frustration the last time you called a company and couldn't find a way to talk to a live-body! We live in an instant-fulfillment world and that old expression of "strike while the iron is hot" couldn't be more valid.
I'm very excited about a new SCU partner, PHOTOtexting, a very cool app that helps you market to and book new clients from your phone. I'm using their application myself this week at WPPI with presentation notes for attendees at two programs I'm doing in the Panasonic booth (934). Think about the Internet, social media, how we use our phones - everything is changing from how we share images to how we can more effectively communicate and market ourselves.
This post is the start of a series of marketing ideas on how to build a stronger business in 2019, and it starts with being accessible and responding quickly to customer requests. And, best of all for me - I'm excited because there's the potential to not hear excuses any longer from people who think they don't need a business phone line!
Check out everything PHOTOtexting has to offer. There are so many different applications and ways for you to build a stronger presence.
I don't want you to just survive in 2019 - let's make sure you thrive!
I don't pull posts out of the SCU archives very often, but it's Marketing Monday and a perfect way to remind many of you that great marketing doesn't trump your skill set!
I wrote most of this post three years ago, I had just come back from WPPI and was surprised at the number of new photographers I met who thought they could rush the process of becoming a pro. I heard somebody comment as they were watching Michele Celentano during a live demo say, "That's easy for her to say!"
Not one of today's icons started iconically. They didn't just wake up one morning as if the Success Fairy wandered in during the night and sprinkled success dust over them and *poof* they'd made it to the top. And, if you talk to any of those people who we define as iconic, they'll tell you how they're still practicing, learning and experimenting. They never stop attending programs for the benefit of boosting their own skill set.
Don Blair at 74 was once asked, "What's the most incredible portrait you've ever done?" He immediately responded, "I don't know, I haven't made it yet!" Even then, considered one of the finest portrait artists in the industry, he was always experimenting in his search for the ultimate image.
Years ago Michele spoke at GoingPro Bootcamp, a program Scott Bourne and I put together. Her opening comments said it all, "Twenty years ago I was sitting right where you are now, wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" She then proceeded to share some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen. I got her to send me a couple of them featured above.
So, for those of you trying to rush the process, and thinking success is all in how creative your marketing can be - here are three things to think about:
"Envy comes from people's ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts."
And, there's the most significant part of the problem. Many of you are so gifted, but you've spent too much time following the icons. Just for a second today look in the mirror and if you want to envy somebody, check out the face staring back at you. If you've got the passion for the craft and the desire to be a great artist, then give it the time it deserves and start believing in your own gifts. Stay focused on what's in your heart and, accept as an artist; there's no such thing as overnight success.
Most important of all, know there are a whole bunch of us out here rooting for you and believing in your goals and willing to help when you need the support.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Welcome back to a new "Insight," a series of content-rich posts to help you build a stronger business and in today's post, protect your images. Working together with PhotoShelter we want to make 2019 your best year ever and as I've written in the past, thrive, not just survive.
There's an incredible amount of outstanding content in PhotoShelter's archives, all directed to helping become a successful artist. I ran across this article by Allen Murabayashi, and he's writing about an issue critical to all of you - copyright!
PhotoShelter has a reputation for helping you create the very best presentation of your work, but also help you run a stronger business. You've got to protect your photographs. So often I'm surprised how many photographers have so little understanding of copyright. Check out the post below and start protecting your images - you've worked too hard to develop the skill set to capture and create them. Don't they deserve to be protected?
5 Common Copyright Misconceptions Held by Photographers
by Allen Murabayashi
The most recent version of the Copyright Law of the United States (December 2016) weighs in at a whopping 354 pages. And while there are areas of ambiguity, the basics and benefits of copyright registration for photographers are well-documented. Unfortunately, well-documented doesn’t mean well-understood, so we asked attorney (and former photo rep) Leslie Burns to weigh in on a number of common copyright misconceptions that still persist, and why you should register your copyright.
Disclaimer: The information herein does not constitute legal advice. As always, consult with a lawyer for your particular circumstance!
1. If I publish a photo without registering my copyright first, I can’t sue for damages.
U.S. Copyright Law has two forms of damages: 1) actual, and 2) statutory.
The moment you take a photo, (unless you are an employee or signed a terrible work-for-hire deal) you own the copyright and have some protection. But without registration, you are only eligible for actual damages which means the “market value” of the image’s license, plus the defendant’s profits directly connected to the infringement, if any. If someone uses your image on their Instagram account, the actual damages might be so low as to make it impractical to sue.
The main benefit of registering your images is the ability to sue for statutory damages. If a person or organization willfully infringes your photo, you can sue for up to $150,000 per infringement image. Non-willful has a maximum of $30,000. You might get attorneys’ fees, too.
“Publication in copyright law,” says Burns, “is not what most people think. Online use may or may not be published—if you offer the work for others to license or use or if you provide it to a client for its use, then it is published; but if you just display the work online (or in a gallery) it probably is not published.” If it is published, then you have up to 3 calendar months to register the copyright and it is as if you registered it on the date you first published the work, so any infringement after that can get the statutory damages. If you wait, then only infringements that start after you register the copyright can get the statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. For unpublished work, only infringements that start after registration can get statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
Click to read more...
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This post will be most relatable to those of you over thirty. If you're younger, you might need to take the trip down Memory Lane with one of your parents!
Over the last two decades, the Internet has changed everything in the way we communicate and especially share pictures. The world has become a tiny place giving us the ability to share photographs with friends, associates and the public at any time.
Along with the change in how we share pictures, how we communicate has also changed. The other day a friend shared a video with me of two teenagers unable to figure out how to make a call using a rotary dial phone! They only knew how to use their cell phones. And, with our phones, access to the world is always at our fingertips.
SCU was built on a foundation of passion for marketing, business, and education. Communication is a huge part of that passion. After all, what good is working on your technique to capture the most magnificent images of your life if you're not reaching your target audience?
Just like imaging and communication changing over the years so has marketing.
It's time to take how you communicate with your clients to the next level! With the help of PhotoTexting.com, we're excited to introduce you to a more effective way to reach your target audience!
PhotoTexting.com is in the SCU House!
With PhotoTexting Apps you've got dozens of ways to build a stronger business, increase inquiries and reach your target audience quickly; boost your inquiries; inspire more conversations and most important of all get your brand to their phone before they shop your competitors.
There's an endless combination of ways to communicate with your clients. Each app focuses on a different aspect of your business including customer appreciation, referrals, promotions, and business cards to name a few.
"I've been building out my mobile apps inside of PHOTOtexting. The idea of using anything else is daunting to me. It's amazing the inquiries I now get from my website and social media, with my new business line. It's so easy sending my company materials and services to consumer's phones. Before, I would have software, landing pages, order forms and have to figure out how to tie them all together. I'll never have to go through that again because of PHOTOtexting" - Rick Ferro, Disney Photographer
Stay tuned because we're going to be sharing a lot of solid content to help you build a stronger business; increase revenue and establish a more recognized brand!
by Skip Cohen
Welcome to "Insight," a new series of content-rich posts to help make 2019 the year you do more than just survive. We want you to thrive!
Dozens of times over the last few years I've written about all the great content available on the Internet. It's filled with ideas and topics to help you build a stronger business. Wandering through the PhotoShelter blog recently I ran across this gem about the importance of freelance photographers understanding the importance of knowing their costs.
It's a great article by Allen Murabayashi, but in all honesty, whether freelance or a full-time photograph/business owner, the issue of understanding your costs is critical. You've got a choice to make, and it could make the difference between macaroni and cheese every night or mixing it up, and being able to get out to dinner now and then!
For years I've said photographers are typically one of the worst business groups on the planet. It's not all your fault, most of you are right-brain creative types, and you have little interest in the left-brain operational side of the business. But, you have to understand and respect the operational side because it controls your profitability and revenue!
PhotoShelter not only has a reputation for helping you create the very finest presentations of your work, but their blog is loaded with content to help you build a stronger business and brand. Check out the post below for help in developing a better understanding of your costs to do business!
Why Freelancers Need to Know Their Cost of Doing Business
Unless you’re phenomenally wealthy, you probably maintain a budget for your finances. For freelancers, budgeting (and cash flow management) is crucial because the lack of steady income and hefty capital requirements (e.g. a new camera) can require a bigger financial cushion.
During a PhotoShelter Third Thursday event, I queried the audience about whether they had used a Cost of Doing Business (CODB) calculator. A participant answered:
“I did it once, and I don’t know what the hell you guys are talking about. I just found that it was totally unrealistic. I added it up, and I still was like, ‘Where did this number even come from?’”
It’s true that the first time you calculate your CODB, the result can be shocking. Many people find that they’ve severely underestimated what it costs for them to run a business (or they don’t have an accurate accounting of their expenses).
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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.
Over the years I've written several posts about playing offense when it comes to building your business. I'm a big fan of playing offense versus defense. Right now, even if you haven't done very much planning, you've still got time for some great marketing plays before the end of the year, especially if your skill set is in portraiture.
1) Halloween and the Fall: From Halloween shots to pumpkin patches and fall themes there are endless opportunities for you to get people thinking about portraiture. It's also an ideal time to launch portrait type activities in your community. And, don't forget homecoming dances at the high school! It's only October 22, and while you're cutting it close to do much for Halloween, with some good partners, you can still have an impact. Even something as simple as a class for all the parents in your neighborhood, helping them capture better photographs of their kids on Halloween, has the potential to develop more goodwill and brand awareness for your business.
2) Thanksgiving: There isn't a mother on the planet who doesn't want new portraits of her family. Even more important there isn't a grandmother who doesn't complain about not having up to date images of her grandchildren! So, when was the last time you did a Thanksgiving promotion? When was the last time you planted a seed to get people thinking about how old their family portraits are?
Once again, education jumps in, whether it's a mini-workshop for your community or content for your blog, help your target audience with ideas on better picture-taking. There are things you do every day you take for granted that "Mom" doesn't know about - from storytelling to posing and lighting, you can set the stage to be the photo guru in the neighborhood!
3) Those BIG December Days: Christmas and Chanukah are terrific times to plant the seed for gift ideas, but don't shotgun the entire market. Think about your client base and everybody you already photographed during this past year or more. Go back to previous clients and get them thinking about reprints, additional albums and new images to bring the family up to date. You've got to be the one to plant the seed, and there's nothing better than the idea of a big framed canvas print as this year's special holiday gift. It might be an old idea to you, but not to most consumers.
4) Holiday Events: Remember all the different organizations in your community. Who's photographing the Rotary or Exchange Club holiday parties this year? What special events are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce? How can your skill set enhance these events?
5) PTA: Parent Teacher Associations are active in virtually every school system from elementary through high school. Start getting involved, and as the school year ramps up, be active in the PTA to help strengthen your brand.
6) In the Classroom: It's the perfect time of year to arrange a visit to the school to help students capture better images. I'm not talking about the camera clubs, but every kid who has a cell phone. Again, think back to your expertise. For most of you if you had to shoot an entire wedding on a cell phone you'd get the job done - so, share that expertise with kids in the classroom. This is one of those perfect applications for building goodwill, and with kids the right age, 10-14, you've got an intelligent audience with a passion for sharing photographs.
7) Call Your Lab: Technology NEVER stands still, and every day new products are coming into our industry. Last August I shared a post about a 30x60 print I have hanging on the wall OUTSIDE our home. It's Bay Photo's Performance EXT Metal Prints, and it's still stunning, having now been out in the sun, rainstorms and day in day out extremes of Florida weather. Visit your lab's website and check out all the new products to help you create more excitement with gift ideas this time of year.
And, take a look at Bella Art Prints from Marathon. They're stunning with great pricing.Check out this post featuring one of Bobbi Lane's favorite images. On a special project for Panasonic earlier this year we did an oversized Bella Art Album that was beautiful with each LUMIX Ambassador having a double page spread of images.
8) Start 2019 Out Right: How about a head shot campaign in your community? Seriously, look at all the retailers around you, and they range from restaurants to realtors. This is the perfect time to remind them it's time for a new headshot and get the year off to the right start! Have some fun and do it as a "Clean Up the Community" campaign and bring a little humor into the market. Let's get rid of bad headshots!
Creating awareness for concepts like these, especially if you've never done them before takes time. You might not score a hat trick the first time on the ice, but just being out there puts you ahead of most of your competitors. Remember to get a few photographs of you working with clients for your own press releases. Build your stash of images of you being involved in projects like these so you can create awareness in the community with more press releases and blog content in the future.
Don't forget to look for partners! This is consumer bundling at its best, and you've got limo companies, florists, venues and even other photographers to help you absorb the costs and create the excitement! And, everybody is after more business and success this time of year!
We launched the Fast Food Friday series to give you quick ideas on fine-tuning your business. I called it Fast Food Friday because everybody understands the concept of a no-brainer decision to grab something at McDonalds, Arby's or my new favorite, Chick-fil-A. They're fast, easy and it doesn't take a whole lot of brain power to figure out what you're having for lunch.
A few weeks ago, thanks to Excire, we expanded the menu in the SCU diner offering full entrees, posts with more details and content to help you build a stronger business. Today's special is a perfect example.
With the Photo Plus Expo show coming up in two weeks in NYC, now's the time for you to make sure you plan your trip BEFORE you get there. Plus, IUSA, WPPI, and ShutterFest all come along during the first few months of the new year.
Time is your most valuable commodity. If you plan each trip you'll not only spend your money wiser, but you'll come home energized, better prepared to take on the challenges of being a photographer and business owner.
Getting Maximum Bang for Your Buck at EVERY Convention
It's essential for you to attend as many conventions/conferences each year as possible, but you might be surprised at why I believe that so strongly.
So, let's get specific and come up with things to think about and do while you're at the next convention:
The one thing I find most frustrating with attendees at a big convention is they just haven't planned their trip. They got their tickets and made it to the show and then completely fall apart. Plan each convention experience so that you're not wasting time and even more important, your money!
Fast Food Friday's are brought to you by:
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It's a quote from "Life's Little Instruction Book Volume II, and it's one of my favorites. Weeds, like dandelions, are pretty to photograph, but ever notice how they take over a beautiful lawn when not controlled?
Well, it's Marketing Monday, and I found this post in the archives from many years ago. It's perfect to kick off the week as a reminder to so many of who are dealing with "weeds" in your life. Maybe it's time to get them under control.
Weed 1: Stop worrying about how much you still have to learn and pat yourself on the back for how much you know already. Photography is an art form, and nobody ever picked it up overnight. All your heroes started the same place you did, at the beginning.
Weed 2: It's time to shut off the negative people in your life. Not everybody is going to understand your dreams, but that doesn't give them the right to keep taking one second away from the joy of yours.
Weed 3: Stop worrying about having the right gear. Do the best you can with what you've got. If there really is something you desperately need to help raise the bar on your images, but you can't afford it, then find a good rental house.
Weed 4: Stop thinking you're alone in your frustrations as a photographer and small business owner. Here's where getting involved in a local guild or PPA chapter is going to help. You need to be involved in the local network, not just know about it. Join whatever/whoever is in your community and start getting to know other photographers, as well as them getting to know you.
Weed 5: Take some time to think through your definition of success. Most of you are halfway there, but since you've only defined success in monetary terms, you have no idea how much you've accomplished just by being happy.
Weed 6: Get out from behind your computer...often! Your business is going to be built on relationships, and you won't get to know the people who can help you the most if you're at the computer all day. Scott Bourne and I have talked a lot over the years about "owning your zip code." That means getting out, knocking on doors and introducing yourself to all the business owners in your community.
Weed 7: Stop talking and listen. There's that old saying about having two ears and only one mouth, so you've got to listen twice as much as you talk.
You've got so much to be proud of, but you've got to take it one day at a time, keep procrastination to a minimum and keep working to build a stronger skill set. And, I guess this is the right place to remind you to stop thinking the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence! (Sorry, just couldn't help it.)
Make it a great day everybody. Get control of those weeds!
If you're new to this series, Fast Food Friday has become a never-ending laundry list of things most of you need to work on. I started the series under the "fast food" umbrella because we're all used to the concept. Time is our most valuable commodity and grabbing a quick lunch is an all too common theme.
So, even though I think we need to take as long a break at lunch as we need, I'm sticking with the concept. This is a series of relatively short posts to help you fine tune your business and make 2018 a stronger year.
None of this is rocket science, but it does take a commitment, starting with never saying, "That's good enough!" NEVER compromise on the quality of anything in your business, or for that matter your life!
I thought it would be fun and useful to hit on the topic of social media a little bit. Even though past "blue plate specials" have included blogging and communication, so many of you could be more effective in the way you're using social media.
"Social Media" - two words that just a few years ago had absolutely no meaning to any of us. Today most of us have a love/hate relationship with it but done right the only "hate" you should feel is that you didn't get involved sooner! But, don't kid yourself, you've got to have a foundation for communication or at least a desire to maintain contact with people.
Twelve Tips to Help You Thrive in Social Media
There's isn't enough room in a post like this to talk about everything you should be doing, but let's hit on some great basics. Remember, I'm sharing ideas on tips for using social media for your business, not personal use.
Missed any of the past Fast Food Friday specials? There are 23 in the complete series and the SCU diner is still serving! Each special hits on a different aspect of your business. As the clock clicks down what's left in 2018, you've still got time to fine-tune your business and make the fourth quarter your best ever!
We want you to thrive, not just survive!
Intro by Skip Cohen
It's almost August and while technically it's still summer - all of you should be thinking about the Fall and getting ready for the fourth quarter's seasonality. I stumbled across this archived post from my good buddy Scott Bourne, and it's a topic and idea that just has no expiration date!
It takes me back to packaging studies in my Polaroid days. For example, we found that different colors created different impressions. Black and gold or black and silver were interpreted as higher quality and value than other color combinations. Certain combinations of pastels also created feelings of high value and had a stronger appeal to women than men. Today, aspects of that same logic apply to your website, blog, mailing pieces and brochures.
Competition is fierce, and you've got to make yourself stand out. Think about this example - You can buy the same Polo shirt at Macy's or Nordstroms, yet the attitude of the staff at Nordstroms is entirely different, along with the store layout, inventory and many of their policies. Now is the perfect time to take a long look at your business and decide - do you want to be Macy's or Nordstroms?
by Scott Bourne
One of the craziest, but most powerful things you can do to market your photography is take your existing marketing plan and pull it inside out. What do I mean by that? Simple. Take something that you've been doing with mixed results and put a new twist on it. Look at other industries OUTSIDE of photography. How does the car business handle that problem? What would a bakery do to solve that issue? How would a shoe store approach it? What do fast food chains do to make that work?
I love studying other business models. I love taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that from other verticals and throwing it into my photography mix.
Maybe it works - maybe it needs to be refined - maybe it fails. But if you are at least trying something new, you have a shot at improving. If you're always doing the same old thing and failing, well you know where that will take you - NOWHERE.
Try pulling things inside out and looking OUTSIDE the small world of photography. When I bought my first really nice car, I noticed that EVERYONE at the dealership, people who were lot boys and people who were upper management, despite their age and mine, called me sir. "Right away sir." Yes sir Mr. Bourne." "Great to see you at the dealership sir, how can we serve you today?"
Over the top? Nope. Not a bit. I was in my 30s and I started applying the lesson I learned there every time I dealt with a client. And they noticed. It wasn't the last thing I learned by studying high-end retail. I bought my first expensive watch in my 30s. Again, very polite, intelligent people. But this time there was a twist. They delivered the watch in the fanciest box and packaging I'd ever seen. Every time I opened the box the watch came in, I was a kid getting a Christmas gift. You see where I'm going with this right?
Study what other businesses do. Not just what other photo businesses do. Jump verticals. Change things up. Look at all the options and then innovate.
Skip and I are rooting for you.
The real fun of social media comes with those moments where the true "social" side comes into play. Meet two new friends, Julie and Todd Nichols from Boise, Idaho. Todd and I have exchanged a couple of Facebook IMs over the years, starting with a couple of WPPI questions shortly after I left the company. Earlier this month we caught up with each other on Facebook, which morphed into my favorite mode of communication, picking up the phone and calling them.
After wandering through their galleries, I loved a lot of their wedding images and put in a request for a guest post, and here we are! Julie pulled something together and it's the perfect topic. At a time when so many artists are struggling with business, Todd and Julie continue to build significant brand awareness and a strong client base. Why? Because they not only deliver but exceed expectations and have made themselves habit-forming!
Their clients feel special, as if they were Todd and Julie's only customers. In the guest post below, Julie's shared the not-so-secret ingredient of their success, but spend two minutes on the phone with either of them, and you'll understand the other elements - passion, pride, attitude and above all an energy in their spirit that's nonstop - they LOVE this stuff!
To see more of their work and get to know them, click on any of the three images with this post. And a BIG thanks to Julie for taking the time to join us on SCU with a guest post.
by Julie Nichols
How the client feels about themselves when they interact with us is as important as the product we deliver.
Photography is not a rational business, it’s an emotional business. It won't come as a surprise then that so much of a successful photography business has nothing to do with the actual technical aspect of taking a picture. I'm not discounting the value of knowing our camera and how to compose and use light to enhance our subject. Yes, those things are important, but it’s just as much about how our clients feel about themselves when they interact with us.
While creating beautiful imagery is what may first attract our potential client to us, it's everything that follows that grows our business. When a client reaches out to us it's a BIG deal, every time. We listen carefully to what they want, are afraid of, or what's causing them anxiety. Then we respond confidently as an expert empathetic problem solver. Our client wants to feel they can trust us to handle their situation, family, event, whatever it is...and they will pay more for "white glove" customer service, peace of mind and how we make them feel.
Here’s an example: We met a bride at a bridal show who followed up with us to set up a consult. She didn't show much enthusiasm or emotion when she visited us at the show. When she, her mother and sister showed up for the consult it was the same vibe - little enthusiasm or emotion. I wasn't feeling very optimistic about this person being our type of client.
As we proceeded to find out more about what was important for her, her mother and sister jumped in and mentioned her Grandmother who had recently passed away. The client then told us, with tears in her eyes, about a special piece of jewelry she wanted to include in her shoot that had been given to her by her Grandmother. When we responded with, "Oh my gosh, yes! Of course, Grandmother's are special - we would love to capture that for you!"
Her whole attitude changed. She felt understood and affirmed. She and her mother ended up booking our top collection and walking out hugging us, wiping tears away. It was about how we made them feel. Sure, they loved our imagery but the close for the sale happened when they saw WE understood how important the memory of their grandmother was in their images.
When we deliver top quality imagery in a manner that lets our clients know we adore them all the way through the process, we have done our job well and have a happy customer. This shows in the word-of-mouth referrals and our repeat clients.
Relationship building and trust are simple ingredients to incorporate into your business. It costs you nothing, but has a fabulous return on investment.
Fast Food Friday posts started as a way to help you isolate things you need to fine-tune your business and make 2018 one of your best years yet. We've covered a lot of different topics over the last 19 posts, but there are still a few more to go.
Whether you're new to the business or a veteran working to expand your skill set; diversify into a new specialty or experimenting with a new approach - confidence is a key.
Today's "blue-plate special" is the equivalent of the big buffet at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The entree is confidence with twenty-two sides to choose from.
While everyone can look like they're confident, this is an industry where you'll never be successful trying to fake it 'til you make it. The more you know and understand the process, whether it's capturing an image or a customer, the more success you'll have at exceeding client expectations.
This is an all-u-can-eat lunch today, so return to the buffet as many times as you need to!
Twenty-Two Ways to Build Confidence
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience
in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror.
I can take the next thing that comes along."
While this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt might seem a little over the top, the truth is, not having confidence can be a "horror." So the best way to beat it is to know every aspect of your business, and when something comes along that slows you down your network is there to help you through the challenge.
One of the biggest challenges with a lack of confidence comes from fear. The more experience you get, the less there is to be afraid of. Don't let fear get in your way. Get to know your gear, the craft and listen to your clients.
What you're afraid to do is a clear indication of the net thing need to do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Each week I've been sharing ideas on marketing and business in the hopes these topics will help you fine-tune those areas of your business needing a little attention.
I called this series "Fast Food Friday" because most of you are right-brain dominant artists, and need reminders on building your business in the form of fast, easy to implement ideas. And, whether you believe in left vs. right brain theories, the point doesn't change. You're artists, and you'd rather capture and create great images than deal with the operational side of your business.
This week summer officially kicked off. The busy season is back and in full swing, but that doesn't mean you can kick back and ignore marketing.
Unlike a lot of past blue plate specials, today's topic is the equivalent of one of those big Las Vegas-style all you can eat buffets. The topic is brand-building and it's the big picture for every Fast Food Friday special to date.
Building a strong brand and creating top of mind awareness for your business should always be your goal. It doesn't happen by accident, so I'm going to give you a fourteen things to think about and then fine-tune wherever you feel they're most appropriate. Remember you don't build your business and walk away - a strong brand is about continually fine-tuning and creating awareness.
Fourteen Ingredients to a Stronger Brand
Over the last several years I've written about virtually every aspect a photographer needs to pay attention to when it comes to building your brand. Brand awareness is all encompassing and about every aspect of your business. This is a reminder that you can't put all your eggs in one basket, or even two or three. For example, social media is essential, but just a Facebook page isn't enough.
Building your brand and marketing is about weaving a web around your target audience. It's about being everywhere they are. It really is that simplistic, at least in terms of establishing stronger reach.
There are fourteen action items on this list, and within each, there are probably a dozen subcategories. Just remember, they won't do you a bit of good if you can't walk the talk! If your skill set isn't up to par, you'll create more problems that will weaken the components of the strong brand you want to build!
Photography is one of those career fields where your education never stops. Keep working to raise the bar on your skill set and at the same time build your marketing strategy. They all go together!
Missed any of the past Fast Food Friday specials?
There's a lot of great content with each post covering another aspect of running a stronger business in photography. They're all just a click away.
And, if there's a topic you'd like to see on the "menu," let me know in the comment section below and we'll turn it into a future special!
It's Father's Day 2018, and it's also Sunday Morning Reflections time. Put the two together, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to write about this morning, but I want to include my Dad. He passed away almost three years ago, but that doesn't change the love I have for him or all the great memories.
I talked Dad into writing two posts for me over the years, both having to do with business. He was 91 when he wrote the post below. As sophisticated as we all think we are with the way we communicate, social media, business practices, marketing and living in an era of almost instant fulfillment, nothing has changed regarding the fundamentals of good business: customer service, integrity, and a firm handshake.
My Dad was in commercial and industrial real estate in Ohio for many years, before he retired. Much of this post is based on his experiences in not only his own business but growing up in his father's business as well. This post is like a fine wine - it's getting better with age and what better time to share it again than on Father's Day.
I pulled his post out of the SCU archives, and as I reread it, it made me smile. Nothing has changed since Dad started out in business seventy+ years ago. And, seventy years from now success in business will still be firmly rooted in trust, integrity, and relationships.
Wishing all you Dads out there a terrific Father's Day, and time filled with the people most important in your life, the ones that make you smile and your heart skip a beat whenever they walk through the door. Go for those eleven-second hugs and don't forget that without Mom you'd never be a Dad.
And to my own Dad who's been my best buddy my entire life - I love ya Pop, and while I miss you, I know you're watching over us.
Happy Father's Day!
Visibility is a must for any pursuit. Call it what you like. It starts with a firm handshake, neat appearance and an ability to display integrity. That integrity is always enhanced by knowing the answers before the questions are even asked and that can only come from experience. All of this has to start somewhere...with YOU!
One of the biggest factors of success, for me, was the rapport with some of my competitors. With friendly competition, on many occasions we were of considerable help to each other.
Another must of success is visibility and the necessity of going public. You've got to be involved in your community. As personal contacts multiply, the rewards will come in the form of your expanding clientele and potential new customers.
Today you guys call it networking and it's everything from attending conventions and local events to social media. For me it was Exchange Club's monthly luncheons, business cards, a little advertising, even golf now and then, but there was and still is no substitute for word-of-mouth testimonials.
Then there's trust, another critical building block. The trust you build will be the result of the honesty and integrity you employ. It's all part of what drives word-of-mouth advertising, especially in a service based industry like photography. Always cherish that trust! In turn, don't forget that confidentiality is part of that trust. It's so important to retain confidentiality with every client.
Occasionally you may find as I did, competitors bragging about a deal they had just closed. I used to be able to sit down in a booth at the Kenny Kings Restaurant on just about any morning and hear salesmen bragging about the deals they'd put together. The fact was, the transactions had died, along with the confidentiality factor, leaving the vultures to play with the bones that were left!
Ralph Cohen, Founder and 1/2 the Creators of Skip Cohen!
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
I've written a lot over the last few years about the importance of creating unique promotions. The one question that comes up most often relates to the challenge of finding the time and the budget to develop strong campaigns.
I'm a huge fan of partnerships with other companies. It's one of the best ways to reduce your costs but increase your reach. You're sharing the workload, and in many cases creating unique offers. Plus, there's an additional benefit: Great partners become ambassadors for each other.
There's always somebody who's thinking, "Yeah, but there's nobody who's a logical partner for my specialty!" Every photographic specialty has potential promotional partners.
Here's a list to get you started:
Boudoir Photographers: Get together with a lingerie boutique and a spa, makeup artist or salon. Also, because a beautiful boudoir image is very often intended to be a gift with a little romance attached, an intimate restaurant in your community might be a great partner as well.
Pet Photographers: Find out who the rep is for some of the big brand pet foods by talking with the manager at your local supermarket or pet shop. You've also got animal shelters, pet boutiques, and veterinarians. Don't forget doggy daycare facilities as well.
Children's Photographers: Toy stores, summer camps, playgrounds, kids clothing boutiques and restaurants all geared towards kids make great partners. You might even find a pediatrician or pediatric dentist interested in getting involved with something creative.
Family Photographers: You're looking for any company that targets families. Family restaurants, decorators, parks and special events targeting families all have potential. Years ago on a Hasselblad program in Cleveland, a photographer told me about a landscaper who built him a backyard shooting area in exchange for promoting their services. The logic being, anybody who was paying for a family sitting, more than likely had an interest/need in landscaping.
Commercial Photographers: This one's a little tougher, but think about what a client is looking for. This doesn't work if you're targeting Fortune 500 companies, but a program to target small business owners in a community could tie in a local magazine/publication, a printer and a courier service for example. The promotional offer might target people who need a new headshot.
Wedding Photographers: Wedding shooters are always the easiest, just because there are so many different business entities involved. Florists, wedding planners, bakeries, salons, bridal shops, limo companies, musicians, tux shops, travel agents, venues, and the list goes on and on.
Last on the list for every specialty - don't forget other photographers! There's only so much time in a week for you to shoot. Bringing in competitors who compliment your style helps build strength and brand recognition in the category. Sooner or later you're going to send another photographer a referral - why not build the relationship now?
Once you've identified some logical partners, here are the action steps that come next:
1) Personally, I love promotions with three partners. If you get too many, you lose impact, and your message becomes too diluted. Too many partners and your offer/mailing is going to look like a NASCAR event.
2) Contact each potential partner with a personal visit. You share a common target audience, and the concept of saving money to promote each other's services is a logical connection.
3) Get your two partners together for lunch. I'm a huge fan of lunch meetings because over a meal you're always guaranteed a certain level of conversation. This is about building a relationship in addition to the promotional idea itself.
4) You've got a wide variety of programs to collaborate on. You might agree to sponsor an event together; do a mailing and share the costs; cross-promote each other's products/services or share the cost of advertising. The point is, you've all got the same goal - expanding your reach, and you're each targeting the same audience.
5) Remember, from a cost standpoint, everything you do is going to be split three ways. That gives you the ability to reduce your cost, but promote your business more frequently, and to a larger audience.
6) And, at the risk of making this post sound like an infomercial - check out Marathon Press. Direct mail has come full circle, and it's back with a vengeance. Here's your chance to develop an oversized postcard tying in the three partners and getting through the noise to your target audience. I've worked with the crew at Marathon for years, and they can help you through every step of the process to produce a mailer you'll be proud of.
In a blog post, it's impossible to cover every aspect of putting together a strong promotion. But, I'm hoping this at least plants the seed for you to think about doing things together with other companies. You don't have to go it alone every time, and a good partnership is invaluable to building a stronger business.
I started this series to give you small doses of things you can do to fine-tune your business and help make 2018 your best year in business yet! My Friday "specials" are in no particular order, but have been topics that popped into my head sometime during the week usually as a question from a photographer or thread in a Facebook forum.
Whether your business is up or down this year, we're into the busy season, and it will continue through the end of the year. You have to pay attention to the trends, your audience and all the vehicles at your fingertips to help expand your reach. Thanks to social media, you have the same reach today that only small newspapers and magazines had a decade ago.
This is number 15 in the series, and we're hitting on one of the most serious topics - pricing. There's no better place to start than with the Master himself, Sal Cincotta. This video is at least seven years old, but Sal's focus is entirely relevant, especially in today's competitive market. However, regarding building a stronger revenue stream, I expanded on the topic with more ideas to help you raise the bar on the products/services you're selling.
Is it time to review your pricing strategy?
One of the biggest challenges is being competitive WITHOUT discounting. It starts with the quality of your work and finishes with exceeding customer expectations. Your goal is to make yourself habit-forming and you can do it without getting into a pricing war in your market, which turns your work into a commodity!
Find Alternatives to Discounting!
Sal hits on it in the very beginning talking about nothing being more destructive to your business than lousy pricing and discounting is all part of that challenge. I know we live in a SALE driven society, but there are ways to add value to a promotion that doesn't require you to turn your business into a battle with your competitors.
Last but not least, you've got to do a better than average job of getting the client to understand what an album is, especially in the wedding category:
A wedding album is the first family heirloom of a new family. It captures memories that years later are long forgotten and answers the question to an inquisitive granddaughter who asks, "Grandma, what did you look like when you and Papa got married?"
Missed any of the past Fast Food Friday posts?
They're all just a click away, and each one identifies another aspect of business to help you make 2018 an outstanding year. There are so many different things you can be doing to build a stronger business, and most of them take so little time to add to your strategy!
And, if there's an area we haven't talked about yet, just leave me a comment and we'll start the research for a future post.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Last week at Photoshop World I was invited to join Scott Bourne and the team from Skylum for dinner. It was a terrific meal, but we could have been anywhere - the fun of the evening was being with friends, both old and new and the mutual passion for the industry we all share.
Going through the SCU archives recently, I started thinking about how many different projects Scott and I have worked on together, including our book GoingPro and the SCU blog and website. There's a great friendship here, but an even more effective duo when we're focused on any mutual business goal.
Well, I found this post going back five years ago and there isn't a single thing I'd change to make it more contemporary. In fact, I consider it one of the very best posts Scott has ever shared. It's perfect for Marketing Monday and trust me on this advice - take the time to read it!
It's not what we have in life, but who we have in our life that matters.
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, 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 software 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 storyteller. 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.
ClickCon 2020 Circle the Dates!!
It's rare that a first year conference has the power that ClickCon brought to the industry this past August.
The dates have been announced for 2020 at the Palmer House in Chicago. August 11-14!
What a kick!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.