Images copyright Chad Pennington. All rights reserved.
Chad Pennington and I met online many years ago when he reached out to me with a comment about something on Facebook. While I love an IM conversation on Facebook, I often just pick up the phone and call. Well, that kicked off a great friendship. From there we've bumped into each other at various conventions over the years; stayed in touch through IMs on Facebook and grabbed a few phone calls here and there.
But more than anything today, this is one of those spotlight posts that's a testimonial to what I love most about this industry and social media - it helps us stay in touch.
It started a couple days ago when going through birthday notifications on Facebook; I wished Chad a Happy Birthday. It was early, and I never expected him to respond right away, but he was right there in the IM box. He thanked me, and that kicked off a "catch-up" conversation.
He's in Nigeria this week, and curious about what he's working on, I asked him to send a couple of images from his trip. He immediately dropped these two stunning images into the IM thread mentioning these were from his visit three months ago. (Click on either image to visit Chad's website to see more of his work.)
I haven't lost touch with Chad, but I had lost touch with his work. It's easily been five years or more that our friendship took off, but I hadn't been looking at his galleries. I've often written that the best thing about this industry has nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft.
Well, Chad loves the craft! That quest for the ultimate image runs through his veins every time a camera is in his hands, and I'm so grateful that social media gives us the ability to stay connected.
When I think back to the early days, when I first came into the professional side of this industry at Hasselblad in '87, the only way we'd share images was either in person or through the mail. The Internet changed the way we share photographs, share friendships and share our passion for the craft!
So to Chad - thanks for following through and sending me the specs on both images as well. Thanks for a great friendship, and thanks for always being true to quality in everything you do. I'm sure proud to consider you a buddy - safe travels!
Note: Chad's shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III.
His model for both images is Folowosele Tomi from Lagos, Nigeria.
It's remarkable how much solid content Pye Jirsa has packed into this new video from the SLR Lounge, and I know there's a lot more coming in the new year ahead. This is online education at its best and I couldn't be more proud to be sharing it here on the SCU blog.
The best part of this industry, as I've written so many times before, has nothing to do with photography but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. Over the last few years, Pye Jirsa has been involved in a long list of SCU posts, including a recent episode of "Why?" which has become one our most listened to episodes.
Pye is part of the team of Lin and Jirsa, and together with Chris Lin, they started the SLR Lounge, one of the industry's leading educational resources for photographers. Everything they share in the SLR Lounge is rooted in real imaging challenges. They've developed an outstanding ongoing educational program that's useful, informative and incredibly fun.
Remember "fun?" It's one of those words too often lost in business today. "Fun" gets buried underneath the baggage and stress of running a business. There are too many of you who think you don't have the time to experiment with your skill set and just have fun, even though it's one of the most significant ways to grow as an artist.
In describing this new series...
"We have been in this zone of creating professional training systems for SLR Lounge Premium, but we wanted to take it back to what originally started our love for this industry and we thought YouTube would be the perfect platform for a series we like to call Back to the Basics.”
There's so much great content packed into the short video above. And, with each segment the SLR Lounge is sharing the specs on the final image, after Pye takes you through his thought process.
This is the first episode in their new series, and it's a kick. In fact, it's perfect to share and enjoy during the downtime between the holidays and into the typical slow time of the first quarter.
But for me, the "fun," there's that word again, is watching Pye in action. Great educators aren't just good at teaching; they're never afraid to show their passion for the craft and their thirst to capture the ultimate image, in both new ways and back to the basics.
The SLR Lounge needs to be on your radar. Just click on any image above to link to the blog post for "Nighttime Portraits With ONLY a Phone Flashlight." And, while you're there, check out the SLR Lounge's Premium Program. Regardless of your specialty in photography, it doesn't get any better than the information being shared by Pye and Chris in the SLR Lounge.
I've written a lot about networking over the years and my good buddy, Scott Bourne has shared a lot of thoughts too. Parts of this post he first shared in 2013, but as this year comes to a close and so many of you plan which conventions you're going to be attending in 2019, the timing to remind you about the basics, couldn't be more relevant.
I know some of our points might seem almost childish, in the category of your mother, when you were a kid, reminding you to say "please" and "thank you." But, we live in a world of email and texts, and it's surprising how many of you have forgotten the art of conversation, the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact when you're talking to somebody. Scott hits on seven basics to help you launch each new friendship and "invitation" into your network in the right direction.
"Sometimes, idealistic people are put off with the whole business of networking
as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage.
But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven.
To succeed in this world you have to be known to people."
I want to add three more tips to Scott's conversation starters below because networking is at the very top of the list to why you should attend every possible convention!
Remember, successful networking is about your number one best marketing tool - building relationships!
by Scott Bourne
With the annual trade show and convention season almost upon us, it's never too early to start thinking about how you'll get the most out of each event. Here are some networking conversation starters and tips to get you going.
And remember as always, Skip and I are rooting for you.
Over the years I've shared a lot of great content thanks to my good buddy, Scott Bourne. In fact, his advice below was shared in a post a year ago and several years earlier as well. And, while things might have changed a little on a point or two, like Instagram being a potential player, etc. nothing has changed in the potential for you to build a better business.
I know how often all of you get caught up in the stress of building a stronger presence, and miss many of the easiest things you could be doing. In this terrific post from the SCU archives, Scott's sharing ten easy to afford marketing ideas to help you establish a stronger brand and business. I'm adding two more to the list as well.
The common denominator with all of these tips is the low or non-existent cost, but that doesn't mean they can happen by themselves. You've got to make the effort, and this is definitely a you-snooze-you-lose scenario.
And, if you're stuck and need help you know where to find us!
by Scott Bourne
Today I just have a quick hit list for those of you who have a small budget and need something to jumpstart your photo business.
1. Ask your local municipal government if you can use an old or abandoned building as a make shift art gallery and organize a display of your work and the work of other aspiring pros in the area.
2. Offer to do a free "how-to" make a portrait session for your local Chamber of Commerce or service organization such as Rotary.
3. Barter your products and services to help launch your business and get other local vendors familiar with what you do.
4. Offer to provide free framed prints to local children's clothing stores if you do kid's portraits - offer to provide free framed prints to local pet stores if you do pet photography - you get the idea.
5. Offer a print or portrait session or _____ as a prize for a charity auction.
6. Set up a Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook business page as well as a business Twitter account, etc.
7. Make "how-to" photography videos and post them on YouTube. (YouTube is being treated as much like a search engine as it is a place to see video.)
8. Make yourself indispensable to thought leaders in your segment of the photo industry.
9. Start a podcast.
10. Issue press releases every time you do something significant and hand deliver these to your local media.
Sorry to use this quote again, but it's my favorite quote about photography!
"This is what I like about photographs.
They're proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect."
In October of 2011, we moved to Sarasota. The primary reason was to help my folks. My Dad was 89 and taking care of my mother who was a few years into her battle with Alzheimer's. Since graduation from high school I'd always lived in another part of the country, and while we talked regularly and saw each other several times a year, I was never "next door."
Moving to Florida was one of the best things I've ever done. It gave me and my folks quality time, and even with Mom's Alzheimer's, there were plenty of special moments. It's a horrible disease that, like a burglar in the night, robs you of your loved ones. But, Dad used to say, "I'm going to squeeze every drop of joy out of whatever's left," and he stayed focused on every moment when the disease would take a break and Mom's personality came shining through.
Today, Halloween would be Dad's 96th birthday. When I was a kid the poor guy never had a decent birthday, always interrupted by trick or treaters, including me headed out in search of trick or treat candy. It was ironic, since back then he was in the wholesale candy and tobacco business. I had access to an entire warehouse of candy, but nothing was sweeter than what I got in my bag every Halloween.
Just to say I miss the guy would be a colossal understatement. The incredible memories along with knowing he and Mom are watching over us keep them in our hearts all the time.
Over the last years of his life, I talked Dad into writing two blog posts for me. I paid him a dollar for each of them, agreeing to write off the allowance he still owed me from when I was 12! LOL One of the posts I shared on Father's Day and the other I pulled out of the archives this morning.
Dad was part of the greatest generation, and there's a lot of wisdom in what he wrote below. As much as business has changed with social media, the power of the Internet making the world smaller and technology giving us the ability to reach thousands of people - the basics of good business and how we treat each other NEVER changes.
Happy Halloween and Happy Birthday Pop!
by Ralph Cohen
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!
Intro by Skip Cohen
While the Internet has made the world a significantly smaller place, one of the most fun aspects is when you catch up to a cyber-buddy in real time - live! There's still no better way to build relationships than face to face. That's one more great reason to attend every convention you can squeeze into your schedule and expand the "social" in social media.
Last week at PhotoPlus Expo in NYC I caught up to Fred Windholz. While we may have met sometime over the years, I really know him from social media, especially Facebook. With everything I post, Fred is always one of the first to check it out. So, when bumping into each other at the show, I knew exactly who he was.
Fred's got a great background in lighting and in an IM conversation I asked him if he wanted to share some of that expertise. I suggested three of the best tips he's ever received, and here he is this morning!
I know for some of you this post might seem a little basic, but so often, especially when you're busy, a quick refresher of a few basics might be just what you need for a quick charge. Your clients trust you to capture the very best images. Learning to see the light and understand how it impacts each photograph may well be the most critical skill in building a strong brand.
Fred should be on your radar - click on any image to link to his Facebook page, and keep track of what he's up to.
Stay tuned because I'm hoping I can talk Fred into sharing more!
by Fred Windholz
Like so many things in life right now there seems to be an either/or way of thinking. In the photography business we tend to think of one brand over another or one style of photography over another. One area I see that in is with lighting… “Natural light vs. Flash”.
As a past wedding photographer (recently slowed that genre down) for me light was light…which means I would use whatever light was best for any given situation…whether daylight, window light, light bulbs, LED or flash. The key was learning how to see light and take advantage of that light, regardless of the source.
When I teach a lighting class I start with four principles to think about - Direction, Distance, Size and Power. These hold true whether using daylight or flash.
Direction: We’ve all been told that direct front lighting is the least flattering light…not that it can’t be used at times, but that it will render “flat” light. By giving some direction to the light it begins to add shape and dimension to your subject. But what’s the best direction you might ask? I’m not going to get into that for this article because that could be a class all by itself…any direction is better than no direction (generally).
Size & Distance: I put these together because they usually go hand in hand. Here’s the key, size and distance relative to your subject, will render a softer or harsher light. That is why on a cloudy day the shadows are softer as the clouds act as a large light source and bringing the light source closer to your subject. The direct sun is large relative to the earth but it is small relative to your subject.
Power: So what does power do? Well, first it can affect your exposure for one (ie. f stop, ISO and/or shutter), which can affect your overall look. But let’s think of the sun…it is very powerful. Direct sun (small light source, far away) creates strong shadows. Bring in the clouds as we discussed earlier and because of the powerof the sun it can penetrate through those clouds to give a nice soft light. This becomes more relative when using flash or studio lights. A small hot shoe flash will render less power than a strong studio light. So if I want to use a large soft box I would want a light with more power to maximize and fill the soft box to have enough power to reach my subject. If I were using a flash outdoors to compete with the sun I would want one with more power. On the other side if I just needed a little light a less powerful flash would suffice.
So whatever the light source you use, if you begin to think about these four factors it will help you see light differently and just may begin to improve your images. For me this is something I learned along the way and has stuck with me ever since.
Experiment, play around and find what works best for you!
Image copyright Paul Mango. All rights reserved.
It's Mirrorless Monday, and LUMIX Ambassador, Paul Mango is in the spotlight. Paul's an accomplished photographer and I loved this image because it was so different from the usual shots I've seen of mountain ranges and landscapes. In addition, he captured the photograph with one of my favorite LUMIX cameras, the GX85.
The GX85 is compact and because it's a camera body, you've got the ability to use interchangeable lenses. The photograph was captured at Grand Lake, outside Rocky Mountain National Park. It was dusk and Paul used the GX85 with the LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm, F4.0-6.3 lens.
Click on either thumbnail below for more information. And check out the GX85 Overview video - it's a little over a minute, but packed with information about the features of this amazing little camera!
Follow Paul along with the rest of the LUMIX Ambassadors. He's part of one of the most diverse and creative teams in photography. Keep track of what they're working on, along with their adventures. This is a remarkable group of artists and they need to be on your radar.
Image copyright Mark Toal. All rights reserved.
It's Monday and "Mirrorless Mark" is back hitting a couple of favorite points about photography and working with LUMIX cameras.
Right out of the blocks I love the fact he shot in black and white, setting the camera to Monochrome D mode. So many of us have our roots in black & white. I love the richness of the tonal range in the image above. Second, comes Mark's point about traveling light. The G9 body only weighs 1.5 pounds, and with the lens Mark chose he was just over two pounds. That's light enough to literally NEVER be without a camera.
The last point I love about Mark's guest post is he shot everything on auto, making a point about the reliability of Panasonic's technology to make sure you never miss a moment. He could have chosen a dozen different ways to capture the image but went with simplicity in a moment of limited time.
Check out more of Mark's images together with his blogs by clicking on the image above. You'll never be disappointed in the content he regularly shares. And check out the LUMIX Ambassador team. This is one of the most diverse groups in photography.
Click on the G9 body or the 12mm F1.4 LEICA SUMMILUX high-performance wide angle lens for more information.
by Mark Toal
It’s been hot, and smoky from forest fires for weeks in the Northwest. When I can’t sleep because of the heat I’ll get up in the middle of the night and read or watch YouTube. YouTube videos seem to have reduced photography to a battle of sensor size, lens quality, ISO, anything but the image itself!
No matter what camera you use there is somebody to tell you you can’t take good photos unless you use something other than what you have. Hardly any of these people show you images they have taken.
The beauty of Micro Four Thirds cameras is the small size that allows you to always have a camera with you. I was reminded of this again when I decided to stop by the Portland waterfront on the way to my son’s house. I was carrying my Lumix G9 with the Leica 12mm lens. I had set the camera to shoot in the Monochrome D mode.
As I walked up to the railing of the walkway over the river a young man rode up on his bike, took off his shirt and pants and jumped into the river. As he climbed the railing I turned on the G9 and took three quick photos with everything on the camera set to auto.
Maybe the image would have better if I had used a larger camera and lens, but I more than likely wouldn’t have been carrying it especially on a 90-degree day.
I've added a new step to my morning routine, EVERY morning. I make sure I'm never too busy to take a scroll through my Facebook "Home" page and catch up on what everyone has been sharing. Last night Ed Heaton shared the image below from Grand Teton, and I loved it so much I wanted to share it as an SCU guest post this morning. Ed is no stranger to SCU, and I've shared a few of his images over the years.
What I loved about this one was the stunning image combined with the point he made about arriving on the scene early. Ed and his son are award-winning landscape artists, but it occurred to me that "arriving early" needs to be every artist's mantra. For Ed and Zach it was about securing a good spot without the crowds, but for many of you, especially wedding photographers, it's about being prepared and just possibly capturing those first special emotion-filled moments of a couple before they officially start their life together.
Click on Ed's shot of Grand Teton below to see more of his work and Zach's. And, check out his workshop schedule. Whether a workshop or private instruction, Ed Heaton Photography offers some of the finest educational support in photography.
by Ed Heaton
One might say “there’s no need to get there early, we have plenty of time before the sun rises”. Well, anyone that knows Zach and I will tell you that we always arrive early to capture slightly different images and to secure a good spot. I’ve done this since I’ve been teaching workshops and I will continue doing it because I do not like fighting for a good spot in line 😊
Here we were first to arrive which allowed us to capture the stars over the Grand Teton with the full moon lighting the scene. Not long after we got our shots, people and headlights started showing up polluting the scene. I’m not complaining about other photographers per say, the problem I have is the lack of courtesy and common sense.
Don’t walk in front of other photographers and don’t keep shining your light around the whole scene (someone certainly could have the shutter open). It’s just a fact of life these days and I’ve learned to deal with it but that doesn’t mean I like it!
- Singh-Ray Filters - OP/TECH USA - Really Right Stuff - HoodmanUSA - X-Rite Photo & Video - Asolo
Images copyright Ben Grunow. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Five years ago I was introduced to Panasonic's LUMIX line of cameras, and life just hasn't been the same since.
I'm never without a decent camera and have been delighted with so many of the images I've captured. Panasonic revitalized my love for photography. My passion has never diminished, but I was shooting less and less. LUMIX changed all that, but along with the equipment and incredible technology came the LUMIX Ambassadors.
Obviously, all working with LUMIX gear, they're one of the most diverse teams in photography today. Ben Grunow is one of the Ambassadors, and I caught up to him recently on an IM on Facebook after his return from Iceland. His images were stunning, and these are all "right out of the can."
Ben's shooting with the GH5s and the LUMIX G LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 8-18mm, F2.8-4.0 lens. Click on any of his images to see more of us work on Instagram and follow him on Facebook! You'll never be disappointed in the photographs and information he shares.
by Ben Grunow
I had an unforgettable trip to Iceland recently, and I figured I’d like to share these images completely unedited straight out of the Lumix GH5s using the 8-18 mm lens. On my way back from a month long trip in Switzerland, I only had four nights to capture the beauty of the Northern Lights.
I traveled all over Iceland. The weather looked terrible just about everywhere on the island but using weather maps and common sense I was able to see the Aurora every night.
These particular images are from one night, captured with the GH5s. They looked so good on edit it in the camera; I wanted to share them clean, exactly as they came out of the camera. The GH5s did such an outstanding job; it’s important for everyone to understand what LUMIX technology is capable of capturing.
These images are shot at ISO 3200 to 6400, with shutter speeds ranging from five to fifteen seconds. The light painting was with my headlamp.
It’s so hard to explain the stunning, breathtaking beauty of the Northern Lights as they dance above in the nighttime sky. But, this is where the power of imaging plays an important role, especially if you've never experienced this incredible natural phenomenon.
For years I've talked about the best thing about this industry - the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft. And, thanks to social media those friendships that get started continue to grow, even when we don't see each other that often.
Meet Fran Ruchalski, a photographer who I first met at an evening program in Jacksonville in 2012. The evening program I was doing at a local library had to shut down early when a tropical storm flooded the area all around us, and we needed to evacuate before everyone's cars floated away.
Fast forward six years and he and I have stayed in touch through Facebook. He left Florida in 2014 and today is in Logansport, Indiana, but the Internet keeps making the world a smaller place. A couple of weeks ago Fran posted some fun news about a recent award.
That hits one more fun aspect of social media - being able to share news with each other. Fran's shooting for the Pharos-Tribune and recently won first place in the HSPA contest for sports action photography. So, being one of Fran's fans I made the request to see the image and permission to share it in a post.
I know most of you aren't sports photographers, but what a kick to share an image that's completely out of the norm from what most of you shoot. A big congrats to Fran - sure is a kick to be following your career! You can check out more about Fran with a visit to his Facebook page.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Last Friday I announced a new menu in the SCU diner, and a different "cuisine" with more extensive "entrees" to help you build a stronger business. Fast Food Friday has received a lot of nice feedback, but it was time to start serving more sophisticated recipes.
Well, little did I know that my co-host on "Mind Your Business" and "Beyond Technique," Chamira Young not only loved the concept of an open house, but has her own recipe for success going to back to her move to Port Huron, MI a few years back.
As a new photographer in the area it was important to meet the community and at the same time have them get to know her. Part of the success of the event included a short video clip which she turned into a promotional piece on her website. Check out her guest post below and then think about your own needs in the community.
Remember, success in any business, especially photography, is about relationship building and establishing trust. Hosting an open house, even when you don't have a "house" is one ingredient so many of you need to either kick off brand awareness in a new community or jumpstart an established business that needs to stand out more!
By Chamira Young
Little did I know the decision to throw an Open House would revolutionize my struggling photography business. It's a big part of how I built my client list from virtually nothing after moving to a new town and having to essentially start my business from scratch.
Was an Open House outside of my comfort zone? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely. A classy Open House event is a great way to build credibility, momentum within your community, and a solid contact list for you to keep in touch with in the future.
At my event, I not only had a handful of folks sign up for headshots beforehand (which required them to register with their email address, phone number, make payment, etc), but the people who stopped by just to check things out also had to sign in with their basic info.
I was ecstatic over how many of these "freebie" folks later signed up for a full photo session once they met me and had a chance to see me working in action at the event. That's why it's so important to greet every single person at your Open House. They need to get to know you and it's the first step to establishing trust and building relationships.
Below is a short video, just over a minute. I created it after the event, which served as a great marketing tool for social media, future events, and even on my About Page on my website. Don't forget, if you're doing any kind marketing video keep it short.
I underestimated the impact this video would have on social media, especially with folks who were not able to attend but watched the video to get the "experience" of the Open House. Not only did I get comments ranging from "Amazing!" to "Congratulations!", I received emails and phone calls from folks who wanted to schedule a shoot because they got to see me work with clients through the video.
Another surprise came in the form of a steady stream of questions from fellow photographers asking how I put it all together, which led me to create a podcast episode going into detail about it.
While it takes some time and effort to throw an Open House together, it's definitely worth it!
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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.
Intro by Skip Cohen
"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care!"
Building a strong, consistent reputation for excellent customer service is one of the very best marketing tools you have, but it doesn't happen by accident. Yes, there's a degree of common sense involved, but you have to see the world through your client's eyes and pay attention to each relationship.
I met Shep Hyken in cyberspace. Chamira Young and I had him as a guest on the "Mind Your Own Business" podcast, and later I was a guest on his podcast. Shep is all about helping business owners build a strong customer service presence. Find out how you can sign up for his free newsletter by clicking on the banner above.
In the meantime, I love this gem he shared yesterday!
"Sorry" Shouldn't Mean "Too Bad"
The other day a buddy shared an experience he had with a company that sold him mulch for his yard. When the truck arrived, he asked the driver and his co-worker to put the mulch in the backyard. The driver said, “I’m sorry. Dropping the mulch off in the backyard is considered white-glove service. You needed to let us you wanted the mulch in the backyard when you ordered it.” In this case, sorry had a double meaning. Maybe the driver was saying he was sorry to apologize, and at the same time, he was also saying, “Too bad. Pay more money if you want the mulch delivered an extra 50 feet to the back of the house.”
I had a similar “I’m sorry” experience when I went to check out at a hotel. There was a $35 resort charge that I didn’t know about. I was there for three days, so that added up to over $100. I asked the front desk clerk what I got for that $100. She said, “Free internet, access to the workout room and a newspaper.” Hmm… most hotels I stay at don’t charge for any of these amenities. And, she added, almost ashamed, “I’m sorry. They should have informed you about the resort fee when you made your reservation. Once again, the word sorry was more of a “Too bad,” than an apology.
Lesson One: The words we use are important. And, if we use a phrase like “I’m sorry,” what comes after that needs to be part of the apology versus a “too bad” type of explanation. Even if it is “too bad,” the way you say it can include some empathy and caring that makes the customer know you feel their disappointment.
Lesson Two: The surprise resort fee wasn’t a big deal to pay. Yet, at the heart of the issue is that I felt the hotel was “nickel and diming” me. So, I asked the front-desk clerk to do me a favor. I told her that I wasn’t mad at her about the resort charge. It wasn’t her fault, and she was just the bearer of the bad news explanation. She immediately seemed to relax. Then, I told her what I did for a living, and asked if she would share how she felt about this situation. She told me that almost every day several guests complain about the resort fee, and she feels she has to defend it, and that makes her feel uncomfortable.
When you know that your customers are regularly disappointed with a part of your process, figure out a way to eliminate that disappointment. In the case of the resort fee, it seems simple. It’s fine to charge it, so when the guest makes a reservation, if it’s online the fee should be made clear and be included on the confirmation receipt. If the reservation is made over the phone, inform the guest, and in the process, “sell” the benefits of that fee. For example, the reservationist could say, “Make sure you take advantage of the workout room. It’s more like a spa with the latest equipment. It’s part of your resort fee. You’ll love it.” Then, at check-in, go over the room rate and resort fee and “sell” it again. Make it a benefit, not an ugly surprise at the end of the trip. Isn’t that so much better than having to say, “I’m sorry!”
There are many ways we can turn negatives into positives. There are many words we can use to show our customers we care. The powerful words, “I’m sorry,” shouldn’t be abused. They shouldn’t be part of a too bad explanation. They should convey empathy, care and concern. And, if you have to utter those two powerful words more often than you should, figure out why, and do something about it!
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright © MMXVIII, Shep Hyken)
Intro by Skip Cohen
One of the most fun aspects of social media is the friendships that come out of Cyberspace. This post is an example of one of those friendships. While Simon King from the UK and I have never formally met face to face, we share the same passion for the industry and have stayed in touch since he wrote this guest post almost five years ago.
This morning on Facebook, Simon shared a post expressing his frustration at being in the hospital the last few days. Well, catching up with him for only a few seconds this morning got me thinking about this post he wrote about pricing. Simon compared professional photographers to needing to adopt the attributes of a great head chef and the challenge of clients wanting to price shop the difference between top shelf and lower end restaurants.
But, I want to take the comparison one step further. Think of a wedding album as the ultimate meal with various courses, each requiring a slightly different skill set. Each course has to be a component of an entire outstanding meal, just like each image in a wedding album is another piece of very special and unique story.
So, Simon, as president of your US Fan Club I hope you're feeling better and thanks for your never-ending support of an industry we both love!
By Simon King
Recently I have seen a number of photographers asked for the RAW files from a wedding or asked to match someone elses price because the client likes your work, but the other photographer's pricing. I wonder what other profession attracts this kind of behavior. A lot of photographers blame the advent of the camera phone and social media for devaluing our collective brand. But, on the flip side there are many photographers out there building a decent business from what they do.
Sometimes I like to compare our profession to others to see if I can understand people's thinking. Take the idea of customers asking for the RAW files. Most of us deal in providing a customer with the finished product. Much like a fine dining restaurant. When I go out for a nice meal I expect the head chef to know his art and I've chosen the restaurant based upon the menu and the establishment's reputation. I don’t, on entering the premises, start negotiation on my meal and ask to chop and change the menu.
I don’t suggest I go into the kitchen take all of the RAW ingredients and make the meal myself using their ovens and utensils. I have an oven at home, which makes me a chef right? Also, my oven makes pretty good food. The point to this is we need to stay in control of what we offer and what the boundaries are for customization of our packages. If we start giving RAW files out to the customer we have no control over the editing and therefore no control over our reputation. Your name will be on those photographs no matter how they end up looking. So when asked, who was the photographer, the customer will be giving your name.
The second comparison is the one on price, there may be two very similar restaurants in the area, but one is twice as expensive as the other. So would many of us go to the high end restaurant and state that the other one is similar and much cheaper and then ask for a price match? The response you would get to that is "NO, just book the other restaurant!"
Pleading that you really want to eat there isn’t going to help either. If you really want to eat at the top restaurant you have to pay the asking price. It's as simple as that. It’s exactly the same for us; if a customer is working this angle tell them to use the other photographer. Keep that line throughout all discussions, if they really, really want you they’ll pay what you ask. If the higher end restaurant isn’t busy then they have priced themselves out of the market. Again, the same goes for us.
None of the above logic prevents you from running promotions, agreeing bespoke packages with customers and most importantly good old customer service. Once we start to let customers treat us like a commodity we’re on dangerous ground. Sometimes we may let a customer dictate to us because they are well connected. The issue then is that any referrals coming from that contact will expect the same.
Remember most head chefs cook because they love cooking but they would never consider being dictated to by the customer. Most photographers love what they do first and foremost, but maybe we should all behave a little more like a head chef!
Images copyright Simon King. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
In January SCU celebrated its fifth anniversary. As I look back that old expression of "time flies when you're having a good time" couldn't be more accurate. Now, thousands of posts later SCU, thanks to so many of you, has become an excellent resource for ideas on marketing, business and here and there, technique. There's also been a lot of wisdom shared by hundreds of different artists, starting with my good buddy Scott Bourne.
When Scott and I were writing Going Pro, we started a podcast series which today has morphed into "Mind Your Own Business" with my co-host Chamira Young. From the very beginning of every content we shared there's always been an underlying goal - if you could learn from our mistakes, you'd save time and discover new ones of your own.
This is one of my favorite past posts from Scott's SCU archives, and he couldn't be more open about being efficient with your time and when you're not happy with the results just hit the reset button, refresh and start over!
by Scott Bourne
I had the pleasure of working in my studio last week with one of the artists from the Cirque du Soleil show “Love.” Delphine is a powerful young woman who works on the trapeze – aka a “flier.”
She has amazing red hair. As we were shooting, I realized that in some of my images, her hair was photographing more brown than red. This was fine for some of my shots, but I also wanted to make sure to really capture the fire red of both her hair and her personality in some of the images.
I made a few exposures, checked my LCD, and realized that the problem was simple” There wasn’t enough light on her hair. To show color you need light. But yet, for a minute or two I kept on shooting. Rookie mistake time folks. I knew better. I stopped and heard the words of one of my very first mentors in my brain – newspaper shooter Jack Russell used to say to me all the time. “If you don’t like the light kid – change it. It just isn’t rocket science.”
It’s funny how those lessons we learned sooooo long ago can escape us. While it’s no big deal to burn digital pixels, there’s also no need to waste time. I just wasn’t happy with what was going on. So I remembered Jack’s words and changed the light. I added a strip light in the form of a bare bulb against silver reflector in an uncovered soft box. I moved this very close to her head – and just out of the frame. This allowed me to add some real pop to her hair.
I also remembered the rest of Jack’s words said to me that very first day he worked with me.
“If it isn’t working. Stop – reset – change everything. Go back to step one. Zero everything out and start over.”
I’ve heard great ones say the same thing my whole career. Whether it was Rocky Gunn, Dean Collins or modern day photographers like Joe McNally – I’ve heard this stop – reset – change advice. It’s good advice and even I should take it some times!
I did just that. I stopped. I changed everything. I realized this young woman needed to move. She needed to flow WITH the camera. She wasn’t good at sitting still. So I started moving her. I changed the pose. I changed the angle of the light. I brought in more specularity. I moved the hair light closer. And I love the resulting picture which you see at the top of the page. If you knew Delphine for 15 minutes, you’d realize this shot captures at least one side of her personality perfectly. Were it not for those who went before me giving me that simple advice – “If you don’t like the light – change the light…” I wouldn’t have gotten this shot.
It’s my turn to pass it on and hopefully save at least some of you from the same frustration. If things aren’t working, stop what you are doing and just start over. Maybe you’ll end up with an even better idea!
Intro by Skip Cohen
Many years ago I heard Jay Conrad Levinson speak about the top one hundred things guerrilla marketers need to do to build their business and brand awareness. Right near the top of his list was community involvement. I remember him saying, "People like buying products from companies who give back." The reality is, you're looking for the community to be good to you, so you have to find ways to be good to your community!
I've shared a lot of stories about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS) over the years. I used to think NILMDTS wasn't for everybody, but the longer I've been one of their ambassadors, the more I realize it is for everybody! I've heard so many stories from photographers who panicked over the idea of their emotional involvement photographing a dying or even deceased baby, and later describe their experience as life-changing.
The NILMDTS video below is still one of the very best ways to understand how you can help, and at the same time start to learn how NILMDTS will help you. You'll grow as an artist and more importantly a member of your community with a more significant passion for family values, love and yes, photography.
I wanted to share the short post below by Jennifer Smith about her experience as a NILMDTS volunteer. She does such an excellent job of describing her involvement, especially her last sentence: "I think it’s important the parents know I’m honored to be a part of their child’s life, I’m grateful to have met them and photograph them. I will remember their child, and I was impacted by them."
NILMDTS needs volunteers at all levels, not just photographers. To find out more about how you can help click on the thumbnail to the right.
I volunteer …
Because sometimes I think it’s not fair.
Because I understand the importance of remembering and acknowledging those feelings are there.
I can’t always help with words or cards, but I can help with my gift of art.
I can help with my eye for photography
So, I do.
Jennifer Smith, NILMDTS Volunteer Photographer
My best friend and I were pregnant at the same time, due in October. Only she gave birth at the hospital in July, and didn’t leave until April the next year when he passed away at 9 months old. Meanwhile, another friend of our family was due in September and had her daughter, stillborn. Their grief, their timeline of survival, I was a bystander through it all. I was left in a very awkward position because my baby was healthy.
This past spring, I received a random email from a member of my camera club saying “Cheryl Haggard, the founder of Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, will be in Cincinnati on Monday”. I had never heard of her, or the organization, but I was strongly compelled to do some research. So I took time to learn more and went to the in-person meeting a few days later. I picked up some literature and information, applied to be a volunteer photographer, and here I am.
After going to a handful of sessions, I’m happy I decided to walk this path with the other volunteers. It’s sometimes hard to stop my routine, especially with two small kids, and decide to take a session, but I do decide to have a few hours of stillness in my body and mind and to be present with the baby and family while I’m there. I think it’s important the parents know I’m honored to be a part of their child’s life, I’m grateful to have met them and photograph them. I will remember their child, and I was impacted by them.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Jenn Bruno Smith is back with a terrific guest post and topic - your workflow.
I'm always surprised how many artists get in trouble because they lack organizational skills, and fail to do anything about it. I get it, you're artists and "right-brainers" - creativity and passion are your strong suits, not your operational skills. However, here's the sad part - you continue to run amuck, when there are so many ways for you to change the pattern of chaos you've created.
Jenn and I met thanks to AIBP (Association of International Boudoir Photographers) and our mutual friend Erin Zahradka. Jenn's core business is boudoir photography. Click on the image she shared with her post to visit her website. She's also got a wonderfully diverse skill set and love for children and family photography (LaBella Vita Photography).
A big thanks to Jenn for sharing some solid tips to help us all get more organized. In fact, reading her post gave me a few ideas to consider in my own business!
by Jenn Bruno Smith
As creatives I think we can all agree: organization is not our first language. But having a productive workflow is essential to running a business—so how do you find balance?
Ultimately, your productivity affects not only your business, but the quality of your customer service. Nobody writes glowing reviews about a business when it was a month late on delivery. And they sure as hell don’t recommend those businesses to their friends. A golden rule of customer service is you need to deliver when you say you’re going to deliver. Ready to make the leap? Here’s how you can get from stacks of chaos on your desk to becoming a workflow master.
1. Find What Works For You
Taking time to see what’s going wrong is the first step in making it right. What’s limiting you from providing your customers with the best possible experience? Once you’ve taken time to write these things down, set some boundaries!
For me, this means giving myself 1-2 weeks between the shoot and the in-person ordering appointment. For you this might look like scheduling more time to edit photos, or scheduling more time in between individual client sessions. Be intentional about noting where you’re struggling with workflow, make a timeline, and KEEP IT ON YOUR DESK! Also, clear off your desk. Nobody has time for that mess.
2. Use a Client Relationship Management Platform
Also known as a CRM, Client Relationship Management software will have your clients feeling like gold regardless of where your schedule (or your mind) is. Whether you opt for something like Dubsado, or a different system to get organized, having this in place will seriously change the way you work. It has changed my life- for the better!
3. Don’t Overextend Yourself
Believe me, I know how hard it is to rein yourself in when you’re an entrepreneur. We all hate to turn away clients. But there has to be a point where you stop and evaluate whether the work you’re taking on is building or breaking your workflow. Is your work and client experience suffering because of how much you’re taking on? When potential clients reach out, make sure you take that extra minute to evaluate whether having their business will be an asset to your business, in the long run.
4. Be Predictable
Creatively you should always be looking for fresh and new ways to evolve your business, but when it comes to management, predictable is what customers are looking for. If you aren’t well organized then your clients aren’t going to feel comfortable giving you their business. It’s important for them to know how and when you’re going to meet their needs. Set up a schedule and boundaries for how you’re going to make sure products are delivered on time—every time.
When it comes down to it, finding a successful workflow will not only save you time, but it will also allow you to build a stronger customer experience. Make the investment in your business, yourself, and your customers by taking the time to plan out your work. Ultimately, it will save you a whole lot of stress.
Images copyright Jennifer Smith. All rights reserved.
Intro by Skip Cohen
Even though boudoir photography, over the last few years, has become one of the fastest growing specialties, we've never had a post about the topic, and it's long overdue. From my perspective, one of the biggest challenges is building the relationship with the client and establishing a fundamental level of trust with the subject.
Meet a new buddy, Jenn Smith. We haven't known each other very long, but we do share a number of mutual friends. She couldn't be easier to work with. However, there's something else I noticed in our first phone conversation, her communication skills. Jenn's enthusiasm and passion for the craft was obvious from the very beginning. She couldn't have been easier to talk to about the topic and what she was going to write about.
The backstory on how we met goes back to Erin Zahradka of AIBP (Association of International Boudoir Photographers.) Erin is no stranger to SCU and did a fantastic guest post about her photo day camp for kids several years ago. Erin wanted to know if I had an interest in building content about boudoir at SCU and my answer was obviously "YES!" She put the word out on the AIBP Facebook forum, and Jenn was the first artist to respond.
Well, here we are a week later with Jenn's first guest post and the topic couldn't be more on target. Interested in seeing more of her work? Just click on either image to link to her website.
by Jenn Smith
The art of getting people naked, and taking gorgeous images of them, is not for the faint of heart. To be a successful boudoir photographer you have to not only read people, but build a deep level of trust with them. How? Here are my insider tips to building genuine and lasting relationships with your boudoir clients.
1. Set Expectations and Be a Trusted Guide Remember the last time a business or person let you down? As business owners, it’s our responsibility to set proper expectations and follow through on them. A great way to do this is to have in-person consultations with each client. When I book a client I always walk them through the entire experience, step-by-step, so they know exactly what to expect from their shoot.
Throughout this experience your clients are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position. They’re trusting you. In return for their trust, you need to confidently be their guide. Continue to tell them everything that will happen, even if you already explained it during their first consultation. The more they know, and feel confident about your expertise, the more comfortable everyone will feel. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Know Your Shit When a client arrives, you should know exactly what’s going on. You shouldn’t be checking a posing guide or Pinterest, or messing around with your gear. Of course, I always take moments to pause and think, and to take test shots, but during these times I always let the client know what’s going on. Your goal is to make your client feel completely confident about your knowledge.
3. Be Genuine When it comes down to it, the client is hiring you, as much as they’re hiring your work. So be your genuine self! If you’re trying to fake your way to your client’s heart, believe me, they’ll know.
4. Be Empathetic and a Good Listener We do this every day, but our client’s don’t. It is important to be a good listener and show empathy. Recognize their fears and anxiety if they verbalize them. Let them know that it is totally normal to be nervous and their images will be totally gorgeous despite their nerves!
5. Have Many Touchpoints I have 15-20 touchpoints with my clients from booking, to the time their products are delivered. I use a client relationship management software to help me accomplish this. It allows me to set email workflows with the click of a button. This helps my clients feel remembered and valued. I also make sure to respond as quickly as possible to text messages, calls or emails. My goal is to make each client feel like they are the most important part of my day.
Building relationships with clients starts the moment they set up a consultation, and extends past the photo shoot. You’re setting yourself up for success when you take the time to invest in building relationships with your clients. Successful relationship building not only leads to word of mouth referrals but clients who will return for your work time after time.
Model: Beth Claire https://www.facebook.com/bethclairemodel/?pnref=lhc
Makeup artist: Miranda Richards mirandarichardsartistry.com
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.