This is one of those Sundays when it's so hard to write Reflections, but not for lack of material. The challenge is NOT turning this into a rant about Congress, as the government shuts down. When our taxes are due in April, I want to let the IRS know in a most apologetic way, that Sheila and I don't agree on the budget. As a result, our tax payment will be late as we continue to discuss the challenges.
Keeping in mind my level of sarcasm this morning, I need to go someplace different and special. Well, there's only one place to go this time of year, and that means I have to warn you I'm about to get sappy.
Whether you celebrated Hanukah earlier in the month or you're looking forward to Christmas Eve tomorrow, I've always been the leader in holiday spirit. It's my favorite time of year, and my appreciation is nonstop. But it all goes well beyond loving this industry and what photographers give the world every day.
This is also a time when Sheila's going to join me in today's post. We've been a couple for eleven years and married for over eight, and we're grateful for all your support, feedback and inspiration. It's been a fantastic year, and it really couldn't have happened without you.
December is always a time when all of us focus on the importance of family, friends and the love in our hearts, instead of the craziness of the world around us. And, it's not exclusive to just the United States! So, in a crazy world of chaos, our wish to all of you is for peace, hope, good health and a time filled with memory-making moments with those people you love most in your life.
I also want to wrap up today's post by keeping it light. I wrote the poem below in 2012 and have modified it almost each December. I'm putting you in an awkward position, dealing with me thinking of myself as an amateur poet laureate. I bring it out of mothballs every year believing that somebody will recognize my talent and help me launch a reputation right up there with Robert Frost or at the very least a junior Dr. Seuss!
Here it is out of the archives but updated just a little:
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
I’d unplugged my computer and even the mouse.
My blogs for year-end were all ready to go
There was no reason to work, the Internet was slow.
For reasons unknown as if it made sense
my email needed cleaning and I got off the fence.
For over a year I’d saved every note
the ones I received and the ones that I wrote.
So I started deleting each email and letter.
The more I deleted the more I felt better.
Emails from Vanelli, Bourne and Tom Curley,
Coates, Varanakis, Sammon and Hurley.
And then went the drafts I’d written, but never sent
from those days when writing just helped me vent.
When all of a sudden I jumped up like LeBron,
My joke files from Vedros and other friends were gone.
Gone were the best jokes from PG to X rated,
the ones that I loved and the ones that I hated.
My email had been full with great moments and smiles,
but my computer was slowing down with the over-stuffed files.
I wiped off my tears and even my nose
the files, like Saint Nick, up the chimney they rose.
My collection of jokes was gone and deleted.
I felt so alone, so sad and defeated.
When all of a sudden I jumped up with a grin
My backup drive was never plugged in.
I’d only deleted the stuff on one drive!
My tasteless jokes, each one did survive!
And I heard a voice, I thought from the sky
Was it Santa, his reindeer who had just flown by?
I realized the words were from Sheila, my wife,
"Shut off the computer you fool - get a life.
It’s Christmas and you’re screaming gave me a fright!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night"
Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, compassion and appreciation. Sheila and I feel so fortunate to know so many of you and have your support.
And as always, go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs with those people most special in your life. With each hug think about how lucky we all our to simply have each other. It's a time to appreciate our own little piece of the world around us.
All images copyright Bleu Cotton Photography
Over the last ten years, I've repeatedly shared Bleu and Alison Cotton's holiday card. Every year I get their card, laugh and think, "There's no way they'll top this one next year!" Well, a new year rolls around and *poof* they do it again.
Most of you are professional photographers, and while it's too late to do much for this year, it's perfect to think about your 2019 card. No professional photographer should ever be sending out a store-bought holiday card!
Create your own card using one of your images for the front, or put your creativity into staging a photograph like Bleu, Alison and Fisher do every year. Then, include a message that extends your wishes for the holidays with a tie-in to your URL, address, phone number - anything to link people back to what you do as an artist.
Just to add to the fun, the return address on this year's card was from the Marx Brothers! So, to one of my favorite families in photography, Happy Holidays and thanks for never slowing down on the creativity from year to year. And, to Fisher - thanks for feeding your parents all these creative ideas - I know they'd be boring without you! LOL
Here are a few below I've saved over the years and in fact, featured in previous blog posts.
The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
It's the perfect topic for Marketing Monday - all the BS from this year's politicians in Florida. I can only talk about what we've gotten in Sarasota, but I know it's the same everywhere. As a result of this year's direct mail campaigns, entire forests have been turned into wastelands as one tree after another has died in support of another politician's campaign.
And, I'm only sharing the direct mail pieces I collected over the last two weeks, which completely covered our dining room table. But, let's not forget the phone calls. In this past week, we've been averaging a dozen a day with at least five so far from Kelsey Grammer!
It's the perfect time to point out a few marketing basics:
Don't negative sell - The majority of the mailings so far in the race for Governor take turns negative selling Gillum vs. DeSantis. There's almost nothing that's honestly from the heart sharing why either one feels they should be governor.
Don't put your competitor first - A number of pieces kick the competition before they talk about their candidate. In the battle between Scott and Nelson, they sent out an 8 1/2 x 11 heavy stock card. I got two different cards on the same day. On one card Nelson's supporters chose not to say anything about their candidate and on the other only 1/4 was dedicated to Nelson. Both messages completely put Scott in the spotlight, and neither ever tell you what office Nelson is even running for!
Years ago Rollei ran an ad in the US about a new camera. The headline read, "While Hasselblad has slept, Rollei has turned dreams into reality!" Then it had a picture of a Hasselblad camera on a pillow. The ad put Hasselblad into the spotlight so much that, as president of Hasselblad USA at the time, I offered to pay to keep it out there!
Easy on the overkill - Between the same message over and over again, combined with phone calls and television ads, we're sick of all of them. Keep your message simple and pay attention to when you're doing a mailing. You've got to help people understand the value of your offer.
I know this is more of a rant than a post, but my frustration with this nonsense is over the top. I can't help but wonder how many school lunches, shelters for the homeless, meals on wheels for the elderly and better medical care for our veterans could have been supported, instead of the money spent on the nonstop flow of paper in our mailbox!
I'm a proud American, but the world has run amuck, and while I'm so grateful for the right of free speech, that shouldn't extend to the right to fill our mailboxes or interrupt our lives with the constant dribble of robocalls.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it everywhere and applying the wrong remedies.
Most people who walk their dogs always have a poop bag with them. Wherever your dog does his/her business, you respect your neighbors and pick it up. However, now and then there's one fool who thinks if the dog poops in the street, it's no big deal and we've got one of those in our neighborhood.
Well, the analogy of pet owners and poop got me thinking about business owners and how, instead of taking responsibility for the problem, point the finger the other way. If it's not their fault then why try and fix it?
Here are some typical scenarios:
Well, let's solve all three scenarios, with or without a poop bag!
It's only a little rant this morning, but the comparison between photographers who blame every challenge on somebody or something else fits right in with people who don't pick up after their pets!
Responsibility finds a way. Irresponsibility makes excuses.
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
Here's what started today's rant, which was later fueled by a couple of stupid statements in one of the photography forums. I get a great magazine called The Week. It's a weekly summary of the news around the world. As I was looking through a back issue, I saw a story in their regular feature, "Only in America."
"Netflix is reportedly asking employees not to look at one another for more than five consecutive seconds. The gaze limit is part of new sexual harassment guidelines, issued in response to #MeToo, that also bars employees from flirting, "lingering hugs," and asking each other for their personal phone numbers."
I look back over the last ten years, and I keep asking the same question when did society run amuck? When did we become so serious? When did we all wind up under the microscope?
Here are some examples within photography:
I spend a good part of my day reading comments on Facebook in the various forums and so often, sometime around the sixth comment on a specific topic, somebody gets a little too sensitive. The next thing you read is a battle of semantics as people start to fight through the sensitivities of how somebody has expressed their opinion. Then the floodgates open and I've seen suggestions on how to improve a truly bad image suddenly go down the accusation path of every prejudice you can imagine.
Maybe just learning to laugh more is part of the solution. When did we forget to laugh or in this business forget that beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder? It doesn't matter what everybody else thinks.
I already imagine the trolls out there rolling their eyes and getting ready to shred me. The problem is bigger than the challenges with digital workflow; Uncle Harry stealing your business; photographers not knowing enough about photography; print competition not judging your prints fairly, and people copying other artist's photographs.
Okay gang, let's pick a week during the year where for seven days in a row we laugh at just about everything! We'll laugh at images that are out of focus. We'll laugh at all the challenges in our business. We'll laugh at people who disappoint us. We'll laugh at growing older.
By the time we get to the second week, it'll be catching, and we'll laugh with our family and friends. We'll laugh with our clients. We'll laugh with our vendors, and the world might start to loosen up. Then, once it's loose enough, maybe we can really accomplish something - talk more to each other, share ideas, grow our businesses and live healthier more productive lives.
I thought I had a unique thought with all of this - all mine until I went looking for a quote with Google that would wrap up this rant. With a big smile on my face, I'm proud to announce the topic of this blog is hardly original and has been bouncing around the world for centuries, but I'm in good company!
"It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there's nothing you can do about them,
and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized."
Dr. Wayne Dyer
"The human race has only one effective weapon and that is laughter!"
"God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh!"
"Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life!"
And to quote my good buddy Terry Clark,
"Smile big, laugh hard, and make people happy!"
I started blogging in 2009, and thanks to help from several very good friends we launched SCU in 2013. The blog has grown, but sadly so has my list of frustrations. While some of you are focused on the ingredients to build a successful business, there are some of you who still don't get it.
Today I was reading through some of the posts on Facebook, and it was all I could do not to get involved in some of the discussions. I stayed clear, but it's obvious somewhere along life's path a bunch of people took wrong turns.
This is a back to basics kind of time in business when a hand-written thank you note is going to carry more weight than a new design for your home page. It's a time when sincerity tops technology and fulfilling a promise will be talked about long after that new lens you just bought.
While many of you are motivated, passionate and doing everything you can to build your business, new relationships and your skill set, here are some of the knuckleheads who put me in rant mode:
If these sound like anybody you know, let's all chip in and get them some professional help.
The photographic industry is made up of some incredibly talented artists, and just like all those old westerns I watched as a kid, there's always going to be a faster gun. There's always going to be somebody out there pushing the edge of the envelope. These exceptional artists have a passion that drives them and a desire to shoot in a way nobody else would, and they keep many of us motivated by their creativity.
I found a great quote that seems to fit this post and since my grandfather was the one who taught me about a firm handshake and eye contact:
"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit.
He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there."
Thanks for letting me rant - wishing everybody a troll-less finish to the week!
While at WPPI two years ago I shared a little sarcasm when a small bottle of water was $9.00 at the convention. Well, I'm back in Las Vegas and Mandalay Bay has put a new twist on dealing with the challenge of absurd pricing.
I get how hard it is to run a luxury hotel in Vegas, and I'm glad to help with the economy, but whatever happened to good old common sense? Sorry, I've got to run. They just delivered my $24.00 bowl of oatmeal on room service.
I started this as a concept idea about four years ago. Since then I've probably written a few hundred posts about the importance of exceeding client expectations and making yourself habit-forming. I'm bringing the topic back because there are still so many artists who just don't get it! Plus, we're in the fourth quarter, the seasonality stretch for 2017. There's no better time than RIGHT NOW to make some changes in how you do business! And, if this post just doesn't apply to you, please don't be offended but help me make the point and send it on to somebody who's clueless!
Take a minute and think about a few things:
We’re living in the age of instant gratification. We text, tweet, and abbreviate. Our spelling has become absurd, phonetically attacking a conversation for the sole purpose of packing a full paragraph into just 140 characters. We eat on the run, multi-tasking and getting a little work done so we can justify stepping away from the biz at lunchtime. MacDonalds has two lines for the drive-in window, and we can order combo meals, and the decision-making process becomes even faster.
New photographers jump into the market thinking because they understand Photoshop they’re perfectly capable of being a professional. They shoot with wild abandon and a mindset of, “No problem. I’ll fix it later in the computer!” The truth is, no matter what your skill set, if it's a lousy image there’s one fundamental rule of nature, “You can’t buff a turd!”
The reality is you can’t Tweet quality. There are no shortcuts to creating outstanding images. There are no shortcuts to building relationships with your clients. There are no shortcuts to great marketing. All of this leaves me with one sentiment – it’s time for many of you just to slow down, take a big breath and decide what you want to be when you grow up.
If you’re a shortcut, bought a camera and learned Photoshop artist before you understood lighting, exposure, composition and your gear, here’s you’re missing some incredible opportunities:
So, here are a few ideas to help you fix the problem:
You’re part of a fantastic industry, and there’s help every step of the way, providing you respect and love the craft. And trust me, if you respect the craft, there is no way to describe the return on your investment!
Although I shared this post almost three years ago, Calvin Hayes has a birthday today, and it's time to bring it out of the archives! As Calvin sits in his office admiring the "World Sushi Federation" Belt hanging on the wall, which he won fair and square, I want him to remember a little of the pain that followed. Besides laughing until my sides hurt, I couldn't eat sushi for month. Not only that, but my Dad was present for the whole thing and it's hard when you've been humiliated in front of one of your parents! LOL
So, Mr. Hayes - Happy Birthday! You share a pretty special seat of honor on Memory Lane, especially when it comes to moments defined as the most fun I could never do again! Over the years you've always been there to help with virtually any project that came along. You've always given back! There's no question, I miss the old days, but that's the fun of Throwback Thursday - it brings them all back.
And for those of you relatively new to the industry - the best thing about being a photographer has little to do with imaging, but the friendships you make that come out of everyone's love for the craft. Nothing beats a Throwback Thursday image that makes you laugh out loud! So, take the time today and look for those old images that make you laugh, smile and reflect back to the pure joy of being an artist and part of an amazing industry!
Happy Throwback Thursday!
To this day I don't know how it started, but it was in the 90's and AOL was pretty much the only forum photographers were active in. For some reason, in the Kodak Chatroom, Tony Corbell and I were challenged by Wendy Saunders and Calvin Hayes to see who could eat the most sushi. The trash talk went on for months.
That year, the PPA convention was in Orlando and that's where these extensive crimes against all creatures from the sea took place. Now, if you know Tony Corbell or me, you know neither of us ever do anything just halfway! So prior to the event, we prepared...
That night, Tony and I, just like the goofballs of professional wrestling, came into the restaurant carrying our championship belts over our heads in our Yukatas. There were probably a dozen people who joined us for dinner, but it was really Wendy, Calvin, Tony and I who ran up the tab.
I remember eating for what seemed like an eternity, when Tony turned to Wendy and asked, "Honestly, how much more can you eat?"
She looked him straight in the eye and said, "At least a couple more orders!"
I looked at Tony, he looked at me, we were both turning green... we threw in the towel! At that point we were coming up on 63 pieces each. We had to give up our belts and to this day, every time I see Calvin he reminds me that the belt is hanging in his office!
As with every Throwback Thursday post, there's always a point or two. First, get photographs from those special events that help create the memories in your life with friends/associates at each workshop and convention you attend. Second, print them...if these were just on a jump drive somewhere, I never would have found them. Third, there's an incredible value to the friends in your network and they're part of your life to help you make those memories, regardless of whether it's for work or play. Just appreciate them.
And yes, the final check did come to just under $2000, but Wendy and Calvin were both spokespeople for Hasselblad and most of the guests that night all had something to do with supporting our marketing efforts. So we rationalized and decided it was part of sponsorship. LOL
Just for the record, my Dad joined us that night and I remember heading back to the hotel and he looked at me and said, "Wow...business in your industry is a lot tougher today than it was for me. All I had to do was learn to play golf!"
You can dress a toad in lace, but the minute you let it go, it'll still poop on your porch!
It's a quote from a book Sheila is reading, The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate, and referenced the risk of judging the character of people too quickly or not at all.
Well, I'm thinking of how that quote applies to our industry and it's the perfect way to describe photographers who think their expertise is all based in their gear.
You know the profile - they buy all the very best, but never really learn how to use it. They take short cuts and don't take the time to learn the craft. They don't have much of a skill set. They call themselves "professionals", but in all honesty, the only thing they have that makes them a professional is a tax-id number.
Being a true professional photographer is about your skills in every aspect of the business. It's about passion for capturing memories, customer service and the quest for the ultimate image. It's about waking up every morning excited about the business you're trying to build and never compromising on anything related to your creative spirit.
Technology over the last decade has made it easy for a lot of people to step into photography and think they can build a business. Fortunately, there are still so many passionate artists who realize, nothing trumps that moment when you know you got the shot!
Wishing everybody a terrific weekend! For me, mine is filled with family and friends and a whole lot of hugs with people I haven't seen in years.
In another blog, far far way, I shared this video after stumbling across it on YouTube. While it's been out there for at least two years, I'm betting most of you never saw it. I don't know who to even give credit to - since there's so little information given.
(Note: When I posted this earlier, I didn't have the information about the talent behind "Fauxtographor". Thanks to my buddy, Brian Malloy in Boston, he knew the artists.
Fauxtographer was produced in 2012, directed and shot by photographer and filmmaker, Richard Esposito of http://www.caprisio.com. It starred Robert Norman of http://norman-photography.com who is anything but a "fauxtographor." The two of them are talented veterans of the field, check out their websites to see what they are up to next.
Pay close attention to all the little details. It's those moments of unbridled sarcasm that hooked me right from the start.
Oh, if it were only so easy. We could give all those "rockstars" who shoot weddings for $300, a couple of pills and *poof* they'd suddenly realize what they're leaving on the table. They'd start attending workshops and stop shooting until they really understood photography.
Next, we could take the equipment hounds who own everything but only know how to use one lens, not to mention one aperture. We'd give them one pill and they'd start to practice, using everything in their camera bag. Maybe they'd even try shooting wide open!
Then we could give a pill or two to "professionals" who own only one camera body and hit the panic button when something goes wrong. They might even double up on a lens or two and buy a second strobe! Who knows, they might even start attending local meetings with the professionals in the local PPA chapter or photography guild.
And what about the "I'll-fix-it-later-in-Photoshop" crowd, who take lousy images and think being a filter junkie will clean them up? They'd take two pills, go to bed and wake up realizing you really can't buff a turd! They might even start thinking about great images, right out of the can.
My list of pet peeves goes on and on, along with a new one. People who join photographic forums and continue to ask questions that could have been answered months ago, if they'd only read the manual that came with the camera.
There's no doubt in my mind somebody out there probably is working on a pill like this. What I want to see is one for small business owners that helps enhance goal setting, marketing and business planning. One dose would give the business owner a renewed sense of customer service and the ability to listen better to their clients!
Hey, we all have our dreams!
Yesterday's post is a prime example of that line that everybody's mother, father or grandparent used when we were kids, "Do as I say, not as I do!" The topic was spelling and proofreading and I'll start out with two big "Thanks" to Brian and Craig.
A half hour after posting, Brian caught a typo in the sentence and sent me an IM, "...they got is right" that was immediately corrected and became "...they got it right". Then, this morning I was reviewing comments and Craig wrote to me:
Was this deliberate then?😆 "Read out loud, to you spouse, assistant or a friend, what you're about to publish."
When I was a kid, my Uncle Morris, published his own book, a paperback about power selling. He found three typos after it went to print. His solution was to sell each book with a message he added on a separate sheet of paper, "There are three intentional mistakes in this book. Find them and let me know and you'll receive a second copy, FREE."
Well, I'd like to answer Craig and say my mistakes were intentional, but there's no way I could keep a straight face. Both mistakes were never noticed. I read it out loud at least three times. I read it to my wife, Sheila. I posted it and was absolutely sure it was perfect.
As moronic and pathetic as I feel, both mistakes make a huge point about the importance of just slowing down and looking at something one last time, before it's published. I know I'm in good company after seeing mistakes all the time in many of the national magazines, but that doesn't make me feel any smarter. However, it does point out that being pathetic is truly an art form and we all share the same challenges.
I heard Guy Kawasaki speak two years ago. He's one of the most published authors in business today and an outstanding presenter. He talked about his then just published book, APE, How to Publish a Book. After at least thirty different people had read the draft and he'd caught every mistake, he said to his editor, "I'll bet you've never seen a manuscript as clean as this one!"
A few days later he was sent a list of over 1600 corrections that needed to be made! His advice, after telling the story, was to emphasize the importance of hiring a great editor!
One good suggestion that I'm going to try came from Jean-Francois:
A little trick, read the text backward. Your brain won't auto-correct what you are seeing. Or you could just write "sent from my iPhone", which would at least explain at the typos. (So was Jean-Francois' typo intentional? LOL)
A big thanks to Craig and Brian for letting me know about the mistakes and Jean-Francois for a terrific suggestion. To all three of them, along with all of you, have a terrific Sunday...don't take yourself too seriously and as always, hug somebody special today. Life is simply too short to not make a few new memories every day!
I've written a lot over the years about proofreading. It's a challenge we all have - we're rushed, we're writing and too often moving too fast. With me, often I can read something 3-5 times and not catch a mistake. With many of you, you're trained as an artist, not an English teacher. So, many times there are mistakes in what you're writing that even if you read it out loud before publishing, you might not catch it.
Here's the point though...a mistake here and there isn't the worst thing you'll ever do. However, when what you've written can't be understood, you've got a challenge with the potential client who's reading what you wrote. Right off the bat you'll probably lose them. Nobody takes the time to ask for clarification.
I had a laugh yesterday when I got an email with this heading:
Here's the scam the thieves are working...
You get an email from a reputable company you're involved with asking you to verify your account information. So far I've had them from American Express, Bank Americard and Apple. It's always the same scam asking me to click on the link and enter account information to verify changes that have been made to my account.
These thieves needed help with spelling. They had a challenge with "suppourt", although later in the same email they got it right, "support".
Here's the point, just slowing down a little can make you look and sound a whole lot smarter and avoid the challenge of losing a client's interest because they didn't understand what you wrote.
A spelling mistake can destroy your life...
A husband wrote his wife:
"I'm having a wonderful time. Wish you were her."
At least thirty years ago I was at a Polaroid sales meeting. One of the managers was late and when people asked where he was, somebody yelled out, "The power went out. He's stuck on the escalator!" That set off a lot of chuckles about things that are simply stupid and make little sense in life.
Well, I've been working on a new book on marketing and last night I thought I had this great idea for the title, "Stuck on the Escalator". Well, when checking this morning I found this video on YouTube and it's spectacular. Just trust me and enjoy the laugh. It's from Motivating Success and part of a whole series of great videos.
Most of you know where I'm going on this one...
When something doesn't go as planned, stop acting like you're stuck on the escalator! Seriously, over and over again I keep running into photographers new and well-seasoned who simply hit the panic button when something doesn't go as planned. We're an industry of way too many "Chicken Littles" and the sky is NEVER falling.
When you don't get the results you hoped for, you get to take a "mulligan" and another swing at the ball. It's not your only shot. Yes, there are some projects with more on the line than others, but the greatest thing about being in photography and being an entrepreneur, is having a chance to try things a different way.
One more analogy...Learning how to scuba dive isn't about swimming under water. In fact, it's a relatively easy sport to pick up. Really learning to dive is about knowing what to do when something goes wrong. In the same respect, being a professional photographer is all about knowing what to do when something doesn't go as planned - it's the reason to make sure your skill set is the very best. With every image, you shouldn't need to "chimp" because you know you got the shot.
With marketing, promotions, your blog, website and running a business you're going to make mistakes. People are going to let you down. You're going to have moments of disappointment. Here's where all those trite one liners about falling down and getting up come into play.
Even more important is the way your network can be involved. Keep building your network and in turn utilize it when you need support. Don't be afraid to hit the "help button" and, oh yeah...
I'm in your network too. If you're stuck and need help ask for it!
Okay, I'll give everybody a heads up - this is definitely rant material. I'm kind of blown away lately by how many photographers have their point of focus totally screwed up. I'm not talking about your cameras, but your lives. Here's what got me going...
I subscribe to a great little news magazine called The Week. In a section called "The Bottom Line" they wrote:
Forty percent of Americans who earn vacation time fail to take all the days they've allotted, leaving an average of 8.1 vacation days unused - for a cumulative total of 429 million unused vacation days each year!
So, this is a little like playing the Kevin Bacon game and it got me thinking about my own focus and rarely taking time off. That took me to somebody who I heard recently proclaim with pride they've pretty much worked non-stop for three years and *poof* - here I am asking the question of a whole bunch of you, "What the hell are you doing?"
Vacation, especially as an artist and business owner, isn't just about relaxing, but giving yourself time to appreciate why you're working so hard in the first place. It's about your family, friends and things you're passionate about beyond the business. It's about putting yourself in an environment where you're removed from the challenges that stress you the most.
When I worked for Hasselblad I used to get so aggravated when the Swedes would close the factory for the entire month of July. I used to think they had the worst work ethic - how could somebody care about the business and just walk away for an entire month? Then it hit me that as Americans most of us don't know what to do with a two week vacation, let alone a month off. Well, I started thinking...who's really the country with messed up priorities?
It's a short post today and perfect for a Friday...learn to stop thinking you're indispensable. Time is the one thing we can never get back. It's time everybody started to prioritize their bucket list and started checking some things off. Most of the time I can't walk the talk myself, so I know how hard it is to do.
I know each of you take a huge amount of pride in your work, but somewhere in life the world started telling us that a good work ethic meant you only focus on work. No, a good work ethic is loving what you're doing and having a goal to be the very best you can be...that means recharging your batteries before you crash and burn!
Photo Credit: © lucato - Fotolia.com
My good buddy, Nick Vedros, sent this to me last week. It's a kick to watch for a few seconds, just to see what's being consumed in the US. If you click on the image you'll go right to the "Retail in Real-Time" site.
Now, here's why I wanted to share it with you in a blog post. What if we were building our own real-time site for photographers? What categories would be fun to capture? Here's my list. Feel free to add to it.
On the positive side there are some really strong trends it would be fun to track:
Sadly, there's a negative side, only listed here in the hopes that you make sure you don't become a statistic.
The truth is, there's a lot of really good things going on with professional photographers. I'm hearing so many stories that support being headed in the right direction to build stronger businesses. But, what I got a kick out of was just wasting a minute and watching the counters roll. Sadly, between Sheila and me, I know we've contributed too much to the rolling total on MacDonalds fries and Starbucks Iced Mochas!
Happy Wednesday everybody!
It's just a short post and perfect for a Saturday morning...
I'm one of the administrators on two different Facebook forums with a total of almost 20,000 members between the two. I easily look at a thousand Facebook pages a week and I'm shocked over people calling themselves photographers, when they often have the worst, not to mention dumbest, head shots on planet earth!
Facebook has become a valuable marketing tool for Internet reach, but so many of you put up bad head shots as you stake your claim to being a "professional photographer". Don't you think it's something most clients would notice? I'm not talking about portraits that lack quality, I'm talking about BAD images that aren't even portraits! Some of you don't even bother and use the Facebook silhouette, while others make an effort to find cartoon characters who symbolize some point you're trying to make...sorry, haven't found one yet that's made sense.
So, this weekend how about updating your Facebook page? Get rid of the selfie you took with your phone and set up a shot that shows what you can do. Maybe, even put a camera in your hand to make the point. Once you get a decent head shot, then let's get to work on whatever you decided to use for your Facebook header...I know that's asking a lot, but I have this silly dream that some day every photographer will only show their best work.
Sorry for the rant if your Facebook page really looks good - it's just one of those things nobody ever talks about!
Wishing everybody, regardless of how bad your head shot is, a terrific weekend!
P.S. Since posting this I've received a few comments - I didn't mean to suggest all of you needed to look the same with your head shots. It's great to be unique, but what I'm ranting about this morning are simply bad images of your pets, your kids, your house and oh yeah, you!
Illustration Credit: © cosfoto - Fotolia.com
For the last ten minutes I've been staring at the computer trying to figure out what to write about today.
Just above my computer is a bookshelf and suddenly there was my answer, "The Book of Awesome". I have no idea where or when I got the book, but I started to look through it. It's built on a foundation of seemingly routine things in our lives that become awesome simply because we think about them. They're little things, but critical ingredients to putting a smile on our face. (click the image on the left for the link to Amazon and the book's page.)
Here are some examples..."Peeling an orange in one shot," "Hanging your hand out the car window," "Eating a free sample of something you have no intention of buying," "Eating the extra fries at the bottom of the bag." Okay, so I think you get the picture.
What if together we came up with "The Book of Awesome for Photographers"? Here's what I've got so far...feel free to add to the list.
"Finding the lens cap you haven't been able to find for weeks in a jacket pocket!"
"Putting a post up with no typos."
"Vendors at a convention who remember your name."
"Breaking your first 1000 followers on Twitter."
"Buying a camera accessory that comes heat sealed in one of those blister cards and getting it open without cutting yourself."
" The first five minutes at any convention."
"Having somebody write something nice about a post you've written."
"A troll who apologizes."
"A service department telling you not to worry, the repair on your camera is no-charge."
"Having a client send you a note to thank you for their photographs."
"Seeing an old friend at a convention."
"Thinking you lost your phone and finding it slipped under the seat of the car."
"Getting a call or email from a friend on one of those days when nothing seems to go right."
"Getting something done ahead of schedule or the deadline."
This post today is straight out of the archives, but I had to share it again. Why? Just read my short note to Belkin...
Had I known I was going to start out my day completely aggravated after spending ten minutes cutting through the plastic of a $25 computer accessory, I would have bought a different product! It's just a USB port. It's not radioactive, it won't stunt a child's growth and nobody is going to die using too many of them!
However, it did remind me of buying fishing lures as a kid. I could never decide if the store had only one left on the display card, did that mean it was their best seller or was it the worst, since it was still there? Well, this Belkin port was the only one left, which after fighting with the packaging, I now realize it was there because everybody knew what I didn't - it would take two steak knives and a scissors to master the security your rocket scientists built into the spot welded plastic hermetic seal!
Here's the background: Scott Bourne's rant just adds to the frustration so many of us feel when buying new gear. Of all the posts he's written, this is one of my favorites. As I wrote almost a year ago, it's one thing to complain about the challenges we all face dealing with the rocket scientists at the corporate level, but it takes a true artist to describe them. So, if there was a Pulitzer for reality and sarcasm, Scott would sure be my nomination.
I know there might be a few of you who read this before, but since SCU's readership is constantly growing, I thought I'd share it again. Feel free to add more frustrations of your own and maybe we'll have enough for an updated post!
Sometimes I just want to run to the printer and have them make 10,000 bumper stickers that say “It’s not the economy stupid – it’s that you suck!”
I’ve been using serious photo gear in a serious manner since the early 1970s. It didn’t used to be this bad – I don’t think. But it seems like the notion of customer service is completely foreign to many camera companies and their related brothers and sisters. So here’s a partial list (just five stupid things in no particular order) that photo-related companies do. I don’t expect these companies to change for the better, but at least I’ll feel better after venting a little bit. Sorry for the rant but at least some of you must feel my pain!
Stupid Thing #1 DO NOT...
Require photographers to enter their camera serial number to obtain a copy of their camera’s manual or other camera info online. STUPID! Why is this necessary? Why does the camera manufacturer care if I already own the camera? Do they think the manual possesses some secret information that will grant me the codes to the Death Star? If so, isn’t that secret information available to the thousands who DO own the camera and who could look at the online manual anyway? What if I am simply interested in buying the camera? Wouldn’t they want me to have access to all the information I need before deciding? Maybe I’ll read the manual and be convinced that I need to buy that camera. Wow – we wouldn’t want to do something that would potentially sell more gear would we? And what would stop me from calling my buddy with a Nikon D3x and asking him for his serial number so I could look at the manual? This is one of the silliest things the camera companies do and it should stop – but it probably won’t.
Stupid Thing #2 DO NOT...
Require photographers to sign in with an email address and password to access basic information about products and services. Okay here we go again. It’s almost as if they are afraid we might somehow sneak into their website and buy something! Don’t create barriers to business. Don’t make it hard for us to contact you. Don’t make us give up personal information just to find out whether or not we want or need what you’re selling. Open the gates. Let us in. We probably want to give you money. You want money don’t you? Why would you do ANYTHING that would make it hard for us to give you money? Get rid of the passwords folks. This isn’t a bank transaction. We aren’t asking for access to the vault at Fort Knox. We don’t even want to know if Donald Trump’s comb-over is real. There are no government secrets. We just want to see how your camera flash sync works, or how many watt seconds your new flash head is, or how much RAM your new software program requires, etc. Really. Take the bullet out of the gun Barney Fife. It ain’t no big deal!
Stupid Thing #3 DO NOT...
Package products in such a complex manner. I recently ordered a camera battery and just about had to call in a full-fledged nuclear strike to get the darn package open. I have actually had to have stitches before when cut by the plastic that some companies use to ship their products in. I understand that some companies package for retail and want to reduce loss to theft. Two points to ponder. If I order it from Adorama or Amazon then it’s coming to my house AFTER I paid for it. No need to force me to get a blow torch to open it up. Second point…if you make it so hard for me to open the package I might just buy something else. So you miss the sale anyway. STOP IT! Use common sense packaging. It’s better for the environment, it’s easier on the customer and it’s less expensive to YOU!
Stupid Thing #4 DO NOT...
Make it hard to register my product under warranty. Okay – so you sold me this thing. You included a warranty card. You want ME to fill it out. You give me about one inch to include the 400 words necessary to get the information to you. You put the serial number in four point black type on a black camera body, hidden in the most obscure place possible. Couldn’t you just pre-stamp the warranty card with the number that matches the product in the box? It would be a good loss prevention tool since you have gear stolen prior to it reaching the customer. Of course we’re not done yet. You ask all sorts of personal and marketing questions that have nothing to do with the warranty. In some states these practices have been ruled illegal but you continue to act in this fashion. How about just making it easy for me? The warranty card has a bar code or a simple key code on it that I enter at your website with my BASIC contact information such as Name, Address, Email or Phone. That’s it! Then you ASK NICELY if I want to participate in marketing research or additional marketing programs. I reply according to my wishes but if I say yes, you have a serious, committed customer instead of someone who resents you for making them jump through all those hoops just to get the warranty YOU PROMISED THEM before they bought your product.
Stupid Thing #5 DO NOT...
Sell us on more megapixels. STOP IT NOW! I beg of you. We’re NOT that stupid – okay at least HALF of us are not THAT stupid. We know that cramming more and more and more and more and more and more megapixels on to the same size sensor is NOT giving us better image quality. It IS making us buy bigger memory cards, hard disks and faster computers. It is wasting more and more of our time while we download files that are least 1/3rd larger than they need to be. Why not stick with 12 or so megapixels and concentrate on great sensors that gather lots of light without aberration? That’s what we want. Really. Megapixel madness does NOT serve your customers. It serves your marketing department. How about a pact? You promise to stop this madness, at least on the prosumer level and above cameras, and we’ll tell all of our Uncle Harry’s that the $199 point and shoot with 400 megapixels will make him a rock star photographer…deal?
I could go on – and that’s the bad news. But I’ll stop because I like to contain my rants to a page or so. At the end of the day so much around us happens for no reason. Worse, most of it happens because it’s ALWAYS been done that way. It would be nice if some enterprising company in the photo business gathered up some key clients, suppliers and staff and just started asking questions like: “Why do we do this?”
Ah – at least I can dream! Thanks for listening to my rant.
Photo Credit: © slasnyi - Fotolia.com
This is really off the topic of photography directly, but it's so relevant to social media. All of our communication in social media is through the printed word. We can't hear the tone in somebody's voice or see the expression on their face or any emotion in their eyes. There's no body language to help us further define the importance or sincerity of what somebody is saying...just the printed word.
This morning I got an email from a member of a forum I co-administrate telling me our "moderators suck and are deleting people at a whim." There are only two moderators in this forum, me and my partner. I haven't been told I suck in a lot of years, but with 17,000 members in the forum, I've accepted we can't keep everybody happy.
My point is, neither of us have ever deleted anybody at a whim. However, we have deleted people who love to be trolls, have attacked other members outside the forum because they disagreed, posted material completely irrelevant to the members of the forum and in short, just want to write their own rule book. We even had a member leave angry phone messages on another forum member's business line! That's why God made the delete button and we only do it when it's appropriate.
We all live a real world scenario of a Verizon commercial, "Can you hear me now?" We draw bad assumptions every day. We do it in business and in our personal lives. I have a whole collection of family members who live on their assumptions and thrive on them, never asking for clarification before they pass judgement.
Here's the bottom line...before you write off another photographer, project, workshop, event, vendor or manufacturer because of something you heard, read or think you witnessed, pick up the phone and call them. Find a way to get clarification. Don't assume the rumor you heard was true. Don't assume somebody's lack of response to an email you sent means they don't care - your email might be sitting in their spam folder. Take your time and don't rush to draw the wrong assumptions.
This an amazing industry and we've all got a chance to raise the bar on the quality of our images, business, communication and relationships if we can just talk more to each other.
The importance of the art of conversation isn't dead. In fact, it has more purpose today than ever before.
Illustration Credit: © Marek - Fotolia.com