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
I've been doing business travel for at least forty years and while I don't travel as much as I used to, being nickel-dimed by United Airlines this week set a new standard. After all the surcharges and the work it took to actually speak with an American representative, I'm left with the thought that their new slogan should be "We're not happy until you're unhappy!"
The good news is I was able to use up most of a credit I had with them, so I don't need to ever fly United again! However, I've got a great idea that together we could implement!
They charge for just about everything. Maybe it's time we did the same!
The biggest insult of all is pitching me to get a United Airlines credit card, which will waive the baggage fee and get me priority boarding. The error is assuming I want to put up with all the rest of their nonsense and ever fly them again. I don't need another credit card or to hear about the benefits at twice on every flight. Hmmm, there just might be another surcharge here.
And yes, I did write to them on March 1 through their top notch customer service communication system, but to date, my complaints obviously aren't valid enough for a quick response!
Years ago I heard a story about business author, Tom Peters, speaking to a group of airline executives. He showed up a few minutes late and everybody was irritated. He stepped up to the microphone and supposedly said, "By all of your standards this is an on time arrival!"
All of us have helped make the airlines the power houses they are - maybe it's time we took back a little control.
I was having some fun wandering through YouTube looking for things I've missed about photography and also looking for content for BeAwareBetterCare.com. Well, meet my new hero, Ben Aaron.
Ben is a reporter for NBC in New York with an outstanding sense of humor. The first video I found was a group of his friends from the Senior Center in Fairlawn doing a remake of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". Digging a little further I found this classic from last week, the 30th Anniversary of FootLoose.
Here's the deal - I always stray off course on Sunday mornings and while this has little to do with photography, it is about storytelling. It's also about putting your heart into everything you do, even those moments when you just want to make people smile.
Even though it was on YouTube and I probably could have just posted it, I wrote to Ben for permission. His answer when I asked is what makes him a great reporter,
"Great! I appreciate it! I hope they enjoy the madness, as much as I enjoyed making it!"
Follow Ben on Twitter and check out his Facebook page to stay on top of things he's working on. You won't be disappointed.
by Skip Cohen
Tomorrow is my 44th anniversary in the photographic industry and normally I wouldn't run a post like this, but as I look back over the years, I get pretty sappy. Yeah, technically I'm getting to be an old fart, but you're only as old as you think or act and according to Sheila, I've still go some work to do to fully mature! LOL
My post last week reminded me it's the journey NOT the destination that's important. Well, it continues to be an amazing journey. Almost three years ago I met the crew at Resource Magazine for the first time. Looking for executives in the photographic industry to profile, I was asked to write about my background and how I got started in photography. I ran across the original draft a few days ago and figured it would be fun to share as a blog post.
I've used a quote from Tennyson a few times over the years..."I am a part of all that I have met." That's what makes all of us who we are - all the people who have touched our lives contribute to how we see the world. So, to all of you, right down to the photographer who emailed me a question a few minutes ago, thank you for being part of an amazing industry and my continued journey.
Happy Sunday everybody - make it a great day and hug your family...they're at the core of making you who you are.
It’s 1970 and I’m trying to find a job. Time Magazine has a picture of a college grad in cap and gown pumping gas! There are no jobs and I’ve just completed 2 ½ years of being every parent’s worst nightmare as a college student. I spent more time perfecting my pinball game than opening a book. I’d be on suspension, afraid of getting booted. I’d buckle down, get the grades then start the cycle all over again. I wasn’t stupid, just lazy, unmotivated and unable to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up – On second thought, I just didn’t want to grow up!
Finally, they suspended me and I needed to figure out what to do. I had a girlfriend from Boston and decided it was time to leave the nest. Say good-bye to Ohio and hello to New England. Found a job at Polaroid at $2.89/hour washing bottles in their research lab. It was the most money I’d ever made and it paid the rent on my basement apartment in Boston’s Back Bay, which I shared with a few other tenants, 100,000 cockroaches! I remember a quote from an article in the Boston Globe that year: “The cockroaches were in Boston before man and they’ll be here long after man is extinct!”
(That's me in 1970 with the shot from my ID badge, even signed by Jim Shea, then head of Polaroid security. If you think the haircut is bad, you should have seen the platform shoes!)
So, one day in 1972 I was making emulsions in the lab, having graduated from bottle washer. I had always had an interest in photography, even worked in the hometown newspaper’s darkroom in high school, but where oh where was the connection to what would later be called imaging?
Polaroid hadn’t come out with the SX-70 yet, so it was all peel-apart film, but it was free and it was fun to use. I was 21, married and actually had some pretty decent images on Polaroid film. But my REAL camera was a hand-me-down Agfa 35mm and then later I upgraded to a Konica. They were both rangefinders and we all did the same thing – shot roll after roll of slides! After all, it was good enough for my Dad when we were growing up, so it would be good enough for my family too.
My first SLR showed up in my camera bag when I dropped the Konica in the ocean while on vacation. It was a terrific little Minolta. I bought a 70-210mm Vivitar lens and all of a sudden I thought of myself a little closer to looking like a pro.
Back at Polaroid, I had gone as far as I could without a degree and hanging out in research. The lab coat, pocket protector and slide rule just weren’t in my future. For years I had gone on interview after interview within Polaroid in an effort to get out of R&D. Polaroid had over 20,000 employees then, so there were lots of jobs on the posting board every day. I’d gone back to school nights at Boston University, working on finishing my education. Marriage and a child on the way definitely forces you to think more about a career. Maturity had reared its ugly head and I had settled down – I had a purpose, my family and a company I was growing to love.
By the mid-70’s SX-70 technology was introduced and in comes the first pivotal turning point in my career. I had actually made it out of research and taken a job as a staffer in production…oops, I missed seeing the signs of a lay-off! There’s not a lot for a staffer to do when people are getting laid off. I actually wound up giving myself my own lay-off notice one day and having once been hourly, had rights to bump back in to the ranks – enter Customer Service.
SX-70 was in full swing and 300% defective on those first few thousand units. The result was total chaos in customer service and my introduction to some incredibly talented people, all following the lead of Jon Wolbarst, a VP and Polaroid’s consumer advocate! He was an inspiration, totally dedicated to the role of being the corporation’s conscience.
It was an incredible education, talking to one angry customer after another. The job led to relocation to Chicago as Camera Repair Supervisor in one of Polaroid’s largest repair facilities. My responsibilities were growing. I was getting experience as a supervisor with a crew of 20 people or so to manage. I had my first mortgage on a townhouse condominium and I got my first gray hairs dealing with absenteeism, budgets, audits, inventory management and plenty of customers needing service.
Here’s where my greatest management lesson came into play, “Own your own shit!” If I’ve offended anybody at this point with my use of profanity, get over it. There is few more appropriate expressions!
I had a crisis one weekend on the Kentucky Driver’s License program using Polaroid equipment. The mistake was entirely my fault and I could either bury the problem or just man-up and own it. So, I published a memo to the world about the problem, my mistake and then went into detail how I would make sure it would never happen again.
My approach to the problem, in a company where so many managers never took responsibility, got me instant stardom. I had actually stepped up and said, “Hey I screwed up, but here’s how I fixed it!” It was a new concept in corporate culture!
Not sure how it all happened, but somewhere traveling down the Polaroid path, I was promoted to regional services manager, which eventually led to a staff position and took me back to New England. That change became the most incredible experience of my career – Customer Service Manager for Polaroid’s overseas subsidiaries.
I travelled all over Europe and the Pacific for 2 ½ years meeting with all of the Polaroid Customer Service staff. It was an amazing experience, but couldn’t have been tougher on my family – I was home for three weeks and out for two. Remember, this is before cell phones and the Internet. We were allowed to do one call home a week – usually kept to 3-5 minutes. There was no Internet, nobody to call for help if you got stuck, but the intensity of the travel definitely forced you to grow up and take responsibility for your decisions.
The overseas job took me to another pivotal point, when one day the VP of the division asked me to join his staff on the marketing/sales side of Polaroid’s US domestic market. “I don’t know anything about selling stuff!” I exclaimed. I’ll never forget his response, “Are you kidding me? You’ve been selling me your screwball ideas for years!”
I was with the company for 15 years at this point, but didn’t realize this new assignment would become my last job at Polaroid and another critical stepping stone. I was the photo-specialty dealer manager with a hundred and twenty million dollars of Polaroid’s business. I had responsibility for all of the U.S. camera stores. In the entire industry there were only three of us at the time. Ricoh, Kodak and Polaroid all had channel mangers, with somebody assigned to camera stores.
Marketing, sales, travel throughout the US, even a couple of Super Bowl trips all became part of this “navy-gets-the-gravy” assignment. Polaroid was back on top and along with the benefits came box seats for entertaining accounts at Boston Garden, Red Sox tickets and a national network of sales people looking for great marketing programs to help sell more Polaroid products.
*Ding* It’s another of life’s lessons… I got credit for some pretty amazing marketing programs, but not one was honestly that original. All the answers are out there if you just talk to your target audience. I’d walk into a retail store and ask the buyer, “After you tell me I’m out of mind, what would it take for you to double your Polaroid sales next year?”
The suggestions would come pouring out so fast, I’d have a hard time writing them all down.
Next, I’d ask the Polaroid sales rep the same kind of question, “If we doubled your sales quota for next year, what would it take for you to not only make quota, but beat it by 25%?”
Again, all the answers were there – they needed money they could spend on dealer contests. They needed great POP (Point of Purchase) material. They needed extended dating terms to help the retailers bring in the inventory and most important of all, they needed local and national advertising to help create pull rather than push. All I did was listen!
I absolutely loved Polaroid, but a phone call in 1987 changed my life and elevated my love for photography forever.
“Skip, my name is Mark Chappell, with Egon Zehnder and I’m wondering if you know of anybody who might be interested in being president of a small camera company.”
I thought it was my brother-in-law pulling a practical joke. I used a few of my favorite four letter words, told him I was too busy to screw around and went to hang up as Mark screamed, “No, this isn’t a joke!” The next morning we had breakfast and three months later I took over as President of Hasselblad USA, but that’s another story…
It's not a new theme, but it's so relevant this time of year...
In less than four weeks WPPI will kick off with the first day of their trade show and I'll have a chance to catch up to dozens of friends. Everybody will be talking about what kind of year 2013 was. Over and over again the question will be asked, "So, how's business?" The answer will range from "Incredible!" to "I think it's time to hang it up!"
Attitudes will range from frustrated to elated, but there will be one common denominator and the reason we're all there, passion for the craft. It's the universal component that keeps everyone in the game. In fact, no matter what kind of year you might have had last year, some time during the year you had that one achievement that keeps you in the game. It's like that forty foot putt you once nailed that keeps bringing you back to golf.
Regardless of how good or bad your business was last year, it was a hard year! But, there's a new year starting and there's nothing worse than being in the first quarter carrying the burden of loose ends from the past!
Loose ends are all those projects you procrastinated about and they range from mending fences with your adversaries to cleaning up the back room of your studio. You're running out of time to get this stuff out of your hair! Relax, I'm not suggesting you need to clean it all up today - but what a kick to put this stuff down in a list and then start checking them off one at a time over the next few weeks.
Remember half the battle is beating procrastination. We put things off, waiting for the shoemaker's elves to come in the middle of the night and clean up the mess. Sadly the only elves who show up are the Keebler Cookie guys and they only add to your belt line!
I found this on a quote site from Orison Swett Marden, an inspirational author from the late 1800's
"A lobster, when left high and dry among the rocks, does not have the sense enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps within a yard of him. The world is full of human lobsters; people stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who, instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat."
Okay, get out a pad of paper and make that list...I did mine a few minutes before writing this post and while I've made no progress, it's at least a start! I am however craving a bag of Keebler Cookies!
Illustration Credit: © coramax - Fotolia.com
I need a little help from Dave Barry to set the stage....
“As you get older; you've probably noticed that you tend to forget things. You'll be talking with somebody at a party, and you'll know that you know this person, but no matter how hard you try, you can't remember his or her name. This can be very embarrassing, especially if he or she turns out to be your spouse.”
I’m not quite that bad, but this week at IUSA I couldn’t help but notice the number of times somebody said hello and as we walked away, I’d quietly say to Sheila, “I have no idea who that was!”
According to my good buddy Scott Bourne, I’m older than dirt and should be a better photographer, considering I studied under Matthew Brady! LOL I don’t honestly feel older, although I have noticed that I creak for ten minutes when I get up in the morning. And, according to Sheila, I have yet to develop any serious maturity!
Here’s the thing, yes, I’m getting older, but I figured out that I’ve been going to an average of four conventions a year since 1987. Throw in a few dozen Hasselblad University road shows from the 90’s, workshops, association meetings, advisory boards and presentations and I’ve met literally thousands of photographers, their spouses and managers in this industry.
The challenge is the same thing I had when I bought my new computer – I need more memory…I’ve got a Drobo 5 D at home that I wish I could just plug into my brain! Julieanne Kost used a great line when it came to getting involved in a new project years ago, “Skip, I’m just out of bandwidth!”
So, to any of you who, this week at the convention, who felt slighted because you didn’t get as big a welcome as you should have– my apologies. It certainly wasn’t intentional. but I’ve got an idea for the next convention.
For anybody you meet over 50, especially somebody who’s a speaker or exhibitor meeting a lot of people every year – just give us a hint and your name with where you might have met before. It’ll save you from feeling snubbed and us old farts from spending days after a convention trying to remember who we just talked to.
"Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier!"
Welcome to my world!
Illustration credit: © freshidea - Fotolia.com
by Skip Cohen
The problem with those of us who think of ourselves as amateur poet laureates is, when we write something we believe borders on true brilliance, LOL, we simply beat it to death! So, it's out of the archives and this year presented to my new SCU audience.
It also comes with the same wish year after year - 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.
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.
2012 Email from Curley, Heisler and Bourne
Taufer, Kubota, Malloy and Dorne.
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 Steinhardt 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, every 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"
Illustration Credit: © samkar - Fotolia.com
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.