Every time we think we're out of new "blue-plate" specials in the SCU kitchen, another topic comes along. This one is all thanks to questions that came up at ClickCon earlier this month from new professional photographers. It starts with developing your skillset, but then comes the biggest challenge of all - building brand awareness, or quite simply getting your name out there!
Remember why I started this series - to give you ideas to build a stronger business! Most of you are right-brain creative types with too little focus on growing your business. Many of you don't think of yourselves as small business owners. Even if you're working for another studio, imaging is a career choice that lends itself to freelance assignments, and you're ALWAYS building your brand.
These days, it's not who YOU know, but WHO knows you! So, I've put together a list of ideas to help you get recognized.
Twelve Tips to Getting Your Name Out There!
Too many of you think there's nothing you can do to build your brand until you're open for business. Relationship building is your strongest marketing tool - so, set up time every week to be building your foundation of awareness - beyond your skill set.
Tony Corbell, one of the most recognized photographers in the industry once told a story about when he first got started. "I might not have been the best photographer in town, but I was determined to be the nicest!" Tony's never strayed from that practice!
With the exception of when I'm traveling I post a quote on Twitter every morning at 7:30. I rarely load up social media in advance because I like starting the day with a few inspirational quotes. It's sort of like warming up before you jog. I came across this one a few minutes ago:
"Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like
slashing your other three tires because you got a flat!"
Last week I taught four different presentations at ClickCon in Chicago, including a three-hour evening program called "Midnight Madness." The Heart of ClickCon planning committee put together an outstanding schedule of classes, one of which has never been done before.
They put together a day of workshops before the conference kicked off, for the models, stylists and makeup artists. They're always behind the scenes and so important to a successful photography conference. At the same time, each one of them is a small business owner and need the kind of help each of you need as photographers.
Between all the photographers who were new to the business and the models/makeup artists, there were a lot of people I met who were on the edge of being frustrated because they "haven't made it yet." That's what got me thinking about today's quote.
Here are a couple of the most important things I've learned in my career: The definition of success is a moving target, and you NEVER give up on your dreams.
Success: My definition of success today is all about loving what I'm doing. Waking up with a smile on my face, excited about the day ahead has priority over everything else in terms of business. That definition has also changed over the years. The younger I was, the more important my income was. But that doesn't change how much I wish I'd realized how important good old happiness was. I would never have changed my goals, just the path I might have been on at times.
Dreams: Another quote I found says it all. While it might seem easy for me to say as the old guy here, I have plenty of dreams still left in my stash. We're all work in progress, and I'm no exception. I never lose focus on my dreams - just change the routing of my journey when it's necessary.
If you don't build your dream, someone else will hire to you to help them build theirs.
Tony Gaskins Jr.
The key to staying focused on your dreams is a combination of listening to your heart and surrounding yourself with positive people. Listen to everybody's advice when it comes your way, but then give your heart the final vote. Living your dream is an investment of time and patience, but at the same time, you have to recognize your growth.
So, for those of you frustrated because you haven't "made it yet," look back a year ago and recognize how far you've come! As small business owners, regardless of whether you're a photographer or not, you can't create things that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in the game!
It's Marketing Monday! I'm using the new ClickCon conference as an example of why photographers need to attend every possible convention they can - INSPIRATION and NETWORKING!
INSPIRATION: I rarely, if ever, catch the keynote presentations. However, over the last few months, I've shared several posts thanks to a new buddy, Kevin Kuster. He was the 7:00 am kick-off speaker, and after a long day of travel yesterday, I was considering sleeping in! Well, I'm so glad I made it to his program. While my shot of the room at the very start of his program looks like there are a few empty seats, it was packed about fifteen minutes later.
What I love most and I think the crowd felt the same way, was how open Kevin was in talking about his career and then his life-changing involvement in Watts of Love. Kevin's presentation was so relatable as he talked about burning out and not even owning a camera when his son was born. We're all on our own personal journey, but Kevin reminded everybody of the importance of my favorite quote, "To thine own self be true."
As he progressed through the milestones in his work with Watts of Love, each slide was packed with a reminder of so many things we all take for granted. As part of this year's ClickCon event, giving back is a theme with the Watts of Love Silent Auction and an opportunity for everybody to give back and help provide light to the 1.8 billion people in the world who live in darkness the minute the sun goes down.
And under the umbrella of "inspiration," were Kevin's images. Each image was a reminder of how photography can help change the world. Kevin's the ultimate storyteller, reminding all of us of the power of a photograph or video.
NETWORKING: Last night, I had dinner with the Panasonic LUMIX team. In just the walk to the ballroom where Kevin was speaking, I caught up to dozens of photographers and people I've met at other conferences. I wrote about the importance of catching up to old friends and making new ones in yesterday's Sunday Morning Reflections.
Great energy is contagious! And the air is filled with a lot of enthusiasm, excitement and a never-ending stream of reminders of just how special this industry is. There's a common theme of working together and it's amazing.
Yesterday I did a one-hour presentation on business and marketing to a room of models and makeup artists. It was an all-day event for this important group of support people who are behind the scenes at virtually every photographic convention. This morning at 10:00 I'm doing a presentation for new photographers on how to get their business off the ground. And I've got two more programs tomorrow, including "Midnight Madness" from 9:00 - midnight. All along the way, I'm going to be meeting new photographers and learning. Education, even as a presenter is a two-way process. I find I often learn just as much from the attendees as I hope to share with them
And that brings me full-circle. Your growth as an artist, business owner, and for that matter, a human being is dependent on interaction with other people. If you're looking to grow in virtually any capacity, you've got to hit the road and attend every possible conference and workshop you can work into your schedule!
This is indeed "fast food" today, but that doesn't make it any less relevant.
I started the series to give you quick ideas on how to fine-tune your business. Some topics have been more complicated than others, but each one has been relevant to some aspect of building your reputation, brand awareness and efficiency.
Today's "blue-plate" special ties to your business, your clients, and for some of you your personal life and other relationships. So many of you have lost the art of communicating. I'm not talking about the talking side of the equation as much as learning to listen. And when I use the word "listen," I'm also talking about paying attention to what you read as well, especially in the volley of comments back and forth in Facebook forums.
Here's the point today - you've got two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.
Five Tips to Help You Be a Better Communicator
I added this book to my library recently, and while it was published in 2012, there's nothing dated in author Jim Smith's approach.
One section that caught my eye was about developing your listening skills, and I want to share a few of my favorites, which so many of you ignore:
They're five simple tips that all fall under the umbrella of learning to shut up. And from my own style and personality, at times I'm guilty of all of them. However, I'm work in progress and honestly trying to raise the bar on my listening skills.
What I find I do too often, along with so many of you, is immediately jump in and start talking. And, while it's not rude, the process absolutely is. Instead of listening to whoever was talking to me, I've tuned them out to formulate my answer the minute they're done.
So, the next time you're having a conversation with somebody, think of those five points above. You might find what I have, in our rush to respond; we've lost a big part of the true art of communicating.
Click on any image above to listen to this new podcast!
by Skip Cohen
The Beyond Technique podcast became a favorite right from the start when we launched the first one in January 2018. When the focus on business changed with the sponsor earlier this year, we put the series on the back burner. A few weeks ago we decided to bring it back and crank up the volume!
This first new episode is especially relevant because the topic is so unique. It all started with a friendship with fine art and landscape photographer, Gareth Rockliffe. He's no stranger to SCU having been part of the Photodex series Building Your Business in 2015 and an episode of "Why?" two years ago. Catching up on a phone call last month, he mentioned an idea he's had about the spirituality of the craft as it blends in with the way we live our lives.
"We start our lives in "P" mode, and as we get older, we spend the rest of our lives trying to get out of it!"
Now, take a second and think about that statement. As kids, we're pretty much put through the process of learning to color within the lines. We're taught to appreciate/respect the "system," and do things in ways that are expected of us. As we get older, we start to pursue other interests, ideas, and ways to live our lives.
Gareth is a talented artist, writer, and shared a lot of wisdom on this new podcast. And, I hope as the conversation did with Chamira and me, he's about to get you thinking about how to enrich your life and take more time to step out of "P" mode!
Click on any of Gareth's images below to visit his website. I pulled a few of my favorites to share in this post. His galleries are stunning and no image is ever captured in "P" mode or for that matter the way he lives his life. What a kick to have him join us on Beyond Technique!
A BIG thanks to Photofocus for the platform for both Beyond Technique and Mind Your Own Business! Check out both series along with the InFocus Interview Show. You'll never be disappointed.
Today's post title is a quote often credited to Dr. Phil. However, it's a question I've only recently begun to understand. It's making a huge difference in my life, and just maybe it'll help a few of you.
I'm a right-fighter and grew up in a whole family of right-fighters. Whatever the cost, if we're right we'll fight down to our last ounce of energy to prove a point. We're little trial lawyers always on the side of justice! But now it's time to define the value of justice: It accomplishes nothing to prove a point if the energy and pain of the process cost more than the accomplishment of winning.
On a large scale in terms of Facebook, here's a perfect example. I was just on an IM with a photographer who was frustrated over a thread on a blog post on Facebook Wedding Photographers. I'm an administrator of this 36,000+ member group.
An image was posted that demonstrated one of the challenges in photographing a wedding - he made some suggestions and was slammed by a few people who wanted to flex a little and act like trolls. He did the right thing - he pulled his comments and stepped out of the conversation - obviously recognizing that trying to be helpful was a waste of energy in this discussion.
People aren't always this way in the forum. Most of the time there's a reasonable exchange of ideas and helpful suggestions, but there are some of you out there who feel your opinion is the ONLY one that matters. You'll argue the point, waste time, and energy on something that just doesn't matter - you know a moo-point, things that cows think that nobody cares about. (One of the all-time great lines from Joey on Friends.)
The bottom line is, there are times when it will accomplish nothing to explain yourself, argue a point, and waste energy talking to somebody who doesn't want to listen. And if you're a right-fighter, it's so hard to walk away. Trust me on this though - when you step away, that smile on your face comes back along with your creativity and energy! For me...I'd be rather be happy than right!
Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.
Wishing everybody a terrific Tuesday and plenty of time with the positive people in your life.
I rarely post on Saturdays, but today is special. I want to share my experience over the last thirty minutes, and remind you of just how special the career path we've all chosen is.
It's June 29 and would be my parents 72nd wedding anniversary. Sheila and I are also celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary. When Sheila and I decided to get married, we chose the same day my parents were married believing it would be good karma. Well, we were right, and even with Mom's Alzheimer's the first couple of years we were married, we still celebrated together.
But our anniversaries aren't the topic this morning, but the fun of a Throwback Thursday on a Saturday. I knew I wanted to write something this morning about my folks - so I started out looking through a couple of old albums. I found the picture above of the two of them on a mini-vacation in 1948. They were with their friends at the Lakeside Hotel in Eagles Mere, PA.
I scanned the images and did a little post-processing on the contrast and sharpening in Luminar and couldn't help but notice a few different "signs of the times."
That brings me full circle to the fun of this morning and a reminder to all of you. The joy of our industry is all about the memories photographs help people capture. But it's also about the fun of the search! Hunting for an old photograph to share this morning put a smile on my face that will be there all day. I found everything from old school pictures to Mom and Dad to my old report cards, and in the process thinking about how lucky Sheila and I were to have my folks around to 88 for Mom and 93 for Dad.
During that time, we were able to share and appreciate their incredible zest for life and the love they had for each other as well as the two of us. I remember thanking my Dad once for keeping an open heart regarding my relationship with Sheila and getting remarried. His response, "When you love someone, you always keep an open heart!"
So, Happy Anniversary to my honey. What an incredible trip it's been and continues to be. Sure do love ya! And, here's to you Mom and Dad - for your love, and all the incredible memories, as well as a big thanks for Mom's never-wavering habit to write on the back of every photograph!
And to all of you - take the time this weekend to pull out an old album and take a stroll down Memory Lane. The older the photographs, the more you'll appreciate the true beauty of imaging - capturing memories and turning them into tangible moments we can hold in our hands and cherish!
Intro by Skip Cohen
Last Sunday I shared a post of Kevin Kuster's, and since then I've been hooked on following whatever he's sharing. He's in Uganda and posts on Facebook each day.
I'm so proud to consider him a buddy, even though that's based on only one phone conversation and a few emails. But, some people cross our paths on this journey we're all on, and you know right from the start they're in your life for a reason. I don't know if we're honestly "cut from the same cloth," or I just hope we are, because I so appreciate the way he looks at life.
We met through ClickCon, and strictly online, but you can be sure when Kevin gives his keynote presentation at the conference on Monday morning, August 5, I'll be in the front row! As I've written so many times in the past, the best thing about our industry has NOTHING to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft!
And to Kevin, thanks for sharing!
We must all try and choose courage over comfort. In life we all experience uncomfortable positions.
It’s how we respond to that discomfort that defines our character.
by Kevin Kuster
Day 8 at the water well.
I woke up late today. I sprinted to the well because I could tell it was the BEST sunrise yet. I missed it. Old legs, weak back does not a sprinter make.
I sometimes miss “it” in life. Some people are afraid of the unknown. I’ve learned to try and embrace it. What we don’t know we must learn to try and understand. An education is never a burden to carry.
When some of the very small children in Uganda see me for the first time, a white person, they cry and are afraid of me. Not because of who I am but, because of the way that I look. For some, I am the first white person they have ever seen. I have been told they’re scared because they believe I may be a ghost.
Whenever this happens I step away, smile bend myself down to their perspective and try and make myself look non-threatening and small. When this happens many of the locals burst into laughter. It’s a moment I have not yet learned to adequately process.
I appreciate all the joy and laughter from the locals but I am also keenly aware that the young one is afraid of my skin and that makes me contemplative.
It’s hard for people to revel who they are. Everyone wants to erase any flaws they see and be accepted. When we start erasing one flaw we need to keep erasing more and more. One of my flaws I struggle with is I REALY don’t like tension between me and another. I especially feel very bad when I mistakenly make the small children cry on these @wattsoflove trips. Thankfully it doesn’t happen a lot.
We must all try and choose courage over comfort. In life we all experience uncomfortable positions.
It’s how we respond to that discomfort that defines our character.
Again, no one came today while I was at the water well. I could only stay for a few minutes. This is the best perspective I could find for today.Thankfully every passer by both young, old, male and female, smiled and waved to me and said, “Ibutu Aber!” Good morning in Lango.
A smile and a wave in any country and culture always reveals the heart.
From Arby's, McDonald's, Burger King to Wendy's, Subway and Chick-fil-A, and more, fast food is part of our lives. They represent a quick bite and a no-brainer when you're hungry and don't have time to put effort into a full meal.
Well, the "SCU Diner" has been serving up fast easy ideas to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 one of your best years as a photographer. There are so many different challenges to being a small business owner, and this series has grown to be a list of reminders of areas to fine-tune.
Most of them have been relatively specific and related to your website, blog, policies, pricing, customer service, and communication. And, these are just a few of the topics we've covered in fifty-eight previous posts.
Today's "blue-plate special," if we keep playing off of the fast food analogy, is more of a dessert item - so think of it as the giant slice of banana cream pie in that glass case in just about every diner in the United States!
Take time to celebrate!
Along with many of you, I'm on LinkedIn. I don't put a lot of effort into it, just enjoy keeping track of a lot of old and new friends and seeing what everybody is up to. Because LinkedIn tracks everything in your profile, whenever an important date comes up, it's broadcasted to your followers.
This week I started getting "Congratulations" messages from people who follow me. In all honesty, I had no idea why anything came up beyond my birthday. This morning I went into LinkedIn to see what they had me listed as celebrating. I had completely forgotten it's ten years since I started my own company!
I incorporated MEI ten years ago and what a trip it's been. I hesitated about going out on my own for a lot of years prior. When I finally did decide it was time I still had a lot of concerns. I've told the story about Sheila's comment many times. She asked, "What are you afraid of?" My answer was without any hesitation, "Failing!"
Well, I've learned there's no such thing as failure if you learn from your mistakes. I've learned to delegate, to trust my gut and listen to my heart. I've learned the meaning of great friendships, thanks to some extraordinary people in my life. Most important of all, I've redefined my definition of success - it's about waking up smiling every morning and being excited about an industry that's continually changing! And maybe most important of all is learning to celebrate.
This week I'm celebrating ten years of running my own business; learning from so many of you and understanding we all have the power to do and be anything we want. It's not just the significant milestones we should all celebrate, but the mini-events in business and our lives.
And here's my point - take the time to appreciate those "Holy crap - I did it" moments. Maybe it's a client who just told you they love your work or a convention where you connected with some new friends. There are moments in all our lives we miss. They get buried beneath the day in day out stress or the baggage from past events and relationships.
Like I wrote at the start of today's post, it's more of a dessert from the SCU Diner than a main course, but it's something each of you has earned. Take the time to celebrate. Take the time to look back at your life a year or two ago and think about how much you've grown!
"The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
Intro by Skip Cohen
This is one of my favorite guest posts from my good buddy Scott Bourne. I've shared it twice before over the last ten years. And, while it might be out of the archives, having just returned from ShutterFest a week ago, the topic couldn't be more appropriate for so many of you...RIGHT NOW!
When I left Rangefinder/WPPI ten years ago to start my own business, I remember having a long conversation with Sheila. She asked me, "So, what are you afraid of?" There was no hesitation in my answer, "I'm afraid of failing!" I've shared this story many times in past posts, but it's so timely because there are too many of you letting your fears get in the way.
Many of us, me included, spend so much time dealing with our fears, when in reality failure is all part of the process. First, there's no such thing as failure as long as you take each setback as a speed bump and learn from it. Second, the only time failure truly becomes a reality is when we let it!
“It is impossible to live without failing at something,
unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all,
in which case you have failed by default.”
“Try a thing you haven’t done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it.
And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.”
Whether you're new to the business and just starting out or a seasoned pro, it's a great exercise to take some time and look at your business as of right now. Then, think through everything you've learned and consider what you might have done differently. I hate looking in the rear view mirror, but sometimes it's the best way to see the bigger picture of where you're headed.
The best thing about being an artist is your ability to adapt and change at almost any time, but you can't just talk about it. Nobody ever achieved success on a history of good intentions!
by Scott Bourne
My life as a professional photographer started with a great big bowl of luck. I didn't plan to be a professional photographer. It just sort of happened. I lived in Indianapolis at the time and I got a chance to photograph the Indy 500. I got lucky and made a photograph that the wire services picked up, and on my first serious shoot, I was published around the world and made $2000 for one picture. That was pretty serious and astounding money in the early 1970s. I spent the next six years photographing motor sports and realized, hey - I guess I'm a professional photographer.
While thinking about ways that I could potentially help emerging professionals, I thought back to those days and wondered - if I knew what I know now - what would I do differently. The answer might surprise you.
But before I tell you what I'd do differently, let me reveal the first thing I'd do as promised in the headline. Ready?
Here's the first thing I would do:
I would do the first thing.
Nope, it's not a riddle. It's sage advice from no less than Mark Twain.
"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
Since there are many tasks associated with becoming a professional at any craft, why not just pick the first thing and knock it off your list? Pick anything. Do anything. More importantly, stop planning, talking, dreaming, thinking, speculating, worrying, procrastinating, wondering, contemplating and just START DOING. Do something. Do anything. Just do it. If you don't know what to do first, start with a marketing plan. It's the most important thing you could do. Think about what you will sell, to who, for how much and using what approach. Start there. Start anywhere, but start.
So many of the people I meet, who want to break into the photography business, are far too wrapped up in the mental side of things. They need to get up off the couch and just go for it.
As for me and what I'd do differently?
I wouldn't change a thing - and here's why.
I was too stupid to know I could fail. I was too stupid to even realize that failure was even an option. I was just a boy who had a camera and thought it would be fun to make photographs of race cars and all the trimmings that went with them. I didn't have any master plan. I ended up after that first big sale living in the back of mechanic's vans and car haulers, traveling the world - following the race cars and drivers with my camera. I ended up eating with the pit crews, track stewards and occasionally even the drivers, as I scratched out a living making $52.50 a week - after taxes mind you. I did that for six years and looking back at it now - well it looks like it was a bunch of hard work for very little pay. But I don't remember it as being hard. Back then I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world. Heck I'm still lucky. :)
While I didn't have this in my back pocket then, I do now. It's a quote from an inspiring book by Julia Cameron - The Artist's Way:
"Leap, and the net will appear."
I just jumped into professional photography. I took the leap, and everything worked out because I had the passion, the desire, the patience, the drive, the will and the persistence to succeed.
It's easy to find excuses. Telling yourself you'll probably fail is the lazy person's out. It's harder to actually get out of bed and do SOMETHING. Don't make excuses. Don't plan for failure. Just get busy doing that first thing on your list. Then do the next thing. Then do the next thing. Before you know it, you'll be like me.
Four decades will have passed and people will still be paying you to put a camera in your hand. It's an amazing, thrilling and rewarding career. No matter how much money you get paid. Your experiences - my experiences along the way - the lives we touch - those are priceless.
Now,stop reading this and get busy. Leave a comment if you like telling all of us what that first thing is for you personally - keep it to one sentence. Remember baby steps. You can do it. Skip and I are rooting for you.
This is a very different Fast Food Friday because it includes a guest post from my Dad, loaded with wisdom. I've shared it before, but so many of you are new to the SCU blog, and there's a backstory about my timing to share this with you today.
With ShutterFest starting next week, over the last two weeks I've had a lot of interaction with many of the attendees. In almost every conversation regardless of whether it was on the phone, texting or through an IM, there's been an undertone of frustration, confusion and a lot of self-doubts. I can't gauge the seriousness in just these short communications, but while the reason for contacting me has been trying to decide what classes to take, for the most part, many photographers seem worried about their speed of success. In so many instances they're looking at everybody around them and feeling like their growth hasn't been as fast.
Ten years ago Michele Celentano got up in front of a group of new photographers and said, "Twenty years ago I was right where you are - wondering how long it would be before my work didn't suck!" Everyone laughed, relaxed and then she showed some of the worst bridal images I've ever seen, all from her first wedding!
There isn't a respected and successful photographer in this industry who didn't start out at the beginning, with little or no experience. Everyone has had moments of self-doubt, frustration, concern, but the low spots are always followed by growth spurts and a few more rungs up the ladder towards success.
So, with a little help from my Dad today here's what many of you need to think about:
"Focus on what you want to become, NOT where you are today."
"Just watch the left front fender!"
I have been happily retired for many years, and unemployed for almost twenty. I am not a plagiarist, but I must quote my father who spent the last months of his life writing advice to his children:
“Conduct your business in an upright manner and remember, the most important thing in one’s life is to be honest with one’s self. Maintain the high standard and dignity that your business requires. Do not go into deals hastily and be visible in your business as much of the time as is possible. If you take time to play, do it away from your business, because your livelihood needs all the attention you can give to it.”
Early on, I concluded that the best testimonials came from my many friendly competitors. We didn’t really compete with each other, in the true sense. True, we were in the same field of endeavor, but we all knew we were there to help each other. Happily, the “tough competition” fell by the wayside.
I remember giving Skip driving lessons and I told him, “Watch the left front fender…..the rest will take care of itself!” I’ve found this is really true of everything in life.
An old axiom says, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.” That is all part of reputation-building. I found that, sadly, in the field of real estate, truth is hard to come by for many. In our case, it was a major building block in the reputation which we enjoyed, and helped us to thwart the competition.
Goodwill is all of the above, plus a lot of caring for your clients as well as your competitors. If life is a give-and-take situation, giving is the more important of the two. The taking will come with time and be far more appreciative. Just remember – you heard it here!
Ralph Cohen, Founder and 1/2 the creators of Skip Cohen!
Note: My dad passed away at 93 almost four years ago, but he's still hanging out around me and will always be my best buddy! Looking back I'm so glad I talked him into writing a couple of posts for me.
Intro by Skip Cohen
My long-standing friendship with good buddy Scott Bourne goes back a lot of years and was founded on the respect I have for his business sense. There are a lot of things I do today, thanks to Scott's help, direction, and influence.
Today's post is perfect for this time of year as 2019 seasonality starts to take hold. It's one of the longest and most in-depth posts he's shared since helping me start SCU, and it's loaded with things to think about, especially the importance of being grateful for the career path you've chosen. I first published it in 2013, but there's no expiration date on wisdom and appreciation!
"Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes."
I love that sentence from one of his last paragraphs - we're all part of a fantastic industry, and your clients deserve nothing but the best. If your heart isn't in it, then take a break and figure out what's missing.
You can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it.
by Scott Bourne
Zig Ziglar always used to say:
“Sales is not something you do TO someone. It’s something you do FOR someone.”
Zig honestly believed in his heart, that when we as salespeople (and if you’re a professional photographer - don’t kid yourself, you are (or need to be) a salesperson) were doing important work, folks sometimes needed a little push to get to yes. He knew in the end they’d be happy with what they bought.
I have studied that man’s thinking for 35 years and today I want to write a post about the thankful salesperson. It’s my homage to Zig. It’s also my second - to - the last post here at SCU and I want it to be a good one.
Now you may be wondering - “How the heck does being thankful connect to sales?” It’s a good question and my goal today is to answer it.
You see I believe if your heart is in the right place, i.e. you put your prospects’ needs ahead of your own and you sincerely believe in what you are selling, you can and should be thankful for the opportunity. Come on - how many people get to do a job where they are really helping people? It’s a great honor to be a high priest of memory protection. So with a hat tip to John Paul Caponigro (who turned me on to some of these quotes) here are some ways to be inspired enough to be a thankful salesperson.
Albert Schweitzer said:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
For me, this has happened many times. And for some reason, when it DOES happen, it’s related to photography. I remember selling one of my first weddings. For some strange reason the bride’s mother really liked me. She said they moved their daughter’s wedding date so they could save up to hire ME to shoot the wedding. That spark in her - that happiness that she was going to have someone she believed in shoot her wedding left me very excited. My flame was indeed lit and I think I did a pretty darn good job at that wedding.
Shakti Gawain said:
“Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally ‘count our blessings,’ give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.”
I hear many photographers lament the fact that they don’t have the best gear or that they wish they had the money for an assistant or a better studio or whatever. Gawain’s quote served as a reminder to me that some of us go through life missing out on the best stuff because we think we need something else. Yet the best “stuff” is only the “best” if it helps us achieve some human connection. When you make a portrait of someone and they place it on their mantle, for generations to come to see and enjoy, NOBODY is going to wonder whether you had the best camera that was available that day or what version of Photoshop you used or whether or not the equipment van you drive is the latest model. All they will note is the fine expression on their loved one and the memories THEY have of that subject. That’s plenty of motivation for me to be thankful for what I have and not worry about what I don’t.
None other than Albert Einstein said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. I’ve been around the world with my camera. I’ve been toe-to-toe with Arctic Wolves, Coastal Brown Bears, Moose and Great American Bald Eagles. I’ve been mere inches from a wolf pup, a mountain lion cub and baby black bear. I’ve met and photographed famous rock stars, movie stars, politicians, race car drivers, beauty queens and plenty of spectacular regular “Joes.” And if you’d have asked me as a boy if I thought I’d have that kind of life, I would have said “Hell no.” I am the least among you yet I’ve been allowed to have all these experiences because of my camera. What a miracle. If you’re looking for miracles - take this approach to selling. It works.
Oprah Winfrey said:
“What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.”
I’m not proud of every decision I’ve made. I didn’t always have it “good.” My parents beat me, (I probably deserved it,) I made lots of bad decisions as a young man, I’ve suffered serious health problems, I’ve crashed every kind of motorcycle and race car you can think of, and there’s been plenty of bad. Oprah’s quote reminded me that through it all, you have to take it all in - the good and the bad - to be a great story teller. You have to learn to be grateful for night to understand the beauty of daylight. When you can do that, your photography will absolutely, positively improve. Her quote led me to translate what she’s saying from a photographer’s point of view. Light illuminates - shadows define. Focus on the good things you can do with your photography and I am certain that you will find happiness and the business success that goes with it.
Denis Waitley said:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Believe it or not, I have come to learn that photography, practiced at its highest levels, is a very spiritual pursuit. I am not talking about religion. I am talking about spirituality. There is a difference. Recognizing that the real reward of being lucky enough to be a professional photographer is the joy of knowing that you are protecting memories for others and those memories will last lifetimes. That transcends owning the coolest camera or the coolest anything. It’s a payday that the tax man can’t touch. It’s more valuable than money. But here’s the rub. If you are truly happy. I mean really, truly happy, then what ends up happening is that your sales skills increase. People want to do business with you more than ever. The money flows, not because you sought it. But because you did not. Master sales people are happy at their core. They are happy because they know the thing they are selling improves people’s lives. That knowledge is power and that power leads back to more happiness and more success. It’s a perfect circle. I hope you can find it.
I hope this lesson reaches some of you. I am grateful just to have the opportunity to share it with you because it has powerfully impacted my life.
Go out there and be thankful that you get to do this job. That you get to use your cameras to protect memories.
As always Skip and I are rooting for you.
"I'm too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener!
It's a pretty typical Sunday morning, with the exception that I woke up proud of myself for sleeping in, all the way to 7:00! What is it about aging that as you get older, you can't seem to sleep late? I was having trouble trying to figure out what was most on my mind, which is what Sunday Morning Reflections are always about.
So, here's what I did...
Just to the right of the picture above is an outdoor table and chairs. I've got boosted wifi, so I took my laptop and went to work outside. Next, I wanted to write about the experience of talking with photographers about ShutterFest this past week, both on the phone and in IMs. I couldn't find a way to get started and Googled "Quotes about Life."
*POOF* There it was the quote above, like a neon sign on a bar on Route 66. Just as I saw it, the sprinkler came on in the back yard watering the butterfly garden! It was a sign and perfect to start writing.
With ShutterFest just nine days away, the chatter in the SF forum has been deafening. The most common theme comes from relatively new photographers trying to figure out what classes they should take. The questions range from asking for opinions about different speakers to full-blown concerns about their career choice.
The thoughts I want to share this morning are about an industry I've grown to love dearly. It doesn't matter if you're a newbie coming into professional photography or a seasoned veteran needing a little help trying to jump start a new direction for your business.
We're all part of a fantastic industry, and it's loaded with people who want to help you build your career. The better you get as an artist, the more it reflects on professional photographers and the healthier the industry becomes. Sadly, too many of you waste time worrying about success, defining growth as that moment where you capture the perfect image or make the biggest sale of your life.
I won't deny there's an incredible amount of satisfaction when you realize you can make money doing something you love, but if you're having a Ramen noodle moment, and wondering if you made the right choice, think about your passion for the craft and what brought you here. Then think about this - there isn't an artist in this business who hasn't had moments of doubt and even outright fear over their career choice.
We all have heroes, and one of mine is Joe McNally. He spoke one year at Skip's Summer School, and he openly talked about times when business was slow, and he couldn't pay his staff. He shared stunning images that had been rejected by editors at different magazines. He talked about those days when things didn't go as planned. But, throughout his presentation, you couldn't help but notice his passion for the craft and his love for photography. You never heard one moment of doubt that there was any other career he could have chosen to bring him this much joy or make his life so rich.
And here's my point - there is no success fairy in any business, let alone photography. Your success is defined as your growth. You know how to hold focus on your camera, so hold focus on your goals. Define success by how far you've come NOT how far you have to go. Take building your skill set one step at a time. Ask for help when you need it, but stop questioning your decisions. Stop looking at everyone else and appreciate the person looking back at you in the mirror every morning. None of us know the challenges someone else has faced, so the grass might seem greener from where you're standing, but you don't know what it took them to get there...or how long!
And, to those of your worried about what classes to take at ShutterFest...remember, growth only happens outside your comfort zone! Take classes where you need the most help to raise the bar on your skill set, and your understanding of marketing and business.
Wishing everybody the perfect day with family, friends and one filled with a sense of accomplishment for another week doing something you love and growing in the process. Always go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and cherish time.
Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like!
Happy Sunday everybody...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
PS Ten years ago Sheila and I visited the butterfly exhibit at one of the museums in Cleveland. Then three years ago we were in the Butterfly Conservatory in Key West. Finally when moving to this house almost 2 1/2 years ago, putting in a butterfly garden became a priority. In the process I've discovered I love to play in the dirt. The garden has created an endless supply of peaceful and reflective moments for both of us. It's become our own little quiet and secure corner of the world. And, like most things you love doing; each minute of work we put into it seems to come back to us tenfold!
If you've followed me for even the shortest amount of time you know, I always step away from business, marketing and technique on Sunday mornings. It's my way of recharging my battery, and I'm not sure if it helps me focus on the new week ahead, or it's like a great dessert at the end of the previous week.
What's making this morning different is there's absolutely no hesitation in what I want to write about. The idea popped into my head yesterday when Dawn Davis sent me two more images of her husband Bob with the fast becoming infamous ShutterFest '17 poster.
Here's the short backstory. One of the fun benefits of speaking at ShutterFest is the banners they hang in the trade show area of all the speakers each year. I've had the ones from 2016 and 2017 hanging in my garage for the last two years. They make Sheila, and me laugh, but they also hide a lot of junk in storage. They're like all the sins hidden by wallpaper in a home! LOL
Since the banners at ShutterFest hang with visibility on both sides for two different speakers, when I got mine home in 2017, Bob Davis was on the flip-side. I told him I'd separate them years ago, but never got around to it. When Bob's wife and mother-in-law were coming for dinner a week ago, I knew it was time to have some fun and turned it around. Opening the garage, there he was. It was a classic moment and perfect for a few laughs and a little memory-making.
The poster went home with Dawn and as you can see it's getting plenty of mileage on the laugh highway in Chicago. Bob hung it in their daughter's closet to start and then when he and Dawn were out, his daughter moved it to over their tub in the master bath!
With these images she sent me, Dawn wrote:
So my kids have this ongoing joke with their dad about how everybody knows him everywhere we go. Someone will always says “Are you Bob Davis?” It always makes our kids roll their eyes. So my husband thought it would be hilarious to hang his banner in our daughter’s closet. She found it tonight and texted us saying she literally thought she was going to die.
And that brings me to my first point this morning.
We're in a stressful and challenging business. Any small business owner is feeling the pressure of changes in the economy, customer retention, maintaining a steady flow of revenue and the list goes on and on. In the process, we forget to laugh or for that matter, help others laugh!
Forgetting to laugh or just not laughing enough is the stuff that ages you before your time. Laughter feeds your soul, and your soul is like a locomotive - it's what pulls the train no matter how many cars are behind it!
"You don't stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing."
We're an industry built on a foundation of friendships. Bob, Dawn and I have been "friends" for years, but we never got quality time together. Every conversation was always in passing at a trade show or convention without the time to really share very much. When I heard Dawn was coming down to visit her parents just 90 minutes away, it was the perfect opportunity to reinforce the foundation of friendship we had and invest some quality time.
It's essential for you to build your skill set as an artist, but it's even more important to expand that skill set with great friendships and in turn plenty of laughter. It's an investment in your life that will NEVER depreciate, and in fact, great friends become a critical ingredient to fuel your soul, your creativity and your passion for life!
And to Bob, Dawn and their daughter who I've never met...thanks for the chuckles; thanks for being great friends and Sheila and I are looking forward to more time together and adding to an already great foundation!
"Friends are the people who make you smile brighter, laugh louder and live better."
Wishing everybody an outstanding day and time to appreciate friends - quality time, not a "wave-by" while multi-tasking and doing something else. You've got to stop for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs and make an investment of sharing quality time. Recognize how important it is to cherish those people who mean the most to you.
Happy Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world.
"If you don't sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice."
In theory, the slow season is officially over and with April, business for most photographers starts to ramp up. As I was looking for a quote to share this morning the one above stood out and ties directly back to a couple of threads I was reading in one of the forums as well as two personal conversations with friends over the last few days.
It's a short post this morning, so please stay with me!
All the answers, along with the tools to help you build a stronger business and make 2019 your best year to date, are out there. But if you don't take advantage of them and make a sacrifice to get them, then the road to success becomes more difficult and a piece of your dream, at least in terms of a better business, becomes the sacrifice.
I know there are times when life gets in the way, but when an aspiring pro writes about a conference or workshop, "I wish I could go, but just don't have the time right now," or "I just can't afford it," growth and an opportunity to thrive are on the path to the slaughterhouse!
And there's my point - Nothing beats hands-on education especially at a convention/conference. ShutterFest is the next one up this month, followed by state and regional conventions, workshops like JB Sallee's, Photoshop World, and ClickCon in August. Then there are online programs, blogs to read, YouTube videos to watch and the list goes on and on. And there's new educational material out there all the time, like Tim Kelly's Master Photo Techniques, just recently launched.
If you want to thrive in the year ahead, then you have to invest time and sometimes money. A great skill set isn't just about capturing great images and creating stunning photographs - it's also about marketing, building your brand and continually raising the bar on your reputation. It's about a strong network and staying on top of consumer trends and new ways to present images.
You've got to invest in your future. And, when it comes to money, there's ALWAYS a way to pay for a conference. All it takes is learning one new technique, adding one new friend to your network, or figuring out a new way to market your business and the trip pays for itself!
"If you don't build your dream someone else will hire you to build theirs!"
Come on you guys - you know how to hold focus on your camera. Isn't it time you held focus on your dreams?
Over the years I've shared a few of Melody Beattie's more brilliant moments. I try and start each day with a little of her inspiration. This morning hit home and I want to share it with you.
Make Each Moment Count
"A picture isn't taken in a moment," stated the brochure for the Cottonwood, Colorado, hotel. "It's taken of a moment."
It took me a long time to learn that important truth. I spent years trying to get my life together and keep it together, as if it were a solid chunk that could be arranged in a certain place, then made to stay there. It took be a long time to learn about moments.
In many ways, our lives are like a movie reel, made up of individual frames and single moments each one leading into the next. It is a waste of energy to try and hold on to the moments of the past. By the time we begin reaching for them, they're gone. It is just as poor timing to try to jump into moments that have not arrived yet - the future.
Stay in the present moment, the frame you're in now. That's the only moment where happiness, joy and love can be found. And remember to make each moment count.
Wishing everybody a Tuesday filled with moments that help keep a smile on your face! Check out Melody Beattie if you're interested in more inspiration. (This piece came from Journey to the Heart.) You need to feed your head and soul each day, just like breakfast!
We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give!
Sir Winston Churchill
I've written a lot about the importance of community involvement over the years. It's so important to give back to your community, and being involved is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Here's how I stumbled upon a wonderful non-profit here in Sarasota.
We moved to Sarasota in 2011 to give my Dad a hand with my mother who was fighting the battle with Alzheimer's. That's when we discovered the Caregiver Resource Center, and we started attending the weekly support group for caregivers.
With our very first meeting, Dad started to change. He learned it was okay to be angry and feel frustrated; he learned he wasn't alone; and discovered it was okay to share everything he was feeling, something his generation was taught NOT to do.
My relationship with the Friendship Centers is going on eight years. And, Sheila's also involved, having volunteered repeatedly along the way. They're a seventeen-million dollar nonprofit providing support to thousands of people to thousands of people in south Florida.
I'm not writing to toot my own horn but reminding you how important it is to be involved in something in your community and the industry. I've heard so many photographers comment, "In my community, there aren't very many things to be involved in!" Seriously? There's a level of pain, frustration, and a place for photographers to lend a hand in EVERY community. Try these on for size:
Those are two of my favorite photo-centric organizations who are involved on a national level that will keep you engaged but let's move to the local level. Here are just a few ideas of resources to identify where you can help.
I know many of you are outside the US, but in every country and every community in the world, there are groups of people needing help. Your community, wherever you are, needs to see you as more than just another retailer. You're looking for your community to be good to you - so you need to be good to your community!
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”
The longer I'm in this industry, the more everyday occurrences remind me of things I’ve heard or learned over the years. After a lifetime in some aspect of photography from starting out making emulsions in a research lab at Polaroid right through to yesterday’s phone conversations, email threads, and forum discussions, the non-photography lessons are relatively few in comparison to everything else.
Take this past Monday night’s sunset for example. We were at friends for dinner on Long Boat Key. We hadn’t been there before and didn’t know they were right on the water. While I’m usually not without a camera, with WPPI this week, I’d left everything at home, packed for the next day’s trip. All I had was my cell phone, which honestly didn’t do too bad a job, at least for Internet viewing…so there’s lesson one from Monday night – practice what you preach and don’t get caught short without a real camera.
But lesson two is a BIG one.
Years ago, I did a podcast with the late Mary Ellen Mark. She’d been a nice friend going back to my Hasselblad days in the ’80s. She talked about why she loved shooting analog so much more than digital. As an example, she told me how she made her students cover up the LCD screen on their cameras to help them learn to wait for the “decisive moment.”
I’m paraphrasing a little, but this was her point,
“Shooting digitally photographers check to see if they got the shot and move on, but what if the real moment is yet to come? What if the emotion of grandma’s tears with a bride wasn’t at the hug, but seconds or minutes later?”
Last night’s sunset looked like it was going to be non-existent. It was all clouds and solid gray. Little by little the clouds started to break apart, and while we never got the kind of sunset that graces the covers of romantic novels, the sun found a spot to sneak through, and it was stunning, but only for a minute or two. All I had to do was be patient and wait for it.
And here’s one more fun perspective. Having spent most of my life living inland, I love living near the ocean. Just about every vacation over the years was always near the water. I remember all those bittersweet moments when a vacation was about to come to an end, and we’d sneak in walk on the beach before packing, trying to make the most of the last night.
So, these days, whenever Sheila and I leave the beach one of us always says the same thing...“Hey, it’s not our last night!”
It's no good running a pig farm badly for thirty years while saying,
"Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer." By that time, pigs will be your style.
The other day in the Facebook Wedding Photographers Forum in commenting about a post that was up, a photographer responded with..." wedding photographers are considered the bottom feeders of the business." Yes, I'm taking it out of context, but it doesn't change the nature of the comment.
Having worked with professional photographers for the last 30+ years, I've got a lot of friends on the wedding side of the business. And, while I'll admit I consider photographing weddings one of the very toughest specialties in imaging, it's anything but filled with "bottom feeders." Sure, it's the easiest of the photographic specialties to break into, but that's also because it's got the highest demand with a relatively stable need of 2.5 million weddings each year, just in the US alone.
Wedding photographers, working on a day when Bambi Cantrell has described as, "Logic doesn't reign as king!" they have very little control over the event they've been hired to photograph. They work in some of the most difficult lighting situations, often with unreasonable time constraints and stress. Yet, many of them capture stunning images, tell incredible stories and create the first family heirloom of a new family!
However, what really bothered me was the way a comment like this can be perceived, and I went off searching through the SCU archives, because I know I wrote about being happy with your career choice several years ago. So, if you read parts of this post in 2015, my apologies, but it's too much on point not to share again!
On a fairly regular basis I'll hear a photographer comment about the things they don't like about their career choice. It's always the same tone as they look back and say something like, "I really wanted to get into fashion, but..."
No matter how long or short a time you've been in business, there's always the opportunity to change paths. Nothing has to be forever. And for those of you who are already rolling your eyes and saying, "That's easy for you to say," I know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm the guy who left a great job as President of Rangefinder/WPPI, because I was no longer happy in what I was doing. It wasn't easy, but had I stayed; it would have only been a matter of time until my heart just wasn't in it.
This year it will be ten years since I resigned from Rangefinder Publishing/WPPI and started my own company. It's been an amazing ride and continues to still have me jumping out of bed each day, smiling and filled with the curiosity of a kid on Christmas morning. Adapting isn't easy, but it's incredibly fulfilling. The industry is constantly changing; technology keeps expanding how we communicate and share images; and the world keeps getting smaller. I shared images in a spotlight post last week from Chad Pennington, who I caught up to while he was having lunch in Nigeria!
If you're unhappy with what you're shooting, then you owe it to yourself to identify what's missing. That applies to everything you do, including what's going on in your life. Find the time to stare into space and ponder the meaning of life.
What works best for me is to find a quiet place in the house. We've got this one chair in the living room that's incredibly comfortable. I'll typically get a glass of wine, put on some of my favorite music and kick back for an hour or more to think about a specific task or project. The key here is uninterrupted thought. I might even have a small notebook close by to write down some ideas. At some point, I'll have ideas for a solution, and that's where Sheila comes in.
You need a sounding board, and ideally, it needs to be somebody who knows you better than you do! This is about trust, understanding, and expression. Often, some of the ideas in my head are good, and other times they're horrible, but Sheila's insight helps me focus. This approach works for the significant challenges, as well as the small ones...the key here is being honest with yourself and living by that line from Shakespeare,
"To thine own self be true."
Remember, you can't create images that tug at people's heartstrings if your own heart isn't in it!
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.
I'm not sure what sparked my thought process this morning, but the magic of this industry is so much on my mind. This is a short post dedicated to magic - not the magic of love like the Lovin' Spoonful's song from 1965 for you old farts out there, but the magic of our industry.
The magic, when you have a career you love, is universal, but as a professional photographer, you've got the tools to truly be a magician. Think about it for just a second - What could be more magical than your ability to stop time, capture a memory and hand a client that moment in a tangible form for them to cherish forever?
Here's my point - all of us have days when the clouds roll in, and we can't find the silver lining. We get buried in the bullshit of running a business, dealing with the peaks and valleys in sales, paying bills, thinking about the year ahead, dealing with the competition, finding new clients and the list goes on and on. Plus, it's convention season, tax season and we're thinking about what we have to pay a government who's currently showing anything but professionalism and acting like adults. We've all seen more maturity on elementary school playgrounds!
So, when any of these things happen, you've got to take a step back. Recognize the signs of what I call short-term burnout. Step away from the business. Find yourself a quiet place, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine or a cold beer and chill. Think about what brought you into this business in the first place and if you have to, force a smile - it'll relax your face and help change your perspective on the challenges you're facing.
And yes, it really is almost that easy! The tricky part is forcing yourself to step away and take the time to pat yourself on the back for everything you've accomplished so far!
It's just a bad day - not a bad life!
ClickCon was AMAZING!
It's rare that a first year conference has the power that ClickCon brought to the industry last week. Great speakers, a busy trade show and 1300 attendees loaded with a passion to learn and grow. Put the show on your radar so you know the dates for 2020 when they're announced!
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.