New podcast – MUSEA Episode #63

Check out the latest podcast that I recorded with Michael Howard of MUSEA.  Michael and I have been friends for a while and we’ve spoken a few times in the past ( AMTF Episode 2).  I think this turned out really great, and it sort of encapsulates what has been on my mind lately so I’m very grateful for Michael for having me on.  If you like this episode please let Michael and I know and we might make this a more regular thing.

MUSEA PODCAST EPISODE #63 w/ TODD REICHMAN

Thanks again, and let me know what you’ve been missing and what you’d like to see going forward for …a Man to Fish…

- Todd Reichman

What is style?

Have you figured out your style yet? It seems like the quest for a definable style is the holy grail for every professional.  We agonize about how the hell we’re going to develop our own and we envy those who seem to have it figured out.  So why is it so difficult?

In my opinion we’ve overcomplicated our quest for style.  Because it seems like magic from the outside.  It looks like raw, creative impulse that we the rabble just can’t seem to embrace.  So we toil on, totally-unstylish.

What if there was a formula?

Hear me out.  Obviously there isn’t one set of actions we can all take that will spit out a unique style for each of us.  But if we deconstruct what a style really is then maybe we can demystify it a little bit.  After all, isn’t style nothing more than recognizable elements that keep turning up in your work?  So it isn’t about raw creativity, it is about careful application of a repeatable set of techniques.  It is deliberate, not magic.

So if you are trying to develop a style think about what elements have to exist in your work for it to be “your” work.  Think about what you need to produce at every job.  Then think about how it is that you decide to execute on that.   If you are a portrait photographer, what kinds of images do you have to create at each session?  How do you execute on those images? It may seem crazy that “style” hinges on having a “shot list” and shooting those shots in a particular way, but I don’t think it is too far off.

thoughts?

 

- trr

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“But I don’t need the money…”

Many people enter into professional photography without actually needing the money.  I don’t really care what circumstances someone might operate under that affords them the luxury of “not needing the money” from photography.  I’m not here to judge someone’s situation.  I have to say this, and I mean it as supportively as possible… If you don’t need the money I don’t have the slightest idea why the hell you want to dabble in professional photography?

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something with a camera for heaven’s sake do something really valuable with it.  Take a photograph that is going to change the world, or bring awareness to something we ought to know more about.  Do something with your camera that could save a life (or thousands of them).  People who “don’t need the money” are those with the luxury to make a significant difference in the world. 

Unfortunately most people squander that luxury and instead retread the same portrait and wedding photography as everyone else.  If you don’t need the money and you aim low with your pricing or you half-ass your branding and marketing then you’re basically creating a charity for the middle-to-upper class.  Would you create a 501c3 organization to make sure all suburban middle-class kids get Netflix?  Hell no, because if you want to be able to stream LOST any town, any time then you ought to pay the $8 a month.  It would be an affront to real causes to champion that organization.  Based on my analytics I’m pretty comfortable saying that the vast majority of readers to this site are wealthy compared to the majority of people on Earth.  Really, you are.  You’ve got all kinds of cool stuff – you’re probably reading this on a nice laptop or an indulgent smartphone through a nice connection with ample bandwidth.   You aren’t entitled to streaming video if you can’t pay for it.

Lower-to-upper class people ought to be paying for professional photos.  They ought to be paying full, sustainable, profitable prices (read – higher prices than most ‘professionals’ are charging).  Don’t give it away for free or a pittance.  It isn’t a privilege to shoot their photos, it is a privilege to work the line at a soup kitchen.

I live in a condo.  Luckily, our property values are going up.  If I didn’t need the money I could sell my unit on a whim for $100,000 under market value.  But I sure would be fucking my neighbors.  They’d still be able to sell of course, but my comparable lowball sale would make things more difficult.  What do you think happens if 4-5 people follow my lead?  Some of my neighbors actually need the money.  I’d actually need the money too.

If you don’t need the money and you want to do something fulfilling with your camera all I’m asking is that you give 30 seconds of thought to the most meaningful thing you could do.  You could copy that frog-pose with a newborn in a knit hat or backlight a bride and groom really small in the frame for a few bucks if you like, but I think you’re capable of making a bigger impact than that.

- trr

 

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Question – how to network with wedding planners

I know you’ve had some huge success networking with wedding planners. We’re starting to invest more time networking with planners and we have some upcoming sitdowns/introductory meetings scheduled with planners that we have not necessarily worked with before. Do you have any tips other than developing a friendly relationship and understanding each side’s value propositions? One obstacle I’m hoping to overcome is that I’m assuming the planner already has a few photographers that she recommends (i.e. she shares an office space with a photographer). Establishing ourselves as a perfect fit for niche clients is the idea, but I’m just wondering if you’ve had any specific techniques that have worked well in the past.

- Jaime + Lincoln Bartlett

To be honest it is really difficult to recommend anything other than understanding each side’s value proposition.  Understanding what they do and what they want helps you connect them with people who want the same thing, and when they know what you want and what you are best at providing they can refer you appropriately.  I’ve found that it is always best to ask questions and really show an interest in them more than you pitch yourself.

If the planner takes a meeting then they don’t have all the resources that they need.  People come and go, relationships ebb and there is always room another specific, perfect solution to a given problem.  Also, sometimes it really helps to be a new option, if for nothing else than to spice things up and try something different – so use that to your advantage.  You really want to occupy a space in the planner’s head that triggers your name when that situation presents itself so be very specific about how you know when you are right for a given client.  Don’t claim to be perfect for everyone – that’s a recipe for no referrals.  When you’re thinking about how to communicate what and who you are perfect for do so in terms that the planner understands.  They don’t know much about photography, but they do deal with budgets and pickiness and indecisiveness and things like that.  So communicating your administrative style and getting into a little armchair-client-psychology will help you better speak the planner’s language.  Don’t talk all about photo technique or your work – it probably all looks the same to them.

Other than that being likable is a benefit.  You don’t have to be real-life friends (business-friends is good enough) but being the kind of person that other people want to see do well is a huge plus.  So be kind and be purposefully helpful.  Don’t fake it, just be a person – they’re just people after all.

It really isn’t super-complicated, most people are far more afraid of professional networking than is reasonable.  Networking with other vendors is the most direct action you can take to drive wedding business in particular – so head outside of your comfort zone and think about who you can connect with today.

- trr

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Hourly Coverage vs. “Unlimited” II

Lots of activity on this week’s “Hourly Coverage vs. Unlimited” post earlier in the week.  Check out this comment from Jolie:

Todd,

I appreciate the notion of pricing being formed around the what “makes me and what I do for you unique” factors and that those factors play a significant role in a couple’s choice of photographer. I get what you’re trying to say about not breaking out the calculator and using dollars per hour as the basis of one’s price structure. But after thinking about the article, I wonder how you arrived at a place where the amount of time devoted to a client before, during and after their photographed event isn’t factored into some part of your price? Or is it to some degree, and I’ve misunderstood you?

You stated you charge the same for a slightly smaller wedding. What about weddings that are significantly larger or smaller in scale and hours than your “average”–still the same final price too? Perhaps you’ve positioned your business to serve a specific market and served it long enough to know the coverage range, allowing you to set a price package(s) that makes the hours spent irrelevant?

It seems to me this country is preoccupied with time. The multi-tasking. The over-scheduling. How often do you hear, “How long will it take?” We pay extra for things be rushed and we pay extra for things to go slower. Even during the wedding planning, a couple can be faced with time issues for the venue, the officiant, music and church. So while the hours required to execute a service isn’t an exciting concept, time does play a role, yes even if it isn’t explicitly stated to the client? That’s the part of the article that felt vague to me.

OK, so “yes” the amount of time devoted to the client is taken into consideration when we price.  I think that per-hour pricing is really only relevant in a volume-studio situation where you can actually fill every hour with paying work.  Since I don’t run a model like that each hour really isn’t as valuable as the next.  I also don’t want to run a business where I have to sell time to make a profit – I don’t have as much time as I’d need to make what I want in that case.  I’m really more concerned with the overall amount of money that I want to make and how much work I want to do to bring in that sum.  So I’m more focused on the overall number of jobs booked hitting a desired amount.  In the grand scheme of a year and hour or two plus or minus on a wedding really doesn’t impact the plan.  I consider it more of a “day rate” business for my own business (again YMMV).

I do tend to have a pretty good handle on my market acts and my preparation system tends to make every job work the same way.  To be honest, I can’t say that my work changes much if the wedding is very small and intimate or enormous – the approach is largely the same so I really don’t see the need to charge differently.  Then again, I’m primarily selling the approach and belief system  behind it, so the minor differences in wedding size really don’t impact the back-end of my business.

I do agree that many services that may be comparable to ours are built on time.  I’ve simply built a business where the relative amount of time in preparation, execution and post-processing is basically the same regardless of the wedding details.  Some people do pay more to make things go faster.  Some people pay more to indulge their time.  Some people pay more to not concern themselves with time.  I’ve just picked my market.

Thanks for the comment!

- trr

 

 

 

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