Monthly Archives: August 2011

Do-it-yourself?

Photographers are inherently do-it-yourselfers.  At some point we all wanted to peek behind the shutter and figure out how to make photos ourselves rather than leaving it to the folks that were already getting it done.  We are apt to assume that we can do it just as well as they can.  Actually, I assume that most photographers pick up the camera thinking they can do it better.  We have a certain beneficial arrogance that makes us want to get up and take it upon ourselves rather than relying on other people.  That impulse is what it takes to be good and to pursue greatness.

It also makes us really shitty judges of our clients.

The client that is inclined to hire a service professional to do a job that they could conceivably do themselves doesn’t have that beneficial arrogance.  They don’t assume they can do it better, or they wouldn’t be interested in hiring someone else to do it.  This type of client is used to hiring someone to do work because they respect the fact that someone else can do it quicker/better/faster/more reliably/more artfully/elegant/whatever than they can.  They understand that even if they can do it, it doesn’t necessarily benefit them to do it.

I bring this up because if you are one of those photographers that is more inclined to do something yourself than you are to hire a pro to do it then your perception about what motivates a client may be skewed.  You may not intrinsically value what your clients do.  You may not make decisions the same way they do.  So “what you would buy” or “how you would like to be treated” by a company may in fact not be relevant to how you run your business.  Ask yourself if you would happily hire yourself and pay yourself the amount of money you want/need to make for your work.  Now ask yourself if you would hire another photographer to do that work for you?  If the answers are “no” then your opinion may not be aligned with your client’s. Which is cool, you don’t have to be who your clients are, but that also means that the work you do may not be intended for people exactly like you, and your business needs to be aligned to service and delight those people, rather than the do-it-yourselfers like you – they wouldn’t hire you in the first place.

Thoughts?  Leave them in a comment below to send them to [email protected]

- trr

Your poor, dead creativity

In many photographer discussions I’ve seen the comment “that would kill my creativity” popping up.  Most often it is in response to some client request, like a particular image that they want or a particular look they are going for.  I keep seeing photographers make the statement that a given idea/request/list/whatever will totally obstruct whatever muse sublimely delivers the magical “creativity.”  So when the client isn’t so rudely committing murder in the millionth degree on your artistic soul what does your work look like then?  How is it more creative?  How is it identifiably different?

Can you judge your own ability to be creative?  If so, when that doesn’t happen where does the fault lie?  Is it really the request that the client made?  Is it not possible to screw up your courage, hold your nose, trip that shutter for the murderous client and go back to being the creative little artist?

I’m all about dominating the client.  Setting terms and dictating how the relationship will work.  But I’ve seen this type of comment too many times recently and it seems so petulant.  When you take a photograph, you create something.  An image didn’t exist before, now it does.  So you’re creating something.  The judgment on that creativity pretty much has to lie within the photographer, right?  It really isn’t anyone else’s fault if that image doesn’t pass the photographer’s criteria of “creative enough.”

Thing is, I see photographers talking all the time about limitation breeding creativity.  Like shooting all prime lenses or all wide-open or all film/toy camera/tilt shift/some-other-photographic-gimmick to spark creativity.  What if you had to be creative within the client’s request?

Kind of a ranty response from me, but I really don’t view clients as adversaries.  If a client asks me to do something that is really counter to my branding, then it isn’t their fault – I’ve clearly dropped the ball.  So I can’t take that ball and go home, I have to perform in the circumstance and figure out where I went wrong later.  Bottom line, your creativity (whatever that is) is yours.  You can execute on it when you need to (that’s part of being a pro).  If a simple client request throws you out of the pocket that far that the Major Case Squad needs to be called into to investigate the creativity homicide I fear you might be in a situation where you are taking yourself more seriously than your craft.

Hey, I’m sure I’ve bitched about the same thing.  But I probably knew in the back of my mind while I was bitching that it was really just a cop out on my part.

thoughts?

- trr

P.S. – Two weeks in and the SEXY BUSINESS Workshop is half-sold out!  Get in quick!

Client suggestions

Once again, I’ve been thinking a lot about some posts on a photography forum.  The issue came up for discussion about what you do when a client makes suggestions about particular shots you should take.  I think some photographers might be offended that a client would suggest a pose/shot/location or introduce another photographer’s image to replicate.  Some photographers might welcome the collaboration.  My opinion might be skewed a bit (in the interest of full disclosure it would probably indicate a pretty big FAIL on my part if a client started making suggestions, though not for the reasons you might think) but ultimately I think it comes down to why the clients hired you in the first place.

Are your clients hiring you to execute on what they want or are they hiring you to do what you do?

Either way can work depending on what kind of business you want to run.  I’d be curious to hear how you all feel about handling client suggestions and what you think they mean.

By the way, in just a week we reached our minimum number of registrants for the SEXY BUSINESS WORKSHOP, so we couldn’t be happier.  Get the info and reserve your spot by clicking on the banner below.

- trr

Discussion – Booking destination weddings…

Hey all – interesting discussion on the Fred Miranda Wedding Forum today about booking destination weddings, or at least breaking in.  The FM forums have been a place that I’ve met quite a few good folks over the years and it is worth checking out if you haven’t been there recently (and the Buy/Sell forum is unbeatable if you need to pick up or offload anything).  I posted the following and in retrospect it does sound a little dismissive but I think the idea was more to give a realistic appraisal of the endeavor.  Take a look and let me know what you think:

You have to be interesting/compelling enough to hire. You need to be a must-have choice. Then location disappears as an obstacle to hiring you. You’ll photograph local weddings and eventually those local people will move away or distant people will see your work and bring you in.

That, or you brand yourself as a traveler. Post often from different places. Show diverse work.

Usually, it is some combination of the two.

As a third option, you can drop your rates to obscenely low levels for destination work. Many are going this route. I don’t recommend it, but that doesn’t stop anyone.

It bears mentioning that while destination work can be an ego boost and can go a long way to impressing your photographer friends it is rarely as lucrative as photographing in your own backyard. Travel costs eat away from your profit, time away becomes a stress, and most people having a true destination are doing so to avoid spending a large amount on the wedding itself. Travel weddings diminish your opportunity to sell additional products/services in many cases. It sounds like a good idea, but really destinations are often more for bragging rights than business ROI.

If you want to travel then make money and travel on your own terms. Don’t wait for clients to pay you to go work there (because it is work). Plus, if you do that often and show personal work from those places you’ll end up getting hired for destinations. Better way to go about it and allows you to command a higher price. Be it and then get hired for it.

I think it also bears mentioning that there is a difference between a destination wedding and a wedding that you travel to. For a destination wedding the entire thing is happening and being planned somewhere that the clients don’t live. So you have to have a point of contact there and work those relationships. These are typically smaller, more intimate weddings and can sometimes have a smaller budget than you would think. Traveling to shoot weddings can be a better approach – where clients are bringing in select vendors to their more typical weddings. There is a subtle difference in client ideals and wants that makes all the difference.

I’ve shot a ton of travel/destination weddings and for the time being I’m kind of over it. I’ll still do them but I’m not compromising at all to book them. Impressing other photographers really didn’t put money in my pocket and I don’t like to work on my vacation.

- trr

Thoughts?  I certainly can’t complain too much as I’ve spent a significant amount of time traveling about to one wedding or another and I can’t deny that doing destination work was a benefit to my overall career.  But I’ve also soured a bit on destinations for a number of reasons.  Check out the thread, judge my comments (!) and let me know what you think about travel work.

Big thanks to those of you that have signed up so far for the SEXY BUSINESS workshop.  Still several spots open and we’d love to have you – click the sexy banner below for more info.

What are you good at?

If you’re thinking about your value proposition and how to appeal to clients it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to what you do have instead of what you don’t.  So take stock right now of your advantages and your attributes.  What are you good at?  Go ahead, start writing.  Make a list.  Throw out all the descriptors and attributes that sound like everyone else.  Now start narrowing it down.  Throw some out, which ones are the most important?  Which ones most quintessentially define you?  And which ones can you actually judge yourself against.  Don’t just say “creative” because really, how the hell can you determine whether or not you were “creative” today or on a particular job?  What we’re trying to develop are criteria with which to judge our performance.  The specific and unique combination of criteria that we can perform against and satisfy becomes the foundation of our distinct value proposition.

No doubt, there are many ways you can describe yourself.  Put them all on the list.  Now figure out which ones you can’t live without.  Are there any that you need?  Are there any you can’t take away and still be YOU?  If not, you’ve got something to build on.

What are you good at?

- trr