FREE is not necessary for photographer with a portfolio

[Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 125, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]
One of the best ways for restaurants to get you to buy their food is to sample it. Walk through almost any malls food court and one of the restaurants is giving out samples. When you have low market awareness with your food then you have to do something to get people to know you exist and what you offer is good.

Now photographers don’t have to give their photos away for people to know what they will get if they purchase a photo from you. They can look at your portfolio and it serves the same purpose.

Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved. The problem for most people starting out in business is they don’t know what they don’t know.

The devil doesn’t come dressed in pointy horns. He comes in everything you wished for …

Drug dealers give free samples to get you hooked. They don’t work in back alleys all the time. Today many are selling what appear to be legitimate prescription drugs. There are even doctors who have been doing this because it is so lucrative to them because of the kickbacks they get from drug companies.

When most successful business start out they hired lawyers, accountants and other experts to help guide them so they would be successful.

When you start out I cannot recommend enough getting expert help. One of the best photography organizations I know is ASMP [American Society of Media Photographers]. I have been a member since 1987.

The group was founded to help represent magazine photographers in matters of wages and working conditions. Those early years ASMP was acting as a union for photographers. While today it isn’t a union the purpose of ASMP at its core is to help photographers be successful businesses.

Remember Groupon? Businesses thought that giving super discount to get customers in their doors would have them later pay full price. A study by Lightspeed Research shows that 63% of Groupons are purchased by existing customers. … Sucking value out of the small business market will ultimately damage the local merchants that are the bread and butter of Groupon’s base. Groupon’s model is not sustainable.

Now if Groupon which is a discounted price sucks value our of small business what do you think of Unsplash?

Beautiful, free photos.
Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.

Remember photographers do not have to give photos away like you see in a mall’s food court. They can show their images on websites or displays. People can get a taste of what you offer without you giving anything away.

Remember: “Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved.

Mikael Cho is a graphic designer who was solving “his problem” when he started UnSplash.

Mikael’s problem was that when he needed samples for an idea he was working on he realized that when he went to Google Images he couldn’t just use those images. Not sure exactly how he knew that those were copyrighted and not for free, but I am guessing it would be similar to others who start out. They made mistake and someone pointed out you cannot do that without paying for the images.

By the way Mikael had his bills paid by another way it appears than graphic design. He thinks of himself as an artist. He just wants to create and share.

This is great if you have a job. Then your creativity is a hobby and not a career. The problem is that Mikael sucked people who want to do this for a career into his creative vortex.

Mikael seems to be talking as an artist. I have heard this many times before. Usually in the past I would then hear they don’t want to “sell out.” Wikipedia defines: “Selling out” is a common idiomatic pejorative expression for the compromising of a person’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.[1] In terms of music or art, selling out is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience; for example, a musician who alters his material to encompass a wider audience, and in turn generates greater revenue, may be labeled by fans who pre-date the change as a “sellout.” A sellout also refers to someone who gives up, or disregards, hence the term ‘sells’ – someone or something – for some other thing or person.

Simply put, you can’t live out your purpose if you aren’t selling and that’s why sales is a critical skill for artists to develop.

Even if you don’t participate in Unsplash and give your images away you should be very concerned. You cannot stay in business if your clients can get what you could provide through a “FREE” service like Unsplash.

All working photographers need to educate the public and especially those who are trying to be photographers on the pitfalls of highly discounting their work or giving it away for free.

I understand shooting your first wedding for a friend to get samples to show for a portfolio. You do have to do some work for free to create a portfolio, but once you have examples you no longer have to do free to show what customers can expect when they hire you.

Your goal as a successful business should be to have customers who are willing to pay full price and come back to you over and over.

7 Tips for the financially struggling photographer

A few weeks ago I had a Facebook friend request. It was another photographer. Now this scenario has happened more than just once for me. I want to walk you through what happened and what I want to share with those photographers who are struggling financially.

Since I didn’t recognize the name I went to his profile and clicked on his “About” section. Here you can see my information.

Now little did he know that I wasn’t just a photographer, but I hire photographers throughout the year for a few of my clients. I act as a director of photography role as well as other roles for those corporations.

I was looking for a few things that I feel like show me you are a successful professional photographer who is growing their business.

Do you have a way for me to contact you other than Facebook? I like to see three things: 1) phone number, 2) email, & 3) website.

It wasn’t long in our messaging that he said something like he is struggling as a freelancer because his market is over saturated.

When I asked if he had a website he said I need to work on that. He even said he knew that was important.

7 Tips to get more jobs

1 Get a website. You don’t have to know much at all to make this work. You can go to WordPress [https://wordpress.com] and create one for free. You can also go to places like PhotoShelter [www.photoshelter.com], Godaddy [https://www.godaddy.com/] and many other places that cater to photographers.

2 Create a domain name. I recommend Godaddy, but there are others. This is where you create your personalized web address. A .com address runs about $12 a year, but if you buy it for many years the price drops. You basically rent these addresses. You can also “mask” your website domain name with your custom domain name.

3 Create email with your domain name. I have actually had so many email addresses through the years that I cannot remember them all. I started with Compuserve and it was a number. The cool thing is once you own your domain name you can “mask” your @gmail.com address to be me@yourdomainname.com. People send you email to your address and it actually can go to your @gmail.com address. The advantage here is that in 20 years when Google goes out of business or is bought and the email address changes to all your customers and prospects you are still me@yourdomainname.com.

Back of Card
Front of Business Card

4 Create business card. Be sure your card has: 1) your name, 2) phone number, 3) email address, 4) website address, 5) your town & 6) your specialty. You want people to find you but you don’t have to put your street address on there to advertise to people where all your camera gear is located. You do want people to know if you are close by for an assignment. Don’t put just photographer on the card. That is as useful as putting human on the card. Put what you are the very best at doing on your card.

5 Buy business software. I recommend to photographers Cradoc’s FotoBiz. It will help you with creating cover letters, creating estimates & invoices and tracking of your receivables and payables. It also includes FotoQuote, the industry standard pricing guide for freelance photographers.

6 Create a home budget. This should be the very first thing you do. You cannot know what to charge if you don’t know what you need to pay your household bills. Once you have created a home budget that takes into account everything you spend money on during a year from rent, food, and the basics; it should also include things like vacations and retirement as well.

When done celebrate! This is what I would call the foundation for your business.

7 Last step is a Marketing Plan. In a nutshell this is where you will identify all those potential customers who need your specialty.

Rule-of-thumb marketing. If you contact 1,000 contacts only about 100 of these will be interested in your services. That means that 900 have various reasons that they are not interested. The reasons they are not interested run from every thing from they has someone they are happy with or that your style of work doesn’t mesh with their style.

Out of the remaining 100 only 10 will hire you. Again there are many factors here. The best way to put this is 90 are willing to date you, but not marry you.

No matter what you are doing, you are marketing yourself. Either you are helping your brand or hurting it. When you meet new people how many know that you are a photographer?

Since I used the marriage metaphor earlier, your marketing should be like the process you find your mate. You are working on building a relationship. So the first time you meet someone you don’t ask him or her to marry you. Also you need to be clear that you want to date or you never make it clear that you are interested.

I have written many articles on marketing that you can search for on my blog here.

I hope this has given you some things that can turn your lack of getting work into the road to prosperity.

Don’t raise Cain in your business

Story of Cain and Abel [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4, 1/200]
Yesterday when I was in my Sunday School class we were studying the story of Cain and Abel. While I have read this story over and over since a little child each time I come to the scripture a little differently. Life experiences and where I am in life really can impact one’s perspective.

Reading this as a business owner I saw this in a new light. I thought of how I see this story lived out in business every day.

Just read the story with a customer being God and while Cain and Abel are two freelancers giving estimates to get a job.

Genesis 4:1-15

4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

While discussing this passage in our class I was struck by why God didn’t treat both Cain and Abels gifts equally. The scripture doesn’t say why he treated them the way he did.

You would think God should treat them equally.

I can think of many Christmas and birthdays where opening a present I was disappointed or one of my family/friends were disappointed with a present. It was always important in my circles that you were appreciative for the gift.

So I can get why God might like one gift more than the other, I am that way. Our customers and potential clients also have reasons they pick one vendor over another and they don’t always tell you why.

Instead of dealing directly with God over his gift Cain got angry with his brother Abel. Sound familiar. We often are upset with our competition.

Instead of taking our anger out on others we need to work on ourselves. We need to remember there is always a next time. Maybe not with that client, but with another.

Maybe you are like Cain and realize you only have  “fruits of the soil” as a farmer and not an animal to sacrifice because you are a farmer and not the cowboy. Don’t be shortsighted and think the only way you can win a contract is to take out your competition. [You could be just talking about your competition in a bad way to the customer.]

Look at what you have to offer and do everything you can to be sure that your presentation of your gifts is as good as the gifts themselves.

Focus on your Audience’s Needs. … As you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.

Who has your back?

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320]
If you are a freelancer or a business owner you might be like me and wake up in the middle of the night sweating from anxiety of how will I pay my bills this month. There is nothing on the books for a while and you wonder will the phone ring again or will you get an email.

Matthew 6:25-34

Worry
25 I tell you not to worry about your life. Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food or clothing? 26 Look at the birds in the sky! They don’t plant or harvest. They don’t even store grain in barns. Yet your Father in heaven takes care of them. Aren’t you worth more than birds?

27 Can worry make you live longer?[a] 28 Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work hard to make their clothes. 29 But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth[b] wasn’t as well clothed as one of them. 30 God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?

31 Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” 32 Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. 33 But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well.

34 Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.

So I know that scripture and still I wake up in a cold sweat. My main concern is how to get a paying job from a client or potential client. This is the core issue.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/200]
One of the best things about being young was not having these worries. My parents carried those worries for me. I went out and played with my friends.

I think the key to solving the “cold sweats” at night are the same keys to building strong friendships.

One of the coolest things I can remember growing up was when someone knocked on the door and wanted to play with me. Today I still enjoy it when a friend calls me up and asks me to play golf with them.

This feeling of euphoria is one of the most powerful emotions.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80]
What was even better than just having a friend knock on my door was the invitation to do something that they had already made plans. Do you want to go bowling? Some of the best memories are when I had a friend who was creating an experience for me and asked me to join them.

One way to have your “cold sweat” disappear is the client to call with a project. That solves my problem right away. This does happen, but what I have found that solves this problem more than receiving a request is to be just like that friend of mine knocking on the door asking me if I wanted to go out on the lake in their boat for skiing.

You see, most all of your clients also have those “cold sweats” of some sort. They need ideas as well.

Solve your clients problem and you will solve your own

What is your client’s problem? This takes a lot of time to figure out. Steve Jobs solved problems for the world. One of the first problems he solved was a way to carry around a lot of music and help musicians sell their music through the iPod and iTunes.

Another problem Steve Jobs solved was needing a computer with you all the time to be able to solve problems at a moments notice. The iPhone allowed you to search the web right in the palm of your hand.

[Nikon D2X, 20-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 4100, ƒ/2.8, 1/80]
You need to put your clients first and success will find you. Once you have clients it is much easier to get to know them and learn what their needs are than if they are prospects.

If you do a great job of providing a solution to their problems that you can provide then you are on the way to a profitable career.

Not every solution should involve you. If you are truly concerned for a client there are times that you just will give your client a solution that doesn’t involve you directly.  When you do this on a regular basis rather than just one time you will be communicating that you are really looking out for their best interests over your own.

By not always coming to a client with solutions that only you can fulfill but others are better at meeting those needs you become the fixer for them. They will be more likely to listen to you more than if the only time you are coming to them you are the solution.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/640]
When you are the person calling your clients with ideas for their problems, you are just like the friend knocking on their door asking them to come and join you on an adventure.

What do I charge and how do I word something with a client?

This is the most useful software package I own for my business. While I have Adobe Creative Cloud Suite which I use Lightroom, PhotoShop and Premier Pro regularly, it is fotoBiz X that runs the business side of my work. Here is a link to the software. I am a affiliate of their program. This is an affiliate link which means that I receive a commission from any purchases made using the affiliate link. This is at no additional cost to you.


Now for years I knew about the software, but I didn’t use it. I couldn’t figure out the advantages of the software.

Now many years later I regret having not purchased this earlier. Experience started to teach me that I needed help.

When you first open the program you should go to setup and put in your information and if you have a logo put that in as well.

They show you examples of what it will look like on a #10 envelop or on a invoice.

One thing you will need early on is a model release.

Under “Forms and Releases” you will find five difference templates. There is one for:

Adult Model Release
Minor Model Release
Photographer’s Portfolio Release
Property Release
Simplified Adult Release

It will drop your name or company name into the form and then you can just print it out.

Another problem I was always running into was how do you word your cover letters, late payment letters and even a copyright violation letter? Well the software comes with a lot of email templates that you can use and modify for your correspondence uses.

A question I often had early on and continue today having is what to charge for certain uses. The fotoBiz comes with fotoQuote which will help you with knowing what you should charge not only for a stock use, but also in assignment work. Here is a link to just buy fotoQuote.


fotoQuote was just updated to version 7. This includes social media use now in the latest version.

It has also video and all the possible ways you might want to use it. Now while you may not always get the prices they recommend, these are the prices many are getting in the industry.

By having this information of prices you now have a better idea of the range of a job and what you can quote. I have learned that fotoQuote has helped me more than anything in getting a better idea of a low medium and high price for a job. I just give clients three prices most of the time.

The low, medium and high price quote is based on uses that the client can get as well as how long they may use the images. Without fotoQuote I really didn’t have any idea on how to offer three different prices.

fotoBiz also helps you with creating estimates which then can easily be transformed into the invoice with just a click. You can always just create the invoice as well.

When you sell a stock image the software lets you embed a thumbnail into the invoice with all the information about the sale. It will ask if you want a reminder on your calendar when the usage is up. This way you can then write a letter not to remind the people time is up, but to write a letter asking if they want to extend it with estimates for extending the usage.

You can download the demo and try it for 14 days free of charge. fotoBiz is just $299. This is not a subscription based software. You own it and can use it forever.

I can tell you that this is a software that will help empower the freelancer to know what to charge and help you communicate with your prospects and clients in putting together estimates, invoices and even email correspondence.

FotoBiz® has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so what do you have to lose?

Here is a video showing you how it works.

 

Learn to say “YES”

This is Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/80]
For the past ten years or so Mark Johnson has invited me to speak to his advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA on business practices.

One of the tips I always share with the class is Learn To Say YES.

I learned about how to say yes from my friend Tony Messano who is a creative director as well as voice over talent. This one tip had a major impact on my life in so many ways.

Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you are agreeing to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that ethically you disagree with doing.

Patrick Murphy-Racey keeps things positive for his clients by solving their problems rather than becoming a problem. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160]
Tony was advocating that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses, rather than becoming a problem.

The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here can you do _______. Tony helped me to see how to take this request and not only meet the request but make more money.

I learned how to price for the project and then when this type of request came up I could say “Yes”. Yes I can make that happen, however since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it I just need to charge XYZ for the additional work.

The way I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then was responding with a “NO”.

What Tony helped me to understand was that when I was saying no I wasn’t really helping the client at all. If they still needed it done then they would find someone who could make it happen and often then I would no longer be used for future projects.

Why do I want to say no?

Before I could say yes I learned I needed to know why I wanted to say no.

When I was in a staff job I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.

Had I learned this tip earlier in my career I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone would ask me to do something I would now be saying how I really want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.

Yes I can make that happen for you if you can tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.

As a freelancer I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.

On the far right at the computer is Akili Ramsess, executive director for NPPA, who is reviewing the work on a student at the Southwestern Photojournalism Student Workshop. What I like here is not just that Akili is helping and the student is engaged, but it reminds me that others are watching us help.

Let the client say NO

Tony said my goal is to say yes as much as I can and to be sure the client is the one saying no and not me.

As the freelancer the client asks me to do something and my response is I would love to help you. The additional cost to make this happen is XYZ. Just sign right here to the changes on the contract and I will make it happen.

The client will then respond by great or no we cannot afford to do that. If they really have to have this done then you are not the reason it gets done, they don’t have the resources to make it happen or maybe the request then no longer important.

As a staff person I am not asking for more money. I am basically taking the burden of what is on my plate and the difficulties to make it happen back onto their plate.

My boss asks me to take photos of their event and in the past I would have said no I am already booked. I now say I am already covering another event at the same time. I am more than willing to cover this event if you need me to. Which event do you want me to cover and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot cover?

Seeing this photo of my daughter with Bell from Beauty and the Beast reminds me of how the Beast had to change and learn to love. The latest movie really gives us the back story of how self centered the man was and why he was turned into a Beast. He said no to the old lady rather than helping her.

Saying No makes you a problem–Saying Yes Makes you a problem solver.

Every time you say no the person requesting your help will now have to find someone else. Had you said yes their problem is solved.

Today when I get a request for something and I am already booked, I always offer to find someone for them. One of the best ways to keep those clients coming back is to handle the booking of the photographer and have the photographer work as a subcontractor for you. This way they show up shoot the project and you handle the billing. This way they continue to come back to you.


Another tip I share with the students is about how to network. I tell them to act like a freshman and not a senior. Here is a previous blog post that I did explaining this tip for you.


 

A side note about speaking to the class is I get to spend time with Mark Johnson. Every time I go I have lunch with Mark and each time I learn so much.

This time I listened and watched how Mark works really hard to present content to the students in a positive manner. He doesn’t speak down to the students. He challenges them in a way that he is also communicating that he know they are able to do whatever he is asking of them.

It is a joy to visit UGA and spend time with the students and Mark.

Freelancer’s Anxiety–Using Faith to Cope

A little girl lost in her thoughts while in her families corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]
There are a few things that produce such anxiety in my life that physically affect me. Going to the dentist for more than a cleaning produces high anxiety in my life.

My blood pressure rises and my heart rate increases.

This anxiety response isn’t limited to my fear of a dental procedure. My friend Brad Moore posted this just the other day on FaceBook:

The responses Brad received let him know not only did we all suffer from this, some people gave them their solutions on how they have learned to deal with worrying.

This young teenager’s expression seems to convey some anxiety. I photographed him in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/250]
When I was studying social work we had to be trained in how to help people with their worries and anxiety. We learned to unpack those thoughts creating an anxiety. Worrying about something can help motivate you to do something whereas anxiety can shut you down.

Let me talk a little more about Anxiety and then get back to worrying.

During this training I learned about two types of anxiety producing thoughts. There are first those things that we have control over and then there are those things we have no control over.

When you let those things you have no control over take control of your thoughts they can freeze you and send you into anxiety produced depression. If you find you have no desire to be motivated then you need to see a clinical counselor like a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.

You could be in this situation not due to how you are thinking but because your genetics and the way your body chemistry is setup. You can be very depressed just because your chemicals in your body are out of balance. There is medication that under medical supervision that can bring you out of that deep depression.

Learning that I need to categorize something as in my control or out of my control helped me more than anything else I learned in the lesson. Once I could determine something is out of my control I knew that no matter how long we ponder it we are not going to do anything but waste our time.

However, there are things we can do for some things that cause us to worry.

One of my lighting cases. This one is for my Alienbees B1600s with vagabond power packs to let me shoot anywhere with our without power.

One of the ways I addressed my worries was to create separate cases for my lighting gear needs. I have a case for video LED lights, another case with my Speedlights, stands and umbrellas and then this one pictured here for when I need a lot of power and might not have power available.

I still have two other cases which allow me to bring larger number of lights for those big jobs.

Interior of my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.

Worrying about my gear isn’t the only anxiety freelancers deal with on a regular basis.

Remember there are things out of your control and these are the things that often still keep me up at night.

When these thoughts start affecting our bodies like my time in the dentist chair this can be anxiety producing, which can be debilitating. Anxiety is more like a hamster wheel that spins us around but doesn’t lead us to productive solutions.

Worry and Anxiety come with living

My personal experience has taught me that I will never get rid of worrying and anxiety. Even these tips are not enough. Life can be just overwhelming at times.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
–– Matthew 6:34

I turn to my faith as my way of navigating these times of stress. While scripture tells us not to worry it also has the Lamentations.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or in the Psalms may be looked at as a cry of need in a context of crisis. Another way of looking at it is all the more basic: laments simply being “appeals for divine help in distress”.

These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, description of the suffering/anguish which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one’s enemies, an expression of the belief of ones innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.

I struggled with fear and worry for years. But through time, I began to find that the things that once would have sent me down an anxious spiral, no longer had the same effect. It didn’t happen quickly, but over days, months, years.

I read words – of life – of truth. Soaking them in, over and over, praying them out loud. Until they became so familiar, they replaced the other things in my mind that I’d battled against. There’s nothing magical about words and verses, but there is power through them.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200]

“My God, My God, Why?” –Psalms 22:1

I see the laments as a time where we complain to God about something that just isn’t right in our eyes. We then go on and make a request from God.

What I want to emphasize here is that the writers of all the laments then go to the next step in their lament where they give an expression of trust. This often is in the form of God in the past you did this. I know from my experience you do intervene. It is the remembrance of how God has taken care of them in the past and they are asking for his deliverance from what they are suffering from now.

A Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.

What happens when I pray a lament?

I have had many sinus infections through my life and this painful disgusting condition is how I feel before I pray. While not always immediate is the response, I do know that the answer to my prayer is like being able to breath again.

The anxiety that froze me and kept me paralyzed is gone. I now am in a state of worry with hope. I am then able to think about what can I do that I do have control over.

So on those nights I cannot sleep because I wonder where my next check will come from, I am able to get out of bed and start writing emails. These emails maybe pitching ideas to clients and potential customers or something else that I haven’t done before.

Once I have written those emails I am now able to go to bed and sleep.

I believe it is God who helped me get unstuck and even possibly some ideas.

Summary

Stanley’s Stages of Freelancer’s Anxiety

  1. Feeling of being overwhelmed which leads to anxiety that depresses me
  2. Making list of what I can do and what I have no control over
  3. Take action on what I can do

While these three things sometimes work, more than often this is really what is happening

  1. Anxious thoughts which paralyzes me
  2. Depression due to realizing how much of this is due to my past decisions putting me in this situation. [Beating myself up stage]
  3. Tears begin to flow that I have no way out of this situation.
  4. Brought to my knees in prayer where I am often yelling at God
  5. Slowly I am able to tell God what the problem is about
  6. Asking God to take action
  7. I remember how God has helped me before. This reminds me to trust that God will help me again
  8. While the problem doesn’t go away God has helped me become un-paralyzed.
  9. I am able to think of some things I can do to take action
  10. I realize I have done all that I can think of doing
  11. I am able to relax and have hope. Often because this happens in the night I am able to finally go to sleep.

A little girl jumping rope with her friends inTogo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
I suggest reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible. Here are five ways it can help you.

  1. They help you express our feelings in honest and healthy ways.
  2. They help shape your feelings, helping us interpret them in light of God’s redemptive plan for the entire world.
  3. They teach us more about ourselves by revealing our greatest need and how our minds and hearts influence our lives.
  4. They teach us more about God, his character and activity in us and the world.
  5. They reorient us to the truth of the gospel and how it transforms us from the inside out.

Photographers need to lead an organization of one

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Col. Tom Clark, director for Citadel’s Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, spoke last night to the Atlanta Citadel Club. Clark brought his leadership tool bag and the first thing he pulled out of the bag was a hammer.

When he was a cadet at the Citadel this was the tool used by the leadership at that time. The downside of this being your only tool is applying a hammer to every situation doesn’t get the results you are needing.

“Ever tried hammering a screw?”, was a question he asked us.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Then he pulled out a screwdriver which had many different tips that could be switched out.

This tool reminds us that we must look at the head of the screw and figure out which of the tips: Flat Head, Philips, Square or something else is needed to fit the head of the screw.

Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, also has a leadership tool bag he uses when talking to people about leadership. Dan Cathy has a slinky as one of his tools. Dan says:

Just as one end of the Slinky has to be the first to descend a staircase in order to put the whole thing in motion, leaders must be the first to move forward in any endeavor in order to put the rest of the team in unified motion. Just as the Slinky won’t work without one part of it “leading the charge”, any team endeavor we desire to complete—whether as a family, a group of friends, or an entire organization—will not happen unless a leader takes the first step. Let’s remember this the next time we’re on the precipice of a new endeavor, and let’s be leaders who get the whole thing moving.

Nikon D750,  AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Both Col. Tom Clark and Dan Cathy are leaders who teach leadership to people. They realize that these tool bags filled with examples are those “visual” reminders that help people grasp the concepts of good leadership and remind them to put those into practice.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/250

Compass as Ethics Tool

A compass is a relatively simple instrument based on a simple concept. With its northward facing needle, it is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. By placing “moral” in front of compass, we evoke a clear picture of mental processes that point a person in a particular direction in life. These processes are consistent and true indicators upon which personal belief and action can be based.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

No system of morality is accepted as universal. For many people they use their faith as the set of doctrines that will be their true north for their morality compass.

Leadership? But it is just me

You may have been passing over all those leadership books because you are just an independent photographer. You don’t even use assistants, so how could this possibly help me?

Glenn Gutek wrote that “Great Leadership Starts With Leading an Organization of One.” These are some great tips. There are two that I think many photographers would benefit from using that I want to highlight:

  1. Control Time–You should be always focused on your top priorities for that moment. When you get up and start your day the first things you do for your business should be the highest priorities. When you finish your day and go home then your priorities should be focused on your family and what is most important. Knowing how to get the most out of your time during the day is great leadership skill.
  2. Temper Emotions–This is the one thing I struggle the most about. The reason it is such a struggle is because I am so passionate about my work. You have to be to get emotionally impactful images. 
Gutek said about tempering emotions, “at times it is critical to practice the discipline of being dispassionate.
Being dispassionate allows a leader to protect the environment from becoming toxic and engaging in the wrong battles. Leaders should fuel their energy by investing in their passions, but keep things from running off the rails by not pouring gas on a volatile situation.”
Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/750

You are playing Chess not Checkers

The greatest thing you will learn in dealing with clients is how different each and every situation there is to one another.
Almost nothing looks more orderly than chess pieces before a match starts. The first move, however, begins a spiral into chaos. After both players move, 400 possible board setups exist. After the second pair of turns, there are 197,742 possible games, and after three moves, 121 million. – Popular Science

James 1:5

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

All these tool bags of leaders have one thing in common–Strategy. Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. 

Does your tool bag have only a hammer? What are you doing to learn about what tools are best to put into your leadership toolkit bag? 

Photographers be like farmers in the Springtime–Prepare the fields

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

This is a time you can drive around your neighborhood and see a major difference in lawn care. This photo shows just the difference between spreading Weed & Feed with watering can make in the appearance of your lawn.

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.

B. C. Forbes

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

A few weeks ago I decided to really tackle the problem with bare spots on my yard. Well actually they are bigger than spots. There is a lot of shade so this will always be an area that needs more work than the sunny sections of the yard.

I went to HomeDepot and bought Powermate 10 in. 43 cc 2-Cycle Gas Cultivator to help turn the soil with the Rebel tall fescue, pelletized limestone, & Vigoro 15m weed & feed.

Just two weeks later and you can see in these photos the results of a much greener yard.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

Now here you can see the areas I didn’t cultivate did not produce as much grass. Some grass seed and fertilizer fell in those areas but the difference was in the turning the soil about 2″ – 3″ that buried the seeds and helped them grow.

With just celebrating Easter at our church I was reminded of the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told.

Matthew 13: 3-9
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Photographer Tips:

You reap what you sow. We have all heard this before, but what can a photographer learn from this? You need to go back to your present clients and reconnect with them. You need to give them more information about you and what new things you are doing. This is like fertilizing your yard.

Now some ground is hard as rock. A farmer uses a tiller to break up ground that has not been farmed or has become extremely hard. A farmer uses a cultivator for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season and mixing compost into the soil.

You may have to do a lot a leg work and go and really beat the pavement finding those new clients. You may need to have some good examples to leave with them either through your website, e-newsletter, or printed material. You may need to get some friends that work with those potential clients to help introduce you and break the ice for you.

Competition:

Even Jesus knew that your competition will try and sabotage all your good work. He told a parable about it as well. It follows the Parable of the Sower:

Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. 

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

They didn’t have weed & feed in those days. We as photographers may not have the weed control to put out either, but the lesson is clear others will try and attack you at times. Be careful at trying to fix this–you could end up damaging the good seed you did plant.

The message is clear to have a big harvest requires you to work the field. You need to get that tiller and break up the really hard ground. You need to use the cultivator to mix the seed and fertilizer. You will need to then water the field as well if you expect to see a crop that will be worthy of harvesting.

You can’t reap what you do not sow.

The Crisis Threatening Professional Photography

Mark E. Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at University of Georgia, Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/20 [photo by Robin Nelson]

I have been speaking to college photography students for many years. Mark E. Johnson has invited me to speak for the last several years to his students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.  This is Mark talking to the class just before he introduced me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/12 [photo by Robin Nelson]
GROSSEXPENSES = PROFIT

I talk to the class about Business and Marketing Skills: How to make a living as a photographer. For most of the class I was explaining what are all the expenses the students needed to consider. The problem is getting a realistic understanding of all the money going out. Most people can see what is coming in, but really struggle with the going out to run a healthy business. Remember knowledge is power. That power gives you the ability to ask the right price for the job.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/10 [photo by Robin Nelson]

Just like the storyline starting with the WHY? is what I was trying to drive home.

The only thing stopping the students in the class from doing what they want to do starting right now is only income to cover their expenses. When I asked them what stands in the way of you doing what you want to do right now, it took a while for them to see money was the obstacle.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 [photo by Robin Nelson]

PANIC

There is no other way to describe the face expressions of the students than as Panic stricken.  After I showed them some ballpark number for living expenses and business expenses they were intimidated that they will be having to ask people to pay them a figure that they were uncomfortable with for themselves.

The wakeup was happening in the class. I have to charge WHAT? But they also understood why–to pay all the expenses like their mortgage and car payment for example.

Derek Jeter talked about how 70% of the time he was failing. That is what a 300+ batting average is all about. Failing 7 out of 10 times at bat.

I talked with the students that most successful businesses are usually 90% failure. 9 out of 10 people are not going to buy your product.

Mark Johnson made a very interesting comment in the class. He asked them the last time they went grocery shopping how many things did they buy. He then pointed out how many products were in the store that they didn’t buy.

SUMMARY

The crisis is avoidable. You really need to know all your expenses and then charge enough that your income is greater than your expenses.

In some ways this is like the ice bucket challenge. Being willing to take that ice cold water bath is worth it.

Do you know your expenses?