Business Tips from Truett Cathy for Photographers

Truett Cathy promoting his book “How did you do it, Truett?”

Shortly after making this photo of Truett Cathy I was asked to be on retainer for Chick-fil-A. For the past six years I have had the privilege to work with such a wonderful organization.

I have learned a great deal from Truett Cathy and here are some of those tips for you.

Truett Cathy the founder of Chick-fil-A had a Bible verse he used as a compass for his life.
Proverbs 22:1 — “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches and loving favor than silver and gold.” [King James Version (KJV)]
Here is a more modern translation from The Voice that I prefer, “A good reputation is preferable to riches, and the approval of others is better than precious silver or gold.”
Every time I was around Truett I was inspired and entertained. He loved to have fun as hard as he worked.
Here are some quotes from Truett that I think every business person should adopt and would make them more successful.
“Fall in love with your work and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Truett would follow up this comment with if you are not having fun then you are not doing something right. 
One of the keys to understanding this principle is learning the difference between GIVING and GETTING. 
Too many people are focused on themselves. Its not all about you. Once you understand this it is easier to experience the joy of life.
“My riches are my family and my foster children. I try to store any material wealth in my hand, not my heart, so that I always feel free to give it away when the opportunity rises.” 

Being around Truett you see that he was very frugal and when he did spend money he was often getting a great deal. I heard more stories about a great deal Truett would get and I was always impressed.
“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else—our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”
No strings attached was the way Truett operated. He was the first to put a restaurant into a mall and to get people aware of his Chick-fil-A sandwich he gave away free samples.
If you met Truett you most likely were give a BOG—Be Our Guest card. All you had to do is go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant and give them the card and they gave you a sandwich. You don’t have to buy anything to get it.
“My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”
Everyday Chick-fil-a is checking to see that their standards for food preparation are at the highest they can be. They hire consultants to come into their restaurants and measure the operational side of the business. They look for ways to improve the experience for the customer and cut waste.
Chick-fil-A has a training program that helps not just train but retrain everyone to keep the customer always first. 
“Many of the unexpected opportunities we encounter are small but significant.”

Words are carefully analyzed so that the customer feels appreciated. Truett Cathy trained the entire workforce that when someone says thank you the proper response is “My Pleasure.” I learned more about this little phrase through the years. 
You see many people respond with “No Problem” when they are thanked. I was taught that “No Problem” communicates that this is not my job but I did it anyway. However, the phrase “My Pleasure” communicates that it is my job and I love to help you.
“Looking back I can see that I had been preparing for twenty-one years to open the first Chick-fil-A restaurant.”
Truett started the Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA back in 1946. He expanded to two restaurants, but one day the second one burned down. He started the restaurant with his brother Ben, but two years into their business Ben died in a plane crash.
Later the original Dwarf House had a fire and over the weekend Truett made all the repairs and kept on going.
“Sometimes success is disguised as hard work.”
As you can see there were many opportunities for Truett to give up and do something else.
Many of my photographer colleagues are going through some tough times. Other than winning the lottery the only other way for success is hard work.
“One of the most meaningful truisms I have learned about leadership is that it’s all about action.”
I have talked to many photographers who are struggling and the most common thing I hear from them is I know what I should do, I just don’t get around to doing it.

Truett learned his work ethic from his mother. Truett was moved to tears during an interview. The person interviewing Truett asked if he was OK. Truett said he just realized that the only time he ever saw his mother’s eyes closed was when she was in the coffin.

While Truett worked very hard he also will most likely be remembered for the blue signs for Chick-fil-A on the highways which also say, “Closed on Sunday.”

“Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are. Thus, a business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.”

Years ago one magazine wrote about the success of Chick-fil-A making about 1.5 Billion that year. They said that being closed on Sunday left half a billion dollars on the table. When someone asked Truett about it, he disagreed.

Truett believed by giving all his employees one day a week off that they worked harder those six days. The restaurants that never close drain their employees. They need a day of rest to be with their families and go to church if they choose.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing? I can hardly wait to get here.”

Truett was in his forties when he invented the Chicken Sandwich. He was 46 when the first Chick-fil-A restaurant open in Greenbriar Mall.

Truett was 52, the same age I am, when he started Team Member Scholarship Program and was 63 when he started the WinShape foundation.

At the age of 92 Truett was still working and open Truett’s Luau in Fayetteville, GA. A new menu, a new concept and new restaurant was what he created.

Truett passed the baton to his son Dan when Truett was 92 years old. This past Monday Truett Cathy passed away at the age of 93.

Here are a few more quotes for you from Truett:

Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits. 

By ‘staying small,’ we also remain sensitive to the needs of others around us. 

As long as you are being kind to your customers why not be kind to each other. 

I realized the importance of doing a job and doing it right. Pleasing your customers and enjoying what you’re doing. 

I worked hard for a C, but I had to work… I find that most successful people are C students. 

I say the world is ruled by C students cause I was in that category, I didn’t get to go to college, because I was drafted when I finished, soon after I finished high school. 

More tips from Truett

Eleven Dos and Don’ts of Proven Entrepreneurial Success by S. Truett Cathy

Don’t be a Naysayer

This photo is of the Mexico/US border in Douglas, Arizona. A record number of children are now crossing the Mexican border without their parents. You can read more about this here. Why? They are desperate to solve a problem they have and even risking their lives in the middle of the desert is better to them than remaining in their situation.

I mention this as to remind us that when people come to you with a problem you are either part of the solution or not.


nay•say•er: a person who says something will not work or is not possible : a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something

For many years while I was a staff photographer I was classified by people as a “naysayer” due to how often people came to me to ask me to do something and I explained why it wasn’t possible.

I remember the moment when it finally hit me how negative I was being when my co-worker jokingly said that I always was saying no. While I was hurt by the comment I realized he was right.

Are you a Naysayer?

My experience has been there are more naysayers on staffs than freelance. You cannot grow your business by saying no. You must learn how to say yes. Those freelancers who say no too often are soon looking for another career. However being on a staff their is a little more protection to being negative. However this has a time limit as well.

A good clue that you might be a naysayer is other people are starting to do what you perceived as your job.

“Why are they bringing in an outsider to do what I am suppose to be doing?” is a question that you might be asking if you are a naysayer. While working as a staff photographer for a college I couldn’t understand why the admissions office was hiring freelance photographers to shoot their recruiting catalogues.

This is not always due to being a naysayer. Many colleges around the country have staff photographers who do most all the work for a school. However, when it comes to the advertising of the school, they are looking for a particular style. As long as you are offering to help them and the photographer coming in to shoot then you should be fine.

If you feel threatened by this outside photographer take a deep breath. Ask yourself has anyone come to me and I answered them with reasons their request isn’t possible. If you did then you should feel threatened.

Too often people take the attitude that is their job and the rules say I have this responsibility. You do have this until you start becoming an obstacle to people in the company trying to get their projects done.

Be an Optimist

The opposite of the naysayer is the optimist. When people come to you with a request learn how to turn their request into a reality. While someone’s request has some really huge problems look first for something positive. Big clue if nothing seems good about their request at the bare minimum you can start with being excited that they came to you with their idea.

“I am honored that you thought of me to help you with your project,” is a great way to start on a positive note.

When talking about an obstacle that needs to be addressed be sure to talk about a solution. Let’s say you don’t have a particular piece of equipment to make that happen. Tell them if we can rent or buy a piece that you don’t have that it would make it possible. Maybe you just need an extra hand to make it happen. You know for me to move the couch from this room to another I just need some help carrying it, would you or can you find someone to help? I am more than willing, but am busy at the moment and could use some help to find another person.

The trick is to let them know from your experience that we need to address something for their to be success.  I am more than willing to help you, but my boss has me working on these projects. While I can ask him/her to let me help you it would be better for you to make the request for my time.

Remember Storyline

If you look at the elements of storyline it will help remind you why you need to be the optimist and not the naysayer.

The person coming to you has a Conflict/Task and they are looking to you to help them as a Guide/Resource. If you say no, their issue didn’t go away. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz she will move on down the yellow brick road to find the solution to her problem.

The difference between the Optimist and the Naysayer is the Assignment they give to the person. Give them the solutions [Actions] that will help their story turn into a Comedy and not a Tragedy. You saying no is just not an option to someone who needs to solve a problem.

When someone proposes a new program that will compete with your program tell them how you want to help and really need to understand their goals. Also ask for their critique on how the present program you are doing isn’t meeting those needs. DON’T be quick to defend your program.

If you listen you may learn that your program isn’t serving all the needs or maybe you need to just tweak the communication about your program to show how it is addressing those needs. Either way there is a perception that is not meeting the needs of the audience.

Your role may change going forward, but by learning how to listen and adjust you make yourself more valuable to them and the organization.

As long as you are helping the organization address the new issues facing it then you are part of the solution and will have a job in the future. If you try and protect and keep things the way they are you are not growing and slowly helping the organization die.

Photographers you will lose clients

Sometimes you will feel like this UNC football player being swarmed by LSU. Your competition seems to have the upper hand and no matter what you do nothing seems to be working.

No matter which play you run you feel that have it in for you. Your competition is taking you down day after day.

You then try to take them out in some way and they seem to be just beyond your reach and you just cannot catch them at all.

Why the sports analogy?

How many teams this year will have a losing season? How many of these teams pack it up and get out of the game?

You need to acknowledge first that you will lose occasionally. The Super Bowl Champions this year were the Seattle Seahawks. They lost 3 games last year and were the best team in the league. Very seldom does the Super Bowl Champions have a perfect record. If they do the year before or after they have losses.

You need to be realistic about how often you are losing a client. It happens for a variety of reasons. Most of the reasons you lose a client are often out of your control. You played your best possible game and the other team had some advantage that day.

Do you have cheerleaders?

One of the best things I have going for me is my family that cheers me on everyday. I even have some clients that sell me to their friends and that helps me get new clients.

Sometimes it is just one person that helps keep you going, but that is what you need. Be sure you have people around you that are your cheerleaders.

Do you have a coach?

Also, you need a coach. This is someone who is watching what you are doing and talks to you about your strategy. You can have people cheering you on that just want you to succeed and without the coach to give you a reality check you will soon be cut from the industry.

Take the time to do like every football team and go and review the tapes of the games. Analyze your actions and see if there is something you can do to improve your game.

Another thing that all sports teams do before playing a team is to analyze their game footage. Remember those who are beating you all the time know your game. They beat you because they can see your weakness and exploit that with the client.

Did you see the NFL draft?

Last night the NFL teams picked new talent and traded talent off their teams. They have analyzed their weaknesses and are making changes for next season.

This summer they will have workouts and refine their team even more than today.

What are you doing today that you need to stop? What are you not offering your clients that you need to add to your skills?

If you have been through a losing season then this is the time to rebuild. Maybe you need to go to a workshop like the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Workshop where you learn how to tell stories using audio, video and stills.

Call me and take a one day personal workshop on lighting or business practices. This is  a capital investment. Just like the teams that pay a lot to get the first round pick you need to invest into your business or you may have another losing season.

Biggest mistake made by photographers

The hardest assignments for me are the most personal ones to cover for our family. While I want to just sit back and enjoy, I also want to be sure these milestones in our family life has been documented.

When I arrive to cover an event I am often setting up strobes to be sure I get good light on the people’s faces. For this event I setup two strobes off to the sides to be sure the speakers had good light on them.

This photo was taken without the flashes going off, so I have circled where they are in the room. The flash on the left is the Nikon SB-800 and the one on the right is my Nikon SB-900.

They are both on the Pocketwizard TT5. I am using Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand – 6.2′ (1.9m) I chose this light stand because of how small it folds up [19.3″ (49cm)] for easy travel through airports. To connect the Pocketwizard TT5 to the lightstand I am using Interfit Metal Umbrella Bracket with Adjustable Flash Shoe.

To trigger the flashes I am using the Pocketwizard TT1 with the AC3 to control the flash output on the TTL setting. This way the camera sensor is helping determine the flash output of the flashes.

I guess you can see this is a little involved over just pulling out the camera and shooting some available light photos or even using an on-camera flash. I want the photos to look great, not just usable. I am documenting the most important events in our family history. My family will cherish these photos much more than if I had great photos of the President of the United States.

Here are some of the photos from our event celebrating my wife getting the 2014 Pioneering Ministry Award from Columbia Theological Seminary for her work doing chaplaincy work with journalists, Citadel parents and now military families.

What is the biggest mistake made by photographers? Photographers often put more effort into covering events for clients and not enough into their own families. What is the most important?

While your clients will pay the bills, the photos you do of your friends and family events are the ones you will be most remembered for doing.

You know what happens when you do this consistently? Your clients start getting your best coverage as well—they are now treated as family. Every business should be doing the very same thing for their families, treating them with your best efforts.

Is your life as a photographer a good story? Here is how to make it better.

To be the subject of a story that is compelling requires the subject to be called to a task that is outside their comfort zone. It is necessary for the subject’s survival and to the benefit of others.

Donald Miller is a best-selling American author and public speaker based in Portland, Oregon. He writes a great deal about storyline on his blog here  Miller says that a story is a sense-making device. A good story brings about clarity whereas our normal lives seem disjointed.

Miller uses the parallel of music and how it parallels story. Sounds are just noise until they are put into a form. That form transforms the noise into music. A storyline is no different to Miller. The author has put together a series of events so as to be told through a set form.

This is the basic formula that not only Miller uses to tell many stories but movies like the Hunger Games and Star Wars used.

The very first thing that takes place for a character in a story is a conflict must happen or you will lose the audience.

When you are just enjoying your life and you are doing everything to keep some normalcy into your life this is a sure sign of a boring story.

Here in this sports photo of a quarterback being pursued by what looks like most of the defense and no one between them you have all the makings of the story, minus the ending. The character has a problem of getting tackled. He has trained up to now in practices and with a coaching staff to prepare for this moment. All this is implied with the school team uniform. The task is simple move the ball forward to keep the ball for your team or make a touchdown. The outcome is either a comedy or tragedy.

This is John Howard Griffin transformed as a black man while he was doing the research for his book Black Like Me. Sitting beside Griffin is the photographer Don Rutledge who followed him documenting his trials as a black man in the south. This was done in 1959 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

John Howard Griffin walking down street in New Orleans.

The two of them traveling together through the deep south for the book was extremely dangerous. Paul Guihard was a French journalist covering the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1960s. He was murdered in rioting at the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford after James Meredith attempted to enroll at the all-white school. He was shot in the back at almost point-blank range by an unknown assailant near the Lyceum building. Guihard’s case was closed without success and never re-investigated. In his last dispatch made the very same day, he had written “The Civil War has never ended.”

Just taking on this project was a story in itself. Not only was Griffin a character in the story, Don Rutledge was also being transformed through the coverage.

I remember Don trying out new camera systems that would stretch him to learn the new system and in doing so it stretched his photography. He was always putting himself in new situations to capture new stories. By the end of his career he had traveled into more than 150+ countries of the world.


Some of the best stories are not the ones that are the big hit on New York Times best books or the blockbusters in Hollywood. The best stories are the ones that are most clearly told.

You see our lives are like run on sentences. What we do throughout our days are often not a great sequence for a story. It is quite disjointed.

A great story starts by establishing the hero of the story and the problem they face going forward.

The best way for you to grow is to get out of your comfort zone.

I am not qualified

Too often you will turn down great opportunities because you feel ill equipped. Hey that is the problem facing Luke Skywalker. He will go off and meet Yoda to train and have him help him with a game plan.

I bought this Dodge Viper model for $12 and then spent time lighting an all black car to make it interesting. This was my way of challenging myself for a day in the studio.

Find a problem

Step One—The first thing to grow as a photographer is to find a problem. maybe it is a story that is difficult or maybe it is getting a photo of something from an angle no one has done before. Whatever it is you need to have a problem you need to tackle.

Step Two—Find a guide to help you. This means you either find resources through reading, videos or maybe find someone who can teach you. Most likely the guide you look to will be someone who has been there and done that.

Step Three—Make an action plan on how you will go forward to deal with your problem.

Step Four—Take action. Don’t procrastinate. Go and get your feet wet.

Step Five—Evaluate yourself. Was this a comedy or tragedy? It is a good story either way and you will learn something from it that will equip you to go forward. 

What’s The Lighthouse for your career?

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/300

The two main purposes of a lighthouse are to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas. It is like a traffic sign on the sea.

When you are at sea and trying to find your port having a lighthouse to help guide you will improve the success of locating your destination.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/8000

What can a photographer use as a lighthouse to help them navigate their career?

First you really need to know what you want to do with your photography. Who has the job that you want to do? That is the best question to start with on your journey.

You may be like millions of photographers who all want to work for National Geographic Magazine. The good thing about picking somewhere like this is you can actually meet those photographers. Most all of them teach classes and workshops where you can pay to pick their brain.

I know this because I did just that in the 1980s. I studied with Steve McCurry at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine. Steve looked at everyone’s work in our class and would answer any of our questions during our week with him.

The best part was he told us his career path. I quickly learned that one couldn’t just duplicate those paths taken by previous photographers. He crossed over illegally into Afghanistan to get the photo of the lady on the cover of National Geographic Magazine and was sending his Kodachrome film to his sister, a school teacher, to then send on to the magazine. Prior to this he worked at a small newspaper a couple of years.

During my time with Steve McCurry and also with other photographers like Don Rutledge I soon learned there are things I needed to master to move my career along a path to success.

List of things one must master

  1. Master your Camera
  2. Master digital workflow
  3. Master Visual Composition
  4. Master Lighting
  5. Become an “EXPERT” on your subject
  6. Know your audience
  7. Create “UNIQUE” images

Master your Camera—This takes a while to truly be able to pick up your camera and make it do what you want it to do for you. This is the same as one who will be able to sit down at a concert piano and be able to play whatever music there is to play. I found with most photographers this will take around a five years.

Master Digital Workflow—This is everything that comes after the capture of the image to the client. We often refer to this as post processing. This is where you are understanding the color space that you are working in and what color space you are delivering your images for usage. This is where you are able to take the well exposed images you captured and then maximize the dynamic range for the outlet.

Master Visual Composition—This is where you are able to capture moments that communicate mood and message that you intended to capture.

Master Lighting—First you must recognize good light and be able to capture it. This is where you are putting yourself in the position to capture the best images of a subject. For example you are planning your shoot to take advantage of the natural daylight that will show off the subject in the best possible way to capture the mood and message you were wanting. Second, you know how to use artificial light to enhance the scene to create those moods and messaging the way you intended and not just the way it looks.

Become an “EXPERT” on the Subject—This is the number one and most important aspect on the list which can help set you apart from most any other photographer. I went on to seminary to get advanced degree in my subject matter to help me separate my knowledge of religion from that of many of my other photographer friends who enjoyed covering religion. After following and working at Georgia Tech for more than 10 years I pretty much knew the campus better than just about anyone. This helped me for covering sports, the classroom and research.

Know Your Audience—In business we talk about SUPPLY and DEMAND. While you may have lot of great images the thing that will determine you putting food on the table and a room over your head is DEMAND.  What is your audience interested in about the subject. Just like a good writer know the reading level of their audience so their text is written for that audience a photographer must understand enough about the audience to know how to engage them. Going off to war and photographing the grotesque can be a major mistake. You may need to filter how you cover the war so as to not have your audience avoid looking at the images.

Create “UNIQUE” images—If the people you are going to approach to buy your work could have shot the same image then what good are you to them? You need to surprize them in some way with images that they would not have taken themselves. Maybe the only difference is the way you light something and sometimes it may be quite elaborate remote camera that let you get a photo that is not possible without the special gear. Just remember to supply images that not everyone could easily do if they were there.

The reality is that it takes quite a bit more than talent alone. In fact, talent is only a small part of the equation. Tenacity, the ability to handle severe rejection, perseverance, and a good team are what get you to the next level.

You need to have others look at your work and help give you honest feedback.

When it comes to a successful career other things for consideration: your look, attitude, personality, style of photography, fan base, tear sheets, that certain intangible X factor, and most importantly, that undeniable outstanding portfolio.

It has been said that “practice makes perfect,” but in reality, that statement is incorrect — it should be rewritten to state that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect practice is a form of rehearsal during which you remain cognizant and analyze what you are doing. For instance, are you delving into bad habits?

The more intentional you are in acquiring the skills necessary to capture the subject you are becoming an expert in will help set you up to just possibly have a life long career as a professional photographer. You must be committed enough that you are pouring your life into this career. 

Found my solution to sync Macbook Pro, iPad and Android phone on Maverick OS

I need all of these to sync in addition to another backup Macbook Pro [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/500]

Having my email, contacts and calendar on my Macbook Pro, iPad and Android phone was at one time working, then Apple introduced Mavericks OS.

What I had learned through one of my clients is Microsoft Exchange works great doing this. I had an account with the client and no matter which device I was on everything synced great.
When Apple stopped supporting syncing of their iCalendar and Contacts with Outlook 2011 with their Mavericks OS I had to find something.
The solution was simple, find a exchange hosting solution. Since I was already using Godaddy I checked out their Office 365.
Watch the video here and you will get the basic idea of what is does for you.

One more thing I am now doing that I could not do before using my backup Macbook Pro running Outlook. Now I can use my backup Macbook Pro without fear of screwing up my email, contacts or calendar.

Since I already had an account with Godaddy the additional cost was only $3.99 a month. I went ahead and paid for two years for $95.

I use Outlook as my assistant. It keeps me organized.

Photographers: How to turn a “Cold Call” into a “Warm Welcome”

No matter if you are using a phone or meeting someone in person who you do not know you are “Cold Calling.” Now if you play it right this could be a “Warm Welcome.”

COLD CALLING is the sales process of approaching prospective customers or clients—typically via telephone, by email or through making a connection on a social network—who were not expecting such an interaction. The word “cold” is used because the person receiving the call is not expecting a call or has not specifically asked to be contacted by a sales person. A cold call is usually the start of a sales process generally known as telemarketing.

WARM WELCOME is a hearty, hospitable reception or greeting, as in We got a very warm welcome when we finally arrived.

My friend and I have met with a few photographers who are struggling these days. Today we had lunch with another newspaper photographer who had been laid off. Sadly this is happening a lot these days.

First of all this feels like crap for anyone going through this and I have been through it two times. We wanted to let the person know from the get go that this has nothing to do with their skills but was most likely a numbers game. When that happens you often will see some folks who kept their jobs while you lost yours and it is hard to see the logic.

The great thing about this photographer is they are taking their time to asses their situation. They are also not sitting still either. This photographer had already created categories that he will put later on his website. Personally this photographers work was awesome. I wish I had all those images in my portfolio.

The photographer had some names of folks he was going to call. This is great that he had a portfolio just moments from being on his website and had some contacts already.

Between my friend and I we had about 70 years of experience. This tip we shared with him didn’t exist for us until later in our careers.

What to avoid

The surest way to hit a dead end with a potential client is to ask them questions that are simple “Yes” or “No” answers.

Do you have any photography jobs that I can help you with? The answer is “Yes” or “No.”

What to do

Ask questions that are open ended and more about the person and less about you and your photography. For someone just laid off they can call up someone and ask if they would meet with them. They explain that they were just laid off and would like to pick their brain.

Ask questions like from your experience if you could go back and start over what would you recommend to someone like me? People like being asked for their expertise and they most likely will talk to you.

Asking them for guidance and suggestions creates a sense of you seeking advice which is much different than you asking for a job.

Some of the best folks to talk to are those who also went through a layoff themselves.  Surprisingly you will find many folks have been through this before. Most of them have a great deal of empathy and will offer some words of their wisdom.

Ask them before you leave if their is someone else that they recommend you talk to that could help them. Ask then if they mind if they told the new person that they referred them, most of the time they will and this will help you get that next appointment.

Asking someone to look through your work and recommend how they might arrange it is a great way to get your work seen and keep the dialogue open with them.

You are starting a relationship

It is much easier to follow up with them and say you listened to them and took their advice. You have done some things and wanted them to review with your the changes you have made. Again, no need to ask for work.

Actually the best advice I could ever give here is a simple observation. Those who are genuinely interested in building lasting relationships with people and not just using them are the ones who are the most successful in life.

If you ask for all this advice and never follow up to show the person how you listened and would like them to see what you have done, then they know you were there only for a job and not a relationship.

Tom Kennedy the director of photography at the time for National Geographic had Don Rutledge my mentor contact him and ask to take him to lunch. Don continued to every few months stop by and just enjoy lunch with Tom. Tom would also do the same thing with Don after a while.

One day Tom asked Don why he had never asked for work from Tom. Tom then said that Don was the only photographer he had ever met that ever did this. Tom discovered that Don was truly interested in just having a friend.

You see many people through the years had done the same to Don that photographers had done with Tom. They were not interested in a friendship, they just wanted a job.

My long term goal for my career is to one day be working with my friends.  Guess what–that day is now for me. The reason is I really did want a relationship with people and not just their money.

The Importance of a photography community–that you belong to one

Ben Gray, Visual Manager at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was our keynote speaker. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/110]

While I have tried for many years to get a large group of photographers together for mainly social time to get to know each other, it has been a struggle. However, this weekend we had thirty-two people show up for our meeting of Christian in Photojournalism Atlanta/Southeast at our home in Roswell, GA.

I was talking to my friend Ken Touchton and he said he wasn’t surprised because we had basically created a mini conference.

Berrie Smith, camera repairman, who works with Nikon and Canon on a regular basis was there cleaning people’s camera sensors and doing some minor repairs. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/8, 1/125 with fill-flash set at -1 EV]

We had a keynote speaker, a devotional, camera repairs and complimentary lunch provided by Chick-fil-A.

Dorie Griggs, led our devotional time [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/100]

Dorie Griggs reminded each of us while our jobs may isolate us from one another that we do need to come together and rely on each other for support.

1 Peter 4:10
New International Version (NIV)
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

The Bible verse she used to remind us that we are to use our gifts to reconnect with one another was 1 Peter 4:10.

Craig Carden and John Bazee discover that they have a great deal in common. Both have worked for radio stations, love music and photography. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/50]

What was different from most photography communities is we encouraged spouses and significant others to come to the meeting. The reason is they are part of our support system. Those who support photographers have a lot in common as well they found out.

Also, spouses enjoyed meeting their spouses colleagues and getting another perspective on someone else who is also doing photography.

Peggy Frazeur and Carrie Carden spend some time getting to know each other for the first time at this meeting.  [Nikon D4, 85mm, ƒ/3.5, ISO 8000, 1/200]

Since I am a photographer more than a writer I am hoping that these photographs are helping you see the emotional connections that were being made and the enjoyment people showed in being in this environment. Most everyone commented how this was a blessing for them.

I think coming together and talking to others doing photography makes a huge difference in our emotional condition. Of course people were bringing their latest cameras to show to each other. We are all have to be a gear-head to be a successful photographer and finding something that is helping us do a better job is so exciting we enjoy sharing with someone. The big hit with most folks was pulling out their mirrorless cameras and showing all that these cameras will do that fit in a pocket.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/50]

In December the Atlanta Journal-Constitution laid off all of their 10 photographers. They then gave each of them first shot at one of their 7 their new multimedia specialist positions. They no longer have just a photographer position anymore on their staff. Ben is also no longer just at the desk, he is out covering breaking news every day. In this role he is often the only AJC journalist on news scenes and is relied on to provide still photos, video, audio and reporting with accuracy and immediacy. He frequently contributes video to WSB-TV and audio to WSB Radio in the course of his work.

We asked him to walk through a typical assignment and how he gathers all this for all those outlets.

Ben’s Breaking News Workflow:

  • Get photos first: He arrived at airplane crash and knew from experience that he would be moved back by the police as they established the boundaries. “I can get quotes later, but I cannot get the photos later.” He has an Eye-fi card in the camera. He just tags a photo and the camera is setup to automatically send the photo using his hotspot to send those to the newspaper/radio/TV station where they can pull those while he continues to work.
  • Shoot Video on iPhone: He shoots 10 second clips that they post to the websites and WSB-TV can use as well. If they arrive with a crew he doesn’t have to send the video.
  • Reporting Role: He is gathering audio with his iPhone and then he sends these interviews by email to the assignment desk where they have a writer turn this into copy for the web. 
  • Touches base with assignment desk: They may call and ask for more.
  • Formal editing: He will do minor editing of image and captioning to add to the galleries online. He will also check the photos that were pulled from his photos that were automatically transmitted. He has pulled photos off the web that accidentally showed a dead person in a photo for example
Gibbs Frazuer is one of the people who shared their work. We have always given 2 – 5 minutes for anyone to share their work. This is a great way for all of us to see what each other is doing and also a great time for us to practice showing our work. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/35]
[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/25]
Our First Project
I wanted to introduce the idea of shooting a project where we could each find a person and tell their story. To introduce the idea I showed Chick-fil-A’s Every Life Has a Story.

We are all going to find a subject and put together a package which we will share at our next meeting. We are hoping to then find a space to hold an event where we can invite the subjects and the community to see the stories and maybe for us to leave an exhibit up of some prints from those stories.

Enjoying our Chick-fil-A sandwiches and getting to know one another. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/200]

When we all arrived everyone was meeting new people for the first time. In one way or another we asked each other, “So what’s your story?” We all want to connect with each other. We not only want to connect through getting to know someone’s story, we also want to share our story.

Dorie Griggs and Laura Espeut wanted a photo together. That is what friends do when they get together–smile. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/80]

Do you have a community? Look for a community to join and if there is not one you can find, then start one yourself.

Remember this is what God intended as we see in 1 Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Once you understand God’s grace you cannot help but want to pay it forward through service to others.

So, when are you getting together with some photographers?

Successful photographers focus on two things others do not

Benjamin Franklin is often quoted that he wasn’t sure if the painted image carved on the chair used by George Washington during the Constitutional Convention, was a sun rising or setting. However, when the Constitution was finally approved and signed he declared, “I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, not a setting sun.”

What Changed?

The key to seeing things in a positive light, like Benjamin Franklin, is focus on the future and not on the past.

I cannot go to a single photographer forum online and not see a lot of heated, sometimes bitter debates going back and forth about how things used to be and how something has now changed.

Instead of people looking to how to go forward, they are looking for whom to blame.

Years ago executives didn’t write their own letters. They didn’t even have a typewriter. They had secretaries do all this for them. They dictated their letters and memos. I remember this being the case up until the mid 1990’s for many companies.

Then came along computers. It took a while for their adoption in the work place. Executives today do all their own correspondence for the most part and may have someone help if they are that busy and have the funds for the assistance.

I can see more and more executives in the future doing even more due to the ease of the technology to create.

Where the professional communicators are going to be finding work is in consulting and helping executives. But doing the day-to-day work will disappear.

The problem is the monetization of the new model of the future–whatever that will be I don’t know.

Facebook is one of the ways I get a lot of news and no it isn’t all from newspapers. A lot are from twitter feeds and people posting their own content–what Patch is doing.

We need to quit bitching and complaining about the model we know that is disappearing. We need to be relevant and creating content that commands attention. Just because you have been shooting for 20 years does not mean everyone needs to hire you to accomplish his or her goals.

Stop over analyzing what was and focus more on the clients and your audience. We have focused way too much on the subject and gear and totally forgotten what we create is for–an audience and a client.

1) Audience and 2) Clients

In order to get jobs as a photographer you must have a portfolio that shows that you are what clients need to solve their problems today and into the near future.

You need to first master the craft before people can hire you to shoot. The problem is that this is where most photographers stop in their growth.

The problem most photographers have and is similar to their clients is understanding what their audience wants and needs. Too many photographers focus so much of their attention on a subject that they are not aware that the audience doesn’t care about it or just as bad that the market is so over flooded with photographers shooting that subject that it is almost impossible to monetize that subject.

Great examples of two markets that are saturated with photographers are weddings and sports. This is not to say you cannot be extremely successful, but just hanging a shingle out and offering photographic services will not make you successful.

Successful photographers are migrants.

A migrant is an itinerant worker who travels from one area to another in search of work.

If you are also willing to learn another language you open the door to even more possibilities with your camera. While one town may have their market saturated with photographers, other communities around the world do not. If your desire is to stay where you are in the house you grew up in, then you may have to become quite creative to find or create the market for your talents.

When the audience and client are the same, this is when you have a Business to Customer [B2C] model. This is the wedding photographers and most portrait photographers market.

When the audience and the client are separate, this is the Business to Business [B2B] model for a photographer. This is where the media, corporations, and small business use photography to reach an audience.

Whoever pays you is the client. The audience is not always your client.

The thing that is appealing about B2C is you only need to understand one group rather than two when doing B2B.

When you are staff, it is quite easy not to understand the business side of the industry. Someone else, your employer, is taking care of it for you. This is where the lack of understanding this can mean that your employer turns many of your ideas for subject matter down. You fail to understand how this story can be monetized. The idea you submitted lacks an audience. Start thinking like the publisher and really connect with your audience and you will help grow the business.

“If you build it, they will come.” — Field of Dreams (1989)

“This is actually bad advice from the movie Field of Dreams. Why bad advice? Most startups focus so much on product (building it!) that they forget about customers and network: Customers, because they need to pay for it, and network, because without a community of power fans around your start-up, it will be very hard to scale.” — Scott Case, chief executive of Startup America and founder of Priceline

I love the movie Field of Dreams. There are some great things to learn from the movie, but I would have to agree with Scott Case on the odds of this model working.

You success will determine if you are forward thinking like a chess player. While you might still be starting out, you still need to think moves ahead.

You can still have problems just like a chess player. But by planning and thinking about the audience and client you are now focusing on your revenue stream and not just on the fun of shooting photos.

How to make the change

Let say you have been photographing a subject for years and are an expert on it. Maybe you have been covering coffee as I have been.

Take a moment and write a list of all the people who would be interested in your subject. Here is mine on Coffee.

  • Coffee Farmers
  • Coffee Cooperatives
  • Coffee Roasters
  • Restaurants
  • Coffee Industry
    • Trade Organization
    • Media for the market
  • Coffee Drinkers
There could be more to add to the list, but you get the idea. Go back through the list and distinguish if they are a client or the audience. Further break it down by identifying the audiences for each client.
Here is an example:
  • Coffee Farmers’ Audience
    • Coffee Roasters
      • Cooperative
      • Local 
      • International
    • Coffee Drinkers
      • They roast and sell to directly
      • Providing content to their clients that help them connect to their customers [drinkers]
After you do this then you go and start looking for content that will help them. When you pitch this to those clients and audience you do so with a hook that addresses the simple question-WHY?
The second question that follows the Why?–is the How? question. How will this help the audience and connect with them?
Focus your action plans for your business on the Audience and the Client to achieve success.