Finding and Keeping Clients

In February I go to Hawaii to teach in a photography school. We’ll cover Lighting, the heart of photography, and Business Practices in Photography, the lifeblood of the business. Below are some of the points we’ll cover that might work for you in your industry.

Finding Clients
Before you start building a database of names determine your niche. Targeting the specific audience you need to address will make your research and set-up time more productive.
Get Organized

Software programs such as Microsoft Office that has Outlook, Word, Powerpoint and Excel are helpful in organizing your material. Also, these programs are integrated with Microsoft Word and facilitate merging your contacts into a snail mail or emailing.

You write one letter and the software will merge your contact information into each letter personalizing it. You can write one email and personalize it to a long list of contacts. 

It is quite common for me to think of a great tip that might help me get some jobs that I send out to a few hundred or thousands of contacts. Instead of the email coming to them with “To whom it may concern,” it is personalized with their name, like “Dear Steve.” 

What To Do With Collected Contacts
Set-up files in a database for the name of the company, the personal contact’s name, their address and phone numbers, email and website address. Assign each contact to a category.

I specialize in photographing people, but setting up a category for companies who hire photographers that photograph people is too broad. By assigning a contact to a category such as “Education” I can send a promotional piece to only those contacts in the education field. Assigning multiple categories to individual contacts further refines target marketing.

Contact management software has space for making notes. Keep this up-to-date as new information about your client comes to light. Use this field for their Facebook page and other information that don’t fit in any other field.

Time To Party
Parties (some parties) are a good way to build your database. Attend the “after-hours” events many civic and trade organizations sponsor that are designed to promote getting to know people and businesses in the area. Usually held monthly these events are great ways to meet a lot of folks and have fun doing so. It beats sitting at home with a computer.

Work The Room
Be sure you know your two-minute “elevator talk” about your business. Find someone you know. Get them to introduce you to the person to whom they are talking. Exchange business card and ask if you can follow up at another time for coffee or lunch. Be sure to give that person your full attention while you are with them, but move on after about five minutes. Remember, almost everyone in the room is there for the same reason you are, to meet people and find clients.

Be Relevant/Current
I recommend to the students to read industry magazines. Photo District News helps keep photographers informed on happenings in the world of photography. It is filled with the latest trends and techniques, business and legal news and new product reviews.
Contact information for magazines that might be interested in your work can usually be found in the masthead. Many magazines are online today. Read some back issues before contacting them. Offer a story idea to the editor. If you did your homework your idea should reflect the trends that are going on in the industry or plug into the style of that magazine.
Investigate – Dig Deep

Put on your investigative reporter hat and dig around for your niche. Use Google and type in your categories. Combine them with the word “organizations” and you will find many of the trade associations. When you find their websites click on the “About Us” section. It often will help you know the image the company is trying to convey. This is invaluable if you contact them and land an appointment.
Dale Carnegie said it best; “You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.”
Qualify Your Lead
I know of a photographer who contacted a designer for a couple years. The photographer sent out beautiful newsletters and promotional material. One day the photographer dropped off a portfolio and met the designer. He asked if he was the person that hired the photographers. He said no, that his boss picked the photographers; he just designed the pieces.

Connecting With A Client
If you find common interests with a prospect, you can establish a business relationship. In a prospect’s office look at: pictures and plaques on the wall; the books on the shelf; anything that shows their interest. Commenting on that interest is a good way to start a conversation. People love to talk about their interest. Try to find common ground for a friendship. People are more likely to buy from a friend than a salesman.
Sales consultant Jeffrey Gitomer says, “If you establish common ground with the other person, they will like you, believe you, begin to trust you, and connect with you on a deeper level; a ‘things-in-common’ level. The best way to win the connection is to first win the person.”
Finding clients is hard work. Keeping them is all-important.

Visual presentations for NGOs

Stanley Teaching
photo by Dennis Fahringer
If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words then a slide show is an entire book.
We’ve all endured dull evenings sitting in the dark looking at someone’s mind-numbing pictures of something they thought we would enjoy.
A slide show audience is usually a captive one; there is no escape. We owe it to those watching to present an interesting, educating even entertaining presentation.
Planning prior to the trip will change a deadly dose of the dulls into a motivating experience for the viewers.
We want know exactly what we will encounter when we arrive at the shoot, but there are some time-honored questions we’ll need to answer in order to tell the NGO’s story.
Listed below are a few guidelines that can help make a visual presentation people will appreciate and with a message they will understand.
Remember the purpose of the presentation: The presentation is to help the non-government organization. In any group, likely to see he presentation, there are possibilities for support for the NGO.
What is the GOAL?
It is to motivate people to action — be it prayer, giving or by becoming involved.
What is the REAL SUBJECT?
It’s people. Not buildings, wells, machinery nor the land. It is okay to photograph these things without people, but this shouldn’t be the focus. Present the NGO in human terms.
Who is the AUDIENCE?
Is it business people, civic clubs, the NGO’s support base, faith groups, agencies that give out grants? Make a list before the trip and look for tie-ins to these groups.
What’s the BUDGET?
What are the travel and post-production expenses? List other cost such as website.

Stay Specific:

Everything can’t be told. Pick the powerful images and subjects.
Perhaps show how the NGO has impacted a person or family. This approach helps the audience connect with those the NGO helps.

Use a storyline to arrange your coverage.

  1. Give an Overview of the Country
    1. Show the town
    2. Show the market place (show faces, how the people dress, their jobs)
  2. Highlight the work of the NGO
    1. Show a family
      1. Group photograph (dinner table)
      2. Individuals
    2. Show the NEEDS
      1. Why do they need the services of the NGO?
      2. What is being provided that meets a need: water, food and shelter?
    3. Show how the audience can support the NGO
      1. How they can volunteer
      2. Financial
        1. Equipment
        2. A Project
        3. Ongoing support of a person or family
  3. Specific Guidelines:
    1. Hold a visual on the screen for no more than ten seconds.
    2. Two to three seconds a shot is long enough for today’s TV and Internet savvy audience.
    3. A two to three minute presentation is ideal for the web. When presenting to a group give short presentations mixing these with a personal story or two. Allow time for questions.
    4. Write for the ear. Use short sentences.
    5. Record an interview and use sections of it in the presentation. People telling their story adds authenticity.
  1. DON’T
    1. Use too many pictures
    2. Show photos with exposure problems, with heads cut off or that need explaining. A picture should tell it’s own story.
  2. DO!!
    1. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Show the only the best.
    2. Use recorded script.
    3. KEEP IT SIMPLE!!!!!
  3. NOTES:
    1. Visual presentations are easy to update.
    2. Presentations should be tailored to fit the audience.
    3. Visual presentations can be used to get support for an NGO; also the NGO can use the presentation itself.
    4. Leave people wanting more. 

Tips When Hiring a Photographer

Want to know how to get the most for your money out of a photographer? Bring him in early in your planning.

Little girl chases down parachuting cows at the Chick-fil-A Bowl

Use photographers before they shoot

Clients benefit in several ways when they include the photographer as part of their creative team. Not only will the shoot go smother and faster, but more importantly, the photos will be just as you want them to be and your budget will go further.

The sooner the photographer is involved in the planning and preparation for the shoot the better.

After the concept and approach are determined in a planning session the client and I usually scout the locations together, if possible. While on location we determine the best time of day for the shoot based on the lighting. Scouting with the client makes it is easier for us to maximize the time at each location during the shoot.

During the planning session we discuss the feelings the photos need to invoke in the viewer. By working together from the beginning we are both better able to achieve our objective. Preplanning allows everyone to concentrate on the fine details when it truly counts – on the day of shoot.
During the actual shoot priorities can change. Certain shots emerge, as “must have” pictures, while others may become less essential than initially thought. Going for the best shots and dropping or limiting the others can stretch the budget yet still produce outstanding images.
Here is an example of stretching a photo budget. When working with universities and schools it is more expedient, since most general classrooms look alike, to set-up in only one classroom. The faculty and students rotate through the classroom where all the lights have been placed and the exposure and white balance determined. There is no need to move from building to building. This saves time and money.

Tennesse players celebrate
Tennessee cornerback Janzen Jackson (15)and teammate cornerback Eric Berry (14) celebrate defensive play against Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on December 31, 2009 in Atlanta, Ga.

As you consider your photo needs consider adding me to you creative team, that decision will save time and money and ensure a more productive and creative photo shoot.

I’m here to help, just give me a call.

Digital Photography – A Real Stimulus Package

My grandparents, aunts and uncles at Christmas in the 60’s

Ebenezer Scrooge would have loved digital photography.

Before his ever-faithful nephew gave him a digital camera Old Ebenezer would say, “Bah! Humbug! Every time I press that button it cost me money. And for what, fuzzy photos for future memories, assuming I want to remember any past Christmas.” (I know, I know, there weren’t any cameras in Victorian England… I’m just making a point here.)

Scrooge was right; back in the jolly of days of photographing Christmas with film it did cost us money every time we pushed that button. This had a great influence on how we made photos.

My family’s roots have a good amount of Scotch-Irish Penny-pinching heritage. Maybe your family used the camera like we did. We could squeeze a whole year of events on one roll.

In order to get as much for our film money as we could we wouldn’t waist a shot. We’d dress everyone in their Sunday best, make sure the sun was shining on their faces, backup to include as much as possible, have everyone look at the camera and say cheese. Then the one taking the picture says, “Ready, one, two, three …” then snap the shutter… once.

At Christmas we all gathered at our grandparent’s house. For the annual Family Christmas Photo we’d pull the sofa out from the wall, fill the sofa with the grandparents and grandkids and arrange everyone else – by height – behind the sofa. Next we put the camera on a tripod and set the self-timer. This was an important event so we’d take two shots to be sure we had it.


That’s me on the far left with all my cousins.

Ebenezer, before he got his digital, would have been pleased, well, at least he would have appreciated the economy of it all.

Now I don’t want to imply that digital photography is cheaper. You’ve got to buy a digital camera. While the simpler ones can be inexpensive, if you get serious about it, the cost of a whoop-t-do SLR digital camera can make you whish we were back in the days of film.

Next you need a computer, but most of us have one already. Then you need some software, but unless you’re serious about your photography you can get by with the software that comes with the camera.

However, the cost to shoot one photo is the same as making hundreds of photos when it comes to digital. Now we can take lots and lots of photos, pick the best ones and delete the rest.

This Christmas instead of having everyone stop what he or she is doing and look at the camera (or line-up behind the sofa) just photograph them as they are. Take photos of people interacting with each other this holiday season. Isn’t this why we look forward to this time of year—rekindling of relationships?


My daughter reacting to a present at her birthday party.

This season look at the edges of that LCD (screen) on the back of the camera just before you shoot. Do you need the back of Uncle Henry’s baldhead in the corner of the picture? Is that Aunt Mary’s foot sticking in the side? Do I need it in this picture? If my subject is my grandmother on the other side of the crowded room do I need all those folks facing all directions between my camera and her? Maybe I should zoom in or move closer or both.

But what if you do want the Christmas tree in the photo with the family? Move around and find an angle where the main subject is obvious and the complimentary subjects don’t take over the photo. Try being sure the main subject is closer to the camera and the other things are further away is one way.

Remember when people are talking—someone is listening. Be sure to take many photos so you can capture not just the enthusiasm of the talker, but also the interest (or not) of the listener. Wait for the conversation to switch and the roles reverse and make more photos.

Make pictures of people cooking, relaxing, in conversation with each other. Take photos of the outings to the ice rink, skiing, or whatever your traditions may be this season rather than just the posed shots.

Over time and through the years you will see some patterns. I had an uncle who took photos of my Dad each Christmas with his car. For several years my uncle made pictures of my Dad with his head under the hood of whatever car he had that year. It made a funny series when my uncle put them together in a slide show for the family one year. Here is David working on his Ford, here he is working on his Chevy, here his is with a new car…

So why is digital photography a real stimulus package? Because even Scrooge would take many more photos with his digital camera since it no longer cost more each time the button is pushed.

This digital stimulus package will improve your family photos and with no additional cost to take lots of pictures so you can edit down and just keep the good ones.

Keep your camera battery charged and remember to get those photos off the camera and into the computer so you can make even more memorable moments this holiday season.

Happy Holidays!

Learning from the Masters

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…
Last week someone said to me, “I love the Rembrandt lighting you used in the portrait of our CEO.” A day or so after that a photographer friend of mine mentioned that she could see Eugene Smith’s influence in my photography.
Well, I don’t mind telling you I felt really good. Those familiar with the work of Eugene Smith know how flattered I felt.
As my interest in photography developed (pardon the pun) I became fascinated with the work of great photographers. I studied their work until I felt I knew why they were considered Greats.
Several years into the profession I was privileged to work with Don Rutledge; an extraordinary photographer. Don had an encyclopedic knowledge of photographers both legendary and contemporary. 
 “Writers,” Don would say, “can talk at length about famous writers, but most photographers don’t know anything about the greats in our field. How can they expect to learn if they don’t study”?
An interest in learning from the masters can turn a trip to an art museum or a stroll through local art galleries into an exhilarating adventure.
What kind lighting did the painter use: Was it midday sun, window light or was it a single candle creating the mood?
Why did the artist choose this moment, that expression, those surroundings? This is a fascinating study and it all comes back to you as you are composing a photo a few days or even years later.
Just studying what was done alone doesn’t help much. It is necessary to learn how to replicate what you’ve learned. This knowledge along with your own way of “seeing” will one day result in your own style.
The best advice I ever received about developing a style of my own was, “Don’t worry about it.” That’s easy for some well-established pro to say to a fledging photographer.
However, he was right. Sure enough, someday someone will say how much they like your style. Don’t say, “Oh wow! I didn’t even know I had a style.” Be cool.
The style we see in other’s work is usually apparent in the way they handle (1) Lighting, (2) Composition and (3) the Moment.
Lighting creates mood. The warm light of an evening campfire sets the mood. What do we include in the photo we are about to make? What do we exclude? Is the girl facing the fire lost in thought when we shoot or is she looking into the shadows the texture of her skin catching the light? Do we wait to see her eyes or capture that tilt of her head that seems to say so much?
I cut my teeth in photography using the available light. It was a good five years before I started experimenting with studio lights. This was a good because I learned to see what is natural and then I learned to duplicate it with artificial lights.
Making a photograph that grabs the attention of the viewer is a good thing, but learning how to hold that attention can take time. Something that holds attention is called “the decisive moment.”
It’s easy to know the decisive moment in sports photography. A basket is made or the pass is caught. Knowing the decisive moment and capturing it with the camera is not exactly the same thing, but the capturing part can be learned.
At first glance a committee sitting around a conference table brings to mind all the excitement and action of a chess match. However, there is action there to capture just as in a sports event albeit more like golf than rugby. Still, there are pivotal moments that tell the story of what is transpiring in the meeting.
Some of the photographers I’ve studied and continue to study are: James Nachtwey, William Albert Allard, Sebastião Salgado, Dave Black, Eugene Smith, Carolyn Cole, Joanna Pinneo and Don Rutledge.

Google these names and check them out yourself. If you know of others whose work you appreciate please send me an email and let me know who they are. I am always looking to improve and grow.

Three Useful Doohickeys

Some communications professionals shoot their own pictures instead of hiring a professional photographer.

Whatever the reason for doing it themselves here are a few things they need to watch for and correct: 1 – Is the color correct? 2 – Are there dust spots in the pictures? 3 – Are the photos truly sharp?

Let’s look at these potential problems and see how to avoid them.

Number One:

Color calibrate the computer used when working with the photographs.

Here is a list of just a packages that will do the job:

* Pantone huey – $89

* Spyder3Express Color Calibration System – $89

* X-Rite Eye-One Display LT Color Management Solution – $139

ColorSpace Chart

Calibrating a monitor is adjusting it to a known color
space. There are a few different color spaces that are standards. The figure to the left gives a few. All devices have tolerances. Calibrating is basically adjusting the monitor to the closest known factor. The software places a color target on the monitor and uses the hardware sensor to read the color and make the adjustments automatically.

A CRT monitor (similar to older TVs) must be calibrated more often than a LCD flat screen. For a good illustration as to why monitors should be calibrated step into a store showing the same signal on several TVs and look at the variety of colors.

Now that the monitor is calibrated adjustments made to the pictures themselves will be more accurate in color, contrast and brightness. Calibration also cuts the number of surprises emerging from a printer.
Sensor ScopeNumber Two:

Cameras with interchangeable lenses (SLRs) need to have the sensor cleaned of dust. Many local camera stores offer this service for about $50.

I use the Delkins Sensor Scope Kit to service my cameras
myself. It comes with a magnifier that lets you see the dust on the
sensor once the mirror is locked up for cleaning. (See the illustration
on right) Here is a link to their website
There is a video on how to clean your sensor.

Clean sensors saves a lot of time spent in PhotoShop just repairing the
damage caused by dust. Often, with dirty sensors, a dust spot will be
almost impossible to remove with the software.


Number Three:
The last step – calibrate your lenses. No matter what camera/lens you buy, it’s almost certainly been mass-produced.

Even with the close tolerances adhered to by the better manufacturers; it is rare that perfection is achieved. If the camera body is “off” by a fraction and so is the lens the combination produces an image that is
soft. To be sure this is not the case the lens must be calibrated.

One tool for this is the LensAlign that sells for $179.

Here is a video for you to see how this works:

If all this takes more time and effort than is practical perhaps the communications professional should just hire me and let me worry about (and take care of) all this for them.

Shooting a Sphere Panoramic

This is a photo of me taken by my Uncle Knolan Benfield while I was shooting a Sphere Panoramic.

This shows the tripod head with the camera, special head and camera with 16mm lens. Here is the shot from this:

Clayton State University Center

Here are a few more for you to see:

Winshape Retreat – Courtyard

Winshape Retreat – Lower Patios

Georgia Tech College of Management Courtyard

LeCraw Auditorium at Georgia Tech


[vimeo w=549&h=309]
My friend Tony Messano talks about what he looks for when he hires a photographer in this video clip. Here is his website
The difference between two parties who compromise or collaborate is huge.
Compromising leads to disappointment with all parties. When the parties come together they have a creative idea or solution for a problem. Each party wants their idea out there more than the other one. In this scenario a watered down version of both ideas emerge. In the end no one is satisfied with the solution.
Collaboration isn’t about negotiating solutions. It starts where the parties come together and listening to each other. They are open to new ideas. This is where everyone realizes that alone no one gets their ideas implemented, but by partnering with others they can accomplish their goals.
Rowing is a good illustration on how to collaborate. It is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the United States.
The Harvard-Yale Boat Race or Harvard-Yale Regatta is an annual rowing race between Yale and Harvard universities. It is America’s oldest collegiate athletic competition. It takes place each year on Thames River, New London, Connecticut.
In this sport the team must work together. Each person has to stay in sync with his teammates. For me it is the perfect picture of collaboration.
If just one person is out of sync the team suffers.
When a client hires me they expect collaboration and not compromise. Trust is the foundation of this process. You must first trust to your clients, lower your barriers and be exposed.

Listen. Take notes while listening to the client. Note taking prevents you from responding to quickly with your ideas. Active listening means you ask questions to clarify and be sure you have their perspective. You may want to paraphrase their idea and ask if you have it right.
The key is understanding what they want to accomplish. You need to also listen and learn where they have very little room for flexibility. When the client feels like you know what they want and the parameters they are under you have the necessary information to be able to collaborate.
Meeting and exceeding the client’s expectations is easy, if you listen and check with the client to be sure you understand their project.
Many clients will have done an excellent job articulating their project from the very beginning. You still need to explore with them to understand how much flexibility they have. You still need to articulate their project in your own words. Skip this step and you will experience friction with the client.
All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. True friends collaborate rather than compromise.

The Ten-Thousand Rule

Malcolm Gladwell tells us The Ten-Thousand Rule is a key component to how successful we are.

In his book Outliers Gladwell points to a 1990s study of violinists done by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson.

Ericsson and his colleagues divided the violinists at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music into three groups: great players, good players and those unlikely to play professionally and intended to be school teachers. The different groupings of musicians were asked. “How many hours have you practiced since you first started playing?”

Most of the fiddlers began when they were about five. By the age of twenty the great players had put in ten thousand practice hours; the good students about eight thousand and the future music teachers had fiddled around for four thousand hours.

In his book Gladwell relates how the Beatles, Bill Gates, Bill Joy and other extraordinarily successful people have not only put in the ten thousand hours perfecting their craft, but they have done so in a astonishingly short time.

Gladwell makes it clear that there is a threshold one must meet to complete in almost any field. He uses basketball players and IQ scores as examples.

Nearly all basketball players are over six feet tall.
But the taller players are not necessarily the better players. However, to compete it will be difficult if you are not at least six feet tall.

There is a correlation between the six-foot threshold and an IQ of one hundred twenty. A one hundred twenty IQ is about the threshold for graduate school or other advanced learning. Just as being tall doesn’t bring success to basketball players having an IQ of two hundred or higher does not automatically insure success. However, there is a definite cut-off point for success in any business.

This holds true in the field of photography as well. David Lyman, the founder of The Maine Workshop, began each class with a discussion on creativity. Lyman says it is essential to “marry the intellect and the heart with the hands.”

He talks about how important persistence is to success and states that it takes about ten years to refine the craft of photography.

How do you get to be invited to play at Carnegie Hall? — by practice, practice, practice.

Bobby Fisher became a chess grandmaster in less than ten years, but it was close. It took him nine years.

Great artists are indeed talented, but talent can be wasted. The masters of their crafts combined their talent with the thousands of hours of work at the canvas, the instrument, the camera or the free-throw line. The Masters put in the ten thousand hours or more essential to master their chosen playing field.

This is good news for any aspiring professional photographer, rock star or whatever. Want to be one of the greatest in your field? – then put in the time. Ten thousand hours is a lot of time, but over the ten years it takes to perfect a task it breaks-down to fewer than three hours a day even if you’re Bobby Fisher.

Five Characteristic of Success

1. Persistence It takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours to refine a craft. Woody Allen says just showing up is 90%. The successful show up prepared. Watch out for the Draculas out there. They drain your time and you. Get rid of them.

2. Be Nice

3. Your Resources
Four people you need to get to know.
1. Teacher

2. Coach

3. Facilitators

4. Mentors

4. Be Skilled in Your Craft

5. Talent — Aptitude for the Profession

Earl Nightingale says that we can become an expert in our field in as little as five years. Malcolm Gladwell tells us the Great Players put in ten years. The trip of ten thousand hours can begin now.