Give yourself an assignment

I just got back from Hawaii and I’m excited. It was my fifth trip to Hawaii to teach, but photographically this was the best trip by far.

Why so? Well this time I had a couple of assignments.
On the drive over to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park my daughter calls me and says, “Daddy, I need some photos for of the volcano for my class at school. We’re studying the Earth’s crust and I thought the volcano would be a good way to show it.”
Listen, with an extraordinary assignment like that you give it all you got! I knew I needed to do an outstanding job for this client. Besides, this gave me the perfect opportunity to play with my new Nikon D3s.
At the Volcanoes Park I meet this Park Ranger and decide to interview her since she was bound to know more about it than I did (wouldn’t take much).
When I told her about my assignment and the intended audience she knew just what to do. We did the interview in one take. I got the feeling she’d done this before – what a pro.
Here’s what we did from my daughter’s class. You can see it for yourself.
[vimeo w=500&h=281]  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Stanley Leary on Vimeo.

Here’s another assignment I did while on the island.
I’d been to the luau the Island Breeze produces in Kona. I asked the folks at the school where I was teaching if there was a way we could set-up a shoot with these dancers. Don’t tell me luck has nothing to do with anything. One of the dancers with Island Breeze was actually in my class! Brooke Valle, the student, is also a professional dancer and travels the world full-time dancing.
I was able to photograph the women dancers and one of the guys who is a fire dancer. They were excited. We photographed the women one night at the home of Kamehemeha the Great, the first king to rule all the islands. The next night we photographed the fire dancer on the beach.
I used this as an opportunity to show the students how to silhouette the dancers and expose for the sky at dusk, which makes for a great looking sky, but puts dancers in the dark. Then I showed them how to use remote Nikon TTL flashes to light up the dancers and make them pop.
Here are the examples:
Here the dancers are silhouetted.
They are now revealed with the flash.
One of my favorites showing the king’s palace in the background.
The dancer is silhouetted.
Now he is revealed with the flash.
These self-assignments, well one assigned by my daughter, forced me to pre-plan. The photographs were better than in past trips and it was a lot of fun.

Want better travel photos? Do some research and preplan. You’ll be glad you did.

Here are some of the student’s first attempts working with studio lighting and off-camera flash after a few days in class.

[vimeo w=500&h=281]  Youth With A Mission Photography School 1 from Stanley Leary on Vimeo.

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.