This is how I start most days–a cup of coffee. Everyone has a time of day that we are most productive. Over time we most likely try to be most productive during our sweet spot of the day.
Today more than any other time in my life trying to get any message to an audience is more like trying to getting people’s attention on the highway.
Do Billboards Work?
According to the Arbitron study, billboard advertising is effective. According to the study, which reported that 71 percent of Americans “often look at the messages on roadside billboards,” a majority of Americans at one time or another learned about an event that interested them or a restaurant they later patronized.
However, consumers are no longer looking at billboards in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago. While they may still be considered a premium advertising space, consumers are engrossed in their smart phones, tablets, and gaming systems. Eyes are down, not up, for much of our lives.
Six Words or Six Seconds
Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard. So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.
In the 1990s we started to call the internet the Superhighway. Our messaging has become more like a billboard on the highway.
If you can get your message to be short and sweet and it delivers all one needs to know to take action then you are poised to make people’s daily commute in life worthwhile and more productive.
The More Billboards, The Better.
Being sure your audience is getting your message on the highways often requires more billboards. Your message must be concise. As billboard experts will tell you if you are using a headline that explains your visual, you’re wasting words.
When your are limited to 5 to 10 seconds for messaging, you need to be sure they see it. You need your billboard on the bypass and downtown as well to be sure you are reaching your audience.
Engage & Deliver
We all get ticked when someone takes more of our time because they are not well organized. I get even more frustrated when someone has done a great job of hooking me and leading me through well written or visual communication, but in the end don’t deliver.
Before you can talk you must listen.
In most conversations, the person who speaks least benefits most and the person who speaks most benefits least. This is why social media is often preferred over main stream media, they get to talk and be heard on those platforms.
Instagram, Facebook, Google, Pinterest
Today due to Starbucks, Seinfeld and Friends in the late 80s and early 90s we have the third space–The coffee shop. Today brands are realizing that people are looking for an experience. They are looking for a place beyond work for an encounter that leaves an impression. They want a place they can interact with others.
BREAKTHROUGH with your audience!
Don’t think of your job as creating content. Think of your job being like a counselor, parent or friend. If you really care for someone you want to know how they are doing. You want them to be happy.
As a counselor you are trained to not just take what someone is telling you are being the real problem. Often what they are talking about is a symptom.
As a parent you tend to know your child’s personality and how that can shape how they see the world and how this can affect their child’s view of circumstances.
As a friend you often tolerate some traits because you know their heart.
Can you as a communicator say you know your audience well enough to know their hopes and fears?
Your breakthrough is probably pretty simple, but it will start first with you understanding others more than just knowing yourself and what you can do.
Sometimes your breakthrough isn’t about your skills or service at all. Often it will be in helping someone with something other than your product.
Look what guides on of the Gold Standard brands the Ritz Carlton:
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
I love the words “Genuine Care” in that first sentence.
Genuine – truly what something is said to be; authentic.
On your camera you can pick your ISO setting or you can pick Auto ISO.
On my Nikon D5 you choose the ISO setting and then you can toggle right into the AUTO ISO setup screen.
You pick your range of the lowest ISO and the highest ISO you want the camera to use. This is great for the photographer who says I like up to only ISO 5000 and while another photographer is ok with ISO 102400.
On the Nikon D5 you also can set the maximum ISO when the flash is detected. This works with the flashes using the hotshoe and have TTL.
Now in photography we talk about the exposure triangle. All three of these controls together can over expose, under expose or properly expose a photo.
When you set your camera to Aperture priority then you set the Aperture and the camera will adjust the shutter speed if you have chosen a specific ISO like ISO 100.
If you are in Shutter-Speed priority, you pick the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture.
Now if you have AUTO ISO picked the Auto ISO will pick the lowest ISO as the Shutter-Speed you selected and then you can control the Aperture when in Aperture priority.
If you are in Manual mode and using AUTO ISO the camera will pick the lowest ISO to expose the picture based on the Aperture and Shutter-Speed you picked.
If you choose to not use AUTO ISO then you must go and manually change this every time you change Aperture or Shutter-Speed and the camera let’s you know you are either over-exposed or under-exposed.
I found that 99% of the time the camera is making the same choice I would make when I set the AUTO ISO to what I want as the low and high ISO as well as the Shutter-Speed.
When I need to turn off the AUTO ISO for things like shooting with strobes on the Nikon D5 I just push the ISO button on the back and spin the front wheel and turn it off. To turn it back on I do the same thing.
Auto ISO for me is similar to anti-lock brakes on a car. The AUTO ISO will adjust the camera faster than I can and let’s me get more photos that are properly exposed.
Billy printed 11×14 prints and left a large area for each person to write their own words. One person took over a year to get the print back to Billy. When the guy talked about how hard it was to write what would most likely be his last words is when Billy realized these words were Epitaphs.
Blending words and pictures all started when Billy was a writer for a newspaper and wanted to take photos.
To hear more about how Billy became a photographer and the many other projects he is working on click on the video below to hear and see his presentation.
Many who first buy a camera put their camera on the Green “P” button or like on this camera the Green Camera. That is the mode where the camera does all the thinking for you.
Soon you realize to get the results that you were looking for you have to tell the camera what to do. This is when you start to learn what M, A, S and the other settings on that dial do other than the green camera or even the P mode.
When photographers start trying to make a living at this they look for the green “B” mode for their camera. They want a simple business mode that thinks for them and tell them what they need to do to be successful.
If they are not careful on some camera models the B mode is actually standing for “bulb” and that is another discussion for another day.
What prompted this blog post was a Facebook post.
Facebook post question: What is it that editors, photo buyers and parents are sick of the most as far as buying photos?
My first response: Photographer over explaining their prices. Just tell us the price. Give me a low, medium and high price option and let me pick.
Facebook response: Are you talking about editors parents or both?
My response: Everyone
Facebook Response: I just got fotobiz X. Is there a way to package that for people?
My long response:
Yes there is. The software is really designed for editorial, freelancers who do B2B verses B2C. However you can create your own price items. It doesn’t create a price list that you hand to people. It is used to create estimates and invoices.
I notice you and many others post a lot of detailed questions that really cannot be adequately answered on a Facebook or even blog post. Those questions about business are often show some lack of understanding of business practices.
This is quite common in photography. People take up photography and most realize at some point that putting their camera on “P” doesn’t mean professional photos.
The learning curve then becomes quite steep as they go from pointing and shooting to making the camera see the way they want it to see. Most will spend some money on classes or workshops.
Once you then decide to charge for your services and try to make money doing photography you quickly realize the “B” setting on trying to run your business doesn’t work. Well it is even more difficult than photography because there is no “B” setting.
You really need to take a class in business practices for the profession. You can pay a photographer with more than 3 years of experience that is successful to help you get started. I recommend talking to photographers who are members of ASMP.org or PPA.com. Both of these organizations have business practices at the core of the reason they were formed.
Because where you live can also impact how you run your business due to tax laws you also then need to talk to an accountant and an attorney. Each of the organizations have a list of those who work with photographers. Nothing can be worst than making money and then finding out that you owe more taxes because you didn’t do something right.
In most communities there is the US Small Business Administration that offers many classes for free. They want you to be successful. here is where you can find out more about their “FREE” help https://www.sba.gov/.
Going back to your original question that started this thread. You basically have asked about two types of businesses, one is business to business model and the other is business to customer.
Talking to a customer who is part of the industry [i.e. editor at publication] is totally different than talking to someone not a part of the industry [i.e. a mother wanting photos of the family]. One person hires photographers regularly and will talk a lot differently about hiring you.
While you can create a basic price list for services, in this industry you will find yourself having to create custom estimates pretty often. It is much easier to do when you understand the how you create a price for a service.
You have to know how much you have to bring home to cover your base. You know your phone, rent, gear, software, marketing materials and more are always ongoing expenses to run your business. You must know this number and if you don’t you cannot create a price for anything. You don’t even know what you must charge to break even.
99% of every photographer I have ever helped that came to me about business practices was losing money on every job. They were actually paying most people to shoot for them, but because they didn’t know what their bottom line was to run their business they were charging most of the time 50% or more lower than the price that they needed to break even.
Do you remember meeting your hero? Our daughter had just turned 4 years old when we were visiting Disney World. She was normally dressed in pink, but loved her Disney princess sneakers.
She ran over to Snow White to talk to her. Snow White even came out of character for a brief moment when Chelle told her to have a Happy Thanksgiving.
The Disney Princess Alice in Wonderland wasn’t just staying on script. They interacted with my daughter with where she was and made her day. Isn’t that what happens for our hero.
For my daughter she fell in love with their stories. Isn’t that how it happens no matter our age? We fall in love with their story. We want to meet them and interact with them.
I created a group called FOCUS. It stands for Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially. We are professional communicators who meet in various locations around Atlanta, throughout the year, to support each other and our work.
I had reached out to Billy Howard, Billy Weeks and Robin Nelson in the past to speak to the group. This is the first time that all three have agreed to be our keynote speakers.
All three of them are my Storyteller Heroes.
Here I am with two of my other Storyteller heroes Bill Bangham and Eugene Richards.
There is one thing to see your Hero from afar and it is quite another thing to meet them and ask questions.
This Saturday I am going to have an opportunity to not just see Billy Howard, Billy Weeks and Robin Nelson, but I am going to ask them some questions that have been on my mind.
You are invited as well to come and see their work and hear them talk about what they do in Storytelling.
You can just show up and hang out with us or you can let me know today you are coming and I will have a FREE Chick-fil-A Meal for you. I have to know today to have the meal for you.
If your plans change and you can join us then please just show up tomorrow.
Here are some tips for meeting your Hero:
Be a photojournalist – Take lots of candid photos. Tell a story with them. Capture emotion, not just posed smiles. Include shots of the venue to set the tone of your story. The little details matter. By doing this, you’ll be able to look back at your photos and relive the experience.
Stop taking photos – Don’t forget why you’re there. Put the camera down, breathe deeply, and let your gratitude fill you up. Look around at everyone else and know that you are sharing a special moment together. Be present.
If you speak with your hero – do one or more of the following: express gratitude, ask a good question, say something funny, or share a short but awesome story about how your hero changed your life.
If you don’t know about these guys work then go to their websites and learn all you can. They each have a following and clients seek them out for their projects. Come and learn why they are so special. I promise I will tell you more about them at the event.
A month from now I will be back in Kona, Hawaii to teach the YWAM School of Photography 1 portrait lighting and business practices for a week.
This group photo is last year’s class. This year’s group will be twice the size of last year.
While I will be teaching a great deal about lighting the business practices is the one thing that over the years has proven even more valuable to the classes.
“How do you make a living doing photography?”, is answered through solid business practices.
Knowing your Cost-Of-Doing-Business and how to price your work doesn’t get you clients. It only makes sure that you make money when you price jobs rather than losing money.
How do you get those clients? Well this is the Catch-22 of Freelancing.
When you are a professional photographer you are like every other business person. You are in the business of solving people and businesses problems through the use of photography.
What you need to be doing is interviewing people and listening. You need to find out what their problems are so that you can pitch to them solutions for which you can provide those services.
Having a portfolio is like any other business where you can display your wares, or as in this example Maine lobster buoys on the side of the road of commerce.
If the client know what they need then this works really well, except now your work is more of a commodity. This is an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service. Due to your work being seen as a commodity it is much harder to get prices that work with your Cost-Of-Doing-Business.
You need to be seen as a visionary for the person’s business and not just a commodity if you are in the creative arts type of a business.
You need to put yourself in situations where you get to listen to business people talk about what they do. You need to learn about their business. You need to ask questions that give you understanding.
Only when you really understand what problems they are facing with their business can you then think of ways that you can help solve some of those problems.
Now often they do not even know that your solution is to a problem they have. This will come over time where you start to recognize problems facing business owners and knowing that there are solutions you have done for others that could work for another business.
Here is the Catch-22 you must face each day to make a living as a photographer. You have solutions for a business to thrive, but you must first find a way to know what problem a particular business is facing before you can offer a solution.
Making this even more complicated is that if the client already knows what they need then you will be treated as a commodity. You need to be the photographer that has business solutions and not just the ability to take a picture.
I believe that many journalists look for validation that the work they are doing is important. I sure do look for it myself. I want to know that I am making a difference.
However, I believe that too many put that validation within the industry through awards that are for the most part given by the high priests of journalism. Awards like the Pulitzers and POYs are judged by our peers and not by our audience.
I stopped entering contests more than 25 years ago and only recently can articulate why. I felt like the awards didn’t validate if the stories I worked on made a difference in the audience’s lives.
When journalism is done right it is often a very slow pace of change that takes place in the communities that it serves. Sometimes the hardest part of the job is our impact can take years to see. Sometimes we often take credit for change we see that is really the work of others long before we came on to the scene.
We as journalists should really be looking to our audiences and how they are responding to our stories about our communities for validation.
Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.
We need to ask ourselves, “Who’s paying attention? Why does the story need to be told? Why should the audience care?”
When the inner drive in our souls is that of a calling to journalism then it is much easier to endure long time sometimes necessary for us to see any real change.
The times when I am most depressed from burnout is when I am no longer really in touch with the audience and really know what they care about. If there are stories we think they should care about and they don’t then this is where I struggle the most.
I have discovered when I see no impact from my work it is often because of the metaphors and simile that I maybe using does not resonate with the audience. I must really know my audience so that while doing the story I am thinking of what the audience would be interested in and why.
I think one of the best questions journalists should be asking of themselves is not how much time they spend on telling their stories, but rather how much time are they spending on getting to know their audience.
Once you have sought to understand your audience and your subject completely is only when great journalism can take place.
This is a family photo we did this year of our family with my wife’s family. One of our son’s couldn’t be there and had to work with a new job.
To get this final photo required me to be behind the camera saying “Do you want a treat?” to get the three dogs in the middle to look at the camera.
So this is actually the photo I took with me behind the camera.
Here are the steps to then add me into the photo with dogs looking the best.
Open photo with me in photo shop. Open the second photo in photo shop with dogs looking best. Select all and copy the photo of dogs best.
Go to the photo with me in it and paste the other photo on top of it.
You will now have two layers. the top will be the one with dogs looking best and I am not in the photo. See the copy of PhotoShop screen grab.
Now we need to create a mask. Down below the layers click on the mask.
It will now look like what I have screen grabbed here for you. Be sure the brackets are around the mask (white box) and that it is the top photo, which is the one without me. We are going to use the eraser and now erase the empty chair and reveal me.
You just need to brush me in. See the photo of the tools here. Pick the eraser. It has box around it.
Next be sure the foreground color is black and on top. This will let you erase me.
Now if you make a mistake you can then click so that the white is on top and use the same brush and brush back the photo on top.
As you brush you can see in the mask that what you brush over becomes black.
Now when we I finished and showed the photo they wanted the small dog on the far left to look at the camera as well. So I looked for a photo of the small dog looking great.
So I found this photo and then using the same technique brushed in the dog.
Here the tips you need to follow to make this work.
First put the camera on a sturdy tripod. You want to lock down the composition so that nothing changes.
Second do not change the zoom if you are using one.
Third if you are in the photo use the timer or use a remote to fire the camera. I had left my remote so I set the camera timer to 10 seconds.
Fourth, be sure you have good lighting on everyone. For this photo I used two Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT with MAGMOD MagSphere. Here is what the setup looked like:
One of the biggest things to ever hit photography was the move to digital.
No matter how experienced you were in photography if you were a film shooter and you went to digital you went through the digital learning curve.
In the 1980s I went through learning about computers. I remember learning Quicken to track my checkbook and credit cards. I used a dialup modem to connect to the internet and go to the NPPA forums where similar to the message board here was my first time connecting to photographers around the world.
Early 1990s I experienced the learning curve for scanning film and learning PhotoShop. I kept waiting for the digital camera to surpass the film so I could jump to digital capture.
In 2002 I bought my first digital Nikon D100 camera. Just one year earlier a similar 6 megapixel camera cost $25,000 and then I was able to buy the Nikon D100 for $1,999.
All my colleagues and newbies to photography were all part of the digital learning curve.
I remember being told to shoot Adobe RGB yet when I took the pictures to the local pro lab they came out all screwed up. This is when I started to learn about color space and realized the printers could read sRGB at the time and not Adobe RGB.
This is when photography workshops exploded. We all needed help to learn PhotoShop and then later Lightroom.
Other advances were also happening. Most in the industry with film were using the hot shoe Vivitar 283 which was an automatic flash where you dialed the output by picking yellow or red and if you bought the adapter you could control it by power.
Nikon introduced a pretty complex TTL hot shoe system that changed lighting. Again we needed workshops to learn to use them.
The web evolved from forums to delivering videos. Now you can Google almost anything on YouTube and find a video showing you how to do just about anything, including everything around photography.
This meant workshops started dropping off in attendance.
Camera stores started building online stores and that changed the industry as well.
We no longer have the entire industry on the same learning curve at the same time as we did with the change from film to digital capture.
Now we are back to where we were just before the digital revolution hit. We are talking about the subject.
Workshops now are coming full circle. We are now talking about how to make a living in this industry again that is concentrating on how to capture subjects and tell stories.
We are also talking about the business side as well. Great customer service and how to protect yourself when working with clients.
Who do we seek out now to listen to? I find now I am having a harder time to find those who are “trending”. There are just so many mediums in specialties that you may not even know about some incredible photographers because we no longer have just a few publications as in the past.
This is what we are looking for is those people producing great images and want to learn from them.
What I think we want more than anything now going forward is a way to find great work being produced all over the world.
The problem is that most pros are scared to promote other work in fear of losing work. Therefore how do you find great work? I think whoever creates the new place to point us to great work that is what will be the next big thing in photography.