Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Breaking News... There is no resession!

The recession in the USA must be a total hoax. American businesses must be doing very very well.

This is based on the fact that I recently called three companies that have huge ads in Photoshop User Magazine (one had a two page ad) and 2 companies didn't answer their phone after it rang for over a minute. The third company put me on hold so long I just hung up. Nice to see they are sooo busy that they can ignore the most basic rule of customer service, answer the phone before the 3rd ring.

Then I tried to order some custom printed Gift Cards from Marathon Press, had my Visa card in hand. BUT unlike every on-line ordering system in the world, you can't open and account and just log on, place your order and pay them. You have to phone them, tell them you want to order on-line, they will give you your user ID and Password "within 24-48 hours". Obviously in no hurry to get my order or my money. Nor do they accept PayPal, the world's largest on-line secure payment system.

They did send me my user ID and password and both are unchangeable, the password is so obscure that it is impossible to remember and I have to look it up each time.

Nice to see they are sooo busy that they can ignore the second and third rule of customer service, make it easy for people to deal with you, and make it easy for people to pay you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

CS4 Upgrade

Well I finally upgraded to CS4 yesterday and got a great deal $159.20 from Adobe (Thank you NAPP for the discount code). Saved another $20 on shipping because it was a download.

I always forget what a pain "upgrades" are. Yes new features, bugs fixed, faster. BUT I always forget about having to shut down the studio for a few hours while I convert this, install that, try to find my unlock code on the email that arrives 4 hours after my download, call the support line, try to find my English-Hindi Dictionary. OK truth is that both of the support people I talked to did speak reasonable English. But my problem was with installing the "Goodies" download. Goodies are all the features I loved in CS3 that were dropped from CS4.
At one point I was ready to punch the computer screen.
But it's all up and running smoothly now.
Now I just need to get used to the new screen layout, strange new buttons and new menus.

All Inspired

I was watching a DVD of another photographer doing a studio shoot. I love that stuff. They always seem to drop something small in passing that makes my day, some little tidbit about a technique or sales tip, or a joke I can steal.

Oh sure they talk lighting and posing but I've seen that a million times. Same old - Same old.

But today after watching the newest DVD I got all inspired to simplify my lighting (theirs was not simple). On location I always just bring white umbrellas and I'm always amazed by the lighting they give. I confess I am seldom thrilled by softboxes, yet use them in the studio "because everyone else is doing it". This morning I replaced my 36X48" softbox with a 42" white umbrella (US$16?). And in a small studio like mine, do I even need a fill light? On location in a brides home, executives office or a board room my 42" white umbrella seems to give me great directional light with enough bounce off the ceiling and walls for a perfect fill ratio.

So with this rainy weekend I will do some studio test shots with this new simple lighting.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Artists? Us?

Saturday I was asked to judge the photographic entries at the Orchid Society of Ottawa's show. The photos were grouped in with the oil paintings, watercolors and sculptures of Orchids. The lady judging the sculptures showed me some that she said had taken months to complete. It was the same with the paintings, days or weeks to complete.
Our photographs... 1/125 of a second.

Yes, I realize it is more complex than that. But as I looked at the other "art" I couldn't help but think that we photographers have a lot more to learn if we want to call ourselves "artists".

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Idiot in Florida

I just got off the phone from a "new photographer" from Florida. Just started into this business and his wife decided my portrait price list was the best one to copy.
He noticed the pdf file was password protected and asked me to send him the original unprotected pdf file so he "wouldn't have to spend hours retyping my descriptions etc."
He seemed surprised when I said No.

Too lazy to figure out his own prices, too lazy to retype mine. Yup, he's going far in this business.

Students are idiots too

I got a phone call today from a photography student looking for "a summer... ugh..you know, job.. ugh... employment".

I told him I wasn't hiring, try Photolux.
"Photolux?" he said "Yes, Photolux" I said.
"Ugh.. do you have their phone number?"

Too lazy to look up the number himself I guess. Maybe he should move to Florida.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wedding Bookings Down?

Many studios are complaining they are not booking enough weddings. The funny thing is that the marketplace is a great judge of the desirability of your product in comparison to the price you are asking.

I am not suggesting that their wedding photography is not good. I am saying that the "marketplace" is not willing to pay what you are asking for what you are offering.

Either make your product more unique, or adjust the quality/price ratio.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Key Rap

I am almost lost for words. My wife and I, along with our daughters and their boyfriends attended a bridal fair here in Ottawa today. As you would imagine my interest was the other "wedding photographers". Yes, there were a couple of really good ones there like Photolux and Jerome Scullino. But most of the others were displaying sample photos that were nothing short of brutal.

Has "professional wedding photography" come to this I wondered. Photographs that were not even up to good amateur standards, then very poorly printed, flat and off colour.

This has to hurt the whole industry.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What happened?

I was talking to an old friend yesterday, another great photographer complaining that he has not booked one wedding for this year yet. Seems like all the once great photographers are having a hard time lately... I had to assume the problem is with us. Not the economy, not all the weekend warriors... us. Did we get fat and lazy?

Weren't we the ones that with the cutting edge style? Famous for being Avant-garde?
Is it all our fault... have we become main stream?
The more I look at the struggling once great photographers the more I see boring work.

Guy's advice

I was listening to Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check today (yes listening to, an Audio Book in my car) and he discusses having a mantra instead of a mission statement. I like that.
Mission Statements are a joke, something corporations put together with a committee using meaningless feel good Oprahisms, only to be forgotten before the ink is dry.

Mantras, a simple 3 or 4 word phase summing up what the company (studio) is truly about.
Always loved mine "Soft, Warm & Natural".
It started as a description of my photography style and became the way I do business.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sales Advice

One of the advantages of doing executive portraits is picking the brains of CEO's, Mayors, and other successful people. Recently I had the opportunity of photographing the region's best known corporate sales trainer.

So I asked him, "If you could give someone the most important piece of sales advice, what would it be?".

He said "Ask a lot of questions, find out exactly what their expectations are".

I thought it was brilliant.

It's Only Windex!

It was finally warm enough today to take my car to the car wash. It really needed all that salt and winter dirt removed. I decided to just get the cheap exterior wash for $11, not my usual deluxe package for $30. Usually for the first wash of the year I get the $54 package and they shampoo the carpets, but that could wait until the snow was all gone, maybe in a week or two.

The inside of my windows needed to be cleaned so I offered to pay extra to have them use a little Windex. Nope, we don't do that with the Exterior Package the lady said. I offered again to pay extra, again she said No. Then I handed her my "Wash Club" card (10 washes and the 11th is free) and she stamped my 10th circle. It was obvious I was a regular customer, having spent over $300 in car washes. But I guess customer service was not this ladies strong point.

I am considering going to try out their competition, it's amazing how one stupid employee can cost you a regular customer.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Does Size Matter?

I have long wanted to change the name of 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 to Small, Medium and Large. That way it would allow me to adjust the actual size to fit the image, for example a Small could be 3X5, 4X5 or 4X6.
I had a thought this morning; maybe instead of Small, Medium and Large it might be trendier to call them Tall, Grande and Venti. It works for Starbucks.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How Long Will Your Digital Files Last?

I was watching the news CBS show "Sunday Morning" and they had a segment about how audio tapes, videos, and digital files become lost over time.
Some degraded over time, some lost because of the changing technology making it impossible to find software or hardware to play the old (yet still in useable condition) files.

Here are a couple of things that surprised me.

The Library of Congress is scanning and archiving photos in what they have decided is the best and most common format for the longest and safest life, "Tiff".
Yes, Tiff. Not PSD, not Jpeg and not Adobe's DGN.

They also interviewed a digital archive expert who said that the life expectancy of hard drives is five years. He also said the the "low end" life expectancy of CD's and DVD's

is also about five years. The safest CD and DVD storage is in a cool dry place.

He also said that you should expect to recopy everything and resave it in whatever the current best system is at that time, every ten years.

- Makes me wonder if selling the image files might be a way moving the responsibility of archiving to the client.
- Makes me think we should never claim to store these images forever.
- Makes me wonder if we do sell image files that we make the client sign a document relieving us of any long term liability for the stability of the files.
- Makes me wonder if brides who just buy the images on CD will have nothing to show of their wedding by their 5th anniversary.

As always, lots of questions and no answers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I think I screwed up.

I was reading about the resurgence of vinyl records, yup making a comeback. Not as you would suspect with the audiophiles but with the 20-30 some-things.

CD’s of course killed the sales of Vinyl, now downloaded MP3’s are killing CD sales… and now vinyl is on the rise. Funny eh?

So I wonder if I screwed up big time selling off all my pro 6x7 film camera equipment on eBay when I decided to go fully digital.

In retrospect, I think if I was still shooting film I would be an apple among the 4 billion oranges out there. A big fish in a very small pond… and that’s what marketing is all about. I’m such an idiot!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Digerati R Us

Definition of Digerati: People who are knowledgeable about digital technologies such as computer programming and design.

I wonder with our new skill sets if we are now more Digerati than just Photographers.
Maybe I need to update my business card.

Eerie Coincidence?

With digital technology being the death or at least crippling of so many photo studios is it a coincidence that the letters in DIGITAL CAMERA rearrange to form DIE MAGICAL ART.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bottled Water

I just saw another article about bottled water, claiming once again that bottled water is no better for you than regular water, but people are spending a billion dollars a year for what they can get for free.

What writers don't realize is that you are not paying for the water, water is available free all over.
But you can't just fill your pockets from your tap and carry it around until you're thirsty.
Nor would many people enjoy drinking from a public water fountain with the gum, spit and backwash.

People are paying for security and portability.

A good lesson for photographers, what are people really paying you for?


Still looking for mats

What's the deal with folders? With all the progress in photography why is it that the only inexpensive option to present our photos in is folders? Basically the same style and colours they have been using since about 1932. Same tacky embossing, same paper stock, many with the same serrated edges my great grandparents photos are in.

For years I have been looking for plain mats, the same ones you would see on every "art print" in any gallery in the world. Simple and cheap, a 5x7 opening in an 8x10 mat, available in white and black. Cheaper to produce than a folder, it would present our photographs as "art".

The folders companies are complaining about poor sales, yet keep trying to sell folders that have been unchanged for decades.


My response to Bruce Hudson

I just received an invitation to a webinar on producing studio newsletters from Bruce Hudson (my buddy of about 20+ years.) and his son Josh.
The Subject line read: Is Business Slow? Try a Newsletter! Let Bruce Show you EXACTLY how to Write one!

I had to respond:
No way Dude!! It should read; Is Business Slow? Try a Newsletter! Let ROBIN Show you EXACTLY how to Write one!
My eNewsletter is way better than yours...

I have Angel our "Official Greeter and Mascot" (OK yes I stole that idea from your "Retouch the Cat")

I have "Squeaky the Duck" our lovable and little goofy guy (OK yes I stole that idea from you, you have Josh)

I have "Photowalks" (OK yes I stole that idea from you, you have the in studio lessons for your clients)
I have "Pet Fest" with donations going to the Humane Society (OK yes I stole that idea from you)

I have "Time to update your Business Portrait" (OK yes I stole that idea from you too)
I also have a Blog "Insane Ramblings of a Rogue Master Photographer" but it hasn't gone live yet.

Jeez, I'm not looking too good here... But my color scheme is different! That's it!... Woo Hoo!!... I am Creative, and not just ripping off Bruce Hudson.
I feel better now.

Ask me... go ahead and ask me if I think I am getting my money's worth from My Monthly Mentor... just ask me.

Robin Spencer
Head of the R and D department
(In my case Rip-Off and Duplicate"

Histograms Smistograms

I got a call from an older photographer the other day. This guy loves photography and been to every seminar and convention in North America for years. Nice guy.
Always has the latest equipment. But confessed to me that he just can't get this digital thing, histograms.. colour spaces, Photoshop etc.
Just not happy with the results.

Then last night I was talking to a lady photographer, a really good photographer, nicest person you would ever meet.

She tells me she shoots jpeg. I asked her if she was shooting sRGB or Adobe 1998, and what white balance she was shooting.
She had no idea what I was talking about, never heard of sRGB or Adobe 1998, "Auto, white balance I think".
"I'm not good with the tech stuff" she said.
Don't get me wrong, she is a great photographer, "The lab tweaks it for me" she says.

It all just struck me as funny the two extremes dealing with digital. One obsessed with the tech stuff, one just shoots using the camera settings right out of the box.

Sorry to say I identified with the older guy's frustration and was inspired by the lady’s "I'm not good with the tech stuff" attitude.

Love the obvious cliche's: Can't teach an old dog new tricks and womens "not good with the tech stuff". Love it!

Probably explains why my kids point and shoot digital photos always come out looking perfect, with no adjustments, no overrides, no histograms, no Adobe 1998 – sRGB controversy and taken to Costco for printing.