Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Wedding Clue That Never Failed Me

I was quick to notice this small clue that would instantly tell me whether or not a bride would spend big on her wedding photos. This never failed me, not once in the 25 years I was booking and shooting weddings.

The size of her ring always told me in advance if she would buy my biggest package, and also buy lots of extras after the wedding.The bigger the diamond the bigger the sale. .

I never did figure if it was for the obvious reason... they had money. Or if they were just very visually oriented. I never figured that out, I just knew spotting a big diamond engagement ring meant a big sale for me.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Camera Does Not a Photographer Make

It took me 35 years in this business to realize that the art of photography has little to do with the camera.

Nikon, Canon or whatever you have doesn't really matter.

Learning to see, finding a creative angle, making people comfortable and "genuine" has much more to do with it than the right camera or the right lens. The subject and the way you portray it or them is the part that makes you a "Photographer".

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Swamped? You Must Be Doing Something Wrong.

I was talking to another professional photographer last month, she said she "was swamped with work". My immediate thought was wow she must be doing something wrong.

The idea that you are stressed by getting too much work, kind of spoiled the whole "do what you love" philosophy.

I am happy to say I work exactly as much as I want to. And I enjoy a nice balanced stress free life.

Based on the quality of your work and your level of service the buying public knows to the dollar how much you should be charging. Assuming you don't want to be working seven days a week or one day a week, if you are "swamped" you need to really consider raising your prices. If business is slow, your prices are probably too high for the quality of work you are doing compared to your competition. The obvious two choices are: get better, or lower your prices to increase sales volume.

Do you want to be run off your feet with work, probably not. Do you want to be just scraping by, probably not.

For me it's all about finding your balance, deciding how much you want to work, how much time you want to spend at the park, with the family, with friends, going to lunch or pursuing other favorite activities.

Remember the whole point of working for yourself is freedom. You decide how much you want to work, how much money to make and how many days off and how many holidays you will take.

When I was younger every weekend was spent doing weddings, evenings talking to clients, daytime assembling orders. It cost me a lot of family time and social opportunities. In this business trying to "do it all" is not the wisest move.

When it comes to pricing, always be testing different prices and packaging. Taking the easy way out and copying another photographers prices is usually a disaster. Their needs, their expenses or their goals will be different than yours.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

We Professional Photographers are a Clever Bunch

Well I spent much of my day revamping one of my websites. Yup I can do that, I'm no web expert but I got it done, it works and looks good.

Did some portraits, relaxed a couple with some humour and small talk, retouched some images in Photoshop, gave a great sales pitch (she booked), and worked on my taxes.

We professional photographers do pick up an odd combination of skills along the way don't we. I'm kind of proud of my profession for that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Old Lenses For New

Age has taken me from a wedding photographer to a portrait photographer. "Photography is a young man's (or woman's) game" another photographer once told me.

Over the last few years I have been selling off my wedding equipment and upgrading my portrait equipment. Replacing things like zoom lenses with the faster, clearer, sharper and higher "bokeh" making primes.

Now I'm all obsessed to buy the brand spanking new Fuji 90mm f/2.0 I have the 56mm f/1.2 and love it. Crazy sharp, super shallow DOF but I feel I have to almost climb on top of someone to get a tight head shot. So logic tells me the 90mm should do the trick.

Anyway the $1099 price tag... although probably justified is a little more than I could justify (I mean Hey, I could go to Japan for $1099). So I look in the studio cabinet and see not one but three zooms I very seldom use anymore. So they are off to eBay. The first one sold last night while I slept for $500.

I'm no stranger to eBay, back in February 2002(?) when I decided to go fully digital I sold off my film cameras for US$6000+. That really helped pay my winter bills, took us to the beaches of Cuba and bought me new studio lights.

I suspect most photographers love lenses just like ladies love shoes, we love them and collect them. So when you "need to" buy a new lens or more equipment see what you can get rid of first.

One thing I have found, as equipment and technology changes so quick in this business your equipment loses value quickly when it comes to reselling it. If you have equipment that is just gathering dust, sell it now!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Learning Wedding Photography From The Best... For Free

I love to learn, all the secrets, tips and tricks of this business. Even as a multi award winning professional wedding photographer often whenever I discovered I was free on the occasional Saturday I would phone up another local excellent wedding photographer and volunteer to assist them on a wedding. I would tell them if it was OK with them just to call their current wedding assistant, offer them the day off with full pay and I would take their place. I would work for free of course, a great learning experience for me.

Technical is technical of course and we all do that about the same way. But it was looking over their shoulder to study their posing, how to deal with clients, how to really connect them, how to deal with problems and how to make my life easier that I was interested in learning.

One of the first photographers I assisted was Guy Martin. A great photographer with a style that incorporated much more flair than mine. If memory serves Guy did a lot of shooting with a step stool, for a different, higher angle, giving a more flattering look to his brides. Guy also had a cooler in his trunk, full of soft drinks and water. Just to refresh the wedding party during the photos in the park.
He also carried a couple of clean white hand towels we would use to wipe the sweat from our faces. Ottawa summers can be hot and it was such a simple idea.  I have carried a towel in my car ever since.
He also brought along a fresh clean shirt to change in to after the park photos, before the reception.

Another photographer I assisted was Jérôme Scullino, without a doubt one of the most artist photographers I know. The wedding I assisted on was interesting to say the least, without going in to details one of the main wedding characters was either high or had real mental problems. The stress level was very high but Jérôme just rolled with it and was still able to turn out great photos in spite of the almost no win situation. Turning out stunning artistic photos was goal number one for him and no matter what the situation or what he had to do including removing his shirt and laying it on the ground so the bride could sit on it without getting her dress dirty. He was relentless in his pursuit of unique photos, unique angles, a real inspiration to watch.
All this in spite of the fact he was sick as a dog that day, very happy to have me along to help and drive for him.

I like to think I keep on good terms with "the competition". We refer each other work, help each other when someone is sick, and learn from each other.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Photographers Emergency Wedding Kit

I'm sure I stole this idea off another convention speaker. Basically a kit you carry in your camera bag to minimize the impact of small emergencies at weddings. Not only have I come to the rescue a few times but it made me look like a real professional.

Here is a list of items I carried in a small Tupperware box. Please comment if I have missed anything.

  • Roll of TUMS
  • Travel size Tylenol 
  • Safety Pins
  • Blotting Paper (Body Shop for forehead sweat on the guys)
  • Collar Extenders (when dad's shirt collar is too tight)
  • Travel size Kleenex
  •  Straight Pins for boutonnieres (they often break or fall off)
  • Band-aids (yes, think roses, thorns and white dresses)
  • Scissors for loose threads
  •  Bobby Pins
  • Tide-To-Go Stain Remover Pen
  • Travel Size Sewing Kit
  • Krazy Glue

Another "odd" thing we carried that was too big for the Tupperware box was a nice wedding cake knife in the trunk of the car. At too many weddings a nice knife was overlooked so a make do kitchen knife with the handle wrapped in tinfoil or a napkin was brought out. Looks horrible in the official photos... so we brought our own.

We also carry Duct Tape and Masking Tape but that's always in our camera bag and not specific to weddings.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Fantastic Endorsement from Bruce Hudson

I have been a fan and friend of Bruce Hudson since he spoke here in Ottawa at a convention years ago. Recently when he heard I will now be offering my consulting services to new and upcoming professional photographers he sent me this...

"Robin is a freak of nature in the world of professional photography.
He's extremely creative behind the camera and in his approach to marketing his craft.
Robin has a way of cutting through the BS with his blunt humor, yet
showing a true passion for the clients he works with and the people in his community.
Study with this man & you will take away the secrets that you'll need to become successful in any business."  
Bruce Hudson, Mastercraftsman PPA, Member of Cameracraftsmen of America

Photographers Back Up Plan.

What if There Was No Back-up Plan?

What if this was it? No back-up plan. Professional photography was your sole source of income. Wouldn't you try harder? wouldn't you do better? wouldn't you do anything to keep clients happy? Wouldn't you be more committed? more determined? 

Having only the income from your photography to pay for food, or the rent or the mortgage is a powerful motivator to always do your best.

And that my friends is what separates the full type working pro from the part timers.