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I didn’t get into photography to become a business owner.  I got into it because I loved it. LOVED it.  I loved creating the photos, seeing my clients faces when they saw the photos.  I got into it because it filled that place in my soul that I didn’t even know existed before I picked up a camera. I wasn’t a BUSINESS owner, I was a photographer. Sound familiar?  Maybe not for some of you.

Maybe you fell into photography one way or another and enjoy it, but in the end you think of yourselves as a business owner first, and a photographer second.  You’re probably a numbers nerd like my friend Joy and you actually like spreadsheets.  I am not one of those people. The people side of this business has always come more naturally to me and I’ve always struggled with what I call “The Math Side”. I’ve invested a lot of time and money to teach my recalcitrant left brain to grasp what comes easier to the Joy’s of this world.  Seminars, ebooks… Because at the end of the day time is money and the less time I spend on the “math” and the and the more time spent with “the people side” the  happier I am in my business.

 

Here was the shocker that I had yet to learn in the early days of my business; Being a “people person” didn’t prepare me for having to be a buisness person who has to deal with people.

 

So why do so many photographers have clients that suck?

1. They don’t know how to price themselves for profit and become resentful of their clients demands because they feel overworked.
2. They don’t know how to market to the right clients and accept anyone who will give them money.
3. They don’t project authority and let the client dictate what they want (AKA:  The customer is always right)
4.  They can’t take their fragile artist ego out of the equation when things go wrong to honestly appraise why it went wrong.

 

In a few weeks, Charo and I are going to be speaking at the Dream Bigger Conference on “The Absence of Awesome: Dealing with difficult clients”  In between stories of “Light switch Bride”, “You Made me look Fat”, bride and “You didn’t capture the Light of Jesus” Mother of the Groom, we’ll help you find the words to use when speaking with clients. You’ll be better equipped to identify who needs that extra hand holding before your work with them and how to deal with clients who have problems after your product is delivered.

 

What you will learn by listening:

  • If you’re having the same issues over and over, what’s the common denominator?
  • How to speak to a client who just doesn’t speak your language
  • When to take yourself out of the equation
  • No one reads anymore: how to get your clients to stop asking questions you’ve already answered

You can listen to the conference live, or you can download to listen later.  The speaker line up is awesome, I can’t wait to tune in for a bunch of them.   Hope to see you there!

 

P.S Speaking of my friend Joy, she’s starting a new course called “3 Weeks to Pricing Perfection” soon.   If you want a freebie preview of what a freaking Numbers Nerd Genius she is, download her free Pricing for Profit ebook.   More information on her 3 Weeks to Pricing Perfection coming soon!

 

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This past blisteringly cold Saturday while I was enjoying the fact that I did not have a wedding, this email came in:

Hey Kim,

You did our pics almost 10 years ago. Wouldn’t you know that I wait until now to use the CDs to create a 10 year anniversary book for hubby that I find the online company sent us the wrong CD. The CD’s are labeled correctly but the pics are definitely someone else. I guess shame on me that I never looked at the pics but I am pretty sure you have no images from that far back now?

Thought I would drop you a note, hoping you or the online company might have them?”

As I stumbled down into my basement to my “archives” thoughts raced through my wedding photographer brain

“10 years.  WTF.  She didn’t even LOOK at the photos for TEN YEARS? ”
“I hope my contract was solid back then…did I have an archiving clause?”
“If I don’t have them, too bad for her…10 motherfreaking years, what does she expect”
“Seriously she didn’t LOOK at them for 10 years, were they that bad?”
But mostly…over and over…

 

“ohmygodohmygodohmygod I hope I have them, I hope I have them, ohmygodohmygodohmygod”

 

 

By the time I reached the Rubbermaid bin that holds The Ghosts of Weddings Past, I was sweating despite the -7 windchill outside.  My heart raced as I flipped through the CD’s of names I barely recalled.

I had them.

After some trial and error with bad naming and having to coerce my computer to read a 10 year old disk of images I had them.  And as I looked through them trying to place the wheres and whens of that wedding and to see if the photos truly sucked, a memory struck me.

This was the very first wedding that I used off camera flash on my formals.  I remember it because it was at a swanky venue in a nearby resort town that I had always wanted to work in. In fact, back in the day it was one of Hugh Hefners infamous Playboy Clubs.  I spent weeks learning how to perfect my lighting, reading online and taking seminars, and was a shaky mess setting up the strobes, lugging the heavy battery packs. I worked alone then, and this was a big endeavor for me.   In fact, truth be told I was a “natural light” photographer because I didn’t really understand strobes.  In my head, learning this one key piece of information that terrified me so (math does that to me) turned me from an amateur to a real live photographer.

I nailed those formals.  Now, we won’t talk about the fact that I had yet to have a great grasp on posing, had an unnatural love for Gaussian blur, tilts and Becker’s Sepia and Blue Split Tone Action, or the fact that my color balance sucked ass…everyone has their dirty secrets and it was one of the first years of digital, a girl gets a little carried away. But those formals…I learned something, and something with math.  It clicked.

But the most surprising revalation was this: How much I’ve invested financially and personally in other peoples memories.  How much it means to me to preserve them.

Yeah yeah, “the photos are the only thing that’s left, the cake gets eaten, blah blah blah”.  I’ve always hated that sentimental wedding bullshit photographers use in marketing, just as much as naming your packages “Gold and Silver” or “Rome and Tuscany”.  WTF does Tuscany have to do with a wedding in Milwaukee, Wisconsin?

In my Grinchy heart, I really do believe photos are that important.  This brought me back around to the nagging question:

Ten years.  She didn’t look at them for ten years.  Why?

Maybe because I thought a tilt and a sloppy boarder was “Art” back then?IMG_0212

Maybe because I thought this action would convince someone  that this was shot on Chrome?

 

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Or maybe because I actually charged her cash money for this piece of shit:

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So I decided to ask.

Moving. Kids.  House.  Job changes.  She looooved her photos, and cried when she looked at them again, she assured me.  Artist Angst pacified, thank you 10 lb 9oz baby Jesus.

Excuses.  We’ve all got them, right?

And then clear as day it came to me:  I decided that if my clients won’t safeguard their own memories, I am going to do it for them. I’m no longer going to offer only a shoot and burn package where I turn over the disk because despite my rationalization that “no one” would put a 3K disk in a drawer for 10 years, someone did.

Moving forward, all of my packages will include an album, no matter how rudimentary.  They’ll still get their damnable digital files, but they are not walking out of my studio without a tangible printed item to show their children (or their dogs, or strangers on the street…)

Yes, it will increase my pricing.  And I’m okay with that.  You may disagree with me, or tell me “In MY market that would never work because, blah blah blah”.  I’m okay with that too.  Every passionate business model has a “Unique Selling Proposition” and in that moment I knew what mine was.

I feel at the bottom of my soul that my job is to preserve memories and that’s what people really pay me for.

 

 

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Ever done one of those Briggs Myers personality tests that describes your traits?  Pretty fascinating stuff.

Hey baby, I’m a ENFP, how ’bout you?

After being in the photography business awhile I’ve noticed similar traits with most of my friends who are in the biz who describe themselves as an “Artist” first and foremost:

Prone to periods of great bursts of activity and productivity, followed by periods of despair, self loathing, drinking and getting abso-fucking-lutely nothing done.

Read more…

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I am a Grumpy.

How do I know this?  I know this because I find myself saying things like “When you’ve been in business more than 5 minutes you can tell ME that Shoot and Share is a good idea for your profit margin” and things like that to photographers.  Usually shouted at my computer screen. Sometimes after a few beverages.

I know because I refuse to upgrade from CS4 and Lightroom 2.7 .  And no, I don’t care how much better the retouch tool is.   You can take your Content Aware where the sun don’t shine.

I know I am a Grumpy because I have flat-out been told so.

In a blog post a few weeks ago I talked about how to make some fast cash during lean times, second shooting being one of those ways.  I’m always amazed at how many photographers do not take advantage of this way to learn and grow as a photographer.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I’ve learned  more  practical applications for my photography second shooting than ANY seminar that I have taken AND I got paid to do so.

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It’s been a heady week here at ACAD.

This launch week has been amazing.  Truly.  For you very first beta testers who told us what sucked and what didn’t, we love you and want to have your babies.   And for those of you just joining us on the journey, thanks for your kind words and especially to Debbie from Lily Rose Photography  who sent us our very first piece of fan email that was not from our moms.

We want to talk to you about rock stars.  Not the kind that want to sell you plastic flash diffusers, not the kind that want to teach you to shoot and share.

The real rock stars.  The people who are working their asses off in this industry all around the country.

You might be one of those rock stars.  The one with the studio that you’re worried about paying the rent on this month.  The one who falls asleep on your keyboard editing after your kids go to bed.   The one who just had a huge fight with your spouse about all the hours you put in vs. how much money you bring in, and when you log on to your email  there’s another client asking you for a discount.

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