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Above and Beyond

We have all heard the phrase “Going above and beyond,” but what does it really mean? What does it mean to us photographers?

Let’s break it down. When someone says; “That person really went above and beyond” in reference to an act that was performed that generally means that the person in question took it upon themselves to perform in a manner that exceeded expectations. That also means that they exceeded expectations without asking for more compensation without an added bad attitude. Basic translation “I don’t need to do this for you but I’m going to do it anyway.” Why? Common courtesy? Compassion? You really like the person? Respect? All of the above? Yes.

This applies a lot to the service industry. However, photographers are part of the service industry as well. We take the shots people want to pay for to have for whatever reason it may be. Whether it’s to document an event, capture a location, surprise a lover, for self promotion, for  business promotion, or to make someone feel better about themselves. We serve people with our skills. Now, when a client is amazing they will get the best part of our service. We will go that extra step to make sure that they are happy. If there is someone I like I tend to overshoot a tad and maybe offer them a few more retouched images as well as some more artistic shots other than the ones they specifically asked for. More often than not conversations come up about the photography business, small business, modeling opportunities, or what have you. I personally will take the time out of our session at no extra charge to walk a client through any question, fear, or anxiety they may have with whatever regard they are wondering about. You’d be surprised at how many photographers don’t do that. You’d also be surprised how many photographers don’t do that in NYC, which is a city filled with photographers!

I pride myself on a job well done. We all should. The reason we give these little nuggets of extras out is because we care and that we also know we will make the money back on referrals and get great testimonials out of the deal. However, going above and beyond can also lead to a client being married to you or attached at the hip and we try to avoid that as much as possible. This is the grey area that occasionally arises. In the past I have gone above and beyond for a few higher strung clients and it backfires in the respect that they nitpick because they feel like they can or they call you at inappropriate times for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean you should stop being nice. It just means that you have to be more firm. I recently got married and my wedding photographers went above and beyond. I can honestly say that being on the other side of the lens for once was surreal but they were so great that it didn’t matter and they became friends because we all got along, which is why we hired them in the first place. They catered to our needs and delivered amazing engagement photos (still waiting on the wedding snaps) with such a great attitude that it was inspiring. They gave themselves to their art and that can sometimes be hard to find. If you are reading this and want to know who they are then by all means send me a direct message through whatever outlet you see this blog post in.

Clients also go above and beyond for their photographers. Living in NYC my whole life we know that you pretty much tip for everything. I have overshot and stayed longer than I should have on some shoot and without asking a client would usually throw a compliment my way and give me a “Here you go, kid. This is for you.” Sometimes we live for those sentiments. I am in no way trying to show off because that happens in a one out of twenty situation. I just wanted to show that it goes both ways. The client/photographer relationship can be very symbiotic and you want to ideally avoid it being stand offish. We’ve all been there. Sometimes people just don’t like having their picture taken and it’s our job to go above and beyond to calm that person down and make them forget that you are there to steal their soul with your camera.

As people we should always go above and beyond. As business people we should strive to exceed expectations but not at the cost of our integrity or wallet. There is a balance out there and we can all do well to find it. Sometimes you wake up and just want to crawl back into bed, but you can’t. You won’t. It’s not in you because you know that you have to get out there and shoot. You don’t know what situation you are going to walk into once that camera is around your neck. All you should know is that you are going to do the best job you can and if the situation calls for it you will go above and beyond to put that smile on someone’s face!

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(This photo was a bit of a technical test I set up and did at home. Pretty cool, huh?)

A Fierce Defender

So, I love music. Further more; I love heavy metal music. I have been in NYC metal bands since I was 18 years old. Metal has always been a part of my life since I cranked up that first Black Sabbath album I got through those bogus Columbia House deals many moons ago. That being said; metal is an extremely positive genre of music and for me it’s the most rocking life affirming jammingest stuff you could listen to. People associate great things with music and I have a song for almost every memory or frame of mind. I love to rock, baby.

Every so often you run across a song that means more to you than the surface value of any written piece of music is supposed to mean. Sometimes music speaks to you in untold ways that really strike you to the core. I have recently felt like that about 3 Inches Of Blood’s song “Fierce Defender.” It’s not because I’m killing undead hordes or championing a battlefield with sword in tow. This song is the perfect allegory for a small business start up. You still with me? Good. Here are the lyrics and song and my breakdown as it relates to being a small business owner. If you could stick around to the end I’ll buy you a drink (Call me out on it. You will get a drink and a conversation!)  Anyway, here we go:

The outbreak has begun
End of days are coming
Very few will survive this plague
Gather all supplies, keep your wits about you
A war is coming, prepare for the attack

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

Fortress walls, behind them to defend
From mindless creatures need for flesh
They are coming, they will not stop
Crash upon you like a tidal wave of doom

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

Hold the line, defend it to the end
Destroy the brain and they will fall
Show no mercy for they will give you none
Relentlessly they seek to kill
Don’t wait for outside help
Reinforcements will not come
On ourselves we must rely
Find the courage to last another day
So all of us will stay alive

Outlast the horde
Their ranks are shrinking
The instinct to live on our greatest strength
The will come when all the killing stops
Time to rebuild all that’s lost

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wP4ge-lAx5A

The outbreak has begun
End of days are coming
Very few will survive this plague
Gather all supplies, keep your wits about you
A war is coming, prepare for the attack

Meaning: You have recently started your small business and the pressure is very real. Statistically, there are only a small number of businesses that succeed. You have to use all of the tricks you have learned and carefully use your funds because you’re on your own now with no outside help. Keep your wits about you.

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

Meaning: You’ve been thinking about this for a while. This is your chance to succeed and employ the tools you have amassed while preparing for your launch. The odds of success are against you but you have to believe in your self. You have to be your own champion because you know you can. Never slip in your own self confidence. Be that Fierce Defender!

Fortress walls, behind them to defend
From mindless creatures need for flesh
They are coming, they will not stop
Crash upon you like a tidal wave of doom

Meaning: Whatever you build there are people that want to tear it down. These are the haters. They could be family, friends, or business associates. They could try and tear you down and tell you that you are not good enough or special enough. It may hurt at first but you have to persevere and defend that wall.

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

Hold the line, defend it to the end
Destroy the brain and they will fall
Show no mercy for they will give you none
Relentlessly they seek to kill
Don’t wait for outside help
Reinforcements will not come
On ourselves we must rely
Find the courage to last another day
So all of us will stay alive

Meaning: Small Business owners must face facts. There is no one to help with their journey. At the end of the day if  you decide to do everything on your own then you must hold the fort and provide victory for your brand. Against all odds you will see the success of your small business and end up being the bigger fish in the pond. Small Business owners must be steadfast in their product and their belief in their product. No one will help  you, no one will back you up, and you have to find the gumption to stand alone, say your piece, survive, and live to fight another day. As small businesses, we climb a treacherous hill with many obstacles and we should never give up. We must find the courage to last another day. We owe it to ourselves, our family, and other like minded individuals. We stay alive through the communal effort of other business owners that hold the line.

Outlast the horde
Their ranks are shrinking
The instinct to live on our greatest strength
The will come when all the killing stops
Time to rebuild all that’s lost

Meaning: The more you chip at it – the more you get out of it. The haters will fade and the detractors will think better. Why? Because you have pioneered and championed your brand through your own belief. The INSTINCT to live on IS our greatest strength. Small business owners know that they have a huge undertaking before them and that is to establish a reputable brand. When success comes then you can expand, take time off, and make up for lost time.

No more running, here we make our stand
Against the odds we will fight
Be the champion, be the one
A fierce defender til its done

Meaning: Get out there and do it. BE the successful person you know you can be. BE the business owner you have always wanted to be.

Whew, well I hope you all got through that in one piece!

The album this is from; “Here Waits Thy Doom.” is also one of the greatest driving albums ever.

I would love to hear what songs motivate you and have meaning for you.

Barcelona

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Competition And Compassion

Everyone wants to be the best at what they do. With photography it’s no different. As a photographer you always want to be able to outshoot the other guy (or girl.) Photography is a very interesting field APART from the visuals, which is hard to believe for an outsider. As a photographer we are witness to some really amazing intricacies or beautiful simplicities that we may happen to capture or behold or are just in the right place at the right time for. It could be the detail of a model’s eye caught in your lens or the scope of a misty mountainside at dawn (or dusk for you evening shooters.) One thing we all have in common is the fact that we have to deal with a lot of people. We interact with clients, artists, neighbors, friends, family, and other photographers – whether we know it or not. These interactions should play into how we deal with approaching subjects or getting jobs.

Every one wants to be the best. BUT if you want to stand apart and not only be better but be different you have to treat people with as much compassion as you have ambition/passion for your art. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard horror stories from past clients who have shot with photographers that were so self absorbed, spoiled, and rude that it ruined the idea of a good picture. At the end of the day that’s what we do, right? We press a button and hope that at least one gem gets unearthed. Apart from that real fact we photographers are blessed with vision and creativity that should not come at the expense of others.

If you want to be the best you have to treat people better than the rest.

Just because you may be an artist does not mean you have to act like an artiste. There comes a time to be firm but being aloof and rude should not even come into the equation. Our job is to make people as comfortable as possible in order to bring out the best in them so we can capture those simplicities/intricacies that make photos great. We have to check our attitudes at the door. Plus, the same people we meet on the way up could be the same we meet on the way down.

As a photographer we have to remove ourselves somewhat from our subjects and become subjects ourselves and do lots of self study. All that means is that we have to realize that everyone is different and that we should not judge or cast aspersions on those that we meet based on how we have lived our lives thus far. We should also try not to complain because at the end of the day we have the best job in the world. We get paid to make art. We get paid to do what we love. And if you’re a people person like me you get to hear about different lives on a regular basis, which can be worth more than a paycheck in a spiritual sense.

We are not only photographers but we are therapists as well and need to be as accommodating as possible but without sacrificing our own sense of self. Those of us that don’t realize that are lost in the dark no matter how much they make per gig. These are more than likely are the same people who tout how much money they spent on their equipment and knock other professionals in this wonderful field of ours. You can buy Stevie Wonder a Lamborghini but he probably won’t get very far. The same goes for photography.

It’s great to be competitive but don’t lose sight of what puts a smile on the person’s face that hired you. Give them an unforgettable experience full of art and magic. Oh yea. We’re magicians,  too.

Thanks, guys!

Yoga 4

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Dealing With Flakes

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As photographers we all know that dealing with flakes is part of the job. Dealing with flakes is a part of regular life as well. It stings just a bit more when your source of income and creativity falls prey to these dreaded flakes. As photographers we sometimes expect the worse from a new client but hope for the best depending on initial interaction. Being from New York lots of my clientele are from out of town. Whether they are here to make it as an actor, actress, or model, or have moved here for work – they have all come to the city that never sleeps for an opportunity. Now, in order to capitalize on any opportunity you have to seize it. You never know what is behind a closed door unless you open it and that goes double for photographer and subject.

I know we will never get an inbox completely full of serious, committed, well written emails all day every day, but when we do get that one gem out of ten or twenty poorly written emails that are loaded with errors and vagueness – it’s the best feeling. Why? Because you WANT to work with that person. You KNOW they will be on time. You KNOW that you may learn from that potential experience in an extremely positive way. You also KNOW that their commitment will make for a well oiled shoot.

We need to value serious clients that know what they want.

What I don’t value are those clients that set up a shoot, say how much they are looking forward to it, or that they can’t wait to start their career, send you emails and texts to confirm, and then either no show the day of without so much as a text, email, or call. Or when you follow up with them and they have a pretty piss poor excuse like “I was hungover.” “I forgot.” “That was today?” Or the ultimate “I found someone cheaper.”

“I found someone cheaper?” Jeez, now that’s a real let down. But, you cannot let it get you down if you have not dealt with that excuse before. Why? Well, that excuse is never preceded by “I found someone better.” It also doesn’t mean you should change how much you charge. With anything and sometimes especially in photography – you get what you pay for.

There’s a saying that can apply here on occasion; “Cheap things aren’t good and good things aren’t cheap.” This doesn’t mean you should gouge your customers. All it means is that you should justify your pricing with great work.

Usually I would politely say: “Oh, no problem, do you mind if I take a look at their website?” Nine times out of ten “cheaper” is the RIGHT word.

In this business you will get lied to; “I have shot with magazine photographers around the world and have been modeling for many years.” Really? Well, can you show me your professional photos? I would love to check em out! “I don’t have them right now.” Because THAT’S something someone who is serious about their career would say. Note the sarcasm.

People will try and scam you:

“Come and shoot me because I am an up and coming model and the photos you take will help your portfolio.” No thank you. I have been around long enough to know who I want to shoot and when, and who would be a great asset to my portfolio.

“I cannot afford to pay you now but when I get famous I will.” Thank you for remembering.

“The credit you get for these photos will MAKE your career and lead to more work.” We have all heard that one.

People will try to undermine you while price shopping:

“SO and SO does it cheaper.” OK, and? That’s like being mad at me because my neighbor likes tuna salad and I don’t. Different strokes for different folks.

The best you can do is kill everyone with kindness. Be super awesome and chipper all the time.

We can never stop the flakes. We can only deal with them. We should also take a 25% non refundable deposit up front!

You are going to get mad but don’t stay mad. It’s part of the job. It also has no bearing on who you are.

 It’s not you – it’s them. Well, unless you are a big weirdo and no one likes you. Then, it’s you. All you.

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You Can’t Please Everyone

You Can’t Please Everyone

Welcome to another one of my photography blogs. You work hard and play hard. The harder you work the better the rewards. That is a true statement. When you work toward something you will find yourself building something that is fulfilling as well as creative. That being said sometimes you cannot please all of your clients through no fault of your own. People are people and as photographer we have to remember that. ESPECIALLY as photographers we have to remember that everyone is different and that we are not mind readers.

Client satisfaction is the number one goal for all working photographers. We have to take great photos and deliver a high end product so that we get repeat business, as well a referrals, and establish a great reputation. Sometimes photographers will come across people that do not know how to be people and or polite. It happens. Most people are completely awesome and if you work hard they will give you that pat on the back and a “Good job, kid.” Sometimes clients assume that because they are paying you it means that you are their slave and can be yelled at or talked down to.

Others will just try and tear you down. Why? Because they have nothing better to do or because they are just unhappy with themselves.

Photographers: Do not let these people get to you. You have to remain calm and professional at all times and show the bad apples that you are better than that. Be firm.

Clients may on occasion issue you a complaint about something that could have easily been remedied with proper communication (on their end). When you offer services it is of the utmost importance to be clear about exactly what you do and what you CAN do in post work. This also means that you may have to hold certain clients hands through the entire photography process so that they can suss out exactly what they want. This can be a daunting task because it’s very easy to be dismissive. Be a pro and hang in there. No one is a mind reader.

It’s really easy to bitch and moan about other people but in the photography profession ALL you deal with is people so sometimes you have to take attitudes with a grain of salt. Don’t be a pushover but establish yourself ahead of your shoot so that nothing unforeseen pops up. Sometimes you may have to remind clients that when you order food at a restaurant you can’t talk the waiter or chef into giving you free grub. If someone gets mad that you are charging for extras then let them get mad. It’s not a poor reflection upon you as a photographer at all as long as you tell them ahead of time.

Again, this doesn’t happen all the time but if it does just stay cool and be cool.

Now, bring the ruckus.

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