Tag Archives: profits

Bad Habit Bridge Words

Winter View Looking East, Lake Tahoe, 2010.

So, I’m like ya know listening to a ya know like radio program and do you, ya know ever, um, like listen to you know someone talk and they like um take a long time to get their point across? When people of all walks of life use  these bridge words, I go nuts! And I also get turned off to the message they’re trying to get across. Bad habit bridge words are the bane of good conversation, interviews and just regular person to person communication. People don’t write like this but they um you know talk like this.

For the next week, really listen to how people talk. To others and to you. On radio, tv and in person. Which ones sound intelligent and which ones don’t? When speaking to your clients and potential clients, how do they sound? Which ones speak in thoughtful language (which makes you feel comfortable and reaffirms you’re dealing with the right person) and which ones make you think otherwise? For example, eleven years ago I was part of an audience listening to a speaker who didn’t use a single obvious or annoying bridge word the entire time she spoke. I was mesmerized at how she commanded me to listen. She was a real pro and her message was properly sent and (at least for me), properly received. Since that eventful day, I practice good speech habits.

How do you talk? Record your own voice and find out. Try it and you’ll be surprised at how well you sound…. or horrified at how difficult it is to follow your speech. Come across as an intelligent, thoughtful person and your pricing structure and sales pitches are protected from being perceived as less intelligent or educated than they could be. Most clients have college degrees and hang out with other educated people and/or have had to mingle with company bigwigs (who are highly educated). This breeds a certain level of expectations when it comes to conversation. A poor conversation (using basically, um, ya know, like bridge words) is an obstacle to success.

Why do this to yourself? With effort and time, this problem is fixable. Monitor your conversations via a digital voice recorder, listen to others speak (radio interview are a great source), take notes and be prepared to change what is usually a long-standing bad habit.

Here is a small list of annoying bridge words: um, ya know, you know, like, basically and ah. Please add to this list.


Social Media Doesn’t Trump Personal Relationships

Nature's Beauty & The Chance To Connect

I want to inform you about a surprising phenomenon that has increasingly repeated itself this year: new business opportunities are being generated not because of my web presence but because of my personal relationships. I’m online with a business website, this blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare and Youtube and all of these together aren’t doing as much as my ability to personally connect with people and pitch my services. My website has a Google page rank of 4, which is almost unheard of for a single-person business, much less one run by a self-employed creative professional. (SECP) Google has a page rank of 7. Facebook is a 10. Being a 4 when most businesses my size are either 0 or 1 is a tremendous achievement. Rate your online presence.

Try as I might I cannot relate my online status directly to sales. What has translated into sales is phone calls, meetings, email, promos, posting to all of my social media outposts and connecting with people whenever I’m out and about, both professionally and socially.

Here are two examples: In November I was hired as the official photographer for a 3-day animation expo. During this assignment a client from Disney, (whom I had met briefly last year on a shoot) came up to me. We talked a bit about this and that, work, family and friends. During this friendly conversation I pitched her a little bit on what I’ve been working on but generally it was in a social context. A few weeks later I get a call from another person at Disney whom I’ve never met but who was referred to me by the Disney client mentioned earlier. The conversation turned into the project currently on my homepage. No social media required, just strong social skills.

Secondly a call came in from a client whom I have been friends with during and after his stint working for the mouse. He is now an independent producer and filmmaker and I’ve been doing unit work for him for on a few of his shows. These low budget shorts were fun to be a part of. I was helping him out as a friend and I wanted to practice using a new lighting idea. His newest gig has a decent budget for a photographer and who do you think he called?

It pays to connect in as many ways as possible but, don’t rely on social media alone. Especially for a creative business, we need to reach out in person as much as possible.

Good luck and Happy 2011!


Build Photographs, Don’t Take Pictures

DisneyToon Studios 2010

My mantra is, “I build photographs, I don’t take pictures.” It’s the way I sell my commercial photographic services today. And it’s working.

As a professional photographer I prepare for a shoot by considering the many demanding chores required before the first test image is exposed. For instance, I received a call (a referral, the best kind) from a new person working at  Disney. She represented DisneyToon Studios and they wanted a group portrait taken in front of the theatre on the studio lot. (It’s a gift when clients refer new business and it’s one great metric to gauge how your business is perceived in your marketplace!)

I must stop at this point a give a little back story. A year ago I did this group portrait for Disney. As part of my continuing marketing efforts, I reached out to the point person for this portrait in late October to inquire if there were any holiday-themed events coming up where they might need my services. I was referred to a new point person. I did my duty and introduced myself. A month later I’m working the CTN expo in Burbank and I run into the previous point person. We have a great chat and catch up a bit. So I’m fresh on her mind when the DisneyToon person asks her where to go for their group portrait. I’m convinced this is how the referral came to me and no one else. The lesson here is: you’re always in sales mode when you’re an (SECP) and every contact with a client (and for that matter, vendors) is an opportunity to burnish your reputation or damage it.

Getting back to this post…part of my sales strategy is to let my clients know the difference between me and my competition. I never phone it in, when I can I always do a site survey. I did this for this shoot. I brought a measuring tape, a ladder, a note pad, business cards and my camera for some test shots. After gathering the pertinent info, (taking measurements, shooting some test files, and planning for the lighting) we chatted a bit to get to know each other. After getting back to my office, I looked at my tests, made some calculations on how best to build this portrait. I got a rate from my assistant and my lab quoted the print costs. At this stage I developed my budget and sent it to my client.

We scheduled the shoot and it went well. Here are a few production shots:

Getting Everyone to Buy Into My Ideas

A View From My POV

The Sun Was Directly Shining Into My Lens

Starting To Break Down My Gear

Related Images:

3 Tiered Pricing Model

Old Time Feelings

One of the many issues we self-employed commercial artists face is how much to charge for our art. One usually factors in monthly living expenses, taxes (sales, income and business), vendor invoices, equipment leases, training, etc. You should also factor in how many hours per week you want to work. Mix in the requested usage (duration, exclusivity and distribution) stir well, add a dash of anxiety and presto you have a price. This is my preferred method and it has worked for years.

At this point in my career I want to simplify this pricing process so I hit upon a 3-tiered model. For photography it’s usage, licensing rights, production value and copyright ownership. For the market I service (and for my creative/licensing fees only), I’m considering three levels of commercial pricing to make it easier for my clients to digest: $2500/day for limited use, $5000/day for unlimited use and $10000/day for unlimited use and a copyright transfer. Of course out-of-pocket production costs and labor would be added to the final bill.

As the world changes so must we. It’s in our best interest to review and revise our business practices (including pricing) so that we afford our clients more opportunities to engage us. They need to feel like we are looking out for them as well as us.

Don’t be afraid to look at your pricing model, to ask pertinent questions of your clients and to dig deep to understand their needs and concerns. This will go a long way in developing your professional demeanor, your self-confidence and your long-term viability. Remember, it’s GREAT to be self-employed! It’s also a ton of hard and relentless effort.

Good luck.

Networking Never Stops

You Never Know Where The Steps Will Take You

Last evening I attended and Apple sponsored event held at Alt Systems in Burbank, my old stomping grounds. They supply hard and soft data solutions to production companies in movies and television. No photography at all. So why did I go? I went because the talk and demonstration was how to push content out to your audience. I have an audience albeit much different than Alt Systems clientele. Apple has integrated so much of their technology that it’s easier than ever to collect, edit, archive and send large video files to wherever they needs to go. Very impressive.

As per my usual way, I arrived early and stayed late. Alt Systems is a first class joint. The client area is sweet: a full kitchen, bar and theatre. Jon (president and owner) came out to greet me. He was charming and enthusiastic about his company. I got the royal tour and afterwards he invited me to partake of the wonderful spread of food laid out on the buffet table. His wife Lynn was also present and she was as gracious as he. While eating my apple sausage, I met another attendee whose son is looking for working professionals to develop and present advanced educational videos online. He introduced me to a woman he had invited. She knows how to produce and market videos. This is the area I’m weakest in and she will be evaluating my offer of working together. Reason one for attending: making contacts. We exchanged contact info and I will be calling the son this week. They all live in Pasadena near me. How great is that?

Reason two: I pitched Jon on having me develop and write his blog. This is something he has thought about and after speaking with one of his employees about the work they do I was able to present Jon with a few topic ideas. Whether or not Jon decides on his own blog, he now knows I exist, knows I write and he’ll be able to refer his contacts if it comes up in his conversations. And at the very least I got to practice my pitch. I try not to let opportunities to practice go by without at least trying something.

Like the title says, networking never stops.

Who have you talked to lately?

Refining Your Craft Part II

We're Watching You

On October 18, I posted this entry to my blog. I wrote about the importance of constantly working to refine your area(s) of expertise. There’s almost always a pay off. Case study: I had a meeting today with decision makers working for a worldwide entertainment company. I showed them my single-source multiple exposure lighting and composting techniques. Check out these short informational videos here.

During the interview/presentation, I used prints, videos and answered their questions about how I would approach a given scenario. They were impressed and delighted as we discussed the ways in which I can work my magic for them. They were candid about how high up the totem pole photography has been for them (historically low), the places they’d like to send me and how they would use my images for their consumer marketing needs.

The quality of my compositing skills so impressed them that they asked what could be done with frame pulls from HD video. I said it’s doable but a test would be required to work out the necessary steps to get a handle on the time involved, the hard dollar costs and of course my fee(s).

The mutual respect and interest was such a breath of fresh air, I was buzzing all day about the potential of their projects. I’ve worked with this company in the past (and that is a big advantage for both sides) so there was built in acceptance. But I was not complacent, I took nothing for granted, I listened to their needs, concerns and past experiences. It was a great back and forth exchange and I could see their minds buzzing with possibilities.

Lastly, I met with one of the producers separately for several minutes after the meeting formally broke up. Another sign of their interest and respect. It all boils down to putting one foot in front of the other and keep on moving forward.

Good luck and good effort for and from all of us!

Put In & Get Out


















The other night my friend and fellow artist Raul Pacheco (of Ozomatli fame) played tonight at a local venue here in Pasadena. I appreciate his energy, enthusiasm, artistry and charisma. And oh yeah the music is great too. I’ve been to several of his performances and they always feel right.

We got to talking and I told him about my time-lapse work and he told me about the new album Ozomatli is recording.

Being a SECP I felt compelled to talk about my time-lapse work and how Ozomatli’s recording session may be appropriate subject matter for my technique. He liked the idea and asked me to get in touch so I can meet the group and get this shot. I’m also going to shoot a group portrait using my single-light source multiple-exposure method. This will be a first, there are a few technical bugs to work out but I’m sure I can pull it off to the level I expect.

Stay tuned.

The Shin Bone Is Connected To All

Looks Like.......

Network. Make connections. Hand out cards. Meet people. Talk. Follow up. Blah, blah, blah. Oy! It’s enough to make you want to go work for somebody else, take their guff and not have to schmooze. Just grab the booze and drift through your life. A lot of people did just this back in the day. But that’s not us is it?

No matter how you slice it, it’s all about connections and how well one tends relationships. Case in point. My wife and I were invited to a birthday party hosted by Sandra Tsing-Loh and Frier McCollister at their home around the corner from us in Garfield Heights. They actually rented our guest house for most of last year and bought a short-sale house (thank you financial meltdown) when it became available. Great kitchen and porches. Anyway we were a bit surprised to be on the guest list but Sandra thought we would be a good addition to the mix. Being around the corner, we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving but on the walk home we notice the streets seemed slanted?

There were a number of successful artists present: actors, writers, poets, a producer, a conductor and a city official. I met them all. We ate. We drank. We talked. We laughed. I wasn’t trying to network at all. I usually network head on every chance I get but I really wanted to party this time: I was completed an assignment that was went south on me and my current tenants gave notice Friday that they were leaving Monday. So I partied on but during the festivities one of the guests mentioned a friend is coming out to LA from NY and needs a small guest house for six months. Bingo! A connection. This woman is the Music Director and Conductor of The Pasadena POPS Orchestra. And we hit it off. I look forward to developing a relationship with Rachael, who knows where this connection will lead. How cool is that? Oh yeah, the photo assignment ended up being OK too.

A tremendous end to a lousy day!

Refining Your Craft

The Harris Gallery at the University of LaVerne

As a professional image-maker I work at my craft several times a week. This is the easiest way for me to bring value to the marketplace. The photograph above would have been impossible to achieve using traditional analog methods. All sixteen sculptures and the back wall were lit independently in order to achieve the depth required by my vision. Using a traditional lighting approach would have resulted in crossing shadows and a rats nest of cables to contend with. The many hours spent rigging lights, adjusting for distance, scrimming and flagging (not to mention the power consumption), would have been tremendous. Instead I used a small Canon speedlight, a camera on a tripod, multiple exposures and simple compositing techniques using Layer Masks.

The Gallery In Ambient Light

Sculptures With Highlights Applied

The Wall Lit And Transformed To Fit The Perspective

The Wall With It's Layer Mask

All in all I spent less than 60 minutes photographing the gallery and less than 90 minutes working in Photoshop. So for 2.5 hours of effort, I was able to produce an image worthy of my portfolio. Now of course what this really represents is 30 years of professional photography experience distilled down to 150 minutes. This is where my value comes into play. I would normally charge $1500.00 for a photo like this. And guess what? I’m still charging that amount. Only now it’s spread across 2.5 hours instead of 8? 10? 6? Who knows how long this would have taken me. Plus I would have needed a more experienced crew than the one person who only had to trigger the shutter release. As a bonus, I don’t make a mess at the client location, I don’t consume power and I don’t blow any fuses. This equipment light approach to location work is a tremendous selling point when I present my photography services. My profit margin increases because my time decreases.

Be sure to click on the photos to see them enlarged. I will be making a video soon that explains this process in more depth. Be sure to subscribe to my youtube channel.

I challenge all of my readers to look at your working methods and experiment with ways to achieve similar time-saving, profit-making SECP techniques. If I can do it, you can do it too!

Good luck.


Press Coverage & Book Sales

Part Of My Fine Art Series: REMNANTS

As some of you know, I have a new show opening this Saturday and running the entire month of October. Today I hung the show (yes it’s well hung), and the pieces work well together. I am very pleased with the results. I’m also very pleased with the press coverage. Publicity (especially GOOD FREE publicity) is always welcomed. Getting press coverage once makes it easier to get press coverage the next time and so on. It also makes you an expert in the public mind. A powerful thing to remember and to use for career advancement. SECP’s must always try to do things related to their expertise, must always try to get press coverage and must never give up. The more you do, the more you get. It’s that simple.

To wit: Since its’ release, I’ve been pushing my book to various stores and schools. today I sold three dozen copies to Samy’s Camera in LA. I will sign each copy before delivery and who knows where this will lead. It’s terribly exciting. I’m doing a workshop at Samy’s Santa Ana store in November and you bet I’ll be mentioning that my book is available to everyone who attends the workshop. Everything I do markets my brand to my audience. Exciting times indeed.

That’s it for now.