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Tag Archives: successful

Dream Your Photograph….

Dream On!

then photograph your dream. This quote is my version of the famous Vincent Van Gogh quote: “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.” When I first came across this beautiful bit of motivation, it helped validate my dreamy pre-visualization creative process. In my opinion I think we all  possess the ability to dream creatively but us creative types seem able to access the insights dreams provide easier than left-brainers.

I discuss pre-visualization and it’s importance to my creative process in chapter one of my book, “Build A Better Photograph.” Here’s a taste: My pre-visualization technique takes a serpentine path. The creative process pulses, breathes, and moves through me. It flows with passion, anger, joy, love, desire and fear. Add your own emotions to this list. An “image hit” informs the emotional responses I feel after experiencing one of these stimuli. I feel my response to the person, to the action, to the food. This is how it begins.

Process validation is a necessary component for artistic growth. Artists whose work I admire is one metric I use to gauge my growth as an artist and my place in the industry. I define validation as this: you share similar beliefs with someone who you know and respect. When you measure yourself against this persons talents or accomplishments, you feel more secure in your thought processes and abilities.

What are you dreaming of?

2011 Rose Bowl Time-Lapse of Fireworks Show

July 4, 2011

Here is the sequence I shot last night. I rendered the frames out at a much higher rate than I thought I would (10 frames per second vs. 2 frames per second) and I like it. The challenge was finding the right tempo music. Garage Band had what I needed. Enjoy.

Michael

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.

Cheers!

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!

Michael

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

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.

Michael

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.

Rituals and Balance

A Classic Summer Ritual

Soon after graduating from Art Center, I imagined how I wanted to work; I’m at home gardening, working on my house or making something in my shop and the phone rings. It’s a client calling with a job offer. After listening to the pitch, I accept or decline. For the most part my career has played itself out this way. The success of this dream is the main reason I’ve kept my sanity through all the insanity that envelopes you when you work for yourself. It’s the between times that I want to write about here, prize of developing and engaging in ritual tasks that brings me my daily dose of the 3R’s: relief, relaxation and recharging.

I work out of an office on my property and when I feel the need, I work in one of my  gardens, on a home maintenance project or visit with friends and neighbors. Often I’ll volunteer to take my son to school just so I can hang a bit with other parents. Lately it’s been biking and working out that  keep me centered. I engage in these ritual tasks often, they reinforce my belief that I’m successful. And it’s this success that allows me to live my life the way I’ve imagined. I get more quality work accomplished in less time precisely because I spend quality time engaging in my rituals.

When I’m stuck for a topic to blog about or for any task I have to complete in the course of running my multiple-income stream business, I often go out into the yard and either rest in the hammock outside my office, garden, weed, tinker with one of the many home improvement projects I have going, bike ride, work out or visit with my neighbor who has put together an amazing garden.

I make myself connect to the world in ways that don’t involve email, phones or computers. All of these ideas help me maintain a level emotional state, something important to strive for when in the world of self-employment.

What are you waiting for? Stop reading and start doing!

Nobody Loves You Like Your Mother And Sometimes Not Even Her

So Many Tasks, So Little Time

Take care of yourself. As much as possible take care of your emotional, spiritual and physical health. I know you’ve heard this before: exercise, eat well, rest, find something that directs the energy of the universe back to you. I exercise three-five times a week. I try to get eight hours a night. I minimize eating corporate food. I spend a lot of time with my son and working in my garden. I make the time, morning, mid-day or night, I make the time. This is so important to me that I cannot over emphasize it’s importance: TAKE CARE OF YOUR SELF! Now!

Once you step into the world of self-employment, all bets are off. You’re responsible for every aspect of your life, your family’s life and anyone else who depends on you. It ain’t easy. It’s hard work. It’s frustrating. It’s fun. It’s lucrative. It’s not. It’s everything in your life (both personal and professional) all rolled into a sticky mass of jobs, responsibilities and tasks and it can get to you often…if you let it.

Take care of yourself. Don’t put tasks off. Manage your anger. Manage your happiness. Manage your health. Manage your cash flow and invest every extra dollar so that your money works for you. After all the time and energy spent working for your money, it’s time to make it responsible for your future. Make your money work  for you.

Educate yourself. Go to seminars. Go to workshops. Ask questions. Become informed. It’s your responsibility. Self-love will see you through the darkest times of self-employment drudgery. Success demands you accept failure as part of the process, as part of success. There is much to deal with on a daily basis. On a weekly basis. On a monthly basis. On a yearly basis. Breaking down, organizing and executing these tasks is crucial to long-term self-employment success.

If you don’t do this, who will?

Your mother?