Archive for December, 2006

Until 2007…

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

One last post for 2006…yes, a bit early but that’s because our offices are closed for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

It’s been a great year for me. I got to meet and work with all sorts of amazing creatives, to lecture to even more, and my business has grown. I’ve got this blog and I’m doing podcasts. My first book came out, and people found it helpful. I’m lucky. And deeply grateful to all of you for making this possible. Thank you.
At the end of the year it’s easy to look back, and that’s a good thing to do. Take some time to think about where you were in January, 2006, and go back to 2005, ’04, etc.  Look at where you are now through the lens of who you were then. You’re probably more successful than you realize.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. You’re making your living as a creative professional–that’s a rare and wonderful thing. Remember your gift, honor your talent, and have a successful and joyous 2007.

How to be creative…

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

…according to some guy in England (Hugh MacLeod) at least. And while I don’t agree with him 100% on every item, I mostly do, and when I don’t he still has a lot of very interesting thoughts. Some of my favorites have to do with not hiding behind tools and doing it for yourself. # 11 is pretty darn perfect, too. And #21. And #22. And…well, you get the idea.

Lots of it sounds familiar to my clients, too.

Crappy holiday gift

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Just in time for the holidays, this bit of news: a European website may have sold YOUR images, for too little money and without paying you, the creator, anything. The fabulous Dabitch of Adland tells the story.

Fair? Of course not. It’s not even legal, but it’s not stopping them from doing it. If you’re a pro (especially) and find your images being sold by these thieves, get your lawyers on it, please.

Photoshopping models

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Not quite what you expect…seems that some publications are actually making their models look, while not fatter, at least not as skinny as they really are. Here’s the story from WWD (second piece on that page).

At first glance that sounds like a positive step, but in reality I think it’s only going to make girls want to be skinnier because they’re not going to see how super-skinny really looks. Instead of the jutting bones and other “ugly” attributes of being too thin, the models will look fabulous and even more skinny than the healthy ones do now.

Creatives in the communication arts all have an odd relationship with Truth (yes, with cap-T) and reality. With that comes a responsibility that some would rather ignore. What you do affects others–be that in their buying habits or, in this case, body image. Remember that when you get that creepy feeling on the back of your neck, it just might be because you’ve gone too far.

Speaking of passion

Monday, December 18th, 2006

Last week I spoke at Brooks Institute of Photography in lovely Santa Barbara, California. There I stood, before a classroom of Seniors who are about to go into the “real” world and try to make a living. What did I tell them? To follow their passion if they wanted to become successful, even if that means NOT becoming photographers.
We all seem to forget to follow our professional passions from time to time, but it really holds true no matter what your profession/career choice. On the train home, I was sitting next to a man who was involved in commercial real estate finance. We talked about following one’s passion and he said he most definitely had and it has brought him not only financial wealth but happiness. He had originally been involved in media sales (advertising) where he made good money, but he wasn’t emotionally fulfilled with the work. He was always fascinated by numbers and, specifically, finance so when this opportunity presented itself, he went after it…and hasn’t regretted it ever since. I could see the fire in his eyes. When he spoke about what he did, he made it sound terribly interesting and I could tell he had found his niche. He followed his passion.
We talked about how some people never retire, a point I also discussed with Bill Robbins of Brooks. They don’t keep working for the money, but rather they can’t imagine their lives without their work. Creatives who keep creating, businesspeople who keep running companies, they all share the passion for their work. They found their vocations, in the classical sense of the word–callings. And it’s what I recommended to those students, and what I want to recommend to you.

We all have pasts–maybe yours includes studying photography or design or writing so when you graduated you felt you had to become a photographer, designer, or writer. But it never quite fit. You can do the work, maybe even very well, but you’re not excited about it…at least not often or extremely. This isn’t because the work is bad, it’s because you aren’t doing your best work–and that may mean taking the leap to follow your passion. If you studied photography, maybe what you really would love to do is be a photo editor or even a rep. Writers make great strategic thinkers, like planners in ad agencies. Designers might do better running a creative department for a corporation rather than producing their own designs. Who knows!?!

I’m not saying that if you have a bad day at work you should chuck it all and change careers. What I am saying is that you should be open to what your heart is telling you. Maybe that means shifting from shooting people to objects, or doing interactive rather than print design or writing that novel you’ve always meant to write, or maybe it means going back to school to become a lawyer or doctor or working for a homeless shelter or opening a bookstore. Only you can know what is in your heart, your passion.

But whatever it is, when you find it you’ll also find that your work is no longer work and the thought of retiring one day seems much less a goal. You’ll be happier and better off financially (even if you make less money–because you’ll be happy).

Don’t be afraid of passion, it’s the key to your success.

Web Pages that Suck

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Vincent Flanders nails many of the common errors found on sites, listing 14 design-related issues in this article. It’s brilliantly written too. My favorite quote starts #14.

(hat tip to Jane G. and Adlist for the link)

You’ve got the power!

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Over the weekend a blog posting by an advertising agency got the photographer community in a well-deserved snit. The post essentially said that photographers have some guts claiming to own the photos they make on assignment for an agency. After all, their argument went, the agency created the concept and all the photographer had to do was shoot the thing. The authors then went on to utterly misinterpret the copyright law in regards to photography and, well, they came off insulting just about any creative vendor they have ever worked with.

By this morning, the agency was hit with many emails from upset photographers. The professional groups got involved as well. This tiny agency in a small market in Illinois managed to bring together people from all over the US (and beyond) in a show of solidarity against the self-serving bullying tactics used by so many agencies–particularly the small- to mid-sized ones.

The article has been pulled, and an apology (a lame one, in my opinion) now takes its place. I’m not linking to any of it because I don’t want the crappy agency to get any more publicity. My point in writing about this is that the photographers stood up for their rights and made a difference. Individual creatives changed a company. It can be done, and here is proof.

You have lots of power. Every creative does. You can say “no” to bad deals and take back control. Call out companies who demand all rights or only offer work for hire contracts or who won’t pay on time or whatever. You can make a difference. That agency in Illinois had its post seen by one photographer who thought enough about it to share it with others, resulting in postings on all the major photo forums and, voilà, a difference was made.

Remember your power. Use it wisely and do not give it away. No one can take it from you. Use it for good–your own and your industry’s.

Doing the right thing works

Friday, December 8th, 2006

I went to a medical “spa” to talk to someone about getting some laser treatments for a skin issue. The nurse practitioner who would perform the procedure took over 30 minutes to talk to me and answer all my questions. One of those questions was about getting a second treatment for a separate issue. This would have been hundreds more and with one word from the NP I probably would have seriously considered having it done. However, the NP said I should wait, offered some advice and products that her company did NOT sell, and discussed other, much less expensive and invasive things to try–again, things her company did not provide or, when they did, she even suggested alternatives where I could find the products for less money.

I left the consultation with ideas, samples, and a feeling that the NP was more interested in giving me the service I needed, not just what I wanted. She cared; or at least I felt she did.

That’s effective marketing. By doing the right thing, the NP got a new client (me) and some fantastic word of mouth. Unless she screws up the procedure, which I doubt will happen, she’ll have a loyal client who will recommend her and her company to others.

For service-based businesses, and all creative businesses fit that category, building that trust is the best thing one can do. Doing the right thing, being honest with your clients and offering ways to help them achieve their goals, will result in increased return clients and better billings.

Another reason to go after the big fish

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Need another reason to specialize and go after a highly targeted market rather than being a generalist who will shoot anything for anyone for any money? How about this–Yahoo and Reuters are teaming up to provide “user-generated” images for the news. Forget about making any money shooting low- to mid-level photo-journalism in the future–everyone and their brother who has a photo cell phone are the new stringers.

This is happening in other creative industries as well. Look at the Superbowl ad contest, for example. Millions of dollars get spent every year on Superbowl ads, but now any schmo has the chance to get his/her idea made and placed into the most prized media buy of the year. Ouch.
I think the high-end professionals will always have work. But for those of you who are going after “whatever I can get” kinds of work, now is the time to re-examine that plan.

Didn’t you become a creative pro to be something more than a techie? As the army used to say, “Be all that you can be!” It’s your best shot at making it financially to boot.

Now on iTunes

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Creative Lube, our podcast service, is now a part of iTunes. Tell your friends and colleagues (including those non-photographer creatives you know) about Creative Lube, and let them know they can find it at the iTunes store. Oh, and it is still free, as always.