Archive for October, 2009


Friday, October 30th, 2009

This is a brilliant idea– a standardized estimate form:

Now if we can just get pricing standardized, we can get on with the business of making images with much less time, effort, and money wasted on the numbers part.

(a girl can dream, right?)

Odds and ends

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Notice how there haven’t been as many posts here by me lately? That’s because, for short things I have been posting mostly on the BAP facebook page. It’s much more convenient for things like links to articles or posts so I highly encourage you to fan the page and keep up with info there.

That being said, here are a couple of things I don’t want you to miss…

Rob Haggart has interviewed Selina Maitreya today on APE. It is totally worth the long read. Yes, Selina is my “competition,” but as most of you know, I don’t look on other consultants as competition but rather as colleagues. We each bring our own thinking into our work so, much like photographers, one size does not fit all. Selina is very smart and has a ton of experience and I have recommended her for years. Anyway, I’m sure her mp3 program is fabulous (I haven’t had time to review it personally) and this interview alone has loads of important info. Go, read, learn.

Now, on my own side, have you listened to my new Creative Lube podcasts? I just posted the latest one (you can buy it here). Each podcast is usually around 20 minutes long and costs only $8 each. Or, you can subscribe for a year for $80. Please note that the subscription will NOT give you access to previously posted Lubes, it’s for 12-months after the date of signing up.

Also, and still free, I will be releasing a new Manual next week. Are you on my email list? If you want to receive free Manuals, you need to sign up. Please include your url or some bio info especially if you have a generic email address (this helps me keep spammers/phishers off the list).

Finally, I posted this to Facebook and twitter last week and got some good responses, but I want to make sure I’m not missing anyone: I will be touring next May/June and if you would like me to add your town to my list of destinations, please shoot me an email. Also, let your local creative group know so that we can perhaps coordinate things.

Monday is Creative Lube day

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Tomorrow is Monday and I will be posting a new Creative Lube podcast in the afternoon sometime (PT). If you are already a subscriber, you can get it as usual. But if you are not yet a subscriber, you need to sign up before I post to get this episode on your subscription. See, the way the system works is that the subscription is for 12 months– you don’t get previous episodes, only those released during your 12 month subscription.

You can always purchase the episodes you missed before you subscribed, individually. But I wanted to let you know about the upcoming release in case you’ve been meaning to subscribe, but haven’t gotten off your duff yet and done so. 😉

Subscribing saves you money, which is another reason I wanted to give you a heads-up.

This episode will be on how to change your luck. Real, scientific info that can help you change your luck. No flaky BS, I promise.

Marketing/Dating No. 3

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

How marketing is like dating…

…you can use lots of online tools, but eventually, you have to meet in person.

There are all sort of dating sites out there.,, and many others (and about a billion “foreign bride” sites that we won’t even address here). Why are there so many? Because people have diverse interests and are attracted to different sites for different reasons (like a friend’s recommendation or the site’s own marketing).

There are even sites like or common interest group sites that, while not technically dating sites, provide listings that enable people to connect.

All of these sources are potential places to meet Mr. or Ms. Right. People connect via these tools all the time, and then they exchange emails and maybe IMs. Eventually, there may be a phonecall, but that is fairly rare as most of the communication is done electronically.

Sound familiar? Photographers and photo buyers have lots of online sources now. Just like dating sites, some are more reputable than others (like rather than, but even of the reputable ones, there are lots of choices. There are also all sorts of other social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook (FB). Photographers put themselves out there and, although there is NOT the reciprocity exactly like a dating site, buyers are also out there via their own posts on FB or blogs and, of course, they are listed on services like Agency Access.

Both sides want to put their best selves out there. Sometimes, unfortunately, they go too far in the fact spinning… especially on the photographer side. Sure, PhotoBob shot for Microsoft and lists it as a client, but it was a little test piece that ran in Pocatello only. Not a complete lie, but, well, it was in 1994 too.

Same thing happens in dating. We want to put our best “face” out there. Betty Single meets Bob Alone and though emails, etc., she learns that he is a successful businessman and, from his picture, he’s not bad! Bob is intrigued as well when he learns that Betty is a successful banker who describes herself as “active” and “young for her age”– her photo is pretty hot too!

At this point, everything seems to be going well–there is interest on both sides. For photographers, maybe you have exchanged tweets or you know that a certain buyer has clicked through on your e-promos. Great! But eventually you and the buyer, just like Betty and Bob, have to meet. Not just on the phone… in person. Just like them, you aren’t going to get anywhere unless you make a personal connection. Electronics will only take you so far. You can’t get to first base if you don’t get off the bench!

This can be great. You will get more work from people you have met personally than you will from those you have not. Like personal relationships, photographers and buyers have got to build a trust relationship to be successful and that is best done in the real world, face-to-face.

Unfortunately, this can be a nightmare if you’ve over-spun your abilities, work, etc.

Let’s say Betty really is a hot lady and her photo was not altered. Bob, however, has posted an image from about 10 years ago, when he still had a job and before he had the bad comb-over and when could still see his feet just by looking down. When her friend calls Betty’s cell 5 minutes into the date (yes, we do this), Betty will be “suddenly called away by an emergency.” Ahem.

If you have spun too much professionally, if you and your work (and your presentation!) do not match what you have put out there via all those electronic methods, you are going to walk into your buyer meeting and the buyer is going to get a call 5 minutes into the meeting where she will be “suddenly called away by an emergency.” Ahem.

Don’t let this happen to you. Emphasize the positive in your marketing and use those electronic tools, but don’t lie. Put yourself out there on sites where you feel like you are a good fit, not just some place where you think you are supposed to be; send e-promos to targets you think might like your work; build communities on sites like Facebook; share on your blog; but follow it all up by setting up meetings as often as you possibly can. These buyer “dates” will give you your best shot at connecting on the level you need to in order to get work. But you have to be real in all of this to get anywhere.

Being real doesn’t mean being a slob if you really are a slob. Just like dating, dress up for your meeting. Be your best you. Show up prepared and looking great–that includes having a high-quality book and leave-behinds. Consider bringing a small “gift”–like bringing flowers to a date (note, just like a dozen roses are too much on a first date, you can go too far on the gift–think simple, small, maybe a little print). But do work hard to get these meetings. Your payoff for your efforts will be worth it.

Wear a gorilla suit

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Several years ago, the photographer who got me into this biz (Stephen Webster) was having a birthday and his wife bought him the newly (re)released original Planet of the Apes movies, which he desperately wanted. She wanted to surprise him with it at a dinner they were going to have, with another couple, in a nice restaurant. The surprise? Someone in a gorilla suit would deliver it during the meal. But the person she had lined up bailed.

I volunteered. She happily accepted my offer.

I put on that gorilla suit (and blacked out around my eyes to make sure he wouldn’t recognize me), on a Saturday early evening, in mid-July Columbus, Ohio heat, and walked down the sidewalk (gorilla-style, of course), making ape noises at people. I was carrying the gift in a bag. I “gorilla-ed” into the restaurant, right past the maitre d’, and found the foursome. Then the fun really started. I abused the poor victim (and the others some), pulled hair, sniffed bits, put my fingers into food, made lots of ape-ish noises, and even threw bread. Then I presented the gift, made very excited ape noises, beat my chest, and left, still gorilla-ing all the way, unrevealed.

The people in the place laughed and stared and everyone had a great time. And the next Monday, at the studio, Steve told me the story of what had happened, saying how amazing the ape had been, how the person really pulled it off, and that he couldn’t figure out who it was! He was stunned when he found out it had been me.

Why am I sharing this story? Because I was completely liberated by that suit. I could never imagine doing half what I did in my regular clothes, but wearing the costume, I could be the ape. You can do the same in your business. One day when you have a client meeting– a new potential client– dress they way you think a really top-of-the-line photographer would dress. Spend the money on a really great outfit, and when you go to the meeting, play the role of the fabulous photographer. Just go with it. Do this especially if you are normally shy and self-deprecating. Pretend you are everything you want to be, everything you imaging a “real” photographer would be. Just have fun with it.

As others have said, fake it until you make it. In this case, don’t fake the creative but do fake the personal image. Wear a costume and play the role. At worst, you’ll have fun and not get the project. At best, you’ll get the project and be one big step closer to making real the imaginary person you were portraying.

What is $1Billion, Alex?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Q: How much has Condé Nast lost?

Newsweek answers the question. Ouch.

My next question, however, is whether new technology will get there in time to resurrect the industry. Kindle and the new rumored Apple tablet/reader and other companies joining in, plus the already popular iPhone, well, we have to ask if this is just a huge evolutionary leap. Maybe this is a $1Billion growing pain?


Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Recently, I was asked by Heather Morton about treatments and copyright for a piece she wrote on her fabulous blog about how photographers are getting their work, not their images as such but rather their treatments, ripped off. She wondered what the copyright implications were. I gave her my take on it, as a non-lawyer and just generally interested human being, of course (because nothing I write should be taken as legal advice, right? Right.), which was, essentially, that copyright doesn’t cover style or ideas and much of the treatment stuff is verbal or stylistic. Treatments are often developed in meetings and may result in something tangible, but often is more just the words describing how the photographer would approach the problem. Uncopyrightable stuff.

I kept thinking that there must be a solution. And I think I’ve found one. As I was siting in Licensing class, at about the same time, the professor lectured on how to start the negotiating process for a licensing agreement. First thing she pointed out was that a non-disclosure is essential because there will be trade secrets and other confidential stuff discussed.


I emailed my Licensing prof about this and she agrees with me that NDAs are a good solution to the photographers-are-getting-ideas-ripped-off-after-submitting-treatments issue.  However, as she pointed out, the trick would be getting the agencies to sign.

Here is a link to a generic NDA pdf from SCORE.

It is important to note that photographers really need to have one written up by their own attorney. It’s important to get exactly what is confidential accurately described (the trade secrets of the photographer–that is her/his ideas about the project) to be properly protected. Each photographer has his/her own interests to protect.

Also, the example above is a unilateral NDA and mutual one would be more likely to get signed, I would think. A mutual non-disclosure would protect the agency from having its ideas get out (which is a very big concern for them!) and the photographer’s ideas from being appropriated. If the agency used the photographer’s ideas, techniques, etc., after signing a non-disclosure, the photog could sue–and the agency could sue if the photog, for example, tweeted about the new campaign idea. Everybody’s asses, as it were, are covered.

Most companies (outside of our industry) won’t even begin to discuss a possible collaboration for any project involving ideas and (possibly) trade secrets and/or other IP without first executing an NDA. So why should photography and advertising be any different? It protects everyone. But, if agencies are reluctant to sign, then photographers would need to stick together on this issue until the tide turned.

I think that it makes sense for agencies to want to see treatments, but it also makes sense for photographers to protect that work. An NDA could do this. Take the idea to your own attorney and see what s/he thinks.