Must think differently

We as a creative industry must re-think how we generate revenue. I by no means am calling for dropping the “usage license” as the basis for fees, but rather would like us to brainstorm alternative ideas for how we work with our clients to generate that revenue. 

William Morris gets it. They are working with Google to have their artists share an ownership interest in productions created for the web. This is a fascinating idea. By tying in ownership, all the parties involved had good reason to make the best product possible. If it is a hit, everyone gets more.

They also all take a risk–if the show flops, they might not make as much as in the past for similar work. This seems very fair to me. We so often talk about wanting to “partner” with our clients, but when that involves taking a risk, too many of us bail on the concept. 

How can we use this info to develop better, more equitable financial relationships with our clients?

See things as they are

The other day in one of my law school classes, I got to role-play being a judge. There were 6 of us “judges” and the rest of the class was split into two opposing teams whose job was to convince the judges that a law as written meant X (or, on the other side, not-X). The teams each presented their cases, then we judges asked questions. 

One side presented a cogent, logical argument. They used the facts provided and stuck to them to make their argument. It was not a pleasant or popular position to have to take, but they advocated for their side. The other side argued that the statute “should mean X” and that to think otherwise would be bad for society and let bad guys get away.

The second group was passionate. However, they mostly ignored the facts at hand and, instead, tried to emotionally push the court to agree with them. When the judges asked them about specific facts that went against their side, they got snippy and rude and even sniped back. The first group, on the other hand, mostly stuck to the facts and, when something went against them, they copped to it, then pointed out something else which was more positive to their side.

It turns out that they made almost exactly the same arguments the real lawyers had in this real case–lawyers who won, even though the issue was incredibly unpopular. I think they were successful because they kept to the facts and didn’t let their emotions get the best of them.

The reason I share this is because sometimes we are in complex situations where it would be much easier to get overly emotional and try to push for what we think is “right.” Instead, we have to look at it rationally and dispassionately, like the first team did. It’s not popular, for example, to say that buyers have every right to try and get all the rights they can for as little money as possible. But the reality is, they do have that right and for many, that is their job. Rather than get angry about it, accept that the buyer is just doing her job and you stick to your “facts” (like that you license your work and value/price it appropriately).

You can’t force the “other side” to agree with you, but when you are calm and rational and respectful, you are much more likely to carry the day.

How NOT to do an Email Promo


bad template

I got this in my email today. It’s a great example of the dangers of using a template for your emails. Also, do you think the marketing assistant (I hope–and not someone higher ranking!) bothered to run a test before s/he sent this to the masses? Nope, no way. 

Don’t make mistakes like this very expensive LaJolla medical spa did.

Think Service

In these tough economic times one thing you can do to help your business is to improve your client service. Instead of pulling back on the “little things,” adding extras to your service can really impress clients.

For example, provide great food on shoots. Sure, that looks like a good place to save a few bucks, but humans love good food and clients will come back to a photographer who feeds them well.

Make sure to send “thank you” notes/gifts after working with someone too. A small signed print is a great idea here. Pay attention to what your client talks about during the shoot or what s/he admires in your studio (you do have your own work up on your walls, yes?) and send something more personalized that way.

Try to think of other ways to service your client too (please, no bad animal husbandry jokes here). Maybe s/he loves your coffee or is new to your area and needs suggestions for other services like plumbers and mechanics or wants to impress a date and you know the chef at a great restaurant–think outside of photography to ways you can just help out (i.e., send a pound of coffee, a list of service providers, introduce the chef to the client).

Offering these little extras can really make the difference when so many others are pulling back and offering bare-bones service to save a buck.

Stay away from

Do me a favor…stay away from Any site that would actually advocate any business that wants you to sell your rights in an image, including the rights to resell, for $800, is no photographer’s friend.

I don’t have time to go into all the bad things that this sales site has to “offer.” Suffice it to say that if you want to commit business suicide, this site is your Kevorkian.

In fact, I can’t find anything redeemable about photopreneur at all. No real humans connected (contact is all anonymous) and they appear to be lumping pho photographers and schmucks-with-cameras into the same boat. Just trying to make a buck…offering BAD advice to all. 

Stay away.


(thanks to Steven Rood for the heads-up on this!)