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Archive for April, 2011

As Photographers we are Creators, as Small Business Owners we are creators too…we want to focus on our passion, our art, and what we love to do; and if you’re anything like me you hate to “Sell” Showing all your beautiful images, albums, and slideshows is almost as great a joy as creating them; in fact that is mostly why we create them.

So why are we so afraid to sell our services and artistry? For me at least the word SELL gives me an unpleasant image of a greasy car salesman {no offense to any car salespeople reading this} The last thing we want to do is talk numbers, especially when our industry is so abstract and prices literally range from $250 for all day wedding coverage with a disk of images to $25,000 packages by some of the world’s best. It’s a struggle to figure out where we fall on the spectrum, trying to differentiate between being affordable and being cheap. Dealing with not only our own insecurities in what we are worth, but also the cut-throat nature that this industry has adapted and being judged as a ‘sell out’ or not having a love for the artistry because we price ourselves for profit.

Ideally everyone would just be madly in love with our artistry and hand over a blank check for us to fill out and money would never be a topic of discussion, but such is not the case. The other side of the sword too is that many times in order to share our artistry and capture the moments that matter most we first have to sell them our services. Mostly them not buying you has less to do with them not liking your art then it does with your sale pitch. You know what the problem is right? You are making a sales pitch.
People think selling they think prices, packages, payment options and plans, deposits, and a la carte lists. In fact the first contact you ever get from a potential client is usually “can you send me your prices” And we, send them that information, doing a disservice to them and ourselves. They don’t actually want to know just your prices…they just dont know what the right questions are to ask.

Back to the car salesman for a moment it is actually similar to buying a car. They go into a dealership and say, “I want a car. What are your prices?” Well if you are buying a 6 year old with 100,000 miles that’s a lot different from the shiny new model fresh off the line. Even if you are buying the new one, as soon as you start deciding whether you want a sunroof, power windows, leather interior, etc it changes all the pricing. They don’t want to know the price, they want to know what the price is for what they want. Imagine if you went in and said I want a new 2011 Honda Accord with leather interior, built in GPS, power everything, sunroof. And the salesman said “ok well here’s our list for all our used cars, we have a 96 toyota, other honda models over there, our trucks are back there, and here’s the individual a la carte menu for all the extras you want to add-on, but once you do all the math there’s tax and service charges, and other expenses, it’s going to be different anyway…. how’s that sound?” You’d go find another dealer. One that would say, that model, with all the amenities you wanted is $22,000, you can put a $1000 deposit down and take out a 6 year payment plan at $420 a month, all taxes and service fees are included. Far less overwhelming eh?

Sending blanket price and package lists to your clients does 2 things, it causes them to focus on the numbers instead of the art, and they start comparing you to everyone else by cost and not value, it also intimidates them and in most cases discourages them from ever calling back for more information. Having an actual meeting where you can find out what they want, and which of your products and services fit their needs and personal style.

You don’t sell them on your products and services. Here is the big secret: Almost ALL Selling is Storytelling. I don’t tell my clients about why this product is worth the money they’re investing, because of what it’s made of, or where it’s made. I don’t explain why my rates are set this much for hourly, or sessions. I never try to equate a financial value to them; I tell them stories.
For instance one of my favorite weddings was Mea’s in 2009. A beautiful military wedding. Right before she left to go walk down the aisle one of the groomsmen came in with a little box. In the box were a pair of earrings. She had wanted to buy them for the wedding but didn’t because they were expensive. Her husband bought them for her, and had them delivered with a love letter. Aside from the mushy, I love you, so excited to marry you musings you’d expect to find, he told her that he had bought her the earrings as a wedding gift, but hoped someday when he got to walk their beautiful little girl down the aisle she would let her wear the earrings as her something old. EVERYONE was crying and ‘Awwing’ it’s one of my favorite moments of their day, and the photographs I took of that moment let him experience the emotion he invoked in the girls and his lovely bride, even though he wasn’t physically there.
That story invokes emotion in couples particularly brides… And they are sold without me ever having to talk money or prices. It has to be genuine though. That is one of my favorite stories from all the weddings I’ve shot, not only for the moment, but for the moments it will inspire decades from now. People see the photos of the moments captured from that experience, but if you’re like me you also imagine Mea 20-30 years from now teary eyed putting those earrings on her not so little girl, and remembering her in a white dress just barely more than a toddler as a flower girl at their own wedding, and seeing Shawn look at his daughter with the same overwhelming emotion as when he saw his wife wearing those earrings decades earlier… perhaps it will become a family tradition and heirloom that will be passed down to their granddaughter’s wedding as well, for generations.

It’s not about the pictures, and it’s most certainly not about the pricing… It’s about what we are capturing and preserving, and what the value of that is to them, now, and decades, centuries in the future. What you are selling isn’t photography, or prints, albums, or frames, no matter how high quality they are, you will never sell people on the products or services alone, the only people who do that are the CHEAP photographers, and cheap is vastly different than affordable. You are selling stories. Love stories, family favorites that they will tell over and over at holidays, memoirs… Stop Selling, and start telling the stories behind your images and clients, watch your sales start picking up because of it.

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Against the Grain

Softly. The thoughts of you come softly towards me, humming familiar secrets to my subconscious, like a lullaby for my wounded being. It dances and seduces, like the candles’ flames across the room, both threatening and encouraging the shadows. The recollection of your fingers is burned into my skin’s affections, and my fingers trace the paths yours once carved into my memory and desire. When I’m quiet, when I’m sensual, when I’m pensive, when I’m alone, when I’m in love, thoughts of you come softly toward me…

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Visceral

There’s something about the way the fabric clings to her skin, soaking wet. It’s erotic and intense, and a bit of a mystery that you don’t entirely want to unravel. The turn of her head and she’s glancing downwards, her eyes following the line of her hip, little rivers of water droplets pouring over the rivets in the folds of her negligée. The water on her collarbone and chest glistening as they catch the little pieces of sunlight and fragment them across her skin rhythmically as she breathes in and out. There is longing and anticipation yours or hers, it’s irrelevant at this moment. All you know is that in this moment she is hauntingly sensual, oblivious to the captivation she has inflicted upon you, you want her, or want to be her, no matter she feels the same. This is the embodiment of everything beneath her skin that I saw, sexual, ferocious, intoxicating, feminine, vulnerable and voluptuous…
I used to write. All the time. I was fairly visceral with words, but words could I offer that this image would not scream louder?

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I have been told more than once that I have a gypsy soul, mostly in relation to the fact that I am never long in one place without feeling restless. In the interest of having roots, I plant them firmly in the ground, but change the garden instead so that I feel like it’s changing without having to move. I repaint rooms in my home every few months, reposition the furniture, delve into a new project…I know it exhausts the people around me I love most, and they try their best to be good sports and keep pace.
I think that’s why I like the Black Velvet Parties so much, 5 or more girls, champagne, hors d’oeuvres a lot of giggling, make-up, curlers, high energy and different personalities all photographed at once, it’s a fun, fast paced day and appeals to my artistic chaotic nature.
The only hesitation always comes in with who will be the brave soul that will go under the lens first… When Jamie and her girls trekked the 5+ hours from connecticut for their session, Kim volunteered to start the session.

I LOVE this image, there is something vintage and wistful about it that really appeals to me and the lace and pearls and crystals draped over her and the chair create just enough mystery to allow for intrigue to be woven into the elements of the photograph, and the viewers imagination.

Sometimes I feel that when I want to continuously look at one of my own images it equates to a photographic version of vanity, but for this one it has far less to do with the photographic artistry and more to do with the allure and sensuality that is just dripping from Kim’s essence.

I’ve reiterated on more than one occasion that I’ve never studied photography in school, highschool or college, though I definitely understand that people learn in different ways, and education is always always always an amazing gift we can give ourselves and others. I did study as a fine art major when I was in college. I have a thing for greek statues, something I have no ability in sculpture or carving, and found it interesting that a sculptor was not considered accomplished by carving women. I obviously have a considerable bias towards the feminine figure, I just think the curves and femininity of a woman’s body are alluring and sensual, and sexual, and intoxicating. The theory being that women being more fluid curves while men are more angular and therefore harder and far more complex to create, so sculptors would drape the feminine figure in fabric, not out of modesty or to create an ancient version of the implied nude, but to showcase their talents as an artist by creating complexity. To me I dont think there are many things more indicative of my style and creative abilities than photographing a nude woman. Without the element of amazing architecture or location, intricate and gorgeous gowns, jewelry, and updos, their is nothing except the raw beauty of her skin; the turn of her head, and sway of her hair, the sparkle of her eyes, and line of her hip. I think that little swag of lace and pearl, an opal, golden glistening, the details of the stitching just really compliment her and contrast against the softness of her skin and gaze.
Images like this are what really inspires the passion of artistry within me.

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