Monday, October 29, 2012

Don't Destroy Great Locations with "Cute" Graffiti

You've seen the images, perhaps you've even done them yourself. High school seniors want to feature their graduating year, engaged couples want hearts and their date, while expectant couples want to announce their pregnancy.

They do it using colored sidewalk chalk on the walls of old brick buildings. However, while what they're doing is creative, it is certainly unethical, if not illegal. If you as the photographer promote this as a "creative" idea, the responsibility now falls on you to clean up after yourself. The problem, however, is that most people simply walk away, assuming (incorrectly) that the rain will just wash it clean.

graffiti destroys great locations
Actual photograph taken in an area used regularly by photographers. Note the dates, hearts, etc. on the wall. Thanks to Jeanine Pohl for use of her image.
What is left over are the remnants of a portrait session that end up making buildings look trashy and create extra work for building owners. This also succeeds in spoiling potential backgrounds for other photographers who use the area. It also leaves plenty of people thinking photographers are simply vandals who come and go as they please, destroying property in the process.

We're not vandals. Most of us do our best to treat the places we photograph with great care, knowing that they'll be there for us another day as well. Yet, there are those select few who either don't care what others think of them or the industry as a whole, as long as they can "get their shot."

Harmless as it seems, chalk isn't something that just washes off every surface. As stated on, "The surface of brick allows substances such as sidewalk chalk to enter into its tiny pores. Once trapped inside these crevices, the chalk becomes difficult to remove. Wiping the brick with a damp rag does little to remove the chalk stain. The brick requires a cleansing agent along with abrasive action to loosen the chalk and allow it to be released from the brick's surface."

When you think of what we can do in Photoshop, why not find a great brick wall background and add your own personal touch later on? You can surprise the couple with your creative talents without defacing private or public property.

Maybe the best way for a fresh start would be to get a bunch of photographers together armed with buckets, brushes and graffiti remover (if not a power washer!) Even if it's not your handiwork, spend some time cleaning up after those who have not only defaced someone else's property, but disrespected our profession in the process. Maybe a group outing to "Pay it Forward" is in order!

We are talents artists, not mercenaries who are simply after a buck or vandalize property.

- David Grupa

(PS Note: As pointed out by a colleague who owns one of these brick buildings, power washers are not the best idea either. The force of the water stream can loosen or damage the old mortar between these aging bricks, causing even more issues. Be smart . . . bring a small chalkboard!)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Are Your Blogging and Facebook Habits Sabotaging Your Sales?

Do you blog your sessions or post images on a Facebook business page? Many of us maintain these sites, but have you ever wondered if the number of images that go online are killing your sales?

I visit a number of Facebook pages and blogs when I have time and am truly amazed to have learned a few things in the process.
  • First, many blogs aren't maintained regularly. People begin them with pretty lofty goals of regular posts, but then quickly run out of things to say or time to create the actual post itself. Hence, you see a lot of photographers opening their blog posts with the line "I'm so bad at keeping up on this blog . . . "
  • Second, there are FB albums and blogs with what seems like the entire session's images posted! It makes me wonder if people are using the blog as an online gallery, are indecisive and can't simply select a few good images, or just have the thought process of "I'll show everyone all the good ones and everyone will think I rock!" 
Let's address the frequency issue first. Rather than try to blog every session or do it once a day, set an attainable goal for yourself. Maybe once or twice a week is more realistic. If it means you can keep up with that workflow more easily, then schedule at least one day a week on your appointment calendar for blogging. Wednesday mornings at 9am may be the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee and get caught up. It's more about being consistent.
As far as the number of images go, it's entirely up to you. Realizing that many photographers use their blogs as their websites, I completely understand the desire to "show lots of variety." Yet there are those who toss anywhere from 6-10 images from a single session online regularly, and a few photogs who really load up with even more!

Is it a bad thing? Well, from a technical standpoint, using larger images on your blog post will cause it to load slowly. Multiply that times the number of images you use, and you're risking losing a viewer before your post has finished loading. Some less patient folks will simply click out before that process has completed. In cases such as this, a multi-image collage may do the trick much better than a dozen full-sized images.

However, it's something Charles Lewis used to say in his seminars that I think of most often when it comes to blogging. He was referring to online proofing, but the same principle applies.

"Once you put the images online, of course your client will share them with their family and friends. Great, right? However, it 'uses up all the memories' and your client now has minimal incentive to purchase them because everyone who they wanted to show the images to has now seen them."

And . . . if they're big enough on the blog to copy and save, why would someone need to purchase more? There are plenty of people out there who could care less about your logo across the middle if it means not having to pay you for the same image. These same people are content to print the images on their home inkjet printer and call it good. After all, this way they're "free".

Of course, this may vary depending on your final product. I'm not selling a disk of images; my final product is physical prints in 99% of the sessions I photograph, but that means this is completely critical to my income. I'm very conscious of my marketing and if I'm helping or hurting my sales with what I am doing. Whether it's Facebook or a blog site, I don't want them to "use up all the memories" before the sale.

Food for thought.

- David Grupa

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Do Your Facebook Settings Keep Your Clients From Finding You?

Ok gang . . . it's "Pet Peeve Time" -

Odds are that many of you on Facebook are marketing yourself as a professional photographer. Yet, the settings on the Facebook profiles of so many people have their info under strict security as if they're under the witness protection program. 

If your page settings are all "private", people that are NOT friends with you cannot see your business name and therefore cannot click on any link to even view your business page. If your settings are such that only "friends" can see that information, a potential client searching for you by name cannot easily get to your business page from your personal page. (And how many clients refer you by your name rather than your business name?)
So, you have to make some choices; stay in hiding and fore go the marketing benefits, or let potential clients know that you're a photography professional. If your photography is what you're trying to market via Facebook, you will want to have this information visible as your "work" when someone hovers over your name.

Do you have your page so locked down that nobody can see a thing? As a potential client, would not being able to see any info cause you to question doing business with someone?

My suggestion is to edit your work information so that at least your studio name is visible when the cursor is hovered over your name. (See the example here.) Because that link is clickable, it will allow potential clients to click through to your business page even if the two of you aren't "Facebook friends".

Fortunately you can now allow certain parts of your info to be public while keeping the rest visible only to friends. How do you change these settings? It's really pretty simple.

  • When you're logged into Facebook, click the arrow at the top right of your screen next to "home". 
  • Click "Privacy Settings"
  • Click on "Edit your Basic Info" (in the first paragraph), then edit your Work History.
  • Choose "Public" from the drop-down menu.
  • Click SAVE.
  • You're done!
Just to make sure, it's not a bad idea to ask someone who's not on your friend list to check it for you. (You and your friends are able to see it, but you want others to as well.)

This simple trick allows people to see your studio name and link without giving them complete access to your profile info.

Happy Facebooking!

- David Grupa

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Pitfalls of Raising Your Prices.

There's lots of talk among professionals about adjusting pricing for the coming year. Most all of it revolves around "I'm too cheap and not making any money, but if I raise my prices I'm afraid I'll lose what clients I do have!"

The fact is, when you raise your prices there are some issues you will have to deal with, both good and bad:

1 - You'll lose some clients who only came to you because you were cheap. These people are not loyal supporters and are only there to catch whatever scraps you let fall off the table. Their loyalty is based solely on you giving them the greatest amount of product for the least amount of money. They also tend to complain about your low prices and tell you that you're too expensive. They will want "a deal" on any extra product they purchase.

Downside - Without these clients you won't be as busy, but you also won't have to deal with people who waste your time and aren't willing to compensate you in return.

2 - If your work is where it needs to be, you will gain new clients who respect what you charge and will appreciate what you do and the quality of your product. They will view your work as an investment, not an expense. Treat these clients well and they will be yours for a long time.

Downside - You will still have to work hard to gain their loyalty, but not nearly as hard as you worked before just to get the cheap clients to be interested.

3 - You'll actually start making money. You may be able to purchase an upgraded piece of gear or a new background. You will probably have to stop making excuses about not being able to attend educational events and conventions because there will be enough money left in the checkbook, even after you pay studio expenses and yourself. You may actually be able to book fewer sessions and make the same amount.

Downside - You will have to open a savings account and put some money away during the busy times so there will be enough to pay the additional income taxes at the end of the year.

Don't be afraid. My favorite quote is from Star Wars when Luke was trying to use The Force to raise his speeder from the muck. Yoda kept telling him "Concentrate. Use The Force." Luke said "I'm trying!"
Yoda's famous reply was "There is Do and there is Do Not. There is no Try."

- David Grupa

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Are Your Facebook Followers Even Seeing Your Updates?

You post on your Facebook business page all the time, but your fans aren't seeing your updates. Wonder why? Facebook is now charging to "promote" posts from this page. This means that all of the people who "Like" your page may not always see your updates in their feed!

Over the past few months, the folks at Facebook have altered the algorithm by which posts are distributed to the feeds of friends and fans. They've also added a "promote" button to the bottom right corner of each post. This button allows the page owner to gain a wider distribution of posts - for an additional fee.


So . . . if you want to make sure to the broadest range of people see all of the updates posted on your page, the best thing you can tell them to do is go to the page, click the little "gear" arrow on the right hand side (underneath the cover photo) and then click "Add to My Interest Lists." It's also not a bad idea to remind them to check in every day or two just to make sure they're not missing anything!

The same holds true for the Camp David Photo page; you may be missing our updates. Click the Facebook link above and make sure to "Add Us" to your feed!

- David Grupa