Friday, January 5, 2007

Details, Details, Details

Often, it's the small things - details - that can have, when combined together, an impact on the overall presentation you make before a client. Customers when entering a store with soothing music respond more favorably than a store without music. A frequent example I will use throughout my posts will be the Nordstroms vs. Target vs. Wal-Mart business models. In Nordstroms, there is frequently a pianist playing music in the escalator or main entrances of their stores, and this has a very positive impact on the first impression the customer has when they enter. Details details details.

So to will your clients gauge your professionalism based upon little things, like your e-mail, address, and phone numbers.

Here are email addresses. I've ranked them from worst to best:





Do not use free email accounts to conduct business. Period. Spend the $7 a month to host a domain at somewhere like, where you can have all sorts of functionality, web mail, forwarding, etc. Others considering doing business with you will feel as if you are not professional nor locatable if you are using a freebie email account.

If you are John Smith, just drop the last name from the email prefix.

Phone #'s:

Whichever city you are in, get the primary area code for that city as your #. You will be seen as more established. 202 for DC, 212 for NYC, 415 for SF. With number portability, you should NEVER have to change phone numbers again. Your phone number is your lifeline to repeat business. If I were in a town like NYC, where a 212 # is next to impossible, I would go on a waiting list to get one, even if I had to do it by temporarily getting a landline account, which, once I got the number, I would flip to my preferred cell carrier or VOIP service.

While next to impossible, get "hundred" #'s. My cell #'s are (202) 255-4500, (202) 258-3500, and my wife's is a variation of those, also ending in "00". You'd be amazed at how people respond to that, and how many people with caller ID take my calls because it's percieved I am calling from another business (I am, but not as a big a one as they probably were expecting.) If "hundred" numbers are not possible, get easy to dial #'s. Mine is (202) 544-4578, all in a square on the dialpad. Also, get sequential #'s wherever possible. I have: (800) 544-4577 - office; (202) 544-4578 - office; (202) 544-4579 - fax. People again percieve these as business #'s, and treat them accordingly.

Addresses are the same, which is a business on the corner of 17th and K streets here in DC, will opt for the K Street address, because that's the famed street where all high powered lobbyists have their offices. I once had an address on K street, it was an apartment on the other side of the convention center, and my address for my business was 200 K Street, NW, Suite 619. Note that that was my apartment, but people saw "suite" and it came across much more professionally than "Apt", "Apartment", or, god forbid "#".

Further, your address must be able to send and receive overnight packages, and a PO box can't do that. The Postal Annex, and other similar services can work around this, however, make absolutely certain that they can send/receive. Some places have a fixed address that would normally meet that requirement, but have been refused by carriers because of their "po box"-esque services.

Certainly, if you are a student, moving around a lot, a fixed address, over time, is going to serve you better than the annual address change.

However, ask yourself this question -- do I want to do business with, send money to, etc:

  • 1000 South Main Street, Anytown USA 12345

  • 1050 South Main Street, Suite 500, Anytown USA 12345

  • 3233 South Main Street, Apt 702, Anytown USA 12345

  • 4179 S. Main St, #145, Anytown USA 12345

  • P.O. Box 3454, Anytown USA 12345

The 1050 address type would be what you could use at a Postal Annex/Mailboxes Etc type service, also, spell out everything.

Yes, each of these issues, from phone #, to email, to address, in and of themselves are small things, however, who below comes across as more professional, when these items are combined, and put together in your email signature:

  • John Smith
    John Smith Photography
    1050 South Main Street, Suite 500
    Anytown USA 12345
    (800) 555-1212 - Toll free
    (212) 555-1213 - Office
    (212) 555-1214 - Fax


  • John Smith
    PO Box 3454
    Anytown USA
    (646) 134-5129 - Office

Take the time now to modify your outward presentation to clients, and it just might win you a few additional clients.

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Thursday, January 4, 2007

What The Duck - Humor Cuts to the Quick

So, here are a few of my favorite What The Duck comics, about a happless duck that is a photographer. Check out his entire strip which started in mid-2006. Here are my favorites:

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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

On Our Nightstand

I like books. They are concise collections of knowledge on literally every topic under that sun. Of course, some are total crap, and others are just so dead-on that they require a re-read just to gleen more insights from them. When I find an author who's message, subject, concepts, stories or storytelling manner I like, I tend to collect what they've written. This means that whereas many people just have one or two books on their nightstand, I have about a dozen. Lined up under my clock radio, dutifully awaiting the crisp crack of the spine as they are opened for the first time. Here's my list of books that are there, a bit about them, and why. Once I've read them, they will migrate off this list and over to the Recommended Reading list, unless I am off the mark on one, in which case they will just disappear (not likely).

I recommend you take this list, and the Recommended Reading List, and put them on a wish list on Amazon, here's My Wish List.When you are looking to but something else, a DVD, another book for yourself, or as a gift, you may need to spend a few extra dollars in order to qualify for free shipping. By adding one or so of these into your cart, and thus getting free shipping, you will further reduce the cost of the book, allow you to grow your own nightstand collection, and, more importantly, your own knowledgebase from which to be successful at business.

Henri Cartier-Bresson's The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographersis an interesting read to be sure. I'm not sure how he percieves his own business accumen. He certainly was critical of Ansel Adams' work in Yosemite during Adams' work there. In an interesting (and somewhat uncomfortable Charlie Rose Interview, viewable at Bresson talks about inspiration, and how he sees the camera just as one tool in his palette.

An older book by Lou Jacobs titled The Big Picture: The Professional Photographer's Guide to Rights, Rates & Negotiation,goes into great detail about the business of photography.

Business Basics for the Successful Commercial Photographer, A self-published book by Leslie Burns Del-Aqua, follows on the heels of a collection of her articles in a number of trade publications. With concise insights, Leslie provides a good primer and is an easy read. This is the one title that you can't get on Amazon, you'll need to get it via the self-publishers website.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life,is a great book about the power of being an optimist. Amazon's review, in part notes that the author "...a renowned psychologist and clinical researcher, has been studying optimists and pessimists for 25 years. Pessimists believe that bad events are their fault, will last a long time, and undermine everything. They feel helpless and may sink into depression, which is epidemic today, especially among youths. Optimists, on the other hand, believe that defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge--it doesn't knock them down." This is a read I look forward to (see, optimisim!)

One author your see throughout the already-read reading list is Steve Chandler.While what he says has absolutely zero to do with photography specifically, his insights on the subject of business are definately not to be missed. I caught a radio program of him awhile back, and what he was saying struck a chord, so I ordered one of his books, and now I have three more on track, as his messages hit home. The three are: The Small Business Millionaire,100 Ways To Motivate Yourself,and Reinventing Yourself.

The Small Business Millionaireuses real-world stories to illustrate how small businesses can grow and succeed beyond the owner's wildest expectations.

100 Ways To Motivate Yourselfis a story about working through the pessimism that everyone feels. Motiviation is often one of the major challenges that those that are self-employed have to overcome. When no one is dictating to you that you must be in on time, and watching your every move, oftentimes the slacker in you can find it's way to the fore, and keep you from getting up and getting moving.

Reinventing Yourself: How To Become The Person You've Always Wanted To Beis a book about change. Chandler posits the notion, as outlined, as revealed in a Library Journal "There are two kinds of people, asserts motivational speaker Chandler: victims and owners. Transforming oneself from the victim mindset to the owner mindset is the purpose of this recording."

Often I will stumble across an author because of an obscure reference in another book. This is the case with this next author, whose name I have yet to be able to properly pronounce. While reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,by Malcom Gladwell, he mentions the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,and I was intrigued by the reference, so I ordered it. What followed on was my ordering several other books by him, even though I am not finished with Flow.

Flow,by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (see, you try pronouncing that name!) is about (sorry for the etherialness here) becoming one with what you're doing. Amazon's review says it well ''You have heard about how a musician loses herself in her music, how a painter becomes one with the process of painting. In work, sport, conversation or hobby, you have experienced, yourself, the suspension of time, the freedom of complete absorption in activity. This is "flow," an experience that is at once demanding and rewarding..."

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,as noted in a New York Times review "...Csikszentmihalyi eloquently argues that living fully in the here and now requires that one heed the lessons of the past and acknowledge that today's most seemingly trivial acts inevitably have an impact on the future."

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention,reveals, through almost a hundred interviews with creatives, as Publishers Weekly puts it, "...this book offers a highly readable anatomy of creativity. As Csikzentmihalyi (Flow) argues, creativity requires not only unusual individuals, but a culture and field of experts that can foster and validate such work. Most creative people, the author suggests, have dialectic personalities: smart yet naive, both extroverted and introverted, etc."

Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning,returning to Publishers Weekly's sentiments "Asking business leaders to turn a profit in this climate is tough enough, but psychologist Csikszentmihalyi challenges them to do something even tougher: make people happy....".

I have made my way through most books on Marketing by now. There are some -- The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook,Guerrilla Marketing Attack,(etc) that I also recommend, but by now, my remaining reads have to do with a very narrow sliver of marketing, e-mail marketing.

So as to not go into a Karmic deficit, I have refrained from doing much marketing via e-mail, fearful of becoming black-listed, or percieved as a spammer. So, I am treading lightly, and learning about how it should be done, and determining for myself the do's and don'ts of email marketing. The two books that remain (I've finished ettiquette and these are on the Recommended Reading list) are Email Marketing: Using Email to Reach Your Target Audience and Build Customer Relationships,and Advanced Email Marketing.

Email Marketing: Using Email to Reach Your Target Audience and Build Customer Relationshipsdelves into " to write a good e-mail, and one of the book's key sections takes you through the do's and don'ts, from the wording of the header to signing off. Examples from the real world are included so you can see how the big guns do it."

Advanced Email Marketingtakes it to the next level (but don't get ahead of yourself, read the first one first! The book continues the messages from the earlier book, and continues on with real world examples and proof of the effectiveness of email done right.

Not all books on my nightstand, however, are business-specific. There are some really great authors on Photoshop, and such, that I want to gleen insights from. Everyone seems to have their favorites, and I base my purchasing decisions on trusted colleagues' recommendations who know whereof they speak, many are experts, but have yet to publish their own book, so send me in the direction of ones which they rely on. A few of the books are: Real World Image Sharpening,Photoshop Finishing Touches,and Color Confidence.

Real World Image Sharpeningis a great book by reknowned author Bruce Fraser, who wrote many other books. This one is specific to sharpening, and is a thick book, which mean there's a ton of nuance to getting it right.

Photoshop Finishing Touchesgoes into detail on how to move a photograph from being photographic to being a photo-illustration, where adding border effects, colorizing, and other things that you might find useful to deliver "something different" to a portrait client.

Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Managementis not so much a book that I need to say you should buy, as much as it is a book that you must buy. I know, really, all the books I am listing are must buys, and are a minimal cost compared to the benefit received, but this book just cries out "buy me!" I can guarantee that you don't understand color. There are varying straitions of knowledge on this subject, and I highly doubt that anyone can make more sense out of color management than this book.

And so, sometimes, I need to divert my left brain when it starts to feel overloaded, and do a little right-brain stimulation. As such, I turn to authors like Nelson DeMille, and David Morrell. Morrell wrote a great book where one of the main characters was a photographer in LA -- Double Image.Right now, I am looking forward to cracking open Creepers,but I know little more about it other than my affinity for his previous books.

DeMille's latest -- Wild Fire,along with Night Fallalso look to be really great reading.

Lastly, a wonderful gift from my wife was the book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.I am not only a huge fan of Harrison Ford, but moreover, a big big fan of Blade Runner. I was excited to read the follow-on to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,The Edge of Human (Blade Runner, Book 2),which closed up a lot of loose ends from the first book. I know that those that put themselves out as "hardcore" Blade Runner fans didn't like this sequal, but I enjoyed it. I pray that a second movie is coming, and Ford seems to have not ruled it out, a conversation I had with another actor in the movie, Edward James Olmos, seemed to hint at the idea that a script was kicking around Hollywood. Further, a number of the fan sites seem to hold out promise that there will be a sequel, albiet about 25 years after the first movie. Wikipedia has a good history of the franchise.

So, for now, that's it. I know, a lot to read. Maybe one day when I'm laid up with the flu or some short-term disability, I'll be able to make it through the entire collection above, but for now, I look forward to finishing each of the above books for many reasons.

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