Tips for Professional Portraits Part 1
The first thing is I wanted to pick the coolest image, I've ever taken of a professional. This is like the best day on the job ever. Where I got to drive that Corvette around that track. Really really fast you know. That guy handed me the keys to it after the shoot. And he goes hey Gary you want to drive the Corvette? It was a slow motion moment like, anyways so that was pretty cool. Rather than in a boardroom. Beautiful person with a hot car on a racetrack. So totally not what we're going to do okay. Number one tip. We have moved from a artists business model. In the portrait and wedding world. Typically you're the artist. You're the creative. You are the person people come to ideally where they say, I want you to do what you do. I want you to do it for me. Does that make sense? In the professional world. You are on a commission based commodity kind of business, model where people come and they will give you, this is what I want I need you to do the things that are, gonna meet these r...
equirements. And that's a different way of approaching the business. So instead of saying do your art for me. They say we need this for our website. For our brochure. For our marketing material. And you have to be able to deliver A B and C. And so intent is the thing I want to get across. And it's almost a shame that it's the first thing. I should have left it to the last. Because it is honestly the most important thing. When you're shooting for intent. You have to understand one what is it gonna be used for. In large part you kind of have to somewhat compromise, your artistic sensibility to do this type of work. Because you're not always gonna be in control, of the situation. A lot of times people will come into your studio. And you can just create. But more often than not. People are going to give you a set of requirements. That you have to meet. It's gonna be for my website. I need it to be horizontal. It has to have a lot of space for copy. It has to look like all these other head shots, that all these people that work for my company have. Whatever it is you're going to have to understand, the intent what the image is gonna be used for. And then the next part of that. Is that you have to understand what the client, is trying to say. So this gonna come into style. This is gonna come into delivery. Where you have to understand the client's brand message is. As an artist business model. You are reinforcing your own brand. Taking pictures of other people. Does that make sense? When you are shooting for the corporate world. You are marrying your artistic ability and vision. With the intent of their images together. So it's not reinforcing your own brand as an artist. You are trying to deliver to a product that will, reinforce their brand. So you have to sort of get a little bit out of the, mentality of the artist business model. And in a way I want you to understand you can have both. In your business. But when you're working with these types of people. And in these types of situations. You're gonna have to understand what the intent is. And what the client is trying to say. They might have a very warm and fuzzy business model. Or they might be very hard and edgy. And you're gonna have to be able to do both of those things. And you're not going to be able to say, well that's not what I do. You're gonna have to deliver what they want. How can you make images that are gonna align, with their vision? Do you ever meet photographers that are really set, in the way that they do things? When they say I only shoot this. Or I only shoot that. or I only shoot natural light. Or I only use strobes. Or I only shoot in studio. All of that has to completely go out the window. For this type of work. You have to be a Swiss army knife of photography skills. You have to know how to do so many things. I did a photo shoot for a commercial shoot for a pest, control company. That was an entire day outside in the sun. And in Florida it was a hundred degrees. 80% humidity. And it was one of these shoots where it's not uncommon, where I used like a hundred different styles and skills. All in the same day. They wanted architectural. They wanted commercial and lifestyle. They wanted professional portraits. They wanted pictures of cars. They wanted pictures of equipment. And I had to know how to do all of that. When you work in a commercial enterprise. Working for people that are in the commercial world. You have to know how to do a ton of things. So we're gonna go over that in a little bit more detail. But you have to take images using your skills. That align with your clients vision not yours. That's the really really important thing we have to get to. This is probably the second most important thing. Is efficiency. In this business model. Efficiency is almost as important, no it is as important and almost more important, than quality. We wanted to deliver really high quality, images to our clients. But if we don't do it in a way that's efficient. That works inside their business. You're not gonna get hired again. Nobody's gonna use you more than once. If they're waiting on you at every stage of the game. You have to figure out the most efficient way, to do business all the time. It's not like if you have a boudoir business. Or of family portraits or baby's. Do you put a little space between the shoot and the sale. In the in person sale. There's always you space things out. You drag it out. You want to hold hands with the client a little bit. You want to guide them through things. This is seriously like take my picture and get the hell out. Like they really want it to be done quickly. Like the best story I've gotten about this is, when I was 19 I had a wisdom tooth pulled. And I had just gotten off my parent's insurance. And I hadn't gotten a new job with insurance yet. I had no insurance. So I had to find a dentist that would pull this tooth. And I had to get the best price I possibly could. So I go into the dentist office. They get me all drugged up. And then the dentist comes in. Puts his foot up on the chair. Gets his pliers. Pulls it out 30 seconds no more wisdom tooth. They pack it. He goes off. And I see him at the billing desk on my way out. I said doc this bill is for 350 bucks. That took you like 30 seconds. And he says did you want me to take longer? You understand the difference. We're not in an artists mind set. Although you can be creative. You can create art. And again anytime I give business advice. Or photographic advice I want to say that there are so, many ways to do things. My way is just my way. So don't think that by saying one thing. I'm saying that the other thing is bad. This is how we are successful in our studio with this. And I'm gonna give you all that I've got. Take what you can use in your business. And do what you will with it. But I'm telling you if you're efficient you'll get hired. Over and over and over again. From contact. First contact with the client to delivery. You should be looking at eliminating as many steps, as you possibly can. To make that as efficient and quick as possible alright. So, In a portrait or a wedding. You have a consult. Maybe you talked to them on the phone. How many people have done in person consultation. Like you have them come into the studio. Look at your products do that whole nine yard. And then you schedule the shoot. And then they come in later for an in person sale. And then maybe they come in for their product reveal. And then maybe even you deliver it to their house and stuff. That's beautiful. That's magical. That's perfect. I'm so proud of all of you for doing that. But this is not what these people want. They want it done usually yesterday. I would say that probably 75% of my commercial work, in the corporate world is shot within a week of the first, phone call. They very rarely more than two weeks out. And do you understand why? Because you are as the photographer to them a thing, on a checklist. It's like so you get coffee filters for the break room. Call Bob about the computer that's not working well. And get photos for everyone in the office. Like you're a thing on a list. You're not an emotional decision. And usually somebody has been handed down the task, of hiring you and dealing with you. To someone in middle management. That could really care less. So the easier that you make their job. The more they're going to like you. Does that make sense? Okay cool. Systems. This is a very non sexy word. Use systems that enable you to operate, like a much larger company. Our business is just me and my wife Julie. It's just the two of us. But I work for big company's. I've worked for like Microsoft. And Walmart. And UBS financial. And they deal with us. In a way that we're a large company too. Even though we're not. We're talking about thousands and thousands and millions, of employees versus just me and my wife. But we have whittled everything down to the essentials. My whole life as a person. As a photographer. As a business person. Is whittling everything down to only the most, essential parts. I really am not a warm fuzzy fluffy schmoopy person. Is that a word schmoopy? I'm not a schmoopy person. I'm like let's just do it. Like when we're shopping I'm like let's buy that. And my wife's like let's read all the labels, you know we're like two different people in that way. But this speaks to my personality so much. This business model. So I'm always looking at the bottlenecks in my system. So you want to find your bottlenecks. You want to find anything that slows down your system. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna go to a really neat, flowchart. That's going to show you how a shoot in my mind, is broken down alright. You want to find anywhere there's a slow down. Whether it's how a client can get in touch with you. How you get back in touch with them. And how you deliver the work. The whole nine yards. I cannot say enough about outsourcing. Outsourcing is the number one thing that's gonna enable you, to put your big boy pants on. And act like a much larger company. Again in an artists business model. People pay for you. They pay for your name. They want your name on it. If you try to send somebody else out to do the job. They won't be happy because you weren't there personally. With your white gloves on doing it yourself. In this business model most people could care less. And to be honest with you. Most of my images are shot for the web. In these types of situations. So we're talking about like six or 700 pixels, at 72 DPI which is like that. Anybody got like a newer iMac or like the four K, five K screens? You ever pull up web images of it? They're like this big. That's mostly what I'm doing. So the difference between when I outsource, something like retouching. But is it as good as if I did it myself? I don't think so. You might. I might suck at retouching an not know it. But that's okay. Between doing that. And what a company that outsources it would do. The client isn't necessarily gonna see the same differences, that you would. As an artist. As people who grow up and work in artists business model. It's really tough for us to outsource that stuff. Like what would be the hardest thing to want to outsource? For me I would probably say the shooting. Is the hardest thing for me to outsource right. Because I have a specific way of doing things. But I have to get over that. Because when you're talking about this business model. I'm talking about volume. You kind of have to do a lot of it. You have to photograph a lot of people. To make good money doing this. It's almost like school picture day for grownups. No it's exactly like school picture day for grownups. That's pretty much what it is. And when you go and you do this work. Inevitably if there's more than three people. Somebody's gonna say hey it's school picture day. And then you laugh and pretend they're funny. And you secretly hate them. But I want you to understand that it's okay to outsource, stuff like there is a little sacrifice in quality sometimes. But we were talking about this a little bit, before we started. About different ideas that we had. And we'll talk about that in outsourcing. And in the flowchart. Scaling down is really important. Like we talked about anything that's non essential. Get rid of it when you're dealing with this type of work. You really don't need to go to necessarily the same lengths, on every detail that you do. So let's look at this flowchart. This is everything that I could think of. In my business. And it kind of goes like this. Everything I could think of in my business. That happens in a shoot from my first contact, with the client. To the follow up after we deliver the final product okay. Each one of those arrows is gonna represent a system, that you use to do that thing. So let's go to you guys a little bit okay contact. To bidding. What could we do to cut out some time between that? Any of these places what could you do?
You could call them.
You could call okay. Calling is sometimes more efficient right. Than an email okay. I will tell you when it comes to contact, with this type of work. I have lost jobs that are thousands and thousands, of dollars because I got back to them 45 minutes, after the initial email. Or returned the phone call 45 minutes later. The number one thing you can do to shorten this, is to answer the phone when somebody calls. Or to get back to those emails right away. If you have someone who's looking for a photographer. For their wedding. They take a little more time in deciding. But what really happens in this world. Is that somebody looks it up on Google. And they send an email to the first five results. And whoever gets back first. That will do it for the right kind of money. Gets the job. 99% of the time. So you have to find the fastest possible way that it is, for you to contact and keep in touch with your clients. And whether you use Gmail. Or whatever you use. Your contact has to be really really fast. This is the point where it all starts. Right away you are either going to get the job. Or you're not going to get the job. Based on how quickly you're gonna contact somebody back. Efficiency is most important. Bidding. All these kind of commercial jobs. A lot of times they've got several inquires out. So your bidding process has to be streamlined. One of the things that we do when we bid. Is I send all of our paperwork with the bid. I send our tax ID. I send our insurance certificate. All the stuff that they're gonna ask for. After they give me the job. I send that with the bid. To save a step. Does that make sense? Like anything that you could do to shorten this. So we go to scheduling. Invoicing. Is there a system in which you can use. That would automate it for your clients. They can make their own schedule. Beauty salons are really great place to find software, like that. Invoicing. What's the fastest way to get them to invoice. And for them to be able to pay you. Let me tell you the worst thing that you can possibly do, is to make it hard for them to pay you. It's bad for business. Because you get put on what? Anybody work in the corporate world what happens? You get put on the billing cycle. That like dreaded billing cycle. The 30 60 90 the whenever business cycle. I'll give you a quick tip about invoicing. Is you have to have a deposit. Because in every office there is a guy. Or gal who has a card that they can spend. That they can use for incidental expenditures. So if you're talking to somebody who's trying to book you. And you go okay we require a 50% deposit to reserve, the date. They're gonna go get that card and they're gonna pay you. You're not gonna get on the 30 day billing cycle. Because we're a small business. If you ever worked with big company's before. Anybody worked in the corporate world? Who do they pay first? They pay the big guys first.
The big guy.
They pay their biggest bills. The people who they don't want to mess around with. The people they pay last are the little guys. Like us. So you have to make sure you get paid. I promise you that's gonna be huge. But look at the flowchart. And without going everything in specific detail. I want you to think about how you do it in your business. And then what is the easiest way to get that done. Delivery I find is a big bottleneck for me. We used drop box for a long time. But what I found is that for some people drop box, is really hard. I don't know why it's really hard for some people. It's like click download. But I was using drop box. And I had about like one in three or four clients, get back to me and be like I can't find the link. Or I don't know how to open a zip file. Like who knows. Like it's 2016 I don't know what's wrong with people. But so we had to find a way to do delivery. That everybody could use. You also have to be able to deliver in any possible, way that they need you to deliver. If you're working doing a job for Google. Are they gonna want you to use drop box? No they're gonna want you to use their thing. If you're shooting for Microsoft. Are they gonna want you to use Google? No they're gonna want you to use Microsoft. Whatever that they use. And a lot of company's have proprietary systems. That you're gonna have to familiarize yourself with. I have an account with drop box. Hightail. You know Microsoft Drive. Google Drive. I have an account for all of them. In some cases I will put all the JPEGS on a thumb drive. And tie it to a pigeon and throw it at their office. Whatever you have to do. I swear 1996 called and they want their optical drive back. People still ask for DVDs. You have to be able to do that you know. So delivery is a huge bottleneck for me. So our system in place is one we will deliver in any way, you possibly want. Just be ready to deal with anything. Because I will tell you. The easier you are to work with. The more likely you are to get hired again. If you are not incredibly easy to work with. Then next time somebody will say who did we use for that? Oh yeah man it took a really long time to get those images. Yeah let's look for somebody else. Because it's literally just an email for them, to replace you. And it means nothing to them. They're not attached to you. You didn't take pictures of their puppy. Or their kid graduating high school. You just did their portraits. Not that big of a deal. Okay. This is the thing I learned the most. It's not necessarily efficiency. But being prepared. You have to be prepared in a way that the client, doesn't ever have to think about you. If they don't have to worry about you. Especially I do a lot of event work. Or I'm at very busy offices. If they can just leave you in a room. And know that you're gonna get the job done. They're gonna love you alright. So you want to arrive early. Always arrive early. What do they say in the military? Ten minutes early is on time. Alright an hour early 45 minutes. You almost cannot be too early. I don't mind waiting outside the office. Waiting for it to be open. Actually you know what that's annoying. But just be early. One of the things is I go into a place that I've never, seen before almost every job that I do like this. So I always get in there early to scout the locations. To pick the best time. If it's a big enough job. I'll go out there the day before at the same time. Just to see what the conditions are. Because sometimes you'll be shooting outside. Sometimes you'll be shooting inside. And you don't know what you're working with. So scouting the location is important. I always arrive early to do that. Here's a cool just a little tip. Always have some cash on you. Because you know a lot of time you'll be in office, buildings and you'll pay for parking. And depending on what part of the country you're in. And how hip everybody is. I never carry cash because I always have my stupid credit, cards and Apple pay and stuff like that. But I always find that I need cash for parking. In half the time. Always keep stuff like that on you. Because sometimes you're parking at a meter. Sometimes you're parking in a parking garage. There are all kinds of little things you can do. Have backups of your equipment. You shouldn't be going out on a job like this. No client is gonna say hey it's okay that your lens, doesn't work and now everybody's shot with a 35 millimeter. Like there's no excuse that's gonna make you okay to them. You know there's no reason for you not to be as prepared. And professional as your client is. And so if you're not prepared that's one of those things, that's gonna be really really noticeable. You have to appear to be professional. And ready at all times. Here are a couple of things I like. I always have tape. Gaff tape. A lint roller. And a mirror. All these little things that you can add. Because what you really want to be. Is you want to be a problem solver. They're gonna say oh well we have this. Or this guy didn't bring a jacket. You know what I started doing at jobs now? I bring a couple extra sport coats. Because there's always that one dude in accounting. Who shows up and he's just got like a tee shirt on. You know and then everybody else looks great. And in the team photo you got the one guy on his salt, life tee shirt and everybody else is in a jacket. So it's not a bad idea to do stuff like that. If you're a problem solver. You're really gonna stand out. And they're gonna use you again. Always have a mirror. Because the ladies need to see their hair. Before you take a photograph. Also by the way men when you're shooting them. Shoot them from whatever angle makes them look like they, have the most hair. That's the only rule you need to know. That'll always work out for you alright. I want you to be memorable. This is important. Service is gonna be one of the most important things. But being professional will get you hired again. How do you get people to remember you on a job? That's pretty easy. You remember them. Dress well. Not like I'm dressed right now. But you know dress for the people that you're going to. You're gonna go shoot a bunch of attorney's. Do not show up in a tee shirt and jeans. You want to look, again you want to fit in. You don't want to stand out too much. But you want to be memorable. I cannot tell you how many times I've hired an assistant. Or gone on a job and I've seen the photographer showing up. And he's wearing like jorts and a tee shirt. Like just because you're a photographer. And you own your own business. And you get to wear whatever you want that's fine. It doesn't mean that that's the smartest thing to do. It seems like such a no brainer. I know in this there are probably a lot of duh moments. But there are also gonna be some good moments. I promise. This is my soapbox that I stand on. Remembering and using people's names. Does anybody liked to be called dude? Buddy pal sport chief ace anything like that? Like do you guys is that cool? Like I hate it. Personally. A lot of people don't. I'm from the South. You know so everybody's sweetie and hon and darling. If you're a diner waitress you know. But when you're walking into a room full of people. That are powerful accomplished educated folks. And I'm the photographer. They don't want me to call them sport or buddy or pal. Or ace they're not cool with that. On the other side of it. Especially for the ladies. Now without getting too much on my political soapbox here. Women typically in the business world have to work, way harder than their male counterparts to succeed. And whether you agree with that or not it's fine. You're wrong but it's fine. It's very difficult to come up into the business world. As a woman and so the last thing that a woman wants, who is the VP or the CEO of a company. Wants to sit down in front of me for a portrait. And I'm gonna call her sweetie or darling or honey or babe. Is that gonna be okay? No. Remembering people's names is not that hard. I don't remember any of your names. But it's really not that hard. In a lot of cases to if I'm working an event. People wear name badges. Or a lot of times I will photograph them with a card. That has their name written on it as the first picture. So I can organize the photo later. Also helps me remember their name. But there's plenty of books and resources out there. If your memory sucks. But I'm telling you. If you think about it this way. When you go to an event or you're going to sit, for your picture. You can tell if someone remembers your name or not. Can't you? Like if they keep calling you darling or babe or guy. I'm telling you it is such a small thing. If you want people to think that you care about them. Or that you're paying attention. Then remember somebody's name is a really small thing, that you could do. You only have to remember it for like two minutes. So don't worry it's fine. When I shoot weddings though there's a trick. If you have a group of people. With the groomsmen and the bridesmaids. If you remember like one of their names. They think you remembered all their names. You know it's like hey hey Tom you bring the guys over here, to do a picture they'll be like boy this guy's really nice. He remembers everybody's name. Just remember one name. Thank you gifts and cards. When you're working in this corporate world. You don't necessarily want to show up and give somebody, like a motorcycle you know as a gift. But we use little Starbucks bags with a 10 dollar coffee, gift card and a little charger mug or whatever. Just to say thank you. And it's never to the people who own the company. It's always to like the executive assistant. Or whatever middle management person hired us. So that they remember us. The boss isn't a lot of times gonna remember your name. You know a lot of the people in the corporate world, they change jobs they move around they get promoted. But you'll find more often than not. That certain people stay around for a long time. But of if you show up. And you bring little thoughtful gifts. Send a physical thank you card afterwards. Little things that will make you stick out. I have a friend of mine who has chip clips. With his company name on them. Because he's like hey you'll throw out a magnet. But you're not throwing out a chip clip. Everybody uses chip clips. Anything that you could do to be memorable. We send little gifts. And we bring little gift bags. And we send cards. And because that kind of thing nowadays sticks out. Don't you think? Anybody been broken up with by text message? Right okay. Wouldn't it be so much nicer if you got a really nice, like letter like beautifully scripted letter, with like you know that would be a nicer way to get, broken up with wouldn't it? When you do something old fashioned. It's not that hard to stand out I will tell you that. People complain about the way that the world is. Everything's faster. Everything's digital nobody cares. But what I think is cool is it's easier for you, as a business to stand out when you do those, sort of analog things. If that makes sense. Like when you get good mail now. Isn't that so much cooler. Like when you get two hundred junk emails a day, from Target or whoever else. And then you get one email from somebody you know. And it you know stands out. It always stands out to get good mail.