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Professional Perception

Lesson 4 from: Building a Successful Photography Business in a Small Market

Clay Cook

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Lesson Info

4. Professional Perception

Lesson Info

Professional Perception

(Clay Cook) Have you ever heard of the term "fake it 'till you make it"? Uh, so in the music business I quickly learned that, uh if you sort of walk in acting like a rockstar then immediately you are a rockstar, because perception is reality to a lot of people. So, uh, I wanna review a few things to sort of, uh, you know, pump up that perception but make you not look like a complete idiot. So an appearance can be a powerful tool, like, I wore my special brown shoes just for you guys today. Um, a potential client will automatically judge you for your work and your work ethic and how you look, how you appear, how you act, what you do. All that stuff plays a role into your professional life. Um, therefore it's important to maintain sort of a standard and uphold that brand on-set and off-set. So, there's no need to show up in a tuxedo, or like a slim cocktail dress or anything like that, but sort of find a medium in between that and uh, your gym shorts, you know what I'm saying? So dress t...

o impress, guys, um, cause people do judge you based upon how your look. Um, bring all of your gear. Every single piece of equipment that you own, try to bring it, I usually do, even if you don't use it. Um, so in the client's eyes, uh, the more gear you have, the better photographer you are, right? Today's society associates bigger with better, so even if you don't use any of that equipment, uh, the client will feel like they're getting a little bit more bang for their buck, if you have all this equipment coming in. Uh, a good example is, uh, I assisted a photographer, John Keatley, who's been here before, who's actually based in Seattle, in the Bahamas, and um, he had a great story with this he, uh, shoots on a medium format camera, and he had a client one time ask him, uh, you know, of course, medium format's a big camera, client's like, "How much is that camera?", he was just like, "It's just shy of twenty thousand", uh twenty thousand dollars, and the client was like, "Wow, you must be an awesome photographer". You know, I'm not saying go buy a twenty thousand dollar camera, but I'm saying that, being all of your gear and it plays such a huge roll in how people perceive you and perceive your value. Bring assistants. It's really essential to step in this directorial role as a leader, rather than, sort of, breaking a sweat setting everything up. Uh, what kind of perceived value does that give? Again, this comes back to a client perceiving that you're giving more bang for their buck. Um, so if you show up with a professional team, you're efficient, um the client will know that you really mean business, you know? So bring your assistants, as many assistants as you can find even if you don't have assistants, then, bring your buddy. Hey, come and just stand there. Entourage, you know? Uh, bring as many people as you can, cause, it, you know, it shows-as long as they're professional, of course, and they look professional. Uh, get it done, so time is money in a commercial space. Um, you know, we deal with, people with budgets and people with jobs, and their job is to, uh, come up with a solution for their problem, and your job is to help them solve that issue and give them a solution. So you wanna make sure that time is used as efficient as possible. Um, using your assistants accordingly not wasting valuable time, by, like chimping, or changing lighting or over-shooting. Um, again, time is money, you gotta be quick, efficient, get it done, because the perception here is that you actually know what you're doing. Just shoot, um, this is a big one. So, again, when I first started photography I just shot everything in sight I shot as much as I possibly can. Cause, the more you shoot, the more you're gonna fail, and the more you fail, the more you're gonna learn. And, uh, that's an important aspect of becoming a success as a photographer and entrepreneur is failing. I love this quote too, "You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take." So just get out there. Get out there, guys, shoot, meet people, build those relationships as much as you possibly can. This is a photograph of me in my first year of photography this is actually in Las Vegas, and I was just like shooting everything, I was like, "Cool building", (camera sounds) You know, uh, but when I look at this picture I don't see, you know, I see a naive amateur photographer, um, but I see uh, sort of a ferocious passion just to be my own boss. Um, and so, at the end of the day, you are only confined by the walls that you build yourself. I challenge you to look in your mirror, and call yourself out. 'Cause at the end of the day you are your own worst enemy because the only thing that is stopping you from doing anything that you wanna do, is yourself. Okay? Um, and so Kenna do we have questions? Just wanna break this up. (Kenna) Yeah, thank you, um, so many great words, I think I just tweeted you like four times, 'cause there were so many great tweets in there. Um, just such great words. Um, do we have any questions in the studio, yeah? (woman in audience) You mentioned taking personality tests and I was just wondering if you found any particular ones helpful in getting to know yourself? (Clay) Yeah, um, so I use a free one, it's uh, a Meyers-Briggs test, like that format. Um, and, it's a free website, Super easy, takes you about 30 minutes um, but it's very, you know, it's very informative. And all the information that it provides on there is like, really, really helpful, into like building relationships, I think, you know. (man) At what point in communication with a smaller client or medium-size client do you kind of decide the scale of the amount of production you're gonna put into, um, the work that you're gonna do, even though you might not be making it on a huge budget, you still kinda have to decide how much you're putting into something. (Clay) Sure. Um, that's a good question. In my experience whether it's a small budget or a big budget I bring everything I possibly can into every project. Um, even if, you know, it's like, oh gosh you're just paying me whatever to do this, um, then I still deliver a product that will uphold with the bigger budgets, because even that I very much understand understand that, um, even the smallest client can lead to the biggest clients 'cause, again, clients lead to clients, so, you just never know. It's crazy to really think back, for me, on um, what the littlest decision or the littlest job, or the littlest handshake, the littlest thing played such a crucial and insane role into where I am now. It's crazy, so I put everything into every shoot I do, it's very important to do that, I think.

Ratings and Reviews

Koko Hunt

I love Clay Cook, his stories and his teaching method. He is genuine and to the point. This class is very concise and easy to follow; it touches on basic yet important points that are practical and useful. He provides good insights into commercial photography business for a small market, using some good, benchmarkable examples.


Clay Cook gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of photography. He is super informative and confidently concise about his knowledge and experience in the industry. As a modestly-small business owner, I found this course to be insightful and motivating. It is very helpful, and I highly recommend it!


I really appreciate how he just lays out numbers. I think that's super helpful for the industry as a whole, and it sets some perspective of how much guac photographers can really make.

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