By Joan Sherwood, Sr.Ed.
Professional Photographer magazine has covered instances of notable customer service before, but I feel it’s always worth sharing new ones to encourage photographers to step back and evaluate the level customer service they deliver to their clients.
After some failed attempts to thaw out and resuscitate my refrigerator this weekend, I declared it definitely broken on Sunday afternoon and texted a friend who I knew had a good appliance repair person. She replied with the contact information, and added, “Or you could try CityBoysRUs. They’ve been getting good reviews from neighbors, and you might be able to get service today.”
That sounded worth trying. I wrote down my refrigerator make and model number and called. The person who answered was polite and concise and listened to the diagnostic information I could give him. He took my information and let me know he would check out parts availability for my fridge and call me back within 15 minutes.
He did so and let me know what my options were. Parts for my model wouldn’t be available until the next day, but he could come out that evening and diagnose the problem so that he could pick up the right part Monday morning, and no, it wouldn’t add to the cost for him to come to my house twice.
He called when he was on his way, gave me an ETA, and arrived at the promisedtime, which was 7:30 p.m. On a Sunday. He even had one more call to go to after mine.
When you think of appliance repair guys, you may picture an older guy, kind of slobby, taking their time with things, a little low energy. Let me tell you, Curtis from CityBoysRUs was professional, courteous, friendly, and highly efficient. With his well-organized case of tools he disassembled the parts of my freezer compartment as if he had a drill sergeant timing him for speed.
He showed me the problem, gave me the diagnosis, priced the replacement part with a short call to his home base, secured my agreement for the repair and the cost, took half payment up front, and scheduled his return visit the next day at a time that was convenient for me.
He arrived as scheduled, again calling beforehand with his ETA, and introduced me to his equally polite and professional assistant, who was in training. They efficiently performed the part replacement. The assistant not only wiped down the inside of the refrigerator with disinfectant, he swept the floor around it. Believe me, that dirt was there when they got there.
Curtis settled my bill, and I chatted with them as they finished up and told them how impressed I was with the quality of their service.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Curtis asked, “Would you mind leaving us a review?”
“No, not at all,” I said. “Where would you prefer? Yelp?”
“I can show you if your Internet is up,” he said.
“Great.” I led the way to my Mac in the next room.
He directed me to search Google not for his business name, but for the SEO search term they are targeting to land as a top search result. CityBoysRUs was on the first page in the top three or four unpaid results. I clicked on the link to “61 reviews” and an easy-to-fill-out review form was at the top of the page. He said, “All we ask is that you be specific about the appliance we repaired for you; yours was a GE refrigerator.” Then he left me to write whatever I wanted, but his simple and reasonable request would seed my review with additional valuable search keywords for his business' reviews.
Really, it’s just brilliant. I’m sure that they gauge which clients they ask to do online reviews on the spot, the ones like me who are obviously Internet savvy, who had a great experience, and who wouldn't feel put out by the request. These guys delivered a great customer experience, and they were confident in their service.
When they were all packed up and ready to go, Curtis shook my hand and said, “Thank you for letting me help.” Nice touch.
Now, look at your business, the kind of energy you exude when you’re with clients, how you treat them, the confidence you show in your product, and what you’re doing to parlay great customer experience into rave reviews and referrals that will send more business your way.
How are you doing? Can you do better? Because there is another photographer out there who, like Curtis, knows how to do the job well, deliver great customer experience, and ensure that more business will be coming his way.
By Cate Scaglione, Je Revele Fine Art Photography
In the days following the hurricane, I set out to help deliver donated goods to the hardest hit areas within my community. I brought my camera along, not only to help me process what had happened in the days prior but with the thought that it would allow me to help inspire donations from across the country through our social media network. In the process of delivering supplies, I saw the profound sadness of memories depleted. But even in the wake of such loss, people's spirits were surprisingly resilient. I spoke with so many people who were grateful for their lives and the support they received. They didn't mind being photographed and many welcomed it. They just wanted to share their stories and make it feel concrete. I noticed that when people tearfully described their losses from this storm, it was rarely mentioned in terms of dollars, cars, or jewelry. Not even once. What I heard time and again was the mourned loss of photos, the priceless archives of our memory. I realized that in a way, photos are the currency of the journey our lives. In this photo essay, I attempted to capture the surreal images of a joyful life ravaged by disaster. I tried to create a reverence, to find beauty and meaning in what is now gone. I hope it inspires you and serves as a reminder to continue helping the charities that support these victims. They will need our help long after Sandy's wake.
By Scott Hays
While it may feel good to blame the lady down the street with a high-quality camera for our business troubles, it’s time to consider the contributing factor that we have the most control over. Ourselves. There’s nothing you can do about camera manufacturers improving their product and making it affordable enough for enthusiasts to attain. You can’t blame people who are enthusiastic about photography and want to make it the source of their livelihood. We were all at that level once. But we can examine ourselves and refine our technique and force the competition to rise to our level rather than letting ourselves get sloppy and only equal theirs.
Before digital, we had to wait until our film came back to see what you had accomplished. When we shot a senior session, most of us were pretty content with shooting a roll of 24 exposures, maybe 36, and then setting an appointment for our customers to come back to see the results. Now, with the aid of immediate feedback, the practice of shooting hundreds of images and culling them down to “the good ones” has pervaded the profession. It has allowed our artistic brains to get lazy.
Though I still love shooting digital, I have begun to shoot wet plate style as they did in the 19th century. No, it’s not a superior method of photography, but I find it fascinating. It can take up to an hour to prepare, shoot and finish one image. No built-in light meter, no light meter period. You take your lens cap off, count or look at your watch, and with experience you learn how long to expose your glass or tin plate. It can be anywhere from three seconds to 30 minutes if not longer. As there are today, there were specialists. There were portrait photographers, and the photographers who made what we would consider a head shot, which were the size of wallet images today. There were landscape photographers. They had one thing in common: the image took time to set up and prepare. If they wanted to shoot away from their studio, they had to have a mobile darkroom. Once you expose your plate, you have approximately five minutes to process it.
So how does this apply? Somehow the machine-gun shutter has become the norm. What do we accomplish by taking four or more shots of the same pose? What would happen if we started to take only 15 to 20 images in an entire session? Our clients aren’t expecting a couple of hundred images; they are expecting to see an incredible finished product. Is it the client who wants to see us acting like a fashion photographer at their child’s senior session, or is it that we don’t trust our own abilities? Slow down.
When photographers had no choice but to get it right the first time, they made beautiful portraits. Granted, it wasn’t our 21st-century style, but you can shoot in whatever style you like, refrain from overshooting, and still create incredible work. We have a choice, yet we are choosing to lose sight of what photography actually is. Photography isn’t taking pictures, it is the study of light.
Challenge yourself on a day when you don’t have a client. Go to the park or a visually interesting location, and only allow yourself to take 12 images. Take a friend or family member and shoot portraits. Use only manual settings, and under no circumstances should you view any of the images until you get home and download them. You will learn so much about yourself and your photography. If you still have your 35mm film camera, go pick up a roll of C41 color or black-and-white film. Take it out and shoot a roll of 24.
This exercise will help you believe in your abilities again. It will tell you what you need to work on. The first time you can’t look at the back of your camera, it will feel almost like an anxiety attack. If you have never taken on an exercise like this, grab a photographer friend and go out together. It gets a little amusing. Do this once a month. You will be amazed by how much your images improve when you slow down and think before you shoot.
As photographers, we need to start shooting for quality not quantity. How you do that is solely up to you. If we are as comfortable with our knowledge of photography as we all believe we are, we should slow down and use our knowledge of the foundations of photography. That’s an impressive photographer. It just might impress your clientele as well.
So when you preparing for your next session, or come back from the exercise I mentioned, think about how you are shooting. Ask yourself if you are shooting with deliberation. Can you slow it down? Can you become a better artist?
Professional Photographer used our Facebook page to ask photographers to share a favorite restaurant and tell us what city it's in. We collected all the San Antonio restaurant recommendations for our Imaging USA attendees, and here are the results!
Erik Almquist: I love the Brazillian steakhouses, so I recommend Chama Gaúcha Brazilian Steakhouse.
Teri Quance: Rosario's
Michael Kent: When in San Antonio check out the Fig Tree Restaurant. It’s on the Riverwalk everything is wonderful!
Crystal Maldonado: Well I'm not from San Antonio, however I go every year. My parents used to take us as kids to Casa Rio. It was just beautiful and delicious. Eating Mexican Food is a must when we go to San Antonio. You can find great authentic Mexican Cuisine at the smaller places as well.
Evangeline Dean: Godai Sushi ;)
Christy Martin Tsiantos: Boudro’s -- Great restaurant in San Antonio!!!! Yum and great location!
Gina Acord Davison: I live in San Antonio. We are blessed with a bounty of yummy restaurants, not just along the riverwalk, LOL! There is Rosario's and Mad Hatter's in Southtown, several new restaurants in the Pearl Brewery complex, Coco's, Wildfish, Big'z Burger Joint in the Stone Oak area. Just the tip of the iceberg!
Jenny and Tony Blair: Boudro's on the Riverwalk!
Dave Wilkinson: Mi Tierra
Cheryl Williams: The County Line (on the Riverwalk)
Karl D. Schubert: Rita’s on the River is a favorite of mine there.
Marianne Sedacki-Drenthe: My San Antonio favorite, which we discovered a few years back while at Imaging is Rio Rio Cantina.
Kristy Isaacson: My husband and I call San Antonio our second home, we love to eat at Landry’s Seafood on the canal. Such great food and a great atmosphere.
Jan Dickson: Casa Rio Restaurant — The best view on the Riverwalk
Jodie Cowan: Alamo Cafe is our all time favorite! They are known for their chicken fried steak, but we usually go for shrimp fajitas. Ooh and the best tortillas!
Randy Barker: When I get to San Antonio, I never miss going to Mi Tierra Cafe.
Daniel White: Rocky's Taco House, just off Lackland AFB in San Antonio. The food is really good. They really know how to take care of EMS disaster response teams who are part of a Hurricane response.
Dan Smith: Taco Cabana for cheap, fast breakfast tacos. Also Bill Miller BBQ in for fast, cheap but good bbq brisket. Both are a must if you’re visiting SA and just want an inexpensive, fast meal. (Neither is culinary excellence, but a good Texas-only fast food experience.)
Jake Jaggears: Have to suggest Bill Miller BBQ!
Deanna Ridgway: Dick’s Last Resort on the Riverwalk! I even have pictures having the napkin tied around my neck and a glass from there. :)
Virginia Parker: Koreana Restaurant
Thank you to all the photographers who shared their favorite spots! To brows the rest of the more than 500 recommendations, look through the comments on this post.
By Bob Zimmerlich, CPP
A few days after picking up the new iPad with 3G service at a local Apple store here in Phoenix, I was on my way to New York unexpectedly for a funeral of a close family friend. Since I was packing light, I thought this would be a good test to see if the iPad could replace my heavier MacBook Pro on a short trip since I wasn't planning on any photography related work.
Just after I arrived at JFK my sister asked if I could do a headshot of her for her new startup business. My judgment must have been thrown off by the red-eye flight, because I said, “Sure, absolutely,” without a second thought. Problem was, I didn't have any of my gear, not even a camera. That's OK she said, she had a Canon Elph point-and-shoot. Now I'm thinking, oh, golly, gee whiz, sis—that will be swell (thinking in 1950s terms being the more civil alternative to cussing).
Since I wanted to use natural light, I downloaded an app called PhotoCalc onto the iPad to see when sunset on Long Island would be, then checked the local radar with the WeatherBug app's visible satellite radar loop. Seeing that clouds would be rolling in from the west by 5 p.m., and knowing the limitations of her camera, I knew we would want to finish the shoot inside with window light before then. With some proper positioning, a sheet of white foam board as a reflector and a rigged tripod, the shoot went well considering the situation.
Now for a little post processing, but without my trusty MacBook Pro what could I do? I thought, let's put this iPad to a real test.
By Thea Dodds of GreenerPhotography.org
This is the first in a series of tips on how to make your photography business greener. We'll start with taking a look at your physical space—office, studio and client meeting space. What does a greener photography studio or meeting space look like? Here are a few ways that you can make your space greener … and save money, too. Look for more Tips for Greener Photography each month!
Location, Location, Location
• Be convenient. Have your space easily accessible by public transportation, close to other convenient locations.
• Look for a studio with good natural light to minimize use of electric lighting.
• Consider the sun exposure of your space and the needs of your climate.
• Make it multi-functional! Coffee shops, cooperative artist spaces, and home offices are an easy way to share the impact of your studio/meeting space.
What's on the Inside? Paint, Stain, Flooring, Plastering.
• Use milk- or clay-based paints for walls and ceilings.
• Look for zero- or low-VOC paint and other materials.
• Use natural flooring made from local materials and/or reclaimed materials
• Avoid synthetic carpet.
Furnish It Green
• Buy used furniture.
• Buy furnishings locally.
• Look for certifications, such as Forest Steward Certification (FSC) and organic furniture/components.
• Look for uncertified, but still important claims, such as Made in the USA, Non-toxic, Sustainable.
By JR Geoffrion
Are you sometimes uninspired and wanting to get your groove back? Are you trying to develop your very own photographic style? Or are you simply looking for a fresh and new approach to creativity?
Whether you are an amateur or seasoned professional, all can benefit from using a conceptual framework to improve your photography.
Unlike a signature style, a conceptual framework has no rigid rules or recipes. Instead, it is a set of broad and free-flowing concepts open to your own interpretation, based on your unique experiences and journey through life. As such, a conceptual framework allows you to leave your mark on the images without having to fall into a mold that would inhibit creativity. The framework is ever evolving and changing, ensuring endless possibilities.
Defining your conceptual framework
As a wedding photographer, clients often ask me about my approach to photography. Rather than having a checklist of images I must capture, I shoot each wedding very differently by drawing inspiration from its unique elements, details, and from the personality of the couple. In other words, I react to my environment. Though the images I capture look very different from wedding to wedding, something below the surface ties them together. What is this invisible theme linking my images?
To identify what it was that linked my images, I selected more than 100 of my favorite photographs and looked for common recurring themes. How could these images be related to one another? What are the common threads? Why did I capture them the way I did and not another way? Why do I find these images appealing?
What emerged from this study were six distinct elements that are at the foundation of photogaphic style and vision. They are always at the basis of my images but in different proportion. Drawing a parallel to cooking, I didn’t have a recipe but rather signature ingredients on which I based my dishes.
These elements are shapes, colors, lighting, textures and patterns, movement, and point of view.
By Gary Lott
Since switching over to digital several years ago, I’ve considered the retouching that I do for clients to be an idealized representation of them.
Recently, however, my philosophy came into question when a woman I know jokingly accused me of being dishonest. She wondered why I didn’t see making people look better than they really do as less than truthful.
In response, I spoke about the joy I see in people’s eyes when they see a retouched image of themselves. I spoke about the satisfaction I get when going into the home of someone who has hung a 20 x 24 fine art portrait that I produced. Yes, I even mentioned that the frequency of which I sell wall art is a testament to my clients’ satisfaction. That was enough to convince my friend what I was doing was okay. After all, I’m not robbing banks.
The truth is, it wasn’t enough to convince me. The next morning, I sat and contemplated the conversation. I began to question what I was doing. Was it right? Searching for answers, I went back to the beginning. I asked myself, “What is photography about.” The answer that came to mind was light and shadow.
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