handwritten note marketing monday

The Power of a Handwritten Note

Marketing Monday with Skip Cohen

One of the easiest ways to separate yourself from the competition is also one of the most forgotten, a handwritten note. Most of us can barely write a check without making a mistake, simply because we’re so used to typing and texting everything we write.

Over the years I’ve sent hand-written notes and received some great ones. Each one has stood out in a different way and brought me closer to people, even some who I’ve known for many years. There are new friends and old ones, but receiving a handwritten note is such a nice touch to building a stronger network and relationship.

thank you card imageUse one of your images on the face of the card. Could be the family or subject photographed.
(I put my contact info and logo on the back of the card) Graphic by Bob Coates Photography

Here are a few ingredients to make your notecards that much more effective

1) Use one of your own images on the front! NEVER use a store-bought card.

2) On the back of the card share your personal contact information. Centered at the bottom, it should look like the label on a Hallmark card, but your studio or name and contact information, including social media addresses and phone number.

3) Use a nice stock of paper. And, if you make it an odd size, it’ll stand out even more.

4) Take the time to write something personal in appreciation for whatever the person you’re sending it to, did to help you.

So, the next time somebody does something nice for you, or maybe it’s a vendor who takes a little extra time to help you at a convention, remember the power of a hand-written note. There’s little that can top this age-old method of communicating!

skip cohen headshotSkip Cohen has been involved in the photographic industry his entire career and previously served as President of Rangefinder/WPPI and earlier, Hasselblad USA. He founded SkipCohenUniversity.com in 2013. Skip is a co-host for “Mind Your Own Business” and “Beyond Technique,” webcasts through Photofocus.com, writes for several publications including Shutter Magazine and is actively involved in several advisory boards for non-profit organizations.

long lens photography

Long Lens Photography – 100-400mm

I enjoy my long lens for outdoor photography. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment for isolating subjects against a background with nice bokeh. The longer the lens, the easier it is to have an out-of-focus background. The PANASONIC LUMIX G Leica DG Vario-Elmar Professional Lens, 100-400MM, F4.0-6.3 ASPH is a magical lens IMHO.

Here are some images from a walkabout at the Sedona Wetlands. I didn’t find many waterfowl as it was midday and possibly the wrong time of year. In any case, I always try to make the best of any photography situation and started looking for details. There are still some wildflowers scattered throughout. This attracts butterflies, birds, and bees.

bird with seed photoAdult female Lesser Goldfinch snacking on some wildflowers that have gone to seed

lesser goldfinch feeding photoI always look to capture ‘behavior’ photos as well as straight portraits of my feathered friends. Here the Lesser Goldfinch is working to get the seeds free from the plant.

butterfly image in flowersButterfly caught with shallow depth of field between the plants.

The butterfly photo was my favorite photo of the day. If you’ve chased butterflies in the wild, you know how difficult it can be to get an interesting image. I tracked this one for a while and looked to ‘sandwich’ the butterfly with DOF. I wanted a sharp subject surrounded by the in and out of focus flowers. This was made more difficult as there were not a ton of flowers in bloom and the wind was making the flowers dance as well. Now that I see the image here I’ll crop in a little tighter and loose the past prime flowers on the right-hand side of the photo.

bee in flower imageWasps one of our other pollinators were flitting between the blooms as well as the butterflies.

I choose this one to share as it has a different color with black and white stripes.

Back to the lens. One complaint I hear about the lens is that it is very stiff to zoom. It was designed that way not to suffer ‘lens creep’ when you hang it from your shoulder. I’ve found a perfect way to change the zoom. Instead of trying to turn the lens, hold the lens and turn the camera. It’s like opening a bottle of champagne where you hold the cork and twist the bottle. Makes it easy and you don’t end up with the lens creep!

When paired with the Lumix G9 you get 6 and a half stops of handholdability. All images were handheld in this post.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob

 

seville spain travel with ken macadams

Seville Spain – Travel with Ken MacAdams

Ken shares his travel photography and stories here on Successful-Photographer as he has in the past. Ken’s camera of choice is Panasonic’s flagship stills camera the Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0

Seville shines as one of Spain’s magnificent stars.  Activities include attending a bullfight, standing in awe at the immensity of the world’s largest Gothic church, or going shoulder to shoulder with the crowds in the Reales Alcazar, a beautiful Moorish style palace.  In the 16th century, Seville was the gateway to the New World.  Explorers Vespucci and Magellan sailed from its great river harbor, discovering new trade routes and abundant sources of gold, silver, cocoa, and tobacco.  In the 17th century, it was Spain’s largest and wealthiest city.

high alter sevielle ken macadams photoProtected by a Renaissance wrought-iron grill, it was impossible to stand on-center of the High Altar to photograph this 65 foot tall altar. All Photos in this post © Ken MacAdams

ken macadams photoThe tomb of Christopher Columbus is carried by four kings.

Seville’s Cathedral is the third largest church in Europe.  It rises from the site of a mosque that was torn down in 1401 to make way for the cathedral, one that the Reconquista Christians said would be the largest in the world.  Past the immense pipes of the church’s pipe organ is the High Altar, protected by a wrought-iron Renaissance grille.  Standing 65 feet tall, there are 44 scenes from the life of Jesus and Mary, all carved from walnut and chestnut – blanketed by a staggering amount of gold leaf.

photo © ken macadams In this image you can see the immense floor to ceiling scale of the church.  Set on AWB, the Lumix G9 was able to correctly register the different color tones of the interior lighting.

The work, finished in 1564, took three generations to complete.  Opposite from the Altar de Plata, is the Tomb of Columbus.  Located in front of the cathedral’s entrance for pilgrims are four kings who bear the remains of Christopher Columbus upon their shoulders.  Identified by their team shirts, the pallbearers represent the regions of Castile, Aragon, Leon, and Navarre.  A walk through the Treasury reveals gold and silver reliquaries, and Spain’s most valuable crown, the jeweled Corona de la Virgen de los Reyes.   Attached to the church is the Giralda Bell Tower, a former minaret.  If you have the time – or energy – you can climb the 330 feet up to its top for a grand city view.

© ken macadamsThe pool within the courtyard served a dual purpose – besides beauty, it helped cool the surrounding rooms of the palace during the hot summer days.

Look for more on Seveille, Spain and the Royal Alcazar from Ken next Friday!

Ken has always loved to travel, so when he made a common connection with the fact that either a long day pounding the streets of some foreign city, or shooting the last dance at a wedding,  a good part of his physical ken macadams head shotweariness came from lugging around his big heavy DSLR. That’s when he started looking at alternatives – and ended up selecting Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds gear.
Ken is rarely without a camera, and the next great photo travel experience – whether local or abroad – is always in the back of his mind!  A longtime resident of the Four Corners, and when he’s not out on the road, he enjoys some of the great outdoor opportunities found there – mountain biking, hiking, and Jeeping.

commitment in photography marketing monday

Commitment in Photography – Marketing Monday
by Skip Cohen

I’ve written a few posts in the past based on excerpts from the Walk the Talk series.  They’re just short thoughts that get me thinking about this amazing industry we’re all a part of.

I found this from Abraham Lincoln…abe lincoln art“Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.  It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions.  And the actions which speak louder than the words.

It is making the time when there is none.  Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year.  Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to change the face of things.  It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.” – Abraham Lincoln

As photographers, whether you’re shooting a wedding, a portrait or a commercial shoot, think about your commitment.  Are you committed to your clients, to the quality of the final image and most important of all, that little voice inside your heart that represents the passion for the craft you need to succeed?

People trust you to capture some of the most important moments in their lives. There is no room for compromise and there are no shortcuts. You owe them the very best your creative skill set will allow and your commitment isn’t just to your clients, but to yourself.

There is no place for a been-there-done-that attitude. It’s all about your clients and to give them the very best your education is the key. It simply can never stop. New techniques, skill sets, pushing the edge of the envelope as if every client was your very first one has to be your mantra.  Shoot as if the images you’re about to take are the only photographs people will ever see of your work.

My buddy, Scott Bourne, talks about all of us being the high priests of memory protection. That’s a big commitment and responsibility. Think about what that really means…then take a few deep breaths and smile every time you’re working with a client, because nobody can capture memories like you can!

skip cohen headshot

Skip Cohen has been involved in the photographic industry his entire career and previously served as President of Rangefinder/WPPI and earlier, Hasselblad USA. He founded SkipCohenUniversity.com in 2013. Skip is a co-host for “Mind Your Own Business” and “Beyond Technique,” webcasts through Photofocus.com, writes for several publications including Shutter Magazine and is actively involved in several advisory boards for non-profit organizations.

sintra-portugal-travel-with-ken-macadams-part-2

Sintra, Portugal – Guest Post Part Two
by Ken MacAdams

Ken shares his travel photography and stories here on Successful-Photographer as he has in the past. Ken’s camera of choice is Panasonic’s flagship stills camera the Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0

Take it away Ken. Start with part one of this story here.

A five minute walk downhill brought me to my second stop, the Moorish Castle.  The castle was constructed during the 8th and 9th centuries, during the period of Muslim Iberia.  The castle was centrally located in an area that was primarily agricultural, and was necessary for protection of the residents.  It was a strategic point during the Reconquista, but was taken by Christian forces after the fall of Lisbon in 1147.  Settlers occupied the castle during the 12th and 13th centuries, but its military importance was progressively diminishing, and inhabitants were abandoning the castle for the old village of Sintra.  In the beginning of the 15th century a small group of Jews occupied the castle until being expelled from the country by Manuel I of Portugal.
ken macadams photoInside the Moorish Castle.  These walls match the terrains ups and downs with lots of archery vantage points.  In ancient days, they would have cleared the trees around the outside of the compound so attackers had no shelter. Images in this post © Ken MacAdams
The 1755 Lisbon earthquake caused considerable damage to the chapel and castle.  It wasn’t until King Ferdinand II began work on the Pena Palace around 1840, that he took up the task of improving the condition of the old Moorish Castle and walls.  The castle is built on very rugged terrain with slopes reaching 40% gradients.  The hike around the castle walls is bound to elevate your pulse!  A stop at each watchtower allows you to catch your breath and enjoy the magnificent views.
Secluded archway leading to the palace.  Examine the rope detail on the sides of the stairs.
Having navigated the castle walls, I retraced my steps – also uphill – to where I’d parked the car.  Returning to back to Sintra, I visited the Quinta da Regaleria.  This highly decorated, ornate Gothic styled, multi-story 20th century residence is situated in Old Town.  The original house dates back to the 1800’s.  Over the years, subsequent owners have made renovation, the most recent being about 1904, when carved gargoyles, Gothic turrets, exotic woodwork and other ornate features were added.  Additions by an Italian architect evoked Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles.  Located within the park is the palace and chapel, and a luxurious park with walkways, lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, statues, and fountains.
The Quinta da Regaleria palace and stature gardens.
The true wonder of the Quinta da Regaleria are the grounds, which were inspired by the owner’s mystic ideologies.  Hidden within the grounds are references to the Knights Templar, the Masons, and dark alchemy.  The well, one of the strangest features, has a concealed circular passageway that descends 88 ft. downward, then connects to a series of tunnels that run the length of the garden.  The well symbolizes the initiation ceremony for the Knights Templar. As you walk through the gardens, you’re also awarded occasional glimpses of the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace high up on the mountain above you.
I’d packed all three sights into one day, so my feet were happy to settle into a comfy booth at one of downtown Sintra’s cafes!  Shortly thereafter, I returned to the villa, and enjoyed a quiet nights’ sleep.
Ken has always loved to travel, so when he made a common connection with the fact that either a long day pounding the streets of some foreign city, or shooting the last dance at a wedding,  a good part of his physical ken macadams head shotweariness came from lugging around his big heavy DSLR. That’s when he started looking at alternatives – and ended up selecting Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds gear.
Ken is rarely without a camera, and the next great photo travel experience – whether local or abroad – is always in the back of his mind!  A longtime resident of the Four Corners, and when he’s not out on the road, he enjoys some of the great outdoor opportunities found there – mountain biking, hiking, and Jeeping.

coffee shoot java presse

Java Presse – Coffee Shoot

The Genesis of a Commercial Shoot

Not quite ‘nectar of the gods’ but I’ve found some serious joy in my morning coffee. It was a gradual process to see the pleasure I now have in the morning ritual and enjoyment of grinding beans, brewing and enjoying coffee.

java presse coffe imageJava Presse Coffee image square format final crop

It started with some friends showing the benefits of grinding beans for French Press coffee. Good stuff.

I found myself getting frustrated with the ‘static cling’ that was generated by using an electric grinder that had a plastic bin for catching the grounds and left little trails of tiny grounds scattered along the counter. This led to looking for a mill that had a stainless steel basket. Research showed that prices were more than I wanted to pay. Which turned out to be a good thing! Because that led me to the stainless steel coffee grinder from Java Presse.

The grinder led me to lots more information about the whole process of roasting coffee, the freshness of the beans and proper preparation for the French Press that I use. Thanks to Java Presse the entire experience has turned my morning coffee into an enjoyable ritual. And who knew that freshly roasted beans, ground fresh just before brewing could make such a difference.

I’m a coffee convert.

Photography Process

And, now on the photography section of the making of a commercial image of the product. You can see the final photo at the top of the post above. Below is how the photo was built.

Good, solid commercial images should look effortless and clean. It takes a bit more to achieve the look. I make this happen by creating several images with different lighting patterns which are later combined in Adobe Photoshop. This comes in handy for items that have different levels of reflectance such as the stainless steel of the grinder and coffee storage container as well as making sure logos are readable.

java presse working photoNote the harsh light patterns in the metal especially the one crossing through the logo on the grinder

java presse working photoUsing a reflector I reshot the scene to give more pleasing light on the stainless steel, but now the reflections that give the image life are gone

java presse working photos blendedSee the difference between the two blended images. Logos are a much easier read, and there are highlights right where they are needed without distraction

java presse layers palettePhotoshop Layers Palette is showing some of the work with Masks used to help create the final image.

I also used Skylum software (formerly MacPhun) software called Focus CK. CK stands for Creative Kit. It is a very handy sharpening and blurring tool for directing attention where you want. I often use the ‘Macro’ setting on its layer and mask in what I need.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

PS – Here’s the gear I used in this shoot.

2 Fiilex LED lights with softboxes
Lumix G9
LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 35-100MM, F2.8 ASPH
White foam core panel
Posing table
Tripod Necessary for keeping images in registration for compositing the lighting
Ball head for tripod – Siri Model K-20X

 

 

giving back marketing monday

Giving Back – Maketing Monday
by Skip Cohen

Giving Back

It’s probably ten years ago I wrote my first post about giving back to the community. It’s such an important part of building your brand that it deserves to be at the very top of your priority list.   As business picks up in the fourth quarter, you need to make sure you don’t lose sight of how much it can help you build your reputation.

helping hand graphic by bob coatesHelping Hand Graphic – Bob Coates Photography

Years ago I had the opportunity to hear Jay Conrad Levinson speak. Known best as the originator of the expression “Guerilla Marketing”, he talked about the top 100 things Guerilla Marketers need to do.  At the very top of the list was “be involved in your community and charities”.   Why?  Because, people like to buy products from companies they perceive as giving back.

It’s cause-related marketing at its best and it helps build your brand beyond just being a photographer.  Let’s face it, you’re looking for the community to be good to you.  So, what are you doing to be good to your community?

Finding a charitable cause in your community couldn’t be easier, but you have to take the time.  Just read the local paper.  What’s going on in your community?  If the school tax bill didn’t pass, then the arts are going to suffer, starting with the yearbook, photo club, newsletter etc.  All, perfect matches for you to lend a hand as a professional photographer.

Is there an event coming up that might need your skills as a photojournalist?  Everything from a walkathon to organizations like Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions and Exchange Club all have a major charity drive each year.

Check with your local hospital, police force, fire-fighters – they always need help and they always have an event they’re sponsoring.  Then there are great organizations like Big Brother and Big Sister.

Within the photographic community, there’s  NILMDTS (Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep), Thirst Relief, HeartsApart.org and the Josephine Herrick Project. These are just a handful of non-profits as examples.  They all involve photographers and are dedicated to helping make the world a better place.

Although no longer serving let’s not forget PPA Charities, founded over fifteen years ago by Bert Behnke.  I’m proud to have been one of the original members of the team along with Helen Yancy, Steve Troup, Dennis and Lori Craft, just to name a few.

skip cohen headshotSkip Cohen has been involved in the photographic industry his entire career and previously served as President of Rangefinder/WPPI and earlier, Hasselblad USA. He founded SkipCohenUniversity.com in 2013. Skip is a co-host for “Mind Your Own Business” and “Beyond Technique,” webcasts through Photofocus.com, writes for several publications including Shutter Magazine and is actively involved in several advisory boards for non-profit organizations.

two minute respite oak creek sedona

Two Minutes to Relax
Oak Creek in Sedona, Arizona

I am a water person.

I have a preference for ocean sounds after having lived in the Caribbean for 20 years but any water sounds are helpful with calming my mind. I spent about an hour on Oak Creek at Cathedral Rock capturing small moments of the creek experience. I took some time this morning editing the footage so that you can enjoy the experience as well.

The video is two minutes long and shows some of the different water patterns along this section of the creek.

Take a couple minutes and kick back with me on Oak Creek

I didn’t have myfull video kit with tripod and fluid head for proper zooming and panning. Did the best I could with a tiny little five-inch tripod that I keep with me in my shooting bag for just such an occasion. The occasion being I didn’t want to hike with the full tripod kit. With the light weight of Lumix gear, a small tripod can come in quite handy! The camera was Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0 Lens. Sound was also recorded from the mic that is built in to the camera. Shot in 4K 24p mode.

I edited the footage with a screen capture program that is for MAC computers called ScreenFlow from TeleStream.

The video was captured in the middle of September when there is some monsoon water flow.

I hope you enjoy the quiet time.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

 

sintra portugal travel with ken macadams

Sintra, Portugal – Guest Post
by Ken MacAdams

Ken is a traveling man and uses Lumix gear during his travels. Ken shares his travel photography and stories here on Successful-Photographer as he has in the past. Ken’s camera of choice is Panasonic’s flagship stills camera the Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0

Take it away Ken

Situated 30 miles from Lisbon is a fairy-tale village named Sintra. Driving up from Lisbon on heavily forested, narrow and very twisty roads, I was shocked when the vibrantly colored Pena Place burst into view!  I continued on to the quaint town of Sintra, where I’d reserved a villa, nestled in the cliffs, hundreds of feet below the palace.  I was told the villa was once the king’s stables.

pena palace portugal photoEntrance to the Pena Palace.  Built around the craggy rocks of the mountaintop, the palace has a commanding view of the surrounding area. All Photos in this post © Ken MacAdams

After a sumptious breakfast, I joined the parade of cars snaking up the mountainside to my first stop, the Palace of Pena.  Situated atop a rocky peak, the palace has a commanding view of the surrounding valleys.
The rear of the palace, with views stretching all the way to the North Atlantic Ocean, on the horizon.
In 1838 King Ferdinand II acquired the former Hieronymite monastery of Our Lady of Pena.  The original monastery buildings, consisting of the cloister and outbuildings, the chapel, the sacristy and the bell tower, were built in 1511.  These buildings today form the northern section of the Palace of Pena, and are referred to as the Old Palace.  King Ferdinand began making much needed repairs to the former monastery, and replaced the fourteen cells used by the monks with larger rooms with vaulted ceilings.  About 1843 the King decided to enlarge the palace, and built a new wing with even larger rooms.  This section is known as the New Palace.
In transforming the former monastery, the King was likely influenced and inspired by German romanticism found in the castles along the Rhine.  When building on the New Palace was completed about 1865, the King began planting gardens surrounding the palace.  With winding paths, stone benches, and pavilions at different points along its routes, the King copied the romantic gardens of that time.  He also planted over 500 different species of trees, and plants originating from different points around the globe.
kitchen in sintra photo
The one way tour circuit through the palace is self paced, generally ambling along at a relaxed speed.  You see both the Old and New Palace wings, visit the living quarters of the King, their eating area, day rooms, the Great Room, and end up exiting through the kitchen.  With original and period glassware, pottery, and furniture throughout the palace, you’ll have a chance to see how life was carried on by royalty of the 1800’s!  The Palace of Pena was designated a National Monument in 1910, and classified a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Ken has always loved to travel, so when he made a common connection with the fact that either a long day pounding the streets of some foreign city, or shooting the last dance at a wedding,  a good part of his physical ken macadams head shotweariness came from lugging around his big heavy DSLR. That’s when he started looking at alternatives – and ended up selecting Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds gear.
Ken is rarely without a camera, and the next great photo travel experience – whether local or abroad – is always in the back of his mind!  A longtime resident of the Four Corners, and when he’s not out on the road, he enjoys some of the great outdoor opportunities found there – mountain biking, hiking, and Jeeping.

hall of fame photo sound bites grill

The Making of
Sound Bites Grill Hall of Fame Image

I’ve often been asked how I create the art images for the Sound Bites Grill Hall of Fame. Thought I might share the process here from start to finish.

sound bites grill hall of fame imageFinished Hall of Fame image with Gaelle Buswell and her band members

First, I make photos from the show during the live performance. This is a bit easier said than done as performers are moving in and out of the light, have strange expressions when they reach for THAT note, etc. I need to watch and learn as each performer works and then make sure I’ve gotten enough source material on all the band members.

Then it’s time to download all the images and begin the culling process. Lots of images get thrown away on the first pass. Then I’ll go back through to look for the selects. Those are the photos that have the body position, expression and look I am going for in the final art piece.

The individuals are extracted from their photo and placed upon their own layer so effects such as drop shadows and lighting can be applied individually. Then it’s time to start working on combining all the elements of people, texture, drop shadows, color adjustments and more.

animated gif of building art pieceAnimated Gif of the various Layers

 Above is a Gif showing most of the Layers made in Photoshop to give you an idea of how the pieces work together during the build. Below is a screen capture of the Layers Palette in Photoshop.

layers palette for imageLayers Palette of the Gaelle Hall of Fame image

I’m thrilled with the dynamic range of the Lumix Micro 4/3rds camera gear. The camera is Lumix G9 Panasonic’s stills flagship model with the LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 35-100MM, F2.8 ASPH 

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob