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Playing All the Angles

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Playing All the Angles

  The original house (on the left) inspired the new structure’s composition (everywhere else). 1100 Architect

The original house (on the left) inspired the new structure’s composition (everywhere else). 1100 Architect

I love being able to see the same thing in new ways – especially when the geometry of a structure like the Perry World House lends itself so well to this passion. 

For three different clients and on three different occasions I was chosen to photograph this uniquely designed global policy research center on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

For the Architecture Firm: The building’s architects, 1100 Architect, elected to keep portions of an original 1851 brick-and-stucco cottage and fuse them into a thoroughly modern limestone building. In what’s been described as a “blunt collision” of old and new, its singular mission is to bring the entire University – all 12 schools – together to debate and explore global issues.

1100 Architect commissioned me to photograph a multitude of exterior and interior views, looking at the building from all sides, at a range of distances, and in both daylight and at twilight.

 Perry World House, Philadelphia, PA.

One of the challenges was to show the street-facing façade of the building without the clutter of cars and food truck normally parked there. While I arranged with the Philadelphia Film Board to get the block designated a “No Parking” zone for the shoot, I knew that signs alone would not deter Philadelphia drivers from parking. So my assistant set up more than a dozen orange traffic cones to keep any and all vehicles out of my shots – and my resident photo editor later zapped out the cones and signs.

  Research shot of 38th Street façade; the food truck really annoyed the architects.

Research shot of 38th Street façade; the food truck really annoyed the architects.

  38th Street façade, with and without signs and traffic cones. Here’s where great lighting and the perfect time of day change everything!

38th Street façade, with and without signs and traffic cones. Here’s where great lighting and the perfect time of day change everything!

Thank heaven for connections at City Hall and Photoshop.

Ultimately, Perry World House was selected as one of “The 9 Best New University Buildings Around The World” by Architectural Digest – and I’ve been told that my photography had something to do with that!

For the Development Office: Penn’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations asked me to shoot images of the house that would be used as mural-sized displays for “Our Penn,” a traveling presentation hosted by the University’s President that highlights new developments on campus. For this assignment, I focused on the building in use by a variety of students and organizations.

  Perry World House with people (for “Our Penn”).

Perry World House with people (for “Our Penn”).

  Global conference center or space age sun room?

Global conference center or space age sun room?

  The gateway to Perry World House's World Forum, the artfully designed lobby is often the scene of catered receptions.

The gateway to Perry World House's World Forum, the artfully designed lobby is often the scene of catered receptions.

  The multi-level Global Policy Lab is a model of versatility, accommodating workshops, conferences, seminars and other events.

The multi-level Global Policy Lab is a model of versatility, accommodating workshops, conferences, seminars and other events.

For the Alumni Magazine: Then Pennsylvania Gazette, the university’s alumni magazine, asked me to capture the essence of the house, as well as photograph its director, William Burke-White.  For this outing, I sought out more heroic images of the building, focusing on light and space, and less on the people using it.

  Perry World House without people (for  Pennsylvania Gazette ).

Perry World House without people (for Pennsylvania Gazette).

  Natural light and artwork are everywhere.

Natural light and artwork are everywhere.

Being the photographer of choice is a great feeling. Being the photographer of choice three times for the same gorgeous building is the best feeling.

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Much Obliged

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Much Obliged

  Gratitude comes in many colors.

Gratitude comes in many colors.

I’ve been doing what I do professionally for quite some time now.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned (and, at times, have had to relearn) it’s that no man or woman is an island.  As a creative professional, the folks I’m honored to count as clients count on me to make the buildings they build and the spaces they design shine as boldly and brightly as possible.  And I count on them to keep food on my table and film in my camera. Digitally speaking, of course.

So, as we move into the holiday season – and at a time of uncertainty – I’m determined to keep my attitude one of gratitude.

I’m thankful for all the good work and projects I’ve been able to be part of throughout 2016.  The worlds of real estate and architecture in and around Philadelphia are active and vibrant.  When I travel through the city’s streets, I see new constructions that are enhancing Philadephia’s story, rather than detracting from it.

  Light Play weaves color into the fabric of the city.

Light Play weaves color into the fabric of the city.

The interactive Light Play installation at Southstar Lofts is a prime example.  Built as part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority’s “Percent for Art” program, I was asked to photograph it by Mags Harries and Lajos Heder, the Boston-based artists who designed the project.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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     Pools of color light the way to work or school.

Pools of color light the way to work or school.

Projecting color onto the building and street in synch with the motion of the sun, the effect is a literal representation of the connection between art and commerce – a flourishing rental market helps fund the art, while a vibrant art scene helps create a place where people want to live and businesses want to locate.

I’m grateful to Harries/Heder for choosing me to shine a light on their work.  I’m also grateful for long-standing relationships with companies including CBRE, Jones Lang LaSalle, Newmark, HFF, University of Pennsylvania and EP Henry – as well as new clients like Greystar and Bohlin Cynwinski Jackson. If I’ve left you off the list, my apologies.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express thanks for all of the people who support me in my business.  My editor and assistant, Paul (who also happens to be my son), deals with my quirks on a daily basis and makes me proud every day.  My office manager, Tanya, keeps all the behind the scenes financial and database tasks flowing seamlessly.  A shout out to all of the freelance photo assistants, Fernando, Matt, Dan, Mike and Jason, who raise the level of my game.  And shout outs to my marketing consultant, Janie Hewson, my writer, Steve Rotterdam, my designer, Aaron Vinton, and my accountant, Bill Irish.

Finally, there’s the rest of my family.  My amazing wife, Bev. My daughter, Lily, whose spirit and ambition make me proud.  My loving mother, Eva, who at 80 sends more texts than I can keep up with. And my brother, Chan, who holds the record for my longest running friendship.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

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City Living

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City Living

2116 Chestnut Street with the Philadelphia skyline.

“Life is better here” is the simple, but bold, marketing slogan for the new 2116 Chestnut Street apartment tower in Philadelphia. Working for the building’s owner, CBRE Global Investors, my challenge was to fully express this glassy, 34-story tower as “The ideal address for an urban lifestyle,” as advertised. The images are being used to show off the property to investors through marketing materials and quarterly reports.

 2116 Chestnut Street lights up at night.

2116 Chestnut Street lights up at night.

Eager to tell the full story of the building’s context, I shot from several different locations and heights to capture the true, but changing, personality and spirit of this contemporary structure.

Older lower scale neighborhood surrounds the building.

Neighborhood! From the street, images demonstrate how the streamlined tower adjoins a charming, 100-year-old residence on the corner to physically and visually connect with the surrounding historic neighborhood. Stone churches, schools, trees, parks and shops accessorize the street-level appeal. At twilight, the tower shoots up over the older, low-lying buildings almost like a rocket being propelled into the future from a launching pad of the past. Dusk shots are animated by splashes of twinkling light from occupied apartments above colored streaks from passing cars on the otherwise tranquil, city streets.

Seen from the roof top of a nearby building.

Views! Images taken from a rooftop a few blocks away let you imagine how living in the tower would offer tremendous, unobstructed views in all directions. And no one is looking in (uh, except for me). So you are free to open the blinds or hang out on the balcony and savor the dynamic backdrop of skyscrapers on one side and the Schuylkill River on the other. A very close-up view activates sleek interiors and cutting-edge amenities as residents enjoy an easy, urban lifestyle.

Trails along the Schuylkill River are filled with people running, walking and biking.

Trails! I found a great shooting location on the University City side of the river in order to show how 2116 Chestnut is mere blocks from the new Schuylkill River Trail System. Being two blocks from the river also means you’re within walking distance to University City, if you take classes or work over there. You can see from here that the building is also just blocks from the city’s skyscrapers, Rittenhouse Square, shops and restaurants. This is truly an ideal location in a thriving but quieter part of Center City.

This simple, state-of-the-art structure in a way represents the missing link between sparkling, sky-high downtown and a calmer, more down-to-earth community. It is all the best the city has to offer. How could you not want to be a part of that?

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Skyscrapers: Above and Beyond

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Skyscrapers: Above and Beyond

Keystone Blue Cross, Philadelphia, PA

Photographing skyscrapers is a tall order in many ways. These giant feats of architecture, engineering and construction first get conceived, then designed, then built, often over the course of years and to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. I appreciate, and am humbled by, the immensity of the challenge to show these herculean structures to their best advantage.

For many of the skyscrapers I photograph, I am working for commercial realty companies that use my imagery to sell either a whole building or available space within a building. The goal is to obviously make the buildings look as formidable and desirable as possible: large, classy, sophisticated, modern, state of the art, and featuring the latest in contemporary amenities in an ideal location. Many businesses understand that having an office in a shiny, towering edifice will positively reflect the building’s sophistication, stability and permanence onto their own company’s brand of success.

When photographing skyscrapers, I try to “read,” and then tease out, the unique qualities and individual contexts of each structure, from the ground level to the very top. Skyscrapers “read” one way from a distance and another way from closer up, gazing up at them from the street.

Mellon Bank Center, 1735 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA

BNY Mellon Center
One of the most important aspects of the BNY Mellon Center is its famous pyramid structure at the top that houses the Pyramid Club and offers space with an amazing view for parties, business meetings and other events. I was able to get just slightly above the pyramid in a neighboring building to show not only the structural details of the sky-high atrium but also bring into view the Philadelphia Museum of Art along with the Schuylkill River beyond to demonstrate the building’s impressive location.

For many of these projects, I am challenged to show a building or buildings in the context of their urban environment to let a buyer or new tenant know what a great location they’d be buying (or leasing) into. Showing the building’s surroundings, and even getting a view of the structure’s middle and top, requires “getting some height” on the building. This becomes a matter of locating a neighboring building high enough to offer up a perfect view from the middle or near the top of the subject building. The next hoop to jump through is getting permission to photograph FROM these other buildings, which in my experience is an endeavor that’s either really easy or nearly impossible.

Once I identify an ideal building to shoot from, I often show up and ask the security staff if I can go up in their building to photograph a neighboring building. Some people agree readily to my plan and accompany me on my travels through their building. Others say I’ll need permission in writing from the building managers, which may take a month at which time I’m welcome to come back. So getting some height on these tall buildings requires a little ingenuity, persistence, people skills and luck, especially given today’s concerns about security.

Penn Mutual Building, Philadelphia, PA

Penn Mutual Building
To shoot the Penn Mutual Building, I was challenged to show off the ideal urban neighborhood that the buildings are located in, just across from Independence Park and down the street from the iconic Society Hill Towers. With the Delaware River in the near distance, the Penn Mutual complex stands out as an impressive corporate structure that blends its significant architectural history with its more contemporary components that have evolved over time to represent stability and success for the long haul.

Since so many skyscrapers are faced with glass curtainwalls, “reading” each building becomes a study in what is reflecting in the building at the time. Once I’m up in an adjacent building, it’s almost like a chemistry experiment: mixing just the right amount of height, light and shadows, with reflections of clouds and other buildings. For a different perspective, I also photograph skyscrapers from the ground to demonstrate the grandiosity of the entrance and present a more dramatic “towering” view as the top of the colossal structure fades into reflections of clouds and then meets up with the wild blue yonder.

Comcast Tower, Philadelphia, PA

Comcast Tower
The Comcast Center is more than 1,000 feet tall and 59 stories high, so finding a nearby building tall enough to photograph from was a challenge. Once I found it, though, I had the perfect vantage point to capture the Liberty Place skyscrapers reflected in, and dwarfed by, the more massive Comcast Center. I managed to match up the reflected horizon and surrounding city view with the “real” horizon and clouds beyond the building. Having one consistent skyline lets the viewer focus on the building and not be distracted by too many disparate impressions of surrounding scenery.

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Tis the Season to Be Shopping

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Tis the Season to Be Shopping

High-end urban retail spaces must feel as luxurious and unique as the merchandise sold within.

Shopping is as American as apple pie. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that the United States has over 45 sq. ft. of retail space for every person — double that of our nearest shopaholic rivals, the UK.

The “Super Bowl” of this national pastime is Black Friday, that annual stampede of savings that marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Beginning in early November, we hear the rumblings of fanfare. Stores will do everything they can to lure customers in for the biggest shopping day of the year.

A clean-lined, tidy display of products entices customers to explore at Ulta Cosmetics in Philadelphia.

With the rise of Cyber Monday and the prevalence of online shopping, it has become even more important for brick-and-mortar locations to “up” their game. Shopping has been transformed into a theatrical experience, laced with temptation and discovery.

Many shopping centers have turned into nostalgic, village-like theme parks. These pedestrian-friendly designs are meant to encourage leisurely browsing and enhance the social experience of “going shopping.”

This village-style shopping center invites consumers to make a day of it.

When I photograph retail spaces and shopping centers, I always try to convey that sense of excitement. Often, I choose to shoot at twilight to capture the dramatic glowing lights and colors designed to entice shoppers.

Lighting and color attracts shoppers.

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Business Is Beautiful

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Business Is Beautiful

500 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware.
500 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware.

I’m in the business of helping other businesses look their best through visually commanding photography of commercial buildings.

One of my favorite clients is CBRE , the global full-service real estate company. We work together throughout the year on photography projects for their numerous sales efforts — from Class A office buildings to warehouses, to shopping centers, to apartment complexes.

For one of our recent projects together, the Wayne, Pennsylvania office of CBRE commissioned photographs to market 500 Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, Delaware. As with many of these commercial projects, time is short and the client needs strong images of an existing, older building as quickly as possible to close the deal.

A great place to wait before meeting your attorney.
A great place to wait before meeting your attorney.
Upper floor law firm conference room.
Upper floor law firm conference room.

500 Delaware Avenue houses many corporate law firms — unsurprising considering that Wilmington is home to the majority of large U.S. corporations. It can be a challenge to document the most photogenic spaces in such a large office building, with minimal disruption to the building’s tenants. Frequently, I’m accompanied by a property manager who is familiar with the building and with the tenants, and who helps me locate the best spaces and views.

Not every part of a building is glamorous, but the US Post Office pays their rent every month.
Not every part of a building is glamorous, but the US Post Office pays their rent every month.

My specialty is balancing beautiful photography with documentation. I must highlight the best spaces as well as capture the more typical spaces — visually describe the building while piquing the interest of potential investors.

The street address is hard to miss.
The street address is hard to miss.

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Where Does All My Stuff Come From?

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Where Does All My Stuff Come From?

   Simplicity and orderliness are key inside a warehouse.

Simplicity and orderliness are key inside a warehouse.

Warehouses are a hidden but important part our modern economy.

Most products that end up in our lives pass through a warehouse or two. Boxes of cereal, gas grills, TV sets, baseball caps, blue jeans – you name it, the product has probably been brought to and distributed through a warehouse.

  Racking can extend to over 30 feet.

Racking can extend to over 30 feet.

I've had a hard time coming up with an exact figure, but I think there is at least 1 billion square feet of warehouse space in the United States. In 2010, the 20 largest warehouse firms had 514 million square feet of space.

The size of many warehouses boggles the mind. One warehouse that I photographed was 1 million square feet--so big that 17 football fields would fit inside it. A walk around the outside is a one mile trip.

 This warehouse contains 600,000 square feet of floor space.

This warehouse contains 600,000 square feet of floor space.

I was asked to photograph this warehouse for the owner, Dermody, so they could promote it to new tenants. It is currently being used as a distribution space for h.h. gregg and also houses a UPS distribution center.

We don’t often think about where our stuff comes from, but the warehouse is a crucial part of the life of an item – from manufacturing to arriving at your front door.

 Many warehouses are automated, and can be operated by only a few employees.

Many warehouses are automated, and can be operated by only a few employees.

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God Made A Farmer

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God Made A Farmer

With the Super Bowl, watching the ads can be as entertaining as the game itself. The Chrysler ad for their trucks really stood out for me because it uses still images and no live motion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

The advertising world is shifting toward using more video and less stills. The number of ad pages in print magazines is shrinking. On the competitive advertising stage of the Super Bowl, ads with big budgets compete using lots of computer generated high powered imagery, and big stars. So this simple TV spot grabbed my attention because it was different.

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chrysler_ad_still_01

With the authoritative voice of Paul Harvey laid over nostalgic imagery of farmers and farms, it's a very soft sell. The product, Dodge trucks, doesn't even appear until halfway into the spot.

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The ad shows a wide range of people in its salute to the hard working lives of farmers. Farmers who will use Dodge trucks in their selfless pursuit of growing our food.

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I Am Suburban West

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I Am Suburban West

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The Suburban West Realtors Association recently launched a campaign to attract new members and remind their more than 5,000 current members of all of the benefits they gain from the association. The association and their graphic designer envisioned a series of ads. Each would highlight one of the many benefits of membership.

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Their campaign is modeled after a similar one that was very successful for a realtors association in a different region, so the concept for each of the scenes to be photographed was already fully developed. Our challenge was to find distinct locations at the association headquarters and in the surrounding community that were different, interesting, and descriptive enough to successfully illustrate each of the ads.

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Since the ads work as testimonials, actual members of Suburban West Realtors were photographed instead of paid models.

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As always, when working with real people and not models, we make a specific effort to make everyone feel at ease in front of the camera, and give plenty of direction so that their poses have a feeling of purpose.

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Even with the minimal choice of locations available, through lighting and educated camera choices, we were able to deliver five images that successfully illustrate each of the ads and do not feel repetitious.

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School vs Work

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School vs Work

A reader has posted a question on one of my earlier blog posts,

TJ Swafford Says: Question: I’m currently involved in a speeeeeeeeeendy photography degree at SCAD, Do I even NEED this degree to be successful? Or would I be better served by hooking up with an established photographer and glean what I can from him/her?

TJ,

Do you stay in school and get a degree or leave art school to learn from a photographer?

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There is no easy answer to your question. I am a big believer in education. Yet a Bachelor’s degree in Art is no guarantee of anything. For that matter, a Bachelor’s degree in many fields is no guarantee of anything.

Yes, education is expensive. Developing your mind and expanding your thinking is very valuable.

Everyone’s path is different. If you want to be a commercial or fine artist there is no straight path for your career. Unlike becoming a lawyer or doctor there is not a prescribed way to become an artist. The most successful artists have always blazed their own unique paths.

I know a corporate lawyer who told me that when he was in high school, his father said to him, “You can be a lawyer or a doctor. You choose.” He has ultimately pursued one of the two options dictated by his father.

You do have the power to choose your own path, wherever it may lead. Just by choosing to go to art school you have picked a path off the main stream.

To be an artist, you will need to have a passion and perseverance. You will need to figure out how to pay your bills.

Clients have never asked to see my diploma when they were considering hiring me. Instead they want to see my photographs. But my degree in History of Art and an education in the liberal arts have given me a conceptual framework to see and understand the world. I can discuss architecture with architects. I know what a cap rate is when I talk with a commercial realtor.

It is important to learn how to learn. I do feel that my liberal arts education boosted my ability to learn things on my own, which is an important skill in our dynamic changing world.

I did not take a digital photograph until 2001. Since then I have taught myself many things about digital photography, software and computers.

In the beginning of the digital photography revolution, I imagined I was climbing a mountain of knowledge, learning new technology. Yet as I hiked upward towards the acquisition of more knowledge, the mountain has kept growing and changing. The goal of reaching the top and completely mastering digital photo technology feels perpetually out of reach because the mountain of knowledge is always growing and morphing.

I also feel this way with using and understanding the internet and social media. There will be more changes in the future. So learning how to learn is important.

You will have to make your own decision as far as whether to continue and finish your degree. I don’t know your financial circumstances. If you are piling up student loan debt and school is a huge financial burden, it could make sense to take time off to work in your field and get the perspective of working with a real world photographer.

There are limited opportunities for paid work with photographers. Many commercial photographers are operating with fewer paid staff than before. The freelance model of hiring people is common. And unpaid internships are common, too.

If you leave school and enter the marketplace to find work with a photographer, you will be competing with people who do have degrees in your field. That’s not to say you won’t succeed, it’s just that if fifty people apply for a job, having a degree and experience could move your resume higher up the stack.

Good luck. Whether or not you ultimately finish school–keep learning and keep taking photos.

Keep in mind, one upside to getting a degree, especially a graduate degree, is that you get to wear a crazy hat.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 6

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 6

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This is Part 6 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

V. Persistence

1. Always be learning new things and improving your skills.

Video and photography are crafts. Technology changes rapidly. Blogs, web sites, books, workshops, self-assignments, and talking with peers are all ways to keep educating yourself.

2. Keep practicing your art.

It’s hard to make a living and also do art. But do some art. Yes, making a living can be much harder than school. And you don’t graduate from making a living in four years, which is good and bad.

3. Know that there will be ups and downs.

If you don’t want to be a creative professional, accounting is a steadier business -- no disrespect to accountants or the IRS.

4. Keep your head up.

Remember that the last two years have been the worst economy since the 1930s. Yet most people I know are still eating.

5. Don’t give up.

Persistence will eventually pay off.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 6 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 5

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 5

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This is Part 5 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, and Part 6.

V. Networking and Marketing - 2 of 2

1. Use social media.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can all be used to keep you in front of other people.

2. Send out post cards.

Always follow up a meeting or first project with a client with a postcard or at least a thank you email. I once worked with an assistant in Washington DC who sent promotional post cards to a list of photographers he wanted to work with. The cards were mock tabloid front pages with catchy headlines, like, "Photo Assistant Sets World Speed Record for Wrapping Up Extension Cords". Corny, perhaps. But they led to work, since they were attention-getting and showed a sense of humor, which is a valuable commodity in our work-a-day world.

3. Send out promotional emails.

Yes, we all get too many emails. But I do send promotional mass e-promos once a month. It's a subtle reminder to existing clients that I am still out photographing, and I have attracted new clients this way too. For a rookie, it can be a first contact with a potential client.

4. Make cold calls with warm leads.

Call places you are interested in working with. It can be better if you have a referral: “Charles Gonzalez suggested I call.” If you get a live person on the phone, explain briefly why you’re calling and find out if they are hiring or use freelancers. Many times you will be shunted to voicemail. If that happens, always leave a message. Follow up a live call or a voicemail with one of your great post cards or emails.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 5 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 4

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 4

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This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 5, and Part 6.

IV. Networking and Marketing - 1 of 2

Answer this question: What is the one thing no business can do without?

Answer: Customers.

In the spirit of perpetuating your business, this section deals with finding and retaining customers.

1. Network with your peers

Networking is a fortunate side effect of interacting with your peers, clients and colleagues. You should work to cultivate a large and diverse network. When a peer is called for two jobs on one day, he or she can refer you to one of them. Return the favor. And through the grapevine you may learn who is great to work for and who is difficult to work for.

2. Network within your industry.

Go to an ASMP meeting. I’m focused on the still photography world, but I know there are equivalents for other professions.

3. Have a 30-second elevator speech in your brain

When you meet people – possibly in an actual elevator, but more likely in a networking situation – you will need to explain who you are and what you do in 30 seconds or less. Prepare a short speech for any situation. An example: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe. I’m agraduate of the Acme School of Art and I work as a photo assistant. I recently got to fly to Los Angeles and assist on an annual report shoot. It's amazing how long it takes to create one photo."

Practice your short speech with your roommate so that when you run into an important person that you’ve been dying to meet at a film screening, you don’t mumble and sound like a sophomore on a first date.

4. Ask for someone's business card.

If you meet someone and cannot get a card, jot down their name in your phone or in a notebook as soon as possible. It’s not too difficult to later use the Internet to gather their contact details. Put that information in your contact database. It is potentially very valuable, which is why one of the leading client relationship management (CRM) programs is called GoldMine. Once you have contact info, write the person you just met an email – then friend them on Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

5. Volunteer at your alma mater on phone solicitation night.

Meeting and connecting with older people who went to your college is one way to network, and giving back to your college can be a positive experience.

6. When you meet new people, remember Dale Carnegie.

Dale Carnegie wrote a book in 1936 called "How to Win Friends and Influence People". The Big Idea of this book was that people love to talk about themselves. So, when you meet someone new, focus the conversation on what that person is interested in. Pretend you are Terry Gross on Fresh Air and interview them. Listening is better than blabbing.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 4 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 5.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 3

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 3

This is Part 3 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

III. Accounting

1. Keep track of money in and money out.

You will need to implement an accounting system. It can be simple or complex, but you need a system. I don’t recommend using a typewriter with carbon paper and paper ledgers like I did in the good old days. I’ve been using AccountEdge software on my Mac since 1996, mostly because I need to do payroll. It may be overkill for someone starting out, but it does handle accounting well. Luckily, there is a wealth of intuitive and affordable software available for all levels, including Quickbooks and many cloud-based programs. A program called Billings is a simple and inexpensive solution, though it does not track expenses.

2. Invoice promptly.

Develop a standard method for sending invoices, and email them promptly. I prefer PDFs over .doc attachments; a client should feel that he is looking at a finished product, not a work in progress.

3. Keep track of who owes you money.

My accounting software shows me who is past 30 days in making a payment. Email slow payers. Sometimes I find that they never received the emailed invoice. Sometimes I find that they are a slow-pay. Don’t be afraid to call people who owe you money.

4. Create a filing system to save crucial paperwork.

Save your receipts. Save your bank statements. Save your utility bills and credit card bills. I assume that someday in my financial life I will be audited. And when that day comes, I want to be able to show the tax auditor my receipts.

5. Hire an accountant.

Establish a relationship with an accountant by January 1. April 14 is not a good date to find an accountant. (Accounting for Dummies hint: April 15 is the day that annual tax returns and payments are due.) Ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations; if your parents use an accountant, that might be the place to start. Most importantly, find one that you are comfortable with. My first accountant made a big mistake one year. My next accountant was too "creative" for my tastes. My current accountant is knowledgeable and approachable, and he will answer tax questions during the year.

6. Don’t forget about taxes.

Profit equals gross receipts minus expenses. You will have to pay social security taxes, federal income, state income and possibly local business or income taxes on all of your profit. As you make money you need to set aside money for taxes. You will likely have to pay quarterly taxes in your first or second year as a freelancer. Ask your accountant.

7. Separate work and play.

As your business grows, get a separate bank account and credit card for your business. This can make accounting for your business life easier.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 3 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 2Part 4, and Part 5.

Look for Part 4 next Monday.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 2

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 3, Part 4Part 5, and Part 6.

II. When you have work

1. Always be on time. In fact, always show up early.

Make a photographer late for a shoot, and she will call someone else the next time.

2. If you don’t know, ask.

When asked if you know how to set up a Canon 580 flash with a Pocket Wizard, don't nod your head yes if you don't really know. Don’t be afraid to ask the person you are working with to show you.

One of the first times I worked as an assistant, I was unfamiliar with loading and unloading Hasselblad film backs. When the back reached the last exposure, I simply opened it, not knowing that the film needed to be wound out past the last frame. I ended up fogging the last scene we had photographed. We were able to immediately re-shoot, so I did work again for that photographer – but you may not be so lucky.

We all learn from failure, but learn to be humble and admit when you don't know something.

3. Keep chatter to a minimum.

Shoots can be fun, but focus on the work. Being on a shoot is not a time to chat on your cell phone. You're being paid to help the photographer, not your social life.

4. Remember who is in charge.

As a freelancer you will be working with different bosses, each of whom has their own personality. While it's important for you to make creative suggestions and point out obvious problems, every person you work with will handle your input differently. Sometimes you will have to bite your tongue.

5. Be helpful and exceed expectations.

That you should be helpful may sound obvious. The reality is that the more helpful you are on the job, the more likely you'll be hired in the future.

6. Babysit the photographer.

An assistant is a babysitter for the photographer. I once heard this from an assistant, and its truth has been borne out many times. A photographer I used to work for once used his wallet to prop open a door. When it came time for lunch, you can guess who remembered this.

7. Be a sponge.

I absorbed so much knowledge by simply observing the photographer I assisted. Sure, I learned about lighting and propping, but just as importantly I learned about interacting with clients and running a successful business.

Read the other parts of this series.

This is Part 2 of a 6 part series. Here is a link to Part 1Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

Look for Part 3 next Monday.

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 1

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Tips for Young Creatives - Part 1

My daughter graduated from art school last year and is pursuing freelance work in the video and photography industries. While this is not a letter to her specifically, her decision inspired me to write about starting out in a creative services business. I am a still photographer, and I have worked as a freelancer for most of my career. Some of these tips are specific to photography and video production, but many apply to all freelancers in the creative professions, whether graphic and web design or other fields.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

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I. Basics to be in business

1. Be reachable

Have a cell phone that receives email. If someone can’t reach you, they will contact the next person on their list. Return emails, phone calls and text messages promptly.

2. Record a legitimate voicemail greeting

Include your name and speak clearly; you want a person with work to want to call you back.

3. Use an email address not tied to a specific ISP

Have your own domain name, or use Gmail or an equivalent. This will allow you to keep your email address when you switch internet providers.

4. Maintain a web site

Nowadays a web site is as important as a business card. Make sure your phone number and email address are visible on every page. If your site shows up as “under construction”, you fail. A home page is enough to start, but to maximize impact include great examples of your work.

5. Have a business card

Make it creative but readable.

6. Create and use a contact database

It can be as simple as Address Book on a Mac, Microsoft Outlook on a PC, or Google contacts in Gmail. I use Address Book and salesforce. Whether it’s simple or complex, have a place in your computing world where you keep people’s names, phone numbers and email addresses. It’s also helpful if the database syncs with your phone.

7. Be ready to talk money when somebody calls with a job

Know what you charge for a day’s work. Do not say “Yes” without talking price. If you don't know market rates in your city, ask others. Know what you normally charge, but don't be afraid to ask the photographer what his or her budget is. The same photographer may have some jobs with an editorial budget (lower) and others with an advertising budget (higher).

Read the other parts of this series.

This is part 1 of a 6 part series. Here are links to Part 2Part 3,  Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Look for Part 2 next Monday.

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Business and Creativity

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Business and Creativity

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This weekend I am attending ASMP's Strictly Business 3 series of talks and seminars for professional photographers. In this time of immense change in technology and in the economics of the photography industry, these events have been a positive catalyst for me. It is clear that the world needs images.  While there are forces at work that are reducing prices at the low end of the photography market (think micro stock and cell phone news photos), there is still a need for experienced commercial image makers.

This weekend I have met many other photographers, both younger and older. I'm 52. While it has been fun to engage in nostalgic reminiscences with photographers my age, I am energized by the enthusiasm of many of the younger photographers. It is encouraging to see people in their twenties starting their photo businesses. It has always been a leap of faith to start a photography business--I started my full time business in 1982.

Yesterday one of the four workshops I ended up in was called the Artist Lost and Found taught by Sean Kernan. I entered the wrong hotel meeting room and ended up in Sean's session by accident. The previous sessions during the day on licensing, web sites and marketing were helpful and informative, but by after lunch my brain was filled to the top with prescriptive things I should start doing. Sean focused  on having working commercial photographers re-connect with the wonder and thrill with photography that animated them when they were new photographers.

Sean had the group of about sixteen people do group exercises to open up perception and let go of inhibition. I felt like I was in a theater class.

We stood in a circle and Sean tossed an imaginary potato to someone across the circle. That person mimed tossing to another person and then the imaginary potato became a basketball and then an orange. While doing a child like game the brain had to move into another sphere of imagining and reacting instead of rational thinking. We played another circle game with changing music. One person would move across the circle to touch the next player. Each person had to move to the type of music being played. A formal minuet, hip hop, monks chanting, tribal drum music followed in quick succession as each person improvised movement to that music.

What's the connection with photography? Every creative endeavor needs to tap into intuition and gut decision making. Being open to the new is a crucial part of being creative.

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New Media Still Needs Good Photographs

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New Media Still Needs Good Photographs

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The New York Times' Bits blog ran an entry showcasing a recent finding by Jakob Nielsen that web users completely ignore "generic" looking images. Nielsen, a Danish researcher, has been studying usability on the web since before anyone seemed to care or have noticed that the user experience affects the success of a website.

Using eye tracking technology to measure the amount of time the user spends looking at various parts of the screen, Nielsen has managed to show that stock images go largely ignored. The Times concentrates on what this means to e-commerce sellers like Amazon and Pottery Barn, but it affects the impact and value of images on any website.

 Female Scientific Research Team Using Microscopes in a Laborator

Female Scientific Research Team Using Microscopes in a Laborator

Nielsen sums up his findings simply:

“Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your Web site’s business value.”

Stock photography carries a very low cost, but it also brings a very low value. And THIS is a scientifically proven fact.

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Persistent Marketing

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Persistent Marketing

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We market to our prospective and existing client base in a variety of ways. A combination of a web presence, mailers, and phone calls helps us accomplish our marketing goals. We advertise daily on the web, make phone calls and send customized portfolio pieces on a weekly basis, send e-promos on a monthly basis, and mail postcards of our work four times a year.

We continually evolve our marketing strategies to tweak the techniques work for us. Some months we don't have any new clients from our efforts, and some we have several, but the key to success is persistence.

Our persistent efforts are managed with a cloud computing program called Salesforce.com. We can set up everything from phone appointments, scheduled tasks, and view a history of communication with each contact. A program called Maildrop allows us to save emails into each contact's folder. Salesforce.com allows us to generate customized reports and fields specific to our marketing needs.

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