Apr 20, 2015

Say Hello to "Stuck Ass Down"

I've been wanting to create a more personal photo blog for a while. I actually created this blog last summer with the intention of posting my random thoughts, photos and projects on this blog, but that never happened. The shell of the blog was made, but there was no content. None. So, I decided that I did in fact want this to happen and then I made it so. If you are so inclined, I'd love for you to visit my new little blog.

Mar 4, 2015

In the Back

I've never been one of those people to elbow my way to the front of the stage just to get a bit closer to my favorite rock star. I also don't get too excited when I see a celebrity on the street (if I even notice them at all) and I usually shy away from getting too involved with what I can only assume is the "in crowd". I'm the girl in the back watching the hoards from the outside. I like to observe from afar. 

There was a time when I would shimmy my way to the front in my ever vain attempt to be noticed, but it was usually for nothing. I was the dancer that was just north of good but just south of great. I rarely got noticed in a crowd of many. 

"Get in front, Michelle! That's the only way they'll see you! Get noticed!!"

I would do that, and it rarely worked. I would dance my heart out, push my limits, and then go home. That was my reality. And, honestly, it's cool.

When I first started working in the corporate world, I was motivated. I wanted that title, those business cards, and that salary. My elbows were prepped. My skirt suit was pressed. My kitten heels were cute. Now, get the hell out of my way!

"Speak up, Michelle. Share your ideas, Michelle! Get noticed!"

You bet!!  For the first 15 years of my corporate work experience, I gave it my all. I worked long hours. I "yes'd" everyone to death. I was polite and respectful (at least I thought so). I also shared with my supervisors my enthusiasm for my job and my willingness to move up in my position.

"Oh, Michelle! That's wonderful news. You do amazing work for us here. You're timely, respectful and everyone loves you. You will be the first person we think about when that opportunity presents itself."

Feeling motivated by all of my stellar reports, I felt absolutely certain this path would present itself. Several years later (and several jobs later), that opportunity still hasn't presented itself. I actually had a supervisor tell me not to speak in meetings because she felt it wasn't my place for the position that I held in the company. At that moment in time, I dropped my elbows and called it. No more kitten heels. I sat in the back and would speak when spoken to. At that moment, I just did my job. No more, no less.

I felt defeated. At this point in my life, I was a woman. I was no longer the young 20 something girl trying to make an impression. I was a woman who had lived in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and LA and I had a husband and a daughter and many years of experience under my belt. Being told not to speak, as a woman, stung. I never quite knew what those individuals had that got them that promotion. I elbowed. I worked my butt off. I yes'd. What was it? Honestly, I still don't know. But whatever it is, I clearly don't have it. AND, that's cool.

I found that I'm actually very cool with being on the outside. I'm not one to put people on a pedestal or fawn over a high profile "anyone". Everyone shits the same and everyone's shit smells just as bad as mine. There was a time I had some brown speckles on my nose, but that time is long gone (and maybe that's why I never got those promotions).

I remember running a 1/2 marathon a while ago and as I was preparing to run the race I overheard a woman talking to her friend, "I love to start in the back of the pack. When you're back here, there are no expectations." I looked at her and chuckled. As I stood in the back of the pack with her, I thought about my race and how it was my own. No expectations back here. Perfect.

I loved that line. I think of it all the time. I'm not a fast runner, but I can run 26.2...in the back of the pack. I wasn't the best dancer, but I still landed a solo spot here and there. And, apparently I'm not a promotable employee, but I still make a good salary and provide benefits to my family.

As much as I wanted to be "that" person. The person who got up front. The person who got that promotion. The person who got that opportunity because of whatever reason. I'm just not that person. I don't take the bull by the horns. I'm not in the "in crowd". I'm the girl on the outskirts looking in...at you, probably. And I'm probably chuckling to myself because ya'll look like a bunch of idiots.

So, if you ever want to find me...I'll be in the back. And I'll be doing just fine.

Oct 2, 2014

Your Photography Business - Be Prepared to Answer Questions!

I am a HUGE believer of laying everything out on the table before the day of the session. I have a FAQ page, I answer questions via e-mail and am fully prepared to answer questions at my pre-session consultations. It's all apart of the business. Clients are investing time and money with me and I want them to feel 100% confident with their choice to choose me as their photographer.

On occasion, however, I wonder if I'm a little too honest and a little too blatant with my answers. Then this happened at a high school senior pre-session consultation the other weekend that put my worries to rest.

Mom: "Well, we had another photographer."
Me:    "Oh, really?"
Mom: "Yes. But, she cancelled on us to shoot a wedding."
Me:    "Oh, that's too bad. Weddings can bring in a bit more $$ and exposure. Maybe that's the direction she's really interested in? In either case, I'm happy about the cancel."
But, this isn't what struck me. Sure, I hate to be second fiddle, but what Dad mentioned next made me think. As I was answering questions from the family, the father said...

Michelle, we are so impressed that you can answer all of our questions quickly and honestly. Our last photographer seemed to skirt a lot of questions and never gave us straight answers.  
Hmmm...skirt the answers to questions?? My reply...

It's possible that your photographer just didn't know the answers yet. Based on what I've heard, she may be just starting out and hasn't had the experience to give you an honest answer. All of that comes with time and experience.
Of course, the take away here isn't to bash new photographers that don't have their answers yet. Heck, it took me almost three years to feel comfortable answering questions from clients. Once I left the comfort of shooting for friends and family, I would dodge every question that came my way. But, it hurt me. Why? It looks unprofessional.

So, my suggestion is this.

Create a short list of policies and procedures that you can work off of. Write down what you know to be true to date about how you want to run your business. Check out your FB groups and your G+ communities. Reach out to message boards and forums and see what works for other photographers. I can tell you first hand that not everything will work for you, but it will give you a really good idea of what to expect and you can make your judgement calls from there. I don't suggest leading your client to believe that you don't know the answers, but in this digital age, you can stall a little bit while you research their question. In the end, give them a good solid answer to their question, even if you think they won't like it. Be straight and be honest. Period. You will be appreciated for it!

Next, don't expect this to happen overnight! It took a few years for me to really get a good grasp on my policies and expectations of my business. I didn't always have a FAQ page. I didn't always do a pre-session consult. But, my market is high school senior photography and I now like to meet with the clients and answer questions before the session. It breaks the ice and helps them to feel more comfortable the day of the session. But, if you are not prepared to answer questions "on the fly" then don't meet in person yet. It's fine. I don't think many folks expect it anyway.

And, finally, DO NOT ever blame or bash clients for asking you a question. 
You are the professional. 
You are the business owner. 
You SHOULD have the answer. 
It is not the client's fault for asking.

For those interested, I have highlighted two great resources for photographers---> here. The MCP Actions and Presets FB Page is a must for photographers just starting out. They have photographers of all levels in the group and the information offered by all of those that contribute to the page in invaluable. That is definitely a great place to start.