Categories
Uncategorized

customer service

Great customer service. Its one of those phrases that you here all the time from all kinds of businesses; everyone touts their great customer service. But what is great customer service? Is it fulfilling the “customer is always right” motto or is it something more? Personally, I believe it is doing one’s best to solve whatever problem that the customer has, even if that solution is not what the customer originally asked for or doesn’t mean that they wind up making their purchase from your business. … Sometimes, getting the goodwill of the customer can mean more in the long run than actually getting that one particular purchase.

The other day, I got a phone call from someone looking to have a passport photo taken. Not just an

 

y passport photo but one for Canada (1) which has different criteria for their passport photos than the United States(2). It was kinda odd getting that particular call, I don’t advertise that I do passport photos, don’t even mention them on my website and being that I work on location, I don’t really have the setup to do them. Turns out the caller had been going down the list of photographers on a Google search and I was the first one who actually picked up the phone. Now what does that say about the priority of customer service of all those photographers he called before getting me? Unfortunately, I did have to turn him down since I don’t have the setup to take and print to the criteria needed, however I did leave the call with the offer that if he was not able to get someone, I would figure out something at the price that I did headshots for. Hopefully, he may think of me in a positive manner, even though I was unable to solve his problem.

As a contrast, the other evening I was running late getting home and decided

to order a pizza from one of the pizza chains since it was right on my way home. I used their website to place the order on my phone, figuring that it would be ready by the time I passed by the location in a half hour. Everything was nice and simple except the app wouldn’t take my card but that was ok, I could pay when I got there.

I get to the store, find a parking spot which did take a little bit being that the lot was packed and walked in. I noticed there were a number of people sitting around and a line at the register. So, I get in the line, pay for my order and wait for it to come up so that I could leave to go home. After about ten minutes, I ask the woman behind the counter what was going on. After all, I had placed the order over 30 minutes ago, that should have been enough time to make and box it, even at busy time. This thought was based on times that I had ordered pizza from other places with no issues. The woman looked flustered, started looking at random boxes and then asked someone about the order. The guy she asked barked back “Its gonna be another 45 minutes!” Not a very professional answer and not really something that you want your customers waiting for their food to hear. Since, my order had not even been started, I asked for my money back. This took about five- ten minutes since they had to find someone who could do the refund, amazing in such a small space. Once I got the voided transaction slip in my hand, I left, grumbling that I would have been better buying a frozen pizza at the grocery and baking it in the oven when I got home. I would have spent less time doing that that waiting at the pizza chain place. What was really sad it that noone working at the store seemed to care that I left unhappy with no pizza.

One of the things that the pizza chain place does is send out emails asking how my experience was. You can be sure that I have replied to those emails! It will be interesting if I get any kind of response. If I do, I’ll post what it is.

 

 

(1) https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/canadian-passports/photos.html

(2) https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/requirements/photos.html

Categories
studio photographer Uncategorized

the call ….

I just got off the phone with a very nice lady from the IRS. The purpose of my calling them was a letter that I received from them, letter 4883C if you were curious; They needed to verify that I was who I said I was. The reason why I had gotten the letter was that a company that I have done part time work for had their HR files hacked. The company in question had sent out a letter about this back in February and after asking a CPA friend about it, I quickly filed my tax forms. I thought not much about it since I had gotten a notice that my tax forms had been accepted by the IRS and the state of NC.

Until I got the letter on Saturday …

I read over it, saw that it said to call them at a certain phone number (which I double checked on IRS.gov) and to have certain documents available when I called. So, I called… at 7am Monday morning. A time where I usually am still drinking my first cup of coffee. I got through to a real person within a few minutes, who was quite pleasant and she asked me several questions to verify I was who I said I was and that my return was actually my return. At the conclusion, she said that everything was good and that my tax forms would be processed. A good end to a phone call to the IRS.

I could tell that my husband was concerned while I was on this phone call even though he didn’t say anything since I found that the bed had been made and rooms have been straightened out … this usually doesn’t happen early Monday morning!

So, what does this have to do with photography you ask? Well, one of the things that I mentioned and most likely why the call went so smoothly is that I was prepared for it, I had all the information that I needed in order to answer questions and so it was relatively stress free for a call to the IRS. In photography, you want to be prepared for whatever may come up in the situation that you are photographing, be it making sure that you have backup equipment to having necessary permits if needed. If you make sure that you or the photographer you hire is prepared for what might happen, everything will go smoothly and stress free, and you will enjoy the experience!Wildlife - Asheville Photographers

Categories
Uncategorized

Trials and Tribulations of Photographing Cats

covercat_00001

A little back story here … Jim Marks asked me to photograph my younger cat for the cover of Pet Gazette and it had been a while since there had been a cat on the cover of the magazine. I figured, “Cool, it will be easy, I have the subject right here in my house” Famous last words … kind of goes along a similar vein as “Here, hold my beer!” Coupled with having a very busy schedule, I found myself right up against the deadline … silly me.

A little bit about the subject of the image: His name is McTeague which is the name that Blue Ridge Humane Society gave him which is where we adopted him from in October of 2015. We went there to get a companion for our older cat Morticia who was lonely after her buddy Gomez passed away several months before. My husband decided that the name suited him and it stayed. McTeague is a very affectionate kitty, loves to snuggle and is happiest when he is with us so I thought that he would not be a problem being photographed. After all, Morticia loved having her photo taken and would pose and preen for the camera. What was I thinking?

I took my camera out and carried McTeague down to my camera room where I had a backdrop and cushion set up. I figured it would be cute and an easy image. McTeague took one look and bolted out of the room, giving me a good scratch and almost causing me to drop the camera. Now I have to go find me a cat … I had forgotten to close the door to the room that I usually close when I photograph cats or dogs. I had made the mistake that I warn others about; assuming that my own animal would behave perfectly fine.

After about a half hour search, I found him, squashing himself into a corner under the bed. I drag him out and bring him back to the background setup. I try using toys and treats to get him to stay in place. Here is another mistake; I was trying to do all of this by myself, forgetting that I normally had another person to act as critter wrangler and distraction. Trying to do everything by myself because my other cat behaves perfectly fine for pictures was really stupid and it showed in that I was not able to get anything usable. I had a bunch of shots with him looking away, hunched over, cleaning his butt and generally being indifferent to my attempts. He also kept running off set. I finally went to heck with it and walked out of the room.

Over the next day, I tried everything I could think of to get this one image. He would be fine until I took the camera out, then he would do his best to not be in the same place and time as me and my camera. Eventually, I put the camera down and went to answer some emails and watch a movie on tv. And he came over and sat down next to me, very frustrating. After a while he got up and went to the window to watch the squirrels outside. That is when I had my chance. I slowly grabbed my camera and a speedlight and went towards where McTeague was sitting. I quietly set up the shot and quickly took it before he realized I was there. Of course, as soon as he saw the flash go off, he knew I was there and jumped down and ran off. However, I got the image I needed. And there was much rejoicing!

 

This post was published in the 2016 Summer issue of Pet Gazette magazine. The image did not make the cover; editor Jim thought Teague looked too angry. 🙂

Categories
Uncategorized

Influences …

Influences…

How much thought have you given to the people who have influenced your life? Not just photography, but personally and professionally.  I have had many such influences; the Toyota dealership general manager who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and made me the Internet manager of the dealership despite having no experience in that area, the photographer in PA that pushed me to get better at my craft and get out of my comfort zone, the business owner in NJ who showed me that there was much more to running a business than selling a product or service. We all can tell about influences that have shaped our lives.

I count among my photography influences people like D. Craig Flory, who contacted me after I ranted about something stupid on the OurPPA forum and told me that I was better than that rant and if I was willing, he could help me. Here was someone who I didn’t know, telling me that my ego was tripping me up. Over the following years, Craig has alternately boosted my confidence and popped my ego balloon (but in a constructive way). I earned my CPP (Certified Professional Photographer accreditation) and became a Certification liaison because of him.

Other influences were not as direct. The first photography speaker I ever saw was Joyce Wilson, D,Craig dragged me to the PPAofPA meeting where she was speaking. I was blown away, I love her work even though it is not my style but one thing that she said that has stuck with me: Whenever you have the camera out photographing a client, always make sure that you shoot something for yourself as well. I try to follow that.

I have picked up lighting techniques from a seminar that was given by Jerry Ghonis at the Guild of Delaware Valley. The Guild is a great resource for the folks up in the NJ/PA/DE area, monthly meetings with great speakers, it is one of the things I miss living down here in NC.

There are a great many resources out there to learn from, from East Coast School (which I am missing this year) to small workshops given in smaller locations. The important thing is to keep learning, one can never learn everything there is to know in this life.

I am writing this on the day before the funeral service for my good friend and radio co-host Tony Hood. He had been a large influence in my life since moving to the western NC area, introducing me to other photographers in the area, encouraging me to start teaching and by being willing to co-host a radio show on a visual medium.  We taught workshops together, including one where he joked about me photographing everything but the waterfall at a waterfall workshop.  Tony brought a sense of humor to what he did … he wanted to show his students that it was important to have good technique but one had to have fun while doing photography as well. On the afternoon he passed away, he and a couple of friends had spotted a bear out behind French Broad Imaging and ran outside to photograph it. It was during this time that he passed out.  It is ironic that he died doing what he enjoyed doing.

I am going to miss Tony, now who is going to make fun of me photographing rocks at waterfalls?

Categories
Uncategorized

10 Tips for Improving Your Photography

Tips for Improving Your Photography Craft

Think of the most inspiring photographer you know. Perhaps this person is one of “the greats,” or maybe they are a local photographer whose work you admire. At one time, they took their very first picture. They picked up a camera and did the only thing they knew how to do at the time – “point and shoot.” Now, their photography toolkit is full of tips and tricks. Yours will be too after you read these 10 great photography tips for improving your craft!

Tip #1: Focus on your craft rather than your camera quality.

Perhaps you are not yet able to afford the “ultimate” camera and lenses you have your eye on. Believe it or not, this is much less critical than you may think. Rather, the great majority of what makes up an amazing photo is up to you. Composition (what to leave out and what to put in), arrangement, shooting mode and editing can take nearly any photo and make it pop.

Tip #2: Scout location AND light.

When it comes to photography tips, use of light is another huge factor in whether your photos turn out just “okay” or fabulous. This tip really comes down to scouting your location in advance. What times of day is the light best? What is the best vantage point to set up and catch the light? How can you keep the sun behind you and still capture the shot you have your eye on?

Tip #3: Shoot in RAW mode whenever possible.

If you have a choice between regular JPG and RAW mode, shoot in RAW. This allows you to change your mind after the fact and adjust lighting, sharpness, anything really!

Tip #4: Learn as much as you can about shutter speed.

No one photographer can master every tip, but out of all the photography tips you have to choose from, you can bet the one tip all the pros have mastered is shutter speed. When you choose the right shutter speed for the shot you want, you sidestep so many common preventable issues, from bleached to blurred images and more.

Tip #5: Aim for one great shot in every batch.

Even Ansel Adams didn’t go for greatness in every shot. Rather, he aimed for just one great shot per month! The wonders of digital photography are many, but perhaps the most wonderful of all the wonders is the ability digital photography gives you to take many photos, review them after your shoot, keep the ones with potential and simply delete the rest. With this photography tip, you can start to hone in on where your strengths and passion lie without burning up film as you do.

Tip #6: Revisit locations again and again.

Each time you shoot at a certain location, you learn new things. Photography tips can only get you so far – the rest you will have to push yourself to do on your own. One way to really push yourself is to return to a location over and over and try new angles, new techniques, new lighting and just see what unfolds. As you become more familiar with the location itself, you can really hone in on aspects you want to strengthen in your photography work.

Tip #7: Before you shoot, examine the background.

As far as photography tips goes, this one is a must for outdoor portrait shoots (for people or pets). One thing you absolutely need is a background that enhances the star of the shoot rather than steals the limelight!

Tip #8: Know what does what on your own equipment.

Whether your camera is simple or fancy, you want to be sure you know which button or lever to push to get a certain result before you arrive at your shoot. This not only gives you lots of confidence, but ensures you never miss the perfect light or the perfect shot because you are fiddling with your gear!

Tip #9: Seek feedback constantly.

This is one of the most fun photography tips to follow, because it takes you out of that oh-so-solitary photographer’s studio and puts you in the company of others who love photography. Seek to build a community of fellow photographers whose work you love and whose insights you trust, and invite their feedback as you hone your craft. This will strengthen your work over time and give you camaraderie with those who share your interests.

Tip #10: Make as many mistakes as you can!

Only by becoming totally willing to make mistakes will you be able to learn and grow as an artist of photography. Playing it safe may give your work consistency, but it won’t lead you to greatness. Rather, try everything, learn the rules before you break them, then break them and see what transpires. It might just be the photo that launches your career!

If you follow just these 10 photography tips over the next year, you can look forward to a year full of growth, discovery, friendship and a continual unfolding of your photography gifts!

Categories
Uncategorized

Is Drone Photography a Good Idea?

Is Drone Photography a Good Idea
Is Drone Photography a Good Idea?

Why Not Use Drone Photography?

Drone photography. Sounds like a great idea, being able to get images from angles that are not possible from a terrestrial point of view and having some neat toys to play with. I admit that I have thought about offering it; after the initial investment of the drone platform and camera, it would be less expensive than my current method of chartering a plane and pilot for doing aerial work plus I would get a neat toy to play with and who doesn’t like neat toys? Confession here; I am a major gadget junkie and gear head and love playing with stuff like that. With prices starting around $300 for a camera equipped unit, drones are cost effective and easy to use except ….

Drone Photography For Commerical Use Is Illegal

Using drones for commercial use is illegal according to the FAA. At this time there are no regulations allowing unmanned commercial aircraft use and drone use is prohibited in densely populated areas around airports due to safety concerns. These concerns are very real, there has been an increase in reported cases of manned aircraft having near collisions with drone aircraft, with the FAA recording more than 175 reports of drones flying close to airports. If one would happen to actually collide with an airplane, the results could be tragic. Think that a 50 pound drone couldn’t do much damage? Just ask Captain Scully what a couple of geese did to the passenger jet he was flying over the Hudson River in NY. With the increase of drones flying about, the FAA is turning its attention to the different uses that they are put to. Right now, non-commercial use is allowed as long as it is under 400 feet and over five miles away from an airport but commercial use is banned and having people deciding to fly them anyway for commercial use is not helping the situation. The FAA is starting to levy fines against violators of the current regulations, especially ones that they feel are using their drones in a reckless manor such as the videographer who was hired by the University of Virginia who was fined $10,000. He did fight the fine, winning initially but lost on appeal. However that is not keeping some people from using their drones commercially, taking the chance that the long arm of the federal government will not be bothered to go after them. The other issue with drones is that people who see them flying about feel that their privacy can be violated. A writer to my radio show Facebook page expressed this very concern, stating that her neighbor kept flying his drone around her home even though she requested that he not do so. If that had happened in my area, I imagine someone would just shoot the drone down.

When Will the FAA Cave?

The multitude of uses for drones means that they are not going to go away anytime soon. The FAA knows this; currently the FAA is considering anyone wishing to fly drones commercially get a pilot’s license including the requirement of having actual flight time which would place the price tag higher than what many would pay (a sport pilot’s license starts at around $4000, assuming that the licensee passes all the tests on their first try). There would actually be a 400 foot altitude cap, flying only during daylight and being within the controller’s line of sight. Judging from the conversations I have had with a couple of pilots I know, something does have to be done, both have said that they have almost gotten hit by drones while flying. They do mention that the flight requirement is overkill, however they both felt that the drone operators need to know what the flight regulations are so that everyone could share the skies safely. Hopefully the FAA decides how they are going to regulate drones sooner rather than later, from what I have researched, I have a feeling that there will still be the no fly restriction around major airports which means that I’ll still be hiring pilots when I have clients wanting aerial work in those areas but for other areas it would be fun.

References:

http://www.popphoto.com/news/2014/11/faa-regulations-may-require-commercial-drone-photographers-to-get-pilots-license

http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/04/17181948-damn-the-regulations-drones-plying-us-skies-without-waiting-for-faa-rules

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2014/12/08/drone-almost-collides-with-jet-at-one-worlds-busiest-airports-in-latest/?intcmp=features

http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/safety-fears-grow-as-close-shaves-between-drones-and-aircraft-increase/

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2014/09/real_estate_photographers_wait.html

https://gigaom.com/2013/12/08/so-you-want-to-fly-drones-heres-what-the-law-says/

Originally published in “Carolina Photographer”, November 2014