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2010 - Yep, it's groozi!

2010 Posts

Use Only WordPress for Photog’s Website?

On one of the listserves I subscribe to, there was some discussion of whether or not anyone had seen WordPress used as a platform for a photography studio's entire site without it looking too "bloggish".  (Is there such a word?)

By far the most elegant implementation of WordPress for a photographer's website that I've seen is Susan Carr and her partner Gary Cialdella's site.   It does very well in search for the keyword phrases they target.

Another well done WordPress site that does well in search and doesn't look like a blog is Andrew Pogue's tasteful site.

A photographer's blog, implemented in WordPress, that does incredibly well in search is Mary DuPrie's "Photographing Models" blog.  It also helps her studio's main site rank well in search because each is hosted on a different server and her blog copy is written intelligently/correctly so as to to improve her search rankings for both sites.

Flash content is OK with workarounds such as browser client tests and at least some control over the content on your home page.  Few Flash-based sites give you full access to your home page's source code.  There is one Blue Domain (!) template that does so in a clever way, but I'm not sure they even realize it does.  Off-server landing pages can also help, but it's a slow road to page one using that tactic since the domain for such pages will likely be younger in age than the sites on Google's or Yahoo!'s first page.  Age of domain is becoming an increasingly important factor in search.

What do you think?  Have you seen an amazing implementation of WordPress by a photographer for their main site? 

Sweet Dreams: Are You Better Than Your Competition?

Suddenly you’re wide awake in the middle of the night. The nightmare was horrible, worse that that monster you thought was under your bed when you were six years old.

In the dream, you received a call from a potential client, all they said was, “Good morning, we need a photographer for a project. Please answer this one question: why should we hire you instead of one of your competitors?”

Still dreaming, you’re stammering a bit, your blood pressure rises, you’re scrambling to compose your thoughts, perspiring.  In a defensive attempt to slow the conversation and wrestle back control, you blurt out the question you always ask: “Tell me a bit more about the project so I can better answer that question.”

The person on the other end of the phone said: “No. All I want is that single question answered. Our decision on whether or not to hire you will be based solely on your response.”

That’s when the dream became unbearable and you force yourself awake.  But staring into the darkness, you’re asking yourself, “How would I answer that question?”

You’re not selling a commodity unless you want to be.  In what ways is doing business with you different?

We complain constantly about customers beating us up on price.  But imagine for a minute that they didn’t care about price.  Have we so conditioned ourselves into believing that every call will eventually become a negotiation on price that we are somewhat unprepared to demonstrate our value instead?

So what is your value?  How are you different?  Your value could perhaps be reputation, ease of doing business with you, or the speed at which you work, resulting in less interruption of the client’s business.  Maybe it’s your grasp of the latest technology, the ease of ordering prints from your studio, or your people skills, meaning you’re experience helps you to be comfortable with any CEO of any company.  Or perhaps even something as basic as talking about the awards you’ve received from high-end competitions that the client might be aware of.

Whatever your differentiation is, talk about it during the call.  Sell your value.  If you focus that sales conversation on price, the price will likely fall.  If instead you focus the conversation on value and how you are different (read: better) than your competitors, the price will likely rise.

There’s an old saying in sales:  Sell the sizzle, not the steak.  The reality in our changing industry is that the sizzle is your value.  Not your photography.

This essay, written by Detroit People Photographer Blake J. Discher, originally appeared in ASMP's "Strictly Business" blog. Blake does a lot of stuff, the most satisfying of which is being the father of a six year old who is quite convinced there is a monster under his bed.  To see what else Blake does, have a look at his lifestream at www.blakedischer.com. (Photo copyright 2010 Blake J. Discher.)

Are You Negotiating With The Right Person?

A sometimes overlooked, but very important factor in any negotiation is making sure the person with whom you are speaking is in fact the decision maker. If he or she isn’t, you ideally need to get the true decision maker involved in the negotiation.

One method I use to tactfully determine if the person I’m talking with is the decision maker is to ask him, “Is there anyone else I should email samples of my work to?” Or, perhaps, “Can you suggest any other persons in your company I should send a few samples of my work to?”

Your goal is to try to get the ultimate decision maker involved in the negotiation. If you still can’t get to that person, then it’s best to “empower” the person to whom you’re talking with “talking points” or “bullet points” so they can talk about your value and essentially sell you to the person hiring the photographer.

Remember, that initial phone conversation is the time when you have to talk about what it is that makes you different from your competitors. How do you differentiate yourself? What do you “bring to the party” that others may not? What I’m really saying is what value do you provide this potential client?

The inability to show your value will only put downward pressure on the total price of the job. Only with differentiation can you command higher fees, primarily because you will be providing a look, or style, or service that is not easily found elsewhere.

What methods do you use to get to the "right" person? Let us know in the comments!

Auto-Generated Online Ads Use Some Web Images

Last Friday, the New York Times ran an article titled, “An Ad Engine to Put ‘Mad Men’ Out of Business” which talked about an online service called PlaceLocal that automatically creates online ads. From the article:

“New software called PlaceLocal builds display ads automatically, scouring the Internet for references to a neighborhood restaurant, a grocery store or another local business. Then it combines the photographs it finds with reviews, customer comments and other text into a customized online ad for the business.

The program, developed by PaperG, an advertising technology company in New Haven, Conn., is aimed in part at small businesses just beginning to advertise on the Web sites of local newspapers or television stations, said Victor Wong, its chief executive.”

I was immediately intrigued about how the service works so I went to the site and created an ad for a my favorite deli here in Detroit, The Russell Street Deli.  The ad it created in less than two minutes was fairly basic, but included moving images (using Flash) gathered online, and testimonials presumably from reviews on the internet:


OK, so it’s not the sexiest ad in the world, but for someone with a limited budget that precludes hiring a photographer, it would certainly work online.  The user can select from a number of sizes including vertical and horizontal banners and the site creates the new ad instantly.  Being a photographer, I was interested in how they were selecting images and whether any respect being paid to copyrighted content. My query to them in a form on their website:

I am curious as to how you eliminate findviagra copyrighted images from ads that are created on the fly, or if you do.  If not, how are the creators being compensated for the licensing of their images?   Cheers, Blake Discher, www.groozi.com

Less than an hour later, Victor Wong himself responded. His answer:

Hi Blake:

Thank you for your interest in our product. We are definitely respectful of right holders, and make best efforts to make sure the elements used to create advertisements follow comply with copyright regulations. Specifically, we have taken the following steps to address copyright concerns:

.    We use content from our partners who have secured content rights
.    We use content from the websites of advertisers so they can reuse their existing content in their advertisements
.    We offer a library of stock photography as an alternative to customers without their own photos
.    We strictly adhere to restrictions of photographs offered under the Creative Commons or other relevant licenses
.    We require users to certify that all the elements used do not infringe intellectual property of others
I hope this is helpful.

Thanks,
Victor

A few thoughts…  It’s refreshing to hear that Mr. Wong is mindful of copyright issues and has created a system in which safeguards are in place to protect rights holders. Aggregation of internet content began with news gathering sites and it’s no surprise to see it move to this sort of use.  Because this model is sure to expand, it’s even more imperative that before images are placed online, they be registered with the copyright office, watermarked, and contain full metadata including your contact information for licensing.

What do you think of this service?

Flickr Image Stolen in Less Than 24 Hours

It took less than 24 hours from "upload to illegal download" for the daily Mexican newspaper Frontera to steal an image posted to Flickr by Illinois-based photographer Mike Boatman.  The newspaper serves the conurbation of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. That's the image over to the left, but shown here small enough so as to not add salt to Mike's wound should anyone be contemplating its theft again. (This article could very well turn up at a future date in a search for "Paola Longoria".) Posting to the Advertising Photographers of America's (APA) Yahoo group, Mike wrote: "I was reading this article in Photoshop User magazine about Flickr and how some photographers are selling images; how corporations are using Flickr as a research tool, and that Flickr has adequate usage rights protection." He continued, "Up to now I have personally been very conservative about what I post online because the internet does not have a delete button, and anyone can steal your work, or will steal your work.  So until now I have only posted images that I use for personal marketing that I assume will be stolen. I had a little extra time while on an assignment on May 19th; my shoot was not due until late afternoon, so I set up a Flickr account.  I post two very sale-able, exclusive images from the 2009 US Open Racquetball Grand Slam of players Paola Longoria and Rhonda Rajsich, the number one and two professional players as just a test."

They were posted with proper copyright notice and "All Rights Reserved" checked. But on May 20th (the next day!), Mike's image of Paola showed up in print, in Frontera. He was not contacted for permission to run the image; it was, plain and simple, an unauthorized use of a copyrighted image. And as if to insult him even more, they failed to provide a credit line.

Mike graciously gave permission to write about his experience, saying, "Looks like I did the Flickr posting wrong and did not safeguard my work.  If you want to write about my experience as an example of what not to do that is fine. What ever is the best way to get the word out so no other photographers get their work ripped off is great. It was purely a lack of knowledge on my part. Hopefully others will not make the same mistake of posting too large a file and relying on the Restricted Usage tag on Flickr to be a substitute for a watermark in the center of the image." Mike says he figures it's a waste of time and money to go after a Mexican newspaper. And he's probably correct. This from then United States Ambassador to Mexico Antonio O. Garza, Jr. in a 2005 report still present on the US Embassy website:

"The United States Mission in Mexico recognizes the imperative of strong intellectual property rights protection (IPR) for American business, and is working to help the Government of Mexico find ways to improve IPR enforcement in Mexico. We know that stolen, pirated, and counterfeit goods undermine investment opportunities and can significantly impact market share for U.S. companies. We are also aware of the considerable efforts Mexico has made in recent years to improve IPR protection, although a lot of work remains." (Full report.)

We've all heard that old maxim, 'First time shame on you, second time shame on me.'  Mike has made some changes to his Flickr photostream. Specifically, he's updated each of his images to include a very visible watermark: The lesson in all of this of course, is to upload low-resolution, watermarked images to Flickr or any other photo sharing portal.  If an honorable company wants to use it, they'll contact you.  For a very thorough review of the terms and conditions of Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, check out the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) "Best Practice Recommendations for Social Networking Sites" report. Do you use Flickr to market images? Please share your experience in the comments. Thanks!

In the meantime, if you represent Frontera and care to fairly compensate Mike for the use of his copyrighted image, I'm sure he'd be willing to take your call.

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Crucial for SEO: A Good Title Tag

This post has been moved to my new SEO-only blog www.go-seo.tips. Click the headline above to be taken there!

But We’re a Non-Profit!

At one time or another we’ve all received this call. Usually the conversation goes something like this:

Client: “We have a project coming up, we saw your website and absolutely love your work. We’re looking for a photographer we can build a relationship with.”

Me: “That’s great, thanks for the compliment, tell me a bit about your project.”

The client gives you the details, closing with, “And as you probably know, we’re a non-profit, so please give us your non-profit rate.”

It’s at about this time I want to blurt out in response to their, “but we’re a non-profit”: “WELL, I’M NOT!”

A Potential Client’s Website Speaks Volumes

When a new potential client calls on the telephone, one of the first things I do is look up the caller’s website.

What I’m looking for are two things: their level of design sophistication and how they’re currently using photography. These two bits of information can give valuable clues to what sort of budget he or she might have for photography.

Lack of pleasing design and imagery might be a good indicator that I am talking with someone who has likely not historically spent money for higher end professional design or art. It might mean they’re used to working with budgets that are small or doing the work in-house.

Ideally, the client’s website makes good use of color, makes use of an attractive font, and it’s navigation is intuitive. It will also look as if it was created specifically for them instead of being made from a template.

Most of all, I’m trying to determine to what extent they use excellent photography. Does it look as though they’ve done a lot of it in house using a point-and-shoot with no lighting? Does it look professional? Do they credit the photographer?

This analysis takes just seconds and can be done during the initial part of the conversation. If it appears they haven’t worked with a photographer of your skills, you’ll know you have to spend a lot of time talking about the value you bring to the project. Put another way, you’ll need to convince them that you’re the correct person for the job and worth the money.

Remember, if you focus the conversation of price, the price will likely go down. Instead, focus the conversation on value, what you can offer that everyone else cannot, the price will likely go up.

Good luck!

(This article originally appeared on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. Photo copyright 2010 Mary DuPrie, used with permission.)