Archive for the 'PPS Photography Tips' Category

Pro Photo Show #98 — Summer of Dreams

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Today’s Panel… Gavin Seim
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This episode brought to you by Seim Effects.

This week Seim talks about great road trips and a bunch of tips and gadgets for your epic photo adventure.

Get Gavin’s Natural HDR Presets.

Road Trip Tools  – LINKS..

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Excuses are Stupid – 5 Essentials to WINNING Customers with Service

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I’m Gavin Seim. Do you want you know my cell number? It’s 509-951-4860. I offer it because if a customer or even a colleague has a problem, I want it fixed. I’ve answered that phone while standing in the wilderness making images. Answered so I could tell someone how to install their LR presets or get their order. Because service matters.

I’ve been serving customers in retail since I was about 10. I’ve seen all the excuses. But I ignored them and made a commitment not to be the company that so many become. We’re human. But at Seim Studios we operate on service and quality. Whether we’re selling a portrait, a print, or one of our editing and education products for photographers.

Below is the principles of service from our website at Seim Effects. Everyone that works at Seim Studios is expected to follow it – Please use it in your business.

“Service is not something computers do for you. It’s not something from a book. It’s not a line in a policy manual. It’s not an excuse – Service means YOU raise a finger, a hand and sometimes even an arm, or a leg. You do the footwork, you look into the problem and you do your level best to find a way to resolve it and make customer happy. That’s service.”

What I’m about to say applies to ANY company of any size. No excuses. I’m fed up with how out of touch today’s world is with service and a smile. It’s not just the fortune 500s. Your mom and pop shop on the corner is often just as bad. It goes all the way back to how we raise our kids to respect others. But here’s the thing. If we give bad service, we won’t get away with it. Word spreads. If you’re big it takes longer, but it will catch you  — I’m not writing this only for you. I’m writing this for me. So if I ever forget, I can come back and remind myself the words of a young businessman who knew what quality and service meant.

Did you know I’m running for Congress? When was the last time you got great service from your congressman? The same principle applies there. Service, communications and respect. Lets get to this list.

  • 1. YOU Are the Servant:

When a customer deals with you or calls with a problem there’s one thing that is critical to remember: YOU are their servant. This is not a joke. You are being paid to serve that person and whether they pay you again is directly related to how well-served they feel. Service is about satisfaction. It’s about humbling yourself and taking pride in giving someone what they want. This applies not only to how you behave but also to the quality of the product you sell. YOU serve them! If you cannot grasp this concept you will never be a great businessperson.

  • 2. Give them the Pickle:

A wonderful concept started by Bob Farrell, this means just what it suggests. The little things are what makes happy customers. You don’t ruin a customer’s experience by making up petty rules or finding petty charges for extras. You don’t look for subtle ways to fleece them. Are you listening fast food? People are not idiots. They may tolerate your tacky charge for a glass of water, but it will leave a bad taste and it will cost you.

  • 3. The Customer:

It used to be said the customer is always right. While occasionally this is not 100% true, you can still treat them as if they are. The truth is it’s generally only that PICKLE that they want. Give it to them. If you can’t, go that extra mile and try to find some solution. There are bad customers out there and yes, occasionally you have to work for them. Good service does not mean letting customers stand on your neck but it also does not mean letting them walk next door because you won’t give them a .10 packet of ketchup. If you take the high road and work for that customer, chances are they will love you for it.

  • 4. Anger Management:

You owe your customer service. It’s your job. You need to make them happy. Even if they are unhappy right now. From an early age I was shocked by how offended people would get when I got frustrated with bad service. But when a customer is upset, a professional MUST not take it personally. While ethically customers should be kind as well, that does not mean they cannot chide a company or person for failing at their job. The angriest of customers is rarely angry at you. They want what they paid for. Give them the pickle and take responsibility for problems and they will turn from foe to friend. It’s rare that I cannot turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied one with a few minutes of personal effort.

  • 5. SERVICE:

Pure and simple. You work for your customers and so do your employees. In a world where service seems to have been forgotten, if you give that service you will blow them away. This means making it easy for them. It does not mean hiding your phone number on your site, only offering email support, taking days to respond, making excuses, trying to get them to pay for your mistakes.

I’ve heard all the excuses folks. They are all crap. It does not matter if you’re a software giant with ten million customers or a tiny bistro on the street corner. If you say you just can’t afford to give service, it’s a lie. Service means you make it happen. You pick up the phone, ship out the package, send the letter or crawl there on your hands and knees. SERVICE is how you stay in business.

Service means you go the extra mile to make sure you’re customers are treated fair and just. Policy be hanged, efficiency tossed out the window and price left at the door. Because when you give this kind of service people remember you, they talk about you and they want to buy from you AGAIN. If you give bad service YOU will pay later and YOU will deserve every penny of that loss.

None of us are perfect, Things go wrong. But every now and then step back and ask yourself “How would I want to be treated?”

Serve and be served — Gav

As Of Today – I Am No Longer A Photographer.

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Gavin Seim 4x5 camera 464x600 As Of Today   I Am No Longer A Photographer.by Gavin Seim (Twitter) (G+)

It’s been fun, photography. But I’ve moved on – I liked being with you and I’ll cherish what I learned. But I can’t be a joke anymore. Today I’m moving on with my head held high – Because, you see, words have meaning.

By definition, being an artist requires exhibiting skill and meeting some degree of standards. By definition, a photographer is usually one who practices photography as a profession. Practices, meaning by definition possesses knowledge of and skill in a given field. Is able to craft with. But the trouble is that’s ONLY by definition. The definitions have not officially changed. But practical use of the words has.

We live in a world that often abuses words. Eventually a word may become something different. Not by choice, but by fact. That’s what’s happened to photographers. Truth is, photography is barely recognized as a serious career anymore. It is simply owning a piece of equipment or saying a word. Perhaps the word was a mistake to start with, but we’ll get to that later.

Read carefully - This is not a depressing story. It’s a story about moving forward – I have big plans for my work – I am not a photographer. And it feels AMAZING!

Recently I saw a veteran photographer who has likely done more jobs and taught more professionals than any of us will ever see. He gave notice that he was walking out –”So glad to be exiting what used to be a profession” — He said. It was a bit sad, but today I walk away in perhaps a different way. I’m not going to stop making images. But I’m going to stop being a photographer. I’m going to build a business not of selling photographs, but of custom furniture. This is not a new idea for me, but I’m taking it further.

I was fifteen in the early 2000′s – Y2k had passed with relative ease and digital cameras were just starting to get noticed. I would walk into the

gavin seim wall portrait show 300x217 As Of Today   I Am No Longer A Photographer.

Gavin’s Wall Portrait booth at a recent fair. Click for a closer look.

local drugstore and run the machine myself, cranking out 4×6 prints. I learned by trial and error (mostly error) and had no help from the internet. This was before everyone who owned a camera fancied themselves an expert. People were still taking snapshots. They just knew the difference. It took nearly a decade before I really started knowing what I was doing. I dumped film, became a digital kid and then came back to work with film and digital side by side.

See when I said I was working to be a photographer I was granted a certain respect. An expectation of study and skill was not considered optional. Even using a 35mm camera to photograph a portrait showed you were really an amateur. But when you said the word photographer, half the people in the room did NOT raise their hands.

Then a time came when an entire industry downgraded to 35mm digital that was actually worse than 35mm film. Only a few years before those same photographers would look down at anyone who used 35mm film because it was not good enough. You were expected to use medium format or larger for most work. The likes of which today’s SLR’s have still not rivaled for quality.

I know few anymore who are making a good living from photography. There are some, but it’s those who understand business and have a good approach – So YES, you can make it. But It’s almost embarrassing to speak the “P” word now. Saying you’re a photographer garners no respect – It’s akin to saying I have hair, I drive a car, or, I take showers.

 


Arelated a video we recently produced on the idea of wall furnishings.

What Happened?

Perhaps the industry caved? Professionals and organizations did not demand high enough standards or properly educate customers. Camera makers went for the numbers and big sales, telling everyone they could be a pro and make money money money. It was a business after all and perhaps we can’t blame anyone. We all had mouths to feed and what had stemmed from 150 years of rich photographic history changed in a blink. We barley had time to realize what was happening. New photographers were also part of it – At some point they LUSTED so much for respect that they DEMANDED to be called photographers right NOW, even though they had no training or real experience who are you to say I’m not a photographer” they cried.

They got their wish – Everyone finally started calling everyone else a photographer because they had a camera in hand. The problem was that while that sounded nice, it applied to everyone else with camera too. EVERYONE became a photographer overnight, but almost no one actually studied the light, presentation or art that had been the staple for hundreds of years. They simply demanded in a rather socialist narrative that they be part of the group. When everyone was an artist, no one was. The respect was gone.

Consumers no longer needed us – Today most people no longer know what a quality photograph is. They now pay people to make photos in which dad looks abusive, mom looks fat, the kids like Oompa Loompas and the dog looks mangy. People are literally selling photos that are worse than snapshots and consumers don’t know the difference. But they are realizing that they don’t need to pay for them because anyone can do it.

In 2012 I produced a film called EXposed. It did something few were doing  – It looked at the craft and science of image making. It studied Zones and light and ratios and exposure. Simple but little used things. It said that if you want to make serious images, you must get serious about your foundations. As of today that film has generated about a great deal of sales around the globe and just won a HOT ONE Award from Professional Photographers of America. Foundations have been ignored for so long that image makers of every level are realizing they need to take a step back.

Perhaps there’s hope. It seems many people want to understand craft. But how to make great images (rather than how to fix them) is so little spoken of today that people have literally forgotten the basics. Perhaps in time that desire will make the word photographer having meaning once again. But for now…

I Am No Longer A Photographer!

gavin seim wall decor 447x600 As Of Today   I Am No Longer A Photographer.It’s not that I no longer using photography. A Chef still cooks and a sculptor still chisels. I will continue to learn and teach photographics, but that does not define my trade.  This is business. I must grow and Raise The Bar. A smart businessman does not describe his trade with a word that has no value to his customers – The word “photographer” once had meaning, but it has been twisted beyond recognition.

Today I stop claiming it. I am no longer a photographer by modern definition. Which is the only one people recognize anymore. I’m going for more than being a photographer. Over the years I have become an art decor maker and I will sell myself as such. A sofa is more valued than a family portrait today. But the fine furniture I make will become the centerpiece of your room – I recently displayed my wall portraits at a large county fair. People were blown away. They simple are not used to seeing images used as wall decor and they liked what they saw. I received more interest and respect than I’ve seen in years.

There is another aspect here: It’s what thinking of ourselves as camera operators does to our perception and thus the result of our work. It’s not just a word. Master portraitist Ken Whitmire taught me the value of this premise and of the wall portrait itself. We should not be photographers. Not only because the word has come to little meaning today, but also because by it’s very meaning it lacks merit.

Ken teaches what may be one of our biggest mistakes. That was allowing the public to regard us as photographers in the first place – It’s a bit like to referring to Hemingway as a typist or calling a Surgeon a Cutter. We allowed our profession to be named after our tools and in so doing we degraded the value of the work we produce. Not only in our own minds, but the minds of others.

If you are professional trained to plan and prepare meals at a fine restaurant you call yourself a Chef. But it’s true that you still are a cook. Hemingway might, by strict definition, be a typist, not an author. And yet descriptive words have meaning. I’ll wager most chefs would not call themselves cooks. In fact they might not enjoy being offered that title. It’s only words, but they do have meaning in our work. If we don’t respect it, neither will others.

I make fine wall decor. Custom furnishings. Do I use photographics to achieve this? Yes, but that’s only a part of what’s involved – In fact far less of my time is spent “taking photos” than on the other elements involved in my process of planning and execution.

I will continue the business of being a Portraitist, a Pictorialist and Filmaker. Of sharing ideas in hopes that I can help Raise The Bar. Yes, there’s much more to business than what you call yourself.  But I believe that in time the consumer may realize that hiring a “photographer” means nothing in itself. They will realize that people without experience are duping them and many will seek out those who can do more.

Words have meaning. They should be respected. But let me be CLEAR. I’m not talking about simply changing your verbiage. I’m talking about fundamentally changing your own PERCEPTION and PRODUCT – If your mindset does not change, neither has your business. It’s taken me years to fully accept and apply this fundamental change in my work. But I’ve finally let photography go. I have not only left the word behind. I have truly changed what I produce. I make fine furniture for walls.

As I stop being a photographer I call to those who value craft, light and presentation, those who are willing to learn their trade before claiming to be a master. I invite them to join me in being makers of fine art decor for people’s walls. I invite others that have little experience to LEARN this trade of Wall Portraits (see article) and aspire to become a part of it. I invite consumers to come back to a time when life was simpler and the things you put on your wall were not pics, snaps or paper trash. They were treasured heirlooms.

What’s next? I have to keep refining my presentation, my brand and my approach. I have work to do, but I have to a plan. If you want to follow along check out my newsletter or subscribe below.

As of today. I am no longer a photographer – I’ll look for you on the other side. Gavin Seim

 

Raise the Bar – Check out the Trailer for Gavin’s new Miniseries, PHOTOGRAPHICS.

Pro Photo Podcast #92 – The Long Long Podcast

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Check out the free business video from Seim Effects

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Today’s Panel… Gavin Seim - Jody SmyersMark Tesky - Ben Horne

Gavin is home and the crew catches up on the latest and shares some ideas for 2013. This is a long one because we missed an episode last month. Lots of goodies in the after show as well. Enjoy.

This episode brought to you by the Seim Effects. And the PHOTOGRAPHICS the Film.

PPS #92 Forum Discussion HERE.

Main Time Indexes:

  • 00:00 Introductions.
  • 07:15 What in the news.
  • 40:45 A bit of video & Magic Lanterns
  • 51:30 Ideas of 2013 Lightning Round
  • 1:03:40 Social Networks Lightning Round
  • 1:16:45 Being Unique
  • 1:35:40 Picks
  • 1:58:30 The AFTER Show

 

LINKS…

Everyone is getting saddled with Creative Cloud

Canon says ML Firmware will not void warranty.

VIDEO: Selling Photos as Fine Furniture.

Facebook Charging for pages. A few tips.

Samson Airline Micro Mics

Trek Pack.

Journal of Gavin’s 3 month road trip.

Picks…

Mark – Canon C100 and Atmos Ninja Recorder
Ben – Lee Wide Angle Hood
Gavin, Loquat SyrupPlatine Fiber Rag paper

Jody – Vello Gear Free Wave

PHOTOGRAPHICS FILM Succeeds it on Kickstarter – Closes Thursday.

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Back the film on Kickstarter and and save $$ on the download, DVD or Blu-Ray. Once the Kickstarter phase ends, pre-orders will be available on Seim Effects.

Photographics Trailer Final6.mp4 400x224 PHOTOGRAPHICS FILM Succeeds it on Kickstarter   Closes Thursday.So what have we been up to over here at Seim Studios – We just returned from 3 months on the road and a lot of work on a brand new project. A film called PHOTOGRAPHICS that takes on the artistic aspects of photography and what makes a great photograph. A journey through history and art techniques in a way that has never been done before.

We’ve already filmed a lot, but there’s more to come. We got the film accepted to Kickstarter where pre-orders have been coming in and we more than made our funding goal. We’re really excited about where PHOTOGRAPHICS is going and are eager for it’s November release. The Kickstarter pre-order backings have helped pay the bills and we’ll be working hard over the summer as we plan the the wrap up of this completely unique film. I hope you join in. It’s going to be good.

Gavin

 

Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

PinExt Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This is an article I was originally asked to write for Professional Photographer Magazine, a good read – The problem was that editing department hacked it up so badly that it was barley even my words anymore. Such is life, but I opted to not have it published. Below is the full version of the article with a few extras since I didn’t have a word limit here. Enjoy – Gavin Seim

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I’m going to share a few things that can fundamentally change how we make images. NONE of them are new -  Sometimes it seems we arrived at digital and left behind a hundred and fifty years of photographic knowledge. I spend a lot of time studying classic techniques. Why? Because it’s not new – It’s time tested. It works. In this digital age we can get so caught up in gadgets, software and tools that we neglect how to make images beautiful from the start. I’m from the digital generation – So while I fully relate, I’ve learned to stop looking for buttons and start looking for light.

1. The Tones:

Ken Whitmire once taught me that “Tone” may be the least understood and least utilized factor in composing and finishing images.” He was right. With digital it’s easy to think “that’s easy”. But as a lover of film and digital, I’ve learned they’re not so different. A great photograph is light and shadows – We must see in terms of tone and how it relates to what we want to capture. Exposure, burning, dodging, finishing  – Proper use of tone can literally take the viewer anywhere we want them to go. Now that’s power.

Ken Whitmire by Gavin Seim 500x600 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Ken Whitmire on the Oregon coast – I photographed this portrait of him while he was photographing a family. The Tone is essential here. Control of the dynamic range while retaining rich blacks gives balance to the scene.

2. The Zones:

2. Zones 2 600x56 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone Scale – A representation from black to white in one stop increments. The language of light.

I’ve been trying to decide how to discuss Ansel Adam’s Zone System in few words. Zones may be the most neglected tool in photography today. They offer a core to how we communicate and photograph light. Zones are not just for film or black and white. Once you truly understand them you never see the same again. The Zone System is broad reaching. But it’s core is the beautify simple Zone Scale, a representation from black to white. Combine Zones with a simple understanding of metering and there is no over, or under exposure. There’s only your exposure. Your intent. I can’t explain it all here, but there’s a free video covering the basics that I posted over at exposedworkshop.com. It’s an excerpt from my EXposed series and will get you started. Don’t ignore Zones because they will change your photography. You can also read my article on using Zones here.

Big Bend National Park Hot Springs Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Lost Oasis – I was using large format film here and took advantage of camera movements. Line, tone, space and position were all critical and while in retrospect there’s things I could have improved, taking my time paid off. I took in the full tonal range from black (Zone 0) to just shy of clipping (Zone 10). More on this image here.

1 Zones 1 600x403 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

The Zone System – Here is an exposure sequence metered on the highlights from Zone 1 to Zone 9. More on this in the Zone System discussions on my site.

3. Space, Position, Line:

Ken Whitemire, the pioneer and master of the wall portrait, showed me the value of tones in relation to space, position and line. He has an amazing lecture he gives about this at the Wall Portrait Conference each year – Essentially we need to think about the aesthetics of our image. For this reason I love studying masters like Bierstadt, Sargent and others. We must start by truly seeing our scenes. Think about the subject. How lines lead. Where are they positioned? Why? Is anything distracting? Should it be lighter, darker? Really – Truly – See!

River Portrait Gavin Seim 600x500 Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

Morgan’s Song – I had a lot of things happening in this riverside portrait. Controlling the aspects of the scene, the position and the tone allowed me to show a beautiful scene while still keeping the viewers eyes on Morgan.

4. Visualize – Again:

Are you really “seeing” in the minds eye? It’s easy to let this slide in an age of instant previews and post production fixes. But nothing replaces visualizing. Ansel reminds us that “The whole key lies very specifically in seeing it in the mind’s eye”. Regardless of our subject, we must stop, if only for a moment. See what’s in front the lens and decide what the subject needs. Then use space, position, line and tone to make that happen.

Mission Ridge Portrait Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This was my turning point in visualizing. I used 4×5 film for this wall portrait that we printed at 40 inches. I needed to keep away the distractions in the space. I only used one frame of color film, but I took a breath first. I truly saw the portrait in my mind before I released the shutter. I’ve added a zone scale for the purpose of tone study.

 5. Finishing:

The image is captured. Win lose or draw we’ve done it. I’ve learned that slowing down throughout the entire process makes me a far better craftsman. That includes finishing. It’s easy to raise the bar in post if we stop worrying about making countless “decent” images and start thinking about how to take the “best” and make them sing. Fulfill that visualization, right up until the print is on the wall. That is mastering the photograph.

Until next time… Gavin Seim

Seattle at Night Gavin Seim Five Essential Elements to Mastering Photography:

This image was a PPA Loan Collection print in 2011. It’s actually a tone-mapped piece, but more importantly, it had careful attention to detail. Focus on line, tone values and finishing made it work. Planning and execution.