Let me start of by introducing myself.

My name is Frank Doorhof, and I’m based in the Netherlands where I run a photostudio together with my wife Annewiek. We shoot mainly fashion, artists, celebrities and some family work.

Where most people will probably know me from is the workshops and the videos you can find on Kelby Training. You probably already read a lot from me about why you should use a light meter, calibrate your monitor and use a color checker…. So when I’m asked for a guest post on Scott’s blog I decided to do it a bit differently this time.

One of the things I always hear during the workshops I teach can be boiled down to two main topics:

Creativity and getting your name known.

Let’s look at these two for todays guestblog.

Creativity
When I do portfolio reviews I see a lot of nice work, but very often I see work that I think could be improved A LOT by adding some simple things in the image. In other words, the light is great, the posing of the model is okay, the location is great but… Well, let’s start at the beginning.

We all know how we started out right?

A model with jeans and a tanktop. Now this is great as an outfit for outside, don’t get me wrong. I love jeans and a tanktop (although you will never see me wearing them :D) However when we do a photo shoot it’s often much more interesting to add something extra to the image and this is were the problems start…. Styling costs money right?

Well yes and no.

What a lot of photographers forget is that you don’t really need a stylist per se. A stylist is a great addition to your shoot, but there is a lot you can do yourself just by being “creative.” Most of all, learn to see possibilities with materials and props you would normally probably not see fit for photoshoots.

I can write a lot of text, but let’s look at some examples and you can see how material that actually did not cost anything (or very little) can make some really interesting images.

The material in this first image is actually bubble plastic. A lot of companies have big rolls of this in the packing department, and with a bit of creativity, the model has a new dress. When lighting this material it gives an awesome look due to the structure of the bubbles and the slight reflective look.

The next image did raise some eyebrows when people heard during a seminar what the material was for these dresses… Believe it or not, but it’s all Christmas wrapping paper that was left from Christmas, so in fact it got a second life.

But you can also use props.

In the following shot I used an old window that I bought for less than $20 in a junk yard. The dress the model wears looks like a wedding dress with a twist, but it’s not a dress at all. The whole dress is made out of curtains (yeah the stuff that hangs in front of windows).

That same dress can be made into something really special… when you add some wind and some nice lighting. This image actually made the cover of the Elinchrom brochure…. Total costs of the dress is $0.00, and after the shoot the model just put the curtains back again.

Now, I always say I’m a lucky guy, one of my models (Nadine Stephan) is crazy creative, and combined with me (I’m always looking for weird stuff) this is a really nice combination. In a recent photo shoot we tried a more elaborate theme with a whole robot outfit. The nice thing about working with styling is that a shot that would normally look “ok” is now transformed into something that people will stop to look at. Imagine this shot with the model wearing jeans and a tanktop…. Less interesting right?

It can sometimes also get you into some really nice situations, and this will slowly build up to topic 2.

A while ago we got a call asking if we were willing to do something for the Dutch DeLorean owners club. Sometimes you have to think, but hey, come on, DeLoreans? You don’t need to think about that! The only thing I needed to know was “where and what time.” When I asked if I could bring a model for the demos it was no problem… Well, they probably thought that I would bring a model and have her pose in a bikini on the hood of one of the cars (could be fun). However what we did was a bit different, as you can see in the following shots.

Lighting-wise, this is actually not that hard. The whole look is mainly built around the styling and some smoke. Again if you think away the styling and the smoke, the images will be pretty boring/standard. Also here the whole styling costs us less than $100.00 for 3-4 outfits, and parts can be reused in different outfits.

Building Your Name
Now I hear you thinking, how does this lead to the second topic, building your name? Very simple.

Because we shot the DeLoreans like this, now we can always call the DeLorean Club for cars. They are more than willing to lend us their cars (in exchange for images). And this in fact is the “secret to your success.”

When you do something, go further than someone else will go.

In Photography there is no easy road. Sometimes you are very lucky and you are just at the right place in the right time. But WAKE UP! That will probably never happen. The best way is to MAKE SURE you are in the right place at the right time. So how do you do this…?

I actually don’t know….

I can only tell you how I try to grow and do my thing, and hope that some of this will also apply to you.

Online Presence
If you wait for the telephone to ring, you can wait till you are too old to hold a camera. A few years ago a lot of pros thought that things like Facebook, Twitter etc. were only for amateurs, and in some form they were right. At that time, putting an add in the local paper did bring in work. Now a days however things have changed.

When you put an ad in the paper it will probably not be read. People will focus on the right page of the paper where the text is and skip the left part with the ads, UNLESS someone is really looking for the ads. I call this the “I hope someone will read it” method.

Now when we use Facebook or Google+, we first have to determine where our market is. Facebook is great for scoring work for weddings, family, models etc. Where Google+ is great for booking workshops, linking to videos etc. So for work we need Facebook.

When you post something on Facebook, you know it’s being read by the people that follow your timeline, so you know for sure you have an audience. But these people are probably not your target group (you already know them). However, if these people share the link something weird happens… The message literally “explodes” and can go viral. The reach you now get is much better than you can ever get with an ad in the local paper.

If you add some form of competition or discount to the message, you will almost always score at least some responses, and from there it gets really important what you do.

We are on the internet…. And really remember this one
In the past it was normal to send out a letter and wait for a week for a reply. In today’s age this is not done.

When we get an email in our mailbox, it’s common to answer this within 4-5 hours. That sounds incredibly fast but in fact it isn’t, most emails are answered within the hour. The reason for this is simple.

We all get a lot of emails and most mailboxes look like a pile of junk (no pun intended). The chance that your mail gets lost is very high. However, when you respond quickly, the person will probably still be behind his/her computer and see the mail popping up.

The next thing about this approach is that (and I really find this unbelievable) it’s not done by a lot of companies. I can give you a boatload of examples of companies where we mail on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and try again on the next Monday and finally just give up and give them a call. Sometimes you will get a real person and they can answer your question (or ask you to send a mail), but often you will get the standard answer “we will call you back.” And in 90% of the cases you will have to call them back the next day, the day after etc. Sometimes it can take you up to 2-3 weeks to get the answer you need.

I sometimes wonder if people want to earn money…..

Now when you are fast and respond to your “future” client, it will immediately set a feeling to your customer of “wow, he/she is fast.” And that first impression… well you know the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression!”

However don’t think that an automated reply will work, it really has to be something personal, but…

Automatic replies are important
It’s a shame that I have to say this, but it’s getting more and more important to have an automatic reply in place. A lot of emails are lost in spam filters, blacklists etc. In fact I sometimes wonder if not more than 25% of our mails are just lost in cyber space. By giving your “future client” a quick automated reply it will at least tell them that the mail got delivered. Now respond to that one quickly with a real mail and most of the work is already done.

Do remember that trust is one of the most important things in a relationship between a client and the photographer, and if they mail you they are already somehow interested in working with you. The way you handle it from there will make them decide for you or for someone else.

Be nice, interact
This is something that I miss a lot. Maybe this is not something you think about now, but it can really determine if someone will give you a lead or not. Many many photographers out there who run Twitter, Google+, Facebook accounts only share and never respond or interact with their followers. At the moment that will still work for some people (the really famous ones) because we want to see what they do. However when you are starting out, do realize that there are A LOT of photographers like you that do the same things.

To build your name and reputation it’s very important to answer questions, interact with your followers, sometimes open a discussion, share work etc.

To make your followers grow, you can start doing small critique sessions. For example sometimes I will do a Twitter critique session where people can send in their best shot and get a 140 character max critique from me. This always gets me a boost in the followers.

The most important thing to realize is that people are flooded with information. There is a lot of material floating around on the web and in social media. You can act as a passive supplier, but you will be “pushed” aside by someone that is supplying the material faster or more of it.

You can also act as an active supplier, meaning you are not only sharing but also interacting with people. This way people will start to know you and will value your opinion (if all goes well of course). This way when they start to like you they will be more and more willing to point other people towards your page/website and send you leads that way.

I hear you thinking that this will take a lot of time… and, yes, it does. We always take at least 2 hours a day for social media, emails etc. For me it’s a normal part of my day, and because a lot of the assignments come via that channel it’s for me also logical to do this.

Make sure your work stands out
This sounds very logical, but when I look around me it’s maybe the best tip I can give. Almost all of you read there are a lot of topics with people asking “how to get this look” “which filter for this color” etc.

And it can be a great learning tool, don’t get me wrong. But if you want to build a name for yourself, make sure that your work is unique, stands out, and will draw people in.

Do remember that there is NO QUICK way to do this. You will have to work and be willing to make long days. Photography is a market where there is a lot of competition, and even people willing to do stuff for free, and you will have to compete with those and earn your living…

You also see that 4 topics are all about networking and only 1 is about photography, and to be honest this is how it is… I always tell people that my work is about 70% networking, 20% shooting and 10% retouching… and that’s the truth.

So to round up this blog post.
There are two methods to work, you can be a worker or an artist.

Workers are many. They are hired based on their price, if they are available, and the quality of work they deliver.

The artists however are asked for their vision, their name, and the look they have in their work. But also because their network made them into an artist, and this last line is often overlooked.

Good luck, and never forget just to have fun.

You can see more of Frank’s work at FrankDoorhof.com, find him on Facebook, circle him on Google+, and follow him on Twitter.