Category Archives Misc

foodcamerasm
Rack of Lamb Photo by Scott Kelby // Camera Photo by Brad Moore

[Note: This is a slightly edited recent post from my blog. Scott liked it and suggested I share it here as well!]

If you’ve been in the photography business very long, you know it’s about way more than just being able to work behind the camera. There are tons of moving parts that you have to maintain in order to be successful.

Lately I’ve been watching Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. In this show, Chef Gordon Ramsay (also of Hell’s Kitchen fame) goes into failing restaurants and helps turn them around. After watching a few episodes, it’s easy to pick up on the key things that make for a successful restaurant.

But these things aren’t just what make restaurants successful, they’re what make businesses successful.

And many of these things can easily apply to the photo business, so here we go…

——————-

Six Things I’ve Learned from Kitchen Nightmares:

1) Product Quality Is King
99% of the time, the food in these failing restaurants is terrible. No amount of ambiance and decor will bring back returning customers if the product sucks. Some of these restaurants even cut back on the quality of the food when they struggle, yet still charge the same prices they’ve always charged.

As photographers, we need to provide the best quality product we possibly can and charge accordingly. People are willing to pay for a quality product. If they’re not, they may not be the customers you want. But if they’re happy with their experience, they’ll keep coming back. They’ll also tell their friends and family about you.

2) Be Unique
Sometimes Chef Ramsay will completely transform the restaurant if it’s in the middle of an over-saturated market. He’ll look at the competition in the surrounding area determine what isn’t there that could thrive in the town. Maybe it’s an affluent town without a steakhouse, so the restaurant become a steakhouse. Or maybe they just need to be known for a specialty, like fresh homemade pasta or mozzarella, family-style dining, or a great raw bar.

Look at your market. Who are your competitors? What can you do that they’re not doing? What holes are in the market that you could fill? What’s the one thing that could make you stand out from everyone else? Don’t be afraid to be different. Think outside of the box. Be a trendsetter. Just be careful… There’s a fine line between unique and weird. ;-)

3) Don’t Be All Things To All People
Bloated menus are a common problem in these failing restaurants. They try to appeal to a wide variety of people by offering a wide variety of dishes. The result is an unfocused chef who is trying to juggle too many types of food in the kitchen, which slows them down. This leaves customers waiting far too long for food they end up being unsatisfied with because of its diminished quality.

In cases like these, Chef Ramsay will simplify the menu so that it focuses on a certain type of food and streamlines the process in the kitchen. This decreases prep time in the kitchen and helps the chef focus on fewer dishes. Customers receive their food more quickly and are much more satisfied in the end.

Do you know any photographers who shoot baby portraits, engagement portraits, weddings, concerts, football games, food, products, and still life? How stressed are they most of the time? Is it because they’re always super busy? Because they’re struggling to pay the rent? Could it be because they’re unable to focus on doing one thing really well?

Pick the type of photography you enjoy doing most and focus on that. If you enjoy it, it will show in the end product and your clients will be happier.  Otherwise you’ll always be pulled in fifteen different directions, and all of your endeavors will suffer.

4) Décor and Ambiance
I’ve only seen one episode in which a struggling restaurant didn’t get a complete interior makeover. And even that one had other minor updates. Common problems range from being outdated to uninviting to just plain ugly.  No one wants to spend hours eating dinner in a place where they feel uncomfortable.

If you have an office or storefront, make it an inviting place that people enjoy visiting. If you only have a website, make sure it’s designed with relevance to your audience in mind. Don’t ask yourself who your audience is, but who you want your audience to be.

A perfect example of this is NickOnken.com. He explains in depth on his blog why he made every single design and functionality choice when undergoing a redesign. Some people would say he made a bad choice in building a Flash-based website, but those aren’t the people he cares about. He’s going after art directors who are sitting at their desks in front of their 30″ Cinema Displays, so that’s who he made the site for – people who potentially will be signing checks, not online forum-dwellers sitting in their parents’ basements.

5) Here’s Your Sign
Along with the décor makeover, Chef Ramsay often replaces the sign outside the restaurant.  Why?

The sign is a potential customer’s first encounter with the restaurant. It could either draw them in or make them decide to drive on by.

As photographers, our brand is our sign. Our branding defines who we are, and vice versa. It makes clients say, “Oh he’s that kind of photographer!” as soon as they see it. This includes our logo, the style or look of our photography, the feel of our website, our business cards, and even our interactions with clients.

Know who you are as a photographer, and let that dictate your branding. Otherwise we’re trying to be something we’re not.

6) Denial Is A Killer
[This one wasn’t in my original post, but was pointed out by Jon Diener in the comments (thanks Jon!).]

Almost every single one of the restaurant owners on this show is in denial about something. They don’t think their food is bad, there’s nothing wrong with the way they’re managing things, their kitchen isn’t dirty, people love the oversized portions, New Jerseyans love to eat in the middle of a tropical jungle… Any number of things.

[By the way, this is the part of the show that always dumbfounds me. Your restaurant is failing, so you call someone who obviously knows what they’re doing for help. When he shows up and tells you how to fix things, you tell him he’s wrong. It boggles the mind…]

Anyway, what are you in denial about? What is it that’s keeping you from being a successful photographer? Do your photos suck but you won’t admit it because your family tells you they’re great? Are you overcharging for the quality of work you’re doing? Are you undercharging because you’re afraid of losing what little business you have? Do think that if you can just get the right equipment or a ticket to Italy (where the light is sooo much better!), you could get that one image that could put you on the map…?

There’s a scene in the documentary It Might Get Loud where Jack White builds a guitar out of a couple pieces of wood, some nails, a bottle and a wire. He plays it for a few seconds then asks, “Who says you need to buy a guitar?” This is the same guy who took a $200 plastic guitar and made a signature sound out of it.

You are the only thing standing in the way of your own success. Everyone has obstacles they have to overcome; you’re not special (sorry). Figure out how to overcome them and, here’s the key… DO IT! Get off your butt and make it happen. No one else is going to do it for you.

The difference between success and failure can often be humility. As there is a fine line between unique and weird, there is also a fine line between confidence and ego. Careful that you don’t cross it, because as soon as you do the path could easily lead to failure.

——————-

I hope these insights have been helpful. You can catch all episodes of Kitchen Nightmares on Hulu.com if you want to look for other tidbits of business savvy from the master chef/businessman!

writinghands

Hi everybody: I’m going to be doing a lot of catching up these next few weeks, and to do that I’m going to need to take a little break from writing the blog here every day. Of course, I wouldn’t leave you out in the cold, so I’ve asked the crew here to pitch in and help me out by writing daily posts for you guys starting here on Thursday.

Of course, each Wednesday we’ll have our guest blogger (and tomorrow we have a really great one), and then you’ll be hearing from Matt, Dave, Corey, RC, and Brad (and anybody else I can scam into taking a day for me).

They won’t be doing “Guest Blogs” per se (I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on them) so they’ll be doing the same type of news and commentary stuff I do here, so things should be pretty much like normal, except there will probably be far fewer typos and much better jokes. :)

I’m planning on being done with everything by Monday, May 10th, so I’ll see you guys then, but in the meantime, I’ve left you in good hands with my crew here (but you regulars make sure the trolls aren’t mean to them). Also, please don’t enjoy them so much that when I come back it’s a huge disappointment. :)

Have a great few weeks, be kind to the crew, and I’ll see you guys again soon!

P.S. Do my hands look a little too feminine in the shot above? (See, this is what I mean when I say the jokes will be better while I’m on break).

engadget

Is it any coincidence that just a few days after Apple’s iPad was announced, Engadget.com, probably the leading tech blog on the planet (who blogged the announcement live as it happened), announced that they were turning off reader comments for a while. As a longtime reader and fan of Engadget, I have to tell you I was shocked.

Here’s what they said:

“Hey guys, we know you like to have your fun, voice your opinions, and argue over your favorite gear, but over the past few days the tone in comments has really gotten out of hand. What is normally a charged — but fun — environment for our users and editors has become mean, ugly, pointless, and frankly threatening in some situations… and that’s just not acceptable.”

Click here to read their post, and why they did it. Thankfully, it appears that they have reopened comments once again, but I have to tell you, on some level, especially after some of the comments here concerning my iPad post, I kind of understand why they did it.

Here on this blog I feel very fortunate that we have built such a great community that it usually isn’t an issue (unless you mention Apple of course, and then all bets are off). However, a lot of bloggers I’ve talked with have decided to turn off commenting permanently, and they are stunned that I don’t at least moderate the comments here before they’re released. My policy has been—-if you make a comment—it goes up immediately, and so far that hasn’t been a problem.

That being said, here’s my policy: you can disagree with me—no sweat (and if you’ve read this blog for any time, you know that happens on about a daily basis)—-just don’t be mean about it. If you’re really mean to me, or to anyone else here, there’s a pretty decent chance I’ll just go and delete your comment (this isn’t The New York Times after all).

If you post a comment here and you get a message saying it’s awaiting moderation, that means you’ve probably put some web links in your post, and my spam filter thinks it’s a spam comment, but it’s not entirely sure, so it holds it for me to check it out. The problem is—I might not get to check it out until the end of the day, so your best bet is not to include a bunch of outside links. One isn’t usually a problem, but two or more and it’ll hold it for moderation.

I get literally hundreds of spam ads comment attempts here each day, most of them put there by automated spam bots, and believe me—you don’t want them to get through. Many are absolutely filthy (shockingly so in some cases), and besides, you probably already have enough Viagra, Cialis, and discount fine watches to last you for a while, right? ;-)

Anyway, I thought it was sad to see things get so bad at Engadget that it came to that. Again, I understand, but it was still sad. I surely don’t ever want to see that happen here, so as we move forward, even if I do wind up mentioning a topic you feel very passionate about (Apple), just remember we’re all friends here (except for Brad Moore. If he posts anything—blast him!). ;-)

Hey gang, Brad here.  I just got a message from Scott asking me to let you all know that he’s taking a sick day from the blog today.  He’s got a cold, along with all the coughy, sniffly, wheezy, blechy stuff that comes with it.  Nothing serious, just enough to need a day off from the blog :)

He did ask me to pass along his thanks to John Keatley for a great guest blog on Wednesday.  He told me that he really enjoyed the heartfelt story that John shared about one of the people who helped him pursue his photography career.  If you missed it for some reason, I highly recommend going back and giving it a read.  As one of the commenters said, it feels like a short read, but it’s not… It’s just an engrossing story! Plus, how intimidating must it have been to photograph Annie Leibovitz?? Again, thanks John for being part of the guest blog series!

Since it’s Friday, I thought I would share some fun links with you all…

  • If you need a good laugh, and especially if you’re a graphic designer, you’ve gotta check out the Clients from Hell blog. Careful though… You’ll spend an hour reading through those before you know it!
  • [SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION PLUG]
    If you’re into concert photography, I’m just getting started trying my hand at it.  I’ve posted some shots from a show I shot last weekend on my Flickr, so take a look and let me know what you think. Thankfully I’ve been getting lots of great pointers and help from my buddies Alan Hess and Drew Gurian so a huge thanks to them :) . I should have a real website up and running soon (thanks to the super talented RC), but Flickr will have to suffice for now.
    [/SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION PLUG]
  • And lastly, the second episode of new season of DTown TV is up! This is our first “tech review gear guide” episode where Scott and Matt (and even NAPP Director Larry Becker) talk about nothing but photography gear. We’ll be doing one of these every other week, so let us know if there’s anything you’d like us to cover!

On a serious note, Wednesday’s guest blog has had me thinking about the people who have helped me pursue my photography career.  Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of not only meeting but becoming friends with many well-known people in the photo industry.  There are days I wish I could go back and tell 18 year-old me about all the crazy adventures that lie ahead.  But none of this would even be remotely possible if it weren’t for one person who was an influence early on, and continues to be today.

Jim Veneman was my photo professor at Union University.  But he was and is so much more than that to me, many of my friends, and the students he continues teaching today.  He is teacher, mentor, friend, and advisor.  He cares.  He is passionate not just about photography, but about students’ lives.  When he teaches, he doesn’t just show pretty pictures and talk about equivalent exposure… He teaches you about life, and the difference a photograph can make in your life and other people’s lives.

Jim – Thank you for being the person that you are and caring as much as you do.  The world could use more teachers like you.

If you’d like to meet Jim in person, check out the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference coming up in March :)

Alright, that’s it from me today guys and gals!  Have a great weekend!

balloons

I’m using this week’s holiday as a springboard to a few days off, so here’s the schedule for this week:

  1. Wednesday
    Yup, we gave our Guest Bloggers the Holiday off, so tomorrow there’s no guest blog, but fear not—the Guest Blogger program is alive and well, and firing back up on the first week of the year, with some all new faces, and some old friends, too.
  2. Thursday
    It’s New Years Eve and you know what that means? That’s right, the day before a Holiday which is reason enough for me to sluff off and take a day off, so it’s No Blog Thursday.
  3. Friday
    It’s New Years Day, and I’m shooting a College Bowl Game that day, which means (you guessed it), I’m not blogging, baby—yeah!

However, I will be back next year with a full slate of blog posts for your blogging pleasure. Here’s wishing you and yours a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year.

All my best,

-Scott

noblogwednesday2

Here’s this week’s Blogging Schedule:

Wednesday: We’re giving our Guest Bloggers a day off today, so there’s no Guest Blog post today.

Thursday: I have a very special blog post for tomorrow (Christmas Eve), and it’s kind of a “Super Special Guest Blog” of sorts, with a very cute story (and something you won’t expect), so I hope you’ll check in here tomorrow to get in the Christmas spirit.

Friday: I’m taking the rest of the week off as well, so please consider Wednesday, and Friday officially to be part of a “No Blogging Christmas.” [insert jingle bell sound effect here].

I’ll be back to regular blogging (well, semi-regular) next Monday to pick up where we left off.

See you here on Thursday. :)

-Scott

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