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U.S.A January 1981.

SOUTHEASTERN PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS CONVENTION.

The Receptionists panel and there were 4 photographers wives introduced by their husbands.

Linda Smith was the first to talk and she mentioned that she had piles of cards that she handed out to her customers she flashed these so briefly it was hard to see but from the way she spoke it was examples of their portraiture and wedding work and they must have had either a transparent quik stick label on the front giving the name of the studio or an imprinting like our business cards.

When a client calls to enquire about photography Linda gives out 5 or 6 photos and in that way the person takes away a varied example of their work. What they must do is when they see a good portrait or wedding go through they must get a 100 or so wallet size prints (premier proofs) done from those and pass them out. Linda went on to say that every time you are out in front of the public you are promoting yourself people see you at weddings and your attitude towards the people at the wedding and how you react to people are all things that people judge you on.

You are also judged on how you sound on the telephone and you must always let people know that you care. They do a lot of their promotion for weddings through Bridal shops in so much they have a Bridal Album along with other photographers on display and there the brides can look at the various photographers work with out any pressure what so ever. She also mentioned that the way your studio looks and the way it appears affects the type of clientele you get. It appears that the majority of their particular business is weddings.

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Annetta O'Neil spoke on selling and she said that selling is the most important phase of the photographic business. Until a sale is made nothing happens. She says you have six contacts with each bride and you should use each contact to increase the sale.

You should talk of something that is new and different so when the bride rings up explain how you have something that is so new so different so exciting. At these interviews you should have as many people there as possible to show them what you are going to do for them she finds that the more people you have there the more chance you have of having successful sales later, you have the opportunity at that stage of getting them excited about your photography and if they are excited they are looking forward to it they will probably buy more photographs.

She said that all of your samples should show a beautiful girl in a beautiful wedding gown in a beautiful church.

Irrespective of what your client looks like she does imagine you may make her look like this and if she is convinced you will make her look like this half the battle is won. She also went on to say that women like a choice you should always offer 3 different types of service like the Lisle Ramsay good better and best, a better quality should be the one you make the most money on and of course you add something new at the top and the bottom eventually drops away.

She said that some times a little gift sees the sale in the direction that you want it to go.

She went on to say that the next contact you have is at the wedding and that they are always there 30 minutes early they have the attitude that if they are not there 30 minutes early then they must be late they make the habit of after every photograph that they take of making a selling comment like; This is the one that is going to be a beautiful misty you'll really love it. They also tell why that particular photograph that they have just taken is so important because all these seeds that you sow will help you weave the album together when they call at the studio to pick up their photographs. They spend as much time as possible with the parents especially the grooms parents sometimes the grooms parents are the only ones at the wedding that like photographs and often have more money than any one else and if you neglect them you neglect making the wedding a profitable function.

She says that the idea that the bride goes through the wedding hardly able to remember a solitary thing is not true. Normally the bride comes in and the photos she remembers you telling her about are the ones she wants to see first, she can't wait to see the photos you have described as you were taking them. She said when you are outside of the church taking photos you should turn round and look at all of the guests just watching you most times those people will not see the photographs but they will judge what the photographs will be like on the way you perform.

This means the way you dress, the way you handle people, the way you speak to them, all of these things count so you should overlook none of them.

When the photographs are back and you have then done up in the way in which you present them you should ring them up and say "I am so excited with the results" when they come in you should sit down with them and take time to go over each photograph explaining all about it pointing out the details in it like, look how beautiful your veil looks in this photograph, or one of the last ones you took and the bride has closed her eyes and she is disappointed in it, this particular photograph is where you are thinking from now on my gorgeous husband will be looking after me, she is so thankful she is married and has somebody to take care of her use your imagination get their imagination working make them fall in love again spend plenty of time with them and let them know every thing they could possibly want to know.

When they return to place the order your best sales person should be ready (and if there are just the two of you in the Studio .... one is always better at selling than the other) with all of the accessories that can be sold like frames, albums, miniatures etc. and these should be shown only by appointment. You must work by appointment so that you know precisely what you are going to do, you must plan the sale, unless you plan the sale you will not necessarily get any where.

You should sit down listen to the complaints they may have because through the complaints you can learn and turn the complaint to opportunity.

Have you that something extra you could sell if you offered a Ninety  day payment plan ? On delivery of the order again be prepared have everything ready for them when they call in if they call in unexpectedly don't rush the order through because in doing so not only do you possibly damage the order but you may miss the opportunity of that extra sale which puts the order up over the thousand dollars.

Don't be frightened to frame photographs on speculation let them take the frames home for a few days after they have had that particular photo in that frame you will possibly find that they will find it hard to imagine that photograph in any other frame.

What ever you do when they leave the studio make sure they are happy because a happy customer is your best advert. 

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Betsy Meriwether said that the telephone is the most important article in the studio after the camera it can either make or break your business. She spoke a lot on speaking to the customer before they came in on what to wear and her comment was they should wear clothes that do not take the first place in the photograph she said that the people should come first and the clothes merely blend in with the photo. She has a philosophy about the telephone that you should answer it on the third ring which would indicate you are busy but not quite too busy to deal with them. She also said that you should not leave somebody on the phone unattended for longer than 20 seconds because after that they start wondering what is happening. You should have somebody answering the telephone with a very good telephone voice.

When they ring up about prices, give prices but also get there name and address to post out a price list to them.

Unhappy people are best dealt with face to face and not on the telephone.

They in their business have 2 telephones the line 1 is for ringing out and the line 2 is for the incoming calls. She says you should find out why they are having the portrait made because often by just knowing this you can increase the order substantially by varying what you take. 

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Linda Edgar was perhaps the best speaker there and one we could have down in New Zealand very easily to give a talk on and to receptionists. She said what your studio shows is what the customer expects if you look successful they will think you are successful. When the customer walks in walk forward and greet them as if you are anxious to see them smile from the inside take them over and sit them down sit on the edge of the seat and forward towards them don't relax back into the seat be interested in them show it use soft words when you talk to them she said that the word "proof" is a hard word.

You should not be rushed if you do a rushed job it will not be the best you can do. Be enthusiastic.... tell the truth people will remember for years what you have told them. If somebody else picks up the "proofs" she says the order is never as good, or, something may be wrong with them so she does all she can to avoid giving any one else the proofs apart from the person who has had the portrait done.

Her first action when the customer comes in is to sit them down in the epidiascope room go out and get the "previews" she has arranged the best ones on the top and walks into the room in an enthusiastic manner making comments about the proofs and then project them. Explain the photographs to them, when they ask questions answer them, when you ask questions always ask a question that cannot be answered with a yes or no answer, if they ask a question that you do not want to answer you don't have to answer just smile at them so when they say how much do the proofs cost just smile and carry on your presentation.


Catharine Craft spoke on how to produce a custom portrait she showed a large number of slides in the "before and after" series showing you what she had started with and what she finished up with. She used a colored pencils for a lot of her retouching and a lot of her retouching was merely to put highlights into the eyes which of course may have been able to be done by using the Al Gilbert type wink-light but in just about all of her portraits they all needed some liveliness added to the eyes.

She also did some cosmetic retouching on the print using pencils and oils to both men and women. She would remove double chins portions of face and figure remove birthmarks etc., she did this on a full range of subjects from children through to pensioners and often it was just on a women of 40 removing a couple of lines to make her look 10 to 20 years younger she would soften these lines. Her whole business was built around her ability to do this type of finishing on the portraits in other words she gave that little bit extra that the client couldn't get else where.


Robert Stevenson M.Photog.Cr.
Robert Stevenson has been in business for 25 years and has come especially from the Virgin Islands to give this program from what I can gather he does have a small studio down there where he puts on seminars and programs and does a few sittings. His main studio location is in the New York state. His studio is at home, out in the country. He has a very large studio built at his home and the only thing visible from the road is his studio and his garage. These he has built on the hillside visible from the road... and the house is slightly down the hillside so it is not visible from the road so that the customers who call can only see the studio.

He has extremely high ceilings the reception room is covered with 20 X 16 or larger photographs. He has very small volume but very high quality. He is a one man operation and last year did 101 sittings. He has no drop in clients and he has to draw them a map as to where he is and explain exactly how he can be found. All of his promotions are geared to the women as males don't make the decisions with regards to photography. He has a special form that he fills in besides the telephone He designed his form 15 years ago on which he makes all notes and with the aid of this he guides his telephone conversations with the prospective caller.

He applies no pressure what so ever as he feels sooner or later with out pressure being applied they will come to his studio. First of all greets the customer by "This is Robin Stevenson may I help you" nine times out of ten they will tell him their name which he makes a note of. He then goes through a series of discussion rather than questions and finds out who is being photographed and why, their age if applicable, are they familiar with his work ?

He is very much aware that most people are not familiar with the words that we photographers use. All the answers to these questions are recorded on this pad. He then asks where these portraits are going to be used ? For example are they going to be used in the lounge, office or den he has already given them 3 ideas that they may not have thought of. He then asks if they want casuals or formals.

Again he says most people don't know that they can have both or don't know he does both. Then if they want them indoors or out doors and if it is a child being photographed are they an indoor or outdoor child ? He then asks do you want to be in the photograph ? Thinking of Grandparents sales he asks how do your parents see the child.

He always makes sure the customers know how much it is going to cost them so he will discuss this on the telephone and he will post them out a price list along with a map on how to find his studio. He is not concerned that they may not come because a lot of the customers who telephone his studio do get a shock on the price but do come back some time later.

I His studio fee is $60 (1981$US). He used to have lots of different sittings now he only has one as he wants to do the best he can for every sitting. He tells them he will show between 14 & 16 poses. To get this he will use two "ten on" films to give himself some tolerance and projects all of his proofs. Along with the price list and map he mails out a clothing brochure even if they indicate they are just making an enquiry.

He WILL recommend another photographer but he will only recommend the best photographer he knows. He likes to leave any contact he has with them with a nice taste in their mouth. He then apparently works alone in the camera room and that when they arrive he will ignore the child letting the child get to sum him up rather then overwhelming the child with the exuberance of his verbosity or something to that extent.

He does a telephone follow up a week later if he has not heard from them. He gets a lot of bookings at that particular stage. These notes he makes on the telephone they go up into 3 different files....

1 to follow up a week later, if no response then
1 to follow up on the anniversary of the original phone call
1 for his mailing list.

The call he makes 12 months later often pays off as it is around the anniversary of the occasion that made them make their inquiry the first time. He also uses the names for open houses special exhibitions etc. These he considers all prospective clients as they would not have made the inquiry had they not been interested in photography.

Before the client comes in for the appointment he goes over all the details to make sure he knows all the information and then can greet the parents in the way that he should. He does ask the parents before they come in to give the child a brown paper bag so that he can bring in all of the toys that are important to him. He uses a brown paper bag as it limits the size of the toy that can be brought in and he is not faced with a life size bulldozer to be included in the photograph.

He gives between one hour and one and a half hours for the appointment so that he has plenty of time. When they come in he watches the child to see what the child is doing with out the child realizing it of course because a child wants time to make his mind if he wants the photographer to be a friend or not.

He always gets down to this level when ever he talks to them often by sitting on the floor. He draws the example that all children are animals you take a dog into a studio on a leash you will walk him round he will sniff every thing you will let him off the leash the dog will still go round sniffing every thing to make sure every thing is safe this is precisely what a child does he says so once the child relaxes he gets them into the camera room pretty smartly and starts the sitting.

Changing the mood in a sitting can be related to the activity and to the clothes the child is weaning he does all the active things at the beginning or the middle of the sitting and the quieter things at the end of a sitting. He draws the illustration that with Sunday clothes the child knows that when he is in those sort of clothes that he has got to be quiet and this makes for the more solemn type of pose. Bed clothes are the ones when they are quite drowsy your movements and your voice controls the activity for example if you whisper it keeps things on a very quiet level.

If he strikes a problem child who won't sit on the posing stool he will often ignore the child and make a big fuss of his big soft toy that he calls AUK taking photographs with the dark slide in and makes out they are both having a wale of a time soon the child will drift over. I suppose you would call it reverse psychology the main thing is to take your time and you will find things will work out.

All the props he has in the studio for children are keyed to the child's size. He uses a centre post camera stand in the studio so that he can get the camera from high to low very easily.

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He has a small nook in his studio that he can move into location that is 9 feet by 9 feet and basically is just a portable background. He has bean bags as they can form a nice shape that children can lay on or do what ever. He has a fairly large platform that the child can sit on which is about 2 feet high and about 6 feet by 6 feet this gets them up off the ground sufficiently high so that he can work with them and yet the platform is so solid that the child feels absolutely safe. He always uses a long cable release and when he uses a RB67 he operates only off the front shutter as the split second that it takes for the mirror to go up you will often loose the expression both in animals and children.

He uses a 20 inch flood for a fill light behind the camera at camera height his main light has barn doors which he can control between 100 watt seconds and 50 watt seconds. The background light is hidden by the platform and the hair light is a small American flash spot-light which comes in on the opposite site of the main light. He normally uses this 4 light system.

AUGUST 1981 at the Australian Convention

DAVID BOWEN
His first comment was that we (photographers) do a lousy job of marketing. He said at some stage unless there is an investment return our business becomes a hobby and not a business.

7 out of 10 businesses never make it to their 8th birthday.

Most businesses do too much low profit work. Therefore you should get more profit by selling that low profit work for a higher price.

He stressed the necessity to have a business plan.

These are several of the highlights of his comments but the real reason I felt he was so good was the way he showed how you should calculate your cash flow and price your work so that you stay in business. It was one of the best, most logical ways of accounting that I've heard for a very long time.

His final words of wisdom were

Any equipment you purchase should be able to be paid out of the nett, nett profit within 3 to 5 years. What that means is that if you buy a new camera it must pay for its self within 5 years out of the money you have left after you have paid all of your wages (including to your self), paid all of your taxes, paid all of your shareholders (even if it is only your self). Any money that you have left after all of that is your nett nett profit.

If we want the public to buy photographs we must educate them in how to use them. David stressed this extremely strongly... that you can not expect people to know what do with photographs unless you show them.


DONALD JACK
This man has a mine of information.

Don says we have 1440 minutes in a day, every day, to be used or wasted. We change a day in our life with what ever we do.

Your image in photography will return to you the same type of clientele. This means the way you dress what you drive where you live all of these things are indications of the type of clientele you can expect.

Don says the public will not spend very much on mediocrity.

He says you should look at the way you dress. Dress to the level of the people who you are going to do business with. Some people will tolerate an arty looking person but the great majority will not.

He says the public must know that you exist and you do this through

1. Advertising

2. Public Relations

3. Studio appeal.

He stresses in his advertising that "Now is forever by Donald Jack". He says you should not put very much into your adverts and if you do advertise "go first class" in other words an advert that costs you $10 certainly won't return you much business.

He says with direct mail you must have a Logo, it must be easily read and it the Logo should not be out of a type set book. He suggests you could get one by going to an Art school and have a competition to see who can design you a Logo that you will accept. He did this and gave as a prize a 20 X 16 photograph.

He feels that if you are doing low volume direct mail that is should be addressed by hand and by a feminine hand. He feels that Yellow Pages are very very important as he feels that in U.S.A. a tremendous amount of business comes from that source.

He feels one of the best public relations exercises that you can do is to join a Civic group and become active in that group.

Don says he has yet to find a photographer that can talk to or sell to clients in a dark room. He says he has never yet found any clients in a dark room. All a dark room can do is save you some money. It certainly won't make you any. He went on to stress that the amount of time you spend in a dark room and the return that you get from that is just peanuts compared to what you can earn talking to and dealing with clients. Until your camera clicks you can not make any money.

Trophies are extremely important and you should always compete for as many trophies and enter as many competitions as you can as these are all headline getters. Better still they are usually written up free in your newspaper.

Your reception rooms should show that photography is very important. Your reception rooms should not be cluttered because clutter is confusion.

You should display the way you want to sell in other words put the photographs on display in the size you wish to sell. You must show your customers how they can display photographs in their own homes because unless you give them ideas on how to display they will not part with a penny. Your reception room should be laid out by an interior decorator and again it should have no clutter.

What you put on your walls in your studios indicates your level of acceptance. So if you put a so so photo on the wall it indicates you are a so so photographer.

What ever you put on a wall should be half the size of that wall.

This means if you have a wall that is 8 feet wide it will support a photo that is 40 inches wide.

He says that your reception rooms should have no clutter. You should make your name easy to find on your building.

In all of his portrait sittings half of his poses are head and shoulders and half are three quarters length or full lengths. In half the poses the head is turned to the left and in the other half they are turned to the right.

He says there are three rules when you are selling or when people are buying in relation to the portraits.

1. Expression

2. Expression

3. Expression


Leon Atkinson spoke on Direct Mail and said that with Direct Mail it shows that the customer is special to you.

He said that "Radio Shack" get every name and address of every person that makes a purchase from their store. These names go on their mailing list and these customers receive a Radio Shack catalogue. That is the only form of advertising that Radio Shack does.

Leon feels you should collect that name of that customer. You should look after that customer. You should make him feel that he belongs to you. Potentially the profits are mind boggling. You should stress to the customer that if you have any problems at all they should come and see you. Dollar for dollar Direct Mail he says is the most efficient value for your money. He said you should not rush into direct mail you should do a test promotion first to test the idea to make sure that it is going to work.

Cornelius J. Murphy who is Group Vice President of Eastman Kodak said he has been into a lot of homes in a lot of countries and not seen as many portraits as he would like to. He feels that unless photographers get out and market themselves they may become like the Dodo ( and in case you don't know what happened to the Dodo it became extinct).

John Skinner Marketing Director of an Advertising Agency in Melbourne feels that photography is under sold and under marketed. He feels that there is an over preoccupation with what your competitor is doing rather than looking at what your customers want. He spoke of somebody who's husband had died and the most recent photograph was 7 years old and it hardly resembled him at all with her memory of the man she remembered.

He said that there are too many darkrooms in the industry and that the people should get out of these darkrooms and meet some prospective clients.

He says that most sales people are in to big a hurry to get to the point where

the prospective customer says no, he outlined the seven points that everybody

that works for Mc Donalds Hamburgers must follow.

1. They must greet the customer and they must smile at the customer.

2. They should take the order.

3. They should suggest extras.

4. They should assemble the order.

5. They present the order.

6. They receive payment.

7. They thank the customer and show interest in that customer.

Seven points that could very well apply to photography and would do not harm in being the basic starting point for photographers.

He stressed the importance of planning and said "To get to a spot where you don't know where you are going is as difficult as coming back from a spot from where you have never been".

He said that to many photographers are concerned with price and that only 15 to 20 per cent of any market is the price sensitive portion of that particular market and that photographers should concentrate on the customers for a while instead of price.


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WRONG SHUTTER SPEEDS

One of our clients was having problems with his exposures in his studio. After a lot of heartache and large rubber stamps stating "overexposure" and "underexposure" from the lab he finally came up with the answer. When he telephoned me I'm afraid my reaction was I thought everyone knew that... But obviously everyone doesn't so here goes

When using electronic flash in the studio your shutter speed on your camera should be set at 125 of a second no faster.

The reason for this is that most studio flash units do have a flash duration at one of their setting of around the 100 to 125 of a second. If you use a faster shutter speed than this you are cutting off some of the flash and you may run into phenomenon of the flash firing before the automatic aperture has closed down. If this happens your exposures will be jumping all over the place so if you are having that sort of problem it would pay you to check and remember

FOR STUDIO FLASH SET YOUR SHUTTER SPEED AT 125 OF A SECOND OR SLOWER.


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ROBERT SYMMS from Augusta Georgia gave a talk on $50,000 in Ideas.
He regularly plans and attends bridal shows. He always sends stuffers on photography out with every letter that leaves his premises even when paying the accounts.... somebody always opens a letter and they may be your next customer.

He runs a special program called "Watch our baby grow " where he has a plan that a baby is photographed every 3 months in the first 2 years then on a regular basis after that. The next appointment is always made at the time of the last appointment and of course is followed up by a telephone call. When he is showing his print previews through a projector and it has a long focus lens which enables him to get in behind the projector so that there is room for everybody to look at the photographs. 

So when the Customers walk in to see the proofs there is music playing he puts the print into the projector and turns it on with the room lights on full he then turns the rheostat on the room lights down slowly and he says the impact is fantastic as the print comes up as the darkness comes down and of the course there is always the best one that he shows first.

Copy and Restoration he says is fantastic business one year he did over $700. in one month with out promoting the following year over the same period with radio it went up to $4,000 he says that in America the copy and restoration business is the largest untapped businesses that there are and advises that we in N.Z. should have a Copy Sale in July and August where we will sell a 4 X 5 Print for $11. 95. providing the original is in good condition if it is not and requires art work we should give 10 per cent off during this period.

He does use polarized light for his copies but he does not polarize everything he does.

Over a 12 month period he had 315 orders. Some of these orders included more than one photograph but the main nitty gritty point is his turnover for this 12 months is in copies alone $46,527.03 an average order for $147.70 I think that is something we in New Zealand could learn to live with. He also does a lot of invitational sittings and believes that if you doesn't get the client into the studio you haven't got a show in Hades of selling photography.
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PROFESSIONAL PERFECTION WITH TIME TO SPARE
David Smith from Stone Mountain Georgia spoke on what he does with wedding photography. He said that time is working against us all in wedding candids so we must make time work for us. He likes Venetian blinds because you can control the light that falls on the subject. He said you should always watch camera angles in every location because some times moving the camera down 12 inches makes all the difference in the background and can turn an ordinary photo into an award wining photo.

You must communicate with the clergy at the church so that they know what to expect from you and you can find out all their rules and likes and dislikes. He would not ruin a ceremony by getting in front of the guests during a wedding and taking photographs as he considers this to be a sacred occurrence and treats it as such.

They start doing their photographs 1 1/2 hours before the ceremony and from the style of his photography he has attended Monte Zucker. When he does photographs he always looks for an area that has light coming in from above and not coming through a window that is reflected from glass or a large piece of concrete. He showed a lot of photographs and it appears, that for them, 10 bridesmaids are a normal occurrence.

They always do an altar return after the ceremony to get some of these photographs. This takes between 10 and 15 minutes. He counts on a third of the photography happening before the wedding, a third during or after the wedding and a third at the reception.

Most of the time it appears that he has already photographed the bride in a studio portrait several days before the wedding. They work as a husband and wife team and she arranges the dress and chats to the bride all the time.

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BREAD & BUTTER PANEL
Phil Meriwether was the moderator for this and it covered a lot of the bread and butter things that happen and should happen in a studio with one or two highlights.

One of the people speaking suggested to his clients when they had a large photograph done that they have a special party for the unveiling of the photograph at the persons home. He looked after all of the invitations and the customer gave him a list of the friends and he sent out a invitation to each one along with one of the proofs from the sitting. The letter that was with the proof said for them to bring the proof to the opening and make a present of it to their friend. This meant that his customer had a pretty good chance of getting all of his proofs and the photographer had a lot of prospective new clients who saw the photography under controlled conditions.

The next speaker spoke on selling. He was a commercial photographer and his wife went out calling on his commercial clients 2 or 3 days a week on a part time basis. He had more work than he could handle and he hoped that his wife would never want to work full time as he would never be able to handle it all. He said that his wife could get away with things that a male could not and he was convinced that if more photographers did this they would have so much work they would not be able to handle it. 

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