I’ve been busy…..but here is a must see video series with Selina Maitreya. If you need help defining your vision and applying it to your portfolio and website you need to view these videos over and over again. Selina is a tremendous talent and graciously agreed to the video series. Don’t let them go to waste.


No Whining, Please


Leslie writes a regular column in Picture magazine and is very active in many creative/creative-business groups and forums, both online and in the real world, including AIGA, Adlist/Adland, APAnet, APA, ASMP, and Editorial Photographers (EP).

Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua lives in San Diego, California with her architect husband and two very spoiled cats. For more information please visit her website here and her blog here.

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Life is pain Princess, and anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell something.
is a quote from the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. The Dalai Lama would point out that life is suffering and that suffering is universal. A photographer, however, might say, “I just got a $20k project. It should have been $25K but the client beat me down” or “It’s not fair that I have to pay Workers’ Comp on my assistant!”

The difference between the first two quotes and the last are important. Everyone has crap they have to deal with. Everyone. That’s what the first two show–we’re all in this thing called life and there is a lot of crap in it–we all have pain and suffering. Unfortunately, far too often photographers somehow manage to make it about them–like their suffering is special somehow–and forget about the piles of crap their clients have to deal with. And this is not good for the photographers’ businesses.

Pittsburgh-based photographer (and ASMP VP) Richard Kelly recently offered up this:
I have one client who often says, “if you want to hear a photographer complain just give them an assignment.”

Ouch! Clients notice the whining, and they don’t like it. You need to remember that while you are rendering a valuable service to your clients, they usually (rightly or wrongly) see it as “I’m paying you for that service so I should get what I want and what I don’t want is a bunch of bitching about the assignment I’ve given you.”

Now, I’m not saying you should keep it all inside, but rather that you should never let it out in front of clients…any clients. That’s important–it’s not just the client who is driving you crazy that you shouldn’t complain to, you shouldn’t complain about that difficult client to any OTHER client. These days especially, you just never know who knows who, even internationally, so when you talk to Betty from Agency Z about that jerk Bob from Magazine X, they just might know each other somehow. Even if they don’t, it just makes you look bad.

It’s unprofessional to talk smack about clients to other clients. I remember going to a hair stylist once who complained the whole time about his other clients–some of whom he had clearly been working with for years. I couldn’t trust what he was saying to me because I knew he had to have lied to those clients. I never went back.

Richard also wrote in the same email:
Another client, with whom I sometimes speak to photo schools, is fond of saying, “I hire photographers to solve problems, not to hear about them.”

Exactly! Photographers are creative problem solvers. Clients come to you to make their image problems go away. The idea is to reduce their total “work crap” burden by making great work for them that’ll get their boss of their back, etc. When you, instead, spend your time on the shoot talking about how you can’t find a decent assistant or how it’s a pain to pay self-employment tax, all they are thinking is “I spend 10 hours a day, on a good day, in a cubicle farm and you get to work for yourself doing what you love–why the HELL are you complaining?!” By the time clients leave a shoot where the photographer complains, they are so full of resentment it’s no wonder they take out their frustrations by passive-aggressively “losing” your invoice.

Now, I’m not saying that clients are all perfect humans or even that their actions are justified. Nope, I’m just saying that this is the reality in our business. And if you are going to work with these people and get them to hire you more than once, you need to keep these things in mind as you interact with them.

Besides, when you choose to be pleasant, your business will improve. I speak from personal experience. I used to be one of the darkest people you’d ever know–I could find the downside of the best situation. Then one day I decided to stop being that way, and my business improved. And even if it hadn’t, it’s enough that I have been happier in my work every day anyway.

Self promotion is an invaluable tool for photographers.  It’s not something you can blow off, it’s a must.  It has to be a major part of your marketing campaign.  In addition to self promoting consistently you need to make sure that all of your touch points coincide with your look your feel your brand.  You must use dynamic eye catching images.  Creatives are busy, they don’t have time to spend analyzing photographers so you have to force them to stop and take a second to look at your work.

I’m going to point you over to Heather Morton’s blog for a deeper look into promoting your work to AB’s.

By the way, if your not reading Heather’s blog you need to be.  She’s a cool AB who’s interested in helping photographers learn about the relationship between them and their buyers.

One difference between people who succeed in the pursuit of their dreams and the ones who fail is how well they overcome obstacles.

Everybody in life is confronted with obstacles, no one is immune to it. It may not be apparent in everyone that you come in contact with but it exists. Sometimes the obstacles are small, sometimes they’re huge but the main fact is they can all be overcome.

In this sense, business is no different than life. When we are confronted with a big wall, mountain or endless sea we must find a way around, over or even through it. There’s always a way, although it may not seem like it at the time.

James Dyson had an idea to redesign and reinvent the vacuum. His idea of a bag-less vacuum was something that had never been done before. Not only was his bag-less idea revolutionary but so was the fact that he wanted to design a vacuum that wouldn’t loose suction.

James took his idea to Hoover an American company. They laughed, scoffed and told him that vacuum bags were a 500 million dollar a year business (1980’s). Determined he took his idea over seas. The Japanese snatched up a license and started producing vacuums for $2,000 each (again 1980’s).

Only half way up his mountain he took the revenues from those overseas vacuums to start his own company in the UK. After over 5,000 prototypes and five years his start up was ready. Shortly after the start up, James was sued by nun other than Hoover. In short they had taken his ideas from their meeting and tweaked them slightly, applying for their own patent. Hoover sued James claiming that he had stole their idea!!!

In the end, the Dyson vacuum is the number one selling brand in Europe, holds 20% market share over vacuums in the U.S. and 92% of Dyson owners would recommend the Dyson vacuum to a friend.

To top it off the Dyson vacuum has won 100’s of international design awards and has been displayed in the Metropolitan and MOMA in NY among others.

How’s that for overcoming obstacles!

Leslie writes a regular column in Picture magazine and is very active in many creative/creative-business groups and forums, both online and in the real world, including AIGA, Adlist/Adland, APAnet, APA, ASMP, and Editorial Photographers (EP).

Leslie Burns-Dell’Acqua lives in San Diego, California with her architect husband and two very spoiled cats. For more information please visit her website here and her blog here.

I’ve written about fear in one of my Manuals, in other articles, and I talk about it in my ASMP SB2 talks as well as in other lectures I have given.  Fear is pervasive in our business. It’s pervasive in all professions and trades. In fact, it is omnipresent–that is we all have it and it is everywhere. Every single person has fear–successful people do, just as less successful ones do. The difference is in how one deals with the fear.

When you are afraid and own up to it, face it, and challenge the fear, you are more likely to be successful. Some call that “courage,” and if that word works for you, then use it. For me, I don’t like that word personally–I prefer to think of it as being afraid but doing it anyway. What it is, whatever you call it, it is taking risks and being open to living with the results.

We do that every day. Every day we take a risk driving (car accidents), playing a sport (Adam Sandler just broke his ankle playing a friendly game of basketball) or even just eating (food poisoning). There’s a risk in taking a shower (you could slip) or taking medication (side effects) and there are big risks in falling in love (a broken heart, humiliation, STIs). And yet we do these things regularly. Why? Because the payoffs are worth it and we know that we can live with the results–even if everything goes to hell in a handbasket and we, in one day, get dumped, eat bad fish, slip in the shower cleaning up after being ill from the fish, and break an arm in the process, the next day we’ll still wake up and life will go on.

In other words, we are one amazingly resilient species.
So it is in business. You can try to play it safe, not take risks, and be like most everyone else who is trying to do the same thing, or you can try something new and risky, but which might pay off in a big way. Even if you “play it safe” there are no guarantees that you will be safe. In fact, it is arguable that in today’s business-world, playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do as a creative professional.

So let me challenge you with this: Did you become a creative to do what others have already done–to play it safe? No, you have it in your nature to challenge yourself and your audience. You have worked through your fears for years–every time you made an image or some other piece of art you were putting yourself out there. People have told you how crazy you are, how irresponsible, how childish, etc., for years, and yet you have persevered. You already know how to face your fears–you’ve been at it your whole life–now you get to do it again–this time for your business. What an opportunity!

Take the risk–be your whole self and show your true vision. Be passionate. Put yourself out there. Yes, you may fall on your face, but you’ll be truly alive in the process and, more importantly, you can only be great if you try.



Go to APE to read about building your own fan club. It’s an extremely important topic for sure. Check it out, give it some thought and implement it into your own company.

In todays world if you want to survive, you must be flexible, open minded and pursue a plan of action. Long gone are the days of buying a spread in a source book then sitting back in the shade of your backyard watching the money roll in. You must be proactive, you must be talented, you must be good with people and you must have a fan club.

I’m headed out of town for the rest of the week to shoot a project. I’ll be out of cell and internet range so I thought this would be a good time to link back to some of my favorite posts. I’ve been getting a lot of new readers over the last few weeks so I think a refresher is due.

balancing act
plan, what plan?
the whole package
essential creativity
the naysayers
on vision and style

Look for some new thoughts next week-

I’ve been thinking lately about the things I wish I would have been told before starting my company. In hindsight these things would have been good to know.

  • Respect yourself and your time
  • Learn from others mistakes
  • Never trust a banker
  • Keep things in perspective
  • Listen carefully
  • You have no competition
  • Patience, it’s only a matter of time
  • No one cares about you, they only care about what you’re going to give them
  • Give them a reason to care about you
  • You don’t need to be an expert, just perceived as one
  • You don’t need to justify your art to anyone!
  • Write down all of your thoughts, everything!
  • Fear the known
  • Dare to be different
  • Doubting yourself is natural, just don’t let it control you
  • If it scares you, it’s probably a good idea
  • If an offer sounds to good to be true…
  • Build credibility in everything you do
  • Always look for opportunities
  • State your fee, then shut your mouth; don’t justify anything
  • Confidence is key
  • The question isn’t if you’re going to make it, it’s when you’re going to make it
  • Some people are just jerks. Stay away from the naysayers
  • Take frequent time off to pursue other interests
  • You will work harder than you have ever worked in your life

What things do you wish you would have been told?
Feel free to add to the list… As always I love hearing from my readers.

So, I love to read. Most of you know that already. I had planned on doing frequent book reviews but somehow got sidetracked along the way. The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier is a great read. It’s relatively short, to the point and is only filled with the most important information (sweet!).

Some of Marty’s points that caught my attention:

  • 5 disciplines of branding- differentiate, collaborate, innovate, validate, cultivate.
  • The client decides the brand.
  • Brand extensions- new additions to the brand family serve to strengthen the meaning of the brand. [As long as it furthers the brand image and doesn’t take away, ie Porsche used to be a classic sports car company but what happened to the brand when they added that SUV?]
  • It takes a village to build a brand- Marketers, designers, ad agencies, consultants, photographers. [what, teamwork? Oh yes!]
  • Abandon the comforts of habit, reason, peer approval and go in a new direction.
  • Logos are dead, they identify rather than differentiate; create an icon instead, it contains the DNA of the brand.
  • A good brand icon is like a nicely taylored suit, it should only look good on you.

How do you know when an idea is innovative? When it scares the hell out of you!
I don’t recommend creating your brand on your own. It’s who you are, what you represent, for crying out loud get help, collaborate, work with a team. You’ll be glad you did.

Want a copy? I’m going to give mine away. It’s a really good book and everyone in business should read it. So here’s the deal-

Comment or send me an email-
Briefly and creatively tell me why you want/need it. (ie. your brand sucks, your poor, recently divorced etc.)
Prove it- link to your company, portfolio, blog etc
I’ll look everything over on Tuesday and on Wednesday I will announce the winner.

I’ve recently found a love for reading biographies (no, I don’t have the time but I’ve made reading and writing a major priority). I have to say that it came as a surprise at first, but after thinking about it I’ve come to this conclusion; what better way to learn; from others lives, experiences and mistakes! They allow you to gather knowledge from the most respected and intelligent people who have ever lived, a glimpse into their minds if you will.

Over the last few days I’ve found myself reading His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis. I’ve learned more from this book about George Washington’s life than I did in all of my schooling career (I don’t think I paid attention in history classes).

One of the things I’ve taken away from this book is that George was a phenomenal collaborator. He was all about teamwork, he wasn’t afraid to ask for help or get professional opinions. In fact he was very open about getting help.

The first of my examples comes just before the Revolutionary War. George had a feeling that war was imminent and that he would be called (he reluctantly accepted) to command the Continental Army. In preparation he ordered 5 books on the art of war and a tomahawk (?). George knew if the colonies were to win their independence he would need a lot of help. Throughout the eight-year war he gathered ideas and intelligence from his team of junior (yep junior) officers that presented options to the commander in chief.

The second example comes as he was preparing for the Constitutional Convention. Ellis writes,

“Washington was accustomed to leading by listening…Where he needed assistance—and he was completely comfortable requesting and receiving it—was in mastering the theoretical vocabulary that more formally educated [he had an elementary school level of education] colleagues possessed, learning the intellectual road map to reach the destination he had already decided upon.”

Teamwork is a wonderful thing. It not only allows us to get the job done but it allows us the freedom to create bigger and better ideas.