How to Treat Customers

I’m a big fan of customer service. Businesses that take care of their customers are my first choice always, even if it costs more. I love, for example, Arlington Camera because they are very knowledgeable, and the sales person will stay with me until the end of the sale. I also like B&H Photo Video because they’re very helpful and responsive. I do prefer to shop local when I can, though, but when I need to shop online, B&H gets the nod. Or New Balance shoe stores. Those guys are very helpful, knowledgable, and take care of you. These places provide exceptional customer service, which makes for a stress-free and productive experience, and I am always happy after doing business with them.

One person that I enjoy doing business with is Skip Cohen. I attended Skip’s Summer School last year, and that was a real treat. He works hard to provide a great value at a very great price. One thing I’ve learned about Skip is that he really loves photography (although he’s not a photographer) and he really loves helping people. Skip has also written a few books with photographers. One of them was “Body Parts” with the late Don Blair. I’m really looking forward to getting my paws on that tome! 🙂 Skip was putting the book up for reprint, so I was pretty excited to place my preorder. The book went to the printers a few weeks back, so I was was eagerly awaiting my copy in the mail. Imagine my delight when a package arrived from the US Post Office today!

I proceeded to tear into the package. Those mailers are pretty tough to open! In hindsight, I could’ve turned around for a pair of scissors to make things easier. Oh, well. Imagine my surprise when I found this inside the package:

Joe Buisick and Skip Cohen: Wedding Photography From the Heart

It took me a moment to actually read the title and wonder where the book came from. I had not ordered this book. To the best of my knowledge I had not entered any promotions or contests where this book was a prize. Hmm, strange goings on. Oh, wait! There’s a packing slip! Hmm, no–it was a letter. It seems that “Body Parts” had shipped, but some orders had been misplaced. So they ran out of books before mine was shipped, and some others, I reckon. So Skip sends out this book. Not as an equal value replacement. But as an apology while they were waiting for more to be printed. Wait, what? I can reasonably expect notification of a delay, or even a refund (I’d rather wait and have the book…). But sending another book as apology, and still send me the book I ordered when it’s printed?  That totally exceeds expectation. That’s the type of thing that builds loyalty.

Mistakes happen. Anything done by humans is imperfect and can go wrong. If you run a business, how you respond to mistakes can build loyal customers or drive customers to the competition. Regardless what your business is–photography, consulting, make-up artist/hair stylist, banking–how you treat the people with whom you do business says a lot about your character, and will be a large part of your success in business. Do you try to help people, or are you just trying to make money? The more people you help, the more successful you’ll be. That is what customer service is about–helping people.

Who have you helped today?

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Dragon’s Breath

So, I have a new camera. And a party to attend. A party, mind you, where things can get slightly crazy. Although, as the years go by, the crazy gets less so. *sigh* Kids and old bones. Such is life, I reckon. Well, in any case, Kacey still breathes fire, and does it without burning off his beard. 🙂 I’m always impressed by this. It takes skill and control to 1) not swallow the fuel and 2) not dribble the fuel down your chin (which would be VERY painful when lit on fire!). In addition to some pictures I took of the event, I also captured a video of Kacey’s fire breathing. Have a look-see!

 

Hope you enjoy the display! I did, even watching it through the LCD screen. I’m thoroughly in love with this camera. While composition and content is my own creation, the ability to capture a clean, detailed image depends on the camera. I can focus, select aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc., but if the camera performs poorly, then my (so-called) brilliance will be for naught. Somebody who doesn’t know how to capture a great image won’t really benefit from better gear. A good photographer, though, can use the better gear to stretch her vision and more accurately realize what is seen in the mind’s eye. It’s a constant battle: vision vs. gear. Without vision, gear is useless. Better gear makes it easier to realize the vision. It’s a symbiotic relationship, in my opinion. One day, I’ll look to medium format. For now, I have an opportunity to grow into my new camera until I can stretch its boundaries.

 

Homeward Bound

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Well, I’m on the plane flying home from a wonderful few days In Las Vegas. I attended Skip’s Summer School there at the Mirage. It was quite the experience. I’ve been to 1 or 2 hours-long workshops before, but never one this long. 3 1/2 days of photographic learning! It was a ton of fun, but now I’m ready to get home and make some pictures!

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The workshop covered everything from posing to lighting to skill improvement to business considerations. Such names as Tamara Lackey, Kevin Kubota, and Jerry Ghionis provided a metric TONNE of useful information. I learned SO MUCH about lighting and posing, an quite a bit on the business side. Roberto Valenzuela’s advice to not only practice but to practice the right things hit right home with me. I can use anything as a model–even bananas on a light stand! The things I do while programming will work equally well with photography. Experimentation is the key: just start trying stuff and see what works, That’s how I got so good on computers; the same mindset applies equally well to photography.

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Going forward with Matt Vanecek Portraiture, I resolve to shoot somebody every week. Maybe my wife, maybe a paying client. I will not feel weird using a banana or a Teddy Bear as a model for practice! I will get my Web site updated an create a consistent look across all of my business presence. I may not be leaving my day job anytime soon, but I can certainly arrange my business to flow smoothly. That way I can concentrate on making beautiful images!

My goal is to be more than a part-time photographer. My goal is to be a top name in photographing women. Editorial, portraits, and boudoir. I want to provide a glimpse of the heart and soul; to gently nudge aside the outer layers and see the steel that lies beneath. I love my steaks and football, but nothing fascinates, inspires, and moves me like the female of the species.

I’ll be touching down in a while. When I do, I can spread my notes out around me and get everything organized. I can remember the lessons in using speedlights from Kevin Kubota, and study the flow of posing taught by Doug Gordon in his energetic enthusiasm. I can communicate with my subject like Bambi Cantrell showed, and make my subject comfortable and confident. When I touch down, I can start working on changing the world with my photography.

For now, 33,000 feet above New Mexico, I will meditate and prepare.

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Vegas Baby!

So, today I’m flying to Las Vegas, Nevada to attend Skip’s Summer School at the Mirage hotel. This promises to be a fun and educational time learning about photographic lighting, composition, and hopefully workflow. I’ll get to meet in person some of the photographers whose works have helped me reach the level I’m at. After this week, I expect to be able to take my work up a notch and be more productive.

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The airline I’m flying is American Airlines. I think I still like them, even with the baggage fees. Which, thanks to smart and compact packing, I did not have to pay. I got everything in my carry-ons. 🙂

Let me just sat, electronic check-in is da BOMB! 24 hours ahead of the flight, I was able to check in via the Web. I know, this is probably old-hat for all you frequent travelers. But this is the first time I’ve been inside an airport in over 10 years.

Also, the mobile boarding pass: IT ROCKS! Just pull up that little QR code on your phone and they scan it at all the checkpoints! No irritating pieces if paper to keep track of, nothing to lose! You can save the QR code as an image on your phone, too. So if there’s no reception, you’re all set!

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So far things are going pretty well. The guy next to me is pretty skinny, which makes up for my current girth. The flight took off right on time, so I’ll be in Vegas when expected. The flight is jam-packed full-literally not an empty seat on the plane.

The week is starting off on a pretty high note. I’m sure it will get better from here!

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