8 Interesting Ways to Have Fun with Photography

(c) 2010, Harry Taylor

The trade shows are over, you’ve got your marketing ready for spring, and suddenly you notice you have a little more time on your hands than normal.

Welcome to March.

Sure, you could use this opportunity to get your taxes done early (yuck) or clean out the back closet at the studio (double-yuck). But why not take the next few weeks and play with photography a bit. After all, wasn’t the “fun” of photography at least part of the reason you bought your first camera?

Below are 8 interesting ways to produce an image you would never do in your normal business. Click the links, and see if any of them look like a fun way to waste a couple of afternoons before spring arrives. Don’t worry about showing anyone your results. And who knows – you might even pick up a new and unique product to wow your clients!

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Think Backwards

Image (c) wellcultured.comOur brains don’t like to think of new ideas.

If you find yourself at a loss trying to think of how to move forward, instead imagine you’ve already achieved your goal. Then figure out how you got there. Who helped you? What knowledge helped you get there? What happened to help you on your way?

Once you know how you got there, figure out how to make those things happen for you.

For example: suppose you are trying to think of ways to increase average customer sales. Instead of coming up with a “list”, you imagine a potential client so impressed with you that they gladly purchase a bigger package.

So what impressed them? First impressions are important. So you imaging a client having a terrific first impression from the moment they walk into your studio. However, the entrance to your studio needs professional landscaping. You might be able to trade product photography for work on your front entrance. So you pull out your camera over lunch and shoot some nice patio work to show to a landscaper you know.

The next time you can’t think of a new idea, try thinking backwards. It might just work for you.

Building a culture of employee appreciation

Nadine Heintz over at Inc. Magazine has an interesting article about motivating employees:

“It seems like a simple concept: Make employees feel appreciated, and they will work harder and be more loyal. But there is often a disconnect between the type of appreciation employees want and what their managers think they want, according to a recent study by the International Association of Administrative Professionals…

Managers responding to the survey ranked promotions and cash bonuses as the two most effective ways of recognizing employee accomplishments, but workers said they preferred an in-person thank you or having a job well done reported to senior management.”

When times are tough, it is easy to rationalize that you cannot afford to pay your people more. The irony is, giving someone a raise is expensive and easy, while building a culture of employee appreciation is free, yet sometimes much harder for us to do.

Cheap ways to motivate your team

Karen Ohngren at Entrepreneur Magazine has a great article entitled, “Cheap ways to motivate your team.” She interviews several small business owners and professionals who have studied the most effective ways to motivate employees. The article argues that recognition of a job well done is usually a more powerful motivator than a bigger paycheck.

How can this work for you?

If you’ve got a graphics artist or retoucher who is worth more than you can afford to pay them, consider giving them signature credit on a photo album or on sample artwork shown at your studio or on your website. If you have a receptionist or bookkeeper who needs recognition, let them manage an important client. It will show that you (the boss) trust them and value the contribution they make to your business.

Catch your employees doing something right

Full SpeedIf you have employees, you are not only a photographer and a small business person but a manager of people. Unfortunately, all the photographic classes you took didn’t prepare you to motivate them. Motivated employees mean more productive employees, and that means lower labor costs. So here’s a suggestion I’ve found that is guaranteed to work every time.

I call it “catch your employees doing something right.” The concept is simple: instead of waiting until an employee makes a mistake and correcting them, give them specific praise when they do something right. It is important that the praise be specific so that the employee will know exactly what they did that pleased you, and that they should do again in the future.

Let me give you an example.

I have two equally-skilled employees that I train on Monday to lay out an album. My conversation for the week with the first employee goes like this:

Monday – Training
Tuesday – “Great job laying out the pictures. All the edges are even just like I asked.”
Wednesday – “I’m impressed by your selection of consistent borders. It is exactly the way I would have done it.”
Thursday – “This album isn’t up to our standards. The edges are not even and the borders are not consistent. I’ll stay late and finish it myself.”
Friday – “The edges and borders are perfect. Keep up this level of work, and pretty soon I won’t need to review your work anymore.”

My conversation for the week with the second employee goes like this:

Monday – Training
Tuesday – Nothing
Wednesday – Nothing
Thursday – “Your edges and borders are all wrong. Do it again like I showed you Monday.”
Friday – Nothing

I can absolutely guarantee you that by the following Monday, the first employee will be more motivated and more productive. They may even offer to stay late and fix Thursday’s album on their own time. Wouldn’t you?

The interesting thing about this technique is that you can almost make it a game. Walk into your studio tomorrow and announce to everyone that you are implementing a new policy of “catching each other doing something right,” and that not only will you be doing it, but that everyone else should do it too. You’ll see some smiles, occasionally some goofy grins, but by the end of the day you’ll have more motivated employees.

Inspiring Video: Photography connects us with the world

In this inspiring TED video, David Griffin, the photo director for National Geographic, reminds us again how photography connects us to our world. David talks about how we can use photos to tell stories. His message is especially important to any photographer who offers albums or photo books to their clients.

With all the bad news this past week, spending 15 minutes recharging your batteries with great photography may be the best investment you can make.