Let’s have a chat about providing value and a great experience. This isn’t JUST for professional photographers. Regardless of the genre that you shoot, if you share your work online or get paid to take photographs, this conversation can help you. I am finding that there is quite a bit of confusion about what value really means.
So I’d like to share some of my experience with you, and I am hoping that you will share some of your thoughts with ME and the rest of the photography community in my Facebook Group.
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TOGCHAT Interview with Tracie Maglosky:
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How to Add VALUE to Your Photography and WHY it is So Important
Joe Edelman here, and you are listening to The TOGCHAT Photography Podcast.
Can we talk? Seriously, I want to have a chat about providing value and a great experience. This isn’t JUST for professional photographers. Regardless of the genre that you shoot, if you share your work online or get paid to take photographs, this conversation can help you. I am finding that there is quite a bit of confusion about what value really means. So I’d like to share some of my experience with you, and I am hoping that you will share some of your thoughts with ME and the rest of the photography community in my Facebook Group. Stay tuned!
My photography thought for the week: I have been creating beauty and fashion portraits for almost two decades now, and I am thinking of making a switch. I read an article the other day about a very niche group of product photographers that got me thinking. These photographers specialize in photographing mirrors. Honestly I could see myself doing that!
It is important as a photographer, for you to provide a great client experience and to provide value to your clients and subjects. I’ve been talking about this for years because I learned this lesson in my mid 20s and have used it to craft my personal brand throughout my career. Wow, mid 20s — that was back when photographers had strong right thumbs. If you know — you know. But just last week I was speaking to a group of photographers and one very brave young photographer raised his hand and asked — but what does “provide value and a great customer experience” really mean?
And that’s when the light bulb turned on. It was an LED light bulb. Look, I may have been around for a while, but I evolve. I realized that this piece of advice may actually be confusing to some because value is a perception and not everyone shares the same perception of what is valuable.
If you want to understand this concept and put it to use — you need to understand that providing value happens one person at a time because there isn’t one right answer.
Value is helping people. Value is teaching people. Value is encouraging people and empowering people. Value is making the experiences you deliver and your products affordable.
Notice I didn’t say that value was great photographs. That is an expectation.
If you are in business or thinking of going into business, Value does NOT mean free or cheap. So much of what we read about marketing is based on the idea of give something away for free to hook a customer. If you are like me — I download the free thing and then unsubscribe from the onslaught of emails that will hit my inbox daily for the next two months.
Giving something away for free only attracts customers who now place a low value on your work because it was free. When I sign up for those free downloads and finally see what the cost of their services are — I am comparing that cost to FREE — it makes it seem so much more expensive and it hides the real value of their services.
So remember, giving something away for free and then waiting or hoping people will do business with you — is not an example of providing value and it is not the path to success for a photography business.
By the way. . . Providing a great customer experience — we know that is important and I will talk more about that — but I want to point out the word “great”. Like the concept of value — the concept of great has different meanings for different people. One person may find it great that a photographer is friendly and funny and full of personality. Another person may find it great that a photographer wanted to create an epic on-location shot based on their hobby. Sadly another person may find it great that a photographer actually delivers finished images in less than three months. That’s a pretty low bar, but the struggle is real for some.
Words like value and great are relative and contextual — they depend on the circumstances where they are being used.
Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
Become a person of value. I really like that concept because it honestly makes all of this so much easier and it is something that we should all be striving to do anyway.
Look, we all take — we need to. It is instinctive — a survival mechanism if you will. But what do we give back — what value do we give back to this world that we live in?
You see, if we embrace this concept in our personal lives and make it a habit, it is much easier to provide value and be seen as a person of value in our photography lives.
I want to share a quick story from my career to set this up for you. I haven’t always been this aware. At age 24, I had already been working as a newspaper photographer for almost 8 years, having started part-time when I was in high school.
I was married, I had a two-year-old son and my wife allowed me to convince her that it would be a good idea for me to start a portrait and wedding photography business. So I left the newspaper so that I would have more stable working hours and I began my journey into portraits and weddings. I had done just a little of both — and wasn’t really fantastic at either. I was however good with a camera and had a great foundation of photography knowledge — so I was a quick study and even started winning some awards for my images. But my business struggled. I was no slacker — in fact, I was working my butt off networking and looking for new clients. I was finding lots of potential clients and I had no trouble asking for the gig — but I wasn’t getting booked at a rate that I could pay my bills and support my family.
To make a long story short, what took me a few years to learn — the hard way, was that I had the wrong attitude about my photography. I thought it was all about me and the quality of my pictures and my style of photography. I believed this is what people were paying me for — the prints that I handed them when the job was done.
What I was learning is that it wasn’t about me and it wasn’t really about the prints — not if I wanted people to care about what I do.
If I wanted people to care and to find value in my work, I learned that I needed to find a way to make my work valuable to them. That meant that I had to learn: What do they find valuable? So that I could include that in my work. When it came to making money — I had to learn that people cared less about the quality of my work than they cared about the experience of working with me. And that experience is what helped to define the value of my work in their minds.
So in my mid 20s, obsessed with photography, married, with a young son, this failing business and some wonderful guidance from a few older mentors, this became the turning point that helped me turn the corner and create a very successful business which later evolved into a very successful commercial advertising studio.
You see, when we pick up a camera for the first time and then as we become hooked on photography, it is a very selfish pursuit. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Creativity is often a selfish pursuit.
As creatives, I think one of the biggest struggles we encounter is the conflict between making things we feel compelled to make for ourselves and making things that others find value in and that others feel compelled to take action for. Take action meaning hit the like button, leave a comment or make a decision to hire you to do work for them.
So if we choose NOT to create things based on the needs of other people and instead choose to create things based solely on our own needs and desires… Does that make us inherently selfish?
If it does, is the idea of being selfish inherently good or bad? When I say the word “selfish” I immediately feel bad as if I am being mean or judgmental. After all, we have been taught that “selfishness” is an inherently negative trait.
But I choose to believe that there is a difference between being selfish at the expense of others and being selfish so that we can benefit others.
To me, being a “selfish” creative just means placing focus on your own needs, your own priorities, your own unique lens with which you see the world. I honestly feel that is the only way that you will truly realize your potential and then be able to give something of value to others.
But indeed when you are ready to share your work with the world you must prioritize value and a big part of how you create that value is by providing a great experience to your followers, potential followers, potential customers and customers.
People are attracted to those who they perceive to provide a great experience and great value.
So how do we do this? Well, You begin by figuring out what each follower, potential follower, potential customer and customers wants. And when it comes to customers and potential customers, you do it one person at a time.
You see, this is a relationship game. If we follow Einstein’s advice, we should start by actually caring about these people. Caring about them begins with putting in the effort to get to know them and understand them. That means getting to know not only who they are, but where they are, how they think, what they like, where they shop, what is important to them and the list goes on.
Caring about them requires engaging with them.
And that’s where the magic happens… engagement. Even for amateur photographers the best way to get people to care about your photographs is engagement. That’s why social media platforms reward you for engagement. More engagement on your posts shows them that the post has more social VALUE, and your reward is they show it to more people.
I am going to dedicate an upcoming episode to engagement on social media and I will give you lots of tips to help you build your engagement and get your work in front of more people. This concept of value and experience will be featured in quite a few TOGCHAT episodes over the next year. But be sure to stay tuned until the end of this episode for one really solid social media engagement tip.
For right now, I want to talk about the in-person experience.
It will help you to provide value and a great experience if you define it and communicate it. A mission statement or 30-second elevator pitch if you will. You all know my mission statement. I repeat it at the beginning of every video and podcast and presentation that I do so that I am setting clear expectations and then viewers and listeners can decide if I am providing the value that I promised.
My mission statement also helps me to hold myself accountable. When I plan a video or podcast or presentation, I am able to look at the content and evaluate it based on my own mission statement.
This also is helpful with clients. When a potential client contacts you — they have very likely already seen your work, so it is a safe assumption that they know what you do. Of course, they are interested in learning the price, but they are also very interested in getting a sense of what the experience will be like if they work with you.
The experience is the sum of the interactions that your follower or customer has with you throughout the entire journey, from first contact to hopefully becoming a happy and loyal follower or customer.
The experience that people have with you directly impacts their willingness to be loyal and to spend money. It is also worth noting that people will spend more money for a better experience. That statistic applies even more to 20, 30 and 40-year-olds, than it does my generation.
I can promise you that Photographers and creatives who prioritize providing value and who care about the customer experience — they develop larger followings and have more customers and increased profits.
Businesses can’t exist without customers. You can’t grow a social media following without followers. So now is the time to put yourself in their shoes for a moment and ask — What would you want?
What would it take for you to follow that creator? What would it take for you to hire that photographer?
Begin with empathy. In other words, you should care about these people. Talk to them, ask them questions. Learn about them. If you are a working photographer, understand their pain points and how you can help them with that.
In a recent TOGCHAT episode I interviewed Olympus Visionary and ProFoto Legend of Light Tracie Maglosky. I have the link to that episode in the show notes.
Tracie explained that she insists on consultations with her maternity and newborn clients before booking. During the consultation, she doesn’t sell her packages or products, she sells herself as the expert. She proves through her words that she cares about her clients, that she wants to create an experience for them that they will never forget, and she reassures all of their fears with details and knowledge that show off her considerable experience.
In fact Tracie points out that as soon as we sell inches on a piece of paper — like an 8×10 print. We have commoditized something that actually has nothing to do with what people need or what people want. What they want is memories. Those prints that indeed we do want to sell because they represent profit for our business — to our clients those prints are simply a way to remember the experience.
During her consultation Tracie is taking care to make the conversation about her client. Their needs, wants, desires, and fears. She is building trust and authority by showing empathy and interest. She makes the conversation about the potential client and not about her and her photography.
In my career, when shooting portraits, a potential client reaches out and asks to hire me to create a portrait for them and my first question is WHY?
WHY is such a great question when it is asked sincerely and with purpose.
In this case knowing WHY they want a portrait tells me what questions to ask, helps me understand what concerns or fears they may have and helps define the actual task that the client will hold me accountable to. It gives me the opportunity to show that I care about the client and want them to have a portrait that will not only make them look their best, but will also meet their needs,
As an example, a portrait that is meant to hang above a fireplace in a family room will have a very different look and style than a portrait that is being taken for a resume or company website. A portrait that is being taken for promotional purposes of a celebrity or influencer will likely have a different look and style than a portrait that is going to be used as a modeling or acting headshot.
So another one of the ways that you provide value and a great experience is by being an expert. Knowing your stuff is not just about shutter speeds and f/stops. It goes without saying that this is the foundation for all of this. It is about being able to guide your subject and solve problems and eliminate fears.
And you carry this behavior all the way through the process. Even in my studio, on shoot days, I have bottled water and ginger ale, fresh fruit and pretzels because I don’t want my model to become dehydrated or worse yet if they suffer from low blood sugar — I don’t want them getting sick or passing out. I have basic hair products and makeup products for those rare times that I don’t have a makeup artist with me, just in case my subject forgot something at home. I also have makeup wipes and since I photograph mostly women — I even have tampons in case my subject is caught by surprise. I supply a robe because even though I recommend bringing one, most models don’t. I set the temperature level in the studio for the models’ comfort and my list goes on.
In my interview with Tracie Maglosky, she mentioned that she has baby wipes and diapers available for those inevitable accidents.
You see creating a perception of value and great experience is not about the money it is honestly about the convenience that you provide. Do you care enough about your followers or customers to go out of your way to help — to simply be a good human being. In other words to treat them the way you would like to be treated.
Decades of marketing research has shown that this one behavior is one of the most important elements of success in any business large or small.
So I hope I have your attention and I hope that I have you thinking about the importance of this subject.
I know a lot of you are anxious for the social media part of this discussion. I will post it in a few weeks. I have some awesome interviews coming up that I am very excited to share with you.
But to hold you over — let me share this little tip with you. Take a look at my Instagram profile- the link is in the show notes. I actually post very sporadically. Not even weekly and sometimes not even monthly. Yet I have over 19,700 followers and the metric that Instagram pays the most attention to — engagement… the average engagement percentage for a profile the same size as mine on Instagram is just 2.43 percent. My engagement rate is 4.9 percent — more than double the average on Instagram.
How do I accomplish this growth? Value and Engagement. The majority of my posts are carousel posts that also show behind the scenes or video clips and lighting diagrams and lengthy captions explaining how it was done. 99% of the comments left on my posts have been answered directly by me.
I know what you are thinking, you aren’t trying to be an educator like me so how can this work for you?
Start simple. Don’t just post a photo — tell a story — give details on how you shot it — what was the experience like if it was somewhere you had never been before. Talk about the people that you photographed and the fun you had photographing them. Share stories. People love stories. Be sure to reply to comments that people post. Don’t ignore them and don’t just click the heart — actually type a reply. That person took the time to leave you a comment, you should take the time to leave them a response,
Remember that you don’t need 19,000 or a million followers even if you are trying to make money. You can become a millionaire with 100 followers if those 100 followers are people who see the value in your work and the experience that you are offering to provide to them.
Think about it!
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Okay folks, that will do it for this episode of the TOGCHAT Photography podcast. Stay safe, have a great week and until next time, go pick up that camera and shoot something because “Your BEST shot, it’s your NEXT Shot.” So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting! Adios!
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