Monday, February 4, 2008

ASMP's Strictly Business 2 Review

As I mentioned in my previous post Off to Los Angeles for ASMP's Strictly Business 2, I attended the SB2 conference last weekend in Torrance, California. Here I've put together a summary of the weekend's activities for y'all, and to share my thoughts about the conference.

After a rather boring plane ride (2 actually), I arrived at LAX Thursday evening around 6, and made my first stop the Apple Store in Manhattan Beach. I have never been to an Apple Store, so I made sure to visit one while in LA. Very cool. They had every mac model available in multiples to play with, including about 20 iPhones on display. As previously confessed, I am an Apple junkie, and have been wanting an iPhone ever since it was announced at MacWorld 2007. Along with a copy of Office 2008, I got my iPhone and headed for the Conference Hotel and some room service.

Friday morning I was up early and headed for registration. Though the conference doesn't officially begin until the Friday evening reception, some of the presenters are available for one-on-one 30-minute consultations on Friday at the rate of $75 each. I had booked 3 consultations, one each with John Harrington, Judy Herrmann, and Leslie Burns Del'Acqua. Being able to sit down for 30 minutes with each of these people and discuss just my business and the topics I wanted to discuss was worth the trip alone. Here is a quick breakdown of each discussion I had:

Judy Herrmann: Judy is the current president of ASMP, and a very talented and successful photographer to boot. We discussed general topics related to my business, such as general direction of my business, marketing options, goal setting, etc. Judy was my first consultation on Friday and our talk was a good starting point for the weekend.

John Harrington: John wrote "Best Business Practices for Photographers" (if you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it), and is a guru on the subject of Business, especially as it relates to photography. In his book he shares, and encourages the use of his contract as a template to develop your own. Previous to owning his book, I had no contract (a big no-no), and John's book set me on the right path to getting my paperwork in order. I had a few questions regarding my contract, invoice and model releases that John was able to answer, and he also shared information from his experience to help me answer these, and some other questions that came up during our discussion.

Leslie Burns Del'Acqua: Leslie is a former Photographers Rep turned Photographers Consultant. She runs a very successful consulting business and is a great resource for marketing information related to photography. We had an in-depth look at my website from an Art Buyers/Editors POV, including ease of navigation, portfolio galleries, etc. As I do my own web development, I look at my website from my POV, not from the outside, and Leslie's input, though hard to hear (you're always sensitive about your own work), was very good advice. Look for some improvements to in the near future as a result of Leslie's advice.

Friday evening brought the opening reception, and the first opportunity for attendees to meet each other. One of the biggest benefits to attending SB2 is the other photographers you meet there. The opening reception is a great icebreaker, and about 20 of us headed out for dinner after the reception.

Saturday was the official start to this two day conference, and was a long, info-packed day. Breakfast at 7, with the first presentation at 8. About 8 different presenters throughout the day covered topics including image licensing basics, copyright info, necessary paperwork, current digital topics including metadata, a discussion of UPDIG and PLUS, marketing yourself, and more. Different videos were shown throughout the day with interviews of other well-known photographers talking about the each of the subjects we were covering that day. Saturday's last presentation was an inspiring keynote by award-winning photographer Sean Kernan. Following Sean's presentation was an informal Q&A with all of the presenters, which was a great opportunity to ask questions and expand further on topics covered earlier in the day.

Saturday evening there was a reception hosted by Digital Railroad, and another good chance to network and meet other photographers. As I mentioned above, one of the most valuable benefits to attending SB2 is connecting with so many other talented photographers. The contacts I made there will last a lifetime, and will surely help my business in the form of information sharing, giving advice on jobs, contracts, pricing, and marketing, website link exchanges and more. This is something you cannot put a price on... After the reception, a few of us we were off to explore a great little restaurant in Redondo Beach, where I had a great dish called Poulet au Poivre.

Sunday was much more hands-on than Saturday, and began with a presentation and discussion about negotiating. Negotiating is one of those skills that takes much experience to learn, and that experience usually comes initially at the cost of lower creative and usage fees, copyright transfers, bad contracts, etc. Three groups of two presenters acted out typical scenarios for us, with one playing the role of the art buyer/editor, and the other as the photographer. It was great to see them challenge each other, and their responses. One thing I certainly took away from the negotiating was to understand that in a negotiation, at least one involving a client, is that the person you are negotiating against is not an enemy, or your competition, they are your counterpart, a partner in a deal that (generally speaking) both side want to work. Negotiating is a give and take, and each side needs to feel as though they are getting good value from a negotiation. In this type of negotiation, there are no winners and losers (negotiating the price of a vehicle on the other hand, is usually more adversarial in nature, with each side wanting to win).

After the negotiating demonstrations, we split into small groups of about a dozen and were given written examples of actual inquiries from buyers to act out. The person playing the buyers role was given the details, and the photographer had to work from what the buyer told them, and attempt to get as much information from the buyer as possible, including timeline, budget, rights desired, etc. This was a great opportunity to work on negotiating skills without the risk of giving away the farm or losing a client. Negotiating is a difficult skill to master, but I certainly feel more prepared now when a client calls.

After lunch on Sunday, we were given the choice of attending two of four different 90-minute workshops, based on what subject we were most interested in learning about. I chose the following two workshops:

John Harrington - Business Workflow to Bring You Profits In this workshop, we covered the need for clear estimates, writing good emails, delivering and billing for files, registering your copyright (which is a different situation for us canucks), building a stock file, managing finances, and nurturing clients. John is a master at business, and while I have read his book, and actively follow his blogs, I learned much from this workshop and have further refined my paperwork and general business workflow.

Blake Discher - Is Your Website Doing All It Can to Get You Work? While I handle all of my own web development, I am always looking for ways to improve, especially when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I follow this stuff pretty carefully (see my post Website Basics for Photographers for more info), but I was able to glean lots of useful information from Blake's workshop that I plan to implement on my site. Plus, having over 200 photographers to network with means lots of link exchange potential...

So, that's it, a short wrap-up of SB2. My advice: If you are new to the business of photography, are just getting started, or wish to refocus your business, SB2 is for you. If you live in or near one of the conference cities, sign up right now. If you live somewhere that requires you to fly (like me), the cost can be significant, but the cost of not going, in my opinion, is much higher. I can see what I have learned at SB2 already beginning to make positive change in my business, and it's only been a week. Not bad. Now go sign up and better your business...

Check out SB2 on the ASMP website for yourself. Here are the upcoming SB2 dates and locations:

February 22-24: Atlanta
March 7-9: Philadelphia
April 11-13: Chicago

Cheers, Josh
Copyright © 2008 Josh McCulloch.

PS: I returned my iPhone, as it was Firmware 1.1.3, and as yet, not unlockable. Alas, the wait continues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great summary of SB2, Josh! Now I won't have to write anything for the Mpls photogs asking "is SB2 worth it?"
Sad to see the Elephant Bar and Jeffrey's quote, "I can't remember what I just ate" didn't make it in the blog! Ha! Good meeting you and we'll keep in touch--Jennifer

February 5, 2008 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Josh, what a complete and thorough review of the conference. Makes me wish I was there - OH Yea - I was !!!
And I concur. It was such a valuable, inspirational business event, I can't recommend it highly enough for all photographers. Thanks again for the wrap up

February 5, 2008 at 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the write up Josh, very informative. Question: how much take-home material is provided? Are there summary handouts and the like, or should I plan on bringing my fastest writing pen and notepad (or a recorder)?

February 7, 2008 at 5:46 PM  
Blogger Josh McCulloch said...

@ Jennifer & Cindy: Thanks for the note you guys, it was great to meet both of you. Keep in touch!

@ Imgotts: There is tons of notes available online. Most of the speakers have uploaded their notes to the ASMP website, and you can access it once you get the password at the conference. That said, lots of people were taking notes all through the weekend as well. I learn better just by listening and soaking it in, so I passed on writing and listening at the same time!

I also brought my laptop (I'd recommend it) and used it to record the workshops and speakers. This also works well if you want to write notes, as you can type them on your laptop while you're recording. I'd recommend bringing an extra battery for your laptop too, I ran out of juice a couple of times and wished I'd had a backup. There were plugs around but they're never located near the seating...

Also, note that ASMP will ask you not to share your recordings. They are for personal use only.

Hope this helps! Cheers, Josh

February 7, 2008 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow very good write up, thanks


February 8, 2008 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Josh McCulloch said...

Hey Snorri,

Thanks for the note. I guess I should have kept the iPhone now...

Cheers, Josh

February 8, 2008 at 10:57 AM  

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