This is the first of ten posts highlighting my favorite images and clients from the past ten years. Each post includes lessons learned and a special offer to celebrate Mud Productions' 10th anniversary. Thanks for dropping in!
I was driving home late one night when I noticed a dude installing some crazy bamboo art sculptures at the Crystal City Waterpark. For reasons still unknown to me I decided to walk over and introduce myself. I told him I'm a photographer, and I asked if he had anybody lined up to shoot the installation when he was finished. Fortunately for me he didn't have a photographer in mind, but he also didn't have a budget. Nevertheless I agreed to shoot some photos for free, only asking that he help pass my name around in return.
A few weeks later I got an email from a guy named Charles, "I saw that you shot some photos of the bamboo installation. I work for the Crystal City BID, and we are looking for a photographer..."
The Crystal City BID eventually became one of my top five biggest clients, and probably the most easygoing one at that. I worked with them on over 40 assignments during the next 4 years, but none of it would have happened if I didn't take a chance and offer to shoot some pictures for free. Specifically, this photo wouldn’t exist:
Unlike the rest of the photos in my portfolio I was actually paid to shoot this one. I shot it as an experiment during Crystal Couture last year, and it instantly became one of my favorite images.
About the Shoot:
Crystal Couture was not only a fun event to shoot for the BID, but it was quite possibly my favorite recurring shoot of all my clients. It’s a dream job for many photographers —great lighting, beautiful models, upbeat music… I mean come on! Asking for anything more is just plain greedy. For me, however, the reasons run much deeper:
1.) For starters it's an extremely well done production. The producer, Maggy Francois, deserves a shout out here. She knows how to put on a good show and keep things moving, but the thing I respect the most is the lack of pretense. Everything about the show is welcoming and approachable.
2.) It's a week long event which means I had time to build relationships with the people there. If you spend that much time around me you’ll see how hard I work and how much fun I have. If we can laugh together then I guarantee you’ll like the photos. A good experience during the shoot produces far more loyalty than the photos themselves. Photography is all about building relationships.
3.) Let’s be honest, there were dozens of beautiful girls smiling at me all week, including one extremely hot makeup artist I was flirting with. It’s good for a dude’s ego, but it’s even better for pictures. Call me shallow, but I’d rather shoot an average picture of a beautiful model than a great picture of an average joe. The reason is that a “great photograph” is completely subjective, but all of us are drawn to beauty. The ugly truth about photography is that beautiful people make you look like a better photographer.
4.) I’ll be the first to admit that I never got enough sleep during the week of Couture. The turnaround was brutal. Any given night I would come home with about 1,400 images. All of them needed to be sorted, edited, and uploaded before the next night begins. Not to mention there were about a dozen other photographers competing for attention and Likes and the best angle. It was a challenge, and that’s what spurred me on.
The interesting thing is that my client never deliberately told me to do all this. They simply gave me the opportunity to care about my work.
Lessons Learned from the Client:
I’d like to brag on the Crystal City BID for a minute because most clients would do well to learn from them. Specifically:
1.) They trust my creative judgment completely. They never micro-managed me. I was never given a shot list, or followed by a staff member, or even caught them looking over my shoulder. Their trust enabled me to try things I normally wouldn’t (like the photos featured here), and the payoff was immensely satisfying.
2.) They pay me faster than any other corporate client I've ever worked with. This is HUGE for freelancers. I can’t emphasize this enough; if you’re asking a photographer to deliver photos immediately then have the decency to pay him immediately.
3.) They let me experiment with ideas. One night during Couture I had the idea to upload my photos to their Facebook page in real time. They literally made me an admin for their page and let me have at it. As a result they enjoyed much more activity and engagement online that week.
4.) They actually used the photos I shot for them. Nearly every time I walked through Crystal City or got on the metro I would see my photos on display in their ads. For most of my clients I never see the final product of my work, and I’m often left assuming they are collecting digital dust on hard drive somewhere, which then leads me to assume that they didn’t like my work, or that it wasn’t good enough, or any of the other negative voices inside every artist’s head. Clients, please, take 20 seconds out of your day to send a text to the individuals who worked for you and show off the final product. It will inspire them more than you know.
By the way, clients, if you do all of the above you might even get an unsolicited, glowing review like this from your creative vendors. You never know.
It’s hard to narrow down my favorite images from Couture, so I created a custom gallery just for them.
Today’s Special Offer:
The only reason I got connected with the Crystal City BID is because someone passed my name along. That’s what this first offer is all about. For the rest of this month I will be giving 10% off every shoot booked in February, and I will be giving a 10% referral bonus to everyone who tells someone else about this offer.** In other words, you make money for spreading the word, and your friends save money because they listened to you. I dare you to find a better win-win opportunity this month.
**Shoot/assignment must be booked by 23:59 EST on February 28th. The shoot can take place any time in 2014, but it needs to be booked this month. Discount not applicable to expenses. The referral bonus will be paid (via Square Cash) upon receipt of payment from client. Bonus applies only to referrals that lead to a booking. This offer can be combined with other offers, but it will be applied after them.
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