3.17.2020

Notes from the fields of photography: March 17th.

 Opening up old boxes of prints can be like Christmas all over again.

Well, here we are again. First of all, happy St. Patrick's Day! 

I'm a little bit amazed to find that I'm still busy. Not with ongoing assignments but with the residue of and billing of assignments completed last week and the week before. I have lists of selected frames of portraits that clients would like for me to retouch and beautify and it's nice to have a bucket of tasks in front of me as I hear about more and more businesses temporarily shuttering. I was surprised when one of my clients in the healthcare field called to see if I was still taking appointments for portraits this month; they had an executive who needs a headshot. 

And, in fact, we are still open for business in our own way. We've never had street traffic or walk-in engagements. Everything we do is for an advertising or corporate customer and access to and from us is controlled by that filter. 

Even so, when I do portraits in the studio now I follow all the best practices for keeping my space safe. I will even ask the person booking the appointment if they would be less anxious if I wore a face mask. I didn't go out and buy or horde face masks but we did have a big package left over after we did an assignment for an eye surgery ad campaign....

I have hand sanitizer at every critical touch point in the studio as well. And, no, we didn't go out and buy new hand sanitizer we've had bottles around the house and studio, routinely, for years. I guess it makes sense since many of our clients are in healthcare and are more attuned to active prevention. 

At any rate, I'm thinking we'll all get through this phase of the crisis in the next few weeks and we'll be ramping back up to a more normal business environment. But we won't benefit in the recovery unless we take steps to do a bit of longer range marketing. 

During my long walk (solo-- at least 10 feet away from any passerby) yesterday I thought long and hard about what I should be doing for marketing. It doesn't make any sense to do advertising aimed at pushing up demand in the present. Few people are in a position where they can't or won't wait until stuff settles down a bit. Until the fear is more manageable.

The marketing I want to do is more long term and aimed at keeping myself at or near the top of people's mental lists of visual content creators. Now is the time to tell the small stories about what makes you fun and profitable to do business with. Now is the time to share personal photo projects with clients. Now is the time to catch up and send letters talking about new technologies you offer and new ways of approaching future projects that you've discovered. It's a longer term approach and more aimed at bolstering your brand and name recognition than it is driving short term sales. 

I'm also toying with the idea of creating a weekly video and a video channel to support them. The videos would be about various parts of my business and how we do the work. I don't need to be the star and would like to find an appropriate spokesperson to use as my presenter. Being behind the camera gives me a chance to also show off my video production skills. 

Even if we just remember to send out fun postcards over the next few weeks it will be helpful in the long run. The worst thing you can do right now for your business is to hunker down and go silent. You need to let your valued clients know that you'll be there when they need you. And that you'll be in the forefront of finding a way to work through the down spots. 

Speaking of the down parts: I was sad to get two e-mails yesterday evening. Both were from restaurants that I've enjoyed going to for the last 20 or so years. They were both announcing that they would be closing. One for the "foreseeable" future and the other for "two weeks, or more." Both restaurants together account for a large share of my family's "out to eat" budget every year, both are loved by everyone in my family, and we can't wait for the crisis to run its course so we can help them recover. 

To younger readers: The stock market and investing markets seem very scary right now and the values of investment accounts and retirement accounts have had dramatic swings (mostly down) over the last few weeks but....but....if you have the discipline to keep investing on a regular schedule you'll benefit in the long term from dollar cost averaging. It's the process of purchasing cheaper and cheaper shares as the values (temporarily) fall. When the markets recover (hopefully, and historically) the shares you bought at the bottom will help offset your short term losses and will help to restore the value to your financial portfolio. Not yet investing? If you are in business you should already be putting some aside for the inevitable retirement.

Do a Google search about dollar cost averaging to learn more details!

To scruffy, older, wealthier photographers: I have discovered a new index. It's called the "Used Camera Sale Price 1000" and it's not listed on the major exchanges. I've been watching the prices on used (but in 9+ shape) Leica SLs since the financial markets started tumbling. The average price on the average minty, used SL body has progressively and quickly dropped from $2795 to $2595 and most recently has fallen into the $2300 range. I've always wanted one and I'm not afraid to try and "time" this market. Waiting for the price to drop under $2,000 for a mint condition one. Alternately, I guess I could call one of the big, used Leica SL "depositories" and place a bid that's good for 30 days.....

How low will they go? If I miss the bottom of the market I won't shed any tears. I have enough toys to play with for the moment....

 Well. I'm getting back to the tasks at hand. A bit of retouching and bit of billing. Hope you are having a safe, happy and productive day. KT