Why I Cherish Your Honest Feedback

A perfect corner, tight and low profile. Important to me, but unlikely that most will ever notice.

A perfect corner, tight and low profile. Important to me, but unlikely that most will ever notice.

As an artist, I put myself into each piece that I create throughout the entire creation process; from planning the photography trip all the way to signing my name on the canvas. This ties me closely to my work as I tend to focus on the details and it can be difficult, if not impossible, to take a step back and see things from your perspective.

I am a very self-critical person, but I still believe that you can see things about my photography, craftsmanship, marketing, and customer service that I cannot. That is why I absolutely cherish any and all feedback from you, whether positive or negative. I receive an overwhelming amount of positive feedback on my work at shows, but it’s the honesty of that one critical comment on a particular photograph that I will never forget.

Shorts hiked up while trying to get the best angle on a submerged log.

Shorts hiked up while trying to get the best angle on a submerged log at Glacier National Park.

I recall speaking with a collector at an art show last year. He and his wife had purchased a few photographs from me the year prior and I was showing him one of my large canvas photographs. He liked the piece overall, except for one specific area that he felt made it appear unnatural due to the way I had processed it. Now that he had brought it to my attention, I agreed with him that it could be improved and decided to change it on future prints. It has also changed the way I have treated that situation in similar photographs since. I am absolutely grateful that he was honest and straightforward enough to bring it to my attention.

Prints that didn't make the cut.

Some prints that didn’t make the cut. “Okay” isn’t good enough for me.

My purpose in writing this is not to invite you to become my harshest critic, although you are welcome to. I also greatly appreciate honest positive feedback as well. The more specific, the better. This tells me to keep doing that thing that way, because it’s what you like.

I am nothing without satisfied collectors. I am always looking for ways to improve my compositions, construction, and marketing. And most of all, I want my collectors to be completely happy with their purchases and feel that they are getting a great value for their money. But because it’s difficult for me to see certain things from an outside-looking-in perspective, I truly value honest feedback, both positive and negative, that brings things to light that I may not be able to recognize.

 

“I don’t want to hurt your feelings!” you may think; but I want to serve you better. I want to exceed your desires. I want to always be improving.  I want my artwork to blow your mind and impress people who visit your home or your office. I want you to be completely satisified. If you come to me with a concern or input, you will not be bothering me or hurting my feelings.

Thank you all so much for being my greatest supporters!

How important is having a good camera?

Gulls on Catwalk

Gulls on Catwalk

Many I talk to at shows think that I can create great photographs because I have a “really nice camera”. It’s true that I have professional equipment, but how important is that to making compelling photographs?  Answer: It’s not. What is important is training my brain to see great photographs. This comes from knowledge and experience. This photograph of gulls was taken with an inexpensive “bridge” camera, a Minolta Dimage z2, now available for a whopping $60 used on Amazon.

Abbie in Sunlight
Abbie in Sunlight

Here is another from that trip to Disneyworld (our honeymoon) with the same camera. Light, composition, story, mood, emotion, expression, moment – these are the things that make a great photograph. Not technical details. These photographs could have been taken with any point-and-shoot.

Chipmunks on a Trunk
Chipmunks on a Trunk

This photograph is one of my very first. I believe it was taken in 1997 with an inexpensive Minolta SLR that I got as a high school graduation gift from Wal-Mart. Light, story, moment, emotion, expression – these are the things that matter the most when creating a compelling photograph. And no, it’s not simple or easy. It’s very complicated and it requires vision and a lot of thinking and decision-making.  Sometimes split-second decision-making.  Sometimes patience.

So why do I have expensive equipment? A few reasons. Here is a list from least important to most.

1. Status Quo – I’m a professional and I desire to be taken seriously. That’s difficult to do when shooting with a pocket camera.

2. Dependability/Durability – I sometimes shoot in wet ,cold, and dirty environments and I need gear that will work and survive.

3. Image Quality – If I’m going to put so much time, effort, and money into creating my photographs, I want the image quality to be as good as I can afford. That comes from having high quality lenses.

4. Ease of Use – Counter to intuition, the more professional the camera, the easier it is to operate. Consumer-grade cameras usually have a lot of buttons and cater to those shooting in auto exposure mode. A professional camera is generally much easier and faster to use when shooting in Manual exposure mode because it’s designed for that purpose. The less I have to think about the operation of the camera functions, the more I can think about composition and creativity.

5. Print Size –  Any camera can print a great 5×7, but when I’m making prints that are 70″ long, I need as much detail as I can muster. That’s the biggest advantage of having a nice sensor.

So, let me assure you, upgrading equipment to the latest and greatest does not allow you to create great photographs. You’ll just be creating larger versions of what you are already doing.  You’re better off buying a used $17 book on composition from Amazon. Or better yet, let me do the hard work and you can just sit back and enjoy!

Starting My Home Gallery

I have a vision of how a gallery should be.  I visited Peter Lik’s gallery in the Galleria a few weeks ago and am blown away by how it contrasts with some other galleries that I have been to.  What I like is that it has class.  Wood floors, dark walls, low ambient light, a single row of art at eye level (not stacked floor to ceiling), and most of all, good lighting on the artwork.  To me, these are indications of a classy, high-quality gallery, which truly does any kind of artwork justice.

I also enjoyed visiting Alain Briot’s home gallery near Phoenix.  He has a softer, more natural lighting approach, and he compliments his artwork with beautiful wood chairs and tables on which he displays some of his matted photographs, portfolios, and books.

So, to have at least one location where I can control exactly how my work is presented, I have decided to begin working on transforming my studio space into a dual purpose studio & gallery, adopting some ideas from each of these gentleman’s galleries, and also using a few of my own.  It will have dark ambient lighting with pleasant spotlighting on each photograph.  The floor will be a beautiful wood laminate.  There will be comfortable seating so you can just sit and enjoy each photograph.  I plan to incorporate some sort of ambient stereo system for soft classical music.  It’s going to be great.  Except….

What a mess!

What a mess!

…I have a long ways to go!

Smile!

 

As a self-employed artist, much of my job is playing the part of a salesperson, but if you know me personally, you’ll know that I don’t tend to be outgoing and am more of a serious thinker than a socializer.  This type of attitude usually doesn’t do well in a sales environment when you want to have a big positive impression on as many people as possible.  To do that requires a happy, outgoing, and social presence.

I recently finished a book written by sales legend Frank Bettger in 1947, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling“.  He found that while we typically let our emotions determine our outward appearance and actions, it is also possible to turn the tables and affect a change to our emotional state by forcing our actions and appearance.  He practiced smiling, authentically, for twenty minutes each morning and he said it changed is whole attitude for the day, and furthermore, it changed the attitude of those around him.

That sounded like a win-win to me so I tried it this past weekend.  While I was driving to my art show Saturday, I smiled all the way there.  By the time I got there, I was positive, enthusiastic, and ready to meet people!  During the show, I continued this smile to some extent, if I could get away with it without looking strange.  I found that if you are smiling and catch a glance from someone, even the most serious looking folks will change their countenance to reflect yours.  I tried it again Sunday, and it was the same result.  If that wasn’t enough of a payoff, I sold more photographs at that show than I ever have.  I don’t know if I will fully credit the smiling exercise for that, but it I’m certain, without a doubt, that it had a significant impact.

Try it.  Now.  For the next 10 minutes, create a genuine smile.  See how it changes your attitude.  I’d love to hear your results.

Steak & Cheese on Wheat, Hold the Courtesy

Lately my wife and I have been glued to the Food Network.  My favorite show at the moment is “Restaurant Impossible” with chef Robert Irvine.  Chef Irvine comes into small failing restaurants and attempts to solve their issues.  The primary factor leading to failure is usually bad food.  The second is generally poor service.

Today I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t come up with something to write about by the end of the day, but after a quick trip to my local Subway, I have all the material I need.  I approach the counter and the man looks at me as if expecting me to have something to say.  I figure he must want my order so I was about to speak, and he double-takes back to the oven to check on something.  Once he resolved whatever issue it was, he comes back to me and literally points at me with his plasticky glove and continues to look at me as if I “know the drill”.  He spoke not one word to me.  I tried my darndest to wait for him to greet me but I couldn’t take the pregnant silence any longer so I gave him my order.  The service did not improve as I was handed off to the next person down the line.

I’ve visited several local Subway’s literally more than one hundred times over the past year and this is a common problem.  While I can speculate on the source of the problem (and I often do), my point is that these businesses are really hurting themselves when they don’t take the time to hire employees with people skills and take the time to show their customer’s that they truly respect and value them.  It would be no great feat to start a competing sub shop with friendly staff that would blow the pants off of Subway, or any of these other chains with employees that treat customers like they’re just another hurdle between them and closing time.

Like Chef Irvine, it blows me away when I see businesses with such potential make the major mistake of not staying on top of how customers are treated.  It’s so simple and inexpensive to train people how to treat customers, or to find people who are naturally personable.  But at the same time, as the overall attitude toward you as a customer declines, the potential for unbridled success grows for those of us who truly value your patronage.  It’s simple supply-and-demand economics.  Respect and gratitude are in short supply, while demand is higher than ever.

Have you had a recent customer service experience that you felt strongly about, either positively or negatively?  I’d love to hear about it!  Shoot me an email or leave a comment below.

Traditional vs. Alternative

Most of you know that my work is curated traditionally, that is, printed on fine art paper and matted with the intention of it being put in a frame.  However, many photographers are printing on all sorts of materials that are not necessarily intended for traditional framing.  These include canvas wraps, aluminum, even glass.  My question for you today is:

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Thank You

“This is it.  Don’t get scared now.” – Kevin McCallister

I’ve taken the step into the dark and murky waters of self-employment – into uncharted territory.  I know where I want to go, but how do I get there?  I will find a way.  I have to make this happen, because it’s just too good to pass up.

I believe most of us need to be recognized for our accomplishments.  And I also believe that confidence breeds self-worth.  Every job I’ve ever had has left me lacking those things for one reason or another.  But creating, exhibiting, and selling my artwork is different.  I truly believe in my work as an artist.  What it says about me, I could not say with mere words.  I communicate with light, line, form, and contrast.  And my collectors, those of you who appreciate my subtle message, my unique vision, have affirmed this by taking my artwork into your homes and offices, or by giving it as a gift.  I could not and would not do this without knowing that you are on board with me.  Thank you for giving me the courage to embark on this gratifying journey.

Quality over Cheap

I’ve made a lot of choices over the past few months.  Choices about which vendors to purchase from, what model of frame to use, what print sizes to offer, what brand of paper to print on, etc.  My choices were mostly based upon two options… buy cheap and save money (at least, in the short term), or buy quality and have a product that I can take pride in, and be confident in signing my name on.

I put thought, time, and effort into each photograph as I capture them, I put more thought, time, and effort into processing them to match my vision.  Why would I not choose the best possible printer and inks to print them with, the best fine art paper to print them on, and the best quality mat board, mount board, and frames to display them in?  Why go through all that effort just to compromise the final product to save a few dollars, or even a few thousand dollars?  If my business is to succeed, this won’t amount to anything in the long run.

It’s why I purchased an Epson 4900 pigment inkjet printer instead of “making do” with my Canon 9000 with it’s dye based ink.  It’s why I chose Museo Portfoleo Rag paper instead of a cheaper grade Epson or Kodak paper.  It’s why I chose Bainbridge 4-ply mat over the Hobby Lobby no-name brand that might discolor after a few years.

The downside is that I have to make a much greater initial investment in my business.  This is fine with me.  Fortunately, I can afford it and have not had to borrow the money at interest.  Sure, the amount my business owes myself is pretty intimidating, but I plan to succeed.  If I succeed, this initial investment won’t take long to pay back.  If I fail, I’m stuck with some really awsome art pieces that I would be happy to have for my home and office.

Diving In

You can have all the greatest ideas and the best plans in the world, but until you act on them, they’ll never amount to anything.  As I was reading Alain Briot’s “Marketing Fine Art Photography” this past December, I decided to take action.  I have been studying photography for two years and have decided that I would like to expand my audience.  More than that, I would like to make an income from what has been a very expensive hobby.  “It’s time”, I decided.

So on January 14th of 2012, I registered Herschbach Photography LLC and have spent the past few months putting my ducks in a row.  Ordering supplies, building a website, gettings business insurance and sales tax registration, etc.  It’s a lot of work considering I also work a full time job.   I still have several things on my “to-do” list, including creating this blog which I am now writing, but each week I do something to progress my business.

To be honest, I don’t know which direction I will be taking this blog.  I like to consider this being “flexible” instead of “indecisive”.  I hope to post updates concerning my business as well as content concerning photography.  I hope that you will follow along as I take the plunge.