Starfishes and Wishes

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend and photograph Starfishes and Wishes, a gala for the Make A Wish Foundation at the Ritz in Naples FL. Not only did it offer all that comes with a visit to Florida in the winter, but the event itself was inspiring, fun, and full of energy and passion.

Most have heard of Make A Wish, a non profit with a focus on granting wishes to critically ill children, impacting them and their families in the most difficult time of their lives. Often, the wish is the best moment of their shortened lives, but then so many other times, they go on to heal and live long and healthy lives, arguably partly because the wish gives them the hope and the inspiration they need to keep fighting.

This Gala is one of the biggest events of the year, and all of the funds raised contribute to furthering the mission. There was a huge silent auction, which included a few art pieces from some of the “wish kids”, and a limited live auction including a Python Hunt from Amy Siewe, and a stay in Hawaii. The most amazing part of the live auction though, was the bidding to donate at varying amounts to the cause. One wish, defined as $6000, will meet the needs of one family, and those in attendance were enthusiastic to support the mission. In a matter of 20 minutes, the event raised over $500,000. I was grateful to be a part of it.

Additionally, three “wish kids” took a turn to share their stories about their experience and the impact it made on their lives and the lives of their families. All of them worked through their illness, going on to live healthy and full lives. Besides being grateful to Make A Wish, they seem to be grateful in general, having faced such impossible circumstances at a young age and realizing how blessed they are to be here.

The chair for the event, Lianne Caruso, did a fabulous job of pulling together this annual event, and welcomes anyone that would like to take part in years to come, whether by attending, or donating. There will always be hardship in this life, and this organization is passionate about bringing joy and inspiration in the face of it.

Thanking My Clients – Bearon Aquatics

In early 2020, business professionals were beginning to do meetings on Zoom in an effort to keep producing, not sure of the impact that it would even have but not having much choice. This is how I first met Jeni Anderman of Bearon Aquatics, formerly Power House, during her visit to my BNI Zoom meeting. She mentioned that their company had need for some photography and suggested we talk. I learned that Bearon Aquatics manufactures and sells fountains of all types, both large and small, for both private and professional use in pools, ponds and lakes. Not only that, but they produce the Ice Eater, for use around docks and in marinas so that ice cannot collect around boats left in the water over winter. It keeps the water moving and aerates it, limiting some of the other hazards of still water as well. Since then, they have added the Weeds Away, a sister version of the Ice Eater, which limits weeds growing around the dock with a potential for clogging boat propellers.

I went to visit and learned that they were rebranding everything, moving into a whole new level in the marketplace, and they wanted to partner with someone that they could count on to get photos that would impress their prospects and ultimately grow their bottom line. As always, I was excited for the opportunity, but early on I met Mike, who was skeptical to say the least. He kept saying things like, “We’ve had 4 different photographers over the years, and none of them could get what we were really looking for.” It was a bit intimidating, especially since we are talking about water, and haze. I don’t tend towards arrogance at all, but I knew that over 30 years of shooting and understanding the camera, and light, along with my proficiency with Photoshop and Lightroom would give them a high probability of getting what they wanted, and I had the confidence to say so.

Our first shoot was parts for the new catalog, and I worked closely with Mike. Because my style is collaboration, I ask a lot of questions, listen to my clients’ responses and preferences, and we talk through what it will take to make them happy. By the end of the day, Mike decided that he liked working with me, but I hadn’t met a fountain yet. The next shoots were fountains, and Ice Eaters. I had suggestions, some of which were home runs and some of which we will use next time because I was able to prove through the resulting photos that they would work better. In our collaborations, I was able to get some unique images, and even the standard ones had less haze and more shape than they were used to seeing.

I am excited to have them as my client, and I love the relationships we are building. I look forward to each shoot, and as a team player, it is very satisfying for me to support and contribute to their vision. Thank you, Jeni, Mike and everyone at Bearon Aquatics for your confidence in me.

Thanking my Clients – Baltimore Steel Erectors

I met Charlie, the owner of Baltimore Steel, many years ago and since then we’ve run into one another periodically, gradually becoming friends. He would say often that one day he wanted me to do photography from some of his projects, and I continued to look forward to doing that. In January of 2021, the call came. Charlie was building a new website, and told me he wanted to spend some time running me around Baltimore so that I could photograph various jobs that his company had done over the years.

Previously in my business, I had done some construction and building photography, as well as product photography, but never anything on this scale. However, as any business owner knows, each job is preparation for the next one, and when you take a leap of faith, it will often propel you to places you could never before have imagined. This was that kind of job, and I have always been one to seize the day. Charlie knew he was giving me an occasion to shine, and I am grateful he had faith in me to do that.

We went out twice and did hundreds of photos of various places in Baltimore, all places that he and his company had helped to create, places like Oriole Park, The Four Seasons, the award winning Tyler building at Morgan State and many more. In the process I learned that he spent years being the guy to go up on the girders “building Baltimore into what we see today”. I developed a strong respect for Charlie and the company in realizing that he had a hand in raising some of the most renowned Baltimore buildings. I loved every minute of it, both the learning about him and his business, and the experience of shooting on a whole other level. With a newly acquired passion for the art in architecture, Laura’s Eyes will continue to seek more of these types of opportunities. The body of work that came from those shoots brings joy every time I look at it, and has resulted in respect from others who have been excited to follow Charlie in working with Laura’s Eyes at this level. Thank you Charlie; I look forward to working with you again as you have need.

Small Business Owners…Time to Think OUTSIDE the BOX!

As small business owners, we spend time most of our time in our business. We work at getting clients wherever we can, but most of our time is spent doing the work that we have already contracted to do, so often the marketing, the brand building and the way we present in the marketplace gets sidelined. Enter COVID-19. All of a sudden, we are brought to a screeching halt, with work getting postponed or cancelled, and no idea how to move forward because the timeline for this is so murky. Let us not forget that the only thing we can ever really control in our lives is our response to what happens to us. Reacting to this in fear or despair is one response, but it is obviously not the best one. We want to proactively choose our response, making the best of a difficult situation, and be productive and positive. After all, we can’t change it, right?

We can still interact with one another and do business together in small groups. We can still meet one on one. I still have head shots and business marketing photos that have not been cancelled because we can still pursue these types of things. I can still schedule shoots where there are few people involved, in a home or at a business…these are the kinds of things that owners put on the back burner. What are those things that you can still do to help clients in our present situation? How can you reach out to get more current work, or set yourself up for future work? What problems can your business solve for others? Time to be creative.

One possible silver lining to this debacle is that it enables us to spend some time to work ON our business, to think about where we are headed, touch those aspects of our businesses that are always waiting in the wings, and regroup. It gives us time to slow down a bit and decide what is really important. The first and most obvious consideration is that this is tax time, and most of us scramble trying to get everything together for the accountant.

The other obvious answer is to spend some time focusing on things that routinely get dropped. Marketing. Having the conversations that build future work. Reminding folks that we are still here, and connecting with new people so that, when this has passed, and it will, we come out of the gate stronger than we have ever been before.

Finally, let us not forget that this gives us a perfect opportunity to spend some time with family, to get some much needed rest, to take a walk or read a book. All of these will ultimately make us stronger and better people, ready to go back to the world refreshed, and ready to do business. Do your best to keep a positive perspective through this, and focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t. Either way, life is a challenge right now, but the results will always be better with a positive perspective.

Paige Tyler: Let’s Wander Travel

I am writing to introduce you to Paige Tyler of Let’s Wander Travel. Recently, I did a variety of photos to help her with her marketing materials, and some of them can be previewed here. Paige likes to have fun, so we did the photos at Old Fox Books, but the best part is that Paige’s inspiration has always been to provide the same fun for her clients. This led from the honest joy of making others’ dreams a reality to something even more exciting for both her and her clients… SURPRISE trips, catering to people who think outside the box! In coming to her, clients answer a few questions about budget, what they like to do, climate, etc, and she will put together a trip, complete with hotel and outings, that will be remembered forever. She provides the client with a departure time and a sealed folder containing the itinerary, tickets and confirmations. Opening the folder is only the beginning…of an exciting journey that will unfold as they walk into it. If you would like to explore the possibility of taking a surprise trip, contact Paige at 571-458-0777 or [email protected].

Creating Online Presence that will Bring Reward

Technology has made everything more accessible and has leveled the playing field between larger and smaller business, enabling those with smaller companies to provide much more to clients and to the world. This is so exciting in many ways, starting with the ability to be more creative, both in marketing style and approach. Additionally, technology provides the vehicle to push the message out so that it reaches more people, and ultimately can bring new business across a variety of platforms.

However, there is also a downside.

Because marketing presents a can-do world, and google can teach anything, both to new or possible entrepreneurs, and even individuals who have no intention of starting a business, many have come to underestimate the value of hiring a true professional to solve their problem. What they don’t realize is that, while someone with little to no experience can do the action that they need, that person doesn’t have the background, or training, or unique creativity that comes only with years of practice. People who want to stand out and be excellent in their world must project excellence by aligning themselves with others who have a passion for their own work and the skill to deliver. Presentation matters, and the people that currently have strong success in the professional world recognize experienced, well thought out presentation.

This is common in many fields, but creatives see it the most. People cut costs in the areas of online marketing and photography first, believing that they can do it themselves and that no one will notice the difference. The bottom line is this. Inferior marketing will bring business, and of course those starting out need to spend their pennies wisely. However, professionals that want to thrive need to play to the audience that they want to attract by creating an online presence that will impress. If you want to play WITH the big boys, then you have to play LIKE one of the big boys…by hiring passionate, experienced professionals that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Happy New Year!…Building Success from Day One.

Well, it’s a new year…a clean slate…full of new possibilities, and that applies to every part of life. In our personal lives we make decisions to be more patient, more caring, or more attentive. In the world of business, we take a hard look at our situation. If we are serious about success, we make goals for the new year, and develop a plan as to how we can make this new year even more productive and successful than the last. Some may decide that there is a need for more advertising, marketing, or networking to give the business more exposure. Others know that 2017 must include a wider range and more consistent use of social media, starting with LinkedIn and Facebook, and moving to Pinterest and Instagram, depending on the business.

Be sure to make a detailed goal sheet for the year, listing specifics and creating targets in a variety of areas. Make sure that the list has actionable goals instead of vague ideas that really can’t be measured. For instance, it is better to say something like, “read 1 business book every other month,” than just saying, “read more business books.” Then put the goal sheet somewhere that it can be accessed easily and often. Keeping goals at your fingertips is the most important factor in achieving them. Don’t be afraid to add goals that will shoot for the moon. If it is on the list, it will be in the mind, and if it isn’t achieved in 2017, it can always be added again for 2018.

One of the most basic building blocks that must be part of your goals if you are to have success with advertising, marketing, networking and social media is to have a current business portrait that will make you look your best. A great business portrait will start with posing and lighting to capture the best angles, and will also include enhancements that will minimize imperfections, giving you a portrait that will reflect professionalism and confidence. Too many have a casual photo, a really bad photo, or no photo at all on LinkedIn…even on the website. The problem with this is that business owners must make a personal connection over the internet, a very impersonal medium. People want to see you before they do business with you. I have been doing business portraits for over 20 years, and would love to help you with this should you have need.

Since email is one of those aspects of a business that can so easily get…and stay…out of hand, I find it very helpful to do a big sort at the beginning of the year, eliminating all of the junk and separating those that can be classified as prospects for the near future. This helps me to start the year off with an uncluttered inbox, and some new possibilities for upcoming weeks. Even though I follow up as I go, there are always some irons in the fire that are business waiting to be had. If you are anything like me, you also have countless business cards on the desk awaiting filing, or follow up. I have CamCard, an app that allows me to photograph my business cards and put them right into my contacts, and I make it a point to catch up on that at year end. Finally, I make a list of priorities and follow it, helping me to feel like I am on top from the beginning instead of underneath.

Business owners have to cover all the bases, and the details can be downright unmanageable at times. In addition, the specifics vary somewhat for different professions, so an individual plan will be most helpful in conquering the chaos. Figure out what works for you, so that you can move into 2017 with the confidence that will bring success!