July 30, 2018
Everyone at Organic Headshots has been at this for years: our photographers have photographed thousands of people, and our makeup artists have had just as many folks in their makeup chairs. And if there’s one thing nearly all our clients have in common, it’s that they’re nervous. Very few people walk into a photo studio excited to have their photo taken, and most of our clients see their visit as a necessary evil to get a photo for the bio page of their website, their LinkedIn profile photo, sales and marketing materials for their business, or, “because my boss made me come here to take a photo for the company website BUT I HATE HAVING MY PHOTO TAKEN SO LET’S MAKE THIS QUICK PLEASE.”
We’ve had countless informal discussions at the studio about how to put our clients at ease during such an anxiety-producing situation as having your photo taken, and we’ve developed systems and solutions for calming people down during photo sessions. We create a quiet, calming environment in the photo studio with snacks, drinks, and even an aromatherapy diffuser to freshen the air. We adjust the temperature if someone is too cool or too warm. We talk at length about what the photos are for and explain what we’re doing and how we’re going to get great photos for each person’s purpose. We show clients their photos as we’re taking them to allow for adjustments and feedback. We tell jokes. We laugh at the absurdity of striving for that perfect pose for that perfect photo like we’re all Kardashians on the red carpet. We listen to our clients’ stories of jobs lost, jobs found, career changes, life changes, new relationships, new babies, new puppies, and how well we can or can’t follow the storylines of Game of Thrones. Oh, and usually there’s an unofficial therapy dog lounging in a sunbeam or rolled over for bellyrubs, which has offered many a welcome distraction from the giant lens on the camera.
But last week we decided to take it a step further and formalize our training. We met with our friend David Klow, founder of Skylight Counseling Center and author of the new book, You Are Not Crazy: Letters From Your Therapist, in his office to talk about how we can help our clients enjoy the process of having their taken more; or at least stress less about it. David is a licensed therapist, Clinical Lecturer at the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, an Adjunct Faculty member at Adler University, and runs professional training and workshops when he’s not managing his growing clinical staff at the counseling center.
David led us through an amazingly insightful discussion as we workshopped what our clients go through when having their photo taken, and we worked together to create new strategies and procedures to build our strengths in relieving photo-induced anxiety. Most importantly, we learned that we are the primary instrument taking someone’s photo, not the camera and the lighting and the posing. Those are merely tools we employ. The real photo is produced through the rapport we create with our subjects, the trust they have in us, and the authority we convey as professionals in our craft.
We are in the job of making people look good. Of capturing their personality in an image they need to further their careers, promote their work, demonstrate their capabilities, and project their individuality. We take that job very seriously.
So we invite you to test our strength. If you HATE having your photo taken and get nervous in front of a camera, PLEASE come to our studio. We love nervous people. Believe it or not, WE hate having our photos taken too– every single one of us working at Organic Headshots is behind the lens because we loathe being in front of it. So we get it. We understand your pain, and we want to help you feel better about getting a headshot. Have us come to your office to photograph your staff, or book an appointment for a session in our studio where you can munch on some snacks, listen to some soothing music, and rub a dog’s belly while we take your photo.
April 20, 2018
There’s nothing that keeps a person away from a photo studio better than a past photo that didn’t turn out so well. Such was the case with our friend, Jon. His partner was a past client of ours for his (dare we say awesome) professional headshots, and every month like clockwork they would have some iteration of this conversation:
“You need a headshot!”
“I have a headshot.”
“Where is it? You don’t have it on LinkedIn or anywhere!”
“Well I don’t like it.”
He finally dragged him to our studio to take an updated headshot and Jon showed us the photo he had taken in the past:
“I don’t like this photo for two main reasons,” he said, “it was taken from below, which makes me look like a towering, tall giant, and I feel like it looks like I have about a thousand extra chins. It’s just not flattering.”
One of our favorite things to do is to beat old headshots with better ones. And the best way to do that is to identify what it is about the old photos that aren’t up to snuff, and then do the opposite. For Jon, that meant two things: 1. Don’t take the photo from below (easy), and 2. Make sure you can see his jawline in the photo (also easy). Then we did what we always do: coach our subject into several different poses, smiles, and angles so there are plenty of options to choose from.
Here’s the result:
We crafted the lighting to form some strategic shadows that did a better job of hugging the features of his face to form some shape, without making it look like he’s hiding behind any shadows. We also posed him into more relaxed poses, to get rid of that “welcome to the DMV” straight-forward effect of the old photo, which helped bring out more of his personality.
If you’ve got an old headshot you don’t like, don’t let it scare you into running away from all professional photographers! Book a headshot session with a photographer who has a strong portfolio of natural-looking headshots you like, and bring your crummy photo to the session. Talk to the photographer about what you don’t like about it, what you’re looking for in a new headshot, and work together to take new photos you can be proud of.
If you’re ready for your close-up, book your Chicago headshot online with Organic Headshots today! It’s not as painful as you think. We promise.
February 6, 2017
Did you hear the news? The Willis Tower is about to get a huge makeover. Like, HUGE. We definitely heard the news loud and clear, because we were there to photograph the press conference announcing the plans. And it was awesome. See for yourself:
What makes a great event photographer? Speed. Anticipation. Comfortable shoes. To get the best corporate event photos, we act with cat-like reflexes to anticipate what’s going to happen next and where to place ourselves to get the best angle. To really show people who couldn’t make it to the event what happened, each photo has to show the context of what’s happening and make them feel like they were there.
Check out some samples in our event photo gallery and let us know if we can cover your awesome upcoming event.
January 3, 2017
It’s January. A new year. And time to make those infamous New Year’s resolutions. For some people, getting an updated headshot is actually your resolution: to log into LinkedIn and finally replace that icon that’s just an outline of a head with your actual head, or to finally have something better and more professional than your wedding photo cropped reeeeaaaaaalllly tightly so no one will see the veil on your head.
But if your New Year’s resolution isn’t to get a new headshot, you can still use a headshot as a tool to help you reach your goals. Here are a few ways a new headshot can help you kick some resolution butt:
- Get fit: Is this year’s resolution to lose those few extra pounds? Schedule your headshot session for several months in advance to give yourself a goal to work toward. Several years ago we got a call from a man who wanted to lose 50 pounds before updating his headshot, so he booked a session with us 6 months in advance. He even pre-paid for the session so he would stick to his goal of losing the weight before his picture day. And it worked! 6 months and 1 week later he was 50 pounds slimmer and getting awesome new headshots. (The extra week was because he had to reschedule to give himself enough time to buy a new suit since the old one didn’t fit!)
- Get a new job: Been thinking about starting a job search but the idea is daunting? Take baby steps and start with a new professional headshot to update your LinkedIn profile. Once you’ve got your new profile photo, you can update your work experience, goals, and other details on LinkedIn while you’re logged in.
- Quit smoking: Smoking adds lines and wrinkles, sucks moisture out of the skin, yellows teeth and darkens circles under the eyes. It’s a well-known fact that quitting smoking improves your appearance—check out this woman’s week-by-week account of how her appearance changed after quitting smoking. If you need that extra push to quit smoking, schedule your headshot in advance and use it as your deadline to be smoke free and camera ready.
- Get a new look: Have you been thinking about changing your look by getting a new hairstyle or a new wardrobe? Schedule a headshot session to make the process more fun. A celebratory photo session to introduce the new you to the world!
August 10, 2016
Today is the day I’m finally tackling the controversial issue of pricing in photography. Specifically, discounts. As a small business owner and service provider I’ve been asked for a discount more times than I can count. I believe we’re living in what I like to lovingly call the “Groupon Era,” where no one pays full price anymore. Pricing for everything online and in stores is in red ink or with flashing lights and lightning bolts pointing to it.
Picture that shirt at The Gap that was going for $39 so you were on the fence about buying it, until you saw the redlined original price of $59 and you couldn’t get to the checkout line fast enough with your steal of a deal. There’s a definite psychology to discount shopping too tangled to get into here, so let’s just say that in a nutshell, buying things at a lower price makes us feel good. We feel like we got more value out of what we’re getting because we paid less for it than others would have.
As a small business owner with no red lines through the pricing on my website I have to say I’ve felt the brunt of the “Goupon Era” mentality to the point of… well… sometimes rudeness. Some people don’t know they’re being rude when they ask for a discount or tell me my pricing is too high and I actually don’t blame them, I blame the discount culture we live in. But these are some things that have been said to me:
“Ha! Don’t you think that’s a little expensive?”
“Is there any way you could just charge me less?”
“Can you do the same amount of work for $200 instead of the $700 you quoted me? Our budget is $200 for the project.” (coming from a private equity firm with a self-proclaimed portfolio of several million dollars in holdings, by the way.)
“I don’t understand why I have to pay that, I only want 1 photo. Why can’t you just take 1 photo? You just want my money—this is a scam.” (I wouldn’t have believed this one myself if there wasn’t a photo assistant in the room to verify this. This was actually said to my face.)
Now this blog post isn’t going to be another one of those “OMG DON’T ASK FOR A DISCOUNT THAT’S SO RUDE” posts, because I get it. I shop at thrift stores because I love the thrill of the hunt and getting a $50 sweater for $5. I love my money, I worked hard for it, and I HATE parting with it. I’m a part of the discount culture and I hate paying full price for things. So I get it. I totally get it.
And as a small business owner I have to face the fact that discounts are common practice and here to stay. But instead of laying out my expense sheets, justifying my pricing, and begging people not to discount hunt with their photographers, I decided to draw up some tips for both clients and photographers to better navigate the discount road. So here they are: tips for how to ask your photographer for a discount, and tips for the photographer on what to do when you’re asked for a discount.
How to ask your photographer for a discount:
- If you think the price is expensive, ask yourself what you are comparing to. Is this particular photographer more expensive than another? If so, compare their portfolios, their experience, etc. Or is it possible that you just had a lower number in your mind when you started price shopping? Which is totally fine if that happened, you did nothing wrong by expecting it to be less. But now that you’ve been given a number different from what you expected, try to figure out if your expectation was within range of the value of the service in the market. Look at pricing from several other photographers with portfolios you like—if there’s a trend, chances are your expectations were off, and that’s okay. Now adjust your budget or the project accordingly.
- If you’re going to ask the photographer for a discount, start with asking if they have any existing discounts or a time of the year when they run a promotion. Some wedding photographers, for example, have lower rates for times when business is slower for them, such as during the winter, Thursdays, or Fridays. Be prepared to give a little if you want to take a little. Asking for a discount is asking for something for nothing, so you might have to adjust your own plans to make the price you want work.
- Think about “what’s in it for them.” Photographers are small business owners. They only offer discounts when they can get something legitimately good for their business in return. Something that makes less work for them they might do for less money. For example, I have a standing 2-at-once headshot discount where if 2 people come in for a headshot at the same time they each get 20% off their session. This makes less work for me since I don’t have to schedule back and forth with 2 people for 2 different sessions when they come together, so I pass that time/effort savings onto them in the form of a discount.
- Please remember that this person is a working professional who owns a small business, and asking them to do their work for cheaper with no good reason or incentive is, well, let’s just say it, insulting. Your boss wouldn’t say “your paycheck is going to be half what it usually is this week because your pay is not in our budget,” and if that did happen, how would you feel? Just try to keep this person’s feelings in mind when asking for a discount. Word it carefully and with respect.
For photographers—how to give a discount:
- Offer a standing discount that makes good business sense for you: clients get a reduced rate, but you get something of equal value in return. For example, a discount for someone who refers a new client to you, or an exchange of services of equal value such as 15% off photo services for your hair stylist who gives you 15% off his or her services to you. Or offer a discount for a cause you believe in. I offer discounts to military personnel because I see how hard it can be to transition from active military to making a career change and I want to offer a discount on professional headshots so they can do that more easily, and I view it as a small thank you for serving our country. It legitimately makes me feel good to offer that discount and when someone redeems it. Also having a short list of standing discounts gives you a good canned response when someone gives you that “can I have a discount?” question. It turns an awkward conversation into an empowered one where you can list off all of the exact situations that qualify for a discount, and puts the responsibility back onto the client to see if they fit into one of those situations.
- Know your numbers, know your business, and know what you can and can’t do with your pricing. Assert yourself and avoid the guilty feeling that you have to make everyone happy with your pricing by immersing yourself in your profit and loss statements, expense reports, and pricing structure. Know your numbers thoroughly, know why you charge what you charge, and then own it. If you want to help a client out without discounting your rate, consider adding value by adding service instead; such as a free retouched photo, an extra hour of event coverage, or offer to throw in some free prints.
- Remember that some people just aren’t your clients. And that’s okay. Even when they beg you. Even when it’s been a slow month. Take care of yourself and listen to your emotions and determine if you’re relinquishing discounts because they make good business sense or because someone is toying with your emotions and trying to make you feel guilty because they can’t or don’t want to pay for it. Every time someone asks for a random discount I don’t offer or tells me my rates are too high for them I feel crummy. It does beat me down a little. But then I scope out my competitors’ rates, look through my own portfolio, and I straighten my shoulders and remind myself that my pricing is correct and it’s okay that it’s not for everyone.
- Think of the industry. If you’re a working photographer you’re part of the photography industry, and we photographers stick together. Every time you lower your rate, another photographer gets asked to lower theirs because someone out there got it for cheaper. Please keep the integrity of your profession in mind and your rates in line with industry trends. So many of your fellow photographers are still working part time and even full time jobs outside of their profession because of the discount culture created by bidding sites and other service industry pricing pitfalls. If you haven’t already done so, consider joining a local or national pro photo group like the PPA so that you can keep up with the issues everyone in your industry is facing so we can face them together.