If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I value my relationship with the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Any photographer of any skill level can benefit from all of the information that the ASMP puts out there, from copyright registration, to model releases, to bidding, to better business practices to insurance. Even non-photographers can benefit from all of this information.
So it was with great enthusiasm a few weeks ago that I attended the 3-day Chicago edition of the ASMP Strictly Business 3 Conference. It was indeed three days of the most brain jamming knowledge sharing I’ve experienced in a long time. My brain was literally exhausted at the end of each day. But it was that happy good kind of exhausted.
During the first of the three days, I opted for a couple of consultation sessions with Judy Herrmann and Colleen Wainwright, both unique in their fabulousness.
For those of you who may not know who these two women are, I could cut and paste from their respective About pages…
or… I could just tell you why I think they’re amazing. Let’s go with the second choice.
Photographer and consultant Judy Herrmann has a great ability to mow down your little overgrown forest of self-blindness and rescue you from having so many options that you get paralyzed. With Judy, I was looking for critical, honest and objective feedback on my photo portfolio. I have worked very hard to get my book to have a good flow, but internally I was wondering if it was still a little too “all over the place.”
As photographers, we all have friends who will tell us our work is brilliant and the best. pictures. ever! But showing and talking about your work to your colleagues and people who might actually be giving you money for your work is far more constructive.
As Judy turned the pages (yes, I actually have a physical paper portfolio as well as web and iPad versions), I could see her start to dial in on the who is this Billy guy? Judy gave me great feedback. What worked – most of it – and what didn’t – a few things here and there. Most importantly though, she was able to articulate very clearly what was jumping out at her and why, and why the images that didn’t, didn’t. And the crazy thing was, she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t feel already way back in the linen closet of my brain cavity, but what I had difficultly articulating in actual words.
Judy did it within the first 15 minutes. Brilliant. And so critically important as I move forward.
With Colleen, she and I share a background in the advertising industry. She was a copywriter, perhaps one of the more thankless jobs in advertising. But now, she is… and I think it deserves a paragraph break…
A word of caution, however. Never, ever read her newsletter or blog right before you should be heading to bed. You’ll never make it. No, instead you’ll be sucked down a rabbit hole of witty knowledge sharing or equally entertaining diversions that will require you to triple your coffee intake to stay vertical the next day. You’ve been warned.
I was looking for her advice on how to refine my goals to move my photography business forward. She gave me great ideas on how to take my connections within the advertising industry and further expand them into my photography business. She gave me great direction on how to create opportunities to share my photography knowledge with advertising creatives in mutually artistically inspiring ways that I could tell you about here, but since I paid my own hard earned money to meet with Colleen, you’ll have to schedule your own damn consulting session with her. And I say that with love.
Oh, and also I should mention that she’s awesome.
During the remaining two days there were dozens of workshops I could choose to attend with topics ranging from business to creative inspiration. One of the many highlights was Thomas Werner’s workshop on finding the right gallery for you. In my quest to narrow the direction of my photography the last few years, I had inadvertently been neglecting my love of exhibiting my personal fine art work in galleries, which I had been doing less and less of as of late. Thomas reignited my fire for that. My personal fine art work is just as important as any commercial work. They feed each other.
And finally at the end of the conference, I found myself in a room of applauding photographers after my name was called for top photo of the weekend! Photographers for whom I have a great admiration and respect. Both humbling and wonderful. I only took one photograph that weekend in a moment when I saw something beautiful out the window at the top of the Allerton Hotel during the Friday evening sessions. Somehow even with happy brain overload from all the information, something in my head was still paying attention and observing and made me stop taking notes for a moment and grab my Leica out of my backpack and make the photo you see above.
Now I have to get back to entering all of the business cards I collected before I forget what card goes with who! It was a great weekend.