The Importance Of Networking For Photographers

THE BUSINESS OF GROWING YOUR BUSINESS

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WHY NETWORKING IS SO IMPORTANT TO PHOTOGRAPHERS

As an architectural and commercial photographer, effective advertising options can be limited.  Unlike wedding or portrait photographers, I specialize in a field the average person or family does not regularly use, especially in a small Florida coastal town dependent on tourism.

Therefore, I typically have to rely on referrals and the best way to get referrals is to network.  But what is the most effective way to network?

For most people, your local Chamber of Commerce comes to mind and, while I joined my local Chamber and even became an Ambassador, I found it to be more of a social function than a true ‘networking’ venue.  Don’t get me wrong, the Chamber is great but at the end of the year when I looked at my return on investment, it really wasn’t that great.

Community organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Optimist Clubs likewise were extremely gratifying, but is the purpose for joining these organizations primarily to garner more business or to give back to your community?  Perhaps it’s both.  But if I truly want to increase my revenue, I want to focus strictly on an organization that will help me do just that.

The one organization that I found to be focused on true ‘networking’ is Business Networking International (or, BNI).  Founded in 1985, BNI has over 200,000 members in 7,500 chapters worldwide.  Each chapter allows only one member from each profession to join.  For example, once I joined my local BNI Chapter, no other photographer would be allowed to join that chapter.  The concept is simple; by limiting each profession/industry per chapter, referrals are maximized.  For me, this turned out to be one of the best decisions I made and here’s why:

Each BNI chapter typically consists of someone in real estate, the building industry/ construction, banking/finance, business owners, public relations/advertising, health care, website design … in other words, all the professions and industries that could use my services and who could refer me to others.  Does it really work?  Well, having joined my local BNI chapter just over three years ago, it accounts for more than a third of my revenue and I know that because it is easy to track in BNI’s system.  I also know that I did not have to chase down people or knock on doors, since this revenue was generated by referrals from my fellow members and, in return, I provided a lot of referrals to them as well.  Among our chapter’s 38 members we have collectively exceeded $1 million dollars each year in referred business.  Worldwide, BNI generated in 2015 alone, 9.3 billion dollars in shared revenue among its members from millions of referrals.  I don’t know of another networking organization that can claim those numbers.

If you are not already familiar with BNI, you can locate a chapter near you here.

Photographing In The Czech Republic

PLANNING A TRIP TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC?

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HERE ARE MY SUGGESTIONS

Having photographed in over 50 countries on five continents, the Czech Republic and especially Prague is without question among my favorite locations to visit and photograph.  Located in the northwest of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), Prague is rich in history, culture and diversity.  Situated on the Vltava River, it is the historical capital of Bohemia.

What makes Prague so appealing to me?  First, its architecture!  Founded in the year 880 (yes, that is not a typo) during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras, Prague was the main residence of several Holy Roman Emperors including Charles IV (1346-1378) as well as the Habsburg Monarchy (1526-1611) and the Austria-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918).

Prague (or, Praha as the Czechs prefer) is a walking city where everyone gathers in the Old Town Centre for great food, Czech beer, shopping and fun!

So, here is what I am taking on my 24 November 2016 trip:

Cameras and Equipment

With airport security (especially international security) increasingly becoming a pain, plan to pack light.  A number of years ago, I could take a full camera roll-a-board with two Cannon camera bodies, multiple lenses, and even lighting.  But, not now!

On this trip, I am packing only one camera body; the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II, along with my iPhone 6s, my iPad, and my CamRanger.

Lenses

My goto lenses will be the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM and the Cannon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.  These give me a lot of options.

Tripod

A tripod is a necessity as well as a remote trigger.  A lot of the photos you will want to capture will be at night; such as the Old Town Square, the Charles Bridge, the Wallenstein Palace.  My favorite travel tripod is the Manfrotto 190MF4 Magfiber.  Not only is it sturdy and relatively lightweight, but I can ship it in my luggage.  It folds down to 22in/56cm with a Manfrotto 488RC2 ball head attached.  Unfortunately, both can now only be found on the secondary market.

Camera Bag

All of this equipment (with the exception of my tripod and iPad) fits nicely inside my well traveled and sometimes abused Billingham 445 Pro Shoulder Bag.  Handcrafted in the UK, this bag looks like the professional camera bag that it is and easily passes through airport security.  I make sure my Delta Diamond Skymiles and my MedJet Horizon tags as well as any media credentials are all attached.

Electrical

Unlike the U.S./Canada, the electrical sockets (outlets) in the Czech Republic are one of the two standard European electrical socket types: the “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F: Schuko so you will need to purchase a few travel plug adapters before you leave the U.S. or Canada.  These are inexpensive – usually around $5.00 – but will save you a lot of headaches.  Although you can find multi-country adapters at Target, Walmart and online, I would suggest you purchase only the adapter that you will need unless of course you are planning to visit several countries.  I buy my adapters at Mori Luggage.  Also remember that Europe is on a 230 volt system unlike our 120 volt, but the good news is that virtually all devices will convert automatically with no problem.

Go online and put together your team!  I know that sounds strange, but one of the things that has helped me a lot is social media. Post your planned photo shoot and ask for Czech locals to help.  You will be surprised at the response and how you can literally throw away the tourist books!  Plus, locals will take you to places only locals know!

Miscellaneous (but important)

Passport!  Well, that goes without saying however I learned long ago to always make two copies of your passport’s identification page and all travel documents.  Leave one with a friend and carry the other with you.  It is not always a good idea to carry your passport with you at all times, especially at night or visiting a nightclub – instead carry the photocopy of your passport identification page.

Additionally, be sure to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the U.S. Department of State.  If you are taking prescription medications, get a letter from your doctor to carry with you.  Some countries have strict laws, even against over-the-counter medications although the Czech Republic to my knowledge does not.

Don’t forget to notify your bank of the countries and dates you will be traveling.  It is not uncommon for banks to deny your credit card/debit card purchases or block ATM withdrawals in foreign countries unless you notify them first.

Ask for a card from your hotel’s front desk that shows the hotel name, address and phone number!  It is easy to get lost in a foreign city even if you are within a few blocks of your hotel and especially if you do not speak the language.  Being able to hand a taxi driver or a local the hotel card will make your life so much easier and less stressful.

Finally, get used to a six hour time change.  Once you land, plan to wake up early to capture the vendors preparing for the day as well as buildings and sites before crowds begin to arrive.  This is also a great time to interact with them and photograph some very rare behind the scenes/product photos. The Czech people are exceptionally friendly!

 

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