Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a Small World: Wedding Photographer Jasmine Star and Olympic Athlete Jennie Finch

I was watching the MTV show "When I Was 17" and, during the segment on Olympic Softball Gold-medalist Jennie Finch, I noticed that a woman in a picture of Jennie's close friends from La Mirada High School (called the "Bomb Squad") looked extremely familiar. I did a little detective work and my hunch was right!

It turns out that one of the young ladies in the picture was none other than now well-known Wedding Photographer Jasmine Star. Photos of them together are on MTV's site at at Jennie mentions Jasmine and her sister, Bianca, in an article on KidzWorld at

Funny how when you're in a big city the world gets smaller!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Personal Productivity: What do you want and how do you get there?

Photographers, like most small business owners, have a lot on their plate. Staying on top of all the things you have to do, and even figuring what those things are, can be major task all by itself.

Fortunately, there are some great tools and systems out there to make getting a handle on your projects and tasks less painful. The two best systems, from what I have seen, are David Allen’s “Getting Things Done®” and the Franklin-Covey Time Management system.

The general idea behind both of these systems is to figure out what the big, important goals are in your life, seeing what projects need to be completed in order for you to achieve those goals and then breaking the projects down into specific tasks that can be recorded and tracked. Each system has it’s merits: Franklin-Covey’s, based on Stephen R. Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, is very good at assessing the big-picture issues and goals of your life while David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system is excellent at task tracking (although it too stresses the importance of high-altitude views.) GTD takes a somewhat more bottom-up approach, with the idea being that if you don’t get a lot of the little stuff out of your head and into some kind of system your mind won’t be clear enough to deal with the high-level issues.

Both systems have a wide variety of options in terms of how much you want to spend learning them, how fast you want to learn them, and to what level of detailed information or coaching you will need to implement them. The least expensive way is to start with their books, which are each under $20 in paperback (On Amazon: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and “First Things First”)

Both systems can be implemented with as little as a paper organizer or notebook or you can get software solutions for personal computers and smart phones that will help you keep track of your projects and tasks. I use OmniFocus, which has a desktop Mac application and an iPhone version that synchronize with each other. Pocket Informant is another good application and is available for the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and iPhone platforms. If you work on Windows and use MS Outlook for you email and calendar, look into how to use the task management tools that are built into it; it’s a too-often overlooked feature and it may very well do most of what you need.

Another great resource on the Web for productivity techniques is Merlin Mann’s 43folders blog . He also has an excellent podcast that you can subscribe to there – and I would highly recommend listening to the “Inbox Zero” speech he gave at the Google campus – it’s a great strategy for getting your email under control.

In the end the process isn’t as important as the action you take – and making sure that you really take some action rather than just talking about it. It’s all about making things happen and working toward your life goals.

Onward and Upward!


GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company. All other trademarks are held by their respective owners.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

WPPI 2010: Improving your craft, business and spirit

It ended over a week ago but now, with things getting back to normal after being away from home for several days, I wanted to take a few minutes to cover the recent WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) conference and trade show, held in Las Vegas from March 4 to 11. It was the first time a I had attended this convention and I was stunned by the size: this was the biggest in the history of the organization with some 14,000 attendees from all over the world descending on the MGM Grand Convention Center.

With the downturn in the economy and increasing price pressure from new competition, the emphasis this year was clearly on business and marketing. There was an entire track on Saturday the 10th focused just on that and many of the “platform” classes, included with the standard pass price, covered those topics as well.

There was a lot of information in the marketing seminars about “Social Media” and the techniques some individuals and studios were using to promote their businesses with Blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Jasmine Star, a huge name now in wedding photography, attributed a large portion of her stellar rise to her use of the internet (along with great word-of-mouth recommendations.)

Speaking of Jasmine Star, her seminar on “Ghetto Fabulous Marketing” was so eagerly anticipated at the conference that the first session, in a room that held about a thousand people, filled up well before it’s scheduled start time. Jasmine, and WPPI, were gracious enough to conduct a second session (not originally planned) on the following day, which also filled to capacity! A tip for next year: get in line real early for the popular speakers.

Business wasn’t the only topic of conversation, though, and there were plenty of classes on posing, lighting and capturing HD video with the new DSLR’s – so many that I wished I could have cloned myself and attended more than one at a time. Doug Gordon gave a fast-paced class on flow posing to a huge room that felt like a rock concert or big-name motivational speaker seminar - until the content started coming so fast I couldn't take notes fast enough. You could almost get a full education on the art of photographing people at this conference; I would definitely recommend attending to anyone who is actively involved in the field – or even considering getting into it.

Sharing knowledge and skill with other photographers and causes was also a theme this year. Pictage and Cannon sponsored an event where more than 100 children from the local Boys & Girls Club facility were provided with a day of instruction and hands-on field training in photography. Sandy Puc’ spoke about her involvement with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep where photographers donate their time and talents to make portraits of infants that have passed away or will not leave the hospital for their families.

There are a lot of new entrants in the field of wedding and portrait photography with a tendency to charge too little for their services - and then just handing over a disc of images to the client instead of helping them see the benefits of honoring their memories with high-quality albums and prints. The overall message from speakers like Jerry Ghionis, Dane Sanders and Jasmine Star was clear, though: Standing out, being unique, being you and being better, both as a person and a photographer, are the real keys to success in business - and in life.