A Generalized Specialty

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My first career was in construction and kitchen-and-bath design, so years later when I became a professional photographer it was a pretty natural progression to specialize in architectural photography. The business culture was something I understood very well, I already had industry connections, and I was more than happy to hang around pretty buildings and construction sites.

As a young photographer in my teens and for years after, I considered turning pro but did not feel I had the fire in the belly I believed it would take. Still, I took my little camera (an Olympus OM1) everywhere, including on jobsites. Some of my friends, and not a few colleagues, considered me a bit of a pest; little did I understand at the time how that level of persistence was a positive attribute – a requirement, in fact – for a professional career.

I educated myself about photography purely by instinct: I followed what attracted me. Avedon and Penn, Cartier-Bresson and Sam Abell, Jerry Uelsmann and Wynn Bullock. I taught myself how to develop film and use a darkroom. I never took a single class. In my twenties, I added color, stopped processing and turned all that over to labs. I never learned anything about studio photography or technical cameras and focused on documentary work and the occasional portrait. It was a lot of fun.

The last ten years of my actual career was dominated by building and designing kitchens. To promote myself through pictures, I bought a tripod and some lights and umbrellas and made an awful lot of awful pictures. Gradually, through attrition, I got better – just as my wrist and elbow started to give out from the physical demands of construction; clearly, my blue-collar life was coming to an end. I assumed I would simply turn to designing full-time, but circumstances offered me the chance to photograph other people’s work, and the short version is: I never looked back.

Switching careers concentrates the mind, as the Brits say, and studying became an obsession. I didn’t have to learn about the culture of my design clients, because that had been my own life; my job now was to learn about the techniques and culture of architectural photographers. Among the advice I heard was that design clients expect their photographers to be specialists – as they were – and to never show them any other kind of work on websites or in portfolios because that demonstrated a lack of seriousness of purpose, and design is a serious business. If an architectural photographer did produce another kind of work, the smart move was to keep that quiet by having a separate website.

Being a contentious student, however, I discovered successful photographers who did not follow the path of being a pure specialist, while hearing repeatedly how important it was to have a camera with me all the time, which was exactly the justification I was looking for, and so found myself doing street photography and environmental portraits more than ever. It was still a lot of fun. This was work I wanted to get paid for, and while I understood the concept of niche marketing I believed there was a place for a serious architectural photographer who also made pictures of people. I knew it might be dicey starting out, but kicking off a new profession was already a chancy move, so, why not? Besides, I already had the experience of a diverse career, simultaneously working as a contractor, carpenter, and designer.

Architectural photography remains my primary source of work, and I’m certain I’ve lost opportunities because of my decision to diversify, but other projects have come my way precisely because I produce several kinds of work, all proudly displayed on the same website. Several recent projects each required portraits, architecture, and documentary work, and those clients made it clear my capabilities were why I got hired. Niches may be niches, but fun is fun.

Robert Brunner, a well-known product designer, recently said in a talk for 99U, “You don’t own your brand. A brand isn’t a logo or packaging. It’s a gut feeling. And when two people have the same gut feeling, you have a brand.”

My career path turned out to be the right move – for me. Being a generalist is my brand. That’s what my clients think, exactly what I hoped for. Maybe I just got lucky; I don’t think so.

Anyway, I would make the argument that for someone like me, branding is just another word for nothing left to lose.

The Wild West (and East, North, and South): Photographers and Advertising.

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In the popular imagination, advertising work comes to photographers from a single source: the advertising agency. It is never really that simple. Assignments may emanate from communications departments in companies, from outside agencies, or, really, from anywhere.

The emergence of digital tools and media, simultaneous with economic changes, has democratized and decentralized the world of marketing. What an agency is called – advertising, branding, graphics, public relations, digital – matters less and less because the demarkation between specialties has blurred to the point of disappearing. Wherever an assignment comes from, the purpose is the same: to contribute to the marketing materials of clients.

Post-WWII, photographers defined their monetary relationships with customers by licensing their work, and it is a pretty straightforward way of doing business: images are used in specified ways for specified periods. Period.

No more. Photos can be used in so many different kinds of media that agencies – and their clients – don’t always know in advance how images will be used or even how many they will need. To be sure, pictures are still licensed for specific uses and limited time-frames, but that model is under stress. Agencies and their clients have to respond to changes in how their audience receives information, and photographers, being part of the marketing team, have to do the same.

There are endless variations on this theme; advertising can be made to resemble editorial work, called “advertorials”, or a more recent variation, “branded content”. The conceit is that an ad appears to be something it is not.

It sounds confusing because it is meant to be confusing; designed so the viewer will not easily be able to tell the difference.

For the photographer asked to bid on such work, the creative standards are not actually different than advertising, but the agency may want to contain costs by suggesting to a photographer the end product is similar to editorial, knowing that photographers charge higher rates to produce advertising imagery. Figuring out how to get advertising content in front of potential customers these days is like trying to get people to focus on a cloud in a hurricane, so it seems like the Wild West, but lots of things have not really changed since the days of pure print advertising. Photographers are still brought in to be part of the marketing team and expected to bring something of themselves – their particular voice and vision – to the final product.

True editorial work (the basis in style for advertorials and branded content) has always contained the following trade-off: less money in exchange for creative freedom. Photographers’ “pure” form of expression is eagerly sought by advertising buyers, who scan publications looking for exactly the kind of work that an advertising agency may be loathe to generate on its own because it is so expensive to produce. From the viewpoint of the advertiser, editorial photography is a demonstration – on someone else’s dime – of what a photographer can produce. That makes terrific economic sense.

Many commercial photographers don’t actually shoot much editorial work; however they are expected to prove they can produce “pure” forms of expression. Those images often take the form of personal work, or fine art, which can actually be very expensive to produce. For the photographer, the hope is that the ROI (return-on-investment), similar to producing editorial work, results in a well-paid commercial assignment. In other words, buyers of photography are intensely interested in seeing photography that goes beyond normal assignment work. The fact that a successful advertising campaign might result in fairly mundane imagery is beside the point.

Jack Warner, one of the founders of the Warner Bros. Studios, once called screenwriters “schmucks with typewriters”. Despite such evidence of disdain, even he recognized that without his writers’ ability to produce content reliably, on time, and on command, he had nothing to work with and therefore no movies to make.

Fortunately, such disdain is not a primary characteristic of most photo buyers. One of the attributes professional photographers (indeed, all professional creatives – including writers) bring to their relationships with customers is the ability to produce highly specific and imaginative work reliably, on time, and on command; just with a different set of tools.  It doesn’t matter what it looks like: editorial, advertising, or fine art.  Work is work.

The Vision Thing

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I used to worry quite a bit about finding my “vision.” Where was it?  What was it?  I assumed the responsible thing was get a fix on my vision in advance of performing any work, then just stick to it. It was troublesome to try to envision something as ephemeral as my “vision”, unrecognizable until the work was a finished product – if then. Was having “vision” the same as developing a “voice”? All very confusing. Too many levels to get a handle on.  I just kept working.

“The Vision Thing”: the first President George Bush talked about it while campaigning for president.  He was making fun of the idea, in an anxious, politician-running-for-office sort of way.  The phrase entered popular culture along with the apparent triviality of its meaning.

Bush was responding to questions about where he thought the country ought to go.  Turns out, the vision thing is not so funny after all. Individuals and organizations who don’t have a vision for the future – a mission – along with the ability to implement, are just not going to be successful, whether it’s the U.S. government, a school board, a company, or an entrepreneur.

Apple is an example of a better way. While much of its success is popularly attributed to Steve Jobs, he took great pains to instill a sense of vision that ran through entire company: design, manufacture, software, customer service, marketing. One of the reasons Apple is worth more than any other corporation in the world is that its customers trust it to be what it says it is: a forward-thinking company providing useful products that, to a greater extent than its competitors, just work, and work well. An enormously simple result – the result of an enormous amount of work combined with a steady vision over decades. The vision remains even though Jobs does not.

A by-product relates to a phrase I learned last year: “the bike-shed effect”, also known as Parkinson’s Law Of Triviality. In 1957, Cyril Northcote Parkinson described a community finance committee meeting in England with several items on its agenda, among them whether or not to approve a contract to build a nuclear plant.  Another agenda item was the design and manufacture of a bike-shed. Everyone on the committee easily  grasped details regarding material and design choices for the shed, and they spent a lot of time debating their options. No one on the committee understood much about what goes into building a nuclear reactor, so they spent two-and-a-half minutes debating before voting to sign a contract to have it built. The bike-shed effect comes down to this: it is far easier to act on issues you understand while avoiding debate about issues you do not, regardless of the consequences.

The worst thing that could happen with a bike shed might be that it leaks. The same is true for a nuclear plant. The consequences, however… Groups that do not have a clear vision for themselves and a clear mission regarding those for whom they are responsible can wreak some genuine havoc on the people who depend on them.

Bike-shedding is not limited to finance committees in England. Organizations small and large: community, commercial, or non-profit – even the U.S. government – demonstrate on a regular basis how damaging Parkinson’s Law Of Triviality can be.

I’m pretty good at bike-shedding, myself: a community of one. It can be a challenge to figure out what’s important right this moment – and will it remain important later? My various careers have sputtered along, gone into reverse then forged ahead, with me not always clear what happened, good or bad, until after the fact. Hyper-aware of my bike-shed tendencies, I try to protect myself from myself by searching for and soliciting advice about what to implement, what to keep in reserve, and what to ignore.

People and organizations who are successful over the long-haul exhibit a constant: they have a vision and a mission for themselves they are able to verbalize clearly and with a minimum of jargon. They study the culture they operate in and look past their own noses at the needs of their constituents or customers about what to implement and the best ways to do it. Having a vision and mission doesn’t mean they always know what to do, but it does mean they know what their job is.

What Peter Lik Has To Do With The 20% Of Images That Did Not Pass The Journalism Test

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Two stories caught my eye recently, both from the New York Times, published within a few days of each other.

One is “Peter Lik’s Recipe for Success: Sell Prints. Print Money”. From the article: “He has sold $440 million worth of prints, according to his chief financial officer, in 15 galleries in the United States that he owns and that sell his work.”

An extraordinary amount of money for any (living) artist to claim. The chief focus of the article is an explanation of why the world of fine art photography does not consider Lik to be an artist despite — perhaps because of — his having duplicated their business structure.  Absent the context of the art world, there is no Peter Lik.

The other story is from the Times’ Lens Blog, ”Debating the Rules and Ethics of Digital Photojournalism”. The World Press Photo competition has, for many years, been among the most prestigious photography prizes a photojournalist could hope to win. The most recent competition drew almost 98,000 images by 5,692 photographers. In announcing the winners last February, World Press noted that it had summarily rejected 20% of the submitted images for being overly manipulated and not up to journalistic standards, almost three times the percentage from the previous year.

Photo manipulation has been a sensitive topic among photojournalists since…always. Once digital photography became the dominant mode for making pictures (along with the ease by which a photo can be transformed) the standards defining what makes images “overly” manipulated has been in the news, so to speak. Last year’s World Press Photo winner was a picture of a Palestinian funeral that generated so much speculation about its veracity the organization was impelled to hire forensic experts to ascertain if the photographer had crossed the line from photojournalism to something else entirely. While the eventual judgement pronounced the image within bounds, there was the suggestion it had come right up to the line.

What links the two articles are judgements based on community standards.

Members of the fine art photography community (curators, photographers, and collectors) understand the rules, including the fact that all rules are subject to change over time: sometimes centuries, sometimes a few years. This fact obliterates any objective standard. What is highly valued as fine art today may not be valued next decade, and the reverse. This is not a problem for insiders; part of their job is to stay abreast of the changes.

Peter Lik does not care about any of this; he’s not in it for the art, he’s in it, quite happily, for the money. He has learned to use the rules in place right now to his benefit. What the New York Times piece does, by way of Mr. Lik, is pull back the curtain on galleries and museums to reveal the functioning of the culture of fine art photography.

Journalism, as the saying goes, is the job of producing the first draft of history, and the culture of journalism takes that burden very seriously.  Professional standards demand a certain amount of reflective examination of the work product in terms of accuracy based on point-of-view, along with the implicit acknowledgment that interpretations may or may not change over time.  Just like fine art, there is no objective standard: but there are standards nonetheless.

World Press competition guidelines are intended to mirror journalistic standards.  Judges are on the lookout for overly-manipulated images such as those which have elements being added or removed, which can be accomplished as simply as darkening an area (burning in) so it turns black and elements disappear. There are multiple ways the meaning of a photograph can be changed by how it’s processed. In some cases, according to Michelle McNally, the jury chair, “When the entries were compared with the originals we could not recognize them as being the same picture.”

World Press validates pictures in the final round by requiring photographers additionally submit “RAW” image files. Unprocessed RAW files (think of a negative or a slide) are something quite distinct from the heavily processed image files produced in-camera by most consumer-level cameras and cellphones. RAW files, the basis of most professional photography, are where the post-production begins.  It was the RAW file of the Palestinian funeral that was examined by forensic experts who finally determined the winning image remained within the bounds of competition rules, and by default, within bounds of what the community of photojournalists and editors consider the highest standard of photojournalism.

The value of a photograph – and a photographer – is determined by their cultures and their communities, be they monetary, aesthetic, or journalistic values, fine art or photojournalism.  That those standards are subject to change in no way diminishes their merit.

Values, standards, and objective truths are hard to pin down, since they are constantly shifting. It’s much more reliable to pay attention to what communities think, one objective truth at a time.

Frog In Water

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Over the last couple of years, I had an “aha” moment regarding my career that more resembled an “uh-oh” moment. Not even a moment, really, more like a slow unfolding of embarrassment.

I teach a class in business practices for photographers at a local college, using holistic thinking on how to build a career, consisting of, roughly, three main parts:

1. Technical knowledge. You can’t do any gig of any kind if you don’t have chops. This is not news to anyone. Well, maybe a few people. I don’t spend any time on how to make pictures; that’s not the subject of the class. We talk about computer health and happiness and building an efficient digital workflow, however, topics rarely covered in school. And backing up. You can never do enough backing up.

2. Business practices. This is primarily why people come to the class, and I cover issues such as copyright, releases, and contracts, along with marketing, negotiating, networking, and all the different kinds of careers a photographer can have. Proposals and contracts, particularly, scare people. And negotiating – scares them the most.

3. Soft skills. Understanding the cultures of clients: how do they think and what do they think about? Entrepreneurs of whatever kind have to develop a handle on what clients need and how their businesses work. You need to feel your clients’ pain. You need to do research. This is a big one, and for some students, the hardest to grasp. Part-and-parcel are people skills like how to dress, talk, write, and act. (Spell check! Call when late!) We talk about how you use social media differently as a professional than civilians do. No beer-bong photos on Facebook.

Desperately important: what do clients need to see on a photographer’s website? During class, we spend a whole lot of time doing close readings of photographers’ websites. I pass along what I’ve been told by photographers – and particularly what countless photo editors, art buyers, reps, gallerists, and art directors say they want to see. Which, since you asked, consists of: big pictures that load fast, clear navigation, make it really easy to find your contact information. The basics; not that complicated, really. And links to social media so people can find out more about you, whether you’re a freelancer or looking for a job as an employee (remember the beer-bong photos?).

My aha moment occurred while staring at the ceiling at three in the morning after my business had slowed to a crawl. After some number of nights of this behavior (I will not reveal how many) I came to understand I had not been taking advice I give to my own students: my website was bloated with too many categories, each stuffed with too many pictures. The photos were not big enough and the sequencing not that great. Navigation was clunky. I was not doing enough active marketing (phone calls and emails). I was not doing nearly enough social media (OK, almost no social media). I could go on, but I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough already.

So I went to town on my site, fixed the pictures, re-did my bio, added a blog and a Tumblr, started using Facebook like a professional, and got my Linkedin profile up to snuff. I made my proposals and contracts “friendlier”. I made marketing calls and wrote follow-up emails. It worked, I got busier.

It’s like the story of the frog placed in a pan of water on the stove, with the water getting slowly heated so the frog doesn’t even realize what’s happening and never saves itself. A little morbid as an analogy, but it points out the importance of staying alert, awake, and flexible. You don’t need to be a frog to understand the value of that.

Get Over It

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Leon Wieseltier has garnered a lot of sympathy these last couple of months, along with everyone else who was fired or quit from The New Republic (where he was the literary editor for 30 years). He recently wrote a piece for the New York Times, “Among the Disrupted”, now sort-of-famous: a classic conservative yearning for a romanticized what-used-to-be, where technology does not overrule “art”. I’m pretty sure when typewriters first came in (or printing!), there was the same reaction to the “new”: technology being the enemy of deeper meaning, the support of transient superficiality.

You don’t have to be middle-aged to talk like this – some of my younger colleagues, both in and out of creative fields, yearn for the world to be simpler, more poetic, more meaningful, richer, better. The way it used to be. You know, in the 1980s.

Photographers, composers, writers, all kinds of people who work in creative fields – or critique the creative fields – have felt the change the “digital world” has brought about, and it’s easy to forget it’s not just about the tools, it’s about the work. Would Faulkner have been any less good a writer had he used a quill rather than a typewriter? Why bother even asking.

It does not help Wieseltier’s case that his style of writing is all about letting us know he’s a highly cultured and deeply-read guy. His flowery language and extreme erudition insists he must be taken seriously, using a hammer where a gentle nudge would do. It weakens his already not-terribly-strong or original argument by setting the challenge that you’re only qualified to argue against him if you’re educated to his level. That’s a pretty thin argument if what you’re trying to suggest is that the whole culture is going down the tubes (it leaves out a whole lot of culture).

This story of digital has been going on for several decades now, so these critiques serve as a reminder how hard it is to grasp where you are in the river when you’re floating with the current.  The world is changing, the world is always changing, the world will always change.

To quote the great Don Henley: Get Over It.

 

An Honest Job

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One of the most influential newspaper editors of twentieth century, Ben Bradlee, former editor of the Washington Post, died last week. Bradlee was instrumental in turning the Post into one of the best papers in the country. The Pentagon Papers were published on his watch (along with the New York Times), exposing damaging facts about the Vietnam War forcefully hidden from the public. Over the course of the next two years in the early 1970s, he guided coverage of the Watergate scandal that helped force Richard Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency.

Mark Felt, at his career peak, was Associate Director of the FBI.  Near the end of his life a few years ago, he outed himself as “Deep Throat” — a pivotal source of information for the Post (and the reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) about the Watergate break-ins and the following coverup – all leading to the only resignation of a President of the United States.

Both men, one might assume, operated out of liberal ideology, promoting their views through their actions.

Not true. Neither were ideologues.

David Remnick, the current editor of the New Yorker (who worked for Bradlee as a reporter) wrote in his New Yorker remembrance last week: “After a trip to Vietnam, in 1971, he ‘ended up feeling uncommitted politically as usual,’ he once said. ‘By instinct and habit, I was more interested in the whatness of the war rather than in the rightness or wrongness,’” This is exactly what you want from a principled, skilled journalist, slant or not.

Mark Felt, despite his central role in the Watergate scandal, did not in any way consider himself a liberal; rather, he saw himself as a public servant and his actions as a civic duty. He saw the bigger picture. Felt became so unhappy with the Nixon Administration’s determined and relentless undermining of the Constitution he was impelled to break away from a career’s worth of loyalty to help expose years of illegal and unconstitutional behavior.

What, you might legitimately ask, has any of this to do with having a creative career?

These men saw beyond themselves and their slice of the world.  Their actions revealed a strength of character enabling them to cut through anxiety and doubt, come to a resolution, and act.

In other words, they did their job.

Competition from colleagues in the creative class is intense.  But that’s always has been true; this is not news. There is more than one path to remain in the game, but none of them are any good unless you stay focused, provide a great product and great service, stay engaged, and pay attention to the world around you.

Bradlee and Felt connected their actions, their mission, and a vision for the future. They were just doing an honest job.

Contracts as a Demonstration of Systems Theory

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Any contract, at its simplest, describes an exchange of one thing (a service or product) for something else (usually, money), and is defined by deliverables and payment. On the surface. A contract – even a bad contract – is a reflection of the experiences of the participants – practical, business, even aesthetics. It is a representation of a relationship.

As a supplier, I think of my contracts as the point of a pyramid, with all the years of training and developing skills on the bottom leading to a highly-defined agreement at the top. Like the pyramids in Egypt or Central America, something is hidden in plain site: the process it took to get them built, including the cultural beliefs that informed their construction. Contracts are just as much a reflection of the culture in which they are written, and much is hidden (or at least not spoken of).

That is why, in negotiations, people skills are the most important part of the process. As a supplier, no matter how good my intention and skill, if I’m not able to communicate I’m capable of providing what the other participant needs, there won’t be a contract to deliver upon. That contract will have gone to someone else.

People skills are more than a display of good manners while focussed on what the other participant will pay for. Each party has responsibilities which may be hidden during negotiation, but the larger cultural context is never hidden: it is the world we both live in.

I document the built environment as a large part of my work as a photographer, and commonly negotiate contracts with architects. I’m highly aware they need pictures for their websites and to submit to magazines and competitions, and to show their own potential clients. As I develop a proposal based on the specifics of a project, however, there are any number of things I might never be told. For instance, the architect may not think it’s necessary to inform me they have been lazy about marketing and are feeling sheepish about the possibility their non-marketing has led to business being slow. Maybe they have not been able to afford upgrading their office equipment and software, and are worried they may be forced to lay off people who have worked for them for decades and with whom they have personal relationships and for whom they feel personally responsible. They see hungry young architects coming up behind them, differently attuned to clients’ needs and willing to work harder for less money because that’s what everyone does when they’re getting started. They have a child about to enter college and they’re wondering how they’re going to pay for it. Maybe their back hurts.

I don’t know about any of that. The architect doesn’t know anything about my own worries crowding my mind during negotiations. If I’m awarded the project the architect simply expects I will do what is necessary to get them the photos they need. None of the drama in our lives needs mentioning during negotiations, nor, really, should be. It’s best if the architect and myself think of ourselves as potential partners during negotiations, as though we were on a first date. (People who spill their guts on a first date rarely have a second one.) If we sign a contract, we will, in fact, become partners – legally – for the duration of the contract.

In a good relationship, we have a common understanding of what I need from them and they need from me. The architect and myself are part of a system we are so deeply embedded in there is no need for either of us to define every little thing; a contract can be two pages long – or less. Much is unspoken yet very much understood.

I have funneled into the contract all my years of photographic skill as well as what I know about my potential partner and their profession. The same is true of the architect. That, and the culture in which we both live, is what allows us – essentially strangers – to work together.

So our contract is not so much a set of words that define deliverables and payment as it is an acknowledgment we both live in the same culture, in the same system. And if I ever forget that’s how it really works, I might as well go get an honest job.

Art of Babylon 5

I don’t shoot events all that often, but every now and then something really interesting comes along.

I volunteered to document a panel moderated by my friend John Iacovelli about the production design of Babylon 5, a fabulous show that ran from 1993-1998; 110 episodes and six TV movies.

This panel was a repeat of one that had taken place a few days before at Comic-Con and was presented under the aegis of the Art Directors Guild and American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on August 2, 2014, which included two episodes.

John was Babylon 5’s production designer, and among the panelists were most of his design colleagues and Joe Straczynski, the creator and executive producer of the show (on the left, with John in the first picture), and two of the actors, Claudia Christian and Mira Furlan. Also on the panel were art directors Mark-Louis Walters and Roland Rosenkranz, graphic artist Alan Kobayashi, costume designer Ann Bruice, propmaster Dark Hoffman, and concept artist/set designer Timothy Earls, and Luc Mayrand.

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Laziness, Neuroses, And Its Mitigation

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The problem with being lazy, always looking for the easier way, is that the easier way takes so much work to set up it generally stresses me right out. It’s an engagement with neuroses (it takes a lot of work to be neurotic!).

As far as clients go, my stress is not their problem; it’s all about them, as it should be.  They don’t care so much about my neuroses except as it benefits themselves.

For instance, receiving big files can be a source of anxiety for clients. There are lots of ways to do this that involve disks and hard drives (too much work!).  There are third-party websites that allow you (often for free) to upload big files, give the client a link which they click on, leading to another link, maybe a login (maybe not), maybe a registration (maybe not), and then most of the time the files arrive in some form or another.  I use two bits of software to simplify my clients’ experience. (Why two? One is the backup for the other one.)

These are both for Macs: FileChute, which is free-standing, and CargoLifter, which becomes part of your email software. Both send your files into the cloud (Google Drive, Dropbox, your own server, and other clouds). Both provide you a link. You send the link to your clients. The client clicks on the link and the files download to their computer just like that. It’s a beautiful thing.

Bidding and negotiating are part of the entrepreneur’s gig. To reduce my own stress, my estimates and contracts look almost identical and are templates, including the terms & conditions. The templates are bigger and more comprehensive than they need to be.

O man, you may say, that’s a drag… The deal is this: it’s far easier to take things away (like signature lines) than to add them. In the course of a few minutes, my contract template becomes an estimate, including removing language that does not apply to the type of project I’m bidding. If I get the job, I add things back (like signature lines) by copying-and-pasting from the original template. There are lots of software programs that do this kind of work, but I’m pretty comfortable with Word, so no biggie. Any word processing program will do.  Not much stress involved, discounting the ever-present sensation I’m bidding too low or too high.  But now we’re talking about my neuroses, and I’ve already addressed that (no cure, only mitigation!).

Doing any kind of photography, Lightroom is my best friend. No surprise: it is designed to be my BFF by Adobe because they spend so much time listening to what their own clients, photographers, need. (What a concept! Could we pass this gem of business logic on to my cable company?) Lightroom is designed to enable you to intuitively automate a remarkable number of processes while still producing high-quality work. Like, wow.

The unfortunate side-effect is I now feel more comfortable taking way more photos than I used to because it’s so much easier to edit large numbers of images. (Seems counterintuitive for a lazy person; perhaps I should write Adobe and ask them to back off making the software so good.) Clients love getting all those images to choose from, like they get something extra every project.

When all my little efficiencies are working smoothly, I save so much time being lazy I get do all the other things that can’t be automated, like eating, sleeping, and walking the dog. Walking him always makes me less stressed (him too).  So maybe I’ll hold off on calling Adobe on account of my dog; he doesn’t really care that much about software, anyway.