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This Year’s Award Winner Is…

Didn’t even know there was a contest did you? Yeah, no one did. That is what makes it special! By not knowing, no one was able to cheat! There is a winner though and that winner is

Aimco Apartment Homes!

AIMCO

Aimco is the proud winner of the Michael Albany Photography Client of the Year Award. This award is given to the client that meets the following criteria.

  • Has an  annual spend of $1000 or more
  • Contracted for a minimum of 2 photoshoots in the calendar year
  • Has included diversity in their photography needs

Aimco Apartment Homes owns and operates some of the most stylish and comfortable apartment homes in the country, not just Philadelphia. The Sterling, Chestnut Hall, Riverloft and Park Towne are just a few of the apartment buildings they own and manage nationwide. Currently the opening image on this site is of the Riverloft at 23rd and Walnut St. Other images of their properties, events, portraits, street photography, and cityscapes that you see here were requested by Lauren Ware of the Interactive Marketing department.

Help me in congratulating Lauren and all of Aimco on their award. Take a look at the galleries on my site and see if you can pick out which ones are images I shot for Aimco.

Philadelphia, Photographer, Michael Albany, award,

 

Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed – Again!

A while back I did “Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed” (first one, second time). In fact the last time I did it I served over 175 people by creating new business portraits for them, the goal being to help them get work. At the time the country was in a spike of unemployment not seen since the 1930s. Today many think that the times are better because unemployment rates are much lower. Better, maybe. Good? Not by a long shot.Here is a video of our las Free Business Portraits session.

Unemployment has turned into Underemployment and many who can’t find a position because they are over qualified or under trained, have completely fallen off the radar. The US government only tracks unemployment based on how many people apply for benefits. Once your benefits run out you are no longer considered a part of the unemployment figures. In fact, the fastest drop in unemployment rates came after the federal government stopped subsidizing state unemployment benefits. Did all those people suddenly get jobs? Doubt it.

By speaking to my business contacts and some friends I find that there is still a need for well trained, eager employees. Through my LinkedIn group management activities I find that there are still many people that need a professional headshot. Even professional photographers need to look into the lens rather than through it sometimes.

Did you know there is a blog on tumblr that actually posts bad profile images found on LinkedIn. You can check that out at givingbadprofile.tumblr.com. I must say that some of them are hilarious! Perhaps some of them are not bad images but they certainly don’t seem like something business oriented, well unless you’re a lifeguard or pool boy.

So considering the need, I have decided to do another session of Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed on March 19th from 3pm – 8pm at Servcorp in Philadelphia!

This time appoints, though not required, are very strongly encouraged. Last time we ran out of time and had to turn over 90 people away. I don’t want to turn anyone away this time. Business attire will be encouraged as well. These portraits will be for your business profile rather than Facebook or twitter; think LinkedIn.

If you are interested in having your portrait done or know someone who is in need, contact me by clicking here or going to the contact page and we will get you schedule for your Free Business Portrait!

Below are some of the business portraits I have done in the past, some from the Free Business Portraits, some not. Let’s help get everyone properly employed! If you want to read the press release put together by Servecorp click here to download a copy.

 

 

2014 in Review

I know its been a long time since I posted. It’s been a very busy year! my first shoot of 2014 was doing my own portrait, then off to New York to work with Beate Chelette. That was just the beginning!

Rather than bore you with the details check out the video. It is just a few random shoots from this this great year. Enjoy!

Like this post? Like it! Tweet it! Share it!  Pin it! Stumble it! or Tumble it! But please add a link back to this post. Thanks!

People First

It never ceases to amaze me the wonderful people I meet in this career of mine. Every type of person, business, charity, everything needs images of something and I am the lucky person that gets to meet the people seeking those images. Another example of great people doing great things is Anatomical Designs (AD) in Uniontown PA just southeast of Pittsburgh. I went there to create images for their brochures and marketing pieces but what I found was a fantastic group of people that really care about their patients and their families.

I arrived in Uniontown late Sunday and checked into a hotel that was pre-booked for my assistant and me, a room for each. The town itself is much like most small towns throughout Pennsylvania but this one is special. Not far from where we were staying was the AD offices, a subdued little house like office but within is a place where wonderful work is happening.

We met the office manager and the owner then received the nickel tour to give us an idea of what and where we would be shooting. We saw the kitchen area, waiting area, the medical offices and therapy rooms; as we moved downstairs we came upon the workshop where the real magic happens. This is where they make the prosthetics join to the person in need of them. In this small lab skilled craftsmen labor over hot plastics and plaster molds to form a union between the person and the man-made. The work they do is not at all production line; everything is custom made and built to meet the needs of the individual. The work they do has to be seen to be appreciated.

Setting up lights and talking to the staff I learned about the advances in the technology and how each person can have completely separate needs even with the same type of amputation. I took great interest in what they told me because this was personal in a way. I still have all my limbs, at least for now, I don’t need a prosthetic. However my grandfather lost his leg in the early part of the 1900’s due to infection after a train accident. I never saw my grandfather use his prosthetic leg because he said it was heavy and uncomfortable. In fact I never saw the actual leg until years after he passed away and we were cleaning out his house after my grandmother had also passed.

I remember going up into the room on the top floor for the first time (I wasn’t allowed up there as a child) and in the corner was the wooden leg just standing there. I went over and picked it up and it was very heavy, probably 30 pounds or more. It was bent slightly at the knee but had no hinge or anything; it was one solid piece of wood carved to the height my grandfather needed. No wonder he never wore it. That thing had to exhaust him and I it had to be uncomfortable.

At Anatomical Designs the prosthetics were completely different. Some looked like a piece left behind by the robot in the movie Terminator, thin, and the skeletal structure exposed, but depending on the need of the patient they can be modified to do so many things. Each person is different and so is each prosthetic.

Of course photographing the lab would tell an incomplete story so the people at AD had arranged for a few patients to come in and act as models. Finding one legged models that also happened to be local to Uniontown would be darn near impossible. These were everyday people who for some reason had lost a limb at some point. One of them had a special electronic sensor in his leg to assist him with walking and another had a complicated spring and pressure design type of limb and the third, well the third was a young woman who at first I didn’t even notice that she had a false limb!

As Jessica and her mother walked into the office I looked down to see which person was the patient and the first thing I saw was 4 feet in sandals, all with perfectly painted matching toenails. Jessica also had some type of material over her thigh so it looked like, well, it looked like her. After a moment of thinking they were there for some other reason I notice the leg. There was no hint of it in her walk or her pace, in fact if she had jeans or a long skirt on I never would have been able to tell.

The youngest of the three patients, her accident (I believe) was the most recent; but there was no way to tell that though. The staff at AD had taken her into their care and they taught her how to not only walk in the new leg but she told me later she can dance in it too!

The work these people do is nothing short of amazing. As I needed to photograph all aspects of a patients care in only one day, I got to see the many stages of learning and more importantly, coaching that is needed.  From the fitting of the device, to the training, to the emotional and physical support, what these people offer is truly special. They aren’t there to just push patients through some system; these are craftsmen and healthcare workers that truly care about the wellbeing of the individual. They went so far as to help a young woman have a foot where she could paint her toenails!

Later in the day when I was packing up after the shoot one of the patients was still there and I mentioned to him how far the technology has come since my grandfather lost his leg. I also mentioned to him that if I ever lost a limb that I would make the 5 and a half hour drive to Uniontown just to have the people at Anatomical Designs take care of me. His comment was, “Do it! Having all your limbs isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.”

My hats off to all the folks at Anatomical Designs; bravo for putting the people first and delivering so much wonderful care.

Consumer Value or Valued Customer

Which is more important: consumer value or being a valued customer? It’s true that every person wants to get a great deal.  After all, who doesn’t like saving money? One has to ask though, is that more important than being valued as a customer?

 

As our world gets smaller the distance between individuals seems to be becoming greater. Personalized services are becoming more valued due to the fact that they are indeed getting rare. In an age of mass marketing, cookie cutter solutions, assembly line products and one size fits all where has personal service gone? It seems that very little is made or done for individuals any more. More often than not things are marketed in a way that is supposed to be personal when in fact the product or service is not personalized at all.

 

So how do I try to provide a personalized experience for you, my client? Easy, I work with you.

 

I think I have said it before on this blog, my first job in life was working for a family business gutting fish all day – week old fish at that. That job taught me a lot of lessons when it comes to my business and a lot about life in general. When you work for family you are not just another employee. You are expected to do twice as much for less than half the paycheck and no recognition.

 

Today I run my own business and I want my clients to think of me as that family employee. I am going to do as much as I can, as often as I can, for as long as I can and I want you to get the credit. My goal is to make you look as good as possible and the only way I can do that is to understand your wants and needs. That means I have to work with you, understand the problems you have and help you find solutions that solve those problems.

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RFPs – The Incomplete Story

I can honestly say that at least 60% of the RFPs I am asked to respond to are incomplete. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to even respond to them. How can I honestly and completely respond with an accurate proposal when I don’t know all the information?  Most of the time the requester will include a statement to the effect of, “If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.” Which is fine if they respond to those requests for information; which they often do not.

 

For photography RFPs I need to know certain information. Things like the number of attendees and the length of the event are always included, but details are often left out. In order to capture an event and get the results the client (you) wants, I have to know what it is you want!

  • Do you want a feeling of the event as a whole?
  • Would you like the event to be capture in a journalistic fashion or do you want more of a celebratory tone?
  • Will you need to capture the speakers/presenters as they are presenting?
  • If so, what is the intended schedule? Will any of them be speaking at the same time in separate rooms?
  • What is the venue like? Do I need to access it prior to the event to set up lighting?
  • If this is a large (especially a multi-day) event, what is the overall scope so I know if I need to bring in a second photographer?
  • Is there going to be a portrait session for the presenters or the guests?
  • If so will there be a logo or banner that needs to be included in each portrait or am I to provide a backdrop for that?
  • Will I be assigned a space to do these portraits or am I doing them “on the fly”?

 

This is just a very short list of details that I need to know to be accurate in my proposal. If an event is in the planning process I totally understand that you may not have many of these details as of yet. That’s fine, but remember that one photographer providing a response may include all of these options with costs included while another may include none of them and provide a lower bid.

 

The better RFP will include something of these details but include a statement to the effect of “details of the event are subject to change. We would like to work with the service provider to plan for these contingencies and we will adjust the RFP and proposal accordingly.”

 

To have a provider bid on certain guidelines and then during the event ask them to add services (such as portraits for example) requires a compromise on both sides. The reason for this is that if I plan on being as efficient as possible then I will have to sacrifice some duty in order to fill this on site request. It is my job as a professional to respond to your request and to tell you the consequences as to what it will effect, whether that is services planned, cost or whatever. Some requests will have minimal impact, some major, but it is my job to tell you what they will be.

 

At the same time I have to ask that my clients be prepared for changes when they make such requests. However if we sit down and plan the services to be delivered in advance we can minimize those changes. The issue is that if I respond to a bid that doesn’t include XYZ, when XYZ is proposed I am going to have to change the cost of the bid.

 

This is where problems usually arise. Clients say things like, “well you said it would cost this!” Yes but that did not include XYZ.

 

I know that some photographers can be a bit dramatic and get huffy. To them I say get over it. Scopes change and they need to learn to expect that in the career they have chosen. You as the client have the power to dictate the services that I will provide. However, please be aware that in order for me to quote you properly on those services I have to know what they are. If something new arises, I will have to charge for additional services.

A Different Level

I have asked this before and I will ask it again: “Where does networking end? “

 

I am a member of a group called PRE (Professional Referral Exchange) that meets every Thursday for lunch and networking. PRE has a unique view on networking because at PRE networking never ends. In fact the premise is that we work as each other’s sales force; always trying to promote not just ourselves but others in the group as well.

 

 

Our PRE group is original in a number of ways, and not just because we are a group of professionals that want to help each other in any way we can. A PRE group enlists as many professionals as it can but only one representative of each business category; for example I am the only photographer in the group, Walter is the Personal Financial Manager, Dana the one Business Banker, Bob the only website designer, and so on.
As I mentioned before we are each other’s sales force. Of course I have made referrals and introductions to bring two businesses together, but it goes beyond that. We truly do work for each other. Just yesterday I was at the local Home Depot picking up a few things and one of them being fuses, a woman and I started talking about the cost of electricity and how expensive power is getting. Well in our PRE group we have a gentleman who is in the power supply business. This gentleman also happens to be a pastor and his name is Paster, so we call him Pastor Paster.

 

I took the time to speak to the woman I met in line at Home Depot and told her that Pastor Paster could possibly help her with her energy bills and that he is not the type person that just goes knocking on doors, he will only speak about his power business when asked. I gave her my card and Pastor Paster’s card and we parted ways.

 

That is what is different about PRE, not only do we make recommendations and introductions but we are willing to tell people about our colleagues’ businesses. By spending one lunch a week together we learn about each other and our businesses on a whole different level. This gives us a unique ability to be advocates for each other.  It feels good to know that there is someone other than myself out there driving my business forward, but it is an even better feeling helping others drive their businesses.

 

‘Da-Ra’ and friend

Our group is a bit different than other PRE groups too; we tend to be a bit goofy at times but that makes it fun and makes it more personal too. Our president Eleanor had a brief speech impediment one week and had problems introducing our new Real Estate Agent, Damon as “Raymond… Damon, Da-Ra!” and this shall now be his name forever; well at least on Thursday’s at lunchtime.

 

We have a heckler lawyer, a twisting (as in the dance) large format print man, a guitar playing and singing fulfillment coach, a salsa dancing personal beauty consultant, a former football star now travel consultant, a motorcycle riding small business legal consultant, a highly fashionable Internet Cash Flow Consultant, and a slightly psychotic photographer-wait, that would be me!

 

My point is that we not only do business with each other, we do business for each other.

 

My name is Michael Albany, photographer; who can I introduce you to today?

Rewards

 

Every day each of us looks for rewards. We hope to get rewarded for a job well done, a big sale, a hug from a spouse or child, but we often feel that we don’t get the rewards we think we deserve. Our paychecks seem to get smaller while our children get bigger; we need our paychecks more and our children need us less.

 

Rewards are difficult to quantify and often what we do today may not pay off until next week, next month or next year; or it may not pay off at all. How do we even measure it? Is it the money we are paid, the love we receive, the car we drive or the house or neighborhood we live in?

 

I have always known that the more I look for them the less I receive. If I am working towards getting some type of recognition or ‘fame’ what I get is disappointment and failure. It’s like praying for patience; your higher power is likely to give you something to be patient about!

 

When I let go and I let life happen, it does. When I did the Free Business Portraits for the Unemployed I expected nothing in return. I wanted to give back to those less fortunate than I am and I know how it feels to be suddenly out of a job, the emotional toll it takes. I felt that if I could do something nice and help people smile when life was difficult then I would feel good about what I was doing and I did.  Even the local media got involved and my name was all over the world for a lot longer than just 15 minutes.

 

So many people told me that this was the best thing I could do for publicity for my business. You know how much work I got as a result of that? Zip, zero, nada. But that was OK because that isn’t why I was doing it. When I looked for a reward I got none, when I was doing it just to help I got famous.

 

Many times we don’t know what we get when we put out the positives and good efforts. Sure we might get a raise next year and sure our children may care for us when we get old, but do we know that is going to happen? Sometimes we don’t even know we are doing the next right thing.

 

I think it was 10 or 11 years ago and I was still in the corporate world; I was working for a software firm in Philadelphia and I was in charge of the support department. I forget why but I needed another tech and in those days techs weren’t as easy to find as they are today (amazing what changes in just 10 years), especially ones that understood large format image printing.

 

I noticed this one man working in our shipping department and while I was helping pack up a large shipment I asked him some basic questions about computers. He had no formal computer training and had never held a support position before but he knew instinctively how to logically troubleshoot and come to a solution.  A true “diamond in the rough”; but there was a problem.

 

This young man had a run in with the law. He had been arrested and was awaiting trial and he was pleading guilty. He would most likely get probation but that conviction would make him ineligible  for the position per company policy. Something told me that his past didn’t matter. What had gotten him to this point in his life was just a path and it was what made him the man he was, but it didn’t define the type of man I was looking at. I took a risk and I fought to get him on my team and I won. I won with conditions of course; if he failed, I was out of a job too.

I took a risk and it paid off in a great way. He eventually became the supervisor of that support team and he made IT his career. He was a true success story and I was glad to know him. I never thought anything of it really though, I knew he was going to do well and I knew he had the knack to be good at it. When he was successful I felt it was as it was supposed to be, that was all there was to it.

 

This past weekend I found out there was more to the story. You see that man invited me to his wedding and again, we have stayed in touch over the years so no big deal. I hadn’t met his wife to be yet but I had heard a lot about her. At the reception he introduced me to her and what he said floored me. He said, “This is the man that believed in me and put me on the right path.” His new wife knew immediately who I was. I was blown away.

 

I didn’t expect that. I wasn’t prepared in any way to be a part of the turning point for him, I was just doing what I always try to do: the next right thing. He made something of the opportunity; he did what he needed to do and he made the life for himself that he has today. I am humbled by the words he used to introduce me to the love of his life.

 

I didn’t do anything, he did it all. Then he gave me the rewards.

To My Client: No Surprises

I recently received an RFP (Request for Proposal) from a potential client and the client included a criteria of “Complete listing of expenses (no surprise costs)!” I fully understand their need to include this statement. Some of the surprises aren’t completely the fault of the vendor.

 

First let me look at the client’s view. Very often, too often, when they send out an RFP to any vendor they get an estimate back that A) doesn’t include all of the information that is needed for them to make an informed decision. What they receive is a quote for the cost of the entire estimated job but no details on the breakdown of costs. For most large clients these details are needed for reporting as well as their ability to budget correctly. B) doesn’t include a capability statement that explains why a particular vendor is able to even complete the work.  How would the client know that Company X has knowledge of the job being bid? How do they know that the vendor has the resources to even deal with the scope of work? These details are crucial to their ability to do business and as a possible vendor it is my responsibility to provide them with as many details as possible so that if I do win the bid, that there is little or no stress about my ability to complete the requested work.

I don’t hold all the responsibility though. Many RFPs are vague and incomplete. Often the reason for that is the fact that the client wants to see my knowledge of the work proposed. That is understandable and acceptable. At the same time certain details are needed for me to understand the work required. A full scope of work as the client understands it, and/or a detailed explanation of the use of the product or services at the end of the project is huge help. With that detail I can chart the path from beginning to end and that should show the details the client needs to decide on a vendor.

 

Knowing where you want to be at the end of a project is crucial for both client and vendor. Knowing the need, use and benefit of any product or service helps the client get all that they need out of any vendor they choose to work with. Without it, it is like packing a bag and getting in your car knowing you want to go on vacation but not knowing where you are going.

 

Using a similar metaphor, if the client knows they want to go to Vermont to go skiing for vacation, as a vendor it is my responsibility to pack their skis. At the same time my client will get nowhere if I don’t put gas in the car too. It is my responsibility to know, plan for, and handle the details. By relating those details my client is able to see on paper that their vacation is exactly what they want planned, and they know that by including the details I am going to ensure they get to where they want to be.

 

So what if the client doesn’t include the needed information so that I can provide a complete and details response? Again that is where the responsibility is mine. It is my job as a professional to ask the right questions, to ask detailed questions and get the information I need to answer their questions. When I do that, my clients get the results they want and there are no surprises.

 

Send me an RFP for photography services and let me show you what I mean.

Responsibility

 

For god’s sake buck up!  Take responsibility for all that you do. Everything!  You may think that this is going to be a rant post; maybe a little, but not too much. Read on good reader.

 

In my rather vast experience in business, I have seen many times individuals who do not take responsibility for what they do. Sometimes this is because they are afraid that they will get in trouble, maybe even lose their job. In most cases no one is in jeopardy of losing anything except some humility perhaps.

 

 

Successful people take responsibility for all that they do, good and bad. Entrepreneurs not only take responsibility, they take credit. Yes, taking credit is a part of responsibility. I admit that all the images I capture are mine. I don’t steal them from anywhere, I don’t copy other photographers, I may however be influenced by some. I also take credit for my faults and mistakes.

 

One of the reasons I left the corporate world to take up photography full time was a matter of taking responsibility. It is a long (and very boring) story but suffice it to say I took responsibility for interpreted actions and by doing the right thing I was able to walk away from the corporate world.

 

I am not saying that I did the right thing every time. I have made my fair share of mistakes in my career. I have made mistakes that have cost me money and I have made decisions that have made the company and me a lot of money too.  The fact is, though, that I take responsibility for all the decisions I make good or bad. I also make sure that I do everything I say I will do and I work the way I agree to work.

 

My clients quite often say that they need X amount of images. If that’s 15 images I always deliver at least 20, sometimes twice that. I try to over-deliver whenever possible. My goal is to give my clients more; more of what they want. I am not perfect.  Sometimes I miss the target and I admit my failure. In photography that means I have to reshoot and at no cost to my client. I can honestly say though that whenever I have taken on a project I have always succeeded in delivering in the long run.

 

My overall point is that no matter what goals you set for yourself:  own them.  Drive yourself toward them and make sure you do your best to reach the goal. When you do something with all you are, when you give everything you have, at the end you are guaranteed a reward. That reward is pride.

 

Taking responsibility for all that you do is where to start and where to finish. After that success or failure are the same. We learn from either, and from both, but if we don’t take responsibility we fail to learn.