EP128 Stay Positive: That ’No’ Might Just Be A ’Yes’ For A Later Date

I have honestly grown to love the sales process – from pitch to payment, it is something I never thought I’d get my head around but have surprised myself.

One key aspect is understanding that a ‘no’ may not be all it seems.  In this episode, Sarah and I have stood out in the weather at Thame Food Festival, pitching to prospective clients.  Not everyone says ‘yes’ but learning that there are grades of success when it comes to selling, helps me not worry about those who’ve said ‘no’.

During this episode, I mention a piece of software we’re now using to expedite our colour correction.  It’s called ImagenAI and it uses machine learning to learn how YOU like YOUR colours, and then applies them.  It’s very fast, it’s very cool, it’s incredibly accurate and it’s cost-effective.  And, no, I am not in any way being paid to say that – it’s just that this podcast was always meant to be helpful to other photographers and this is one of those moments when software is part of that value.

It can be found at https://www.imagen-ai.com/

Enjoy this episode!


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Episode Transcript

Well, it’s been three glorious days of portraiture. Two days ago, it was corporate headshots in London; yesterday, a beautiful bride and groom here in the studio, and today, well, today I’ve been creating portraits for the guys at the Hearing Dogs For Deaf People.

I am really, really, truly in my happy place when I’m pointing the camera at someone rather than some thing. I’ve no idea why it is, but it’s people that seem to make everything well, all okay. Even in London, when I had to create a few shots of really beautiful empty offices, those offices really only came to life when they had faces to photograph. Same office empty was stunning. But it was only when I could hear the sound of laughter that I really felt that magic.

Why is that? Well, Who knows, but whatever it is for me, at least, it works.

I’m Paul and this is the Mastering Portrait Photography Podcast.

So what’s up people? Hope you’re well, as usual, we have a lot going on here. It is seven o’clock in the evening, and I’ve just about managed to squeeze some time in to record this podcast. , It’s been an incredibly busy week or so. I had anticipated that we would be able to record a podcast once every seven days and in the entire history, the entire history of the podcast, I think I’ve managed that twice. Maybe. I managed to release two last week. Uh, but there’s always so much going on.

Just a quick heads up. Our workshops are all booked up, or certainly the current batch are all booked up; we had the final booking for our, uh, mastering, the business of portrait photography workshop that’s in the next few weeks, that was booked up, uh, this week. So keep your eyes peeled, we will be releasing some new dates in the next week or two. Uh, so shout, if you think of anything that you might like us to put onto the list, I know we’ve had a few emails and it looks like we’re going to be running, a beginners day on studio lighting. In particular, I think it’ll be around things like, uh, headshots and simple portraits. Which will be a huge amount of fun – I absolutely love doing that kind of a portraiture. I love headshots. I really do love doing headshots ’cause a headshot for me is just another portrait.

So we’re going to be running probably a day on that. Uh, but if there’s anybody that fancies something different, give us a shout. And if you’d like to have early notice of that particular workshop, then please do drop me an email. It’s paul@paulwilkinsonphotography.co.uk. That’s Paul at Paul Wilkinson photography. Dot co.uk.

Um, I’m going to start this podcast with a little bit of useful software. Now, just bear in mind that I’m not an ambassador for this. This is just a piece of software that we picked up last week and I’ve been working with it for the past 10 days or so. It’s called. “ImagenAI” that’s, I-M-A-G-E-N-A-I. I’ll put a link to this bit of software in the notes.

Now, one of the things we’ve always struggled with here, is getting our color correction done externally. Um, we did have some lovely, color-correction guys in Canada that we used for years and when they decided during COVID to close their doors, which is a real shame, we’ve been hunting around. And one of the puzzles has always been, how do I get someone else to create the colors that I love, which is basically saying, how do I get someone else to colour-correct like I do.

And even the guys in Canada, I spent a lot of time adjusting things. They didn’t quite do it the way I loved it. And there’s always something to do. Anyway. We have been looking for an automated tool, actually to be fair. I haven’t, I’ve been looking for any solution at all that’s consistent and produces to the style that I like um, and we tripped over, ImagenAI or I tripped over Imagen AI, probably on a, I’m guessing on an Instagram ad or something. I don’t know. And so, we’ve, we’d running it all week and I have to be honest: I love it. So Imagen is an automated color-correction tool that hooks into Lightroom Classic. So if you’re a, a Capture One user, this, might not be that useful for you. But if you’re a Lightroom Classic user, like I am Adobe Lightroom Classic, then it’s absolutely seamless. You simply upload your images and you get them back color-corrected.

Now let me just explain a bit more about that. I don’t know anything about the technology, I’m not an ambassador, I’ve nothing other than what I’ve read and learned, but I do have a PhD. oddly enough in artificial intelligence. So when I see a bit of software, that’s using AI for this kind of work, then of course, I’m really going to be interested in it. And what it does, basically, is it learns how you do your own images, and then when you upload new images, It makes them exactly the way you do them. Now I’ve always wanted a way of automating the process of generating our color so that creates colors that I love the colors that, um, I want them to be the way I like the coloring and the brightness which is very peculiar to me.

And yes, all right, there’s a million variations out there and you can download color profiles and all the rest of it. But what I wanted was something that would fine tune for every image I shoot, it would find tune the colors to give me the finish that I’m always looking for. So I uploaded 16,000 color corrected images and yes, you did hear that, right; that is 16,000 images with their attached color correction. So those are raw files with their color correction. The tool lets you do this, you don’t go through one by one, uploading 16,000 images. You tell the tool which folders to upload. And I’m very lucky here. We have such a big archive and we catalog and keep everything so well organized, that I could find 5,000 images of each of the different types I wanted to create and then push them up for the system to learn.

So we did one for portraits, one for weddings, and one for our Hearing Dogs. I’m in a good position to be able to do that. It might not be something everyone can do, but I could do it. So we uploaded 16,000 images and created three different profiles. Like I said, one for portraits, one for weddings, one for Hearing Dogs, you can create as many as you like. So if you wanted to, for instance, you could create a landscapes one, you could create, one where you only put up portrait studio images. You could, if you wished have different styles. So if for some gigs you like the colors to be really clean, let’s say you do commercial portraiture. Uh, you could create a profile of those. And if for some stuff you like it a little bit more grungy in the raw file stage, then, of course you can create that too.

Now it does take a day or two for the AI system, the artificial intelligence system to learn what you like. So what it’s doing is it’s looking at every image that you put up, every raw file you upload in this case, I’ve used RAW files And then it’s looking at the color correction that you applied to that image. It’s learning, I’m guessing a few different bits, but it’s learning how to recognize that image, it’s then learning what color you wanted it to end up looking like, and it buries that away. So next time it sees an image, something like that, in your upload, it will give you the colors, something like the ones you asked for. Very simple, really in theory. But of course the technology to do this is all relatively new.

So. Uh, to create a profile, you open the software, you select the catalog of all those files, you tell it what I was going to be called you upload it. You leave it, learn for a couple of days.

Once you get to use the software, all you do is that you select your Lightroom catalog. You choose the images in it that you want color corrected, you choose the profile, so let’s say after today I’ve been working with the Hearing Dogs, tomorrow we’ll do a selection do a cull. We’ll select those images in Imagen in the catalog. I’ll upload them. And within about, I guess, 15 minutes, something like that, depending on the speed of your network to upload the images, we’ll get the colors back. And seriously. The best bit of this for me is that the colors look like how I would have set them. Now. Some bits are not quite right. You know, sometimes, in certain lighting conditions the colours are a little adrift. And all that really means is that when I created the profile, when I uploaded the training images, probably I missed that out. Maybe there wasn’t. Uh, an image would that peculiar combination of light and background? Well, no worries. I’ll fine tune those and then when I finished, I’ll upload those images into the same profile and the system will continue to learn and evolve. And what I love is it, honestly, I opened the catalog when I’d finished and it just looked like I’d done the color correction.

Now, if you don’t have access to 5,000 images for each profile, then that’s not necessarily a problem, you can choose from a whole load of other peoples they’re called talent profiles. You can choose one of those and apply those colors. I did try that. I had a play around with that. The colors weren’t quite what I wanted, because really I wasn’t looking for anything artistic, I was looking for something or someone who would color-correct the way I like to color-correct. And this seems to do it. I’m an early user. I’ve only been working with it for 10 days or so. Uh, I will give you an update in a future episode.

But what I love is that it’s so far appears to do precisely what I need it to do. Now, if you fancy having a go at this, you can, log in, you can create a membership and it will give you the first thousand images for free. Uh, and after that it’s 5 cents an image. So for us, let’s say I do a wedding of 400 images, then that’s about $20, which the way the pound is going at the moment is about 80 pounds. It’s not ideal is really not ideal. Uh, that it’s priced in dollars, but what can I say? I can’t do anything about our crazy government and what they’re doing It’s 5 cents an image, first thousand images of free. And for me that is completely and utterly manageable. And just a reminder, I need to be really clear about this. I am not in any way, shape or form, at least at the time of recording, I am not, an ambassador for this software. I’m not being paid for this plug. It’s just that when I put this podcast together, The whole point of it was to help and find tools, or processes or ideas or ways of thinking or business tips that would be useful, right. Um, and this is one of them.

I found a bit of software that really, really, really saves us time. Uh, I’ve been looking for it for a long time. It seems to do the job, certainly, uh, this point. Uh, at this point in And so if you fancy it, it’s called Imagen and, uh, I’ll put the link in the podcast notes.

Anyway. The point of this particular podcast, wasn’t it. Wasn’t to talk about this, a bit of software. I found though it’s brilliant, you should try it ,it’s to talk about, uh, something that occurred to me while I was at, Thame Food Festival, so that’s Thame spelled T-H-A-M-E it’s our local town. And they have every year, a huge food festival. And Sarah and myself took the Land Rover and a gazebo and a whole load of product and we ran a little campaign down there.

And we do that most years. well, I say most years we did it once. And then COVID kiboshed it, and then we’ve done two more. So we’ve done it three times.

Now we’re always looking for different ways as a reason for reaching out to our clients. You can use awards, so you can do something where you’ve been in the news. Uh, you can even to celebrate my birthday. I’ve done X, Y, Z, and throughout the year, there are reasons why you might want to send out a newsletter, or maybe generate a campaign, maybe do some Facebook advertising. Well, one of the things we do here is once a year, we take our stuff and go and stand on a field with a whole load of other people, mostly interested in food and drink. You’ve never seen so many gin companies in all your life. And you get to meet a lot of clients and generally well chat and have a nice time. We give out vouchers or say we sell vouchers. And the vouchers that we sold historically are worth about 10% of our annual revenue. So we sell enough vouchers that the value of those when eventually they’re cashed in.

So people come for the shoot, they never settle for just a small frame because the pictures we create, they really want. They will buy some frames, they’ll buy some albums, uh, they might buy some additional prints, but historically those vouchers that we sell in these two days are worth about 10% of our annual revenue.

And just as importantly, it helps us connect with our community. This isn’t a show that’s hundreds of miles away. It’s a show that’s 10 minutes down the road. And it was so nice to see everyone. I mean, it’s just, we’re part of this village, we’re part of the town we’re part of the area. And everybody really knows us for that, so he gave us a chance, admittedly, to stand in the cold and in the hot, and then the cold in the hot, it was one of those crazy weekends where the temperature, as it does sometimes at this time of year, it goes up and uh, like a yo-yo uh,

We took, Rufus this year, a cheap trick. It wasn’t meant to be a cheap trick. It’s just that we didn’t have anyone to look after the dog, it’s a dog-friendly show. So we took him with us. And actually what happened was 90% of the people came to stroke him and we sat him we, we were dreadful. We sat him underneath a big poster of him. Uh, because a picture of him won an award a few years ago, and so we sat him underneath that on his mat. He was really happy, loved to see everybody sat in the sunshine. And generally attracted people.

Now one of my favorite moments when someone came hurtling across the field. Speaking on a phone. And she was being, we could hear she was on speaker phone. We could hear someone going, you’ve got to go. I need you to go now and get one of these vouchers because we only sell a limited number. And she was being instructed by a friend to come and buy a voucher from us .Her friend couldn’t make it to the show. And so she was being directed. It was really funny to watch because you could see her looking as he was trying to figure out where we were and eventually spotted us because we were watching her and she came running across, uh, to buy a voucher because as her friend said it was the best picture she’d ever had taken. And while we’re running the campaign, she wanted to buy a voucher.

It’s a lovely thing when you get repeat business like that, we had fantastic neighbors in the stalls either side of us. It was a company called, Belazu who make, uh, or produce beautiful ingredients like olive oils, Virgin olive oils. Different flavored olive oils, different vinegars, different spices, different nuts it was just lovely. Couldn’t help ourselves, yes, we bought a load of it. And then the other side was company called Resin Chopping Boards, not the most original name, but boy are the boards they make stunning. They were so beautiful. Sarah kept walking over throughout the two days. Stroking them looking at them. Coming back saying, no, we can’t get one, then she’d go back again and then she’d return. No, can’t get one. And at the end of the day, I have to say thanks to the guys. Uh, because they dragged her in and said, which one do you like? They offered us a deal we could not say no to And so I bought her one just because we’d had a really good, really, really good couple of days. And so just to celebrate that we bought ourselves, I bought Sarah a beautiful, I think it’s Walnut and Birch chopping board, just stunning. And Rufus enjoyed every minute of it. And of course the Land Rover also attracted an awful lot of conversation.

Now with the two of us, one of the things you have to be able to do is hold people’s attention. And that’s partly why we have things like the Land Rover, we had the TV screen up there though you couldn’t see it very clearly in the sunshine, which is a bit of a shame. Um, can’t do a lot about that. Uh, so we had the Landrover, Rufus and the TV. Because if there’s only two of us and we start to get people on to the stand. Of course, we don’t have any way of slowing them down and we might just lose them. So we have things that you can talk about. We have things that you can look at. We have leaflets and magazines. Anything to slow them down and give us a chance to say hello Because we get a chance to say hello, I get a chance to pitch as to why they should buy the voucher and what that means and how much they’ll spend if they come to the shoot. Now we’ve always been an incredibly honest business. I built it on that exact value. One of the many we have, one of them is complete honesty. Now I know it’s not very English is to be willing to talk about money. But of course you have to.

So every time somebody bought a voucher, we chat to them them. Of course the inevitable question comes up is what you get for the money. And of course they worry that we’re going to do a hard sell later. I would say we’re not ’cause we don’t, but I don’t deny that people are going to spend a lot of money. I know the averages from last year and I simply quote them.

Now that’s a big number.

But on the whole people appreciate the honesty. I say that we archive the images. We never delete them. And that’s true. We never do, which is why. I was able to find 16,000 color corrected images to upload, on to Imagen. we don’t ever delete the images that would be. For me, something I wouldn’t feel comfortable with.

Now, I know plenty of sales techniques say you apply, scarcity and scarcity in this instance would probably be, you’ve got two weeks after the shoot. Then you delete them. And lots of people ask me about what happens when they come to the shoot. And when they come to the reveal later. So I talk them through it. I talk them through the shoot, I talk them through the process. I talk them through the fun we’re going to have. I talk them through how we capture those little magic moments. I talk them, through the studio an’ our garden and I talk them through what happens when they come to the reveal.

Of course, they asked me is it hard sell? Am I going to end up spending thousands of pounds? And I say there’s no hard sell. None at all, but you might just end up spending thousands of pounds. But not because of anything that I’m doing; you’ll spend the money because what you’re seeing on the screens and what we’re showing you, you want.

It’s a really obvious thing, but it can feel a bit alien when you first start to do this is to say to someone, yep. You’re going to spend thousands. But I’m not going to make you spend thousands. You can come and just take the little frame if you want. And it will be beautiful. We’ll make it as beautiful as I can, because I don’t want anything out there that isn’t stunning

Now of course, in that process, not everyone is going to bite, I think everybody, I spoke to bar one, did. But one didn’t and she was really honest with me. And she said, listen, she said, cause I she’d asked, do I sell files? No. Do I sell prints? Yes. But they’re really expensive. So I showed her a signed and mounted print and said how much that cost and she kind of blanched a little bit and I showed her a different way of buying prints that would have brought the price down by about 30 or 40%. But you have to buy 10 or 15.

And I could see the look on her face. And I knew that probably I was pitching to someone who either didn’t value the quality of the product as much as the sale price or simply didn’t have the budget. Things are tight. Read the news right now. I don’t know if for my friends in the UK, you’re reading the news right here. For my friends around the world, I’m guessing. you’re reading it too. . , it’s not been a good few weeks. If like most of us, with your electricity bills with mortgage repayments, if you have a mortgage. Um, and just generally the doom and gloom, both of the press social media, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that right now we’re not being led by people who know what they’re doing. So it’s a tough market. And I could see that she wasn’t particularly. Um, She hadn’t bought into it.

And so she told me, she said, look, she said,” if I could have bought prints for less than you sell them, I would have come. I love your work, but I can’t afford you.”

And I think that’s fair enough. And I think actually in some ways that’s a good answer. Because the worst thing you can do. Is something like, if you let’s say you do a free shoot voucher, we don’t, we charge for it but if you did a free shoot voucher to get people into the studio,

It’s better for you for someone to say no. and not come than it is for them to say yes, and then not buying anything. Now I know it’s a gamble and I’m aware of this particular model. But the reality is if you’ve pumped energy, and you’ve pumped time and you’ve pumped effort and probably cost into someone’s shoot, and then they buy nothing. That’s all money you’ve lost.

So it’s better for them to say no at the beginning. But there is a sort Scale of success and it got me thinking about the different ways in which you might regard the outcome of a conversation with someone when you’re trying to pitch a shoot. The best outcome of course is they say, yes, they come for a shoot and they buy something. Preferably something HUGE for the wall!

The second best is probably a sale, but you didn’t upsell after the shoot. So they bought into the pitch. They bought into the sboot but they didn’t buy anything. That’s not ideal because, like I said, you’ve now put in effort and you’ve got nothing from it.

But what you want is a positive story out of it. So don’t feel downhearted, but make sure they leave with a positive story. Next down the scale is that there’s no sale they didn’t buy the voucher. But they did go away with a good story. So in my case, the lady that came. And walked away. She walked away with a smile on her face. She’d made a fuss of the dog

She loved the photography and in the end she was price restricted. That’s all. That’s always going to be the case you know, I’d love to have a Bentley, but I don’t because I can’t afford one That doesn’t mean I don’t like the Bentley. It doesn’t mean, I won’t say to someone that Bentley’s beautiful. It doesn’t mean that if somebody said they’re getting a Bentley, I’d say, oh, don’t do it.

It’s a no sale. I’m not buying it, but I still have a positive story. And that lady went away with a positive story.

Further down the scale, you’ve got no sale and no story, that’s just a very dull outcome, but you’re not going to win any work from that. If they walk away and they don’t think anything, well, you really haven’t done a job of telling a story that they can retell, but at least they’re not doing any damage. You’ve just wasted 10 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever your pitch time was.

And not got anywhere.

And then the worst. The worst. Of course. Is that you have no sale and a bad story. You don’t want You really, really don’t want that because as we all know, A bad story is eight times more likely to be told than a good story.

People love – and you have to read the papers at the moment – people love a crappy story. So you want to avoid that at all costs. So if you don’t get a sale, Don’t worry about it, make sure that when, the prospect leaves or they leave at the end of a reveal, even if they’ve come for a shoot and not bought anything, they leave with a positive story to tell whatever that story might be.

The other thing you learn and we’ve been doing this a long time. Is that there are various timeframes for your stories. Some are quick. Some are like that. You’ve made a sale. Brilliant. It’s done. Some are very slow burn though. Sometimes people come back to us. Years and years and years later, even today, I had to sign three, signed a mounted prints from a shoot. That must be at least 10 years old.

To be honest, I recognize the people in it, but I could not place the date. It’s that old But that was another, I don’t know what that was. Hundreds of pounds worth of prints that went out. Sometimes things take time.

And the better the story you can tell, the more time you have to turn it into a successful sale, if a positive story stays with someone, they may just come back or they may just tell a friend who will come back. So over these few days, we’ve sold vouchers generated quite a lot of social media and made an awful lot of new friends, as well as re-kindling some old ones.

And all of those, all of those are really important.

The sales are important. The conversations are important. Meeting our new friends is really important because it’s always just lovely to be around people, particularly after two years when we’ve been locked in, Well, on and off locked-in. And then of course, some of the old friends where we’ve had a chance to catch up.

You cannot think of a no sale as a failure. Standing on a stand at a show is always, even for people like us, where we’ve done it a long time. It’s still nerve-wracking because you really want people to love your work. And more importantly, you want to have a stream of business over the coming months.

So there’s a pressure to it. But you cannot think of a no sale. Someone telling you, “no thanks, that’s not for me” as a failure. It might feel that way at that moment, but in the end, the only one of these that’s really a fail. This is when a bad story is there to be told.

So make sure you tell a good story.

Make sure the person you’re talking to. Gets a chance to go away. And tell that story.

Only a bad story is really a fail. Everything else is either a success right now. Or it’s a success for the future. Ultimately your business is built. On stories. So make sure you’re telling the stories that you want to be heard.

For us, that was the Land Rover, it was the dog. And it was me and Sarah having a great, great time for two days. Meeting people, greeting people, laughing with people and talking about photography, as well as talking about families, life food. And of course, because it’s British. The weather.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please do leave us a rating and a review. And of course, wherever it is that you are listening to this podcast right now hit that subscribe button. So that next time we release an episode, it’ll arrive immediately onto your gadget, into your ears and into your world, which is where we’d like to be.

If you have any questions Please do email Paul at Paul Wilkinson Dot co.uk. And if you are a portrait photographer, why not head over to mastering portrait photography.com, where there’s a whole ton of useful content, all dedicated to the art. And the business of portrait photography.

But until next time, whatever else is going on in the world. Interest rates are going up. The value of the pound is going down. Ah, man, there’s never been a more important time to be kind to yourself. Take care.

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