EP148 Clarity Is King | Don't Confuse Your Clients With Woolly Wording!

Well, I’m back on the road with a microphone – but this time in my wife’s nippy little Peugeot!

There are so many aspects of customer service but one of them is how you explain what you’re going to deliver and how you’re going to do it and, given the stories in this episode, that is something that is very easy to get wrong!  Ultimately, clarity is king!


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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] So for those of you with sharp ears, you may have noticed that that does not sound like my regular Land Rover biscuit tin on wheels, and you’d be absolutely right about that. I shall tell you the slightly sorry tale of what’s happened to my Land Rover, uh, later in the podcast. In the meantime, I’m heading up to the photography show in Sarah’s car, which is, frankly, as nippy as hell.

[00:00:26] It’s like driving a go kart. It’s tiny, it’s quick, it’s a lot of fun to drive. It’s not my Land Rover, but hey, I’m Paul, and this is the Mastering Portrait Photography Podcast.

[00:00:40] So hello one and all, it is a very, very wet Sunday here in the UK. It’s one of those, it’s one of those days when I look around me And everything looks monochrome. You. You wouldn’t be certain if this was an entry in a photographic , competition, I’d be accusing the author of putting a, a plugin on it that has sucked the color, sucked the life outta the scene. The sky is well gray, the road gray, the walls. The trees and hedges as I drive past them, sort of a grey green. Even, even the bright yellow markers on the roundabout signs that I’ve just driven past are not iridescent yellow. They’re sort of a dull ochre.

[00:01:44] Everything about today, except for my mood, is grey. And actually, it’s been a little bit of a mixed month. Now, I know I said at the beginning of the year, and this, I said also at the beginning of the year, You never set yourself. New Year’s Resolutions, because they’re impossible to live up to, and if you want to do something, just set out about doing it, whatever time of the year it is, just set about doing it.

[00:02:05] I set about doing a podcast a week, and then crunched into some of the busiest couple of weeks, I think, I can remember, which I’m now, well, sort of surfacing from. It hasn’t, it’s not exactly clear As in, the diary isn’t clear, there’s a lot going on but there are also chunks like today when I’m gonna spend the best part of three hours sitting in a car.

[00:02:26] Now I know three hours, to my American and Australian friends, is like driving down to Starbucks for a coffee. For us in the UK, that is not an insignificant amount of time. So I’m going to record a podcast or two and then maybe over the coming weeks I’ll get back into the rhythm of it and get these things rolling.

[00:02:44] But there is so much going on story of the Land Rover so let’s deal with some of the slightly sadder news over the last couple of weeks or last month or so. It started with an accident. Excellent couple of days up with the BIPP, that’s the British Institute of Professional Photographers, or Professional Photography up in Preston, and then had a great meeting and spent a lovely evening with the guys for, with Martin and the guys there.

[00:03:12] Discussing things like the monthly competition, how we’re gonna, promote it. It’s been very successful so far but of course, there’s plenty more we could be doing. And then on The following day, went across to record a podcast, went across with a friend and a photographer, Sean Conboy, to meet a photographer who I had never met personally, but knew about, a guy called Stuart Clark.

[00:03:35] Now, Stuart is 97, nearly 98 years old, and one of the sharpest, most interesting photographers I think I’ve had the privilege of meeting. We sat in his lounge and recorded, probably about an hour and a half, I have a conversation about photography, his life in it, his history in it, the things he has seen change, and when I say the things he’s seen change, I mean fundamentally, you know, he started on glass plate cameras, and is now in the digital age, I mean that’s in one lifetime how far it’s come.

[00:04:11] Almost in one set of stories we’ve gone from the origins of photography, maybe not quite, there’s a little bit before that of course, I mean it started in the 1850s. But you know, almost the origins of photography as we know it through to today, and it’s a fascinating interview, and as much as anything else, just listening to his voice on the microphone, I sat at the beginning of this interview and we popped a microphone in front of him and I put some headphones on, and as he spoke, it was the most breathtaking sound, he’s quite quietly spoken, But the mic, and the room, and the ambience, and the stories he was telling, I mean, it was electric in my headphones.

[00:04:51] I actually gave the headphones over to Sean so he could have a listen, simply because it was so beautiful. I’ll cut that down, it’s just a long interview, and I need to just figure out how I’m going to share that. But it was a wonderful thing. Wonderful thing. And at the end of it, took a few portraits of the man with He said, oh, I’ve got all my cameras.

[00:05:09] We said, oh, get them out, get them out. And of course, he went looking for them and couldn’t find them in the attic. I mean, Sean and myself, slightly terrified that we’ve sent this 97 year old into his roof space to see if he can find a camera. Anyway, he eventually returned with a Raleigh, a TLR.

[00:05:25] Twinlens, Reflex, Rolleiflex. Beautiful camera, and so I’ve got some pictures of him with that, so a little bit of his history. Anyway, roll o’clock forwards to that evening, I leave Leeds head down the M1, which is the in the UK, for, again, my listeners around the world. It’s the motorway that runs straight down the middle.

[00:05:44] of the UK connecting the north to the south. It connects all the way up to pretty well, it goes up to Scotland pretty much and then drops straight into London. And I was heading down the M1 when suddenly, 70 miles an hour, I’m in the fast lane, they, there is, there wasn’t really a bang, but you felt this kind of thunk, and then the engine’s vibrating, I can smell oil, oh man, the smell, it’s, if you’ve owned cars for a while, And you’ve had them go wrong, you just know, when you can smell oil like that, there is nothing but trouble.

[00:06:19] Coming I planted my foot on the brake pedal and manoeuvred my way across a couple of lanes of reasonably fast moving traffic. Sort of slan slapped it into the hard shoulder as quickly as I could, because if you’re running an engine, You can smell oil, it’s vibrating, the last thing you wanna do is keep going because you are at that point destroying what is left of your engine.

[00:06:45] So I lifted the bonnet to have a quick look, just to make sure there wasn’t anything obvious. Sure enough, there is oil everywhere. Engine’s not good. That’s not going. So, luckily, I say luckily, this is, it’s my life. I spend my life in a car. And we have recovery, RAC recovery. So I rang the RAC.

[00:07:04] They said they’d be there within an hour because I’m on, I’m in live, I’m on the edge of live traffic. This is the, probably the busiest motorway in the UK and I’m sitting on a hard shoulder in the pouring rain by now. And I keep getting the updates and, you know, it’s like, it says it’s going to be an hour, then it’s an hour and a half, then it’s two hours.

[00:07:21] It’s, it’s four degrees, which is pretty chilly. It’s raining and sleeting. So I’ve, thinking, well, I don’t really, and this is a lesson, I don’t have any rain gear in a car. Luckily, I had a couple of blankets in there that we use for, if I want to sit people, if I’m doing a shoot somewhere out and about, I’ve got it in the back of the car, just in case I need to sit somebody down on the ground.

[00:07:41] So I wrapped myself in a pair of picnic blankets, sat under one of our wedding umbrellas. Luckily I got some battery packs so I could keep my iPhone charged up and sat and watch Netflix. And of course I’m watching the arrival time of the RAC and it keeps creeping out and creeping out. And eventually this orange van arrives he takes one look at the car, sticks his head under the bonnet and says yeah, you’ve blown your engine, that’s not going anywhere.

[00:08:04] I can’t tow you, he tells me, because the limit for towing a car as heavy as the Defender is one mile, and I’m six miles from the next available exit. So, he says the next, they’ll send the recovery vehicle, proper recovery vehicle out, and I say, well, am I supposed just to sit here in the rain then? And he says, yep.

[00:08:24] And so, for the next couple of hours, yet again, I’m out in the rain, I keep my phone charged up, keep watching Netflix. It turns out Netflix, I like watching Netflix anyway, it’s always on in the background while I’m editing. It turns out it’s quite a useful distraction, because by the time the recovery vehicle turned up to actually put it onto the flatbed, the guy looked at me and he just said, Simply, get in the cab, get warm.

[00:08:47] I could barely move, my legs were shaking, I was beginning to get hypothermic. You stay out of the car for safety reasons, but I’m beginning to think it was more dangerous being not in the car than it was being in the car, which is an absolute nightmare. He had to open the door for me, my hands were so cold I could barely pull the handle.

[00:09:04] I climbed into the cab, which turned out to be like a sauna, and sat and defrosted as he hitched up the car. and took me halfway home. Yeah, halfway. Because I was so far away, they couldn’t drive me all the way back to home. So of course I’m in touch with Sarah, I’ve told her what’s going on. They parked me at Northampton Services where they’re going to send another recovery vehicle out for me.

[00:09:27] And again, it says it’s going to be an hour and a half. And I wait and I watch as the time increases, two hours, three hours, four hours. It’s not clear, they never, they’re never clear about how long it’s going to take. And they, they deliberately obfuscate, I think, so that you can’t say, well you said you’d turn up then.

[00:09:44] They give you a range and then they keep telling you the range is creeping out. And, apart from the gas, I’m not the only person that needs recovering. And the driver did give me a. a heads up. He said to me as he left, he said, you might be a while because you’re no longer in live traffic, so you’re no longer in danger.

[00:10:02] You’re just sitting in a services. Now I would agree with him about the danger bit, but sitting in Northampton services at what were we now? Sort of midnight, 11 o’clock I think I arrived there. Maybe 10. 30 we arrived. And it’s not a place you’d want to sit. There’s nobody else around. Then luckily for me, I have a, you know, guilty pleasure in McDonald’s and KFC and things.

[00:10:23] Can’t help myself, the smell of it. And I thought, I’ll get myself a McDonald’s. And so I got, I did, I got myself a burger. Some coffee and some chips, and sat chewing on those. And within two minutes of me buying it and getting it, I noticed that McDonald’s had changed their sign. The big signs outside say that it’s open 24 hours.

[00:10:43] Big sign. McDonald’s. 24 hours. Five minutes after I buy my burger, they put up signs that say, Sorry, only serving coffee. So that’s not Open. That’s not, that’s a complete breach of contract as far as I’m concerned. They said they’d be, I’m thinking it’s alright, I’ll just get a burger and if I need one in a few hours I’ll get another one.

[00:11:02] Nope, none of that. I could get a coffee but couldn’t get a burger in spite of the sign saying 24 hours. I’m gonna come back to this point because it’s quite important for us as photography businesses. Anyway, I’m sitting there. The great and good of those that probably need a little bit of help from mental support and social services came and went, came and went, came and went. One or two drug deals were going on out in the car park. I don’t know how, the police don’t spot it. You can see it a mile away. So it’s a fairly lonely thing. So I recorded a podcast. I recorded what was going to be this podcast. I got my recorder because it was in the car.

[00:11:37] Obviously, I’d been recording with Stuart. And so I sat and I recorded a pretty, I think it was a pretty good, quite emotive podcast, I sat clutching my coffee because obviously that’s now all that McDonald’s was serving. It’s fairly lonely except for the rantings of one chap who was telling me all about his relationship with the Queen.

[00:11:57] I don’t think he was very well, if I’m honest. I also don’t think he was sober. So I recorded this, what I think was a rather excellent podcast, very Radio Four very radio documentary, you know, lots of background sounds and lots of life real life going on. And at the end of it, I sat back and thought to myself, that, that is going to be an excellent podcast, and I noticed that I hadn’t hit the record button.

[00:12:23] I was just so tired by now and a bit stressed. just forgot to do it. And so that was the end of that really, and I never, I didn’t have the heart to do it again, even though I did have the time, because I was there for another couple of hours. I think in the end I waited there for four hours front to back.

[00:12:39] Recovery vehicle, the phone rings, he says, I’m here, but where are you? And I look across six lanes of moving traffic, and he’s on the other side of the motorway. Heading North. So, I’m heading South, so I have to direct him somewhere. Surely the guys have told you where I am, and they had, but not very well.

[00:12:58] And he had to drive up to the next junction, turn around and come back and pick me up. And then, on it goes, and, and, we drop the car, I nominate to drop the car at our next stop. The guys that service it, my local, well it’s not local, it’s about 10 miles away, but the garage that services the Land Rover on a regular basis.

[00:13:15] I dropped it in there lay by, switched on the immobiliser, locked it all up and Sarah picked me up and I got home at just about quarter past four in the morning. Now having left Leeds at about Two in the afternoon to get home at four in the morning was, well, a little bit heartbreaking. By now I was fairly fed up, fairly cold, incredibly tired, and I knew I had to wake up really early to let the guys know at the garage they’ve got a service to land over and also to get on with our day that was already in the diary.

[00:13:49] So rang up the garage the next day, he didn’t sound at all surprised. I’m glad to hear from me having spotted my Land Rover and he knows If the Land Rover’s there, it needs something doing. And, obviously I got the engine, I went over, I got the engineer out to have a look at it, and even he rubbed his chin a bit.

[00:14:05] And the only good news was there was still oil in the engine, which gives you hope. If there’s oil in the engine, you haven’t seized it. That’s the good news. Anyway, 24 hours later, I get a ring from the engineer who says Found the problem, you’ve got a hole in Piston 2. Now, I don’t, I’m not a mechanic, but I’ve been around engines all my life, and I know that if you hear the line, you’ve got a hole in Piston 2, you’re in trouble.

[00:14:33] And so it has proved to be, because to get a piston out to replace it, you have to take the entire engine apart. There’s no getting away from it. The engine has to basically be dismantled, almost certainly taken out and put back in. Or in a Land Rover, they can actually lift the bodywork and service the engine on the chassis, but it depends what they’re doing.

[00:14:53] On this, I haven’t asked the guys, I haven’t been back to get it yet, and this is three weeks ago. So, So he explained to me that if an injector is maladjusted and is running a little bit rich, the additional heat from the fuel burns a hole through the aluminium. And I said, well, should I have done something?

[00:15:08] And he said, no, there’s no way of knowing. It’s just not something that you could detect. And it’s something that used to go wrong a lot. He hasn’t seen it for a while with the later engines, but this one, he said, we used to see this quite a bit. For the past three weeks, they have been replacing the hole or replacing the pixel.

[00:15:22] Piston with the hole in it in my Land Rover. I got a phone call yesterday, Saturday, but unfortunately I was in a shoot, and this is how the phone call went. He said, We’ve road tested your Land Rover. It’s ready to drive. You can come and pick it up, but please bring your piggy bank with you. I kid you not, he used the phrase, bring Piggybank with you.

[00:15:43] So I couldn’t pick it up yesterday, can’t pick it up today, can’t pick it up tomorrow because I’m running a workshop, so I’ll go over on Tuesday. I still don’t know how much it is because the garage hasn’t told me, in spite of me asking because it’s a labour led cost. So the parts have been 1000 plus VAT, I know that much.

[00:16:01] The labour is 75 an hour and I reckon, he reckoned it was 4 5 days work. So I know I’m in it for quite a large amount of outlay. Unplanned, bad time of year. I’ve got to find, who knows, anywhere between four and seven thousand pounds, who knows. So again, no clarity. Something I’m gonna come back to.

[00:16:27] However, rest of the week, not so bad. And Another story. I think about podcasts, right? I could just tell you the facts, but it wouldn’t be that much fun to listen to. Well, I don’t think it would be fun to listen to. I wouldn’t listen to it. 20 years ago, and I only know this because I picked up the light that I still have and looked at the Flash Center’s service and and Quality Assurance sticker on it, and the light I bought second hand was serviced by the Flash Centre in 2003.

[00:17:00] There’s a sticker on it, and I remember going to the Flash Centre in London, scratching my chin, and I can’t remember the guy’s name, he’s still in the industry, he doesn’t work with the Flash Centre anymore and I, he said, can I help? And I said, yes, I want my first strobe, please. He said, I said, I’m happy to buy second hand, I don’t know whether this is something I’m gonna do, but Would you recommend?

[00:17:20] And we looked at the shelves, and, and, if you’ve ever been to the Flash Centre in London, it was brilliant. It wasn’t a posh shop. It was, in some ways, it was like the drum shops I used to go to when I was a working musician, and it’s just got racks and racks and racks of stuff. You know, there’d be a posh rack somewhere with all of the new bits and pieces from then, Bowens and Elinchrom, but then there’d be sort of, you know, Shelves and cupboards with interesting little bits of second hand kit and cabling and softboxes and umbrellas And it was brilliant and I was like toy a kid in a sweet shop And he said I think this would do you and he lifted off the shelf a second hand Elinchrom 500 so that’s an Elinchrom 500 as this is a A strobe but it’s got the old school analog sliders on it.

[00:18:09] There were two sliders, one that controlled the strobe power, and one that controlled the power to the modeling light. And if you wanted them to stay the same, you move the sliders together. The slider’s been designed to be close together, so you move them up and down, which, to me, having worked on audio mixing desks for concerts in the music industry, was absolutely brilliant.

[00:18:32] Perfect. It was absolutely brilliant because I knew, it felt completely natural. Now, of course, one of the things was you never had the same Bower twice. It was already a second hand light when I bought it, and not a new one. So, whenever you set the lights in the studio, you had to reset your aperture to suit.

[00:18:51] Because the things, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that you put a mark against the sliding scale. The sliders were so worn that lighting power would go up and down all the time. But it was metal cased. It’s got a fan. It was quite loud. It’s quite loud. And I bought that light. I. I bought a big tripod and I bought an Octabox, a six foot Octabox.

[00:19:14] That was the three things I bought. A tripod, an Elecrom 500, an Elecrom tripod, Elecrom six foot Octa. Took it home and for the next year or two, practiced lighting. It wasn’t part of our business for quite a long time because I never really had the space to do it. At that time I didn’t have a studio.

[00:19:34] I just knew that was the road we were going to go down, or I thought I might go down. But I didn’t understand studio lighting, and so I needed time to get my shit together. So, I used to practice, I bought a polystyrene head, so there’s a shop in London called the London Graphic Centre, which sell stuff. They sell art pens and graphics and it’s two glorious floors of anything you can think of to be creative. It’s absolutely fantastic. And in there, for some reason, they sold polystyrene heads. I don’t know what they’re for. You know, if they were in a hat shop, I’d understand it. If they were in a wig shop, I’d understand it.

[00:20:14] In a graphics shop? I’ve no idea. What do you do? Sit with your pen in your hand looking at a fictitious head going, What do you think of this? Having a conversation with Polybeads, and I don’t know. Anyway, I bought one. It was like three pounds or something. Carved out the eyes like something from a CSI episode.

[00:20:31] I got a penknife, carved out the eyes, got a couple of big glass marbles, and shoved them in. I mean, it was quite macabre, but if ever, I’m found out to be a psychopathic, sociopathic, you know, mass murderer. Everyone will go back to this head and say, Well, we could see it then. Look what he did to the eyes.

[00:20:49] But I popped those in because what I wanted to understand was how I move light around, what happened to the face, And what happened to the reflections in these glass marbles? It was just a very simple way of me being able to, without having models, because I didn’t have a reputation back then, I didn’t have a client base back then, I didn’t have a steady stream of people that would come to the house to be photographed, but I needed to understand it.

[00:21:15] So this polystyrene head, with its macabre eyeballs, was my go to. I stuck it, I skewered it, like Queen Elizabeth would have done. And off with the head, I said! I skewered it on a pole of some description and stuck it in the middle of the room. And, that’s how I learned to light. It was all with this Elinchrom 500, the, the, this brilliant bit of light, and I still own it.

[00:21:40] I still have it, it’s still in the attic, unfortunately the tube was blown, you can actually see that there’s black in there. The rest of it I’m sure still works so if I actually sent it back for a replacement tube, I could probably get it working again. I don’t know that I will maybe I will, maybe I will, because the footnote to this story is that last week, Elinchrom asked me if I would be an ambassador.

[00:22:03] for them. Now, this comes off the back of a conversation where I’d looked at the Elinchrom lighting at the London the Society’s Convention of Photographers in London, and got chatting to the guys, Simon Burfoot and the, and the guys, uh, at Elinchrom, people I’ve known for quite a long time. He used to work at the Flash Sensor, he’s now looking after Elinchrom, so I got to chatting to him about the lights had a look over the product, had a look at what they’re producing, both in terms of the technology, in terms of the roadmap in terms of the light that these things produce, and the light has the same quality that I remember with my Elinchrom 500.

[00:22:38] Now the thing is, if you look at the cover of the box, Book, Mastering Portrait Photography. That was shot in a study in somebody’s house with my very first light. It was shot with my Elinchrom 500, my 6 foot Octa, which was wedged in because the ceiling was only just 6 foot, so we had to wedge this thing in on its tripod in their room with some black velvet behind.

[00:23:01] Pinned to the curtain rail, and it’s still, to this day, one of my favourite ever shots. And, when you go to Elinchrom, one of the things I’ve always loved about them is the colour accuracy of the tube. Now, every time you ignite um, Xenon in a tube, it gives off a very particular light. For all sorts of reasons with the, to do with the design of the circuitry and the light, getting that right is really important.

[00:23:26] And Elinchrom have always had this really beautifully consistent quality of light out of the units. Now I moved away from Elinchrom about six, seven years ago, I think to Profoto for the simple reason that And maybe it’s a bit longer, but for the simple reason that when I went looking for a battery powered, rather than a mains powered monoblock.

[00:23:48] Now a monoblock strobe is simply when everything is in the head, as opposed to a battery pack and the small flying heads. I didn’t want that. I wanted something that was self contained. I wanted something with a battery. I wanted something with no cabling. And so when I went to Elinchrom at that time, they didn’t do anything.

[00:24:04] I think even now I have eight Elinchrom lights up in the attic. And I had to retire them because I went over to ProPhoto who produced the B1. The B1 is an excellent light. It’s brilliant. There’s, you know, it did everything and has done everything that I would ask of a light over the years. Beautiful kit, beautiful lighting, beautiful modifiers.

[00:24:26] They’re having said that I’ve kept all of my Elinchrom soft boxes because the Rotalux system is the best in the world and I still prefer it to my Profoto stuff. But nonetheless, you know, there’s no doubting the quality of the Profoto units, and there’s no doubting that I’ve created some images that I really like with it, But I’ve never felt the same nostalgia as I have with Elinchrom. And so when Elinchrom showed me their kit at the convention, it’s you know what, I would absolutely love, love to switch back. It’s about time that I thought about it. And so I asked the guys if I could get a price on a full rig of kit, switch over to Elinchrom and it went a little bit quiet if I’m honest.

[00:25:12] I’d sent the email, I’d listed out what I wanted and then I got a quick message saying was I around the other morning, could they pop into the studio and come and see us, and Simon and Mark from Elinchrom popped into the studio, had a look around, and during that conversation asked if I would be an ambassador for Elinchrom. So for the first time in quite a long time I got a little bit emotional about kit. I do get attached to kit. Even though the Profoto stuff is brilliant, I’ve never felt that way about that. But with Elinchrom, it was that first light. It was that first moment that I learned to read and and understand Studio Lighting.

[00:25:54] And to be asked to be an ambassador is, it has a couple of angles on it. I mean, the first and most important is that what an honor, you know, this is a lighting company who I have so much of an emotional connection with, and here I am 20 years after buying my very first secondhand light, here I am as an ambassador for them.

[00:26:17] So I’m quite emotional about that. But also the kit is so. Phenomenal. There’s something about the way it works, the way it operates. It feels like photographers designed it for photographers. So, I’m very happy. They’ve lent me some kit at the moment. Now, I have a bit of a challenge tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’m running a workshop.

[00:26:35] It’s a workshop. All around, using studio lighting of various types in small spaces. Because if you go out into location, you very often end up in a boardroom or a kitchen. Well, the other day we ended up in a storeroom for computer equipment. It was quite bizarre where we were working. And you have to very quickly read the room, figure out what you’re gonna do, and create something.

[00:26:59] Magical from it. So, that’s what we’re doing tomorrow. And of course, it’s premised on using my strobes. Now, understandably and I suppose predictably, Elinchrom are not that keen that I continue to use Profoto kit, my Profoto lighting for my workshops. So at 9. 30 tomorrow morning on the day of workshop, I am expecting a delivery of a whole load of Elinchrom kit that I’m going to actually then use for the training day.

[00:27:33] Interesting, huh? It’s a good job that not only did I learn to use light, but I’m really quick to get my head round the technology. Now they did leave me the other day with an Elinchrom 5 and an Elinchrom 3. And fortunately I have a trigger. I have a dedicated Elinchrom trigger anyway. Bye! From some Rotolight kit, which also uses, thankfully Elinchrom radio telemetry.

[00:28:00] So, I’ve got the, I’ve got the Elinchrom trigger. Now, as an aside, here’s a little bit of detail, right? This is just a bit of detail. It doesn’t, it has no bearing on anything, really. My Profoto dedicated Nikon trigger. The something or else, something or else. Is it AirTTL, TTL, TTL? Unit. If I leave the batteries in it, it goes flat in about 10 days, even if it’s switched off.

[00:28:25] I pulled the Elinchrom trigger out of its box, having not used it as a trigger in probably three years, forgot that I’d left the batteries in there, which is a dreadful thing to do, never leave batteries in kit when you store it, but I had, so I hit the power button thinking, oh, that’s not gonna work. Nope, fired up instantly.

[00:28:43] There is a joy when you’re When someone designs kit properly, there is a joy in it. This Elinchrom trigger has had those batteries in it for as long as I can remember. I can’t remember the last time I used it as a trigger, and it fired up instantly. I know for a fact my Profoto unit would have been dead in 10 days.

[00:29:02] And as designers of kit, this is a plea to everybody who designs for our beautiful industry. It’s for good. Goodness sake, think this stuff through properly. You know, if you’re going to turn something off, it shouldn’t be draining enough current to flat a pair of AAA’s in 10 days. It just shouldn’t.

[00:29:21] Because many of us don’t pick up our triggers in those kinds of time frames. Many of us would just be out, you know, location photographers that use the strobes intermittently. So think about that. Think about how, um, The kit is going to be used in design. Even the circuitry has to be designed in a way that makes sense.

[00:29:40] You know, Elinchrom, this unit, it’s been in its box. It’s still boxed. It’s been in its box for a few years. Powered it up because I’d forgotten to take the batteries out. Nope, quite happy. Right, where do I go? Downloaded the new firmware because it’s so old that It doesn’t actually know about or didn’t know about 3.

[00:29:57] They weren’t on its list of recognized Elenchrom lighting. Connected it up, and off it went. Just genius. That’s I’m sorry though, that is an aside. Anyway, tomorrow morning, tomorrow morning, I’ve got a handful of delegates we’ve got a room full of people, a couple of models, and some lights that I have never ever seen.

[00:30:13] ever used in anger. It’s going to be an exciting day. Other good news this week so that’s, I mean that is my good news this week, but other good news this week is that I finally managed to get our broadband account sorted out. We live in funny times my broadband contract had come up a little while ago with BT.

[00:30:32] Um, I’ve got both the house and the studio are on the same contract because primarily we use it. all of the bandwidth for when I’m working, and I like to be able to work from home a lot. And we’re paying, I don’t know, I think nearly, I think we’re paying 300 quid a month for the two. So I’d rung BT a couple of weeks ago and said, right, it’s time to renew because I’m out of contract.

[00:30:53] I will stay with BT although there are other providers in the village now, their reputation is awful, so I can’t build my business on that. And while BT might be a little bit dull. They’re also the most reliable. This is British Telecom. It used to be British Telecom. Isn’t it interesting how a brand evolves to be known as BT?

[00:31:12] But it has to have such a long history. You know, if you say BA, we know we’re talking about British Airways. If you say BT, you know you’re talking about British Telecom. You know, I’ve no idea in any more what ICI Stands for, we know what it does though. Interesting to see if the BIPP, the BIP, or the British Institute of Professional Photography can evolve the same way.

[00:31:33] Time will tell. Anyway, BT, so I rang them up spent the best part of half a day on the phone because you have to. I’m sorry, we’re experiencing a very high volume of calls at the moment. Your call is important, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Yeah, right. There’s only, there’s one call handler, but I have no idea, but there’s certainly not enough.

[00:31:52] So anyway, I got through a long conversation, got both contracts more or less nailed, or the one contract with both lines more or less nailed, and our bill came down by two thirds. My speed went up, I’m on a digital line, my bill came down. You have to think, maybe I was being stitched before, or maybe I built a bad contract before, but anyway, that was half a day well spent.

[00:32:15] So, and it’s, I mean, it’s like, you know, it’s 300 quid a month, or was. It’s now for the two lines, 100 quid a month and I’ve got gigabit down, 100 megabit up, and life is pretty good. But the delivery cycle of it, I’ve no idea. I mean, I get random boxes, I get random texts from DHL, or FedEx, or Royal Mail, as to what’s going to arrive when, it’s I couldn’t make head nor tail of it.

[00:32:39] Sarah said, when are they connecting us? Well, I’ve got this date, Monday the 11th. Okay, Monday the 11th, that’s brilliant. Monday the 11th, that’s when they’re going to connect everything up. Monday the 11th. Right, are we sure about that? Yeah, Monday the 11th, I’ve got an email here. Monday the 11th. F Thursday, before that, what’s that, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, so Thursday the 7th, I get I walk into the office 10 o’clock, and Michelle says, phone line’s dead, and I’m like, can’t be dead.

[00:33:05] Why would it be dead? I look at the hub for the broadband, the broadband’s working okay, but no telephone, and they say, oh, you are kidding me. They’ve switched it over four days early. Now, I’d had some text saying the engineer was working on our line, and the engineer had completed his work, but at no time, at no time, did it tell me which of the two lines were being affected and what they’d done.

[00:33:30] So I rock up on Thursday to find no telephone. Now, again, fortunately, we’d had the digital phones arrive. They were in their boxes, but I hadn’t set anything up yet because I had been told it was all going to happen on Monday the 11th of March. Have I got those dates right? Yeah, I’m sure it’s Monday the 11th of March.

[00:33:49] Monday whichever day it was, only the Monday of March. And, so I’m very frantic, because at this point, anybody that rings us up isn’t going to get through. I didn’t know even if we had voicemail because I got, none of it is done as far as I’m concerned. So we rattly, a bit of a rattly morning as I sort of ripped out the old phones, put in these new digital lines, logged in, set it all up, got admin rights, because of course it’s basically VoIP is nothing more than Zoom without pictures.

[00:34:18] So. And I got all of that set up and all of it is now working, but it got me thinking, and here we go. This is the point of this bit of this podcast. Now, I don’t know whether the second half of the podcast is gonna be the second half of this podcast as I drive back from the photography show or whether I’m gonna release that as an entirely self-contained episode.

[00:34:39] I guess it depends how much news I find at the photography show. But let’s assume. This is a self-contained driving to the NEC Podcast, and it’s done. This is the point of this podcast. I’ve told you three stories, okay? I’ve told you about the RAC, I’ve told you about the garage, and I’ve told you about British Telecom.

[00:34:59] All of these have been suppliers that I would say on the whole, I rate pretty highly, the RAC. They’ve got me out of a pretty horrible situation. I pay money for that. By the way. It’s not like they’re, they’re definitely not a charity. It’s not the NHS, but. They rescued me when I needed it. Admittedly, they weren’t clear about when and how, and it took quite a long time, but I’d have been in a lot of trouble if I couldn’t have got off that motorway, and the car was undriveable.

[00:35:26] Our garage. I know they fixed it because they always fixed it. But I do wish they’d be clear. I do wish they’d tell me how much, to the best of their knowledge, it’s going to cost me. I don’t like obfuscation. I don’t like not knowing how long it’s going to take. They’ve had the car for three weeks to do a week’s worth of work.

[00:35:44] Again, I know they’ve had to order parts. In a sense, I’m an experienced buyer. And then there’s BT, who They told me certain things and then did them in a different order on different dates and put me into a flat spin when they disconnected the phone line to my business. All of these are quite important.

[00:36:04] It’s about clarity. It’s about being clear with your client. It’s about When you say you’re going to do something, you do it. Now there is a theory about under promising and over delivering. So being, having things connected early, in theory, should be a good thing. But it’s only a good thing if your client’s ready for it and their new phone’s ready.

[00:36:25] If they’re not, what you’ve basically done is disable part of their business for part of a day. Clarity is really important. For me, even now, I go back through the BT, various texts and emails, and even I After the event, couldn’t tell you exactly what was supposed to happen, and the order. I still have some stuff to do, I still have to send some kit back, but, because I’ve got these two lines into two different buildings being contracted at the same time, none of the emails make sense, because they send both emails, or rather they send emails for both lines, on the same contract number.

[00:37:02] It’s never clear exactly what is going on. It’s not clear. that some kit is going to work and some kit is not going to work. It’s not clear quite what should have happened. And that can’t be a good thing. That can’t be a good thing when I’m sitting here telling you about three suppliers who I rate actually pretty highly.

[00:37:21] I’ve chosen them through years of experience, I’ve picked them out of the crowd, and I’ve decided who I’m going to use. Are they all working now? Well, as far as I know, they are. RAC rescued me, the garage has rung me to say the car is ready, and I have Absolutely electric connectivity in our building or buildings, but the confusion is unnecessary.

[00:37:43] The confusion, had that confusion happened in the sales process, I don’t know whether I would have bought. It didn’t happen in the sales process, it happened in the fulfillment side. So the sales guys, they got it nailed. When I bought my RAC, Membership, I don’t know how many years ago. The guy was utterly convincing.

[00:38:05] When I bought my BT contract, the guys were utterly convincing and of course when I go to the garage, well, the first time I went to the garage, I went reputationally because somebody else had recommended them. I bought instantly because they were They were utterly convincing. The problem happens in the fulfilment stages.

[00:38:27] And as such, I think we need to keep an eye on that. We need to be very clear to our clients, exactly what it is that we’re going to do, and when we’re going to do it. I was doing a wedding pitch yesterday. And I had to be, and I’ve, I mean I’ve well practiced at it, I’ve done it a long time. I say to them, okay, here’s the process.

[00:38:45] I actually talk them through the fulfillment process. We talk loads about the wedding, but then I go through to the fulfillment process, and I suspect occasionally I lose a gig because of it, because maybe it sounds just a little bit too boring. Precise. I don’t know. But, I said to the client yesterday, who are buying with us, by the way, you come to the studio two to three weeks after your wedding.

[00:39:10] That gives you enough time to have a short honeymoon. If it needs to be longer, or you want it shorter, we can do that. Two to three weeks, you’re gonna come, you’re gonna have lunch. During that meeting, we are gonna show you a slideshow. We’re gonna melt your hearts. I do say this. We’re gonna say, I’m gonna soften your wallet,

[00:39:27] We are gonna make life very difficult for you to say no to any pictures. Then we’re gonna bring up those pictures and we’re gonna, we are gonna help you choose the pictures that are going to go in your album. It’s a lovely process, but it’s not an easy process, so we’re going to give you some lunch.

[00:39:42] It’ll take a few hours. At the end of that, you’re going to pay for the extra images you put in your album. I’d say that a little bit softer, but that’s what I’m saying. You’re going to settle up with us as to the images that are going to go into your album, on top of the ones you’ve already paid for as part of your initial contract.

[00:40:00] Then, We’re going to give you a USB that has watermarked images of everything we’ve shown you, and the slideshow of the, uh, that we showed you in that reveal. We license the music, by the way, with the MCPS, so you can have any music you like. So, you let us know what music you like. That’s what your slideshow will be set to.

[00:40:19] It’ll be on a USB. At the end of the meeting, when you’ve settled up with us, that’s what you take away with you. The next morning, we start working on that design. Within a week, maybe two, depending on what’s going on in the studio, we will send you a PDF that shows that design. You have a look at it and decide whether you like it or not, or if there’s anything you’d like to change.

[00:40:40] And the things we’re looking for from you are A. Do you like the design? And B. Is there anything in any of the images that needs additional retouching? Fire exit signs, those kinds of things. When you eventually sign off the design, and you can go backwards and forwards as much as you like, by the way, because the most important thing is that you love your album more than anything else in the world.

[00:41:02] You’re going to have that for the rest of your lives together. You must love it. You make as many changes as you want. Yes, okay, by iteration number seven or eight, we might be rolling our eyes at you. But we will still do it, and we will get it perfect for you. When you’re happy, you sign that off. We will do two things.

[00:41:20] Firstly, we will order your album and any copy albums you need. I don’t say it like this, I’m saying it really clearly because I’m driving a car at 70 mile an hour and I’m trying to make this clear. But nonetheless, this is the process, right? Uh, I say we will order that album and any additional copies you’d like.

[00:41:35] Eight weeks after that, as a maximum, you will have your album in your hands. The actual order time, by the way, is shorter than this, but we always say, 8 weeks, because then I’m under promising and over delivering. You will also receive a link online that has a link to the finished images. The edits that we’ve done for you without the watermarks, because part of what we do is any image a client puts in their album, we will give them a digital copy of that as part of the contract.

[00:42:06] We charge quite a lot of money for this, so it’s fine that they can have the files, but we only release the finished files. When the album design is signed off. Why do I do it that way? Well, it gives me a couple of things. Firstly, it gives me a lever to pull when people are saying, Can I have a file? And I say, Yeah, as soon as you sign off your album.

[00:42:23] The second thing is, The only hi res files that go out are fully retouched and finished. There’s no danger that an artist Unretouched image can end up in a big frame on someone’s wall. So that’s why we do it that way. And I’m really clear about that fulfillment process to the client. Now, I think there’s other bits of our business where we’re not so clear and I’m figuring out those areas and trying to work out and make sure that everything we do is super, super clear because the experience I’ve had with three suppliers who genuinely, I rate, genuinely.

[00:42:58] I’m happy to pay for their services. I think it’s been a little bit muddled and a little bit muddy. And that, well, that can never be a good. Do you know what? I’m going to round this podcast off there and I’m going to make the journey away from the photography show another edition which I might release at a later date because that gives me extra content, right?

[00:43:20] For those of you, for those of you who are part of our workshop community, we released a new challenge last night. So we, inside, anyone that’s been on our workshops, you get invited into a secret and private Facebook group. The only way you can get in there is by being on one of our workshops because that is creating a super concentrated little audience, a little community rather.

[00:43:42] of like minded people who can ask questions in a way that is safe, a way that is positive, and you get feedback from others in there. It’s a really nice community. On top of that, people like Simon and Mark from Elinchrom are inside the group, so that if you have any specific questions about flash photography not only will you get answers from people who run the group companies based around this kit.

[00:44:06] Of course they’re going to bias their answers towards Elinchrom, but hey, I’m an ambassador for them. So what else would you expect me to say? Likewise Jeremy and Miranda and the team from Neal and the team from Graphistudio are in there. So if you have any questions about albums and those kind of things, it’s just a really nice place to be.

[00:44:21] But we run these image challenges. The current challenge which I released last night is the one chair challenge. Take a subject, take one chair, just one chair, and pop a photograph into the community. And then at the end of the month, I have a run through them, pick out my favourite, do a video critique, and set a new challenge.

[00:44:41] And we did this one because the article is featured in Professional Photo Magazine this month from us. We do an article every month, but this particular one is of Lucy in a chair, and it’s just a simple shot of a teenager. Just looking super cool in what is my Nan’s old throne, old armchair. So that’s that community thing.

[00:45:02] Workshops, if anyone’s interested in any of our workshops, just Google Paul Wilkinson Photography Workshops. You will find them they’ll pop up in Google and And then you can see what’s going on at the moment. The tomorrow’s workshop is all about small spaces and it wasn’t, but it now is about how to use Elinchrom lighting in small spaces.

[00:45:21] We’ll see quite how that adventure goes, so to wrap up, let’s overtake this tanker in tons of spray. Thank you for listening to this podcast. It’s kept me entertained for at least half of my journey up to Birmingham. If you have any questions, please do email paul@ paulwilkinsonphotography.co.Uk. I’ve had a couple of really nice emails in the past few weeks. Apologies. I know I’ve been a little bit slow in getting back to everybody, but it really has been a . a tiny bit, a tiny bit crazy at the studio but also head across to masteringportraitphotography. com which has a heap of stuff all around this beautiful skill of ours or topic of ours the joy, the creativity and the business of portrait photography.

[00:46:08] Head over to masteringportraitphotography. com and do please subscribe. Hit that subscribe button. I don’t know how you’re listening to this right now, but I’ll lay you a bet there’s a subscribe button there somewhere. Subscribe to the podcast and then it just arrives. You know, you didn’t even know you were going to listen to me today, and there you are.

[00:46:26] Forty minutes later, whatever it is, I’ve no idea how long I’ve been driving and talking forty minutes later, you are sitting thinking, Well, that was worthwhile! Do you know what? I’m really glad I hit that subscribe button. Also, if you get a chance, leave us a review.

[00:46:39] If it’s a nice review, stick it somewhere public. If it’s not such a nice review, email it to me, and then we can make changes to make things better, which is a constant process of evolution. Me and Darwin, well, we’d be great mates. And whatever else, as I head my way north, be kind to yourself. Take care.

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