Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Google Data Network Coming Our Way

Ironically it's not all about photography at the studio, we try to stay very involved with the local community around the Vox Theatre. Recently I was approached to work with other local business owners to try and get a Rosedale business owners group up and running (Rosedale's the neighborhood where the studio is located). It's been both a challenging and really fun process, where I've been able to meet some wonderful business owners and civic leaders and it's a very rewarding part of the job. Recently Kansas City, KS got the good news it would be the community benefitting from Google's installation of a 1GB/S data network and so we hosted a meeting to discuss it and got some great attention from the local press. If you want a giggle feel free to look at my on-air persona...Media Links: Channel 4 Channel 41 Kansas City Business Journal

Friday, April 22, 2011

This is the Magic Bullet

Everyone wants the 'magic bullet'. Everyone wants to know the one thing they can do to increase business and revenue. Guess what...I have it - CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Let’s face it — the immediacy of the electronic world we live in has made us impatient for recognition. When we send an email, leave a voicemail, comment on a blog, tweet, text, post to Facebook or update our status on LinkedIn, we desire instant gratification. We want the person we intended to receive our message to acknowledge it with an answer to our comment, question, issue or concern immediately — if not sooner. 

Is this fair? No. Is it polite to be this impatient? No. But that doesn’t stop us from getting frustrated, aggravated and for some, downright ticked off that our voice is being ignored. Or is it? Are we actually being ignored or is the person on the receiving end just as busy and overworked as we are? Do they even have the answer to our question, resolution to our problem or response to our comment, or do they have to get that from someone else? Perhaps they are taking the time to formulate a well-thought-out response instead of firing back without thinking first, which is another issue we all seem to face. (But that’s a topic for a future blog post.) 

As the person waiting for the response, we need to take a moment to see things from the other person’s perspective. While the issue/comment/question/concern might be the most important thing we have to worry about right now, it probably isn’t the same for the person on the receiving end. 

With that being said, when we are the receiver we need to acknowledge the sender. That person has one main need — to be heard. While “satisfaction” might rank up there, initially they just want to know that they have been heard. If you work in a world where a committee decides everything and communication requires approval from several people, you still should respond to the sender. Temper the sender’s impatience with an acknowledgment — for example, “I received your message and will get back with you as soon as I have an answer.”

Consider how many sales and potential new customers are lost just because the customer feels they haven’t been heard. The most successful organizations have made communication and acknowledgement a cornerstone of their corporate culture. Take Zappos, for instance. This brand has thousands of loyal clients and customers, and everyone else wants to know the secret. It’s not magic — all they have really done is made the most fundamental of human needs a priority.

Great customer service doesn’t just make the retail world go round. Every organization, association, corporation — every person, for that matter — can benefit by acknowledging the need to be heard in their clients, customers and members. 

How do you make sure you are acknowledging your fellow humans?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Capturing The Architectural Redesign of Helzberg Diamonds

Last year I was excited at the opportunity to do some architectural photography for Helzberg Diamonds. I was asked to photograph the interior re-fits of a whole series of Helzberg locations. The projet involved a lot of late nights, some interesting travel stories and some great experiences. The photographs we've included below are from the flagship location here in Kansas City. We are lucky to be so close to their flagship store located on the Country Club Plaza. The new merchandising cabinets are absolute works of art and the overall design of the stores is breathtaking. From the flagship - to the mall locations - to the free-standing stores - they are consistently brilliant.

In carrying out the shoots we had the chance to meet Parke Wellman, the architect who is responsible for this incredible redesign and she was gracious enough to say some very kind words about our work:

"I discovered Alistair and his team at the last minute, reviewed his extensive portfolio and determined that he has the eye for detail a retail space requires for photography. His schedule and flexibility dovetailed well with a retailer demands and needs. The multiple store photos turned out as expected and priced very competitively! We will be working again very soon."

Parke R. Wellman, AIA, RDI - Divisional Vice President - Store Design, Construction, & Visual Merchandising

Thank you to everyone at the Helzberg locations in Kansas City, Chicago, New York and San Antonio for making sure each location was well prepared and for providing the elements that made for such a beautiful end result.

Helzberg Diamonds
J.E. Dunn
Assistants - Andrew Hoxey

Friday, April 15, 2011

Go Chiefs!

We had an absolutely incredible opportunity last year to work with a great team on the Kansas City Chiefs', Arrowhead Stadium renovations. Populous, Turner Construction and Burns & McDonnell partnered on the project and sent us on a long jaunt both inside and outside the stadium, capturing architectural photography of the raw spaces and lifestyle imagery against the architectural backdrop on game day. It really was wonderful, and I don't think there are many spaces I haven't seen at Arrowhead.

Thank you everyone for all the help in scheduling us for the shoots and in getting us access to the entire project - we even got on the roof on game day!

Turner Construction
Burns & McDonnell
Kansas City Chiefs
3 Axis
Assistants - Ryan Yoakum, John DePrisco, Andrew Hoxey, Natasha Frederick

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Email Marketing Is It a Reach Out or Just A Reach Around?

A recent episode of poor email marketing execution by a New York photographer - who we will not name here as he’s already received his fill of hate mail I’m sure - created quite the stir this week about email marketing etiquette. While this example appears to have been a technical glitch the barrage of emails sent to promote various vendors, products and services is beginning to become exhausting. It seems to be creating a constant white noise in our in boxes that I fear people are ignoring on a daily basis. So what is a photographer, designer, printer or other service provider to do in order to break through all this white noise and get noticed by those we want to reach to work with the kinds of people we want to work with and do the projects we know we can kick ass at?

This is where we reach out to you to start a dialogue between those we want to reach art buyers, art directors, creative directors, marketing directors and all other job titles that fit the role and us - the photographer, the printer, the designer, the freelancer, the ‘insert vendor relationship here’.

What is your opinion of the emails your receive?

Which ones actually make you take a moment to open - and why?

If all email is just an annoyance and intrusion to your day how would you like to be communicated with in regards to resources that you need to source to get your projects completed?

We all have to work together to get projects completed for our clients so let’s try to start with our initial contact by creating a mutually beneficial relationship that works for both sides instead of assuming that we know what you want or how you like to receive information we are asking you to tell us. Share your thoughts, opinions, suggestions, request, comments or concerns with us here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SB3 Chicago

So what happens when you put a bunch of intensely competitive commercial photographers all in the same hotel for two and a half days and just throw ideas at them? A lot, an unbelievable amount actually. It'll take a while to see it all sink in, but if even half the people I saw, deliver on half the ideas they came away with what will happen will be yet another evolution in the centuries old practice of photography.

So where was I? I happened to have the incredible good fortune to attend ASMP's Strictly Business 3 convention in Chicago with a whole host of professionals from around the country. I got to meet people that were just starting off on their career. I saw people I've reached out to over the phone and in person for advice, and people whose work just simply takes my breath away. It was pretty cool. It was the first time in years I'd actually stepped way outside of my immediate circle to learn something and it was fantastic.

The format started with a series of one-on-one consultations, with some of the leading practitioners in the industry talking about my portfolio, my business and my way of thinking - pretty handy. Then into a series of workshops subdivided by key-note presentations and roundtable forums. The workshops were wonderfully varied, open and interactive. The key-notes were led by inspirational thinkers in the creative industry, outside of photography and the roundtables were positive and open - pretty much exactly what you want from a convention like this - the perfect mix to really generate new ideas.

I happen to be new to this industry, in my opinion. I am new like one of those adolescent toddlers, kinda precocious and silly. I am just learning my craft, developing my trade, finding my way and really enjoying it. I actually hope that in another thirty years, I'll still be new to this industry, because I'm sure this industry will be new to me. That's the nice thing about photography, it doesn't stand still. Sure, it's moved a little slower at times but it's constantly changing techniques, developing new styles and engaging people in new mediums. This change is sometimes led by us, as the practicing professionals and sometimes it is led by the wonderful people that demand our images and clamor for unique imagery. That is what fascinates me about the industry of photography.

So what did I actually get from it? One of my favorite moments was when I skipped lunch to beat up on my SEO for an hour. Or it could be the keynote where it boiled your entire brand down to being awesome, think about it - it'll work. Or discovering that there will always be change and I am going to have to search within myself to figure out how to continually adapt to that change. But the one thing that kept cropping up - personal work. I looked at the portfolio and realized that I'm looking at the sum of all these years of work. I am looking at the best of hundreds of thousands of images, countless hours all over the country, working with wonderful people on great projects, but the ones that I liked were the ones I put the most of me in. That's when it hit me, that beyond the clients, the stylists, the reps, the camera gear, the mortgage, the software and the silliness what makes me a photographer is my vision, my desire, my beliefs and my interests, but above all me. I will tell you one thing, I fully intend to put a lot more me in my work because when I do, my clients are happy, my team is happy and my work looks so damn good I fall in love with it.

So, to any creative professional wondering if going to one of these conventions is worth it, I have to say wholeheartedly, yes! It will really help you remember why you do what you do and how to make it better for you. In sixty years, when you lay that camera/pen/pencil/mouse/[insert creative tool here] down that will add up to a lot more fun memories and a lot more success.

PS. The other highlight of the event was seeing one of my images in the new Find a Photographer video - pretty cool to see something from your portfolio make the cut, when they have over 7400 portfolios to consider.

PPS I didn't take a camera - I think I was the only person there. But I did take two ears, and I really hoped I made use of them. Enjoy the bonk, breakfast and Charlie Sheen images - my finest work!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fruit Flies

A few months ago we were inspired by some work we saw in PDN and wanted to shoot some food photography using a fish tank and some fruit. The post processing on this shoot was pretty complicated and worth revisiting.

When you know you will have a complicated retouch ahead of you, its important to simply keep this in mind while you are shooting. This might sound obvious, but there are some things you can do during the shoot that will help on the back end. In this shoot we tried to get as many different shots of clean water lines as possible to use for composites, generally the more you have the better. We also tried to keep the water as clean as possible. Changing out the water to get rid of orange pulp is generally easier and less time consuming than taking it out in post. As much as I like pulp in my orange juice, lets face it, floaters aren’t attractive.

Once we selected the most interesting splashes, opening them in Photoshop and fitting them all together to form the composition we wanted was a somewhat subjective group effort. Several variations were made before we came to the final image. Doing things like converting the layers to smart objects to avoid data loss, masking out everything but the focus of each layer, and lowering the opacity of each layer until you have everything in place can help keep from spinning wheels. Otherwise it can be difficult to visualize exactly where to place things.

The next step in the retouching process was definitely the most time consuming. Taking out all the dust specks and orange pulp looked pretty daunting at first, but I saved a bunch of time by just making a solid black layer rather than trying to use Photoshop’s clone stamp to take out every speck. By making a black layer as the top layer and using a mask to cover the dust specks you don’t have to flip between different layers or tools. I find that simplifies things. You could also flatten the entire image and use the brush or clone stamp, but I like to keep the layer separate as long as possible just in case I need to go back and make another edit to the layout.
The only thing left to do then was cleaning everything up and making sure all the lines connect properly when moving from one composite image to the next. In the end the composited image took approximately four hours from start to finish. All said and done, we had a few new images for the portfolio so needless to say, we were excited about the results.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Midland Theatre - KC Magazine and Helix Architecture

I was thrilled in February to get a chance to attend the ADDY show in Kansas City and also to see the interior of the Midland again. I got a chance a couple of years ago to actually photograph the interior of the Midland Theatre for KC Magazine and it is absolutely breathtaking. Shooting it meant I got the opportunity to literally see all of the theatre, and really get a chance to get up close to the incredible restoration work. Without a doubt I'd love to thank AMC, for having the foresight, and Helix Architecture, for having the capabilities to pull off this world-class project. It's a real jewel for Kansas City.

KC Magazine

Friday, April 1, 2011

Change is Good

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.” - Author Unknown

Change is inevitable, it’s the only sure thing in life. Things are changing at Alistair Tutton Photography. We now have an on-staff retoucher/assistant in Andrew Hoxey and with my addition to the staff we now have a studio manager as well. We are growing and looking forward to all the future holds for us. New opportunities with current clients and opportunities with new clients.

Who am I you may be asking yourself? My name is Kate Crockett and I joined Alistair in mid-March as studio manager. I am very familiar with change and the opportunity it can bring. I am a navy brat who moved 11 times in 13 years and have enjoyed a variety of experiences in my over 15 year career in marketing. Change always brings some level of trepidation with it, like learning to work with new people, my least favorite - learning new computer programs or sometimes it’s just learning the names of your co-workers - granted here it’s learning the names of all four pups and yelling the right one at the right time to avoid incident. But change also brings with it excitement at the opportunities yet to be uncovered.

I look forward to the excitement of helping Alistair Tutton Photography expand it’s opportunities and I am thrilled to be working with such a great group of people. We are looking forward to launching an updated portfolio on our website so stay tuned for that very soon. In the meantime if you see me at any upcoming networking events please say hi and if you are in need of a puppy fix feel free to stop by the studio for some time with our furry friends.

Assistant: Andrew Hoxey and Natasha Frederick
Retoucher: Andrew Hoxey

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