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5 Strategies That Will Help Your Business Grow

The Art of Networking

Prelude: Making Friends and Finding Inspiration
Whenever I used to think of networking I would go into a panic. I thought it was about meeting people I didn’t know, shaking their hands, impressing them somehow, and pressing my business card into their palms with the hope of somehow getting work from them at a later date. Which sadly, never materialized. That’s the old guard. The wish upon a star kind of networking. There is a new way to go about networking. Read on to find out more about The Art of Networking.
Allow me to share a recent trip I took to the desert city of Palm Springs, California for the annual Palm Springs Photo Festival {PSPF} put on by Jeff Dunas.

The Art of Networking

Jeff Dunas {right} Photographed with an a7s, FE 90mm Marco, @ ISO 8000, f/2.8, 1/100th sec. Converted to B&W in Adobe LR CC.

Fellow Sony Artisan, Michael Britt {an educator at the PSPF} let me know that Jeff was offering full access guest passes to other Artisan’s that would like to attend. I’d wanted to go the PSPF for years and jumped at the chance to attend. Little did I know what was in store for me.

The Art of Networking

Michael Britt: Photographed with the a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 @ ISO 10,000, f/3.2, 1/80th sec.

Five Networking Strategies
Let’s make a few things clear. #1. Chance favors the prepared. #2. Make friends before business. #3. Have some kickass business cards, a website, possibly an Instagram account, and a curated portfolio of your work. #4 Have or develop social skills and be interested in other people. Too often we talk about ourselves. If you can find some common ground or even know a bit about the person you are trying to network with your chances of making a real connection are much greater. #5 Print your own note cards and handwrite Thank You notes to people you meet.

Networking – Better Known as Connecting
The day before heading up to Palm Springs I saw that Mark Tucker a photographer that I follow on Facebook mentioned that he was going to be up there. I thought: “Hey maybe he’s attending the PSPF?” I didn’t know Mark but followed him on Facebook for a couple of years so I posted a query asking him if he was attending. He mentioned he wasn’t attending but he’d be on the fringes of the festival. I asked him if I could buy him a beer or two. He responded that he’d be having dinner with a bunch of friends at Native Foods and to join him about 6 pm if I was free. I arrived a bit after 6 PM and there was a group of 6 or 7 people at a long table. I introduced myself to Mark and his lovely partner Brandise Danesewich, and sat at the opposite end of the table from Mark next to Tim Griffith {we exchanged business cards}Needless to say it was a bit surreal. Then in the middle of the conversation, I looked over to my left and noticed that David Burnett {living legend of photography: was seated across from Brandise. You really can’t plan for stuff like this. I wasn’t there to sell myself. I was there to simply connect. I was there to have fun and meet other like-minded people.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Somehow the conversation turned to camera technology. Go figure. On a whim, I pulled out my RX1Rii from my bag and asked if they’d seen this. No one had. It was an a-ha moment for everyone at the table. The camera was passed around the person to person as I briefly explained the full-frame prowess of the mini beast and that it was a 42mp sensor with a Carl Zeiss f/2.0 leaf shutter lens with macro capability. Let’s just say everyone was in awe of the RX1Rii. After dinner, we left the restaurant and gathered outside the front door. David and I had a few words and laughs and Mark wanted to get everyone in a group picture. Sensing an opportunity to contribute I asked if I could take it for them. Mark set up the camera with a slow shutter speed of ¼ of a second. I used a waist-high patio entry gate to steady that camera and popped off a couple of frames. Whamo! History made. You can bet I was feeling just a bit of pressure capturing this image with what I hoped was a steady hand. Rules #1, #2, #3, and #4 invoked without even thinking about it.


Seen on the way to the first day of the PSPF. I had to make a U-turn and go back and photograph this gorgeous architectural sculpture. RX1Rii, @ISO 200, f/11, 1/200th sec.



Another U-turn for this stunning architectural mural in Palm Springs. RX1Rii, @ISO 50, f/11, 1/40th sec.


Palm Springs: RX1Rii, camera on the ground back LED screen tilted up for easy viewing, @ISO 100, f/11, 1/200th sec.


Cabazon, California, on the way to Palm Springs: RX1Rii, camera on the pavement, back LED tilted up toward me for easy viewing and composition, @ISO 200, f/11, 1/250th sec.

This perchance meeting with an amazing think tank of serious photography talent at Native Foods led to a few things during the PSPF and over the coming weeks. It kindled friendships with many people at the table. I ran into Tim Griffith many times, in passing and at breakfast. We shared stories and laughs. He was kind enough to look at some of my architectural photography and suggested that I’d benefit from using a Canon 17mm Tilt-Shift lens. I took his suggestion to heart and immediately started to research the lens. It’s expensive but worth every penny. One of the many benefits of photographing with the Sony E-mount cameras is the ability to use just about any lens with an adapter. Four weeks later… voila! Below is an image of the lens and adapter with the a7Rii. I can’t wait to start using this lens and camera combo.

Photographed with the a7sII and FE 90mm Macro f/2.8

Photographed with the a7sII and FE 90mm Macro f/2.8 @ ISO 4,000, f/5.6, 1/30th sec hand held. Transferred via Sony in camera Wifi and edited with Adobe Lightroom Mobile on an iPhone 6+.

Being Thankful
I made it a point to seek out Jeff Dunas and thank him for his generosity. The day’s events start at the Moroccan inspired Korakia Pensione. It’s where all the workshop’s instructors and attendees meet for the workshops and for breakfast. It was more than a simple thank you to Jeff. I let him know how much I enjoyed his PSPF, how smoothly it’s run, and that the quality of the instructors is top-notch. I let him know how inspired I was to be attending and to have the opportunity to be surrounded by so much talent. My thank you was genuine, not contrived and I whole-heartedly shared my enthusiasm and gratefulness. I didn’t do this to score points, I did this to thank Jeff for his openness and his generosity. He didn’t need to offer guest passes. It was out of the kindness of his heart that he does this. And you can tell Jeff is kind….he is well-loved by all that know him. I’ve sent him a handwritten note card thanking him again for his kindness. Rule #5.

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Korakia Pensione. Photographed with the Sony RX1Rii

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Photographed with an iPhone 6+ and edited with Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

One morning I ran into Dennis Keeley. He was my B&W photography professor at University California Irvine. I hadn’t seen him in 16 or 17 years. I thanked him for always telling me: “Go figure it out.” It was he and Catherine Opie that inspired me to follow my passion for photography.

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Educator and photographic artist Dennis Keely: Photographed with the a7s, FE 90 mm Macro, @ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/100th sec.

One of the coolest parts of the weeks at PSPF was the nightly talks by some of the greats in photography. The talks took place in the Annenberg Theatre, and in European fashion, they started at 9 pm. After a day of symposiums or on-location photography workshops, you had time to go to dinner, freshen up, or take a quick power nap and then head off for some inspiration at the Evening Presentations. To wit: Howard Shatz, Dan Winters, Simon Norfolk, Bruce Gilden, and Sandro Miller all gave talks. You might possibly see one of these legendary photographers talk about their work at a museum or gallery opening….but it would be a short talk. However, each night, they projected their photographic works on a huge movie screen, in an intimate venue, and discussed their projects for about 45 minutes to an hour. In one week I experienced fine art photography talks at the PSPF that would likely take several years or perhaps a lifetime to experience in the gallery and museum circuit. After Sando Miller’s talk on his Malkovich Series, I approached him at his book signing, interested in purchasing one of his prints. We spoke briefly and he was the nicest guy. He’s represented by David Fahey – Fahey Klien Gallery, Los Angeles. Each evening I sat quietly in the audience with my Sony a7s and FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro on Silent mode, with the AutoFocus Illuminator off so it wouldn’t bother anyone while I was photographing.

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Street photographer Bruce Gilden: Photographed with the a7s, FE 90mm Macro, @ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/100th sec.

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Sandro Miller: Photographed with the a7s, FE 90mm Macro, @ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/100th sec.

One of the memorable classes that I sat in on was Ben Willmore’s symposium on Lightroom: “Cataloging Images & Retrieving them in 5 Seconds Or Less.” I almost skipped this class but Nino insisted I attend and I’m glad I did. I’ve always heard about Ben. He’s got a solid and well-deserved reputation in the Photoshop and Lightroom community as a master educator and rightly so. His teaching is concise and clear. Ben has put together an ingenious system for organizing your Lightroom catalog folder hierarchy and using keywords. With his system, he could pull up any of his 200,000 plus images using his keyword system in 5 seconds or less. In a word ingenious. After class I asked Ben a few questions. It turned out he’s using Sony cameras to photograph with. I asked him what he was up to and he said he was going to catch some lunch. I asked him if he wanted to join us. So Ben, Michael, Nino, and I headed off to lunch. We had a great time exchanging ideas and all learned from each other. One thing is very clear about Ben. He is living his dream. He does what he loves and travels all over the world teaching and photographing. Rule #1 and Rule #2. Just to be clear. I don’t think of the rules I listed above when I’m out connecting with people. They are second nature to me now. I’ve listed them because they are part of my DNA. They are simply guidelines. A collection of what works for me after a decade and a half in the photography business. But I assure you they can be applied to any business you are in.

Ben Willmore, Photographed with the a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 @ ISO 2000, f/1.8, 1/30th/sec

Ben Willmore, Photographed with the a6300, FE 55mm 1.8 @ ISO 2000, f/1.8, 1/30th/sec

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Paul, Nino, Micheal and Me. Photographed with the a6300, dodging traffic, 10 sec. timmer on a tripod. FE 55 f/1.8, @ ISO 100, f/5, 1/80th sec.

Lets circle back to Sony Artisan Michael Britt and his generous invitation to join him at the PSPF. Additionally, he invited Sony Artisan Nino Rakichevich. Over the course of the week, Michael, Nino and I had breakfasts, dinners and enjoyed lots of adult beverages together. We exchanged ideas, talked about photography, our family, and our lives. It was an amazing time of bonding and intense fun. One day Sony Artisan Paul Gero came down for the day to hang out and the four of us had a great time together. Just so happens in talking with David Burnett that Paul and David are friends from back in their photojournalist days when they both shot film working for newspapers before the catchphrase wedding photojournalism got coined.

PDN’s Emerging 30 Conference
Here’s a power tip on networking from River Jordan, a photographer, and a panelist on the Emerging 30. When River isn’t photographing or working on a project he shared that he’s often connecting with other photographers, artists, and people in the industry that he’d simply like to get to know. His method of connecting is ingenious. He takes them out to dinner! River shared he’s out to dinner {networking} four nights a week. Everyone likes to eat and there’s no better way to get to know someone than by breaking bread and enjoying a good glass of wine with them. It’s often been said: “It’s not what you know… it’s who you know.”

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River Jordan, Michael Britt and Google’s Anna Dixon during PDN’s Emerging 30 Conference. Photographed with the a7s, FE 90mm Macro, @ISO 4,000, f/2.8, 1/100th sec.

This Stuff Really Works
A quick anecdote. A mainstay of my business is luxury real estate photography. Last year I was attending a Laguna Beach Realtors meeting. It’s a chance for realtors to preview new homes on the market and for affiliates, {non realtor members} to network. A well-dressed man sat next to me. It was his first time attending. David {an investment specialist} had a few questions about the weekly meetings. We exchanged business cards. He noted that I was a photographer. Fast forward to a week later. David’s fiancé calls me when I’m out shopping with my wife and asks me if I was available that evening to photograph their engagement party at a swanky Newport Beach Country Club. We negotiated terms in 5 minutes and I photographed their intimate gathering that evening. It turned out her father owns one of the largest car dealerships in Southern California and Arizona. Moral of the story: be nice to everyone and always have a business card with you. Moo is a defacto source of stylish business cards. I prefer the Luxe line.
I highly recommend attending the Palm Springs Photo Festival. For me it was a life-changing event. The people I met, the education I got, and the inspiration received changed my life. Sadly I didn’t get to meet one of my hero’s Frank Okenfels 3.
But there’s always next year!