GTD: A WPPI Follow-up

I struggle…a lot with getting things done (GTD).

There are so many ways to get things done and so many distractions preventing me from just doing it.  The saying I try to live by is, “You always have time for what you do first.”  After this bit of learning what I’d add to that is, “Do the deep work first”.  Being honest, the reasons I don’t take the time to do the deep, focused work are tied to distraction, laziness and avoidance.  This brings me to a talk I went to while at WPPI 2016 in Las Vegas.  The presenter was Dane Sanders, whom I’ve seen before and enjoyed.

His topic was Rebuilding Your Business from the Ground Up.  The target audience for his talk included those just starting their business all the way through those that have been in business for some time and looking for a re-think.

Dane covered the categories to consider when evaluating your business.  Things like: value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, business model (whether you’re freelance or a signature brand), what systems you use to process your work and finally how you work with people.  Obviously, there’s a lot of content in each of these categories that I won’t cover here.  The one I want to spend a little time on is a point that would fall within the systems category having to do with how you organize your day and how you get things done.

The reason why I feel like this one is a big deal is that if you don’t have the focus and wherewithal to do some deep work to sort through questions like: 

  • What can I bring to the client experience that only I can do?  
  • What’s the best way to identify and target clients in a meaningful way? 
  • What can I do to make sure my brand presence is consistent from end-to-end?  

These are all pretty hard topics and not something you’ll likely figure out easily.  Without diving into these topics, my business will not flourish as quickly as if I did take that time.  Dane suggested several books but one stood out and I’ve just finished reading it, its called "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.  "Knowledge workers are forgetting the value of going deep”, Cal tells us.  According to a McKinsey study, "60% of the work week is spent doing internet searching with 30% of that time spent answering emails alone.”  Hard to hear but it doesn’t seem far off to me.

Without getting into too much detail, the highlights from the book are first learning to identify the different types of work and the effect of each.  Primarily, the book focuses on shallow work and deep work.  Examples of shallow work are things like checking email, surfing the web and catching up on social media.  A good example of deep work for me would be editing video or writing a blog post like this one.  This is an exercise that I need a large block of uninterrupted time to parse through the message and spend time thinking before creating.  What the author argues is that to produce anything of substance, you need to devote time to deep work.

Finding a way to structure your day so this deep work gets done leads to the topic of forming good habits and continually prioritizing what’s important for you to succeed both personally and professionally.  Another photographer I follow, Chase Jarvis, shared these thoughts  on how feels about being "busy" and how he organizes his day to get things done (skip to 3:07 for the meat of it).

The take-aways for me are: 

  • Consider your entire day as a set of opportunities and possibilities
  • Have a set of goals identified 
  • Prioritize those goals and aggressively find ways to minimize distracted, shallow work to allow for blocks of time for deep thinking.  There were many suggestions on how to manage the disconnection from email, social media, noise, etc.
  • Watch the rewards of this deep thinking come back to you many times over

Now the test.  Let’s see if I can take the time needed to dive in and make this a reality.  

WPPI 2016 - Las Vegas

As I complete my time at WPPI in Las Vegas (forth year attending), I continue to come back because each year is different. New people, new experiences, new parties (which I usually skip). 

Every year, I organize a shoot to experiment and practice.  This year I worked with a makeup artist I worked with last year, Bri, and asked her to suggest a model instead of me conducting my own search.  Thanks to the crew (see below) that braved a very long walk through the desert, getting rained on briefly and cold weather (for Vegas)...all to get to our beautiful destination in the Red Rock Canyon.   Here are some behind-the-scenes (BTS) followed by the results.

Darrin Estep Photography | BTS
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial

The day before, I attended a completely unplanned shoot that someone else organized. They planned the location, hired the models and I just showed up to shoot. As it turned out, this was a great way for me to meet some new people. Here are a few images from that shoot.  

Darrin Estep Photography | portrait
Darrin Estep Photography | portrait

Now to the classes. I didn't attend as many sessions as I had in years past.  I like that this conference is not all about the presenters, the classes, and the expo.  I attended a great talk with Dane Sanders about building your business from the ground up. He outlined categories to think about when evaluating your business, whether you're just starting out or have been at it for a while.  Since I've left I've started to look more into a book he suggested called Deep Work.  More on this soon.

Expo floor

Expo floor

Next was a talk with Jen Rozenbaum. She's a NY based boudoir photographer.   We have mutual friends through the photography community and I hadn't heard her speak in the past so I'm glad I had the chance to see her this time. She's great and I loved that her personality came through in her talk which makes it so much more fun.  I also attended a social media talk with Susan Stripling that was enlightening. Through her talk I learned that her competition is my favorite NY based wedding photographer, Ryan Brenizer.  Interesting.  She had some good suggestions about what tools to use and why and how to automate a lot of the interactions with social media. 

My last class was a lighting class with Joe McNally. Love him! He's very funny and such a wealth of knowledge. He admitted from the beginning that he had no agenda and was just winging it. He took some questions from the audience and then started to experiment with light and color and explain it as he went along. Here are some images he made during the talk. 

Joe McNally's images playing with color and light

Joe McNally's images playing with color and light

Thanks WPPI.  It's been fun!  Until next year.

Red Rock Canyon crew:
Model: Danae
MUA: Bri
MUA Assistant: Alessa

Photographer workshop

A photographer friend of mine, Brian, put together a casual gathering to network and shoot at a place called StudiosLIC in Queens, NY.  I met Brian at one of the first meet-up’s I ever attended in NYC in 2008 when I was first learning about photography and how to use light.  For this shoot he brought a model he had worked with recently and others joined in the fun in front of the lens as the night went on. 

Jessenia is from Florida and new to NYC.  She was very nice to work with, great smile and doesn’t need guidance however, she's also open to feedback if you want her to move or stand in a certain way.

North Jersey Headshot Photographer Fashion Images

Mike is a guy that works at the studio and somehow ended up in front of the camera.  I snapped a few of him as well.  He didn’t seem to mind giving us his best for a little while in front of the camera.

North Jersey Headshot Photographer Lifestyle Images

Overall, this was a nice opportunity to meet some other photographers and get a chance to play in a different space.  Thanks Brian for setting it up!

WPPI Session: Content Marketing for the 2015 Photographer

Jared Bauman, the founder of shootdotedit gave an informative talk at WPPI in Vegas on Marketing for the 2015 photographer.  I wanted to take a deeper dive into this subject and discuss what I took away from the talk.  Two elements that make the current marketplace challenging, according to Jared, are 1) low cost of entry for new photographers and 2) social media (if you don't use it or use it incorrectly).  Social media, especially for today’s small business owner, is key.  It can work wonders if you use it well and it can also be overwhelming to keep up with if you don’t have a system in place.

content marketing wppi 2015

The talk on content marketing underlined the importance of first knowing your target audience (i.e., your potential client).  Once you know your audience well, including their demographic profile, and why they'd be in need of your services, do the following:

  1. Develop a marketing and business process 
  2. Develop content that’s relevant and valuable to your client and provide this information in a consistent and timely manner.
  3. Attract and acquire. He referenced a book called Launch by Jeff Walker for more information.  I'm anxious to read the book to learn more.
  4. Create a persona which is basically the process of defining your target client(s) so much so that you actually give them a name and use that in how you market to them.  This can be a very powerful technique.
  5. Determine drivers for profitable customer action.  The example he gave was in the wedding space and how there are various phases of the wedding process (being engaged, then married, moving to a house, kids, etc.). All of these phases have potential marketing and relationship opportunities and they map to different phases of your relationship with them (e.g., when they're engaged it would generally map to them being a potential client, etc.). Making the most of each of these opportunities are critical to success.  One that's often overlooked is after the event occurs.  Following up and nurturing that relationship can turn them into your champions and spawn new business.

Other aspects of the discussion was around blogging, email marketing, Facebook advertising, and tools for automating the whole process.  The tools are a big interest to me.  I’m hyper focused on figuring out tools and processes that will make the process of marketing, advertising, and content delivery easy for me. Well, maybe easier.

I didn't cover all of what Jared spoke about but I appreciate that this session had actionable items and usable information.  Its frustrating when you sit through a session and at the end are left wondering, "now what?" 

WPPI: 2015 - Third time's a charm

This year was my third year making the trek out to Las Vegas for the WPPI (Wedding Portrait Photography) conference at the MGM Grand.  Its always a great time to get out of the Northeast and go from 20 degrees to 70.

My focus at this years conference was on business, marketing, workflow and posing sessions (similar list to last year).  I spent a little time at the Expo to check out the vendors and also managed to get a couple shoots in.  


From the sessions I attended I realized more so how important it is to know the demographics of my clients.  It allows you to provide a better service since you're able to anticipate needs and build a stronger bond.  An area of interest for my business this year is SEO and getting the most out of client relationships.  

Blogging is still an important way to get the word out about your business.  I like to use it as a way to chronicle my activity and give people a sense of who I am.  A repeated theme from last year was to always look for ways to both attract and repel.  You want strong reactions about your work.  That's what creates future champions for your business.

By attending the sessions, each year I find new contacts and inspiration.  I hope to write a little about each session in future posts but one I wanted to call out now was the key note by Joe McNally.  Wow. I thought I knew most of his work but there was so much I wasn't aware of.  He has been everywhere it seems and shot so many iconic images.  So impressive.

Last, I'm a bit of a tech geek and love to use tools and automation where possible to get the business portion of my job done.  Currently, I'm using tools like Buffer to schedule posts to social media (G+, Facebook, and Twitter).  I also use Dropbox for a variety of client facing and organizational reasons and IFTTT to help with some automation with content.

I'll have more information coming on the shoots I did while in Vegas. Stay tuned...

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