The American Society of Media Photographers provides this forum to encourage the development of critical skills and to foster new ideas. Our goal is an informed and savvy professional photography community.

Building Collaborative Relationships

In the past several years, we’ve all heard – and learned – a lot about the importance of building a collaborative team but while it’s clear that there can be great synergies when working with others, getting to that point takes forethought and effort.  This week, our contributors focus on the how’s rather than the why’s of building successful collaborative relationships.
~Judy Herrmann, Editor

By Editor | Posted: May 4th, 2015 | No comments

The Qualities of a Team

[by Luke Copping]

What do you want in a team member?

Are you looking for a subordinate? A yes-man who will follow you right off a cliff? A collaborator who works in partnership with you?

Do you want to build a brigade of interchangeable cogs or a squad of specialists?

Here is what I look for in a team member: Someone who is as passionate about what they do as I am about photography and making my clients happy. Someone who wants to use their hard earned skills to the benefit of my goals. Someone I trust enough in their expertise that I wouldn’t dream of micromanaging them – instead I operate from the position that if they are part of my team then they need to be able to lead me as much as I lead them.

You have to trust the people you work with – from the most entry level assistant all the way through to your marketing team, your accountant and your lawyer.  Every level of your team needs to understand what your expectations of them are, and you need to trust them to perform and create within those parameters so that they can deliver their best possible product to you.

If you try to control every aspect of the process that they have dedicated themselves to being an expert in you might as well do it yourself (and you’ll be doing it to a far more inferior level than they will – after all, how do we react when a potential client passes on a job and says they will just take their own photos?)

If you need someone to do a job then find someone you trust enough to actually let them do it.

Luke Copping is an editorial and commercial portrait photographer from Buffalo NY who makes pictures, writes, cooks, and has set his sights set on conquering the world of competitive ostrich jousting next.


By Luke Copping | Posted: May 5th, 2015 | 1 comment
Get Connected

Setting Up for Effective Collaboration

[by Tom Kennedy]

Effective collaboration depends upon finding partners who can fuel your own creativity. For me, it has often meant finding people who share the same passions, energy, and commitment to seeking excellence.   Their energy, drive, and capacity to focus have to be readily apparent. To make that assessment, I need to achieve a kind of clarity and transparency about what I am seeking from them and be clear about how much I will be requiring as the output of their work.

Usually, that assessment starts with a conversation to explain why I think the project matters and the impact I want it to have on the audiences I am seeking to reach. I describe what I see as the benefits that can accrue from successful execution and I ask questions to see if my vision and enthusiasm are resonating.

Assuming that the signs are good, I then explain how I see the partnership working. A dollop of humility and sprinkling of self-knowledge are ingredients in my secret sauce. I know that I can be more effective in doing the work if I can fill in my own creative “blank spaces” with their experience, skills, vision, knowledge, and wisdom as a complement.

Usually, I have some sense of where my own limits may produce creative obstacles that will need to be transcended.

In seeking out collaborative partners, I want people who won’t be shy about challenging my assumptions, work patterns, and ideas. By offering alternatives and keeping me honest with their own questions and challenges, I have the whetstone to sharpen my own creative blade. When I ask for a collaborative partner, I am seeking someone who will have the courage to offer their opinion, under any circumstance, while also having the capacity to clearly explain the “why” and “how” of their thinking in that moment.

At the same time, true collaboration involves a lot of prep work, mapping out processes and the likely project path. Investing time upfront to produce that roadmap can save a lot of heartbreak. In my experience, collaborative partnerships can founder when partners haven’t been sufficiently clear with each other about the details of the project itself, and equally clear about how obstacles will be dealt with in the moment as they emerge.

Ideally, collaborative partners also fill in emotional “blank spaces” for each other too. It is important to know how problem-solving patterns may impact an effort, and to understand how partners will react when under pressure. The ability to work in “rhythm” is critical to a successful collaboration and knowing how and when to grant the space for regrouping as problems emerge is a crucial part of laying the foundation for success.

Before becoming ASMP’s Executive Director, Tom Kennedy worked as an independent consultant, helping individual photographers and media organizations enhance creativity, master multi-media story creation and production, and develop publication and distribution strategies for digital platforms.  In his role as Director of Photography for National Geographic and subsequently Managing Editor, Multimedia at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, he created, directed and edited visual journalism projects that have earned Pulitzer Prizes and well as EMMY, Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow awards.  Tom held the Alexia Chair at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and teaches regularly at Universities and multimedia conferences.  He can be reached at

By Tom Kennedy | Posted: May 4th, 2015 | No comments

Don’t Ignore This Book Review

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have a conversation with a photographer about explaining the value of professional photography or their services to clients.  Now in its 3rd edition, Value Added Selling – first reviewed here seven years ago today – may help you address that issue and more. ~JH

[by Blake Discher]

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 4.09.39 PMThe second [now third] edition of Tom Reilly’s Value Added Selling: how to sell more profitably, confidently, and professionally by completing of value, not price (McGraw-Hill ISBN: 978-0071664875, 288 pages) boasts 70-percent new content from the first edition.  I was given my copy by a fellow airline passenger who had finished it while on a flight we shared.  He said, “You won’t believe how valuable this information is.”  When I asked him if he was sure he wanted to give it away, he said, “I want you to have it, it sounds like your industry could benefit by what the author talks about, and I’ll buy another copy for myself.”

Was he right!  Reilly’s “Value Added Selling Philosophy” is based on demonstrating your value to clients during the early stages of the sales presentation, instead of waiting until the time in the sales process that you have to overcome price objections presented by the client.

Reilly helps you to identify your value added, what it is that you bring to the table that perhaps your competition won’t or can’t.  He talks about differentiation: what are your definable and defendable differences?

Reilly challenges you to look at what he calls process support: how easy do you make it for your customers to do business with you.  But perhaps the most valuable part of the book is his seven strategies for dealing with price resistance.

So, somewhere out there is a traveling salesman I didn’t thank enough for his gift of Tom Reilly’s book. In today’s difficult economy, this book is a must read.  I’ve read it and re-read it, and it has definitely helped my business.

Blake Discher is a photographer and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant to small business.

By Blake Discher | Posted: May 1st, 2015 | No comments

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