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Learning From Losing is Still a Win

[by Michael Weschler]

There comes a time in every photographer’s career, when you’re up for something bigger than you ever imagined you might get. You’re out of your comfort zone, but the timing feels right to stretch a little and meet this challenge. Don’t panic, but don’t get too excited yet, either!

While it’s great that you’re now being considered for a level of work that you weren’t before, it might take another season to really prove it should be yours. Remember, just being on the field of play is a triumph. Before, you might have been passed by, but now you’re being recognized as having the potential ability to achieve the results this project requires.

Up your chances by treating it like an audition. If appropriate, spend the time to put a creative brief together, have a conference call with agency creatives, art buyers, account executives, and if possible, the clients, themselves. All of your communication is important, so don’t drop the ball. If it starts raining emails, just remember you need to instill confidence in a lot of people.

© Michael Weschler Photography

© Michael Weschler Photography

If, despite your best efforts, you don’t get the job, consider that people are risk averse, so if the option is there to select the guy who delivered the goods last time, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be kicked to the curb. That’s ok, though, because last time around, you weren’t even part of the conversation. Don’t consider it a defeat. Instead, be grateful that you’ve earned your way to the top of this very short list, and know that there are lots of forces at play, sometimes not entirely aligned with your desire to be the guy calling the shots.

Remind yourself that at one point in your career, it would have been laughable to have the audacity to be considered in certain company, but now you’re in a position to offer your unique talents and views in a conversation you are lucky to be invited to join.

So, instead of being bitter about not getting a project – especially one that’s being triple-bid – be thankful and literally express your gratitude to the team that has considered you. It is quite possible that you will be thought of again, because you don’t always know what the circumstances were that led the decision makers to select someone else. Quite often, the agency Art Buyer and Creative Director will put you in front of the client as their favorite, but the VP of Marketing or the CEO of the company may have someone else in mind. Decision makers can often be conservative and go with the guy who shot it last year or be cost-conscious and give it to a lower bidder.

If you asked a lot of questions and played a good game, now is the time to let it go, because you want to be invited back and you’ve earned your chance to take a swing. Consider that a decent Major League Baseball player might only have a hit once or twice, for every ten times he gets to bat. At least you’re on the field now, so be patient, and keep working on your game.

Michael Weschler is a Communication Arts 2014 Photo Award Recipient & currently on the ASMP National Board Communications Committee. When he’s not interpreting stories visually for his editorial and advertising clients, he’s on a constant search for knowledge and new challenges. Besides moving into directing motion recently, he’s also completed five triathlon races, although he’s never made it to the podium.

By Michael Weschler | Posted: July 30th, 2015 | No comments

I’m Sorry the Plans Have Been Canceled…

[by Pascal Depuhl]

Sunday afternoon a little after 2 pm, I get one of my favorite emails: “A new lead has been assigned to you.” Which is how my CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software lets me know that a potential client has inquired about working with me through the online contact form on my website. If you own your own company you know that every single request for a photo shoot is like a job interview.

You know the rest of the drill: a couple of emails and phone calls to get all the details of the shoot, how many photos, usage, scope of production, etc. Estimates are written, dates are set and preparations are made. Ten days later I confirm the shoot date and am looking forward to another happy client.

Then I get my least favorite email first thing in the morning on the following Wednesday: “I’m sorry, the plans have been canceled.” Rejection. Remember that this can mean anything, project got axed, client’s needs changed, their business partners had other ideas or – like in this case – he’s found a cheaper photographer.

How do you react? Do you demand your deposit anyway? Call the client and let him have it over the phone? Do nothing? Cut your rate? Curl up into a ball and cry? I’ve not found that any of these solutions work particularly well. Usually what I’ll do is write a nice and polite email response, thanking the client for considering me to create his photographs and (almost always) I will contact them down the road.

In this case, though, I get a phone call at 10 am the following Monday (the day we had originally scheduled the shoot): “Are you available to shoot now?” The client had flown into town and discovered that the cheaper photographer was not able to get the shots he needed. The other photographer was also asking him for more money – so much for being cheaper.

Long story short, I scrambled, shot the job and now have a client who’s thrilled with my work. I’ll let him tell you what he thought:



Not being professional when you lose a bid – especially those that (you thought) were sure things can only hurt you. There are many reasons why you lose bids – I lost one because another vendor made a $25,000 mistake and my client had to throw out the complete photography and video package I had been approved to produce. Staying professional and understanding ensures that you’ll have a seat at the table for the next opportunity.

There are rare times when it doesn’t make sense for me to contact a client after losing the bid – like the one time where a client wanted 100 product shots for $40 – not per shot, forty bucks in total – ok so to be fair I didn’t except their bid.  Other times it’s just not the right fit and that is not always defined by the money that’s on the table.

Circumstances change, budgets are increased, projects become more important, an art director who likes your work get’s hired or there are images or videos that need to be created that are totally in your wheel house and you’re back in business.

Yeah, it’s not fun to lose a bid and yes sometimes not getting the job turns out to be a blessing in disguise, but more often than not the best way to deal with losing a bid is to take a deep breath and go after the next one.

Pascal Depuhl doesn’t mind going onto a new job interview every single time he gets a request for a photo shoot. That’s part of running your own business. Tell me your worst or best rejection story on twitter (@photosbydepuhl). and what you did about it. Use the hashtag #EveryJobIsAJobInterview.

By Pascal Depuhl | Posted: July 29th, 2015 | No comments
Get Connected

When Losing is Actually Winning

[by Francis Zera]

The most important thing I keep in mind when bidding on projects, especially those gems that I really, really, want, is that this is business, and business can be rough, so stay confident but don’t get your hopes up.

I’ve had plenty of bids simply disappear into the void, with the client never contacting me again nor responding to a follow-up call or email.

I’ve also won many bids by being patient. There are as many reasons for a delayed reply to a tendered bid as there are bid opportunities, so no news is definitely not always bad news. I recently completed a great project last month that I bid on in early January and the client’s decision didn’t come until late May. I did send carefully-timed emails, letting them know I was still interested.

Some bid opportunities are nothing more than fishing expeditions. A potential client may not know how much a proper photo shoot costs, so they sometimes seek bids for a project just to price shop without intending to actually retain anyone’s services from the exercise.

This one’s a gem: I lost a bid, only to learn much later that the only reason I was asked to bid was to provide what the client correctly assumed would be market-rate pricing in order to justify a low-ball price from an amateur photographer friend. I spent the better part of a day putting together that bid. Bidding takes time, and therefore costs money, and, again, business can be rough. It’s difficult to avoid becoming a bit jaded.

Following up on bids is essential, even if you learn that you weren’t awarded the project. I’ve lost bids, only to wind up getting consistent work from the client in the future simply because I followed up to thank them for giving me an opportunity to bid and let them know that I’d be very interested in bidding on their next project. Professionalism and patience trump the poor customer service and/or lack of experience that usually accompany a low bid.

Whenever possible, be sure to ask why you weren’t awarded the bid. More often than not you’ll learn that it was for financial reasons. Other times, it’s a matter over which you’ve absolutely no control and has nothing to do with your capabilities, such as an art director’s particular stylistic preference. The information you get from asking questions often provides a clear road map to future success.

Francis Zera is a Seattle-based architectural and commercial photographer. He currently serves as education chair at ASMP Seattle/NW, teaches architectural photography at the Art Institute of Seattle, and holds an M.A. Ed. in adult education and training. You can check out his work at and follow him on twitter and on instagram.


By webmaster | Posted: July 28th, 2015 | 2 comments

Losing Gracefully

[by Chris Winton-Stahle]

I’m going to take a moment to hold my head up high, take a deep, soothing breath and confidently tell you that I most certainly have a lot of experience with losing bids… I’ve most likely lost as many jobs in my career as I’ve gotten!

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…the first rule of losing a job is to not take it personally. Losing a bid is tough, especially when you had your heart set on a particular project; as artists, we put so much of ourselves into each job we pursue, whether it’s awarded to us or not.

We often hear that “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” Though it’s important to keep yourself emotionally in check throughout this process, the truth is that it almost always feels personal.  And, not hearing anything can be heart wrenching.

But, no matter what you’re feeling, clients can sense apathy or frustration and it’ll always send the wrong message so don’t lose your positive energy. Do what you have to do to blow off steam and express your frustration but when it comes to talking with potential clients don’t let the heartache of your last loss effect the outcome of your next win!

One of the most difficult losses I’ve faced recently was for a major tourism account. When the call came in for the project, the buyer was very excited about bringing me on board and was speaking to me as if the project was mine. I put my estimate together, talked with the buyer about it, everything looked good and I thought it was a done deal.

Then I waited. And I waited… No response. Finally I called back and when the buyer got on the phone the energy had completely changed. I was met with a cold, calculated “We decided to go in a different direction but thank you for your time” response. This was a tough blow for my ego.

I’ve experienced many situations just like this and each time I go through a brief mourning process of feeling defeated and beaten down. However, I always counteract this by doing something proactive. I try to look at the brighter side of everything without beating myself up and ask myself, “What did I learn from this experience?”

I often do something fun – something just for myself, totally unrelated to work – after I’ve lost a bid on a project. It’s healthy to separate ourselves from “the business” sometimes. Then, usually the next day, I jump right back on the horse  and do what I do best – creating a new image for fun! Some of my best self-assigned images that have opened the doors to my biggest clients were created just after I’ve found out I wasn’t chosen for a project that I had spent an entire day preparing an estimate for.

Very few people will ever understand the stress, the heartache or the disappointment that commercial photographers experience being rejected over and over for projects that we know we could knock out of the ball park! You almost have to learn to enjoy the pursuit, love taking the risk and embrace the heartache with open arms, knowing that each “no” you hear will make you a stronger person and will provide incentive to grow, learn and continue to get better at your craft and your business skills.

In the end, it’s still all about building a strong foundation with the people you work with or those you want to work with. Don’t give up on the people that you’ve been working to make your clients. It’s important to remember that they are often under a tremendous amount of pressure in their job and choosing photographers for projects is not always about choosing favorites or even the best person for the job.

There are many, many moving parts in play that we will never fully understand because of confidentiality concerns. So keep your head held high, stay positive and move on to the next lead.

Chris Winton-Stahle is an award-winning photographer and accomplished photo illustration artist who sees the camera as only half of his process in creating great imagery. Chris often pulls components from multiple images and CGI when creating his work for clients in advertising, magazines and entertainment.

By Chris Winton-Stahle | Posted: July 27th, 2015 | No comments

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