Are You Playing to Win?

November 2, 2009

What I appreciate about athletics – tennis in particular – is that sheer persistence, just keeping the ball in play, can often win the point and eventually the match. But there are times as well when one just needs to put the ball away. ‘Cause if you don’t, your opponent is going to. Trouble is knowing when to play it safe and when to go for a riskier, winning shot.

I decided some time back that I was going to play every shot that I could, as aggressively as I could. Even when I couldn’t get a clear winner out of a shot, I was going to try to set up a play so that the next shot could be. But my problem is that I lose a lot of points on very close shots. The upside is that when I win the point, I feel even better knowing that I wasn’t playing safe. Whether I win or lose the match, I go home with the knowledge that I played my heart out.

What’s required most days in my work, though, is persistence. Keeping at the tasks of the day – keeping the ball in play, as it were – is what keeps my day in motion rather than slamming one or two big projects or goals and feeling like I’ve scored a winner. What troubles me about a persistence mindset, however, is that it can draw me into a play-it-safe attitude, and I know after many years in business that playing it safe is one of the biggest risks one can take.

Playing it safe virtually eliminates exploration, which shuts down creativity. You can’t create without trying new things, which is what exploration is all about. And in this economy, when so many people are playing it safe on every front, what better way to set yourself apart in business, and in all of life for that matter, than being creative, attempting the unexpected? In other words, going for a winner, which is what taking risks is all about.

So how about you? Can you afford the risk of not taking risks? Are you playing to win or to just keep from losing?

Charles Gupton

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Altered Image for Microsoft?

September 23, 2009

Because I monitor a number of blogs that are directed towards the communications industry in general and photographers in particular, I see a fair number of posts and articles discussing mistakes and PR blow-ups over the use or mis-use of photographs. Many of them seem to occur through the use of royalty-free or other cheaply sourced stock photos. Often, it seems, that in the interest of trying to do too much with too little, the ultimate cost for a company is much higher than if they simply hired original photography which fit their needs exclusively.

Obviously, I have a self-serving interest in getting hired for assignments, but I earn a good portion of my living from stock images, too. My primary desire is to work with my clients to find a solution that fits their need for the best value that they can get. That is the foundation of a lasting relationship in my book.

Altered photo in Microsoft ad

Altered photo in Microsoft ad

In this ad, Microsoft used a poorly altered head-swap for racial considerations, an Apple computer on the table and a cord to the monitor in the foreground was left unplugged. So, what were the savings versus the costs for Microsoft?

Just food for thought…


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The 3/50 Project

May 8, 2009

I saw this project mentioned on a couple of different blogs I read on a regular basis. I liked the concept so much I found myself mentioning it to a number of folks in conversation. Only seemed right to share it with you here as well.

Save the national economy by saving your community’s economy. By investing your resources back into businesses in your neighborhood, you allow them to keep their doors open and return your money back into your community, yet again. In addition to stirring the economy, buying from local businesses gives us the opportunity to build better community relationships as well. How great is that?


Click on image for more information

Click on image for more information

Reward Collaboration

March 6, 2009

“The best reward is not to give money but to show a new connection toward the future.” ~ Dr. Coltaire Rapaille ‘Seven Secrets of Marketing’

Portraits of Children & CEOs

January 29, 2009

I now enjoy the challenges of photographing children.

Years ago a creative director I worked with kept urging me to promote my work with them. But I resisted because I didn’t want to be branded as a child photographer. I thought it would take away from my ‘serious’ corporate work. To be honest, what I was afraid of was their unpredictability. I couldn’t tell a child what to do and have them follow direction. They did what they wanted to do or they quit. Push a young child too hard and they cry. Although it was wonderful when everything fell into place, it was far too risky to build even part of my reputation on photographing children and then fail. Working with young children involves an entirely different set of skills. Or so I reasoned.

I love seeing a CEO this excited!

I love seeing a CEO this excited!

Then on one assignment it clicked with me. Photographing young children required many of the same qualities I used when photographing executives. That’s not intended to be demeaning to executives (or young children, for that matter). It’s just that there are a lot of similarities. For instance:
–    Both have a very short attention span, maybe a 3-5 minute window of opportunity.
–    Both respond poorly to ‘bribes’. Executives control their time and let you know it. Children focus too much on the reward and lose their spontaneity.
–    Both require a genuine emotional connection and interest in them. In truth every human wants that, but most folks will fake their way through to save face. Some CEOs will, but not any of the children I’ve met.
–    Neither will remember you unless the experience was bad. Or extremely good.
–    Both respond better to women touching them when under stress. I always like to have a female stylist to make adjustments to either men or women executives when possible. Young children also find women more nurturing and safe.
–    Both, interestingly, respond well to a mix of serious interaction and off-the-wall silliness at the moment of shooting.

The one major difference is that executives are very concerned with how their image is perceived and young children don’t care as long as their comfort needs are met. Neither group fakes this. At all.

Once I reasoned through the qualities and mind-set I needed to bring to a session with children, my entire attitude changed. It’s still a challenge and there are no guarantees that a melt-down won’t occur, but my enjoyment of working with children has risen exponentially.

So, what have I missed? What would you do to make the experience better for the people you’re photographing?

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Don’t be Ordinary

January 26, 2009

“I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary” – Angela (played by Mena Suvari) in the movie American Beauty.

Twitter Twit

January 23, 2009

Although I am new to Twitter, I’m not new to putting my foot in my mouth. I learned many years ago – then forgot the lesson several times through the years – that everything that one thinks doesn’t need to be stated. This is true whether the words are passing through our lips or our fingers. If one doesn’t care about influencing others, so be it. But if you are in the business of ‘selling’ your ideas then you’d better be in the business of selling yourself.  Is it worth it to go for the quick-witted remark at the expense of your long-term relationships?

This post by David Henderson details a case where a moment’s thought could have saved a great deal of embarrassment.

I read about this story from Chris Brogan, as I have so many other great leads and insights.

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