Power Corner

Perhaps one of the most passionate and gentle men I have ever met, Don MacGregor gives new meaning to the term "image marketing. " I was fortunate to be able to spend some time interviewing him at his photography school on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and came away revived and filled with a new sense of what my business could become. His total dedication to his craft is one of the main reasons why he has become one of the most successful marketers in all of Canada, and his insights are extremely valuable and informative.

MacGregor Studios, a Vancouver-based studio for almost thirty years, specializes in portrait and wedding photography. Don's creative wedding albums and family portraits have been displayed throughout Canada and the U.S. and are included in the permanent collections of the Canadian and American Professional Photographers Association archives as well as the International Exposition of Photography at Epcot Center.

Don teaches across North America and is well known for his passionate programs. This is a man who absolutely loves photography!

For more on Don's educational materials and workshops, visit www. macgregorstudios. com.

Mitche: What is the biggest challenge that faces our industry now and in the future?

Don: The digital revolution's obviously the key part of the biggest change. With innovative products and software, anybody can get into digital photography. Therefore, our biggest challenge, as professionals, is to set ourselves apart. You've got to really know your lighting, composition, and elegant or very free-flowing posing and be able to put it together exceptionally well. We can no longer rely on the fact that it's some mystical kind of thing, because everybody and everybody's brother is going to have the same cameras that we have. So we've got to become better photographers. A lot of people will almost have to relearn the craft. As wonderful as digital is, it's got some great things we can add into our tool collection, so to speak. But shooting digitally today requires a lot of stronger skills in exposure, for example. It takes a great deal more time. It's a lot more expensive.

What percentage of your clients purchase wall portraits?

100 percent! If we don't sell a 30-inch or larger family portrait, it's because the client is not pre-sold or properly prequalified before they come to place their order. Pre-selling, for me, is helping clients by making their purchasing decisions easier. Sales are not created in a sales room. Sales are created in a mall when you first talk to the client. We do our very best to create a portrait they will want to display as a wall portrait. With a lot of our wall portraits, we do the consultations in the homes. We do the sales in the homes as well. I try to do all the projections right in the client's home. You're helping them put a piece of art on their wall.

Describe your marketing philosophy.

At a conference that I went to many years ago, I learned a saying: "Is the price too high or the purchasing desire not high enough?" I don't think there are any more powerful words in our business than those words. Is the price too high or the purchasing desire not high enough? So, my marketing philosophy is to do whatever I can to create a strong purchasing desire. Utilizing emotional symbolism, in other words, putting something into those images that has a special meaning, is the way to do it.

How many mall displays do you have at any given time?

We probably do anywhere from six to ten a year. They're fairly expensive. Up in Vancouver, Canada, it runs about $1,600 a week for us to do a mall display, so that's a fairly big chunk of change. The other thing that we've gotten involved in over the past couple of years is linking ourselves to activities that have the right kind of client. An auction to benefit the arts or the heart or stroke foundation, or breast cancer organizations—any kind of an auction—is good for business. Not a silent auction. I'm not a real believer in that. I want a verbal auction. I choose auctions where people are spending serious amounts of money—where bidding $1,000 is nothing. You want your photography to be perceived as a valuable product, so you have to get it out into these markets to see a real benefit.

What do you feel are the most important attributes of a Power Marketer?

One of the key things is discipline—having a yearly outline, and then a monthly outline, and then a weekly outline. The Power Marketer in our industry is somebody who is very disciplined and has a very structured plan that they are going to accomplish. And that usually requires somebody dedicated to do it.

Do you feel that Power Marketers are born, or can you learn to become a savvy marketer?

Yes, you can. I think you can learn to become a great marketer, but it's going to take some passion. The problem with many people in our business is that all they want to do is take pictures. They don't want to collect sales. It's something really simple that you can do.

How do you balance the passion for your photography and the necessity of having to be efficient with your business and your marketing?

I'm starting to learn how to delegate, to say, "'This is what I want you doing,' so I can really concentrate on getting the time to market." We have one of those dry-erase boards in the studio, and when we have a project, I mark it down on the wall. I give one project to each of my employees and say, "When the project is complete, erase it." It's interesting to see somebody who's got three projects up there, while the others have completed and erased theirs. The person who is lagging behind is going to try to catch up. It's a competitive atmosphere, but it makes us more efficient.

What are the most important things to you in life, not so much photography but in your life?

I'm a person who is driven by goals and challenges. I just have to have a challenge to do it. Obviously things like family are important to anybody. I also love my dogs!

At one point several years ago, I was losing my joy in my photography. I had forgotten the reason why I got into the business, which is that I love taking photographs.

One day I picked up a travel magazine and I saw these people on kayaks and with killer whales and I thought, man, that looks like fun! So in 1991, I organized a trip and I took eight people along! I rented kayaks, a boat, and all this kind of razzle-dazzle, and I just had fun taking photographs. That trip rekindled my passion!

What would you recommend to somebody who is looking to raise the bar on their marketing efforts?

One of the key things is going to be to identify the type of photography they want to do. The jack-of-all-trades is a thing of the past. You've got to have a game plan! Some of us get a little arrogant and think, "I'm a real photographer, I'm a Master Photographer, I am an artist." Well, I take photographs and I sell them. There's no "we are artists." There are a lot of guys who want to be the artist

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.

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