Power Corner

Bambi was my first mentor and teacher when I was just breaking into the industry. She sees the big picture much better than most people and her insights on how brides think have broken new ground. An acclaimed wedding photographer and teacher, she has been on the faculty of Hasselblad Un iversity and the Winona International School of Photography. Her cutting-edge images have appeared in Martha Stewart Living, Professional Photographer, American Photo, Time, and Ebony—just to name a few. She is one of the country's most sought-after workshop instructors and her creative energies seem to have no end! With Skip Cohen (see page 70 ), she is also the author of serval excellent instructional books for professional photographers. For additional information on Bambi Cantrell'sprograms and studio, visit. www. cantrellportraits. com.

Mitche: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge that faces our industry now and in the future?

Bambi: I think there are a number of challenges. Sure, the economy is not very good and obviously that is a major challenge for all studios. But, I think, equally as challenging is the struggle that photographers are having with technology. There are as many headaches with digital as there were with film—if not more. An enormous amount of work goes into it, and photographers don't appreciate the value of their time. We are generally just folks who would do this for nothing because we love what we do. We're very passionate about our craft, and we don't tend to appreciate the value of our time.

If you can, describe in a nutshell what your marketing philosophy is.

I do not allow myself to become the purse police. In other words, I don't allow myself to prejudge a person's ability to pay a healthy sum for my services, and I don't look at them and assume, well, nobody in my town would be able to afford this or that because no one has ever charged that before. It's like saying that only a rich person buys a Mercedes or a BMW, when in reality there are a lot of people from blue-collar neighborhoods who buy things like that. Though they are really beyond their means, they do it because it makes them feel good and they want to buy it. We wouldn't have a national debt in the United States if people shopped within their means. So, first, it's not judging people and basing my pricing upon what I assume that they can afford to pay.

Is there a step one-two-three that you actually go through with your marketing to achieve this?

Yes there is. I can tell you exactly what I do. I study fashion magazines like a guru. I study them very thoroughly to see how people who are successful at marketing handle marketing. And then I absolutely copy their concepts— not what they're doing, but I copy their concepts and philosophies. These people spend millions of dollars trying to attract my client, so rather than look at other photographers, I study how other businesses do it. To me, we make the biggest mistake by being little lemmings who just copy one another's pricing.

So, I prefer to tailor my marketing after successful companies like Calvin Klein, Armani, and Gucci—those that are successful at making their products become a designer label. People who are successful like that have very good advertising agencies that work for them, and so I use their concepts.

I try to create a product that is very unique looking, and then I am very careful not to underprice it. That's the worst thing you can do. There's a firm and absolute truth in our world: you're only as good as what you charge. And it's about perception and about the perceived value of a product, not its actual value. We all pay the same amount of money for the basic paper that our work is printed on, but not everyone creates a Bambi Cantrell or a Joe Buissink. It's what's on that paper that counts.

Here's a follow-up question to what you said about perceived value: do you have certain things that you can recommend to someone who is either (a) getting into the industry for the first time, or (b) they've been in it for so long, they've gotten complacent with their promotions and their marketing and forget that perceived value and real value are not necessarily the same?

Yes! They need to go shopping. That sounds very simplistic but they need to go shopping and they need to study. They are not going for the entertainment value; they're going to study how successful companies are continuing to market their products. It's not only about marketing, but it's also never getting complacent and doing the same thing over and over again. I hear photographers all the time say things like, "Well, if it isn't broke, I'm not fixing it." Photography is a profession that changes. I got married in 1975, and when I got married, the double ex-

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