Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Be Prepared ~ An Educational Rant

I haven't ranted in a long time. I don't like to be negative so I've decided I'll call this post educational although I'll be clear that I am writing about one of my biggest pet peeves ~ unpreparedness.
I work at a front desk in a public service job and have been doing this work my entire working career of 30+ years. I feel qualified to speak out on this matter. So listen up!
I'll go out on a limb and give the general public a slight pass for being unprepared when they call or walk into an office of any kind where they are unfamiliar but I am left wondering every single work day where polite office manners were dropped from high school and college teaching for professionals. I'm guessing it has a lot to do with various business practices and the fact that I am old school. 
Identify who you are and what you are calling about, whether you are on the phone or at a front desk. Seriously.  If you are an attorney, doctor, accountant, detective, having spent at least 6 years of your life in college or in a profession, be proud! If you are uncomfortable knowing what to say, here is a template to start with:  "Hello, this is attorney/doctor/detective/accountant John Smith, calling for Mr. Jones, regarding the Johnson case".  Don't make me drag all that information out of you. You are wasting your time and mine.  Please. How hard can this be?  I know it is a generational thing because older professionals are not who I'm writing about here. This template is also good for when you just show up, unannounced with no appointment.  Don't make me say, "are you an attorney/doctor/detective/accountant"?  It's embarrassing for me. Perhaps I should know you but often times I've only met you once or twice. I do my best to remember people but when I am answering 100's of calls and greeting 100's of people, I hate to break this to you, but you are not the center of my universe.  Additionally, it shows poor etiquette on your part when you make me drag it out of you.
Have your information and pen ready so I can direct you as quickly as possible. On a daily basis, I talk to no less than 100 people whether on the phone and/or in-person. I can't tell you how many times people call for information and don't have a pen and paper ready to write it down. This is a bigger pet peeve for me than the identification peeve. When you call a business office, think about what it is you are trying to accomplish and keep a pen and paper handy. Receptionists everywhere will love you for it.
Don't talk and drive, we can't hear you on the phone and it's against the law in Washington.

Breaking it down:

  • Identify yourself and your reason for calling (be brief)
  • Have a pen and paper ready to document information
  • Speak clearly and slowly into the phone
  • Say please and thank you
  • Tell us if you simply don't have any information. We're trained to ask you the right questions to get you where you want to be. Let us help you.
  • Don't assume the office you are calling knows who you are. It's okay to identify yourself each and every time you call. We love that!
  • Don't make us drag every single bit of information out of you, be prepared.
  • Don't call from the road. We can't hear you and it's dangerous for you and the public.
I hope this rant has been helpful and not snarky. If I am wrong here with any of my rant or you have something to add, please leave me a comment. I'd truly love to hear from you!

love, susan

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Year (2014) in Review

The end of year is sneaking up on me fast. It always does. First of all, I want to once again say thank you to a guy whose blog, The Art of NonConformity I've been following for a long time. He created a movement that is making a difference in the world. He is the reason I started reviewing my year and focusing on the next. Thank you, Chris Guillebeau!

Last year I chose develop as my word for resolution. In previous years I chose minimize and focus. This, in lieu of a resolution, is a concept that has served me well. I have developed in key areas I focused on and am pleased with the results.

Develop Friendships: Last year I kept up friendships with a few special people. Meeting for coffee, long photo walks, talking on the phone, thrift shopping, meeting for dinner and simply keeping in touch. My life is full with a high-maintenance husband,  3 dogs, 1 cat and a full time job. My friendships are like the sand that fills in between the rocks in a jar that appears it's too full to contain anything else. I love my friends!

Develop Better Eating Habits: This is a constant battle for me. Meal planning on Sundays and  creating a system for freezing lunches that include vegetables has increased extra time in the morning to use in better ways.  Pre-measuring and containing food has helped with portion control.

Develop a Reading & Writing Schedule:  I can do better in this area. It is a guilty pleasure that, like a lot of other things in my life, I can really binge on and then I don't get anything else done. That's not a bad thing. I need to continue paring down the things I don't want to do to replace with activities I enjoy. I've filled an entire journal with "morning pages". This is a huge accomplishment for me.

Develop a Cleaner Home: I hired a domestic goddess to help me keep my house in order. Best decision I made last year! I've worked hard to get things picked up off the floor so when she arrives (twice a month) it makes her job easier. I hate clutter and yet I'm still living in it. It's a work in progress and I'm not done yet. My new rule to live by when shopping for clothes:  If I don't love it, I don't buy it.  I also have started taking questionable items in my closet and placing them to the forefront. If the item isn't worn that week, in other words if I avoid wearing it, it gets dropped into the goodwill box on Friday. Why hang on to stuff I don't wear?  This is a very difficult process for me but I'm getting better at it every day.

Develop Photo Walking List:  Several walks last year with select friends helped form an idea for keeping a list. Photo walking is very personal to me and I've noted that it is not everyone's cup of tea. I have a great friend who loves going as much as I do and we accomplished several walks this year. We drove to Walla Walla in October to a great old cemetery.

I've been thinking about what I want to work on next year and I am torn. So many words come to mind:  READ, WRITE, PHOTOGRAPH.  Yesterday it came to me that what I really want to do is create.  That's it!  2015 will be the year of creating.  I can hardly wait!

How about you? How was your year? Did you have a theme word? How did it work out for you?  Do you have a goal for 2015?  Tell me!!!!

love, susan


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Things I Learned on 12 13 14

Yesterday was a great day. I received texts from two friends who wanted pictures taken. I said yes. And, then schedules promptly collided. They both asked for 11:00am. What to do?

I learned a lot from my experience yesterday and if even one 'take away' helps you somehow, my mission here is accomplished.
Don't overbook. I ended up with two shoots yesterday, back to back. It all worked out but it could have been a disaster. Sometimes it just can't be helped and I made the best of it.

Kids.  When kids are involved, time must remain fluid.  I learned I had better be flexible. Ask your client what part of the day is best for their child and respect that. Look for the moment when the child is done with you. Don't push your luck. I always want to leave on a good note so hopefully I'll be invited again.

Patience. It's one of my best virtues, if I may say so myself. Whether working with kids or difficult adults, patience is a tool that will serve you well in all situations. I'm not just talking photography here.

Listen and Watch Body Language. Don't intrude into other peoples' (even small children) space if it makes them uncomfortable. Yesterday, I watched a 22 month old little person get comfortable with me when I sat on the floor and got down to her level. This works with dogs, too. Be mindful of this, always.  

Ask.  I realized yesterday one of my shortcomings is asking  people what they want. I know what I want when I'm snapping images. I'm always looking for what my husband calls "the money shot".  I'm beginning to understand that it is different for everyone. See the look on this little boy's face? I shouted for joy when it popped up on my screen.  This session was a maternity shoot and while I got nice pics of the family, this one is my fave. I wish I was better with editing to take the shadow from mama's face. It would truly be my "money shot" for the day! My first shoot mentioned while I was working that she was looking for an image she could use on a Christmas card. I took 128 images and narrowed it down to about 30. I can only hope she finds one that is exactly what she is looking for. Note to self:  ask what they want!

Location. This is something I need to learn to talk about right up front with people, before we set a time. I prefer to work with natural light and have yet to pop my flash on anyone. I love to shoot anywhere people are most comfortable and for a majority, it's home. With kids, I don't think you can go wrong at the park. There are many places to choose from around here and today I will start a file so that when people ask, I'll have choices.

What to wear. Last year I did a shoot where the guy showed up with a big grease stain on his shirt. I'm not that great of an editor and I left it in the pics and chalked it up to experience. Another time, I had a woman lean up against a tree and it left bark on her sweater.  Oops!  Yesterday, everyone had great coordination but not because of me. I'll be adding it to my list of what to talk about when setting up a shoot. Color coordination

Know when to stop. I never know exactly how many images I'll shoot when I go out. I tell people that we can usually get good images in 20 to 30 minutes. I don't wear a watch but I have an innate sense of time and I have a 6th sense about people and when they are tired of smiling. If I get 20 great images out of 100 snaps, I'm super happy.  Knowing when to stop when I get home and start editing is what I need to work on. It can take me 2+ hours to edit a 20 minute shoot.

Enjoy what you do. This applies to photography, writing, washing the dishes, or whatever it is I am doing right now. Be present.  Put the phone away. Chisel out the time I need to enjoy the here and now.
I write this today because I was so jazzed up last night after doing what I really love to do that I could hardly contain it and I don't want to forget the things I need to do to improve and make my hobby more enjoyable. I wish I could take people pictures every weekend but the reality is that I might start thinking of it as a job rather than a hobby I enjoy so much.
If anything I've written here has been helpful, or you have tips you can share with me, I'd truly love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and I promise I'll read it!
love, susan

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Susan on a Pink Cloud

I can't believe it's December and I'm  on a pink cloud. I spent half of Sunday preparing frozen meals for my lunches for the month. It made me so happy to do that and as it turns out, I'll be eating out three times this week.  Shhhh. Don't tell my husband. It makes him cringe.
It is super important for me to have plans this time of year. If you have suffered through my past whining about having seasonal affective disorder, my deepest apologies. This post is not about depression.
There are so many things happening this week, I hope I can manage to squeeze it all in and contain my excitement: 
  • tentative plans for an engagement photo shoot (can I tell you how thrilled I am about this possibility?)
  • chicken pho with a co-worker today
  • luncheon/baby shower tomorrow at work. I know, I KNOW, I've told you before how much I dislike baby showers, but it has been promised there will be no silly games and the expecting mother wishes only for diapers and books
  • dinner tomorrow night to celebrate birthdays
  • lunch on Friday with girlfriends
  • annual potluck on Saturday with about 200 like-minded friends
Future plans:
  • signed up for an awesome online workshop with Jacob Norby to learn how to Burn the Leash
  • looking forward to seeing our grandkids this month
  • a possible trip to the beach
  • making time to look at my 5-year plan for retirement
OH MY GAWD ... I can hardly wait!  If that isn't enough, I was talking with a good friend last night who just purchased a Nikon D3300. She is moving up from taking pics on her cell phone. I went to bed dreaming about all the places I'll take her on photo walks. Love that!
Got winter blues?  Make some plans. It's a plan that works!  And, leave me a comment and let me know what kind of plans you have ... that's where ideas live!
love, susan

Things I'd Do If I Had An Endless Bucket of Time: Part 1

I have a good friend who works in the trades which means she works when there is work and she sits it out when there isn't work. I thin...