Chris Becker has been shooting wedding since he was 18. That was many years ago. He is now one of the preeminent rock-star wedding photographers in the industry. He speaks at local photo groups. He travels to speak to groups. And last month he was a platform speaker at WPPI.
Honestly, that should mean NOTHING to you. He is a person who does his job and does it well. His gift to the rest of the world is his knowledge and his willingness to share. About 18 months ago, he started an online community called the [b]school. The bracket-b-bracket is his logo for his photo business.
The first version of the [b]school was, in my opinion, a disaster. The interface was clunky, the site was slow. No, it wasn’t slow, it was SLOW! Like: click a link and then go out to eat dinner, watch a movie, and take a nap slow. I joined, but never used it. Last month, on 2/2/11, he rolled out [b]school 2.0. It is lightening fast and, best of all, it is a true online community.
This is not your mother’s online community. This is a group of photographers who are willing to share ideas, knowledge, tips, and inspiration with other photographers. I belong to other forums and communities. Some for photography, some for teaching, and others for camping and off-roading. NONE of them are like the [b]school.
First, the user interface is intuitive. You know exactly where to click and what to expect when you do. If you click on a link that is outside of the site, your browser will open a new window/tab for that site. But if you click on a link for inside the [b]school, the site takes you to that page. Most forums don’t do that and that makes navigation difficult.
Second, it has all of the features you would probably want in an online community. There are a variety of clubs, forum topics, and general discussion items. In addition to that, the school has a gallery for photographers to show off some of their work. Your home page has a wall that you and other students can post on similar to Facebook. Plus, you can customize the layout of widgets so that the information you want concerning the school is at your finger tips. This is a online community site done right.
Third, there is a “classroom” section that includes videos from Becker’s Study Hall sessions. Almost every thursday afternoon at 4pm Pacific time, he hosts an online webinar. He has guest speak and/or answers questions. The most recent classroom post was a taped discussion between himself and a potential couple who were thinking about hiring him. How many photographers would put themselves online, negotiating their services to real clients? None that I know of.
Finally, and most importantly, is the community itself. I have never been online where more people are willing to help what is essentially their competition solve problems.
If you have a question concerning some aspect of photography, running a photography business, or some other related subject, you will get an answer. Almost all of the answers include an explanation as to why the person responded like they did. A lot of the answers are contradictory, but that is good. The more information you get the better informed your decision can be.
I think the best part is that Mr. Becker is extremely active in the school himself. He responds to many of the posts and contributes a lot of the information posted. Most people would start a site like this and then sit back and let the money roll in while taking a hands off approach. I know of NO other forum hosts that are as active online and staying in touch as Becker is.
Are there some weak points? Yes. But they are so small and easy to overlook, they seem like nothing. And I’d like to see more resources for photographers other than wedding and portrait photographers. I think this could be a site for all photographers, not just the wedding and portrait industry, but I understand that right now, that is what the [b]school is geared toward.
The bottom line is that Chris Becker and the [b]school are what most other photographers just say they are doing. It is sharing and teaching online at it’s best. Through the [b]school, Becker is making other photographers better and successful. I am a member and I strongly urge you to join also.
It is a good thing.
Posted 2 years, 3 months ago at 3:10 pm. Add a comment
Last Thursday Tuesday, I went to the OC SMUG holiday mixer. Ok, it was actually the LA, SD, OC SMUG mixer, but it was held in OC.
Usually the SMUG meetings are about business or motivation. the last meeting had Jasmine Star speak about netmaking. Not networking, but netmaking. She talked about getting out of her shell and into the photography community; learning and helping as much as possible. it was actually very powerful and made sense. I have been trying to do that since then.
Basically stepping out of my comfort zone, I have been trying to be active on different forums, websites, and in a few meetings/get-togethers. Trust me, when I said it was out of my comfort zone, it is WAY out of my comfort zone.
I’m usually the one who stands near the edge of a group and waits for someone to talk to me. Now, I am trying to go and introduce myself to people and talk to them. It is working.
I took a Torye Cooke of PVC Photography (a student of mine) to a FEO (For Each Other) meeting at Dane Sander’s studio about a week ago. It lead by Jen Disney and was about pricing. IT WAS AMAZING!! Jen let the discussion go, but kept it in the realm of the topic and let everyone have their say. Plus, she’s a good photographer.
People were very friendly and very knowledgeable about the subject. Plus, they shared. It was amazing to watch and fun to participate with such giving people.
The best part was when Jessica and Robert of Jessica Elizabeth Photography, started talking to us. We had talked to them once before at an OC SMUG meeting and they were very nice. Out of the blue they asked Torye and I if we wanted to shoot with them during an engagement shoot in the middle of December. I was caught completely off guard by that request. Why would anyone want to have me shoot with them? Of course, we said yes. Why? I need the experience.
Suddenly, I started to figure out how this interacting with others might help me in the business and that brings me to the OC SMUG Holiday Mixer.
Again, with the same student, who was VERY nervous, we went to the mixer. There I forced myself (and the student) to actually mix and talk with the people we met. And we met people.
We talked to Lori and Keith Anderson for sometime. I left Torye and visited with Gabriel Ryan and Chris Becker. I met Gabriel at the FEO meeting; his knowledge of photography pricing and the business is incredible. After that I went back and talked to Jessica and Robert about the shoot and hung out with them for the rest of the evening.
The talking part has never been hard, it was always the introducing myself as if I have something important to say and to add to the conversation. I am learning how to do that.
Here are a couple of bad (as in VERY BAD) pictures of the mixer.
Posted 3 years, 6 months ago at 12:53 pm. 1 comment
This is going to be a great month. I have three events planned that I am really looking forward to attending.
The first is a photographer’s day at Bodie State Park. I discovered Bodie in late June and fell in love with it. I find the fact that a town of its age and location is still standing. As an environmental science teacher, I like looking at the town and wondering what it must have been like to live there with all of the waste, trash, and other cast-offs created by placing several thousand people in close proximity.
I like wandering around the town and wondering what it must have been like to live there during the height of the boom. The sounds, the smells, the people. It must have been overwhelming in some ways and really difficult in others. I’ve never lived through a winter in the area, but I have heard that they are REALLY hard and demanding. Summers are hot. Life was hard. And there are reminders and remnants of past lives. Everywhere you look there is something that was a part of some one’s life and I always wonder how they used it and how it affected their.
On photographer’s day, for $50, they open the park up at or just before sunrise and close it down at or just after sunset. This allows photographers access to the town and park without a lot of people and at a time that is most advantageous to the golden hour in lighting. I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can get from the situation.
A week after going to Bodie, I am going to the Morro Bay Photo Expo hosted by George Lepp. I heard about this on Twitter and signed up early this year. While there are several social events, I signed up for as many workshop/classes as I could fit into my schedule. I figure that for a relatively cheap price of $75, I was going to get as much photo education as possible, so I skipped the social events and signed up for lots of photography information based workshops.
The weekend culminates with a one day seminar lead by George Lepp. I am REALLY looking forward to this. I have been reading his column in Outdoor Photographer every chance I get and now I have the opportunity to listen to him in person. That should be educational. I’ll be writing more about what I am taking and why later.
Finally, on the 27th, I will be attending Dane Sanders’ REAL TIME COMMUNITY with Dane Sanders, Scott Bourne, and Chris Becker.
I have heard Becker speak before at a SMUG (Smugmug Users Group) and he is very well know for not only his photography, but his business prowess and community building skills.
I first heard of Scott Bourne on a podcast and over the last few years have come to respect Scott Bourne for his knowledge and insight into and about the photography industry. He is one of my favorite Tweeters and ALWAYS has something important and educational to say.
I don’t know Dane Sanders’ work well, but I know he is VERY well respected in the photographic community and I want to hear what he has to say about the photography business.
Of course I will keep you posted as the month progresses.
Posted 3 years, 8 months ago at 1:29 pm. Add a comment
They’re here!! My mini-business cards from Moo.com. No two are alike on the front and each of them is VERY colorful. The back is simple and gives my websites. I think it’ll be a good addition to some of the networking events I plan to attend.
I like the fact that are unique and get attention from those that I have shown so far. If you are looking for inexpensive, unique cards, I suggest you check out Moo.com. At under $20, they are a great deal. For an extra $7, you can get the felt card holder.
Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 4:00 pm. Add a comment
Jeez!! Who would have thought that such a simple thing such as business cards could be such a difficult decision?
Other than the website, Nature Light Photography, I don’t think there is anything more important than your business card. Every get-together/networking event I have been to has required business cards. I have noticed that the people who are most respected seem to have memorable cards. Hence, the search for a good card is in the works.
Having said that, I am leaning to the ones at Moo.com. Why? Because the are reasonably priced and I LOVE the ablilty to put up to 50 different images on the cards. I think it is a way to get a sample of my images out to people.
I’m still looking, but I’m getting close to making the leap.
Posted 3 years, 9 months ago at 2:00 pm. Add a comment