How to Crash and Burn Your Business

Photo by John Mireles

This past Sunday night was the opening “ceremonies” for WPPI. For the third year in a row, Kubota Image Tools organized the “Photographers Ignite” presentation. This is where a group of presenters are chosen to give a 5-minute presentation on an inspiring, educational and/or funny topic that relates to the industry. Each presenter gets an auto-advancing slide show with 20 slides that each lasts for 15 seconds. So they really only get 5 minutes. It’s been a huge hit over the years and this year was the first time it opened WPPI (the two prior years it closed the show).

One of the presenters this year was my friend and amazingly talented photographer Joe Photo. Joe has been one of the most successful lifestyle, wedding and portrait photographers in the nation. He’s part of the popular “OC” (aka Orange County, CA) crowd, and he is the embodiment of “rock star” photographer (in style, dress, look, etc.) But there is one aspect of Joe that transcends his “rock star” persona. Joe is one of the most genuine and giving professionals in this business. He truly is a special and amazing individual.

Some Backstory

The first time I met Joe was five years ago when he allowed us to use his trés, trés chic studio to shoot a special episode of Dane Sanders then popular “Simple Photo Minute” video podcast. This particular episode was a 5-part special where some of the top names in the industry came out to lunch and be filmed talking about the business. When we had finished shooting and everyone had packed up and left, I was the last one there packing up my video gear. This was my very first time interacting with anyone in the pro photography world. I didn’t really grasp the level of their celebrity within the wedding and portrait world. (And frankly, even if I did, I wouldn’t care. 🙂 ) I was just “the video guy.” But Joe sat and talked with me for I think an hour about business and marketing to high-end brides (at the time weddings were my focus). He didn’t have to do that. He could have shooshed me out of his studio. His patience and generosity were amazing.

That first year we attended WPPI we ran into Joe again at the back of some crowded platform class. My wife was talking to him and she immediately noticed how focused and attentive he was when talking to her. Many people at conventions like this will look from left to right out of the corner of their eye looking for the next person to hug and kiss on each cheek. Not Joe. For the time he spent talking, he was laser-focused and you felt like he was 100% there with you.

I had the honor to work with Joe on other occasions for videos we shot for WPPI. (If you want to see some of your favorite high-profile personalities in this business make a fool of themselves and have a blast doing it, be sure to check out “Diary of a Washed Up Rock Star Wedding Photographer” on The trailer is below. It’s four years old now, but still hilarious!) During that time, my respect and appreciation for Joe only solidified. That respect was exponentially magnified this past Sunday.

Crashing and Burning

Joe’s Photographers Ignite presentation was how to crash and burn your business. It was a very vulnerable and honest look at choices he had made that severely affected his business. You have to understand how big this is. Celebrity photographers just don’t do this kind of thing. No one gets up on stage in front of 3,000+ people who’ve come to admire you as a star to share how you’ve failed in business. Appearances must be kept. You must maintain your persona. Joe’s presentation was raw and real. And the advice he gave was something we should all take to heart.

  • Don’t take referrals for granted.
  • Don’t stop networking and building relationships.
  • Don’t stop caring for your clients and building those relationships.
  • Make sure you keep up with the latest technologies.
  • Continue to have fun with your photography
  • Most importantly, learn from your mistakes

Joe ended his presentation with how he has a new lease on life and business. He’s embarking on new adventures that will take his craft to a whole new level. I spoke with him afterwards to share how much I appreciated his talk.  He shared with me how he’s evolving and growing; how people should not be afraid to take risks and go in new directions.

Like the legendary Phoenix, Joe has risen out of his ashes and is shining bigger and brighter than ever.

Trailer for “Diary of a Washed Up Rock Star Wedding Photographer” (© 2008)

The original 2007 video that started the series

3 thoughts on “How to Crash and Burn Your Business

  1. Will there be a part 2 of this post? The crash and burn info is fine but what I’d really like to hear about is how he’s evolving his business.

  2. Ron – thanks for sharing this. I was just as impressed as you were with Joe’s PI presentation that evening. I was able to talk with him for a few moments as WPPI a few days after his talk and he was just as focused as you mention. Good guy.

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