Arizona Sky

“We don’t share trade secrets,” and other such nonsense

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich, Photography 12 Comments

This post is not what I’d planned to write about today.  However, events of the last 24 hours spurred me to pick a new subject for my morning post……

Months ago Ian and I poked our heads into galleries in Jerome and Sedona.  Looking for a few new places to sell our wares.  You know, expanding and all.

One of the last galleries we stopped into was a photo gallery.  Nice photography.  Very interesting mounting on the images.  Something very different.  No glass on the image.  The image seemed to be affixed to a Plexiglas like material, and it made for a very cool presentation of the images.  We made the mistake of asking how it was done.

“We don’t share our trade secrets!  Do you?”  That was the question posed to us by the extremely rude employee in the gallery.  And the true answer to his question for both Ian and I was simple.

Yes, we do share our “trade secrets.”

Sharing and teaching came to my mind a lot yesterday and this morning for a slew of reasons.  This morning I read a post on Scott Kelby’s web site that pushed me over the edge, and made me want to write the post you’re reading now.  I’ll tell you about the post first, and I really think you should go read the whole thing and all the accompanying comments.

Professional or Amateur?

Scott Kelby recently hosted an interesting photo contest.  The winner would be invited to shoot on the sidelines of a football game at FSU with Mike Olivella, a known sports photographer.  What a great opportunity for the winner!  Since I’m not into sports photography (except climbing) I didn’t pay close attention to the contest.  But I did see the winning entry, and some runners up.  Great stuff!  Seriously, “amateur” photographers who are good at what they do.

Well, as I noted above, the winner was announced, but he doesn’t get to do his shoot with Mike.  See, a whole firestorm erupted among the “professional” photographers.  They petitioned FSU to not allow the amateur on the field.  In the end the winner, Alex, didn’t get his “15 minutes.”

Mike has explained the situation and apologized on Kelby’s site.  Personally, I don’t think Mike owes an apology.  He made a few assumptions (he’s allowed a photo assistant on the sidelines), and that led to the firestorm.  But I think the “pros” were way out of line, disappointing, and bad sports if you ask me.  That’s my take on it.

Read the link to Mike’s explanation, read Kelby’s post as well, and be sure to read all of the comments that folks left regarding the entire issue.  That’s what I spent this morning doing, and that’s what finally spurred my post today.

Sharing, teaching, and maybe even giving your competition a leg up

pyrolatest (1 of 1)

I'm happy to say the folks with Pyro-Klectic have been kind enough to let us shoot from the sidelines.

After reading everything at Scott Kelby’s site this morning I thought about the day that I had yesterday.  I thought about the folks who were unwilling to share “trade secrets” regrading their mounting technique.  And finally, I thought about how I operate in general.  Let’s talk about yesterday’s events at the gallery, shall we?

2 completely new clients came in to see me yesterday.  Both were interested in the process of print reproduction that I do here at the gallery.  I walked each client through the whole process.  They had access to my equipment, the components I use, and well over an hour of my time to each person.

The first client, a rep for a photographer from Sedona, mentioned my competitors up there, and what they’d offered the photographer.  She showed me the samples they generated for her client, and I went ahead and generated a set of samples for her as well.  I told her about the ink sets I use, the canvas (Breathing Color), the color matching process, everything!

She took some notes down, asked about my vendor’s web sites, and more detail about my production process.  I answered all the questions willingly.  She also asked about my own photography sales, what works and what doesn’t, and got some insights for her client.

You do realize at this point for all I know I’m telling a direct competitor about my whole process.  For all I know, she could work for the giclee’ reproduction folks up in Sedona.  Or her client might be considering doing his own reproduction work and she’s out feeling out the competition.  You just don’t know.  But for all I know, she could be bringing me my next big client.  I normally go with full disclosure.  If I’m helping a competitor, so be it.

After I’d wrapped up with my first potential client of the day I had a second one roll in.  A pen and ink artist.  He was looking to get reproductions done of his work, and looking for advice on getting into galleries as well.  I’d say he took more than one hour of my time as well.  Lot’s of questions about the process, equipment, etc.  Once again, client or possible competitor?  No matter the end result, I happily answered everything I could with him.

What I’ve found in nearly a year of running the gallery and selling my photography is pretty simple.  Our willingness to share our techniques and skills hasn’t generated competitors.  It’s always generated new clients, happy visitors, and happy artists.  So it’s a policy I’ll continue going forward.  Nothing here is a trade secret.  Not my photography, not my techniques, not the color matching or print process, nothing!  If someone comes here and gets information they use to compete with me down the road I have a simple attitude.  Good for them!  Good luck competing with me, you’re going to need it.  I take pride in my work, and it shows through to each and every one of my clients.

Pulling all of my randomness together

allison (1 of 1)

Allison Smith, one of my "regular customers." Allison is a painter who has opened her gallery to other painters. They can paint with her, and she shares her knowledge!

So, what’s this all getting to?  Pretty simple.  Teaching, sharing, and giving opportunities to folks seems to pay off in a large way if you ask me.  Withholding information, keeping your “trade secrets”, and denying opportunities to those who’ve demonstrated ability doesn’t seem to pay off at all.

All of this reminds me of my start in network engineering back in 96′.  Mary Aldrich, Network Engineering Manager for Sprint PCS in New England, gave me an opportunity.  She saw a spark of ability in me and took a chance.  Tony Sirignano, my next manager, continued where Mary left off, heaping projects on me and giving me every opportunity to learn more.  And John Williamson, regional director for Sprint then TeleCorp, kept moving me up and along in my career.  Each of them showed me time and time again their willingness to help me excel.  In turn, what I learned from them I applied with my own staff, and I applied it beyond the networking realm.

I can’t thank those people enough for what they did for me.  They gave me an opportunity, they were more than willing to teach me what they knew, and they were more than willing to risk their own jobs.  After all, they could have been training their replacement.

In my mind, there’s nothing more despicable than an employer who fears a talented applicant.  If you fear they’re better than you and can take your job I believe that they should take your job.  Hiring the best ability available is what we should all strive for.  And creating the next pool of amazing ability should be your goal.  I’m glad I had such wonderful teachers!

And all of this ties back into my own work, and what I read over at Kelby’s site today.  Kelby’s recent contest, and all the other contests for that matter, give an opportunity to amazing and undiscovered talent.  There’s no fear that the new talent found out there will replace him someday.  I’m willing to bet he’d be happy to see folks excel.  And that’s how I feel here in the gallery every day of the week.

It’s a shame those “pro” photographers wrecked an amazing opportunity for an amateur photographer, isn’t it?

For my 2 cents, feel free to stop in and ask questions.  I’ll tell you what I know.  And I’ll hope to see you do well in your ventures.  I’ll also hope you become a client of mine as well, can’t have enough of those.

Thanks to everyone who’s been willing to teach me, and for the opportunities you’ve provided!  I’m trying to follow your lead, and I hope to live up to the standards you taught me!

Comments 12

  1. If you need info on 2nd surface mounting on acrylic let me know. I’ve owned a commercial lab for almost 30 years. We’ve mounted on glass as large as 5×10 feet 1/2 inch thick. It does take practice but I’d be happy to share.


  2. Hear! Hear, Rich!

    I had my own business for 13 years and held your same attitude about sharing information. I’m sure some took advantage of me, but I’m also sure I came out ‘way ahead through the customers and projects I gained in the process.

  3. Wow, that was a long one.
    Everyone learned from someone else… all these people with there “trade secrets” learned them from someone… directly or indirectly. If there afraid someone is going to come in and take there place they should practice more.
    .-= Josh´s last blog ..One Last Practice =-.

  4. Post

    John, I’d love to know more about 2nd surface mounting. What I saw in Sedona was extremely elegant, and we’d like to try it out at the gallery. Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

    Bill, I figure good businesses can afford to be up front. And I’m sure someday I’ll help train a competitor. That’s okay by me. I’m happy to say that my regular customer list is growing, and they’re all happy clients. Haven’t lost one to date, and I only plan on gaining more. Glad you’re on board! 🙂

  5. Post

    It was a long one, eh Josh? 🙂 I do that sometimes.

    We all keep learning from each other. And you’re right, they should practice more and quit trying to bar folks from their opportunities.

    I hope the winner over at Kelby’s site gets another shot a his dream shoot!

  6. You are so right about sharing professional information. As in any occupation, mentoring creates respect, friendships, and attracts customers.

    Your encouragement and modesty breaks down barriers nurturing professional growth with unbridled creativity and imagination. Continue to soar my Friend.

  7. Post
  8. Learn it, experiment with it, use it, then share it. When I share it, this not only gives back, but teaches me more about it, myself, and hopefully enriches someone else’s search for knowledge and application. Knowledge is power…the power to give. Early, in my journey with photography, I stumbled upon a few photo forums that are populated by people who share their photographic knowledge freely:

    Black and White Photography Forum
    Just Photography Forum
    The Flower Forum

    There is no slamming or harsh criticism. They encouraged and taught me about photography, and filled my empty cup with how…why…when…
    I still visit, and sometimes post on the forums. If I ever see anyone needing guidance, I do my best to help them…just like the others.
    .-= JW Stovall´s last blog ..Knowledge Workflow =-.

  9. Post

    Thanks Ken! By the way, love your video on getting coffee on canvas and rinsing it right off. I’ve showed it to several clients, and they’ve been impressed!

    Glad you’re sharing things like that on your site!

Leave a Reply