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Giving - More than a Charitable Endeavor - PPA Today

Giving - More than a Charitable Endeavor

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By Mariah Ashley

Author's Note: Required Reading! The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. A little story about a powerful business idea.

Thumbnail image for louboutins.jpgI was alone in the upstairs bedroom. Amanda (the bride) was late getting back from the salon so I spent my time photographing her dress and invitation. Her mother kept popping in with other things she thought I might find interesting, among them a pair of fabulous Louboutin sequined heels.

"Oh, fancy! Shoes are like porn for women," I joked cradling the shoe near my face.

"So true," said Amanda's mom, with a chuckle. "Everything about this wedding is a little over the top. (nods toward shoes).

"But Amanda is such a good girl, so smart and hardworking. She's such a humble and sweet girl. I just want this to be an amazing day for her."

Amanda's mom left me alone with the shoes and my thoughts. A few days earlier I listened to a podcast by former Imaging USA speaker Jeffery Shaw. He interviewed author Bob Burg on his national best-seller, The Go-Giver, which describes "giving as the most fulfilling and effective path to success."

Burg and co-author John David Mann map out the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success all focused on giving instead of getting. Intriguing! Trish ordered me the book and I devoured the parable in one sitting, highlighting passages like a mad woman. Since then I haven't been able to think about much else besides adding value to my clients lives, with the exception of thinking about how much I was dreading photographing Amanda's wedding.

When Amanda first contacted me, she had just experienced what she described as a "bad engagement session experience" with another photographer she had originally booked to photograph her wedding. She wanted to talk to me about that experience, get my opinion on whether or not her expectations had been unrealistic, and discuss the possibility of having us photograph her wedding instead.

 I listened, agreeing with some of what she found fault with but I also tried to be careful not to agree with her too wholeheartedly. After all, I hadn't actually seen the photos that had made her so unhappy. She sent me a link to view the photos so I could assess them for myself and I promised to let her know if someone else was interested in her date.

What I found wasn't a disaster or even an amateur attempt at engagement pictures. In fact, the photos were pleasant and technically sound. There was nothing at all "wrong" with the photos that I could discern.

I had several more conversations with Amanda, one with her mom, lots of emails, and an in-person meeting that did not yield a signed contract. I worried out loud that I had opened a real can of crazy by taking this whole situation on.

Finally, Amanda returned her contract and booked us officially, but by then I was soured a little by the interactions and was deeply concerned that no matter what I did I would never make her happy. I imagined that the proverbial shoe would be on MY proverbial other foot, and this shoe would not be a Louboutin but probably more like a Ked. In other words, I would be just like the other photographer she had complained about so many months ago. I would be the big disappointment with the nice photos.

So here I was, waiting on Amanda with dread and thinking about the Go-Giver philosophy. I desperately wanted to apply the principals of giving to this real life situation but what could I give Amanda other than nice photos? Nice photos clearly were not what she needed because she had those but they left her disappointed. Any number of photographers could deliver nice photos. I wondered, what unique talent or gift could I give Amanda?

I decided in that moment that I would give myself. After all, other than my cameras, I was the only other thing in the room! I would give my patience, my sense of humor, my kindness. I decided to serve Amanda and to add value to her experience by being the best possible version of me that day, ignoring the sour taste, self doubt and awkwardness that I felt. I decided to see her through the eyes of her mother, as a sweet, humble, hardworking girl. I chose to be loving toward her.

The effect was immediate... on me. I felt calm, happy and in control. Amanda arrived in a flurry with apologies for being late. I assured her that the schedule ALWAYS ran behind and that it was well worth the wait on hair and makeup if you are happy with your look. I guided her to the best spot to get dressed and explained that it would be the prettiest light for the photos. We talked a little about her Nana that had recently passed and how special it was to get ready in her house. And then an amazing thing happened, Amanda turned to me and said, "I am so happy you are here. You are such a kind and calm presence. It's making me feel calm just to be around you. Thank you!"

The rest of the day fell into place perfectly. Even the weather seemed to be on our side. As I photographed Amanda and her husband interacting so sweetly and intimately against a backdrop of soft afternoon light, it occurred to me what was actually missing from their engagement photos. Them.

Even though the photos were pleasant and technically sound, there wasn't much of Amanda and Peter in them. No knowing looks, no little moments. In short, no essence. I can only guess that the experience that had transpired between them and the other photographer had not left them feeling comfortable enough to open up and be themselves. Had I not drawn on the Go-Giver as my course of action, it could have so easily been me taking pretty photos in soft afternoon light that would have left my clients feeling flat and me feeling befuddled and frustrated.

I can happily say that the message of the Go-Giver, "to focus from getting to giving- putting others' interests first and continually adding value to their lives-ultimately leads to unexpected returns," has been tested in real life in my very first opportunity to use it and it has proven itself valuable far beyond the price of a 132-page hardcover book.

It's a must read for anyone itching to exercise their generous spirit or put themselves into someone else's shoes. Hopefully those shoes are Louboutins. A girl can dream.

About the author:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for winter.jpgMariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.


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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on August 19, 2014 10:53 PM.

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