Remember, smiling faces can be a mask to what people really think.

(Presented is a reprint of an article we wrote for Photoshop User Magazine a while back and think it still holds up with very useful information for our dear readers.)

Since the beginning of mankind, from the early days of the cave dwellers, there have been creative people, who have used their imagination to enlighten all of mankind – or at least splash some paint on drab cave walls. Eventually, the creatives moved on, beyond living and painting in caves to painting on canvas, sculpting in all sorts of materials, and employing photography in both silver halide and digital medias.

While creatives mastered anything and everything dealing with the creative process from conceptualization to completion, one important skill remained which they could not seem to acquire – the ability to negotiate.   For whatever reason, negotiating is a skill set as old as speech, predating even man’s and woman’s ability to be creative.

Was Eve being creative in getting Adam to bite the apple? Not at all. It was her negotiating skills that hastened the duo’s exit from Eden. Think of Adam as the forbearer of the creative community and Eve as, well, the first real negotiator. Adam, along with the 21st Century creative types, didn’t stand a chance. Then, like now, the fruit is offered with a smile, rapport is developed, the eyes sparkled, and the smile is wide.

Photographers today have a very strong desire and need to create. When a smiling face comes forward, with a project in hand and starts talking, all the photographer hears is an offer of:

A JOB, blah blah blah




WE ALL LOVE YOUR WORK, blah blah blah,

and (said very quietly and mumbled under their breath) we don’t have a lot of money.

It’s just like the lyrics of that great song, “Smiling Faces”, performed by the aptly named soul group, The Undisputed Truth. Can I get an “amen”?

Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth uh
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

If you are not familiar with the song, either buy a copy or look for the full lyrics and learn them by heart.

The art of negotiating: Now some of you might be smiling and laughing thinking that this stuff happens to just other people. Not to you. Not The Kid. You’re smarter and can see these folks a mile away. To you they stand out like a Nigerian Lottery winner. Well, Bunky, be careful, because the streets are filled with smart creative types, who were found wandering around with a dazed look on their faces, wearing nothing, and we mean nothing other than a barrel. They lost their clothes and all of their intimate apparel to a smiling face.
As any good conman or negotiator knows, anyone who believes themselves to be immune from a swindle is a victim waiting to happen.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a hot shot commercial advertising photographer working on big accounts or a wedding photographer dealing with the mother of the bride or whether you are a fine art artiste. And just like the singing group,  I have the undisputed truth in the form of barrel-wearing souls showing up on lawyer Ed Greenberg’s law office doorstep, because they  were out negotiated.

Negotiation is both an art and a science. Mastering it or even getting pretty good at it, will ensure your survival.  It will put money in your pocket more so than any photography skill ever will.  Here are some guidelines for those negotiatingly challenged.

1) Smile. That’s it. All of it. If the others can use their smiles, their smiling faces, you should also use this technique. The monetary value of a smile cannot be under estimated. This is a lesson known to every successful restaurateur, hotelier or shopkeeper.  It has been perfected by the founders of Wal-Mart, Disney World, McDonald’s and of course by every teenager asking for the car keys.  No one needs to teach you how to smile.  It transcends our ethnic and class differences. It is the same skill set that you use behind the camera to get your subjects to pose, react or even smile.

2) If pushed to quote a price and you are not ready to do so – don’t. This is a tactic frequently used to back you into a corner while you are desperate and/or unprepared. At this point in the festivities beware the phrase coming from their lips “I won’t hold you to it”.  That usually ties you like superglue you to whatever price you quoted off the top of your head.

3) Another important technique – difficult though it may be to perfect – is the ability to step outside yourself and be observant of what is happening. Envision the cool of James Bond or Miles Davis. This doesn’t mean that you suddenly become laconic or reticent if you are normally effusive and outgoing.  Forgive the sports cliché, but stay within and be yourself.  You need to simultaneously be involved in the process while objectively observing it.  In plain English, always keep your eyes on the prize and don’t forget the next tip-

4) Beware of negotiating with “amateur” negotiators.  Mothers who clip coupons, fathers of the bride, contractors, real estate brokers and any good salesperson regardless of what they might be selling are likely great negotiators.  They are often so good that you don’t even realize that they are stealing your intimate apparel until you feel that cold draft. It is what they do to survive.  Recognize the talents possessed by your opposition and do not underestimate them.  They eat what they kill and you may be tonight’s blue plate special. Lawyers and others who may don Italian three-piece suits can learn a lot from them about negotiating and getting what you want.

5) Eye contact. Another simple thing that some people forget. Eye contact develops trust, makes a connection and helps to achieve the single most important factor in any negotiation – creating a rapport with the other person.  Think of the multitude of clichés that spring from “He looked me straight in the eyes and…” If not overdone, most sales people swear that using the other person’s name with some frequency during discussions serves much the same purpose. Do both.

6) Use of a common vocabulary, or as we like to call it “linkage.”  Another way of making a connection, a/k/a “speaking the same language.” If your client says “I envision a shot that looks like…” You respond by saying “Yes, I see that.”  Client, “I am bored to death of shots that…”  You: “Yes, those cliché shots are better than sleeping pills” and so on.

7) Duplicate gestures. If they fold their arms you fold yours. If they tilt their head, you tilt yours. This needs to be subtle, not a monkey see monkey do type of action. It’s long been examined and known by those that study body English that duplicating general body gestures need not be an exercise in exact mimicry.  It does however, develop a rapport between two people. Lean in towards the client when he/she is talking.  It will make you appear interested in their message – even if you are not.

8) Shared experiences. “Did you see the “Invasion of the Giant Camera that ate Cleveland” “Didja catch that baby that sings opera on YouTube?” “How ‘bout them Yankees?” Hopefully I don’t have to explain about staying away from political or religious topics. Reference common like experiences utterly unrelated to the business topic at hand will help to form a rapport unclouded by an obvious motive. Is there a stronger bond in nature than that of two fans of a historically beleagured sports team like for example: the Chicago Cubs? (Humm, guess that example is now out dated. Miami Marlins? NY Giants or Cleveland Browns in 2017? Anyway, you get the idea, misery loves company.)

9) Make your adversary feel important and special to the success of the project.  Even if you do all of the work and deserve all of the credit, set it up such that he/she will be able to “put it on their resume.”

10) Remember- Smile. So easy, even babies can do it. You can too.