Pascal Depuhl
Pascal Depuhl

Author Archives: Pascal Depuhl

One reason why I love my job: “The Flamethrower”

Flameflowers are part of what makes me love my job.

I love my job. How can you not get excited, when one of your client calls you and wants to shoot a flamethrower torching his own product? 

At this point that's pretty much all I have to go on. Other than the fact that I need to create a video that will play at a trade show, explaining harsh environments that these could withstand. 

Let me tell you the back story first. A commercial manufacture contacted me to photograph some images for the packaging of his lights. He was updating the look of the boxes that were going to be sold in a national home improvement company in the US. 

A few weeks later the owner calls back to ask if I can come up with a concept for a video. The video will show the specifications of his lights at a trade show. Sure, I love creating interesting ways of telling stories about products. That's kind of what I do.

"Oh," he said, "the only requirement I have, is that we use a flame thrower in the video."
 

Say no more - this sounds like a project that's right up my alley. A few phone calls and meetings later I have the list of specs that I need to talk about in the video:

  1. energy efficiency
  2. weatherproofing
  3. color accuracy
  4. illumination area
  5. heat resistance

The last one is where the flame thrower comes in. The only problem is I can't talk about these specs, I need to show them.

Fast forward to how I create a project from the first phone call or email all the way to the finished video. No peeking I promise you'll see it at the end of this post.

Any project I create breaks down into these four stages:

1) The concept stage:

After the client gives me the parameters I have to come up with how to tell the story.

How do I grab the attention of someone passing a booth selling a light fixture at a home improvement trade show?

Trade shows are typically  noisy environments. Hundreds of vendors compete for the attendees' limited attention. I have to think through the limitations that the viewing environment will dictate.

A trade show floor is not anything like the hushed, darkened atmosphere of a movie theatre. That means my video has to grab your attention. In this case without spoken words. Remember audio is half of what makes a video great. Produce one without relying on sound has its own set of problems.


(I solved the same problem differently for a company that couldn't use sound to deliver its message in a loud sport arena either in a different way).

https://pbd.li/the-briefcase


In addition to this, the visuals must catch the attention of the person who walks by the booth. Cue the flame thrower. Everything we show has to be over the top and make people stop in their tracks. Funny enough a flame thrower will do just that.

2) The approval stage: 

First I figure out how to take one of these specs and show them in a way that will work in the environment that the audience is watching the video in. Then I have to get the idea approved by the client. 

Let's take "weatherproofing" as an example:

I want to show the light working while being drenched. I am also looking for a visual that will make some one stop dead in their tracks. I can't just show the light mounted on the outside wall of a house in a rain storm. That's boring and everyone else does it that way. In fact I just saw a video on YouTube today advertising a new outdoor plug and yes they showed it mounted on a wall in the rain. LOL.

No. We're going bigger - much bigger. My idea is to put his engineer on the stern a fishing yacht cutting through the water. The light he is holding in his hand is drenched in the massive spray the boat kicks up at full speed.

There's only two problems with this.

  1. First I have to convince the client that this idea convinces his audience that this light is water-resistant enough to handle the deluge of saltwater I want to put in through; 
  2. Secondly, I have to find a fishing yacht that I can film on; 
  3. Thirdly, I also have to make sure that the guy  is safe and doesn't get electrocuted while holding the light in a flood of powerful saltwater on the back of a speeding boat;
  4. In addition to that I have to figure out where to put the camera showing this light holding up to the specs, but this second set of problems really only need to be solved in the next phase - I usually jot down a note that I have to figure out how to fix this potential problem. 

Ok. Fine. That's more than 2 problems, you got me there. Once my client has signed of on my idea I'm ready to start on the next step of creating this video.


PRO TIP: don't suggest anything you can't pull off.

If you can't make the yacht work, don't suggest it. 

3) The planning or production stage

This third stage is just a problem-solving stage.

  • Finding a boat means a couple of calls to people I know that would let me hire their boat. 
  • Not injuring the guy holding the light means conferring with my electrician and the people on my safety team on how to insulate the light properly, so that nothing shorts out.
  • Camera placement for this shot is obviously a drone, so I need to hire my drone pilot to get this section of the video done.

This stage is a lot of fun. It's thinking outside of the box while I make sure my ideas can  translate into the budget that the client gives me to work with in real life. It's really no good in coming up with a great idea that will cost $1,000,000 to include in the video if the budget doesn't have a million dollars to make the shot happen. Hey if it does, knock yourself out and go for it. 

Some of the problems that need to be solved are easy, some are not - like how do you power a 110V light while it's mounted on an airboat, as it speeds through the everglades in the dark (and no you shouldn't run a generator on an airboat).

Just for the record: we didn't.

This stage also includes some of the most mundane tasks in the production, pulling permits, securing insurance, and scheduling crew, locations, and talent. Sometimes really tedious work but it must be done.

4) Creation stage

After everything is concepted, approved, planned and booked the days of the shoot finally arrive. Now it's all about dealing with the unforeseen problems that occur on the set of every shoot - the drone can't figure out where it is when started up from the boat - the aluminum hull is wreaking havoc with it's GPS.  

After a few days of filming, it's off to the edit bay to cut together the video. It's always fun to see what was only a storyboard a few weeks ago, become reality. It's about telling the story on film now, adding the right music and graphics, and wrapping it into a believable story of why this guy who is stocking shelves spends his weekends doing insane tests on lighting fixtures (that idea was another one of the ones I presented to the client in stage one).

Now it's all about delivering the client what I convinced him I could create for him in the timeframe that I had agreed on. 

The final product looks like this (and yes, the flame thrower is the first test). Check it out:

Let's recap how I approach the 4 stages in all of my productions:

The four stages of a video project

step 1

The concept stage

Review the requirements my client gives me in the initial brief or meeting. Then I get to imagine how I'd love to tell the story. Sometimes a brief is as simple as "I want to use a flame thrower in this video."

step 2

The approval stage

Separate what's possible, affordable and doable. I need to know my clients budget, to figure out how big I can dream. Then I need to sell the ideas to my client, always keeping their budget and time frame and my abilities in mind. 

step 3

The planning stage

Underpromise and overdeliver. I live by those words in every production. I love giving my clients bigger, better and more than we agreed on. Doing this the opposite way is the fastest way to loose clients. 

step 4

The creation stage

The rubber meets the road here. 25+ years of experience in creating photo and video shoots, a deep knowledge of locations, crew and contacts let me create scenes, where others would fail in delivering.

At the end of the day, many advertising agencies or production places can deliver one or more of these stages, but I have often created projects, like this one, in-house. Ideas are always out of the box, unique and I love coming up with a solution that makes the viewer stop and listen to the story you and I are telling them. 

What do you want to say in your next video? Let's talk and find out how I can make it a reality.

a couple of years ago

How to concept, produce, film, edit and deliver a TV ad in 4 days.

It's Wednesday night and I hang up the phone. I got an exciting text last Friday, where my client want to talk about producing a TV ad with me. Today I find out that the ad needs to be finished in 4 days, so it can get submitted to NBC for their approval. Funny. That's impossible.

Impossibility or opportunity?

I don't think that's gonna happen. Actually I'm sure it's not, since I also learned that the client has no story line for the ad. They don't have a treatment. Actually they don't even have an idea on how they could use this ad to sell the service that they offer. 

Timeline for my TV ad production

How do you react to an impossible request? I don't know anyone who can come up with a concept, write a script, produce, film and edit a commercial in 4 days. 

How do you tell the client, that he's asking for the impossible, without destroying an opportunity to create something amazing?

Ignore the problem

Seems a little counter intuitive at first, but one really only has two choices here: 

  1. Give up without trying - it's impossible anyways, right?
  2. Ignore the problem and pitch an idea that's so good, that the client will see the long term benefit and hire you to produce the visual content for him anyway. 


Surprise, surprise, I go with option 2. 

That's how I find myself on a 62' fishing yacht, pitching my idea to my client somewhere out in the ocean, while his crew is rigging the boat for some kite fishing.

Remember, Content is King

6 days later I email the storyboard and script to the client for approval (notice that we're way past the deadline to approve the ad for broadcast), here's what my client tells me:

Business meeting Miami style
"That's the best way anybody has ever described what I do in one sentence."

And because the content is right on the money, no one cares about the initial impossible deadline. Quite the opposite, everyone is excited to see us produce a whole campaign, based on my tagline and concept.

12 days after the initial text message from my client I have one sentence that describes the client's company in 5 words. That's it. 

5 days after that sentence gets approved, I email a script, storyboard and budget to my client. It get ok'd the same day.

5 days from storyboard to film shoot

5 days to scout and confirm 5 locations (the last owner gives us permission 8 hours before the filming). 5 days to cast and book 9 actors, find and hire my crew. 5 days to pull insurance certificates, get permits, book flights, cars, and hotel rooms etc. 

Two weeks after I hung up the phone on the initial phone call - remember the one that gave me an absolutely impossible task - I find myself on a film set of my first ever commercial video advertising production. 

It's a team sport

I couldn't have gotten here on my own. 

They say film making is a team effort, so with that in mind I want to thank Hugo, George, Chris, Scott and Eric for helping me develop my creative treatment.

Jon, Jason, Joe, John and Jim for walking me though the real life equivalent of the scenes.

David, Sam and Scott, Benny for working on locations with me.

The funny thing is at this point we haven’t even shot a single frame of the video yet. That takes a whole other crew (and a whole 'nother blog post) ...

3 years ago

How To Solve The Biggest Problem With Pricing Photography

Pricing photography is the topic that Rosh and I discuss in his latest video.

Pricing your photography (or any service or product for that matter) can be tricky. I'm not talking about understanding the cost of doing business (CoDB), where you know how much it costs you to produce what you sell - that needs to be understood before you can see how you break down your pricing. NPPA has an online calculator that is a tremendous tool to help you figure this out.

Many other factors that go into determining what you should charge (CoDB plus profit plus production specific costs), what everyone else charges, how what you bring to the table impacts your pricing and why some photographers can charge less than others and make a larger profit (while delivering superior images) if they are smart about keeping their overhead low. 


Last week Rosh Sillars (@RoshSillars) invited me to be a guest on his photography pricing channel and talk about how I structure my pricing - not that this is anything new, I've been talking about using this pricing strategy for years - but you can watch our discussion here:

Problematic pricing perceptions

The biggest problem I've consistently seen in pricing is based on a perception on the side of the client and the photographer. 

There are two common pricing philosophies in professional photography: either you charge a day rate or bill by the shot. Both of these are charged in addition to the fixed expenses of a shoot, such as locations, assistants, crew, models, etc. (Read more about how to estimate an advertising photoshoot in this post.)

Day rate pricing disasters

Day rate: charging a set fee for a specified length of time, usually 8 - 10 hours, regardless of how many images are created in that time.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but I have: 


A clients has been talking about a certain amount of shots when we were estimating the production and we've been anticipating to shoot lets say 20 shots. But those twenty shots magically turn into 25, 30 or more shots.

I don't mind shooting a few extra shots in a day, but at some point the quality of the images will suffer, when you've planned to create 20 and you end up shooting 50 in the same time. 

Per shot pricing problems

Per shot: charging a set fee for each image, regardless of how much time it takes to produce.


I see the most potential problems with this pricing strategy: on the one extreme the client will want to spend as much time on each shot, while the other extreme is the photographer who wants to shoot as many images as possible. At least that can become the perception.

If we stick with the example above let's take the same production that should take one day to create 20 images. If you take either extreme to the absurd you'll see my problem. Image a client insisting on you spending one day on each photograph for 20 days or a photographer that wants to bang out the 20 images in an hour. 

Here's how I have been successfully pricing my work for the past 2 decades:

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Service matters: Q & A with Community Member Pascal Depuhl on QBCommunity

Quicken features Miami based product photographer Pascal Depuhl, Photography by Depuhl

What’s on your mind right now? We know folks who work for themselves have plenty to say about the business of doing business. That’s why we want to share your insights, ideas, and best practices. Today, we’re spending a few minutes with Pascal Depuhl, a photographer, and videographer who’s also an active member of this community.The last time we spoke with Pascal, he explained why his professional title at Photography by Depuhl is “Chief Mindchanger” and why he believes we all have a moral and professional obligation to give back.

Given Pascal’s focus on doing good, it was no surprise we caught up with him as he was recovering from jet lag after a whirlwind trip to Nepal. That’s where he’d been working with an organization dedicated to helping remote mountain communities get access to life-saving medical services. Pascal tells us why and how he got there. He also shares an unexpected realization that changed the way he thinks about and provides customer service.

Pascal, tell us about your film project in Nepal.

A helicopter flies the team into the remote mountains of Nepal.

Follow my IG feed for more photos from Nepal.

I was filming a documentary about a non-governmental organization (NGO) in a remote region of the Himalayas. When I say “remote,” I‘m not exaggerating. People in these villages have to trek for seven days through insanely rough mountains and valleys just to get to a bus stop. From there, it’s a 15-hour ride to the nearest hospital. Given these conditions, it’s no wonder the life-expectancy of a child under eight is just 50%.

This NGO organizes helicopter evacuations for villagers with medical emergencies and sets up outposts offering basic medical treatments and service. The group also helps villagers navigate the hospital system in Kathmandu.

What led you to offer your services to this inspiring organization?

I believe all of us – visual content creators, accountants, you name it – have innate abilities and skills. When we’re lucky enough to do something we love, and we’re good at, we must give back. I love being involved in projects like this one every few years. I arranged this trip to coincide with an assignment I was on in Asia for a different client. Since I was already on the ground, I knew my travel expenses would be minimal. I found out about this NGO and offered my services in exchange for covering basic costs.

For me, the goal is to balance commercial clients with projects like making this important documentary. Of course, when I’m shooting in Nepal, I’m not marketing my business or working for a paying client. But I think the trade-off is really worth it.

You’ve been running your own business for 25 years. What are you doing different these days?

Horst Schulze speaks about ServiceI don’t believe in change for the sake of change, but a recent experience has made me think about my customers in a whole new way.

I was behind the camera during a presentation at a medical convention by Horst Schulze, the former president of the Ritz Carlton. He explained the most important thing every great company does is not finding new customers. The number one thing is to keep the current customer.

When I was at the Ritz, I experienced the hotel’s amazing customer service myself. After the talk, I thought about what I do to keep my clients happy. I realized it’s never been my top priority. So, I started thinking about the small gestures I could make, things that don’t cost a lot of money or take much time but really add up.

Not long after, I had a shoot with a client who was driving in from two hours away. I knew she had to get up at 4 a.m., so the day before, I asked her how she likes her coffee. When my client arrived on site, I greeted her with a hot cup, made just the way she likes it. This gesture took zero effort on my part, but my client was so pleased, she couldn’t stop talking about it!

That’s a great story. How are you continuing to incorporate this new approach to customers?

Now I keep service at the forefront. I find myself constantly thinking ahead so I can anticipate the need of my customer. This kind of thinking helps clients engage better with my brand. But fundamentally, it’s not about making money. I want my customers to know I genuinely care about them.

Here’s an example. Recently, I was sharing the Ritz Carlton story with someone over lunch and saying how much I’ve learned by reading about the service culture at the Ritz-Carlton, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. After lunch, I immediately ordered the book online and had it shipped to my friend’s home the next day. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Another shift is the way I work with the contractors and freelancers I hire for a shoot. Now, before each job beings, I let the crew know my philosophy about making great service a priority. I tell them the client needs to be blown away. Since everyone on my team represents my brand, it’s important I set clear expectations so we’re all on the same page.

None of these changes is huge. But simply being aware of the importance of customer service really does make a lightbulb go on – and then it stays on.

Before you go

What changes have you made in the way you think about, and offer customer service? We’d love to hear your story!

 


This post was originally published in Quicken’s Quick Books Community.

3 years ago

How not to roll out an Upgrade – a lesson from Expensify

This morning there was a message on my SalesForce Expenses tab, where Expensify and SalesForce work together. “We have updated our Salesforce integration” it read “and encourage you to log in directly using our website going forward – www.expensify.com.

I was looking forward to how my favorite expensing tool had made my life even easier, but what I found was quite the opposite:

The links on the pages were dead.

Expensify Support told me basically, that unless I was a paying for FinacialForce I could no longer integrate Expensify with SalesForce. And FinancialForce is much too expensive to implement for a small business like mine.

However, the worst was that there was no way back. I can not add accounts or opportunities to Expensify, since up to a few days ago SalesForce did all that, and it did it beautifully (actually I thought the update Expensify had touted would finally do away with the need to sync it with SalesForce every time a new opportunity was added.)

So today I have spent all day trying to find a way to keep my Expensify/SalesForce integration alive, but it seems like Expensify killed it.

With no warning.

No lead time for us to fix it. Worse, I can’t work it at all, because the link to SalesForce is broken.

So dear Expensify, next time, give us some notice. Just take a page out of SalesForce playbook – they send us emails and notices 6 months ahead of a change and show us how to implement or adjust for them.

Right now, please at least create a video/blog page that walks us through step by step how to reverse and reassign all accounts, opportunities, etc – basically how to do everything by hand that SalesForce used to do. If there is an automatic way to import the hundreds of accounts and opportunities, please let us know, if not, please create one. Now.

In the future (hopefully the very near future) I wish you would allow us to keep the integration that worked just a few days ago. There’s no way it can be hard to give us that option again.

As for me, it looks like I will be spending another day wasting time to figure out how to use Expensify in my small business. I think I can also downgrade back to the team level from my corporate level since the only reason I paid the extra money was for the SalesForce integration.
___

I’ve been singing Expensify’s praises to many small business owners, when I speak at conferences like WordCamp Miami, or when I write about small business efficiency on this blog and even lauded Expensify’s SalesForce Integration as late as last Friday, when I was flown to Dallas to talk about running an efficient Small Business at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center.

I love(d) the ability to pull up a SalesForce account in Expensify and seeing only opportunities that relate to that account.

It made my life as a sole entrepreneur so much simpler.

But this whole “update” has left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

 

 

However, we can always learn from these kinds of disasters, right?

How do you communicate with your clients when you change a service that they come to rely on?

Hopefully, you give them some time to implement or prepare for the change and don’t just drop it on them like Expensify did.

When do you consult your clients and ensure ways to mitigate any changes to their business processes.

Hopefully, you listen to their concerns and work out a solution or at least some how-to guidelines to make their lives easier, not more convoluted and difficult, like Expensify did.

3 years ago

Why price does not drive quality service (or how United Airlines still hasn’t solved their mistake)

An unsolved mistake United Airlines made tarnishes their brand

How two brands solved their mistake (or not)

(and why a third brand actually solved a mistake that wasn't theirs)

Have you ever made a mistake? How about one that directly impacted one of your customers, clients or guests? We've all made mistakes, but it's how you deal with them that's the real important issue.

You'd think the more money you spend the better service (and the faster mistake resolution) you would receive. Well, turns out nothing could be farther from the truth. Let me tell you my experience with two airlines I had last month. Both are US carriers. Both made mistakes. However, that's really where the similarities end. 

If you know anything about providing good service to your customers, then you know that mistakes are one of the best opportunities to make a positive impression on your customers. Actually it's not the mistakes, but how you handle them that makes or breaks the relationship with your client. 

[Side note: Ever since I've heard Horst Schulze, the former CEO of the Ritz-Carlton, speak about service (read more on that in "What I learned about service from a wise hotelier"), I've become very interested in watching how the brands I use provide customer service and am working hard to build a customer service focused company myself.]

Mistake #1: United Airlines loose my bag for 7 days

United Airlines mistake turns into a major hassle for their customer

United Airlines mistake turns into a major hassle.

Mistake #1: I booked a business class ticket to Asia on United Airlines (@United). Price of the ticket $2,445.76. Multiply that by three for the rest of the team that is flying with me and we're spending close to $7,500.- on that flight. When we arrive in Saigon 5 out of 6 checked bags don't make it. Even though they are tagged 'Premiere Service' and are supposed to be off the aircraft before any other bags. 2 days later 4 out of the 5 missing bags make it to the hotel, but the 5th bag -one of my bags- takes a full week to get to my hotel. But it's not the mistake that makes me upset with United Airlines.

Mistake #2: Spirit doesn't issue promised travel vouchers

Mistake #2: I booked a flight for my wife and daughter to evacuate before a hurricane hits Florida on Spirit Airlines (@SpiritAirlines). Price of both ticket $318.11. Their connecting flight in Houston is overbooked, so they decide to give up their seats for a free travel voucher and a flight later that day. Houston had just been hit by a hurricane a few days earlier, and Spirit's systems are down, so all of this is being done by hand. When my wife checks a few days later, there are no travel vouchers to her name and the call center tells her that their records indicate she was on the Spirit flight, even though Spirit paid for a change to fly them on United. 

It's not the mistake that gets you

OK, like I said mistakes happen - we all make them - it's in how you solve them that makes the difference. In the interest of full disclosure, I personally have made the exact mistake that United had made, when I worked for an airline in college. I routed a bag onto the wrong flight and my boss at the time sat me down once they figured out what had happened and explained to me the inconvenience I had caused one of their customers. I never made that mistake again.

  

  

quote-left

"A key principle in fixing a problem is to resolve the customer's sense of injustice–of having been wronged or let down." write Leonardo Inghiller and Michah Solomon in their book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The secret of building a five-star customer service organization. "You can find a way yo restore the smile to almost any customer's face, wether it's a free upgrade or a more creative offering.

Let's look at how these two companies address their mistakes. On the face of these two examples, you would think that United would be much more interested to solve a mistake they made to a $7500 customer than Spirit would want to solve a mistake they made to a $300 customer. Well I was surprised too. Here's what happened:

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