Let’s make a long story shortened…. My Father is a retired Army officer, and I’m a retired enlisted Marine. Combined we did 40+ years. Now that that’s out the way, let’s get down to the subject.

In the Marines I worked primarily as an Administrative/Personnel Chief. As much as people like to call that, “Desk Bitch work”, it definitely wasn’t. We all choose our paths in life, I just chose to do something that involved using my skill-set and experience for life after the military. Being in the admin field was pretty awesome because you get basically knew a majority of the stuff going on prior to the rest of your command. You were basically, “in the know” all the time.

One of my biggest pet peeves in the military was customer service. For me I thrived on that aspect of my job. Were there any hiccups…sure…that’s expected, however if I had to look at the overall picture, that was my baby. Now let me get this out there before any of you start your squawking…. Customer service is not personal servitude. I’ve been in that situation once as a photographer when some folks thought, “beck and call” meant that I was supposed to work nonstop without a break, or food for the day. That ended up a disaster because they were unprepared, and jeopardized the safety of my crew. Customer service for me was taking care of the person in front of you, and doing your best to exceed their expectations.

Growing up an officer’s kid, I never thought of my Dad, or my fellow officer neighbors as anything special. I always addressed them properly, and was always respectful. When you’re running an office, lots of things happen at a moments notice at times. You may end up doing training, deploying, or just end up short staffed for various reasons. The proficiency is there, however the efficiency takes a small hit. In the military we have a thing called, “Customs and Courtesies”, which means we give respect when it’s due. When it came to my office and my mentality, I always believed that it’s my office and whomever is in front of me, or my Marines is the priority. Not the higher ranking individual who comes in, because I believed in the basis, of, “first come, first served”. Rank had no privilege in my arena. Why should the Major be a priority over the Sergeant, or the Master Gunnery Sergeant be a priority over the Lance Corporal, the Lieutenant Colonel over the Master Sergeant, or the Gunnery Sergeant be pushed to the side for the Captain? I was always taught that they put their pants on the same way….one leg at a time. I will say, that I did give rank preference to the Colonel’s, Sergeant’s Major, and above, because that goes without saying (even I had to draw a line).

When it comes to photography, I don’t give out free, or discounted photo shoots for people with a large following, or even a small following on social media. I believe in being fair, firm and consistent in everything that I do. If it’s someone like Jamie Eason, or Giselle, sure…why wouldn’t I do that? My clients are my clients, and I always give them the royal treatment regardless of their influence.

Every failure that I’ve had in life has been a valuable lesson. All of the things that I hated the most about the military are the things that I fuel to propel myself into having a successful career. That’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, because you have to take risks in things, and you have only yourself to answer to primarily. On social media, I’ve had loads of, “models” hit me up via email and brag about their influence, or their benefit towards being in front of my camera. After them attempting to sell me on, “exposure” and me giving them my rates, I quickly found out that they didn’t have any real respect for my value and they stopped following me, or unfriended me. It is what it is….

Always take care of your clients!! They’re the ones who keep your lights on, fuel up your vehicles, and put food on your table. Treat that Lance Corporal just like a General, and the person with 300 followers like someone with 300 million followers. If they’re paying for your products, then you should be giving them your absolute best, and not just a half-hearted effort, or mediocre work. In some aspects, they’re paying you to help them elevate their status (i.e. websites, social media, marketing). Be sure to kick butt, and not kiss butt!

DO NOT WORK FOR EXPOSURE!!! I’ve met people that have been told by other, “experienced” photographers to always shoot with people with large followings on social media. THAT is a recipe for a direct route for failure. If you’re building, why wouldn’t you charge something? I don’t care if it’s one dollar, or one euro. Charge something. If you have someone that’s willing to help you, and they’re genuinely putting in work for your business, then that could be a payment, but if it’s them posting your photos, and just tagging you in the photo as credit (as they legally should), then those are the people you need to avoid like the plague. They’re not fully invested in your business, nor are they loyal to your brand as someone who has paid you, loves your work, and will go out and tell their circle of friends, and so on, and so on. If you shoot with the multitude of fitness organizations like I do (NPC, IFBB, WBFF, DBFV, Musclemania, UKBFF, NSL), then it doesn’t matter who they’re with, just take care of them. If you shoot for a athletic commercial company, then take care of your organization because that’s who’s paying you…basically.

As long as you’re learning from your failures and can turn them into successes, then you’re not failing…you’re winning!!! KEEP WINNING!!!!!!

Oh yeah…if you’re looking for my failure, it was not caring about rank, but more about treating everyone like a human. My peers didn’t do that and were super successful in moving up the rank ladder. I didn’t play the game and I still won’t.

Thank you for your time!

Semper Fi!

Instagram: @mikeconphoto