Board of Directors: Michael Gan
PPA Member since 1979
Location: Petaluma, CA
- Read his bio.
- Read his Board Spotlight interview (April 2009), featured in Professional Photographer magazine.
From Pleasanton, Calif., Gan first joined PPA in 1979. He owns Meritage House of Photography and a fundraising/charity offshoot called Simply M. But he actually got into photography by accident while attending the University of California at Davis. Working for the school publication as a features writer, Gan was once told, “Here’s a camera; we’ve run out of photographers.” He got hooked. In fact, after graduating in 1978, he opened his first studio.
“But I really wanted to be a great photographer, not just a ‘good one,’ he notes on his Web site (www.meritageonmain.com). To reach that goal, he studied under several studio photographers, joined PPA, earned the Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees and his Certification. An award-winning photographer, Gan belongs to several other associations, including the American Society of Photographers, Professional Photographers of California, and Northern California Professional Photographers (of which he is a past president).
Board Spotlight, April 2009
By Angela Wijesinghe
During his years in photography, Michael Gan has learned that a change will come along about every eight to ten years. He’s also learned what it takes to keep your head above water.
As with many, Gan found his calling in a zig-zag way. Working for the University of California’s publication as a features writer, he was told, “Here’s a camera; we’ve run out of photographers.” He got hooked, decided fashion photography was his goal, and became a sought-after roommate (women came into the room to pose for his portfolio). But a magazine internship soon taught him to stay home and become a portrait photographer.
Six months out of college, Gan started his own studio. He bought his first storefront studio in a year…and promptly ran out of money the first day. But it didn’t stop him. In what he calls a leap of faith, he networked, marketed, and survived.
“You have to fine-tune the core of your business,” reflects Gan. One thing he’s learned from his thirty years of experience is that slower economies mean you need to focus on exactly what your demographics are and what they want. For instance, his studio takes in many statistics. They’ve found that many of their families with high school students can’t really afford their products. With that knowledge, they’ve focused on families with younger (and grown-up) children, making above their sales averages there.
In addition, Gan stresses the importance of understanding how your brand differentiates you. “Marketing yourself during a recession is essential because many competitors aren’t,” he adds. “You need to grab as much of the market share as you can while you’re in the recession.”
To Gan, though, probably the most important advice is to simply become a leader in your craft and business, not a follower. “There seems to be less distinction between professionals and amateurs now, and certification and degrees are the last bastions keeping us separated from the masses” he explains. He believes that Master Photographers and Certifieds need to focus their leadership on ”creating a standard of excellence the public can’t match or disregard.”
Innovation and leadership are the keys to that vision for the future. For his part, Gan teaches workshops and stays involved with his local associations to innovate his new ideas, and he has risen to the PPA Board to “effect change on a national level.” For instance, he wants to funnel the education that PPA is known for, strengthening the local and regional affiliates. Why? Well, as Gan says, “A hallmark of PPA is to educate members to survive and do better.” In addition, local associations can be like the old-time salon meetings—where like minds work together on ideas.
Those kinds of unique ideas—and excellence in producing them—are the hope of the professional photographic industry to Gan.