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My enthusiasm is ramping-up for Imaging USA 2014. Trish and I got our official badges in the mail today. Eeeek! 

It's hard to believe that this time last year I was dreaming of ways to fake-illness myself out of the trip to Atlanta for Imaging 2013. In my very first post for this blog, I confessed my panic and nausea induced by a stalled cash flow and floundering business. Thankfully, my business partner Trish dragged me kicking and screaming out from under the covers of my fake sick bed to IUSA 2013 and it profoundly changed...everything.

I once heard Trish say, "A problem shared is a problem halved."  That's been true for us so far. Sharing our problems, exposing our soft underbellies and swallowing our pride opened us up a support system of expertise, good will, and creative inspiration from PPA.

bright is the new bleak photo.jpg

Writing about our woes started out as an experiment.  I've been chronicling our trials and tribulations here for nearly a year and it's helped me foster a new way of looking at my business and my life. The experiment would either end in total failure with me at my new job as a sectional saleswoman at the local furniture store (love me a sectional) or it would end in success with "Bright being the new Bleak" when it comes to the future of Snap!. Sharing mistakes has also taught me to see inspiration for success in the most ridiculous, outrageous and mundane places.

Take for instance, when Queen Latifah called us recently. Queen Latifah is only (according to Google and um, the rest of the world) the very coolest singer-songwriter, rapper, actress, drop dead gorgeous model, television producer, record producer and talk show hostess. Not to mention she's considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.

So, the phone rings the other day and it's Queen Latifah (in the interest of full-disclosure it was actually a lovely woman named Chelsea who works for the Queen Latifah show, but close enough).Chelsea was looking to get permission to use a photo from our Pinterest page pinned by one of their upcoming  guests. You may have heard about this couple in the news, Ryan Leak and Amanda Roman. Ryan planned an entire wedding from Amanda's "My Dream Wedding" Pinterest page. A photo we had taken of earrings was pinned by Amanda and used by Ryan in creating their wedding. Ryan proposed to Amanda, she said yes, and then they had the wedding all on the same day.

We had a nice chat with Chelsea and were about to hang up when she said something really momentous. She said, "Congratulations on your life." Chelsea wanted us to know she had spent a lot of time on our website and was really impressed by the photography but was even more impressed by the passion and zest we have for what we do. Gosh, Chelsea (a.k.a. Almost Queen Latifah) that was awfully nice of you to say. Lightning bolt moment: It's important to remember that a bad day for us doing this is better than a lot of people's best days at work.

Other times the inspiration for success comes from humbling places. One of the goals we set for ourselves at Imaging 2013 was to get involved with PPA Charities' Operation Smile. We were moved to action and tears after attending a PPA Charities party at Imaging and listening to all the wonderful people involved with Operation Smile speak. We had no idea then that we would get so inspired... really inspired... to donate all we could to Operation Smile.

The more we read about Operation Smile, the more we watched the videos of the children whose lives had been changed by Operation Smile, the more we wanted to do. One day we had an idea to donate the amount of one surgery ($240) for every wedding we booked. When given here and there, the $240 was hardly missed and before we knew it, we had booked 28 weddings and donated $7,487 (and counting), making us the Top Studio Donor in the country for the year.

I hardly know how that happened; after all, we don't have a fancy studio. We are just two ladies plugging away here at my house in my spare room. Sometimes it's a struggle to make ends meet, but I've never missed a dime of the money we've given to help children in need.

In the course of a year, it turns out that I shared my problems and halved them too by reaching out to PPA and asking for the help we needed. Ironically, what has really reenergized our business hasn't been what we've taken from PPA but what we've given back. It turns out that Joy shared is Joy doubled. I'm thankful to be doing what I do every day knowing that I'm pleasing my clients by involving them in an uplifting charitable cause. Sharing our passion for photography and the joy of our good fortune makes a bigger impact than I could have thought possible a year ago.

I hope you are considering going to Imaging USA 2014. If you are struggling like we were, don't crawl under those covers, share your problems and halve them! Reach out and get a little help. Things will turn around. Once they do, remember what Almost Queen Latifah said, "Be grateful for the life you have."

You're doing what you love! Once you're feeling good and joyous about how lucky you really are, start spreading the joy and love around. PPA Charities' Operation Smile is a great place to start. Remember, bright is the new bleak.

Hope to see you in Phoenix!

David Grupa, President of PPA Charities (PPACH), has announced that for the ninth consecutive year, PPACH will sponsor Family Portrait Month in October and November. This popular charitable marketing promotion provides PPA members with an opportunity to participate in a nationwide promotion that benefits Operation Smile and elevates the business image of participating studios.

"Family Portrait Month allows PPA members to take part in a high-profile promotion to build family portrait business in October and November, the perfect time to remind families to have their portrait made in time for the year-end gift-giving season," Grupa said.
"Few gifts are appreciated as much as portraits of family members. And when they participate in this promotion, families are making it possible to truly change the lives of children who would otherwise face a lifetime of pain and rejection."

Participating studios are asked to donate at least $30 to PPA Charities for each family portrait session occurring during October or November. Other than this guideline, members are free to decide how much to contribute -- an entire session fee, part of a session fee, a percentage of each sale, or a specified amount of $30 or more. To date, PPA Charities has donated more than $570,000 to Operation Smile, the highly regarded International charity, which is the charitable partner of PPACH.

Interested PPA members can register for the promotion by making a $30 minimum donation for which they will be provided with the following marketing resources:

A 4-color printed Family Portrait Month Marketing Guide, pre-designed marketing resources, and promotional downloads provided by WHCC and Beth Forester of photoDUDS.
Access to a private Facebook Group, where members can ask questions and share ideas with other promotion participants.
Access to a library of promotional suggestions on the PPACH website: www.ppacharities.com.
A listing, by state and city, on the promotion's consumer website, www.familyportraitmonth.com, which allows consumers to find participating studios in their area.

For each $240 donation that a participant makes to PPA Charities on behalf of Operation Smile in 2013, the photographer's name will be entered into a drawing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to photograph an Operation Smile mission. This drawing will take place at the PPA Charities Celebration on January 11, 2014, the evening before the opening of Imaging USA in Phoenix.

Founded in 1982, Operation Smile is a worldwide children's medical charity dedicated to helping children and young adults born with facial deformities. In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever at the cost of only $240. Each year, more than 100,000 children are born with a facial deformity in Operation Smile's 26 partner countries. Tens of thousands remain untreated, and at least 10% of these children will die from malnutrition or bacterial infections.

"Recording the smiles of children and their families is what photographers do," says Richmond, Virginia, photographer Mary Fisk-Taylor, fundraising chairman for PPACH, who was instrumental in developing the Family Portrait Month promotion. "It's hard to imagine a more appropriate charity for our members to support. And when parents participate in Family Portrait Month, it's a wonderful way to teach children the value of reaching out to others. Even small children can understand the importance of Operation Smile's work, and they are eager to help these needy children."


By Mariah Ashley

ashley_charity_2.jpg"You can't put the dollars before the heart. The heart has to come first and then the dollars come later." - Ziggy Marley

Trish and I were tired when we stumbled into the PPA Charities event at Imaging USA. We wanted to hunker down in our hotel room that first night but the excitement to meet our SMS mentor, Mary Fiske Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, was enough motivation to get us out the door and downstairs to the party. Well, that and Trish insisting I get my lazy butt out from under the covers.

We arrived just before Ann Monteith, M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP took the podium to talk about PPA's involvement with Operation Smile. Although we didn't know a thing about Operation Smile before her talk, it took only a few minutes for her to move us to tears. As she spoke about the lives of all the children that had been helped, Trish turned to me and said, "You know we're here for a reason don't you?" I smiled and nodded at her uncanny ability to read my mind. There was no question that we would be involved with PPA Charities, the only question remaining was how.

PPA Charity's Operation Smile is a fabulous idea, but seemed more suited for portrait photographers with studios. How could we as wedding photographers tweak the idea to work for our business model? Trish and I wracked our brains, but nothing seemed to quite make sense; kids, dogs, families? None of these traditional ideas fit our brand or, for that matter, our expertise. One of the wonderful things about Operation Smile is that it creates buzz and attracts potential future clients for the portrait photographer as well as contributing a nice donation for Operation Smile. We needed to figure out a way to make it work for us too. And then as usual being the idea girl, Trish came up with a brilliant plan.

ashley_charity_1.jpgInstead of children's portraits, we would offer professional headshots for...wait for it...all the other wedding professionals in our market! That's right, florists, caterers, wedding planners, etc, etc. Who doesn't need a fabulous headshot for their website, Facebook page, or heck... even dating site? In another stroke of genius, she decided we should host the event at one of the high-end venues in our area, and they happily and generously agreed to do it. Not stopping there, Trish asked some of the vendors to donate floral arrangements, sweet treats, and stationary to our "Smile Shop," hoping that participants might pick up a "goody to go" as a way of generating more money for the event. She even asked a friend and local videographer to film the event and make us a little documentary (below) to share with other photographers in the future. Trish was off and running with her idea, and I steered clear of her brainchild given that after my fear of heights, my second biggest fear is that I will throw a party and no one will show up.

Become an Operation Smile Studio Today. Change the Life of a Child Tomorrow!
Donate by December 15 to be listed on
PPA Charities' Roll of Honor

PPA Charities has dramatically expanded its commitment to its charitable partner, Operation Smile, by asking all PPA-member studios to stand together with fellow members to save the smiles of children around the world by becoming an Operation Smile Studio.

For a donation of $240, you can become a 2010 Operation Smile Studio, which proclaims to your clients that you are part of an international commitment by PPA Charities to support the life-changing work of Operation Smile, the highly regarded Norfolk, Virginia-based charity that provides the gift of surgery to precious children suffering from facial deformities.

Your donation of $240 will make it possible for Operation Smile's volunteer medical professionals and support personnel to perform a single surgery that will transform the life of a deserving child born with a facial deformity, such as cleft lip or cleft palate.

Make your $240 donation (or more if you can) by December 15, 2009, and you'll be listed on PPA Charities' Roll of Honor as an Operation Smile Leadership Studio. (If you have already donated $240 or more through Family Portrait Month, you will be listed on the Leadership Roll.)

Dear PPA Member,

They line the hallways and stairwells of homes, in carefully placed groupings or ramrod single files. Images of children--showing the progression of time, special moments and, often, exuberant joy--are some of the most touching photographs. Whether formal or candid, you can almost hear someone say to these kids, right before the button is pushed: "Smile!"

What if the child couldn't smile?

This week's Vital Signs shares important information about a wonderful opportunity to bring new clients to your studio (or bring existing clients back). Hopefully, it also inspires you to reach out and look at what you can do on a larger scale. Whether you go through Operation Smile and PPA Charities or through your own personal choice of charity or organization, you can use your talent and give your own gift to the world.

The majority of our Vital Signs articles are about making sure that you stay successful in business--and much of the time, they are about staying financially successful. Sometimes, though, it's good to think about success from another point of view. Hopefully, this will inspire you...to inspire others.

Cheers,

Christel Aprigliano
Director of Member Value & Experience

Last October, nearly 350 Professional Photographers of America (PPA) members in 41 states and the District of Columbia joined PPA Charities' Family Portrait Month, an annual, national fundraising effort to benefit Operation Smile--raising the total donation to more than $150,000.

On January 10, during PPA's Imaging USA convention in Phoenix, Arizona, PPA Charities presented a check for $50,635.21 to Operation Smile at Alice Cooperstown. The check was presented to Beth Marshall, Operation Smile Senior Executive Advisor for Latin America and Caribbean, and Carmit Bachar, Operation Smile Celebrity Smile Ambassador. Bachar, an American singer and dancer, is best known as a member of the pop group, The Pussycat Dolls. In addition to serving as a Smile Ambassador, Bachar--born with a cleft lip and cleft palate--participated on an Operation Smile medical mission to Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Take a look at the smiles that are created when you participate in Family Portrait Month. By participating in this charity event, you help PPA Charities raise funds for Operation Smile, allowing them to continue their work with children around the world.

Since 1982, more than 115,000 children and young adults have been treated by thousands of volunteers worldwide and thousands of healthcare professionals have been trained globally. For as little as $240 Operation Smile can change a child's life by giving the gift of a surgery. Revenue in excess of surgical costs is invested into our sustainability programs, empowering our partner countries to treat more children on their own and making your investment go even farther. In as little as 45 minutes, one cleft lip surgery can change a child's life forever.

For More information, or to participate, visit www.PPACharities.com.

Slideshow prepared by Angie Weedon for PPA Charities.



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