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I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, our carpool rendezvous point, to collect Trish for our third wedding of the weekend. Twelve hours earlier I had dropped her off to retrieve her car, twelve hours before that, the same. The days, the weddings, the people blended into one never-ending wedding reception with the despicable Old Time Rock n Roll looping horribly in my addled mind.
"I look like crap, I have huge dark circles under my eyes," complained Trish, slumping back into the seat.
"Aww, I bet it's not that bad," I said, lifting my sunglasses to get a good look at her.
We gasped in unison at the sight of each other's faces.
"You've got them too!" she cried.
"We look like a couple of zombie photographers." I said, defeated.
It's that time of year, October, and we feel like zombies too. Big, dumb, lumbering, drooling, driven to put one step in front of the other without thought or reason zombies. We are zombies hell bent on our one desire: to finish the weddings!
It didn't take a neurotoxin, virus, brain parasite, or tainted meat to turn two relatively attractive photographers into zombies. No, all it took was some overly ambitious booking, leading to forty three weddings to execute. My bad. But hey, what's done is done, right?
So we'll go ahead and slather a little more makeup on our faces to cover the dark circles and hope we can blend in with the rest of society; much like Bill Murray in my favorite zombie movie of all time, Zombieland. (Spoiler Alert) Bill has an excellent cameo role where he makes himself up to look like a zombie in order to blend in with the zombies and survive the zombie infested world. Okay, well that's actually the opposite of what we are doing but you get the idea.
Since it's almost Halloween and we are already on the topic of that great piece of Hollywood cinema, Zombieland, I have adapted some of the rules for surviving in Zombieland as they apply to wedding photographers surviving the end of wedding season. The hero of the movie, Columbus, has 32 rules for surviving Zombieland. Before meeting his friend Tallahassee who has also survived the infestation, these rules kept Columbus alive and well. Therefore, they must be true and henceforth I shall share nine of them (and two of my own) with you to help you survive the apocalypse that is "The End of the World Wedding Season."
Meet Peter Lik. He's the most acclaimed landscape photographer in the world right now, and that's hardly an exaggeration. This high-octane Aussie and star of The Weather Channel's "From the Edge" will go far and wide and brave any elements to get the perfect shot. Peter will deliver a special keynote presentation at Imaging USA 2015 to discuss how and why he does it. He's bringing along some of his most celebrated images like "Ghost" and "One" and will share the stories behind them and more.
Peter will also be presented with PPA's Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been a PPA photographer for nearly 10 years and is a fervent advocate for the association and its membership. Peter's accomplishments in the industry speak for themselves, and you'd think he has nothing to prove, yet he continues to enter the International Photographic Competition (IPC). One of his images made it into this year's Loan Collection.
Peter earned his master of photography (M.Photog.) degree from PPA in 2010. The degree warded for superior photographic skills--demonstrated through obtaining merits through the IPC, and by advanced education, speaking engagements and service to the industry.
A native of Melbourne, Australia, Peter has photographed the American landscape since he first arrived in the U.S. in 1984. Fifty thousand miles and 1,000 rolls of film later, he has now photographed landscapes in all 50 states. Highlights of this American odyssey can be found in his book, "Spirit of America."
Throughout his career, Peter has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of his artwork (again, not an exaggeration). Two of his iconic images, "Ghost" and "Inner Peace," were exhibited in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Peter also has 13 galleries of his own and counts presidents of countries and big celebrities among his many collectors. His aforementioned Weather Channel show has made Peter Lik a household name.
Want a preview? Go behind the scenes with Peter in New York City and the Pacific Northwest. In fact, you might just want to watch everything on his YouTube channel. And be sure to follow Peter Lik on Facebook and Twitter and check out his website.
Lik's keynote presentation at Imaging USA 2015 will be Monday, Feb. 2, 8-9 p.m. The program is open to anyone with an Imaging USA badge, including all-access and expo-only passes. Trust us, a program from a guy with this much talent, passion and energy is one you don't want to miss. It's first-come, first-served so you will probably want to get there early! And don't forget, you have to register for Imaging USA and come out to Nashville to see him.
Want to be more? Be there.
After all, how far are you willing to go for the perfect shot?
By Mariah Ashley
When my daughter was two and having a bad day because she was asked to eat her vegetables, told it was time to go to bed or scolded for coloring on the kitchen wall, she didn't get sad and cry. Instead she got mad. She'd clench her fists and grit her little Chiclet teeth. Looking up at from me from behind her bowl cut she'd snarl, "You're the one what did it! You're the one what made me sad!" It was hilarious and disturbing all at the same time. She's twelve now. We're still working on it. But that's another story.
The story I want to tell today is a cautionary tale of how NOT to be The One What Did It, The One What Made Your Clients Sad, because it's always a good day when you aren't ruining your clients wedding. I've had cause to ponder this question lately as I've helplessly watched a few fellow wedding vendors wreaking havoc on my clients.
Take the case of the overly dramatic/distracted justice of the peace. I've been working with Fred the JP for years and without fail, I hear him before I see him. Fred shouts my name when he sees me regardless of the distance between us, the setting we are in, or the inappropriateness of shouting at a wedding. Fred also stands right behind me and breathes what's left of his lunch at the back of my neck. He likes to make small talk during the ceremony processional, which is of course a causal moment where we both have free time and no job to do. I awkwardly bob my head to avoid being rude to Fred while trying to nail my shot of the bride and her father coming down the aisle toward their bobble-headed photographer.
A few weeks ago I worked with Fred again. It was status quo; shouting across the lawn, small talk and bobble-heading. But wait, this day had a twist! Moments before the ceremony, Fred beckoned me to photograph the signing of the marriage license. The mother of the groom was about to sign as the first witness. Fred as chatty as ever, hurriedly explained to her to "sign here" and "print here" and then waived his finger over the area for her signature. He turned to me and continued his blah-blah-ing, leaving her to her own devices. You can see where this is going. Yes, she signed in the wrong spot.
"Oh no! Oh my! I've signed in the wrong spot!" she gasped, squinting at the document.
"What?!" he shouted, jerking his attention from me back to her.
"What do we do now?" she asked.
"Nothing, now! It's not like I have another copy!"
That's when the groom walked over.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Well your mother has just ruined this legal document by signing on the wrong line. It's invalid and you can't be legally married without it."
The groom's face drained of all color. The groom's mother started ringing her hands and apologizing.
"I love you mom but I can't look at you or talk to you right now." said the dismayed groom.
The wedding planner was the next on the scene of the disaster.
"What's going on?" she asked. "I heard raised voices."
"I'll tell you what's going on, this is all garbage," announced Fred brandishing the ruined document and waiving his hand over the lawn indicating that the $100K wedding was now trash.
"Don't say that!" said the horrified wedding planner coming to the defense of the stricken groom. "You cannot tell my clients that their beautiful wedding is garbage!"
"Can you believe these people Mariah?!" asked Fred a few moments later behind the backs of the wedding planner and the nauseous groom. I just bobbled my head and walked away but what I wanted to do was clench my fists and grit my Chiclets and snarl. "Fred! You're the one what did it! You're the one what made them sad!"
A New Era for Credit Card Processing Rates and a Reality for PPA Photographers
Buckle up for some big news everyone: PPA has joined forces with Bank of America to offer what is potentially your most money-saving benefit yet. Get ready to be even more profitable!
This new benefit means massively discounted rates on credit card processing for all PPA photographers. If you sell prints online, accept credit card payments at your studio or process mobile transactions, this could mean huge, tangible, cost-of-doing-business savings.
Now, you're probably thinking, Sounds good, but how does it save me money?
Here's the breakdown: PPA is able to offer these deeply discounted rates because we use Bank of America (BOA) Merchant Services too! Like, a lot (several thousand transactions each month). Since there are 27,000+ PPA photographers and most of you renew each year, Bank of America agreed to extend our volume discount to all of you.
That's right, this means that PPA photographers will be able to get the same low credit card transaction processing rate that's normally reserved to very-large size businesses! That's the benefit you reap from belonging to the world's largest photography nonprofit!
That incredibly low rate should help you save a good bit by reducing the so-called interchange fees you end up paying anytime you use a credit card processing service. These are the pesky fees you pay to a bank when you accept a credit card payment.
Bank of America's reduced pricing for PPA photographers puts your interchange rate (if you make the switch ;-) at a crazy low 0.07 percent with a flat hard-to-beat $0.07 per transaction fee. It's easy to do the math and figure out you've got big savings headed your way.
At the end of the day, photographers always end up eating the cost of these pesky fees. With that in mind, and to give you an example of just how much cash savings this can represent, we asked two PPA photographers to send us a month's credit card processing statement with their current service provider. Kelly Sullivan, the point of contact for all PPA-related business at Bank of America, then plugged the numbers in and the comparative results blew us away.
The first photographer's previous merchant charged a converted interchange rate of 0.73%. With the new PPA discounted rate of 0.07% (see the difference?), that studio shaves off about $2,500 per year in credit card processing fees. That alone would pay for your PPA membership for the next 7 consecutive years! (or some new gear, I know, I know...)
"This first studio is on tiered pricing for their credit card transaction fees and their pricing structure is interchange plus, so the savings is going to be approximate and not exact. With that said, our [BOA] pricing model is showing that if this studio was on the new PPA program, they would save $2,500 per year (based on their current credit card transaction volume). For this PPA member, that amount represents 3 months of free credit card processing services!"
The second PPA photographer would save even more: $3,000!
"This Square* user would save about $3,000 per year with the new PPA discount. Since Square charges 2.75% for all card types, no matter what interchange level they fall to, BOA's discount will represent significant savings to any photography studio that uses Square. To give you an idea, the wholesale cost of a regulated debit card is 0.05% and $0.22 per transaction. Since PPA's preferred pricing is interchange plus 0.07% and $0.07, we would charge 0.12% and $0.29 on this same transaction. Take, for example, an average sale of $500. With Square, that would cost $13.75 (or 2.75%). With the BOA PPA discount, the photographer would only play $0.89 on that same transaction. That's a difference of $12.86 on this one example alone!"
[* - For those unfamiliar, Square is a popular, easy-to-use credit card processor, but they charge a very high 2.75% processing rate.]
These aren't shrug-your-shoulder savings, this is big time. We hope you'll consider learning more about the program and checking out how much money you could save. Kelly Sullivan at Bank of America is offering free statement comparisons. That 0.07 rate plus $0.07 per transaction is so hard to beat; they will most likely save you a large about of cash each month.
Connect with Kelly at BOA at (678) 540-7558 or email@example.com
Be more business savvy!
And if all that sounds too good to be true, ask your credit card company to match that rate and see what they say. Trust us, it's not. It's your newest PPA member benefit. We've told you before and we won't stop: PPA has your back.
It all started on Feb. 4, 2005, when Maddux Achilles Haggard was born with a condition called myotubular myopathy. He couldn't breathe, swallow or move on his own. On his sixth day, his parents, Mike and Cheryl, made the decision to take him off life support. But first, they asked photographer, and then PPA board member, Sandy Puc', to take black-and-white portraits of them with their son before and after they took him off life support.
Four months later, Puc' received a call from a client's sister who was having a baby under similar circumstances. However in this instance, the hospital didn't tell the family their baby wasn't going to make it. Puc' talked with Cheryl Haggard afterword and expressed her guilt that she wasn't able to give this family her best and most professional images because the family wasn't told. It turned out that Haggard too felt guilt--that she had these professional images and other families had a Polaroid or cell phone image at best.
And it clicked--they decided to turn grief into passion and love and formed Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS), named after the children's bedtime prayer. Within six months the PPA affiliate had over 2,000 volunteers. Now as it approaches its tenth year, NILMDTS annually serves tens of thousands of families, providing over $5 million in services per year. What started as a grassroots movement in Colorado now reaches every state in the U.S. and is present in 42 countries worldwide.
At first weary that the photographers were taking advantage of grieving parents, hospitals now refer to NILMDTS volunteers as "the angels" because of the work they provide. Staff at partnered hospitals is trained to mention NILDMTS if a situation arises where the infant isn't expected to survive, and in other cases, the families themselves will reach out. According to co-founder, Sandy Puc', 60 percent of requests come from hospitals while the other 40 come directly from the families. The work is done completely on a volunteer basis.
"Our photographers pack their bags and go to the hospitals for free," said Puc'. "They don't promote their own business--they represent the organization. There's no money exchanged, but the value to these families and the world is tremendous."
As the organization has grown, NILMDTS has become a recognized part of the grieving process.
"These families go to the hospital super excited with a diaper bag and painted nursery back home, and they leave with "how to grieve" literature--that's it," said Puc'. "They don't know how to prepare or how to grieve."
You can see it now can't you? You're up on stage in the lights. Dozens to hundreds of photographers stare up at you, wide-eyed with their pen to paper. You move one to tears. Another gives you a hug after your program.
Well quit dreaming and make it happen!
If you've got something to share with your fellow photographers, PPA is looking for speakers for Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta! And why not you?
If you are a professional photographer that likes spreading the wisdom you've accumulated over the years in the trenches, we'd love to hear from you.
Imaging USA is one of the largest photography events of the year. You will speak to a crowd that genuinely wants new ideas and has a desire to learn all about the latest in the photography world. Think of this as a chance to gain exposure for yourself and to contribute your voice to an industry in need of your passion.
Some of the biggest names in photography speak each year at Imaging USA and yours could be among them. The Über-successful Allison Tyler Jones, CPP, of Allison Tyler Jones Photography in Mesa, Arizona, will return to Imaging USA to share her business knowledge. What's her motivation to give back?
"I wanted to cut through the typical hype of the one-size-fits-all promises of 'quick and easy tips to instant success,'" she said. "I want everyone who attends my lecture to leave with their heads bursting with ideas on how they can make their business better in their own, unique way."
So... think you have something to offer your fellow photographer? Do you have a passion to give back?
As an organization that's constantly working to raise the bar in the photographic industry, PPA wants to work with speakers who also embrace and project this image. If you are interested in speaking, please submit your application to ImagingUSA.org/Speaker-Application by Friday, October 3, 2014, 6 p.m. ET. Submissions will be reviewed by the speaker selection committee, with selections made in December.
Imaging USA 2016 will be held Jan. 10-12, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Mariah AshleyEverything was going wrong. The groom was throwing up and the bride was taking it very personally. "He's going to go through with it isn't he?" she nervously asked the wedding planner.
Read the official statement in full below:
Professional Photographers of America and Other Photographic Associations Settle Litigation With Google
Agreement ends four years of litigation over the inclusion of visual works in Google Books
NEW YORK, NY - Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and a group of photographers, visual artists and affiliated associations have reached a settlement with Google in a lawsuit over copyrighted material in Google Books. The parties are pleased to have reached a settlement that benefits everyone and includes funding for the PLUS Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping rights holders and users communicate clearly and efficiently about rights in works. Further terms of the agreement are confidential.
The agreement resolves a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google in April, 2010, bringing to an end more than four years of litigation. It does not involve any admission of liability by Google. As the settlement is between the parties to the litigation, the court is not required to approve its terms. This settlement does not affect Google's current litigation with the Authors Guild or otherwise address the underlying questions in that suit.
The plaintiffs in the case are rights holder associations and individual visual artists. The associational plaintiffs are The American Society of Media Photographers, Inc., Graphic Artists Guild, PACA (Digital Media Licensing Association)., North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, National Press Photographers Association, and American Photographic Artists. The individual plaintiffs are Leif Skoogfors, Al Satterwhite, Morton Beebe, Ed Kashi, John Schmelzer, Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Taback Living Trust, Leland Bobbé, John Francis Ficara, and David W. Moser.
The case is American Society of Media Photographers, Inc. et al. v. Google Inc., Case No. 10-CV-02977 (DC) pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
About Google Inc. and Associational Parties
Google is a global technology leader focused on improving the ways people connect with information. Google's innovations in web search and advertising have made its website a top Internet property and its brand one of the most recognized in the world.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) represents more than 27,000 photographers and photographic artists from dozens of specialty areas including portrait, wedding, commercial, advertising and art.
Founded in 1944, The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) is the premier trade association for the world's most respected photographers.
The Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) is a national union of graphic artists dedicated to promoting and protecting the social, economic and professional interests of its members and for all graphic artists including, animators, cartoonists, designers, illustrators, and digital artists.
PACA (Digital Media Licensing Association) is a trade association established in 1951 whose members include more than 80 companies representing the world of digital content licensing.
NANPA, the North American Nature Photography Association, is the first and premiere association in North America committed solely to serving the field of nature photography.
Founded in 1946 the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is the "voice of visual journalists" promoting and defending the rights of photographers and journalists, including freedom of the press in all its forms.
The American Photographic Artists (APA) is a leading national organization run by and for professional photographers.
Google is a trademark of Google Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.
Here's your top 10 blog round-up for the first week of September. HOW IS IT ALREADY SEPTEMBER?! With all due respect to fall, we just aren't ready. So here are some summery posts from the week that was. OK fine, there really isn't a summer theme to them. Whatever. Just enjoy!
FUN: Let's start this thing off with a bang. If you photograph newborns, chances are you've had an... incident. Or dare we say two? Al Ferguson knows a thing or two about that. But seriously, all poo jokes aside, here's a dad getting pooped on. Viewer beware: THERE'S POOP!
SAFETY: Drones are all the rage these days, as questions over their legality continue. But are they any match for a sheep? If you're of the belief that drones are invasive, you're on team sheep. Check the video to find out.
HISTORY: In 1935, heralded photographer Roman Vishniac, a Russian-born Jew, journeyed through Eastern Europe to photograph impoverished Jewish communities. Thanks to a joint effort, Vishniac's extensive work is now available to the public, and ready for some crowd-sourced historical detective work to help restore some family histories.
TRESPASSING: wYou might have read our previous at-length blog posts about how you should avoid using railroads as backdrops. But for one Nebraska volleyball team, the urge was too strong and they wound up halting train traffic for 40 minutes! Seriously guys, stay off live tracks!
LEGAL: Here we go again... more copyright infringement! This time the issue at hand is the "Bing Image Widget", which allows website publishers to embed digital photographers on their sites. Take a look at the suit and see what you think--infringement or not?
PROFILE: We probably had you at the title with this one. When the Corcoran Group real estate needed a photographer for their Live Who You Are campaign, they turned to Leibovitz to show that home is more than just a place where you live. Take a look!
THRILL: Sure, you've seen and done it all, right? Well, have you done some good ol' storm chasin' and photographed yourself a tornado? Didn't think so. Now you can, with Silver Lining Tours. Read up!
ONLINE MARKETING: Finally! Check out this interview with Aaron Hockley, creator of wp-photographers.com, a blog dedicated to helping photographers understand and manage WordPress.
INSPIRATION: Have you heard of the Rifleman's Creed? Well, PetaPixel took a stab at modifying it to fit photographers. What do you think?
TRAVEL: Well-known Icelandic photographer Iurie Belegurschi captured what most of us will never get to see in our lifetimes--a real, live volcanic eruption. Iurie luckily had some air support when Bardarbunga (awesome, awesome name) erupted, but man does that look awesome! Check out these completely rad photos (brace yourselves for the last one) of the eruption from the Ninja Turtle volcano (our nickname, no stealsies). Iurie actually gives photographic tours of Iceland's beautiful countryside, you can check them out on his website and head on out there quick while it's still active!
Aaaand boom goes the dynamite. There you have it! The top posts from around the interwebs. What sorts of photography blogs light up your idea bulb? Let us know on theLoop!
By Mariah Ashley
"If only you could pick your family as easily as you pick your nose. You could fix every issue with a flick of your tissue." - Mariah Ashley
Nancy came in to give us all the details of her wedding a few months before the event. Generally brides are pretty pumped at these meetings and tell us to-the-minute details down to the music the jazz trio is playing for the processional. Irrelevant yes, but we smile and "Oooh " and "Aaah" as any good wedding vendors should.
Not Nancy. Nancy had nothing exciting to report. No extraneous details to share. Nancy was strangely quiet, even hostile. Nancy was negative. "I'm just not your typical bride. I'm not excited about all this wedding stuff. I'm pretty sure the wedding is going to be kind of a mess. I'll just be glad when this is all over!" blurted Nancy.
O...K...? Awkward! We sat there a little stunned and wondered, why on earth would you go through the trouble of planning and paying for a wedding when you have an attitude like that?
Spoiler Alert! Nancy ends up as one of our top three clients of the year. The reluctant bride with a small budget wedding spends $11K and counting on her wedding photographs. Seriously, we need to add some more products because we have run out of things for her to buy.
So what happened between Nancy hating on her own wedding and spending gobs of money on photographs after?
Have you seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine? There's a great scene where Dwayne (the teenage son) gets some upsetting news while on a family road trip. He totally loses it in the back of a VW bus and his step dad has to pull over to the side of the road so Dwayne can have a nutty. Dwayne's mom says, "For better or for worse, we're your family." Too which Dwayne eloquently relies, "No you're not my family okay? I don't want to be your family. I hate you f*#%ing people. I hate you! Divorce? Bankrupt? Suicide? You're f*#%ing losers! You are losers!
The bad news Dwayne receives is his tipping point. He just can't take another second of his family's dysfunctional BS. Nancy and Dwayne are one in the same.
After Nancy's nutty she opened up a little about her own family situation. Divorce, remarriage, tense relationships, absentee parent, etc. Poor kid, no wonder. Her negativity was her defense mechanism. Nancy was setting her expectations REALLY low so as not to be disappointed by her family... again.
Like Nancy, most of our clients think they are the only ones with a crazy family, but the reality is dysfunctional is the new normal. Are you with me? Trust me, I know a thing or two about this. I am completely reduced to my teenage self whenever I am around my family for too long.
Here's a secret about me that only Trish and my husband (and now you) know... my fifteen-year-old self ran away from home three times. The third time was the charm though; I got to spend the night in jail. I had a metal bunk and a non-private privvy. The temperature in the slammer was about 50 degrees and my jailers had confiscated my shoes. I lay there shivering and learning my lesson which was the intention of the coppers after all. I didn't run away again because I realized for better or for worse my family was my family and I really do prefer my bathroom to have walls. But back to Nancy...
I'm happy to report that on the wedding day everyone was on their best behavior. Yes, tension and resentment crashed the party but so did regret and tenderness and we chose to focus on the latter. We got a beautiful photograph of Nancy's mom tenderly helping her get ready, fastening family pearls around her neck. We also got a beautiful shot of Nancy and her father dancing, tears of regret streaming down his cheeks.
I heard an interview on the radio that got me thinking about how Nancy had gone from reluctant bride to becoming one of our top clients. Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton authors of Happy Money explained that people are happy to spend their money and happy even long after the purchase when their money is spent on an experience such as a vacation. The part that I found interesting was that photographs play a huge part in enhancing the remembered experience of the vacation and reinforcing the positive feelings about the decision to spend the money. Because you can re-live your memories over and over again through your vacation photos, the memories of the trip often become even sweeter than the actual moments that were experienced. The camera only focuses on the smiles and sunsets and not the hassles and petty squabbles that go along with any trip, so that is what is remembered.
At the end of Little Miss Sunshine, perhaps the most dysfunctional family road trip of all time, the characters end up dancing together in a scene that will make you so uncomfortable you squirm, and laughing so hard you'll cry. That's pretty much what happened at the end of Nancy's wedding too. Everyone was on the dance floor in one big, crazy-flawed, fun-loving family pile dancing their butts off.
A Roman philosopher said of nostalgia, "Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember." Because we hyper-focused on finding the tender and loving moments behind the bitterness at Nancy's wedding we were able to exceed her expectations and show her something that she may not have been able to see herself but probably felt that day. Although her family is dysfunctional for better or worse they are hers and they undoubtedly love her. What Nancy needed was a vehicle for her nostalgia. She needed a way to look back on the day that had caused her so much grief to plan with fondness and no regret for the money they had spent. Because the photographs reflect a beautiful bride, a couple in love, and a supportive family (with stellar dance moves) Nancy upgraded her album, bought three parent albums and framing for walls.
We've all had wedding clients with family tensions so thick that we want to run and hide. It's easy and natural to want to throw your hands in the air and say, "There's nothing to be done for these people their f*#%ing losers!" Before you do that though, remember that you might just be throwing your future best client out the window. Dig a little deeper, remember your own whacked out family, and see if there isn't a little crack of tenderness to expose in the wall of dysfunction.
Georgia photographer, Judith Ann, was lucky (and talented!) enough to earn a merit on her first time entering PPA photographic competition. In this guest blog, she shares the funny story behind her merit image and an afterword with her thoughts following the International Photographic Competition (IPC).
Dog Gone, I Received a
By Judith Ann
A lack of communication and poor note taking almost cost me a very important session last year. I'll tell you upfront, the good news is everything turned out better than planned. Pardon the puns, but it caused me to dig deeper into my artsy side when I realized I had been barking up the wrong tree for most of my morning.
The day started off like a typical morning at my studio, beginning with a review of appointments, ordering sessions and events to help my day flow smoothly for the next eight hours. I have always prided myself on my ability to plan and custom fit each client's session based on their requests. This particular time, my daily calendar informed me I had a pet session scheduled for 10 a.m. My assistant had booked the appointment the day before and the details were sparse. So bright and early I got my chain rattled and had to react quickly to this situation.
The notes said, "English Bulldog/pet picture" and being comfortable with dogs I believed for a hot minute that this would be an easy session--that is until I got up from the computer and started walking to my shoot room. My assistant appeared suddenly and filled in the details about my soon-to-arrive client. The client recently added a "man room" to her home--thus the need for the bulldog portrait for the wall.
"Really?" I asked excitedly. Then she said the portrait was to be based upon the poker playing dogs. I stopped walking.
"Huh? What are poker playing dogs?"
My assistant gave me the look that only the younger generation can give as if to You gotta be kidding me! Have you been living in the dark ages! "Like, they're everywhere" she said, "I'll show you."
I must have had the dumbest look on my face realizing I was totally unprepared for this session while I stared into a computer screen to see bulldogs playing cards, smoking cigars and looking generally illegal.
"How old is her dog?" I asked.
"I believe it's a puppy."
What da' what?
Soon after I heard a car door close and a barking dog headed my way--my moment of truth had arrived. The only thing I had going for me was the fact that this client was a regular customer who trusted me with her family portraits for years, at least up until this point. The studio door cracked opened and the tip of a furry nose nuzzled through and the wrinkly bulldog puppy came barking, jumping and running straight into my lobby.
I stood there dazed and confused and in my squirreliest voice said, "Hi Jennifer!"
Jennifer gave me a curious smile and said, "What's up?"
"I just realized I don't have a deck of cards," I said. "Would you mind leaving your puppy with me and running over to the store to get a pack while I get the lights set?"
Ha! lights set? How about trying to pull off the fastest-built set in 15 minutes flat?
She agreed and when I heard her car start up I sprang into action. The puppy was left to run around the lobby while I began to think...
My son-in-law was in the studio the day prior drinking the brown, old-fashioned root beer glass bottles. I dug through my trash and apprehended two bottles from the bottom of the garbage can. Yes! Close enough to a beer bottle and now I need a cigar and I think I have one from the proud parent of a baby boy! I hope this pup won't eat my only cigar!
Some further hunting around the studio produced an antique checker board with chips, an old camera and a quick hand dive into my purse brought up some change and dollar bills to hopefully round out the set. We cleared off a side table from the lobby, moved it into the shoot room and carefully arranged the newfound items. Jennifer returned with the fresh deck of cards and it was time to put our puppy to the test.
We placed our furry little friend on the table and he curiously looked left, right, up and down and in a split second scooped the cigar into his mouth and brought his head up into the cutest pose. Click. The image was captured in the blink of a (puppy's) eye!
(Side note: The puppy was not harmed in any way in the capturing of this image. As a matter of fact he enjoyed all the attention. The cigar was not lit--we created the smoke and red ash in post-processing.)
My assistant and I discussed better communication techniques through more detailed note taking and a big HEADS UP on unique session requests. As a bonus, we have had several clients request that particular image as artwork for their home.
In this, my first year of PPA image competition, I included "Hold 'Em Ace," and was pleased to earn a merit seal at my state (Georgia PPA) and district (Southeast) competitions I'm excited to hear the results from the IPC! My fingers are crossed on being chosen for the Loan Collection.
It's official! I've come full circle in completing my first year of competition. I entered the same four images from start to finish (GPPA>SEPPA>IPC) and am excited to say that three of the four images merited! After I received my judge's critiques from the GPPA/SEPPA level, I made some adjustments on three of my four images. "Hold 'Em Ace" had already sealed and I was told you NEVER break the seal once you merit.
My judge's critiques helped me see her perspective on how I could improve my images and I was mostly happy to make the suggested changes. I have to admit I did take a little offense on my critique of "Bonny Boy." The judge made mention on my child's sausage fingers on the bike handle, I took it personally because, to me most children have little sausage fingers. After growling about the comment for several days, I took another look at those baby sausage fingers and began to see why the judge had pointed them out.
I agreed that maybe they were standing out more than they should, so I took my burn tool and ever so slightly browned those little sausages. My images went from being what I considered really good prints to great images with just a few small changes. As a suggestion, don't take the judges' comments to heart--they are there to help you become an even better photographer.
I was glad I took the time to compete and successfully survived entering into a whole new world. I bet you have already guessed about how I feel about next year, that's right, I'm thinking about conjuring up brand-new ideas that will hopefully earn more merits. It's a win, win situation that will benefit my clients. My final thought is that being able to resource a judge with years of experience, compete with your fellow photographer peers in the industry is bringing me closer to my goal: award-winning photographer, Judith Ann, M.Photog. (master photographer).