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Written by guest blogger, Danielle Brooks

It has only been 34 days since Imaging USA and already my business looks completely different. 

I knew going to Phoenix would radically change my business, I just didn't know how. I hate change, but I know it represents progress. My last article addressed the fact that Imaging gave me whiplash. Now that the pain has subsided, what would my next steps be? I decided to focus on what my business needed most: print products. 

While at Imaging, my main goal was to find a print lab to offer products to my clients. When you start out as a photographer, no one gives you a road map. No one sits down with you and says, "Here's a great print lab. You should start offering these products to clients at this percentage of markup in order to make a profit." And truth be told, even if they did, it would only be a jumping-off point. Only I can know what my market will bear in terms of pricing. So the thought of finding a lab, selecting my products and figuring out markup was a little stressful. 

I visited every single lab that had a booth at Imaging. White House Custom Color met my needs completely. I know everyone has a lab that they advocate for and WHCC is mine. Their representatives in the booth were so helpful and friendly. I appreciated that when I asked a seemingly basic question, they didn't look at me like I was stupid. They answered them in the best way possible. Making sure I had a grasp on their products and how to offer them to clients. This was such a huge help to me as a beginner. 

Next on the list was finding a way to showcase my products to clients and whether or not I wanted to do an in-person ordering session. Since I do not have a studio, I have decided to offer online purchasing. I know many of you will say I'm leaving money on the table, but for me, right now, it works. I would love to do in-person ordering, but you have to start somewhere. 

So at Imaging, I stopped by the Shoot Proof booth. They offer a great option for online ordering. I can select from their partner labs, or add my own and self-fulfill. Their interface is super easy to navigate. I can literally select products I offer, and then add the price I offer them for. 

Another big change to my business is partnering with other businesses. At Imaging I was challenged to look for ways to make connections that would help word of mouth. About a week after the conference, I visited my husband at work and as I was leaving, I noticed a gymnastics place across the way. I went home and thought about ways I might be able to partner with them. Here was a business that caters to children, and their parents are waiting in the lobby for an hour or more a week. What better way to get my name out there as a family photographer than to put my materials in their lobby?

I quickly found their website and Facebook and noticed that they had a crazy amount of photos, but none of them were particularly good. The next week I was able to schedule a meeting with the owner. I explained to her that I was a new photographer to the area and wanted to get my name out there. I told her I would be willing to photograph an event for free in exchange for letting me leave some information in their lobby. Some might frown on the idea of giving away photos, but let me tell you it has come back to me tenfold. 

After the event, she posted some of the photos, and she immediately told me she had parents wanting to buy proofs. She also wanted to know if I could do team photos and sports photos of all the kids. What a HUGE opportunity! It will be so easy for me to talk to the parents about a family session while I'm photographing their kids. If there is ever a way to invest in your community, do it. The results might surprise you.

As things stand now, I am not generating enough consistent business to leave my "day job" but I'm hoping that by planting the seeds now, I will reap a harvest in the future. This year holds so many possibilities and I'm glad I started 2014 off right by attending Imaging USA. I cannot wait to see where my business will be this time next year. 

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Written by guest blogger Danielle Brooks 

Imaging USA gave me whiplash. 

Have you ever been in a car accident and experienced whiplash? It serves as a constant reminder of the event that caused the discomfort. Whiplash is defined as a type of motion that strains muscles of the neck beyond their normal range of motion. 

Yeah, I have Imaging USA whiplash. 

I was stretched beyond my normal range of motion mentally and emotionally. Let me explain: Attending IUSA is one of the best things I've ever done for my business and myself. So this whiplash, while uncomfortable, isn't a bad thing. It reminds me that I went through an incredible growing experience, and it drives me to be more.  

IUSA goes by in a blur. You are going a thousand miles a minute for three days and then it's over, and you're left wondering, What just happened? It can be hard to figure out what steps you need to take next. 

The greatest lesson I learned while I was in Phoenix was to be confident. I don't want to give you the impression that I am suddenly the most confident person because I'm not, especially when it comes to my work. But how am I supposed to sell myself to others, when I'm not confident in the product I'm selling? My first lesson in confidence came from my mentor, Paul Skipworth. 


In a short 72 hours Imaging USA will kick off with 10,000 of your closest pro-photographer friends! How can you get in on the conversation and connect with other attendees? Let us count the ways...

#IUSA14: This is our official hashtag! Use it to tag all of your content across all of your social media! We'll be sharing your stuff as the show goes on, because who better to tell the story than you, the attendees?

Facebook: Like Imaging USA on Facebook to see behind the scenes content, share your own images and stories from the event! This content will also be broadcast on the various Social Monitors around the Expo and registration. We will be closely monitoring Facebook during show hours, so if you have questions and can't find an Imaging USA orange shirt, feel free to send us a message and we'll respond ASAP! Remember to check in to Imaging USA from Facebook places! 

Twitter: We'll be live tweeting the whole show! Tips, tricks, announcements and more - follow @imagingusa or our official hashtag (#IUSA14) to get all the great access. This information will also be broadcast on our Social Monitors - the more you tweet, the more famous you'll be! If you can't find an orange shirt and have a question, feel free to tweet it at us too! We'll do our best to keep responses under 140 characters.

Instagram: It's a photography conference, so you better believe we're on Instagram, snapping photos! Same rules apply from Twitter - follow us @imagingusa or #IUSA14 to get photos from command central, the parties and maybe a few candid shots with Kenny Rogers!

FourSquare: Want to be the Mayor of Imaging USA? Check in on FourSquare! Connect with other attendees and find neighborhood deals for lunch, dinner or post-show fun!

theLoop: Join in on the conversation on the Imaging USA community on theLoop! Find last minute roommates, friends or session buddies. 

The Imaging USA App: Head to Imagingusa.org/app to download the app. Once you've registered for the conference, you should receive an email from Imaging USA 2014 with your login credentials--these are different from your standard PPA information. If you can't find it, just call our Member Care line at 800-786-6277 and they'll get you sorted out. Log in, create a profile and start searching for members with similar interests! Send messages, schedule meet ups, and connect face to face! (Check out our handy app videos to get all the details!) (LINK)

So there you have it! We can't wait to see how you experience Imaging USA 2014! Get packing & we'll see you in Phoenix!

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Written by guest blogger Danielle Brooks

Last night my husband, Rich, and I were lying around reading when he suddenly asked, "Do you know what you're wearing?" 

"To what?" I replied.

"To Imaging USA. It's less than 10 days away now. Do you know what the weather will be like? How about what classes you're going to take? Do you have a plan for the expo floor?"

"Well I have a general idea but I want to be open."

"If you want to make the most of your time there, you've got to figure these things out, Danielle." 

Crap. I knew my husband was right. The time had come to make some definitive decisions. I have been so caught up in the holidays and business that I haven't stopped to plan my course of action, let alone pack. I needed to decide on what to wear, courses to take, and what my plan for the expo floor was going to be.

Last time, I came to the conclusion I needed to take courses related to lighting and posing. But how will I choose when a lighting or posing class is offered at the same time? What about clothing? Will this Florida girl need to bring a coat? I immediately put down my book and did a quick search for "weather in Phoenix." I found that Phoenix is bipolar in that it will be in the 70s during the day, but low 40s at night. How am I to dress for that? 

One of my biggest dilemmas in preparing for IUSA was deciding what to wear. I want to be fashionable, yet comfortable. Professional, but not over dressed. And any outfit I pack needs to be potentially ready for a night on the town with new friends. 

With those guidelines there is a very slim margin of clothes I can bring. I settled on a nice pair of jeans, several three-quarter length sleeved polo shirts, and of course my IUSA15 shirt. I can wear my jeans more than once, and the shirts will help keep me warm in a potentially chilly expo center, yet cool enough to be out and about in Phoenix during the day. Of course tennis shoes are a must. 

But what about the parties? Do people dress up for those? I decided I would make time after I tour the expo floor to go back to my hotel room to change into something a little more fancy. This would allow me to regroup and write down any thoughts about the day. Since it will be cooling off in the evening, I'm packing a nice coat to go along with my outfit. 

Now that my clothes were packed, I started making a game plan for the classes I wanted to take. I methodically went down the list of classes with my husband and decided which ones would be the most beneficial. If two classes I want to take are offered at the same time I checked to see if similar class is being offered at another time. That way I could have the best of both worlds. I seriously love the Imaging USA app. If you don't have it, do yourself a favor and download it. You won't regret your decision. I love that you can star which vendors are a must see and it highlights where they are on the expo floor. You can also select your classes and it will show up on a calendar so you don't loose track of where you're supposed to be. 

Last on the list was planning my strategy for the expo floor. I came up with a list of items I will need going into the New Year. My focus will be on packaging and offering print products to my clients. I was able to use my IUSA app to star the companies that I was interested in learning more about. My first day at the expo will be spent focusing on my needs. That way, I can enjoy focusing on my wants later in the week. I was also able to sign up for the IUSA Alumni Program. They pair off newbies, like myself, with veterans of IUSA. I was paired up with an Imaging USA veteran who will be able to walk with me through the expo floor on my first day. I'm sure he will have a bunch of great tips for talking with vendors to get the best deals. 

Now that most of my plans are set, all I have to do is wait to put them in motion. What's your IUSA plan? If you have any tips or tricks for me, please feel free to share in the comments! Until then, IUSA here we come!

When you think of Kenny Rogers, chances are you think of his long and impressive career as
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a country musician. But did you know that Kenny is also an accomplished photographer? In fact, he'll be at Imaging USA in Phoenix this January to host a Q&A about his work as a photographer and to receive an Honorary Master of Photography degree!

On January 14, Kenny's "Places I've Been, Things I've Seen" Q&A will be held from 5 to 6 pm (you just need an expo pass, which you can get for free here, or your full conference badge). Kenny Rogers will share some of his favorite images as well as take your questions about his work during this exclusive session. If you want to read more about his photography, check out the "Kenny Rogers Storymaker: The Entertainer Earns Acclaim for his Images" feature story from the December 2013 issue of Professional Photographer magazine. 

Kenny brings a lot of passion for photography, so you won't want to miss his special guest presentation! Plus a lot of his work will be on display for our viewing pleasure.

Along with this memorable Q&A, there are other special events happening at Imaging USA you won't want to miss! After long days of learning and product browsing, the opening and closing parties are there for you to celebrate with your fellow photographers. You'll also have opportunities to receive critiques on your work and mentoring from successful pros with PPAedu Business Mentors and the Coach's Corner, AND you can view ALL the Loan Collection images from PPA's International Photographic Competition and the World Photographic Cup Images at the International Photographic Exhibit. 

Two more places you'll also want to be at: (1) the Grand Imaging Awards, where the top images from the International Photographic Competition will be announced, and (2) the Award & Degree Ceremony, where we'll honor professional photography and the individuals who set themselves apart in the industry by earning PPA degrees and awards. There are even special events just for Certified Professional Photographers and new PPA members! Find all the details for these events on the Imaging USA Event Highlights page. 

Of course, these special events at Imaging USA are just part of the overall conference. There's also the full line up of photography courses to help your business and your craft, and the Imaging Expo (that's the trade show), where you'll be able to check out, touch and demo all the latest photography products! 

It's all included with an Imaging USA full-access pass. So, register for Imaging USA now! If you register by December 31, you'll also be entered to win an all-expense paid trip to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville, TN. See you in Phoenix! 

Read more about Imaging USA:


Image © Jay Fletcher
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Written by guest blogger and Imaging USA first-timer, Danielle Brooks.

Every August when kids go back to school I get jealous. 

I used to love getting new pens, binders, notepads and best of all, having new classes. I loved school. Every year in college, when a new course catalog would come out, I would spend the afternoon reading the course selections. I got so excited looking forward to what I could study the next semester. It's okay, I can admit I'm a total nerd. 

However, the same is true of Imaging USA. As soon as I signed up to go, I immediately got excited about the dozens of classes being offered. And who wouldn't be excited about this opportunity to learn? There are so many great teachers and classes that it is seriously difficult to choose from them all. How do you pick? And more importantly, if this is your first time to IUSA, where do you start? 

I first started planning my classes based on seniors. They are the number one market I want to break into, and I want to be able to market myself to them effectively. However, after the initial "course catalog high" wore off I really started to question if those courses would be the most beneficial to me at this stage in my business. 

When you are first starting out at IUSA it is probably best to analyze your skill set and plan your courses accordingly. For me, IUSA is about kicking my business into high gear. No more playing games and wasting time. I want to focus on my skills and make my photos the best they can be. 

I sat down and took a hard look at my photos and determined that I need to focus on lighting and posing. I need to learn how to really SEE light. I need to focus on how to look for it, how to use it, and how to control it. Posing clients can always be a struggle. I have ideas, but how do I effectively communicate them to my clients? How can I constantly create new poses without my work looking the same? How can I make my clients look less awkward? All of these questions need to be answered before I can really take my business to the next level. 

Learning how to market to seniors won't help me when it comes to posing or lighting. I can have the best marketing plan in the world, but if my clients' pictures are subpar, no amount of advertising will help. 

As a newbie to IUSA it is my initial defense mechanism to puff myself up and pretend to be a better photographer than I really am. When I was coming to terms with my skills, I would tell myself, "I don't need help with lighting and posing, that stuff is for beginners." 

But the reality is: I am a beginner. That was a hard pill to swallow. 

We all have to start somewhere, and after a tough conversation (with myself) about my wants versus my needs, the answer was crystal clear. I'll probably take a few classes aimed at marketing to seniors, but the majority of my time will be spent in posing and lighting. 

I don't want to roll in to IUSA prideful, giving off the impression I don't need help. It might make me feel good in the short term, but it's just a mask for my insecurities and it wouldn't be beneficial to me in the long run. The reality is that the people I look up to in the field were in my shoes at some point in their career. So I will be as humble as possible; accepting help any way it comes. Even if I am the worst photographer at IUSA, I know that I wont leave with the same skill set I came in with. After all, when you are surrounded by greatness the only place left to go is up.

So sit down and really analyze your work. What are your wants versus your needs? My advice would be the 75/25 principle. Take 75% of the classes you know you need, and take 25% of the classes that you want to just for fun! IUSA is more than just learning. Yes, improve your skills, make the most of your time there, but don't overlook opportunities to have fun! Take the chance to meet new people and get some sweet swag! You chose photography as a career for a reason. Reconnect with your passion and remember why you fell in love with your camera in the first place. 

And if you're a veteran of IUSA you should look into the Alumni Program. They will sign you up with a newbie such as myself. It gives us first timers a chance to ask any questions we may have for a more seasoned individual. You would also be able to help us navigate the tradeshow floor and make sure we know where to spot good deals. What better way is there to spend a couple of hours at IUSA than imparting your knowledge and wisdom to the next generation? 

We need and want your expertise. We are hungry for it. After all a wise man once said, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." 

Not to say that we are children, but you get the picture. 



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