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By Mariah Ashley

Thumbnail image for fireworks.jpgEverything 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.

"Um, yes? I mean yes, of course he is," said the wedding planner in a weak attempt to assuage her concerns.

I wasn't so sure. At the altar the pair stood in scared silence staring straight ahead at an indiscriminate spot on the wall while the ceremony swirled around them. I figured one of three things could happen; someone would throw up, someone would pass out or someone would turn and run the wrong way up the aisle to freedom.

I was wrong. Half way through the service the uncomfortable uncertainty fizzled and was replaced by a beaming new Mr. and Mrs. walking hand-in-hand up the aisle toward my lens.

The rest of the day unfolded in stops and starts without ever finding a flow. Eight hours is a long time to go with no flow. The weather was gloomy and the forecast threatened severe thunderstorms which put the planned fireworks display on hold. The parents of the bride were in a panic and the wedding planner was in a tizzy.

The bride struggled to hold her composure while her mother drove her completely bonkers. The groom struggled to regain some color in his face and keep down his dinner. Trish and I struggled to create romantic formals in the gloom, struggled with reception lighting in the oddly shaped reception room, and struggled not to miss any of the action as the band kept announcing toasts and dances without coordinating with their fellow vendors, namely us.

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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!

1). Sleeping Baby Bursts Into Action during First Photo Shoot

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!

2). Drone Versus Sheep

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.

3). Newly Released Digital Archive Shows Jewish Life Before the Holocaust

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.

4). Volleyball Team Halts Train

TRESPASSING: wYou might have read our previous at-length blog posts about how you should avoid using railroads as backdrops as it is, simply put, illegal. 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!

5). Getty Images Sues Microsoft

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?

6). Behind the Scenes with Annie Leibovitz

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!

7). You Can Chase and Photograph a Tornado--Seriously

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!

8). WordPress for Photographers is Here

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.

9). The Photographer's Creed

INSPIRATION: Have you heard of the Rifleman's Creed? Well, PetaPixel took a stab at modifying it to fit photographers. What do you think?

10). Stunning Photos of Icelandic Volcanic Eruption

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?

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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 Merit!
By Judith Ann

PPA_Blog_Dog.jpgA 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.  

Afterword:

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).

 

By Mariah Ashley

Author's Note: Required Reading! The Go-Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. A little story about a powerful business idea.

Thumbnail image for louboutins.jpgI was alone in the upstairs bedroom. Amanda (the bride) was late getting back from the salon so I spent my time photographing her dress and invitation. Her mother kept popping in with other things she thought I might find interesting, among them a pair of fabulous Louboutin sequined heels.

"Oh, fancy! Shoes are like porn for women," I joked cradling the shoe near my face.

"So true," said Amanda's mom, with a chuckle. "Everything about this wedding is a little over the top. (nods toward shoes).

"But Amanda is such a good girl, so smart and hardworking. She's such a humble and sweet girl. I just want this to be an amazing day for her."

Amanda's mom left me alone with the shoes and my thoughts. A few days earlier I listened to a podcast by former Imaging USA speaker Jeffery Shaw. He interviewed author Bob Burg on his national best-seller, The Go-Giver, which describes "giving as the most fulfilling and effective path to success."

Burg and co-author John David Mann map out the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success all focused on giving instead of getting. Intriguing! Trish ordered me the book and I devoured the parable in one sitting, highlighting passages like a mad woman. Since then I haven't been able to think about much else besides adding value to my clients lives, with the exception of thinking about how much I was dreading photographing Amanda's wedding.

When Amanda first contacted me, she had just experienced what she described as a "bad engagement session experience" with another photographer she had originally booked to photograph her wedding. She wanted to talk to me about that experience, get my opinion on whether or not her expectations had been unrealistic, and discuss the possibility of having us photograph her wedding instead.

By Penn Hansa, PPA Intern

Jonathan Givens, CPP, isn't just a photographer.

For starters, he was a master carpenter for the Oprah Winfrey show who had never considered picking up a camera until Oprah herself suggested he take pictures of the sets he built for the show. Fast forward 11 years, and Givens is now a Certified Professional Photographer who has made a business out of taking pictures of the thing he loves - entertainment.

Givens grew up as an actor, dancer and singer. He first performed when he was five years old, and was 12 when he had his first paid gig. Theater life was consuming, but Givens didn't want it any other way. "I didn't go to my high school graduation because I was in technical rehearsals for a show," he said. "Theater was always there for me. It was the place where I got to be silly and jump around, and do all the crazy things I wanted to do."

He was doing what he loved - until injuries set him back. He shattered an ankle during a show, and then his voice was "destroyed" by the steroids that were prescribed to help his vocal cords. But Givens couldn't stay away from the stage, and instead, moved his talents behind the scenes to work as a technician in 2001. Taking jobs here and there, he eventually worked as a technical director at a youth theater in Phoenix, where he taught a child actor named Emma Stone how to build scenery.

 

He made the move to the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003, and as the carpenter who built the set, was part of the team who won an Emmy the following year for Best Set Design on Oprah's Pop Star Challenge. the host's own version of American Idol. When he built a set for Destiny's Child's appearance on the show, complete with smoke rolling over a moving sidewalk for the singers to walk in time to the beat of "Lose My Breath," he knew he should take pictures of his work. "It was hours of preparation and $80,000 worth of work and materials for only 10 seconds of airtime," Givens said. "I needed some way to document what I was doing, so I wasn't just throwing the set away."

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Other highlights of his career include working with Cirque du Soleil in 2006 as head carpenter of the show Alegria on their European tour. He also did rigging on major motion pictures like Iron Man 3 and Rock of Ages and at Univision Studios. In photographing the sets he was building, he began taking pictures of the entertainers he was working with and found that people were much more fun to take pictures of than set pieces. He started his own studio in Miami, Entertainment Photography Specialists, and joined PPA in 2012.

"I didn't want to be just another guy with a camera, which is why I joined and got certified. There are a thousand photographers out there, and tons of people who try to do the work that I do. PPA membership sets me apart from the rest," he said.

He attributes his success as an entertainment photographer to his background as an entertainer and technician, and notes that it's allowed him to capture some unique pictures. As a certified rigger, he was able to set an aerial dancer under a bridge in Portugal, with the 5:30 a.m. sunrise and a lighthouse in the background. "It's definitely different from being just a portrait photographer because I have to set up all the rigging," he said. "It's a logical challenge setting up the images."

What also helps are the emotions he recognizes in the performers, passions that he can empathize with having once had them himself. "I don't get my subjects posing - they are doing what they enjoy, and I take pictures of that. I can see the passion behind what the performer does, from the performer's point of view. When the dancer loses herself in the dance, I click the shutter.

"I photograph what I know - entertainment. I'm not only thinking about the lighting, the composition or all the other technical aspects of photography, but I'm also considering how the image will promote the subject's career, or gain attention for the production," he said. "And that's what's made all the difference."

 

 

A first-timer's account of the International Photographic Competition

 

By Penn Hansa, PPA Intern

I naïvely thought I had been at PPA long enough to know what to expect when we went to the International Photographic Competition - lots of images, seasoned judges sitting in a dim room deciding whether the image presented should merit and a solemn air of importance surrounding the entire event.

I was only half correct. IPC is much, much more.

It's an invaluable experience, a chance to learn from some of the most talented photographers in the industry and oddly enough, it feels like a family reunion -- if your family were made up of experienced IPC judges, that is.

"Do you want to see my granddaughter?" a judge asks, while waiting for the next round of judging to start. He pulls out his iPhone and flicks through the images before anyone replies.

"Only if I get to show you mine," another judge replies. "And then we can judge the images!" They all laugh.

But when the session starts, it's all business. In the digital room, the judges sit in twos or threes, and as an image comes on the screen in front of them, they'll review and tap in their vote on an iPod Touch. Oftentimes, they'll lean closer to the screen to see the image more closely, viewing it from different angles to make sure they haven't missed a pixel when considering it.

A common misconception about IPC is that the judges will favor images that suit their style. Because they score in a matter of seconds, it seems easy to believe it. But when a judge challenges an image, it's all laid out on the table and it's clear to see that their deliberation is intense. They'll each speak at length about why they favor an image to merit or what fell short, citing the 12 elements of a merit image

"It's not about the treatment of an image, and whether I like it or not," said Allison Watkins, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. "I have to put my preferences aside to see the image impartially."

I wanted to see more of the thought process behind the deliberation, so I headed to the critique rooms, where judges offer their thoughts and constructive criticism about the image. For each image that is being critiqued, the judge will talk about the image as a whole, explaining their stream of thought as they look at it, including both the positive and the negative. It's a real learning experience to see exactly what makes an image merit and truly invaluable.

I settled behind Gregg Wurtzler, M.Photog.Cr., as he critiqued a few images, and then pulled up a new one. Wurtzler has 14 years of judging and critiquing images under his belt.

"What do you think about this one?" he asked me as he made his initial assessment.

I tried to keep in mind what I had learned about the 12 elements from watching earlier judging and critiques, but was drawing a blank. I liked the image, but something about it seemed off, and I couldn't place my finger on the correct term.

He just chuckled at my confusion and started his critique, first complimenting the photographer on his choice of subject and capturing the right moment, then describing how the photographer could have improved his composition, to notice the placing of the subject's hands and the busy background that was detracting from him.

"At first, it's sometimes difficult to look at the image and have to guess why the judges didn't merit it," Wurtzler said after he finished the critique. "But we've all been doing this long enough that we can usually pinpoint what it is."

Later, I sat behind Mark Garber, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, who has helped thousands of photographers with his critiques.

For any photographer who hasn't entered competitions, take this as an incentive: Garber is a huge advocate, and made a point to encourage all the photographers in his critiques to keep entering their images.

"Competition is quickest way to improve photographic skills," he said. "Every photographer has had images that didn't merit, so don't be discouraged when it happens to you."  

Convinced of the fun and invaluable experience IPC is yet? Find out more about entering your images, becoming a PPA-approved juror and other competitions at PPA.com/IPC.

 

by Mariah Ashley

Thumbnail image for giant sneaks.jpg My son Jacques is not a joiner, not a jock and let's just say not terribly motivated.

Upon my insistence, he has committed himself to participating in a high school sport. Since he abhors football, is bored to death by baseball and can't dribble to save his life, he is running on the cross country team.

The "unofficial" team training started in July under the very loose control of three senior brothers, triplet captains whose parents were Olympic runners. The coach has devised a running program that divides the team into three categories: those who will go on to be Olympians like their forefathers, those with gazelle blood in their veins and my snoozy soon to be sophomore son. After the team warms up together Jacques is left plodding along alone in his size fourteen sneakers while the other boys with normal sized feet rocket past him.

Each morning at 7 a.m. we have same routine.

"Jacques get up it's time for running."

"I don't want to go today," he pleads from under a mountain of blankets. "Can't I just run on my own?"

"No!" I insist, shaking the lump of blankets that contains my son. "You are part of a team; that means you run with the team. You joined this team, so you need to BE MORE dedicated!"

"But I don't run with the team. I run on my own. How about I run with you? Mother-son time?"

"Nice try. The captains need to see that you are showing up. It's about being together as a team. You need to BE MORE social."

"I don't care about that." He groans, rolling over and scooting like a 6' 1" caterpillar toward the far end of his bed.

"JUST GET UP! YOU ARE GOING!" I shout, slapping the lump. "Really, you need to BE MORE motivated."

The teenage lump finally rises and I drive it to the high school and park inconspicuously so as not to embarrass it. I notice a few cross country kids sitting on picnic tables at the far end of the parking lot. The lump doesn't move from his seat.

"Jacques, aren't you going to get out?"

"I'll wait a few more minutes till the rest of team shows up," he says reclining his seat all the way back, making himself invisible.

"Why? What's wrong with those kids? Why don't you go sit with them?"

"I don't like them," he mumbles. "They're seniors. They're jerks."

"It's weird to want to sit in the car with your mom. You should BE MORE friendly. Go ahead, get out of the car and go sit with your team," I insist pushing him out the door.

He makes his way reluctantly over to the older kids and sits down awkwardly at the far end of the table. Without a word directed in any direction he stuffs his headphones in his ears and stares at his phone. The rest of the team chats casually. This is painful to watch. The other boys are older, fitter, confident. Shirts are stripped off, flirtations exchanged with the girls running team and then they are off like a pack in one direction with Jacques running off alone in the other. My heart breaks a little for him and I fret about him for the next hour while I wait to pick him up.

PPA CEO David Trust goes up to Washington whenever he can to meet with people like Howard Coble (R-NC) to advocate for photographers' copyrights. But that doesn't mean that the action stops when he returns to Atlanta. Now that PPA partners with the Nickles Group, PPA is more active and knowledgeable than ever before.

With these new abilities (thanks Nickles Group!), we can let you know who is saying what to whom and where. That being said; here's the latest scoop from the Hill! 

The House Judiciary Committee recently held a copyright hearing with several testimonies from experts. Here's three of those testimonies and what it means for photographers!

1). All artists benefit from copyright advocacy! We got a good example with Rick Carnes, of the Songwriters Guild of America, arguing for a balance between fair use of works and protection for high volume producers. He stood by the current fair use doctrine that is in place in Title 17 of the U.S. Code which dictates the non-infringing uses of copyrighted works. However, he also advocated for workable remedies for small claims when copyrighted works are stolen. Ideally, this could mean for photographers that they wouldn't have to go to federal court and be required to have (very costly) legal representation.

2). Remember the 70 years post-mortem, 120 years post-creation, or 95 years post-publication rules for copyright protection? Michael Carroll, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, argued that the current copyright term should not be extended further. Thomas Sydnor, of the American Enterprise Institute, agreed, and finds that there is little to no benefit in continuing to extend the copyright term in regards to small, medium, or large businesses. 

Over the last fifty years, the copyright term has been extended. Most notably it has been extended whenever the copyright for Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain. Would anyone like to guess who is behind this? That's right, Disney. The Hollywood and Disney lobby have poured huge amounts of money into ensuring the extension of the copyright term over the last fifty years. 

The bearings that this has on photographers are non-particular. Meaning, anyone who has ever owned a copyright is affected by this change in the same way. Once you die, your dictated heir is not going have entitlements to the copyright(s) for as long. While this is non-particular to photographers, the fact that this discussion has made headway in the legal debate represents a dramatic shift away from what is known as the Disney Curve. The Disney Curve has dominated the extension of the copyright term with the sole intent of keeping the figure of Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. If the status quo on this were to change, it would represent one of the greatest fundamental shifts in copyright policy in the last 50 years 

3). Karyn Clagget, of the U.S. Copyright Office, thoroughly argued that visual artists should be able to receive compensation relative to the increase in value over time as opposed to a mere flat rate. For photographers, this would mean that as your work grows in value, you'd be compensated accordingly. Royalty claims can be made with the proper contracts on anything created with a copyright. For more information on how you can control royalties, review our limited usage contract under Copyright Resources on our website!

 The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet heard another round of testimonials addressing the need to remedy current issues within the Copyright Law (and there are many). Here's how this hearing relates to our members:

1). Longtime PPA friend Steven Tepp, of Sentinel Worldwide, made the case that there were significant problems in the current copyright remedies legal environment. He argued for higher available statutory damages, since awarded damages are currently at a historical low point. He also argued for harsher penalties that could function better as a preventative measure as well as a higher top-end of possible monetary compensation for infringement cases.

This goes along with the availability for small claims courts for copyright cases. Though, instead of focusing on the methods of how damages are acquired, Tepp choose to spoke about altering the available results for whichever court might make a ruling on this. Remember though, the small claims court doesn't exist (yet). Let's hope his testimonial opened some eyes and ears on the Hill.

2). Nancy Wolff, partner at Cowan, Debaets, Abrahams & Shepard LLP, supported the U.S. Copyright Office's report on small claims recommendations. In support of this report, she argued for the ability to bring small claims cases to a court without the need of expensive legal representation and a procedure that lowers the plaintiffs' expenses relating to any sort of legal action.

Both Tepp and Wolff are attempting to streamline legal processes for high volume visual artists like photographers. Too often times, infringed-upon artists can do very little simply because it quickly becomes cost-prohibitive to pursue legal action, even if your business has been damaged. Hopefully, these testimonies will help our U.S. Representatives understand that things do need to change!

The above testimonies and arguments contribute to enlightening those who can make these changes and will help shape the way new copyright laws are made. Each testimony is a small piece of the giant puzzle that is a Law being passed. We'll keep you updated anytime we hear more from Washington!

Some great things were happening on theLoop as temperatures soared. Check out the hottest discussions that happened in July.

[PPA Members Discussion] Offline data storage

What are you using to back up your files? PPA members discuss their methods for protecting their images and the pros and cons of offline and online storage. Even if you've got a system in place, it's worth checking out what others are doing!

[Finance Discussion] What bookkeeping software do you use?

Just as photo editing software updates, so does bookkeeping software too! Members share their favorite programs for balancing the books.

[Commercial Photography Discussion] Pricing executive portraits

Doing executive portraiture for the first time? Get some firsthand accounts from photographers who've done it before and are sharing their tips for doing the job right.

[PPA Members Discussion] Getting a credit line in the newspaper

A PPA member's image is printed on the front page of the newspaper - but they refuse to give him credit. Now what? Weigh in on the discussions for and against getting a credit line in publication.                                       

[PPA Members Discussion] Moving studio

If you're thinking about moving your business from home to a retail studio, or vice versa, read this discussion! Members talk about their experiences working in different locations and how it affected their business.


Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not a PPA member? It's easy: join today!

 

Tom Bochsler's 50-plus year career took him all over the world as a photographer and speaker, but he didn't have to look far to find a home for his massive collection of images.

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The 82-year-old Burlington, Ontario native decided to gift his life's work to the Hamilton Public Library. The recently completed donation took place over about six years and contained a total of 500,000 negatives. The library found value in the images as they provide a visual history of the area. 

Bochsler, who was designated as having Outstanding Significance and National Importance by the Heritage-Cultural Property Export Review Board, started his career in Hamilton in 1956 and joined PPA not long after.

The collection spans the well-known industrial photographer's early years in photography and thousands of local images. Many of his black-and-white historical photographs were created using the 10-pound Speed Graphic camera, which used one-shot flashbulbs as its lighting source. Bochsler has photographed every single nuclear power plant in Canada, and the collection includes images of nuclear reactors, salt mines and steel factories from across Canada. The photos will stay in a climate-controlled archival vault to ensure the images don't decay over the years. The library's history and archives department is tasked with scanning the images and making them available to the public.

Last month, Bochsler also had the opportunity to give an audio/visual presentation in a display of selected images during Super Crawl, an annual art and musical festival downtown Hamilton. In addition to the collection, Bochsler published a book, The Art of Industry, which features 272 of his favorite images from 1950 to 2003.

According to Bochsler, he donated his life's work rather than the alternative--throwing them in the trash. 

"It's all very exciting for me," he said. "There are many members out there who find their old negatives and files a burden. I initiated the contacts to explore a home for my collection. Along the way I found people interested in saving history."


Got a cool story to tell? We're always looking for more! Email PPA's communications specialist, John Owens, with yours (put 'PPA Member Story' in the subject line) and we'll see if you're worthy of a spot on the mighty PPA blog! 

Happy Friday! Where have you found inspiration around the internet? Here are our 10 favorite photography posts from the world wide web!

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This one will blow your mind and inspire you to do amazing things! We promise. See 25 popular photographers from their early shoots versus today's work. Some of the massive transformations took as little as two years! This is a must read.

DigitalRev TV has a great video out on the 10 biggest pet peeves photography lovers have. It's worth a watch and a giggle!

How do you keep your passion in this crazy industry? PhotographyTalk breaks it down to show you how to keep focused on what you love, while still maintaining a healthy bank account!

We can't say we condone his tactics, but darn it, it worked! See how Marcus Haney became a music photography star by the age of 26, and the less than legal tactics he used to get there. 

Aperture: it's not an all or nothing situation! Matt Granger and the folks at PetaPixel walk you through situations where you might need to expand your thought process. 

Make magic with levitation images! Here are 7 easy tips for making your images fly (pun intended) from Digital Photography School. 

Have you ever read a spam email and thought "Who the heck would send this?!" Well, Christina De Middel decided to create portraits of the spam senders. Check out the great spam emails, along with their portraits of their senders as De Middel imagined them! 

Charity is great! It's a no brainer to give, but when it comes to your taxes, it can make it complicated. Here's a quick guide for your fiscal planning from Intuit! 

Horst P. Horst was the king of fashion photography in the 20th century. Check out some unpublished works before they hit the floor of the Victoria and Albert Museum in September. 

The fine folks at H&H Color Lab bring you some killer marketing tips for local photographers! In 14 easy steps, you can up your business, your referrals and your presence in the local community!

Well there you have it! Our 10 favorite photography posts from around the web! What are your favorite spots to get some photography knowledge and inspiration? Let us know on theLoop

Helping a friend and veteran leave a legacy

By Penn Hansa

Bruce Roscoe, CPP, orchestrated a portrait session of his best friend, Joe Rowe, that he'll remember for ages. As a photographer who served in the Vietnam War, taught workshops all over the United States and has been named as one of the top photographers in Arizona, Roscoe has had his share of photographic experiences. But this was the only shoot that he could give credit to fate for making it happen. "It could only have been divine intervention to have everything work out the way that it did," Roscoe said. "It was that incredible."

In a way, the photo shoot was 58 years in the making: Roscoe and Rowe have been friends since they were eight years old. "If I didn't see him in 10 years and then I saw him again, it would be just like yesterday," said Roscoe. "Nothing would change."

The origins of their friendship are a little hazy to both. "We probably met after getting in a fight with each other," Roscoe guessed. But they both recall the childhood they spent together on the East Coast. They sailed, surfed and snorkeled together at the beach, and spent hours in the forest climbing and exploring.

"We had it great growing up," Roscoe remembered. "We didn't know how poor we were. We bought a bike and it was Joe's and my bike. So he'd have it for a day, and then I'd ride it for a day, like a family bike."

When they finished high school in 1967, Rowe joined the Marines, and Roscoe decided to postpone college to join the army. The army recruiter asked if he had any special skills, and Roscoe told him that he wanted to be a photographer. It was the first thing that came to mind.

"My parents gave me a Brownie Bullet camera when I was younger, and I loved it," Roscoe said. "I thought I was going to travel and take pictures of kings and queens."

That wasn't quite what he ended up doing. After he went to school in the military to be trained as a combat photographer, his first orders were to go to Alaska.

But it was just a mistake - he was actually supposed to be in Vietnam.

During their service in Vietnam from 1967-68, Roscoe and Rowe never saw each other, and only had vague ideas of where the other was. When they returned, they were changed people. Both suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It was just different. We had our issues. We never knew what life was going to be like in a warzone. We changed, not for the good or the bad. We just came back as good as we could be," Roscoe said.

For years, Roscoe didn't touch a camera. "I always had a love for photography, but because of the memories I had associated with a camera, I had to be ok with myself before I got back into it," he said.  When he eventually returned to the art, portraiture became his specialty.

"I think why I got into portraiture is because some of the pictures I took overseas and some of the ways people's faces looked told a story. And I thought, Well, you know what - if I can learn how to capture faces in a storytelling way, that's what I need to do. I need to start capturing people and telling a story with their face."

Roscoe ended up in Arizona and joined PPA in 2008. He became a Certified Professional Photographer in 2010, focusing on photographing the elderly.

"There's just so much character in their faces. In young people, you don't have the wrinkles, the character lines, the things that show how much time you've been in this world," Roscoe explained. "For these people who are grandparents, I want to pull a character out of them to leave a legacy for the younger generations."

As they lived their lives on separate American coasts - Roscoe in the west, Rowe in the east - they stayed in touch through their families and the occasional phone call. "Joe's mom was like my mom. I'd find out from her how he was doing, and she would tell him how I was doing," Roscoe said.

And then one day, Roscoe got a call from his friend Joe. Rowe told him he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, which his doctor said had been caused by Agent Orange, one of the herbicides and defoliants the U.S. military used as part of the herbicidal warfare program Operation Ranch Hand. The effects of the spraying affect both the Vietnamese and Americans as terrible remnants from a war that no one wants to remember.

Shortly after hearing the news, Roscoe left for Rhode Island to take Rowe's portrait. It wasn't a question of obligation, just a sense of duty to his friend and those who loved him. "I was trying to create Joe's final image for his family," Roscoe said.

He called the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Wakefield, and they graciously allowed Roscoe to use their hall for a temporary studio. But it left the question of lighting equipment, things that Roscoe couldn't bring from Arizona for the session. So he did an online search for photographers near Providence and came across Chris Garrison's studio. Roscoe emailed him and explained what he was trying to accomplish, and asked to borrow his gear. Without hesitation, Garrison heagreed to share his studio's equipment.

"I didn't know him before this email," Roscoe said. "I asked him why he would let me, a complete stranger, borrow his equipment and he told me, 'You know, Bruce, I've had people help me out when I needed them. I'm just trying to return the favor.'"

Fellow PPA member Roger Salls from Roger Salls Photography, who had attended one of Roscoe's photography workshops, came from Connecticut with a makeup artist to help with the shoot. Roscoe, recognizing the importance of the event, also contacted the Providence Journal for a reporter to cover their story.

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The shoot only took a little more than an hour. Rowe arrived and spent an hour with the makeup artist, then Roscoe started doing his job. The Providence Journal sent a reporter, who was also a Vietnam veteran, to interview Rowe. It was as if all the stars had aligned. Everyone who was there that day was there for Rowe and to help create an image that would capture his character. "I felt like a movie star," Rowe said to his friend. "It lifted my spirits, and we had lots of fun."

It was a highly emotional shoot for Roscoe, who realized that this would be the last portrait he would take of his friend. "It is crushing to be losing one of the people you can really talk to without having any problems," he said. "There's not a lot of people you can call your best friend, and Joe is one of mine."

Rowe, who works with PeaceTrees Vietnam to raise money for schools and libraries in Vietnamese villages, asked his friend to help make his last wish come true: to see through the completion of a library in the village of Mo O, close to where Rowe was stationed in the war.

Thinking back on the shoot, Roscoe couldn't believe that it all happened so perfectly. After all, if he didn't have the venue, the lighting, or the assistant and makeup artist, the final image wouldn't have been as meaningful as it is for both him and Rowe. "I find it interesting that you can get photographers from all over the country together, and you can make something happen," he said. "Nobody got any money from it. There wasn't any incentive. They were just doing it to help."

The ties of friendship and kinship, he realized, were stronger than he could have ever imagined.

                                                       

Say hello to your newest guest column! It comes to you from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

What do all entrepreneurs need to know?

By Bridget Jackson, CPA

This is a question I receive frequently, and see it all over the place on other sources of photography advice. Some of it is good, but some, well, you know...

I've read through multiple columns on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and here I present you an abbreviated list of often-overlooked qualifications. It's not a be-all-end-all list by any means, but these are some takeaways that seem relative in light of the fact that I am a numbers person and a consumer.

1). If you don't know your numbers and how to read them, you've got one foot in the proverbial grave of a failed business.

That might seem harsh, but did you know that according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only 2/3 of small businesses survive two years? The reason they flop is poor accounting.

Let me take that one step further and say that it's not enough to have your tax return prepared once a year. You have to understand what your numbers mean.

PPA is here to help you understand the principles of sound financial management, and it starts with managerial accounting. PPA provides resources to members to help you implement, understand and manage your business based on these principles. If you are not practicing, I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of what many successful studios have done before you and embrace managerial accounting today.

An added benefit of visiting the Benchmark Resources is participating in the current survey. Not only will you feel an overwhelming sense of community knowing that you contributed to the only industry-wide financial survey, but that you helped shape the results of the survey. PPA will release preliminary numbers at Imaging USA 2015.

2). Company culture drives a successful business

As the boss it is your job to define, provide the resources and participate in the implementation of your company's culture. Businesses that succeed in this area have an increase in overall employee satisfaction and retention.

For those of you who don't have employees; don't feel left out. I have one for you too!

2A). As the sole employee of your studio, you need to be prepared to "take out the trash."

That's right, although you won't have a boss to answer to, you will be left with the potentially unwanted tasks of answering the phones, cleaning, etc. So prepare yourself mentally for these roles. It's up to you to take care of the dirty work too!

3). Know your competition and treat them with respect.

Just because someone is a photographer doesn't mean they are your competition. Continue to evolve yourself as an artist by entering print competitions and by continuing to update your product offerings. Cultivate a professional relationship and level of respect among your peers. Their opinion of you and your business often outweighs others.  As a consumer, negative comments by one entrepreneur about another actually have detrimental effects on the business owner making the comments. One way to rise above is to become an industry expert in your market and lead by example.

Of course, it takes much more than this to create a successful business. But taking these small steps can make a huge difference along the way!

 

 

PPA's CEO David Trust is in Washington D.C. shaking hands and talking photography with legislators to keep things moving toward new copyright law. He's out there in the trenches for you all! Told you we've got your back!

He'll be passing along updates over the next couple of days which we will post here as a sort of semi-live, "PPA on the Copyright Frontlines" diary.

And look for a recap after he returns to HQ here in Atlanta!

Monday, July 7, 1:26 p.m.

Just had a great meeting with Gayle Osterberg, Director of Communications for the Library of Congress. She reiterated the importance and popularity of the photography collections at the Library. She also presented some good ideas about how PPA can work more proactively with the Library to help educate Congress about the photographic industry. Gayle is a longtime friend of PPA and industry supporter. It's good to have an ally like her working for PPA members! 

Monday, July 7, 5:50 p.m.

Had a great meeting this afternoon with Jennifer Choudhry, Legislative Director for Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia. Collins is rapidly becoming the voice of Copyright on Capitol Hill and has been very aggressive in promoting and defending creator rights--not just in Georgia but across the country. The fact that PPA headquarters in downtown Atlanta is in such close proximity to Collins' district (about 45 minutes north of Atlanta) is a plus. Look for more news in the future--we have some special plans brewing for the pro-copyright congressman.

Tuesday, July 8, 8:58 a.m.

We have a busy day planned today on Capitol Hill: Five copyright meetings scheduled with members of Congress from Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, California, and North Carolina and a lunch with David Whitney, Chief Counsel for the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. It is very hot here, but will be a great day as PPA works to advance the cause of photographers in Washington D.C. 

[Don't forget you can contact your local legislator too!] 

Tuesday, July 8, 4:42 p.m.

Met with Congressman Howard Coble (R-6th North Carolina) to discuss the House Judiciary copyright review. Mr. Coble is a key player in legislation related to copyright as he is the current Chairman of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property as well as the Co-Chair of the Creative Rights Caucus. David artfully made the case for a balanced view of copyright to ensure that the voices of the small businesses and solo-practitioners in the creative community, such as photographers, are heard.

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Tuesday, July 8, 5:19 p.m.

David Trust converses with PPA consultant Cindi Tripodi, partner with the Nickles Group, outside of the Capitol after a successful day of Hill meetings.

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We love hearing stories from our members, and this is one we couldn't resist sharing. And seriously... what's cuter than baby ducks?! 

But before you get your ducks in a row (ha! duck pun!), make sure you read about Georgia photographer Judith Ann's first time using ducklings in a portrait session. Hilarity will ensue!


Baby Ducks Don't Swim...

By: Judith Ann

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When I say baby ducks don't swim, it's partially correct and incorrect at the same time, because they do, they just didn't swim in the conditions I provided for them.

What am I talking about you ask? Let me back up and tell you about the large class I attended by a well-known photographer that taught how to build detailed sets for children. I was particularly interested in the set that included an indoor pond with live baby ducks that swam around at the feet of a child sitting on the end of a pier. I had to try it out myself!

So here's my story...

The day of my sessions, my mail-order ducks arrived at my post office with a morning call from the postmaster telling me to come pick up the little quackers immediately. He said he was not sure what I had ordered but they were screaming their little hearts out and wanted to know how fast I could get there to pick them up.

I returned to my studio baby ducks in hand with a short time before my first child client would arrive. I was totally pumped to get my photography shoot into motion. I had four 8-foot, 2 by 4's nailed together with a piece of pond liner that held the water in with plants, reeds and a pier that jutted out into the water, along with a basket and cane pole for "fishing," which made my set look "pond authentic."

We began the session by putting a three-year-old boy near the edge of the pier with a cane pole in his hand. My assistant was standing by waiting for my order to release the baby ducks onto the pier. I readied my camera for an adorable moment and with the nod of my head the ducks began their march toward the child.

The chaos erupted in a matter of seconds.

The little boy was freaked out by the ducklings heading his way and started whipping the cane pole at them. The first little quacker panicked and jumped into the water with the other five following him off the end of the pier.

As the ducks entered the water, some turned belly-up in reaction to the cold water. Others frantically tried to climb up the plastic reeds to escape the obviously too cold water and the cane pole that had become the boy's weapon as he attempted to save himself. My assistant frantically tried to pull the ducklings out of the water, while I ran to grab some towels and a blow dryer to hopefully help them recover from their unexpected hypothermia. The flurry of activity caused me to point toward the shocked mother and give non-understandable orders to apprehend the weapon and secure her ballistic son.

Miraculously, no ducks were harmed (other than being cold).

So what did I learn from the experience? First off, after you build the set, have playtime and a practice run. Warm the water with an aquarium heater at least 24-hours in advance of your photography session. Allow the child to warm up to the ducks and get to know them before sending them in his/her direction. Buy a dozen ducks and rotate six at a time to give them time for recover.

Oh and pro tip: Ducks by nature love to jump into baskets, so put a basket on one side of the pier so they will cross over and jump into the basket or put them in the basket and allow the child a moment of surprise (or horror) as they open it and find these adorable, fuzzy little quackers greeting them.

Despite the early chaos, by the end of the day I felt like I was a baby duck whisperer and did get some truly great images.

*NOTE: Please make sure you are in compliance with all state and local laws when using live animals during a session.

About Judith Ann:

Judith Ann is originally from Texas but calls Georgia home. A full-time photographer, she owns and operates Judith Ann Photography, with two studio locations. A self-described "photo-storygrapher," she brings her own unique flair and energy to the mix that keeps her clients coming back for more.  Her personal journey into photography has been an eclectic gathering of lifelong experiences from many different artistic mediums, including painting with oils and pastels to set design and handling black tie galas. When she discovered photography over 20 years ago her instincts told her she would make this her lifelong passion and career.  

 

 

What to do when your clients don't want you to use their photos online

 

By Mariah Ashley

The conversation was going so well. Jenny, the bride, wove her vision for her wedding day into a photographer's dream before my very ears.

No expense would be spared to get us to her exotic location. Photographs were of the upmost importance to her she explained, so she had taken great care to choose the timing of the day to coincide with the sunset. She had scouted locations for portraits to insure turquoise seas and fuchsia bougainvilleas as our backdrop. Her dress, she promised, would be like nothing I had ever seen. As we spoke, I pictured her gliding across a sandy beach with me, her photographer, clicking away and making her dreams and mine come true.

That's when a rogue wave Jenny's next comment slapped me out of my stupor. "So of course, I am going to need a clause in the contract to protect my privacy," she causally added.

"Huh?" I stammered.

"I don't want any photographs of myself, my family, or my guests on the internet. I don't want to be on your blog or on your website at all."

Oh no! Mayday! Think brain think, I thought as my beautiful sparkling turquoise vision and coinciding bragging rights faded to a fuzzy dull grey. Not knowing what to do I defaulted to my emergency response, "That's an unusual request. Can I think it over and get back to you on that tomorrow?"

When we hung up my initial feeling was of disappointment, which turned into annoyance and then quickly spiraled into indignation. Hadn't she told me she spent hours looking at all the photographs on my blog? Hadn't she said that she knew right away that we were the photographers for her because of our online gallery? It's not fair that she should benefit from viewing all my other clients but not give me the opportunity to attract new clients with images from her wedding. Sure, I want to travel to an exotic location and take beautiful photographs, but if I can't show them to anyone what's the point?

I remembered reading about a similar situation once on another very popular photographer's blog. Someone had written to her for advice on this very subject. Her response was that since her business model was through referral and not paid advertising she attributed most of her bookings to potential clients viewing her online portfolio. For this reason she would feel inclined to refuse the booking if she could not share the photographs on her website and blog. That seemed reasonable to me. Decision made, I would not be accepting this bride's wedding, no matter how dreamy she made it sound.

That night after a veggie stir-fry dinner, I settled on the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. I know, I know. What's a vegan like me doing watching a greasy lipped carnivore like Anthony Bourdain traipse around the world munching on animals? For some reason I find this entertaining and I close my eyes when he meets the critters that are about to become his dinner. It's a paradox. Anyway in this episode Anthony was in Copenhagen talking with a chef about Denmark's Law of Jante.

A colloquial term used in Denmark, Sweden, and most Nordic countries, Jante describes a condescending attitude toward individuality and success. The term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante)

This all sounds decidedly un-American doesn't it? Well that's because it is. It goes against everything we have ever been taught about business never mind life in 'Merica. But let's consider this: Denmark is consistently ranked one of the happiest places to live in the world. In fact of the top five happiest places to live, Nordic countries take up all five spots. The United States doesn't even make the list. (http://unsdsn.org/resources/publications/world-happiness-report-2013/)

Please, don't anyone take this the wrong way I'm as patriotic as the next girl. My favorite song of all time? America the Beautiful. Let's move on.

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Maybe just maybe there's something to this "thinking of others before ourselves" jazz and not believing the "I'm all that and a bag of potato chips" philosophy.

The next day I called Jenny and told her I would be thrilled to be her photographer and would happily include a clause in our contract to protect her privacy. I told her the clause would include the use of any identifying photographs of her, her family or her wedding guests. However, I asked that detail photos such as the dress, flowers, reception, atmosphere and scenery photos would be fair game for me to use. She asked to include in the clause any identifying photos of the outside of the property that belonged to her parents and I agreed. We had a deal.

This is when I started "Gettin' Jante Wit It" (gratuitous Will Smith reference). If Jante deemphasizes the individual and emphasizes the collective then I would pump up my collectives, mainly the wedding planners, band and videographers traveling with us to the wedding from Boston. We had never worked with these particular wedding planners before and surely if we could make them look good it would mean some nice referrals for us in the future.

At the wedding we made sure to take as many photos of our fellow vendors that showcased their hard work and efforts as possible including photos of them working over the course of the weekend. We even got creative with some photos that showed the bride and groom but didn't reveal their identities. When we were finished we had more than enough images to put together an effective blog post to help our vendor friends strut their stuff.

If we had turned down this wedding because it didn't afford us the opportunity to brag about ourselves we would have missed out on the chance to do some serious networking with vendors who could potentially give us some excellent referrals (never mind some excellent rum punch). The restraints that our bride Jenny put on us forced us to think outside the box in the way we use our blog for marketing. As it turns out, with blogging and marketing there is more than one way to skin a cat an onion. (Skinning a cat is a sticky prospect best left to Anthony Bourdain, I'll stick with onions).

To see how we pulled off a "faceless" blog post check out our post here: http://www.snapweddings.com/blog/dominican-republic-destination-wedding-photographers/


About the author:

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Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.

 


 

with Bridget Jackson, CPA and PPA Business manager

In April, Bridget brought you some pretty great last-minute tax tips. Hopefully that gave you a chance to give your finances a good, stern look. Did you like what you saw? Even in the most successful businesses, you can find ways to boost profitability. 

That's where Bridget's column comes in handy! Here are 8 helpful tips to increase your profit margins:

  1. Mix it up. Increasing sales and cutting costs is on everyone's mind. Most people think that in order to grow sales you have to increase prices. That's certainly one way, but you can also offer add-on services and products that complement your current offerings, in turn increasing your sales average. Also, to cut costs see what processes you can automate or outsource. 
  2. Separate yourself from your competition. Find ways to differentiate yourself. Whether it's entering print competitions to refine your craft or finding ways to increase your social media presence or maybe it's becoming known for working with a specific charity. Be mindful that YOU are the differentiator in your business.   
  3. Streamline overhead costs. Workflow tracking and assessment needs to be done regularly to assure maximum productivity and to identify inefficiencies. Unfortunately tracking productivity is often overlooked but it's a great way to identify opportunities to reduce costs.
  4. Rent killing your business? Explore options for co-leasing a space with a like-minded business, whether that business is photography related or they attract a similar clientele. There has been also an increase in the number of owners that have brought their business in-home. Bottom line, if paying rent is sucking up your profits, find an alternative. 
  5. Keep them coming back. It is easier and less expensive to keep current clients coming back than it is to gain a new client. Consider a referral program to incentivize referrals. Also evaluate your client touch points and create new ways to take your customer service to a whole new level of hospitality.
  6. Selling every step of the way. Selling begins with your first point of contact. Your sales strategy should be clearly defined. Anyone in the studio who comes in contact with a client is a sales person and needs to understand the businesses' unique sales strategy as well as be well-versed on all of the session and product offerings.
  7. Make it easy to buy. Keep it simple, simple, simple from the client experience to the product offerings to collecting payments. Remember the ordering appointment is not a viewing appointment. Consider incentivizing your clients to make their purchase at the ordering appointment. You can also set up a session fee structure that includes a print credit or allow for payment plans to make it easier for your client to make larger purchases.  
  8. Understand your cash flow challenges. Due to the cyclical nature of most photography businesses, consider promotional offerings during off-peak times, perhaps ones with charitable connections. Not only can they generate some cash flow when it's much needed but these promotions can also increase your presence in your market. Build reserves during peak season to help smooth those months when cash flow is challenged. This way you can avoid using credit cards and incurring high interest expense charges. 

Bridget Jackson is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

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Here are our 10 favorite photography blog posts from the first full week of May.  In this week's round-up, you'll find some egregious errors to either laugh at or learn from (heck, or both!), helpful tips and of course just some flat-out beautiful imagery. Enjoy!

1). Oh No! Someone Stole Photos from the Person Who Runs Photo Stealers

That's not an error. Someone stole photos from the site that shames people for stealing photos. Like, seriously. Hopefully you don't see anything of yours on there that looks familiar, but better check!

2). The 13 Best Wedding Photos from Exotic Destinations

Destination weddings make for remarkable backdrops. We're jealous of anyone who has the budget to just go to these places, let alone spend the bucks to bring a talented photographer along! Take a look at this gallery of envy.

3). 7 Simple Photography Hacks

We love these! Photographer Leo Rosas put together this video of some clever tricks he uses. If you've been looking for easy ways to add artsy elements to your shooting or even create a moving timelapse, check these out!

4). Photographer Finds Beauty in Truth or Consequences

Have you heard of Spaceport America? It's the world's first purpose-built spaceport for commercial passengers, and it's set for its inaugural launch later this year (for just $250,000 a ticket, you could go on a sub-orbital flight too!). The spaceport is located just outside a town called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson got to check out this little slice of America. Take a look!

5). Get the Testimonials You're After With 3 Simple Questions

Jenika over at Psychology for Photographers dishes out all kinds of advice, but we dig this post in particular. If you're tired of digging through Facebook comments and emails for some testimonials to use in your marketing, you need to read this post and test out Jenika's ideas. Bring in those rave reviews faster!

6). Socks for your Tripod

There's one thing you're probably forgetting that you need in your camera bag. Tripod socks? Sure... we'll bite. For the slightly OCD photographer who wants to keep their sticks (look at us using industry slang!) clean, try out this easy cheat to keep your gear fresh.

7). World War I Photos

Take a trip back in time with these breathtaking photos taken during World War I. The black and white always seems to make the harrowing effects of war more haunting, but there's even an early experimentation with color photography in this collection. Can you imagine lugging around the camera equipment of the times during a battle?

8). Ultra long Exposures on your iPhone

For your "behind-the-scenes" needs, iPhone cameras are great and all, but one area they lack is long exposure functionality. Well, not anymore. There's an app for that! Check out the latest from Interealtime, the NightCap Pro.

9). The 10 Rules of Street Photography

Think you can just step out on the street and take pictures? Well, you can, per se, but expert street photographer Blake Andrews is here to give you 10 "rules" to live by when you're shooting guerrilla style. It's our kind of list! Very tongue-in-cheek and with a cardinal rule of have fun!

10). A Day in the Boots of a Timelapse Photographer

It's hard to call this an "average day," but for timelapse photographer, Joe Schat, of Roadtrippers, that's exactly what it is. Jealous is an understatement!

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.

 

UPDATED IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE!

Keith Howe had his follow-up PET scan last week, and it's the first image in his whole career to score a 0. That's right; they got the "all clear"! The Howes could not be happier.

Says Keith: "I've been lucky enough to score a perfect 100 in print competition and that felt awesome, but this zero feels even better!"

You can read their story in full below.


If you don't remember longtime members Keith and Holly Howe's story from a post we published around Christmas, it's worth the read. At the time, Keith was entering an aggressive treatment program for his cancer. But thanks in no small part to their positive attitudes and familial support system made through PPA, the Howe's are positively moving forward.

Their story picks up generally right where we left it--with Keith heading back to the hospital for more treatment. Although this time, it's for the final week of his final cycle. That's because the Howe's are on the verge of the ultimate good news: all clear.

 

Naturally, Keith is the star patient of the Nebraska Medical Center. 

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"They keep throwing stuff at him and he keeps bouncing back," said Holly. "No matter what they do to him, he takes it in stride."

Keith had a repeat PET scan after the fourth round of chemo and the cancer is almost all gone. Since then he has undergone another round and a half. On April 8, Keith spent his final week in the hospital. He is finally done with chemo. His medical team all made very positive comments about his prognosis and the oncologists are optimistic the Howes will receive the "all clear" when Keith gets his final PET scan May 12.  

From here on it's just re-checking the scans every three months and getting his feet back under him--quite literally. Keith will soon begin physical therapy to regain some lost balance and mobility. He can walk and drive, but some of his nerve endings just don't fire the muscles like they used to.

"It's kind of like stringing new telephone lines," said Keith. "I'm feeling pretty good overall, but I still can't do those quick movements I need to be able to do, especially during a family portrait session." 

Keith does some computer work. He's even back behind the camera a little bit helping out with a session a day.

"It's great to see clients still coming and the phone ringing," he said, with a laugh. "It's looking like I still have a photography business here."


A big part of Keith's recovery has been played by fellow photographers and PPA members.

As a PPA-approved juror for the International Photographic Competition, Keith has been actively involved in mentoring photographers who enter competition images for years. And despite cancer and chemo, this year was no different. In fact, Keith was even more active than usual.

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Competitors sent their files and Keith would take a look from his hospital bed and talk them through things over the phone. He'd browse print competition pages on Facebook and give his advice. He was still out there lending a helping hand.

One of those he's helped is Michelle Parsley, M.Photog.M.Artist., CPP, of Woodbury, Tenn. Michelle was one of the women (referenced in the December story) who asked Keith to be her sponsor at the Award & Degree ceremony at Imaging USA. Michelle shared in Keith's regret that he wasn't able to be there to walk her across the stage, but she made sure his presence was felt nonetheless.

"I know without his input I would not have walked for those degrees this year," said Parsley, who received her master of photography and master artist degrees this year in Phoenix. "So I had them announce his name as my sponsor even though he couldn't be there."

Keith and Michelle first "met" in 2011 when Michelle posted her images in a PPA forum looking for answers as to why they did not merit. Keith responded with his advice and offered his advice anytime she needed it.

"There's no telling how many times he's helped me," she said. "He's so good at identifying where you are in your artistic journey and talking to you in a way that makes you want to do better. He's encouraging on one hand, but on the other he's not blowing sunshine. He's been really good at telling me, 'This is what you've got to do to accomplish your goal.'" 

"Even this year I could send him prints and he could still give a heck of a print critique. He always had time to critique, no matter how he was feeling. And it's not just me; he does it for so many people. His advice was just what I needed. The funny thing is, I've never ever even met Keith in person."

It's one of many such connections Keith and Holly have made through PPA.

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"What other industry could I possibly have that kind of connection in? It's crazy when I stop to think about it. I live in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. To have someone as talented and willing to give their time from Nebraska, I've never even been to Nebraska, it blows my mind."

Keith also received daily support and encouragement from good friend and PPAedu instructor, Jeff Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr., CPP,--yet another friend made through PPA.

"It's amazing how people can rally around and help you," said Keith.

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Photographers in Nebraska have come and stepped in for recent sessions. A couple women from Wyoming came out to photograph their annual big dance school earlier this month. A photographer from Virginia helped with a recent shoot. Photographers in Florida have raised their cameras and offered support if needed. It all started through PPA.

"We know without a doubt that his amazing reaction (or should I say lack of reaction) to the extremely intensive chemo is because of his continuing positive attitude," said Holly. "And we also know we could never have sustained that positive outlook without the amazing outpouring of support we have received from our photography family.

"We still don't know what the future will hold as far as our business--whether Keith will bounce back enough to handle the physical demands of photographing a diva high school senior or a hyperactive two year old, but we are in a good place emotionally and financially because of our friends. We know we will be okay no matter what."


So... What's next?

Physical therapy! Lots of it.

Keith will get to work on bringing up his energy and regaining his balance.

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"I want to be photographing high school seniors again," he said. "We also have a wedding to shoot in July for a woman who's been a client forever. She said she couldn't go elsewhere, it'd be like cheating on her spouse."

Keith and Holly also have a pretty big wedding to attend coming up.

"Our oldest son is getting married in California in May," said Holly. "From the moment he got engaged he has wanted his future in-laws' dog as his ring bearer, but wasn't sure what to do with the dog during the reception.

"Well, Keith was talking with a friend of ours and fellow PPA member who lives out in the area about possible venues and asked on a whim if she knew anyone that could watch a dog. It just so happened that she fosters dogs and would be happy to.

"They were amazed that we knew someone, who fosters shelter dogs, no less, that lives so close by. We weren't because we have friends EVERYWHERE. That's how PPA works."

Keith's original recovery goal was to be well enough to attend the wedding, but now he's thinking more. He's on target to be there in a California meadow under lofty redwoods for the ceremony, then dance at the reception in an apple orchard as the sun dips into the Pacific.

It might make for some good pictures.

 

 



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