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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
PPA is proud to announce a HUGE agreement the Nickles Group to help us out on Capitol Hill. This will put us front and center during the ongoing copyright discussion at the most critical time. Momentum is really building toward that Next Great Copyright Act and we will now be more plugged in than ever.
In fact, with the Nickles Group, we're now the only photography association with a full-time presence! This agreement is a really big deal and you need to know about it.
Here is the press release in its entirety:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Professional Photographers of America (PPA) announced today it has reached an agreement with The Nickles Group, LLC, to represent PPA on Capitol Hill. The Nickles Group will help the association's lobbying efforts for photographers' copyrights.
Through the Nickles Group, one of the preeminent lobbying firms on the Hill, PPA will be at the center of the action on a daily basis. Using the Nickles Group's extensive network, PPA will make introductions, build relationships and arrange meetings with key players and also create opportunities to testify at Congressional hearings. The partnership looks to build upon the strong foundation PPA has established in Washington over the past 15 years.
Founded in 2005, the Nickles Group brings together an accomplished team of public policy advocates and experts to provide strategic advice, policy development and political navigation for clients seeking to engage in the federal legislative or executive process.
"We're pleased to join forces with the PPA to be an important advocate for the rights of photographers and other creators," said Don Nickles, chairman and CEO of The Nickles Group. "With copyright issues becoming more complex as Congress reviews the laws that govern rights, we look forward to partnering with PPA and impacting policy for the better."
Nickles, a Senator for the state of Oklahoma from 1981 to 2005 certainly knows his way around the Hill. In his tenure, Nickles built a legacy of advancing free enterprise causes, from natural gas deregulation and repeat of the windfall profits tax in the 1980s, to repeal of onerous ergonomics regulation and the fight against federalized healthcare during the Clinton Administration. He was the author of the Congressional Review Act and the Child Citizenship Act, and the principal sponsor of President Bush's economic growth package in 2003, which cut capital gains and corporate dividend taxes to 15 percent.
Thanks to this agreement PPA now has the ability to put its members front and center, a coup for PPA given the recent discussions on orphan works and the U.S. Copyright office's push for the Next Great Copyright Act.
"This could not come at a better time for us," said David Trust, CEO of PPA. "We are entering one of the most critical eras in the history of copyright law. This relationship with the Nickles Group will ensure that PPA members, and photographers in general, will have an increased position in the copyright discussion on Capitol Hill."
The Nickles Group represents the likes of the Comcast, Eli Lilly and Company, Exxon Mobil and now PPA. The agreement makes PPA the only professional photography association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill.
In addition to having the photography world's only copyright and government affairs department, PPA provides a wealth of resources for photographers online, including sample contracts and model releases. For more information, visit ppa.com/copyright.
Of course, as the Nickles Group reports back to us, we will forward the info on to you! Things are really cooking up there in Washington. BE MORE!
with Bridget Jackson, CPA and PPA Business manager
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!
Hopefully you've filled out your taxes for 2013 by now, but if not, Bridget's got your back! She's got some advice on how to get the most out of your 2013 tax return. Here are some last minute tips for you slackers.
There's plenty to be on the lookout for in these last couple weeks of tax season!
1) The first tip is a big one for you photographers! Are you familiar with Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code? It allows a taxpayer to elect to deduct the cost of certain types of property on their income taxes as an expense, rather than requiring the cost of the property to be capitalized and depreciated. This property is generally limited to new or used tangible, depreciable, personal property which is acquired by purchase for use in the active conduct of a trade or business. This means you might be in line for some tax breaks on your photography purchases as long as they were done for your business. The deduction is limited to the taxable income of the business.
2) How about even more money coming your way? Bonus Depreciation means you can take an additional 50% special allowance for new qualified property placed in service in 2013. The allowance is an additional deduction you can take after any Section 179 deduction and before you figure regular depreciation under MACRS for the year you place the property in service. There is no taxable income limitation. If your 2013 business income is low, opt to depreciate equipment purchases over time rather than all at once.
NOTE: You can't depreciate more than you purchased! For instance if you buy a computer for $3,000 and you take section 179, you only get $3,000. You would not get any additional depreciation under bonus deprecation. Talk to your accountant to ensure you file these purchases correctly!
3) Think ahead! Effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, the De Minimus Safe Harbor Election can elect to treat amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property costing $500 or less as an expense, rather than capital. The election is made annually by including a statement with the taxpayer's timely filed original tax return for the year elected.
4) Do you have a home studio? Home Office Deduction is for the 100% business use of a portion of your home. Determine whether you can use the simplified home office deduction, which allows you to write off $5 per square foot of home office space, and up to $1,500 for 300 square feet. There is no home depreciation deduction or later recapture of depreciation for the years the simplified option is used. However, due to the maximum deduction of $1,500 for the simplified method, it might be more tax advantageous to use the regular method.
5) The business use of your automobile is based either on the standard mileage method or actual expense method. Keep in mind, once you elect to use the actual expense method you cannot switch back to standard mileage method. The standard mileage rate for 2013 and 2014 is 56.5¢ and 56¢, respectively.
6) Pay estimated taxes. If you're self-employed, don't forget your first 2014 estimated tax payment is due April 15. One way to avoid penalties is to take your 2013 tax liability and pay 100 percent of it (110 percent for high-income earners), split into four installments.
7) Fund your retirement. Yes, it's 2014, but you can still contribute to an IRA for the 2013 tax year through April 15. For tax year 2013, you may deduct a maximum contribution of $5,500 to a traditional IRA if you are less than 50 years old. Those 50 or older may deduct up to $6,500. Contributions to a SEP or 401(k) are required to be made by the due date (including extensions) for filing your federal income tax return for the year.
8) Avoid penalties. Failing to file your tax returns on time or failing to pay taxes you owe will cost you. The corporate tax filing date was March 17, so if your company is organized as an S corporation, every shareholder will be charged $195 a month, for a maximum of 12 months, until your return is filed, if an extension was not requested.
9) Healthcare! In 2014, the Affordable Health Care Act requires that you will either need to keep your current insurance plan, purchase coverage, face a penalty tax or get an exemption. The requirement to have insurance is known as the Individual Mandate. The March 31 deadline has been extended two weeks. The penalty for failing to obtain coverage will be inputted on your 2014 tax return due April 15, 2015. The penalties for 2014 are 1% of taxable income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child for a maximum penalty of $285. However, the maximum penalty for 2015 increases to $975, and $2,085 in 2016. Beyond 2016, the penalties are adjusted annually for cost of living increases.
Here are the 10 photography blogs from March 23 - 28, 2014, that we hope will inspire photographers to be more!
From the B&H blog, we found this great interview with storm photographer Mike Olbinski. It's a good look at how to do storm photography and there are some awesome photos as well.
Are you curious about how to capture great images underwater? This post from PetaPixel is for you! Experienced underwater-photographer Sarah Lee shares her advice for how to get the best images in this setting.
If you've ever faced the challenge of re-touching blushing skin, check out this post from the Phoblographer. You'll get some great tips for how to tackle this challenge using Lightroom.
This video from Firefight Films is just plain cool! The filmmakers used a drone with camera attached to take you inside the beautiful 12-mile long Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, Alaska. You can also watch the behind-the-scenes video to see how they did it.
Does your portfolio needs some organizing? This post from Photography Talk will show you why you've got to stop putting it off and get organized today.
The rise of commercially available drones has led to exciting new possibilities in aerial photography. If you're considering getting involved in aerial photography using a drone, check out this guide from Camera Dojo on what you need to know before starting.
If you're a stock photographer, you can't miss this post. Photoshelter provides a guide to Getty Images' new rule allowing images from their library to be used for free online for editorial and non-commercial purposes. Needless to say, this has caused quite a stir in the photography community! As this piece points out, it might not be all bad news. Find out how the new rule affects you and read the reactions of some of the stock photography community.
If you use Lightroom, this post from Lightroom Killer Tips is one you'll want to check out. Find out how you can speed up your workflow by applying presets in Lightroom.
This article from the New York Times reviews "Finding Vivian Maier," a documentary on the famously mysterious street photographer. The film searches for the enigmatic woman behind the lens, and also ponders her as an artist. And more importantly, it takes on the question of if photography itself is an art form.
Rain on the wedding day can be a major challenge, but as Fstoppers shows you in this post, it can't stop you from getting great, memorable photos for your clients.
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.
By Danielle Brooks
About a month ago, I started the Insanity workout program. If you have no idea what Insanity is, look it up. You will legitimately think I'm insane. I break a sweat just watching the infomercial.
So why would I choose to put by body through such a rigorous workout every day? I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and push myself. I needed a challenge. Shaun T, the creator, is always encouraging you to, "dig deeper," and push yourself to your limits.
Part of Insanity is mental. You are training your mind to imagine yourself doing the impossible. When I'm working out and I am completely exhausted, I start saying, "You can do this, Danielle, just a little bit longer. You love working out." By replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones, I am able to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and I get stronger everyday.
There are a couple of life lessons I've learned from Shaun T. that I have been able to apply to my photography business. One of them is tracking my progress. As you do Insanity, Shaun T. has you do a fit test every two weeks. This way you can track how your cardio has improved. There are eight moves, and you do each one for a minute. In that minute you do as many reps as possible. It serves as a constant reminder that your body is changing even if you can't see the external changes. One of the ways I track progress in my business is by blogging.
Right after Imaging USA, I wrote about how I was going to start a senior rep program. My goal was to have 1-2 senior reps. The thought of having more seemed slim since it was my first year running the program. I ended up with 5 reps and had to turn girls away! That's insane!
When I have a goal, I blog about that too. I keep my followers interested by posting my progress. Not only is this good for creating a community of followers, but I also now have a record of my improvement. When I am discouraged I can look back and see where I started. No matter how small the progress, you are still moving.
Another lesson I learned by doing Insanity is to push yourself to your limits and, as Shaun T. says, "Dig deeper!" The last time I wrote for PPA Today, I mentioned I had partnered with a local gymnastics business. I had a meeting with the owner, and she started talking about her need to have sports photos taken of all the kids. I'm not a sports photographer and I have no idea how to set up a shoot like that. She wanted to do the photos in the gym with backdrops and studio lights. As a natural light photographer, I didn't have any of that equipment. The thought of doing a shoot like that terrified me, and yet I found myself saying yes and setting a date for photo day.
I am not saying you should say, "Yes," to every job that comes your way. Sometimes it's best to let your client know your limits; I knew I could handle the situation. As Shaun T. says, "It's a stretch." I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
My list of obstacles was long. I needed backdrops, lights, a lesson on how to use the lights and order forms for parents. I already knew someone who had backdrops and lights that I could borrow. Thankfully I had stopped by a booth that specialized in sports photography at IUSA and picked up some info just in case. They were able to help me organize my thoughts and get some order forms for parents to take home. I am certainly stretching myself, but I'm growing and am a better, more experienced photographer because of it.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about the shoot and how I'm a fish out of water. Cue photo day nightmares. But this leads me to my next lesson learned by Shaun T.: stay focused. Throughout the workouts, Shaun walks around and encourages those working out with him. He does the moves next to other people and corrects their form if they are slightly off. Shaun is always shouting out encouragement to keep going. At one point he looks into the camera and say, "Keep going, you can freaking do it." Normally by that point, I am so tired and want to just stop, but Shaun's encouragement calls me back to reality and I recompose my focus on my workout. I am able to push harder and hang in there just a little longer.
The same goes for my business. It is easy to get distracted by the obstacles in front of me and sometimes I just get worn out, but we need to constantly refocus ourselves on the task at hand. Make sure you have a couple people you can call if you need encouragement. It's always helpful to have some cheerleaders in your corner who can spur you on when you are stalling. For me, it's my husband. He can always motivate me to keep going and he helps me to grow.
I do Insanity because I want my body to change. I want to be the best version of myself I can be. It is a lot of hard work, which is why most people don't do it. The same can be true for photography. To grow and develop is a lot of hard work. To truly excel in this industry you need to push yourself. Getting out of your comfort zone is a good place to start. So get up and get moving. In the words of Shaun T., "You can freaking do it."
When I returned to Virginia, I took Bridget's advice and returned to "Square-One" by identifying my prices. The Business Basics workshop taught me that you have to know the value of the service you provide and then target the audience you want to market. Imaging USA allowed me to develop a twelve month action plan that first focuses on developing a brand, building an audience through relationships and then growing the brand.
While at Imaging USA I developed a relationship with Mark Weber from Marathon Press and we were able to develop my branding and marketing strategy. This month, Pashion Photography is sending our first direct mail advertisement to pre-screened targeted brides!
It took meeting Carrie, Bridget, Mark and Bruce to get the idea that working as a photographer is more than working countless hours, but developing a business model that focuses my talents. I am humbled at their patience and willingness to continue teaching long after class.
Since Imaging USA I keep in regular contact via email with Bruce, who has so much advice and guidance. Mark spends time talking on the phone with me to help identify what type of marketing I am able to do. Carrie created an SMS Superstars Group on Facebook and I am not only continuing to learn from her, but she has introduced me to a whole new level of professional networking. I now have a team of professionals to help me make business decisions. I'm not all alone anymore!
Thanks to their mentorship I've been able to bring my marketing and networking to a new level. I have developed new partnerships and a highly effective constant contact email program that targets newly engaged brides.
We are now offering a "No Obligation" engagement session. It might sound crazy, but we don't charge the couple. And instead of following them around for hours, we now have them come to our studio. We even formed a relationship with a makeup artist and hair stylist to assist with the session.
After the couple arrives, she goes upstairs gets pampered and he gets to hangout and watch sports, relax and learn about our shooting style. By the time she is ready, the "Wow!" on his face says it all, and we start an intimate portrait session.
Once we are finished shooting, the images are edited in about 15 minutes. Yes, 15-minutes! Using what we learned at Imaging--consulting, getting the lighting right and stylized editing--our workflow is incredibly streamlined. We then give the couple a Sticky Album and Animoto Video--products we acquired at Imaging.
We tell the couple that they owe us nothing because this is our interview as their wedding photographer. And believe it or not, we have not had one couple leave without making our minimum purchase of $400. It is a modest amount, remember we are just starting and we are using this as an interview to become their wedding photographer. We are still making money and developing relationships. The whole purpose is to educate and excite the couple to hire us for their wedding.
As my journey as a CPP continues, I am carving my niche and working toward my master of photography degree. I returned to school to finish an MBA program in Project Management and Marketing. I will also teach my first Super 1 Day class on May 18. My talent as a public relations, marketing and social media analyst is allowing me to educate other photographers on the power of developing a marketing and social media management program. The class will help them manage their social media instead of having their social media manage them.
I'm even entering competition! The Southeast District print judging is happening this month and I am hoping to achieve my first photographic merits. I have a lot to learn in this area but learning is the best part! I learned so much about what the judges are looking for at the VPPA print competition and am feeling confident!
When I made the commitment to stop everything and attend Imaging USA I didn't know how I was going to afford the travel, hotel, food and all the cool photographic toys I required. Now two months later I am kicking myself for only seeing a monetary value to Imaging USA. The value is returning home with a list of quantifiable objectives coupled with the motivation to achieve and a network of mentors that want to see you succeed as a professional photographer.
The value that Bruce, Carrie, Bridget and Mark have brought into my life is nothing short of amazing. I now know what it means when I hear other say, "You can't afford not to go." I have been a member of PPA since February 2010 but it wasn't until January 2014, nearly four years later, did I realize that I am part of something bigger. I'm part of a family.
Before Imaging USA I was just happy to get a phone call from someone who wanted to hire me because they believed I could take pictures. But Imaging opened my eyes to the fact that I am part of a profession that is bigger than taking pictures. I am an artist that has a choice in what I create.
Two months later I have established a full-time, home-based studio with a consultation room. Our phone is ringing and we are booking because we are able to develop a product and service that is different from other wedding photographers in the area.
We are building the business from a brand point of view and it's working. We've created a network of vendors and a marketing program that is effective. I've been able to grow my Facebook audience from zero to nearly 1,200 people in about five months and am up to 600 Twitter followers in the same time period. In fact we just decided that we are able to grow and are now looking for a new home that will better support our photography business. I estimate that I will be able to switch over to photography full-time in the next 3 months.
We've already passed our original goal of making $50K and our new goal is to double it. We hope to book 30 weddings and photograph 100 couples for engagement sessions. I can't wait to show Bridget the books when I attend the 3-day business course.
I'm already blocking out time for Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville!
Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN (Ret.)
Ty Swartz, owner of Pashion Photography, is an award-winning, internationally published Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). After serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy and traveling to more than 60 countries, Ty retired as a Public Relations Officer/Mass Communications Specialist Chief Petty Officer in 2011. He is a native of Greenville, Ohio, and currently lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife Nicole.
Ty Swartz, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, had great plans for his "retirement." After more than 20 years serving as a photojournalist in over 60 countries, he came home with a goal of joining PPA and becoming a full-time professional photographer. He joined upon his return in 2010 and recently took things a step further when he achieved the status of Certified Professional Photographer last November.
With his status as a professional firmly solidified, Ty took on his next challenge: building a business he could be proud of. This part of his vision included attending his first Imaging USA in Phoenix. As is his nature, Ty went for more and departed his Virginia studio early for some pre-convention classes.
Ty highlights his experience at Imaging USA in the first of this two-part series below. On Wednesday, he'll update us on how he is already implementing what he learned into every aspect of his business.
Folks, this is how you Imaging USA.
My Imaging USA
By Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN Ret.
The first class I attended was the two-day Business Basics for Wedding Photographers workshop taught by Carrie Wildes, CPP, and Bridget Jackson, a CPA and manager of PPA Business. This class is designed to help identify what I need to do to establish a profitable business.
Carrie took the lead Thursday and we learned about competitive advantage among other wedding photographers, business models, marketing, sales and pricing structures. Friday's class was mainly taught by Bridget. She discussed a variety of business-related items that helped us focus on setting our prices and business strategies. It helped me create a profitable solution to many of our initial start-up circumstances.
If you operate as a professional photographer, then this is one class that you must attend. The knowledge and guidance you receive is simply amazing and you leave with the knowledge that you are a small business owner who happens to do photography.
Instead of exploring Phoenix Saturday, I decided that attending another pre-conference class was more important. The course that I selected was Getting Schooled with High School Seniors, taught by Bruce Berg. Bruce spent the first part of the morning talking about a variety of marketing plans and how he implements them.
Just before lunch, Bruce had two high school seniors come in and showed us his senior portrait techniques. The class was small enough that we were able to get involved and use our cameras and the studio lights provided. It was a great hands-on class and really helped me understand this market. Although I am a wedding photographer, it was a good learning experience in case I decide to dabble in seniors in the future.
From the time I arrived at Imaging there were so many things to see and do relating to photography. I spent most of my time taking notes and meeting some really awesome people. Saturday night had so many events happening that you really had to choose what to attend.
I attended the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep informational seminar with Sandy Puc'. We spent most of the evening doing hand- on photography with Sandy--a very rare one-on-one opportunity with a PPA great. Afterwards I caught the end of the PPA Charities event and bid on a couple of items. Thankfully, I was quickly outbid. I wasn't really committed to spending my "new equipment" money just yet.
Before I knew it, it was Sunday and Imaging USA was officially in full swing. I started my day with The Subtle Art of Persuasion taught by Jon Allyn. This was a great class on building client relationships and how to differentiate from other studios.
It was hard to choose just one out of the mid-morning classes. I'd even recommend making friends to trade notes from different classes with. I selected Prosperity & Purpose: The Photography Business Through a Different Lens, taught by Jeffrey Shaw. He had a really good perspective on how to look at your business so you are moving forward and not staying stagnant--takeaways that I can easily implement.
In the afternoon I was able to attend The Fundamentals of Photographing High School Seniors, taught by Kibbee Walton. He was very focused on engaging the parents and grandparents. You create an emotional experience and through that experience you build lifetime relationships helping your sales and customer loyalty. Great tips for me!
For me, Sunday's must-attend event was Getting it Right in the Camera, with Sandy Puc'. She spent the program going over how to manage lights and build your studio setup from a single light source all the way to five lights. This way you can create amazing in-camera images that require zero editing. Amazing! So if you're spending any time on color or exposure correcting after your shoot, you need to go back and learn how to get a perfect exposure.
Later that day I headed over to theLoop Up and had an opportunity to meet many of the photographers around PPA that I have communicated with using theLoop. If you are a member of PPA--get connected with theLoop! There are some really smart people there and they want to help you when you're stuck with a question.
After mingling for a while it was time for the Imaging USA Welcome Party! They had the red carpet rolled out and everything. I really liked the food and it was great to meet some more photographers.
Monday morning came too quickly, but I arrived to see Jared Platt teach his class on Post-Production Speed in Lightroom 5 and Photo Shop. It's always great to learn tips and tricks to speed up your workflow!
Next I attended My 10 Favorite Money Making Nuggets taught by Kimberly Wylie. This was a great class to gather additional sales tactics. I was starting to see an overall theme as a small business owner: Building relationships is key to success!
The final class that I attended was Steve Kozak's session for new Certified Professional Photographers. He provided his insight about photography, where it is going and how to leverage our certification to stand out from other photographers. The big take away from Steve was don't just Facebook and send emails, but actually pick up the phone and call people! He was right. I had recently sent emails to potential brides and right after his class took the time to make some calls. I wound up booking three right away! Who would have thought the phone works for business?
I then headed over to the Grand Imaging Awards and was stunned by the work presented for competition. Since I have a goal of achieving my master of photography degree, I really need to step up my game and start entering photographic competition!
I was scheduled to fly out and return to reality Tuesday afternoon but not before I was able to sneak in one more class: Maximizing Your Senior Sales with Kent Smith and his wife Sarah. They were very motivational and helped me visualize how I want to set up my consultation room and present my brand as an experience, not just a sale.
I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the Expo floor! There were tons of vendors there demoing and selling new products and I was able to buy new photographic accessories. Remember that money I saved at the Charities auction? I used it on soft boxes, another pocket wizard, custom USB thumb drives, a ring light along with backgrounds and a floor from Silverlight. The Expo really has everything and more you could have on your photography shopping list.
After three full days of education I was ready to jump on a plane and head back to Virginia and dive into building my business the right way...
Check back Wednesday to see Ty's progress since the convention!
By Mariah Ashley
Last night I photographed a wedding that I had been dreading. Unfortunately, the actual day turned out every bit as disastrous as I had imagined it would be. Actually, it was worse.
The day before the wedding, the bride called to talk to Trish and me about the groom and his attitude about being photographed. To put it bluntly, she said, "He loathes being photographed, doesn't value wedding photography, and really doesn't care for photographers in general."
Apparently, every conversation they had had about the wedding-day photography had ended in an argument. They had finally reached a compromise with him conceding to a strict twenty minutes of allotted time for wedding portraits. She told us to anticipate him walking away when we'd used up our time regardless of whether or not we were finished. She also told us we should stay far away from him during the rest of the day and shoot with a powerful telephoto lens in "compression mode" (whatever that means) so he wouldn't know we were taking his photo. We briefly debated returning her money, but it was the day before the wedding so we felt we couldn't leave her in the lurch without a photographer.
The next day things went from bad to worse. Trish and I arrived early at the first look location, a pretty, but crowded park. To our horror, we discovered that the videographers and the couple had also arrived early and the first look was happening at the opposite end of the park without us. We hadn't even unpacked our camera bags!
I ran toward the couple in a desperate attempt to stop the action. Trish scrambled back to the car to grab our things, leaving one of our bags momentarily unattended. As she wrestled with the lighting equipment, some lucky thief promptly made off with the bag that held all of our cameras and lenses.
Meanwhile, the groom sauntered over and told us our twenty minutes had just begun. I told Trish to assemble the 22-person bridal party while I searched the trunk for anything I could use to make a photo. The only thing I keep in my trunk is an old Hasselblad medium format camera and three ancient of rolls of unused 220 film that I intended to sell at the local camera shop.
I ran toward the bridal party, who by this time were all waiting impatiently and staring daggers at me, and desperately tried to remember how to load the film. The first roll I tried to load popped out of my fingers and rolled to the feet of the groom who glanced at his watch and said, "ten minutes." I unwrapped the second roll and discovered it had melted in the trunk. The third roll came lose in my hands but I managed to get it loaded in the back of the camera with guaranteed light leaks.
I stood up and turned around to face the crowd, posing myself to take the first and possibly last shot.
I pressed down on the shutter, it wouldn't fire.
I pressed again, nothing happened.
The lens was jammed and I was out of time. The groom was absolutely disgusted and the bride was panicking.
As we stood apologizing, a man with a camera and a tripod rushed over and offered his help. He stepped up to the bridal party and began shooting the group Trish had posed. The groom yelled out, "We should have hired this guy, he has equipment that works!"
We were absolutely defeated and completely horrified. I took out my checkbook and offered to write the photographer a check in the amount the couple had paid me. As I made out the check, I glanced at the back of his camera and saw that every photo he was taking cropped the bridal party at their chins and the background wasn't a pretty tree we had posed them under but some type of green screen with lasers and the Milky Way imposed behind them. My jaw hit the ground.
And then I woke up.
I shot my first wedding in 1996 and every spring these dreams start. Yes, it's been eighteen years of wedding day disaster dreams.
In one of my dreams I didn't have a camera at all. I just stood in the aisle as the bride and her dad walked toward me, making a square with my fingers and a clicking noise with my mouth. I remember hoping the photos would come out, but wondered what kind of cable could transfer the photos in my mind to the computer. And then there's the reoccurring dream where the ceremony is about to begin and I'm at the wrong church in the wrong state. Whomp.
I'm not alone in my worry-filled nights either. Trish has even stranger dreams. Once her camera was a shoe box covered with sea shells and another time she opened the camera to find that the film in the back was covered in wedding cake and frosting. Yet another time, finding herself with no camera, she speedily built one from her sons Legos.
Maybe these dreams are just our subconscious way of preparing us for a worst-case scenario. Or perhaps it's the brain's way of reminding us that photographing a wedding is a huge responsibility not to be taken lightly.
Still, the longer I shoot weddings, the easier it gets. I no longer feel nervous before a wedding like I used to, because I've handled so many real life disastrous scenarios and lived to tell the story. Besides, we take so much time preparing before the wedding with shot lists, photo plans, and getting to know our clients that there are rarely any more surprises.
It wasn't like that 18 years ago. Back then I would just show up to the wedding with no information about the couple. No shot list. No plan. No clue.
The bride's father was deceased? Didn't know that until I asked the bride if she'd like a photo with him. The groom's parents divorced and hate each other? Didn't know that until I tried to put them in a photo together and caused a scene. Being ill-informed and insensitive doesn't have to be as dramatic as all that though, sometimes it is much more subtle.
Last week I got an unusual phone call. A trembling female voice asked, "I have kind of a strange question. When you shoot a wedding do you ask the client what shots they want and who the important people are?"
I said, "Yes. We always work out a shot list and we ask our clients to provide us with a who's who. We don't ask for obvious shots like bride walking down the aisle, but we do want to know if there is anything special you want photographed that we might miss otherwise. Why do you ask?"
The trembles turned to sniffles, which turned to restrained crying as the woman explained that her photographer had never asked her those questions or created a shot list. She said that her photographer had missed some photos that she felt were obvious and very important, such as a photo of her grandmother and shots of her mother at the house helping her dress. She said it made her so sad that she couldn't look at her wedding photos at all even though there were some nice shots mixed in. The photos she was missing spoiled the whole experience for her. In her words, it had turned her happy day into a "nightmare".
Between sniffles she said she didn't realize she should communicate her specific requests to her photographer because, after all, she had never planned a wedding before. Even worse, she had tried to request a few shots and they were dismissed by the photographer as too difficult to make happen. All I could think as I tried to console her was, I never want to get this call from one of my clients!
This is my 19th wedding season, and it might be easy to get complacent but I don't ever want to dial it in on someone's big day. Getting that call was an important reminder of how emotional people are on their wedding day and how emotionally attached they are to their photographs after the wedding. It's not enough to take pretty photos for ourselves; we also need to be sensitive enough to take the right photos for our clients. We need to prepare and then prepare some more to try to insure that we understand what those important photos are.
Then, when the big day comes, we need to take out our
covered in seashells cameras and
shoot that wedding like there's only one chance to get it right. Because that's
the reality--the alternative is a nightmare.
About the author:
Before you imbibe some food-colored beverages and get your Irish up over the weekend, take a look at our 10 favorite blogs from this week. Who knows, maybe you'll find that inspiration you've been looking for. Be More!
Fights Fair Use Over Stolen Bikini Pic
Stealing an image is one thing, but taking a photo from a blog about body acceptance and using it for your diet product ad is quite another entirely. Read on to see if blogger Rachele Cateyes has a case! (via Yahoo!)
Out How Google Mapped the Colorado River
Talk about a cool gig! The adventure-seekers at The Clymb bring you the story of Google Street View's mission to map out America's most endangered river. Do you have a 15-lens camera in your bag? (You don't, it totally wouldn't fit.) (via The Clymb)
Can't Get Enough of These Wild Horses on the Beach
While you're checking that 10-day forecast to see when you can get your butt outside and (finally) enjoy some sun, the savvy folks at The Weather Channel have links to several galleries of beautiful pictures along the sidebar. This one in particular caught our eye, of the wild horses that inhabit a tiny island of the coast of Maryland. It's probably because we have not one, but two Super Monday classes coming up on photographing these majestic animals! (via The Weather Channel)
Some Help Finding Your Niche?
You've heard it before right? "You just need to find your niche." Although you might not want to feel pigeonholed into one thing or another, it actually will help your clients if you can specialize in particular areas! The folks at Photography Talk came up with five easy ways to help you figure it out. (via PhotographyTalk)
$450,000 Lawsuit Against Getty Goes to Trial
Oh boy... We've talked about how badly you need to use a model release, right? Heck, we even provide samples for free. Well, here's an extreme example why. (via PetaPixel)
Photography Declares Bankruptcy and Closes All U.S. Stores
Well, this is a weird one. Just this morning via their now-taken-down Facebook page, Calumet Photography declared bankruptcy and announced that it was closing all of its U.S. stores immediately. There are even reports that the company did not notify many of its employees. Weird! (via SLR Lounge)
7) Need a Photography
Quote? Here are 50
There's nothing quite like a good inspirational or motivational quote to add to a compelling image. It's even better if the words come out of the mount of a legend in the photographic industry. PetaPixel put together this list--see if you find any you like! (via PetaPixel)
New Take on Stealing Photographs on the Web
This might be a good one to re-post on your social media. The Chicago Tribune came up with this clever, totally bogus list on reasons to steal photographs. You've probably heard them all before, but have your clients? (via Chicago Tribune)
Kiss Viral Video Actually An Ad for Clothing Line
We wanted to believe in this one. We really did. It was compelling and beautiful and emotive and... an ad for WREN Studio's Fall 2014 line. Wait, what? Viral marketing at its finest folks! Slate has the info. (via Slate)
By Mariah Ashley
Last week we had a meeting with a bride, her mother, and her sister. Somehow we got on the topic of the book "Orange is the New Black" and its author Piper Kerman. The mother of the bride mentioned that her friend had met Piper Kerman at a party and that she was a real disappointment. According to the friend, Piper Kerman wasn't dramatic or interesting at all, just a regular person with nothing engrossing to share.
I felt myself blushing and looking down at my hands and notes when she described the author this way, and not because I spent the night in jail when I was fifteen either (that's a story for another day). I felt nervous because I wondered if like me, Ms. Kerman sometimes feared she was perceived as more fun on paper than in real life. I felt really rattled by the conversation but couldn't quite figure out why.
Similarly, last summer Trish and I arrived at a wedding and were greeted by a very enthusiastic bridesmaid. She gushed that she had been following our blog for a year and loved reading all of our hilarious posts. Trish graciously told her that I was said hilarious blog writer. The bridesmaid turned to me and told me that meeting me was like meeting a celebrity. Huh? This did not make me feel good.
In that moment I absolutely wanted to evaporate. I immediately felt a crushing pressure to be fabulous and simultaneously felt every shred of interesting, witty, and clever in my body dry up and blow away like dust. Poof.
I had shrinkage, not the physical kind, a-la George Costanza takes a dip in the cold water and his "inadequacies" are revealed to all, but the personality kind. It was like she threw my brain into a bucket of ice water and my brain was all like, "Sorry, I got nothin'. Shrinkage!"
In that moment I became the most boring person on the planet and for the duration of the event was unable to recover from it. Just like George my social inadequacies were revealed to all. How very disappointing.
Have you ever felt like that? Well, you may be an introvert like me. I'm reading a book now called "Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. She poses a 20 question quiz for identifying yourself as introverted.
See if you answer yes to any of these questions:
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
2. I prefer to express myself in writing.
3. I enjoy solitude.
4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame, and status.
5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in-depth about topics that matter to me.
6. People tell me that I am a good listener.
7. I'm not a big risk taker.
8. I enjoy work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions.
9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale with only one or two close friends and family members.
10. People describe me as "soft spoken" or "mellow".
11. I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished.
12. I dislike conflict.
13. I do my best work on my own.
14. I tend to think before I speak.
15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I've enjoyed myself.
16. I often let calls go through to voicemail.
17. If I had to choose, I'd prefer a weekend with nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled.
18. I don't enjoy multi-tasking.
19. I can concentrate easily.
20. In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars.
Well, I'm 20 for 20. You?
I've always felt "less-than" in this world that prizes extroverts. Introverts get a bad rap. They are often perceived as shy or weak.
But according to Cain,
A few things introverts are not: The word introvert is not a synonym for hermit or misanthrope. Introverts can be these things, but most are perfectly friendly. One of the most humane phrases in the English language - "Only connect!" - was written by the distinctly introverted E.M. Forster in a novel exploring how to achieve "human love at its height." Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not over stimulating.
That's me! I can be super friendly but then I need time to myself to recharge my batteries. Being around people is fine for a while but it doesn't fill my tanks, it depletes them.
Recently though, I have found a way to really make my introversion work for my business: phone Conversations. Seems counter intuitive doesn't it? For a while now I have felt that I have been letting potential clients slip through my fingers. Email inquiries pour into my inbox and I respond in kind with personalized friendly emails (love expressing myself through writing) and attached price list.
Then I wait.
Some people book, but many others are never heard from again. Our ratio of leads turned to bookings seemed out of whack to me. Deep down I knew that although I preferred to express myself through writing the email, the real me would actually be more fun and effective in person. Ugh, my worst nightmare.
Then I remembered something I heard at Jeffery Shaw's seminar at Imaging USA. He promised that if we would face our limiting beliefs that our biggest fear could become our greatest joy. Shortly after when I watched a lecture from photographer Susan Stripling and she talked about calling her leads, I decided it was time to pick up the phone. The next time I got an email I responded with a friendly greeting and a request to chat on the phone.
Later that day I found myself deep in conversation with Marion. She told me all about her partner, Erin, and how they were so thrilled to be able to be married in Rhode Island. We talked about marriage equality, the blending of their families (Erin had children from a previous marriage), and the importance of their family and friends being bearing witness to this amazing day in their lives.
Marion expressed that they were both camera shy but understood the importance of documenting the day. I told her how at my own wedding (a second marriage for me) the most important photograph for me was the portrait of my blended family, and how I hung it proudly in my living room. I thanked Marion for taking the time to tell me about herself and her plans and encouraged her to call me with any questions.
Later that day she emailed me, she didn't have any questions but she did have this to say:
I just spoke to Erin about our conversation and SNAP as a good option for our photography. We did not intend initially to invest this amount into photography, but it is an important day and lasting memories will be important and a source of enjoyment for years to come. As we discussed--we don't have many photos of the two of us and so this alone is of great value to us. Finally, photos of the four of us on this day are also of great value and I suspect may be the photo of the day for us. Your work is clearly exceptional and so booking leaves me comfortable that this part of the day will be well covered.
I never would have booked this wedding had I not asked Marion to chat with me over the phone. Had I just sent my standard email she would have disappeared into the internet abyss. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was using 5 of the 20 traits cited in the introvert "quiz" above.
Trait #1: I may not be great in group activities, but I am really good with one-on-one conversations. When I called Marion, I didn't sit at my desk, I curled up on the couch and even threw a blanket over my lap like I would do when chatting with my sister. This put me in the mood to talk to Marion like someone I already knew.
Trait #4: Introverts care less about wealth and fame. I feel uncomfortable talking to my clients about money for this reason: I will never be able to "hard sell" or "close the deal." That's just not my style. I gave Marion a range of prices on the phone, but told her I would email her the specifics after our conversation which made it easier to focus on connecting with her.
Trait #5: It's also true that I dislike small talk, but enjoy talking in depth about subjects that matter to me. I was able to skip over the small talk and focus on meaningful topics like marriage equality and the importance of documenting Marion's new family--both subjects that I believe in strongly. For this reason I believe Marion felt connected to me and comfortable that our ideals were in line with each other.
Trait #6: People tell me I am a good listener. I used to think that calling a potential client meant that I had to do a lot of talking and that's why I avoided it. What it actually means is that I should do a lot of listening. I asked Marion a few leading questions such as; "What kind of photography are you drawn to?" and then I just let her talk.
Trait #14: I tend to think before I speak. This ties into trait #6. Because I am listening intently, it's easy for me to deliberately add sensitive observations and insights to the conversation.
Marion felt heard and we made a personal connection. For her, hiring us became a no brainer. I felt rewarded and energized by our conversation. I tried my new approach on the next five inquiries. Within 48 hours, four of them had emailed to say they would like to book with us. Now that's the kind of lead conversion I'm talkin' about!
Introverts of the world! Hear my words! Did you know that Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Gates, Dr. Seuss, Steven Spielberg, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Streisand, Gandhi, Warren Buffett and Albert Einstein all identified themselves as introverted? We're in good company my friends.
Your perceived weaknesses are actually your greatest assets! Harness the quiet power within you and reach out to potential clients who are looking for a personal connection (i.e. reason to hire you over your competitor). You can do it, curl up on the couch and have a nice old fashioned conversation with someone you don't know.
Your business, but more importantly your heart and your clients will thank you for it.