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If you've never entered a photographic competition before, you're probably feeling some fear of having your images judged by another photographer. It can be nerve-wracking, but as we've heard from members that participate, PPA's International Photographic Competition (IPC) and the District Competitions are some of the best ways to improve your images and your technique as a photographer. To get the most out of the IPC, we recommend getting the images you enter critiqued by a judge who's trained for and dedicated to this photo competition.

To help you get rid of some of your fears, and maybe even encourage you to request a critique at the next District Competition, here's an example of what you can expect! This is "Rustic Cabin" by David Bair, critiqued by Jon Allyn. Take a look!


By Bridget Jackson, CPA, PPA Business manager

Have you ever read something and thought to yourself, I could have written that! Today is that day for me. In fact, the entire article could have been my quotes.

The article was 7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Business Succeeds by Donald Todrin. He points out business fundamentals have not changed, but new strategies are required in light of the changing economic conditions. The information is poignant when applied to photography business owners, so I decided to do just that! Here are his seven ways to succeed in business tweaked for what I believe to be strategies for the photography industry.  

1) Have a written plan that should include the following:
 a. A financial plan detailing how many sessions you plan to conduct at a certain sales average, an estimate of how much it will take to produce your products (cost of sales), and an estimate of what your fixed expenses will be.
 b. A source of initial financing until the business is self-sufficient. On average, per the SBA, it takes some businesses 3-5 years until they are sustainably self-sufficient. Knowing this, if you plan to use your personal resources, go at it fully understanding that it will take time to replenish.
 c. A sales plan to achieve your sales average goal. The plan should include a strategy and a price list set up to achieve the goal.
 d. A marketing plan to attract the amount of sessions you need to satisfy your financial plan. The plan should identify your ideal paying client and the appropriate strategy to attract such defined target clientele. Also develop your marketing calendar, detailing the tools to be used, when to use them, and how you will measure your results. (PPA's Square One tool is a great place to start developing your plan.)
 e. Detailed workflow from the initial phone call to the delivery of the products. Outlining each step of your process doesn't only help identify the time required for each session, but it will also help you define outsourcing/employee opportunities.

2) Don't marry your plan. Even the best laid-out plans can eventually go awry. Think of it this way; it's not necessarily the plan that is important, but what we learn from the planning process and how it shapes and guides our future actions.

3) Keep your ego in check and listen to others. The photography industry is unique in some ways in that there are plenty of mentors out there to help guide you. Find one whose business is a reflection of what YOU would like your business to be. Look past the "flashy stuff" towards finding a mentor who is dedicated to their craft and their photography business.

4) Keep track of everything, and manage your numbers. In order to be successful, it is imperative as a studio that you know how many sessions you need to hold in order to reach your goals. The results of this analysis can tell you if your sales and marketing plans are working. It's that plain simple. And if they are not working, it may be time to reassess. PPA has made it easy for you to evaluate your numbers. Just go check the online tools, Square One in particular, that will help you establish the basis of managerial accounting.

5) Delegate and avoid micromanaging. This is where your detailed workflow (see 1e) comes into play. It is important for you to remember that you don't have to do everything. In the beginning, it might make sense, but as your business grows, carve out specific outsourcing opportunities using your detailed workflow. The photography business tends to be seasonal so keep that in mind as well when you are creating your plan. If you find yourself needing help year round, then it is time to take the steps needed to hire on an additional employee.

6) Use the internet! Social media is one marketing tool that is inexpensive but vitally important to building your business. It takes time and effort but if you schedule it ahead of time and take advantage of off-season opportunities to pre-post, it will become easier.  More importantly, it is pertinent that you do it consistently in order to be effective. Look outside of our industry to see how profitable companies take advantage of free marketing tools.

7) Reinvent your business. Seriously. If you don't like what your numbers are telling you, make a change. Of course, map out your change, but always remember that it is ok to take calculated risks. It's not about what you gross, but what you keep in our pockets. Assess your business from a different perspective. Ask yourself what your competitive advantage is. What niche could you carve out of your competitive market, and how could you provide better customer service to elevate your value? Discounting brings down your market's perception of your value so instead of playing the pricing war, exceed your clients' expectations by delivering more!

You have made a conscious choice to be a photographer, one that requires time and money. Always give yourself the best chance to succeed in this ever-changing profession. Knowledge is power--and as an entrepreneur, you are on an endless path to discover what you don't know. This is what PPA is here for: to help you be more profitable by continuing to learn about the photography business!

jacksonbridget_blog.jpgAbout the author:
Bridget Jackson is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and PPA Business manager. Over the years, Bridget has helped hundreds of photography studios become more profitable. 
By Chris Homer

Imaging USA 2015 is only 75 days away! With that in mind, I'd like to encourage you toapp_icon_web.jpg download today (it's free!) so you can be more prepared for all the good stuff coming your way in Nashville. It's the best way to be connected with all the latest news and updates while you're there!

With the mobile app, you'll be able to:

  • View and favorite all the details on classes, sessions, speakers, special events and even the exhibitors at the Imaging Expo.
  • Build your own schedule by simply adding the sessions or events you want to your agenda.
  • Message and arrange private meetings with other attendees (even if you have all their contact info: the app will connect you!)
  • Earn points and take your chance at daily prizes by playing with the in-app game.
  • See what other attendees are saying on Twitter and Facebook (and add to the conversation!)
  • Give feedback and help make this a better conference by taking the in-app session surveys after each class.
  • Use the maps to find your way around the convention center and throughout the Imaging Expo.
  • And more!

If you're attending Imaging USA, this app will be your best friend during the convention. It's available now for iPhone and iPad, Android devices and there's also a web version for those of you that don't own an Apple or Android phone or tablet.

Find all the information on how to download for your device here. Stay-tuned to PPA's blog and ImagingUSA.org for videos demonstrating how to use the different features of the app.
 
Of course, if you haven't registered for Imaging USA yet, do it today! Find all the different options on the registration page.

See you in Nashville!  


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About the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages. 
The cold may be rampaging across the country as we speak, (it is really, really cold--even inThumbnail image for top10blogroundup.jpg Atlanta) but don't let that get you down! It's Friday, which means we're back with the latest and greatest in photography news.

Warren Motts Honors the Troops
FOR HISTORY BUFFS: Past PPA president, Warren Motts, M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., A-ASP, F-ASP, is often lovingly referred to by staff as our PPA historian. Turns out he runs a museum of his own to tell the stories of the men and women who have served our country. Check out this news coverage on how he honors our country's veterans by displaying their memorabilia and his quest for funding for a new 9/11 exhibit.

300 Million Miles Away from Earth, there is now a Probe on a Comet
INSPIRATION: On a comet out in space-- far, far away--humanity landed a probe. It's a staggering feat of scientific genius and we're lucky we get to see pictures of it through the magic of photography.

Model & Whale Become One in the Vastness of the Ocean
TIPS: Check out the process behind how this photographer was able to capture some stunning images of his model as she poses with the majestic (and slightly terrifying) whale shark.

Performance vs. Appearance

BUSINESS: The Lawtog is back with some advice on how important it is to always keep appearances up regardless of how your business is fairing. Turns out, at first people care more about what it looks like you do rather than your numbers, how many hours you spend editing, or how much that box costs for your print packaging.

Building a Photo from the Back to the Front
LIGHTING: Joe McNally provides a complete step-by-step breakdown of why it is sometimes critical to think differently about your lighting direction. Step out of your comfort zone and create images that you didn't think we're possible with these simple steps!

Attention All Freelancers
FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHY: In this video, Brad Smith, Director of Photography for Sports Illustrated, talks about the different practices successful freelance photographers employ to set themselves apart. If you have any interest in being self-employed this one is definitely worth watching!

Building Your Brand through Your Website

BRANDING: Sometimes the most important actions you can take to improve your business aren't photography related at all. Things such as your brand and your website can be just as influential to your success. The guys over at Fstoppers show you how crafting an impressive website can be just the kick your business (and brand) needs.

The World's Finest Astrophotography
INSPIRATION: You may not have heard of Mark Gee, but he was the 2013 Astronomy Photographer of the Year. This video covers his rise to stardom and what inspires him to be the photographer he is today.

Ah yes, Photoshop. What can't you do?

FOR FUN: We'll end our roundup this week with a dash of wacky absurdity. We won't spoil it for you but prepare to be overcome with emotions of fear and delight at the same time.

That's, that y'all! The top 10 photography blog posts from around the web this week. What photography blogs have you been enjoying? Let us know on theLoop!
By Chris Homer

It's time to get to know another Imaging USA instructor taking the stage at Nashville in 2015.kozak_headshot.jpg In this interview, Steve Kozak, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, talks about why you should sign up for his "The Secrets to Success When Turning Pro" pre-convention class (which he'll be co-hosting with Britney Fullgraf). He also shares why he become a photographer, what he believes his style is, why he enjoys serving on PPA's Board of Directors... and why he prefers Johnny Cash to Elvis.

When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?


I was a professional musician in a band when I got my first camera. I loved music, but there are demands that go with being in a band that make things hard to keep up with that lifestyle. The more I learned about photography, the more I realized the similarities between taking photos and making music. When I figured out I could use my camera to tell stories, make people feel and use it as an outlet for my creativity, I left the band, sold my guitar and bought my first 2.8 lens. There was no looking back!

What are the top 5 things people will learn from your class?


The first thing we discover is that quality photography begins with the fundamentals--the techniques all photographers should know. Participants will learn how to elevate the quality of their images to a professional level through proper exposure, lighting and posing.

Next, we'll look at gaining control over the portable flash by using it in manual mode and the value of using supplemental lighting with off-camera flash. This is a huge game-changer for photographers trying to improve the quality of their images!

Then, we examine the value that studio lighting brings to the financial success of photographers--and I'll show you how you can use this type of lighting even if you don't have a studio space. I plan to really demystify studio lighting and make it an approachable technique for photographers.

We then look at how to market professional photography and the importance of the message that you place in front of the target market.

Finally, we examine sales strategies and techniques to maximize the sale without feeling like you are pushing too hard. After all, the easier sales become for you, the more money you'll make and the more time you can actually spend behind the camera!

Who should take your class?


All photographers who are considering stepping out into professional photography as their full time job, as much as those who "leapt before they looked". It's not too late to learn how to run a photography business properly! It's never too late! I've built this class to answer so many of the questions photographers starting in the business have, and I truly believe it can help you be successful.

Which do you enjoy more: teaching or photographing?

OK, this question is not fair! It's sort of like choosing your favorite child or your favorite Beatles song. The truth is, I love teaching to those who will dare to take information and run with it. Helping others grow and seeing them succeed brings me greater pleasure than just about anything I do.

What makes you and your co-speaker Britney Fullgraf such a great team?

Britney is simply brilliant. She has a sharp mind for business and knows how to make money. We really take two different approaches to what we do, but when it comes to teaching photographers how to find success, our styles complement each other so well that students can take the best of what each of us has to offer.

Describe your photographic style.

I think of my work as "crafted". I do not leave the details of my work to chance and I am very selective about my lighting, posing and technique. I almost always go into a session knowing what I seek to create for the client. I strive to create images that are unique for every client.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Life. Music. The heart of the person in front of my camera. Landscapes. Fashion. Movies. Art. The human emotion. The mountains. The beach. Contrasts. The dark side. Beauty. Love. Lost love. Hope. Just to name a few!

Why was it important for you to serve on PPA's Board of Directors?

It is important that all of us answer the call to serve whenever or wherever we are called. Serving on the PPA Board of Directors means that I really am serving the 27,000+ photographers of this association who have dreams, passions, struggles, needs, successes and desires. By giving my time and service to this group, I become a small yet active part of a larger community that provides photographers a light along a path that helps them be more and get where they want to go. The tools and the opportunities that PPA provides for photographers are limited only by the willingness of each photographer to reach out and take hold of them. Who wouldn't want to be a part of something as special as that?

Elvis, Johnny Cash, or Jack White?

What about the Beatles?! OK, focus...Jack has had a hand in the success of a number of projects, but is not as recognized as Elvis or Johnny Cash. Johnny was, and still is, "The Man in Black". How cool is that? But Elvis... he is so cool he only needs one name.  
This question has me "all shook up", so I think I will "walk the line". I think Elvis had so many people he had to please and so many people trying to own him, so I chose Johnny Cash because I think he did what he wanted to do the way he wanted to do it. Sounds like a true artist to me!

Come learn from Steve live at Imaging USA 2015. His "The Secrets To Success When Turning Pro" pre-convention class will run January 29 - 30 for an additional $199 fee to your registration. Get all the details on Imaging USA and register here!


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About the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages. 
By Sarah Ackerman

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To help you become familiar with the photographers who will be on the Imaging USA stage, we asked them some questions to really dig deep. In this interview, Kareem Black, portrait photographer and philanthropist extraordinaire, talks about inspiration, our changing industry and how to break into the upper echelon of commercial photography. You can check out his program details here but in the meantime, enjoy!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in defining yourself as a photographer?

The biggest challenge I face, just like most artists, is figuring out what exactly I want to say, and how to say it, in a way that is unique to me. This is probably a lifelong exploration. Early on, I was a lot more technical and used a ton of lights, lenses etc., much more so than I use now. I was hiding behind production and lighting rather than letting the image tell the story. I'm not saying that using a ton of lights is bad, but for me, once I simplified my shooting set I started on what to say with/through the image. With that said, I'm happy I did go through that more technical phase because now I'm very confident in my ability to light just about anything.

What do you think the biggest challenge people just starting out in the industry face?

The biggest challenge might be when people are trying to break into the industry and get noticed. There are so many photographers! To be clear, there always have been a lot of photographers, but today there are seemingly less clients because there are more photographers than ever. In commercial photography, the great recession really killed a lot of print media which was the initial stepping stone that lead into bigger advertising and music work. I started out shooting for magazines and then moved onto CD covers. When's the last time anyone bought a CD? What I'm going to say is sort of common knowledge, but I think that it makes a big difference how photographers face there being more competition and less clients. I love competition and I love looking at photography. One of the first things I do every morning is surf Tumblr and Instagram. It inspires me to see what others are doing. I say the more photographers the better, generally speaking. If you love what you do, and thrive off the battle and the battle makes you better at what you do, you'll be fine. Also, show your work to as many people as possible and never ever ever stop making new work!

Define your photography style in four words.

#feelsgoodletsgo

How do you stay ahead of the game in this industry?

I think that constantly creating new work is very important. By new work I mean new bodies of work. Photographers are like sharks--we have to keep moving forward or we die. Evolution is paramount. I start new personal projects, take trips, conduct an experiment, take risks with my photography. That's how I stay ahead. Otherwise, dwelling in my comfort zone for too long will be death.

What are you most excited about at Imaging USA?

I'm excited to meet and talk shop with photographers of all ages and from all over the world. New York and L.A. can become very incestuous. Everyone knows everyone, there are accepted ways of doing things and how things should look. But I want to experience other points of view and share my own insights. 

What inspires you?

I want to be inspired by as much as possible. I'm a photographer, so obviously I am inspired by photography past and present, but also art in general. I want to know what people were thinking when they did certain things, these questions go beyond art. I'm also genuinely interested in the human condition and like to ask myself what I would have done in certain situations, which provides me with great insights. All of that inspires me! As a photographer I am an explorer and I  find inspiration in all of my explorations.

What is one marketing mistake most new photographers make?

Offering a special or a promotion is often a tight-rope walk. You don't want to be bothersome and call/email/mail people too often, but on the other hand, I don't want to do it so rarely that I am forgotten. There must be a happy medium. Sending a promo, maybe twice a year, is appropriate for me, as well as emails with relevant new work samples. Too often photographers bombard editors with work that isn't necessarily their best stuff. I generally prefer quality over quantity.

How did you break into the high-end commercial photography market?

The industry is small and in New York it is very small. I am a pretty social guy and I love a good party. Believe it or not most of the first people I met, were through social settings - parties, bars, shows, that sort of thing. You'd be surprised how many deals and how much business is transacted in venues like this. At the end of the day, people make deals with people and there are a lot of great photographers out there. The people really want to have some sort of connection, or at least get along with the photographers they will hire.

Elvis, Johnny Cash, or Jack White?

Frederic Chopin

See Kareem live and in action at Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville! He will be giving his program "A Portrait Photographer's Survival Guide to a Changing Industry" on Tuesday, February 3rd at Imaging USA. Get all of the details and register today here!

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Sarah Ackerman is known around PPA as #Sarah in part because she handles all things social media and in order to differentiate herself from the other Sarah's in the office. Sarah loves improv comedy (think "Whose Line") and routinely performs with WitPro around the Atlanta area and at Dad's Garage Theatre Company. When she's not tweeting/instagramming/facebooking all of the action at PPA, she can be found gallivanting around the world or wandering around the woods with her pup, but more than likely she's on stage making people giggle.

By Sarah Ackerman

Happy Halloween! We'll cut to the chase - there's candy to eat! Check out our top ten favorite blogs from the week! 

LOOKING BACK: Whether you've been in business for decades or you're just starting out, there are some things nobody teaches in photography school and... Ummm, that's what PPA's here for, but that's not the point: check out these great pieces of advice seven professional photographers WISH they would have learned earlier in their career from PetaPixel.

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: The Law Tog is back with some great advice inspired by her kids - manage your clients with your words. Here are her three tips on how to manage expectations, guide them in the process and keep everyone happy!

BUILDING YOUR DATABASE: How do you build your client base? Here are some great tips from Contrastly that go above and beyond relying on word-of-mouth advertising. 

CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE: No matter how long you've been in this business, you should never-ever stop learning. This blog from PhotolisticLife shows how even the smallest of changes can make a huge impact on your perspective. What have you tried lately to jazz things up and improve your craft?

GOOD FOR BUSINESS: We know you're past the point of working as an assistant photographer, but check out this article from Light Stalking and get inspired to possibly take on your own. Bring up a new talent in the business and show them how to do it right, not how to do it cheap.

PACKING CHEAT SHEET: So you're going to a remote atoll? What do you bring? Check out this great timelapse video and blog from National Geographic photographer Corbun Dukehart on his trip working on Aldabra atoll. It's a great lesson on learning your environment regardless of where you are and knowing how to best protect your equipment. 

EXTRACTING STILLS: Learn from PPA photographer Michele Clentano how to take stills from high quality video, and why that might be a great option for capturing once-in-a-lifetime portraits on this great blog from PetaPixel.

WORKFLOW: Want to optimize your workflow? Customize your workspace in Lightroom! It's really simple with these tips from Photofocus and can help streamline all of the tools you need regularly, versus the ones you use once in a blue moon. 

BEHIND BARS: You? Get arrested? Not since that one time on spring break in college*! In any case, as a professional photographer, you should know your rights. Check out this great interview with Mickey Osterreicher from the National Press Photographers Association to make sure you have your facts straight.

*Authors note: I've never been arrested, but have had more than my fair share of speeding tickets. Oops.

REALITY TV: Our favorite photography reality show is back with Part II of its San Diego Challenge! Catch Levy Moroshan and Dan Hughes go head to head (lens to lens?). Voting ends November 2nd, so take 20 minutes, watch the show and vote!



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Sarah Ackerman is known around PPA as #Sarah in part because she handles all things social media and in order to differentiate herself from the other Sarah's in the office. Sarah loves improv comedy (think "Whose Line") and routinely performs with Witless Protection around the Atlanta area and at Dad's Garage Theatre Company. When she's not tweeting/instagramming/facebooking all of the action at PPA, she can be found gallivanting around the world or wandering around the woods with her pup, but more than likely she's on stage making people giggle.

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By Sarah Ackerman 

As a member of PPA, you know how important it is to educate your clients on seeing the difference between the value of a professional photographer and Uncle Bob with a camera. To help, we've created a few nifty tabs (and its corresponding content, of course) that you'll be able to install on your company's Facebook page. It's meant to help you convey why hiring a professional photographer (specifically: you!) makes all the difference in the world! 

There are a few options for these "See the Difference" Facebook tabs. There are tabs for wedding photographers, portrait photographers, senior photographers and even a general photography tab (not specialty-specific) if you fit all (or none) of those categories. 

We created this content and will update it periodically, but we can't install it for you. So how do you go about installing this bad boy Facebook tab? There are quite a few ways!

It costs a little bit of money, ($30/month for most everyone, but if you have more than a few thousand fans, prices increase) yet it is the easiest way to go about installation. What's the phrase? "You can have two of the three out of: good, cheap and fast". This is good and fast, it isn't expensive, but isn't super cheap. To make it as easy as possible without actually doing it for you, Shortstack walks you through the installation process screen shot by screen shot (them doing it for you isn't an option: consider it a learning opportunity). 

It is a cheaper version at $15 for up to 1,000 fans (or only a buck for up to 100 fans). It won't walk you through the installation process in as detailed of a way as Shortstack, but it'll be still pretty easy to get it up and running if you indeed do it step by step. If you can handle $15/month, this is a great way to get this information out on your page and in your fans' feeds. 

Sounds redundant, right? Use Facebook to put something on Facebook? We list it third because it's a wee bit complicated, but... FREE! First you'll have to sign up for an App Developers Account (pretty simple - just click here and you'll be all set). The next part is where it gets tricky - the best way is to watch some great YouTube videos. Make sure the videos are recent as Facebook has being giving the apps some facelifts as of late. Here's one that might work for you!

It might take a few minutes, but once you've installed the tab, share it on your timeline to show clients why it's important for them to see the difference hiring a professional photographer makes. If you run into any issues, contact the Facebook App hosting service directly, they are the experts in this case.

You can download the tab graphics and html code here! 
If you want to make edits to the tab graphic itself, always remember the image needs to be 111 x 74 pixels and you'll have to pack a punch in that little space.)

Here you go! These are just three ways to install the tab - if you simply Google "Facebook App Installation" you'll discover a world of options, these are just the ones we are pretty familiar with. If you find another option you enjoy, please let us know! Email Sarah at sackerman (at) ppa (dot) com.

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Sarah Ackerman is known around PPA as #Sarah in part because she handles all things social media and in order to differentiate herself from the other Sarah's in the office. Sarah loves improv comedy (think "Whose Line") and routinely performs with Witless Protection around the Atlanta area and at Dad's Garage Theatre Company. When she's not tweeting/instagramming/facebooking all of the action at PPA, she can be found gallivanting around the world or wandering around the woods with her pup, but more than likely she's on stage making people giggle.




By Chris Homer

With Halloween coming up tomorrow, the PPA staff and I want to encourage you to get in the spirit! With that in mind, we've started a thread on theLoop where we'd love to hear some of your spookiest moments as a photographer. To get you started, here are two photography horror stories posted to the thread already that are truly Goosebumps-worthy material: 

"I had an appointment to take a family portrait at an out of town church. Nothing new there, I figured it would be the typical family reunion, anniversary, whatever. But, when I got there the whole family gathered around Grandpa Jim who was lying in his casket at his own funeral. They even propped him up so he could be seen better. WEIRD FAMILY." - David Nelson, King Photography Studio, Jamestown, ND

"While working for a local newspaper I had to cover a Native American prayer event. Just as they began to pray I raised my camera to take just one image and one of the tribe's elders looked right at me and shook his head in disagreement to me taking any images during the prayer. I took that one shot anyway (it was my job) and by the time I walked back to my car and checked the images on the camera monitor they were gone! I couldn't see them on the rearview monitor of the camera and when I got back to the newsroom I couldn't open the files. Was I spooked? You bet I was." - Paul Robinson, Paul S. Robinson Photography, Uxbridge, MA

Can you add to or maybe even top these stories? Head on over to this thread on theLoop and share your spooky photographer story! Your experience may even appear in a future PPA Today newsletter.
 
Don't forget - theLoop is the online community just for PPA photographers! Here you can share ideas and worries, and discuss sensitive topics like customer service, demanding clients and more, all without the fear of a client looking over your shoulder. Want to be part of theLoop? Join PPA today! 


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About the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages. 
By Sarah Ackerman

October was spooky busy on theLoop! Here are some of the most popular discussions you might want to check out!

If you're interested in getting into the world of wildlife and landscape prints - this is a great first stop. You'll learn what size prints are popular and what to avoid.

Remember purchasing your first lighting kit? Or maybe you're a new photographer in the market? This is a great thread about what is a necessity and what's just nice to have. 

Have you considered offering mini sessions? Get in on this discussion on the pros and cons of offering short 15 minute theme sessions and see if it might be a good fit for your business. 

This is a great thread - what's the best way to learn how to pose? Books? Online classes? Seminars and workshops? Get the pros and cons of each here!

If you're in the market for a new computer, this is a great thread! See how much RAM you need to run Photoshop and Lightroom, along with a few other factors. 

We know that big weddings can mean big dollars, but what does that mean for small weddings? See how you can still turn a profit without emptying your client's bank account in this thread. 

Credit card processing can be a hassle and take a chunk of your profits. Who do you use? Did you know as a PPA member you have access to a discounted program with Bank of America Merchant Services? Get all of the details here. 

Imaging USA is less than 100 days away (yay!) - so who is coming? Get on this thread to find a roommate, a car pool buddy or a study partner! Connect with your fellow attendees long before we hit Opryland!

Pricing yourself into a new market is always an adventure. If you have experience with headshots, weigh in on what you think is appropriate. Charge by the hour or by the person?

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!

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Sarah Ackerman is known around PPA as #Sarah in part because she handles all things social media. Sarah loves improv comedy (think "Whose Line") and routinely performs with Witless Protection around the Atlanta area and at Dad's Garage Theatre Company. When she's not tweeting/instagramming/facebooking all of the action at PPA, she can be found gallivanting around the world or wandering around the woods with her pup, but more than likely she's on stage making people giggle.

By Chris Homer

We're back at it again with our favorite photography blog posts from around the web! Check
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 them out:

PHOTO COMPETITION MENTORING: PPA member Christine Walsh-Newton, M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, is back in the roundup this week with an article in Southern Exposure. This time, Christine recounts her experience mentoring new photographers at the 2014 International Photographic Competition. Christine talks about how being a mentor is not nearly as difficult as you might think, and how even doing something small to help another photographer can make a big difference. With District Photographic Competitions coming up, take a look and see if it inspires you to become a mentor!

PLAIN FUN: Our new favorite reality show is back with their next episode! Photo Throwdown pits 2 photographers against each other in a series of challenges. We find it quite entertaining! In this episode, photographer Dan Hughes and Levy Moroshon go head to head in San Diego. And check out the first episode, featuring PPA photographer (and PPAedu instructor!) Jennifer Rozenbaum, too.
 
GEAR N' STUFF: If you're in need of an IR remote for your DSLR, you'll want to read this post from PetaPixel before you go out and buy one. ShutterBOT is a free app for Android phones that turns your phone into a universal IR DSLR Remote that works with most of the DSLR cameras out there. 

INSPIRATION: Photographer and past Imaging USA instructor Benjamin Von Wong recently did a photo shoot for SmugMug where he turned the company's employees into pro athletes for inspiring photos hung around the company's gym. The results are impressive, even more so when you consider Benjamin did it all with a $20 budget and just a few lights. It just goes to show how far creativity can take you. Check out the video and get inspired! 

PORTRAIT TIPS: In this post for PhotoFocus, Scott Bourne shares his tips for creating great headshots. If you do portrait photography, you may find some best practices to utilize here! It might even inspire you to write your own tips... share them with us!

INSPIRATION: Each year, Nikon hosts the Small World Micrography Competition, where photographers submit images of things only visible under a microscope. In Focus has a collection of photos from this year's competition. If you do this type of photography, you won't want to miss these photos!
 
SHOT LIST TIPS: If you're thinking of getting into the corporate event market, check out this post from Digital Photography School. You'll find some good tips for building a shot list, as well as some advice on the types of photographs to avoid. 

PSD TUTORIAL: With the holidays rapidly approaching, chances are you're starting to get requests for family photos for Christmas cards. If you'd like to give your clients a winter backdrop, but don't have any snow, this tutorial from the Photography and Video blog can give you some advice on how to create a winter scene using Photoshop.
 
TIPS & INSPIRATION: Renowned photographer David Ziser shares five of his favorite photography techniques in this post on his Digital Pro Talk blog, complete with examples from a recent trip to Valencia, Spain. You may be inspired to grab your camera and try out these techniques yourself!

NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHY: If you photograph babies, you know how stressful these sessions can be. Virtual Photography Studio provides some advice for keeping both babies and moms relaxed for the best photo session possible.

There it is! Your top 10 photography blog posts from around the web this week. What photography blogs have you been enjoying? Let us know on theLoop!

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About the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages. 
Ana Brandt, newborn and maternity photographer extraordinaire, stopped by theLoop this weekbrandt_ana_ama.jpg for an AMA! Quickly becoming a fan favorite, PPA's AMA series allows photographers the chance to engage with Imaging USA speakers in conversation and literally ask them anything. Some of the topics covered in this AMA include Ana's origins in the industry, what inspires her, and how she manages to work with newborns so effectively. If you missed out on the full conversation, you can check out her full AMA on theLoop

If you missed out on the live AMA it's all good! Here are a few of our favorite highlights:

1. "Once I pass the two hour mark, newborns start another cycle of feeding, pooping and peeing, which goes on to 3 hours, etc. etc." 
2. "Growing up, my Mom used to come home with bags of things to make wreaths or other items. Time after time I would see her empty a craft bag of random things and whip out a handmade wreath or flower arrangement. Now I find myself doing the same thing." 
3. "I love to create things I can't see. All too often we get wrapped up in our own expectations. The best inspiration is to release your own expectation and let the creativity flow."

Don't forget to register for Imaging USA and stop by for Ana's class--The Art and Business of Pregnancy and Newborn Photography! Registration information for Imaging USA is available at imagingusa.org/register.

Here's your latest guest column from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business (formerly known as SMS) and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios owners be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

Do the Work...
By Bridget Jackson

Educating yourself is only half the battle. You have to actually roll up your sleeves and do the work. 

I'm not talking about taking pictures (although you have to do that too). I'm talking about coming up with the elements of a marketing plan, a sales strategy, a documented workflow and a financial management plan. 

That's right. It's not enough for you to just understand what they are. You need to have them well documented so you not only have a strategy to guide you, but so you can update those strategies based on your strengths and weaknesses. Successful studios assess what worked, what didn't work and what needs to be changed so they can continue to stay on a path to reach their goals. 
Written by guest blogger, Booray Perry, CPP

We just got a new coffee maker.

It's one of those Keurig coffee makers that are really just the best thing ever invented. I really admire the whole idea behind the new coffee makers, especially when you consider that coffee makers have been pretty much unchanged for 50 years and then someone comes along and totally turns that industry on its head. Like the way ketchup bottles were unchanged for 50 years until some genius figured out they should stand on their head so the ketchup is always ready.

Anyway, we just got a new one and it's our third one. We have to buy a new one every year or so because we have "hard water" and it eventually breaks the machine.

Now, the manual tells you that you can prevent the machine from breaking by using distilled water. We did that at first until I started "doing the math." When you subtract the cost of a year's worth of distilled water from the cost of a new machine, you end up with a savings of less than $20. Since I'm the one who usually has to buy the distilled water and carry it to the car (and carry it into the house and put the empty into the recycle bin...) I decided that $20 a year was a fair price to pay to not have to deal with the distilled water anymore. A bargain, really.

It seems excessive when you are buying a new, expensive coffee maker every year or so but it's not if you remember that you aren't buying (and carrying) jugs of distilled water every week (or skipping coffee because you forgot the water, which really increases the value of using tap water.)

This is the way my mind works. As opposed to my wife, who would have reached the same conclusion but without the math. For her, not having to carry the water is all the incentive she needs, regardless of the cost. She never asks, "How much is the valet parking?"

So, you're probably thinking, "This is all very interesting but why is it on the PPA blog, which is really about photography?"

Good question!
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Check out 10 of our favorite photography articles from across the web in this week's edition of the Round Up. (Star Wars is mentioned twice, it's a special week).

INSPIRATION:  Sometimes it is what we can't see that separates us from the rest. In this article about famous French photographer Marc Riboud, we gain access to a sliver of insight into the amazing career of one of history's greatest cataloguers.

GEAR: It's okay to occasionally bust out that old SLR film camera! There is something very romantic and satisfying about shooting film. In this video the folks over at DigitalRevTV count down their picks for the five best film cameras money can buy for under $1000.

FOR FUN: Soooo this is one of the coolest things we've seen in a while. What happens when you stick a bunch of Star Wars geeks in the woods with some drones and cameras? Pod racing of course!

TUTORIAL: In this article, photographer Joe McNally talks about how he chooses what light to use on different faces. From aggressive, weather torn looks, to younger, softer faces-- this is a great one for all the portrait photographers out there.

VACATION ADVICE: Getting away from the office is often times crucial to both the success of your company and to your sanity. This article breaks down a great plan for how you can vacation without feeling guilty and without letting your business deteriorate while you're gone. 

WORKFLOW: If you're like us you use social media a lot. Like a lot, a lot. As a photographer it's become a necessity to maintain your business' presence online. So if you're as big of nerds as we are, (and we know you are) you're going to love this--you can now schedule Instagram posts with Latergramme! Check it out at the jump.

FOR FUN: Two Star Wars posts in one day! They must have put something in the coffee over here at PPA headquarters. Remember when I said that the Star Wars pod racing drones were the coolest things I'd seen in a long time? Yeah I changed my mind. THIS IS AMAZING! Thomas Dagg makes creative use of Photoshop, everyday locations, and Star Wars to amazing effect. 

WORKSHOP: Still on the fence about PPA's Super 1 Day? PPA photographer Susan Gertz wrote a brief synopsis on how awesome her experience with Christine Walsh-Newton was. Be sure to check it out!

INSPIRATION: Jenna Garrett captured her mother, who suffers from mental illness, in stark (and often brutal) detail throughout this five year photo-shoot. It's an honest and beautiful look at a relationship filled with as much love as there is volatility. 

BUSINESS: The LawTog makes another appearance this week as Rachel breaks down some of the big mistakes a lot of photographers make that are easily avoidable. Check the jump to find out how you can improve your business in just a few simple steps!

There it is! Your top 10 photography blog posts from around the web this week. What photography blogs have you been enjoying? Let us know on theLoop!

So you're coming to Imaging USA? Awesome! (What? You haven't registered? Click here!) It's the best decision you'll make for your business, your creative juices, and just yourself all year! We're thrilled to be taking over the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Nashville and wanted to share a few tips with you before we get onsite!



Have any tips for newbies? Head over to the Imaging USA community on theLoop to share! It's also a great place to find a roommate or a study buddy!

Attention all Imaging USA attendees: In the spirit of the holidays, PPA Charities will support the Dando

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 Amor Charity and hold a shoe drive at Imaging USA this February in Nashville! There's no better cure for those inevitable post-holiday blues than doing something to give back to communities around the world.

Some of the logistics: Drop off bins will be located by the convention floor and at registration. Shoes will be collected at Imaging USA, and re-purposed for orphanages in South America and Africa.

Are you looking for ways to be more charitable? This is an opportunity to truly make a difference in people's lives. It seems small in scope from where we sit--in front of computer monitors, on a staircase changing a flash, in a car wading through rush hour traffic, but Dando Amor has a global reach and will have a positive effect on communities around the world. All it takes is five minutes and a little bit of kindness to rummage through your closet and find old shoes that you'll never use again.

Think of it this way: If everyone brought one pair of shoes, we would have 10,000 pairs of shoes to donate. That's an inspiring number and one that is totally attainable with your help. 

To be more charitable and help make it happen, you have to be there! Make sure you register for Imaging USA and book your room, they're filling up fast.

PPA Makes a Fall Visit to Washington

Last week, PPA's Copyright and Government Affairs department met with a series of committees and subcommittees on the Hill in order to help determine future political strategy. 

A big part of the discussions in the committees was commercial policy for a pretty polarizing and popular topic of late. You guessed it--drones! PPA argued for exemptions to be made for PPA photographers in regards to the use of drones.

It's worth noting that midterm elections happen November 4th and there will be a lame duck session after that to an undetermined time. A lame duck session occurs when Congress meets with elected successors post-midterm elections but before the successor's term begins. Because it is unknown who will be elected, it is difficult to forecast exactly what will happen in a lame duck session. 

However, Tom Chapman, Counsel to the Subcommittee on Aviation, Safety, and Security, thought it was likely that significant change in drone policy could occur as early as the lame duck session. Specifically, things could change in response to the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012 which instructed the FAA to safely introduce drones into the national air space. This change in policy is forecasted as a result of the current influx of drone exemption applications that the FAA has recently received. While commercial drone use is illegal, the FAA allows exemptions to be applied for under ยง333 of the 2012 Act

So as it stands, the use of drones is still technically illegal, so use at your own risk! We will keep you updated as the situation develops. 

Another central issue with copyright policy is that there is no small claims remedial process. Because of the disenfranchisement of all people in federal court, the Copyright Office agreed with PPA that there needs to be a type of federal small claims court, which would thereby allow for copyright claims to be made without an attorney. PPA argued this is necessary to help all persons through the legal system. 

PPA has long stressed the importance of a small claims court for federal suits and the proposal of a federal small claims court was generally well received. How legislators will attempt to go about this is still up for debate due to constitutional conflicts, particularly in reference to Article III of the Constitution.  

PPA will continue to be a voice for photographers on Capitol Hill. Have an issue you think we need to address? Please let us know!

I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, our carpool rendezvous point, to collect Trish for

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 our third wedding of the weekend. Twelve hours earlier I had dropped her off to retrieve her car, twelve hours before that, the same. The days, the weddings, the people blended into one never-ending wedding reception with the despicable Old Time Rock n Roll looping horribly in my addled mind.

"I look like crap, I have huge dark circles under my eyes," complained Trish, slumping back into the seat.

"Aww, I bet it's not that bad," I said, lifting my sunglasses to get a good look at her.

We gasped in unison at the sight of each other's faces.

"You've got them too!" she cried.

"We look like a couple of zombie photographers." I said, defeated.

It's that time of year, October, and we feel like zombies too. Big, dumb, lumbering, drooling, driven to put one step in front of the other without thought or reason zombies. We are zombies hell bent on our one desire: to finish the weddings!

It didn't take a neurotoxin, virus, brain parasite, or tainted meat to turn two relatively attractive photographers into zombies. No, all it took was some overly ambitious booking, leading to forty three weddings to execute. My bad. But hey, what's done is done, right?

So we'll go ahead and slather a little more makeup on our faces to cover the dark circles and hope we can blend in with the rest of society; much like Bill Murray in my favorite zombie movie of all time, Zombieland. (Spoiler Alert) Bill has an excellent cameo role where he makes himself up to look like a zombie in order to blend in with the zombies and survive the zombie infested world. Okay, well that's actually the opposite of what we are doing but you get the idea.

Since it's almost Halloween and we are already on the topic of that great piece of Hollywood cinema, Zombieland, I have adapted some of the rules for surviving in Zombieland as they apply to wedding photographers surviving the end of wedding season. The hero of the movie, Columbus, has 32 rules for surviving Zombieland. Before meeting his friend Tallahassee who has also survived the infestation, these rules kept Columbus alive and well. Therefore, they must be true and henceforth I shall share nine of them (and two of my own) with you to help you survive the apocalypse that is "The End of the World Wedding Season."

The Benchmark Survey is an amazing tool to help you PPA photographers be morebenchmark_october_prize.jpg profitable. To sweeten the pot, we've been giving away some sweet prizes to some lucky winners to go along with the joy of easily figuring out the numbers you need to reach to live the life you want. 

And we have two winners this month! We've previously heard from June's winner Heather Sams, CPP, July's winner A. Michael Fletcher and August winner David H. Smith about why they find the Benchmark Survey to be so helpful. This month, we have two winners in Robin Swanson, M.Photo.Cr., CPP and Mia Stevens! 

Robin is an award-winning photographer who specializes in weddings. "This is the first time I participated in the Benchmark Survey," she said. "My business has changed significantly in the past year and I felt that it is important to share this information to help others in the industry." 

For submitting his information in the survey, Robin was able to win a brand new Spyder4PRO!

Mia Stevens is another award-winning wedding and portrait photographer. "I participated in the Benchmark Survey because it shows hard percentages that if implemented correctly can make you more money," she said. "Who doesn't want more money?" 

Mia walked away with a $300 gift certificate to TetherTools--not a bad way to start the fall!

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview depicting what profitable studios look like (unlike other industry averages). As such, it has been helping photography businesses form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Participating studio-owners get a free side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark to their own financial data. Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help them grow their business, it is a $750 value (or more!), as PPA develops a customized comparison that is the first step in determining what to change for greater success. As a bonus, participants are automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes. 

Ready to better your business and get a chance at winning October's prize? There is a $500 Showcase Photo & Video gift card to be won! Go to PPA.com/Benchmark to participate!

But wait, there's more: All participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense-paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today! 



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