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Results tagged “photography business” from PPA Today

by Lisa Sharer


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Many times we find ourselves believing that the industry is to blame for the reduction in printed-product sales. But what is the industry actually made up of? It's made of you and me. As photographers, you set the bar for making PRINT Art a part of your everyday lives and a very important part of your client's lives.

So it starts with you. Having tangible objects to see and hold has a value that hasn't changed over generations, and that isn't poised to change either. Print Artists understand the timeless contribution of their work and printing their work (and selling it!) is something that can become second nature. Consumers' approach to photographic products is shifting, and this is why Print Artists can thrive. They are offering the effortless quality of timeless pieces that consumers can't get in a couple of clicks through their drugstore. It can be as simple as starting to help redecorate a client's home, and then follow along in their progress through life. Every home in America and around the world is starting to remember why that tangible piece of memory makes such a difference in their minds and in their lives.

And the Industry is changing.

Thankfully, the printing options for professional photographers are changing as well. That's why it's more important than ever to learn these options from a Print Artist standpoint. Understand the paper preservation methods; develop the vocabulary to educate consumers on options (that no drugstore can rival with); speak influentially about the intrinsic worth of a print investment; have it become second nature to be a print artist; and the list goes on. But it all starts with you. 

Become a part of PRINT. The Movement, and see how you can help change your business and the industry. You'll receive updates and stories about the PRINT Movement, but also new sales tools to help you when presenting printed pieces to your clients.



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By Lisa Sharer

Selling a final product is what sets professional photographers like you apart from the shoot-and-burn amateurs or the low-price-ballers. In fact, Professional Photographer magazine recently released a case study on this topic.

Case Study: In-Person Sales and Print Products Saved These Studios, by Jeff Kent. Read the story to find out how three different photographers embraced the challenge of and, in the end, the profitability of implementing in-person sales with their clients. Each case is a clear example of how any photographer that is willing to put in the effort can make a full-time and highly profitable career out of their art. It just takes a little gusto (and in some cases just a little muscle), but it pays off!

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Now, with the inspiration of this article, check out the completely customizable brochures available to all PPA members. This tool will set you up with an easy guide for your clients. It includes tips, spaces for your best images, and a helpful pricing guide where you can start to show your value.

Not yet a PPA member? Well then, check out the See The Difference® program to learn more about how PPA helps photographers with marketing, in-person sales, and lots of other resources to be more profitable.


By Lisa Sharer

You may have noticed a few updates to the Print Movement website. We've made a few improvements, added some new visuals, and made it easier to view on mobile. The one thing that may stand out though, is a BRAND NEW PRINT MOVEMENT VIDEO.

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One of the members of the PPA board of directors and established photographer, Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, shows the journey from photo session to print. The story clearly shows the impact that a print can have on a client's home and delves into the feeling it brings to the family.

This video beautifully shows the value of printing. It exemplifies how offering printed products can truly delight and evoke powerful emotions from your clients. At the same time, you can see the monetary value these products can add to your business. "I choose to offer and sell products that are not readily available in the marketplace," says Fisk-Taylor. These products give her an edge through unique materials that set her apart.

Watch the video and share it with fellow photographers. Nothing can get us back to printing but us. So it's time to start getting the word out there. "We need to print, people."
If you're not already a part of the PRINT movement, join today!
By Lisa Sharer

With PPA's See The Difference toolbox, you'll find tools, resources, tips and examples to help photographers work on marketing, branding, and sales! These tools include everything from enlightening videos to photo-style quizzes that are fun and informative for photography consumers and prospects alike. The variety of resources you'll find is to help you show potential clients why hiring a professional photographer is smarter and more cost effective than hiring an amateur. It's all about upping the value of your offering and positioning so you can stand out from the crowd. PPA continuously adds new tools for PPA member to easily add to their marketing collateral pieces, website, social media, sales presentation, etc. This month you will find a brand new resource to further enforce that concept.

In this effort, a contest was held on theLoop (PPA's members-only social network) to find some fun images that may remind you a bit of your childhood ventures into Highlights magazine. The idea is for your potential clients to see two side-by-side photos, and see if they can pick out all the differences between a photography snapshot and a professional portrait. Studies have proven that games like this one, as simple as it may seem, help people integrate concepts in a deeper and faster way. As the saying goes, a picture (or two, in this case!) is worth a thousand words. Simply put: let them play a little and they will see the difference between a pro and an amateur shot.

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You will find one spot-the-difference postcard for each photography specialty: Wedding, Family, Newborn, Seniors, and Pets. Simply print out, and keep them in your studio or share them on your website. Your potential clients will find themselves enjoying a little puzzle, while also learning the talents that a professional has to create beautiful photos.

Use this or one of the many other See The Difference resources to help market your brand and sell your services and products. It's just one of the many ways that being a member of PPA can help you Be More. If you're not a PPA member, check out all the benefits you could be receiving and then join today!


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About the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

By Lisa Sharer

First, let's define exactly what brand means. According to Wikipedia, "A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer." Simply put, it's the 'je ne sais quoi' that consumers perceive about you and your business and make them turn to you before your competitors.

Since that 'je ne sais quoi' is by definition, undefinable, you'll need to try out different strategies to see what will make you stand out. If you're new to the marketing game, try starting with the basics. After many tests, you'll eventually figure out how to reach your target market, and exactly what is bringing in the clients.

So why is branding beneficial to all this when you're busy trying to get more clients? Well, once you have a style, a unique customer service experience, a familiar name - you'll be the go-to photographer for your brilliant kind of images and the experience you offer. For example, you are looking for a certain home product and you want it to be mailed to you as quickly as possible, what's the first company you might go to look for that product? Did someone say Amazon? They have built their brand over many years to coincide with those exact thoughts that you might have as a consumer. Now, it's time for you to be that special photographer.

Here's what you can expect with a great, stand-out brand:

  1. You Will Be More Visible. Your logo or your name will become familiar to the potential clients in your area. They will already know who you are before they are even looking to hire a photographer. They'll even compare others to you, and in the end, come back to you because it's your brand that attracts them.
  2. Trigger Referrals. Once you've dazzled one or two clients with your unique customer service experience, captivated them with your beautiful images, and delighted them with the quality of your products, you'll have already started your branding. Getting referrals is like going viral - except it's offline and brings in more credibility and...real cash.
  3. Be More Profitable. It goes without saying that once you have more clients, you'll make more money. But you should also note that once you are displaying amazing products, your sales will soar as well. And photographers with an established, strong brand will all tell you: the sale happens most often when people are attached to your brand and come in with a pre-existing understanding of the larger scope your artistry offers.

So, invest in developing your brand. Are you the quirky high school senior photographer? Or are you the incredibly laid-back family photographer that can make anyone feel comfortable? Wherever your brand fits, stick with it, develop it, and let your photography flag fly!

Next month we will be featuring See The Difference and the PRINT Movement as they are two very useful benefits for PPA member to grow their business. We have some very exciting things to help you build your brand and sell more products. So be on the lookout!

Not yet a PPA member? Find out about the amazing benefits PPA has to offer, and join today!


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About the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.



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By Lisa Sharer

We've all heard that printing is more profitable than handing over digital files. We've all seen photographers with great galleries of printed photos. We all know the benefits our clients receive with tangible products. So, "where do I start?" you might ask. We've found five products that you and your clients will love.

Prints: First, consider basic prints. This option is for the clients that want to spend only a little extra money to hold the image in their hands but are trying to stay budget-conscious. Prints of photographs will make the perfect addition to your clients' homemade photo albums, an addition to their budget-conscious gifts, or self-framing displays.

Print Packages: Perfect for the graduating students! These days, high school seniors are getting some amazing and phenomenal photos. Images of this caliber cannot (rather should not) be contained to one small format. These clients are likely to want digital files, buttons, etc., but your biggest impact will always be through a larger framed piece. Think about offering this pack to your graduate's parents.

Mounted Photos: Mounting prints is a sleek and modern way to display photos. Many clients find that these types of photographic work not only enhance their home with timeless memories, but they also add a stylish element to any wall... and boost everyone's ego, which is always a valued yet not-spoken-about benefit. Consider making this part of your offering when pitching your services to your clients.

Booklets: This is a fun way to put a collection of photos together. Whether it's for the graduate or the family reunion, an array of pictures come together to make the perfect viewing experience. Consider including this in your studio to offer to any type of client!

Matted Albums: They're just like the albums a client would buy from a supercenter and stick their own photos inside. Except 100x better! These will catch the eye of any client that's looking to include a grand array of photos. Think about offering this after a family photo session, or to the client that is looking to include a lifetime of memories in one place.

These are just a few of the many ways that you can start positioning yourself as a print artist today and start making more money. Once your clients see the range of products you offer, they'll be inclined to learn more about your craft, and they'll respect you as a printmaker. At that point, you're likely to see a higher level of print sales, and a higher number of happy clients.

Learn more about bringing print back to the foreground of photography. Join the PRINT Movement today!


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Aout the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

By Lisa Sharer

You can't just get out of bed in the morning, decide you're going to sell prints, and then become a millionaire. (If you have done that, send us a message; we have some questions!) For the rest of us, we could use some tools to help us learn how to sell more prints, as well as educate our clients; so they are the ones asking for these products. And these days, video is king.

That's why PRINT. The Movement has created an entire section on their website dedicated to video resources. Currently, you will find an assortment of content that helps photographers with some essential skills for in-person sales. You'll also find some videos that will educate your clients, and there's even a quick message from world-renowned photographer Anne Geddes!


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Check out these videos to help you increase and maintain your business as a print artist. Not only will you be helping yourself, you'll be helping the world...one beautiful image at a time. Join us, and become a part of the movement today at PrintMovement.org.


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About the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.


By Autumn Rice

PPA photographers are a diverse group of people who begin as friends, but ultimately become family. Through connecting with one another and sharing experiences, they provide a support that contradicts the thought of being in business alone. PPA's YouTube video series, Behind The Camera, features professional photographers who share their trials and tribulations, and their relationship within the PPA community. Today, Trish Logan pitches in. 

None of these interviews are scripted or paid for. These are real photographers, members of PPA, who value and share the power of their PPA community. 

In this video Trish Logan shares the value of See The Difference resources, and how they increase the credibility of her business with her clients.


Help your photography friends and share this video. The power of being involved and deeply connected goes beyond professional development. It's a support system no one should be left without. You can also view a full playlist of the Behind The Camera Video series on PPA's YouTube channel and learn more about See The Difference here.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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By Lisa Sharer

It's happened to all of us. Probably more than once. Someone asks you what your rate is, and when they hear it, they are appalled. You start to feel a little flush. You start to think, maybe I went too high. You start to want to back into the nearest bush.

We're here to tell you to kick that bush to the curb! Part of becoming a professional photographer starts with confidence. If every photographer folds, then no one gets paid. By demanding a solid rate, you're not only helping yourself, you're helping all the photographers that come after you.

Here's a recent, completely real, interaction that we applaud:

A photographer is out and about taking pictures. He is approached by a gentleman who notices him.

Gentleman: You take pictures?

Photographer: Yes.

Gentleman: How much do you charge?

Photographer: It really depends on what you want.

Gentleman: Just walking around downtown with you taking pictures of me.

Photographer: My portrait sessions start at $$.

Gentleman: (Laughs) Oh, come on, man.

Photographer: (Without hesitation) This is my full time job, and I'm really good at it. Here's my card. Check out my portfolio, and let me know if you're interested.

If you believe in yourself, your clients will believe in you. Set your prices, stick by them, and above all, do NOT be embarrassed by them. Remember that you spend many hours--collective portions of your life--perfecting your craft and building a business. You have every right to charge fairly for your service, and you should never be ashamed of it.

"Listen up photographers. Know what you're worth. State it with conviction. Know when to bend, but know that bending should be the exception. There will be clients that will see your worth and pay your fee." 
                     - Aaron Coury, Photographer.

If you would like more help on how to sell yourself and your service, check out PPA's See The Difference® resources. PPA members have access to a plethora of sales and marketing tools to assist in promotion and in-person sales. If you're not a member, you should join today!
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By Lisa Sharer


If you've read our previous article Marketing 101 for Photographers, you may have a general idea of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Now, let's break it down to exactly how it works, and what you can do to optimize your websites for search engines... and ultimately get more clients from improved search results.

Top Level Search Engine Marketing Factors

You probably know of some widely used search engines like Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com. These sites decide what rank to give to your website amongst the other photography businesses out there in the world and this directly impacts how far up your studio's name appears in a search results page. How they do that raking is a more involved process that you might want to learn to help you improve your own SEO ranking.

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Search engines sort the search results they serve based off a few different factors:

  • Content - Does your content match the search of your potential client?

  • Site Structure and Internal Links - Is it user friendly, and do all your links work?

  • Geographical Location - Are you in or nearby the city where the client is looking for photography?

  • Mobile Optimization - Is your site easy to use on a mobile device (phone, tablet, e-reader, etc.)?

  • Loading Time - How long does it take for your site to load its content (photos, videos, etc.)?

  • Social Signals - Are you getting traffic from social media platforms?

Search engines have "bots" or "crawlers" that visit websites and check each of the items above. Once they have tested those items they then compare your website to other similar websites. Your ranking will depend on how you fare against those sites, which is why it's imperative that you make sure each item is performing at its best.

Improve Your Ranking with Authority & Relevance

Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com all use two common criteria within the algorithm used to produce search results. And while they all evaluate them differently, there are two key factors for you to understand as they will help with your optimization: 

Authority- A website shows its level of credibility based off how many links tie it to other websites. This is what search engines call the level of 'online authority' and this is where you look to other sites and influencers to help raise your site's authority. When a search engine finds your site through an outside link, it's showing it that you have enough authority that other people/sites trust your content. Beware though, it's not the quantity of links that helps you but their quality. For example, a direct link from PPmag.com would fare better than JoeSchmoPhotography.net.

Relevance-  The content on your site must be relevant to photography or some version of your expertise (portraiture, wedding, etc.) in order to rank higher. That means you'll need to use keywords that speak directly to what your photography business offers to your prospective clients. It's not just the words on your landing pages that you'll need to keep an eye on, though. You'll also want to make sure that your URLs and text formatting are shouting about your business. For example, when PPA wanted to tell you how insurance could help protect photographers, then we created the link PPA.com/BeMoreProtected. Likewise, to emphasize the content relevance of a blog post, it earn will you more SEO brownie point if you embed keywords in the headlines of your blog post, and it is even better yet if you bold keyword-related phrases. Make sure to keep those small things in mind when creating any kind of content, as they make a large difference to the search engines that crawl your site.

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Keywords

When someone does a search online, they generally type in a few keywords. For instance, photographer or family portraits in [location]. These keywords are important to make sure you are attracting quality leads. Of course, it would be amazing to rank #1 for photographer, but if you're not Wikipedia, that's not likely to happen. That's why long tail keywords have become more important than ever to your SEO strategy. You'll need keyword lists in order to run search ads, but it's also important to think about these keywords when creating content for your site.

Remember, those search engine results pages are looking for relevant and authoritative information to improve your ranking. So you will want to include information and keywords that are specific to your specialty and locale. Rather than just "portrait studio," maybe you'll want to include things like "outdoor family photography in [city]" or "high school senior photography in [area]," etc.

Most photographers overlook the power and importance of long tail keywords. Getting by on the basic short tail keyword is fast and takes little to no research. So, of course, we want to get things done quick and easy. However, if you take that route you're missing out on a huge opportunity. Optimizing for long tail keywords will make your site stand out over the quick solution photographers.

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Content is King

If you know or have even met anyone in the online marketing world, we can guarantee they've said this at least a thousand times (and you've probably heard it at least once). Content is King. Gone are the days of dial up and Encyclopedia Britannica door-to-door salesmanship. People use the World Wide Web daily for work and for pleasure. Hungry minds are looking for education, news, social interactions, and of course, information gathering and shopping. A trusted website is going to capture those hungry minds ahead of any bells and whistles that you can sound off.

This means you need more than your homepage and gallery. You need to include content on your website that is engaging and valuable. And that content has to be 'relevant' to the searches of your potential clients. So, how do you easily add this essential content to your site? Through blogging. Having a regular blog with new and continuing content will not only delight clients looking for an added value to a site visit, but it also helps improve your search ranking.

Even if writing isn't your strong suit, blogging is a good way to relate to your clients, make you a real human being, and again help with your rankings. We do recommend having someone proof read for you if the copy is more than a couple of paragraphs long, but you are in the visual business! Use this to your (business') advantage and share behind the scenes photos, or selfies with clients, or location scouting shots by adding captions that show that you are who you and your clients say you are! Here are a few tips and ideas for blog content:

  • Added Value - Don't just write a bunch of words because you can. Think about what would really add value for your clients and go nuts! (How to prepare for a session, organizing the family for the portrait, best grooming tips for your puppy's first photo, what not to wear and why, etc.)

  • Compare - Look at the top 10 photography sites that you currently aspire to rank with. Take a look at how they used your keywords (frequency, position, etc.) and compare that to your current content.

  • SEO_Goldfish_1200x1200.jpgBe Engaging - A white page with black text is going to put most everyone to sleep. Make sure that you include photos, graphics or videos, if you can, but also remember to use bullet points and headlines (ahem, look at this blog) to help organize the content and guide the reader through your content.

  • Get To the Point - along with the age of super-fast internet, also comes people's super-short attention spans. Use enough detail to get your point across, but also get to the point quickly.

  • Have Fun - If you're not having fun with your content, it will show. People enjoy a good personal, conversational tone, and they will read more if they feel that in your words. From Throwback Thursdays #TBT, behind the scenes, bloopers or plain fun shots, people will get to know you better, making them come to like you more each time you make them smile, so have fun with them!


Stay Ahead of the SEO Game

All search engines and their bots are getting more and more complex because they're trying to think more and more like humans would think by using artificial intelligence to help answer your online searches. So rather than changing your site and content constantly to try and improve your ranking, put your hard work into the relevance of the content you create. That's what artificial intelligence will be looking for as well.

SEO_Robot_1200x1200.jpgAs you learn more about optimization and search engines, you'll start reaching that perfect client because you will be more liked by social media platforms, you will have more visitors on your website, and you'll have more followers on your blog. All these are indicators that your online presence as a photographer is trustworthy (relating to you online authority) and likeable (relating to the relevance of the content you push online) and, as we opened this article, people who like you who will do business with you. This fact of life also applies to Bing, Yahoo and Google who will improve your search ranking once they trust you and see that you are relevant in among photographers with in your area.

And as we've said in previous articles, test, test, test! If something isn't working, you can only fix it by trying something else. Just don't forget that you have plenty of marketing resources right at your fingertips with PPA's See The Difference® tools. Work on your website and blog to get more visits, and rock those See The Difference tools to be more relevant and start capturing more sales.




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About the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

By Lisa Sharer

Last year, several industry leaders came together to discuss the future of photography and the art of printing. Over the years we have seen a decline in the amount of printed works, and we've seen the effect it has on homes around the world. Every day someone loses all their cherished memories due to a lost phone, a digital collapse, or worse. The partners that instigated the initiative behind the PRINT movement came together to make a change.

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The PRINT Movement was born to help educate photographers on how to position themselves as print artists. This includes how to sell printed products, the importance of printed works of arts, and what they can tell their clients to sell more printed photographic work. Several educational resources and tools to help sell prints have already been developed and are being shared with photographers, for free, by the PRINT Movement. Just this past week, more plans to develop more tools were created as the partners behind the initiative came together at the PPA office, in Atlanta, GA.

As we work to come up with more resources and tools for photographers everywhere, the PRINT Movement is growing stronger every day. 1600 photographers have already joined the movement, pledging their commitment to printing as artists and learning how to do so and market it in an efficient and empowering way.

Photographers who sell printed works compete at a much different level than the shoot and burn photographers who can only compete on price. As a group, we truly believe that PRINT is the future of the photographic industry as it continues to bring the beauty of photography back into homes across the globe. Join the PRINT. The Movement today to pledge to not only be an amazing photographer, but also a talented print artist!


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Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

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So far you've learned the basics of Marketing and figured out how to recognize your target audience. Now, what do you do with this information? You can't just willy-nilly start throwing ads out there or hitting social media without a plan! So, the next step is to get organized and create that plan. Just follow these easy steps, and you'll be ready to start marketing your photography business!

Step 1: Situation Analysis

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It's as simple as, what is your current situation? Where are you and where do you want to be? Start with a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.


Strengths and Weaknesses are qualities that currently exist within your business. Is your photography great, but your bookkeeping could use work? Do you work really hard, but for too many hours? Are you strong with event photography, but need more practice in the portrait discipline? If you take a little time to reflect on your work, you will know where you excel and where you could use a little help. If you have outside mentors, friends, or even members of your business that you trust and respect, you can ask for their help in identifying some of these areas with you.

Opportunities and Threats are forces that are working outside of your business. Is there an opportunity to expand your market, but there's more competition in those markets? Can you include different types of photography, but maybe you aren't fully educated in that area? Think about what you want to accomplish as a business owner.  What conditions in the market are favorable or will help you reach those goals?  Opportunities are everywhere.  They can be relationships you're building with influencers in your area, a new photographic niche that's becoming popular or even technology advancements.    Finally, identify those outside forces that could hinder you.  Threats could be an economic downturn, discontinued product items and again, changes in technology.

Once you've done that, think about what makes your photography unique. How can you set yourself apart from your competition? Maybe you specialize in print photography. Maybe you're the only high school senior photographer in your area. You know what makes your work special, so just pause and identify what sets you apart from the rest.

Step 2: Describe Your Target Market

Lucky for you, you've probably already created an outline for this. If not, take some time to create your buyer persona. Once you've done that, you can write a short paragraph about your target market. Make sure to detail where (geographically) your audience resides, their age, gender, etc. Make sure to identify their wants and the challenges associated with providing solutions for said wants. Make it clear for yourself, and anyone else that might not be fully invested in your business (for example, a freelance marketing assistant).

Step 3: Identify Your Marketing Goals

When thinking about your marketing goals, remember that they need to fit into your overall business goals. Also, don't forget to create S.M.A.R.T. goals.

So, what are your studio's goals? To increase your bottom dollar? To expand the reach of your business? To tell clients about new products or services? Make a list of your goals, from most important to least important, and attack each goal individually. Make sure you are clear about each goal, so you have a clear path on how to effectively reach it.

Step 4: Decide on the Marketing Strategies You'll Use

Your buyer persona will again help you in this area. Many of these strategies will be based solely off of age. Does your audience relate to Facebook, or are they more Snapchat savvy? Would your target audience pick up a magazine, or would they be more likely to see a sign at the local coffee shop? By knowing the likes and recreation habits of your target audience, you can decide the best and most effective outlets for your message.

The most effective strategies will be multilevel. What do you mean MULTILEVEL?! Multilevel refers to engaging your potential client at every moment of their buying journey. You have probably made a decision about a big purchase before. Did you dive in and buy, let's say, the first car you came across? No, you probably did your research, picked your favorite kind, and then shopped your options. That's exactly what your potential clients are doing.

For example, maybe a potential client does a Google search for photographers in their area. There's your first outreach opportunity. Maybe that potential client then checks out your website, but then leaves to run an errand and forgets about their family portrait. Maybe the next thing they do is surf Facebook. Boom! There's your next opportunity to reach out. Maybe later that night your client goes to the local coffee shop to get a late night mochaccino. Did you remember to hang up a flyer there?

Think about all the paths that your buyer persona might take during their buying journey and plan accordingly.

Step 5: Set a Budget


Piggy.jpgIt's time to set some money aside. If you run the finances, make sure that you are putting the appropriate amount aside to achieve your marketing goals. Also, make sure you aren't setting too much aside in order to protect your profits. If you're a little nervous about creating a budget, the PPA Business Challenge and the Square One tool are great resources to get you on the confident budgeting track.


If you're the creative, and you have a partner or a financial advisor, they may be a huge help in this area. Talk over your plan with that person, and let them know your intent and your ideas on how much you might need for running a marketing campaign.

If you're just starting out, this may mean that you'll need to incur some costs up front. In this case, you should monitor your spending and still try to keep to a budget. If you see that some things are proving to be expensive with not much return on your investment (ROI), that's when you start adjusting your plan. Don't worry about keeping a hard line on the original plan; it should always be flexible and serve your business needs. As our marketing director at PPA always says: "Test, Test, Test!"

Once you've followed these steps you should have a clear outline of your next steps. If you're looking for additional marketing tools, check out the See The Difference© campaign and PRINT. The Movement campaign. If these intrigue you, find out more about becoming a PPA member today!

Lisa Sharer_Profile.jpg
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

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As photographers, your specialty is beautiful imagery. Your time and energy is spent with your clients. Your focus is the final product. Unfortunately, none of that matters if you don't have the clients lined up in the first place. So, how do you track down the people out there who are looking for a photographer, and how do you get them to choose you? Marketing. Here's a brief rundown on the basics.

Target Audience

Are you a wedding photographer? Then you need future brides to see you. Are you a family portrait photographer? Then you need moms to see you. First thing is first, identify your target demographic. Who in your area will have the means to purchase the services you offer? Once you've determined that, create a persona of the perfect client. A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal  client based off their presumed demographics, cultural identity, motivations, and behaviors. For example, meet Elizabeth. Elizabeth just got engaged, she's likely between 21 and 28 years of age, she's just out of college and starting a career, and she is completely overwhelmed by planning a wedding. Now you know who you're marketing to, and what you can offer to make her life better.

Marketing Strategy

Before you go Facebooking, or snatching up ads in your local paper, create a plan. This will help you to prepare, establish goals, and measure your success. That part is key, otherwise you won't know what works and what doesn't.

Step 1. Define your goal. Do you want more clients? Are you looking to increase your average sale per client? Will you be promoting a special product or service or perhaps working with a charity? Decide what is most important to your business at this time and then you can focus your message.

Step 2. Decide what outlets your potential clients focus on the most. This will likely take some testing. You may think it's Facebook, but maybe it's Instagram. Either way, make sure you put time into developing these platforms so that they look professional and approachable. Go with your gut, and then see how you're performing.

Step 3. Content strategy. Once you've decided where you're going to market your photography services, then you'll need to start creating content to be visible, credible, and trigger leads. Make an outline of a strategy that can help you create relevant content you need for those platforms.

Step 4. Set a marketing budget. Rather than throwing money at an issue, you need to carefully plan out how you'll be investing every penny. Set a budget to keep your financial contributions within an affordable range.

Step 5. Measure your success. By testing and analyzing, you can figure out what is giving you the best results. Check in on your original goal, and see how close or far you are from success.

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine. So, basically getting your website as close to the top of a Google search as you can. You will attract more online visitors by making sure your SEO ranks higher than other photographers in your area. Better SEO equals more clients. So make sure your site is easy to use, looks great on mobile devices, and contains content that is relatable and engaging. Most photographers try optimizing for the highest Google results in general, but they forget that most potential client do local searches, meaning that you will get a bigger bang for your SEO bucks if you optimize for local searches.

Content Creation

You need to create content for your site and your marketing outlets. Whether it's writing, an image, or even video, you'll need to create content that is engaging and attracts your target audience. Many photographers find that including a blog on their site is a great way to engage potential clients. You have an amazing advantage over other small businesses in the sense that you have a professional camera that can take high-res videos. Even if you chose to produce a small iPhone-made video, you have a mastery of lighting that will surpass most hand-made videos, so play with it!

Having regular content can encourage more site traffic and great nuggets of info. For social posts, depending on your choice of outlets, you'll want to create a schedule so that you are regularly producing content that will catch the eye of your buyer persona.

ROI - Website Analytics

Once you've started putting yourself and your business out there, you'll want to see what's working and what's not so that you maximize your ROI (return on investment). Put that money to good use! A great free tool is Google Analytics. Here you can see where your traffic is coming from, what demographic is looking at your site, how long they spend on the site, and so much more. This is where you'll really understand which platform is working the best for you. This way, you can focus your efforts on things that are working, and spend less time focusing on things that aren't working.

Marketing is using a panoramic application of finding your potential clients and converting them to actual clients. There's so much more in-depth information out there that can help you create and manage a marketing plan. However, with this overview, you can get a good start on making that a reality.

If you need a few materials to help you, PPA offers the marketing tools for its members as part of the See The Difference campaign. These can help you easily create professional brochures, add landing pages to your site, give you shareable content, and more. Once you have your marketing plan, these tools will help you get the jump start you need.

There are plenty of tools to help you be more marketable. You can do this! Login to your account today to get started: PPA.com


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Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.


In the previous post 2 Studios Are Getting a Full Business Makeover This Year! you met PPA Studio Makeover recipients, Wes Roberts and Krista Newbill and read the overview of the makeover process.

Now that the makeovers are underway, you can follow along with their progress! First up is Wes as he and the PPA mentor team dove into the financials of his business.

Wes's Story

The Financials

Wes was super excited to get started. He's been working with PPA's Business Consultant and CPA, Bridget Jackson, to get a handle on where he is currently and the best way to move forward.

First, we always did a complete financial analysis of the studio. It's important to know what's working and what's not. We did this by comparing Wes' studio's numbers to PPA's Benchmark Survey. By comparing his cost of sales, overhead and net profit we started to get a good picture of the pitfalls that are causing monetary loss. We also uncovered potential opportunities for savings.

Wes' numbers looked better than the average benchmark studios in 2013 and 2014. However, his 20% cost of sales percentage doubled between 2013 and 2014. While, in general, 20% is a great number to achieve (below the recommended 25%), we had to figure out what has changed to cause such a drastic uptick and put everything in place to ensure that trend would not continue in 2015.

Second, PPA mentors helped Wes develop a photography business plan for 2015 that included three goals:

  1. the number of sessions he wants to photograph (broken down by month)
  2. the sales average of each session
  3. his net profit

By Bridget Jackson, CPA, PPA Business manager

As you look to 2015, it's important to assess where you've been and where you want to go. It's impossible to achieve your goals if you don't have a plan to get there.

Here are 6 things you can do in 2015 to meet your financial goals:

Need a little help boosting your numbers? Have you considered PPA's Studio Management Services (SMS)? You should.

We could tell you all about SMS, but why not hear it from someone who has actually been through the process? Arkansas photographer Clark Sanders, CPP, knows well the benefits of SMS and shares his experience below. It's the first in our new PPA Member Story series.

How was your business doing prior to signing-up for SMS?

It was going well, but I knew I needed to make some changes if my business was going to continue to grow and become more profitable.

ClarkSanders1.jpgWhy did you decide to sign-up?

I attended Imaging USA in Atlanta in January and visited the SMS booth. I had already been interested in a consultation for a while. I knew that many profitable studios in the country had already benefitted from an SMS consultation and knew if I didn't seek the advice/counsel of SMS my studio might wind up being less than profitable and I didn't want that to happen.

What were your emotions going into the consultation?

I was excited and nervous all wrapped in one!

Can you take us through your mentoring experience?

Prior to visiting on the phone with Bridget Jackson, CPA, and Allison Rodgers, Cr.Photog., CPP, I completed a comprehensive list of items they needed to better help me out. Just going through that task alone really opened my eyes! I thought I had all my numbers in my head, like the number of sessions, average sale of those sessions, who I photographed the most, was I really pricing my work to make a better profit, etc. Boy was I wrong!

Seeing the numbers on paper (actually in excel) really took me back! WOW. Bridget helped me set up a budget, set a plan for how many sessions I should book during a month and more. Allison helped me make sense of my price list and gave some amazing suggestions to improve it as well as advice on some of the promotions I was working on.

One big thing I learned is I don't have to photograph everyone in my market! There are lots of prospective clients in my area, and surrounding area, that are who I consider my ideal clients and who aren't afraid to invest both their time and money in me. That's who I want my business to benefit from. The numbers Bridget helped me understand who my ideal client really is, and helped me to make a "road map" of sorts, not only for 2013, but one that will help me be even better and more profitable in 2014 and beyond!


How did you use what you learned?

After my consultation with my SMS mentor Allison Rodgers, who I think she's the best thing since sliced bread, by the way, I made lots of changes to my price menu and have even more planned for 2014. I love that the Rodgers' provide such an amazing experience for their clients from the moment they call and have a session consultation until they come back to pick up their portrait order. The experience you provide your client with will determine the outcome of your sales session and will lead to future business with them and their friends that they're going to talk to you about! We discussed some of the mini-sessions I had planned and Allison again gave me some amazing advice for them.

ClarkSanders2.jpgHow has your business changed since your consultation?

I raised my prices after my consultation and will be increasing them again soon! I had always been scared to death to raise my prices to a point where I would lose clients, but as a lot of successful studio photographers have said in the past, you'll attract the clients who value what you do and will make up for the ones that don't. And that has rang true! I'm able to prequalify clients based on the price of my session fees and my collections.

Why should someone consider an SMS consultation?

The old saying, "don't reinvent the wheel," comes to mind when seeking the services from SMS. If you're currently operating a studio or thinking of starting one, there is a wealth of knowledge from the SMS mentors that can help get your business off on the right track. My SMS mentor was able to take a look at my pricing and other aspects of my business during my consultation. The suggestions she made have helped steer my business down the right path. If anyone is struggling with their business and don't know what they should do to turn it around, an SMS consultation is a no-brainer!


So what's your number? Do consider PPA's Studio Management Services (SMS) if you need help finding it.

 

PPA Member Stories:

This series serves as an opportunity for you PPA members to tell your story. How has PPA membership helped you and your business? It could be PPA's Studio Management Services, copyright protection, PhotoCare equipment insurance, the Indemnification Trust, Imaging USA--whatever! We want to hear from you, and so do your fellow members.


Have a story you'd like to share? Shoot John Owens an email at jowens@ppa.com.

hillenga_jennifer_blog.jpgJen Hillenga, M. Photog. Cr., was kind enough to join us in the PPA Studio to film some upcoming PPAedu segments. While not wowing us with her endless creativity and knowledge, Jen took the time to answer your questions submitted to us @OurPPA (Twitter) or /OurPPA (Facebook). From practical advice on photography to the best sno-cones in the world, we learned all about the oh-so-creative Jen Hillenga.

Mary Lou Guinn asked: Studio management software - any recommendations?

Keep it simple. We use a combination of Quick Books and Google calendar. It has color coordination and a quick glance feature that makes our lives so much easier. It's also really great for marketing plans and counting out from deadlines. We haven't had a need for a big system, but use additional things like PhotoBiz to see who viewed images and incorporate that into the sales process. Pro Select is also great for sales. We're kind of old fashioned with client traveler, but it works for us. There's no "one stop shop" for what we do, so we put together our own system with a variety of software.

Denise Hasty asked: Having trouble with lighting, especially with darker subjects. What is the best setting for my camera when shooting in the studio and how do I avoid grainy and shadowy photos? / I have a Canon XSI450d

To create the best image, it usually works best to use a low ISO to minimize the grain and make sure you're using enough light. It helps to utilize the best equipment and tools to capture the best image. If you're in an indoor setting with limited light, investing in a camera that can go to a low ISO setting will greatly reduce the granularity in the image. In the outdoors with plenty of light, it's not as important, but you definitely need it in darker situations.

OurPPA asked: What are your thoughts on digital backgrounds?

I think there's a great place for digital backgrounds! I use them more for composite images. For example, we will photograph individuals on white, create the composition and drop in the digital background when working with a group setting. They can be nice with the right situation, but it's not a fix-all. It can be easy to get carried away and the digital can be overdone, not as natural.

OurPPA asked: Favorite color?

Black! It's the absence of color with light, and all of the colors with pigment.

OurPPA asked: Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?

Mint chip.

OurPPA asked: Early bird or a night owl?

Night owl.

OurPPA asked: Favorite food:

Sushi!

OurPPA asked: Favorite (clean) word:

Clean? Oh man. Probably "Yes."

OurPPA asked: Where did you attend college? What did you major in?

I graduated from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. I double-majored in Fine Art and Graphic Design, with a double-minor in Art History and English.

OurPPA asked: What was the worst job you've ever had?


I worked concessions at a stock car track one summer. I did the sno-cones and nachos and it was a mess. It was the worst combination of salty and sweet--just the worst.

OurPPA asked: You love to travel - What's your favorite place to visit?

I spoke to the Photography Association in Denmark a few years ago, and that was wonderful. I also enjoy going to Hawaii--they have the best shaved ice! I also did the first trip down to Ecuador with Travis Gugelman and Lori Nordstrom with Dando Amor, photographing orphans.

Jen Hillenga, M. Photog. Cr. is the co-founder of Jen's Fabulous Stuff and a PPAedu contributor. You can find her educational videos, along with many industry greats on PPAedu. PPA members can easily access PPAedu by logging-in and watching the 150+ online videos. Not a PPA member? You can create your own personalized educational program by completing the Self-Assessment tool and subscribing to PPAedu!

brokencamera_blog.jpgAs a professional photographer, you know that the unexpected can (and will) happen during a photo shoot.

We asked you to share your stories of some of the strangest occurrences while photographing on theLoop, the social network just for PPA members! Ten of our favorite stories are below. While these stories can be hilarious, they also highlight the need for things like equipment and malpractice insurance for your photography business (both of which are available through PPA as part of your membership!).

Fainting brides! Fire ant attacks! Mother Nature! And excrement! You'll find all these situations and more in these stories.

1). "I managed to break my camera and my 35mm three minutes before the bride walked down the aisle. I have no clue what happened to cause it either. The top plastic grid thing of the mirror fell off. Literally broke and just fell off. It was like a quantum leap into suckdom! I almost cried. Thank GOD (or a brain) for insurance AND backup equipment. Being without my 35mm was so hard though. Sigh!" - Jessica Williams Dorris

2). "While taking photos of Girl Scouts at a farm, the peacocks started mating. We were so happy that the male peacock was showing his beautiful feathers for our photo shoot. Well, he was trying to attract Mrs. Peacock and it worked!" - Karen Hoglund

3). "I stepped in dog poop! Matter of fact, It was a dog photo shoot. I'm usually careful about such things but I backed up to get a shot and...squish. I didn't have another pair of shoes either. Needless to say, I took off my shoes when I went in their house later!" -  Karen Hoglund

4). "I was on a shoot outside a decommissioned Air Force (Loring AFB) in northern Maine. On the base is a place where old military vehicles go for upgrades and repairs. I used to do lingerie or swimwear photos on the old trucks that were placed just outside the gate and were either scrap or awaiting repairs. The model went to change and I informed her I would be waiting on the back of one of the trucks, it had been a long day of shooting and I was not watching where I was going, I also did not see the pipe that the cable of winch went through nor did I realize that it had been welded in place.  

"As I jumped on the back of the truck and turned I rammed my left temple into the end of said pipe. I didn't think much of it until I felt a bit of blood on the side of my face... Yep, I drew blood... That caused the saying that 'No one but me is allowed to get injured during shoots', although I have learned to make sure of where I am going before I leap to it." - Jason Grass

5). "I had a bird poop on my face while shooting an engagement once. Not fun...right down my face." -  T. Blair Wright
You might remember receiving a survey from InfoTrends sometime last summer. Some of yousurveyimageblog.jpg might even remember filling it out! It was long, but for a good purpose and well, the results are in! They paint an interesting picture of the photographic industry. See where you fit...

In the published report entitled Digital Imaging and Professional Photographers: 2012 Results, InfoTrends examined the behaviors of 2,315 full-time and part-time professional photographers in the U.S. The results uncovered some of today's key opportunities for photographers.

Photographers' Demographics
Sorry fellas, but we have to give some props to the ladies here. The photography industry has historically been dominated by older males, but it looks like that is starting to change. InfoTrends conducted a similar survey in 2009, and only 16% of those who responded were female. In the 2012 edition, that number more than doubled to 33%. You GO girls! Turns out the female photographers also tend to be younger, clocking in at an average of 41.0 years old to the males' 50.5.

Out of those brave men and women who completed the survey (thank you!), 60% were full-time photographers and 40% were part-time.

Photography Specialties
The results here demonstrated that most professional photographers identify multiple specializations. That tells us that many pros are doing a good job of being well-rounded! On average, professional photographers specialized in five different types of photography, and here's where InfoTrends got crafty.

Because photographers identify themselves in multiple areas of specialization (see:  well-rounded), InfoTrends asked them to indicate the percentage of their business that was devoted to the various categories. If his or her company generated more than 40% of their business from one particular type, they were determined to have a concentration in that area.

The most popular areas of specialization were:

infortrendschartspecialties.jpg



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