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UPDATED IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE!
Keith Howe had his follow-up PET scan last week, and it's the first image in his whole career to score a 0. That's right; they got the "all clear"! The Howes could not be happier.
Says Keith: "I've been lucky enough to score a perfect 100 in print competition and that felt awesome, but this zero feels even better!"
You can read their story in full below.
If you don't remember longtime members Keith and Holly Howe's story from a post we published around Christmas, it's worth the read. At the time, Keith was entering an aggressive treatment program for his cancer. But thanks in no small part to their positive attitudes and familial support system made through PPA, the Howe's are positively moving forward.
Their story picks up generally right where we left it--with Keith heading back to the hospital for more treatment. Although this time, it's for the final week of his final cycle. That's because the Howe's are on the verge of the ultimate good news: all clear.
Naturally, Keith is the star patient of the Nebraska Medical Center.
"They keep throwing stuff at him and he keeps bouncing back," said Holly. "No matter what they do to him, he takes it in stride."
Keith had a repeat PET scan after the fourth round of chemo and the cancer is almost all gone. Since then he has undergone another round and a half. On April 8, Keith spent his final week in the hospital. He is finally done with chemo. His medical team all made very positive comments about his prognosis and the oncologists are optimistic the Howes will receive the "all clear" when Keith gets his final PET scan May 12.
From here on it's just re-checking the scans every three months and getting his feet back under him--quite literally. Keith will soon begin physical therapy to regain some lost balance and mobility. He can walk and drive, but some of his nerve endings just don't fire the muscles like they used to.
"It's kind of like stringing new telephone lines," said Keith. "I'm feeling pretty good overall, but I still can't do those quick movements I need to be able to do, especially during a family portrait session."
Keith does some computer work. He's even back behind the camera a little bit helping out with a session a day.
"It's great to see clients still coming and the phone ringing," he said, with a laugh. "It's looking like I still have a photography business here."
A big part of Keith's recovery has been played by fellow photographers and PPA members.
As a PPA-approved juror for the International Photographic Competition, Keith has been actively involved in mentoring photographers who enter competition images for years. And despite cancer and chemo, this year was no different. In fact, Keith was even more active than usual.
Competitors sent their files and Keith would take a look from his hospital bed and talk them through things over the phone. He'd browse print competition pages on Facebook and give his advice. He was still out there lending a helping hand.
One of those he's helped is Michelle Parsley, M.Photog.M.Artist., CPP, of Woodbury, Tenn. Michelle was one of the women (referenced in the December story) who asked Keith to be her sponsor at the Award & Degree ceremony at Imaging USA. Michelle shared in Keith's regret that he wasn't able to be there to walk her across the stage, but she made sure his presence was felt nonetheless.
"I know without his input I would not have walked for those degrees this year," said Parsley, who received her master of photography and master artist degrees this year in Phoenix. "So I had them announce his name as my sponsor even though he couldn't be there."
Keith and Michelle first "met" in 2011 when Michelle posted her images in a PPA forum looking for answers as to why they did not merit. Keith responded with his advice and offered his advice anytime she needed it.
"There's no telling how many times he's helped me," she said. "He's so good at identifying where you are in your artistic journey and talking to you in a way that makes you want to do better. He's encouraging on one hand, but on the other he's not blowing sunshine. He's been really good at telling me, 'This is what you've got to do to accomplish your goal.'"
"Even this year I could send him prints and he could still give a heck of a print critique. He always had time to critique, no matter how he was feeling. And it's not just me; he does it for so many people. His advice was just what I needed. The funny thing is, I've never ever even met Keith in person."
It's one of many such connections Keith and Holly have made through PPA.
"What other industry could I possibly have that kind of connection in? It's crazy when I stop to think about it. I live in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. To have someone as talented and willing to give their time from Nebraska, I've never even been to Nebraska, it blows my mind."
Keith also received daily support and encouragement from good friend and PPAedu instructor, Jeff Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr., CPP,--yet another friend made through PPA.
"It's amazing how people can rally around and help you," said Keith.
Photographers in Nebraska have come and stepped in for recent sessions. A couple women from Wyoming came out to photograph their annual big dance school earlier this month. A photographer from Virginia helped with a recent shoot. Photographers in Florida have raised their cameras and offered support if needed. It all started through PPA.
"We know without a doubt that his amazing reaction (or should I say lack of reaction) to the extremely intensive chemo is because of his continuing positive attitude," said Holly. "And we also know we could never have sustained that positive outlook without the amazing outpouring of support we have received from our photography family.
"We still don't know what the future will hold as far as our business--whether Keith will bounce back enough to handle the physical demands of photographing a diva high school senior or a hyperactive two year old, but we are in a good place emotionally and financially because of our friends. We know we will be okay no matter what."
So... What's next?
Physical therapy! Lots of it.
Keith will get to work on bringing up his energy and regaining his balance.
"I want to be photographing high school seniors again," he said. "We also have a wedding to shoot in July for a woman who's been a client forever. She said she couldn't go elsewhere, it'd be like cheating on her spouse."
Keith and Holly also have a pretty big wedding to attend coming up.
"Our oldest son is getting married in California in May," said Holly. "From the moment he got engaged he has wanted his future in-laws' dog as his ring bearer, but wasn't sure what to do with the dog during the reception.
"Well, Keith was talking with a friend of ours and fellow PPA member who lives out in the area about possible venues and asked on a whim if she knew anyone that could watch a dog. It just so happened that she fosters dogs and would be happy to.
"They were amazed that we knew someone, who fosters shelter dogs, no less, that lives so close by. We weren't because we have friends EVERYWHERE. That's how PPA works."
Keith's original recovery goal was to be well enough to attend the wedding, but now he's thinking more. He's on target to be there in a California meadow under lofty redwoods for the ceremony, then dance at the reception in an apple orchard as the sun dips into the Pacific.
It might make for some good pictures.
By Danielle Brooks
About a month ago, I started the Insanity workout program. If you have no idea what Insanity is, look it up. You will legitimately think I'm insane. I break a sweat just watching the infomercial.
So why would I choose to put by body through such a rigorous workout every day? I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and push myself. I needed a challenge. Shaun T, the creator, is always encouraging you to, "dig deeper," and push yourself to your limits.
Part of Insanity is mental. You are training your mind to imagine yourself doing the impossible. When I'm working out and I am completely exhausted, I start saying, "You can do this, Danielle, just a little bit longer. You love working out." By replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones, I am able to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and I get stronger everyday.
There are a couple of life lessons I've learned from Shaun T. that I have been able to apply to my photography business. One of them is tracking my progress. As you do Insanity, Shaun T. has you do a fit test every two weeks. This way you can track how your cardio has improved. There are eight moves, and you do each one for a minute. In that minute you do as many reps as possible. It serves as a constant reminder that your body is changing even if you can't see the external changes. One of the ways I track progress in my business is by blogging.
Right after Imaging USA, I wrote about how I was going to start a senior rep program. My goal was to have 1-2 senior reps. The thought of having more seemed slim since it was my first year running the program. I ended up with 5 reps and had to turn girls away! That's insane!
When I have a goal, I blog about that too. I keep my followers interested by posting my progress. Not only is this good for creating a community of followers, but I also now have a record of my improvement. When I am discouraged I can look back and see where I started. No matter how small the progress, you are still moving.
Another lesson I learned by doing Insanity is to push yourself to your limits and, as Shaun T. says, "Dig deeper!" The last time I wrote for PPA Today, I mentioned I had partnered with a local gymnastics business. I had a meeting with the owner, and she started talking about her need to have sports photos taken of all the kids. I'm not a sports photographer and I have no idea how to set up a shoot like that. She wanted to do the photos in the gym with backdrops and studio lights. As a natural light photographer, I didn't have any of that equipment. The thought of doing a shoot like that terrified me, and yet I found myself saying yes and setting a date for photo day.
I am not saying you should say, "Yes," to every job that comes your way. Sometimes it's best to let your client know your limits; I knew I could handle the situation. As Shaun T. says, "It's a stretch." I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
My list of obstacles was long. I needed backdrops, lights, a lesson on how to use the lights and order forms for parents. I already knew someone who had backdrops and lights that I could borrow. Thankfully I had stopped by a booth that specialized in sports photography at IUSA and picked up some info just in case. They were able to help me organize my thoughts and get some order forms for parents to take home. I am certainly stretching myself, but I'm growing and am a better, more experienced photographer because of it.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking about the shoot and how I'm a fish out of water. Cue photo day nightmares. But this leads me to my next lesson learned by Shaun T.: stay focused. Throughout the workouts, Shaun walks around and encourages those working out with him. He does the moves next to other people and corrects their form if they are slightly off. Shaun is always shouting out encouragement to keep going. At one point he looks into the camera and say, "Keep going, you can freaking do it." Normally by that point, I am so tired and want to just stop, but Shaun's encouragement calls me back to reality and I recompose my focus on my workout. I am able to push harder and hang in there just a little longer.
The same goes for my business. It is easy to get distracted by the obstacles in front of me and sometimes I just get worn out, but we need to constantly refocus ourselves on the task at hand. Make sure you have a couple people you can call if you need encouragement. It's always helpful to have some cheerleaders in your corner who can spur you on when you are stalling. For me, it's my husband. He can always motivate me to keep going and he helps me to grow.
I do Insanity because I want my body to change. I want to be the best version of myself I can be. It is a lot of hard work, which is why most people don't do it. The same can be true for photography. To grow and develop is a lot of hard work. To truly excel in this industry you need to push yourself. Getting out of your comfort zone is a good place to start. So get up and get moving. In the words of Shaun T., "You can freaking do it."
By Mariah Ashley
I believe after Audi's Super Bowl commercial we can all agree with Sarah McLachlan that cross-breeding Dobermans with Chihuahuas (Doberhuahua) is a really bad idea. Clearly the Doberhuahua is an unholy combination best left to the imagination of Audi's creative marketing team, but it did get me thinking about a cross-marketing situation we had here at Snap a few days ago.
Before I can tell you about that though, I need to tell you a regretful story based on real life events.
Once upon a time (last winter) there were two photographers who got a call about shooting a wedding for a fellow wedding vendor. This vendor, a lovely young woman, happened to be the event coordinator at a very exclusive venue.
The young woman told the photographers that she was planning a small wedding on a tight budget (about half what the photographers would normally charge), but it was her dream to have the photographers shoot her event. The misguided photographers told her "sorry", but she'd have to pay regular price because she was getting married on a prime Saturday during wedding season.
The lovely young woman was disappointed and hired an inexpensive photographer instead. The photographers were disappointed because they never did book that prime day with anyone else. The photographers lost out on the coordinator's wedding and an opportunity to solidify their professional relationship with her. They sat home and twiddled their thumbs on her wedding date.
The lovely woman's photos didn't turn out as lovely as they could of and the photographers felt really bad about that. The photographers vowed that if ever faced with this scenario again they would be generous to their industry friends and everyone would win.
Of all the mistakes we made last year, this was probably the most regrettable. It was so regrettable it actually had three separate heavy layers of regret. Regret number one, we had a long personal relationship with the coordinator and we felt like world-class jerks when we turned her away and worse when we saw her photos and knew we could have done better by her.
Secondly, the universe punished us repeatedly for our greed by book-blocking us every time another inquiry came in for that date. And finally the biggest business regret, we realized all too late what a huge marketing opportunity we had missed out on. Up until Friday, I couldn't even think of this incident without working myself into a dark self-degrading mood.
What changed on Friday you wonder? Well, the universe delivered us a chance at NOT repeating history. Another lovely young woman/coordinator at another fabulous venue had contacted us about shooting her wedding. I hadn't heard from her since sending her our pricing, so on Friday, I sent her another email to check in.
When she wrote back she told me she was looking into less expensive options because although it was her dream to have us there she was planning a very informal event and didn't have the budget. Actually her exact words to describe her budget were "borderline unrealistic." Without pausing to think, I emailed her the story I just told you and told her that if her "borderline unrealistic" budget covered our expenses then that would be good enough for us. The unrealistic budget actually turned out to be a quarter of our average booking. Big mistake you think? No.
This is where the Doberhuahua effect comes into play. I told her that after our expenses were covered, whatever was left over we would donate to Operation Smile through PPA charities. "Oh no you didn't!"
Oh yes I did!
I just cross-marketed; Vendor Relationships with Charity resulting in the kind of Word of Mouth you just can't buy. Not even for $4 million for a 30 second spot. Do-ber-hua-hua! It's a HAT TRICK TOUCHDOWN and everybody wins! (See that I just crossed hockey and football, I'm virtually unstoppable!)
Our borderline budget bride was so happy, so grateful, so overwhelmed that she told me she was borderline crying. Her "unrealistic budget" actually covered our expenses and allowed for a $1,000 donation to Operation Smile. Four children will have life changing surgeries thanks to her borderline budget, and that is nothing to scoff at.
The Moral of our story? Greed does not pay. We screwed up last year, but this year we had an opportunity to do things differently. Yes, we may miss out booking that date with someone who is able to pay full price. Ultimately though, our hearts will be richer for having helped an industry friend and for donating those four surgeries. I can guarantee our pockets will be richer too for all the priceless referrals the lovely coordinator will send our way.
About the author:
By: Mariah Ashley
He wasn't technically voted into office, but he just might be the best president we've ever had.
Whether Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-er, or Teetotaler, at least we can all agree on Kid President's platform, Be More Awesome.
It's hard to argue with the message to "Be More Awesome" (in everything you do). Kid President teaches us that we should be more kind and be less boring, not to mention that that Diabetes is pronounced (dahy-uh-bee-teez), not Diabeetus. Thank you for clearing that up Kid President, Wilfred Brimley sure made a mess out of that one.
Kid President has met President Obama, kissed Beyonce, interviewed Macklemore, and danced with Steve Carell and the Despicable Me Minions, all because he spends his time being more awesome. Kid President knows what he is talking about. It's time to listen to Kid President.
Do I digress? This article is supposed to be a recap of my own awesome experiences at #IUSA14. You may wonder, What exactly does Kid President have to do with PPA?
Turns out, everything!
Everywhere I turned at IUSA14 I saw PPA's message to "Be More." Be More was plastered on pamphlets, flyers, posters, photographs and videos all over the convention and I have to say the message got through to me. I do want to Be More! Much like Kid President, PPA's inspiring campaign of awesome has encouraged me to contemplate my full potential of Being More.
The best part about PPA's Be More message? You fill in the blank yourself. For example, this year, I will Be More __________. There's no wrong answer!
And let's face it; most of us are going to Imaging because we are looking for answers, some of us with a little more desperation than others. In 2013, I was the blurry eyed, traumatized, desperate type. I needed to Be More... able to stay in business and Be More... likely to pay myself. I was looking for fiscal answers to my woes and I found them by going to seminars about branding, marketing, social media and also by getting advice from our friends at PPA Business (formerly Studio Management Services (SMS)).
This year I needed different types of answers. I was looking to Be More... Inspired, Be More... Educated, Be More... Purposeful and Be More Thankful. I even found an answer to a question I didn't know needed answering, how I could Be More... Extroverted.
The magic of Imaging is that the answers are all there, no matter what your questions. You just need to Be More Present, and Be More Focused to find them. And so Trish and I set off to find the answers we both needed.
What's the best way to Be More Educated? Take a class! And so we did, More Crazy Stupid Light with Scott Robert Lim. We were hoping to get our lighting learn on and walk away with some new flashy tricks up our sleeve. Scott taught us some cool lighting techniques but something else he taught us about inspiring confidence in your clients was infinitely more valuable.
He said, "If I don't feel like I am a beautiful or worthy person I won't be able to get that from my client. It will be the blind leading the blind. You've got to come in strong and confident to see the beauty in a person and bring that out. You've got to overcome your own baggage."
Woah. I've never heard anyone say that before. Lots of people talk about how to pose your subject. But who says you've got to feel beautiful yourself before you even step into the room with your client? Thank you Scott, I will strive to Be More Loving of myself.
Another class we attended was From Concept to Creation: A Fashion Shoot with Brian DeMint. To say Brian is a character is a major understatement. He bought his camera at Best Buy because the sales kid there told him to. He uses a kit lens and when questioned, appeared to be unsure about what f/stop he was using. His lighting system is a 100 watt bulb with a metal cover, which is generally used to hatch baby chickens not to glamorize models. By all accounts, his photos should suck.
They don't. They're lovely, interesting and unique. Brian is the Jack White of photography. He could literally pull a camera out of a dumpster and make a beautiful image with it. Brian added this gem to my pile of treasures, "If everyone loves your work maybe you are a little too bland." Thank you Brian for inspiring me to Be More Daring, and to focus less on my equipment and more on my imagination.
Our next stop was a lecture, Moments Not Poses with Ross Oscar Knight, where we learned to Be More Prepared. Before listening to Ross I felt that Trish and I had the market cornered on being prepared. After all, we practice the 7P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. However, Ross's level of preparedness makes us look like a couple of circus clowns. Blending the math and science side of his brain with his creative side, he has literally developed a formula for success. He unselfishly shared his biggest mistakes, in the process tossing me this gem, "You honor your clients by being prepared."
What does being prepared have to do with moments? When you are as prepared as Ross is, you can live in the moment "letting go and letting the images flow." Thank you Ross for showing us how to Be More Prepared and therefore be better photographers.
Another lecture we attended literally blew my mind. Seriously, my mind exploded around minute 45 of Jeffery Shaw's, Prosperity and Purpose: The photography Business Through a Different Lens. It does hurt a little when your mind explodes, which would account for the sobbing and sniffling. Seriously, it was embarrassing. Jeffrey had many great things to teach us about our business, but what he taught me about myself has forever altered me as a human being. I know, crazy right? How you ask?
Well, first, Jeffrey talked to us a bit about "Finding Your Purpose." What it is that keeps you going? What do you value? What do you believe? What is the deeper need of your clients beyond lovely photos?
These are questions he urged us to ask ourselves, but my mind was a blank! I sat struggling with these questions for the next 15 minutes until Jeffrey shared a little story about his "Limiting Beliefs" (his baggage). There's that word again!
As a child, Jeffrey hated games, (so do I) because it meant someone would have to lose. He also feared he wouldn't be picked to play when teams were chosen (me too). He said, "It wasn't that I would be the last one chosen, it was that I hid in the back of the line because I didn't want to play the game."
Commence flowing of tears, running of snot, and choking back of sniffles. I know it's hard to believe, but as a child I was never the first one picked for any team and was never a shining star to anyone but (maybe) my mother. Like Jeffrey, after a while I just got sick of the game and hid in the back of the line. In that moment, I felt sad for the little Mariah who used to hide and I decided that big Mariah wouldn't be doing that anymore.
Then I was struck with the answer to the question: What do I believe and what is my clients higher need?
I believe I am really good at drawing out the beauty in the self conscious client, the shy client, the introverted client, making them feel like a shining star on their wedding day. My clients are not celebrities but come hell or high water they will feel like one when I am done with them. Give me your worst case wall flower, they are putty in my hands because I understand them, they are my peeps. Because of Jeffrey's insight, I can Be More Purposeful and will Be More Extroverted.
I have so much gratitude in my heart for the wonderful speakers who shared of themselves. In a room full of hundreds of people, I often felt they were talking directly to me. Thank you also to Gregory Heisler who taught me to Be More Evocative and Roberto Valenzuela whose hilarious, self-deprecating stories inspire me to Be More Spicy. I'll be "adding some hot sauce" to my pictures for sure.
This brings me to my final Be More wish. I wish for myself and encourage all of you to Be More Thankful. Don't sit by and be a "taker." If someone has shared with you a story, useful information, words of encouragement, or a piece of themselves that has helped you personally or professionally, tell them so! Talk to them face to face, tweet about it, or send them an old fashioned thank you note. It doesn't matter the avenue of gratitude as long as you express it. Heck, kiss them if you feel it's appropriate.
About the author:
By: Mariah Ashley
Long dark days. Cold sleepless nights. Sad empty bank accounts. All of your clients have flown south.
Winter is coming.
Well, let it come! This year I am not afraid. Not afraid of White Walkers (gratuitous Game of Thrones reference). I am not afraid of my bank account. Last year at this time I was desperately faking the flu to get out of our trip to Atlanta for Imaging 2013. After struggling all year to stay afloat, all I wanted to do was stay home and cling to the few pennies we had left. My unrealistically optimistic business partner Trish dragged me to the airport and shoved me on the plane to Atlanta, unexpectedly setting us on the bumpy road to success for 2013.
Going to Imaging breathed new life into my defeated self. We left bursting with great ideas to pull ourselves up by the old bootstraps. Since then, we've implemented all we learned in Atlanta and it's made a monumental difference to our business. For starters, this year I will skip merrily onto the plane to Phoenix ready to learn, instead of clawing at the escape hatch desperate to hide. The state of Snap in January 2014? We've booked all the weddings we need, our bank account is pleasantly plump, and my brain is humming along peacefully instead of spiraling into dark places. This is winter people. This is unheard of.
If you are feeling anything like the old panicky broke me, please tell me you are going to Imaging 2014 this week in Phoenix! It's just what the doctor ordered for anyone suffering with a fake flu and dwindling enthusiasm. You may even want to do a little pre-gaming before your trip. To get you in the mood, here are the top 10 things we did this year to turn ourselves around. Imaging was the catalyst for it all.
Out With like a Cowboy and Brand Everything. Your logo,
website, blog, collateral all has to be complementary and cohesive! After
Imaging we stopped being schizophrenic with our branding, going so far as to
create a Rules For Branding manual. Anyone who doesn't follow the manual gets
the hot poker treatment (you don't want to know). P.S. Bonus! If you are already well branded you can skip this step and
just make out with a cowboy... or cowgirl while the rest of us are catching up.
2. Join a Cult, of Personality. Selling yourself (not in the biblical sense) is more important than selling your photographs. Show people who you are and they will love you and they will hire you. (Or they won't and you'll get over it because it's them not you). We created a funny video with bloopers, and started a "Behind the Snaps" theme on our blog to give potential clients a glimpse into the charmingly wacky world of the snap girls.
3. Give Til it Hurts (Because it Won't). We stumbled into the PPA Charities party last year and decided we wanted contribute to Operation Smile. We became the top donating studio in the country by donating the money for one surgery every time we book a wedding. This year that means we paid for 43 surgeries. We don't miss a penny of the money we donated and I love imagining 43 smiling little faces in front of me. Bonus! Brides are excited to book with us knowing that they are helping to save a child's smile!
4. Shut Your Pie Hole. It's time to stop talking and really listen to your clients. When you do that, you can start giving the people what they want and not what you think they should have. We used to just tell people what they should buy instead of listening to their needs. We call this "getting off High-Falutin" Highway. As soon as we took the exit to reality town, the bookings began pouring in and our average sales went up.
5. Expose Yourself (But Not in a Trench Coat Kind of Way). I know, it's human nature to want to hide your problems and flaws and pretend everything is alright. But trust me on this, as soon as you start exposing your soft underbelly, your bleak situation will improve. Pull your head out of the sand and start with a PPA SMS consultation. A whole world of non-judgmental support will open up to you.
6. Write Your Wrongs. Writing about the sinking Snap ship and sharing it with the world on the PPA blog (hello...is anybody out there even reading this?) was a scary biweekly occurrence for an entire year. It took me way outside my introverted comfort zone, but it also helped me organize my thoughts and kept me honest with myself. Chronicling our adventures started out as an experiment but became an instrument for positive change. Buy a journal and record your own trials and tribulations. If nothing else, it will help you see how far you've come as you prepare for Imaging 2015!
7. Forget About Losing 20 Pounds. Set yourself up for success. Don't let your business goals go the way of your New Year's Resolutions. Seriously, you are not going to drop 20 pounds by that cruise you are taking in March. Set clear, realistic goals for yourself and your business. For us, that meant paying ourselves every week and eliminating all of our debt. We did both. Still working on that muffin top though. Mmm, did somebody say muffin?
8. Give Your Lazy Butt the Boot. If you do not like to work long hard hours then hang it up now. There is no easy breezy magic recipe for a life of leisure as a wedding photographer. You must hustle, you must work hard, sacrifice your weekends and give it your all each and every day. I used to whine about shooting 30 weddings and then I learned a photographer I really admire shot 50 this year. By herself. I am not worthy. I will never whine again.
9. It's So BAD it's Actually Good. Turn every negative experience you have into a learning experience. We made A LOT of mistakes this year along with the good decisions. Honestly, we learned more from the bad then we did from the good. Do not ignore unhappy clients, jobs you failed to get, or vendors who didn't recommend you. I've started asking every bride who doesn't book us why she went in another direction. Most everyone has shared why and I've learned invaluable insights.
10. You've Got Guts, Trust Them. A low point for me this year was
purchasing another photographer's price list for $195. I am mortified that I
did that. I was at a weak point, unsure of myself, desperate for anything that
could help me price myself correctly. You know what I discovered? The price
list I paid $195 was virtually identical to the one I had sweated over for weeks
creating. You could buy a lot of muffins for $195. Trust your gut; you have the
muffins answers inside you, only you can know what is right for your
I want to thank you faithful blog followers for reading along with me this year. I hope that in sharing my follies and foibles I've helped you to feel less alone and maybe even elicited a chuckle or two during your busy work days. If you see me at Imaging, please say hello! I would love to hear from you. Good luck and Godspeed.
Sure, winter is coming, but we've kicked it's frosty butt and so can you. Now where's my hot cocoa?
What having our hearts broken taught us about our ideal client
The other day Trish and I had a meeting with a potential bride (Annie) and her mother (Ruth). They were two smartly-dressed, funny, warm, interesting ladies. The most endearing thing about them was that they work together as a mother/daughter dynamic-duo realty team. During our meeting, we laughed, we chatted, we shared ideas and inspirations, relating to each other on a sassy-ladies-in business kind of level.
Annie and Ruth were planning a big fabulous wedding at a fantastic venue with a fancy wedding coordinator we love. We thought to ourselves, now these two are our "ideal clients!" We could have spent all day chatting with Annie and Ruth, in particular picking savvy business lady Ruth's brain about what her "ideal client" was like.
It's safe to say we fell a little in love with Annie and Ruth and when they left, we found ourselves staring longingly at them as they walked away, calling out with a hint of neediness, "Don't be strangers! Bye-bye... Call us!"
The problem with falling in love is it puts you at risk
of rejection. Unfortunately, it turned out that Annie and Ruth weren't as "into
us" as we were "into them." One-sided love never works out, and
a few days later after our
date meeting, I got a "Dear Snap" letter
from Annie. It was the usual, "It's
not you...it's us" excuse.
WHY Annie!? Why Ruth?! What is it about us that drove you away?!!! WHAAAA!
This question kept me awake, so I felt compelled to email
Annie back and ask her... casual-like... why she decided to
break our hearts
go in another direction? Exactly what did the other photographer have that we
didn't? Perkier Albums? Curvier frames? Tell me Annie, tell me what I could
have done differently!
Annie was gracious enough to return my email. She
reiterated it wasn't us, they loved us. Our albums were indeed perky and our frames
curvy, but what really turned them on was slimmer packages. The other
cheaper more budget friendly. That's it. Budget trumped
our deep personal connection and charming personalities, end of story.
While Ruth may not have given us a deposit to shoot her daughter Annie's wedding at that meeting, she did give us something invariably more valuable, a little gem of advice. Remember how I asked Ruth about her ideal client? Her answer gave me pause then but really got me thinking after she dumped me.
She said, "My ideal client is one that pays me. If I only worked with clients that I loved, I'd have like five clients and that doesn't pay my bills. I keep my eye on the prize. Being able to work with all kinds of people affords me a nice home, nice vacations and the ability to plan a nice wedding."
There's a lot of photography talk out there about "Finding your Ideal Client"--a concept that has always kind of confused me. What is my ideal client? I thought sassy, funny, fashionable Annie and Ruth were ideal, but I was wrong about them.
Seemingly, some photographers "ideal clients" get married in a field and have rustic-barn-Anthropologie-type receptions because all their photographs contain those elements. Other jet-setting photographers seem to only photograph tall, thin, fashion forward model-types who marry in European vineyards and/or castles because all of their photos are taken in European vineyard and/or castles with unbelievably beautiful people. Others yet seem to only photograph really creative tattooed people that seek alternative venues like abandoned airplane hangars.
Why then, on any given weekend might I find myself shooting a wedding on a boat, or in a moat, or with a goat? It makes me wonder, how can moat, boat, and goat clients ALL be my ideal clients? Is it weird that my weddings are so varied in style, location, and budget?
Here's where we circle back to Ruth and her gift to me. The common denominator with the moat client, the goat client, and the boat client is that they were all really excited to hire us. Eureka! Mystery solved...my ideal client is... wait for it... a client who is really excited to give me their money in return for us doing a really great job.
For whatever reason our photos, bad jokes, lack of fashion sense, or quirky personalities speak to them. They feel comfortable with us, confident we'll do a good job and are happy with their decision. Our clients are tall, short, big-boned, skinny, type A's, artsy types, fancy, down-to-earth, educated, hard-working, old money, blue collar, funny, shy, preppy, alternative, silly and serious. They are all of these things and more and I am grateful for their differences. I don't want my photographs to all look the same, the same type of venue and the same type of people in the same type of lighting. That gets really boring really fast. Besides, I'd like to shoot 40 weddings this year. What are the odds of finding 40 clients who want to have goats at their wedding?
A few days after Annie and Ruth rejected us we had
date meeting. (Gotta get back on the proverbial bicycle, right?)
Had I been thinking along the old "ideal client" lines, gauging clients
on their shoes or their venue, I might have missed out on a nice booking. This
wedding was to take place at venue we are unfamiliar with and with vendors we
don't normally work with. The couple was kind of quiet and shy, the
conversation was a little awkward and the meeting brief. In times like that it
can be hard to muster the razzle dazzle, but you know what? This couple was
interested in our photography and had taken the time to come and see us. They
deserved a little sparkle and we happily gave it to them. Although the meeting
was brief, the shy bride told us we made her feel really comfortable and she
would be excited to have us photograph her wedding... oh, and where should she
send the check?
Ideal clients? Yes, without a doubt.
From the IUSA Mentor Booth to the Loan Collection: The Journey of an Image
By Christine Walsh-Newton, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
Last year was PPA member Christine Walsh-Newton's first trip to Imaging USA. While there, she not only picked up her master of photography degree, but also took full-advantage of the 15-minute mentoring sessions with an affiliated judge.
She learned more about her competition images--and even her overall shooting style--than she could have imagined. She flew home inspired to take her images to the next level.
Christine shared her story on her personal blog, read it and see the results!
And make sure you check out our blog from a couple weeks ago on mentoring opportunities at this year's Imaging USA in Phoenix!
My enthusiasm is ramping-up for Imaging USA 2014. Trish and I got our official badges in the mail today. Eeeek!
It's hard to believe that this time last year I was dreaming of ways to fake-illness myself out of the trip to Atlanta for Imaging 2013. In my very first post for this blog, I confessed my panic and nausea induced by a stalled cash flow and floundering business. Thankfully, my business partner Trish dragged me kicking and screaming out from under the covers of my fake sick bed to IUSA 2013 and it profoundly changed...everything.
I once heard Trish say, "A problem shared is a problem halved." That's been true for us so far. Sharing our problems, exposing our soft underbellies and swallowing our pride opened us up a support system of expertise, good will, and creative inspiration from PPA.
Writing about our woes started out as an experiment. I've been chronicling our trials and tribulations here for nearly a year and it's helped me foster a new way of looking at my business and my life. The experiment would either end in total failure with me at my new job as a sectional saleswoman at the local furniture store (love me a sectional) or it would end in success with "Bright being the new Bleak" when it comes to the future of Snap!. Sharing mistakes has also taught me to see inspiration for success in the most ridiculous, outrageous and mundane places.
Take for instance, when Queen Latifah called us recently. Queen Latifah is only (according to Google and um, the rest of the world) the very coolest singer-songwriter, rapper, actress, drop dead gorgeous model, television producer, record producer and talk show hostess. Not to mention she's considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.
So, the phone rings the other day and it's Queen Latifah (in the interest of full-disclosure it was actually a lovely woman named Chelsea who works for the Queen Latifah show, but close enough).Chelsea was looking to get permission to use a photo from our Pinterest page pinned by one of their upcoming guests. You may have heard about this couple in the news, Ryan Leak and Amanda Roman. Ryan planned an entire wedding from Amanda's "My Dream Wedding" Pinterest page. A photo we had taken of earrings was pinned by Amanda and used by Ryan in creating their wedding. Ryan proposed to Amanda, she said yes, and then they had the wedding all on the same day.
We had a nice chat with Chelsea and were about to hang up when she said something really momentous. She said, "Congratulations on your life." Chelsea wanted us to know she had spent a lot of time on our website and was really impressed by the photography but was even more impressed by the passion and zest we have for what we do. Gosh, Chelsea (a.k.a. Almost Queen Latifah) that was awfully nice of you to say. Lightning bolt moment: It's important to remember that a bad day for us doing this is better than a lot of people's best days at work.
Other times the inspiration for success comes from humbling places. One of the goals we set for ourselves at Imaging 2013 was to get involved with PPA Charities' Operation Smile. We were moved to action and tears after attending a PPA Charities party at Imaging and listening to all the wonderful people involved with Operation Smile speak. We had no idea then that we would get so inspired... really inspired... to donate all we could to Operation Smile.
The more we read about Operation Smile, the more we watched the videos of the children whose lives had been changed by Operation Smile, the more we wanted to do. One day we had an idea to donate the amount of one surgery ($240) for every wedding we booked. When given here and there, the $240 was hardly missed and before we knew it, we had booked 28 weddings and donated $7,487 (and counting), making us the Top Studio Donor in the country for the year.
I hardly know how that happened; after all, we don't have a fancy studio. We are just two ladies plugging away here at my house in my spare room. Sometimes it's a struggle to make ends meet, but I've never missed a dime of the money we've given to help children in need.
In the course of a year, it turns out that I shared my problems and halved them too by reaching out to PPA and asking for the help we needed. Ironically, what has really reenergized our business hasn't been what we've taken from PPA but what we've given back. It turns out that Joy shared is Joy doubled. I'm thankful to be doing what I do every day knowing that I'm pleasing my clients by involving them in an uplifting charitable cause. Sharing our passion for photography and the joy of our good fortune makes a bigger impact than I could have thought possible a year ago.
I hope you are considering going to Imaging USA 2014. If you are struggling like we were, don't crawl under those covers, share your problems and halve them! Reach out and get a little help. Things will turn around. Once they do, remember what Almost Queen Latifah said, "Be grateful for the life you have."
You're doing what you love! Once you're feeling good and joyous about how lucky you really are, start spreading the joy and love around. PPA Charities' Operation Smile is a great place to start. Remember, bright is the new bleak.
Hope to see you in Phoenix!
A big blabbermouth, that's what you areIf you were a talk show host, you'd be the starI said your mouth is big, size extra largeAnd when you open it, it's like my garageYou talk too muchAnd then you never shut upI said, "You talk too much"Homeboy you never shut up-Run D.M.C
*Note to self: Clients want to feel comfortable and make friends; less important is the superiority of your albums, dummy. Read anything about the Millennial Generation, duh.
*Note to self: Our clients are thoughtful and charitable and PPA charities rocks! Keep giving!
*Note to self: Clients love to feel taken care of and appreciated. Who doesn't? More gifts!
*Note to self: Contrary to what you what you believe, the "sweet spot" for wedding budgets in this geographical area is $6,500. Create a new package for $6,200.
*Follow up note to self: The new package is flying off the shelves, and clients end up spending way over the "budgeted" $6,500 anyway.