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Written by PPA Member, Michelle Kaffko of Organic Headshots, Chicago, Illinois
Read more of Michelle's blog at organicheadshots.com/blog/

During the last 9 years working as a headshot photographer I estimate that about 95% of the people I've taken a headshot of have made some kind of self-deprecating comment during the photo session.

Such as:

"I'll try not to break your camera."
"I've got a huge nose- just warning you."
"Try not to get my 18 chins in the photo."
"Well it's a good enough photo for what you've got to work with."

I spend about 5% of a headshot session going over clothing options, 5% adjusting lighting, 20% posing and coaching, and 10% actually snapping the shutter button.  And then 60% telling people they're not as ugly as they say they are.

But I get it.  I completely understand.  Because I hate photos of myself too.  Sometimes I look at a photo of me and think I look like a stunt zombie wearing earrings.  And it wasn't until about year 6 as a headshot photographer that I finally gathered the courage to get in front of the lens and book another photographer to take my own professional headshot.

I love being behind a camera, looking through the lens, and capturing fractions of a second of our short time on earth and sharing that with the world.  I love images, imagery, telling stories through photos, and using a camera to paint the perfect portrait of amazing human beings who deserve dignified images of themselves that say, "look people!  I'm here!  And this is how awesome I am."

But if you ever point a camera at me, I will punch you in the neck.
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Written by guest blogger Danielle Brooks

Last night my husband, Rich, and I were lying around reading when he suddenly asked, "Do you know what you're wearing?" 

"To what?" I replied.

"To Imaging USA. It's less than 10 days away now. Do you know what the weather will be like? How about what classes you're going to take? Do you have a plan for the expo floor?"

"Well I have a general idea but I want to be open."

"If you want to make the most of your time there, you've got to figure these things out, Danielle." 

Crap. I knew my husband was right. The time had come to make some definitive decisions. I have been so caught up in the holidays and business that I haven't stopped to plan my course of action, let alone pack. I needed to decide on what to wear, courses to take, and what my plan for the expo floor was going to be.

Last time, I came to the conclusion I needed to take courses related to lighting and posing. But how will I choose when a lighting or posing class is offered at the same time? What about clothing? Will this Florida girl need to bring a coat? I immediately put down my book and did a quick search for "weather in Phoenix." I found that Phoenix is bipolar in that it will be in the 70s during the day, but low 40s at night. How am I to dress for that? 

One of my biggest dilemmas in preparing for IUSA was deciding what to wear. I want to be fashionable, yet comfortable. Professional, but not over dressed. And any outfit I pack needs to be potentially ready for a night on the town with new friends. 

With those guidelines there is a very slim margin of clothes I can bring. I settled on a nice pair of jeans, several three-quarter length sleeved polo shirts, and of course my IUSA15 shirt. I can wear my jeans more than once, and the shirts will help keep me warm in a potentially chilly expo center, yet cool enough to be out and about in Phoenix during the day. Of course tennis shoes are a must. 

But what about the parties? Do people dress up for those? I decided I would make time after I tour the expo floor to go back to my hotel room to change into something a little more fancy. This would allow me to regroup and write down any thoughts about the day. Since it will be cooling off in the evening, I'm packing a nice coat to go along with my outfit. 

Now that my clothes were packed, I started making a game plan for the classes I wanted to take. I methodically went down the list of classes with my husband and decided which ones would be the most beneficial. If two classes I want to take are offered at the same time I checked to see if similar class is being offered at another time. That way I could have the best of both worlds. I seriously love the Imaging USA app. If you don't have it, do yourself a favor and download it. You won't regret your decision. I love that you can star which vendors are a must see and it highlights where they are on the expo floor. You can also select your classes and it will show up on a calendar so you don't loose track of where you're supposed to be. 

Last on the list was planning my strategy for the expo floor. I came up with a list of items I will need going into the New Year. My focus will be on packaging and offering print products to my clients. I was able to use my IUSA app to star the companies that I was interested in learning more about. My first day at the expo will be spent focusing on my needs. That way, I can enjoy focusing on my wants later in the week. I was also able to sign up for the IUSA Alumni Program. They pair off newbies, like myself, with veterans of IUSA. I was paired up with an Imaging USA veteran who will be able to walk with me through the expo floor on my first day. I'm sure he will have a bunch of great tips for talking with vendors to get the best deals. 

Now that most of my plans are set, all I have to do is wait to put them in motion. What's your IUSA plan? If you have any tips or tricks for me, please feel free to share in the comments! Until then, IUSA here we come!

Hello faithful readers! Welcome to our latest blog series, What's a Pro? with Johnny O (that's me!).

If you recall, back in May Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer ruffled a few feathers when she said: 

"...there's no such thing as Flickr Pro, because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there is no such thing really as professional photographers, when there's everything is professional photographers [sic]. Certainly there is varying levels of skills, but we didn't want to have a Flickr Pro anymore, we wanted everyone to have professional quality photos, space, and sharing."

Oops! Her goof caused quite the backlash in the photography community, but it also got us to thinking... What is a professional photographer? Just someone who gets paid to take pictures? Or is it something more?

In this series, we'll chat about what exactly makes a professional photographer... professional. It's a pretty easy job for me, because for the most part, I'm going to let you pros do the talking.

If you participated in our Faces of PPA campaign (and MANY of you have), you saw we asked, "What's a Professional Photographer to you?" And we're going to share some of your responses here. 

Have some thoughts on the topic? Want to be a part of the series? Place your thoughts in the comment section below or contact me, John Owens, communications specialist, at jowens@ppa.com. 

So what's a pro? The answer--we hope to find--is you. 

Heather Chinn, M.Photog.Cr., owns and operates her portrait studio, Heather the Painter, in Fort Mill, S.C. Heather is THE name to know in the world of painting (and she'll be speaking at Imaging USA!), and works for clients all over the world. As a Corel Training Partner and Corel Painter Master as well as a PPA Master Artist photographer, Heather pulls from years of well-rounded experience to form her opinion.

"To me, a professional photographer is an artist that can see a unique story in a split second in everyday life. They can then capture that moment with all of the creative elements (composition, lighting, exposure, color harmony, balance, design, etc.) in place as if it were second nature."

Eva Creel, hailing from Kaiserslautern, Germany, is a self-proclaimed photography addict. Her eponymous studio offers photography "underwater, above and somewhere in between." Eva considers herself an artist first and professional second, and offered an example on why a mix of both is important. 

"Want to light the fire under a photo group's proverbial bottoms? Ask them what a professional photographer is and stand back as the thread explodes! To me, ya gotta make money honey if you want to be considered a professional. However money does not mean quality. 

"For example many people can charge you to fix your car but that doesn't mean they are going to do a good job. You will most likely get what you pay for. If the mechanic does a bad job does that mean he's not a professional? Does he/she have a license and a registered business? Can they tell the difference between a carburetor and an alternator? We have a good idea of who a professional is when it comes to taking care of our car needs, so why don't we have a clear understanding of who a professional is when it comes to taking our portrait?"

Michigan photographer Jennifer Praniewicz, CPP, owner of Jenuine Creations, LLC, breathes creating a slice in time for history and placement. Her work has been featured in international magazines, yet she gets a greater sense of satisfaction from clients who have fun on a shoot with her and then love their images.

"A professional photographer is one that respects the foundation, heritage and lineage of those who made the industry in days gone by. In so doing, they are continually honing their skills and craft, reaching for the next level of excellence. 

"They strike a delicate balance between reaching their clients' goals, dreams and desires while growing and maintaining a business. They run a business and do not denigrate the industry by giving their time or product away unless for a legitimate charity. They utilize all the components of great photography, including lighting, posing, composition, etc. and don't settle for trendy, over-exposed and characterless photography."

So as you can see, there are some strong feelings on the topic! Now, do your clients need any help to See The Difference? We've got marketing resources just for that.

So what's a professional photographer to you? Let us know in the comments. 

See you in a couple weeks!

-Johnny O
Since you're close to wrapping up your social media experience with our Be More Social series, we wanted to leave you with 10 examples where social media failed. Since the companies below made some pretty terrible missteps that you can avoid, we're turning them into some valuable learning experiences. Let's dive in!

1. Avoid making light of national tragedies. CelebBoutique (an online retailer) saw that #Aurora was trending on July 20, and posted this less than sensitive tweet. According to the company, their PR department didn't read up on why #Aurora was trending. Always do your research! If you're using a hashtag that's trending, but you don't normally associate with (like the one below), make sure you're well aware of what conversation you're getting into. 

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2. We can't say it enough - always check if you're utilizing a trending hashtag. Entenmann's Bakery posted this tweet during the Casey Anthony trial. They're tweet was "innocent" enough, but the timing was downright terrible. (Note:  At least they tweeted an apology quickly. If you find yourself in a similar situation, own it. Apologize publicly and quickly, it'll save face in the long run!)
 
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3. Even international brands aren't immune from poor PR. Check out this ill-timed tweet from fashion brand Kenneth Cole. Whether it's home or abroad, it's generally in poor taste to latch on to a trending hashtag associated with war, violence and riots. Even if you think you're clients would get the joke, take the high road.

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