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PPA Today

Dan Phillips Photography, Cedar Falls, Iowa

Everyone knows you need to pack comfortable shoes when you come to Imaging USA. But this year the good people at PPA Charities want to remind you to pack a few more pairs--all for a good cause!

Bring Your Party Shoes--PPA Charities Celebration
(Sat. 1/31, 8 - 10pm)
The festivities start the night before Imaging USA opens with the PPA Charities Celebration. Kick off your week in good spirits and come enjoy the fun and browse the PPA Charities auctions. This is open to any Imaging USA attendee.

Bring Your Running Shoes--PPA Charities 5K Fun Run
(Sun. 2/1, registration 6:30am, race begins 7am)
It's healthy to give back! The race begins and ends (it's a loop) at the Convention Center's entrance near the Presidential Portico--don't be late!

Bring Your Old Shoes--PPA Charities Shoe Drive for Dando Amor
Your old shoes can be upcycled to help those that have none! Bring an old pair or two to Imaging USA and they'll be re-purposed for orphanages in South America and Africa. Handy drop-off bins will be located by the Expo entrance and by the registration kiosks.

Image ©Dan Phillips Photography, Cedar Falls, Iowa



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PPA's CEO, David Trust, is on Capitol Hill today for several meetings with key people in the ongoing talks on issues that affect photographers. Much of today's meetings center upon the commercial use of drone photography. As previously reported here on the blog, PPA has begun discussions for exemptions to be made which would allow PPA photographers to use drones on commercial shoots.

We'll update you as more information trickles down from D.C.!

This morning, David met with Brian Northcutt and Chris Grieco of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

 

Said David, "It's interesting how many different issues and concerns the drone photography discussion crosses. It's becoming more apparent that this is a complex issue that will require a complex fix." 

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

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


By Bridget Jackson, CPA, PPA Business manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you in Nashville!  


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

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

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

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

Performance vs. Appearance

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

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

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

Building Your Brand through Your Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Who should take your class?


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

Which do you enjoy more: teaching or photographing?

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

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

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

Describe your photographic style.

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

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

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

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

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

Elvis, Johnny Cash, or Jack White?

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

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


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

PPA's Benchmark Survey, to the uninitiated, is an amazing tool that can help PPA photographers maximize their profit potential. If that isn't convincing enough, as an added incentive, we've been giving away prizes to several lucky winners. It's a pretty sweet way to not only figure out all of the numbers you need to achieve what you want in business, but to also potentially win big!

We've heard from a few of our previous winners over the past couple of weeks and this week we're super excited to announce a brand new winner--Paul Jew!

Paul has photographed a huge variety of subjects--from celebrities to presidents, so the ability to compare books with other diverse businesses is important to his bottom line. "I think it is helpful to share so you can compare your business to other studios. Without this comparison, it would be difficult to assess how our business is doing compared to our peers. It's very important to have this knowledge." Paul used PPA's Benchmark survey as his photography business guide and it was easy. Remember, the knowledge is just a few clicks away!

For participating in the survey, Paul is taking home a $500 gift card to Showcase Inc.! Not a bad way to kick off the holidays (yes, there are already Christmas decorations popping out everywhere).

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview that depicts what profitable successful money-making studios (the kind you want to be) look like. That's unlike any other industry averages that only give you, well, averages. Having access to information that shows what high-performing studios look like has been helping photographers form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Please consider giving it a try! It really helps!

How? On top of the survey, digestible summaries, and an easy projection tool, participating studio-owners get a side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark with their own financial data. And this comes free for PPA photographers! Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help you grow your business, it is a $750 value (or more!). As a bonus, if you participate, you're also automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes! This month, participants are entered to win a one-year subscription to Sticky Albums or a $250 gift card to Adorama.

Don't forget about this awesome little nugget of information: In addition to the monthly giveaways, all participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense-paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today!


How one obnoxious hairdresser and a frazzled mother of the bride taught me a valuable lesson about sales


By Mariah Ashley


I love going to the salon to get my hair done. I have a very specific routine. I don't park close on purpose so I can enjoy the walk through Providence. I stop and buy a vanilla soy steamer at Starbucks to sip while I'm pampered. I arrive early so that I can sift through the stack of magazines and find the most current issue of PEOPLE.

I need a mind eraser bad. Trish and I have decided to expand our office. We are moving from a home office to a full blown three room; gallery, sales room, and office space. Because it's my nature to over analyze everything, I second guess the decision we've made and worry incessantly about the jump in our overhead.

Content in the solitude of the stylist's chair, head wrapped in tinfoil, inhaling chemicals with nothing but time to kill, I savor the mindless gossipy articles and my soy steamer. I let my mind drift far, far away from all things business and photography. 

Don't miss out on this year's health insurance open enrollment period!

Are you familiar with the health insurance options available to you as a PPA member? PPA can help you and your family find affordable medical and dental insurance in your area.

The next open enrollment period for qualified Health Insurance Plans begins November 15, 2014. We are very excited to announce that this year, several healthcare providers who chose to sit out last year and not offer plans, have now chosen to get back in. This is great news for you, as more competition amongst insurance companies goes a long way in keeping your policy premiums down. 



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