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PPA Today

You might have some fears about entering the International Photographic Competition (IPC), but think about what you could learn! We hear time and time again from competitors that once you overcome your nerves and enter, your skills and technique will improve--not to mention the confidence boost! The best way to get the most out of your IPC experience is to have your images critiqued by an IPC judge.

Below is an example of exactly what we're talking about. Don't forget, you can order critiques at your next 
District Competition too! This is "Entangled" by Pamira Bezman, critiqued by Larry Lourcey. Watch the critique to see why this image was accepted into the General Collection and how it could be improved to go Loan.

The holidays are almost upon us, and they're definitely a hot topic on theLoop! Check out the top discussions you might want to check out when you need a post-turkey break!

Do you love your studio management software? Chime in! See what people are shopping for or hot tips on what to avoid in this thread. 

The man in the red suit is back in this thread, too! How do you price for an event of 1,000 photos over three days? Chime in!

Get to know Steve Kozak, Imaging USA 2015 speaker! Read through his Ask Me Anything and see if it spurs you to register for his pre-convention class in Nashville!

Do you often ship final products to clients? Who do you use? Where do you shop? Weigh in or pick up some quick tips on saving money when shipping.

Uh-oh, hopefully you don't find yourself in this situation! What happens when you did the work, and the client won't pay? See what your fellow photographers have to say or weigh in with your own experience. 

Is a new computer and monitor on your holiday wish list? What are you looking for? Are you a Mac or a PC? See what your fellow pros are looking for in this thread. 

Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not a PPA member? It's easy: join today!

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Thumbnail image for photo (2).JPG"There is something seriously wrong with the teenage brain," states my 16-year-old son as we sit in my warm car in the pouring rain waiting for his bus.

"Agreed." I nod, watching his fellow high-schoolers trudge up to the top of the street in flimsy hoodies. Every single one of them is standing in utter misery without a coat, an umbrella, or common sense between them. The rain is beating down on them cold and relentless.

"They look like a bunch of wet lemmings," adds my son.

They do. Pathetic wet little rodents with plastered hair, every last one of them. Pride surges for my son for having the good sense not to join them in their damp collectiveness. (When you have a teenager it's important to celebrate the small things.)

But then again, if you follow my posts you know that my son is a six-foot-one, cowboy-hat-wearing original. Don't forget, we live in a New England suburb, and the cowboy hat is not commonplace in these parts.

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By Sarah Ackerman

It's time to get to know Ana Brandt, Imaging USA 2015 instructor and maternity photographer extraordinaire! Ana has been in the business over 14 years and has never stopped learning. Get to know this pre convention instructor in nine easy questions!

1. When did you start your photography career? What prompted it?

I became a professional photographer in 1999. I had been taking pictures since I was a teen and had no intention of ever becoming a professional. After shooting for well over 10 years as an amateur, I decided once I moved from the East Coast to the West that I would register my business and get to work. I was a web designer by day and a photographer by night. I started shooting child models in California and one day I just quit my Web Job and never looked back.

2. What do you want for people to take away from your class? 

I want them to feel the power of the amazing talent and gift that photographers have. I want them to leave motivated and encouraged and understand that the marketing, selling, posing and all that is entailed should just flow from their pores. I want them to leave and not sleep for days because I have given them so many ideas, tips, techniques and marketing methods that will take them months to incorporate. I am bringing in a pregnant model and a brand new baby and I want to show them easy transitional posing for both session types that can work in any location.

3. What is your favorite aspect of photographing newborns? 

Watching them fall into such a deep sleep that they just smile in bliss. It is amazing to watch them just curl up and be cozy in a basket. Sometimes I just stare in wonder. They are just days old, and here they are in my space, just sleeping away. It's really amazing. 

4. How did you get into the maternity market? 

Honestly, I wish I knew. When I was in my 20's I was so awe inspired by seeing gorgeous pregnant woman. I was immediately drawn to this phase in a woman's life. I have shared this story so many times, but I am an adopted child, and I have never seen a photo of my biological mother. I think I was just drawn to what I never saw in my own life way earlier then I even knew why. Now 15 years later, I just never get tired of it. I think pregnant woman are just gorgeous and it's such a short time in development. I knew from early on I would specialize in maternity and newborn and I knew my being adopted was a driving force - and still is. I wish I could explain it in words, but it's really hard to. I feel that every path I took in my life, led me to here. To doing this, even when I had no idea what my journey would be.

5.    What is one piece of equipment you can't live without on newborn shoots? 

On location - it's my 5-n-1 - I almost always use a diffuser and reflector to block out harsh light on one side, and reflect in soft light on the other. That is a must when I am traveling. 
In studio, I need good lights. I would never use flash inside and I love my soft boxes and Einstein's. I used Alien Bees for years, and those are great too.

6.    How do you differentiate yourself from other newborn/maternity photographers? 

I think I would have to ask my clients that! I don't really pay attention to other newborn/maternity photographers. I try and just focus on things I like and ideas that inspire me and things that drive me. I let my clients know I can provide everything for them for their sessions, such as clothing and styling and location scouting, so that they can just relax and trust the process. I think each photographer has their own style, even if they use the same props - the style is easily defined. I believe that people choose the photographer that is similar to their own style and has a personality that is comforting to them. I do not believe I am the perfect photographer for every client. 
One product that sets us apart are our behind the scenes videos. We have been providing video for our clients of behind the scenes in their sessions. Clients have told me they love watching the videos because not only can they see who I am but they can appreciate what is involved in a session. It is a win, win - the client receives a gorgeous video, and we have marketing tools for the next client.

7. Who is your favorite photographer? 

I can't pinpoint one person. In my 20's I studied Ansel Adams and Anne Geddes. I bought their books, screensavers and calendars and just stared at their images over and over. I think Ansel defined black and white photography and Anne Geddes showed the world the wonder and beauty of newborns.

8. What defines your photographic style? 

For pregnancy I think its movement and angles. I like curves and to stretch woman's bodies in ways they never thought possible. I adore fabric and how it flows, and if I love to work with fans and just create beautiful images. For newborns, I try and create images that are classic and simple while being a tad artsy at times.

9.  What do you wish more photographers knew before going into business? 

That it is hard, hard work and that you cannot give up. Photography is a business. Like any business, it takes time to learn and grow.  You have to commit and just do it. You need to be patient and not worry about others. This is your journey - your path and you need to let it grow and nurture it with every ounce of your being.

Come learn from Ana live at Imaging USA 2015. Her "The Art and Business of Pregnancy and Newborn Photography" pre-convention class will run January 31 for an additional $129 fee to your registration. Get all the details on Imaging USA and register here!

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




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IPC_Rules_SW.jpgHopefully you will get a chance to check out the International Photographic Exhibit (right next to the Expo) at Imaging USA in Nashville. When you do, you might wonder where those beautiful images come from. You might even daydream a bit about seeing your own work up there at Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta.

You can make it happen. The displayed images make up PPA's Loan Collection and are chosen by a panel of judges at the International Photographic Competition (IPC), held each year in August. Only the top images make it to the prestigious Loan Collection each year, but don't let that intimidate you.

 If you're feeling inspired and want to be more recognized, a good place to start is your local district competition. Take a look at the 2015 dates. Entries for the Southwest District competition open next week!

By Chris Homer

Who's excited for some Turkey? Thanksgiving is right around the corner, in the meantime,roundup1121.jpg stuff yourself with our favorite photography blogs of the week:

1. Deleted but Not Gone: How to Keep Your Photos and Files From Falling Into the Wrong Hands

PROTECTING DATA: Having to recover accidentally deleted photos is a nightmare for most photographers, but what about when you've deleted an image on purpose? Don't throw away or donate your memory card until you watch this video on PetaPixel.

2. Custom Photo-Printed Adidas Sneakers
JUST BECAUSE IT'S COOL:
PopPhoto breaks the news about a unique way to use photography! Adidas is now allowing people to create custom shoes printed with photos they choose. What would you put on your shoes?

3. 11 Incredible Photography Tips That Have Nothing to Do with the Camera You Use
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS: 
Fstoppers has compiled a list of quick tips that all photographers should keep in mind, regardless of what camera you use. There's good advice for beginners, as well as some useful reminders for the seasoned pro.

4. Photography Mysteries: Cycling Lights

LIGHTING:
If you've ever shot indoors with available light, you know how tricky it can be. This post from PhotoFocus provides some great tips for how to deal with lighting that's less than ideal.

5. Advice for Photographers from a Model's Perspective
WORKING WITH MODELS:
PPA member Skip Cohen is back in the round-up this week with a great podcast. If you work with models, you don't want to miss it. You'll hear some great advice on building a relationship with your models for the best results.

6. Photographer's Blocks
ADVICE:
Do you feel like your photography is stuck in a rut? This post on Luminous Landscape offers advice on how you can get your creativity going again!

7. What is Boudoir Photography and How to Approach It?
BOUDOIR:
If you're thinking of getting into the boudoir photography market, this post from Virtual Photography Studio is a good place to start! It offers tips for those just starting out on how to do it right and put your clients at ease.

8. Use Photo Drones for Fun Family Portraits
INSPIRATION:
We've heard a lot about using aerial drones for landscape photography, but have you ever thought of how you can use one in family portraits? Check out these ideas from Photojojo.

9. The Most Useful Filters for Nature Photography
EQUIPMENT:
If you enjoy nature photography, the Photo Naturalist has put together a list of filters you should have for the best images possible. Take a look and see if their advice can improve your nature photography.

10. This Wedding Was Shot in an Abandoned Detroit Warehouse
INSPIRATION:
Here's some wedding photography that (we bet) is unlike any other you've seen before. Check out Hillebrand Photography's images of a wedding session they did in an abandoned warehouse. You may just get some new ideas.

There you have it, our favorite posts of the week! What photography blogs do you enjoy? Let us know on theLoop


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


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