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PPA Today: June 2013 Archives

June 2013 Archives

First things first! Register for Imaging USA 2014! Done? Okay, keep reading.

Gearing up for the desert heat yet? Well no need! We're going in January so it will be pleasantly in the low 70s--comfortable enough for you to explore Phoenix and the surrounding area. We recently sent a few staff out to Phoenix to sniff out some of the best local sights, sounds and snacks and will have a video coming soon with what they found.

But for now, here are a few options for your precious spare time at Imaging USA 2014. Keep reading to find some of the more fun and unique Phoenix-offerings.

1.) Be a Zookeeper for a Day

Zoos are pretty rad, but they're all pretty much the same, right? Well, the Phoenix Zoo is a pretty hip place. They host cool events like Rock 'n' Brew and even got their animals in on their version of the Harlem Shake. Plus, they're a non-profit just like PPA!

Also, we know you've walked around and seen someone feeding a baby penguin and thought, dang, what a cool job! Well apparently, at the Phoenix Zoo, you can do that (not the penguin part, but fingers crossed). No information is currently available on their website, but here's to hoping they bring it back!

2.)  Take a Hike!

Ditch the valley for a bit and climb around the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The Phoenix Mountain's offer enjoyable day hikes without even having to leave the city limits.

First there's Papago Park. The park features the aforementioned zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, giant saguaro cacti, ponds, and geological formations like the Hole in the Rock.

There's South Mountain Park, the largest city park in the U.S., which features Mount Suppoa and Dobbins Lookout and houses an impressive chuckwalla population.

If you're looking for more of a challenge, give Camelback Mountain a try. Two trails over a mile long ascend 1,280 feet to the peak of the mountain, the highest in the region. Give yourselves a good 2-3 hours for this one.

Lastly, there's Piestewa Peak, formerly known as Squaw Mountain. The second-highest mountain in the range takes its name from SPC Lori Piestewa, the first woman to be killed during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the first-ever Native American woman in history to die while serving in the U.S. military. Take in views of the Phoenix valley and the surrounding mountains from the peak.

3.)  Shoot From Above

As photographers, you've probably all had days where you struggle to find a higher vantage point to shoot from. And if you're trying to shoot something as expansive as the Sonoran Desert, you'll want to get nice and high. But don't try to climb a cactus, we're talking higher. Like hot air balloon high.

Get carried away with Hot Air Balloon Expeditions, America's best and largest hot air balloon tour operation. We recommend taking a sunrise or sunset ride. Make it as romantic as you like, but, you know, bring your camera.

4.)  Bring Out Your Inner Cowboy

Are you after a true Wild West experience? Look no further than Western Destinations, located north of Phoenix at Canyon Creek Ranch. You can go horseback riding, stroll an authentic old western town, try the tomahawk toss and even duel the Governor for his daughter. No, seriously.

Just read this excerpt from their website:

At Western Destinations we represent a time when people were free, self-reliant and connected to nature. A time when the brave and adventurous left the humdrum of life in settled society behind and set off for the unexplored western frontier. As our guest, you too can experience the thrill of nature and the rugged beauty of the Sonoran Southwest the same way the original cowboys did.

Yep, we're in!

5.)  Take a Desert Tour...Day or a Hummer

So maybe hiking or horseback riding isn't your thing. All good. You can still ride around the desert like a boss in a military vehicle at Desert Storm Hummer Tours.

Once voted one of the Top 100 Adventure Tours in America by National Georgraphic, DSHT have provided exciting off-road tours through the Sonoran Desert since 1995. There are several different options to explore the desert. Daytime tours can include shooting off some AK-47 rounds or even a stop at Four Peaks Brewery to wash down the dust. Actually, you can even ditch the hummers and go straight for the guns and beer!

But for the REALLY adventurous, there's the Night Storm Tour. That's right, ride out and experience the desert at twilight with night vision goggles. Don't forget, most of desert wildlife is nocturnal! Sorry, no assault rifles or beer after dark.

6.)  Relax in a Pool & the Outfield

By the time January rolls around, the Arizona Diamondbacks season will be long over whether they make the playoffs or not. But you can still experience Chase Field in a way no other baseball park can offer--in the pool.

No, you won't get to catch a home run ball, but the pool is available for rent year-round, it's the perfect way to cool-off after a long day at Imaging.

7.) Attend a Phoenix Coyotes Game

Did you watch this year's playoffs?! They were insane! No sport can match the intensity of hockey, a game in which players willingly lay their body in front of 100 mph slap shots, break their leg, and FINISH THE PLAY, have names as cool as Cal Clutterbuck and oh yeah, occasionally drop the gloves and fight.

The Phoenix Coyotes (yes, there's hockey in the desert) narrowly missed the playoffs this year, but boast one of the NHL's most exciting young rosters, led by all-star defenseman Keith Yandle. The Coyotes play at arena in nearby Glendale. The 2013-14 NHL schedule hasn't been released yet, but if the Coyotes are in town during Imaging, try to head on over for a game.

8.)  Find a New Instrument or Two, or 15,000

Museums are cool to see and all, but Phoenix has the most extraordinary museum you'll ever hear™. The Musical Instrument Museum is a bright and open space and home to 15,000+ instruments from around the world. Since photographers and musicians go together like peas and carrots, it's the perfect place to find some added inspiration while on your Imaging journey.

Obviously, music isn't just a visual experience, so you can hear them all too! But before you get a headache thinking about that many instruments playing at once, luckily that's not the case. The museum will provide you with a wireless headset (or you can bring your own) to take in the sounds of the museum. As you approach an instrument, you will enter a wireless hotspot which plays a solo or ensemble loop of music from that instrument accompanied with video.

It creates a unique experience that's personal and shared at the same time. So learn the history of the instruments you already love, educate yourself in the musical culture of other countries and who knows, maybe even find a new instrument that moves you. And yes, you can bang the gong.

9.)  Downtown Starts Here

Shop, eat, laugh, drink, dance, heck even bowl your way through CityScape Phoenix--the central hub of downtown.

There's Copper Blues rock pub & kitchen, heave your best gutter ball at Lucky Strike, work on your abs at Stand Up Live and grab some sushi at Squid Ink. Plus there are about 20 shops and restaurants to pick your way through. Best of all? It's right down the road from the Convention Center! Just use your feet.

10.)  Wherever You Go, Take 007 With You

Listen, we're big fans of everything listed above, but there's always a way to make it a bit better. And what better way than to take 007 himself, James Bond, out on the town with you?

You might recognize Dennis Keogh, and that's because he holds a striking resemblance to actor, Sean Connery. So much so in fact, that Keogh has made a career of impersonating Connery in his most famous role, as James Bond. You can hire him to bring some class to your evening, maybe even play a round of celebrity jeopardy.  

Just make sure the martini is shaken and not stirred.

So there it is, our little preview of some of Phoenix's hidden and not-so-hidden gems. Make sure you make the best of your spare time, and whenever you can, use the Light Rail to get around. It's quick, easy, and cheap!

See you at Imaging USA 2014! 

Use the links below to read other #IUSA14 posts:

Are you planning on entering PPA's International Photographic Competition (IPC)? Having your work judged can be intimidating, but it's well worth it to receive feedback so you can continuously improve your photography.

Better yet, if your image scores high enough you will become part of the PPA Loan Collection and have your work displayed to over 10,000 of your peers and the general public at Imaging USA, January 12-14, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ.

In an effort to inspire you to enter the competition and to show you how some of these loan images are created, here is a past loan collection image and the story behind it.

Voila! This is "Our Rhapsody in Blue" by Allison English Watkins, M.Photog.Cr, CPP.. You'll find the story on how this image was created below!
watkins_rhapsody_blog.jpgWatkins is an award-winning portrait photographer and owner of English Photography, in Park City, Utah. "Our Rhapsody in Blue" is a portrait of fellow photographer, Kris Doman, M.Photog., CPP, and her family, and was captured on the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

According to Watkins, Doman wanted a vintage-style portrait with a particular set of colors.

"The Salt Flats have little with which to build a dynamic pose for five people, so I went in search of some specialty furniture to match Kris's vision," said Watkins. "The minute I saw this chrome black and white chair and stool I knew I had found a perfect match. We arrived 15 minutes before the sun dropped over the horizon, providing the absolute sweetest lighting to work with."

If you're wondering what equipment was used to create "Our Rhapsody in Blue," here is the nitty-gritty on camera, lenses, lighting and software used in the creation of the image:  

Camera & Lens: Nikon D300 camera, AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens with a Singh-Ray LB warmer polarizing filter

Exposure: f/5.6 for 1/20 second, ISO 200

Lighting: Natural light

Software: Processed in Adobe Photoshop for retouching along with Nik filters to increase clarity and vibrance. Watkins also repositioned the horizon of the mountains for compositional purposes.

"I wanted to capture the texture of the landscape, so I chose a slightly higher camera angle and shorter lens so as not to condense the ground detailing," said Watkins.

When working toward creating award-winning images, make sure you pay attention to your camera and lens settings. Play with angles and lighting. Shoot for error AND for success.

We hope to see your images entered in this year's International Photographic Competition, held July 29 to August 1, 2013, at Gwinnett Technical College just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Be sure to enter your images by June 28 to avoid late entry fees!

Judging is free and open to the public, so if you can come by, take advantage of this great learning opportunity and hear your (or others') images judged in person. You'll get tons of priceless feedback that will only help you in the future.

So, don't be scared, enter the competition today!


As a professional photographer, you had to start somewhere. That "somewhere" came with a learning curve and plenty of missteps to get to where you are today.

We asked people on theLoop to share their top rookie moves. What were your biggest learning moments in your early career? Color prints, under-charging and equipment malfunctions are only the tip of the iceberg.

Our top ten opportunities for improvement are below. Many of these stories are cringe-worthy to seasoned vets, but they provide a great example of how we've all had our struggles in the beginning. If you have mistakes worth sharing, post them on "What mistakes did you make when you began as a pro photographer?" thread or send them to us at

  1. "The biggest rookie mistake I made was right after I graduated from school. I had a job to photograph the interior of a new house being built for the CEO of TJ Maxx. This was back in the film days, but the mistake I made still applies to today's digital cameras. Check and then double check that you have all of your camera settings right. The mistake was I didn't check to make sure the shutter speed was synced right with the lights. Big mistake on my part and when I got the film and print back I nearly dropped to the floor. Then the worst came when I had to call the client and ask for a re-shoot. "Not on your life" was their reply. Needless to say, I have not repeated that mistake." - Paul Robinson 

  2. "My/Our biggest mistake was getting into photography without fully understanding the business side of things. We were very "green" and should have taken some classes prior to jumping in with both feet. We quickly realized that only being a photographer in a photography business wasn't going to cut it. Thankfully, things improved dramatically once we started to educate ourselves. I don't think most start-ups realize how many aspects there are to running a business. You need to be proficient in photography, marketing, sales, design, AND business to make it and I only walked in with two of those skills." - T. Blair Wright

  3. "Attempting to do my own color prints, this was back in the day of film only, rolling the color print in a black plastic tube, one at a time, colors came out way to bright and rich so I then sent them to a lab. I wasted time (and money) doing it that first time." - Peter Farrar

  4. "One of the growing pains I had to deal with was choosing the proper lens to use for a shoot. Also, taking my time to get the composite and get it right before the shot is taken. Learning the hard way of quality vs. low price on gear. Long story on that but I learned you get what you pay for." - Michael Ali

  5. "Thinking I could teach myself. I knew nothing about composition, lighting, posing and everything else that anyone that picks up a camera thinks at first. I lost every model I had and every client. I wish I had a peer back then to show me the ropes. You cannot do it on your own and education is a major in what we do. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could start over and do things the right way from day one." - Jason Grass

  6. "What mistakes did I make when I began as a photographer? ALL of them! But, I learned from every single one and it has helped me be the image maker that I am today... You should learn from others but the mistakes you make are lessons you'll learn the deepest and best (if you pay attention). Don't be afraid to try new things after doing the research. If it doesn't work, go at it again. It pays off." - Bob Coates, M. Photog.Cr., CPP

  7. "My big mistake was starting out under-financed. It took me three years to get firmly on my feet. If I had been supporting a family I would probably not have made it. " - Mark Houde

  8. "Not charging enough was my biggest rookie mistake. Setting prices too low isn't a sustainable business model." - Elizabeth McConchie

  9. "The very first wedding I ever shot was 36 years ago. I decided that I was smarter than everyone else, so I shot the wedding on Ektachrome film because I wanted to project the images in the sales room. Images turned out fine (by my standards at the time), but I never checked on the actual cost of printing from slides. It was so expensive back then that I lost a lot of money preparing the order. Of course, I charged a crazy low price so I could get the job. The more the clients ordered, the more I lost. Long story short, when you first start and know nothing about the [photography] business, everything you learn by mistake is tremendously important - and costly. Result for me: I never used slide film for a wedding ever again." - Paul D'Aigle

  10. "My biggest mistake so far...aside from starting out so "green" (and not the cool kind of "eco-green" either) was when I did my first paid assignment with studio lights. I hadn't done my homework on print labs yet, so I offered the CD...but offering it for way too low was not the worst of my mistakes.. The worst was not following through on my own work. Thankfully, through the conditioning I had received from PPA, theLoop & other pros, I switched immediately to in-person sales (even though these were portfolio building/learning sessions for me). I'm so thankful to have set up that standard for my business early on...even though it was in our living room on the flat screen TV, it still worked! I've been getting great sales! But there's another part to my story... I had lunch with that same client (who printed her own images from the CD) and finally had the opportunity to see the prints she had made. Oh horrors!!! They were awful!!! Terrible cropping...color & white balance all off...and one was put into an 8x10 frame with the wrong crop ratio, so there was a white border on each side! The worst part of it all was that she thought they were so great! I bit my tongue (these were photos of her grandchildren...) and promised to order an 8x10 that I would edit to help her "see the difference"...and apologized for my lack of knowledge back then." - Ann Brenny


PPA's "Indemnification Trust" probably (and hopefully) isn't in your everyday vernacular, but it's there to save your behind when Murphy's Law strikes.

So, what is it exactly? It's a mouthful, but it's less complicated than you think! It's like malpractice insurance for when things go wrong that could generally be considered your responsibility as a service provider-- things like equipment malfunction, an error or an unsatisfied client (like a bridezilla, or when something happens with your memory cards)--your client could easily take you to the cleaners.

That may seem relatively broad, so here are three real situations where photographers thanked their lucky stars for PPA's Indemnification Trust and its coverage (names in the examples below have been removed to protect those involved):

Issue 1: Client's (Lack of) Satisfaction

An Alabama photographer was asked to capture their client's wedding with an unusual venue constraint (they were required to shoot certain portions of the ceremony through only exterior windows).

Despite the fact the newlyweds knew of these restrictions beforehand, they were dissatisfied with the images. As a result the couple sued their photographer (and the cherry on top: the bride's father was a partner at one of the largest legal firms in town).

After a nearly year-long series of negotiations the case was settled out of court with the aid of locally-appointed legal counsel (courtesy of PPA's Indemnification Trust). In the end, the photographer's responsibility was only a $200 deductible, while the Indemnification Trust picked up over $20,000 in legal bills and client compensation on behalf of this photographer.

Issue 2: Data Loss (and non-recovery of the images)

A California photographer experienced a major hard drive fail with the images of their three of most recent assignments. The first attempt to recover images was made in vain with the help of a local company. So the local company suggested reaching out to DriveSavers (the Indemnification Trust's data recovery's partner).

Fortunately, the three clients did not go as far as suing the photographer (like our first story), however compensation was required. Therefore and with the help of the Indemnification Trust, the photographer reached a settlement with each of the couples. This involved arranging for reshoots, refunds, and payment of other damages in addition to the data recovery service. In the end, the photographer's responsibility amounted to $900, representing the deductibles for each claim: $200 (Couple A), $200 (Couple B), and $500 (Couple C). In turn, the Trust provided close to a combined $10,000 in reimbursements to the three clients.

Issue 3: Client Dissatisfaction (AKA Tilted Tiara)

This story starts off happy enough--a photographer in Texas completed coverage of a wedding without a hitch and delivered the images to the couple as scheduled. As in most weddings, a part of their assignment required depicting the bride's attire, including her tiara.

After the wedding the bride contacted the photographer, absolutely furious to have been photographed wearing an off-centered tiara. She threatened and followed through on filing a suit in Small Claims Court.

Fortunately, the Indemnification Trust worked with the photographer to prepare the case's defense before the court and assisted in securing  two jewelry experts that could attest to how tiaras are worn--one was a beauty pageant coordinator and the second a master jeweler. The court concluded that the bride's suit was frivolous and dismissed the case. The incident was settled with no expenses incurred by the photographer!

These situations could happen to anyone. Without the Indemnification Trust, they would cost thousands of dollars in legal fees and compensations. Fortunately PPA Members* are covered. This is a peace-of-mind benefit that is part of your PPA professional active membership!

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to make a claim or fight a client in court, there are a few simple steps to take (link).  Whether the case is settled in or out of court, the Indemnification Trust will appoint (and pay for) local attorneys to defend PPA members and pay any damages. You only pay your (small) deductible.

If you're not a PPA member, just think of the savings when something inevitably happens. Faulty memory cards, wardrobe malfunctions or something from your wildest dreams (no one saw that tiara claim coming), you'll be covered by the PPA's Indemnification Trust.

*Wedding or portrait photographers are automatically enrolled in the program. Even if you aren't a wedding or portrait photographer, we strongly recommend members taking advantage of this benefit. You just need to be up-to-date in membership fees and reside in the United States, U.S. Territories or Canada. To enroll in the program, call Member Care at 800.786.6277.

PPA member, Super Monday instructor and recent CPP recipient, Dave Goldman, has been named a CPP Liaison for the state of North Carolina.

"Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) was a huge accomplishment for me! Passing the CPP exam and image submission process was incredibly difficult. I now hold a designation that less than 8% of the photographers worldwide hold," stated Goldman. "I also now know that I have the necessary skill set to be professionally recognized by my peers as a Certified Professional Photographer. My clients always love my work, but it takes the recognition to a whole new level when it comes from the industry itself. Working towards the CPP has given me the ability and confidence to create strong images under any conditions and I can produce consistent, repeatable results each and every time."

Dave's passion for teaching inspired him to go above and beyond becoming a CPP to become the first and only state Liaison for North Carolina in Charlotte.

"I love to teach and I wanted to give back to the photography community. Most people have no idea where to turn for learning and they end up at local meet-up groups. These groups are okay when you are starting in the [photography] business," said Dave. "I get very motivated when I see beginners aspire to become certified and I can now help them achieve that. I hope to raise the bar and educate other photographers through workshops and hands-on classes."

Dave has a reason to be motivated--becoming a Certified Professional Photographer has made an significant difference in his business.

"Most photographers claim that certification means nothing to their clients; however in my case that is far from the truth. Would you use a first-year resident as a doctor because you can save a few dollars on an operation or use a specialist recognized by his peers in a particular profession? Certification shows that you took the time to learn about what you are doing and how you perform to a higher standard," said Dave. "Each client that comes to my studio asks me about the very visible certificate on the wall. I explain the difference between CPPs and every-day photographers with a camera and educate them on the investment they are about to make. Certification makes it a critical difference."

View some of Dave's Certification passing images below and if you are interested in pursuing the certification program, here are some easy steps to get started:

First, check out, then to look for a CPP liaison in your local area and get connected. Find other CPP's and speak with them about what the process, what it brought to them and to their business. They'll help you sort through what certification can do for you. Finally, pair up with a CPP (shadow or second shoot are great options) and see how they do things and learn from them. After all, they are trained to create beautiful images under any circumstances, so you are bound to learn something.

Do you have something you want us to brag on? Tell us here:

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Remember the Magic 8 Ball? If Trish and I had consulted the Magic 8 Ball back in January when we decided we would NEVER, EVER, EVER discount our prices again; we would have asked the wisest of  balls these questions...

Us: Magic 8 Ball, will we lose out on bookings because of our strict adherence to the no discount advice of the professionals at Imaging USA?

Magic 8 Ball: Without a doubt.

Us: Magic 8 Ball, will be still be in business in six months?

Magic 8 Ball: Outlook good.

Us: Phew! Thanks Magic 8 Ball. Um, will we be rolling in dough in six months?

Magic 8 Ball: My sources say No.

Us: So we're still in business but not rolling in the dough hmmm... Magic 8 Ball, will we be slowly but steadily growing in the right direction and attracting the type of clients that are the right fit for us?

Magic 8 Ball: Signs Point to YES.

US: Okay, one last question Magic 8 Ball, we're really struggling here with the last piece of the pricing puzzle. What's better, a la carte pricing or package pricing?

Magic 8 Ball: Reply hazy try again.

US: (shaking furiously) A la carte or packages?

Magic 8 Ball: Better not tell you now.

Us: Stupid ball, give us the answer!

Magic 8 Ball: Concentrate and ask again.

Us: Aaargh! (Hucking the ball across the room)

Ah, the psychology of pricing. It's a real brain-drain around here. It's embarrassing to admit that we are completely schizophrenic when it comes to our pricing structure. If you were to follow in our footsteps the course we have taken over the last year would look something like this...

Start your journey on We Offer 7 Successfully Tested Packages Boulevard. You're booking lots of weddings here but you decide to change it. Aint nothin' broke but gosh darn it all, we're gonna fix it anyway!

Next, take a left onto High Falutin' Highway, scrapping all your packages and offering only one scary expensive package. No need to buckle that seatbelt, the traffic flow is coming to a screeching halt! Abandon your car on the side of the road because you can no longer afford the gas.

On foot take a right onto A la Carte Avenue. Spend many days and sleepless nights creating an extensive list of products that your clients can use to create their own collections. Start to cry uncontrollably when a bride tells you she's booking someone else because she likes packages better.

Trade your Magic 8 ball for the bicycle of the first kid you come across. Make a U-turn on Schizophrenic Street where you now offer both packages AND an a la carte menu.

Give up! Sit down and don't move.

There are no magic answers. Trust us! We have exhausted ourselves and all of the possibilities. It's time get off the crazy train--commit to our current pricing or be committed, that's how I see it. Some brides like packages, nice tidy little packages where all the work and thinking has been done for them. Some brides like choices, and mixing and matching and comparing. Trying to choose between packages and a la carte pricing twisted us into knots. 

We're sitting down now on the curb to untangle the mess we made and wait for the bride-mobiles to come by. Some will probably speed by leaving us in the dust, but with any luck some will stop and pick us up. It's hard to tell, there's no one to ask here on this lonely stretch of road and I traded the Magic 8 ball for a tiny bike.

It's June. We're halfway through the year and we've decided to let it ride.

FYI...A bride mobile is kind of like a pope mobile, only it's all white and it has a veil attached to the roof. You can't miss 'em.

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Since you're making the trip to Imaging USA, why not take things a step further? Enhance your photography business and broaden your scope and take some classes outside of your focus to learn new techniques and be more. Each track comes complete with live hands-on and demo sessions to see the skills you'll be learning in action!

People often describe Imaging USA as the Mall of America for photographers. This great mix of attendees, exhibitors and connected (well-respected) speakers from around the country forms the backbone of an expanding and evolving photographic industry and we're proud to be a part of it with you!

Mixing and matching is a great way to find new approaches, uncover some easy solutions and get beyond inspired. Many people tend to stick to what's familiar when operating a business. The conference is your platform to safely learn and explore new opportunities, options, products and solutions to take your photography business (and your craft as a whole) to the next level.

Here are the nine distinct areas to explore while at Imaging USA:

Portrait: Tips to skillfully capture the essence of an individual, young and old, male or female. There are different strategies for everyone! Get tips on workflow, post production, editing, client management, posing, lighting and how small tweaks in your process can relate to a big bump in your bottom line.

Senior Portrait: Get the latest posing, marketing and sales techniques in this ever-changing specialty. Get creative tips on working with your clients (and their parents) to boost your buzz and increase sales.

Family/Children Portrait: If newborns, baby packages, children and family portraits are an area you'd like to discover, these courses are right up your alley! Finding quality maternity clients and working with them through the stages of newborns, baby packages, childhood milestones and then start the process all over again. You'll have clients for life!

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Wedding: What are the images, albums and products that today's brides are demanding? Learn how to make your brides feel beautiful, maximize your profits, streamline workflows and create the memories for a perfect day!

Business: Pricing, sales, brand and marketing are all essential to making your business soar. Engage with speakers to see how they took their studios to the next level and see how their successes (and failures) can help you up your studio.

Technique: Refresh your fundamentals and gain new skills that will take your images and business to the next level. Watch live shoots, get in depth knowledge about lighting and get the inside track on creating your most dynamic images yet.

Inspiration: Reinvigorate your passion for photography and find new direction for your art and business. It's always important to take time to fall (back) in love with your work--so take the opportunity to kick start your motivation, feed your creative soul and watch how the rest falls into place.

Schools, Sports & Events: See techniques for posing, lighting and workflow for teams and individuals, sports action, dances or events. These are all great opportunities to expand your business, create additional lines of revenue and make customers for life.

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Hash It Out: Share your questions, ideas and solutions during these daily, interactive smart talks via tweet, text or in person. Think of it as a group brainstorming where you can be a part of all of the solutions! Commiserate over problems all studios face, find creative solutions and make new friends in the process!

Become an expert in what you do best, but also treat yourself to the opportunity of exploring new terrains. This is the safest place to experiment; approach new techniques and test drive some new ideas! All of this (plus the networking, parties and awards) is only $129 for current PPA Members. Not a Member yet? You can "Join N' Go"- meaning you join PPA and get to attend Imaging USA your first year for free!

For more information on Imaging USA or to register, visit! Early bird pricing is through December 4, 2013. 

Use the links below to read other #IUSA14 posts in this series:

When you're looking for professional services, you pay attention to any certifications or designations the business may have, right? Well, the same can be said for your potential customers searching for a professional photographer.

That's where PPA's Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation can help you out!buck_husson_taylor_cppblog.jpg While a consumer may not know much about professional photography, having the CPP designation for your business tells them that they can expect professional quality services and goods from you.

It may seem easier to ignore the certification process, but it can greatly help you and your business' image. Several PPA members weighed-in with their thoughts on the worth of the program.

In a former life, Mary Buck, CPP, was in real estate. As such, licensing and keeping up with the credential requirements was a must in her line of business.

"Even before I started turning photography into my full-time business, I could see how some people could resist the certification process, because there is such a low barrier to entry into the field," she said. "I believe there should be a certain bar, in any industry, and certification does that for us photographers.

"The clients who care, and the ones I want, are the ones that respect me for making a commitment to my profession."

Studies have shown that having professional certification is the most widely recognized consumer credential, so certification can turn into a big advantage over your competition.

However, the CPP designation has more advantages than just giving you a leg up on your competitors. It will also make you a more confident photographer.

"What happened to me on the business side wasn't nearly as profound as what I found on the inside," said Stuart Husson, CPP. "The process to become certified was personal. I thought it would enhance my business, but that turned out to be secondary.

"I simply wanted to see if I was good enough, but the boost in self-confidence was such that it gave me the assurance that it was okay to turn down potential clients who did not meet my preferred client profile."

As you might expect, earning a CPP designation does take some effort and work on your part. In order to become a CPP, you must pass both a written exam on photography techniques and skills as well as the image submission review, where you'll submit your own photographs to be accepted by the Certification panel.

The process can also help fill in any gaps in your photographic knowledge, as 2013 first time CPP, Andrea Taylor, CPP, shared.

"I decided to become certified because I didn't go to photography school," she said. "I'm an emotional photographer, so it forced me to study and do things I wouldn't have done otherwise. I really tapped into a lot of technical parts of photography and I expect this process to impact my business because of my personal feelings about the whole process. The more confident I am, the better I can serve my clients."

To help you along the way towards becoming a CPP and to prepare you for the challenges of the exam, PPA hosts Certification Preparation classes. There's one coming up July 15-17, at PPA's headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

If you've ever considered taking the CPP exam, this class is for you. In fact, during these three days we will review all the technical topics covered by the exam. It's an in-depth study of the technical side of photography, almost equivalent to a semester of college!

Topics covered during the class include:
  • The Inverse Square Law, Filter Factors, Bellows Factor
  • Lenses and Filters
  • Color Theory and H&D Curves
  • Lighting Ratios, Corrective Lighting and Posing, Depth of Field, Angle of View
  • The Zone System (and how it helps you understand the digital histogram)
  • Difference between a Bit, a Byte and Bit Depth

Are you 100% familiar with these six topics? Taking the Certification Preparation class is sure to make you more relaxed and confident when it comes time to take the exam. Better yet, you'll be able to choose to take the exam at the end of the class when all this information is fresh in your head.

If you're nervous about the image submission portion of the certification process, there is an optional fourth day of class on July 18 that will explain the submission criteria and show you some examples of certifiable images.

If you're ready to become a Certified Professional Photographer, sign up for the Certification Preparation class in Atlanta July 15-17! And don't forget about the optional Image Submission Preparation class on July 18.

Need more? Check out how becoming a CPP can help your business
Are you planning on entering PPA's International Photographic Competition? Having your work judged can be intimidating, but it's well worth it to receive feedback so you can continuously improve your photography.

Better yet, if your image scores high enough you can become part of the PPA Loan Collection and have your work displayed to over 10,000 of your peers and the general public at Imaging USA, January 12-14, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ.

In an effort to inspire you to enter the competition and to show you how some of these loan images are created, we'll be sharing some past loan collection images.

Check out 'Golden Arches' by Steve Jessee, M.Photog.Cr, CPP, and read the story of this images' creation below!

steve_jessee_goldenarches_blog.jpgJessee, a specialist in landscape art photography and senior portraits at his studio, Associated Photography, in Princeton, WV, created "Golden Arches" while exploring shooting locations in Washington, D.C.

"I stepped into this beautiful hallway (part of the U.S. Postal Service building) to get out of the rain," says Jessee. "The leading lines and the arches woke up my senses to capture the moment."

Are you wondering what equipment was used to create 'Golden Arches'? Well, read on for the nitty-gritty on camera, lenses, lighting and software used in the creation of the image.

Camera & Lens: Nikon D7000 camera, Nikon AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (2.1X) lens

Exposure: f/5.6 for 1/125 second, ISO 800

Lighting: Available light

Software: Processed in Adobe Photoshop 6 with a Topaz Adjust 5 specify filter to bring out the full color range. Jessee applied a glow to the hanging lights, and that's when the title of the image came to him.

We hope to see your images entered in this year's International Photographic Competition, held July 29 to August 1, 2013, at Gwinnett Technical College just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Be sure to enter your images by June 28 to avoid late fees!

Want to learn more about the criteria on which a competiton image is judged? Read about the 12 elements of a merit image.

Judging is open to the public, so feel free to come and hear your image judged in person. You'll get tons of valuable feedback that will only help you in the future.

So, don't be scared - enter the competition today!


Michael and Nikki were awarded scholarships to attend the Illinois Workshops, which will be held June 9-12.

Although he has been taking pictures for a long, long time, Michael List only went pro three years ago, when he and his wife, Honey, launched their studio, M-K Photography, in January, 2010. Ever since, Michael has photographed senior, family and maternity portraits and even branched out to sports and wedding photography.

However for Michael, photography is a part-time profession. By day, Michael works as a supervisor of quality control at a railcar plant in Danville, Ill. But his passion is photography, and for the past two years he has honed his craft at the Illinois school.

"Every year it sets my work apart," said Michael. "It's a phenomenal class and I learn something new each year."

Michael says it was a fascination with lighting that attracted him to photography.

"Just how you can capture the look on a person's face through different lighting," he said. "That's always been a challenge and a joy for me."

Michael shared his appreciation and looks forward to what another year at the workshop has to offer.

"I'm very excited to have won the scholarship," he said. "I'm thrilled to be a member of PPA and the honest truth is that I'm a better photographer because of these workshops. If it wasn't for them, I would just be a guy with a nice camera. My harshest critic, my wife, even says so!"

Last year was Nikki Winklemann's first time attending the Illinois Workshop, but it left a lasting impression.

"The information I learned was invaluable," said Nikki. "It's an experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I was so excited that at the end of the week, I joined PPA!"

Nikki's mother was a photographer, and Nikki fondly remembers spending hot summer days in their basement dark room together, making butterfly shapes with their hands and placing small hot wheels on the photo paper to see what designs they could develop. Nikki's early exposure to photography inspired her to focus her studies in college on becoming more than just a photographer. She focused on not only photography, but Graphic Design, Digital Media and Psychology and graduated in 2008.

Shortly after, she started Dinnius Photography with her business partner--mom! With her skills and her mother's years of experience, Nikki hopes to take their business to the next level and capture memories in a studio outside of their home.

Another goal is to help her mom retire, a goal she says the Illinois Workshops will help her reach.

"I realize that while my mom is our main photographer now, someone has to step in and take the reins eventually," she said. "Illinois Workshops along with PPA are large contributors to the success of our business, we wouldn't be here without them."Another goal is to help her mom retire, a goal she says the Illinois Workshops will help her reach.
Music can set the mood for your photography business, whether it's setting the mood for a client's slideshow or setting the tone on your website. Musicians, much like photographers, only make a living doing what they love... if or when they receive the proper credit.

Remember the hubbub with Napster or LimeWire? People were sharing music files without having the right to do so. It's possible some of you might be currently breaking the same laws without even knowing it, and as photographers (and business owners) it means your rights are even more sensitive.

Think of it this way; when you give your client their images on a CD, they own the rights to the CD, but not to the photos. When you download an album on iTunes, you own the album, but not the rights to the music. This holds true for any audio file including MP3, .WAV, or other musical medium. Here are some quick tips to make sure you aren't violating any music licensing or copyright laws.

There are a few easy resources to use to help keep you on the music copyright straight and narrow:

We can also help you for your specific situation.

If you are like many photographers and want to combine copyrighted music with your images, you must obtain two different types of copyright licenses. Yes, two. First, you'll need a "master use" license which can be granted by the record label for use of the actual recording. Then, you'll need a "synchronization license" from the songwriter or music publisher to cover the use of the music in conjunction with images. (Sounds complicated, right? But don't worry; it's much easier than you might think, just read on!)

A few pieces of information to keep in mind: the music authors/owners are under no obligation to provide you with a license. The decision of whether or not to license a song (and how much to charge) always remains at the discretion of the copyright owner. Also, the licensing departments of these companies are geared primarily toward working with members of the motion picture and television industries, so be prepared to educate them regarding your particular use for and in your photography business. A little bit of explaining will go a long ways.

Here are the five steps involved in securing the appropriate music licenses:

  1. Finalize which song(s) you wish to use on your slide show or videos.

  2. Determine who owns the master use rights to each song (or songs) you will use. This is normally as simple as looking at the CD liner notes or at any online music service for the label information, such as iTunes. Contacts for the major labels are listed on the Music Licensing section of

  3. Next, find out who owns the synchronization rights to the musical composition you have your eyes (or ears?) set on. This will likely be a publishing company representing the songwriter. But if you don't find the liner notes from the CD or on iTunes, you can find that information by matching the song names with publishing companies on ASCAP's ACE database (, BMI ( or through the U.S. Copyright Office ( It takes a few minutes of manual labor, but you as a photographer understand more than anyone else the importance of that extra careful step.

  4. Contact the owners of both the master use and synchronization rights. In some cases, this will be the same company. You will need to explain your project and ask for the appropriate license. Expect questions regarding the number and geographical distribution of your project and be prepared to negotiate on price. It's not complicated, but takes putting a little bit of time into connecting with the right people.

  5. Sign the various licensing agreements and tender payment. Remember to keep copies for your records should any questions come up in the future and you are set!

If you (or your clients) are flexible with your musical selections, royalty free music is a very cost-efficient and time-saving alternative. There are many options out there, so unless you are set on a very specific piece, you can dive in and explore the musical horizons and pick and fancy at your leisure.

Last tip on this topic: remember to leverage your PPA Perks & Savings on music licenses (this is a PPA-member exclusive). You get access to great deals with a discounted rate on XM for Business, 20% off royalty-free music with Stock20 and 10% off songs with Triple Scoop Music, so... Enjoy! 

Are you stalling to take your photography business to the next level? Running out of ideas, time, or motivation to make the plunge? Then the SMS Business Breakthroughs series is for you. These workshops target the business side of photography--the behind-the-scenes stuff that, you know, helps YOU make some real money!

The next Business Breakthroughs workshop will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, from July 15 to 17 with instructors Allison Rodgers, Cr.Photog., and Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. These well-established and respected photographers will lead the three-full-day hands-on workshop while helping you increase your sales, take more money home and get your life back.

OH! And there's a bonus!

The first 10 of you who register for the workshop will receive their choice of a blog template from Rockstar Exposure (this freebie will keep your blog fresh with completely customizable Photoshop® blog templates).

Allison and Beth's Business Breakthroughs workshop will cover a variety of topics that will help you maximize profit and streamline your business. Here's some of what will be covered:


Marketing & Promotions

·         Effective ways to get the word out

·         Attract your ideal client

·         Refine your brand and promotions

·         Partner to grow your client base

Business & Financial Management

·         Evaluate your overhead spending

·         Hone an effective price list

·         Implement a price increase and keep clients

·         Set a realistic salary

·         Keep more of your tax dollars

Sales & Customer Service

·         Match your studio style to client experience

·         Encourage customers to spend more

·         Provide top-notch customer service at no cost

·         Tips to get you comfortable with selling


SMS Business Breakthroughs workshops have been organized for years and continue to receive raving reviews and referrals. Here are some examples:


"I attended the SMS Business Breakthroughs workshop. After the class and the guidance I received from my one-on-one consultations, I am recording record monthly sales! I would have never guessed that I would be able to say I brought in over $18,000 in one month, but I did! AWESOME! We wouldn't have been able to progress this much without what we learned with SMS!"

-Callie Page - Callie Page Photography


"We attended the 3-Day SMS Business Breakthroughs Workshop and were so impressed with the instructors and information! The information was so practical and relevant that we were able to put it into use immediately. In under a year, our studio went from breaking even to record profits that have changed our lives and allowed us to do things we had only dreamed of doing. We recommend SMS to every photographer, starting out or established. It will improve your business as well as your life."

-Matt and Allison Ragsdale, CPP - Allison Ragsdale Photography


"The 3-Day SMS Business Breakthroughs Workshop was a huge help to our business--I can't say enough about how important it was. And it just made sense to attend a one-on-one consultation to make sure we were on the right track. I will be talking with my PPA accountant every year for her wise advice; and hopefully, I'll still be learning and changing and growing!"

-Debbie Riggs - Pure-Photography


Business Breakthroughs workshops are your chance to address your most pressing issues and areas of concern, get questions answered, develop priorities, and identify actions to launch your business to the next level. There's more money to be made! Let us help you cash it in.


For more information on this particular photography business workshop or to register, please visit the dedicated page for this PPA SMS Workshop.

By Doug Bennett

doug_bennett_headshot.jpg"Competition? Yikes!! I could never handle the criticism, it would be too nerve wracking. I know I am not good enough yet."

These are just a small sample of the things I have felt myself and heard others say with regard to print competition. But let me share my experiences to include one thing I did that I strongly recommend you not do.

Three years ago I entered my first print competition at the Professional Photographers of Colorado (PPC) annual convention. I had all the emotions mentioned above with the overriding one being that I didn't belong in a competition like this. I was hoping my prints would get a quick score (with no challenges being made by the judges that would involve discussion of my entries) and that I could then quickly slip out the back door!

Earlier that morning, my wife Laura and I stopped off at a favorite Mexican restaurant for breakfast. I had a spicy burrito built around chorizo (a spicy Mexican sausage) and New Mexico style red chile. My thinking was that on this day of potential embarrassment, I was going to at least have one thing I really enjoyed! The anxiety of my first competition in front of professional photographers drifted away as I savored the rich flavors of that burrito.  

During the print competition that day, all four of my entries had juror challenges with one of them having no less than four separate challenges! The impact of my anxiety and excitement on my digestive system along with that burrito was very unpleasant. Not to worry, I will spare you the details of that drama and its resolution. But notice in addition to anxiety, I mentioned "excitement.""

As those juror discussions occurred, rather than feeling embarrassment, I was feeling excitement as they discussed things they liked and things that needed improvement. I had never received this kind of valuable input before and the learning it represented was exciting to me! In a single day, I learned things that would have otherwise taken many years to learn, if ever. Rather than saying, "I can't believe the maker did this to this image", their comments were to the point and professional. I was elated to be learning so much.

So now, two years later, in addition to entering the Southwest District Competition to which Idoug_bennett_autumnjourney.jpg belong, I entered the West, Northeast, and Southeast District Competitions while varying my entries some in each competition. And most importantly, I opted to pay the extra $35 for critiques of my entries. Of course any merit scores I received outside of the Southwest District can't count towards automatic merits by entering them under seal to the IPC.

But what I was after was the learning, and there is no better way to learn by experience than by participating in these print competitions. With the convenience of being able to enter digitally, I could gain all this knowledge and experience without incurring the cost of preparing prints and shipping them off to all these competitions. It's a great deal!  

The digital age of photography has raised the benchmarks and the entrants into this profession. This is a good thing in my opinion, but the one thing that can't be debated is this is the reality. If you strive to be competitive in this market, you cannot afford to not be a PPA member and benefit from all the educational opportunities that PPA offers.

So, with the deadline approaching for the 2013 International Print Competition, be sure and submit your four entries and by all means be sure and opt for the video critiques! Then compete in your state PPA affiliated and PPA District competitions as they start up in the fall and next spring. I guarantee you will be glad you did!

And for my final word of advice, skip the spicy burrito on competition day! 

By Mariah Ashley

ashley_charity_2.jpg"You can't put the dollars before the heart. The heart has to come first and then the dollars come later." - Ziggy Marley

Trish and I were tired when we stumbled into the PPA Charities event at Imaging USA. We wanted to hunker down in our hotel room that first night but the excitement to meet our SMS mentor, Mary Fiske Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, was enough motivation to get us out the door and downstairs to the party. Well, that and Trish insisting I get my lazy butt out from under the covers.

We arrived just before Ann Monteith, M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP took the podium to talk about PPA's involvement with Operation Smile. Although we didn't know a thing about Operation Smile before her talk, it took only a few minutes for her to move us to tears. As she spoke about the lives of all the children that had been helped, Trish turned to me and said, "You know we're here for a reason don't you?" I smiled and nodded at her uncanny ability to read my mind. There was no question that we would be involved with PPA Charities, the only question remaining was how.

PPA Charity's Operation Smile is a fabulous idea, but seemed more suited for portrait photographers with studios. How could we as wedding photographers tweak the idea to work for our business model? Trish and I wracked our brains, but nothing seemed to quite make sense; kids, dogs, families? None of these traditional ideas fit our brand or, for that matter, our expertise. One of the wonderful things about Operation Smile is that it creates buzz and attracts potential future clients for the portrait photographer as well as contributing a nice donation for Operation Smile. We needed to figure out a way to make it work for us too. And then as usual being the idea girl, Trish came up with a brilliant plan.

ashley_charity_1.jpgInstead of children's portraits, we would offer professional headshots for...wait for it...all the other wedding professionals in our market! That's right, florists, caterers, wedding planners, etc, etc. Who doesn't need a fabulous headshot for their website, Facebook page, or heck... even dating site? In another stroke of genius, she decided we should host the event at one of the high-end venues in our area, and they happily and generously agreed to do it. Not stopping there, Trish asked some of the vendors to donate floral arrangements, sweet treats, and stationary to our "Smile Shop," hoping that participants might pick up a "goody to go" as a way of generating more money for the event. She even asked a friend and local videographer to film the event and make us a little documentary (below) to share with other photographers in the future. Trish was off and running with her idea, and I steered clear of her brainchild given that after my fear of heights, my second biggest fear is that I will throw a party and no one will show up.

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