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PPA Today: August 2013 Archives

August 2013 Archives

theLoop, PPA's exclusive social network for professional photographers, has been aflutter with the release of the new app for iPhone and Android devices! Now you can stay connected on-the-go with your pro photographer community, asking (and answering) questions, share ideas and even submit images for a peer critique! theLoop is only available to PPA members, so don't worry about asking those tough questions you wouldn't want your clients to see! 

For those of you who are new to theLoop, or those who haven't had a chance to check-in lately, there are some great discussion threads going for August. Here are 5 of our favorites:

Quite the variety of responses on this one! We've got rock 'n roll drummers, wrestlers and more among us. Of course, a few just said they'd be sad, so we're happy that you're photographers!

It's all about finding the right balance, isn't it? Here's a healthy debate to help try and decide where to draw the line.

Yankees or Red Sox? Ketchup or mustard? Nikon or Canon? You can always expect a passionate debate on a topic people are passionate about. Whichever way you lean, join in!

We're in full support of you using whatever technology you like to enhance your skills and business, but under no circumstances should it involve flying a helicopter into a groom's noggin! See what others are saying about drone photography. Have you tried it out?

Are licensing fees costing you jobs to competition who is willing to waive them? And is that hurting the industry? Where do you stand?

The International Photographic Competition was earlier this month and the results have been in for weeks

Now, it's time to dish out some medals. Well, not actually dish them out, that doesn't happen until Imaging USA, but we can at least tell you who won!

So yes, there be SPOILERS AHEAD!

PPA members receive these medalist designations by earning a merit--a mark of quality and honor--for each of the four images included in their entry case to the International Photographic Competition. This is the most prestigious competition of its kind, where images are judged based on a standard of artistic excellence, not against each other. 

After going 4/4 at the merit level, these images went to another round of judging. The level of the award is determined by how many of those four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. 

The scoring rundown is as follows:

Diamond - 4/4 accepted into Loan Collection
Platinum - 3/4
Gold - 2/4 
Silver - 1/4 
Bronze - 4/4 merited, no Loan

And here is the spread of our 224 winners:

Diamond - 12
Platinum - 32
Gold - 59 
Silver - 66 
Bronze - 55 

"These photographers have reached a prestigious achievement," states Randy McNeilly, PPA's Photographic Exhibition Committee Chairman. "It takes dedication to achieve the consistent quality and creativity necessary to earn the title of Silver Medalist in one of the world's most celebrated photography competitions. While they will be receiving this award at Imaging USA in Phoenix, the real winners will be their clients who have commissioned the work!"

Make sure you check out the full list of IPC medal winners, ranging from Diamond to Bronze.

Here are a few of the winner images which will be on display at Imaging USA, January 12-14 in Phoenix. 




Your to-do list is a mile long, and that's only getting the things done necessary to run your business - not including the things it takes to push it to the next level. Where can photographers find easy-to-access classes to help them in both the art and business of photography?

If you're a PPA member, you're in luck! You have the opportunity to take advantage of exclusive live webinars. These classes are excellent chances to learn from professionals both in the photographic and business communities covering a range of topics from "The Portrait Photographer's Guide to Commercial Photography" to new health insurance reform that any business owner needs to be aware of and so much more! Join in on the webinars and ask questions during the live Q & A sessions to clear things up that might be specific to your business.

The best part about these webinars (aside from the fact they are included with your PPA membership) is even if you can't make it to watch live, they are posted in the PPAedu course library so you can watch them any time--24/7, as many times as you'd like! 

So what's coming up?

On Thursday, August 29th at 2 PM (ET), Cris Duncan, M.Photog.CR., CPP will walk you through "The Portrait Photographer's Guide to Commercial Photography." As in any photography specialty, commercial business comes with its own set of rules to abide by - Cris is here to help you navigate the waters of this great way to expand your product offerings! Join this one hour webinar and learn all the right questions to ask your new clients, and see where your new product offerings can lead you into 2014!

And coming up in the fall, Brett Snyder of Nebo is continuing his series on SEO (search engine optimization). His first webinar, "The Pitfalls of SEO," was such a huge success that we're bringing him back for "Leveraging Local" on September 10th, "Audience Engagement: The True Art of SEO" on October 8th, "SEO & Social: A Match Made in Heaven" November 19, and "Web Content: What to Expect in 2014 and Beyond" in December. We even have him booked up in January for more (but we'll get to that later, you have Imaging USA to attend first!) 

To start with, "Leverage Local" is all about utilizing SEO for your local region. Your clients look for photographers on the local level, not all across the globe. Use Brett's knowledge to your advantage and beat your competitors to the punch in search results. 

And it's not too early to start planning your holiday business! Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP will show you her "Secrets to a Successful Holiday Portrait Event" on Thursday, September 19th. See how Beth has used profitable "mini portrait events" to up her holiday business to the tune of over $20,000 in three days (but you can't start planning at Thanksgiving)!

Last but not least, get the next rounds of details on health insurance reform with Ross Pallay, Executive Vice President at Pallay Insurance Agency (the exclusive provider of PPA equipment insurance). If you missed his first webinar--Before & After Implementation, you can access it here.  It might not be the sexiest of topics, but every business owner needs to know what options exist in terms of plan designs and premium subsidies. Ross will be back with us in January to discuss important deadlines, but again, we'll get to that later. Just know insurance can be one of those places photographers waste precious dollars, so Ross is here to make sure you're covered, and at the right price. 

What else can you expect from PPAedu Live Webinars? Just about anything! Check the Live Webinar's page often or visit the Webinar FAQs to answer any questions you might have. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for last minute offerings! Have a special request? Leave topics in the comments section and we'll see what we can get in the works!

By: John Owens, Communications Specialist, PPA

I've always been a "believe it when I see it" kind of guy.

As I boarded the bus with the rest of the PPA staff for our field trip to Gwinnett Tech, I wasn't sure what to expect from my first photographic competition. I'd written about the 12 Elements of a Merit Image and felt I had a firm grasp on them, but I hadn't seen them in action. They were just a list.

On the ride over I kept envisioning an American Idol-esque judging panel, or a Gordon Ramsay-type screaming at a helpless puppy in a photograph. My competitive background is in hockey, and I felt fairly certain that no one would drop the gloves, but who knows how heated the judging might get? What if someone attended and disagreed (strongly) with not earning a merit? If an image doesn't merit, does it get shipped off to an island of misfit images?

So yeah, I was excited for the International Photographic Competition, if a little misguided.


We arrived at Gwinnett Tech after a 30-minute drive from PPA HQ in downtown Atlanta. We entered the cafeteria where staff member and former PPA board member, Rich Newell, M.Photog.Cr., and chairman of the Photographic Exhibition Committee (PEC), Randy McNeilly, M.Photog.Cr., MEI, API, gave us the rundown for the IPC.

"For some members, this is why you're involved," began McNeilly. "I think you're going to see this event grow quite a bit in the next few years."

As they started to rattle off some numbers, it seemed like the growth was already in full-effect. At this year's IPC, nearly 5,000 images would be judged during the week. In the first year of IPC, eight images were judged.


For the first time this year, participants could sign-up for text message alerts to be immediately notified when their image was judged. The new feature was so popular, 1,200 text messages were sent in the first day, which was no doubt also a credit to the judges' efficiency.

In addition to the judging of the images, a record 1,500 images also requested individual critiques--a 250% increase over last year. Needless, to say, the IPC judges were in for a busy few days.

Then we learned that on top of the judging and critiques there was also a Judges Workshop taking place, where 38 students were taking the program to join the prestigious ranks of an IPC judge. So there was plenty going on! After our briefing, the staff was released to (quietly) roam the halls and pop into rooms to soak it all in.

I first headed into the large lecture room where the Judges Workshop was taking place. The room was dark, save for the light of a half-dozen Mac computers in the far right corner and a lit canvas in the left corner. The student judges were split into two groups, the left practicing the judging of print images, while the group at the Macs was mock-judging digital images. The 38 prospective judges was an impressive number, because as I learned from McNeilly, they can't exactly just show up. Even just being a student judge is actually years in the making.

They are entered into the program after they take the 40-hour Judges Workshop. But no, this doesn't mean they are a judge yet. Before they can become a judge, these brave photographers must earn their Master Photographer degree. It takes 13 merited images to achieve a Master's degree, and with a maximum of four submissions per year (none of which are guaranteed to merit), it can easily take six years or more.

Next they must start seeking out state competitions and tell them beforehand that they would like to be a judge. They spend three years judging at affiliate competitions and are evaluated by the existing judges. A committee then looks at the evaluations and votes on who can enter the fold.

Prospective judges must meet the minimum of three state competitions and have received five critiques, but no one gets in with the minimum. There are currently 114 total official judges. About two make the cut to join them each year.



But it's not just about becoming a judge for those attending. It's just as much about gaining an inside perspective to the competition.

New Jersey photographer, Mike Dill, CPP, was among those who, more than anything, came to improve his own photography.

"I wanted to see and learn what goes into the judging process so I could do better in future competitions," said the action and sports photographer. "I've watched competitions live before, but this gives me the opportunity to go behind the curtain and learn what goes into a winning image.

"It'll be a huge help to my photography to be able to evaluate my own images as well as become a judge in the future."

After a few more rounds of mock judging, the group took a break, as did the rest of the judges who were scattered in classrooms around the school. I immediately got the sense that they all knew each other, it almost felt as if they were attending an elite photography summer camp.

They wore matching black, short-sleeve, button-down shirts and gilded medals hung from their necks. Some had just a few pinned to their lanyard, but others had medals going all the way up the ribbon to their necks. They were the rewards of years and years of competition and merit earning, and the judges wore them proudly (in fact, I learned later they are required to). I could see them eyeing each other's tally, much like myself and the rest of the staff were, to see who among them was the best.

That's right, at the IPC, there's even competition amongst the judges--each striving to fill their lanyards to the brim like the lifetime members among them. But for these few days, they volunteer their time and fly out from all over the country to name the best of the best, and to push those who ordered critiques to be better.

After the short break, the judges went back to their respective rooms. I followed a group to a room for print submissions. I guess you could say submitting a print image is the old school method of competition, since printing and mailing four images can cost up to $800 versus just emailing some high-res JPEGs. But certainly from a spectating standpoint, the print submission room gave a better feel for what the competition was all about.

This batch of images was in the first round of judging, and would either merit or not merit. That means their brave owners decided to skip their district competition and submit directly to the IPC. Those images that earned an electronic seal (80 or above) at their respective district competitions go straight to loan judging. The difference in the judging is, at the IPC, there is no numerical scoring like there is at district competitions. Here it's either a yes or a no.


This room is much like the left side of the Judges' Workshop. The only thing illuminated is a large canvas, with a rectangle cutout in the middle to display the image. Images are clipped onto a three-sided rotating easel by white-gloved volunteers. The dark, the quiet and the lack of fingerprints gives a real weight to the competition.

The panel of six judges sits in a row maybe five feet from the displayed image. A seventh judge, sat to the side, announces the name of the image before it is displayed and oversees the scoring. As an image rotates into view, judges take turns approaching the image, getting within inches to examine every corner, every detail of the frame. Glasses on, glasses off, and then return to their seats to record a yes or no on an iPod.

The first two images do not earn merits, and then a third. A pattern starts to form as a fourth does not merit, but then it happens.


Total game changer. If a judge voted against the majority decision, they have the opportunity to challenge the result and argue their position, either for or against the image earning a merit. Then each judge says how they voted and why, highlighting details in the image they love or elements they find lacking. It might be the tiniest detail that they love or hate, every aspect of the image must have meaning and must be perfect. A judge might love a particular image, but that still might not be enough for them to vote in its favor. Their respect for the industry outweighs their passion for an image they're seeing for the very first time.

After they've all taken another look and discussed their thoughts, the judge who offered the challenge gives his or her rebuttal. Then they re-vote.

The constructive debate format takes the judging to another level. Their careful care examining each image is part of the reason only 30 to 40 percent earn merits each year. After about 20 minutes, the judges rotate to be sure they are seeing images from every angle. The judges complement each other on strong challenges that reverse the group decision and always offer thoughtful descriptions of what they're seeing. Color, texture, focus, exposure, depth, light, sharpness, technique, presentation, impact, tonality and design were all used in the discussion for a single image. 

Those complete images that earn merits move on to another round of judging for the Loan Collection. This round, the finals, if you will, is even more tightly scrutinized. Here, a great image is just that, it takes more to enter the Loan Collection. The challenges are even more passionate, and discussions even more in-depth. In the end, only 682 images entered the 2013 Loan Collection and will go in the Loan book and be on display in Phoenix at Imaging USA.

From the print competition I headed over to the critique room. Patty Geist, M.Photog.Cr., a little Nebraskan photography sparkplug, was one of a few judges scattered in a Mac lab reviewing images. Wearing a headset, she told the image creator what she liked and didn't like about the image. Where it excelled and where it needed improvement. She offered suggestions and showed the image owner specifically what she was talking about with her cursor. It might not be her favorite part of being a judge, but Patty appreciates the value in the critiques and offered an easy answer to anyone thinking about getting one in the future.

"If you haven't submitted an image to competition before--of course!" she said. "If your image didn't merit, it's the only way you're going to learn why."

Judges giving the critiques are generally seeing the images for the first time unless they were on the panel by which the image was judged. If they were, this gives added value to the critique, because they have already seen it and judged with the help of five others.

"That way my individual paradigm isn't the sole influence," said Patty.

At the end of each critique, the judges encourage the image owner to go to Imaging USA for one-on-one sessions with an official judge.

"Here it's just a one-way critique, but there we can answer the specific questions they might have about their image. We told them what to fix, but there we can tell them how."

After another morning of judging and critiquing upwards of 1,000 images, everyone took off their judging caps and once again became friends at camp as they broke for lunch. One hundred-some photographers brought together in the same room by the great unifier--pizza.

Although I'm not a photographer, I can sense when I'm around greatness, and they had the medals to prove it. The International Photographic Competition is the past, present and future of photography all at once, and judging by the passion and camaraderie of those esteemed photographers, they all seemed to be aware of it. You'd have to see it to believe it.

So why enter? Why get a critique? Why attend? To get better. To be a part of the present and the future. And hey, maybe it will inspire you to be more.

For my part, maybe the 12 Elements extend beyond just photography. Did I touch on them all?


BY: Mariah Ashley

I did something so unconscionable, so objectionable, so very scandalous that I am trembling as I type this confession. No sense in dragging things out. I'm going to rip this indecent Band-Aid off in one quick tug. 

I, Mariah Ashley, wedding photographer being of relatively sound mind and body, do hereby declare that I took two entire weeks off, in July, at the height of my busy season, to take my family on an epic summer vacation adventure. 

(Audible gasps heard around the photography community)

There, I said it. I said it and I am not (entirely) ashamed that I did it. 

Judge me not ye slaves to Photoshop! Untangle thy chains tethered to editing stations and hear my words...

If you leave it, they will come.

On the last day of Imaging USA in January, Trish and I attended a seminar about creating balance called Life. Photography. Business: How Women Can Balance Them All. I think it was a great talk to end our Imaging experience. We had been hearing so much about faster workflows and generating more business that it was a nice reminder that business is not everything and that taking time to enjoy life is important too. Of course intellectually we all know that, but personally I find it really hard to fit "Enjoy My Life" into my daily schedule. 

Trish and I have been full steam ahead since Imaging. We've been plugging away, making changes, keeping expenses low, boosting our web presence and marketing like mad. Basically implementing everything we learned while we were in Atlanta. And I have to say, progress was slow. Painfully slow. Horrifyingly slow. Considered getting a second job slow. 

Every email we got, every time the phone rang we'd hold our breath and wait. I was getting so good at holding my breath that my second job could be in professional pearl diving. 

Then around June I ran out of steam. I stalled right out on the tracks. I was the little engine that wept. I couldn't stand to ask myself one more time if we'd finally reached a tipping point, if we were on the up-swing, if we'd arrived. Please dear God, are we there yet?

Well, we weren't "there yet," and since we weren't going anywhere fast, I decided I'd go on a vacation. For two weeks. In July. 

I had in tow my husband, my two kids and two grown stepchildren. The Brady Bunch version 2013: In Hawaii, saying no to picking up random Tiki statues and incurring a Hawaiian curse, but saying yes to surfing lessons for six. I put a "sorry we're on vacation, we'll get back to you when we get back in town" message on our website, email, and voicemail. Then I did the unthinkable--I removed the email account from my phone so I wouldn't be tempted to peek at the beach. 

Are we there yet.JPG
This is where things get really insane. You might want to sit down. I did not lug along camera, not even a point and shoot. The only means of documenting my trip was my iPhone. Holy Macadamia, that's nuts. 

For two weeks I snorkeled, baked my pink skin under a tropical sun, surfed, skateboarded, swam with sea turtles, drank rum punch, laughed, made delicious dinners for my family, explored and slept. After about day two I forgot I even owned a business. By day three I forgot it was day three. I didn't even think about work again until the plane ride home and that's when the dreaded reality set in. 

I was leaving Neverland and heading back to Nevergoingtomakemybusinesssuccessful Land. I returned on a Friday and avoided turning my computer on until Monday morning. Monday morning I avoided opening my email until Monday afternoon. Monday afternoon I opened my email and found not cobwebs but 50 friendly messages from excited brides. They said things like, "Hope you are having a great vacation!" and "Can't wait to hear from you when you get back!" I had incurred the opposite of the Brady Hawaiian curse; I had incurred a post-vacation blessing. 

We had worked for six months implementing all of the great advice we received at Imaging. We sweated and fretted, and tweaked and planned and then just when I couldn't take another second of hoping to see the results, I left it. Left it alone to percolate. I had been leaving my family alone for six months because even when I was with them physically my mind was on my business. Being with them mentally and physically saved my sanity and allowed my watched pot to finally boil. 

Taking that vacation was our tipping point. The calls and emails are flooding in, the calendar for next year is filling in nicely, and I've stopped holding my breath. Now when my inner whiny voice asks "Are we there yet?!" I can say "Almost... almost." 

About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van and learn to surf someday, grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree. 

So far, we've covered how PPA members can activate and build a Find-a-Photographer profile to help consumers find them, as well as the resources available to help photographers show potential clients the value of hiring a professional photographer over an amateur. Today's post is going to be a bit different. We'll be providing advice for how consumers can use the Find-a-Photographer search engine the most effectively. So, if you're a PPA member listed on Find-a-Photographer, you may want to repost this to your own blog to help educate your own potential clients! 

Accessing Find-a-Photographer

So, you're looking for a particular professional photographer, or who's in your area, or a specialty pro? Well, PPA's Find-a-Photographer search engine is a great place to start. Find-a-Photographer's database combs the 26,000+ profiles of PPA members to screen the best ones according to your needs. PPA photographers are dedicated to producing the most professional images possible, delivering pro results regardless of the circumstances, and ensuring you'll receive quality products and services! 

You can access the Find-a-Photographer search engine directly from the left-hand side of There, you can do a basic search by zip code (simply put in your zip code, and click the green 'Search Now' button. By default, you'll see photographers located within 30 miles of your zip code).


If you want to narrow this search radius, click the advanced search link below the 'Search Now' button. You'll be directed to a Find-a-Photographer page with greater search options. Not only will you be able to narrow the mile radius of the search, you can also search by city, state or country (PPA is an international photography association so some photographers in the database are located outside the U.S.). If you know the name of the photographer or the studio you are looking for (or even part of the name), you can search by either one of these parameters as well. 

Finally, you can choose what type of photographer you are looking for by checking-off as many of the specialties as you'd like. The Find-a-Photographer results you see will list those that have indicated that they specialize in the area of photography you are interested in. 

Once you've inserted all the different metrics you'd like to search by, be sure to click the red 'Search For Your Photographer' button at the bottom of the search page. That easy!

Browsing Photographer Profiles

Once you've done your search, you'll see a list of Find-a-Photographer profiles organized by their distance from you. You can click on any of these names and find the contact information for that photographer. Most photographers list their emails, so you'll be able to email them directly from the Find-a-Photographer search engine. You'll also be able to visit their website, and view sample images if the photographer has uploaded any. 

Keep in mind that some photographers will travel for an assignment (some for free, others for a nominal charge), so it may be worth it to check out photographers by specialty or accreditation in other states or cities! 

When screening through the final search results, you may notice that some photographers have a Certified Professional Photographer logo next to their name. This means that the photographer has completed the necessary requirements to earn the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation. Only a small percentage of photographers have earned this credential, as it represents an extensive preparation process that involves experience, a current comprehensive knowledge and skills of photography, and a control of light and photography equipment under any circumstances. This CPP designation conveys that you have identified photographers who are up to date (they have to renew their certification every three years) and who are on top of critical photography knowledge and technique, clearly separating them from inexperienced or amateur photographers. You can even set the search results to only show you CPPs to be certain to find bullet-proof photographers. Just check that CPP box in the specialty area of the Find-a-Photographer advanced search.

Now that you know how to use the system, good luck and happy searching for the photographer that meets your needs! If you run into any problems, check out the Find-a-Photographer FAQs or call 800.786.6277.
Since you're close to wrapping up your social media experience with our Be More Social series, we wanted to leave you with 10 examples where social media failed. Since the companies below made some pretty terrible missteps that you can avoid, we're turning them into some valuable learning experiences. Let's dive in!

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


2. We can't say it enough - always check if you're utilizing a trending hashtag. Entenmann's Bakery posted this tweet during the Casey Anthony trial. They're tweet was "innocent" enough, but the timing was downright terrible. (Note:  At least they tweeted an apology quickly. If you find yourself in a similar situation, own it. Apologize publicly and quickly, it'll save face in the long run!)

3. Even international brands aren't immune from poor PR. Check out this ill-timed tweet from fashion brand Kenneth Cole. Whether it's home or abroad, it's generally in poor taste to latch on to a trending hashtag associated with war, violence and riots. Even if you think you're clients would get the joke, take the high road.

Even though Imaging USA is still a few months away, it's always nice to know you've got some quick tips in your pocket to be better prepared! It's one thing for us to tell you what we think you need to know, but it's much more credible to hear it from your fellow photographers! 

We asked the Imaging USA community on theLoop what their tips were for first-timers and here are the top responses! 

  • "Attend the "first timer" reception and meet others that are there for the first time as well. You just might meet some photographer friends for life." - Audrey Wancket, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
  • "Bring business cards. These will come in handy and don't be afraid to hand them out to people you meet. Networking with peers is SO important!" - Amber Rushing
  • "The PPA Charities Event is casual and there are lots of great items to bid on. This is an amazing event to have face-to-face meeting with people you may only know from theLoop, Facebook or Twitter, in a smaller setting. It's also the perfect time to turn a virtual contact into a real-life friend. (Some of my dearest friends in this industry are people I've met through PPA!)" - David Grupa, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
  • "Find a couple of people who have been [to Imaging USA] before and buddy up with them. You can swap notes if you have to attend conflicting classes and compare notes with the ones you shared. You can visit the tradeshow floor with each other. It's great to have another pair of eyes or two when shopping the floor." - Steve Folino, CPP
  • "Take a pre-convention class and book it now. You'll learn a lot more in a small class environment than in open access lectures." - Haroon Ahmad, CPP
  • "If you're not making enough for a living, sign up for the pre-convention programs.  It will open your eyes!  Also if you have time and have a few things you need help with, go to one of the hash it out sessions. It's a forum where you can ask questions and get solid answers." - Timothy Cameron, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
  • "Sign up for portfolio review with a judge. You will really learn, especially if you end up with a great reviewer." - Haroon Ahmad, CPP
  • "Schedule some time to walk the print exhibit and watch the digital exhibit as well for inspiration." - Audrey Wancket, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
  • "Make good use of about 2 hours each afternoon to spend at the tradeshow. You will learn a lot about who is who and about products that may enhance your studio's revenue. Some trade show vendors offer free 1 hour lectures at the booth, and some of them can be as good as taking a class. Check them out as soon as the schedule is posted." - Haroon Ahmad, CPP(Editor's note: Many of the vendor's do not announce their seminars prior to the Expo)
  • "Save. Save. Save. So many of the vendors offer incredible deals during the show so if you have your eye on a new camera, lens and studio lighting...then save your money and wait." - Amber Rushing
  • "Another great thing about the Trade Show is that I get the opportunity to walk the floor and see all the different products, and see them live. I really love having the opportunity to touch and feel the products I am considering, either to buy or add to my current product line." - Andrea Taylor, CPP
  • "Don't forget to go through all your stuff when you get home. There will be coupons and so much useful information that you will forget you even had. It's like a recap." - Amber Rushing
General Info
  • "Download the Imaging USA app as soon as it is available! It was a tremendous help last year. It is great for selecting and organizing the classes you want to attend, and sorting out the vendors you want to see. It's a great time saver" - Dennis Chamberlain, Cr.Photog., CPP (Editor's note: We'll keep you posted for when it is available!)
  • "It can be a little intimidating at first. If you need help, look for an orange shirt. Folks wearing these orange shirts are there to help us. And if you can't find one, ask anyone wearing PPA medallions. Really, we've all been there and we'll be happy to help!" - David Grupa, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
Clothing & Accessories
  • "Wear comfortable shoes! Even though the floor is padded usually, I find myself on my feet for HOURS on end because I'm enamored with the show, then standing listening to the extra seminars at the booths and just walking. I think good, supportive shoes are #1!" - Amber Rushing
  • "Pack lightly. My first year I carried a purse, camera bag with 2 bodies, coat, two notebooks, all the fixings and on top of all that, all the awesome free stuff you get at the show... that's A LOT!  They will have notebooks and pens for you. They will also give you bags to carry around all your free stuff." - Amber Rushing
  • "Take public transportation if possible!" - Amber Rushing (It is possible! Check out the LightRail options!)
  • "Last but not the least, stay an extra day or two and visit nearby surrounding attractions that you may want to photograph (Sedona, Red Rock, Grand Canyon...)" - Haroon Ahmad, CPP

If you're a seasoned vet--what other tips come to mind? What other questions do our rookies have for the vets? Head on over to the Imaging USA community on theLoop to ask and/or answer!

Read other #IUSA14 posts:

Last week, we talked about building your Find-a-Photographer profile to help potential clients find you through PPA's Find-a-Photographer search engine. If you're a PPA member, this benefit is included with your membership, so if you haven't set up your profile yet, read the last post on how to get the most of the Find-a-Photographer search engine. 

Already set up your profile? Fantastic! Now that clients can find you, you're probably wondering how you can convince them that they should go with you--a professional photographer--instead of the cheaper amateur competition down the street. Well, look no further! PPA's got some great resources you can use to help educate your potential clients about the advantages of choosing a pro. 

You can start by browsing the Find-a-Photographer resource section. There, you'll find some articles that you can share with your clients, post to your blog or repurpose for your own marketing materials. 

We've got articles for wedding photographers, family photographers and senior photographers. Have a wedding client that's hesitant about your price? Show them the "Why These Brides Said 'I Do' to Pro Photographers" article to help alleviate their concerns. Likewise, family photographers will find the "Family Portraits: Clients and Pros Share Insights" article where consumers share their experience of working with a professional photographer useful.

There are even articles to help explain the value of your PPA degrees and Certified Professional Photographer designation if you hold either. There's many more resources on the page, so be sure to explore it!

Remember that PPA members can access the See The Difference resources. What's See The Difference? It's a consumer campaign designed by PPA to help educate consumers about the value of professional wedding, senior and family photography. As part of your PPA member benefits, you can download customizable brochures that you can use to show your clients the importance of choosing a professional photographer. 

There's also side-by-side comparison images you can download that will help your clients visualize the lower quality you get from an amateur photographer. In addition, there are several videos you can download and add to your site or blog discussing the value of professional photography. 

PPA recently added See The Difference resources just for Certified Professional Photographers. If you're a CPP, visit the Marketing Tool Kit section of the new CPP site to download these. 

So, start educating your potential clients on the value of professional photography today. Access the Find-a-Photographer resources now or visit the See The Difference resources page for even more tools! 

Labor Day is on its way and along with it the unofficial close of summer.

So are you ready for fall?! The colorful foliage, the BEST seasonal brews (inarguable) and of course, FOOTBALL! What's not to love?

And as far as your profession goes, we're not going to let you get soft on us. But how can you push yourself to the next level with less sunshine to work with?
Super Monday is a good start.

On and around October 14, 2013, dozens of studios from coast to coast (and Korea!) will open their doors and offer insights to their fellow photographers (that's you!). Whatever you need help with, there's sure to be a workshop for you. Super Monday will span portrait and wedding photography, posing and lighting, digital retouching and workflow, and sales and marketing strategies.

If you're in the California/Nevada area, instructor Laurie Warta, CPP, will bring her passion and expertise to offer a unique, hands-on learning opportunity.

She's heading out to Sparks, Nev., just east of Reno, for a Super Monday Shoot Out on
 Sunday, Oct. 13. There's no need to worry about being bored in a classroom for this one! Laurie's taking it outside for an on-location, learn-as-you-shoot experience, where she's hoping students will get outside their visual box and try something new. 

"I've wanted to do this for a few years. I love a good challenge, and I love getting inside the heads of other professionals and watching how other photographers do things." 

Warta says there's not usually a lot of 'why' behind the 'what,' but that's the focus here.

"'Why did you pose your subject that way? Why did you use this lighting? Why did you use these settings?' Everyone has a reason for the way they light things, but I want to know why. These are some of the questions we're going to explore. It's about challenging ourselves to expand our thinking."

Here's a glimpse into Laurie's plan for the October 13 program:

You'll meet Laurie at a location (to be confirmed, most likely her daughter's home near Reno), and briefly get to know the other students. You'll discuss the plan for the day and go over your lighting options.

After you get acquainted and gear up, you'll head to the shoot location (stay tuned for details). Waiting for you on site will be models--a senior boy, a senior girl and a couple--and a few props. You'll shoot one model and break for lunch before you photograph the others. Make no mistake, it's more than a simple photo shoot. Like Laurie said--it's a lighting-posing-coaching photography challenge!

Each student will get a turn posing, lighting and shooting the models individually; no shooting over the shoulder allowed! And this is where the props come in. When Laurie decides to throw the prop into the mix, you must somehow incorporate it into your creation with the model. The choices are yours and yours alone, Laurie and the other students will watch and learn as you explain why you're doing what you're doing. Then the roles will switch! 

"It's about taking ingredients and making something that will come out totally different from anyone else. It's amazing what you can do with a chair.

"Our personalities are all different, we communicate differently, but we can all learn from each other. It's all about creating a space for other photographers to learn, learn, learn; it's all about observing, learning and having fun."

If all works according to plan, the class will be setup with CamRanger to send selected images directly to an iPad for each photographer to further explain their tactics and for everyone else to critique the images--right there on site! The instant critiques will be more impactful because you will be able to learn from details you might have missed while being caught in the action, and the group feedback will help you improve right away. 

This class certainly isn't for the faint of heart, nor for the beginner photographer. You must have knowledge of your camera and light and how to control it. You'll need to use your creative vision in a challenging way. But the worst that can happen is you'll get better!
A dedicated photographer, Laurie has deeply loved photography for 35 years, and her focus has only sharpened in recent years. Her passion and enthusiasm for photography comes through while talking about the class. 

"I love teaching and I love photography. With this small, intimate setting, we can do so much more, especially since it's hands-on. The personal benefits are remarkable. It forces me to really know my content and learn more. I have to consider 'What can I bring to expand my horizon?'"

Laurie's not stopping there either. Two days after her Super Monday Shoot Out, she's heading an hour up the road to Kings Beach, Calif., near Lake Tahoe, to teach an additional class. 

In her second class, Laurie will partner with friend and fellow photographer, Danielle Hankinson, for Extreme Lighting at the Lake. In this course, you'll discover how to deal with harsh and challenging lighting situations, such as the beautiful Lake Tahoe area. How do you manage light when it's reflecting so harshly off of the water? You'll practice techniques to manipulate light and create cool and edgy or soft pretty lighting. 

The goal is for you  to leave Laurie and Danielle's class not only a better technical photographer, but a more confident one as well.

"When you know something and when you believe in something, you can be confident. The rest is easy--just shoot."

Head over to the Super Monday page for more information on Laurie's two classes:
Super Monday Shoot Out, in Sparks/Reno, Nevada
Extreme Lighting at the Lake, in Kings Beach,California 

And check out Laurie's website at

You know the social media lingo, where to find your prospects or clients, how to set a strategy and how to plan your posts. This week we're diving into the world of best practices!

Here are top 25 best practices for social media, ranging from the super technical (like where to place a link in a tweet) to general guide lines. 

  1. Put links 25% way through the tweet. You'll gain more retweets that way!
  2. Share links to gain more retweets. Share your blog, share your Facebook page, Instagram feed or YouTube videos! Share interesting articles of what's happening in the photography world or new things in your area. Remember, you can't talk about yourself all the time or folks will stop paying attention.
  3. Tweet around 4 PM. Really. It's the magical hour that gets the most retweets! Use HootSuite (free!) to schedule your posts around that time and gain the most traction.
  4. Ask for the retweet! Including the phrase "Please Retweet" or "Please RT" in your tweets will dramatically increase how many of your followers will spread the news (but don't go overboard and use it on every single tweet. Nobody likes that guy.)
  5. Retweet regularly from folks you follow. Paying it forward that way improves your Twitter karma. It may sound like a joke, but it works. Just ensure you keep it relevant! 
  6. Participate in #FF. Find your top followers and throw them a solid by including them in the #FF every week or so. If you're included in a #FF, retweet it and say thank you (mind your manners!)
  7. If you get picked up in an aggregate paper, say thanks and retweet their link. They'll continue to showcase your stuff and you'll continue to expand your reach. 
  8. Use hashtags that are applicable to your business! #photography, #your city, #behindthescenes, etc.
  9. Use the bio section to your advantage. Use keywords (in a logical manner) to turn up higher in the search function! Its Twitter's special way to use SEO!

  1. Use questions that start with "should", "would" or "which" for more comments and answers.  Ask questions for more comments and to get input from your clients and respond to them so they know you're listening. 
  2. Enable the "reply" feature to keep the stream of comments listed in an orderly fashion!
  3. Use Calls-to-Action on Facebook. Posts with the word "Like" in them are twice as likely to receive a like. We all love likes, but similar to asking for the retweet, do this sparingly.
  4. Take advantage of your skill set and often use a photo! Stats show that posts with a photo are nearly twice as likely to get more likes, and any page looks incomplete without a cover photo.
  5. Use Facebook as a medium for giveaways or promotions. Discounted sessions or free prints. Don't break your bank, but offer your fans something that makes them feel special. 
  6. Use the milestones to tell the story of your brand! Mark studio opening, major events

  1. Share the love and +1 other people's work. Ask questions and be a part of the conversation. There are hundreds of photography communities, get involved, even for just a few minutes a day.
  2. Link your Goolge+ page with your website and other social networks. Use the +1 or share button so your content can be easily spread throughout the interwebs!
  3. Share your work often and give details that entice a conversation: talk about your equipment, your lighting, your creative process to bring other photographers in on the conversation. 
  4. Be the author! Google+ will help you increase your SEO with AuthorRank! Not only will it help you get noticed on Google+, but that blog of yours will also get some major attention. (You can find out more here.) 

  1. Utilize hashtags on Instagram in the same way you would on Twitter. They will get more engagement since people can actually find them. 
  2. Make behind the scenes videos of all your office fun, current projects and assignments! You can pack a lot of punch into 15 seconds!

  1. Gain credibility with recommendations. Ask some of your best clients (not every client) to write a quick recommendation on LinkedIn and you'll be three times more likely to get inquiries through the LinkedIn searches! 
  2. Look for your next gig through the LinkedIn jobs search! This probably won't be your top lead generating tool, but it will add to your bottom line. 

  1. Stay positive. If you beg for business, complain about how it's a tough year or write anything that could be perceived as negative you will lose business. Your content helps define your value, and if you devalue your brand with less-than-positive posts, your clients will go elsewhere. 
  2. Respond to negative comments and don't delete them. If you delete them, you will look a little shady, no matter how crazy the comment is. Kill them with kindness, offer to talk to them offline and ask them to private message you their number (or if you already have their number, call them immediately). 

A bunch of new things to keep in mind as you navigate your social media plan, but soon they will seem like second nature (we promise!) courtesy of HubSpot, Photoshelter, Yahoo! Small Business Advisor, SocialMedia Today, Webmarketing Group, Socially Stacked and Media Bistro. Next week we will talk about the things to avoid on social media - these are the things that will make your customers run for the hills (or at least to your competitor).

- Sarah

This is post 5 of 7 in the Be More...Social series. Read the other posts in the series using the links below:

If you've had a chance to check out the Imaging USA 2014 class schedule (or attended Imaging USA in the past), you know that three days of intense education in ten different tracks are included with your registration fee. But you also probably noticed that classes have been scheduled before the conference kick starts, from January 9 - 11. So, what's the deal with these classes before the official dates of the conference? 

Up to three days of pre-convention classes are available for an additional fee for those who want to maximize the Imaging USA experience. Get to Phoenix a few days earlier and get hands-on and small group learning sessions. There's something to interest any type of photographer... and offsite / outdoors / on-location hands-on opportunities!


If you're a PPA member who's considering attending one of the Studio Management Services (SMS) workshops (Business Basics or Business Breakthroughs), both will be taking place during pre-convention in Phoenix. The Business Basics workshop has even been split into two separate focuses for wedding and portrait photographers. If you're just starting out in the photography business, this workshop will provide some vital information on setting up and managing your business so that you can stay profitable! 

Check back next month for information on scholarship options for the SMS Business Basics workshop.

For those of you further along in business, the Business Breakthroughs workshop provides a more in-depth look at business and financial management, the how-to's of effective branding and marketing for maximizing sales. Better yet, if you sign-up for the Business Breakthroughs workshop you'll get a full-access pass for Imaging USA... for free! Just call us at 888-851-0405 or send us an email, so that we can set you up.

There will be other workshops (other than SMS) geared toward photographers who have just recently turned pro. Including "The Secrets To Success When Turning Pro" with Steve Kozak, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, which you can read all about in this recent blog post

There are great opportunities for photographers that specialize in high school senior portraits as well, so be sure to check out the "Taking Your Senior Business to the Next Level" with Gary Box, Cr.Photog., and Pam Box, Cr.Photog., as well as the 'Building and Maintaining a Successful Senior Business" class with Larry Peters, M.Photog.MEI., CPP. 

Finally, if you've been thinking about earning your Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation, consider attending the Certification Preparation Class to prepare for the exam and image submission. After taking the workshop, there are three opportunities to take the exam during Imaging USA.  Read more about the Certification Preparation Class on and read the thoughts of some past class attendees on the PPA Today blog

Single Day Pre-Convention Classes

All the workshops mentioned in the previous section of this post last for multiple days, but there are excellent one-day pre-convention classes as well! 

These programs are for photographers of various skill levels and cover many different specialties. For instance, if you're into landscape photography you can spend a day in the Arizona outdoors in an "Off to the Desert Photo Shoot" with Bob Coates, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. A real treat!

Other pre-con classes focus on topics such as school and senior photography, babies and children, Photoshop techniques and many others!

If you're having trouble picking just one pre-convention class, the "Hands On Photography" sessions may be a great option for you. You can choose to attend up to three sessions, and you can combine them to create your own unique plate of photographic education! And yes, as the name suggests you won't just be listening to a lecture, you'll actually get hands-on experience with live models, shooting with the techniques your instructors demonstrate. 

Focus on children's photography? Maybe you'll want to attend "The ABC's of Children's Photography" Hands On Photography class. You can follow that up by learning more about lighting in the "The Power Of Light" Hands On session with Tony Corbell, Cr.Photog.API, and conclude your day with Julia Kelleher, M.Photog.Cr, CPP, and the "Bijou Baby: The First Year Forever" session. 

There are many hands-on photography options, so you can create whatever combination will suit your fancy! But don't think too long: pre-con classes always sell out. Attendance is limited to ensure a higher learning experience. So don't delay, or simply sign up today!

You can view the up-to-date pre-convention (and regular convention) class schedule on (Classes are continually being added, so be sure to check back frequently!)

When you're registering for Imaging USA, you'll see the options to add pre-convention classes to your registration. Make sure to act soon as the class sizes are limited for pre-con. 

Want to read more about Imaging USA 2014? Check out these other #IUSA14 blog posts:

Imagine there was an educational program built just to you. It had everything you needed on both the skill and business of photography. It was completely online and available to you 24/7. There was no pressure involved--your personalized curriculum was there for you whenever you needed it, as many times as you wanted. And somehow, some way, it was free.

Does it sound too good to be true? It's not. That's PPAedu! And guess what? It's completely free for PPA members (Professional Active).

That's because PPAedu is PPA's newest membership benefit. 

With PPAedu, you get a personalized, online education platform that provides you with a full buffet of resources suited to your needs. Each program delivers great information clearly outlined with key takeaways to help you hone your craft and strengthen your business immediately.

PPAedu offers 8 categories (4 business + 4 creative) to tailor a program that suits your business growth. How do we do that? We provide these customized recommendations thanks to the self-assessment tool.  

Through a series of business and photo technique questions PPAedu first determines your skill levels in a variety of areas important to photographic and financial success (e.g. lighting, post capture, and business operations). Then, based on your answers, PPAedu pulls from its library of online courses to build your customized plan, available to you through online videos and webinars and available 24/7 to any PPA member. As you get better (and you will!) PPAedu will adjust this plan based on your learning progress, so after taking several courses, you can reassess any specific area of interest to get a new set of recommendations. With over 150+ HD videos, you won't run out of content any time soon!
PPAedu's Self-Assessment Tool is THE place to gauge your business and photographic skills at your own pace. The questions in the assessment span photographic and business topics and are designed to deliver personalized curriculum to fit your specific needs, skills, interests and business profile. After the initial assessment, you can choose to re-assess all or select topics, at any time, and receive a new set of recommendations.

And we didn't just throw these videos together with a random narrator or presenter. We've got some of the industry's finest dishing out their secrets to success. They volunteered their time to be PPAedu instructors and help you BE MORE! You'll learn lighting techniques, business strategies, marketing tactics and so much more. Again--whatever you need, we've got it!

PPAedu also includes live webinars. However, don't fret if you miss one, they'll all be available 24/7 with the rest of the videos after they air. It's like a built-in DVR! You can view the PPAedu live webinar schedule here

Last but not least, new videos will be added every month. This comes as part of your PPA membership (Professional Active). That's right! PPAedu puts a personalized education program (a $600/year value!) at members' fingertips, 24/7, at no extra cost. 

Need any more convincing to dive in? Just take a look at some of these early reviews:

"I am sending a big thanks to PPA for the new PPAedu.  PPAedu totally rocks with HD quality and great audio."
- Jerry Watson, CPP

"There is no service I've ever even heard of that gives you a survey, builds a list of your weaknesses and strengths and then delivers dynamic video training content. This is simple but unheard of in the photography industry. And it's free for PPA members. The survey and content has one goal in mind, making me a better professional photographer. WOW!"
- Mark Treen

"I know this sounds like a PPAEdu add but I am really just so excited that PPA has provided this for us just for being members.  You could almost go there knowing next to nothing except how to turn on the camera and PPAEdu will teach you the rest."
- Jason Grass

"PPAedu is an amazing resource. I have been watching videos in a bunch of the different categories and finding them very helpful. Even if it is something that I have learned before it's a great way to brush up on everything."
- Lauren Lambeth

And we're just getting started! The best photographers never stop learning, so give PPAedu a try and BE MORE!

*What's that you say? You're not a PPA Member? No problem! Try a three-month subscription to access all the PPAedu programming. A one-time fee of $150 puts all of PPAedu's online courses at the tip of your fingers!  
We're pumped about this one. PPA has partnered with Accucolor Imaging to offer you discounts on products ranging from color corrected prints to full albums!

Have you heard of Accucolor Imaging?

It's a unique professional photo lab serving professional photographers nationwide. They're equipped with the latest advances in digital processing technology and are committed to providing the best service and product line possible. Their Albums are hand crafted and designed using the world's most durable and exquisite materials. The superb craftsmanship results in an engaging and emotional design. 

Get all the details on the Accucolor discount here and check out all of the other great exclusive deals you only get with PPA! 
By: Booray Perry

I had just finished shooting a sunset beach wedding and was walking across the parking lot to my truck when I noticed another photographer loading her gear into her minivan. She stopped what she was doing, walked over and introduced herself. 

"I'm Carol," she said, "Have you ever heard of the Tampa Area Professional Photographers Association?"

"Sure," I said, "I've been to a couple of meetings."

"Really? I don't remember you."

"It was a while ago."

"You should come back, it's a great organization."

I had heard about TAPPA a year earlier and had gone to a couple of meetings just to check it out. It was a little awkward for me to suddenly be in a room full of people I didn't know. It was obvious that a lot of the photographers in the room had known each other for a long time. They were laughing and joking and seemed so at ease with one another. I sat by myself, pretending to be very interested in something on my phone. I felt intimidated because I didn't know anyone, didn't know if I was good enough to be there.

After running into Carol in the parking lot I thought I might give it another try. She seemed nice and really enthusiastic about the association So I went to another meeting. This time, the president of the association noticed me and came over to introduce herself. She was bubbly and engaging and she made me feel welcome. The best part was, she made me want to come back again the next month.

After a couple of more meetings I began to evaluate whether or not being in the association was worth my time. What's in it for me? I wondered. What could they teach me, what could I learn? Like a lot of photographers, I was focused on trying to grow my business and worried that someone else would take my business from me. I decided to change my approach. I wasn't going to go to the meetings anymore because I was hoping to get something out of it. What would happen if I just went to meet people and didn't care about impressing anyone or guarding my secrets (trust me, there are no secrets). What would happen if I just made friends? 

That was three years ago and I've barely missed a meeting since.

I meet a lot of photographers and every time I meet someone new I encourage them to come and join TAPPA. There are lots of great reasons to join the Professional Photographers of America and plenty more to join your local affiliate. The problem is that I think people don't talk about one of the very best reasons to join. It's not the education, it's not the competition, it's not really the networking.

It's the fellowship.

After World War II, a generation of Americans returned from the war. They had been in the military for years. They had been in regiments, battalions, units, platoons... they were always being put into groups. So, when they came home to the states, they joined groups. The Elks Lodge, the Masons, the Lions Club... after World War II there were hundreds of social clubs. Everybody was a member of at least one. Ralph Kramden of "The Honeymooners" was a member of the Raccoon Lodge. Fred Flintstone was a member of The Loyal Order of Water Buffalo.

But not anymore.

Now, we get all of our social interactions online. Facebook is the new social club. In some ways that's a good thing because it's better to have an online social club than no social club at all. But it's also a bad thing because people just don't join anymore. Especially young people. I know because I never join anything. I hate to commit.

After three years in TAPPA I have dozens of friends who are photographers. I went to Imaging USA for the first time this year and met even more photographers. Here's what I notice: My Facebook friends who I've actually met in person interact with me a lot more than the people I've never met. There's a connection. There's value in face-to-face interaction.

Now, every month when I go to a meeting, I look to see if there's anyone new sitting at a table and that's immediately the table I want to sit that. I want to meet them, I want to talk to them and I want them to feel welcome. There are photographers who have been shooting since I was in elementary school and yet there they are, every month, meeting new people. They have a fuller and richer life because of it.

So, if you haven't joined your local PPA affiliate, do it. Set a goal for yourself that you're going to meet someone new every month. Go to the meetings, go to the picnic, go to the Christmas party. Do something with people who share your interests. Do something with photographers. 

And, if you don't have a local affiliate, start one. Kevin Newsome started TAPPA in his studio back when they had this thing called, "film" and he's still there every month. When I got a chance to bid on a big event job, I called Kevin for advice. When I needed to hire some extra photographers to work the gig, Kevin told me who to call and what they would expect. When I decided to start competing, Kevin helped me pick out my images.

At Imaging USA I ran into a TAPPA member on the first day, around lunch time. When I said I was going to eat lunch by myself, Melissa said, "I've already eaten but I'll go sit with you." Suddenly I wasn't all alone in Atlanta. My affiliation was there.

When the "Photographer of the Year" asked me to lunch, I thought, This is great! I'm really making friends! Then, over bread and pasta he asked me to photograph his wedding. It's the only wedding I've ever worked where I knew a lot of the guests. They were fellow affiliate members.

When one of our members had a robbery at his studio, he had more replacement equipment than he needed within 24 hours. When a member called me from a wedding and said he was feeling sick, I volunteered to come take over. I recently called a member just to chat on a long drive back from a gig and he said, "I'm on vacation and I usually don't answer my phone but I wanted to make sure it wasn't a photography emergency."

I can pick up the phone and call any one of a dozen photographers... just to talk. I couldn't do that three years ago. I was all alone in the wilderness.

One day I turned around and realized, I have a lot of friends. That's the benefit of joining your local PPA affiliate that no one ever talks about. And for me; it's the best benefit of them all.

About the author:
Booray Perry has been a member of PPA since 2008. You can view his original story on his Google+ page and on his blog.

The International Photographic Competition just wrapped up, and since the next image submission deadline for the Certified Professional Photographer is this Friday, August 16th, we thought this would be an excellent time to explain the difference between these two types of judging. 

At first thought, you might think that all judging is the same: some (extremely dedicated) PPA Jurors get together and give your work a thumbs up or down (based on a set of serious evaluation criteria, of course!). The principle is similar between the two, but depending on if it's for IPC or CPP, what they are evaluating is completely different!

Think of the CPP image submission as your best portfolio work (like your day-to-day, how you pay the bills type of work). On the other hand, the International Photographic Competition is where you can get crazy, artistic and creative. Submit what you do out of love versus what your portfolio is based on - sometimes they can be the same thing, but often times the work a photographer submits to one is not suitable for the other. Why? Let's dive in.

For the IPC (and related District Competitions):

The Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) of PPA uses the 12 elements below as the "gold standard" to define a merit image. PEC trains judges to be mindful of these elements when judging images to the PPA merit level and to be placed in the International Photographic Exhibit at Imaging USA. The use of these 12 elements connects the modern practice of photography and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago.

Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any image, art piece, or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one. 

The Twelve elements listed below are in accordance to their importance.
  1. Impact - This is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.
  2. Technical Excellence - The quality of the image itself, as it is presented for viewing, is taken into consideration. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the image.
  3. Creativity - This relates to the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using photography medium to convey his or her idea, message or thought.
  4. Style - There is a number of ways, or styles, as it applies to creating an image. Style might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject.
  5. Composition - This is important to the design of an image, as it brings all of the visual elements together and contributes to expressing a purpose. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image while leading the viewer to follow the direction intended by the creator. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
  6. Presentation - This is the finished look that affects and contributes to the impact or intent of an image. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
  7. Color Balance - The color harmony and the way tones work together effectively supporting the image can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
  8. Center of Interest - This is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.
  9. Lighting - There is no image without light and judges evaluate the use and control of light, how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.
  10. Subject Matter - An image's name should always be supporting the story being told.
  11. Technique - The approach used to create the image is reflected in the technique used. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
  12. Story Telling - This refers to the image's ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.

For the Certification's image submission:

CPP image submissions are judged by a group of 5 jurors who rotate each submission period. The judging pool consists of CPP Liaisons, Certification Committee members and active Certified Professional Photographers. 

As a CPP candidate, you are required to submit a portfolio of 15 images. The first six images must fit within the compulsory guidelines showing a standardized technical proficiency that all professional photographers, regardless of specialty, should know. Of those six, three must include the following:

  • Broad lighting 3:1 ratio
  • Selective focus, with minimum depth of field
  • Short lighting 3:1 ratio
The other three mandatory images must fall into one of the following categories. Choose any 3 of these image types to use as your fourth, fifth, and sixth image submission entries.
  • High Key Image - This image should demonstrate the proper technique in lighting a subject for a high key result. Note: 'Key' in an image describes the overall tonal range in which an image is created. This includes background, props & clothing. Therefore, a High Key image is an image where the predominant tones in the image are brighter than the mid tones. High Key images are typically lower in contrast than Low Key Images.
  • Low Key Image - This image should demonstrate the proper technique in lighting a subject for a low key result.
  • Rule of Thirds - This image should demonstrate subject placement and organization.
  • Use of Shape, Form, and Texture - This image should demonstrate these basic elements of art.
  • Balance (symmetrical or asymmetrical) - This image should demonstrate the principles of balance achieved through subject size, placement, weight or color.
  • Color Harmony - This image should demonstrate the harmonious relationship of color to create focus on your point of subject. Note: Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order. In portraiture, color harmony can help draw the viewer's eye to the point within the image which is most important.
  • "S" Curve Line - This image should demonstrate the "S" curve or feminine posing.
  • Assertive, Angular, or Masculine Line-This image should demonstrate an assertive, angular or masculine pose.
  • Architectural - This image should demonstrate the commercial application of architectural photography.

The remaining nine images must be representative of paid client work from nine different job assignments in the last 24 months. If you are a wedding photographer, that means nine different weddings, same with portraits or families. If you do multiple types of photography, then your portfolio can include a little of all that you do.

At the end of the day, the CPP image submission is a about entering technically excellent images that portray the fundamental basics of photography, whereas the IPC allows you to focus on the creation of the art. 

Interested in becoming a CPP or participating in future photographic competitions? Check out for all the details! 

As a professional photographer, you know that one of the biggest challenges in running a business is having clients find you. We've been discussing ways to make your business more visible through things like social media and mobile marketing, but did you know that PPA provides another great way for your business to be more visible included with your member benefits? 

The Find-a-Photographer search engine on allows consumers to find local photographers in their area by location, name or specialty. Potential clients can then contact you via email or phone with their requests for your work. 

Every week, hundreds of searches are done on Find-a-Photographer, and many of these queries lead to consumers directly contacting photographers. That's because having your business listed through Find-a-Photographer adds a level of credibility to your work by showing that you've dedicated yourself to learning all you can about professional photography, which can be a huge factor for consumers when choosing a photographer. It's a quick and easy way to help clients find you, and better yet, it's completely free to PPA members!

However, in order to be found on Find-a-Photographer, you'll need to make sure your profile is up to date. It's quick and easy to do and may help consumers pick you when searching for a photographer. 

To update your profile, all you need to do is visit the MyPPA page and log in with your email and password. Once you've logged in, look for the Find-a-Photographer heading towards the bottom of the page. Below the heading, you'll see your current status. Be sure that it says ENABLED. If it reads DISABLED, simply click the 'Enable your Find-a-Photographer Profile' link to be listed in queries for consumers trying to find photographers that fit your description. 


Once you're sure that your profile has been enabled, use the 'Update Your Find-a-Photographer Profile' link to double-check that all your contact information (website, email address, mailing address, phone number) is correct. In this section, you can also add sample images of your work and choose specialties that you'd like to be listed under. 

Uploading images to your Find-a-Photographer profile is a great idea, as it saves potential customers the extra step of having to visit your website to look at sample work. They're more likely to contact you through Find-a-Photographer when they can see your work right away! 

Likewise, listing your specialties can help consumers find you more quickly by narrowing down their search. There may be quite a few photographers within a 20-mile radius of you, but if you're the only one specializing in weddings that's definitely something a potential customer will take note of!

Another advantage you may not have considered is that the Find-a-Photographer search engine is yet another way to boost Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your business' website. You'll be getting a highly authoritative link back to your site from, which can only help to increase the overall Google ranking of your website. So, even if a potential customer does not find you through Find-a-Photographer, being listed can still contribute to them finding your business when searching the web. (Want to learn more about SEO? Watch the "Pitfalls of SEO" PPAedu course).

So, take advantage of the Find-a-Photographer member benefit today to be more visible! Log-in to the MyPPA section to check on the status (and to update) your Find-a-Photographer profile. 

Not a PPA member? Learn more about Joining PPA.  

Basic definitions? Check! 
A better understanding on who is on what platform? Check!
Setting an overall strategy for success? You bet! 

The next step in your social media basic training: planning your attack! This week we'll cover how you can best utilize your time while on the World Wide Web). It's great to post things as they happen, but let's face it; life has a tendency of getting in the way there is nothing worse than going to create a post, and getting distracted by your friend's dog's birthday party pictures...

To start, think about theming your posts for each day of the week, so you're at least posting once per day, then sprinkling in additional content as it comes! If you ever get in a bind about what to post, find something that would fit the theme and 9 times out of 10, you'll be good to go! Some themes that might work for your studio:

  • Behind the scenes: Editing images, clients getting ready, some (appropriate) office jokes, new props or backdrops, anything that would make you (and your company) stand apart from the other guys in town.
  • Sneak peeks: The images don't need to be perfect, but once a first round of edits have been done, post your favorite images from past sessions and tag your clients! This can be done on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (or Instagram it and share it on Twitter and Facebook for even larger reach).
  • Community involvement: If you do charity work or teach classes, share why you do it and what you get out of it. And of course, snap some quick pictures to share!
  • Staff highlights: If you have other photographers, interns or anyone else that's around, do some quick interviews to help your public get to know everyone better (this includes yourself)! People like to do business with people they like and are familiar with. Social media is an easy way to earn interest and more love from your audience. 
  • Session tips: Give pointers on what to wear (or better yet, what not to wear), makeup and hair tips, smiling pointers and anything else that you think would make your clients feel more comfortable in front of your camera. 
Consider associating each one of those themes with a day of the week. It'll be easier to space out your content so you're not talking too much about one thing at any given point in time.

When you post, remember that you're a photographer, so use those images! Posts with images, regardless of platform, always trigger better engagement (getting more likes, comments, etc.). And to lighten the load, repurpose you content--so take the picture on Instagram, then share on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (or post the video on YouTube and share it across your other networks).

Now down to the nitty gritty. You know what to post, but how do you do it without spending countless hours on the computer? There are a few wonderful options that will save you time, energy and get you back to what you love.

For Facebook:

Facebook allows you to schedule posts within your page. Just type up your post, add your photo, and click the clock symbol in the bottom left corner of the post box. Use the drop down menu to schedule your post down to the minute! The benefit of posting through Facebook than HootSuite (which we'll cover in a moment) is the ability to track your post's Insights. If you schedule through a third-party social site, it won't allow you to see how viral your stuff gets. That goes back to tracking and measuring your results.


For Twitter & Google Plus:

HootSuite is a gem. It's great because it's free (for the basic version), it's simple and you can manage multiple accounts through one platform. You can schedule your posts one at a time, or you can schedule them in bulk for just $9.99/month for a Pro account (if you have a lot to tweet, you might welcome the $'ll save you some time). 

If you can do the bulk feature, download their sample CSV file so the date/time and tweet (and links) are formatted properly. Here is a pro tip: in the column after the links, use the formula =LEN(cell). This Excel formula actually counts your characters for you! You won't be stuck with an error message that your tweets are too long! If your tweet includes a link, it will account for 20 characters of your 140 limit. (If you're using it to post to Google +, forget about the character limit!) This is a really fantastic way of promoting your blog posts (we talked about those in SEO, remember?).

Not a fan of dealing with the formula's in Excel? We've made you a sample CSV for you here: TwitterCSV.xlsx  

To publish in bulk, Click the paper airplane (Publisher) on the left side, and select "Schedule In Bulk." This screen will pop up, just select your file, select which platform it's going to (it can go to multiple ones at once, but we don't suggest that. Each platform has a different audience and therefor the messages should be tweaked).


A few other pro tips: You cannot schedule the same tweet twice, so although you might want to reiterate the same message a few times to get your point across, change up the verbiage! It's actually a good thing and helps avoid some spammy-looking tweets.

Posting times must end in either 5 or 0, so there's no need to get creative by posting at 11:13 AM, it'll just round up to 11:15 AM. 

You can only have one message per time slot, so if you scheduled one at 11:13 AM and one at 11:15 AM, you'll get an error message. 

Last but not least, set an appointment with yourself for an hour a week to create and schedule the bulk of your posts for that week (or even month if you can work that far in advance). Actually use your calendar and block time. Other things will have to wait for this hour, it's really that important! And by blocking one slot a week only, you reduce your chances to spend too much time (because of distractions) on social media and actually ensure you are contributing to your business' marketing plan. If you have the luxury of sharing the load, have a few people write so you can get a few different voices.

Once you're all scheduled up, let your posts fly! Make sure you check in a few times a day to make sure there aren't any customer service issues to be addressed, but stay focused! The checking-in shouldn't take more than five minutes across all of your sites (don't get distracted by babies, puppies or Buzzfeed stories about your favorite TV characters and what Harry Potter house they would belong in) and feel free to post ad-hoc things when good opportunities arise. 

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Post them! We'll answer anything from the totally general to the super specific!

- Sarah

This is post 4 of 7 in the Be More...Social series. Read the other posts in the series using the links below:

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