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PPA Today: October 2013 Archives

October 2013 Archives

Do you want your photography business' website to appear towards the top of Google search results? Talk about a great boost in visibility for your business! As a photographer you should consider this as a goal for your website, and this is why PPA has been hosting a webinar series to help photographers learn how to tackle SEO. 


If you missed the first three parts of the series, PPA members and PPAedu subscribers can watch the recordings now! We recommend catching up on what you've missed before the live date for "SEO & Social for Photographers: A Match Made in Heaven"


In part 1 of this series, "The Pitfalls of SEO", we cover the basics of SEO and how you can get started, as well as some mistakes to avoid. Meanwhile, part 2 goes over "Leveraging Local" and is all about how to make sure your business ranks in local searches. Part 3, "The True Art of SEO & Online Engagement...for Photographers!", showed you the ways to authentically engage with your audience online, and how this can help increase your rankings in search


We've received rave reviews about this series thus far and hope you too will start leveraging it as a useful learning tool and resource. The instructor, Brett Snyder, is the Director of Search Engine Optimization at Nebo--a web design and interactive marketing agency. Brett is a true expert in the field, and his webinars are packed with tangible SEO techniques and tips that he and PPA developed for photographers. You can also follow Brett on Twitter for advanced SEO updates and tips.


These webinars will give you ideas to create new connections with your audience and how this can boost your search engine rankings while giving your SEO a much needed human factor! PPA members and non-members alike can register to attend part 4, "SEO & Social for Photographers: A Match Made in Heaven." The best part: the live presentation is free and open to anyone, so feel free to share the info with your friends and colleagues!


Part 4, "SEO & Social for Photographers: A Match Made in Heaven," will take place November 19 at 2 p.m. ET. This time, Brett will show help you understand the relationship between SEO and social media and how to tie your social activity back to your website.


If you're ready to dive in to SEO, this series is the perfect place to help you figure things out and take your online presence efforts to the next level! Register online now, all it takes is filling out a quick, basic registration form! PPA members and PPAedu subscribers can also replay the first three parts of this series online: 


Replay Part 1 

Replay Part 2

Replay Part 3 


Don't forget to check PPAedu's webinar schedule and mark your calendars for the upcoming parts 5 and 6 as well!


Not a PPA member? You can register for this webinar and watch it live for free. All you need to do is create a basic account on and you'll be able to register. To replay it, watch the entire series, or access any other on-demand PPAedu courses, simply join now orsubscribe to PPAedu. You'll get full access to over 170 HD videos on the latest business and creative techniques for photographers! 


Every year, PPA strives to bring education on the latest photography and business techniques to Imaging USA. We believe that there's great education for any type of photographer at Imaging USA--from wedding to commercial photography, the class tracks cover it all!


If you've got a certain photographic specialty you know you want to learn more in, you can easily sort the Imaging USA schedule by class track to be sure not to miss anything during the convention. It's a great way to plan your education schedule for Imaging USA 2014 in Phoenix. 


One such track is the aforementioned Wedding track. True to its name, this track is built specially for wedding photographers and will continue to advance your knowledge in these areas. 


The first available wedding class is the pre-convention Business Basics Workshop for Wedding Photographers. In this intimate, two-day setting, you'll assess the competitive wedding landscape and acquire those necessary, but too often avoided, business skills. Instructors , CPP, and , CPA, will walk you through the financial, tax and legal requirements of running your business, so that you are confident and legally compliant. It's a great way to kick-start the convention as well as your business in 2014.


Then, once the convention officially starts on Sunday, you can start your day by learning the art of capturing a moment from acclaimed wedding photographer, Ross Oscar Knight. In Moments Not Poses, Ross will teach you the three key components to document candid moments.


The rest of Sunday is open for you to explore other areas or the EXPO floor, but three wedding classes are on tap for Monday. Start your morning with a live demo class with . In Helping Others See, you'll learn the tried and true techniques from one of the world's top wedding photographers.


Next, you can learn tactics to establish a consistent workflow in Discovering Your Personal Vision with . Then finish-off your day with award-winning wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela's Expand Your Vision by Gaining Control of Any Situation or Challenge.


On Tuesday, you'll be faced with the difficult decision of starting your day between two 8 a.m. wedding sessions.  will teach you how to Transform Your Studio and Unleash Your Greatest Potential while Carrie Wildes, CPP, offers the wide-spanning Build Relationships, Book Weddings, Get Published. Cap everything off with Photo Video Fusion from Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams.


Remember, these are just a few of the great classes you'll find at Imaging USA--there are so many more if you want to broaden your scope! Be sure to check the entire Imaging USA schedule and download the mobile app to customize your schedule. If you haven't registered yet, view all the Imaging USA registration options and pick the one that's right for you.


Read more about Imaging USA:


IUSA14 Class Track: School, Sports & Events

Your Tracks to Success at Imaging USA

#IUSA14 - 10 Things To Do in Phoenix

Someone Said Attending Imaging USA Is A No Brainer... Why? - Here are Ten Reasons to Attend

#IUSA14 - Hotels, Travel and Registration

Looking Ahead and Becoming Full-on Pro with Steve Kozak at Imaging USA

Be More Educated with #IUSA14 Pre-Con Classes

Pro Tips for Imaging USA

#IUSA14 Phoenix Overview Video


Have you heard? The Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program was recently given a massive makeover--and it looks GOOD! The new CPP-only website provides CPPs with more resources than ever, including a Certification See the Difference video, a CPP-only marketing toolkit and so much more.

If you once held the prestigious CPP designation,  we have some good news. You can be grandfathered in AT NO COST. That's right! Since you are a loyal PPA member you have the opportunity to reinstate your CPP, totally free! All you have to do is maintain your PPA membership. In three years, you'll have the opportunity to recertify and continue on as a CPP for years to come. Pretty good deal, huh?

Here's the fine print: You have until September 2014 to opt-in to the CPP Amnesty Program. You may opt-in anytime simply by completing the Certification Amnesty Form found at Once you submit your form our Certification staff will update your status to reflect your reacquired designation as a CPP. You will then receive a CPP packet in the mail with your new CPP Certificate and CPP marketing materials to help you display and market your CPP proudly. And of course, you will also be able to access the CPP-only section on the website. 

If you have any questions on the changes to the CPP program, please feel free to reach out to us at We look forward to welcoming you back as a CPP!
By: Mariah Ashley

A few weeks ago I watched an amusing little video clip about an artist from Denmark. He had just had his latest creation, a giant wooden Pink Pony, stolen from a park near his home the very evening he had installed it. The video was offbeat because instead of violently banging down doors demanding the release of his pony, the Danish artist launched a friendly campaign of retrieval peppered with good humor, understanding and well-wishes toward the pony thief. Even more surprising was the pony thief's openness to returning the giant pony with an apology and explanation, reciprocating the good humor and well-wishes the artist had extended to him. They parted as friends with a renewed faith in humanity.

The pony scenario has hardly been the experience I've had with thieves, especially when it comes to the business of photography. In 1820, Charles Caleb Colton said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."  In the words of angry marine biologists everywhere I declare, "That's BULL SHARK!"

 A few years back my business partner Trish had a great idea for a luxury photo booth which she dubbed "The PhotoLounge."  Sure, now every photographer and her mother has added a photo booth to their repertoire, but back when Trish conceptualized the lounge it was very novel. There definitely wasn't anyone in our little Rhode Island backyard who was offering a swanky PhotoLounge. Unfortunately, not long after our beloved lounge debuted on our blog for the whole world to see, another local photographer started advertising her own "version" of the photo lounge. Which by the way, was less like a version and more like an exact copy, right down to the name "Photo Lounge". 

We were more horrified and annoyed than flattered I assure you. In the spirit of the Danish pink pony artist, Trish made a friendly phone call to the photographer where she awkwardly but politely asked if maybe pretty please the photographer could just give it a different name, because after all, we had come up with the lounge concept first and couldn't she (the thief) see how two Photo Lounge businesses might  cause a little confusion for clients? 

The thief's response, and this is a direct quote, was "W.T.F. why should I have to explain myself to you?!" Click. Dial tone. 


After that encounter of the rude kind, the fun was just kind of sucked out of the lounge idea for us. We kept lounging for a few seasons, but we never regained the enthusiasm or the momentum that we once had for peddling our lounge. Against the good advice of our accountant, after a while we just stopped offering the lounge altogether even though it often generated another 2K+ for us per wedding. On the eve of our last lounge, in the eleventh hour when I had promised Trish she could throw the imitated lounge into the harbor outside the venue and drive away, I had a vision of... a giraffe. 

You know who giraffes have to compete with for the tastiest, most tender-est leaves at the tippity top of the trees? No one, that's who. Why? Because a long time ago, giraffe's had short necks and were all like, "This is bullshark hanging around sharing the low-hanging leaves with greedy hordes of rude zebras."  Stripes are so yesterday anyway. Ever hear of evolution? Try on a long neck and some square spots for size, oh and throw in a purple tongue while you're at it. Suck on that zebras.  

That's right I just compared the photo lounge thief to a ridiculous zebra. Now ask yourself this: What do you often see on a zebras back? Answer: a hungry lion. It's true, turn on the Discovery channel, you'll see what I mean. The final outcome isn't usually too great for the zebra either. 

Hungry lions remind me of those difficult clients you don't want--the clients that are always on your back, trying to get more than they deserve or at least have paid for. You know what you probably won't see on the giraffe's back? That's right, a hungry lion. Why? Because giraffes also evolved some long spindly legs and they can run really fast away from the discount-loving, blood sweat and tears-sucking lions. Suck on that lions.

trish and mariah as giraffes.jpg
So instead of throwing the lounge into the drink, I declared we should "Make like a Giraffe and Evolve." There's absolutely no sense in throwing away a great idea, especially a great money making idea, just because some uninspired lazy zebra tries to rip you off. There's no need to fight with them about it either because the lions will take care of that for you. The only real solution is to keep changing, to keep thinking, to be inspired, and to keep moving up...up...up... that's where the tastiest leaves are anyway.

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,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree. 

By now you've hopefully seen a few of the Faces of PPA floating around on Facebook or Google+. We're thrilled to offer an opportunity to join this ongoing campaign to all of our members! Just visit, answer a few questions and submit an image of yourself. We've had over 200 submissions so far, but keep them coming! (Reminder: No head shots! It's you as the creative, professional photographer.)

Here are this month's three featured Faces of PPA!



In our recent "The Government Shutdown and You" blog post we discussed how the current government shutdown has affected copyright registration. Since we had copyright on our minds, we figured it was the perfect time to remind you of your PPA member copyright benefits. Remember, just because the copyright office is currently closed, that doesn't mean you can't still send in copyright registrations or that your copyrights are no longer valid!

A frustrating day for any photographer can be when you discover that someone is using one of your copyrighted images without your permission. Not only is it illegal--it also cuts into your bottom line! So what do you do if it happens to you? Luckily for PPA members, there's an easy solution: just call PPA's copyright and government affairs department at 800-786-6277 or by email at

Once you've contacted PPA, we'll help you determine the next steps to take to resolve your copyright infringement problem. If you wish to do so, you can also have us contact the infringer on your behalf as a way to get them to stop the practice or bring them to the negotiating table. 

Of course, we hope that you never run into a situation where someone has violated your copyright, which is why PPA provides a whole host of resources to help you protect your copyrights. 

Visit the copyright resources page to download the Copyright Kit, which will give you a great overview of the copyright process. You can also find copyright inserts you can include with your clients' orders to help keep them educated about copyright. Finally, there's also guides you can download to help you with electronic copyright registration as well as sample contracts for giving someone permission to reproduce one of your copyrighted images! 

Don't forget about the copyright webinars on the copyright resources page. They'll walk you through the basics of important copyright information you should be aware of. 

In addition to providing you with resources, PPA's RECON program checks on local retailers to make sure that they are obeying copyright law. If you're a PPA member, you can become part of this program! 

The Retail Compliance Network (RECON) is a dedicated group of photographer investigators who go undercover in an effort to preserve the integrity of photographers' copyrights. They embark on stealth missions to local retailers who offer photo finishing services or use online print services to see if they are complying with copyright law. If a retailer violates the laws, PPA approaches them with the results and urges them toward greater compliance. 

If you'd like to become a RECON investigator, you can download an application; just remember you need to be a PPA member. 

Along with all of these efforts, PPA members can also get a discount on services to add digital watermarks to your images. This is especially important for photographers that post copyrighted images to forums, websites, Facebook or other social media! The watermark lets everyone know who these images are copyrighted by and cuts down on illegal use.

So, access the copyright resources today and make sure all your images are properly copyrighted! These resources are just for PPA members, so join PPA today to have access to the resources as well as copyright assistance. 

Want to read more about protecting your images? Check out the "10 Ways for Photographers to Protect Their Copyright" post.

Written by guest blogger, Danielle Brooks of St. Augustine, Florida as posted on theLoop.

The moment I booked my hotel it all set in. I was going to Imaging USA in Phoenix, Arizona. What in the world was I thinking!? How am I supposed to navigate a city I've never been to? I'm going to a conference where I know no one, and I'm pretty certain I will be the most inexperienced person ever to attend Imaging USA. Ok, maybe the last part isn't true, but it is definitely an overwhelming feeling to know I'll be in the company of some of the most experienced professionals in the field. 

You know how there are 5 stages of grief? Well I have officially run the gamut of emotions to know there are 5 stages of attending the Imaging USA conference. Here is my list of stages and what I did to overcome/prepare for them. 

1. Enthusiastically Overjoyed- As I said before, it wasn't until I booked my hotel that it set in that I was really going to the Imaging USA conference. A huge dorky smile spread across my face and I started jumping up and down. AHHHHHH!!!! I'M REALLY GOING! This is just what I need. This is just what my business needs! I cannot believe I'm going to have the chance to learn from the biggest and best names in photography!

2. Self-doubt/Nausea- It has set in. I am going to Imaging USA. Am I really prepared for this? I have never been to a photography conference before. How will I know where to go? What to do? Who to meet? I'm not qualified to go to this big of a conference. I live in the small city of St. Augustine, Florida (and proud of it) what am I doing flying across the country for a conference? My business isn't big enough for something like this. What was I thinking? I can't do this. When I looked at all the speakers and their accomplishments I felt deflated. I've never won any awards for my work. No one knows my name outside of Florida. These thoughts become so oppressive I felt like a little kid being pulverized by bullies. I finally grew a pair and said, "No more." I will not be limited by my doubts and fears. It is scary as hell for a photographer to fly across the country and attend their first conference. Money and time is on the line. They are the most expensive thing you can gamble with. I will not waste this time. I started feeding myself positive thoughts. I can do this. I am just as worthy as any other photographer to attend this conference. And slowly I rose from the ash of self-doubt and the nausea subsided. 

3. Acceptance- This stage was the shortest and simplest for me. I'm really going. Now what?

4. Prepare/ Nesting- Nesting is usually a term applied to women getting ready to have a child. And I guess going to Imaging USA is like having a kid. You are spending all this time and money to go to a conference, you don't want to waste your time and money. For me this meant research. I quickly found the Imaging USA Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and followed/liked all of them. Next I started googling for reviews of the conference. What was the best thing that happened last year? What cool off beat things were there to do? What kind of swag did they get? The best way to prepare is to learn from others who have gone before you and to glean their gems of wisdom. I learned I should bring my own water bottle, it saves a ton of money instead of buying your own. I read a great blog that called the reader to analyze what they wanted/needed for their business before they stepped foot in the expo center. The reason for this is that you are walking into the biggest toy box of your life and you need a game plan or else you'll spend way too much money. For me, my plan is to find a printing company and to start offering print packages to clients. I also learned to bring a notebook and write down what I liked/disliked about each company. I will get so many flyers and information that by the time I get to my hotel room I will have a hard time remembering the little details about a company. 

5. Anticipation- I am bouncing back and forth between this stage and Stage 4. I am so looking forward to the conference. I am nervous/excited/expectant/overwhelmed. I am most excited about the adventurous possibilities a new town/conference will bring me. I am also eager to learn more about photography and business and how to apply that to my situation. I am glad this is happening at the beginning of the year. That way I can set new goals for myself and my business and have a whole year to implement them. I am 100% sure this will revolutionize the way my business operates. Most of all I am certain it will give me the confidence I need to follow through on everything I learn. 

Hopefully if you are a first timer to the Imaging USA conference this blog will help you to know you are not alone. It's ok to be scared, but do not allow that fear to paralyze you. Also, I'm sure you, like me are looking for a buddy to hang out with. Feel free to comment or connect with me. I would love to meet new friends. If you have gone to Imaging USA or any other conference for that matter, don't be an elitist. Take us under your wing. Introduce us to your friends. Pass on your knowledge to the next generation. Encourage us newbies. You are who we are really hoping to connect with. We would love to get a drink with you and learn from your experience. After all you were in our shoes at some point.
Where do you turn for photographic education? No matter how long you've been in the photography business, you can always continue to improve your technique and business skills! That's why PPA started the PPAedu program, and we hope that you'll turn to us for your educational needs. 

PPAedu has over 170 videos (and counting) that PPA members and PPAedu subscribers can access on-demand. These videos cover techniques for photographers like lighting, posing and post capture, as well as the business topics sales, finance, marketing and operations. All taught by some of the most accomplished photographers in the industry. It's a complete education program, included for free with your PPA membership! 

What really makes PPAedu stand out is the Assessment. You can answer a brief series of questions in several areas which will give you personalized class recommendations based on where your photography and business skill are now. Find out more about the Assessment in the "Be More Educated: Take the PPAedu Assessment" post. 

As we alluded to earlier, new PPAedu courses are constantly being added. Take a peek at some of our most recently added courses below:

Richard Sturdevant, M.Photog.MEI.Cr.

Elements of a Composite
A composite is about bringing disconnected pieces together and connecting them. The finished image looks effortless, but a lot goes into the process. Richard Sturdevant shares his expertise as he guides you, step-by-step, through the elements of a composite. Watch a clip from the video, or sign-in to watch the complete video.

Eddie Tapp, M.Photog.MEI.Cr., API

Understanding Color Management
In this very detailed class, Eddie Tapp discusses the concept of color management, how you can understand it and better yet, how you can master it!

Every year, PPA strives to bring education on the latest photography and business techniques to
Imaging USA. We believe that there's great education for any type of photographer at Imaging USA--from wedding to commercial photography, the class tracks cover it all!

If you've got a certain photographic specialty you know you want to learn more in, you can easily sort the Imaging USA schedule by class track to be sure not to miss anything during the convention. It's a great way to plan your education schedule for Imaging USA 2014 in Phoenix. 

One such track is School, Sport & Events. True to its name, this track is built specially for photographers who work in the school, sport and event market and will continue to advance your knowledge in these areas. 

For instance, if you do youth sports photography you won't want to miss the "From the Ballfield to the Bank - Big Money in Youth Sports" session with John Pittman on Sunday. He'll share tips that can make this market very profitable. Plus, if you're thinking about entering the youth sports market, Pittman says that you'll walk away from the session with great ideas that can help you as you venture out into this market.

For those sports photographers looking to add a new product offering for their clients, Richard Sturdevant's "Take The Gloves Off! Delivering a Knock-Out Blow with Creativity is Sports Volume Photography" session will teach you how this Grand Imaging Award-winning photographer creates unique composite sports posters that his clients love!

If you specialize in school portraits, check out "The Artona Group Inc. - School Pictures and Seniors" session with Michael Rak. His presentation combines the collective knowledge of a family who has been shooting special moments for almost forty years! Sit back and soak it all in as Michael and company share their family history, as well as their transition from a mom-and-pop shop to a high-volume school picture, senior portrait, and wedding photography studio.

These are just a few of the great classes you'll find in Imaging USA's School, Sport & Event track. Be sure to check the Imaging USA schedule as we're still adding classes for all tracks! If you haven't registered yet, view all the Imaging USA registration options and pick the one that's right for you.

Read more about Imaging USA:

Maria Matthews drops in from PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs Department to fill you in and the Government Shutdown as it applies to professional photographers.

It's been just about one week since many federal departments and agencies closed their doors due to lack of funding. As processes slow, or have already come to a complete standstill, more and more businesses are feeling the effects. As a photographer and small business owner here's what a shutdown means to you.

Copyright Registration
The U.S. Copyright Office remains closed. The Public Information Office and the Technical Support Desk of the Copyright Office are not being staffed and access to some sections of has been limited.

You can still file copyright registrations online using the eCO however; your application will not be processed until the office reopens. Filing your claim now will help ensure the earliest possible effective date of registration so don't delay in ensuring your works are eligible for the fullest protections available under the law.

The Office's closing does not mean any loss of copyright ownership. You should however continue to ensure you are properly marking your work and arranging licensing agreements whenever you allow someone to make use of your images.

Foreign Travel
Need a passport for an upcoming assignment? As of October 7, the U.S. Passport Office is open and will continue to issue passports. While operational, you may experience a delay in processing. The office estimates a four week turnaround time on "routine" service and two weeks for "expedited" service. 

If you've already applied for your passport and have not yet received it you can visit: to find out its status. If you've not yet applied, visit the passport office website to find out if the nearest passport office to you is open.

If you're looking for information about your destination you can continue to visit the International Travel page for up to date information about entry and exit requirements as well as any special travel alerts.

Healthcare Exchanges
As most government offices were ramping down on October 1, the health insurance marketplaces were just revving up their engines. You can visit to find out how you can purchase health coverage that will take effect January 1, 2014. If you're in a state that operates its own exchange you can access it through this site as well. If your state is not managing its own exchange you can purchase through the "federal exchange" operating in your state. It is important to note that these sites are experiencing heavy volume so you're likely to encounter delays and other hiccups in navigating their pages.

For additional information on how the new healthcare laws apply to you, watch the Health Insurance Reform webinar series presented by Ross Pallay of Pally Insurance Agency.

National Parks and Other Federal Property
Land operated by the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture have been closed. These sites include properties managed by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forrest Service. This shutdown has also extended to their respective websites.

This means that even if you or your client has obtained a permit for a session on this property, you will not be allowed on park land. It is important to note that any permit or special use fees that have been paid to the location are non-refundable. Whether these permits will be honored for future dates remains to be seen. 

If you have an upcoming session at one of these properties you will need to make alternate arrangements with your clients. 

Small Business Administration
Yet another government agency affected by the shutdown is the Small Business Administration. The only services that continue to function under this arm of the government are Disaster Relief Services. If you have applied for a loan, grant, or any other assistance offered by this agency services have been suspended until they are fully funded.

PPA is closely watching all developments on Capitol Hill and will keep you informed as to how they impact you. As always, feel free to email with any questions.

Yes, you still have to file and pay your taxes even though the shutdown has affected the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Whether you filed an extension through October 15, 2013, or have to complete your quarterly filing responsibilities you, or your tax preparer must still meet this deadline.

General assistance through their automated service line is still available along with all of the resources at If you're planning on e-filing, your tax preparation software should have agents available to help you as you will not be able to reach staff at this agency. If you're planning to paper file, it's highly likely your return will not be processed until the IRS is fully funded. Other services that will see a delay are issuing refunds. For more information about day to day operations visit, their website
Guest blogger, Mariah Ashley, presents the last of her three-part series, "THE TRIFECTA OF TROUBLE - How Three Big Mistakes Created the 'Perfect Storm' and Almost Sank the Snap! Weddings Ship." Make sure you read part one, The Tale of the Tin Pig, A Cautionary Anecdote and part two, Guts: Hate 'em, Spill 'em, Trust 'em first!

Part Three: Shutting the Proverbial Pie Hole

A big blabbermouth, that's what you are
If you were a talk show host, you'd be the star
I said your mouth is big, size extra large
And when you open it, it's like my garage
You talk too much
And then you never shut up
I said, "You talk too much"
Homeboy you never shut up
-Run D.M.C

I am the worst sales person that ever lived. The problem with a career in photography is that I only imagined myself doing the photography. I never imagined myself hocking albums and framing. Not that I don't believe in my products, I do. I'm just unbelievably awkward when it comes to asking my clients for money.
Over the years I've developed a major complex about the depth of my poor salesmanship. Terms like "asking for the sale" and "closing the sale" are sweat-inducing nightmares for me. In the interest of self preservation and under the depressing revelation that I am in fact never going to master the art of sales I decided I'd just be a good "chatter" instead. After all, I'm basically selling myself anyway, right? 

shut your pie hole.jpg
Chatting is not high pressure. Chatting is casual, chatting is light. So, I chatted... and chatted... and chatted... and after a while I was really SICK of hearing myself tell the same stories over and over again, but I kept on talking anyway because I wasn't sure what else I should do. I talked to potential clients about what made us different than the other photographers and therefore the right choice for them... blah blah blah. I talked about how superior our products are... blah blah blah. 

In the middle of one particularly long gab-o-rama I paused for breath and happened to notice a very familiar look on the faces of the people I was regurgitating my spiel on. It was a glassy-eyed, polite smile yet utter boredom kind of face. It was a face that I recognized all too well. It was the Yak-ity-Zack Attack face. 

My husband has a childhood friend, Zack. Zack has a heart of gold. He's a true blue, loyal to a fault, shirt-off-his-back kind of guy. He's the life of every party. He's also a real yak-er. I do not risk offending Zack by writing this article and publishing it nationally because the only thing that actually offends Zack is silence. He has proclaimed himself "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave" because of his epically long hot-air bull sessions. 

Zack is oblivious to my glassy-eyed stares and polite smiling and subtle yawning hints. No amount of "It's getting late, I should hit the hay," can deter the babbling prattle. More than once I have excused myself mid Zack-liloquy and gone to bed leaving my husband stranded alone at the kitchen table with the "Thing That Wouldn't Leave." 

Zack is funny, although we have heard his stories about a gazillion times. Even if you say, "Zack I've heard this one," he is compelled to tell it again. When "The Thing that Wouldn't Leave" finally goes, you kind of feel like you got sucked up into a tornado, dropped in the middle of a highway and then promptly mowed down by a Mac truck. In other words, all the air is gone from the room and you are left feeling a little flattened. Zack can't help it, because unlike me he is actually a salesman. A pretty good one too, at least according to his stories. Zack once told me that he went to a seminar for salesmen that taught him that he should listen instead of talking all the time. The irony of that wasn't lost on me but I think the wisdom may have been lost on Zack.

However, that little jewel of advice from Zack stuck in the back of my brain somewhere and when I ran out of boring things to say to glassy-eyed people, I just shut up. A funny thing happens when you shut your face. People start to open their mouths to pick up the slack, and what do you think comes out? REALLY VALUABLE feedback, information, and advice! It turns out that no one knows more about what is right for my business than my clients. Go figure!

These are just a few of the priceless gems thrown our way from current clients in the last week or so:

"We are choosing all of our vendors based on who we'd like to sit at a bar and have a rum punch with."

*Note to self: Clients want to feel comfortable and make friends; less important is the superiority of your albums, dummy. Read anything about the Millennial Generation, duh.

"It really impressed us how you give to charity (Operation Smile) and it felt good to be a part of that."

*Note to self: Our clients are thoughtful and charitable and PPA charities rocks! Keep giving!

"We loved the gift you sent us, not one of our other vendors have done anything even remotely close to that for us."

*Note to self: Clients love to feel taken care of and appreciated. Who doesn't? More gifts! 

And from dozens of potential clients...

"Our budget is $6,500."

*Note to self: Contrary to what you what you believe, the "sweet spot" for wedding budgets in this geographical area is $6,500. Create a new package for $6,200. 

*Follow up note to self: The new package is flying off the shelves, and clients end up spending way over the "budgeted" $6,500 anyway.

The moral of the story? Shut up and listen. Then take it to the next level and actually process what you just heard. Pay attention and then take some action. Use all that gas for good instead of evil. Be less like a Mac truck mowing over your potential clients and more like a hot air balloon lifting them up into a kind of photo-nirvana.

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,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree. 
By now you've hopefully seen a few of the Faces of PPA floating around on Facebook or Google+. We're thrilled to offer an opportunity to join this ongoing campaign to all of our members! Just visit, answer a few questions and submit an image of yourself. We've had over 200 submissions so far, but keep them coming! (Reminder: No head shots! It's you as the creative, professional photographer.)

Here are this month's three featured Faces of PPA!

Written by guest blogger, Kameron Bayne of Fotoseeds.

Photographers are often asking themselves (and other photographers) "what should I charge?"  It's a foundational question that raises worry and doubt over the survival of our profession.  There's an ocean of information out there with endless waves of differing opinions.  With so much information, it's easy to just go with the current tide until we're lost far at sea. I think part of the confusion comes because asking "what should I charge?" is really two questions in one. Let's take a closer look.  The underlying issues are 1). how do you price your work to be sustainable and 2). what are your potential clients willing to pay for it? One question is about your business' cost/profit ratios and the other is about the value you offer to others. If you try answer the second without answering first, you'll most likely base it on these common pricing myths.

  • What Other Area Photographers Charge. Don't fall into the trap of basing your prices on what the other guy is charging. Why? Because you have no idea what his actual costs are, which means you don't know if he's making money or losing it.  It's also quite possible he doesn't know either, especially if his prices are based on some other photographer too.
  • The Level of Your Work. If you base your prices on the level of your work, it gets sticky real quick.  Who decides when you're good enough? Your clients? Other photographers? Most likely it's based on how you perceive your work-or worst, how you perceive what other people must think about your work. That's a self-inflicted headache.  If you're always growing as an image marker, the truth is, you probably never feel as though you've "arrived" because there's always room to grow.
  • What You Would Pay. Another mistake is to forget you are not always your client, and start asking yourself what would you pay for your own work?  This can be an especially subtle and damaging trap because it preys on the natural bent of dissatisfaction in one's own work. I call an epidemic of self-abuse within the creative and artistic community. The roots of which are intertwined within our hidden thought patterns and how we feel about ourselves as human beings (see the upcoming post: Identifying the Patterns of Artistic Self-Abuse).

Pricing for Sustainability

  • The first step includes an in depth and brutally honest look at what it costs you to produce a final product for your client.  The primary factor of a healthy business is that it makes more money than it spends.
  • Under PPA benchmark research, the average photographer's salary is 20% of his or her gross income.  In very simplistic terms, this means if you charge the client $100 an hour, you only make $20.
  • That other $80 enables your business to sustainably function by covering the raising costs of products, albums, computer upgrades, equipment, maintenance, education, healthcare, etc. If you don't have these costs built in, guess where they come from? That's right, they come out of your 20% slice.
  • Once you honestly and thoroughly crunch the numbers, you'll know without a doubt where you need to set your prices.  You'll have a bare minimum you'll need to charge for your business to survive without stealing from other areas of your life.
  • It can be an overwhelming process to go down this road, and so I understand why most people never start.  But it's like someone saying they may be worried about being seriously sick so they don't want to go into the doctor.  The truth might confirm your worries, but it can also offer you an opportunity for a real and exciting solution.  You can get the help you need.
  • Here are some tools to help you get started: the PPA Benchmark Survey, Expense and Pricing Templates from PPA, and Stacey Reeves' Pricing Guide.
  • We are available on an individual basis if you need help applying this information to your specific circumstances. Contact us here for more information.
With that said, what your potential clients are willing to pay is a completely separate issue that deserves a post all to itself.  More to come later...

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