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PPA Today: December 2013 Archives

December 2013 Archives

By John Owens

An excited voice was on the other end of the phone.

It was Holly Howe, longtime PPA member and co-owner of Photographic Images, a high-end portrait studio in North Platte, Nebraska, which she operates with her husband, Keith.

"Thanks so much for the invite to participate in the Faces of PPA campaign!" she said. "I think it's great. We love PPA and love that you're showcasing members, but I don't think we can participate at this time. I definitely think we have a story to share, I just don't know if this is the right place or... It's not that we don't want to, we do, it's just... We wouldn't look our be--, becau--, well...

"Keith has cancer. We're actually at the hospital right now for treatment. And I've been reading everything you guys send out and I just want to tell you: There's a membership benefit you don't talk about..."


Keith Howe, 55, started getting sick November 2012. New and puzzling symptoms seemed to emerge with each passing day. Keith and Holly would go in to the doctor and he would say, "Well, this is weird. I'm worried" and they'd think well, yeah... us too.

In December, Keith felt a lymph node in his hip. He went in for a biopsy, but the pathologist couldn't make a diagnosis. Tissue samples were sent to the University of Nebraska for a second opinion, where he was told no, he had a granuloma (a bacterial inflammation). But Keith wasn't getting better. He continued to seek help.

He went to a neurologist, an infectious disease specialist and was referred back to the University of Nebraska for a second third opinion. Keith underwent hundreds of blood tests on top of spinal taps, biopsy's, MRI's and even brain scans.

Somewhere along the way, Keith actually started to get better. Still without answers, he was on the road to recovery. He built up his strength and started to resume his normal workload and life as a photographer. Then, one day when he was feeling about 95%, he went to run some errands and had a hemorrhagic stroke (a brain aneurysm). Keith was airlifted back to the University of Nebraska.

"You're not old enough," the doctors told him. "You're not overweight, you're not hyperactive... there's no reason for you to have a stroke."

After further inconclusive tests, Keith was sent home. A month later he went in for a follow-up. At an eye exam, the ophthalmologist noticed hemorrhaging in his eyes and said, "Well, that's not good." Keith was sent back to Omaha for a brain biopsy and repeated a bunch of the previous tests. After his third spinal tap and more blood work, he was sent home.

The brain biopsy again came back negative for cancer, but there was a silver lining: They had an answer. Keith was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, an auto-immune disease of unknown causes which produces granulomas. It seemed to fit the bill. After some initial treatment, Keith started to get better.

By September, he got worse.

Keith discovered new enlarged lymph nodes. He went back to Omaha for more MRI's and CAT scans. The doctors initially thought the new lumps were due to an infection from Keith's chemotherapy and steroid treatment. They wanted to remove the lymph nodes. He (underwent more tests. had another surgical biopsy)

Finally, the rheumatologist returned in tears, and told Keith he had lymphoma.




"It took him a long time to ask me out," recalls Holly. "We both had tremendous crushes. I even wrote in my journal at the time, I can't eat, I can't sleep, I just think about being with him.

"When people talk about love at first sight--this was it."

The Howes met back in college at Kearney State, now the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and the feelings were indeed mutual. Keith was just a bit shy and seemed to have some competition for Holly's affection.

"If I checked out the odds, things didn't look too good for me," said Keith. "She was on the phone with one guy and getting flowers from anoth--"

"Ohhh one was just a friend and the other was a bad date that I was never going out with again," arm-punched Holly, as if she had a thousand times before. "It took him a year to ask me out, but once we started dating we both knew."

Keith spent much of the first date talking about photography.

"We went out on a Saturday night, and the following Tuesday I started a part-time job at a local photography studio, Denny's Photography."

It was there that Keith learned about PPA.

"I planned to work until I had enough money to go to school for fine art photography, but Denny got me hooked up with the Professional Photographers of Nebraska (PPN) and sent me to seminars and conventions," he said. "I think I wound up getting a much better education that way. Photography school will teach you the technical aspects, but they don't tell you how to handle a two-year-old or a bride that has had too much champagne before the ceremony."

Holly was in school to become a child psychologist, but that quickly changed as she lost the emotional investment in her career path. Instead, she followed her heart and fell further in love with Keith and photography. After graduating, they married and opened their studio in 1980.

"Initially, we wanted to work together just to be together," she said. "I worked behind the scenes doing our marketing, sales, bookkeeping... vacuuming... all of that background stuff that goes into running a business. Then it became a creative outlet."

opening day 1980 2.jpg

Over the years, they learned that Keith was actually better at sales and Holly at marketing promotions and design work. They work together behind the camera. The Howes quickly became known in the community and rapidly outgrew their cozy downtown studio, eventually settling on a home.

"Our reputation built over time because we continue to enter photographic competitions," said Keith, a nine-time Nebraska Wedding Photographer of the Year and three-time Nebraska Photographer of the Year along with Holly. "We've become known as the studio that wins awards. People assume that if we're in the paper, we won another award.

"If people have issues, we're the ones that get called. If other people aren't getting good images, they ask if we can work them in. If there's a big local event, we get brought in to cover it."

It doesn't hurt that they have each earned their master of photography degrees from PPA (Keith in 1991 and Holly in 1999). 

"I don't know if a client ever says, 'I want to go to a master photographer,'" said Keith. "It's more about the process it took to earn the degrees. The continued excellence. We've been at the top of our field for years."




The fast-paced nature of a photo shoot is too much for Keith. He can't move fast enough anymore and will lose his balance and fall. He had to resign as a councilman for PPN. While he is on this much chemo, his immune system is weakened. He wears a mask when he is around large groups of people. He uses what strength and resources he has to get better and do what he can around the studio.

"We're big believers that there's a reason for everything," said Holly. "Now we know there's a reason why I learned so much more about photography, I needed to know how to light and how to set up a session on my own."

Throughout their 30+ years with PPA, the Howes have made countless connections. They regularly participate in photographic competition and Keith has been an affiliate judge for 22 years. They have established lifelong connections through mentoring across the country and Imaging USA.

They have given so much to other PPA members, that when word spread about Keith's health issues, it was time to give back.

The Howes annually photograph a local dance school each April, but after Keith's stroke, they didn't think they would be able to do it. There were whispers among the mothers that someone else would have to be brought in, but the Howes had an unexpected back-up plan.

Somewhere along the way, they had helped two PPA members from Wyoming start their studio. When they heard about the Howe's situation, they dropped everything and flew in to photograph in Keith's place so he and Holly would have that much needed income.

Insurance will cover Keith's treatment, but it won't take care of their day-to-day expenses. With their focus on his recovery, the Howes will shut down the studio for the next four to five months. When a friend and fellow PPA member learned that they wouldn't have any income, she set up a fund in Keith's honor to help with their expenses.

Donations have poured in from all over the world and to date, they have raised more than $6,000. But to the Howes, it's been about so much more than financial assistance.

"It's just that feeling of support and caring," said Keith. "Just knowing that all of these people from all over the country are pulling for me is a constant reminder to keep our spirits up and have a positive outlook."

The Howe's upbeat attitudes and candor are major components in their cancer-fighting arsenal.

"We're trying to stay light-hearted and find the humor in the weird things that are happening to Keith," said Holly.

rastafarian wig.jpg

When the chemo caused Keith to lose all of his hair, they dug through the attic and started taking pictures of Keith in funny hats. They created a modeling portfolio on Keith's Facebook, and it took on a life of its own.

Hats started arriving from all over the country. Members sent prop sunglasses with mustaches and stick-on eyebrows. They even received a box from a member now living in Japan.

"Almost every day we get a card or package from a friend through PPA, we've had so many thank you notes to send," said Keith. "Even the Archbishop of Quebec reached out. It's just amazing the people we know through this association."

"That's the benefit that no one talks about. PPA membership is so much more than equipment insurance or the indemnification trust. It's the lifelong connections you make, that heaven forbid, you might need sometime. I don't even know some of these people. But they are taking the time to send a silly package or a card. I can't describe how much that helps."




The Howes still don't know the source of Keith's cancer. Doctors re-examined his brain tissue and didn't find anything. They suspect transverse myelitis--an inflammation along the spinal cord. They've tested for multiple sclerosis and diseases you can only get in Asia and Africa.

"We fell in love at 19 and have been glued to each other's hips," said Holly, with a laugh. "Our friends were all very relieved to learn that he did not have HIV or syphilis."

Keith's lymphoma continues to only show up in his hip, but there had to be some explanation for his central nervous system issues. Doctors are treating him as if it is a reoccurrence to his lymphatic system. Although brain scans continue to show nothing, Keith is gearing up for a second round of aggressive chemotherapy.

"I said 'Let's just get it done.' Even though it's not showing up, something is going on."


Keith's treatment program is a 28-day cycle. It starts with a day of outpatient chemo, which is rough on the body and takes six hours to run in. Once it is finished flushing, he checks-in for inpatient treatment. For the next four days, his routine will consist of a 24-hour cocktail of three different kinds of chemo followed by a flush of saline. After that, he gets another kind of chemo and goes home for 16 days. He returns on day 21 for yet another round.

On day 29 he starts it all over again. Keith spends 10-12 out of each 28-day cycle in the hospital, always with Holly by his side.

"I'm doing pretty good considering," said Keith. "The legs don't work like I'd like them to, and I have some fatigue, but pretty good."

"He's definitely feeling much better than he should at this point, physically," said Holly.




Years back, the Howes decided to come up with a Christmas promotion that was different than your average photo with mall Santa.

"Christmas is a big deal for us," said Holly. "I mean, my name is Holly Joy..."

The idea eventually came from a speaker at Imaging USA, where they learned that people have a family dentist, doctor and mechanic, and when something comes up, they don't even think about it, it's where they go immediately. For photographers, it takes three times to establish that trust. The third time someone comes into your studio, you're now their photographer.

Holly thought: How can we get them back a second or third time in one year?

santa  photo.jpg

She came up with a low-priced, themed Santa Claus session. Each year, they decorate the studio with a different twist. One year, it was Woodlands Santa, made to look like he built everything. Another year, Santa wore an apron and a chef hat. Last year, they went with a giant gingerbread house.

"I want real reindeer but I don't think PhotoCare covers live animals," joked Holly.

This year, they declared they would forge ahead in the middle of Keith's first round of chemo. Keith mostly had to keep his distance, so once again a friend and PPA member took two days out of their life and stepped-in to photograph in his stead. They went with a vintage 1930s Santa and Christmas tree, complete with period-accurate thin flannel Santa suit and a tree adorned with antique ornaments and popcorn strings.

The Santa session brings people into the studio that would normally find a full-session with the Howes to be out of their budget. It shows them what the Howes can do and helps them understand the value in a high-end studio. It also has become a Christmas tradition for many of their clients. One 19-year-old has been coming since she was a newborn.

"It's a fun, hectic couple of days," said Holly. "A lot of people said 'Thank you for doing this.' There was no way we could not do it while Keith was sick. It's our tradition too."




The Howe's will miss Imaging USA this year, which hits extra hard since Keith is sponsoring two photographers who will receive their master of photography degrees.

"It's hard to sit here and know we can't go." said Keith. "They feel like my little sisters. I wanted to be there to hang the ribbon around their necks, but I had to call and say I can't."

"These are the things we get excited about celebrating--the WOW moments," said Holly. "Those times are still exciting. It still feels good to win a trophy or have a great sale, but it's not as exciting as those first few times. So what's the adrenaline rush now? It's seeing someone else achieving those accomplishments and knowing you helped them get there. These two young women are having their moments and we don't get to be there and that's hard."


Keith and Holly will spend Christmas in the hospital, but they won't let it hurt their spirit. They're making stockings and passing them out to the other oncology patients. They have each other. They have their support system.

"I'm so grateful for all of the experiences I've had through PPA," said Keith. "We've learned a lot, gone places and done things we never dreamed we would. Without PPA we never would have had those opportunities."

"Where would we be?" asked Holly. "We'd probably still have a business, but where would we be without the support?"

It also helps to have something to look forward to. The light at the end of the chemo tunnel comes in May, when their eldest son (they have two) is set to be married. Keith vows to be there, and although he photographed his first wedding at age 14, he promises to leave the camera at home.

As the Howes push forward, their support system remains steadfast. In January, PPN will hold a print auction in Keith's honor. The Wyoming photographers already have the dance school on their calendar for April. Donations keep rolling in on the fundraising site. Cards and packages continue to arrive, many from total strangers. Every little bit helps Keith stay strong. Even just the power of a few words. 

You don't know me, but photographers have to stick together.





It's Friday, which means it's time for an update on some of the great photography content we've found around the web! We hope these blog posts will help inspire you and help you sharpen your photography techniques and business practices. 

Here are ten posts from the week of December 15, 2013:

Photographer Has Blower Confiscated by TSA Because it 'Could Fly Like a Missile'
Here's a post from PetaPixel that will make you laugh, but it's also worth paying attention to for flying with your gear. Check it out.

How Photography Gels Are Made
This video from DIY Photography gives a behind the scenes look at how photographic gels are created. It's an interesting new perspective on a piece of photography equipment you may use regularly. Watch the video.

Secrets to Crafting Top-Quality Beauty Portraits: Studio Lighting 
A great post for the portrait photographers out there! Fstoppers provides lighting advice for creating great portraits. Read the advice.

Tips to Protect your Gear in Harsh Weather Conditions 
If you shoot outdoors during the winter, this post is for you. Digital Photography School provides tips for keeping your equipment in good working condition in harsh elements. Check out the tips.

How to Email Photographs in Lightroom
Here's some good advice for Lightroom users to help improve your workflow. Photography Life shows you how you can email images from within Lightroom, instead of exporting them first. Read the post.

Without Reservation: A Recommended Gear List 
If you're new to the photography business, you may want to check out this list from Strobist. From Cameras to Lighting Systems, Strobist shares their recommendations for professional photography gear. Read the list.

Shooting From a Moving Car -- A First Look 
This post from PhotoFocus looks at a type of photography you may never have considered: hyperlapse, the shooting of a timelapse from a moving vehicle. Photographer Richard Harrington shares how he built a unique hands-free system for capturing this type of photography. Check it out.

7 Things Yousuf Karsh Can Teach You About Photography 
Photography Concentrate spoke to famed portrait artist Yousuf Karsh about his 67 year long career and what he's learned. The lessons he shares can inspire those stuck in a rut. Read the interview.

2013 Year In Pictures 
This post from the Boston Globe's photography blog will be fascinating to photojournalists and those looking for inspiration alike. They share some of the top news images of the year. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Infographic: A Timeline Of The 100 Most Important Cameras Ever Made
Fast Company's Timeline of the 100 Most Important Cameras Ever Made is an awesome look at photography history that all photographers should find interesting. Do you agree with their choices? Check out the timeline. 

There you have it! Happy reading and we hope that you find some inspiration. Don't forget that members can access PPA's social network theLoop to share photography ideas as well.

Back in the fall, we launched the first-ever PPA Kickstart Scholarship. Four lucky PPA members have been selected to head to Imaging USA early for a pre-convention class--completely on the house! The winners were given the opportunity to choose between a full-day of hands on classes or a two-day Studio Management Services workshop.

Let's meet the lucky winners and learn what they hope to take back from Imaging USA in Phoenix.


Five-year member Mike Kemp of Mike Kemp Photography in Arkansas will attend his first Imaging USA thanks to the Kickstart scholarship. The longtime staff photographer hopes to start his own photography business with the help of knowledge gained at Imaging USA.

"I would love to be able to benefit from the mentorship of the Studio Management Services (SMS) classes," said Kemp. "I have a decent grip on my craft, but I definitely need help with the marketing, sales and business skills needed to attract clients and maintain a healthy business. By learning the ins and outs of financial planning, pricing schedules and marketing plans, I would be able to pair my photographic knowledge with sound business practices. I desperately need that skill set to make my leap to becoming a self-employed photographer."

Kemp will take the SMS Business Basics Portrait class.



Two years ago, Josiah Freeman quit his job in a call center in Washington and moved to Phoenix. Now he will get to attend his first Imaging USA in his new home city. Josiah will seek some assistance from the Business Basics class as well.

"While I have some traction in the art side of things, it always seems like I'm falling behind or flat on the business side of things," admitted Freeman. "I've always wanted to take an SMS class, so I can better explain to others what my prices are and why, and to be able to stick to them. I frequently find myself agreeing to discount my work and I need to find a way to stand up for myself and my pricing, and know that I am worth it. We manage to eke out a living, but I need to get to the point where I can actually be a success as a studio, and not stuck doing a ton of work for very little money."



Only 27-years-old, Indiana photographer Abigail Elizabeth Welch already feels like she is becoming out of touch with high school seniors and the latest trends. Abigail shared her photography journey thus far, and hopes the Business Basics class and the Imaging USA experience will help push her to the next level.

"In year two of owning my studio, I hit a wall. My studio had grown to the point that I could not keep up. I was doing it only with the help of my mom (she kept the books, and held my reflector.) I felt like I was working non-stop. I worked myself to pure exhaustion. I had penny pincher clients who didn't see the value in my work, and I even considered quitting all together. 

Around the same time, I married, and decided to join my husband in Italy to get away from my business. I literally ran away. After a few months, he encouraged me to shoot again. I was hesitant, but the culture in Italy is so laid back, the scenery is just beautiful, so I gave it a shot. I started shooting again, many times in Venice, and my love for photography quickly returned. 

We returned to the states in 2012, and I relaunched a new website to start fresh. I made guidelines for myself so that I could keep my sanity, and up until two months ago, it was working. Currently, I am starting to get so busy that I cannot keep up. I DO NOT want the past to repeat itself, but I feel that I do not have the business knowledge to successfully grow my business. I don't even know where to start. Hiring employees, finding a building, pricing to make sure I turn a profit; it is all a daunting task. 

I feel the Business Basics Workshop will give me the tools that I need to grow. I feel like I have the potential to build something amazing, but I have accepted that I cannot do it on my own. I have read wonderful things about the class and I imagine it will help save my business from taking over my life again. What I really love to do is be behind the camera, and I am hoping that I can learn how to grow my business so that I can spend more time shooting, and less time managing."



Tennessee photographer Ann K. Farrar, CPP, has attended Imaging USA every year since 2007, and thanks to the scholarship, will continue that streak in Phoenix. Ann will take a variety of pre-convention classes, and is even taking Tiffany Reed Briley's "Finding Freedom in Landscape Photography" on her own dime just because she'll be there early! That's the kind of "Be More" attitude we love to see!

"I think I have attended a pre-convention workshop every year. I find it a great way to learn, to have access to top talent when it is not as crowded as the convention, to network with other photographers. It has been very useful to me as I increase my skill.

Since I have attended many ImagingUSA conferences, I have first-hand experience at the expertise of instructors and what I can gain from the classes. I like the pre-convention classes because you really have an opportunity to learn and meet the instructors, as well as other photographers in the class. It gives me access to top-notch instructors that I might not encounter otherwise.

I just entered the International Print Competition (IPC) this year for the first time and had an image accepted into the General Collection. I never really thought that would happen and I have been bitten by the competition bug! I want to continue to learn and improve and take my photography to the next level. Earning this scholarship will help me do this. I have gotten so much out of PPA, Imaging USA, classes, earning my CPP and everything PPA has to offer. I am so glad I joined!"


Here's the latest y'all! If you've already made plans to head to Phoenix, there are a few more updates so you can get real familiar with everything before you even arrive. And if you're still on the fence--there's another cheap option for you

So there are no excuses now! Read all about it:

Check out the Imaging EXPO for FREE!

Don't have the cash for the whole shebang? That's okay! You can still demo new products and network on the tradeshow floor with a free expo pass! Just use the promo code TSC2014 at checkout. Imaging USA Registration info.


Read up on Your Imaging USA Speakers

Still not sure which speakers to check out? Get to know them a little better before you make the difficult decisions! There are dozens of articles on our wonderful speaker line-up to read through.  Speaker info.


Digital Show Guide

We usually don't let this be seen until it gets into your hands at the convention. But 2014 is a special year, so make sure you check out the digital edition of the official Imaging USA Show Guide. It has all the information on everything happening at the convention. Not everything, everything--we do have some surprises in store for you! But it has everything you can possibly plan for. Sponge it up and plan your convention.

I think we can all agree that if there was such an award, Kanye West would be in contention for the prestigious "Most Obnoxious Person on the Planet" honor. Yet, if there's one thing this year has taught me, it's that there is valuable insight to be gleaned from even the most insufferable sources. Don't think Kanye can teach you anything about your photography business?  Well, hold onto your leather jogging pants people because you are about to get schooled.*

* A reference to Kanye telling the press that it was he who brought leather jogging pants to Fendi six years ago and was flat out denied. To quote Kanye directly, "How many [expletive] you done seen with a leather jogging pant?" Too many to count, Kanye, too many to count.

Last week I had two objectives. The first was to create welcome boxes for our four new clients. I figured I would complete that task by lunch time, freeing up my afternoon to dive into my second priority which was blogging our last wedding of the season. Sadly, when 4 pm rolled around I found myself making a dash to the post office with my four boxes just in the nick of time. I felt so frustrated with my slow self! The urgent voice in the back of my head (born of one too many lectures about maximizing time and streamlining workflow) makes me feel like I am always playing  beat the clock.

Could I streamline my welcome box assembly? I considered the steps...

1. Bake (from scratch) a batch of our signature Snap! Vegan Salted Oat Cookies. Sprinkle in a few choice swear words when you realize you are out of vanilla, craisins, almond milk, etc.-- take your pick because there's always something missing! Run to the grocery store for said missing item.

2. Cool cookies on racks, beating back family and business partner as they attempt to consume the cookies that are supposed to be going to clients. Keep one eye on your computer screen and one eye on the cookies while you attempt to complete step 3.

3. Go to the PPA charities website and start donating. (We donate $240 for every wedding we book to Operation Smile).  A separate donation form has to be filled out for each new client. Print out a receipt for the donation to include in the welcome box.

4. Hand write a note to each client explaining the awesomeness of Operation Smile, and the awesomeness of them booking us so that we can donate to the awesome cause.

5. Wrap the gift (a set of pewter heart shaped measuring spoons) with fancy wrapping paper and ribbon.

6. Package the homemade cookies in a bag with luxe ribbon and custom cookie recipe tag.

7. Assemble boxes with confetti paper, spoons, Operation Smile card and cookies.

8. Hand write (another) thank you note on our special letterpress thank you cards and nestle it on top of the presents.

9. Tape the Box and fill out a mailing label.

10. Run to the post office to mail the package--fresh baked cookies need to be eaten straight away after all!


Ideas I came up with for trimming some time from my welcome box assembly included; store bought cookies... out of the question! I'd sooner eat Kanye's leather jogging pants. Besides, the snap cookies are addictive, they've been tested. On the scale of addictiveness you have cigarettes, then heroine, and next Snap's vegan salted oat cookies. I guess I could skip the hand written note part, but I really love receiving a handwritten note. Doesn't everyone?

Putting the cookie conundrum on the back burner, I dove into my next project, blogging our last wedding of the season. Surely I'd crank that right out.

Wrong, this took me two days. Is taking two days to blog a wedding an outrageous waste of time? There's a popular "blog every day" movement among some photographers, but I wonder how to create a quality post if you have to churn them out daily. Again I considered my steps.

1. Carefully choose 85-100 photos. That's a lot of photos for sure but that's what it takes for me to successfully tell the story. I am VERY picky about what shots make it onto the blog. They must be flattering to the client, flattering to the other vendors involved and flattering to us because if everyone is flattered than everybody wins.

2. "Jazz" the photos. That's a technical term we use around here for photoshopping. Every single photo is retouched, jazzed with an appropriate photo shop action, sized for the blog and watermarked.

3. Rename the photos for SEO and upload them to the post.

4. Write the post. I find a clever or sentimental quote and share some personal thoughts about the couple and the wedding. Then I mention the other fabulous vendors. Finally I tie it all together neatly with some expert advice or a funny behind the scenes peek.

5. Post the blog, share the link on Facebook, and notify the bride and the other vendors involved that it's up. Hurray!

6. Take a nap before my head explodes.

Maybe there are some things I could trim here too. Less photos? No jazzing? Skip the personal writing which takes so much time? I suppose... NOT. Doing so would feel like sacrificing quality.

I'm really happy with the QUALITY of my cookies and I am happy with the QUALITY of my blogging. More importantly, so are my clients. Here's the thing about quality: most often it takes a long time to achieve. This is where our friend Kanye's valuable lesson comes into the story. Kanye was recently schooled himself by the Association of French Bakers in what can only be described as the most sarcastically perfect reprimand in the history of lambasting.

It seems Kanye wrote a song that really pissed off the French. The offending lyrics were from the song, "I am God" (no, actually that's not the offensive part).  The part they took umbrage with was these lyrics,

"In a French-ass restaurant
Hurry up with my damn croissants"

I know! The nerve, right?! The scathing letter from the bakers to Monsieur Kanye West was lengthy, so I'll just give you a few of the more biting and poignant bits.

Certainly, you are not a man to be satisfied with pre-made croissants from the baked goods case reheated and tossed out on a small platter. No -- you had demanded your croissants freshly-baked, to be delivered to your table straight out of the oven piping hot.

The croissant is dignified?--?not vulgar like a piece of toast, simply popped into a mechanical device to be browned. No?--?the croissant is born of tender care and craftsmanship. Bakers must carefully layer the dough, paint on perfect proportions of butter, and then roll and fold this trembling croissant embryo with the precision of a Japanese origami master.

For us mere mortals, we must wait the time required for the croissant to come to perfect fruition, but as a deity, you can surely alter the bread's molecular structure faster than the speed of light, no?

Hee-Hee, that last line was my favorite! You've got to hand it to the French, they really know how to sling an elegant insult. Much like the treasured croissant, the Snap! experience is multi-layered;  flaky on the outside, tender in the middle and worth waiting for.

It may take me all day to send four welcome boxes to new clients, but every one of my clients sent a thank you email for the delicious cookies and gift. Every one of them said they felt warm and fuzzy about donating to Operation Smile. I even had a bride tell me recently that she makes Snap! cookies once a week for her groom because... you guessed it... he's addicted to them. That kind of feel good customer loyalty and branding is priceless.

I feel the same way about blogging. We don't post everyday but I've had clients tell me they look forward to the posts and savor reading them, just like a good book. Would you feel compelled to savor something that you could have every day? I know I wouldn't. I've never been there, but if I do ever make it to Paris, I plan to savor me a few croissants and I'll wait patiently to get them.

The next time you find yourself beating yourself up about how much time you've spent on designing your website, networking with vendors, or creating a kickass album design remember that quality attracts quality. Take another page from Monsieur Kanye West's book because, after all, he attracted Kim Kardashian. Guess it works in reverse too.

Just sayin'.



It's Friday, which means it's time for an update on some of the great photography content we've found around the web! We hope these blog posts will help inspire you and help you sharpen your photography techniques and business practices. 

Here are ten posts from the week of December 9, 2013:

Anna Hill's Photoshop Project Pokes Fun at Overly Manipulated Beauty Advertisements
If you're active on social media, you probably caught this. Anna Hill, an East Carolina University student, poked fun at the over-manipulation of images, especially in the world of advertising. Her witty sense of humor is good for a laugh!

Photo Gallery: Photographing the Night Sky
The folks over at National Geographic figured we might as well take advantage of the shorter days and longer nights of the winter season. How can we do that? By capturing some stellar images of the stars! 

Kit lens: Why your 18-55mm standard lens is better than you think for landscapes
Just getting into landscape photography? You don't need to blow your budget on a fancy pants lens just yet. See why the folks at Digital Camera World think your standard kit lens is better than you think. 

This Guy Traveled The Country In A Pink Tutu Just To Make His Wife Laugh During Chemo
Brought to you by the folks at BuzzFeed, this heartwarming story shows how the power of laughter (and great photography) can lift the spirits. 

How to Take Beautiful Bokeh Christmas Images
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree! Leverage the holiday décor for some beautiful Bokeh shots. Digital Photography School walks you through how to make it happen

Anatomy of a Christmas Stock Photography Shoot
Stock photography is a great way to make some extra cash! Follow JP Danko on how she sets up a Christmas Stock Photography Shoot from DIY Photography. 

Tamron Announces Launch Date for 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Lens
This was huge news this week! Tamron announced that its new 150-600mm F/4-5-6.3 lens will be hitting store shelves (and online retailers) January 17th (the same week as Imaging USA)!  Check out how it performs from FStoppers. 

What To Do When No One Believes In Your Dream
Lauren Lim of Photography Concentrate touches on the reality of what to do when you make the leap to go pro and your inner circle is less than impressed.

50 Quick Photography Tips
If you have 15 minutes, this video is worth a watch (and a chuckle). The guys over at DigitalRev put together their top 50 tips every photographer should remember

Tips for Learning to Love Photoshop Actions
Digital Photography School let guest blogger Meghan Aileen Schirmer take the reins for this simple to understand explanation on Photoshop Actions. You'll be swooning by the time you're done!

There you have it! Happy reading and we hope that you find some inspiration. Don't forget that members can access PPA's social network theLoop to share photography ideas as well. 
When you think of Kenny Rogers, chances are you think of his long and impressive career as
a country musician. But did you know that Kenny is also an accomplished photographer? In fact, he'll be at Imaging USA in Phoenix this January to host a Q&A about his work as a photographer and to receive an Honorary Master of Photography degree!

On January 14, Kenny's "Places I've Been, Things I've Seen" Q&A will be held from 5 to 6 pm (you just need an expo pass, which you can get for free here, or your full conference badge). Kenny Rogers will share some of his favorite images as well as take your questions about his work during this exclusive session. If you want to read more about his photography, check out the "Kenny Rogers Storymaker: The Entertainer Earns Acclaim for his Images" feature story from the December 2013 issue of Professional Photographer magazine. 

Kenny brings a lot of passion for photography, so you won't want to miss his special guest presentation! Plus a lot of his work will be on display for our viewing pleasure.

Along with this memorable Q&A, there are other special events happening at Imaging USA you won't want to miss! After long days of learning and product browsing, the opening and closing parties are there for you to celebrate with your fellow photographers. You'll also have opportunities to receive critiques on your work and mentoring from successful pros with PPAedu Business Mentors and the Coach's Corner, AND you can view ALL the Loan Collection images from PPA's International Photographic Competition and the World Photographic Cup Images at the International Photographic Exhibit. 

Two more places you'll also want to be at: (1) the Grand Imaging Awards, where the top images from the International Photographic Competition will be announced, and (2) the Award & Degree Ceremony, where we'll honor professional photography and the individuals who set themselves apart in the industry by earning PPA degrees and awards. There are even special events just for Certified Professional Photographers and new PPA members! Find all the details for these events on the Imaging USA Event Highlights page. 

Of course, these special events at Imaging USA are just part of the overall conference. There's also the full line up of photography courses to help your business and your craft, and the Imaging Expo (that's the trade show), where you'll be able to check out, touch and demo all the latest photography products! 

It's all included with an Imaging USA full-access pass. So, register for Imaging USA now! If you register by December 31, you'll also be entered to win an all-expense paid trip to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville, TN. See you in Phoenix! 

Read more about Imaging USA:

Image © Jay Fletcher

Imaging USA is the 3-day photography bonanza where you'll find education, inspiration, new products and services (to test and demo!) and a networking opportunity unlike any other--and today only, you can gain access to it all for just $129! Most professional conferences cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars to attend, but because PPA is a non-profit, we're able to keep the cost über low!


That's right! For today only, you can save $50 on registration ($129 instead of $179). There is no better way to kick start the year for your creativity and your business. You can also get $50 off member +1 and member +2 so bring some friends!


This deal ends at midnight tonight (Wednesday, 12/11, PST), so don't miss out!

Register Now.

If that's still too much for you, fear not! We have another option for Phoenix, and guess what? It's totally free!

That's because we are offering FREE expo passes! You can peruse the entire tradeshow floor, test and demo new products and services and collect as much SWAG as you can--totally on us! Just because we don't want you to miss out. You won't get to take in all of the classes or parties, but there are still plenty of networking opportunities and more to be found on the tradeshow floor. It is THE biggest tradeshow for photography out there!

To get your free expo pass, simply register for the expo pass and use the promo code TSC2014 at checkout. That's it!

Imaging USA really is the perfect way to start 2014. It's where 10,000 photographers gather each year for education, inspiration, new products and services to demo and an unparalleled networking opportunity--all under one roof.

This year, Imaging USA will feature:


         100+ instructors who are available to talk and exchange with

         80+ workshops, seminars, and classes to keep you on the cutting edge

         Dozens of unique, solid and quality networking opportunities, including two giant parties to celebrate and share your successes

         An exclusive keynote speaker presentation from Grammy Award winning singer (and accomplished photographer), Kenny Rogers!

         600+ booths with exclusive tradeshow-only discounts

         And lots and lots of giveaways and drawings, all geared toward photographers


So don't miss out! Be more in 2014. It all starts in Phoenix.


Written by guest blogger and Imaging USA first-timer, Danielle Brooks.

Every August when kids go back to school I get jealous. 

I used to love getting new pens, binders, notepads and best of all, having new classes. I loved school. Every year in college, when a new course catalog would come out, I would spend the afternoon reading the course selections. I got so excited looking forward to what I could study the next semester. It's okay, I can admit I'm a total nerd. 

However, the same is true of Imaging USA. As soon as I signed up to go, I immediately got excited about the dozens of classes being offered. And who wouldn't be excited about this opportunity to learn? There are so many great teachers and classes that it is seriously difficult to choose from them all. How do you pick? And more importantly, if this is your first time to IUSA, where do you start? 

I first started planning my classes based on seniors. They are the number one market I want to break into, and I want to be able to market myself to them effectively. However, after the initial "course catalog high" wore off I really started to question if those courses would be the most beneficial to me at this stage in my business. 

When you are first starting out at IUSA it is probably best to analyze your skill set and plan your courses accordingly. For me, IUSA is about kicking my business into high gear. No more playing games and wasting time. I want to focus on my skills and make my photos the best they can be. 

I sat down and took a hard look at my photos and determined that I need to focus on lighting and posing. I need to learn how to really SEE light. I need to focus on how to look for it, how to use it, and how to control it. Posing clients can always be a struggle. I have ideas, but how do I effectively communicate them to my clients? How can I constantly create new poses without my work looking the same? How can I make my clients look less awkward? All of these questions need to be answered before I can really take my business to the next level. 

Learning how to market to seniors won't help me when it comes to posing or lighting. I can have the best marketing plan in the world, but if my clients' pictures are subpar, no amount of advertising will help. 

As a newbie to IUSA it is my initial defense mechanism to puff myself up and pretend to be a better photographer than I really am. When I was coming to terms with my skills, I would tell myself, "I don't need help with lighting and posing, that stuff is for beginners." 

But the reality is: I am a beginner. That was a hard pill to swallow. 

We all have to start somewhere, and after a tough conversation (with myself) about my wants versus my needs, the answer was crystal clear. I'll probably take a few classes aimed at marketing to seniors, but the majority of my time will be spent in posing and lighting. 

I don't want to roll in to IUSA prideful, giving off the impression I don't need help. It might make me feel good in the short term, but it's just a mask for my insecurities and it wouldn't be beneficial to me in the long run. The reality is that the people I look up to in the field were in my shoes at some point in their career. So I will be as humble as possible; accepting help any way it comes. Even if I am the worst photographer at IUSA, I know that I wont leave with the same skill set I came in with. After all, when you are surrounded by greatness the only place left to go is up.

So sit down and really analyze your work. What are your wants versus your needs? My advice would be the 75/25 principle. Take 75% of the classes you know you need, and take 25% of the classes that you want to just for fun! IUSA is more than just learning. Yes, improve your skills, make the most of your time there, but don't overlook opportunities to have fun! Take the chance to meet new people and get some sweet swag! You chose photography as a career for a reason. Reconnect with your passion and remember why you fell in love with your camera in the first place. 

And if you're a veteran of IUSA you should look into the Alumni Program. They will sign you up with a newbie such as myself. It gives us first timers a chance to ask any questions we may have for a more seasoned individual. You would also be able to help us navigate the tradeshow floor and make sure we know where to spot good deals. What better way is there to spend a couple of hours at IUSA than imparting your knowledge and wisdom to the next generation? 

We need and want your expertise. We are hungry for it. After all a wise man once said, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." 

Not to say that we are children, but you get the picture. 

It's Friday, which means it's time for an update on some of the great photography content we've found around the web! We hope these blog posts will help inspire you and help you sharpen your photography techniques and business practices. 

Here are ten posts from the week of December 2, 2013:

An Intro to Adventure Sports Photography: 10 Photographers You Need to Check Out
Peta Pixel features several sports photographers making a name for themselves in this post. There's some great imagery from these photographers that may help inspire you sports photographers out there! Read the post.

How to Wirelessly Tether Your Camera to Lightroom 
Looking to improve your workflow for large scale photo shoots? Check out this post from Imaging USA instructor Benjamin Von Wong on a good method for wirelessly tethering your camera to Lightroom for quick processing.

Determining If A Photo Should Be Left In Color Or Converted To Black And White
How do you know if an image has the most impact in black and white or in color? FStoppers shares advice for making this decision, culled from many photographers. Read these tips.

Tips for Overcoming Shyness as a Photographer 
Good communication is vital to creating the images your clients want and keeping them happy. But what do you do if you're shy and don't like directing people during a photo shoot? DIY Photography shares advice for overcoming shyness in this post.

Creative Uses for a Wide Angle Lens 
PhotoFocus turns to photographer Thomas Shue to share how he uses wide angle lenses. Find out ways to use wide angle lenses that you may never have considered for portraiture, landscape photography and more. Read the post.

Are You a Light Snob? 
Do you give up on an image when the lighting just can't be perfect? This post from Photography Concentrate by Lauren Lim is for you! Find out how to create great images in even so-called "bad lighting" situations. Read the advice. 

5 Tips for Successful HDR Photos
HDR has become popular among photographers and can be a valuable product for you. Read these tips from Digital Photography School on how to create great HDR photography. 

18 Minimalist Winter Pictures
Looking to do winter landscape photography? This post from Photography Blogger shows what you can do with even the bleakest of winter landscapes. Get inspired.

A Magic Tip from Peter Hurley to Improve Your Headshot Photography
This post is great for any photographer that does portraiture. Photographer Peter Hurley shares tips to create more creative headshots in this post on the Photo Argus. Check it out.

Jiha Moon and Kombo Chapfika Debate Fair Use
Creative Loafing examines an issue that affects photographer's copyrights - when appropriating and drastically changing another's copyrighted work is it considered fair use? This article tells the story of two artists in Atlanta and their stance on the issue. Read the article.

There you have it! Happy reading and we hope that you find some inspiration. Don't forget that members can access PPA's social network theLoop to share photography ideas as well. 

PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs department is off to New York City December 4th and 5th to continue to advocate for its member's copyrights.

PPA will meet with fellow visual artist organizations to discuss a number of copyright case rulings, as well as the ongoing review of the copyright statute and the challenges presented by social media sites. This meeting is an exciting first step in the right direction and serves as a launching pad toward a successful 2014 for photographers. It ensures we are marching forward with a unified voice.

The other organizations involved include: American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), America Photographic Artists (APA), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) and PLUS Registry.

The group was founded in the early phases of the U.S. Copyright Office's study on copyright small claims court. Now it is taking on a wide range of issues photographers are encountering, from longer term legislative efforts to the daily challenges presented by image consumers.

PPA has been a long-time advocate for stronger copyright laws and additional protections for the industry and small businesses. We look forward to working with these like-minded groups to give our members and photographers everywhere an even stronger voice on Capitol Hill.

Look for an update on the meetings happening in your next PPA Today!


Are you familiar with the health insurance options available to you as a PPA member? That's right! PPA can help you and your family find the best medical and dental insurance in your area, with several different plans available. 

PPA partners with Pallay Insurance Agency, Inc., to assist members in securing affordable and quality medical and dental coverage.

Ross and Scott Pallay are both very knowledgeable about all the options available to you and are very open to speaking with you. They can answer any questions about the new healthcare structure, open enrollment, fines for not having coverage (you read right, you can be fined for not having coverage) and more. They are also able to quote members on policies if you live in any of the 50 states except the ones listed below.*

Make sure you check out all of the insurance options available to you and reach out to Pallay Insurance Agency with any questions or to receive a quote.   

*coverage not available in AK, HI, ID, MA, ME, MT, NJ, NM, NY, RI, SD, VT 

P.S. Are you familiar with how healthcare reform affects you and your business? Pallay has also assisted PPA in explaining the changes involved with the Affordable Care Act by hosting a series of webinars on the topic of health coverage.


PPAedu strives to give photographers the best educational courses on photography techniques and business practices. Many members have already started exploring PPA's online education platform, watching videos and building a personalized program of business and photography courses. And that's just the tip of the iceberg: in addition to the on-demand programming, PPAedu offers live webinars and workshops! PP''s got several live webinars coming up in December and January, read on for all the details:

Live Webinars:

In December and January, we'll be covering a wide-range of topics including marketing, SEO and health insurance reform. You can watch these webinars from your own computer (or tablet!) and have an opportunity to ask questions. Better yet, if you're not a PPA member, you can get a taste of PPAedu by attending any live webinar for free. PPA members can access all recordings of the classes, but if you aren't a member, this is a great opportunity to learn a thing or two, on us (and maybe down the road you'll finally see why 26,500 photographers chose to operate with PPA)! So here's the upcoming schedule of live and (free!) webinars, open to all:

December 12, 2013 - 2 pm ET
With Angela Pointon

Do you have a great studio but need a little help marketing yourself? Pennsylvania photographer and marketing expert, Angela Pointon, will walk you through how to set up a marketing plan for your business. She'll discuss the elements of a killer marketing plan, how to build a plan and how to stick to the plan.

What having our hearts broken taught us about our ideal client

The other day Trish and I had a meeting with a potential bride (Annie) and her mother (Ruth). They were two smartly-dressed, funny, warm, interesting ladies. The most endearing thing about them was that they work together as a mother/daughter dynamic-duo realty team. During our meeting, we laughed, we chatted, we shared ideas and inspirations, relating to each other on a sassy-ladies-in business kind of level.

Annie and Ruth were planning a big fabulous wedding at a fantastic venue with a fancy wedding coordinator we love. We thought to ourselves, now these two are our "ideal clients!" We could have spent all day chatting with Annie and Ruth, in particular picking savvy business lady Ruth's brain about what her "ideal client" was like.

It's safe to say we fell a little in love with Annie and Ruth and when they left, we found ourselves staring longingly at them as they walked away, calling out with a hint of neediness, "Don't be strangers! Bye-bye... Call us!"

The problem with falling in love is it puts you at risk of rejection. Unfortunately, it turned out that Annie and Ruth weren't as "into us" as we were "into them." One-sided love never works out, and a few days later after our date meeting, I got a "Dear Snap" letter from Annie. It was the usual, "It's not's us" excuse.

WHY Annie!? Why Ruth?! What is it about us that drove you away?!!! WHAAAA!

This question kept me awake, so I felt compelled to email Annie back and ask her... casual-like... why she decided to break our hearts go in another direction? Exactly what did the other photographer have that we didn't? Perkier Albums? Curvier frames? Tell me Annie, tell me what I could have done differently!

Annie was gracious enough to return my email. She reiterated it wasn't us, they loved us. Our albums were indeed perky and our frames curvy, but what really turned them on was slimmer packages. The other photographer was cheaper more budget friendly. That's it. Budget trumped our deep personal connection and charming personalities, end of story.

goat photo.jpg

While Ruth may not have given us a deposit to shoot her daughter Annie's wedding at that meeting, she did give us something invariably more valuable, a little gem of advice. Remember how I asked Ruth about her ideal client? Her answer gave me pause then but really got me thinking after she dumped me.

She said, "My ideal client is one that pays me. If I only worked with clients that I loved, I'd have like five clients and that doesn't pay my bills. I keep my eye on the prize. Being able to work with all kinds of people affords me a nice home, nice vacations and the ability to plan a nice wedding."

There's a lot of photography talk out there about "Finding your Ideal Client"--a concept that has always kind of confused me. What is my ideal client? I thought sassy, funny, fashionable Annie and Ruth were ideal, but I was wrong about them.

Seemingly, some photographers "ideal clients" get married in a field and have rustic-barn-Anthropologie-type receptions because all their photographs contain those elements. Other jet-setting photographers seem to only photograph tall, thin, fashion forward model-types who marry in European vineyards and/or castles because all of their photos are taken in European vineyard and/or castles with unbelievably beautiful people. Others yet seem to only photograph really creative tattooed people that seek alternative venues like abandoned airplane hangars.

Why then, on any given weekend might I find myself shooting a wedding on a boat, or in a moat, or with a goat? It makes me wonder, how can moat, boat, and goat clients ALL be my ideal clients? Is it weird that my weddings are so varied in style, location, and budget?

Here's where we circle back to Ruth and her gift to me. The common denominator with the moat client, the goat client, and the boat client is that they were all really excited to hire us. Eureka! Mystery ideal client is... wait for it... a client who is really excited to give me their money in return for us doing a really great job.

For whatever reason our photos, bad jokes, lack of fashion sense, or quirky personalities speak to them. They feel comfortable with us, confident we'll do a good job and are happy with their decision. Our clients are tall, short, big-boned, skinny, type A's, artsy types, fancy, down-to-earth, educated, hard-working, old money, blue collar, funny, shy, preppy, alternative, silly and serious. They are all of these things and more and I am grateful for their differences. I don't want my photographs to all look the same, the same type of venue and the same type of people in the same type of lighting. That gets really boring really fast. Besides, I'd like to shoot 40 weddings this year. What are the odds of finding 40 clients who want to have goats at their wedding?

A few days after Annie and Ruth rejected us we had another date meeting. (Gotta get back on the proverbial bicycle, right?) Had I been thinking along the old "ideal client" lines, gauging clients on their shoes or their venue, I might have missed out on a nice booking. This wedding was to take place at venue we are unfamiliar with and with vendors we don't normally work with. The couple was kind of quiet and shy, the conversation was a little awkward and the meeting brief. In times like that it can be hard to muster the razzle dazzle, but you know what? This couple was interested in our photography and had taken the time to come and see us. They deserved a little sparkle and we happily gave it to them. Although the meeting was brief, the shy bride told us we made her feel really comfortable and she would be excited to have us photograph her wedding... oh, and where should she send the check?

Ideal clients? Yes, without a doubt.


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This page is an archive of entries from December 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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January 2014 is the next archive.

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