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PPA Today: May 2014 Archives

May 2014 Archives

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Here are the 10 photography blogs from May 24 - May 30, 2014 that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the web to be more!

Wal-Mart is still making waves on their case against the photographer's widow! Get the Washington Post's take on the situation here. 

Not cool, Jesse Chen, not cool. This software engineer at Facebook posted a tutorial on how to remove those pesky little watermarks from professional photos. The posts have since been taken down, but this read from Fstoppers is worth a look. 

If you find yourself near an active lava flow during your summer adventures, you'll be happy you have these great tips from PetaPixel under your belt! (Plus the example images are pretty awesome.)

How can you spot a newbie? PhotographyTalk has their nine sins of a noob - the last one is our favorite (and even the most seasoned of pros can slip up). 

How to Capture Creative Cold When You're at the End of Your Rope - Literally.
National Geographic photojournalist Jimmy Chin sits down with Chase Jarvis to talk all things photography. Not only is his story inspiring, but the images are fantastic and make you want to hit the road for the nearest mountain to climb or rock to repel. 

To go along with the post about Jimmy Chin, we thought it might be helpful to see how to take a photo from a kayak on your next adventure - and what do you know? Photo Naturalist just happened to write a little blog about it! 

If you're looking to expand your editing repertoire, this is a great article from PDN! We all know and love Photoshop, but what other software can make your images pop? Here are their top 10!

Tis the season for senior portraits! If you're in the market, here are some great ideas, tips and inspiration from Seniors Ignite on how to make the male clients get comfortable in front of the camera. 

New to the world of photographing interior architecture? If you're wanting to expand your product line, the School of Digital Photography has some great need-to-know info that will get you started on the right foot. 

Meteor showers are something else - and capturing them just right can be difficult. Outdoor Photo Gear has their top 10 tips for capturing the perfect image! (When is the next shower in your area? Check them out here!)

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop

As we move toward summer, here are the top discussions that took place on theLoop during the month of May. Take a look - you never know what might help you keep growing your business this summer! 

It's a piece of advice that photographers starting out often hear - take lots of photos and delete most of them. The thought is that deleting these photos helps you to spot errors and continually improve. Photographers debate the merit of the approach in this discussion. Join in!

Whether you include print prices for your photography on your website or not, you'll want to check this post out. PPA photographers share advantages and disadvantages of putting your prices online. If you're thinking of doing it, read this post first!

Do you pay for advertising on Google and/or Bing? Read this post before you spend (or keep spending) your dollars! PPA photographers share Search Engine Optimization tactics that can have great results, and cost you nothing. If you are doing paid advertising, members that also do it share some things you'll want to be aware of. 

If you've ever wanted to learn how to light using hot shoe flashes off camera, this is the discussion for you! PPA photographers share different techniques they've used successfully to light using this method. Check out this discussion to participate or learn something.

Did you know that there's probably a local PPA affiliate organization in your state? If you didn't, check out this thread to see what you might be missing out on by not being part of your local chapter! 

Don't forget, theLoop is YOUR safe and secure online community where PPA members can discuss various photography topics! You don't belong to PPA? Don't be left out! It's so easy to join, do it today!


What to do when your clients don't want you to use their photos online


By Mariah Ashley

The conversation was going so well. Jenny, the bride, wove her vision for her wedding day into a photographer's dream before my very ears.

No expense would be spared to get us to her exotic location. Photographs were of the upmost importance to her she explained, so she had taken great care to choose the timing of the day to coincide with the sunset. She had scouted locations for portraits to insure turquoise seas and fuchsia bougainvilleas as our backdrop. Her dress, she promised, would be like nothing I had ever seen. As we spoke, I pictured her gliding across a sandy beach with me, her photographer, clicking away and making her dreams and mine come true.

That's when a rogue wave Jenny's next comment slapped me out of my stupor. "So of course, I am going to need a clause in the contract to protect my privacy," she causally added.

"Huh?" I stammered.

"I don't want any photographs of myself, my family, or my guests on the internet. I don't want to be on your blog or on your website at all."

Oh no! Mayday! Think brain think, I thought as my beautiful sparkling turquoise vision and coinciding bragging rights faded to a fuzzy dull grey. Not knowing what to do I defaulted to my emergency response, "That's an unusual request. Can I think it over and get back to you on that tomorrow?"

When we hung up my initial feeling was of disappointment, which turned into annoyance and then quickly spiraled into indignation. Hadn't she told me she spent hours looking at all the photographs on my blog? Hadn't she said that she knew right away that we were the photographers for her because of our online gallery? It's not fair that she should benefit from viewing all my other clients but not give me the opportunity to attract new clients with images from her wedding. Sure, I want to travel to an exotic location and take beautiful photographs, but if I can't show them to anyone what's the point?

I remembered reading about a similar situation once on another very popular photographer's blog. Someone had written to her for advice on this very subject. Her response was that since her business model was through referral and not paid advertising she attributed most of her bookings to potential clients viewing her online portfolio. For this reason she would feel inclined to refuse the booking if she could not share the photographs on her website and blog. That seemed reasonable to me. Decision made, I would not be accepting this bride's wedding, no matter how dreamy she made it sound.

That night after a veggie stir-fry dinner, I settled on the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. I know, I know. What's a vegan like me doing watching a greasy lipped carnivore like Anthony Bourdain traipse around the world munching on animals? For some reason I find this entertaining and I close my eyes when he meets the critters that are about to become his dinner. It's a paradox. Anyway in this episode Anthony was in Copenhagen talking with a chef about Denmark's Law of Jante.

A colloquial term used in Denmark, Sweden, and most Nordic countries, Jante describes a condescending attitude toward individuality and success. The term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. (

This all sounds decidedly un-American doesn't it? Well that's because it is. It goes against everything we have ever been taught about business never mind life in 'Merica. But let's consider this: Denmark is consistently ranked one of the happiest places to live in the world. In fact of the top five happiest places to live, Nordic countries take up all five spots. The United States doesn't even make the list. (

Please, don't anyone take this the wrong way I'm as patriotic as the next girl. My favorite song of all time? America the Beautiful. Let's move on.

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Maybe just maybe there's something to this "thinking of others before ourselves" jazz and not believing the "I'm all that and a bag of potato chips" philosophy.

The next day I called Jenny and told her I would be thrilled to be her photographer and would happily include a clause in our contract to protect her privacy. I told her the clause would include the use of any identifying photographs of her, her family or her wedding guests. However, I asked that detail photos such as the dress, flowers, reception, atmosphere and scenery photos would be fair game for me to use. She asked to include in the clause any identifying photos of the outside of the property that belonged to her parents and I agreed. We had a deal.

This is when I started "Gettin' Jante Wit It" (gratuitous Will Smith reference). If Jante deemphasizes the individual and emphasizes the collective then I would pump up my collectives, mainly the wedding planners, band and videographers traveling with us to the wedding from Boston. We had never worked with these particular wedding planners before and surely if we could make them look good it would mean some nice referrals for us in the future.

At the wedding we made sure to take as many photos of our fellow vendors that showcased their hard work and efforts as possible including photos of them working over the course of the weekend. We even got creative with some photos that showed the bride and groom but didn't reveal their identities. When we were finished we had more than enough images to put together an effective blog post to help our vendor friends strut their stuff.

If we had turned down this wedding because it didn't afford us the opportunity to brag about ourselves we would have missed out on the chance to do some serious networking with vendors who could potentially give us some excellent referrals (never mind some excellent rum punch). The restraints that our bride Jenny put on us forced us to think outside the box in the way we use our blog for marketing. As it turns out, with blogging and marketing there is more than one way to skin a cat an onion. (Skinning a cat is a sticky prospect best left to Anthony Bourdain, I'll stick with onions).

To see how we pulled off a "faceless" blog post check out our post here:

About the author:

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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.



with Bridget Jackson, CPA and PPA Business manager

Say hello to your newest guest column! It comes to you from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

Is your bookkeeping up to date? 

It's important to stay on top of this small but crucial task. It means not only entering your income and expenses but also reconciling them to your bank and credit card statements. Remember, the key to your success is in the numbers. Both keeping your financial records up to date and interpreting your numbers on a consistent basis are critical to running a successful business. 

All too often studios don't know that business is down or that they aren't meeting their financial goals until their cash account is impacted or they quite literally run out of money. Don't let it happen to you!

Do you have a clear idea of where your income is coming from? 

In other words, do you have a clear picture of what products your clients are buying and which product lines are profitable? It is vital to your financial success to know the answers to these questions. For example, you may choose to raise the price of a product everyone is buying to make it more profitable. You might also consider eliminating a product line or not offering certain products if they're not helping you achieve the financial results that you need to reach your goals. Your marketing plan and sales strategy are a direct result of this assessment. You need to know who your ideal client is, what they like to buy and then determine what your sales average needs to be for a given number of sessions. 

How can you clearly understand who you are marketing to and what they are buying if you aren't clear on the current number of sessions you are photographing by product line and your average sale for each? This is another huge reason to keep your financial records up to date.

Do you know how your business compares to the Benchmark? 

PPA's Benchmark provides you guidelines for running a successful business. If you keep your cost of sales and overhead percentages within the guidelines, you are guaranteed to make more money. 

Even better, set your goals higher by following the Top Performing Studios' guidelines you'll find in the Benchmark resources. PPA works with high-performing studios that achieve 60-65% bottom line percentages. You should know how your bottom line measures up against them every month! 

If you're using financial software it will be easy to analyze this data but the key is keeping it up to date. Every year a studio should look back at where they have been and then set goals for where they want to be. Studios that do annual goal setting have a better chance of meeting their goals than studios that don't. 

By staying on top of your numbers and consistently understanding how your current state analysis compares to your goals, you can quickly make the necessary adjustments that will move you to the next level. Making adjustments to overall spending, assessing the return on investment (ROI) of marketing dollars and tracking sales averages by product line are just a few more things that make a good studio great.

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Here are the 10 photography blogs from May 17 - May 23, 2014 that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the web to be more!

This is arguably the top story circulating the world of photography--Walmart is filing a suit against a widow of a photographer for the rights to the early images of the Walton Family. Get the industry's side and Walmart's comments here

National Geographic brings you a quick-pick-me-up inspirational piece to get you motivated to push some boundaries this weekend. Warning: stock up on the coffee and have a full tank of gas, you're going to want to go exploring. 

It can be (extremely) difficult to balance what your client wants, while maintaining your artistic integrity. Alexis Cuarezma shows PetaPixel (down to the lighting set up) how she managed to balance the two while doing a spread for SI.

We're always big fans of getting it right in the camera first, but sometimes "meh" shots happen. This is a great article from Digital Photography School on how to crop those so-so images into something fantastic. 

At some point, most photographers have an epiphany as to why they do what they do. For Brandon Thibodeauxt that ended up happening when he cured his heartache and discovered a beautiful way of life on the Mississippi Delta. 

We love images of places you don't normally get to visit--Epic Dash has provided 24 interesting shots of abandoned places from around the globe. Check them out (and get ready to want to go explore)!

File this under "holy smokes that's an expensive bag" (how many lenses could you get for that?!), but photographer Tyler Shields waited 7 months and shelled out $100,000 for a croc Birkin bag. Then let an alligator use it as a chew toy.

Let your inner nerd rejoice! This one minute video will make you a Jedi master at lightsabers in Photoshop. 

This post from American Aljazeera opens your eyes to the floating slum of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria. The powerful images provide a rare look into the way of life for thousands in this village. 

Ending on a light note, BuzzFeed released the 11 ways your clients can look ridiculously good in photos (complete with a shout out to Peter Hurley and his squinching abilities). Good for a giggle heading into Memorial Day weekend!

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop

On Monday, May 26, entries will open for the 2014 International Photographic Competition
 (IPC). PPA members that have entered the competition before know that not only can IPC help you earn merits toward your PPA degree; it can also help improve your photography business! 

While having your work judged can be intimidating, especially if it's your first time entering, we get tons of positive feedback on how entering IPC has made entrants better photographers. From keeping you inspired by seeing other IPC entries to being able to charge higher prices if you earn an award, there are many great reasons to enter IPC. Check out 10 of the ways competition can help your business here. 

As you're preparing your images for entry (digital or physical prints), it's important to keep in mind the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. These are the standards by which all photographs in the IPC are judged. By adhering to these standards, you are more likely to earn a high score so you can get those merits towards your degree. Practicing these elements will also help keep your photography at its best! 
If you're new to the IPC, or just need a refresher on the 12 Elements, check out our PPAedu video series on the topic with IPC judge Michael Timmons. In part one, Michael covers the elements Impact, Creativity, Style and Composition.  Part two covers Print Presentation, Center Of Interest, Lighting and Subject Matter and part three focuses on  the last 4 elements; Color Balance, Technical Excellence, Technique and Storytelling. You've got to be a PPA member to watch these videos, so join today! 

Once you've reviewed the 12 Elements and are ready to enter, you can read the rules and register for the competition at Here, you'll also find video tutorials covering topics like choosing the correct category for your images, setting profiles and calibration, entering albums and more. Make sure to review these videos before you enter your images to ensure that you are doing everything correctly! Oh, and if you're planning on mailing in physical prints, you can find a list of approved print cases for shipping to the competition. 

Be sure to enter by June 26 to avoid late fees! Entries will be accepted until July 10, but after June 26, an additional fee is required. 

Once you enter, watch the judging live in-person or streaming online
As we mentioned earlier, entering the IPC is a great way to improve your images and your business as a whole. However, the score you receive won't include all those great judges' comments about your work. You might be surprised by some of the things the judges pick up on!

So, to get the most out of IPC, you'll want to be present while your image is being judged so that you can absorb all of the judges' comments and ideas, and use these to continue to improve your photography. You'll also learn some great lessons while watching others' work being judged, and you may be inspired as well!

Judging will take place August 3 - 7 at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, GA. Judging is open to the public, so we encourage you to attend and watch  the judging live. Can't make it to Georgia for the judging? No worries, we've got you covered there too! For the first time ever, all of the judging will be streamed live on, so you can still watch from the comfort of your couch. Remember, watching the judging is the best way to learn at IPC, so we hope to see you there, in person or virtually. Stay tuned for more details about the streaming as we get closer to the judging. 

In the meantime, start getting those images ready and enter the IPC beginning May 26! 
Remember picture day back in high school? You'd dress up in your "coolest" clothes and the photographer's assistant would sit you on a stool, tell you to smile and sit up straight, and then a blinding flash. Done. Your pasty, zit-dotted face was then frozen in that awkward moment forever, for all to see in the school yearbook as a representation of you. Hey, are your eyes even open?

Cringe no more; you're done with those terrible times! You're a part of a great organization that's helping you and nearly 27,000 other members be better photographers. And we all want to see you.

In our Faces of PPA campaign, you've been getting to know other members through creative self-portraits and quotes on their journey through photography with PPA. The best part is that you can be yourself! It's not a generic yearbook shot on the same backdrop as everyone else--you can really let your creative flag fly. 

A few quick things to note:

1. Think of your marketing, people! This can be a piece to show to your potential clients on your web and social pages. That means put some camera equipment in the picture. Then anyone who sees the photo will say "Hey! That dude/dudette must be a photographer!"
2. No collages of your work. The focus is YOU and only you here. 
3. THERE IS NO DEADLINE. Take your time. Have fun. 

Let's get to know you and your unique brand. Visit, answer a few questions and submit an image of yourself that you can be proud of.  We've got over 27,000 members but have only seen a few hundred of your faces. We need to see yours too! 

Step out from behind the camera for once. You better not be behind the bleachers!

In today's photography world, it seems like everyone knows a "photographer". But, much like owning a knife doesn't make you a chef, owning a DSLR doesn't make you a professional photographer. So, how do you explain to potential clients the difference between your work and that of Uncle Phil's down the street? One easy way you can set yourself apart from the competition is by becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). 

PPA started the CPP program to assure consumers that a certified photographer is an experienced professional with the knowledge to create, consistently, the best images possible. Becoming a CPP takes several steps on a photographer's part. First, you must take (and pass!) a written exam that covers the photography techniques used by pros. Finally, you must submit a portfolio of your images to a panel of judges, showing that you can indeed apply all of the techniques covered by the exam. Once you've passed both steps, you'll earn your CPP designation! You'll need to re-certify every 3 years, a process that is by design meant to ensure that CPP holders are always at the top of their craft. Learn more about the steps to becoming a CPP here.

Once you've earned your certification, it's time to start marketing it to possible customers! Keep in mind these 3 points when marketing your CPP designation:

1. Image & Advertising Edge

The fact that you are a CPP is an immediate huge trust indicator for clients and potential clients alike. By showing that you are certified on all of your advertising, you are telling them that they can rely on you to consistently produce high-quality images. 

As Gregg Martin, CPP, says, "Photographers are coming out of the woodwork in every town in America, and being a CPP places you in a much different category than the average photographer. Being a CPP has opened doors to numerous corporate jobs, magazine work, sports contracts and several other opportunities in my career. It makes that instant difference between a hobbyist (even good ones) and a pro. And in a split second only."

2. Pricing Justification

As you know, the digital era has made it easier for inexperienced and fly-by-night photographers to enter the industry. Often, they undercut the profession by charging extremely low rates. Your CPP designation helps clients justify your higher asking prices. After all, don't they want the best photos possible for once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings and graduations? The inexperienced guy may be cheaper, but they'll get what they pay for when it comes to quality of images!

3. Peer Validation

Make sure your clients know that your certification is granted to you by Professional Photographers of America. It is the world's largest non-profit association for professional photographers and that alone is added credibility for your work. Before you can get certified, or even renew your certification, other photographers who have also earned the designation review your skills via the exam and the image submission. That process shows that you are knowledgeable and dedicated to your craft. And the fact that you must re-certify every 3 years shows that you are keeping up with the latest skills and techniques in photography. That should help put clients' minds at ease when hiring you. 

4. Boost Your Confidence

Once you've earned your certification, you should be proud of what you've accomplished! After all, you are now one of the few Certified Professional Photographers, meaning that you can be confident that your work is top-notch. This confidence will come through when you are speaking with clients and help put them at ease with hiring you. 

There you have it! We hope that the edge you can gain over the competition has inspired you to become a CPP. Just remember, you've got to be a PPA member to earn your certification. Join today! 

Watch this video for more on the CPP program, and you can read all about it at


And the copyright movement rolls on! PPA CEO David Trust sent us some quick updates before hopping on a plane to return to PPA HQ from Washington.

Today, Trust met with Joe Russo, Coalitions Director for the House Judiciary Committee. Says David: "He is very receptive of our message and feels House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will work hard to protect the rights of small business copyright holders." 

Trust then met with Tommy Binion, Legislative Director for Congressman Steve King, and says, "He loves our 'copyright-holder-next-door' approach, and was very interested in our message."

As part of this visit, Trust also  delivered post Orphan Works Roundtable comments on behalf of photographic and graphic arts associations. The comments also announced the formation of the Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) Coalition, made up of stakeholders from creative communities, and led by PPA. The Coalition  was created to provide equity and representation for all industries involved in creating, distributing, using and preserving images. Trust took the lead on authoring the group's comments, which you can read in full.

The document is a bit long, but demonstrates the great importance of this legislation for creators and small business owners.

PPA will continue to provide updates on the ongoing copyright movement. Check back for the latest!

Written by guest blogger, Danielle Brooks

As an incoming freshman at Flagler College you have to attend the annual convocation. When you enter the auditorium, members of the staff and faculty hand you a railroad tie. During the assembly, students are told that today is the first day in the journey to building their legacy.
Flagler College, located in St. Augustine, Florida, was originally the Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler. It became a college in 1968. Henry Flagler is most famous for founding Standard Oil. He was also the mastermind behind building the East Coast Railway. It runs all throughout Florida and up the East Coast. 

Flagler, being a businessman, decided to build a hotel along the railroad, so the elite in society had a place to vacation. He didn't want them to stay for the weekend, because then everyone could do that. His hotel was exclusive. In order to stay at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, you had to stay all season. 

Before he made it big in the oil industry, Flagler originally went into business with his brother-in-law to form the Flagler and York Salt Company. With the American Civil War, the demand for salt drastically decreased and they eventually went out of business. Flagler lost $50,000 he borrowed from his family as well as another $50,000 he saved from years of working. Because Flagler didn't let that failure stop him, he went on leave a legacy that is still standing and impacting thousands of students every year.

I graduated from Flagler College in December of 2009 with a degree in Communication. I got a job straight out of college working as an Associate Producer at Channel 4 in Jacksonville. After a year, I determined journalism wasn't for me. All my life, I wanted to be a journalist and I found I didn't like it. It was crushing. 

Broken and a little lost for direction, a former teacher offered me a job writing press releases part time at Flagler. After a month or two, the Web and New Media Services Department decided to take me on as a contractor for a couple of video projects. Once that work ran out, my boss asked me if I knew how to use a camera. 

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Here are the 10 photography blogs from May 11 - May 16, 2014 that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the web to be more!

1. Walmart Files Suit Against Photographer's Widow

Yeah, that Walmart. We haven't seen a case of copyright infringement bullying like this since... nope this one is a first! Read more on how the world's largest retailer is trying to push around a small Arkansas studio.

2. Powerful Women in Photography

This video from Silber Studios features two well-known PPA Members: Bambi Cantrell and Anna Kuperberg! Watch them discuss their careers, as well as the role women play in photography. Do you agree with them?

3. Hear About Amazon's Patent on Studio (Lighting) Arrangement? Here's What it Means for You

The announcement that Amazon has patented a commonly practiced studio arrangement for its products has created quite a buzz in the industry. Even Stephen Colbert weighed in on the matter. We chatted with PPA attorney, Stephen Morris to see what it really means for you photographers. You might be surprised by what he says!

4. Working with Layer Masks

If you struggle with Layer Masks in Photoshop, or just need a refresher, this tutorial from PhotoFocus will help you become (way) more comfortable with this process 

5. When is Altering Your Image Acceptable? A Debate on Post-processing

Landscape Photographers will find the points raised in this Digital Photography School post interesting. When you're taking photos of the natural environment, what is acceptable to alter in post-processing? One landscape photographer weighs in. What do you think?

6. The #1 Way Photography Can Change Your Life

We all need a little encouragement every now and then. This inspiring post from Photography Concentrate points out the most important way photography can impact people's lives. It may not be what you think!

7. 4 Great Image Tools to Drive Facebook Engagement

Trying to build engagement with potential clients on your Facebook page? Well, it should come as no surprise that you should be using images on your page, but how exactly should you use them? This video from the H&H Color Lab blog provides some tips for working with images on Facebook that could help your page out!

8. How to Photograph Using Reflective Light
Do you shoot using natural lighting? Check out these tips from Sigma on using reflective light. It can help you get the natural lighting right, even during a time of the day when it's not at its best.

9. Getting Sharper Images - an Understanding of Focus Modes

We all want our photos to be sharp and in focus. In this post, Digital Photography School reviews the different focus modes and how they affect an image. It's great if you're new to the industry, or if you just need a reminder!

10. The Easy Way To Write About Yourself (Without Feeling Like A Jerk)

The dreaded "About Me" page of your website. What on earth should you write? Psychology for Photographers shares some ideas that should take the stress out of creating an About page.

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.

When we read about Amazon's new "Studio Arrangement" Patent (#8,676,045), we had to ask for PPA attorney Stephen Morris's input. While you might agree with Shoot the Centerfold's statement that the patent is "BS", the fact is that it's already been granted, so you still need to be careful.

Morris breaks it all down below:

PPA Attorney Stephen Morris Weighs-in On Amazon's Studio Arrangement Patent

What's a patent?

Patents are one of the main areas of intellectual property law (the others being copyright, trademark and trade secret). As noted by the U.S. Patent Office, once granted, a patent gives the inventor the right to "exclude others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted."

A utility patent, such as the one obtained by Amazon, can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.

What does the Amazon patent mean for photographers?

"Based on my review, the patent granted to Amazon is for the specific process outlined in the patent. This means that the act, or series of acts, described in the patent may not be replicated by others (unless a license is obtained). However, it does not prohibit photographers from using other methods to achieve the same or a similar result. As many have noted online, photographers have used various techniques throughout the years to create images of people and products on seamless backgrounds."

Am I / will I be infringing?

"Patents are a complex area of the law. Determining whether the use of a particular process to achieve a result is 'infringing' is very fact intensive and subject to judicial interpretation.

While nothing in this article is, nor should it be considered, legal advice, we can outline what it takes for a patent owner to establish that someone is infringing on their patent.

In order to claim infringement of a patent, the owner must demonstrate that every element of a claim is (1) literally infringed or (2) infringed under the doctrine of equivalents. The doctrine of equivalents involves situations in which the alleged infringement process has the "substantial equivalent" of each and every claim or limitation of the patent.

This means that if even just one element of a patent's infringement claim is missing from the process, then it is not infringement."

So... How many claims are there in the Amazon patent?

"There are 27 'claims' associated with the Amazon patent, and they're pretty darn specific. (If you're interested, you can actually view the patent in its entirety.)

As an example, Amazon's first claim is presented below. It requires that nine (9) very specific elements be present in the process:

A studio arrangement, comprising:

  1. a background comprising a white cyclorama;
  2. a front light source positioned in a longitudinal axis intersecting the background, the longitudinal axis further being substantially perpendicular to a surface of the white cyclorama;
  3. an image capture position located between the background and the front light source in the longitudinal axis, the image capture position comprising at least one image capture device equipped with an eighty-five millimeter lens, the at least one image capture device further configured with an ISO setting of about three hundred twenty and an f-stop value of about 5.6;
  4. an elevated platform positioned between the image capture position and the background in the longitudinal axis, the front light source being directed toward a subject on the elevated platform;
  5. a first rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the first rear light source positioned below a top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at an upward angle relative to a floor level;
  6. a second rear light source aimed at the background and positioned between the elevated platform and the background in the longitudinal axis, the second rear light source positioned above the top surface of the elevated platform and oriented at a downward angle relative to the floor level;
  7. a third rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in a lateral axis intersecting the elevated platform and being substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, the third rear light source further positioned adjacent to a side of the elevated platform;
  8. and a fourth rear light source aimed at the background and positioned in the lateral axis adjacent to an opposing side of the elevated platform relative to the third rear light source; wherein a top surface of the elevated platform reflects light emanating from the background such that the elevated platform appears white and a rear edge of the elevated platform is substantially imperceptible to the image capture device;
  9. And the first rear light source, the second rear light source, the third rear light source, and the fourth rear light source comprise a combined intensity greater than the front light source according to about a 10:3 ratio."

So should I take this thing seriously?

Yes! Much like our stance on copyright, PPA takes the position that all intellectual property rights should be respected. Whether we like it or not, this patent has been issued, and photographers are encouraged to follow the law and to avoid replicating the process outlined in the Patent's claims.

That being said, PPA is monitoring the situation to ensure that Amazon's attempts to protect its patent do not overreach in ways that are detrimental to the photography profession as a whole. If you are contacted by Amazon or a law firm representing them with a cease and desist demand, please contact PPA's Customer Services... immediately. PPA takes this matter very seriously and we will help where needed.


There are three types of symbiotic relationships among organisms. Mutualistic relationships benefit both organisms involved because the two organisms of different species work together.

Bees and flowering plants are a good illustration of a mutualistic relationship. The bees get to eat and the flowering plants get to reproduce, therefore everybody wins.

In commensal relationships one of the organisms benefits while the other organism is unaffected, as in the example of remora fish and sharks. A remora clings to the shark and uses it for transportation. It also eats the little scraps of food that float by as the shark is feeding. In this way the remora benefits from hanging onto the shark but the shark is unaffected by the remora's clingy presence.

Lastly, there are parasitic relationships. Ominous sounding, isn't it? You're right to feel alarmed. In parasitic relationships, one organism (the parasite) lives off another organism (the host) harming it and in some cases even causing its death! A disturbing analogy of a parasitic relationship would be the relation of Camera One and Camera Three.

Nodding your head in agreement? Confused? Allow me to clarify.

When Trish and I are shooting the formal photographs at weddings we refer to each other jokingly as Camera One and Camera Two. I am Camera One because I actually take the photographs during this portion of the day. I am responsible for composition, exposure, and execution of the photographs. Trish (Camera Two) with her shot list, wrangles the families and bridal parties, organizes them into pleasing groupings and takes lovely B-roll candids while the main photographs are being shot. In addition to Camera One and Camera Two, there is ALWAYS a Camera Three.

Camera Three is a wedding guest with a good camera. Camera Three hangs around while we snap our formal portraits, like the aforementioned remora, gobbling up what leftover photo bits they can scavenge. Annoying, but no real harm done to Camera One.

Not this weekend though my friends. This weekend, Camera Three crossed the line from commensal into full-blown parasitic, maiming Camera One and certainly adversely affecting Camera Two. Here's how it went down...

Upon arriving to the ceremony site I immediately spotted Camera Three (and his 70-200mm lens) eyeing me from a distance. Although I did my best to avoid his penetrating gaze, Camera Three made his way across the lawn to position himself just to the left of me. In situations like this I find it's best not to formally acknowledge the presence of Camera Three. I stood fast, my eyes fixed straight ahead, waiting for the bride to emerge at the top of the aisle for her grand entrance.

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My tactic didn't work. As the bride began her procession and I lifted my camera to my face, Camera Three decided to engaged me verbally.

Talking to the side of my head he asked, "Is this where you plan to stand? Really? I would have thought you'd stand at the front of the aisle. Well, just so you know, I plan to stand right here."

I nodded slightly, careful not to break my concentration on the bride but just enough not to be completely rude. I thought, here we go. We've got a live one.

Things went from bad to worse to downright bizarre during the formals. I have been shooting weddings for 19 years. In nearly two decades I have never encountered such a situation. Maybe like viruses, the Camera Three's have developed into a new strain of super bug. The disapproving looks given by Camera One and Camera Two that would have normally driven off Camera Three in the past had absolutely zero effect in deterring him from his single-handed hostile pursuit of hijacking the formal photographs.

As usual, we had a list of shots to get through and not a lot of time to do them. Unfortunately, each time I would shoot a group and Camera Two (Trish) would move in to set up the next group Camera Three would jump in and stop the action so he could get his shot.

"Wait! Just a few more. Move back into position. Oh, straighten that bowtie! Okay, ONE... TWO...," he'd shout. Trish and I stood there mouths hanging open in disbelief while he was shooting.

After a handful of his interruptions I couldn't take it anymore. Acutely aware the eyes of my clients and their families on me I said, "This isn't going to work for me. I don't mind you taking the photos but you can't keep stopping the action. We have time constraints and you are making it difficult to keep on schedule."

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Camera Three was indignant. "Then how am I supposed to get the shots?! The mother of the bride asked me to do this!" he insisted.

Oh great, I worried. Now I've offended the bride's uncle or someone equally as important.

Seeing no graceful way out of the confrontation happening in front of my clients I offered, "You should stand right next to me while I am shooting then. Take the shots at the same time that I am."

What happened next can only be described as "synchronized shadowing." Camera Three took my advice quite literally. If I moved left he moved left. If I moved right he moved right. If I crouched down... you guessed it, he crouched down. He had breached my personal space, but at least the photos were humming along. That is until he went Mike Tyson on me...

He didn't bite my ear off exactly but when I turned to look over my shoulder his lens hood was so close to my head that it scraped all the peach fuzz off the back of my ear. That's when Camera Two stepped in, "Sir, you have got to back off you are smothering Camera One."

After a tense moment, Camera Three, satisfied with his photo plundering, retreated to the cocktail hour for some chimping.

Believe me, I am not one to shy away from photo related confrontation. Trish has often been surprised by the creepy calm lecturing and finger wagging I have bestowed upon drunken wedding guests, random obnoxious bystanders, fellow vendors and in some cases security guards. Something about this guy really threw me for a loop though. Was it his complete unprofessionalism coupled with his professional camera? Was it the fear that I would upset my clients by getting into it with him in front of them? Was it the risk of insulting an important member of the family? Was it caution over acting like too much of a photo diva? I guess it was all of the above.

camera 3.3.jpg

After the formal photographs finished I had a few minutes to myself to ponder how I could have handled the situation differently. I was mad with myself for allowing Camera Three to treat me so disrespectfully.

As I stood rubbing my raw ear and beating myself up for being so passive the groom appeared. "I wanted to apologize for that guy during the photos. He was crazy! He's like the mother of the bride's co-workers husband or something. I guess she asked him to take some photos because he's a yearbook photographer. The bride and I were getting really uncomfortable and upset about him but you handled it so gracefully and professionally. I just wanted to thank you."

I felt better. Sure, my ear is a little shredded. Yes, my ego is a little bruised. At least I didn't look like a crazy jerk. Trish and I looked tolerant and professional. Our lack of action toward Camera Three made his ridiculous actions look all the more inappropriate in the eyes of our clients. To be respectful of them I needed to ignore Camera Three's disrespect of me. My obligation lies in creating beautiful photographs for my clients not in throwing my weight around.

As the night went on the father of the bride and the best man also gave us a pat on the back for our professionalism and a thank you for our hard work. After a while, Camera Three finally laid down his long lens to join the party. It just goes to show that a professional camera does not a professional make.

Professional wedding photographers, good luck out there battling the parasitic Camera Three's of the world this wedding season. Just when you feel like pitching a fit remember to go the way of Ghandi. Practice some nonviolent resistance and make yourself look like a true professional. 

with Bridget Jackson, CPA and PPA Business manager

In April, Bridget brought you some pretty great last-minute tax tips. Hopefully that gave you a chance to give your finances a good, stern look. Did you like what you saw? Even in the most successful businesses, you can find ways to boost profitability. 

That's where Bridget's column comes in handy! Here are 8 helpful tips to increase your profit margins:

  1. Mix it up. Increasing sales and cutting costs is on everyone's mind. Most people think that in order to grow sales you have to increase prices. That's certainly one way, but you can also offer add-on services and products that complement your current offerings, in turn increasing your sales average. Also, to cut costs see what processes you can automate or outsource. 
  2. Separate yourself from your competition. Find ways to differentiate yourself. Whether it's entering print competitions to refine your craft or finding ways to increase your social media presence or maybe it's becoming known for working with a specific charity. Be mindful that YOU are the differentiator in your business.   
  3. Streamline overhead costs. Workflow tracking and assessment needs to be done regularly to assure maximum productivity and to identify inefficiencies. Unfortunately tracking productivity is often overlooked but it's a great way to identify opportunities to reduce costs.
  4. Rent killing your business? Explore options for co-leasing a space with a like-minded business, whether that business is photography related or they attract a similar clientele. There has been also an increase in the number of owners that have brought their business in-home. Bottom line, if paying rent is sucking up your profits, find an alternative. 
  5. Keep them coming back. It is easier and less expensive to keep current clients coming back than it is to gain a new client. Consider a referral program to incentivize referrals. Also evaluate your client touch points and create new ways to take your customer service to a whole new level of hospitality.
  6. Selling every step of the way. Selling begins with your first point of contact. Your sales strategy should be clearly defined. Anyone in the studio who comes in contact with a client is a sales person and needs to understand the businesses' unique sales strategy as well as be well-versed on all of the session and product offerings.
  7. Make it easy to buy. Keep it simple, simple, simple from the client experience to the product offerings to collecting payments. Remember the ordering appointment is not a viewing appointment. Consider incentivizing your clients to make their purchase at the ordering appointment. You can also set up a session fee structure that includes a print credit or allow for payment plans to make it easier for your client to make larger purchases.  
  8. Understand your cash flow challenges. Due to the cyclical nature of most photography businesses, consider promotional offerings during off-peak times, perhaps ones with charitable connections. Not only can they generate some cash flow when it's much needed but these promotions can also increase your presence in your market. Build reserves during peak season to help smooth those months when cash flow is challenged. This way you can avoid using credit cards and incurring high interest expense charges. 

Bridget Jackson is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

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Here are our 10 favorite photography blog posts from the first full week of May.  In this week's round-up, you'll find some egregious errors to either laugh at or learn from (heck, or both!), helpful tips and of course just some flat-out beautiful imagery. Enjoy!

1). Oh No! Someone Stole Photos from the Person Who Runs Photo Stealers

That's not an error. Someone stole photos from the site that shames people for stealing photos. Like, seriously. Hopefully you don't see anything of yours on there that looks familiar, but better check!

2). The 13 Best Wedding Photos from Exotic Destinations

Destination weddings make for remarkable backdrops. We're jealous of anyone who has the budget to just go to these places, let alone spend the bucks to bring a talented photographer along! Take a look at this gallery of envy.

3). 7 Simple Photography Hacks

We love these! Photographer Leo Rosas put together this video of some clever tricks he uses. If you've been looking for easy ways to add artsy elements to your shooting or even create a moving timelapse, check these out!

4). Photographer Finds Beauty in Truth or Consequences

Have you heard of Spaceport America? It's the world's first purpose-built spaceport for commercial passengers, and it's set for its inaugural launch later this year (for just $250,000 a ticket, you could go on a sub-orbital flight too!). The spaceport is located just outside a town called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson got to check out this little slice of America. Take a look!

5). Get the Testimonials You're After With 3 Simple Questions

Jenika over at Psychology for Photographers dishes out all kinds of advice, but we dig this post in particular. If you're tired of digging through Facebook comments and emails for some testimonials to use in your marketing, you need to read this post and test out Jenika's ideas. Bring in those rave reviews faster!

6). Socks for your Tripod

There's one thing you're probably forgetting that you need in your camera bag. Tripod socks? Sure... we'll bite. For the slightly OCD photographer who wants to keep their sticks (look at us using industry slang!) clean, try out this easy cheat to keep your gear fresh.

7). World War I Photos

Take a trip back in time with these breathtaking photos taken during World War I. The black and white always seems to make the harrowing effects of war more haunting, but there's even an early experimentation with color photography in this collection. Can you imagine lugging around the camera equipment of the times during a battle?

8). Ultra long Exposures on your iPhone

For your "behind-the-scenes" needs, iPhone cameras are great and all, but one area they lack is long exposure functionality. Well, not anymore. There's an app for that! Check out the latest from Interealtime, the NightCap Pro.

9). The 10 Rules of Street Photography

Think you can just step out on the street and take pictures? Well, you can, per se, but expert street photographer Blake Andrews is here to give you 10 "rules" to live by when you're shooting guerrilla style. It's our kind of list! Very tongue-in-cheek and with a cardinal rule of have fun!

10). A Day in the Boots of a Timelapse Photographer

It's hard to call this an "average day," but for timelapse photographer, Joe Schat, of Roadtrippers, that's exactly what it is. Jealous is an understatement!

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.


Entering into the International Photographic Competition (IPC) can be intimidating, even if you know the 12 elements of a merit image like the back of your hand. It's easy to speculate what the judges are looking for in an image before they consider granting it a merit, so down below you'll find resources to clarify all this. You'll also find some tips on things to really avoid. 

There's a PPAedu series with IPC judge, Michael Timmons, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., CPP, F-ASP about all things relating to photo competition! Who better to tell you what the judges are looking for than... an actual judge? 

There's also a 3 easy-to-digest, 20-minute videos that break down the 12 elements. Watch them one at a time or back to back--however you learn best! They are must-watch for those who are newer to photographic competition, and an excellent refresher for those already preparing their entries this year. And because it's all on PPAedu, you can watch them as many times as you'd like. It's just one of the many benefits of your PPA membership

In the first part, Michael walks you through 4 of the 12 elements: Impact, Creativity, Style and Composition

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And to round things out, the 3rd piece focuses the last 4 elements: Color Balance, Technical Excellence, Technique and Storytelling

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Now you're well on your way to submitting a merit-worthy image at this year's International Photographic Competition! Entries are open May 26 - June 26 (or July 10 with a late fee). If you want to get the full experience, be sure to order a critique of your image. A judge like Michael will record a video showing you what you did well and what cause the image to fall short for a merit. It's a very effective way to find out what to work on and there's no better way to improve your craft!

These three videos and over 250 more are available to PPA members and PPAedu subscribers! Not a PPA member? Join now or subscribe to PPAedu to get full access to all the PPAedu on-demand videos.

Here are the 10 photography blogs from April 27 - May 2, 2014 that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the web to be more!

If you want to catch the travel bug, skip this post. Here are PhotoShelter's 24 best places to photograph around the world. From Antarctica to Arizona and everywhere in between, these images will inspire you to update your passport and take to the friendly skies. 

This is a whole new way to take a photograph. Luke Evans and Joshua Lake let their digestive systems do the work and judging by the results on Beautiful Decay, the outcome is stunning. Check out the black and white images here.

Need an end-of-the-week giggle? James Lout (PPA member and self-proclaimed Imaging USA junkie) has a great post on how to take beautiful, jaw dropping images with your lens cap on. Read and laugh

National Geographic photographers take you below the surface to show you top tips and tricks to capturing great underwater imagery. This is a must-read if you have upcoming adventures.

As a photography professional, you know how to get ready for your next assignment. You know how to pack your equipment, check you gear and prepare yourself for a successful event. Well, let FStoppers introduce you to Richard B. Flores. He takes his prep to a new level of syncing, charging, cleaning and more! It's really something to be admired!

PetaPixel brings you the most complex video to showcase the city of Boston we've ever seen. The video includes tilt-shift, HRD, hyperlapse and more in one quick video -you'll definitely find something that inspires you!

Think of this as a creative challenge to grow and stretch your creativity! Try a time stack image, or using a new kind of lens! These 9 challenges from Digital Camera World are sure to make you think!

If you're an avid tweeter, you'll love this from Lightroom Killer Tips. They've come up with a game plan for your presets for the newly released Twitter profiles. Read on to keep your profile looking fresh!

Whether you're on a boat, on the shore or in the skies above the beautiful waves, you'll enjoy these tips on getting the most out of your sea-adventures from the folks at Light Stalking. 

If you're just getting started in this industry, you will love these tips from Digital Photography School on working with models (or if you've been in the industry for a while, it's a nice refresher)! Get tips on picking locations, outfits, remember model releases and more!

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2014 is the previous archive.

June 2014 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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