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By James Yates

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You may already have the art of photography down, but is your business where you'd like it to be? If you find yourself wanting to learn how to boost your bottom line, the PPA Business Challenge is for you! 

The Business Challenge provides photography business owners with the information and tools they need to develop the foundation for a more profitable business over the course of one year. Not only do they receive the tools required to make changes to their business, but also step-by-step instruction and support from PPA mentors as they implement these changes. 

We all know that photographers are entrepreneurs, small business owners with a passion for their craft. We also know that, more often than not, many photographers open their studios as artists, not having gone to business school, nor carrying a finance background. It is part of PPA's mission, as a nonprofit, to help our members understand and implement the basic business principles needed to maintain a sustainable studio. 

The Business Challenge is meant to be a fun, interactive way for PPA members to integrate as much business acumen as they can in one year's time. There is work involved, as this "challenge" is meant for photographers who are serious about wanting to take their business to the next level. Participants will have tasks to complete and the opportunity to be active members of accountability groups and peer-to-peer mentoring. 

"PPA's business advice is based on years of experience and successful business mentoring," says Angela Kurkian, M.Photog.Cr., CPP and Director of Education at PPA. "The Business Challenge helps our members be more business-confident. It helps them think and strategize as a savvy business person." 

Kurkian led a presentation on the Business Challenge (pictured above) and its first year at this year's Imaging USA in San Antonio. Titled "4 Things You Need to Know to Be Successful", the group panel included Gregory Daniel, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, F-ASP; Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API; and participants from the previous year's Business Challenge. 

As an example of the kinds of takeaways you'll gain from the Challenge, they presented these four steps to success... 

  1. #CreateABusinessModelThatWorks: Their first word of advice, and the guiding plan for the upcoming Business Challenge, is to define success for YOU. Making a business plan that works for you and your needs is step one on the road to a successful photography business. Separate qualitative and quantitative goals. Use the Square One tool available through PPA to figure out what your pricing needs are going to be for profitability and sustainability. Remember: the goal is to pay yourself. You are not your business!
  2. Use Your Time Wisely: Your time is limited. There are only so many hours in the day. Know how much time you need and respect it because it's precious. Use PPA's Benchmarks to track where your studio is and trust them to help you prioritize and understand your needs. 
  3. Understand Your Customer's Needs: Begin with the end in mind. Photography is not about the image, it's about what you're going to do with the image. Develop products to sell to your clients that have a purpose. Products that will surprise and delight them. And, finally...
  4. Do the Work: Sounds easiest of all, right? Wrong. You'd be surprised how many people fall down on this sword. But you can stay accountable and get the support you need through PPA's Business Challenge. 

The Business Challenge is free to PPA members and includes tools to understand and develop the foundations of a profitable business with:

  • A step-by-step support system 
  • Answers to the most vital business questions 
  • A personalized success and business plans
  • Lists and guidelines to help prioritize 
  • Inspiration and help to stay focused 
  • A framework to avoid getting overwhelmed 
  • Accountability partners with other photographers with the same challenges 

Want to join the Challenge? Sign up today at PPA.com/Challenge to enroll in the next Challenge Group, which begins in August, and spend the next 12 months working on your personalized success path. Sign up today to begin your Challenge Group and Be More Business Savvy!

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By Lisa Sharer


If you've read our previous article Marketing 101 for Photographers, you may have a general idea of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Now, let's break it down to exactly how it works, and what you can do to optimize your websites for search engines... and ultimately get more clients from improved search results.

Top Level Search Engine Marketing Factors

You probably know of some widely used search engines like Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com. These sites decide what rank to give to your website amongst the other photography businesses out there in the world and this directly impacts how far up your studio's name appears in a search results page. How they do that raking is a more involved process that you might want to learn to help you improve your own SEO ranking.

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Search engines sort the search results they serve based off a few different factors:

  • Content - Does your content match the search of your potential client?

  • Site Structure and Internal Links - Is it user friendly, and do all your links work?

  • Geographical Location - Are you in or nearby the city where the client is looking for photography?

  • Mobile Optimization - Is your site easy to use on a mobile device (phone, tablet, e-reader, etc.)?

  • Loading Time - How long does it take for your site to load its content (photos, videos, etc.)?

  • Social Signals - Are you getting traffic from social media platforms?

Search engines have "bots" or "crawlers" that visit websites and check each of the items above. Once they have tested those items they then compare your website to other similar websites. Your ranking will depend on how you fare against those sites, which is why it's imperative that you make sure each item is performing at its best.

Improve Your Ranking with Authority & Relevance

Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com all use two common criteria within the algorithm used to produce search results. And while they all evaluate them differently, there are two key factors for you to understand as they will help with your optimization: 

Authority- A website shows its level of credibility based off how many links tie it to other websites. This is what search engines call the level of 'online authority' and this is where you look to other sites and influencers to help raise your site's authority. When a search engine finds your site through an outside link, it's showing it that you have enough authority that other people/sites trust your content. Beware though, it's not the quantity of links that helps you but their quality. For example, a direct link from PPmag.com would fare better than JoeSchmoPhotography.net.

Relevance-  The content on your site must be relevant to photography or some version of your expertise (portraiture, wedding, etc.) in order to rank higher. That means you'll need to use keywords that speak directly to what your photography business offers to your prospective clients. It's not just the words on your landing pages that you'll need to keep an eye on, though. You'll also want to make sure that your URLs and text formatting are shouting about your business. For example, when PPA wanted to tell you how insurance could help protect photographers, then we created the link PPA.com/BeMoreProtected. Likewise, to emphasize the content relevance of a blog post, it earn will you more SEO brownie point if you embed keywords in the headlines of your blog post, and it is even better yet if you bold keyword-related phrases. Make sure to keep those small things in mind when creating any kind of content, as they make a large difference to the search engines that crawl your site.

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Keywords

When someone does a search online, they generally type in a few keywords. For instance, photographer or family portraits in [location]. These keywords are important to make sure you are attracting quality leads. Of course, it would be amazing to rank #1 for photographer, but if you're not Wikipedia, that's not likely to happen. That's why long tail keywords have become more important than ever to your SEO strategy. You'll need keyword lists in order to run search ads, but it's also important to think about these keywords when creating content for your site.

Remember, those search engine results pages are looking for relevant and authoritative information to improve your ranking. So you will want to include information and keywords that are specific to your specialty and locale. Rather than just "portrait studio," maybe you'll want to include things like "outdoor family photography in [city]" or "high school senior photography in [area]," etc.

Most photographers overlook the power and importance of long tail keywords. Getting by on the basic short tail keyword is fast and takes little to no research. So, of course, we want to get things done quick and easy. However, if you take that route you're missing out on a huge opportunity. Optimizing for long tail keywords will make your site stand out over the quick solution photographers.

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Content is King

If you know or have even met anyone in the online marketing world, we can guarantee they've said this at least a thousand times (and you've probably heard it at least once). Content is King. Gone are the days of dial up and Encyclopedia Britannica door-to-door salesmanship. People use the World Wide Web daily for work and for pleasure. Hungry minds are looking for education, news, social interactions, and of course, information gathering and shopping. A trusted website is going to capture those hungry minds ahead of any bells and whistles that you can sound off.

This means you need more than your homepage and gallery. You need to include content on your website that is engaging and valuable. And that content has to be 'relevant' to the searches of your potential clients. So, how do you easily add this essential content to your site? Through blogging. Having a regular blog with new and continuing content will not only delight clients looking for an added value to a site visit, but it also helps improve your search ranking.

Even if writing isn't your strong suit, blogging is a good way to relate to your clients, make you a real human being, and again help with your rankings. We do recommend having someone proof read for you if the copy is more than a couple of paragraphs long, but you are in the visual business! Use this to your (business') advantage and share behind the scenes photos, or selfies with clients, or location scouting shots by adding captions that show that you are who you and your clients say you are! Here are a few tips and ideas for blog content:

  • Added Value - Don't just write a bunch of words because you can. Think about what would really add value for your clients and go nuts! (How to prepare for a session, organizing the family for the portrait, best grooming tips for your puppy's first photo, what not to wear and why, etc.)

  • Compare - Look at the top 10 photography sites that you currently aspire to rank with. Take a look at how they used your keywords (frequency, position, etc.) and compare that to your current content.

  • SEO_Goldfish_1200x1200.jpgBe Engaging - A white page with black text is going to put most everyone to sleep. Make sure that you include photos, graphics or videos, if you can, but also remember to use bullet points and headlines (ahem, look at this blog) to help organize the content and guide the reader through your content.

  • Get To the Point - along with the age of super-fast internet, also comes people's super-short attention spans. Use enough detail to get your point across, but also get to the point quickly.

  • Have Fun - If you're not having fun with your content, it will show. People enjoy a good personal, conversational tone, and they will read more if they feel that in your words. From Throwback Thursdays #TBT, behind the scenes, bloopers or plain fun shots, people will get to know you better, making them come to like you more each time you make them smile, so have fun with them!


Stay Ahead of the SEO Game

All search engines and their bots are getting more and more complex because they're trying to think more and more like humans would think by using artificial intelligence to help answer your online searches. So rather than changing your site and content constantly to try and improve your ranking, put your hard work into the relevance of the content you create. That's what artificial intelligence will be looking for as well.

SEO_Robot_1200x1200.jpgAs you learn more about optimization and search engines, you'll start reaching that perfect client because you will be more liked by social media platforms, you will have more visitors on your website, and you'll have more followers on your blog. All these are indicators that your online presence as a photographer is trustworthy (relating to you online authority) and likeable (relating to the relevance of the content you push online) and, as we opened this article, people who like you who will do business with you. This fact of life also applies to Bing, Yahoo and Google who will improve your search ranking once they trust you and see that you are relevant in among photographers with in your area.

And as we've said in previous articles, test, test, test! If something isn't working, you can only fix it by trying something else. Just don't forget that you have plenty of marketing resources right at your fingertips with PPA's See The Difference® tools. Work on your website and blog to get more visits, and rock those See The Difference tools to be more relevant and start capturing more sales.




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About the author:
Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.

By Lisa Sharer

People came from far and wide to San Antonio for the annual professional photographers' conference, Imaging USA 2017, to hear amazing speakers, and absorb their wisdom. Of all the educational series featured at the event, the PRINT program talks emphasize print product sales as a core component of your photography business. Now, you can get an exclusive look at the live recording of this inspiring program. Watch Photographers and Print Artists Tim Walden, Allison Tyler Jones, and the world renowned photographer, Sue Bryce, as they walk you through their processes. Each speaker has unique experiences that you can apply in your everyday business to help you sell more prints.



When you're done hanging on their every word, join the PRINT movement! Once you sign up, you'll get monthly tips, info, tools, videos, etc. to help you grow as a Print Artist and help you grow your photography business. (By the way, these resources will be completely FREE to you!)
by Sidra Safri


3/29/17
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12:20 p.m.

H.B 1695 has passed the House Judiciary Committee today! It pass with 27 yeas and 1 nay. Remember, this bill is proposing to make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee. 

PPA fully supports this since we were shocked by the abrupt termination of Maria Pallante. This is a great first step towards insuring that the Copyright Office is on the right path to modernization and continues to include small creators.

The bill will be presented to the House for a full vote soon.


11:23 a.m.

We are currently sitting in a house judiciary hearing (pictured, with portraits of Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Ranking member John Conyers) about making the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee. This part of the process is called a markup. During this "markup" all Representatives (those who support, are against, sponsored or any other stance) can submit their input and recommend changes. This ensures that the bill is properly debated and can pass when it is presented to the full house.

Stayed tuned for more updates and a preview of Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA)'s comments about the bill!


9:45 a.m.

This is day two for PPA on Capitol Hill and things are going great! 

Yesterday evening, we met with Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). This was our first time meeting with him and it was important to get his office up to speed about small claims and why it's so important to photographers. Rep Labrador's office showed a lot of interest in the bill since they are strong supporters of small businesses. They have asked us to keep them updated about the bill and we hope they will sign on when time comes.

After talking about small claims, we briefly talked about the Register of Copyright position becoming a presidential appointee. We found out that Representative Labrador is a co-sponsor of that bill. Upon hearing this, we wanted to take the time to thank him and his efforts to protect the copyright office.

After meeting with Representative Labrador, we ended the day meeting with Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)'s office. This was another first time meeting, but an important one, since she was recently asked to join the Judiciary Committee by Speaker Paul Ryan. This meeting went well, as we explained the intricacies of the small claims bill. Once again, we hope when times comes she will support small claims!

For the rest of today...we are doing things a little differently. We had a full day of meetings lined up. However, as we all know, things can change at the drop of a hat on Capitol Hill. Instead we are attending the bill markup of turning the Register of Copyrights into a presidential appointee. This will allow us to hear first-hand what changes are being made to the bill and also allows us to meet with Representatives and staffers.

Stay tuned for more updates!

And check out this morning's Facebook Live update (the screen alignment is fixed after the first 30 seconds or so!) with CEO David Trust and Government Affairs Coordinator Sidra Safri. 


3/28/17 
5:15 p.m.
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It's been another fantastic day on Capitol Hill for PPA and Small Claims!

Things started off at lunch with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Representative Blackburn gave great insight into how important copyright and IP issues are to many members of congress and how she fully understands where PPA is coming from. Being from Nashville, she knows the importance of protecting creative artists and will certainly look into Small Claims when the time comes.

During this lunch Rep. Blackburn also shared how upset she was when Maria Pallante was dismissed from the copyright office and is interested-- like much of congress-- to see how the bill suggests to turn the position into a presidential appointment. 

After lunch with Blackburn we met with Representative Mike Bishop (R-MI). This meeting was the first time PPA has met with this office. During this meeting it was clear that Representative Bishop's office understands that copyright law currently is flawed and knows that something needs to be done. His office is interested in seeing the small claims bill and we hope that his office will support small claims and go on to become a co-sponsor.

Once we left Representative Bishop's office we went to go visit Representative Lieu (D-CA)'s office. Representative Lieu has worked closely with Representative Chu on various items through the Judiciary committee and we hope he will sign on as well. During this time we also had the opportunity to talk about modernizing the copyright office as well as the introduction of the recent bill to make the registrar a presidential appointment.

We have two more meetings today and we hope that they go as well as all of our earlier ones did. Stay tuned! 


9:00 a.m.

Good morning everyone!

PPA is off to Washington D.C. again to continue laying the groundwork for small claims. We have a jam packed day ahead.

The main purpose of this trip is to continue bringing attention to the Freedom for American Small Creators Act (the small claims bill) and highlight why this is so important to creative artists, especially photographers. Since the bill has not been reintroduced yet (but it will be soon!), PPA hopes many of the representatives we talk to will be willing to co-sponsor the bill when time comes.

Stay tuned for more updates after our meetings with your representatives.

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The times, they are a changing... and it could have a HUGE impact on how professional photographers protect their images and their livelihood. 

Under the current copyright legislation, infringement claims must be filed in person and in federal court. Two unfortunate things about this: this is a labor-intensive process, and federal cases are very expensive. This is what keeps many pros from pursuing rightful justice. But things are about to change!

Thousands of creative professionals banded together in support of the "Fairness for American Small Creators Act," a "small claims bill" that would make it possible for small business image creators (including professional photographers) to take advantage of the U.S. copyright system for the first time since its inception!

If approved, the Act would allow for photographers and visual artists whose work has been infringed to file for a hearing with a small claims process online without having to hire an attorney.  Additionally, copyright claims could be filed without prior registration with the Copyright Office. The maximum recovery amount would be set at a manageable $30,000, ensuring that small creators have a place to remedy their copyright infringements, while also preventing the pipeline of infringement claims from becoming clogged (like it is now). Last but not least, those who still wish to pursue their claim in federal court may still do so. It's a win-win for copyright infringement victims and cases of all sizes.

The small claims issue is currently on the list of four necessary reforms Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has been advocating for the Copyright Office. Now more than ever is the time for creative artists to make their voices heard on Capitol Hill. Getting involved is easy. PPA has partnered with other leading visual arts organizations and created a Grassroots Action Team dedicated to fixing this broken copyright law. Visit their website PPA.com/Grassroots and add your name to a growing roster of individuals and businesses seeking more effective copyright legislation. Once signed-up and when the bill is reintroduced, you will receive alerts and information on how or when to contact your representative. 

For so many working photographers, making great images is a passion... and now protecting that work can be a right. Make your voice heard in supporting the "Fairness for American Small Creators Act" and the protections it brings to so many businesses and livelihoods.


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by James Yates
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The Business Challenge provides photography business owners with the information and tools they need to develop the foundation for a more profitable business over the course of one year. Not only do they receive the tools required to make changes to their business, but also step-by-step instruction and support from PPA mentors as they implement these changes.

The next Business Challenge starts April 1st and you don't want to miss it! Be sure to sign up for your year of fun, interactive inspiration for you to integrate as much business acumen as you can in one year's time. 

The first assignment is all about defining YOUR idea of success.  It's vital that photographers begin creating a roadmap that will take them where they want to go so they don't end up somewhere else completely. 

"Something I hear often," says Angela Kurkian, Education Director and moderator of the Business Challenge, "is this concept that helps people dismiss the idea that they should be profitable...the concept that success and money don't go hand-in-hand, as if accepting money for your craft were a bad thing. Should artists only make enough to pay the bills'? I don't think that's true."

Here's an example comment from a participant:

"I feel that many tie success with money.  There are so many other facets to success.  Don't get me wrong - I am not anti-money, I just want to make enough to pay my bills.  I want to be able to have a balanced work/personal life balance.  I shoot lots of events and sports.  One of my schools is one that has been ignored by many because it is a lower income school.  The impact that I have on these students make it all worth it.  They are so excited that someone will take the time to really care about them."

And here was Kurkian's response:

"Right on! I appreciate that sentiment completely; we can't be so focused on our wallets that we lose sight of how it feels to give of our gift.  I also appreciate that you choose to give to a lower income school. You're right; those schools don't get enough attention from local businesses because they become known as 'lower income schools'.  I have also learned that the more profitable I am, the more room I have in my schedule to give to those who would benefit from what I can offer.  It's a two sided coin.  It's that concept of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, before attending to those you're helping.  I admire you greatly and hope we can help you to develop and sustain an even more profitable level so that you can continue to give as you do."

For some, success is having the agency to be able to give back to others. For others, success may be the ability to take that yearly vacation. And for some, it may be a more existential definition. The concept of "defining success" leads to many great discussions on the PPA Business Challenge (like this great answer we shared last week). 

YOU should sign up now for April 1st's Business Challenge group. Consider it the next, big step toward success for your business! 

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by Sidra Safri 
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Do you ever wonder if your client fully understands their contract--especially the portions dealing with copyright or the usage rights? Some clients are so focused on the end product they completely forget that they may have to ask permission to use their new images for something other than personal use.
 
PPA has a small fix for that. Included in your membership kit (and renewal kit) is a stack of copyright inserts. These inserts can be stapled to your contract or be included in all the materials you provide to your client. The copyright inserts explain copyright law in a nutshell, and urge the clients to ask you, the photographer, for any additional information. Sometimes a gentle reminder or simple education can go a long way. 

These copyright inserts can be downloaded and printed anytime you need them here. 

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By James Yates
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The Business Challenge provides photography business owners with the information and tools they need to develop the foundation for a more profitable business over the course of one year. Not only do they receive the tools required to make changes to their business, but also step-by-step instruction and support from PPA mentors as they implement these changes.

The next Business Challenge starts April 1st and you don't want to miss it! Be sure to sign up for your year of fun, interactive inspiration for you to integrate as much business acumen as you can in one year's time. 

The first assignment is all about defining YOUR idea of success.  It's vital that photographers begin creating a road map that will take them where they want to go so they don't end up somewhere else completely. This was one challenger's answer - one of many great ones--from Lindsay Syme, owner of Lindsay Syme Photography in Spring Creek NV. She also just so happens to be the winner of the 2017 Dream Studio Giveaway at Imaging USA (see photo)! 

"Success is that fabulous thing you achieve when you set a goal and do the work it takes to reach that goal.

My Business Goals:  

• I want to contribute financially for my family: This starts with pricing for profit and having solid business foundations. I need to get over myself and see my worth. I see it in others but fail to see it in myself. I am making progress but still have much to do!

• I want to be 100% present in everything I do: I need to focus all of my attention on whatever it is that I am working on because I tend to be distracted, lack focus, or procrastinate.

• I want to give back to the community and others: Being able to give to others feels so dang good. There are so many areas in our community that I could make a difference. Having the financial means would be awesome as well as the time to volunteer. Again, goes back to pricing for profit so I can have the money and time.

• I want to educate and share with others: I know how grateful I am when others share their time and talent. I want to give back to my photography community. Teaching runs through my veins so I look forward to the day that I can contribute.

• I want to strive to be better and improve my craft: My last step to earning my CPP is the image submission. My eyes have been opened to a whole new perspective! I always want to be better and push for the next step, whatever that might be.

• I want to show others how valuable they are: It amazes me how many times I get put off as a customer by various businesses and business owners. I find it shocking! I want people to feel important. I want people to feel special. I want them to feel communicated to and valuable. I want to go above and beyond so others know how important they are. I feel like achieving these goals will result in success!"

It's going to be an exciting year for Lindsay and her fellow Challengers..including, hopefully, you! We'll check back in with Lindsay and see how things have progressed. YOU should sign up now for April 1st's Business Challenge group. Consider it next, big step toward success for your business


By Sidra Safri 
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Photographers BEWARE! Google's new imaging software, RAISR, is every photographer's worst nightmare. RAISR stands for "Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution". This software, like many others on the market, is able to take a low-quality image and turn it into a larger, and slightly better, image.

RAISR poses a bigger threat because this software is able to improve the image to make it look almost identical to the original! Even more worrisome is that this software is able to do this 10 to 100 times faster than most, and also works on mobile devices. With access to higher quality images on all devices, the door is now open for even more infringement opportunities without any remedy for photographers, perpetuating the unfair copyright-infringement cycle! As software continues to advance, it has become more important than ever to have a copyright-infringement remedy available for photographers and creative artists. 

With the passage of Small Claims legislation in the (relatively near) future, photographers will have the ability to prevent infringers from stealing their work. In order to make this a reality we need your support! Sign your name to the Grassroots Action Team at ppa.com/grassroots. We're trying to get 30,000+ names to show Congress how important this issue is for our members and their communities. For more information about small claims please visit ppa.com/advocacy or contact the Government Affairs Manager at ssafri@ppa.com.  

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By Lisa Sharer

Last year, several industry leaders came together to discuss the future of photography and the art of printing. Over the years we have seen a decline in the amount of printed works, and we've seen the effect it has on homes around the world. Every day someone loses all their cherished memories due to a lost phone, a digital collapse, or worse. The partners that instigated the initiative behind the PRINT movement came together to make a change.

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The PRINT Movement was born to help educate photographers on how to position themselves as print artists. This includes how to sell printed products, the importance of printed works of arts, and what they can tell their clients to sell more printed photographic work. Several educational resources and tools to help sell prints have already been developed and are being shared with photographers, for free, by the PRINT Movement. Just this past week, more plans to develop more tools were created as the partners behind the initiative came together at the PPA office, in Atlanta, GA.

As we work to come up with more resources and tools for photographers everywhere, the PRINT Movement is growing stronger every day. 1600 photographers have already joined the movement, pledging their commitment to printing as artists and learning how to do so and market it in an efficient and empowering way.

Photographers who sell printed works compete at a much different level than the shoot and burn photographers who can only compete on price. As a group, we truly believe that PRINT is the future of the photographic industry as it continues to bring the beauty of photography back into homes across the globe. Join the PRINT. The Movement today to pledge to not only be an amazing photographer, but also a talented print artist!


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Lisa Sharer is the Marketing Campaign Manager at Professional Photographers of America. As a Creative Writing graduate, she loves any chance at getting pen to paper. When she's not being creative in the workplace, she can be found skating with the Atlanta Rollergirls or volunteering with the Weloveatl Project. Or really - snuggling with the dogs.



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