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By Bethany Clark

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PPA members know that the best way to find answers to your photography business questions is to ask it on theLoop, PPA's official, members-only social network. The discussions on theLoop are always productive and helpful, so dive right in!

Here's a recent example of a question and the first couple of responses.

Q: If you had to give a fellow photographer (new or seasoned) one piece of advice... what would it be? I'm not talking about the typical "be true to yourself" answers here. I mean the real, nitty gritty, tough love kind of advice. 
--DJ


DJ,
It would have to be two pieces. 
  1. It's not about you. It's about the client. The minute the focus shifts to your accomplishments, image quality, etc., you break the rule. Everything you do needs to be 100% client centered. If it isn't, you need to find another profession.
  2. For the fine art photographer - look at last year's work. If it looks pretty good to you, then you aren't making any progress. You should strive to be a better photographer this year than you were last year. And this will continue until you can't hold a camera up to your eye any longer.
Is that enough "tough love" for you?
--Gene L.


DJ,

There are only 3 things that matter:
  1. Vision (without it, your path follows no course)
  2. Passion (without it, you have no power on which to draw)
  3. Action (without it, your idea is just a daydream)
Eliminate any one of them, and you will fail. Have all three, and you're unstoppable.
--Pascal D.


DJ,
To succeed at this, to make photography put food on your table and a roof over your head, you have to be a business person first, a photographer second. For those of us who came at this profession because it was fun, because it involved smelly chemicals and magic in dark places, that's a hard lesson to learn. I'm still learning. That's the other thing, you'd better never stop learning, growing, changing. I watched my friend Ken Whitmire, who died tragically last weekend at 86, taking notes and asking questions and continuing to learn right up to the end.
--Mark T.


DJ,
I'd offer two pieces of advice.
  1. Find your niche: figure out what kind of photography you love and that you can sell to others and go for it.
  2. Every purchase needs to be justified: You're in a business as a pro photographer. If a piece of gear can't help you make a profit, don't buy it.
--Ned L.


Check in at theLoop to see more responses, and ask your own questions for peer-to-peer discussion and support!


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By Chris Homer

You've got photography questions, and your fellow PPA members have the answers. Post
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your questions on theLoop and watch the answers flood in! This photographer-only forum for PPA members is the perfect way to give and receive help on all of your photography questions. Don't be shy! Head on over to the theLoop, and get answers to some of your most pressing questions.

Check out some of the Hot Topics from November on theLoop below.

With the growth in popularity of drone photography, many photographers have been considering offering it to their clients. If you're one of those photographers, here's your chance to get your questions answered on anything drone photography related from an expert in the field, Eddie Tapp, M.Photog.MEI.Cr., CPP, API. 

In this discussion, photographers discuss the best procedures for wiping memory cards after downloading. See what they have to say and chime in with your opinion. 

One photographer has run into an issue with Lightroom automatically opening any time a memory card is inserted into his computer, whether he wants it to or not! If you're having the same issue, this is a post you'll want to read. 

This photographer has a problem with a hobbyist in her town violating her contract with a local school. What should she do about it? Find out in this discussion! 

Unfortunately, the holidays always bring in a new batch of scams targeted at photographers. In this thread, one photographer shares a scam offer that was recently presented to him. Read up and protect your business! 

These are just a few of the many discussions on theLoop! Remember that you've got to be a PPA member to take part in theLoop, so join today! 


ch_headshot_100x100.jpgAbout the author:
Chris Homer is PPA's SEO & Web Specialist, which basically makes Google Analytics his best friend. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Chris cheers passionately (and obnoxiously) for the Bulldogs in all things from football to checkers. When he's not hard at work on PPA's websites, you'll find Chris at auto racing events around the southeast, where he's known as a master architect of tent villages.


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By James Yates
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PPA's Business Challenge was born nearly one year ago, at Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta. It was during the Studio Makeover class, dedicated to unveiling the results two studio owners had by implementing PPA's business advice, when Education Director Angela Kurkian began to realize the program could be scaled up. By adding the Challenge as a group on theLoop, all PPA members would have the chance to join and begin their 12-month, step-by-step program to profitability and sustainability for their photography businesses. 

It's been a huge success. There are now nine different Challenge Groups on theLoop, with over 900 members taking advice, implementing changes, sharing wisdom and holding each other accountable as they make the steps toward their studios becoming more financially sound! 

Two new announcements have been made in preparation for the program's anniversary: 1) a class at Imaging USA 2017, and 2) a new join-schedule for upcoming Challenge Groups.

First, instead of offering the challenge each and every month, the groups will be starting during the months of February, March, April, May, August, September, October and November. This means there won't be any new groups forming in December, January, June or July. This will allow more time to dig even deeper in the groups that are currently running and no one has to worry about signing up during the holidays or summer vacation!

Second, Business Challenge mentors Gregory Daniel, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, F-ASP, Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API and Angela Kurkian, M.Photog.Cr., CPP will be presenting the platform program "4 Things You Need to Know to be Successful"  at Imaging USA 2017 in San Antonio, TX. 

The class will be held on January 8 and  asks the question,  "iI you could make four changes to your business and your way of thinking that would help you be more profitable, add time to your day and move your life in the direction you dream of, would you do it?"  Full of great takeaways and business strategies you can start implementing right away, this class is the perfect introduction to the Business Challenge program, which can help you build your business on a strong foundation in 2017.

If you're not already using the Business Challenge to own your place in the photography industry and be more profitable, what are you waiting for?! Sign up now at PPA.com/Challenge

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James Yates is an Atlanta-based writer/actor and the Communications Specialist at Professional Photographers of America (PPA). A graduate of Georgia State University, James has worked in the non-profit sector his whole life and is proud to be able to help artists achieve their goals. In his spare time he can be found walking his dogs on the Beltline or partaking in the nightly theater and comedy scene in the ATL.


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By Autumn Rice

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Fall is upon us and business is about to boom, but you still have some pertinent questions about clients, pricing, equipment and more.  Don't fret, just post your questions on theLoop and watch the answers flood in! This photographer-only forum for PPA members is the perfect way to give and receive help on all of your photography questions. Don't be shy! Head on over to the theLoop, and get answers to some of your most pressing questions.

Are you a first-time Imaging USA attendee looking for advice? Join this discussion on theLoop to get advice from photographers who have previously been to Imaging USA. Learn what to expect, how to get the best experience, and the best outfits for the occasion. Find out all you need to know about Imaging USA from your fellow photographers!

This photographer is changing her strategy when it comes to a client's wardrobe, but she's a little nervous. The client wants to wear black clothes, and other dark colors, which could affect the photos.  Give her advice about lighting techniques that may make her session a little easier.

One Looper is looking to combine his passions for photography and food, but he needs some help. If you have any advice about the craft, classes, or books that he could use, post it in this discussion post on theLoop!

This Looper has problems shooting large ethnically diverse groups and getting inconsistent colors. She's tried several different methods, but none get the job done. Have any advice? Share it in this post, and see what others recommend.

The speaker schedule for Imaging USA 2017 has been released, and there's a thread on theLoop dedicated to discussing what you're most excited about attending. Join the conversation and network with fellow photographers who want to attend the same events as you!

A Looper has a question about the difference between formatting memory cards and wiping them. Which one is better? If you have any advice or education about the topic, post what you know in the discussion thread.

One photographer has questions about her vision, and which lenses to buy after having her cataracts removed.  If you've been through the same situation or have any advice, lend it to the discussion!

See The Difference has many resources available to help photographers Be More. Check out this discussion thread on theLoop about what See The Difference can do for you, and how to get the most of this PPA member benefit that's included in your membership.

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By Autumn Rice

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theLoop is the photographer-only forum for PPA members. It's a perfect way to network, and get photography advice from your peers. Have a photography question? Post it on theLoop and watch the answers flood in! PPA photographers want to get to know and help each other, so don't be shy. Head on over to the theLoop and connect with your fellow photographers, and get answers to some of your most pressing questions. 

Here's an example of one of this week's questions!

Q: I hope to have my web site finalized in the next month but have been going back and forth about pricing structure.  Part of me wants to Not be a discount service. I want to do more boutique is the plan.  -Ryan Berman

Hi Ryan, 
I think the answer to your question really depends on what you're basing your pricing on. Speaking from personal experience, giving all those photos edited to the client is a nice gesture, but it's not worth the time unless you're getting paid for each one. Looking at the competition's prices definitely has its place in marketing, but if it's the only thing you look at your business probably won't succeed. Here's a link that I found to be very helpful when setting my own prices: How much should photographers charge in 2016?. The article also has a link to a calculator that was very useful to me in figuring out my expenses. I hope that helps!  -Christopher Harrison 

Hey Ryan, 
Have you checked out the PPA business challenge? Angela Kurkian (Director of the PPA education department) actually has a section in the challenge where she goes over pricing. She'll be starting a new one in September, and I think having a question like this makes you a great candidate for the challenge.
Check out the Pricing Strategy Webinar we have out on PPAedu and the Self Assessment tool which will ask a series of questions, and make recommendations. If you would like to be added to the September Business Challenge, let me know and we will take care of it.  -DJ Adams

Ryan,
You have to look at your cost of doing business when you're setting your portrait prices. The PPA Benchmark Survey summary is a very good place to start in understanding your business and how you should be pricing for profit.
Business portraits (headshots) are a very different market from high school seniors and families. In my business, there's a flat fee for business headshots ($149) that includes one finished image and a broad package of usage rights, with the image delivered as a digital file in sizes for print and web. If the client wants more than one finished image there's an additional charge of $30 to cover the retouch and finishing time.
I don't understand the business model for seniors and families that you're considering: flat fee that includes a lot of retouched images. It's very appealing to clients, but doesn't serve you very well as a business person. Think carefully about how much time you'll spend retouching each image. Even if you can do a nice job in 7 minutes, multiply that by 60 images and you've got 420 minutes of intense retouching time in the job. That's 7 hours of work on top of your session time. If you need to earn $50/hour then that's $350 just for your time. Follow the PPA benchmark guidelines for a 25% cost of goods, and you've marked up your time by a factor of four to get $1400 you need to be charging your client, plus your session fee.
Personally, I couldn't stand spending 7 hours retouching one client's images. I'd go mentally bonkers and destroy my body from sitting at a computer that long.
When I started down the path to portrait photography I spent 3 days in PPA's SMS Business Workshop. It was well worth the trip to Atlanta. We spent a full day on pricing. I haven't looked recently, but I presume those classes are still being offered. -Mark Turner

Check in with theLoop to see what other photographers are posting, and how you may be able to help them!

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by James Yates
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It was one hot month! Have you been checking theLoop while inside in your A/C? Cool off and have some of your potential photography concerns alleviated with the top posts culled from theLoop over the month of July.
 
It may seem off topic, but this post about favorite dishes to share proved pretty popular (yeah, yeah, it WAS tied to a Giveaway). If you're planning a late-summer pool or dinner party, check out what your peers are cooking up!

Is "wiping" your memory card periodically necessary to avoid corruption? One Looper wants to know and around 30 of you have an opinion! 

A Looper wants some advice on how to remove intrusive background detail on an intimate family moment. Several tips here on how to edit images if you're not necessarily the most experienced Photoshopper!

What books or study guides should one use if preparing to take the CPP exam? Tons of good, supportive ideas here from Loopers who want to help elevate their peers and profession. 

This Looper has been experiencing major issues while processing files in Lightroom and Photoshop since upgrading to Windows 10. Fellow Loopers are ON IT, offering lots of ideas for solutions. Check in to see if the problem gets solved.

A Looper working as a second-shooter for someone posted her own pics (similar in style but from a different shoot) and may have offended the photographer she was working with. Several fantastic and heartwarming responses on here about owning one's mistakes, making amends, and learning/teaching based on our similar experiences.
 
It's the age-old question: Who do you use to print your business cards?

One Looper asks, "Does anyone have a good filter they can recommend to help reduce the window glow that can be produced from some angles when shooting inside a home?"

Now that PPA has officially launched the Print Movement, Loopers are already comparing stories and offering advice on how to incorporate the selling of prints into one's business. Be on the lookout for resources and help from PPA in the coming months! (October is Print Movement month, btw!)

Remember to check out theLoop, a safe and protected online community where PPA members can discuss a range of photography topics. Not a PPA member? Join here!


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James Yates is an Atlanta-based writer/actor and the Communications Specialist at Professional Photographers of America (PPA). A graduate of Georgia State University, James has worked in the non-profit sector his whole life and is proud to be able to help artists achieve their goals. In his spare time he can be found walking his dogs on the Beltline or partaking in the nightly theater and comedy scene in the ATL.

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By Bethany Clark

theloop_networking.jpgLoopers know that the best way to find answers to your photography business questions is to ask it on theLoop, PPA's official, members-only social network. The discussions on theLoop are always productive and helpful, so dive right in!

Here's a recent example of a question and the first couple of responses. 

Question: 

Hi, I just opened my photography business a year ago and am looking for good business books. Any recommendations? Thanks!

Answer:
  • Be Your Own Sales Manager: Strategies And Tactics For Managing Your Accounts, Your Territory, And Yourself by Tony Alessandra Ph.D., Jim Cathcart, & John Monoky Ph.D. 
  • Best Business Practices for Photographers (second edition) by John Harrington 
  • The Complete Photography Careers Handbook (second edition) by George Gilbert 
  • The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday 
  • Go for No! by Richard Fenton & Andrea Waltz
  • The Photographer's MBA, Everything You Need to Know for Your Photography Business by Sal Cincotta
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek 
  • The E-Myth by Michael Gerber 
  • Youtility by Jay Baer 
  • Worth Every Penny by Michael Port 
  • Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port 
  • Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Check in at theLoop.PPA.com to see more tips, discussions, recommendations, and to ask your peers questions you need answered! And find even more Quick Tips from your fellow Loopers here!
By Autumn Rice

Summer is all about fun, but don't forget about running your business. Before you head out for some amazing adventure, be sure to check in with your fellow PPA members on theLoop for some great conversation and advice. Here's a preview of some of the top discussions from theLoop in June.

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A member has had their entire computer hacked and the files encrypted. Even worse, the hackers are demanding money for the return of the files. Tons of advice on how to protect your files and your business before this happens!

This Looper needs some advice about choosing between Lightroom and Capture One products. Chime in the conversation and let him know your take on the issue!

This photographer needs some new tips and tricks for Photoshop. Do you have any? Let him know some of your favorite Photoshop methoods.

Here's a thread about helpful website designs to distinguish your business from the competition. See what your fellow Loopers have to say!

Does anyone know about online back-up systems? Here's a discussion thread to fill you in on all your options. Check out the conversation!

This Looper needs some help with traveling with her photography equipment. Do you know any ways to navigate the airport with your gear?

This new family photographer needs some advice for getting good photos of families with more than three people. Any advice? Share it in this discussion thread!

This Looper needs an upgrade and your help. If you know anything about mobile photography and computers join the conversation!

 Remember to check in with theLoop for a safe place to stay connected with the photography community and discuss all your photographic interests. Not a PPA member? Join here!


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By James Yates
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Loopers know that the best way to find answers to your photography business questions is to ask it on theLoop, PPA's official, members-only social network. The discussions on theLoop are always productive and helpful, so dive right in!

Here's a recent example of a question and the first couple of responses. 

Q: Is the use of a UV filter standard? If so, which do I need and what is a good brand to purchase?
--Andre R.

Andre,
You are going to get a lot of opinions on this.
Some for and some against using a UV filter, and then on which one to buy.
I'll just tell you my experience and you can decide for yourself. There is a belief that the more you spend on one the better it will be. 
I use them. I have had at least 6 incidents where I've dropped or bumped a lens (no lens hood attached), and the filter was trashed. But the lens was fine. Two incidents where I did not have a filter on the lens but I did have a lens hood - and the lens hood was destroyed, leaving the lens intact. I have had one incident where the integrated lens hood on a 14-24 zoom, a lens that does not lend itself to a convenient filter arrangement, did not save the lens and the front element was trashed.
There is an article that you might find helpful if you decide to use the filter.
www.lenstip.com/113.4-article-UV_filters_test_Description_of_the_results_and_summary.html
The cheaper filters have non-metal mounts, where the more costly ones use brass. At one point in the past when lens barrels were made of metal, I would prefer to have a filter that was made of brass. These days, many lenses have hard plastic filter threads, which in the past have cross threaded when using metal filters. I have yet to have that happen with the non-metal filter mounts.
-Eugene L.

Andre,
The argument for and against UV filters (like Eugene says) is as follows:
Fact 1: Every UV filter will degrade your image (even the most expensive ones).
Fact 2: Every UV filter will protect the front element of your lens (even the cheapest filters).
The decision you have to make is, in my opinion, if negligible degradation of the image with a good UV filter is worth the protection it offers your equipment. 
Every one of my lenses has a UV filter on the constantly. When I worked full time in an indoor photo studio, none of my lenses had UV filters. 
I'm with Eugene on this one. I'd rather have a protected lens, then a lens with a damaged front element, because the degradation of your image with a shattered front element is definitely noticeable.
I like B+W filters. They are made by Schneider one of the best optical manufactures in the world. While you're checking out filters, they make an amazing Circular Polarizing filter, which is the second filter I'd buy. For the UV filter, just buy the largest lens diameter you have (77mm or similar) and get a bunch of Step-up rings to make it fit on the different lenses.
-Pascal D.

Check in at theLoop.PPA.com to see more responses and ask your own questions for peer-to-peer discussion and support!


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James Yates is an Atlanta-based writer/actor and the Communications Specialist at Professional Photographers of America (PPA). A graduate of Georgia State University, James has worked in the non-profit sector his whole life and is proud to be able to help artists achieve their goals. In his spare time he can be found walking his dogs on the Beltline or partaking in the nightly theater and comedy scene in the ATL.
by James Yates
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It's now been six months since the inaugural class of PPA's Business Challenge started on theLoop. Since then a new group has started each month and those participating are making changes that will affect their businesses and their lives as they continue their entrepreneurial journey.  

One of the first things Challenge participants are tasked to do is define their personal idea of success and then create a sales and session projection using the online tool, Square One. It helps point every small business owner in the right direction and kicks off your Challenge-year with a firm understanding of what you need to accomplish in the upcoming months. Here are just a few comments pulled from the Discussion Threads on how things are going for our current participants:

"I did the square one projections for my business.  Wow.  I had to go thru it a few times and it was eye opening.  Not charging enough!!!  This was so helpful... "
Kim B. 


"Just realized I misunderstood net income.  This changes things...  YIKES.  Now I'm getting that crazy scared feeling in the pit of my stomach... This is such a huge kick in the rear.  I did a few breakdowns - with and without (a physical) studio.  (End goal is to have a studio space of my very own, so I wanted to see what needed to be done.)"
Later...
"Happy to report that I finished my projections yesterday.  I did one for a home based studio and one for a retail space.  I figured that my goal would be to aim for the retail space numbers since I want to end up with a studio.  If I fall short and hit my home based numbers, that's ok - just means I landed among the stars, right?  I'd be happy with either number right now, as long as eventually I get to the retail numbers!  :)...And now that I've done my a la carte pricing, I'm seeing clearly how that will help me reach the projection numbers.  It's all starting to come together in my brain." 
Karen C.

"I just used the square one tool, and it really gives me a starting goal for what I need to do.  So far I am working well towards my goals and getting the sales per session mark.  I just need to do more sessions. More sessions will come from more marketing and better time management." 
Jennifer J.



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