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PPA Today: PPA Communities/theLoop Archives

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by James Yates

Here comes summer! Before you head out to the beach, have you made sure you're still on track with your business and creative goals for the year? Take a moment to check in on theLoop for some education and inspiration from your fellow photographers! Here's a roundup of the top theLoop discussions from the month of May. 


Advice on Nikon F/4 zoom lens vs F/2.8

A new member wants advice on which lens to use. Are the heavier, more expensive options the way to go? Lots of advice given on this thread!

More Lens Advice: Sigma or Nikon?

A wedding and portrait photographer needs advice on lens options. Let's see what the Loopers had to say in this thread. 

Fast Recycle Flash/Strobe for Portable Use

A mountain biking-event photographer wants Loopers thoughts on options for something small and quick enough to pack into the woods. Lots of good advice here! 


There's another long thread discussing the merits (or lack thereof) of Thumbtack. See what your fellow Loopers have to say about the consumer service website. 

Windows 10 Upgrade

Did anyone experience compatibility issues when upgrading to Windows 10? Long discussion on the subject found here! 

Need Recommendations for Anti-Theft Camera Straps

theLoop is a much better place to get product advice than those random Amazon reviews! This photographer is traveling to Italy and needs to know which camera strap will keep her protected. 

Variable ND Filter

One Looper asks: "Here's the conundrum: is there a well built, good quality and pretty accurate ND filter (preferably variable) that doesn't sacrifice image quality?" Read the feedback on this thread. 

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.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for BizChallenge_blogpost_650x160.jpg103 PPA photographers quietly kicked off the new PPA Business Challenge in February. Since then, two more groups have gotten underway with well over 300 participants at

The Business Challenge helps photographers improve their business by building a stronger foundation with a focus on sustainability and profitability. The April group has already experienced two weeks of business-changing assignments, Q&A webinars, inspiration, check-ins, recaps and mark-your-calendar alerts. It's a great way to confidently build your business and not go it alone!

#1 No nonsense business advice
Led by PPA Director of Education Angela Kurkian, this 12-month Business Challenge is THE place to come for small-business help specifically developed for photographers. It is a sound framework to help PPA photographers steer their studios in the right direction. Don't be afraid to take the Challenge! Kurkian explains, "A lot of the things (the participants) are nervous about are things that being a member of PPA will help with (i.e. pricing, marketing, value through certification and becoming better at the craft of photography through photographic competition)."

#2 Peer-to-peer support group & accountability
The Business Challenge was developed to help hold photographers accountable in their attempts to improve their studios. One of the most popular and rewarding components of the Business Challenge in that regard are the questions and answers in the forums, where Kurkian poses questions to the group for an honest, frank discussion among peers. The questions can be complex, or as simple as "What are you afraid of?"

Here are some examples of the candid answers pulled from the group:

Q: What are you afraid of? What stops you from taking action?

"Will people value me?"

"My biggest fear is that I'm going to fail and look like a complete fool for even trying. I worry that my work isn't worth anything, that my peers view me as just another mom with a camera, and that I won't earn their respect; and I worry that I'll never find a client that values my work."

"I worry that maybe I AM talented but I'll let my fears squander it away or that my lack of business acumen will outweigh that talent."

"People will not pay our prices and will go with cheaper alternatives. People do not value our art or our time. My phone will stop ringing. We won't be able to afford/maintain our lifestyle."

But don't get too bogged down in the muck of negativity! Sharing with your peers is a wonderful way to see how alike we all are. Once these obstacles have been identified, it's only a matter of banding together and learning how to stomp it out with knowledge, hard work, and support from
PPA and your peers. We're all in this together!

#3 Safe practice for your own business
PPA is constantly developing new curriculum, offering webinars and advice to inspire and ignite the Business Challenge participants, and pushing them to greater success as artists and business people. You'll even notice Wes Roberts, who completed the Studio Makeover Challenge last year, hanging around the forums and offering great advice as someone who's been through the program.

Check back in a couple weeks, where we see what's going on with April's class one full month in...maybe some of their fears will be alleviated? (Spoiler alert: They will be!) Sign up now for the May class! Over 50 members are already on board! It's your turn to take control over your business and Be More! Sign up for free at

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You never know who you may meet or what fun you might have on theLoop, PPA's online community reserved just for our members. Discuss, ask, learn, network...theLoop is there to strengthen your business by leveraging the power of community!Thumbnail image for theloop_128.jpg

Valentine's Day recently came and went and lots of people got engaged, which got us thinking: what are some quick tips on bringing out the big L.O.V.E in couples during engagement sessions? We put the question out on theLoop and here are a few things we learned from you, our valued members...

"I look for the moments right before the kiss, and in between, the way they look at each other and interact. I want portraits of the relationship not the act. A sure sell is one looking at the camera with the smallest hint of a smile and the other gazing at them... I will often say "I need to check light in this new location just relax a minute", and I get some of my best shots when they think I am not shooting. I also see how they really are as a couple in that moment."-- Joanne Fabian, Photographer/Owner, J Gray Fabian Photography, Souderton, PA

"I prefer to reserve the questions about their life and relationships for during the session because I can get lots of great shots with spontaneous reactions when they answer my questions, together... It's always a little harder in the beginning to get them to relax with each other and with me so I do a lot more talking in the beginning of a session to get them to feel more comfortable... Just remember that these couples are in love, we don't need to ask them to act it! It's just a matter of making them comfortable with you and the love will show!"--- Orita Issartel, Orita Issartel Photography, PPA member from Miami, FL

"I usually ask them to kiss and smile, kiss and smile. The more they do it, the more they begin to giggle together and relax, and I get some great body language in their images this way. It helps that I also tell a lot of corny jokes and have the couple laughing with me for the majority of their session!... I always save the more serious poses for the end of the session. By then, the lighting is more dramatic and the couple is comfortable enough with me to do whatever I ask of them. These are some of my favorite images, where they are focused on their love and each other, and I can get a more dramatic shot. This one ends up being ordered as a large print almost every time!"--- Melissa Brewer, Wedding Photographer and PPA member from Columbia, SC

"I like to set couples up and then ask them to tell me about the first time they met, now look at each other and remember how you felt then. It creates more of a moment to capture instead of just a look."--- Elizabeth Kilgour, Echt Photography, PPA member from Calgary AB

Be sure to stay "engaged" (get it?) in theLoop all year long and don't be shy: ask questions! It's only through sharing with your peers and gaining feedback that you can grow as an artist.

By Sarah Ackerman

2016 is off to a quick start! Can you believe it's nearly February? Time flies when you're working on things you love! Take a moment and check in on some of our top discussions from theLoop!
What do you do to turn passion projects into profit? When your artistic vision changes, it can be a challenge! Help this PPA portrait photographer explore where she can take her landscapes. 

Watermarking has been a time honored tradition in years passed to help market your work, but has its time come to an end? Weigh in with this PPA photographer to share your experience with keeping your stamp on your work.

Have you ever been put in a position where a client was past due on a bill and you had to charge a late fee? How did you handle it? Help this PPA photographer figure out what's an appropriate amount.

Sometimes clients are disappointed for a variety of reasons, many of which may be out of your control. What do you do when a client demands too much? Chime in with this PPA photographer to share how you would handle this situation. 

Volume photographers unite! In a volume world, how do you offer online reorders that don't take ages to set up on your site? Help this PPA photographer streamline their workflow to maximize profits and minimize time wasted. 

Sometimes the best of the best isn't feasible, so what's a good midrange option for monitors? Do you have a favorite anecdote or a horror story to steer this PPA photographer in the right direction? Chime in!

When your clients insist on just having the files and not having anything printed, what's an appropriate price? And would you barter for leads? Share your feedback with this PPA photographer!

If you're a newborn photographer, how do you handle sales sessions? New moms have their hands full and adding to their stress won't lead to your top sales, so what's the best option? Help this PPA newborn photographer navigate her way to better sales here.

As a photographer, it's important to get your name in front of your potential customers. Have you ever used a mall display? If so, how did it work? Weigh in on this thread!

When a job is substantially larger than any other job you've done, how do you go about handling the pricing? For this PPA commercial photographer, do you do it by the hour, by the unit or just a flat rate for the whole project? Weigh in here!

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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Sarah Ackerman manages all things social media for PPA and Imaging USA. When she's not living on the internet, she loves improv comedy, going on wilderness adventures, gallivanting around the globe, knitting, wood working and yoga. 

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By James Yates

PPA's theLoop online community has been on a roll lately, hosting Imaging USA 2016 speakers for Ask Me Anything sessions. This week, we were privileged to have Terri Eddington, M.Photog., CPP, sit and answer your questions for our final AMA before Imaging USA 2016!


Terri is a 3-time recipient of the International Photographer of the Year Award as well as PPA's highest honor of Diamond photographer; her elegant style and talent in wedding and boudoir photography has truly set her apart in the industry. Terri also devotes her time and energy to furthering her industry as the rising President of PPA Louisiana.

At Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta, Terri will be teaching the class "High Impact Lighting Made 'Easy'", January 11, 5:00 PM - 6:15 PM. In this amazing workshop, Terri demystifies everything that is difficult, complicated and cumbersome about lighting. Using her unique gift of simplifying this all-important concept, she'll show you fun and easy-to-understand setups that will deliver stunning images for your clients!
Terri's easy-going approach and sparkly personality are infectious. Right at the start of our AMA session, she told the audience, "Go ahead ask me anything...I will answer with a 'TNT' response! Does that mean 'Powerful'? From me, no! 'TNT' means 'Terri Not Technical' LOL! If you like an easy approach and simple explanation...then I'm you girl!"

Thanks, Terri! We know there are both new and evolving photographers who appreciate "easy" and "simple"! Here are some highlights from her AMA:
What's Your Inspiration and Your Favorite Personal Photo?

My inspiration? "People". I love to photograph people. Any kind, any style and even anywhere! Years ago in painting or art class when I could choose to draw or paint anything, I would choose people! I was told that was the hardest - but not to me. It was my passion. I did not know that many years later I would be photographing people but I never get tired of it. It is always exciting to see the many faces and personalities before me. And I have the privilege to capture them all! 
What is my favorite photography ever? Really? I mean, really? That is impossible to say! But I can say, when I capture the soul of a person, there is nothing like it. When their inner beauty shines through their eyes we are no longer just photographers but artists!
Is your creativity for an image fully realized before the capture or in post-production?
There are so many ways to approach photography to where there is not a true right or wrong. I can just say from my personal experience I have done a little of both. I do try to have a "game plan" when I shoot. I like to know location, time of day (if outside), the personality or taste of the client to know what to work towards during a shoot. If shooting in the studio I try to have the type of props and style of lighting ready that will work for the client. These are things I do for my everyday clients. A lot of times these clients have a need for normal/regular shots. What I do try to do is at the end of the shoot I like to be creative and do a little something different. We just have fun! A lot of times it will be their favorite but it was nothing they originally asked for. This allows me to stay creative and also gives them something that maybe no one else has. 
Now, on a stylized shoot I do plan more ahead of time. I try to have a theme, look and style ready. But again during the shoot something might hit me and I go for it. It's either the look someone has or their personality that comes thru and may lead me in a different direction. No matter how tired I am at the beginning of a shoot, once we get started I am "in the zone". I don't get in a hurry when I shoot. I love to create so I make sure I schedule in the time. 
That being said I would say that I don't fully realize everything I am going to do before a shoot but it does help to plan a little.
How do you approach High Key Lighting?

I really don't shoot a traditional high key. As far as a high key look on the subject themselves, I shoot normal lighting ratios and then lighten in Photoshop. This allows me to be in control of how much I want to lighten the subject and also to keep good detail and depth in the eyes, etc. I do sometimes shoot to have the background a white high key look by putting a one-to-two stop higher light on the background than the subject as long as the light on the back of the subject (reflecting from the background) is not brighter than the main light.
We hope you found Terri's advice helpful! And remember to catch her live at Imaging USA in Atlanta! Sign up today at

CPPs_1200x1200_Bree_Adams.jpgI hope you are as excited about the upcoming AMA (Ask Me Anything) conversations on theLoop as we are here at PPA. You will be amazed by the new and innovative information you will gain from logging into the discussions.

In the upcoming weeks theLoop will be explosive with great conversations from Imaging USA speakers. That's right! Ask "Imaging USA 2016 speakers" Anything is coming! We want you to feel free to chime in and ask these pros anything about Imaging USA 2016 and much more.

Next week, November 30 - December 1, hear from Francie Baltazar Stonestreet, Cr.Photog., CPP about how she became the Best Wedding Photographer in Houston among winning numerous other awards in wedding photography. You can even ask Bree Adams, CPP and Landon Day, CPP about how they both became Certified Professional Photographers and how you can become one yourself. Are you just starting out with your photography business? Learn from Dave Goldman, Cr.Photog., CPP about how he has owned and operated a successful high volume sports and portrait photography business.

And mark your calendars for these upcoming AMAs:
  • Lindsay Adler, December 7-8
  • Terri Eddington, M.Photog., CPP, December 21-22
Connect with photographers just like you when you log into theLoop. Not a PPA member and want to contribute to theLoop conversation? Click here to join!  

By Nicole McIntosh

Earlier this week Imaging USA 2016 instructor Kristi Elias visited theLoop for an AMA (Ask Me Anything).

Kristi Elias is one of a kind. She is known for her artist's eye and poetic soul. Kristi is a pro at combining artistic energy and creativity into fine art portraiture. She has been a professional photographer for the past 17 years and a member of PPA since 2011. Kristi graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography in 1998 and has worked as a full time photographer ever since.
Kristi also received her Masters from PPA (M.Photog) this year and operates her successful fine art luxury based photography studio and art gallery right on the water, in Long Beach California. 

Here are some of our favorite moments with Kristi Elias as she graced us with her presence on theLoop detailing different aspects of her photography career:

On her creative process:

Normally clients hire me for my vision, a lot of clients don't know what they want until you show them. I do have a few clients a year, who have a very detailed idea of what they want. I always let clients know, I will create my interpretation of the time period or theme they have chosen or we have discussed. I always have to be careful not to open Pandora's Box, whatever is in my clients mind is not going to be an exact match of what is in my mind. This way they are not going back and forth with me proof after proof until I have guessed what their mind is seeing.

On creative inspiration:

I have always been attracted to storytelling dramatic art. Most of my inspiration comes from watching movies, I will find a certain color palette or wardrobe that will resonate in my mind, then I eventually create a vision in my mind. I believe that in order to get creative inspiration you must do cross training much like people do in sports. 

On her marketing strategy:

I market a luxury fine art portrait experience, my clients are not just coming for a quick photo shoot, I create a memorable fun almost vacation like experience. I get a lot of clients through referrals. My business is on the first page of google in my and surrounding areas, so that helps with getting clients and inquiries. I also offer promotions to the first 10 clients who book via Facebook and on email lists during the slower months. Occasionally I run a Living Social promotion to reach clients who normally would not have found me. My average sale from a Living Social promotion has been the same as my organic clients. The only difference is I lose the sitting fee, but I figure I save a lot of money from not marketing somewhere that might not bring clients.
I also offer a referral program for clients and I give my favorite clients a voucher for a free session with me to be used in the next 6 months (that includes a session with me plus $100 off their next order) I have about 15-20 clients that re-book and use the offer.
I also offer a VIP club membership to clients who I not only loved meeting and photographing but also had higher end sales. Let's say the sale value was $5k and I loved working with them, then I would give them the VIP fine art club membership complimentary. If I really loved the client, but let's say they were at $3k (my average sale amount), then I would offer them a buy into the club for $300. VIP clients have one year to use their membership rewards such as a $300 gift voucher towards a fine art photography session, hair and makeup by Annie Van Dye ($150 value), invitations to exclusive members' only events and specials plus more, and once they do, it is renewed for another year automatically. This insures that my highest paying and favorite clients return year after year. This has been very successful for me.

Want to learn more about Kristi Elias's experience as a professional photographer? Check her out at Imaging USA 2016!

Nicole McIntosh is one of PPA's Marketing and Communications Interns, yay! Nicole is known for her vibrant smile and the one to laugh even if the sky is falling. A sophomore at Spelman College, she hopes that working with PPA will give her the tools she needs to start her own non-profit organization one day

Imaging USA: Register Now

By Sarah Ackerman

Fall is right around the corner! You can just feel it! We hope you had a productive, profitable summer. To gear up for next month, check out these top conversations on theLoop! You never know what you might learn, or who your advice could help!

What are the technical caveats between the two final formats? Help this PPA photographer discover which is the best for their needs and possibly pick up some pointers for yourself! 

We've definitely heard of this struggle before! You offer a wide variety of photography products and services, so is one website going to serve all of your clients? Weigh in on the pros and cons of multiple sites in this awesome discussion!

This is a great question for all photographers: how do you sell mounted prints to your clients? How do you edit your photographs accordingly? This is a great thread that everyone can learn from!

As a sports photographer, vinyl banners can very easily come with the territory. Do you have a favorite vendor to work with? How have you handled banners in the past? Weigh in here!

Lighting a classic car can be a tricky situation. One PPA member has been asked to tackle such a project! How would you accomplish the look the client has requested? 

We love gear discussions! Do you have a favorite on-camera flash modifier or are you in the market for one? This is a great conversation to get some peer to peer advice!

Looking for a lab with competitive pricing can be a daunting process. Help this sports photographer find a lab to work with her little league client and offer advice on how to run stations same day. 

We always love it when photographers give back! How would you run mini sessions with proceeds going to a cause? If you have experience with this or want to do something similar, this is a great thread to review and contribute to! 

Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not part of PPA? It's easy: join today!

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Sarah Ackerman is known around PPA as #Sarah in part because she handles all things social media and in order to differentiate herself from the other Sarahs in the office. Sarah loves improv comedy (think "Whose Line") and routinely performs around Atlanta. When she's not tweeting/facebooking/instagramming all of the action at PPA, she can be found gallivanting around the world or wandering around the woods with her pup, but more than likely she's on stage making people giggle.

By Chris Homer

We hope you've been enjoying success throughout June. Check out these top conversations on theLoop and join in! You never know what you might learn, or who your advice can help!

Have you ever exhibited your work at a summer festival? If you have, share your advice in this thread. If you're thinking about selling your work at a festival, there's lots of good advice to consider as well!

One member brought an interesting problem to theLoop in June. A client asked him to sign a contract guaranteeing that images of her family would not appear on his website or social media. Would you sign this contract? See what other members have to say!

Do you need advice for adding accent light to the background of a portrait? This thread is for you! Read members' suggestions for lighting set-ups.

Most photographers carry multiple cameras while out on an assignment. In this thread, one member asks what's the best solution for carrying multiple cameras so you can easily switch between them. Members provide all sorts of great ideas, so if you've struggled with this, check it out!

Do you shoot jewelry commercial photography assignments? If you do, this thread provides some good tips for capturing all the details.

Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not a PPA member? It's easy: join today!

About 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.

By Megan Mitchell

You might have noticed us post about the International Photographic Competition (IPC) quite a bit recently. That's because registration is now open! 

We could talk about the value of competing until our faces turn blue, but why not let other photographers do the talking? We asked IPC competitors to share their thoughts on theLoop here. Here's what they had to say!

Why should I compete?

"To grow beyond from merely being a photographer to becoming an artist. That's why a total immersion in the crucible of competition is what I suggest."
-Jerry Venz, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, Idaho

"It has given me something to send out press releases about and that helps keep my name in front of potential clients. I share credit with clients whose images have done well in competition and they get excited about it also. As you earn enough merits and receive your degree that gives you more talking points when selling clients that your skills are top notch."
-Bob Coates, M.Photog.M.Artist.Cr., CPP, Arizona

"Working on your own work shows and tells clients you believe in your own work."
-Joanne Fabian, Pennsylvania

Great, so a critique will help me "improve." How?

"I often learn more from those critiques than any other education resource. While I may not always agree with the critique, there is still validity and things to be learned. As a result, I see my work constantly improving."
-D. Brent Walton Cr.Photog., CPP, New York
"It takes much longer to progress in a vacuum. By that, I mean the usual praise you may receive from family and friends. So, go for it! Even if you don't earn merits or Loan Prints right away your client images WILL improve because you will be getting UNBIASED, HONEST feedback on your work--and that is PRICELESS!"
-Jerry Venz, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, Idaho

"You start to look for possible competition images in every session that you shoot--consciously, and subconsciously. In every portrait session that you do, you start looking at things just a bit differently. You start looking to see if you can possibly create a competition image from just about each and every session that you do. You find yourself taking just a second or so before tripping the shutter to really look at your subject like it was a competition image and you end up finding yourself correcting those things that would keep that image you see in front of you from scoring well... and in the process, the quality of your day-to-day work just automatically gets better and your clients get a better product. 

Without even noticing it, you look back a year or two and are amazed about how much your work has improved with what seems like no effort at all. Just because you started to take just those few extra seconds to do the steps that you need to do to change an ordinary image into a competition image."
-Rick Massarini, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, Lousiana

"Almost all the critiques pointed at things I did not see at first and helped me get even better. After your first critiques you will view your images differently. You are not looking for a sellable image or a showcase of your work. You are objectively looking for the 12 Elements of a Merit Image they list as you pick your images. It is an enlightening journey, so welcome aboard."
-Joanne Fabian, Pennsylvania

I don't think I can do this. 

"It's obtainable to all those folks who are naysayers - find your inner artist, turn it loose, find mentors whose work you admire and ask for constructive feedback. Most of the best people out there are willing to help others raise their bar because in the end, it makes our industry better for everyone!"
-Gena Tussey, CPP, Tennessee

They said it best! Ready to step up your game and compete with your images? Register now!
And check out the full conversation on theLoop. Have something to add? Jump on in! 

Megan Mitchell is an intern at PPA. Though she attends college in New York, she is originally from Georgia - most everyone she meets up north is shocked and disappointed by her lack of a southern accent. She finds great joy and comfort in copy editing and reading. She loves nothing more than words, but her family and friends take a close second.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the PPA Communities/theLoop category.

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