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Did you read part one of Ty Swartz's Imaging USA blog on Monday? If not, check it out! Otherwise part two (below) won't make any sense! On Monday, he gave us a day-by-day breakdown of his Imaging USA. Now, learn where his business is at today thanks to what he learned at Imaging.

Afterword:

When I returned to Virginia, I took Bridget's advice and returned to "Square-One" by identifying my prices. The Business Basics workshop taught me that you have to know the value of the service you provide and then target the audience you want to market. Imaging USA allowed me to develop a twelve month action plan that first focuses on developing a brand, building an audience through relationships and then growing the brand.

While at Imaging USA I developed a relationship with Mark Weber from Marathon Press and we were able to develop my branding and marketing strategy. This month, Pashion Photography is sending our first direct mail advertisement to pre-screened targeted brides!

It took meeting Carrie, Bridget, Mark and Bruce to get the idea that working as a photographer is more than working countless hours, but developing a business model that focuses my talents. I am humbled at their patience and willingness to continue teaching long after class.

Since Imaging USA I keep in regular contact via email with Bruce, who has so much advice and guidance. Mark spends time talking on the phone with me to help identify what type of marketing I am able to do. Carrie created an SMS Superstars Group on Facebook and I am not only continuing to learn from her, but she has introduced me to a whole new level of professional networking. I now have a team of professionals to help me make business decisions. I'm not all alone anymore!

Thanks to their mentorship I've been able to bring my marketing and networking to a new level.  I have developed new partnerships and a highly effective constant contact email program that targets newly engaged brides.

We are now offering a "No Obligation" engagement session. It might sound crazy, but we don't charge the couple. And instead of following them around for hours, we now have them come to our studio. We even formed a relationship with a makeup artist and hair stylist to assist with the session.

After the couple arrives, she goes upstairs gets pampered and he gets to hangout and watch sports, relax and learn about our shooting style. By the time she is ready, the "Wow!" on his face says it all, and we start an intimate portrait session.

Once we are finished shooting, the images are edited in about 15 minutes. Yes, 15-minutes! Using what we learned at Imaging--consulting, getting the lighting right and stylized editing--our workflow is incredibly streamlined. We then give the couple a Sticky Album and Animoto Video--products we acquired at Imaging. 

We tell the couple that they owe us nothing because this is our interview as their wedding photographer. And believe it or not, we have not had one couple leave without making our minimum purchase of $400. It is a modest amount, remember we are just starting and we are using this as an interview to become their wedding photographer. We are still making money and developing relationships. The whole purpose is to educate and excite the couple to hire us for their wedding.

As my journey as a CPP continues, I am carving my niche and working toward my master of photography degree. I returned to school to finish an MBA program in Project Management and Marketing.  I will also teach my first Super 1 Day class on May 18. My talent as a public relations, marketing and social media analyst is allowing me to educate other photographers on the power of developing a marketing and social media management program. The class will help them manage their social media instead of having their social media manage them. 

I'm even entering competition! The Southeast District print judging is happening this month and I am hoping to achieve my first photographic merits. I have a lot to learn in this area but learning is the best part! I learned so much about what the judges are looking for at the VPPA print competition and am feeling confident! 

When I made the commitment to stop everything and attend Imaging USA I didn't know how I was going to afford the travel, hotel, food and all the cool photographic toys I required. Now two months later I am kicking myself for only seeing a monetary value to Imaging USA. The value is returning home with a list of quantifiable objectives coupled with the motivation to achieve and a network of mentors that want to see you succeed as a professional photographer.

The value that Bruce, Carrie, Bridget and Mark have brought into my life is nothing short of amazing. I now know what it means when I hear other say, "You can't afford not to go." I have been a member of PPA since February 2010 but it wasn't until January 2014, nearly four years later, did I realize that I am part of something bigger. I'm part of a family.

Before Imaging USA I was just happy to get a phone call from someone who wanted to hire me because they believed I could take pictures. But Imaging opened my eyes to the fact that I am part of a profession that is bigger than taking pictures. I am an artist that has a choice in what I create.

Two months later I have established a full-time, home-based studio with a consultation room. Our phone is ringing and we are booking because we are able to develop a product and service that is different from other wedding photographers in the area.

We are building the business from a brand point of view and it's working. We've created a network of vendors and a marketing program that is effective. I've been able to grow my Facebook audience from zero to nearly 1,200 people in about five months and am up to 600 Twitter followers in the same time period. In fact we just decided that we are able to grow and are now looking for a new home that will better support our photography business. I estimate that I will be able to switch over to photography full-time in the next 3 months. 

We've already passed our original goal of making $50K and our new goal is to double it. We hope to book 30 weddings and photograph 100 couples for engagement sessions. I can't wait to show Bridget the books when I attend the 3-day business course.

I'm already blocking out time for Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville!

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Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN (Ret.)

Ty Swartz, owner of Pashion Photography, is an award-winning, internationally published Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). After serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy and traveling to more than 60 countries, Ty retired as a Public Relations Officer/Mass Communications Specialist Chief Petty Officer in 2011. He is a native of Greenville, Ohio, and currently lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife Nicole. 

Ty Swartz, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, had great plans for his "retirement." After more than 20 years serving as a photojournalist in over 60 countries, he came home with a goal of joining PPA and becoming a full-time professional photographer. He joined upon his return in 2010 and recently took things a step further when he achieved the status of Certified Professional Photographer last November.

With his status as a professional firmly solidified, Ty took on his next challenge: building a business he could be proud of. This part of his vision included attending his first Imaging USA in Phoenix. As is his nature, Ty went for more and departed his Virginia studio early for some pre-convention classes.

Ty highlights his experience at Imaging USA in the first of this two-part series below. On Wednesday, he'll update us on how he is already implementing what he learned into every aspect of his business.

Folks, this is how you Imaging USA.

 

My Imaging USA

By Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN Ret.

The first class I attended was the two-day Business Basics for Wedding Photographers workshop taught by Carrie Wildes, CPP, and Bridget Jackson, a CPA and manager of PPA Business. This class is designed to help identify what I need to do to establish a profitable business.

Carrie took the lead Thursday and we learned about competitive advantage among other wedding photographers, business models, marketing, sales and pricing structures. Friday's class was mainly taught by Bridget. She discussed a variety of business-related items that helped us focus on setting our prices and business strategies. It helped me create a profitable solution to many of our initial start-up circumstances.

If you operate as a professional photographer, then this is one class that you must attend. The knowledge and guidance you receive is simply amazing and you leave with the knowledge that you are a small business owner who happens to do photography.

Instead of exploring Phoenix Saturday, I decided that attending another pre-conference class was more important. The course that I selected was Getting Schooled with High School Seniors, taught by Bruce Berg. Bruce spent the first part of the morning talking about a variety of marketing plans and how he implements them.

Just before lunch, Bruce had two high school seniors come in and showed us his senior portrait techniques. The class was small enough that we were able to get involved and use our cameras and the studio lights provided. It was a great hands-on class and really helped me understand this market. Although I am a wedding photographer, it was a good learning experience in case I decide to dabble in seniors in the future.

From the time I arrived at Imaging there were so many things to see and do relating to photography. I spent most of my time taking notes and meeting some really awesome people. Saturday night had so many events happening that you really had to choose what to attend.

I attended the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep informational seminar with Sandy Puc'. We spent most of the evening doing hand- on photography with Sandy--a very rare one-on-one opportunity with a PPA great. Afterwards I caught the end of the PPA Charities event and bid on a couple of items. Thankfully, I was quickly outbid. I wasn't really committed to spending my "new equipment" money just yet.

Before I knew it, it was Sunday and Imaging USA was officially in full swing. I started my day with The Subtle Art of Persuasion taught by Jon Allyn. This was a great class on building client relationships and how to differentiate from other studios.

It was hard to choose just one out of the mid-morning classes. I'd even recommend making friends to trade notes from different classes with. I selected Prosperity & Purpose: The Photography Business Through a Different Lens, taught by Jeffrey Shaw. He had a really good perspective on how to look at your business so you are moving forward and not staying stagnant--takeaways that I can easily implement.

In the afternoon I was able to attend The Fundamentals of Photographing High School Seniors, taught by Kibbee Walton. He was very focused on engaging the parents and grandparents. You create an emotional experience and through that experience you build lifetime relationships helping your sales and customer loyalty. Great tips for me!

For me, Sunday's must-attend event was Getting it Right in the Camera, with Sandy Puc'. She spent the program going over how to manage lights and build your studio setup from a single light source all the way to five lights. This way you can create amazing in-camera images that require zero editing. Amazing! So if you're spending any time on color or exposure correcting after your shoot, you need to go back and learn how to get a perfect exposure.

Later that day I headed over to theLoop Up and had an opportunity to meet many of the photographers around PPA that I have communicated with using theLoop. If you are a member of PPA--get connected with theLoop! There are some really smart people there and they want to help you when you're stuck with a question.

After mingling for a while it was time for the Imaging USA Welcome Party! They had the red carpet rolled out and everything. I really liked the food and it was great to meet some more photographers. 

Monday morning came too quickly, but I arrived to see Jared Platt teach his class on Post-Production Speed in Lightroom 5 and Photo Shop. It's always great to learn tips and tricks to speed up your workflow!

Next I attended My 10 Favorite Money Making Nuggets taught by Kimberly Wylie. This was a great class to gather additional sales tactics. I was starting to see an overall theme as a small business owner: Building relationships is key to success!

The final class that I attended was Steve Kozak's session for new Certified Professional Photographers. He provided his insight about photography, where it is going and how to leverage our certification to stand out from other photographers. The big take away from Steve was don't just Facebook and send emails, but actually pick up the phone and call people! He was right. I had recently sent emails to potential brides and right after his class took the time to make some calls. I wound up booking three right away!  Who would have thought the phone works for business?

I then headed over to the Grand Imaging Awards and was stunned by the work presented for competition. Since I have a goal of achieving my master of photography degree, I really need to step up my game and start entering photographic competition!

I was scheduled to fly out and return to reality Tuesday afternoon but not before I was able to sneak in one more class: Maximizing Your Senior Sales with Kent Smith and his wife Sarah. They were very motivational and helped me visualize how I want to set up my consultation room and present my brand as an experience, not just a sale.

I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the Expo floor! There were tons of vendors there demoing and selling new products and I was able to buy new photographic accessories. Remember that money I saved at the Charities auction? I used it on soft boxes, another pocket wizard, custom USB thumb drives, a ring light along with backgrounds and a floor from Silverlight. The Expo really has everything and more you could have on your photography shopping list.

After three full days of education I was ready to jump on a plane and head back to Virginia and dive into building my business the right way... 


Check back Wednesday to see Ty's progress since the convention!

By Mariah Ashley

You know that feeling when you act really badly and you're ashamed of yourself?

In the words of Grumpy Cat, I had that feeling last week. It was awful.

Allow me to set the scene...

It's the end of a long week, Friday evening and it's past my bed time. My daughter returns from the middle school dance complains that she isn't feeling well. She's prone to low blood sugar, so I insist rather unsympathetically that she eat something. She feebly protests that she can't eat because she's nauseous. I bark, "You're nauseous because you haven't eaten!" and send her whimpering to her room. I begrudgingly prepare a snack of orange juice and a granola bar.

Meanwhile, my sweet, concerned husband enters the kitchen and asks what's wrong with our daughter and why am I slamming the orange juice around? I have no answer for why I am angry so I just rant about no one listening to me.

"Why are you yelling at me?" he asks.

To which I reply, {in a demon voice} "Because I'm a {blank}!" I knew that was a mistake as soon as it left my evil little lips. "Good night," says my husband with hurt and disgust and then closes the door to our bedroom, and is not seen until the next morning.

Incidentally, my child with "low blood sugar" actually has a hideous stomach virus that keeps her vomiting for four hours straight and me stripping bedding and holding her hair out of the toilet right alongside her. These many hours on the bathroom floor give me plenty of time to think about my bad behavior. Truthfully, I am shocked at what came out of my mouth and I honestly don't know why I feel so mad.

Around four in the morning I have my answer. While my daughter is sleeping, I go downstairs to my office, and with one sleep deprived look at my desk, my mini rage episode makes sense. Piles of notes on ideas and projects I want to start cover the entire surface of my workspace. Grandiose-itis, brought on by my recent trip to Imaging USA has reared its ugly head once more.

Grandiose-itis is a hereditary disease which was passed on to me from my father, a farmer and part-time mad scientist. A person suffering from Grandiose-itis is compelled to take any spark of creativity he or she has and immediately mentally turn that spark into a grand money making or life-changing scheme.

The victim is then compelled to incessantly and obsessively work to make the grandiose idea into a reality, regardless of whether the idea is even a viable one. Generally people who suffer from grandiose-itis juggle dozens of these ideas/schemes at the same time, inadvertently sucking the people around them into their vortex of crazy. Because I had filled two notebooks with ideas and to-do lists while I was at Imaging in Phoenix, my vortex had reached cyclonic proportions.

When you have Grandiose-itis you are incapable of doing anything small. For instance, when I was growing up my dad decided it would be fun to throw and annual Labor Day party. Then he decided it would be fun to make it a fish-fry. My family lives in Cape Cod where Fish & Chips is a big thing. My father built a fish fry shack (think Tiki bar meets sea shanty), bought an industrial restaurant fry-a-later, vats of oil, sacks of batter, 50 pounds of codfish, 75 pounds of French fries, and then invited the entire town to partake.

Of course, the kiddos need something to do so he built them a wooden waterslide lined with plastic. The top of the slide came out of the top of our barn and the bottom of the slide ended in an inflatable boat filled with water. A hose running at the top kept everyone from plastic friction burns. Epic fun, but hitting the bottom of that rubber boat at 10 miles an hour is probably the reason I have a flat butt to this day. Ouch!

And that was just the first year of the fish fry, every year the party got bigger, live entertainment, a fishing contest, a Ferris wheel he purchased from a defunct amusement park (this grand idea ended up rusting behind the barn, probably vetoed by my mother).

The fish fry was a successful example of Grandiose-itis, and there are many other examples of my father's ingenious ideas that solved the constant problems of farm life. Once and a while though, my father had less than successful ideas. For instance, the day my father spread two tons of chicken manure on our property and singlehandedly killed any chance of popularity for me at the bus stop on my first day of middle school. Then there was his all pickle diet.

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Pickles (a natural superfood haven't you heard?) were apparently all my dad thought he needed to ingest for survival. For weeks my mother made constant trips to purchase oversized barrels of dill pickles for my father. Then there was the all fruit diet, this idea ended badly... in the hospital. Another slimy idea that thankfully never made it past the drawing board: the "frog-leg" farm.

The last time my own Grandiose-itis was this out of control it nearly resulted in my own death... by cow. I was on a tropical vacation with my husband and children on a remote island in the Grenadines. After an already adventure packed day I insisted my husband drive us up and over a mountain in our rental jeep so we could take the "scenic route."

A harrowing thirty minutes of rutted, washed-out road later we were off-road for real with a flat tire and no spare. Nighttime was approaching and rain threatened and it was all my fault. Determined to make things right, I set off running in flip flops down the jungle road to find civilization. That's when I heard it. Jungle cow stampede.

Running at top speed I glanced over my shoulder to see a hulking brown beast bearing down on me. So naturally I stopped. Surprisingly the beast stopped too. It's no fun to chase a flat butt if it's not running I guess. The beast lumbered off, shaken I limped back to my traumatized family. Later that night as the kids drifted off into recurring cow induced nightmares, my husband asked me, "Why when we were already in OZ did I need to go looking for hyper-OZ?" Grandiose-itis that's why.

So now here I find myself again suffering from a bout of Grandiose-itis. Only this time, much like the deranged jungle cow I am mowing down my own family. This madness must stop! I sat, realizing in the still of my pre-dawn surrounding that I might not be able to stop myself from generating ideas but I need to figure out how to wield them. I don't ever want my big ideas for business to interfere with caring for my family or even for my clients. I don't want to be the kind of mother who is unsympathetic to her sick child or the kind of wife who is cranky to her very patient husband because I am stressed from self imposed lunacy. I don't want to ignore the needs of my clients because I am busy with yet another new business venture.

Just then, a thought hit me like a runaway cow. The thought was a mission statement for my business. A small business with a big heart.

After tending to my child and begging my husband's forgiveness I went to work the next day to rid myself of some of the Grandiosity. Trish and I decided that any project or idea that didn't fit our new statement could be immediately discarded. A book idea, two inventions, a few educational goals, a marketing scheme and a partridge in pear tree left my desk and went into the trash. I felt much lighter and much less cranky. After slicing and dicing the grand idea list we ended up with several ideas for charity, a few ideas for caring for our clients and a big project that will help our fellow photographers. All grand yet doable projects that fit our new mission statement of big heartedness.

Does any of this tale sound uncomfortably familiar? Do you think that you too may suffer from Grandiose-itis? Take a look at your desk. If it looks like the photo of mine, then you might. Do you feel constant pressure and crankiness like I did? Are you ready to explode? Are you drowning in your own ideas? Stop suffering needlessly! All those pickles ideas can drive a person to madness.

Break the awful chains of Granidose-it is! Save yourself and the ones you love. It's great to have grand ideas, it means you are a visionary! Remember though, you are only one person. You can't do it all. Stop and ask yourself about your vision for your business. Don't let your ideas carry you away like a bovine on the loose.

Do you have a mission statement? A simple guideline that you can weigh all those big ideas against? That's step one. Once you have your statement, start making room on that desk. If the big idea doesn't support the mission it doesn't deserve to take up real-estate on your desk or in your head. Good luck!

P.S. Love you dad. I'm a chip off the old pickle.

 

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.

 

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Written by guest blogger, Danielle Brooks

It has only been 34 days since Imaging USA and already my business looks completely different. 

I knew going to Phoenix would radically change my business, I just didn't know how. I hate change, but I know it represents progress. My last article addressed the fact that Imaging gave me whiplash. Now that the pain has subsided, what would my next steps be? I decided to focus on what my business needed most: print products. 

While at Imaging, my main goal was to find a print lab to offer products to my clients. When you start out as a photographer, no one gives you a road map. No one sits down with you and says, "Here's a great print lab. You should start offering these products to clients at this percentage of markup in order to make a profit." And truth be told, even if they did, it would only be a jumping-off point. Only I can know what my market will bear in terms of pricing. So the thought of finding a lab, selecting my products and figuring out markup was a little stressful. 

I visited every single lab that had a booth at Imaging. White House Custom Color met my needs completely. I know everyone has a lab that they advocate for and WHCC is mine. Their representatives in the booth were so helpful and friendly. I appreciated that when I asked a seemingly basic question, they didn't look at me like I was stupid. They answered them in the best way possible. Making sure I had a grasp on their products and how to offer them to clients. This was such a huge help to me as a beginner. 

Next on the list was finding a way to showcase my products to clients and whether or not I wanted to do an in-person ordering session. Since I do not have a studio, I have decided to offer online purchasing. I know many of you will say I'm leaving money on the table, but for me, right now, it works. I would love to do in-person ordering, but you have to start somewhere. 

So at Imaging, I stopped by the Shoot Proof booth. They offer a great option for online ordering. I can select from their partner labs, or add my own and self-fulfill. Their interface is super easy to navigate. I can literally select products I offer, and then add the price I offer them for. 

Another big change to my business is partnering with other businesses. At Imaging I was challenged to look for ways to make connections that would help word of mouth. About a week after the conference, I visited my husband at work and as I was leaving, I noticed a gymnastics place across the way. I went home and thought about ways I might be able to partner with them. Here was a business that caters to children, and their parents are waiting in the lobby for an hour or more a week. What better way to get my name out there as a family photographer than to put my materials in their lobby?

I quickly found their website and Facebook and noticed that they had a crazy amount of photos, but none of them were particularly good. The next week I was able to schedule a meeting with the owner. I explained to her that I was a new photographer to the area and wanted to get my name out there. I told her I would be willing to photograph an event for free in exchange for letting me leave some information in their lobby. Some might frown on the idea of giving away photos, but let me tell you it has come back to me tenfold. 

After the event, she posted some of the photos, and she immediately told me she had parents wanting to buy proofs. She also wanted to know if I could do team photos and sports photos of all the kids. What a HUGE opportunity! It will be so easy for me to talk to the parents about a family session while I'm photographing their kids. If there is ever a way to invest in your community, do it. The results might surprise you.

As things stand now, I am not generating enough consistent business to leave my "day job" but I'm hoping that by planting the seeds now, I will reap a harvest in the future. This year holds so many possibilities and I'm glad I started 2014 off right by attending Imaging USA. I cannot wait to see where my business will be this time next year. 

Written by guest blogger and Student Photographic Society Member Tessa Smucker
To read more of Tessa's blog, click here

As the snow continues to fall, I figured there was no better time to write about my trip to Phoenix. Last week this time, I was enjoying palm trees and sunny 70 degree weather. What I would give to still be there!

I have been a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) for about a year now and have been receiving their monthly magazine for over three years. PPA is a "non-profit international photography association that helps those serious about photography live their dreams profitably." Members enjoy the benefits of equipment insurance, educational resources and the connection to thousands of other professional photographers.

Among the benefits is the opportunity to attend their yearly conference, Imaging USA. Last year, I attended as a student volunteer in Atlanta, GA. It truly shaped my entire 2013. I had the pleasure of attending Imaging USA once again this year in Arizona. Because of the impact it had previously, I was anxious to be back.

Although I am "technically" no longer a student, they let me slide for one more year. The role of a student is to volunteer about 4-6 hours a day. In exchange for our time we receive free lodging, free entry to the event and the chance to attend amazing workshops put on by world renowned photographers. We also have the opportunity to have our work individually critiqued by very established professionals in the field. Pretty much, it is a sweet deal.
It's Friday, which means it's time for an update on some of the great photography content we've found around the web! Here are five posts from the week of January 19, 2014 (they might have a theme...you know that awesome conference that happened last week? Yep. It was that cool!):

A first timer's perspective:
James Lout came to Arizona both a PPA and an Imaging USA newbie. Read about meeting his photographic idols and all of his experiences here.

Video blog:
You may have heard, Kenny Rogers was at Imaging USA! He accepted his honorary masters of photography, presented a Q&A with John Sexton (Imaging USA speaker) and was gracious enough to do some press. Check out the press room interview here!

Phoenix: Through Imaging USA's eyes:
Did you Instragram all over Phoenix? Check if your pics made the Downtown Phoenix Journal blog here! They did a compilation of their fav photos, plucked from the social web. 

Escape from Wisconsin:
Ellie and Emily escaped the frozen tundra of Waupun, Wisconsin to head to Phoenix. See how they experienced the show and some of the great images they captured while taking advantage of their new surroundings! 

Live from the Expo Floor:
The fine folks over at B&H made the rounds, talking to folks on the Imaging Expo floor. Check out what they discovered in their video blogs here

And for more behind the scenes content, video wrap ups and photos, visit facebook.com/imagingusa! We'll be uploading more content throughout the week, so check back often! 
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Written by guest blogger Danielle Brooks 

Imaging USA gave me whiplash. 

Have you ever been in a car accident and experienced whiplash? It serves as a constant reminder of the event that caused the discomfort. Whiplash is defined as a type of motion that strains muscles of the neck beyond their normal range of motion. 

Yeah, I have Imaging USA whiplash. 

I was stretched beyond my normal range of motion mentally and emotionally. Let me explain: Attending IUSA is one of the best things I've ever done for my business and myself. So this whiplash, while uncomfortable, isn't a bad thing. It reminds me that I went through an incredible growing experience, and it drives me to be more.  

IUSA goes by in a blur. You are going a thousand miles a minute for three days and then it's over, and you're left wondering, What just happened? It can be hard to figure out what steps you need to take next. 

The greatest lesson I learned while I was in Phoenix was to be confident. I don't want to give you the impression that I am suddenly the most confident person because I'm not, especially when it comes to my work. But how am I supposed to sell myself to others, when I'm not confident in the product I'm selling? My first lesson in confidence came from my mentor, Paul Skipworth. 


By: Mariah Ashley                                                

He wasn't technically voted into office, but he just might be the best president we've ever had.

Whether Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-er, or Teetotaler, at least we can all agree on Kid President's platform, Be More Awesome.

It's hard to argue with the message to "Be More Awesome" (in everything you do). Kid President teaches us that we should be more kind and be less boring, not to mention that that Diabetes is pronounced (dahy-uh-bee-teez), not Diabeetus. Thank you for clearing that up Kid President, Wilfred Brimley sure made a mess out of that one.

Kid President has met President Obama, kissed Beyonce, interviewed Macklemore, and danced with Steve Carell and the Despicable Me Minions, all because he spends his time being more awesome. Kid President knows what he is talking about. It's time to listen to Kid President.

Do I digress? This article is supposed to be a recap of my own awesome experiences at #IUSA14. You may wonder, What exactly does Kid President have to do with PPA?

Turns out, everything!

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Everywhere I turned at IUSA14 I saw PPA's message to "Be More." Be More was plastered on pamphlets, flyers, posters, photographs and videos all over the convention and I have to say the message got through to me. I do want to Be More! Much like Kid President, PPA's inspiring campaign of awesome has encouraged me to contemplate my full potential of Being More.

The best part about PPA's Be More message? You fill in the blank yourself. For example, this year, I will Be More __________. There's no wrong answer!

And let's face it; most of us are going to Imaging because we are looking for answers, some of us with a little more desperation than others. In 2013, I was the blurry eyed, traumatized, desperate type. I needed to Be More... able to stay in business and Be More... likely to pay myself. I was looking for fiscal answers to my woes and I found them by going to seminars about branding, marketing, social media and also by getting advice from our friends at PPA Business (formerly Studio Management Services (SMS)).

This year I needed different types of answers. I was looking to Be More... Inspired, Be More... Educated,  Be More... Purposeful and Be More Thankful. I even found an answer to a question I didn't know needed answering, how I could Be More... Extroverted.

The magic of Imaging is that the answers are all there, no matter what your questions. You just need to Be More Present, and Be More Focused to find them. And so Trish and I set off to find the answers we both needed.

What's the best way to Be More Educated? Take a class! And so we did, More Crazy Stupid Light with Scott Robert Lim. We were hoping to get our lighting learn on and walk away with some new flashy tricks up our sleeve. Scott taught us some cool lighting techniques but something else he taught us about inspiring confidence in your clients was infinitely more valuable.

He said, "If I don't feel like I am a beautiful or worthy person I won't be able to get that from my client. It will be the blind leading the blind. You've got to come in strong and confident to see the beauty in a person and bring that out. You've got to overcome your own baggage."

Woah. I've never heard anyone say that before. Lots of people talk about how to pose your subject. But who says you've got to feel beautiful yourself before you even step into the room with your client? Thank you Scott, I will strive to Be More Loving of myself.

Another class we attended was From Concept to Creation: A Fashion Shoot with Brian DeMint. To say Brian is a character is a major understatement. He bought his camera at Best Buy because the sales kid there told him to. He uses a kit lens and when questioned, appeared to be unsure about what f/stop he was using. His lighting system is a 100 watt bulb with a metal cover, which is generally used to hatch baby chickens not to glamorize models. By all accounts, his photos should suck.

They don't. They're lovely, interesting and unique. Brian is the Jack White of photography. He could literally pull a camera out of a dumpster and make a beautiful image with it. Brian added this gem to my pile of treasures, "If everyone loves your work maybe you are a little too bland." Thank you Brian for inspiring me to Be More Daring, and to focus less on my equipment and more on my imagination.

Our next stop was a lecture, Moments Not Poses with Ross Oscar Knight, where we learned to Be More Prepared. Before listening to Ross I felt that Trish and I had the market cornered on being prepared. After all, we practice the 7P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. However, Ross's level of preparedness makes us look like a couple of circus clowns. Blending the math and science side of his brain with his creative side, he has literally developed a formula for success. He unselfishly shared his biggest mistakes, in the process tossing me this gem, "You honor your clients by being prepared."

What does being prepared have to do with moments? When you are as prepared as Ross is, you can live in the moment "letting go and letting the images flow." Thank you Ross for showing us how to Be More Prepared and therefore be better photographers.

Another lecture we attended literally blew my mind. Seriously, my mind exploded around minute 45 of Jeffery Shaw's, Prosperity and Purpose: The photography Business Through a Different Lens. It does hurt a little when your mind explodes, which would account for the sobbing and sniffling. Seriously, it was embarrassing. Jeffrey had many great things to teach us about our business, but what he taught me about myself has forever altered me as a human being. I know, crazy right? How you ask?

Well, first, Jeffrey talked to us a bit about "Finding Your Purpose." What it is that keeps you going? What do you value? What do you believe? What is the deeper need of your clients beyond lovely photos?

 These are questions he urged us to ask ourselves, but my mind was a blank! I sat struggling with these questions for the next 15 minutes until Jeffrey shared a little story about his "Limiting Beliefs" (his baggage). There's that word again!

As a child, Jeffrey hated games, (so do I) because it meant someone would have to lose. He also feared he wouldn't be picked to play when teams were chosen (me too). He said, "It wasn't that I would be the last one chosen, it was that I hid in the back of the line because I didn't want to play the game."

Commence flowing of tears, running of snot, and choking back of sniffles. I know it's hard to believe, but as a child I was never the first one picked for any team and was never a shining star to anyone but (maybe) my mother. Like Jeffrey, after a while I just got sick of the game and hid in the back of the line. In that moment, I felt sad for the little Mariah who used to hide and I decided that big Mariah wouldn't be doing that anymore.

Then I was struck with the answer to the question: What do I believe and what is my clients higher need?

I believe I am really good at drawing out the beauty in the self conscious client, the shy client, the introverted client, making them feel like a shining star on their wedding day. My clients are not celebrities but come hell or high water they will feel like one when I am done with them. Give me your worst case wall flower, they are putty in my hands because I understand them, they are my peeps. Because of Jeffrey's insight, I can Be More Purposeful and will Be More Extroverted.

I have so much gratitude in my heart for the wonderful speakers who shared of themselves. In a room full of hundreds of people, I often felt they were talking directly to me. Thank you also to Gregory Heisler who taught me to Be More Evocative and Roberto Valenzuela whose hilarious, self-deprecating stories inspire me to Be More Spicy. I'll be "adding some hot sauce" to my pictures for sure.

This brings me to my final Be More wish. I wish for myself and encourage all of you to Be More Thankful. Don't sit by and be a "taker." If someone has shared with you a story, useful information, words of encouragement, or a piece of themselves that has helped you personally or professionally, tell them so! Talk to them face to face, tweet about it, or send them an old fashioned thank you note. It doesn't matter the avenue of gratitude as long as you express it. Heck, kiss them if you feel it's appropriate.

 

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About the author:

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.


Check out some photos from #IUSA14 below, including the opening party, Imaging Expo trade show, classes, World Photographic Cup, the Kenny Rogers Q & A and more. We'll have many more photos to share, so be sure to check imagingusa.org for the 2014 photo gallery (coming soon) and our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for more photos! Thanks to Alex the Photo Guy for providing images. 

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