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World-renowned studio photographer, Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, is set to be the second host of theLoop's Ask Me Anything Series on September 22 & 23! We couldn't be more thrilled to have Mary on board to follow up to Booray Perry's inaugural eccentric and informative AMA

Mary Fisk-Taylor has been with PPA since 1998 and has been the recipient of numerous awards including Photographer of the Year in 2007, Best in Show, Kodak Gallery, and Fuji Masterpiece awards.

Mary will deliver her #BeMoreSuccessful program at ImagingUSA 2015, where she'll illuminate us on her effective marketing, sales and public relations practices. Consider this AMA as a chance to get to know an IUSA speaker before you get to the big show.

For the uninitiated, an AMA is a simple online conversation where you will have the opportunity to ask Mary anything you'd like (mostly photography stuff) and she'll be able to respond at her own pace! It's an awesome way to really get a sense of who someone is, and an even better way to ask a true professional anything your heart desires (mostly photography stuff). After the success of Booray's AMA we're extremely excited to see where this one goes!

On September 22, just start asking your questions, and let the conversation begin!

IUSA2016_callforspeakers_1200x1200_3.jpgYou can see it now can't you? You're up on stage in the lights. Dozens to hundreds of photographers stare up at you, wide-eyed with their pen to paper. You move one to tears. Another gives you a hug after your program.

Well quit dreaming and make it happen!

If you've got something to share with your fellow photographers, PPA is looking for speakers for Imaging USA 2016 in Atlanta! And why not you?

If you are a professional photographer that likes spreading the wisdom you've accumulated over the years in the trenches, we'd love to hear from you.

Imaging USA is one of the largest photography events of the year. You will speak to a crowd that genuinely wants new ideas and has a desire to learn all about the latest in the photography world. Think of this as a chance to gain exposure for yourself and to contribute your voice to an industry in need of your passion.

Some of the biggest names in photography speak each year at Imaging USA and yours could be among them. The Über-successful Allison Tyler Jones, CPP, of Allison Tyler Jones Photography in Mesa, Arizona, will return to Imaging USA to share her business knowledge. What's her motivation to give back?

"I wanted to cut through the typical hype of the one-size-fits-all promises of 'quick and easy tips to instant success,'" she said. "I want everyone who attends my lecture to leave with their heads bursting with ideas on how they can make their business better in their own, unique way."

So... think you have something to offer your fellow photographer? Do you have a passion to give back?

As an organization that's constantly working to raise the bar in the photographic industry, PPA wants to work with speakers who also embrace and project this image. If you are interested in speaking, please submit your application to ImagingUSA.org/Speaker-Application by Friday, October 3, 2014, 6 p.m. ET. Submissions will be reviewed by the speaker selection committee, with selections made in December.

Imaging USA 2016 will be held Jan. 10-12, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

As a professional photographer, you understand that continuing your education is imperative to stay competitive in today's changing landscape. Unfortunately, sometimes that education comes at a pretty high price--workshops can add up!

Fortunately PPA is offering scholarships for four lucky members to take in all of the ideas of Imaging USA pre-con workshops! These are the classes that happen Thursday, Friday and Saturday leading up to the show in Nashville. No matter where you are in your career, there's a class for you. Dive into some business basics, or get new ideas with posing, lighting, and business gurus from across the industry!

Many of these classes are hands-on, so instead of just watching from the audience, you'll be able to capture images of your own and learn firsthand what to do while shooting newborns, boudoir, and everything in between. In these smaller, more personal classes, your instructors are there to help you bridge the gap between passion and profession while having tons of fun. And, with the PPA Kickstart Scholarship, it's on the house!

Check out the wide range of pre-con classes here and see which one will help you kickstart your Imaging USA experience here!

To apply for the scholarship, you must be a PPA member and you can't have received a previous Kickstart Scholarship. Applications are due by November 21, 2014. We'll select the winners by December 5, 2014 and will announce them publicly on December 10. So hop to it!

To apply for the 2015 Kickstart Scholarship, visit http://www.ppa.com/scholarship2015

We're headed to Nashville, y'all! Join us for Imaging USA 2015 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort February 1 - 3. Now, we'd like to think the Gaylord Orpyland is pretty awesome, but instead of telling you about all of it's amazing features, we'd rather just show you! 

Meet John, he'll be your guide on this whirlwind tour of our 2015 home! 

Once you're done checking out the video, visit imagingusa.org/register to get signed up with an All Access pass! We can't wait to see you there!


Acclaimed wedding photographer and Imaging USA speaker Booray Perry stopped by PPA's member-only online community, theLoop, last week for an AMA and it was awesome. He waxes poetic about any and everything--from his "desire" to be a doctor to mastering bounce flash in order to shoot weddings more effectively. It's an awesome and illuminating conversation which you members should absolutely check out. (Sorry, members only!)

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We've selected 5 of our favorite quotes from the conversation if you missed out:

"I did not fake the moon landing. Not officially."

"I remember feeling pretty good when a fellow photographer asked me to shoot his wedding. I had a successful business already and happy clients but when a fellow pro trusts you with their wedding, that's a pretty good validation that you might know what you're doing."

"The first time I booked a Bar Mitzvah I told the client, "I've never shot a Bar Mitzvah." She said, "That's okay, I've seen your wedding work." I felt pretty good that she felt my expertise was such that I could be trusted with a job that was totally new to me."

"You have to sell yourself. It's hard to be a wedding photographer if you are the shy type. People want someone who they think will be good, but also fun to have around for 7 hours. I've talked to photographers who complain that they just aren't getting booked and I think, "Dude, I can't talk to you on the phone for 10 minutes without starting to pray for the sweet release of death to spare me from your uncanny Deputy Dog-like demeanor."

"This may sound hokey, but I like that I get paid to work at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs where there is fun and celebration and love. It's not a bad place to spend your time. " :)

If you want to learn from someone who is passionate about what he does and is willing to speak freely about his tips on being a successful photographer, check out the full conversation here. (theLoop is an exclusive, online community for photographers to discuss privately their problems and solutions. Join PPA to get in theLoop!)

And make sure you stop by Booray's program at Imaging USA!

 

booray_ask_me.jpgImaging USA 2015 speaker, Booray Perry, CPP has signed up for a dangerous assignment--he's going to be our very first subject in theLoop's Ask Me Anything on August 20 & 21! There are two really obvious questions you might have right off the bat: 

First, what's a Booray? (It's ok - he gets this all the time.) Booray is a Cajun name. This particular Booray is an accomplished wedding and portrait photographer based in Tampa, Florida. He started his journey in photography in 8th grade and started with football games and pep rallies for the yearbook. Now he's a Certified Professional Photographer that recently went Bronze at the International Photographic Competition. We'd like to think that's a bit of an improvement from Chess Club Vice-President. He's a fun-loving, ukulele-playing photography machine. Read up on his bio here.

On Monday at Imaging USA 2015, he'll deliver his "Wedding Photography: Prepare to Succeed" program (here's the link to the full course description)! 

Second, what's an Ask Me Anything (AMA)? An AMA is a simple conversation where you can ask the "me" anything. In this case, try to keep it  photography related, but really anything goes! We're excited to make a place for you to get to know your Imaging USA speakers before February. There will be a discussion in the ImagingUSA community on theLoop, and Booray will take all of your questions Wednesday, August 20 and Thursday, August 21st! 

Start asking your questions - we can't wait to see what sort of great things you'll have to ask one of the most fun-loving photographers at Imaging USA!

Written by guest blogger, Danielle Brooks 

It's crazy to think that six months ago I was wandering around the expo floor in Phoenix wondering about the future. If you had told me in January that come June I would be working full-time for Danielle Brooks Photography, I would have called you a liar. I honestly cannot believe that in six months' time, I went from a steady 9-5 job to the crazy world of being a business owner. It has been a good ride so far, but it would not have been possible without the lessons I learned at Imaging USA. 

There were 3 big takeaways for me at Imaging USA: 

1). Don't give away the digitals

This was a big one for me to learn. When I first started out doing photography part-time, I just had one price and that included everything. It worked for me and was easy. 

But then I heard a lot of controversy about this at Imaging. Most people frown on giving the digitals because your sale stops there. I didn't really understand it at the time because I had no way of selling prints to people. Over time, I found a printer I loved, and began showcasing photos to clients online so they can make purchases.  

I know most people with studios would say online sales isn't the way to go, but they work for me right now and it's a good way for me to get my feet wet in selling products. Plus I don't have a studio, and I would also argue that it's better than giving away the digitals. 

2). SEO is king

Most people find me via Google. My business is slowly spreading by word of mouth, but I am proud to say that I don't spend money to advertise on Google. I show up on page two thanks to a class I took on SEO at Imaging. The tips and tricks I learned there were key to getting my website to climb the Google ladder. I have done a lot of personal research beyond that class but it was the kick-start I needed. 

About 75% of my business comes from the work I've put into SEO and helping people find me before they find my competition. Researching SEO has also opened my eyes to all the classes PPAedu has for PPA members. I am currently working my way through classes on finance. This is a great resource for photographers. If you haven't looked into it, you're missing out.

3). One size does NOT fit all

Just because you take classes and learn from professionals in the field doesn't mean it's right for you or your business. It's almost like having a child. You can get advice from your parents and friends, but ultimately you know what's best for you and your child. 

I remember calling my husband from Imaging all freaked out because I didn't have studio and couldn't do in-person sales. We researched options for doing in-home sales, but the thought of doing that freaked me out. I wasn't ready, but I didn't say "never". 

Since then, I found a system that really works for me. I educate clients on print products from their first phone call through the last email. I can definitely see doing in-person sales in the future, but it has to be an organic growth and can't be forced or it will not be successful. 

I learned an incredible amount of information at Imaging USA and I cannot wait to go to Nashville next year. Who knows where I'll be in another six months! If you haven't already registered for Imaging USA in Nashville, do yourself a favor and do it now! It is such a great resource for photographers. You will not regret your decision. 
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Imaging USA 2015 is heading to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in February! Although that's not exactly around the corner, it is 243 days away (at the time this post was uploaded) and we couldn't be more excited! (We apologize in advance if this blog has too many exclamation points.) 

Why this much enthusiasm so far in advance of the event? Maybe it's the amazing line up of speakers, or the range of topics they'll be teaching across the 12 tracks or because we're back in Nashville! And from what we can tell on Facebook and Twitter, a lot of us love it too! 

Not only will the programs be the best yet, but Opryland itself has some pretty nifty deals worked out for you. Did you know that if you stay at Opryland, not only will you be in the middle of all of the action, but included in your room rate is free (yes - FREE) in-room WIFI, two bottles of water each day, access to the fitness center, a complimentary shuttle to Grand Ole Opry House, General Jackson Showboat, Gaylord Springs Golf Course (the round of golf is not included) or the Opry Mills Mall next door! PLUS if you have a car on site, you'll be paying less than half the standard rate for parking (from $21 down to just $9 with super convenient in-and-out privileges). 

Now all of that stuff might be great, but one of our favorite (we have no shame) features of the hotel is that you can have your choice of country music star give you your wake up call! Love Trace Adkins? He'll be giving you a ring to make sure you're up in time to hit up one of the two coffee shops before your 8 a.m. session. More of a Kellie Pickler fan? She's also on the list, along with a slew of other famous country singers that'll make sure you're up and at 'em before all of the action! 

And to keep you on track, we'll have the nifty Imaging USA app for you (it's still in production, but when it's ready to download this summer, we'll let you know)! The app has a lot of the great features you may have enjoyed last year--like creating your own schedule, connecting with other attendees, or planning how to dominate the Expo floor--but there are more great options with this year's app, like a new game (details coming soon!) and an interactive map to help you find your way at Opryland! 

Registration for Imaging USA is already open at imagingusa.org/register. And remember - if you become a professional active PPA member, we'll waive the registration fee for your first Imaging USA (that alone is a $323 value)! 

We'll be bringing you periodic updates about the conference as we get closer, but there is a lot of action on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @imagingusa, so don't be left out! You can also hop on over to theLoop's Imaging USA community to find a roommate, catch a ride or just make new friends that will be in Nashville! We can't wait to see you there!

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!

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