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
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
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.
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
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!