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Imaging USA Kickstart Scholarship Winners Gear Up for the Show - PPA Today

Imaging USA Kickstart Scholarship Winners Gear Up for the Show


By John Owens

Back in the fall, PPA launched the second annual PPA Kickstart Scholarship. Our four lucky PPA members are already in Nashville for their pre-convention classes--completely on the house! The winners were given the opportunity to choose between a full-day of hands on classes or a two-day Studio Management Services workshop.

We chatted with each of our winners last month, and their excitement was evident. Each will be attending their first Imaging USA. Here are some highlights from the conversations:

Mary Hoff-Robinson

Mary Robinson Photography

Westmont, Illinois


Mary Hoff-Robinson has been a PPA photographer for 18 months and is taking Saturday's Hands On Portaiture: Relevant Senior Photography. She's making the seven-hour drive down from west of Chicago.


Are you excited?

I'm diving in head first. I have the app on my phone and tablet. I'm trying to concentrate my work on seniors and family portraits so those are the classes I'm looking at. A lot of the classes are location lighting oriented and a lot of my senior sessions are on location.

What are you most looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to getting away, first of all. But I'm most excited for the whole experience. It will be nice to be in such a creative environment and pull some inspiration moving forward in 2015 It will be a great jump start to the year and help me make plans.

What are you looking to take away from this experience?

I really want to come back with a better structure for my business. I think particularly the Business Basics class will help with that. I have a workflow in place for images but need a workflow for business. It's the little takeaways sometimes that if you ball them all together you get the awesome sauce you're looking for.

Benjamin Fuhrmann

Beni Lee Photography

Troy, Illinois


Ben just joined PPA in October, but hasn't wasted any time getting started leveraging his membership benefits, digging in to PPAedu. Ben is taking the two-day Business Basics workshop with Ann Monteith.

How did you get into photography?

I started about five years ago. I got a job right out of college with an event production company and started bringing my camera to events and doing photography for them. That quickly branched out to freelancing and this year I decided to start my own business. I started doing corporate events and festivals and have now branched into family portraits, engagements and even headshots.

How was your first year in business?

This year was a lot of getting things in place as far as filling out paperwork, getting registered, getting my website and social media up and running. Now I can hit the ground running in 2015. I think in a 3-5 year range I would eventually get my own studio location out of the house somewhere.

What are you most looking forward to at the show?

I've got 26 events saved in the app so I don't know how I'm going to get to all of them. Meeting all the people in the industry is going to be great. I didn't have a mentor when I started, so seeing what other people are doing will be a great help. I'm hoping to learn more about the business and legal aspects of photography. I'm just ready to soak it all in!

Beth Poe

Studio Photography

Denver, Colorado


Beth Poe also joined PPA last year and is making the trip from Colorado and said she is "thrilled and honored to receive the scholarship." She's getting a trifecta of hands-on photography with Carl Caylor's Natural Light Portraiture as well as Tanja Melone's Children's Photography  and Dan and Alex McClanahan's Relevant Senior Photography.

Why did you become a professional photographer?

I worked for 20 years as an accountant. I'm very detailed and technical but was so uninspired. I kept looking for a creative outlet in my life and started taking classes in 2006 to get out of auto mode. In 2010 I decided to go full time.

I came to a crossroads a couple years ago and thought, lock stock and barrel, am I going to do this thing? I took on a project 365, did a blog and the feedback was phenomenal. I realized I loved doing this. It was my favorite thing to do every day. So I decided this year I was going to fully put myself into it.

What's the best part about receiving the scholarship?

The opportunity to go early to smaller classes is excellent. I'm really excited for it. I was planning to go anyway but not to pre-con. I work with a lot of seniors and families and most clients want their sessions outside with natural light so the courses I've chosen should be great for me. It's really a capstone on the  year for me. Everything that's happened the past year has really been worth it. I'm just thrilled. It's justification and validation for me.


What are you most looking forward to?

I'm most looking forward to the day before the conference starts. I'm really excited to work in smaller atmosphere with people that are leaders in the business. To have the chance to raise my hand and have my question answered and be with others after the same thing--there's no pretentiousness, we're all here to learn--I just can't wait. I thrive on that type of environment. I know I'll walk away with new ideas and skills.


Kristy Steeves

Kristy Steeves Photography

Medina, Ohio


Kristy Steeves had already registered and made her hotel reservations for the show when she received word she'd been granted the scholarship, which presented a problem since she was riding with a friend. "I had to call and ask if we could leave early," she said. "I was tickled and surprised. I didn't think I would get the scholarship, but I applied anyway. "

Kristy has taken Super 1 Day classes previously and had a print go Loan at her first print competition this year, but this will be her first Imaging USA.


What do you expect from your first Imaging USA?

I don't know what to expect at all! I'm going and seeing where the journey takes me. I'm bringing a friend along, we're riding and bunking together. We're going to be like kids going to camp for the first time--eyes wide open and jaw dropped the whole time. Just being around these accomplished photographers and the tradeshow--I'm going to be like a kid in a candy store for the first time.

What are you hoping to take away from the show?

Hopefully I'll learn and grow and meet photographers that I'm sure are much better than me. I want to pick their brains, socialize and take classes. I'm excited to see what the whole atmosphere is about. It's an adventure!

Why did you become a professional photographer?

This is my fourth year doing photography professionally. I worked for 25 years as a TV reporter for FOX. While working as a reporter about 10 years ago, a friend said "why don't you photograph weddings on the weekends?" I was the one photographers hate taking pictures off to the side--I didn't know any better!

I made a lot of mistakes early on; I shot on automatic. I didn't know if I could make it work but I retired from TV and hit the ground running. It was really scary to go from a good steady paycheck to nothing. I worked  seven days a week for the first three years. I joined my local association and studied, met awesome photographers who came into my life and have four mentors who helped me get up and running. One helped me set up my studio.

Now this is my passion, it's all I do. I'm consumed by it. To go to something like this is just awesome. To be immersed in this atmosphere and this culture of photography is going to be amazing.

We'll check back in with each of our winners at the show to get their first impressions and then a few months down the road to see how their experience at Imaging USA is helping them to Be More!


John Owens is PPA's resident wordsmith. Know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? That's where he comes in. The Connecticut transplant and (still) avid Hartford Whalers fan is an aspiring adventurist/novelist/racer on a lifelong quest to find the best trails, brews and burgers and wishes Taylor Swift would just stop.

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on January 29, 2015 11:55 PM.

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