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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 want to improve your business, make more money, but work less, right? Well growing your operations can now be done from the comfort of your favorite set of pajamas and fuzzy slippers with a live streaming option of the PPA Business Basics March 29-30, 2014. Not only will you be able to participate from the comfort of your own home--you'll save time and money by skipping the trip to Atlanta (although we'd love to see you in person here!).

What's more, when you register you get an additional virtual seat to share with anyone in your studio. More learning, not more spending! And you'll get all of the downloadable materials and the bonus of being able to (re)play the workshop back to pick up on things you may have missed.  

This two day intensive business program will give you the tools you need to improve your business's bottom line. What can you expect to walk away with? Veteran instructor Jeff Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr, CPP explains:

"The top five things you'll walk away with are--(1) you never stop marketing yourself, (2) pricing is key, (3) bookkeeping is not optional, (4) your business is always ready for a change, and (5) marketing is more than having a twitter account."

Whether you've been in business for ten days or ten years, this class can help you turn over a new leaf.  

"Anyone who is in the business of photography, or considering it should think about taking this class. Whether you own your own studio, or thinking about making the leap, this class will help you get ready to be profitable from the start, or correct the course if you are not where you want to be. I think this class is important for any studio to take, because it allows you to focus on the systems and underlying issues that newer and seasoned studios either don't know, or got wrong when their studio was formed."

So what are you waiting for? Register today to be more in 2014! Your business and your bottom line with thank you. Seriously!

Need a little help boosting your numbers? Have you considered PPA's Studio Management Services (SMS)? You should.

We could tell you all about SMS, but why not hear it from someone who has actually been through the process? Arkansas photographer Clark Sanders, CPP, knows well the benefits of SMS and shares his experience below. It's the first in our new PPA Member Story series.

How was your business doing prior to signing-up for SMS?

It was going well, but I knew I needed to make some changes if my business was going to continue to grow and become more profitable.

ClarkSanders1.jpgWhy did you decide to sign-up?

I attended Imaging USA in Atlanta in January and visited the SMS booth. I had already been interested in a consultation for a while. I knew that many profitable studios in the country had already benefitted from an SMS consultation and knew if I didn't seek the advice/counsel of SMS my studio might wind up being less than profitable and I didn't want that to happen.

What were your emotions going into the consultation?

I was excited and nervous all wrapped in one!

Can you take us through your mentoring experience?

Prior to visiting on the phone with Bridget Jackson, CPA, and Allison Rodgers, Cr.Photog., CPP, I completed a comprehensive list of items they needed to better help me out. Just going through that task alone really opened my eyes! I thought I had all my numbers in my head, like the number of sessions, average sale of those sessions, who I photographed the most, was I really pricing my work to make a better profit, etc. Boy was I wrong!

Seeing the numbers on paper (actually in excel) really took me back! WOW. Bridget helped me set up a budget, set a plan for how many sessions I should book during a month and more. Allison helped me make sense of my price list and gave some amazing suggestions to improve it as well as advice on some of the promotions I was working on.

One big thing I learned is I don't have to photograph everyone in my market! There are lots of prospective clients in my area, and surrounding area, that are who I consider my ideal clients and who aren't afraid to invest both their time and money in me. That's who I want my business to benefit from. The numbers Bridget helped me understand who my ideal client really is, and helped me to make a "road map" of sorts, not only for 2013, but one that will help me be even better and more profitable in 2014 and beyond!

How did you use what you learned?

After my consultation with my SMS mentor Allison Rodgers, who I think she's the best thing since sliced bread, by the way, I made lots of changes to my price menu and have even more planned for 2014. I love that the Rodgers' provide such an amazing experience for their clients from the moment they call and have a session consultation until they come back to pick up their portrait order. The experience you provide your client with will determine the outcome of your sales session and will lead to future business with them and their friends that they're going to talk to you about! We discussed some of the mini-sessions I had planned and Allison again gave me some amazing advice for them.

ClarkSanders2.jpgHow has your business changed since your consultation?

I raised my prices after my consultation and will be increasing them again soon! I had always been scared to death to raise my prices to a point where I would lose clients, but as a lot of successful studio photographers have said in the past, you'll attract the clients who value what you do and will make up for the ones that don't. And that has rang true! I'm able to prequalify clients based on the price of my session fees and my collections.

Why should someone consider an SMS consultation?

The old saying, "don't reinvent the wheel," comes to mind when seeking the services from SMS. If you're currently operating a studio or thinking of starting one, there is a wealth of knowledge from the SMS mentors that can help get your business off on the right track. My SMS mentor was able to take a look at my pricing and other aspects of my business during my consultation. The suggestions she made have helped steer my business down the right path. If anyone is struggling with their business and don't know what they should do to turn it around, an SMS consultation is a no-brainer!

So what's your number? Do consider PPA's Studio Management Services (SMS) if you need help finding it.


PPA Member Stories:

This series serves as an opportunity for you PPA members to tell your story. How has PPA membership helped you and your business? It could be PPA's Studio Management Services, copyright protection, PhotoCare equipment insurance, the Indemnification Trust, Imaging USA--whatever! We want to hear from you, and so do your fellow members.

Have a story you'd like to share? Shoot John Owens an email at

When it comes to starting a photography business, or when shifting from a part-time to aSMS Business Basics Workshop full-time career in photography, what are the first steps you need to take? 

Don't know the answer? Fear not, you aren't alone! While many photographers have great images, they often fall short on the business side of things. You can't afford (literally!) to ignore these issues! 

PPA recently hosted a group of photographers in Atlanta on June 29-30 for the Business Basics Workshops, led by accomplished photographer Lori Nordstrom, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, and PPA mentor, Bridget Jackson, CPA. The workshop is designed to give attendees a complete background on the financial, legal and tax requirements of running a business. Attendees learn how to evaluate their business' strengths and how that relates to a pricing structure. 

All the business information in the workshop is backed up by PPA's Benchmark Survey Results (a free membership benefit!), which compares your studio averages to the industry average. This helps photographers make smarter business decisions for long-term success. Attendees even immediately walk out with tangible marketing and promotional ideas to get their business moving in the right direction! 

As June workshop attendee, Jessica Dorris, of Jessica Williams Studio, told us, "My mentor suggested the workshop. She told me it was the best next step to take from doing photography as a part-time job to a full-time job.

"I learned things I wouldn't have understood without the help of PPA, like understanding the Benchmark Survey and how I can use it to determine my cost of sales."

The main goal of PPA's Business Basics Workshop is to help you form a sustainable business plan that will allow you to run a profitable studio for many years. According to recent attendee Ernie Strickland, this goal is definitely accomplished!

"Having an art background, I've learned how to create beautiful photography, but in order to sell that photography I had to understand the business side of things too," Strickland said. 

"The workshop overwhelmed me with information about being business-minded. It showed me that to get the financial end result I want; I have to have a plan. Which seems obvious, but in real life, who really follows through? The class has helped me build that backbone plan that I can actually follow and use, not just for the short term, but also for my whole career," he added. 

Interested in attending a Business Basics Workshop? View the upcoming schedule in the PPAedu section. Or, if your business is a little further along, check out the upcoming Business Breakthroughs Workshops. You've got to be a PPA member to participate in one of these workshops, so consider joining PPA now. And stay tuned to our blog for a video featuring a-ha moments and feedback from recent Business Basics Workshop attendees!

Are you stalling to take your photography business to the next level? Running out of ideas, time, or motivation to make the plunge? Then the SMS Business Breakthroughs series is for you. These workshops target the business side of photography--the behind-the-scenes stuff that, you know, helps YOU make some real money!

The next Business Breakthroughs workshop will be held in Cincinnati, Ohio, from July 15 to 17 with instructors Allison Rodgers, Cr.Photog., and Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP. These well-established and respected photographers will lead the three-full-day hands-on workshop while helping you increase your sales, take more money home and get your life back.

OH! And there's a bonus!

The first 10 of you who register for the workshop will receive their choice of a blog template from Rockstar Exposure (this freebie will keep your blog fresh with completely customizable Photoshop® blog templates).

Allison and Beth's Business Breakthroughs workshop will cover a variety of topics that will help you maximize profit and streamline your business. Here's some of what will be covered:


Marketing & Promotions

·         Effective ways to get the word out

·         Attract your ideal client

·         Refine your brand and promotions

·         Partner to grow your client base

Business & Financial Management

·         Evaluate your overhead spending

·         Hone an effective price list

·         Implement a price increase and keep clients

·         Set a realistic salary

·         Keep more of your tax dollars

Sales & Customer Service

·         Match your studio style to client experience

·         Encourage customers to spend more

·         Provide top-notch customer service at no cost

·         Tips to get you comfortable with selling


SMS Business Breakthroughs workshops have been organized for years and continue to receive raving reviews and referrals. Here are some examples:


"I attended the SMS Business Breakthroughs workshop. After the class and the guidance I received from my one-on-one consultations, I am recording record monthly sales! I would have never guessed that I would be able to say I brought in over $18,000 in one month, but I did! AWESOME! We wouldn't have been able to progress this much without what we learned with SMS!"

-Callie Page - Callie Page Photography


"We attended the 3-Day SMS Business Breakthroughs Workshop and were so impressed with the instructors and information! The information was so practical and relevant that we were able to put it into use immediately. In under a year, our studio went from breaking even to record profits that have changed our lives and allowed us to do things we had only dreamed of doing. We recommend SMS to every photographer, starting out or established. It will improve your business as well as your life."

-Matt and Allison Ragsdale, CPP - Allison Ragsdale Photography


"The 3-Day SMS Business Breakthroughs Workshop was a huge help to our business--I can't say enough about how important it was. And it just made sense to attend a one-on-one consultation to make sure we were on the right track. I will be talking with my PPA accountant every year for her wise advice; and hopefully, I'll still be learning and changing and growing!"

-Debbie Riggs - Pure-Photography


Business Breakthroughs workshops are your chance to address your most pressing issues and areas of concern, get questions answered, develop priorities, and identify actions to launch your business to the next level. There's more money to be made! Let us help you cash it in.


For more information on this particular photography business workshop or to register, please visit the dedicated page for this PPA SMS Workshop.

BusinessBasics_AnnMonteith.jpgIf you're new to the photography business or moving from part- to full-time, PPA's Business Basics Workshop is a great start on the right path. Over two days, you'll learn the fundamentals of running a successful photography business from mentors who run profitable photography businesses themselves.

If you're ready to take the next step in making your business succeed, consider registering for the next Business Basics Workshop with Ann Monteith, M.Photog.Cr. Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP. It might be the perfect opportunity for you, especially as Ann is an industry leader who has helped hundreds of photographers beat the business blues! The workshop is being held in Atlanta at PPA headquarters on June 9-10, but you'd better hurry - only 2 spaces remain for this workshop!

View other upcoming Business Basics Workshops.

Already have a business established? Consider learning how to improve it with the Business Breakthroughs Workshop.
PPA's got what you need to help make sense (and more than cents) out of your photography business, thanks to the remaining business workshops coming in 2012. Need guidance with essential business and marketing questions? Want to increase your sales, keep more money and take back your life? Want to become financially stronger and more profitable? See the remaining 2012 business workshops below and register for the class that's right for you!

Business Basics Workshops
  • April 28-29 - Cincinnati, OH
  • June 9-10 - Atlanta, GA
  • June 25-26 - Ann Arbor, MI
  • November 3-4 - Atlanta, GA

Business Breakthroughs Workshops
  • July 15-19 - Shawnigan Lake, BC
  • July 16 - 18 - Memphis, TN
  • November 5-7 - Atlanta, GA

Working hard, but have little to show for it? PPA's Studio Management Services (SMS) business workshops have helped hundreds of studios, just like yours, gain control of their businesses and become financially stronger and more profitable. And one is coming to Atlanta--with a little something extra--March 12-14!

Our Business Breakthroughs Workshop can help you keep more money and take control. It's all in learning to manage your finances, price right, attract new clients and increase sales average per session to reach the "elusive" next level. The most amazing thing?  This workshop includes a private consultation with an SMS mentor and PPA accountant...meaning you'll walk away with actionable business and marketing goals AND a custom financial plan.

But this Atlanta class also features a special segment you won't get at any other Business Breakthroughs Workshop. Jen Basford of 3 Girls Photography is joining us for a day, meaning you'll be able to glean extra tips on senior sales and marketing specifics!

So, if you specialize in senior portraits (or want to) and have been thinking about gaining control of your studio with a Business Breakthroughs Workshop, this is the class you can't miss. All class sizes are limited, so register now before your spot is gone!

At some point in your life, you resolved to take your love for photography and make it official—you were going to take proper measures to become a professional photographer.  Maybe that day was back in the summer of '71. Maybe it was the last in a series of contemplative moments you'd been having the last few years. Or perhaps, just maybe it was today—on some ordinary Thursday.

But whether you are green to the industry or a seasoned pro, never forget that your business skills are equally as important as your artistic skills. After all, your images can speak for themselves, but are your profits following suit?

Thing is, the business landscape of pro photography is tricky. And as artists, photographers often have a hard time grasping what the numbers mean. That's why PPA has championed business education for photographers, becoming the authority in the industry with our Studio Management Services (SMS). For 10 years, SMS has helped hundreds of studios like yours gain control of their businesses and become more profitable with industry-leading resources (like the Benchmark Survey), education, mentors and other business tools.

Want the best path to success—one that's custom-designed for your unique business? Want to be make smarter business decisions for long-term success? With SMS resources you have access to as a member, you can find the help you need practically every step of the way. Read the complete article here.

SMS Business Workshop Comes to Atlanta, March 12-14

You probably know the importance of adding business smarts to your artistic skills (you need them to keep doing what you love!). So, are you ready to increase your sales? Keep more money? Take back your life? Take the next step with PPA's Studio Management Services.

Our Business Breakthroughs Workshop can help you get to that "elusive" next level. The three full-day sessions teach you to manage your finances, attract your ideal client, get comfortable selling and more...all to help you better run your unique photography business.

The most amazing thing? This workshop includes a private consultation with an SMS mentor and PPA accountant, meaning you'll walk away with actionable business and marketing goals AND a custom financial plan. It's the one-two punch that can push you onwards and upwards!

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