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Snack Time With Charlie

Just had to share this too funny photo that Helen Yancy sent me today. This is Charlie, Helen's goldendoodle. Apparently Charlie has the Yancy household under complete control. Looking forward to rooming with Helen next week at the Texas School . . . we have a lot to catch up on!


Marathon Marketing Workshop: Orange County, CA

What a treat it was to travel to sunny California for the April Strategic Marketing Workshop. The April weather was divine, especially for workshop staff members Mark Weber, Bill Camacho and myself, as we were pretty fed up with the dismal spring weather at home. Having lunch on the patio was a wonderful change of pace for us. We had a full house of students whom we kept busy doing their marketing planning, and we particularly enjoyed seeing those "light-bulb moments" of marketing insight that occurred during the work sessions.

The next workshop will take place in Chicago on May 13-14. For information on this and other future workshops,
click here.

A Memorable Trip to California

It's been a long time since I've traveled through John Wayne Airport, located in Orange County, California, the site of Marathon's April Strategic Marketing Plan Workshop. While waiting for my luggage, I snapped several pictures of kids posing on the giant statue of "The Duke," who still ranks as my husband's all-time favorite Hollywood star.

I was eagerly anticipating my trip west, knowing that this workshop was sold out, but it wasn't until I arrived and met up with Bill Camacho, Marathon's vice president and fellow workshop staff member, who told me I was invited to the San Clemente home of his old friend Amy Lee and her fiancee Bob Modzelewski. Amy and Bill first met in New York City when both were employed by Madison Avenue advertising firms, and they have remained friends ever since. Amy and Bob recently moved into their new hilltop home with an absolutely breathtaking view of the valley below. The view was matched only by the exquisite art collection that graces the home's elegantly inviting interior. Here's a photo of Amy and Bob in their dining room, which features an exceptional carving of Buddhist deities, crafted entirely from various shades of jade.

Not only did Bill and I enjoy an evening of delightful conversation with Bob and Amy, we were treated to a delectable steak dinner, which Bob artfully prepared and elegantly served. Along with a dessert that featured the biggest and most beautiful strawberries I've ever seen, Bob and Amy served ice wine, a dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the wine and pressed from the frozen grapes before fermentation to create a concentrated sweet wine. I've never tasted ice wine before, and I'm absolutely crazy about it! By the end of the evening, I felt as though I had known Bob and Amy for years. I can only hope that our paths will cross again. What a wonderful couple they are!

Seeing Yourself . . . Through Your Client's Eyes

Want to assure that your business stays on course? There's no better way to know how your business is doing than to ask your clients. This concept has worked in my business, and it is something that I've taught in business management classes for years; but I don't know many photographers who have taken the time for follow this advice. That's why I was so pleased to hear from Stockbridge, Georgia photographer Molly Purvinesthat she had done just that. Molly took six of her clients to brunch to have some fun and to talk some business. The result: "They had some really great ideas to help grow my business, and they gave me really honest feedback," she said. "One of things that surprised me was how much they are genuinely interested in each other. They asked about each other's kids, talked about their sessions with me, and even want to bring their albums next year to share with one another." Yes, the group is already planning to get together again, including a possible family portrait safari in Florida. They're even talking about other future, more exotic locations. Wow!

Molly also received great feedback about how the ladies reacted to having her business in her home. One client said she had some reservations about it, but that the quality of her work alleviated her fears. Furthermore, when she returned for the sales session, Molly served cheese and crackers and punch in stemware. The client remarked that when she purchased her $400,000 house, she didn’t even get water in a paper cup from her real estate agent, so that the quality of her experience was really impressive.

So here's some good advice from Molly: "If you are ever feeling down take six of your best clients out for brunch. It’s pretty darn cool to have people say really nice things about you for two hours!" And I promise . . . you'll learn a lot!
Below is waitress's photo of Molly (top row, left) and her clients:

You can see more images from Molly's party on her blog at www.purvinesphotography.com/blog

Irish Friends - A Wrapup

Today I heard from several of "The Irish Six," who are back at work in Ireland. Donal sent me these two photos of the group on a shopping outing and of them just generally enjoying Chicago on their last night in America:

These pictures will always remind me of the magical time we shared together. I know we have forged lasting friendships, and I will follow their personal and professional exploits with the utmost interest. With a little bit of luck and planning, I'll get to see each of them again when Jim and I visit Ireland in the fall. I can't wait!

Irish Friends - Day 7

On the last day of their "downstate" visit to Illinois, the crew from Ireland packed up and traveled to the Chicago suburb of Mokena, where we were graciously received by Bert and Cindy Behnke at their spectacular residential studio. I feel like I've know one Behnke or another for all of my photographic life. One of the very first professional programs I attended was presented by Bert's Mom, Connie, who is known throughout the industry for her business acumen. I learned so much from her that day, and I am enormously proud to be associated with her as a recipient of the Charles H. "Bud" Haynes Award for promoting business awareness in the professional industry. So it was a special treat when Connie arrived to visit with us, and it was great to see her husband, Dom, as well. It was my extreme pleasure to serve on the PPA Board of Directors with Bert, who distinguished himself as PPA president in so many ways, most especially as the force behind the creation of PPA Charities, which today Bert serves as Development Director. I first met Cindy shortly before her marriage to Bert, and it's been a delight to serve with her on print judging panels, including last year's International Competition in Florida. I've always wanted to visit the Behnke's studio, so this was a very special opportunity.

Behnke Photographers was founded in 1956 in Cicero, Illinois by Bert's parent's Al and Connie, and Bert purchased the studio from them in 1985, when they moved to Clearwater, Florida, and opened another studio. Bert and Cindy relocated the business to a beautiful two-acre wooded site in Mokena six years ago, creating a home with a dedicated studio wing, making it one of the most accommodating residential studios I've ever seen, not to mention the most beautifully decorated. We all marveled at Bert's contracting skills and Cindy's taste in creating a such a stylish, yet welcoming, environment that highlights photography as decorative art.

I was enchanted by the antique camera, which welcomes you at the studio entrance.

As you walk into the studio you are treated to this beautiful focal point, which showcases the decorative power of family portraiture.

Throughout the studio portraiture continues to take center stage among other beautiful home furnishings.

Here Bert, who was on a break from jury duty, answers questions for the Irish visitors, after which we enjoyed a delightful luncheon prepared by Cindy and Connie.

Bert and Cindy, at left, join the visitors, and Mom Connie, on the exquisite staircase of the home's elegant foyer.

Eventually we found our way to the airport, where I bid a reluctant goodbye to my Irish friends, who headed into Chicago for a final night's fling. Here I am in a last-minute photo with Donal. The trip back to Pennsylvania was uneventful, but it was a bit of a letdown to leave such delightful friends behind. Tomorrow it will be back to the real world.


Irish Friends - Day 6

After a final morning of working on marketing plans, Jed treated all of us to a Photoshop class that, unlike most you attend, had to do with profitability. Jed's message is simple: Time is Money! if you save time on routine Photoshop matters, your business will be less confusing, less chaotic, and more profitable. AMEN. Here he is explaining how essential a Wacom tablet and stylus are to saving time and improving artistry. I learned this from my dear friend Helen Yancy, who routinely informs her Photoshop/Painter classes that "You can't retouch with a rock," and "You can't paint with a rock," referring of course to the mouse that way too many photographers want to use.

I was awed by Jed's instructional style, as well as the incredible actions and templates he has created. I was quick to purchase the "V Gallery eVolution" package, which includes these items that will save me countless hours. You can learn about everything contained in this helpful resource by
clicking here.

At the end of the day we packed up our belongings and and captured a few fun images at Haven.

Tomorrow my "Illinois Odyssey" will be over when I deliver "The Irish 6" back to Chicago and head for home. We'll have one more stop on the way: Behnke Photography in Mokena, a suburb of Chicago. I'm certain that we will never forget the wondeful days we spent learning together at Haven, and we can't thank Jed and Vicki Taufer enough for this opportunity!

Irish Friends - Day 5

After a morning of marketing, we took a lunch break with Jed, who is holding down the fort and preparing for an in-studio class while Vicki is on a visit to Guatemala.

Getting back to class, everyone checked out
BellaGrafica marketing products.

Ever the gracious host, Jed prepares prepares dinner at the Taufer homestead . . .

. . . where we discovered a virtual Fun Zone of electronic toys! So after a delicious dinner, the gang settled down for a room-rocking viewing of the high-decibel movie

Here Jed spends some face time with Vicki who iChatted with him from Guatemala and waved to the rest of the group, which included Jed's brother, Kip, and other friends who came by for dinner and to watch the Final Four basketball semi-finals. So the Irish delegation got a great look at what goes on on a Saturday night in middle America . . .

. . . including a truly unforgetable Irish/American romping, stomping high-tech rock-and-roll karaoke session. That's Kip Taufer on drums.

By the end of the evening everyone was suffering from laughing pains. Trust me, you had to be there.

Irish Friends - Day 4

What's the best reward you can give to a group of Irish photographers who've spent two days in the classroom working on financial and marketing plans? That's easy: take them on a studio tour! So mid-afternoon yesterday we packed up and drove a short way to the uber-chic studio of Jeff and Julia Woods in the nearby town of Washington, Illinois. There we received a tour of the urban-style studio that is a perfect reflection of the Woods' personalities. As was the case with our previous studio visits, Jeff and Julia's hospitality, friendship, and willingness to share with the us was spectacular and very much appreciated.

Julia presented her sales philosophy, which is central to the studio's business concept . . .

. . . while Jeff provided insight into his approach to creating cutting-edge products.

It's been a while since I've had some time to visit with Julia, so this was a special treat for me.

There was plenty of time for Q&A with the Woods . . .

. . . as well as just soaking in the studio's fabulous ambience.

And there was time for laughs as well.

With hardly any prompting, the fearless Donal O'Connell took the driver's seat for this group photo before we moved on to a wonderful dinner at a nearby Italian/Irish restaurant: Basta O'Neils.

What a great adventure with Jeff and Julia! Tomorrow it will be back to work on marketing plans. Thanks to the Woods for their warmth, wit, and wisdom!

By the way, the Woods have just posted a May 19-20 date for another session of their always-sold-out in-studio workshops . . . a fantastic educational opportunity. To learn more, click

Irish Friends - Day 3

Today it was strictly down to work, as the Irish 6 used SuccessWare to analyze their businesses. Tomorrow, they'll take their findings and develop new profit-building strategies. Of special interest to me was the burdensome and confusing Irish VAT tax that thank heavens U.S. photographers don't have to contend with!


Irish Friends - Day 2

Our first day of instruction started with a warm welcome to V Gallery and Haven from Vicki and Jed Taufer.

Vicki delighted everyone with fast-paced insights as to how V Gallery approaches marketing and management, including a live sales demonstration of ProSelect.

Those who have visited V Gallery and Haven marvel at how Jed and Vicki have created such unique and appealing spaces within a building that once was a bowling alley. After taking a late-afternoon tour of Jed's parents' home, we gained special insight into at least one source of their creative inspiration: Jed's wondrously talented father, Dana Taufer. We were thrilled to be invited to visit the mind-boggling house that Dana hand-built himself, over 8 years, with help from his sons. With no plans to guide him, other than the remarkable vision in his head, and using recycled materials, Dana created what Jed described as "kind of a 'hobbit house for adults,' " which, as you can see from the photo below, is a delightfully apt description.

Here Suzanne and Padraic enjoy the wit of the architect himself, Dana Taufer.

Photographs of this intriguing house simply cannot convey the brilliant creativity that is revealed when you see it in person. With a ceiling height of 37 feet and 70 different exterior wall angles, this one-of-a-kind home literally defies description. It's the type of dwelling you would expect to see on an HGTV program about spectacularly unique homes. What an totally unexpected and absolutely delightful experience . . . a rare reward after a busy classroom day!


Irish Friends - Day 1

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love Ireland, the Irish people, and especially Irish photographers. So this week is a much-anticipated opportunity for me to pay back some of the wonderful hospitality I've received in Ireland by hosting six Irish photographers on a learning and studio-visiting odyssey in Illinois. Several of my terrific photographer buddies are sharing their hospitality as well. Our ultimate destination is V Gallery, Vicki and Jed Taufer's extraordinary boutique studio and their education center, called "Haven," in Morton IL.

Our first stop on the way was Springfield, IL, where Sarah Petty hosted the group at her fabulous home, which is beautifully decorated with her portraiture. Our group is shown below with Sarah, outside her home. They are, from left: Padraic Deasy, of Newbridge, County Kildare (
deasyphotographic.com); Donal O'Connell, of Douglas, County Cork (imagesphotography.ie); Frances Muldoon, of Rosses Point, County Sligo; Mary McCoullough of Nenagh, County Tipperary, (sourcephotography.ie); Suzanne Toal, of Monaghan, County Monaghan (zanni.ie); Maria Dunphy, Kilkenny, County Kilkenny (oliverofkilkenny.com).

Once inside, Sarah explained her philosophy of interior design using portraits . . . in the same manner that she provides this information to clients. Her home literally is the perfect showcase for portraiture as decorative home furnishings. Joining us was daughter Grace Petty, one of Sarah's favorite subjects.

Grace was proud to show off her room . . .

. . . as was son John.

We enjoyed a great meal together in the retail plaza where Sarah Petty Photography is located. Joining us was Sarah's associate Andria Crawford, and graphic designer extraordinaire Beth Camplain of
Hotdog Design.

During our visit to Sarah's studio, I FINALLY got to meet Sarah's husband, who I've been referring to as "Virtual Joe." It was wonderful to finally meet the real Joe Petty! What a handsome couple!

After an explanation of how she works in the camera room . . .

. . . Sarah moved on to a discussion of her favorite subject: marketing and branding.

From the enthusiastic conversation in the van as we journeyed on to Morton, the feeling of our Irish friends was that it would have been worth the trip to America, just for this experience with Sarah. But we're just getting started. Stay tuned for more adventures of "The Irish Six."

An Anniversary: Happy April Fool's Day

Good Morning!

A year ago today I made a commitment to start a blog as a means of communicating more efficiently with photographers who are interested in marketing and management issues. I was a bit apprehensive about this commitment of time, but I thought I'd give it a try, and I'm so glad I did. I've made a lot of new friends through this medium, and I truly enjoy the process.

In the coming weeks I'll have some interesting features to post, so I hope you'll continue to take a look.

In the meantime, I'm about to embark on an exciting adventure: I'm in Chicago today where I will meet up with six Irish photographers who have traveled here to visit some American studios and to learn more about marketing and management. In a few hours, we'll set off in a rented van, with me driving, to visit with Sarah Petty in Springfield, IL. What a treat!

I visited the studios of two of the photographers, Suzanne Toal and Maria Dunphy, when I conducted a seminar last fall for the Irish PPA in Athlone. I wrote about them in the
Ireland Journal section of my blog. I'm so excited to see these great ladies again and really eager to meet the other four members of "The Irish Six." I'll introduce them when I have a chance to write again.

So it looks like April Fool's Day is becoming an important day in my life. Hope you have a good one!