Each December someone places a Christmas wreath
on this warming hut in the woods near my home.
I don't know who built this shelter or if it is the
same person who chooses to celebrate the season
by decorating this humble structure
with a fresh holiday wreath.
I just know that December wouldn't be the same
without this gracious gesture.
It's a welcome reminder of the power we possess
to create a better world through
simple acts of kindness.
May your New Year be filled with
good health, peace and prosperity,
the love of family and friends,
and the joy experienced through
simple acts of kindness.
Jim & Ann Monteith
I first met Frank when he attended a Guerrilla Management Workshop that Judy Grann and I conducted at the Florida School in 1999. Frank and his family had recently moved to Florida, where the population was growing by leaps and bounds. They made the move fearing the stagnant economy in the New York area, where he had his studio, would not be improving any time soon. Once in Florida, Frank discovered how difficult it could be to make inroads into a new market. His business was barely breaking even, and his options were severely limited by the fact that all business operations had to happen in a 300 sq. ft. basement area that provided only the tiniest of space for making portraits.
Instead of whining about what he couldn't do, Frank figured that he could photograph babies in that tiny space, so he set about to become the best baby photographer in the area. Fortunately, sales classes he had taken with John Hartman had taught him how powerful sales letters could be. So he fashioned and refined what would become a killer sales letter, and he put together all the marketing and sales materials he needed to make the business work.
All that was missing was a broader knowledge of financial management, and when he attended the Workshop in Florida, he took that information and ran with it like a man on fire. Last month Frank sent me a copy of his SuccessWare Sales Trends Analysis from 1998 through 2007. It is beautiful to behold!
What his steady sales growth proves is that working a financial management plan that is based on a sound marketing and sales concept pays off. If you're wondering why the trend reversed in 2004, that was the year that the Boynton Beach area, as well as much of Florida, was hit by two hurricanes. But even that year, Frank made a nice profit, because he knows how to manage resources when times are hard. Today the biggest financial problem Frank has is making sure he takes advantage of all the lawful options available to minimize the tax burden that comes along with high profits. In fact the business not only supports Frank's family, it employs his wife, Donna, and son, Tony. And it is now housed in a 1350 sq.ft. facility, part of a larger complex that includes other businesses and residential condos.
Frank owns the studio space free and clear, and he expects to have the family condo paid off by April, 2008. "I hate bank loans," he says. After April, Frank will continue to make monthly payments . . . but now that money will be invested for retirement. You see what I mean about Frank working his plan!
As successful as Frank has become, what I admire most about him is his rock-solid character and his desire to help others. Those who are regular members of his Baby Plan Mastermind group are full of stories about his help and his kindness, and I've seen both in action when he has served as a class assistant at my Guerrilla Management Workshops. He has a standing invitation to any Workshop he can manage to attend, and for the past three years he's come to the fall class in Deep Creek. I hope he'll make it again this year, because both the students and the teachers learn from him every time!
In the meantime, you can learn more about Donnino Galleria Portraits by clicking here. And please don't miss Frank's IUSA program, where you can hear for yourself how he has created such a wonderful business. You'll find me on the front row.
During the film era I was never very tidy with my cameras. But that changed since I went digital, because I've seen the repercussions of letting dust hit the sensor: ugly microbe-like specimens that you have to clone off your images. Last week I noticed that some particularly nasty stuff had taken up residence in my trusty Canon 5-D, so while I was gone last week, Jim sent it off to be cleaned by the folks at Crop Lines. When I got it back, it was clean as a pin, and there was a brochure about their focus-screen etching product enclosed. That's when it hit me that I've never written about this wonderful service that really speeds up your workflow.
What Crop Lines does is take the guesswork out of cropping in your digital 35mm camera by etching crop lines right on your camera's focus screen. What you will see through the viewfinder is clean, crisp, lines that you can see even in low-light situations. I chose to have a both a square format and a perfect 8x10 format etched on my screen. These formats are especially helpful for those of us who were trained to "get it in the camera" so that we didn't have to mask our negatives. Digital drove me nuts for a long time, because I couldn't see the format, thus I had to spend time cropping, which to me is the workflow equivalent of ditch digging. When you crop in the camera, you can use ProSelect's instant cropping feature, and that alone will save you a huge amount of time. Learn more by logging on to www.croplines.com, or call 815-477-3366. And don't forget that they do sensor cleaning too!
I hope you won't miss the great "Legend's Program." Last year Hanson Fong brought down the house with his wonderful tribute to Rocky Gunn, a true legend in our industry. This year Tony Corbell will do the same with his tribute to the awsome and incredible Dean Collins. Be with us for the presentation of a big check from Family Portrait Month to Operation Smile, and find out who is the top fund-raiser and the winner of a $2000 shopping spree. Of course you won't want to miss the fabulous Charities Auction!
For the 3rd year in a row, Jim and I are pleased to contribute a week at our Deep Creek, MD lake house to be sold at the live auction. The week we've chosen is May 5-11, 2008. The house has 5 bedrooms and 5 baths and 2 living rooms. So if you are looking for a great place for a spring vacation or a fun place to hang out with your photographer buddies, stop by and get into the bidding. The house is only a little over an hour from Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, so it's worth the trip just to visit this architectural masterpiece. Here is a look at the house and the lake:
Every small business owner--including photographers--should read the FoxNews.com story entitled "Software 'Police' Accused of Targeting Small Business." The item sheds light on the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the powerful copyright-enforcement agency that supports such software giants as Microsoft and Adobe . . . companies whose software photographers use daily. So it's vital for you to understand the power this organization wields: The article maintains that almost 90% of the $13 million in judgments BSA won against software violators last year came from small businesses.
Yes, I know how irksome it is to deal with software licensing policies that are insanely confusing and inherently frustrating: Last week I found myself unable to use my laptop version of Microsoft Office while I was on the road doing a seminar because I had added another computer to my home network. I was tired of running up and downstairs all day, so I now have iMacs on both floors that ONLY I USE. But what really was troublesome about the episode was the fact that I had already bought and paid for another license for the MS Office products because I knew I needed one for the "third seat," and I had the info required to get the activation code for my laptop with me when I hit the road. But I found myself unable to gain access to the code because I have a new email address, I couldn't find a way to update my record, and the helpful folks on the MS Help Line were "unavailable at this time." So I had to borrow a computer in order to get by until I got home and had time to hunt down a Bill Gates employee. Grrrr . . .
In spite of such aggravations, it would be much worse to have the Business Software Alliance file a legal complaint that could bankrupt your studio. So please . . . do the right thing and pay for the software you use. They are watching us, and this is serious business. The fellow in the Fox News article concluded that that best thing to do is find other companies to deal with that aren't members of the Alliance. That's pretty silly and shortsighted from my perspective. The best thing, I believe, is not to violate copyrights in the first place. Isn't that what we ask our clients to do?
I've just posted a second 2008 Guerrilla Management Workshop for May 16-19 at my lake house and studio in Deep Creek Maryland. If you are interested, then you'd better register NOW. We already have 4 studio slots filled from the waiting list of the February workshop, which closed in record time when it was announced. I'll be announcing the May workshop via an email newsletter that will go out late Sunday, December 16. For complete information, click here.
The photographic community, particularly those who participate in print competition, have suffered a painful loss with the passing of of our beloved Buddy Stewart, chairman of PPA's Print Exhibition Committee. As word spread that Buddy had died from a massive heart attack, after having battled brain cancer since last April, expressions of love and loss have poured in from literally thousands of those whose lives he has touched. It's rare to read such eloquent, heart-felt statements that carry a common theme: None of us can imagine a world without Buddy.
Last June, when a cancer-related blood clot kept Buddy from attending the International Print Competition, where he would have served as Overall Jury Chairman, we all felt Buddy's presence. As an expression of how much the jurors loved and missed Buddy, we posed for our official portrait wearing "Keep Grinnin'" ball caps as a tribute to Buddy's famous "sign-off" line and to that ubiquitous grin that was the hallmark of his personality. I bet you'll see more than a few of those ball caps at ImagingUSA in January!
As Buddy is being remembered, it seems like everyone has a special story. I have two such remembrances:
I got to spend some time with Buddy and Lola in Korea in 2005, when PEC ran the first PPA print competition in Asia. Buddy was Jury Chairman for the event, and he ran the competition with high professionalism and his usual good humor. To say that the Korean photographers loved Buddy and his Mississippi accent is an understatement! In spite of the ever-present language barrier, they appreciated the patient manner in which Buddy and his judges conducted the competition . . . assuring that every print got a fair shake and that the Korean photographers gained a good grasp of of the PPA judging system.
I attended the event in Korea in my capacity as PPA President, and after a while I told Buddy that I felt a bit like a fifth wheel, as I was no longer an active PPA-Approved juror; I confided that I hated sitting on the sidelines. I had found it impossible to stay active in print competition during my later years of service on the PPA Board, so I had bowed out Buddy was quick to encourage me to start entering again and to apply for reinstatement. He also was very complimentary about some images I had made on a recent trip to Ireland, especially one of a steam locomotive chugging its way across Killarney farmland. I didn't know it at the time, but Buddy was an avid train buff. Well . . . I was more than a little nervous about entering again . . . especially since I had never entered a digital print, let alone a scenic. With Buddy's gentle prodding and some additional encouragement from Helen Yancy, I decided to enter in 2006. When three of my scenics hung, I was as excited as the first time I received a print merit. I believe Buddy was genuinely thrilled for me as well, because after the judging was over, he called personally to congratulate me on the prints and later for being reinstated as a Approved Jurror. That's Buddy for you. I could literally HEAR him ginning when he said, "I told you that train scene was good." Today that image is very precious to me. I had entitled it "Sentimental Journey," but now in my mind it will always be "Buddy's Train."
My heart goes out to Lola and the rest of Buddy's family . . . as well as thousands of photographers who will miss him profoundly. Buddy left us a wonderful legacy of living and loving, and he would want all of us to "Keep Grinnin'." When today's tears begin to dry, I have no doubt that we will . . . every time we think of Buddy Stewart. What a incredible gift he gave us!