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Making Marketing Joyful!

It was a gloomy rainy day outside yesterday, and inside it was just a typical day at the office: stuff to do and deadlines to meet. Then the mail man delivered a bright ray of sunshine in the form of my monthly Cafe Joy package from marketing guru Sarah Petty. Cafe Joy is a monthly subscription service that, as Sarah says, allows you to improve your marketing skills "one bite at a time." Each month something really neat arrives in the mail: from great promotional ideas Sarah has tested, or copies of her award-winning marketing pieces, to tips and resources and other welcome doses of monthly inspiration.

Among the items in this month's mailing was a step-by-step "recipe" for a clever Mother's Day promotion. It provides everything you need to get the promotion off the ground . . . including a CD with promotional graphics. And I loved the "Painting Party" challenge contest for creating an original painted background. Really fun stuff!

Membership in Cafe Joy also includes members' only webinars and access to resources in Cafe Joy's "Pantry."

If you want to learn from one of the best marketing minds in the industry . . . a lady who really walks the walk in her own studio, I'm confident that you will benefit from membership in Cafe Joy. And you'll love the darling recipe box that comes with your membership: A great place to store Sarah's tasty morsels of marketing genius!

To learn more about Cafe Joy, visit Sarah's Joy of Marketing website and click on Cafe Joy. You also can download a PDF the spells out all the member benefits by clicking here.

Do You Have Your Crop Lines Yet?

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!

Laurie Draper's Artful Jewelry and Ornaments

Helen Yancy is presently teaching a Painter Class at my Deep Creek location, and she called my attention to a wonderful resource for photo jewelry that makes use of precious metals, porcelains, and semi-precious stones. Master Artist and Photographic Craftsman Laurie Draper has created some exceptional high-end products that you can view on draperimaging.com. Since the holidays are coming, here are some of Laurie's ornaments.

And just look at these gorgeous jewelry pieces!

Ornaments wholesale for $12 - $24, and the jewelry starts at $20 and can go into the thousands for some custom designs. Laurie's price lists are posted on the site within the password protected “customer only” section so photographers can access the info when they open an account. For more information you can contact Laurie at laurie@draperimaging.com

Christmas Ornaments

Kim Collins, a photographer from Rolla, MO, has let me know that she has a source for very attractive Christmas ornaments at a very attractive price. These are strictly a Christmas product, as they include scriptural references. Each frame holds a 1 1/2" x 2 1/2" portrait. The overall frame size is 3 11/16" x 2 13/16".  Prices start at $7.00 per frame and are discounted as low as $6.00 for quantity purchases.  Each frame is accompanied by a satin ribbon for hanging on the tree or packages. For quantity purchases the designs can be mixed but each design must be purchased in sets of 4: 14 or less $7.00 each / 32 or less $6.50 each / 72 or less $6.00 each

You can order the ornaments through Kim, who can send you a larger image that will allow you read the ornament inscriptions. Contact Kim by clicking
here. Thanks, Kim!

My iPhone Universe

The night before I left for the California SMS Workshop, my husband, Jim, presented me with a lovely surprise: an iPhone! I had decided to wait to purchase one until I had time to sit down and learn its features. With only 18 hours before flight time, I had to scramble to load everything, including a movie to try out on the airplane. All I can say is WOW! It exceeded my already high expectations . . . not because of the incredibly cool interface and functions (the gee-whiz stuff), but because it is such a powerful workflow tool. To have the key items from my computer right in my hand allows me to keep up with email and a host of other detail issues during those interminable airport waits. And because I had a terrible seat on the plane, it was wonderful to be able to take my mind off of being "entrapped" by watching a movie. What I really didn't expect was to be so blown away by the new functionality of the i-Pod environment. It is so much easier to find and manage your music and videos. Like other iPods, the earbuds are the weak link, but I had my $35 Brookstone retractables with me, and they made my music-listening experience the best ever . . . as good as my Bose earphones, but so much lighter to carry.

By the time I hit Detroit, where I changed planes, I was concerned about how I will keep from
LOSING this wonderful device that had become an instant necessity. So I stopped in at the Brighton store, and discovered their new Soho bag that features a zipped organizer, and a secure front pouch that is perfect for the iPhone and earbuds. It is large enough to hold a point-and-shoot and minimal other necessities, but small enough to fit into a computer bag. What a way to travel!


Designers' Delight

The headline on the previous article brought to mind one of my favorite resources: Before&After magazine, which sports a tag line that says: "How to design cool stuff." Back in the early 1990s, before I knew anything about an upstart company called Marathon Press, I was constantly searching for resources that could help me learn more about good design. I knew that effective design was a key to producing quality marketing materials, and even though I had a local designer to help me out and no desire to learn to do it myself, I wanted to learn more about it so that I would know what to ask for from a designer.

Before & After was just what I was looking for. Every issue that arrives is full of such great ideas that I inevitably stop what I'm doing to dig through it. Early on I was so blown away by editor John McWade's vision and his WONDERFUL column on design, that I summoned the courage to write him a letter (remember them?) to ask how to approach the creation of promotional piece for PPA that I was working on as a volunteer. I really didn't expect a reply, but he answered my question, and in the process changed my life.

These days B&A is available in two versions: printed or pdf. Either is an outrageous bargain for the invaluable info you receive. I urge you to visit their site at
http://www.bamagazine.com. You'll find some free downloads to give you the flavor of the articles. Browse through the list of back issues, as I'm sure you'll find many that you'll want to download, and they are such a good value! And check out their testimonials. I'm not the only one who is hooked on this wonderful resource.

I'm really not trying to turn you into a designer, because most photographers should be spending their time shooting or building their businesses. But in today's world, design — just like technology — is part of everything we do, so you need to understand both. That's what B&A is all about. Here's how they describe themselves in the "Who we are" statement on their home page:

Before & After magazine has been sharing its practical approach to graphic design since 1990. Because our modern world has made designers of us all (ready or not), Before & After is dedicated to making graphic design understandable, useful and even fun for everyone.

They certainly have! Thank you John McWade!

Homeward Bound: Before and After

Thought I'd take a moment to show you two of my favorite products at work:
NIK image-enhancement software and John Hartman QuickMats 3™ custom digital mats.

The perfectly awful original, shown above, is from a bunch of typical stupid seagull pictures that everyone seems compelled to take when they are by the ocean — in this case the west coast of Ireland. Shot with my trusty Canon 5-D, I was about to delete it when I noticed the gull with his mouth open. Apparently he's screaming at the other guys to get out of his way. I decided to crop in on just him . . . then I saw what was in the distance.

I played around with some NIK filters (Color Efex Pro) to add vibrancy and color to the image, used a touch of Nik Sharpener Pro on the bird, then I cropped it to straighten the horizon line. I then created a Hartman mat around it and hung it in my bedroom along with a group of favorite images I'd made in Ireland. I enjoyed it so much — because it really gives me that "land's end" feeling I get whenever I visit the the coast of Ireland — that I decided to enter it in competition. I was thrilled that it received a Merit last month at the national judging. I hung two others, both of which I used filters to enhance, but with those images I had something to work with in the first place — not just a throw-away (almost) snapshot that was hiding a treasure.

My conversion to digital did not come quickly or easily: I've observed the implosion of way too many studios placed under the stress of trying to implement a brand new workflow overnight. Letting go of my beloved Mamiya RZ67 and my fixed-tripod world has been tough. But what really made me embrace the digital world is recognizing that in my film world, I nearly always felt somewhat letdown when I saw the proofs of an image that had thrilled me when I snapped the shutter. But with digital, I can take that same image and bring out the the actual
emotion I was feeling because of what I was beholding. Now, every time I look at "Homeward Bound," I am transported to that magic place that Ireland has become to me, and I am filled with the emotions I have for the exquisite land, fascinating places, and marvelous people I've experienced there. Wow! What a gift digital has given to me.


Showit Puts You On The FAST Track!

In case you haven't heard about Showit products, I urge you to take a look at showitfast.com. I learned about these great products several months ago when I was looking for a quick solution for building slideshows on the fly.

Showit is the brainchild of David Jay, a twenty-something Santa Barbara photographer, who quickly became a sensation in the high-end wedding photography market. David credits this meteoric rise to his strategy of creating eye-catching Flash slideshows to present on the very day of the wedding. In the process he developed a suite of Showit tools that make the process incredibly easy. You can quickly enhance your photos with Showit Effects and Showit Borders. Then drop your photos into Showit Web to produce a stunning Flash slideshow.

showitfast.com to learn about David's marketing philosophy, to see Showit products in action, and to review how-to videos and support information. See how David markets his wedding photography business using Showit products by visiting his studio site at davidjay.com.

Here's an example from the Showit Effects application:

Check out this example from Showit Borders:


Finally . . . Camera Bags for Women!

I met a new vendor at Chicks Who Click in the Bahamas . . . jill-e designs. They have some wonderful, stylish gear bags, designed especially for women who don't want to walk around looking like pack mules. I'm not so worried about how I look—I just want to get where I'm going with my cameras, lenses, and MacBook intact. This is becoming increasingly difficult because I usually have to ride on commuter jets. Several times lately, they've refused to let me get on the plane with my SMALL rolling backpack, which holds my essential gear. This is infuriating, because I see others with bags much larger than mine, and I know my backpack will fit under the seat. I end up having to carry the contents of the bag on to the plane in my arms, put the gear in the overhead (which is scary), and then have the empty bag fly in the cargo bay. Really dumb!

So I was thrilled to see jill-e's
Large Black Rolling Camera Bag. I hope you'll take a peek at it, because it is awesome! I believe I'll be able to outsmart the snarky flight attendants with this bag, because when you collapse the handle mechanism, and throw it over your arm, it looks just like those huge purses that the Hollywood starlets are carrying. I dare them to try to take away my purse!

The bag was backordered, but I think it will be worth the wait. Will let you know how everything fits when it arrives.