Terriffic Time in Tennessee!

If you’ve never visited Knoxville, Tennessee, you really should, as it lives up to it’s Visitors Bureau description as Tennessee’s “Hidden Gem.”

If you’re a photographer in Tennessee (newcomer or veteran) and are not a member of Professional Photographers of East Tennessee (PPETN), you really should be. Why? I just had the pleasure of presenting my Get Down To Business! workshop for that organization, and I discovered that it’s one of the most vibrant local organizations I’ve ever visited. Not only is it well run administratively, it is member-centered and firm in its mission to provide photographers with the education they need to thrive in an industry fraught with the confusion of change. Best of all for me, these folks have a wonderful time together, and I thoroughly enjoyed their great personalities, their willingness to share ideas freely with one another, and their warm and friendly company. I believe their camaraderie comes through in the photos below.


Thanks to the PPETN Board of Directors for making this workshop possible: Chairman Nicole Webber, President Alisa Whitley, Vice President Eddie Foley, Secretary Gena Tussey, Treasurer Noelle Bell, IT/Web Editor Ben K. Moser; Senior Board Members J. Wade Tipton, Ambler Brown, Carla Hoskins and Michael Broyles; Junior Board Members Kathy Smith and Tyson Smith. Not all of the Board members were present for the board photo shown in the above composite; those who were are clockwise from 1st row: Carla, Gena, Alisa, Ben, Ambler, Noelle and Michael.

Best 2016 Olympics Photos


Helping Clients Understand The
“7 Ages of Childhood”

As a professional photographer, the single most repeated lament that I have heard from clients over the years—even in the era of easy-to-use amateur cameras—is “I wish I had more portraits of my child growing up.”

Mindful of this issue, over 50 years ago, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) developed a program to help parents recognize the most important milestones that should be professionally photographed to insure that a child’s development is documented as he or she grows from a tiny infant through young adulthood. Called “The 7 Ages of Childhood,” PPA revitalized the program in the mid-1990’s, and today many professionals still use these guidelines, which were suggested with the help of child-development specialists who took into consideration the physical, psychological and emotional changes that occur during childhood.

The message of this PPA program is clear: “Someday the child you hold now will want to tell your grandchild what it was like when he or she was growing up. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have a beautiful album of priceless images of that childhood, created by a sensitive professional who knows how to interpret and preserve these precious moments.”

“The 7 Ages of Childhood” has served me well in my business and also in reminding me to create more than my usual family snapshots to capture the key milestones of Lucas, my only grandson, who was born in 2001. As a proud grandmother, I’ve chosen his portraits to present the various “Ages” along with the program’s description of each developmental stage.

Newborn Through Year 1 — Baby’s First Year
At no time in your child’s life will physical changes occur so rapidly. In what seems like the blink of an eye, a tiny, helpless bundle is transformed into an active, robust and inquisitive youngster. Once the baby arrives, it’s wise to contact your photographer right away to plan these important sessions, as those changes already are happening!

Unlike the rest of the individual-session “7 Ages,” PPA suggests that infants be photographed at least 3 times during the first year. My choice was newborn, 6 months, and shortly after 12 months, when Lucas could walk and sit unassisted.

My dear friend and exceptional artist, Helen Yancy, turned my favorite
newborn session image into a timeless watercolor portrait
through the use of Corel Painter.
Helen lives and works in Plymouth, MI.

For the 6-month session, I decided to include my daughter, Julie, in the portrait
to allow me to have more freedom in creating a variety of poses
to capture Lucas’s emerging baby personality.

I waited until Lucas was almost 14-months old to finish his “first-year” sessions. I wanted to make sure that he was completely confident as a walker and had begun to react to my camera-room silliness in order to assure a happy expression.

When I look back on these three portrait sessions, they truly confirm why it’s important to take the time to capture these priceless days of change.

2-years old — Tiny Traveler

Here one minute and gone the next! Around the second birthday a major milestone is achieved. Your toddler now responds to reason, humor, and action. Totally unpredictable. . . loveable, shy, rowdy, or reserved . . . but always adorable and always on the move!


3-years old — Little Discoverer
Most 3-year olds have discovered how to entertain themselves. Their world is filled with portrait opportunities that capture the mystery and fantasy that are so much a part of these joyful days of discovery and make-believe that fade so soon.


4- to 5-years old — Eager Searcher

The 4th and 5th years are among the cutest, most engaging ages for little boys and girls . . . the ability to speak and reason grow stronger every day. Searching for their place in the world, they have already developed personal interests, likes and dislikes. Their individuality of character and action should be portrayed before the baby teeth are lost and replaced by permanent ones . . . forever altering the endearing look of early childhood.

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6- to 8-years old — Young Learner

Between the ages of 6 and 8, the snaggly-tooth period ends and permanent teeth emerge to change facial contours. A developing mind reveals a more mature, inquiring look. Now off to school and making their way in the world . . . there is so much to learn! Portraits made at this age help to confirm a child’s positive self image.


9- to 12-years old — Budding Explorer
From the ages of 9 to 12, the child is preparing to enter the teenage years . . . when physical, emotional, and attitude changes occur. The little person you have known so well is about to become a more complex and less-dependent young person. Peer acceptance is now important, and portraits can capture the child’s sense of style and expanding horizons.

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13- to 15-years old — Young Teen
Ages 13 through 15 are the early teenage years. A kind of dress rehearsal for adulthood, these years begin to erase the memories of childhood. The boy is almost a man . . . in his interests, his attitudes, and thinking. They are often carefree years, yet ones that anticipate the challenges of adulthood on the horizon. The young woman has begun to blossom into womanhood. Still a lifetime of growing and learning ahead . . . but never again a child.


What’s Next?
The image of Lucas flying his kite at the Delaware shore was made when he was 13. He just turned 15 this spring, and reviewing the images for this post reminds me that I should do another portrait of Lucas before it’s time for his high school senior portraits, which will be here much sooner than his family members would like. How grateful we all are to have this record of his journey through childhood. They are happy memories for us today and I hope that someday he will enjoy them with his own family: That would make me a very happy great-grammy!


Two Great Days in Maryland!

My last workshop of the season took place in Columbia, Maryland, less than a three-hour drive from my home in Pennsylvania. So nice not to have to fly! Sponsored by the Maryland PPA, my contact was Anne Looney, treasurer of MDPPA, who attended a Guerrilla Management Workshop way back in 2007. I was pleased that Anne was able to join me for dinner the night before the workshop at a wonderful sushi restaurant right next to my hotel, which sat alongside a lovely man-made lake. I grabbed this quick auto-pano of the promenade with my Lumix FZ1000.
It’s been quite a while since I visited the MDPPA, which I was happy to observe is a vibrant and thriving state organization . . . thanks to the hard work of its member volunteers. What was clearly evident was the welcoming spirit of the members, which is so essential to sustain an organization over time, as well as the outstanding roster of talented speakers who have instructed there recently or are scheduled for future meetings.

Because Jim and I operate a studio housed in a converted Pennsylvania Dutch barn, I was intrigued that MDPPA holds its meetings in Oliver’s Carriage House, a beautifully restored 1811 barn owned by a local community church. What a great resource for association meetings!
MDPPA President Melanie Anderson, also a Guerrilla Management graduate, did a great job keeping things organized.
The attendees were a very knowledgeable group, so we were able to cover a lot of ground.
I was especially pleased with the results of the “marketing message” homework assignment, the results of which were shared on workshop day two.
There was even time to renew friends and share ideas.
Day two concluded with a print competition, at which it was my pleasure to judge alongside jurors Don Aittama and Mona Sandler. With close to 200 prints to judge, the competition lasted past midnight. It was well attended and quite competitive, especially in the Best of Show categories. It was a pleasure to honor some truly outstanding images.

Thanks to the MDPPA Board for making the workshop possible and for all the hard work they do behind the scenes. I would urge any new or veteran photographers in the region who are not MDPPA members to take advantage of this outstanding organization. Learn more by visiting the group’s website at https://marylandppa.com.
Thanks to the MDPPA Board for making the workshop possible and for all the hard work they do behind the scenes. I would urge any new or veteran photographers in the region who are not MDPPA members to take advantage of this outstanding organization. Learn more by visiting the group’s website at https://marylandppa.com.


Saying Hello and Goodbye at Triangle

It truly was an honor to teach at the last official function of Triangle Photographers in Cranberry Township last week. The reason for their closing is posted on the Triangle website at this link. I was pleased to accept Chairman Joan Stewart’s invitation from the Triangle Board of Directors to present my two-day workshop, and it was lovely to have a chance to stop in at Joan’s charming farmhouse studio and gardens. Joan was one of the first photographers to come to my 4-day Guerrilla Management Workshops in the late 1990s, so it was great to spend time with her again.

As I expected, I had a chance to see old friends from Triangle who go way back, such as Vice Chairman Bill Penberthy and board members Evert Briggs and Ron Westerman. I’ve known them most of my working life in photography. I’m aware of how hard they, and the rest of the board worked to keep Triangle afloat. It was such a pleasure to renew some acquaintances and make new friends among such a wonderful group of photographers.

Almost as an afterthought when the program was over, someone suggested that we take a group picture. Unfortunately some people had already left, but at least we have this one to commemorate Triangle’s closing event. I know I’m not the only one who hopes that sooner rather than later photographers who recognize the value of learning from each other will pull together and restart the association.

By the time I got home I received this group selfie from Nathan Ballash, who was sorry to miss the group shot. Thanks Nathan!

A final thank you to Joan for one last opportunity to take part in a Triangle event! Also, a special shout out to Bill Penberthy and Evert Briggs for their outstanding support at the workshop!

Just as I was about to post this item, I received a video from Marco da Silva, showing the wonderful 6-minute speech that his daughter Rebeca made for her local Toastmasters group. She did an outstanding job of passing on information that she learned at the workshop. With her permission, I’m posting it here as an encouragement for everyone to get the word out to consumers about digital impermanence any way possible. Thanks to the da Silvas for coming all the way from Rochester Hills, Michigan. Check out their excellent website here. Great job Rebeca! And my very best wishes to all Triangle Photographers!


Back to Atlanta for IUSA 2016

It was my pleasure to kick off the education year at PPA’s Imaging USA by teaching the 2-day Business Basics course in Atlanta last week. I was fortunate to have an extremely attentive class, many of whom were starting in photography as a second career, just as Jim and I did many years ago. I was delighted that Scott Kurkian, PPA’s Chief Financial Officer, found time to present a segment on legal and business structure requirements that was much appreciated. Special thanks go to Tiffany Kim, PPA’s new Education Coordinator, who was so helpful in organizing the class and making sure that everything ran smoothly. This groups was not only attentive, they were fun!

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Business Basics was the first class I have taught since PPA released the final version of the PPA 2014 Benchmark Survey Analysis that I authored. If you are a PPA member, you can find the document at this link. On the same page there are several other helpful resources that were made possible over the past ten years by the compilation and publication of four separate Benchmark Surveys. Pay special attention to PPA’s Benchmark Guide.

The Atlanta weather was unseasonably cold and just a bit weird. I shot the image below through a glass window in the Omni North Tower, a bit after dusk, using the “Hand Held Night Shot” (HHNS) feature of the Lumix FZ1000, which I carry with everywhere. This feature fires a 6-frame burst, then fuses them in the camera. I love what it does to skies at dusk and even after dark. I also use it indoors when I’m in a low-light situation and don’t want to use flash or a high ISO. Unlike the Auto Pano feature that is also found in the camera’s “Scene” Menu, you can turn off the shutter sound of the HHNS so you can shoot with it silently in a meeting, concert or any event where you don’t want to be noticed.

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One of my favorite annual events at IUSA is the past-presidents’ luncheon, which brings together a very special group of friends who have devoted years of service to PPA. They are: (row 1) Bert Behnke, myself, Dennis Craft, Louis Tonsmeire, Helen Yancy, Bob Lloyd; (row 2) Don Dickson, Tim Walden, Susan Michal, Ron Nichols, Ralph Romaguera, Bill Stevenson, Michael Timmons, Michael Taylor.

I didn’t get as much time as I wished to view the International Print Competition Exhibition, and I never did find my own prints. I was thrilled to have all four selected, with three awarded Loan Collection status, allowing me to achieve Platinum Photographer of the Year Status for the first time. This was quite a thrill for me, as I’ve been using PPA Print Competition to challenge myself to improve my skills in the field of landscape photography. Years ago, Jim and I entered prints as a way to improve our skills as portrait photographers, which is how we earned a living. These days, I do landscape photography for the pure joy of it, so it was quite special to have such a good outcome this year. All of the images were photographed in 2014 in County Donegal, Ireland, using my Lumix FZ1000 . . . my favorite travel camera ever!

North Atlantic Beacon — Loan Collection

Low Tide on the Marsh — Loan Collection

Hardscrabble Farm — Loan Collection

Tranquil Hillside — General Collection

Another great IUSA event was the International Reception, which I attended with my Irish friend Tanya Crosbie, who has a wonderful baby, children, and family portrait business, Giggles and Smiles Photography, in the greater Dublin area. It was lovely catching up with Tanya and having the opportunity to meet other international photographers. Tanya is shown 8th from the left in row 2 of the photo above.

Mark your calendar now for IUSA 2017, which will take place in San Antonio on January 8-10.

Mentoring Sessions Now Availalbe for 2016

Since PPA has closed Studio Management Services, I have received several requests for mentoring services. I have decided to take on a small number of mentoring clients whose needs I can possibly help through online support over a three-month period.

The first step is a no-charge telephone conversation to determine if or how I can be of help. If you are interested in this service, please call me at 717-867-5079.

Lumix FZ1000 Goes to a Concert

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My friends and colleagues know how much I love the versatility of my Lumix FZ1000 mirrorless camera for on-location shooting when I’m traveling; I rarely go any place without it. Having a lightweight camera, with a fixed lens that ranges from 25mm to 400mm, has opened a world of opportunities for making images for fun as well as for business.

In December I took the camera with me to a local concert by Garnet Rogers, a Canadian folk musician-songwriter whom I have followed for many years. I was astounded to learn that he was going to be in our little town at the charming Allen Theatre, and I wanted some photos of the event. However, the last thing I wanted to do was haul gear, set up a tripod, and in any way call attention to myself instead of enjoying the music. So I took a third-row seat that had an unblocked view of the stage, set the camera on “Hand Held Night Shot,” which is one of my favorite settings from the Scene menu, and settled back to enjoy the show and make a few images. I didn’t want to irritate the audience with camera noise, so I silenced the shutter so no one would hear anything when it fired a burst of six frames at different apertures per exposure, which it instantly fuses to create each image.

I shot some 4K video with the FZ1000, as I have a lot to learn about this medium, and I loved the idea of capturing Garnet’s wonderfully smooth and powerful baritone voice and record his virtuosity on guitar. But mainly I was interested in making a variety of stills at different focal lengths without moving from my seat. You can see the versatility of the fixed lens in the following shots: The first was taken with the lens set at 25mm to portray the scale of the darkened stage. For the second, I extended the lens to 200mm. Both are sharp as a tack and took hardly any effort on my part. The images are a great reminder of a delightful Sunday afternoon being entertained by an enormously talented musician.

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Christmas Greetings 2015







What the Duck: Thanks Photoshop!

See more of “What’s” adventure at his website.

IUSA — A Great Way to Start the Business Year!

In case you haven’t heard, PPA’s Imaging USA broke all attendance records with a crowd of over 11,000 at the annual convention. It was amazing how Opryland Hotel and Convention Center swallowed us all up, but next time I’m going to make sure I have the GPS I carry when I’m photographing landscapes with me so that I can find my way around.
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Once again I had the honor of teaching a full house of really well-motivated photographers, many of whom were determined to learn about the business of photography before they opened their businesses. There would be a lot less heartbreak in this industry if everyone took business this seriously!
2015_IUSA 9110 copy
And again, it was my pleasure to teach along with the brilliant Bridget Jackson, one of only three accountants I trust — seriously! Bridget is PPA’s Business Consultant, and I know she would like for me to mention that if you need help on a business issue, she is just a phone call away for PPA members. Chances are you’ll get to talk to the sparkling Jenny Harrison first, so know that you’ll be in good hands with Jenny, who does a fantastic job as marketing coordinator for education and a whole lot more! I’ll be teaching this class at PPA Headquarters on April 25-26; learn more at this link.
2015_IUSA 9173.1
Bridget & Jenny
I also participated as a panel member of a Charitable Giving program sponsored by PPA Charities. The panel included, from left: Dean and Larry Lourcey, Meggan Harper, Lori Nordstrom, myself, Clark Sanders, and Pete Rezac. A reminder that Celebration of Smiles Day is scheduled for April 11, and you can find out more about this charitable giving promotion at this link.
2015_IUSA 9433.1 copy
The Trade Show was fabulous, and it gave me a chance to fiddle with the auto pano feature of my new Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 which is my favorite traveling camera ever! I can’t say enough about how much I love this camera, and it’s not just because of the low price; I’m very impressed with the quality! Here’s a pano of the Lumix booth . . .
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. . . and one of Marathon’s display.
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Marathon introduced their new Family Marketing Program, which is a real direct-marketing bargain. You can learn more about it at this link. Marathon also debuted their new archival Bella Art Prints, a line of upscale designer prints available in sizes up to 20”x29” and on four beautiful paper choices. I was really impressed by a sample that they made from one of my 2014 Loan Collection prints, shown below.
Glendalough  Black

I also had a chance to visit the two companies without which I could not operate a business: SuccessWare . . .
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. . . and ProSelect.
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I heard someone say that “everyone and his dog was at the Trade Show,” and apparently it was true!
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Imaging USA 2016 is set for January 10-12 in Atlanta. Plan to arrive in time for the
PPA Charities Gala on the evening of January 9!

Will Photographers Still Like Facebook in 2015?

I’ve not seen a lot of publicity about the recent announcement by Facebook that it plans to make it really difficult for small businesses to reach their clients and prospects with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising. A November 27, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal stated that “as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.”

I’m sure that clever entrepreneurs will find ways to work around this new restriction, but I suspect that this new move by Facebook might just force many photographers to come to grips with what smart marketers already know: It takes more than just social media to build a business that can achieve the kind of growth needed for financial stability to kick in. Yes, an Internet strategy is a very important slice of the marketing pie, but it’s only one slice. Financial stability that lasts over time is achieved only when the whole marketing pie is prepared, baked and served. This requires time, money and planning. Perhaps Facebook’s new policy will provide the incentive for photographers to leave the virtual world long enough to face this reality. You can read the entire WSJ article at this link.


My All-Time Favorite "What the Duck"

Every year when we approach the busiest portrait season of the year, I think about my favorite “What The Duck” animation that is shown below. Every photographer who has ever photographed a holy terror child will love this one.

Photoshop guru Scott Kelby calls What the Duck comic strip "hands-down, my absolute favorite cartoon on the planet. Period. It is the one strip that makes me laugh out loud every time."

"What" is the creation of artist Aaron Johnson who writes about and draws a struggling professional photographer who happens to be a duck. I've become addicted to What's very familiar situations. There are lots of fun things to look at on the WTD site. When you click on the homepage, check out the merchandise (cute), then go to the strip archives to see lots of great episodes, such as the one below.

You can view the wonderful web-based cartoon strip series called "What the Duck" at whattheduck.net.

Framing Start-up Kit to Debut at Boston Area Workshop - November 3-4

One of my biggest concerns about today's industry is that too many photographers are allowing images to leave the studio without being framed simply because they are not offering this service. This practice not only leaves money on the table for photographers, it also means that their images are either unlikely to be framed properly, or they will end up stuck in a closet or a drawer.

To make things easier for those who wish to offer quality framing to their clients, yesterday Jim and I took a trip to B&S Framing in Williamsport, PA, to finalize a Framing Starter Kit for photographers. I will have a sample of the kit with me at my Get Down to Business Workshop in Woburn, MA on November 3 and 4.

Jim and I have done business with B&S for as long as I can remember. It is a second-generation family business, which is now operated by Mike Corter and his wife, Jodi. Bill McGarvey, Jodi’s dad, bought the business in 1962, so the company has a long history of serving photographers.

Operating as a "chop service," B&S stocks hundreds of molding strips on site, allowing studios to purchase frames and mats on an as-needed basis in any designated size.


Simply call or email your specifications, then B&S takes it from there; your frames are mitered and joined and shipped within 3 working days. Mats cut to size, as well as glass and a foam core backing also are available, and if you wish, B&S will insert the backing with flexible points, so that all you have to do is to bend down the points to remove the backing, insert your photograph with the backing, and push the points into place.

Mike Corter was very helpful in identifying some of the company’s most popular frames, and together we chose 18 moldings for the starter kit.


Using a chop service has important managerial advantages:
• Your cash flow is not tied up in sample frames, some of which inevitably go out of style.
• You don't waste valuable storage space on sample frames.
• Not only do your sales increase, you are assured that your work will be displayed in the homes of your clients, which helps to increase awareness of your business.
You can view the entire line of B&S frames, mats, and multi-opening products by logging on to http://bsframes.com.

If you have questions about B&S and/or wish to order a starter kit, contact Mike, or Jody, shown below, or any member of their customer service staff at 800-327-7961.


About the B&S Framing Starter Kit
The $25 kit includes 18 sample corners and a full-color catalog. The $25 fee will be credited to your first order. For an additional $10, you can orders set of mat corners in a compact counter display that includes every mat-board color offered by B&S, the fee of which also will be credited to your first order.


B&S and ProSelect
If you are a ProSelect user, you can add digital files of B&S frames to ProSelect, which allows you to project your images inside any B&S frame in the exact sizes you wish to sell.
The combination of B&S frame corners and ProSelect’s many projection features provide an incredibly powerful sales tool that allows you to dramatically increase your bottom line.


In My Own Backyard . . . continued


The weather was great last weekend, so I found two hours to head out on a road close to my house that I’ve passed for years; it is off my beaten path, so I’ve never turned onto it. My new Lumix 45-200 zoom lens for the GH4 camera (effectively 90mm - 400mm) had arrived, and I was very eager to try it out, as its light weight, small size, and amazing price seemed almost too good to be true. I particularly wanted to see how the lens performed off tripod. Wow, was I amazed! It was a sunny day, so I had the luxury of shooting some of the images at 1/1000 sec. at between 200 and 400 ISO. The lowest shutter speed I used was 1/200 sec. At that speed I had to pay close attention to holding still, but even fully extended, the images where sharp as could be. There’s no way I could hand-hold a 400mm DSLR lens, and I’m not about to haul one around! My hands are small, so ergonomically, the GH4 is a dream come true, and it fits my husband’s much larger hands very comfortably. The photo above is the fully extended lens in my hand. When it is not racked out, it measures only 5 inches. I did a quick Fundy Blog Collage from last weekend’s short session, using a border that differs from my last post.

I’ll be heading for Ireland shortly with three lenses and the camera body in a small bag that has plenty of room for personal items as well, so packing will be a lot easier. It will be interesting to see how I get along with the new lighter gear during long days of shooting and hauling a tripod. Can’t wait!


Right in My Own Back Yard

Today I had one of those “ah-hah!” moments that served as a reminder that every now and then all of us need to explore the world just outside our doorsteps.

I recently purchased a Lumix GH4 camera and several lenses, and I’m eager to give them a good workout while Jim and I are in Ireland on our annual fall vacation. I’ve read the manual and played with the camera at home, but I wanted to do some quick test shots to make sure I am totally comfortable with the new gear. So on Sunday, Jim and I spent two hours driving within a 10-mile radius of our home and studio to make some test images using my 14-140mm zoom and the 7-14mm lens.

Although I have lived in Annville ever since I graduated from college and got married, we took some side roads I had never explored. Soon I was less focused on the equipment and far more interested in the scenic vignettes of a soft summer afternoon in the country. Interestingly, the first image I processed was a panorama of a farm that I pass every time I make a trip on the Interstate. I had never stopped to take a good look at the gently rolling fields that surround the century-old farmstead. It looks so much like the farms portrayed in Currier and Ives prints that I want to come back again and explore it from different angles and focal lengths.


I hadn’t planned on finishing the other images, as I merely needed to verify that the camera was indeed recording what I had intended. It took only a few minutes to know that it had exceeded my expectations in the image-quality department, and I was especially impressed by its versatility and ease of operation. Last evening I took a second look at the images and decided to finish a few more. Before I knew it, I had completed around 30 that were really fun to do. That’s when the “ah-hah!” moment hit me: Just outside my doorstep are delightful images to be made, and the only reason I made them was task-related. What else am I missing? I won’t know until I start allowing myself to get out of the office.

So I have a plan: I’m setting some “tasks” for me as a photographer, not a business owner: The first is to test the Lumix 45-200mm / F4.0-5.6 / zoom as soon as it arrives. Next, I plan to spend a day close to home once the fall leaves appear. When I get back from Ireland, I’ll also do some camera room tests, as I have a concept for a new pet portraiture product.

Lebanon County Collage_Lt.1
Finishing the images above also gave me an opportunity to try out the Blog Collage module of Fundy Designer Software. I bought the software to use for album/book construction, but I’m so glad I added the Blog module, as it is a really great time saver. This makes me even more eager to start on a book. Now that I’m resolved to spend more time in my own backyard, perhaps I’ll create a book of images that I record there. A good lesson learned.

P.S. I’ll have information on both the Lumix system and Fundy software at my November 3-4 Workshop in Woburn, MA.

Christmas & Happy Holidays To All!

Image 11-24-14 at 4.37 PM

What the Duck: Print Critique

See more of “What’s” adventure at his website.

Homeward Bound: Before and After

I’m making this post to show two of my favorite products at work: NIK image-enhancement software and John Hartman QuickMats 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.


It's a Woman Thing!

The male vs. female view of marketing and sales obviously still ripples across the many years that my husband Jim and I have been in business together. I've always called Jim the "King of Plastic Bags," as he believes they are the most practical device ever invented for packaging EVERYTHING. He has strenuously resisted my attempts to look for attractive packaging alternatives.

In an effort to impress on Jim the importance of elegant packaging, I went so far as to purchase the tin of Tea Forte' infusers that you see here. This delightful company sells tea products that are magnificently packaged. This tin contains two of what Jim would call "tea bags." Tea Forte', however, calls them "silken infusers." I pointed out that the product would be nothing without the packaging: a beautifully designed tin, holding two delightful tent-shaped coverings for the infusers. The tin itself is wrapped in a lovely belly-band. "You are paying a few cents for the tea product and the rest for the beautiful container, which sends a message that you appreciate fine things," I explained. Jim inspected the product for a few minutes, then he looked at me like I was crazy.

So I've learned my lesson: The attraction of beautiful packaging is generally a woman thing, but a very important issue if you are marketing to women. Beautiful packaging sends a message to clients that reinforces their choice of having purchased a fine product. It's an inexpensive way to combat "buyer's remorse" and the perfect way to conclude each client's experience with your business.

Take a minute to browse through the Tea Forte' website. It will teach you a lot about the value of exquisite design and artful packaging.

Attention Parents!

This sign caught my eye while having lunch at a fun restaurant across from the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, during the Make More Money Conference. Wouldn't you just LOVE to post a sign like this in your studio for certain parents to read?

Image 11-22-14 at 10.21 PM

SuccessWare Leasing . . . The Way to Go!

I'm often asked whether it's best to lease or purchase SuccessWare. To me the answer is a no-brainer: Leasing is definitely the way to go. Leasing assures that you are always working on the current version of SuccessWare, which is preferable for software applications that are critical to your business operations. The monthly single-user leasing fee of $49 includes all future upgrades as well as continuous technical support. Multi-user is only $79 per month. Judy Grann, SuccessWare vice president, tells me that since the company introduced leasing in 2003, over 90% of their new clients have chosen the leasing option, and many other SuccessWare users have moved to leasing so that they are fully upgraded and also retain access to continued support.

If you have questions about leasing or wish to switch to leasing, you can email Successware at info@successware.net or phone them at 800-593-3767.

Check Out My Article on Boutique Studios

The May issue of Professional Photographer contains an article I wrote on Boutique Studios. I've spent many months studying this emerging business model, which I believe is one of the most important trends I've observed since I became a photographer. I hope you enjoy the article and others in the issue that concern marketing to women, who, of course, represent the majority of our client base. So watch for your copy in the mail!

Using ProSelect for Album & Book Layouts

Last July my son and his long-time fiancee finally got married. Although they had been together since college, the decision tie the knot on PPA's first-ever cruise event was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision. My son Wes heard his dad and me talking about our going on the cruise, and he figured this would be as good a time and place as any to make it official. Jess agreed, so on July 10, 2006, Wes and Jess were married aboard ship, with family members and a bunch of photographer friends in attendance.

We were extremely fortunate that award-winning wedding photographers Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor offered to cover the wedding. Their photos were awesome, but at first it was a daunting task for me to put an album together, as I hadn't built a wedding album in many, many years. Then I remembered that one of my SMS Clients, Parker Smith of Atlanta, had told me he uses ProSelect to create layouts that he outputs for albums. So Parker gave me some tips and I read ProSelect's handy user guide and discovered how easy it is to quickly design your own layouts, add the images, then output them through the software's production module. What really amazed me was that I negotiated the learning curve and had 44 pages completed within less than a day.

Since the bride and groom really didn't want a traditional album, I decided to try to upload the files to Marathon Press to create a hard-bound book from their new Premiere Editions series. Again, the process was incredibly easy, and less than two weeks later I received a 10x10 illustrated-cover hard-bound book for the bride and groom, 8x8 books for the parents, and several nice purse-size 5x5s.

The entire process was so much fun and the books so attractive and inexpensive that I intend to start rounding up all of my family portraits and vacation images that are stuck in drawers, bulky albums, and who-knows-where else, and create a library of books that will take up so much less space and be fun for my family to enjoy.

Why SuccessWare?

Back in the mid-1990's, I got a call from Jeff Grann, who asked me if I would be willing to consult with him on the development of a comprehensive studio management software application. I had met Jeff through his wife, Judy, who was one of my first (and best) business students. As a brand-new photographer in her early 20's, Judy was highly motivated to move her fledgling studio business from her townhouse basement to a retail location so that Jeff could use the space at home for a pool table. As cumbersome as business planning was back then—you had to do all your calculations by pencil, paper, and adding machine—Judy understood that a financial and marketing plan were the only option for achieving her goal. I've never seen anyone attack a business plan like Judy did. She made the plan, then worked the plan, and soon she was in a lovely studio space in downtown Fairfax, VA.

In those days Jeff was working in Washington as a TRW computer engineer, and I was struggling with how to automate my monthly accounting chores. I showed Jeff the home-made management system that I had cobbled together from three off-the-shelf applications, and he set up something similar for Judy's studio. Jeff was amazed that no one had developed a true financial management software for the photography industry. In those days there were some systems that handled income and client data, but nothing that integrated all the elements that photographers need to run a studio using a single data file. So when I got Jeff's call I was intrigued that he and Judy had decided that her business was sufficiently profitable that Jeff could quit his lucrative software development job to work full time developing what would become SuccessWare. I was particularly pleased that the software would include not only tracking features, but also business planning and pricing modules. We began a series of meetings so that Jeff could understand exactly what financial management features photographers needed to help them make more money, doing so according to industry standards for financial management. During those early meetings, I could never have envisioned that SuccessWare would become the incredible multi-faceted tool that it is today. In fact, SuccessWare has added so many mind-boggling features since those early days when I was in weekly contact with Jeff and Judy, that I have vowed to attended one of their SuccessWare "immersion" classes before the year is out.

Knowing that I was involved in the early development of SuccessWare, I get lots of questions about SuccessWare and why I believe SuccessWare is essential for profitable studio management. Here's the answer I give:

SuccessWare is the industry's ONLY fully integrated financial and business management software that encompasses all of your studio business needs—business planning, product pricing, scheduling, client and prospect tracking, order tracking, bill paying and complete financial management and reporting. Everything you need is always in one place: no double entries, hunting for cheat sheets, etc. I've lived through the days when you had to do daily hand entries and then spend three days each month to hand-create your financial records. Things improved with computers, but you still had to work in 3 or 4 applications and create your own personalized reports. With SuccessWare, once you enter data and pay your bills, reports are automatic, and this is the way it has to be for busy, successful people. When you look around and see who's making money in this industry, it's not a coincidence that most of them are SuccessWare users.

You can learn a great deal more about SuccessWare by going to their website (SuccessWare.net). You'll find all kinds of resources—from video tours to a free download demo. Just click here to take a look.

Exciting News Today

Today I received some exciting news from Cameron Bishopp, editor of Professional Photographer Magazine. Last November the magazine included an article entitled “How You Can Make More Money,” which concerned the Financial Benchmark Survey, a project for which I wrote the "Findings." The article, written by Leslie Hunt, summarized those findings.

So I was thrilled to learn that the article was honored with a Gold award from the Southeast Magazine Association's annual awards. Here's what the judge had to say: “Compelling, focused, specific, impeccably researched and relevant to its audience: Those are the qualities that garnered Professional Photographer's “How You Can Make More Money” the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism. The story summarized industry benchmarks without becoming mired in extraneous detail, outlined specific recommendations for increasing profits and included real-life "turnaround" stories that illustrated how business owners could use the article’s tips to do exactly what the headline
promised. Bravo!"

Congratulations to Leslie Hunt, PPA CFO Scott Kurkian, and the staff of PPA’s Studio Management Services for their hard work. It’s not often that you get a pat on the back for an article about financial management in a photography magazine. It feels really good! If you haven’t read it yet, then click on the graphic below to download a pdf.


Gift Cards Make Great Marketing Sense

Since they were introduced last fall, Gift Cards have become one of Marathon's hottest products. No wonder. Holiday sales of gift cards were off the chart. They just make a lot of sense for consumers who want to buy meaningful gifts for friends or family, but who simply don't have time to prowl malls to find them.

You can use your own design, or Marathon can do the design for you. Marathon also can create a complete direct mail package that includes the Gift Card with your choice of two different mailer styles. Click here for specifications and pricing.

Think about the potential impact on seniors, when you send them a Gift Card to spend on their senior portraits. These cards are really hard to throw away because they feel like real money!


Meet Peter and Fran Howlett

One of the most important unsolicited emails I ever opened was from Peter Howlett, shown above with his wife Fran. Back in 2002, I was searching everywhere for a digital solution for preview presentation. My lab had just announced that they would no longer produce "transproofs," which had been our most essential selling tool, almost since the day we opened. Other labs were doing the same, so we faced a studio crisis.

Early in our photographic career my husband Jim began to fiddle around with Kodak 5072 film, which he used to copy frames of 6x7 film using a 100 watt light bulb, a copy stand, a black box, and a piece of opal glass, then developing the resulting slides by hand in our darkroom. Projecting our images made wall portraits literally sell themselves. We became evangelists on the speaking circuit, trying to convince wary photographers that this was the way to go. It took a while for labs to catch on, but finally they began to offer transpoofs or transviews, and we retired our home-made setup. We certainly didn't want to get it out again, and we COULDN'T do without the vital tool that allowed us to send our kids to college, feed all the pets, and finance a vacation home.

I reviewed several programs, but nothing really clicked until I received an interesting email from a company called TimeExposure, located literally on the other side of the world. I downloaded a trial version of the software, read the "Quick Start" pdf, and I was thrilled! Pretty soon I was on the phone with Peter, because I wanted to understand his development plans to make sure this wasn't a "hobby project." Indeed it wasn't, and ProSelect has been all I had hoped for and more. Early on I introduced digital guru Ron Nichols to ProSelect when he was looking for something to replace ProShots. Ron and Peter go along famously, and soon they were collaborating on projects and sharing a trade show booth.

I now use ProSelect for everything from browsing and selecting my images, selling them to clients, and outputting the selected images to the lab or to my printer. It has become a total workflow solution, and recently SuccessWare linked their software to ProSelect's ordering system, so that client orders placed during the ProSelect sales sessions can flow right into SuccessWare. This represents a HUGE step forward in facilitating studio workflow. If you want to learn how to import orders from ProSelect to SuccessWare, click here to view a SuccessWare "How To" screen movie on the subject.

It's been wonderful getting to know Peter and Fran at PPA events. They are a delightful couple, and so pleased that American photographers have embraced their software and are using it to make their businesses more profitable. Last February Fran attended my Guerrilla Management Workshop in Fredericksburg, VA, where she was kind enough to give the class an evening tutorial on ProSelect. Those of us who consider ourselves veteran ProSelect users learned a lot about exciting features we had overlooked. I plan to mention some of them in future blog entries.

So I wanted you to meet Peter and Fran. Their company, Time Exposure, is based in Perth, Western Australia. Geographically, Perth is almost exactly on the opposite side of the world to Jacksonville, Florida and consequently it's time zone is 12 hours ahead of New York time, which made it fairly easy for me to communicate with Pete, when I was learning about ProSelect. Fortunately, he is an early riser, and I work late. His 7 A.M. is my 7 P.M.

From the beginning, Peter and Fran have worked on ProSelect together. His background is in electronic engineering specializing in software development, and Fran is a master photographer and a former national board member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers. Fran made the switch to digital in early 2002 with the purchase of a Canon 1D body and soon involved Peter as her technical support person. This involvement in the changing world of digital photography led Peter and Fran to start to design and develop the award winning products now used by thousands of professional digital photographers around the world. Photographers everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude for making projection an industry norm and a profitability standard.

Happy April Fool's Day!

April Fool's Day seems as good as any day to start a new venture. For a year I've been reading about and visiting blogs . . . all kinds of blogs . . . blogs by photographers, blogs about business, and even blogs about politics. What I've learned is that blogs are a marvelously versatile means of communication.

I get a lot of emails from photographers looking for answers to marketing and management questions, and it's hard to answer each one individually. So I've decided to go the blog route as a means of communicating with more photographers more efficiently.

If you would like the answer to a question that you believe will be beneficial to others in addition to yourself, just send me an email at ann@annmonteith.com. Please limit each email to one question, as long emails full of questions tend to go to the bottom of the email pile.

So . . . Happy April Fool's Day, and let's see what happens . . . .