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by Mariah Ashley
My son Jacques is not a joiner, not a jock and let's just say not terribly motivated.
Upon my insistence, he has committed himself to participating in a high school sport. Since he abhors football, is bored to death by baseball and can't dribble to save his life, he is running on the cross country team.
The "unofficial" team training started in July under the very loose control of three senior brothers, triplet captains whose parents were Olympic runners. The coach has devised a running program that divides the team into three categories: those who will go on to be Olympians like their forefathers, those with gazelle blood in their veins and my snoozy soon to be sophomore son. After the team warms up together Jacques is left plodding along alone in his size fourteen sneakers while the other boys with normal sized feet rocket past him.
Each morning at 7 a.m. we have same routine.
"Jacques get up it's time for running."
"I don't want to go today," he pleads from under a mountain of blankets. "Can't I just run on my own?"
"No!" I insist, shaking the lump of blankets that contains my son. "You are part of a team; that means you run with the team. You joined this team, so you need to BE MORE dedicated!"
"But I don't run with the team. I run on my own. How about I run with you? Mother-son time?"
"Nice try. The captains need to see that you are showing up. It's about being together as a team. You need to BE MORE social."
"I don't care about that." He groans, rolling over and scooting like a 6' 1" caterpillar toward the far end of his bed.
"JUST GET UP! YOU ARE GOING!" I shout, slapping the lump. "Really, you need to BE MORE motivated."
The teenage lump finally rises and I drive it to the high school and park inconspicuously so as not to embarrass it. I notice a few cross country kids sitting on picnic tables at the far end of the parking lot. The lump doesn't move from his seat.
"Jacques, aren't you going to get out?"
"I'll wait a few more minutes till the rest of team shows up," he says reclining his seat all the way back, making himself invisible.
"Why? What's wrong with those kids? Why don't you go sit with them?"
"I don't like them," he mumbles. "They're seniors. They're jerks."
"It's weird to want to sit in the car with your mom. You should BE MORE friendly. Go ahead, get out of the car and go sit with your team," I insist pushing him out the door.
He makes his way reluctantly over to the older kids and sits down awkwardly at the far end of the table. Without a word directed in any direction he stuffs his headphones in his ears and stares at his phone. The rest of the team chats casually. This is painful to watch. The other boys are older, fitter, confident. Shirts are stripped off, flirtations exchanged with the girls running team and then they are off like a pack in one direction with Jacques running off alone in the other. My heart breaks a little for him and I fret about him for the next hour while I wait to pick him up.
When I returned to Virginia, I took Bridget's advice and returned to "Square-One" by identifying my prices. The Business Basics workshop taught me that you have to know the value of the service you provide and then target the audience you want to market. Imaging USA allowed me to develop a twelve month action plan that first focuses on developing a brand, building an audience through relationships and then growing the brand.
While at Imaging USA I developed a relationship with Mark Weber from Marathon Press and we were able to develop my branding and marketing strategy. This month, Pashion Photography is sending our first direct mail advertisement to pre-screened targeted brides!
It took meeting Carrie, Bridget, Mark and Bruce to get the idea that working as a photographer is more than working countless hours, but developing a business model that focuses my talents. I am humbled at their patience and willingness to continue teaching long after class.
Since Imaging USA I keep in regular contact via email with Bruce, who has so much advice and guidance. Mark spends time talking on the phone with me to help identify what type of marketing I am able to do. Carrie created an SMS Superstars Group on Facebook and I am not only continuing to learn from her, but she has introduced me to a whole new level of professional networking. I now have a team of professionals to help me make business decisions. I'm not all alone anymore!
Thanks to their mentorship I've been able to bring my marketing and networking to a new level. I have developed new partnerships and a highly effective constant contact email program that targets newly engaged brides.
We are now offering a "No Obligation" engagement session. It might sound crazy, but we don't charge the couple. And instead of following them around for hours, we now have them come to our studio. We even formed a relationship with a makeup artist and hair stylist to assist with the session.
After the couple arrives, she goes upstairs gets pampered and he gets to hangout and watch sports, relax and learn about our shooting style. By the time she is ready, the "Wow!" on his face says it all, and we start an intimate portrait session.
Once we are finished shooting, the images are edited in about 15 minutes. Yes, 15-minutes! Using what we learned at Imaging--consulting, getting the lighting right and stylized editing--our workflow is incredibly streamlined. We then give the couple a Sticky Album and Animoto Video--products we acquired at Imaging.
We tell the couple that they owe us nothing because this is our interview as their wedding photographer. And believe it or not, we have not had one couple leave without making our minimum purchase of $400. It is a modest amount, remember we are just starting and we are using this as an interview to become their wedding photographer. We are still making money and developing relationships. The whole purpose is to educate and excite the couple to hire us for their wedding.
As my journey as a CPP continues, I am carving my niche and working toward my master of photography degree. I returned to school to finish an MBA program in Project Management and Marketing. I will also teach my first Super 1 Day class on May 18. My talent as a public relations, marketing and social media analyst is allowing me to educate other photographers on the power of developing a marketing and social media management program. The class will help them manage their social media instead of having their social media manage them.
I'm even entering competition! The Southeast District print judging is happening this month and I am hoping to achieve my first photographic merits. I have a lot to learn in this area but learning is the best part! I learned so much about what the judges are looking for at the VPPA print competition and am feeling confident!
When I made the commitment to stop everything and attend Imaging USA I didn't know how I was going to afford the travel, hotel, food and all the cool photographic toys I required. Now two months later I am kicking myself for only seeing a monetary value to Imaging USA. The value is returning home with a list of quantifiable objectives coupled with the motivation to achieve and a network of mentors that want to see you succeed as a professional photographer.
The value that Bruce, Carrie, Bridget and Mark have brought into my life is nothing short of amazing. I now know what it means when I hear other say, "You can't afford not to go." I have been a member of PPA since February 2010 but it wasn't until January 2014, nearly four years later, did I realize that I am part of something bigger. I'm part of a family.
Before Imaging USA I was just happy to get a phone call from someone who wanted to hire me because they believed I could take pictures. But Imaging opened my eyes to the fact that I am part of a profession that is bigger than taking pictures. I am an artist that has a choice in what I create.
Two months later I have established a full-time, home-based studio with a consultation room. Our phone is ringing and we are booking because we are able to develop a product and service that is different from other wedding photographers in the area.
We are building the business from a brand point of view and it's working. We've created a network of vendors and a marketing program that is effective. I've been able to grow my Facebook audience from zero to nearly 1,200 people in about five months and am up to 600 Twitter followers in the same time period. In fact we just decided that we are able to grow and are now looking for a new home that will better support our photography business. I estimate that I will be able to switch over to photography full-time in the next 3 months.
We've already passed our original goal of making $50K and our new goal is to double it. We hope to book 30 weddings and photograph 100 couples for engagement sessions. I can't wait to show Bridget the books when I attend the 3-day business course.
I'm already blocking out time for Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville!
Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN (Ret.)
Ty Swartz, owner of Pashion Photography, is an award-winning, internationally published Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). After serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy and traveling to more than 60 countries, Ty retired as a Public Relations Officer/Mass Communications Specialist Chief Petty Officer in 2011. He is a native of Greenville, Ohio, and currently lives in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his wife Nicole.
Ty Swartz, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, had great plans for his "retirement." After more than 20 years serving as a photojournalist in over 60 countries, he came home with a goal of joining PPA and becoming a full-time professional photographer. He joined upon his return in 2010 and recently took things a step further when he achieved the status of Certified Professional Photographer last November.
With his status as a professional firmly solidified, Ty took on his next challenge: building a business he could be proud of. This part of his vision included attending his first Imaging USA in Phoenix. As is his nature, Ty went for more and departed his Virginia studio early for some pre-convention classes.
Ty highlights his experience at Imaging USA in the first of this two-part series below. On Wednesday, he'll update us on how he is already implementing what he learned into every aspect of his business.
Folks, this is how you Imaging USA.
My Imaging USA
By Ty Swartz, MBA, CPP, USN Ret.
The first class I attended was the two-day Business Basics for Wedding Photographers workshop taught by Carrie Wildes, CPP, and Bridget Jackson, a CPA and manager of PPA Business. This class is designed to help identify what I need to do to establish a profitable business.
Carrie took the lead Thursday and we learned about competitive advantage among other wedding photographers, business models, marketing, sales and pricing structures. Friday's class was mainly taught by Bridget. She discussed a variety of business-related items that helped us focus on setting our prices and business strategies. It helped me create a profitable solution to many of our initial start-up circumstances.
If you operate as a professional photographer, then this is one class that you must attend. The knowledge and guidance you receive is simply amazing and you leave with the knowledge that you are a small business owner who happens to do photography.
Instead of exploring Phoenix Saturday, I decided that attending another pre-conference class was more important. The course that I selected was Getting Schooled with High School Seniors, taught by Bruce Berg. Bruce spent the first part of the morning talking about a variety of marketing plans and how he implements them.
Just before lunch, Bruce had two high school seniors come in and showed us his senior portrait techniques. The class was small enough that we were able to get involved and use our cameras and the studio lights provided. It was a great hands-on class and really helped me understand this market. Although I am a wedding photographer, it was a good learning experience in case I decide to dabble in seniors in the future.
From the time I arrived at Imaging there were so many things to see and do relating to photography. I spent most of my time taking notes and meeting some really awesome people. Saturday night had so many events happening that you really had to choose what to attend.
I attended the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep informational seminar with Sandy Puc'. We spent most of the evening doing hand- on photography with Sandy--a very rare one-on-one opportunity with a PPA great. Afterwards I caught the end of the PPA Charities event and bid on a couple of items. Thankfully, I was quickly outbid. I wasn't really committed to spending my "new equipment" money just yet.
Before I knew it, it was Sunday and Imaging USA was officially in full swing. I started my day with The Subtle Art of Persuasion taught by Jon Allyn. This was a great class on building client relationships and how to differentiate from other studios.
It was hard to choose just one out of the mid-morning classes. I'd even recommend making friends to trade notes from different classes with. I selected Prosperity & Purpose: The Photography Business Through a Different Lens, taught by Jeffrey Shaw. He had a really good perspective on how to look at your business so you are moving forward and not staying stagnant--takeaways that I can easily implement.
In the afternoon I was able to attend The Fundamentals of Photographing High School Seniors, taught by Kibbee Walton. He was very focused on engaging the parents and grandparents. You create an emotional experience and through that experience you build lifetime relationships helping your sales and customer loyalty. Great tips for me!
For me, Sunday's must-attend event was Getting it Right in the Camera, with Sandy Puc'. She spent the program going over how to manage lights and build your studio setup from a single light source all the way to five lights. This way you can create amazing in-camera images that require zero editing. Amazing! So if you're spending any time on color or exposure correcting after your shoot, you need to go back and learn how to get a perfect exposure.
Later that day I headed over to theLoop Up and had an opportunity to meet many of the photographers around PPA that I have communicated with using theLoop. If you are a member of PPA--get connected with theLoop! There are some really smart people there and they want to help you when you're stuck with a question.
After mingling for a while it was time for the Imaging USA Welcome Party! They had the red carpet rolled out and everything. I really liked the food and it was great to meet some more photographers.
Monday morning came too quickly, but I arrived to see Jared Platt teach his class on Post-Production Speed in Lightroom 5 and Photo Shop. It's always great to learn tips and tricks to speed up your workflow!
Next I attended My 10 Favorite Money Making Nuggets taught by Kimberly Wylie. This was a great class to gather additional sales tactics. I was starting to see an overall theme as a small business owner: Building relationships is key to success!
The final class that I attended was Steve Kozak's session for new Certified Professional Photographers. He provided his insight about photography, where it is going and how to leverage our certification to stand out from other photographers. The big take away from Steve was don't just Facebook and send emails, but actually pick up the phone and call people! He was right. I had recently sent emails to potential brides and right after his class took the time to make some calls. I wound up booking three right away! Who would have thought the phone works for business?
I then headed over to the Grand Imaging Awards and was stunned by the work presented for competition. Since I have a goal of achieving my master of photography degree, I really need to step up my game and start entering photographic competition!
I was scheduled to fly out and return to reality Tuesday afternoon but not before I was able to sneak in one more class: Maximizing Your Senior Sales with Kent Smith and his wife Sarah. They were very motivational and helped me visualize how I want to set up my consultation room and present my brand as an experience, not just a sale.
I would be remiss if I didn't discuss the Expo floor! There were tons of vendors there demoing and selling new products and I was able to buy new photographic accessories. Remember that money I saved at the Charities auction? I used it on soft boxes, another pocket wizard, custom USB thumb drives, a ring light along with backgrounds and a floor from Silverlight. The Expo really has everything and more you could have on your photography shopping list.
After three full days of education I was ready to jump on a plane and head back to Virginia and dive into building my business the right way...
Check back Wednesday to see Ty's progress since the convention!
For the next few days, Phoenix is officially the photography capitol of the world. Really.
Photographers from across the globe streamed into the Phoenix Convention Center to pick up their registration badges. They've come from New York and Colorado, from Florida and California, from Mexico and France. Denmark, Belgium and Brazil. More than 30 countries, actually. Photographers by the thousands.
Wide-eyed, they inspected the convention center's grounds. There were handshakes and hugs as old friends and first-timers came together. They grabbed show guides and goodie bags. They wondered what lie behind the Expo doors.
Behind, the tradeshow floor was abuzz with many hands making light(s) work. Beeping forklifts delivered "fragile" crates which exhibitors turned into a bright spectacle. It's a sight to behold.
And it all starts tomorrow!
Attendee registration opens at 7am and closes at 7pm and is located on the Lower Level of the North Building of the Convention Center. At 11:15am at the bottom of the escalators, a ribbon cutting with PPA President, Ralph Romaguera Sr., and the board of directors will signal the official opening of the Imaging Expo.
Classes begin at 8am and run through 8pm. Day one will feature eight of the 10 speaker tracks. Catch live presentations in the PPA Booth (#925) with (PPA guest-blogger) Mariah Ashley & Trish Gilmore at 3pm and Jeffrey Shaw at 4pm and don't forget to snag a limited edition Team Captain PPA build-a-bear!
It all wraps-up with the Imaging USA Welcome Party sponsored by Canon, which kicks off at 8pm in the North Building, First Floor, 120 Ballroom.
So plan at your days and lay out your outfits. Get a good night's sleep!
Imaging USA starts, TOMORROW!
By: Mariah Ashley
Long dark days. Cold sleepless nights. Sad empty bank accounts. All of your clients have flown south.
Winter is coming.
Well, let it come! This year I am not afraid. Not afraid of White Walkers (gratuitous Game of Thrones reference). I am not afraid of my bank account. Last year at this time I was desperately faking the flu to get out of our trip to Atlanta for Imaging 2013. After struggling all year to stay afloat, all I wanted to do was stay home and cling to the few pennies we had left. My unrealistically optimistic business partner Trish dragged me to the airport and shoved me on the plane to Atlanta, unexpectedly setting us on the bumpy road to success for 2013.
Going to Imaging breathed new life into my defeated self. We left bursting with great ideas to pull ourselves up by the old bootstraps. Since then, we've implemented all we learned in Atlanta and it's made a monumental difference to our business. For starters, this year I will skip merrily onto the plane to Phoenix ready to learn, instead of clawing at the escape hatch desperate to hide. The state of Snap in January 2014? We've booked all the weddings we need, our bank account is pleasantly plump, and my brain is humming along peacefully instead of spiraling into dark places. This is winter people. This is unheard of.
If you are feeling anything like the old panicky broke me, please tell me you are going to Imaging 2014 this week in Phoenix! It's just what the doctor ordered for anyone suffering with a fake flu and dwindling enthusiasm. You may even want to do a little pre-gaming before your trip. To get you in the mood, here are the top 10 things we did this year to turn ourselves around. Imaging was the catalyst for it all.
Out With like a Cowboy and Brand Everything. Your logo,
website, blog, collateral all has to be complementary and cohesive! After
Imaging we stopped being schizophrenic with our branding, going so far as to
create a Rules For Branding manual. Anyone who doesn't follow the manual gets
the hot poker treatment (you don't want to know). P.S. Bonus! If you are already well branded you can skip this step and
just make out with a cowboy... or cowgirl while the rest of us are catching up.
2. Join a Cult, of Personality. Selling yourself (not in the biblical sense) is more important than selling your photographs. Show people who you are and they will love you and they will hire you. (Or they won't and you'll get over it because it's them not you). We created a funny video with bloopers, and started a "Behind the Snaps" theme on our blog to give potential clients a glimpse into the charmingly wacky world of the snap girls.
3. Give Til it Hurts (Because it Won't). We stumbled into the PPA Charities party last year and decided we wanted contribute to Operation Smile. We became the top donating studio in the country by donating the money for one surgery every time we book a wedding. This year that means we paid for 43 surgeries. We don't miss a penny of the money we donated and I love imagining 43 smiling little faces in front of me. Bonus! Brides are excited to book with us knowing that they are helping to save a child's smile!
4. Shut Your Pie Hole. It's time to stop talking and really listen to your clients. When you do that, you can start giving the people what they want and not what you think they should have. We used to just tell people what they should buy instead of listening to their needs. We call this "getting off High-Falutin" Highway. As soon as we took the exit to reality town, the bookings began pouring in and our average sales went up.
5. Expose Yourself (But Not in a Trench Coat Kind of Way). I know, it's human nature to want to hide your problems and flaws and pretend everything is alright. But trust me on this, as soon as you start exposing your soft underbelly, your bleak situation will improve. Pull your head out of the sand and start with a PPA SMS consultation. A whole world of non-judgmental support will open up to you.
6. Write Your Wrongs. Writing about the sinking Snap ship and sharing it with the world on the PPA blog (hello...is anybody out there even reading this?) was a scary biweekly occurrence for an entire year. It took me way outside my introverted comfort zone, but it also helped me organize my thoughts and kept me honest with myself. Chronicling our adventures started out as an experiment but became an instrument for positive change. Buy a journal and record your own trials and tribulations. If nothing else, it will help you see how far you've come as you prepare for Imaging 2015!
7. Forget About Losing 20 Pounds. Set yourself up for success. Don't let your business goals go the way of your New Year's Resolutions. Seriously, you are not going to drop 20 pounds by that cruise you are taking in March. Set clear, realistic goals for yourself and your business. For us, that meant paying ourselves every week and eliminating all of our debt. We did both. Still working on that muffin top though. Mmm, did somebody say muffin?
8. Give Your Lazy Butt the Boot. If you do not like to work long hard hours then hang it up now. There is no easy breezy magic recipe for a life of leisure as a wedding photographer. You must hustle, you must work hard, sacrifice your weekends and give it your all each and every day. I used to whine about shooting 30 weddings and then I learned a photographer I really admire shot 50 this year. By herself. I am not worthy. I will never whine again.
9. It's So BAD it's Actually Good. Turn every negative experience you have into a learning experience. We made A LOT of mistakes this year along with the good decisions. Honestly, we learned more from the bad then we did from the good. Do not ignore unhappy clients, jobs you failed to get, or vendors who didn't recommend you. I've started asking every bride who doesn't book us why she went in another direction. Most everyone has shared why and I've learned invaluable insights.
10. You've Got Guts, Trust Them. A low point for me this year was
purchasing another photographer's price list for $195. I am mortified that I
did that. I was at a weak point, unsure of myself, desperate for anything that
could help me price myself correctly. You know what I discovered? The price
list I paid $195 was virtually identical to the one I had sweated over for weeks
creating. You could buy a lot of muffins for $195. Trust your gut; you have the
muffins answers inside you, only you can know what is right for your
I want to thank you faithful blog followers for reading along with me this year. I hope that in sharing my follies and foibles I've helped you to feel less alone and maybe even elicited a chuckle or two during your busy work days. If you see me at Imaging, please say hello! I would love to hear from you. Good luck and Godspeed.
Sure, winter is coming, but we've kicked it's frosty butt and so can you. Now where's my hot cocoa?
Back in the fall, we launched the first-ever PPA Kickstart Scholarship. Four lucky PPA members have been selected to head to Imaging USA early for a pre-convention class--completely on the house! The winners were given the opportunity to choose between a full-day of hands on classes or a two-day Studio Management Services workshop.
Let's meet the lucky winners and learn what they hope to take back from Imaging USA in Phoenix.
Five-year member Mike Kemp of Mike Kemp Photography in Arkansas will attend his first Imaging USA thanks to the Kickstart scholarship. The longtime staff photographer hopes to start his own photography business with the help of knowledge gained at Imaging USA.
"I would love to be able to benefit from the mentorship of the Studio Management Services (SMS) classes," said Kemp. "I have a decent grip on my craft, but I definitely need help with the marketing, sales and business skills needed to attract clients and maintain a healthy business. By learning the ins and outs of financial planning, pricing schedules and marketing plans, I would be able to pair my photographic knowledge with sound business practices. I desperately need that skill set to make my leap to becoming a self-employed photographer."
Kemp will take the SMS Business Basics Portrait class.
Two years ago, Josiah Freeman quit his job in a call center in Washington and moved to Phoenix. Now he will get to attend his first Imaging USA in his new home city. Josiah will seek some assistance from the Business Basics class as well.
"While I have some traction in the art side of things, it always seems like I'm falling behind or flat on the business side of things," admitted Freeman. "I've always wanted to take an SMS class, so I can better explain to others what my prices are and why, and to be able to stick to them. I frequently find myself agreeing to discount my work and I need to find a way to stand up for myself and my pricing, and know that I am worth it. We manage to eke out a living, but I need to get to the point where I can actually be a success as a studio, and not stuck doing a ton of work for very little money."
Only 27-years-old, Indiana photographer Abigail Elizabeth Welch already feels like she is becoming out of touch with high school seniors and the latest trends. Abigail shared her photography journey thus far, and hopes the Business Basics class and the Imaging USA experience will help push her to the next level.
"In year two of owning my studio, I hit a wall. My studio had grown to the point that I could not keep up. I was doing it only with the help of my mom (she kept the books, and held my reflector.) I felt like I was working non-stop. I worked myself to pure exhaustion. I had penny pincher clients who didn't see the value in my work, and I even considered quitting all together.
Around the same time, I married, and decided to join my husband in Italy to get away from my business. I literally ran away. After a few months, he encouraged me to shoot again. I was hesitant, but the culture in Italy is so laid back, the scenery is just beautiful, so I gave it a shot. I started shooting again, many times in Venice, and my love for photography quickly returned.
We returned to the states in 2012, and I relaunched a new website to start fresh. I made guidelines for myself so that I could keep my sanity, and up until two months ago, it was working. Currently, I am starting to get so busy that I cannot keep up. I DO NOT want the past to repeat itself, but I feel that I do not have the business knowledge to successfully grow my business. I don't even know where to start. Hiring employees, finding a building, pricing to make sure I turn a profit; it is all a daunting task.
I feel the Business Basics Workshop will give me the tools that I need to grow. I feel like I have the potential to build something amazing, but I have accepted that I cannot do it on my own. I have read wonderful things about the class and I imagine it will help save my business from taking over my life again. What I really love to do is be behind the camera, and I am hoping that I can learn how to grow my business so that I can spend more time shooting, and less time managing."
Tennessee photographer Ann K. Farrar, CPP, has attended Imaging USA every year since 2007, and thanks to the scholarship, will continue that streak in Phoenix. Ann will take a variety of pre-convention classes, and is even taking Tiffany Reed Briley's "Finding Freedom in Landscape Photography" on her own dime just because she'll be there early! That's the kind of "Be More" attitude we love to see!
"I think I have attended a pre-convention workshop every year. I find it a great way to learn, to have access to top talent when it is not as crowded as the convention, to network with other photographers. It has been very useful to me as I increase my skill.
Since I have attended many ImagingUSA conferences, I have first-hand experience at the expertise of instructors and what I can gain from the classes. I like the pre-convention classes because you really have an opportunity to learn and meet the instructors, as well as other photographers in the class. It gives me access to top-notch instructors that I might not encounter otherwise.
I just entered the International Print Competition (IPC) this year for the first time and had an image accepted into the General Collection. I never really thought that would happen and I have been bitten by the competition bug! I want to continue to learn and improve and take my photography to the next level. Earning this scholarship will help me do this. I have gotten so much out of PPA, Imaging USA, classes, earning my CPP and everything PPA has to offer. I am so glad I joined!"
From the IUSA Mentor Booth to the Loan Collection: The Journey of an Image
By Christine Walsh-Newton, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
Last year was PPA member Christine Walsh-Newton's first trip to Imaging USA. While there, she not only picked up her master of photography degree, but also took full-advantage of the 15-minute mentoring sessions with an affiliated judge.
She learned more about her competition images--and even her overall shooting style--than she could have imagined. She flew home inspired to take her images to the next level.
Christine shared her story on her personal blog, read it and see the results!
And make sure you check out our blog from a couple weeks ago on mentoring opportunities at this year's Imaging USA in Phoenix!
My enthusiasm is ramping-up for Imaging USA 2014. Trish and I got our official badges in the mail today. Eeeek!
It's hard to believe that this time last year I was dreaming of ways to fake-illness myself out of the trip to Atlanta for Imaging 2013. In my very first post for this blog, I confessed my panic and nausea induced by a stalled cash flow and floundering business. Thankfully, my business partner Trish dragged me kicking and screaming out from under the covers of my fake sick bed to IUSA 2013 and it profoundly changed...everything.
I once heard Trish say, "A problem shared is a problem halved." That's been true for us so far. Sharing our problems, exposing our soft underbellies and swallowing our pride opened us up a support system of expertise, good will, and creative inspiration from PPA.
Writing about our woes started out as an experiment. I've been chronicling our trials and tribulations here for nearly a year and it's helped me foster a new way of looking at my business and my life. The experiment would either end in total failure with me at my new job as a sectional saleswoman at the local furniture store (love me a sectional) or it would end in success with "Bright being the new Bleak" when it comes to the future of Snap!. Sharing mistakes has also taught me to see inspiration for success in the most ridiculous, outrageous and mundane places.
Take for instance, when Queen Latifah called us recently. Queen Latifah is only (according to Google and um, the rest of the world) the very coolest singer-songwriter, rapper, actress, drop dead gorgeous model, television producer, record producer and talk show hostess. Not to mention she's considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.
So, the phone rings the other day and it's Queen Latifah (in the interest of full-disclosure it was actually a lovely woman named Chelsea who works for the Queen Latifah show, but close enough).Chelsea was looking to get permission to use a photo from our Pinterest page pinned by one of their upcoming guests. You may have heard about this couple in the news, Ryan Leak and Amanda Roman. Ryan planned an entire wedding from Amanda's "My Dream Wedding" Pinterest page. A photo we had taken of earrings was pinned by Amanda and used by Ryan in creating their wedding. Ryan proposed to Amanda, she said yes, and then they had the wedding all on the same day.
We had a nice chat with Chelsea and were about to hang up when she said something really momentous. She said, "Congratulations on your life." Chelsea wanted us to know she had spent a lot of time on our website and was really impressed by the photography but was even more impressed by the passion and zest we have for what we do. Gosh, Chelsea (a.k.a. Almost Queen Latifah) that was awfully nice of you to say. Lightning bolt moment: It's important to remember that a bad day for us doing this is better than a lot of people's best days at work.
Other times the inspiration for success comes from humbling places. One of the goals we set for ourselves at Imaging 2013 was to get involved with PPA Charities' Operation Smile. We were moved to action and tears after attending a PPA Charities party at Imaging and listening to all the wonderful people involved with Operation Smile speak. We had no idea then that we would get so inspired... really inspired... to donate all we could to Operation Smile.
The more we read about Operation Smile, the more we watched the videos of the children whose lives had been changed by Operation Smile, the more we wanted to do. One day we had an idea to donate the amount of one surgery ($240) for every wedding we booked. When given here and there, the $240 was hardly missed and before we knew it, we had booked 28 weddings and donated $7,487 (and counting), making us the Top Studio Donor in the country for the year.
I hardly know how that happened; after all, we don't have a fancy studio. We are just two ladies plugging away here at my house in my spare room. Sometimes it's a struggle to make ends meet, but I've never missed a dime of the money we've given to help children in need.
In the course of a year, it turns out that I shared my problems and halved them too by reaching out to PPA and asking for the help we needed. Ironically, what has really reenergized our business hasn't been what we've taken from PPA but what we've given back. It turns out that Joy shared is Joy doubled. I'm thankful to be doing what I do every day knowing that I'm pleasing my clients by involving them in an uplifting charitable cause. Sharing our passion for photography and the joy of our good fortune makes a bigger impact than I could have thought possible a year ago.
I hope you are considering going to Imaging USA 2014. If you are struggling like we were, don't crawl under those covers, share your problems and halve them! Reach out and get a little help. Things will turn around. Once they do, remember what Almost Queen Latifah said, "Be grateful for the life you have."
You're doing what you love! Once you're feeling good and joyous about how lucky you really are, start spreading the joy and love around. PPA Charities' Operation Smile is a great place to start. Remember, bright is the new bleak.
Hope to see you in Phoenix!