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Lots of Firsts at PPA's "Basic Training" Class

Many of the thirty students who turned out for the very first Studio Management Services "Basic Training" Class received their first PPA Merits at the conclusion of one of the most delightful classes I've taught. I was pleased to share the teaching duties with Carol Andrews (that's us in the front row), who answered a 911 call to head to Atlanta last Friday, when it looked as though I might be stranded in PA because of an east coast snowstorm. This was the first time I've had to call for reinforcements on a travel day.

Well both of us made it to Atlanta, but not until midnight. So glad we did, as we met some really delightful folks who were either considering careers in photography or had already taken the plunge and wanted to learn the fundamentals of marketing and managing a photography business. Their wholehearted endorsement of this new two-day class means that Studio Management Services will mostly likely be offering the class again. If you know of someone who wants to learn what our industry is all about, or if you have a friend who is struggling with the business side of photography, I hope you will refer them to Studio Management Services at PPA. They should have a new class date posted soon.


Preview: Marathon's NEW 2-Day Marketing Workshop

Thanks to one of my favorite photographers, Dave Cruz of Meza, Arizona, I'm able show you some great shots from a test workshop that took place in Atlanta two weeks ago. I'll be writing more about Dave soon, but right now I'd like to tell you why I'm so excited about this workshop and why I believe it is exactly what photographers need — if they are really serious about building a truly effective comprehensive studio marketing plan.

For the past six years I've been privileged to facilitate marketing workshops at Marathon's headquarters in Norfolk, NE. The workshop has helped hundreds of photographers get their marketing on track. In creating the new workshop series, we have built on what we have learned through the on-site workshops; equally important, we have taken into consideration the profound changes that have occurred in our industry in recent years. What pleases me most is that the new workshop format will give us the opportunity to help photographers accomplish what I believe is often overlooked when they start to market: We'll have the time and resources to help them to clarify the direction of their marketing from the ground up, beginning with a reevaluation of their business concept, then moving through all the steps that are necessary to build or reinforce a recognizable and meaningful brand.

The format will be unique in the industry in terms of both staffing and intent. Mark Weber, M.Photog.Cr.,MEI, a former studio photographer and industry consultant who now works for Marathon, will be joining me as workshop leader, and we will assist attendees in completing a series of hands-on exercises. The purpose of the work sessions is to allow studios to emerge with a reliable marketing plan based on marketing strategies specific to their business model and goals. At the heart of the process is determining what changes studios must make — both in their business concept and their approach to the market — in order to remain viable in today’s crowded and rapidly evolving marketplace.

Joining Mark and me at the Atlanta workshop was Bill Camacho, Marathon's executive vice president. We couldn't have asked for a better group than the 26 photographers who agreed to participate in a "dress rehearsal" for the new workshop. They worked through the process with diligence and enthusiasm, and they were enormously helpful with their feedback about the workshop content and process. Many of their ideas will be implemented when the first official workshop rolls out next month.

The work sessions were designed to allow each studio to complete sections of their marketing plan independently, and attendees also benefitted from group sessions that spotlighted strategies for specific markets such as family and children, seniors, and weddings.


If we were to give an award to the best "trouper" at the workshop, it would surely have to go to a very pregnant Kristin Smith, shown above at left, who gave birth to her third son one week after the workshop.

Parker Smith, the proud father, is shown below, at left, with Marathon's Bill Camacho (standing) and Mark Weber. Congratulations to Parker and Kristin!

Here's dad, Parker, with Calder Weston Smith. Isn't he a doll!

Starting in March Marathon's two-day Strategic Marketing Workshops will be offered at locations throughout the country. Workshop tuition is a bargain at $295 for up to two people from the same studio. Luncheon for both days is included. I can guarantee you two days of hard work . . . but I believe you'll find it to be worth the investment in both time and money. The March workshop dates are:

March 10-11 - Atlanta, GA
March 25-26 - Columbus, OH

For additional additional dates and information,
click here.

As you can see from this rather laid-back photo, I really enjoyed the workshop. As always, teaching is a wonderful learning experience. Again, I want to thank the exceptional photographers who participated. And special thanks to Dave Cruz for providing the photos that allowed me to share this preview with you. I hope to see many of you at a workshop sometime this year!


Anything for an Omelet!

Ronnie Owings is the owner of one of the most charming studios I've ever visited, Pro Studio at the Garden Cottage in McDonough, GA. During his year in commercial photography, Ronnie photographed many bed-and-breafast establishments for magazines such as Better Homes and Gardens. So when he remodeled the vintage cottage to house his portraiture business, he deliberately chose to furnish it in bed-and-breakfast style. You feel instantly at home when you step through the door; many clients say it's like a visit to grandma's house.

The cottage is just a starting point. Ronnie went on to build a thoroughly modern camera room designed to look like a carriage house, just behind the cottage, and he has designed a host of outdoor environments on his acreage that are perfect for photography. Over the years, Ronnie has hosted all manner of barnyard critters that are a real treat for kids and a hit in portraits. The latest, he says, is a hen that doesn't mind being held. He said it is especially popular with seniors. I questioned whether senior boys would actually want to be photographed holding a chicken. "Lots of them," he replied, and he followed up by sending me the photo of the young man below.

Ronnie's particularly fond of he he, he says, because he gets to enjoy a fresh-egg omelet for lunch every day! Imagine that: the prop that keeps on giving!

Here's a photo of the shed set where Ronnie made the portrait

If you want a real treat, take a moment and look at Ronnie's wonderful photography at his very impressive website: http://www.prostudionet.com, and be sure to visit the Garden Cottage section that includes photos of the charming studio environment that greets Ronnie's lucky clients.

Feb. Workshop: Wonderful Folks — Awsome Talent!

I tell every Guerrilla Management Workshop I teach that each class is memorable for a distinct reason, and the February workshop was no exception: This was one of the most talented groups of photographers I've had the pleasure of working with. I usually have time to grab some candids of what's going on. But these 15 studios kept Judy and me so busy, that there was no time for anything but hard work. So I decided to ask each studio to send me a single image to showcase their talents. Some have already come in, and I'll keep adding to the collection.


James & Jenny Tarpley, Visio Photography, Marion, NC

Pauline Fredericks, Pauline Fredericks, Photography, Sierra Vista, AZ

Margaret and Frank Kukuc, Margaret Kukuc Photography, Burr Ridge, IL

Patty Fox, Patty Fox Photography, Woodland, TX

Sally Merritt Swart, Cantin Photography, Tiverton, RI

Marie Papp, Marie Papp Photography, Hoboken, NJ

Mary Ann Halpin & Joe Croyle, Mary Ann Halpin Photography, Los Angeles, CA

Frank & Fiorella Cunha, Here's My Baby! Fine Portraits, Kleinburg, Ontario

Veronica Enns, Artistic Images, Yorkton, Saskatchewan

Kathleen Dylan, Dylan Studios, Los Altos, CA

Kathleen wrote the following about the image above: "The older woman is in her final days, at the end of a long battle with throat cancer...she has a tracheotomy, missing teeth, and shows the effects of months of chemo...but her daughter wanted an image of her and her grandchildren where she looked like her spirit was alive, and showed her love for her family, as well as making her look healthy...anyway, something of a fun challenge for me, and the client was pleased as well." A wonderful job and a great reminder of the wonder privilege we have in documenting the lives of our subjects.


Like me, Sally Swart is a Corgi parent: She has two Corgis — Maxwell and Ruby. I can't resist posting this darling image that Sally took of the kids dressed for Halloween in 2007. I'm not sure that my Mitzi would be quite so accommodating.


The Silly Season is Upon Us!

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.
-- Groucho Marx

At the risk of sounding like a seasoned cynic, I agree with Groucho . . . at least part of the time. I know there are many very dedicated public servants who want to do the right thing for the people who elect them, but given the seemingly unlimited resources of ever-competing special-interest groups, it's quite a challenge for any politician to break party ranks in search of "the right thing." So the political sausage machine grinds on, and for the small business person, the sausage options are not very tasty during an election year, when party rancor drowns out the common sense voices of the hardworking business people looking for a fair shake. Even though we represent much of the engine that fuels the American economy, our voice is hard to hear above the rancor of mindless politics. But that's no excuse for not doing the best we can with what we are offered on election day. At the very least, make sure you know where the candidates stand . . . if you can make any sense out of what passes for political reporting during a presidential election year.

People cast their votes for a host of intelligent and often hopeful reasons. But if you are concerned about the future of small business, then, in my opinion, you should look at the candidates' positions on the following:

  • Tax rates: Does the candidate pledge not to raise them for short-term gain?
  • Health care: Does the candidate support "association health-care programs?" PPA estimates that 70% of those without health insurance will be able to buy policies if trade associations were allowed to form the same group plans that are available to unions and government workers.
  • The death tax: Urge candidates to do away with it, or we'll continue to lose family farms and other small businesses.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax: Do away with it IMMEDIATELY! This tax has to rank near the top of Incredible Congressional Blunders. Enacted by a cranky Congress in 1969, it was passed specifically to punish a mere 155 high-income households that were eligible for so many tax benefits that they owed little or no income tax under the Federal Tax Code. But because it was not indexed for inflation, this onerous tax could now include families that earn as little as $100,000. To keep Americans from hosting a modern-day Boston Tea Party, Congress has in recent years passed one-year patches aimed at minimizing the impact of the tax. For 2007, a patch was passed in December, but only after the IRS had already designed its forms for 2007. The redesign and computer reprogram will create potential delays for 2007 refunds. Brilliant! But worst of all, the government continues to gobble up the proceeds of this undeserved tax windfall. Give it a few more years, and Congress will be so addicted to the AMT that it will have little will or even fewer options for redirecting this taxation nightmare. Beware . . . it is creeping up on YOU!
  • The FICA cap: Keep it where it is. Every time it moves up, business takes a hit.
  • Social Security reform: In spite of the fact that it is the untouchable third rail of American politics, look for leaders who are determined to fix Social Security through unpopular measures such as raising the retirement age and/or reducing benefits. Otherwise, government will look to US to pay the bill.
So keep your ears open and your fingers crossed for a Miracle November. Cast your vote and hope for the best.