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Spice Up Your Workflow by Pretouching in ProSelect

If you are a ProSelect user who is not taking advantage of the software's Apply Custom Effects feature (the C icon on the right-hand tool bar), then you need to stop what you're doing
NOW and click on this video link that I just received from Ron Nichols at Ron Nichols Digital Solutions. It will take you to a really helpful, short video tutorial. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've haven't taken the time to learn how to use this fantastic feature . . . that is until I saw Ron's video and realized how EASY it is to activate and how much benefit you receive by installing Imagenomic's Portraiture plug-in for "pretouching" your images in ProSelect. I even own the Portraiture filter, but have been using it independent of ProSelect. If you haven't seen it, Portraiture is just fantastic for pretouching and as a diffusion tool in retouching. There's a sizable discount code available in Ron's video, so be on the lookout for it.

So why pretouch through ProSelect? In a matter of seconds, you'll have faces and blemishes on any other areas of skin (such as "diaper designs" on babies) looking so much better in your projection sales presentation, and you won't have to do time-consuming retouching. Pretouching also is great if you are printing proof pages or even exporting images for an iPod slide show. What's more, you can enable the pretouching (and any other actions you run through Proselect) to carry through to finished prints by using ProSelect's integrated Production module. I don't do much production in-house, but when I have to do my own printing of client work, I use ProSelect from start to finish, and it is SO slick!

When I learned from the video how easy it is to add actions to ProSelect, I immediately added some that Ron provides at no charge on his site. Download instructions are on the video. I particularly like the "Glamour" filter. It's great for seniors, and I also intend to use it for a new line of . . . believe it or not . . . Glamour-Pet Portraits. I hope to create some samples on Saturday, so the video came just in time.

Of course now that I know how to add actions, I want to add ALL my favorite actions; however at present ProSelect has only 5 Apply Custom Effects slots. But not to worry: Ron tells me that the new ProSelect upgrade, which is now in beta testing, has many more slots available. Wow I can't wait!

I'll be amazed if you are not impressed by this wonderful ProSelect feature, so give it a try, and let me know how it goes!


'Twas the Season . . .

Although Halloween 2007 is now just a memory, for many clients of Carrie Viohl Photography, Carrie's no-fuss Halloween Portrait Party and Costume Contest resulted in some darling portrait memories for some lucky Moutrie, GA parents, as well as a whole lot of priceless exposure for the studio. Here how Carrie describes of the event preparation:

"We put two posts on the blog in the weeks before Halloween, inviting anybody and everybody to come the studio for trick-or-treating and a free costume photoshoot. We also mentioned that we'd offer a free 10x20 standout composite to the kid who got the most comments (votes) on our blog. Then I bought $12 worth of spoooooooky fabric (Read: cheesecloth with holes in it) and hung it from my roller system, $20 worth of candy, and our CV packaging bags in the smallest size.  ET VOILA!  Halloween party!" Husband Phil also contributed two carved pumpkins.

The results: From not a lot of prep work, 43 families came to the party, most of whom were not current clients. Best of all, they booked 5 additional portrait sessions for 2008. But that's not all: Carrie, who authors one of my all-time favorite blogs, then posted all the images and invited parents to "get out the vote" for their child's photo. Carrie describes what happened next:

"We've had well over 600 votes (comments) in less than a week!  About 100 of those had to be deleted because there were a few moms cheating (Ha!!).  But that's moms and dads bugging all of their friends and family:
PLEASE go to carrieviohl.com and LOOK AT MY CUTE KID AND VOTE FOR HIM!!  

Talk about creating buzz! The little sleeping monkey, shown above, was the top vote getter. To see more of Carrie's darling Halloween images, click here, then scroll to the bottom of the window and work your way up. While you're there, take a while to page through the blog's features and archives, and you'll see why I visit CarrieViohl.com so frequently. I love to peak inside the world of Carrie, Phil, Renee, Haley, the ever-so-lively stick-figure characters -- not to mention so many of the studio's clients. I feel as though I'm getting to know the people and the community of Moultrie, GA through this adventurous blog. And if I enjoy it, can you imagine how much Carrie's clients and prospects love it! And that's just the point: Carrie's blog represent person-to-person marketing at its best!

Speaking of Boutique Studios . . .

I've been around our industry long enough to see some enormous changes overtake us, but none has fascinated me more that the arrival of the Boutique Studio model. This fascinating business concept approaches branding in a way that finally recognizes the importance of marketing to women. After all, we've known for years that women comprise the most influential market for most aspects of professional studio portraiture and wedding photography. So I'm really excited about having the opportunity to present a platform program at Imaging USA in January. It's entitled "The Boutique Studio Revolution," and here's what you'll learn:
  • What boutique studios are all about, and whether this would be an appropriate business model for you to consider.
  • How to brand and promote a boutique studio.
  • How to make a boutique studio profitable.

My program is scheduled for Monday, January 7 from 9:00 - 1:30 A.M.

I'll also have the honor of moderating a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, January 8 at 3:00 P.M. I won't have much to say during this program because of all the high-powered talent on the platform:
Lori Nordstrom, Sandy Puc', Sarah Petty, Vicki and Jed Taufer, Beverly and Tim Walden, and Jeff and Julia Woods. Here's you're chance to get to know what really goes on behind the scenes of six of the most successful and innovative boutique studios in the country, so come to the program early to make sure you get a seat!

Sure hope to see you in Tampa!


Box It In Style!

I hear from the folks at Marathon that the gorgeous 8x10 boxes from their new BellaGrafica Packaging Collection are flying off the shelves, and no wonder: they are just what style-conscious photographers have been looking for! The design of each box has been coordinated to harmonize with other collection items designed by six of the biggest names in Boutique Studios. The packaging collection also includes the wonderfully versatile Portrait Delivery Bags shown below. These fantastic bags feature a 4x6 pocket that lets you personalize the bag for the person receiving it, which assures that she will be showing her treasured bag to friends all over town! To learn more about this extra-special packaging line,
click here.

Be among the first to see the more than 150 new boutique studio marketing products that Marathon will be releasing in the coming weeks by signing up for product-notification emails at
BellaGrafica.com. These spectacular products, which have special appeal to women, were inspired and developed by some of the best marketers in the photographic industry: Lori Nordstrom, Sandy Puc', Sarah Petty, Vicki and Jed Taufer, Beverly and Tim Walden, and Jeff and Julia Woods.

One important point to consider when purchasing elegant packaging . . . all packaging items are charged to Cost of Sales, which has a definite impact on pricing. Yes, you do have to charge more for your products when they are delivered in beautiful packaging, but that's the good news: You'll be making a strong statement to the market that your work is worthy of beautiful presentation, and the additional profit you make when you mark up these increased costs will allow you to spend the time necessary to pamper your boutique clients, who in turn are bound to create buzz with their friends about their great experience with you!

Meet Two Really Talented New Friends!

At the Make More Money Conference in Memphis last August, I met a super-talented California couple: Mary Ann Halpin and her husband Joe Croyle. Since
1985 Mary Ann has photographed portraits of celebrities and actors in the entertainment industry. Along the way she has become one of the most respected photographers in L.A., having received acclaim for revealing everything from the glamorous beauty of Hollywood to the heartbreaking despair of Skid Row. She has two wonderful books to her credit:
Pregnant Goddesshood: A Celebration of Life, which was published in 1997, and Fearless Women: Midlife Portraits, which debuted in 2005. Both books are a treat to view and read: You'll see lots of famous faces (and bellies) and you'll be struck by the artistry and technique Mary Ann employs in crafting the imagery of her fascinating subjects.

According to Mary Ann,
Pregnant Goddesshood was a bit ahead of its time: While pregnancy portraits are a commonplace product line in many portrait studios today, in 1997 some bookstores were concerned that the images were too risque for the books to be displayed. Fearless Women features celebrities such as Joni Mitchell, Cybill Shepherd, Erin Brokovitch, Joan Lunden and many other extraordinary women. It contains compelling black-and-white portraits and profiles the work of these women who have dared to approach aging with passion and fearlessness. Mary Ann has received numerous awards for her work, along with appearances on major television shows such as "The View," "Inside Edition," "!Extra!" and "Baby Story."

One of my favorite aspects of Mary Ann's photography is her actors' headshots. You don't find too many actors to photograph in Annville, PA, and the few headshots that I'm called upon to do don't exactly get my creative juices flowing. But after viewing the "Actors" category on her website, I'll never approach headshots and publicity photos the same way again. I am so inspired! Once you click on the
Actors link, you can scroll through all the categories at left. What a treat!

Though not a photographer, Joe Croyle is certainly no slouch in the talent department. He's an exceptionally gifted jazz vocalist and pianist who began touring at the age 15. Since then he has performed and recorded around the world, and currently
he is singing with the famous recording group "The Modernaires," who recently were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Joe's special talent is as an interpreter of song. His mellow vocal renditions are reminiscent of the late Mel Torme. In fact Joe has paid homage to Torme through is CD: "Joe Croyle - A Tribute to Mel Torme." You can read more about Joe and his tribute CD by clicking here. In fact, you can even hear Joe sing a few tracks. My favorites are "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "I'll Be Seeing You." I was fortunate enough to hear Joe sing in person in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. He'd been improvising with the hotel's pianist the evening before, and I said to them that I was so sorry to have missed the session. So Joe asked me what kind of music I like. Celtlic, I replied. He turned to the pianist, and they launched into a lovely rendition of "Danny Boy," which gave me goose bumps, especially when they got to "that high note" where so many vocalists crack. Joe nailed it, and it was a real WOW moment for me and for the lobby audience.

When Joe is not performing, he and Mary Ann work together in shaping her latest venture: a studio portrait business specializing in portraits of families, children, maternity and babies. Now local families can appreciate Mary Ann's work as much as celebrities do. As her website says, "Mary Ann is dedicated to creating images that express the beautiful poetry of human connection." I love that statement and I also love Joe's business card: He's listed as "Goddess Manager." How perfect!

A Very Happy Ending

In a media-driven culture that is seemingly obsessed with beautiful, self-absorbed people, it's good for the heart to know that small miracles really do happen because of the selflessness of people who show up when they are needed. Such was the case when Jacob Allen, a physically fit 18-year-old who is severely autistic, managed to outdistance his parents on a hike in the rugged Dolly Sods Wildness Area of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. In a matter of minutes, Jacob, who loves the outdoors, but is non-verbal, seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.

Jacob's father is a staff member at Garrett College, which is located a few miles from my house at Deep Creek Lake, MD. The Allen family lives in Morgantown, WV, about 40 minutes from Deep Creek. Morgantown also is the home of my daughter Julie, son-in-law Chris Frum, and grandson Lusas. Julie and Chris are West Virginia University grads, and Chris works at the University in Morgantown. As soon as the word got out, volunteers from WVU, Garrett College, churches, and other groups converged on the wilderness area to look for Jacob under the guidance of first responders and professional rescue organizations. Chris, who has extensive wilderness training and experience, served as a team leader on day 3 of the search. Miraculously, Jacob was found by just such a team on day 4, only hours before the a driving rainstorm snapped the spell of unseasonably warm weather that had kept hopes alive that Jacob could survive the elements if help came in time.

According to Chris, so many qualified people came out to help -- not to mention folks who just wanted to do anything -- that the organizers had to make up tasks to keep them busy. Many, he said, took time away from their hourly jobs, so they lost a day's pay for every day they spent searching for Jacob. Though he was armed with a hand-held GPS, Chris said that the terrain was so rugged he was very concerned that one of his 15-member team could get lost in an instant, so the team relied on shout-outs to stay together. It took nearly a day to cover terrain that was roughly the size of a football field. The fact that a watchful rescue-team member finally spotted Jacob, as he slept beneath the canopy of rhododendron, was almost a miracle in itself.

The story of the Allen family's plight and Jacob's rescue made national news for nearly a week. But what happened at Dolly Sods continues to touch those who participated directly in the rescue operation as well as those who held the family and the searchers in their hearts and prayers throughout the ordeal. A website that commemorates the search can be found at
www.operationjacob.com. If you're having a bad day, just visit the site and click on the slide show, as what unfolds will surely lift your spirits. It's hard to top the sight of Jacob and his rescuers emerging from that endless wilderness.

Chris, Julie and Lucas came to visit in Deep Creek the day after Jacob was found. I took this picture of them over the weekend. It now has special meaning because it will forever remind me a beautiful, unseasonable October when good people came together and became part of something much larger than themselves.


February Guerrilla Management Class Ready to Fill

If you are a regular blog reader who wishes to attend the February 8-11, 2008 Guerrilla Management Workshop in Fredericksburg, VA, then you'd better to call register NOW. We'll be sending an email blast today . . . the first time we've advertised this workshop. We've already filled 7 of the 15 studio slots by word of mouth and the website listing, so we expect the workshop to be filled immediately. We have a wonderful group so far, so you'll be in good company if you decide to attend.

More Great Websites!

One of the pleasures of serving as a Studio Management Services consultant is reviewing the promotional materials of client studios. I particularly enjoy looking at studio websites that never cease to amaze me because of how creative and sophisticated this marketing medium has become. I also love the opportunity to visit good websites because they are nothing less than a window on creativity.

Last week, I got to look a three really well-done sites that feature fantastic photography. They belong to . . .

Candace Ann Schwab, of
Candace Ann Photography in Sioux Falls, SD . . .

Lesha and Eric Moore, of Lesha Studios, Cherry Hill, NJ . . .

and Farrah Braniff, of Farrah Braniff Photographs, Houston, TX.

A special congratulations to Farrah, who just got word that her website was a finalist in the PPA AN-NE Awards competition. Good job, Farrah!

Learning from the Divine Helen Yancy

For the past five years I've given myself the gift of hosting a Helen Yancy Painter class at my lake house. It's hard to express how much I look forward to this annual early fall retreat to the mountains to marvel at the artistry Helen creates through her virtual brushes and to benefit from her wisdom and friendship. It was obvious that this year's students felt the same way. They were an unusually talented group, and I fully expect to see great things from them.

If you are not lucky enough to take a Helen Yancy digital art class in person, the next best thing is to purchase her incredible instructional palette, shown below. This extraordinary learning and production tool takes you step by step through the process of creating high-end retouching in Photoshop, then shows you how to paint the resulting image using Corel Painter. The Palette actually controls Photoshop as you move from one step to the next, and it allows you to play a demonstration movie for each action you undertake. When your image is completed in Photoshop, Helen's movies continue throughout the Painter process. You actually watch Helen create her brush strokes while you practice yours. It should be no surprise that Painter requires practice, and this incredible palette, produced by Ron Nichols Digital Solutions, allows Helen to tutor you as your practice. Now there's no excuse for not taking advantage of the opportunity to create exciting new products through the art of Painter.

Next year's class is already scheduled for October 31 - November 3. The class is limited to 11 students. For more information, click here.

Laurie Draper's Artful Jewelry and Ornaments

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

And just look at these gorgeous jewelry pieces!

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