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Fascinating Folks

Mikey and the TSA

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Just when you think you’ve heard it all . . . The New York Times online introduces you to 8-year-old Mikey Hicks, a New Jersey Cub Scout who seldom passes through security without the kind of thorough pat down that surely would have nabbed the notorious Christmas Day Underpants Bomber. Mikey’s crime? He has a namesake on the TSA Watch List, and his hassles have been going on since he was a two-year old—more proof of the Death of Common Sense, and yet another reason why I don’t want to turn over the administration of the nation’s health care system to a bureaucracy that can’t tell a two-year-old from a terrorist. You can read about his family’s futile efforts to gain government intercession by clicking here.

Mikey’s mother, Najlah Feanny Hicks, is a talented photojournalist, who once received clearance to travel on Air Force II with then-Vice President Al Gore. No such luck for Mikey, however. He has, however, gained thousands of fans on Facebook. You can become one of them by clicking here.

Making Success Look Easy

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Catching Up With Josh and Elizabeth

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Celebrating in New Orleans

Carol Andrews didn’t have to twist my arm to jump on a plane for an overnight visit to New Orleans to link up with her and new husband, Greg Jensen, on their honeymoon. They timed their Houston wedding so that they could travel to New Orleans for the annual French Quarter Festival, bringing along daughter, Molly, and Molly’s friend, Alisa. How fun! I would finally get to meet Greg and Alisa (who’s been like a sister to Molly), and get to visit with the captivating Molly, who I’ve known since she was five and who is now a college freshman.

I’ve known about Greg’s talent for a while now: He’s an artist, sculptor, silversmith and engraver, who has a fascinating upscale niche business (men’s belt buckles and accessories), which you can read about by
clicking here. Turns out he’s a darn fine photographer as well. How wonderful that Carol has found her artistic soulmate!

We had a ball photographing festival activities throughout the French Quarter . . .

. . . as did pals Gail Nogle (left) and Gayletta Tompkins, who also dropped in to celebrate the honeymoon . . .

. . . and to take a look at Greg’s handwork: his and Carol’s gorgeous wedding rings!

Carol grabbed this shot of me on St. Ann’s street, which made me feel right at home.

I caught Molly and Alisa waiting patiently for a table at a WONDERFUL restaurant that was aptly named “Eat.” Great food at great prices and a lovely laid-back atmosphere.

You never know what kind of characters you will run into in NOLA, and the next two shots prove it: Just outside our hotel we met up with Santa Claus, who was wearing his summer uniform and carrying government I.D. to prove he was who he said he was.

Later we spotted this trio, who Gail decided should be photographed with me. Just love the hair! (Theirs, not mine.)

It was hard to head home on such a beautiful New Orleans spring day, but it was just wonderful to enjoy a spur-of-the-moment getaway . . . especially when there was such a great reason to celebrate: Cheers to Carol and Greg! May you have many happy years together!


Good Advice for Challenging Times

Before I left for Ireland, I wrote an item about one of my favorite people, Ronnie Ownings. He is also one of my favorite photographers, and he happens to own a studio that I come fairly close to coveting . . . which I know is not a flattering personality trait: but it is SO wonderful! The article appeared in Marathon’s April eNewsletter under the title “Coping With Change In Tough Economic Times.” The piece now appears on Marathon’s Blog, and I urge you to read it, as I believe what Ronnie has to say is what EVERY photographer needs to hear. I’m happy to say that it has received many positive comments on Marathon’s blog to the effect that Ronnie has really hit the nail right on the head. Here’s a snippet of the feature, along with a link to the blog:

For the past 22 years Atlanta-area Master Photographer Ronnie Owings has worked to build what photographers and clients alike consider to be a dream studio. His Pro Studio at the Garden Cottage, located in the suburban community of McDonough, is a one-of-a-kind collection of lovingly restored antique buildings, charming sets and idyllic gardens that form the perfect backdrop for this accomplished photographer, whose impressive resume, you can read by clicking here.

In spite of that great resume, (or some might say because of it) for the past three months Ronnie Owings has taken drastic action to assure that his iconic bed-and-breakfast-style studio will not fall victim to a recession that presently is jeopardizing the future of many small businesses. In the process, he has gained valuable insight that could benefit photographers everywhere who are coping with harsh economic realities.

Confronting Economic Reality
Ronnie began to evaluate his business options as early as last fall, when he feared that negative economic indicators would likely have an impact on his business. Earlier in the year he had experienced the first sales plateau in the history of his business. “I could see that my numbers weren’t what they should be,” he explained. Then, when last year’s holiday sales were less than he had hoped, and January 2009 sessions were a mere fraction of what he typically enjoys—in spite of aggressive promotion to his client base—Ronnie knew that he had to act. So he began to work the problem in earnest from every possible angle, until he decided on some transforming strategies: some large and some small. The changes that he has embraced have given him a sense of hopeful confidence and a fresh perspective that he believes will see him through these difficult times

To read the rest of this feature, please click here and scroll down to April 6.


A Happy New Year for Leslie and Family

This is a story that I probably should have written about over Thanksgiving, because our family had more than our share of blessings to be thankful for last November. That is when we learned that Leslie Blauch Hedge, shown here with her 3-month-old baby Merceda, was in full remission from the leukemia that threatened both their lives. Being able to photograph Leslie and Merceda just before Christmas was one of those occasions that made me extremely grateful to be a photographer, and to see both of them looking so lovely and full of life made the season truly miraculous. Now I’m glad that I waited to tell their story so that you can see for yourself what a miracle looks like.

Leslie came into our lives when she and our daughter, Julie, became joined at the hip in seventh grade. During a rough patch that year, Leslie came to stay with us for a time, and she was with us so much after that we began referring to her as our “extra kid.” There was never a dull moment with Leslie around; she and Julie were an interesting counterpoint: Julie, more quiet and steady, and Leslie, always full of drama.

It was drama, in fact, that led Leslie to the theater department of West Virginia University, where Julie also enrolled, but in the interior design curriculum. Both girls met their future husbands at WVU, and finally, after graduation, they went their separate ways: Julie and her husband, Christopher Frum, live in Morgantown with their seven-year-old son Lucas, and Leslie and her husband, David Hedge, live in Sunland, California. Julie is a commercial interior designer and Chris is a medical researcher. David and Leslie worked for a time in the Denver film community, then moved to California to take advantage of opportunities in Hollywood. David is an art director on films and commercials, and Leslie has done acting and producing. After having their first child, Daxton, now four, Leslie decided to get a real estate license, and when she became pregnant with a baby girl, everything in her life seemed just about perfect.

Early in the pregnancy Leslie was feeling unusually tired, but that was understandable, as she was raising a busy three-year-old boy. Next, a cold turned into bronchitis that she couldn’t shake. Then she began experiencing nosebleeds that wouldn’t stop. After seeing three doctors in two days, an alert ENT doctor ordered a blood test. That night he called to tell Leslie to get to the ER immediately, and by the time she was admitted to the hospital, she was close to dying. In her 24th week of pregnancy she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called Hairy Cell Leukemia, making her the 6th pregnant woman on record to get the disease, which fortunately has an excellent cure rate. The immediate problem, however was to get her through the pregnancy without complications so that she could take a course of chemotherapy. In the meantime, she endured numerous transfusions to stabilize her blood count, and she had to avoid anything and anyone that could pass on germs, since her immune system was not functioning.

In May, her doctor decided that she needed to have her spleen removed, and she became the first pregnant woman to undergo a laparoscopic splenectomy at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Just about a month before her due date, Leslie was feeling weaker, so the doctors decided to induce labor, hoping to avoid having to do a cesarean section, as they wanted her to be able to start chemo as soon as possible. The delivery went perfectly, then something went terribly wrong: Leslie’s stomach migrated through a tear in the diaphragm into her chest cavity, and once again she was saved by an alert physician who rushed her into surgery. After a painful recovery, Leslie was finally able to have her chemo treatments. Then came further complications with a bowel obstruction and debilitating bone pain when her body began producing new, healthy bone marrow. But gradually her strength began to return, and in late October, her doctor pronounced that she was in remission, with only a 5% chance of recurrence. In mid-December she was strong enough to fly with Merceda to Pennsylvania so that her whole family could meet the sweet baby girl who managed to survive all the drama leading up to her birth without a hitch. And she is really a lovely, easy-going baby. Her name, Merceda Austine, means “great reward.” She is that and more!

With all the anxiety surrounding the economy and world affairs, I thought you might enjoy reading Leslie’s story. As a result of this ordeal, she has gained wisdom and insight that comes only to those who face such tribulations. Much of that wisdom is contained in a journal she kept through the CaringBridge, a wonderful organization that provides free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illness, treatment and recovery. If you know anyone who can benefit from the service, you can let them see how it works by visiting Leslie’s
CaringBridge site at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/lesliesjourney. In the journal, Leslie talks passionately about the need for the public to donate blood, a cause she has wholeheartedly embraced and for which she intends to be an advocate. She also mentions what a hero Dave has been through it all, and how grateful she is for the support of friends, family, and even strangers. My favorite entry is from November 20, 2008, just a week before Thanksgiving:

All that we've gone through this summer has been the gift of a lifetime to me. People see me at the store with my children and tell me how quickly it goes by and that I need to enjoy every moment with them before it slips away, and I make sure they know that I am. My goal is to always hold this attitude toward my life- even as the events of the summer fade to become a distant memory I vow to remember all that I have learned. Every day that I have to be alive and have experiences, whether good or bad, I am ALIVE! The bad times will always pass- nothing lasts forever- but there are always people there who love you, and always people there to be loved, so life is always worth living. Just take a moment and see that you are breathing, move your body around and look at the beauty of nature or look into someone's eyes and know that this too is so temporary. And it's such a beautiful gift to be enjoyed! This summer taught me that I don't know how much time I have here on Earth in this life, but I do know that it isn't the length of my stay, it's the quality of my journey that is important. So I'm trying to live each day with as much love and appreciation in my heart as I can create.

What a wonderful lesson for all of us as we enter a new year!


PPA's Al Hopper: Hail and Farewell

While I was at PPA Headquarters last week, I stopped in to visit with Al Hopper, PPA’s Director of Membership, and I caught him in this photo as he was talking to a member on the phone. This is exactly how I think of Al . . . serving members, which he has done since 1994 . . . always with an expansive smile that is his trademark. Al will be leaving PPA at the end of this year, and he will be sorely missed by the thousands of members he has assisted over the past 14 years. I was privileged to serve as a PPA volunteer during Al’s entire tenure. He reminded me last week that I was the first PPA member he met when he moved to our Association from his previous employment with the Boy Scouts of America. At the time I was serving as chairman of the Membership Committee, seeking ways to recruit and retain PPA members after the association’s move from the Chicago area to Atlanta. Al paid me a visit at my lake house in Maryland just prior to taking up his PPA post, and I was immediately drawn to his can-do attitude and energetic manner. This was a critical time in PPA’s history, as the Association was still recovering from a period financial instability. My how things have changed! Today PPA is recognized as one of the most stable membership organizations in the country, and our 1994 membership of 10,000 has grown to 24,000 today. Al, along with PPA’s exceptional professional staff, were the driving force behind this success. The many members whose lives he has touched will never forget his kindness and his larger-than-life personality. We will miss you, Al!

Conversation and Remembrance . . .

Early this month I had a lovely phone conversation with one of the true Divas of our industry — none other than Joyce Wilson — the single individual who is widely regarded as THE woman who broke down the doors to what used to be a totally male-dominated industry. When I arrived on the scene in the late 1970s there were a few women Master Photographers — mostly working with their husbands — but there were less than a handful who had made their way to the top in photography absolutely on their own.

Joyce had no choice but to go it alone: Her high-school sweetheart husband had died suddenly and left her with a mortgage and three small children to raise. One of the few early photography jobs open to her was taking Santa pictures dressed in a green elf suit! Joyce once told me that male photographers in those days wouldn't share information with each other . . . let alone with a woman. So much of her learning came from the art world, which goes a long way in explaining why, when Joyce mastered photographic technique, she emerged as a brilliant talent.

I became aware of who she was at the first PPA National Convention Jim and I attended in Washington D.C. We had just finished viewing our first PPA print show, which made us recognize how far we would have to go to become serious professionals, when we happened upon Joyce's ASP Fellowship exhibition. Later we would learn that she was the first woman ASP Fellow. Gathered around her was a group of admirers, and I only caught a glimpse of the vivacious blond lady whom everyone wanted to meet. After viewing her exhibition I remember saying to Jim: "Look at these portraits. They are so unlike everything else in the print show. This is what I want to do!"

Well I was not the only one who wanted to emulate Joyce's work. Every woman (and eventually a lot of men) who had remotely considered doing photography wanted to study with Joyce. I can't remember how many of her seminars and workshops in her Indiana studio I attended, but I know they helped to shape the way I viewed the world, and they gave me a great deal of insight into the creative process. Along with Helen Yancy, Joyce was an essential mentor, role model and friend. These ladies' contributions to the art and technology of our industry today — for both men and women — are incaculable.

By the time Jim and I met Joyce, when we were all on the speaking circuit together, Joyce's kids were nearly grown, and she was a recent newlywed. Her darling husband, Tom, really hit it off with Jim, as they were avid fishermen. Jim still makes me laugh when he tells the story of one of their fishing adventures in a Canadian wilderness with their pot-smoking French fishing guides. When we discovered that we had skiing in common, for several years we enjoyed skiing vacations together in Colorado. They are some of my fondest memories. I even learned from Joyce while taking long uphill ski-lift rides.

Joyce's recent call came from her home in California, because she was preparing to teach a class for photographers in her home state of Indiana. She wanted to know if what she thought about the current state of affairs in photographic businesses squared with what I was seeing. Joyce really didn't need my advice, because she had already done her research: She had assembed a group of her daughters' and grand-daughters' friends to determine their attitudes about professional photography. And, of course, she got an ear full of good information from them. She did what every studio owner should do when they don't know what's going on the mind of consumers: Just ask them!

So it was wonderful opportunity to catch up with Joyce. After our talk, I took a moment to visit her
website, and I hope you will too. If you've never met Joyce, read her bio: you'll be impressed; and spend some time studying her images: you'll learn a lot. And seriously consider taking a class from her: You're artistic life will never be the same!


More About Sam . . . She's At It Again!

As I said in a recent post (August 22), it is not humanly possible to keep up with Sam Puc'. I no sooner blogged about her new book than I learned about her new business venture: a delightful-sounding gift shop located in the downtown district of Littleton, CO, the town where Sam made her mark with Expressions Photography.

The boutique, which will open in October, is called "Chiaroscuro," an artsy term that refers to the skillful blending of light and shadow. The English teacher in me has always loved the sound of this beautiful word. According to Sam's blog, the shop was developed "with clients like you in mind. We know how much you value family and understand the importance of capturing memories. Our gifts and gift baskets are a reflection of the love and attention you pour into the treasures you select for your home and the gifts you give to loved ones." What a wonderful concept: giving people who love Sam's photography another place to spend some of their discretionary budget in a way that enhances their love of home and family! Wow!

When I spoke to Sam a week ago, she and the clan had just come from church, and they were working on getting the place in order. Here's a peak at the store front:

You can drop by Sam's blog to see what she's up to and learn more about her fascinating new "memory displays and home decor" business concept by clicking here. What a fabulous idea!

Angie's Place

While I was in Dallas for the marketing workshop I was delighted to receive an invitation from Angie Weedon to visit the new studio that she and her husband, Matt, have opened adjacent to their beautiful home in the Dallas area. Angie is a member of the PPA Charities Board of Trustees, and I've had the pleasure of working with her on planing the annual Family Portrait Month promotion. Angie is an amazing lady, and her photography is fabulous; so I was very eager to see the new studio.

Here is Angie in front of the studio, which from the street looks like a lovely carriage house that blends in beautifully with the home and the neighborhood. You can see the roof line of the Weedon home peeking through the trees.

It's hard to say whether the studio is more attractive on the outside or the inside. The first thing you see when you enter the building is a stylish sitting area, located across from a drop-down projection screen that Matt uses during client consultations and sales sessions.

When the projection screen is retracted, clients see a large canvas-wrap portrait located above a rolling shelving unit that holds key specialty products.

What I like best about the studio is how well it conveys her distincting portrait style. I have long admired how Angie has managed her brand. From the beginning of her career, she has focused on black-and-white photography, and only recently has she begun to add a limited amount of color photography to her line as a means of expanding product offerings to repeat clients. What a smart way to market photography!

All of the images that Angie shows are significantly sized wall portraits that clients easily recognize as exactly right for decorative focal points in their homes. Each image is smartly framed; the image shown above features a charming
Wild Sorbet frame, which captures the mood of this portrait perfectly. To see more of Angie's images, log on to weedonphoto.com.

After walking through the studio and viewing the well-chosen gallery of images, you come to the camera room, which features a north-light window opposite a brick-faced wall, a space that any photographer would consider to be a dream studio.

In the photo above, Angie chats with Marathon's Bill Camacho, who accompanied me on the studio visit.

We lingered in the studio long enough for Matt and daughter Ava to return from an errand. It was great seeing Matt again, and especially delightful to meet Ava, a most beautiful little girl, who is a wonderful big sister to brother Cal. While Matt is a photographer in his own right, and also assists Angie on shoots, most of Matt's energy is directed toward managing the studio and working with clients.

Here is the entire Weedon family: Matt and Angie in the foreground and Ava and Cal hanging on the wall. What a beautiful family, and what a great visit!

Mother's Day - Part 2: A Most Timely Arrival

Late last night I learned that another beautiful baby arrived just in time for Mother's Day
. . . doing so with especially impeccable timing. She is Akina Marie Wylie, whose mom is Dallas photographer and Studio Management Services client Kimberly Wylie. Here's the story:

Last Tuesday night the hospital where Kim and husband, Mike, expected to deliver later this month was hosting an event to honor a large exhibition of Kim's work that she has donated to the hospital. Naturally, the evening's running joke was that it would be great if she would go into labor after the event, as she could merely walk downstairs to her doctor who happened to be on duty. During the event, Kim experienced a little discomfort, and -- you guessed it -- several hours after the event ended, Kim's water broke, so it was back to the hospital to welcome Akina Marie.

The darling baby was named in honor of Kim's grandmothers. Akina means "spring flower" in Japanese, and Marie is her grandmother's name on her dad's side.

Here are some wonderful images of the family, including adoring and protective big brother, Steel, taken by friend and fellow Dallas-area photographer
Angie Weedon, who I have mentioned before in this blog.

To learn more about Kimberly's "Walls and Halls of Hope" exhibition at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas visit her website,
kimberlywylie.com, and go to the "What's New" link.

A Very Special Mother's Day for Renee

I remember exactly what I was doing last Mother's Day: I was teaching a Guerrilla Management Workshop at my Maryland lake house. I had just started this blog about a month earlier, and I asked the most experienced blogger in the class, Carrie Viohl, of Moultrie, GA, to demonstrate to a skeptical class just how easy it is to post information and photos on a blog. She did so by quickly publishing a Mother's Day message to her devoted readers back in Georgia. From that moment on I became a regular reader of Carrie's fascinating blog, which continues to be her studio's primary marketing tool.

Attending the class with Carrie and her husband, Phil, was friend and employee Renee Truett. So I was astounded by the Mother's Day email I just received from Carrie, letting me know that Renee had become a new mom (five weeks early) just in time for Mother's Day! Carrie was honored to document the 12-hour labor which she described as watching Renee "transform into a mother right in front of our eyes." She wove the narrative into a YouTube video, which you can see by clicking on
Carrie's Mother's Day blog entry.

Congratulations to mom and dad, and welcome to the world . . . little Bailey Alan Truett!

Melissa & René Tirado's Chic Urban Space

I suppose the reason I love to see studio designs that are urban, contemporary or industrial in style is because each of my studios has been very traditional; it's great fun to see modern, innovative spaces. So I was eager to see the new Boston-area studio of Melissa and René Tirado. After operating out of their home for the past eight years (first from a living room then from a larger house with a separate client entrance), the Tirados moved into their Peabody, Massachusetts space last November. The timing was perfect to show off René and Melissa's great portrait and wedding photography, as their studio was named "Best of Boston 2007" by Boston magazine. Here's a fashionable image of the couple by Australian wedding ace Jerry Ghionis.

The studio is located in an old mill complex in Peabody Square. Built in 1884, the facility was originally a leather-finishing business. According to Melissa, the building had been badly neglected over the years, but the current owner has completed restored the complex, which also houses several other local businesses, including a custom furniture-making company, a cable TV station and a gourmet kitchen.

The stylish facility features gorgeous 20-foot wood ceilings and beams throughout, which really catch your eye when you walk in the door.

Here's another view of the front of the studio looking toward the back. The reception area is in the foreground; and the meeting area is just behind it. Further behind is the viewing area. All workstations are located behind the half wall to the left, and the shooting area is behind the floor-to-celiling drapes.

From the back, here's a view looking toward the front of the space.

From this view of the meeting table, you can view the customizable shooting area and "portrait wall."

Here's another view of the camera space, which is so flexible that the Tirados can use it as a workout center with a personal trainer!

Here's a look at the studio's new state-of-the art theater setup created especially for viewing sessions.

Finally, here's the Tirado's "portrait wall," featuring examples from the studio's new "Inspire Guide," a book they have created especially for clients. It contains pages of ideas and inspirations on how to turn images into art for the home and office.

So cheers to Melissa and René Tirado: May you enjoy many years of creativity and prosperity in your gorgeous new studio!

To view the Tirado's photography, log on to their website at www.tiradophotography.com.

Eyes of the Storm

I met a truly remarkable man at a recent SMS Class. His name is Chris Lommel, and his studio is located in Big Lake, MN. Chris very kindly sent me a copy of a photograph that is very meaningful to him. Rather than tell you Chris's extraordinary story, with his permission I'm reproducing the Artist Statement that came along with the image:

It was Monday, June 13, 2005. Just after 9 p.m. a storm was passing over Monticello, Minnesota. Distant sirens could be heard south of our home. Tornado warnings were issued for portions of Wright County.

Intrigued by the power of meteorological forces and cloud formations, I had my camera in hand and looked toward the sky. I was drawn to the sight of what appeared to be an eye. Soon a second eye and the likeness of a face in the clouds were clearly visible. Instinctively I photographed the formation before it slowly dissipated into the stormy sky.

The sighting that night was significant to me. It had been nearly three years since a stem cell transplant saved my life from the intense fatigue and pain of bone marrow cancer. It took three years to gain significant energy back to my system since the year-long treatment in 2002. I sought comfort and answers from God through the ordeal. I sensed both that night under the watchful "Eyes of the Storm."

This exceptional image was one of four images selected for Merit print status at PPA's 2006 International Print Competition, which allowed him to be recognized as a "Photographer of the Year" at PPA's ImagingUSA convention in San Antonio in January, 2007. An achievement that any photographer would relish, Chris's honor was all the more remarkable for a man who had miraculously rebounded after more than a year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that culminated with a stem cell transplant to cure his multiple myeloma. You can read more about Chris and see photos of his beautifully landscaped home-studio gardens in the upcoming April issue of Professional Photographer magazine. In the meantime, you can visit his website by clicking here.

As I write this entry, to my left is Chris's "Eyes of the Storm" image, to which he has added the following text:

When the storms of life are upon you, remember the Lord said: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." -Joshua 1:5.

I truly treasure this comforting image and the unforgettable photographer who created it.

Creating an Urban-Chic Vibe in the Iowa Heartland

I met a great couple at the Studio Management Services Workshop in Atlanta last month, and they were kind enough to let me give you a peek into their business world. They are Anne and Quinn Kirkpatrick of Small Wonders Photography in Davenport, IA, who are pictured below with their 6-year-old son, Ethan.

Small Wonders is located an an industrial-style loft space in the Bucktown Center for the Arts, which is situated along the Mississippi river front in the heart of Davenport. Shown below is their welcoming meeting area and gallery. Quinn uses an upstairs room for studio shoots, and they also have access to other areas in the building for indoor shoots, including a conference room space. The Kirkpatricks moved their studio to the center as soon as the renovations of the former furniture warehouse were completed in July 2005. Eighteen other studios and galleries are housed in the building including jewelry designers, painters, sculptors, etc., with over 100 artists represented. Anne explains that on the last Friday of each month, the entire building hosts an evening-hours "Final Friday" open house. "We usually serve light food and wine, and the entire building hosts live music in one of the main studios, along with a featured exhibit," she says.

Quinn and Anne did a great job designing and furnishing the studio . . . "after much deliberation," says Anne. "We carefully picked out the furniture making sure that each piece said 'Small Wonders.' We wanted clean lines, but a warm feeling as well. We chose a white couch and tempered it with a warm cherry-wood coffee table to complement the studio’s natural wood floors and beams. We try to hide our desk area so it's not the focus of the studio (only 400 sq. feet), and our projector is mounted on a ceiling beam, so it is out of sight."

I just love the
hanging-bar apparatus shown below. Anne tells me that it can be purchased at Pottery Barn for around $100 per unit. She says it is quite versatile, and it obviously maintains the urban, industrial look of their studio.

Another aspect of the Kirkpatrick's business that really interested me is their mall display kiosk and the banners they use to grab attention. Anne describes how their great-looking display came to be:

"Quinn and I did a lot of research on mall displays, and everything we read said that they really work if they’re done right. We decided that if we were going to take the plunge ($333 per month), our display HAD to be eye-catching and consistent with the brand we are bulding. So along with our designer, we decided the main images of the display should be big and dramatic. Then we added a few smaller images in frames and some bevel-edge mounts around the perimeter (ranging from 8x10 to 20x30s). We display images of weddings, babies and high school seniors.

"The mall display banners are actually double-sided laminated inkjet prints mounted on ½-inch gator board. We had an exhibit display company create them for us under the direction of our designer. Our designer — he and I worked together in my past life in an ad agency — had this cool 3-D design program we used to figure out what images we should place where. It allowed him to pop the images into the template he designed, move them around and determine how each image would look on each side of the display case."

The kiosk is located in front of Bath and Body Works, which is great for attracting moms, brides, and high school seniors. It is also near a ramp where there is high-density stroller traffic.

Anne says that one of their objectives for the kiosk was to make it look different from any other photographer in the mall. I believe you will agree that they have hit a home run with both the kiosk and their handsome studio space! Thanks to Quinn and Anne for sharing.

Frank Donnino

If you're coming to ImagingUSA in January, don't miss Frank Donnino's program "Diapers To Dollars - Profits In Baby Photography" on Monday, January 7, at 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. Frank is one of my favorite people because he is a rare human being, and he has helped hundreds of photographers improve their businesses through the baby plan he created when times weren't so great for his business or his family.

I first met Frank when he attended a Guerrilla Management Workshop that Judy Grann and I conducted at the Florida School in 1999. Frank and his family had recently moved to Florida, where the population was growing by leaps and bounds. They made the move fearing the stagnant economy in the New York area, where he had his studio, would not be improving any time soon. Once in Florida, Frank discovered how difficult it could be to make inroads into a new market. His business was barely breaking even, and his options were severely limited by the fact that all business operations had to happen in a 300 sq. ft. basement area that provided only the tiniest of space for making portraits.

Instead of whining about what he couldn't do, Frank figured that he could photograph babies in that tiny space, so he set about to become the best baby photographer in the area. Fortunately, sales classes he had taken with John Hartman had taught him how powerful sales letters could be. So he fashioned and refined what would become a killer sales letter, and he put together all the marketing and sales materials he needed to make the business work.

All that was missing was a broader knowledge of financial management, and when he attended the Workshop in Florida, he took that information and ran with it like a man on fire. Last month Frank sent me a copy of his SuccessWare Sales Trends Analysis from 1998 through 2007. It is beautiful to behold!

What his steady sales growth proves is that working a financial management plan that is based on a sound marketing and sales concept pays off. If you're wondering why the trend reversed in 2004, that was the year that the Boynton Beach area, as well as much of Florida, was hit by two hurricanes. But even that year, Frank made a nice profit, because he knows how to manage resources when times are hard. Today the biggest financial problem Frank has is making sure he takes advantage of all the lawful options available to minimize the tax burden that comes along with high profits. In fact the business not only supports Frank's family, it employs his wife, Donna, and son, Tony. And it is now housed in a 1350 sq.ft. facility, part of a larger complex that includes other businesses and residential condos.

Frank owns the studio space free and clear, and he expects to have the family condo paid off by April, 2008. "I hate bank loans," he says. After April, Frank will continue to make monthly payments . . . but now that money will be invested for retirement. You see what I mean about Frank working his plan!

As successful as Frank has become, what I admire most about him is his rock-solid character and his desire to help others. Those who are regular members of his Baby Plan Mastermind group are full of stories about his help and his kindness, and I've seen both in action when he has served as a class assistant at my Guerrilla Management Workshops. He has a standing invitation to any Workshop he can manage to attend, and for the past three years he's come to the fall class in Deep Creek. I hope he'll make it again this year, because both the students and the teachers learn from him every time!

In the meantime, you can learn more about Donnino Galleria Portraits by clicking
here. And please don't miss Frank's IUSA program, where you can hear for yourself how he has created such a wonderful business. You'll find me on the front row.

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!