December 27, 2010

Great Deal on Gallery Wrapped Canvas!

I'm getting ready to run out the door this morning but there's a great deal from Picture It On Canvas right now and I had to share! It's listed under the San Diego Groupon (you don't have to live in SD) and it's for a 16x20 gallery wrapped canvas for only $39! It's not one of the daily Groupons, but one of the holiday gift offers so it's available for 3 more days! While I have never used Picture It On Canvas, I know a few photographers who have and just love their customer service and product. The best part of this deal is that you basically receive a credit for the 16x20 price and that can be applied to any size product you purchase. So if you want bigger, you just pay the difference or if you multiple smaller pieces, you can apply the price to those as well. Definitely check out this Groupon! I'll be picking up a few of them for displays I plan on hanging in 2011. You can't beat it for the price! You can only use one per order, but you can purchase multiple Groupons and purchase at different times.

December 15, 2010

How was your 2010?

As the year is quickly winding down and most of us are wrapping up our final sessions it's a great chance to look back at what we've accomplished over the last year. What were the goals for your business this year and how did you do in terms of achieving them? What unexpected events appeared over 2010? And what are your business plans for 2011?

As for me, my average sales were almost double what they were in 2009. The downside was that I had fewer clients this year. And those fewer clients were for personal reasons that I decided to not market my business as much as I should have. I've got big plans for 2011 and I've already started working on my marketing plan for next year! I'm also excited that I'll get the opportunity to attend the PPA's ImagingUSA conference in January jump start the year for me.

I hope everyone has had a great 2010 and that 2011 will be even better year!

November 21, 2010

Free Education — Lots of Learning & No Strings Attached

I love free education! I can't believe I haven't blogged about creativeLive yet! Chase Jarvis has created an online learning resource for photographers, artists and other creative types. If you tune into the website during the live classes, you can view them for free, no strings attached. If you're schedule is full on the day(s) of the live classes, you can always purchase the class and have access to it after the fact.

I'm on my second creativeLive class this weekend with Tamara Lackey's Children's Portraiture Photography class. It's been great to be able to see Tamara work with clients and share her thought process of how she coordinates a session.

There's a wide range of subject matter for the creativeLive classes beyond photography. You can look at their calendar to find the classes and topics that interest you most. Definitely check out this great resource!

November 03, 2010

I Big Puffy Heart My New Lab

Hope everyone is having a busy fall season of shooting and selling holiday orders!

I've been pretty dedicated to one lab since I started my business two years ago. I had some quality issues with that lab and decided to try out a few different labs again. I am absolutely in love with ProLabExpress! I first heard about PLE from the instructors at the Unleashed workshop last September. I had received my samples from PLE after returning from the workshop but then they fell off my radar. I decided to place an order with them last month and I'm so glad I did! PLE's customer service is great and their prints are amazing! They use Fuji archive paper and I just love the richness of it. A bonus is that their prices are a hair lower than my previous lab, so my cost of goods hasn't really changed since making the switch. They also offer some very unique and different products than some of the other labs.

ProLabExpress also offer Grand River Imaging for event photography print fulfillment services. I actually have an event coming up this weekend that I looked into using GRI for. You upload your photos to PLE and then access the GRI site to sell prints directly to the client. For a large event, it's a great opportunity to not have to deal with small print orders. GRI charges for the lab print and a percentage for credit card processing. That's it, they print and ship the order to your client and then they pay you!

I'm thrilled with PLE and will be using them for all my print orders. I've been testing out a few other labs for press printed products and other unique products for my clients.

September 19, 2010

Retouching Services from

I recently had a client that wore her glasses to a session and preferred that she wore them for all the photos. Not only did I have to deal with glare but also distortion of the face where the glasses were. I feel that I'm pretty advanced in Photoshop, but editing this session felt overwhelming. I shot the session on Saturday and was leaving for vacation on Monday and would be losing a whole week of being able to edit her images. On the recommendation from other photographers I decided to try and I'm happy that I did! Not only did they fix the glare but they also fixed the facial distortion behind the glasses and retouched the skin as well as stray hairs. Below is an example of the fixes they did to my RAW image. I sent in two images for retouching and I'm thrilled with their services. I'll be editing the rest of the session myself for proofing and any images that the client decides to purchase will be sent to to remove glare and fix distortion.

The prices at are really good: $2.50 - $10 an image depending on how much and what type of retouches you are in need of. My images were retouched and sent back to me for approval within 24 hours of submitting them as well. Even better - the first 10 retouches are free when you sign up for a new account. And those 10 free images can be any type of retouching from basic to extreme. I'm really happy with the results they produced and when an edit seems a little too time consuming for myself, I'll be sending my files to!

September 08, 2010

Images for a Cure 2010

Registration is currently open to be a participating photographer for the 2010 Images for a Cure (IFAC). If you participated in last year's event, you'll notice that the logo had a cute upgrade and Kristen and her team are working on a brand new website for this year as well. Last year 239 photographers in 44 states and 3 different countries raised $12,900 for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. If you're new to this great cause, IFAC lets you determine any special pricing, themes and session date(s) and only ask that your session fee is donated. Your client donates directly through the IFAC website to "pay" their session fee. If you're interested in learning more you can read the Photographer Media Kit here: and be sure to follow Images for a Cure on Twitter @imagesforacure and Facebook

August 31, 2010

Protest New 1099 Requirements!

I just saw this on the ASMP website and wanted to pass along the link. There are new provisions in the healthcare reform bill and long story short: they will be requiring to send a 1099 to every vendor that you spend more than $600 with. If spend more than $600 with WHCC, YOU have to send them a 1099. If you spend more than $600 with OfficeMax on office supplies, YOU have to send them a 1099. Who has time for all that extra bookeeping? Not me! Here's the link to ASMP's post and below is the sample letter you can make edits to to send out to let the IRS know you don't want to see this happen.



RE: Notice 2010-51

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am a professional photographer and a small business person. I have virtually no administrative staff to handle my record-keeping and reporting responsibilities. The new requirement under Section 6041 of the Internal Revenue Code would place impossible burdens on me. The exemption for credit card transactions was a great step toward reducing the impact of this change in the tax code. Unfortunately, it does not go far enough.

I often pay for computer and camera equipment, studio and equipment rentals, catering services, and other items by check or cash. Those expenditures often total more than $600 per vendor in any given year. Having to keep separate track of each of these items — and then to issue Form 1099’s to each vendor — would simply take more time than I have as the owner of a very small business operation, and it would require back office support that I do not have and cannot afford.

Please change the requirements so that they apply only to larger business entities, such as persons or entities that employ more than 25 people.

Thank you for your time and understanding.

August 24, 2010

Inexpensive Email Tracking

I've had some email issues lately. One client I email with frequently called me to say a few of my emails had ended up in her spam folder. Also my online galleries are limited to 7-days — I wanted to be 100% sure clients were getting all the info and receiving any answers to questions during the live gallery. I decided to find something that would let me know when my emails were read. I came across ReadNotify and decided to give it a try especially since they have a free trial period or 2 weeks or 25 emails. They offer a plugin for the tracking, but I'm on a Mac and the plugin is for the PC, so I haven't had any experience with that option. But, there is a manual tracking option that is easy to use. You just add to the end of the email address. I was notified when the email was opened by the receiver. So easy! And there is also an online personal tracking page that shows the date, recipient, subject and when the email was opened. There are a few other bells and whistles ReadNotify offers that I haven't tried out yet.

I opted for the 1-year basic subscription. For $24 I can track 2000 emails. There is also a monthly option for $3.99 and a premium for $36. The basic subscription works best for me. I won't be tracking every email I send, but I will track anything that has time sensitive information that I want to make sure clients read. If you're looking for an option to track some of your emails, I think this is a great product. Sign-up for the free trial at ReadNotify and try it out for yourself!

July 29, 2010

PhotoVision - Learning from Home

I've been feeling somewhat under the weather lately and have been spending a lot of time camped out on the couch. In hopes to be somewhat productive, I've finally had a chance to watch (and re-watch) a bunch of my PhotoVision DVDs that had been piling up. I think in the last few weeks I've watched every episide from 2010 that I have so far. It's been a great mix of shooting techniques, marketing ideas and inspiration in general. I'm totally in love with Julie Klassmeyer's natural light studio and her giant, revolving set display which was beyond cool! And I also enjoyed watching Gary Box pose his seniors with my senior season to be in full swing shortly. I raved about PhotoVision about this time last year while watching the 2009 series that you can read about here.

PhotoVision is offering a nice promo code for the 2010 series: $39 instead of $149 using the promo code: PFAN. So if you're not watching photovision yet, you might just watned to check out this great deal to find some inspiration!

June 17, 2010

Portrait Sales Are Up!

I just had a few orders placed within the last month and I noticed a trend - my average sale is higher than last year by about 30%. I'm crediting it to three things. #1 taking credit cards (see my post here about trying to find a credit card vendor), #2 using the Easy As Pie Guide to adjust my pricing (see this post for more details and a coupon code) and #3 simplicity. I've tinkered with my pricing quite a bit this year and I'm still not as high as Alicia suggests, but my packages and products are all higher than last year.

I believe the combination of the pricing and credit cards have bumped my sales. I'm still doing online sales, so that hasn't changed. Too keep things simple, I've really stripped down what I offer to clients and only products I enjoy working on are in the mix. An example is albums, I hate peel and stick albums, while they are beautiful, they totally stress me out. Being a designer as well, I'm super picky when it comes to lining things up and those peel and sticks were never perfect. I got to the point where I would cringe at the thought of assembling one. So, I said goodbye to them and hello to slip-ins. I found two different slip-ins that I love and now I don't cringe when a client orders an album. I no longer offer photo jewelry and my pricing doesn't include every size print known to man. Too many choices just confuse the client. If they have a special request, I'm happy to send them pricing for that odd frame size they want to fill.

My busy season last year was end of summer and fall. I'll be interested to see how these changes stand up to last year when I'm booking high school seniors and family portraits for the holidays. I'm very happy with the changes I've made over the last few months. Next on my list is in-person sales, but I that is going to have to wait a little longer with my full time job taking up so much of my time. I can easily see my sales jumping even higher with the chance to really sit down and work with clients to pick artwork for their walls.

May 12, 2010

Are You Accepting Credit Cards?

I finally decided to "cave" and start taking credit cards this year. Previously I was cash, check or paypal. I had a customer last year that didn't have the cash, refused to use paypal and was left with option of a check and wasn't thrilled about that either. While the sale was a good one, I wondered if she had the option to pay with a charge card if she would have spent more. Personally, we no longer use credit cards in my family, but I know a lot of my clients do. And when I used to use credit cards, I would always come home from the mall with many more purchases than I originally planned on buying!

So, are you getting the sales that you could?? I do 95% of my sales via my Photo Cart, since with my full time job I just don't have the time to meet every client in person. After talking with fellow photographers, I knew that charge cards were the next step in increasing my online sales. I'm still offering paypal payments to clients, which some are using, but a lot are migrating towards the ease of paying with credit cards.

After much research I decided to go with NobelPay. Chris at NobelPay worked with me to find the right plan that worked for my online needs and offered me a great price on my monthly payments as well. The customer service with NobelPay has been great. Anytime I have any questions or problems, Chris is fast to respond and if he doesn't have the answer, he finds someone who does.

While it's only been a short period of time since I started taking credit cards, it was definitely the right move for this stage of my business. More and more people are having issues with paypal and I don't want my clients to be forced into using something that they are unsure about. If you're currently not taking credit cards, think about the potential added sales you could see from making the small change!

May 07, 2010

Congratulations to the LolliPockit Winner!

Congratulations to Misty who won the LolliPockit Gift Certificate! Misty, I'll have Stacey get in touch with you soon!! And thanks to everyone that has participated! I have a lot of various reviews coming up over the next few weeks. May is a crazy, busy month for me both personally and professionally so I'll try to get those posted soon!

April 28, 2010

Meet Stacey of LolliPockits & A Giveaway!!

I found Stacey Severt of Wild Hearts Photography on Twitter a few months back. Stacey is a child and lifestyle portrait photographer in the Youngstown, Ohio area, which actually my hometown. I've been following her on Twitter for and we chat about photography, our horrible allergies and the gloominess of this year's winter in Ohio.

I'm always in awe of people who are crafty, because even though I have a
fine arts degree, when it comes to making things with my hands, well let's just say it's pretty embarrassing! Stacey had started making these adorable slipcovers for the mini albums she offered to clients. Stacey told me that she created the first LolliPockit for clients when they carried the albums in their purses so the covers wouldn't get scratched or the pages bent. Plus, her clients loved the extra attention to detail and the fact that she was willing to go a bit beyond what other photographers offer.

Her LolliPockits project has expanded into a few other different products. The Album Pockit, which is made to fit any full size book-style album; Pockit totes for carrying samples and paperwork out and about; and the coolest thing I've seen in a long time the The Noodle Nest Blanket. If I photographed newborns I would definitely pickup this blanket!! Stacey also has a few other products in the works including Custom Canvas Pockits for delivery of canvas prints, camera strap covers, notebook covers and also a line of hand-crocheted baby hats (which are being made by her mother). Stacey offers certain fabrics at her store, but she's willing to custom match fabrics for album needs or photographer's branding colors, that's an added bonus! Stop by her online shop at to check out everything she's offering. She also announces giveaways, sales and promotions on her Facebook page first at

I normally review the products before I start talking about them on my blog, but Stacey is great and I've only heard wonderful feedback about her products. I'll be picking up a few items from her online store in the next few weeks for my clients. So why am I talking about LolliPockits before I've even tried them? Well Stacey has been kind enough to offer a $10 gift certificate to one of my lucky readers ~ that way you can also try out her goodies too!!

So, here's what you need to do to enter —
Post the following to your blog, Facebook page or Twitter account:

Photographers be sure to enter to win a LolliPockits Gift Certificate from & @WildHeartsPhoto

Post the URL(s) to your link(s) in the comment section of this post only. Comments must be posted by 11:59 a.m. EST on Thursday, May 6th.

You are allowed one entry for your blog, one for your Facebook account and one for your Twitter account. So you have 3 chances to win if you post to all 3 places. All three accounts must be public for me to verify that you did actually post, private pages will be disqualified. Winner will be selected randomly on Thursday May 6th.

April 23, 2010

Wildfire App for Facebook Contests

I decided to again this year offer a Fresh Faces contest for kids. I've seen a lot of other photographers offering contests on their Facebook business pages. After some research, I realized that Facebook has a lot of guidelines in place if you want to run a contest within the site. There have been photographers who have had their pages suspended because they didn't follow the guidelines. I didn't want to get my account suspended, so I was on a mission to find another way to conduct my contest and not break the rules. (Read more about their guidelines here:

Enter Wildfire - a third-party application that manages contests and promotions that are web-based. I decided to test drive Wildfire for my contest. Depending on your personal needs, there are 4 versions of pricing. You pay a base price per contest or campaign then an additional dollar amount per day. I first planned on using the basic plan, but once I started creating the details of the contest I needed to upgrade to the standard version. The good thing about the app is you can start creating your contest in basic form and if you want to make changes, it lets you know the difference in pricing before you pay.

I did have some issues with entries being incomplete because people were having issues uploading their photos. Since this was a photo contest, it was a big deal. I contacted the Wildfire customer service - they responded promptly, tested my contest and said everything was working fine. I continued to have incomplete entries, so at that point I had people email me all their information and child's photo and I uploaded them myself. Extra work, that's for sure. The other snag I hit was that people could only enter the contest once, so if they had multiple children they had to pick one, I didn't like that idea so yet another reason why I was entering them myself.

I only gained a handful of new Facebook fans, so contestants weren't letting the application post on their Facebook wall that they had entered. I did have a few entries from California. People were somehow finding the contest but not reading the rules that the session would take place in Ohio. I was able to disqualify entries based on the fact they were more than 3 hrs away from me. I could have set the contest to be only Ohio entries, but I know a few folks that live out-of-state that come to Ohio often and wanted them to have the chance to participate as well.

I didn't love the Wildfire App and I didn't hate it. For me, it didn't do exactly what I wanted it to do for the budget I had to run the contest. It sounds like they are always looking for ways to update the application and make changes to suit users' needs, so maybe down the road it will work better for what I want it to do. If you're set on finding a workaround to running a Facebook contest, then this may work for you if you want to deal with the bumps in the process. I plan on running future contests on my blog, which is free!

April 14, 2010

A Bit of an Uproar in the Photography Community

There's been some crazy blogging going on for the last few weeks. I stumbled upon a few different blogs that are talking about the state of workshops in the photography community. I'll give the links below so you can take from it what you want.

My thoughts: research before you hit the buy button. I've been lucky and most of the workshops/seminars I've attended have been wonderful and well worth the money. But I know people who attended the same event as I did and didn't feel the same way. Make sure you know what level is being tough at these workshops, beginner, intermediate, advanced. Who is the person teaching, how long have they been in business, are they just a internet success or a real life success? Before I spend more than $100, I Google anything I want to buy, heck sometimes I Google a $20 purchase before I buy. Seminars and workshops are great opportunities to take your craft to a whole new level, network and make new friends. I think continuing education is key no matter if your are a photographer or in another field. But remember, it's what you put into it as well. I know someone who did nothing but complain after a workshop we both attended - well if that person didn't spend half the day not in the room and not talking to one of the sponsor reps that was there, they may have learned something!

If you're not sure about a service or product before you buy, a great resource is the PhotogVendors website. There's review from photographers on there both good and bad. Can't find information there, then check out the various free and paid forums, post a question to the member if they've attended and how they felt about their experience. Personally, I've decided to stay away from negative reviews of the products that I use. Why? Some have just been poor decisions on my end, I didn't think my wants and needs though and hit the buy button, that is not the vendor's fault, but mine. Also, I have yet to work with a company that put such a bad taste in my mouth that I would want to publicly slam them. Now if someone asked me about a specific experience, I would tell them why things did or didn't work out in my opinion.

Here's the links that got me started on this subject. I've read through a lot of the comments and I'm taking them all with a grain of salt. Some people are just out to sling mud at other photographers, which I don't agree with. But I think this is a great topic for everyone to be involved in, if you're speaking from the heart and for the right reasons.

Gary Fong: The Crowd Is Rioting
True Photo Talk - Truth in our Industry

A Comparison on Two SEO Guides

So here I am again, talking about SEO. A few of my fellow photographers have been using the Photographer's SEOBook from Zach Prez, so I decided to pick up a copy to compare to the SEO School ebook from Naomi Dunford of Both ebooks cost the same at $39.

One of the main differences between these two ebooks is that Zach targets photographers only while Naomi's readers are small business owners. A few things that Naomi does: she gives you a lot of info on how Google works and how to figure out what type of site you are. She also gives a wealth of information on how to check your competitions' rankings and how they've set-up their SEO. Zach goes about things a bit differently, giving a brief overview of Google and then very specific information on setting up your key phrases, basic coding for your splash page and suggestions on where to find links. Both books review linking, anchor text and blogs.

If you know enough about coding to make you almost dangerous, then Naomi's ebook may be a better bet for you. She doesn't spell out do xyz, but gives you enough information to get started. Personally, I'm into more details on how the SEO process works and all that nerdy stuff, so I was digging the extra details about figuring out what type of site you are and other goodies like long tail searches. I really enjoyed the section in Naomi's book on checking out what your competitors do and how to "beat" them. I realized that not a lot of my competitors were implementing Naomi's suggestions, so I hope that I can quickly gain a better Google ranking by making some minor tweaks that they aren't using. If you have no clue about html code and you want a basic how to start the SEO process then you're better off to go with Zach's ebook because he tells you how to set up code for your site and where to place it. There's even a generic piece of code in Zach's ebook for your splash page, you just have to change the info for your area and speciality.

I started with Naomi's info and saw some great changes in my page rank on Google. A few of the photography-specific tips Zach suggested have also made their way into my SEO process and I've already seen a little more of a bump in my rankings as well. Is one book better than the other? Probably not, different users with different needs. If you're looking to learn tons details for for your SEO than I would suggest getting both books. If you want a quick, easy way to start than go with Zach (especially if you are only optimizing for photography) and if you want to learn more in-depth and know some html than go with Naomi's book (and if you aren't a photography business).

SEO is a huge tool for photographers in getting their name out there and finding new clients. But, remember that SEO isn't the only marketing option you have. Word of mouth is one of the best things to do to gain more business. People love using a product or service that their friends have high praise for. And there's a lot of other ways to market yourself as well. Since I still work a full time job and shoot on weekends, my time is somewhat limited in what I can do to market my business, right now SEO is key for me. Hopefully, photography will be my bread and butter job soon and I can really start focusing on getting out in the community more, networking and having displays in other businesses. Until that time comes, I'm making the most out of the internet, social networking and Google to bring in more leads.

April 13, 2010

NAPP Sponsored Adobe Photoshop Seminar

I had the opportunity yesterday to attend the NAPP/Kelby Training Maximum Photoshop Seminar with Dave Cross. This was my 4th Photoshop seminar I attended since joining NAPP in 2004 early in my career as a graphic designer. In one day, they Dave crammed in enough information to make my head spin. I have a strong background in Photoshop, I've been using it professionally as a designer since 2000 and as a photographer for the last 3 years. But the one thing about Photoshop is that no matter how you get to the end result, there are at least 3 if not 10 ways to do it and typically my way isn't the quickest, fastest or easiest!!

I attended the seminar with two fellow graphic designers and we all walked away with some new ideas and ways to accomplish things. We all agreeded that no matter if you're a photographer, graphic designer or web designer there was something in this class for everyone. And for $99 ($79 for NAPP members) it is a great deal. Currently I'm working on CS3 and the class was aimed towards CS4 users, but a lot of what Dave covered also works in CS3, which is nice that Adobe typically builds each newer version based on the previous. One of the great things is that they give you a workbook and disk with all the info that was covered that day, so if 2 months later you want to try something you learned it's easy to just reference the materials from the seminar.

Yesterday was Adobe's "official" release of CS5, so as a great bonus, Dave shared some of the new features of CS5 after the lunch break. I am completely in awe and without a doubt will be upgrading!

Of the 4 seminars I've attended I have to say that only one of them didn't do it for me. And not because the seminar was bad, it was just targeted more towards people who paint with Photoshop and that personally isn't something that I do. If you have the chance to check out one of these one day seminars, I highly suggest it. And if you're not a NAPP member yet, I also highly suggest joining! If you want to learn more about NAPP, check out my blog post here. Although in my original post, I believe there was a bonus for joining that isn't currently avilable since the post is from '08. But no matter what the offer is, it's $99 well spent for the membership or a seminar!

March 26, 2010

CS5 Is Coming to a Computer Near You!

Have you heard? Adobe will be launching Creative Suite 5 on April 12th! I'm currently running CS3 and held off on upgrading to CS4, but after seeing the Demo for the new Content-Aware feature, I'll be for sure upgrading. If you've missed the demo, you can check out the first YouTube clip I saw

Here's another video from the 20th Anniversary event that also shows the Content Aware Fill.

So what's the launch? Well, Adobe will be introducing the new CS to the world but it won't be on sale till possibly Fall of 2010, which in keeping with the release of CS4 that would be exactly two years since it hit the market. Adobe typically has a 18-24 month release cycle on new versions.

I'm looking forward to seeing more sneak peeks of that CS5 has to offer over the next few months. And you can bet I'll be saving my pennies up for this release for sure!

UPDATE: Scratch that Fall 2010 release date. Adobe is doing pre-orders now and will ship mid to late May!!

March 22, 2010

A Good Read

I was just catching up on emails and read a great a great feature in John Mireles' latest e-newsletter. Stop Complaining, Embrace Change! John takes the info from the book Who Moved My Cheese and compared it to all the changes going on in the photography world. If you have a few minutes, stop over and read it. It's a good refresher for us to continue to evolve and move forward with our businesses!

March 18, 2010

Think Before You Buy!

There are so many options out there for photographers - posing books, forms, templates, marketing kits, website add-ons, it's a huge market. Well, I didn't think before I purchased something and I'm now kicking myself. I picked-up an add-on to my website for just under $200 last year. It took me all year to figure out what I wanted to do with it, so because of my slowness I just had the supplier start the project a few weeks ago. I'm not going to go into all the details because it's not their fault I didn't pay attention, but I wasn't exactly sure what I was buying, didn't ask questions and guess what, I could have done it on my own!! I by no means am a web designer, but I did take web classes in college while working on my BFA, so I do have a clue and I've been playing a lot with coding lately while tweaking my SEO. I think I was just kidding myself in the whole process that I couldn't do it, even though I didn't know exactly what it was. So just a reminder to everyone to think about what you're buying before you buy it. Now, I'm not saying spend months on something and spin your wheels before you realize you can't do it. Then you're just wasting your time which is money.

Ask yourself the following questions before you hit the buy button. It makes me sick to know I spent money that I didn't have to, but it falls under the live and learn category!

• Is it something you can do, research or learn on your own (of course with help of the trusty internet!)? I didn't know exactly how to create this add-on, but after a little bit of research found all the answers on the internet, in less than a day.

• Do you have the time to do it? My sessions don't start up again for two more weeks, I could have been working on this in the winter.

• How much time can you spend on it? If you start out thinking it will take 2 hrs and it takes 40 hrs is it worth it to not spend the cash? That's your call depending on how much down time you really have and when you need it buy.

• Does your business really benefit from this product or service? Just because all the other photographers are buying it, doesn't mean you need to too. Will you learn something? Will it save you time later on in the year? Or do you just have a case of I want what the cool kids have.

• Do you have what you need to create it correctly? In my case I already purchased all the software and plugins that I needed. I emphasise the word correctly because in the case of logo design you should always have logos created as a piece of vector art then changed to jpeg or tiff format. A lot of people design logos in photoshop and when they need a vector file down the road, they don't have one and it may cost them time, money or both. If seen this happen a lot!

Just a reminder that you don't NEED everything out there, even though you may WANT it all. There are tons of fantastic products out there to save us time, save money and increase our client base, be sure to do your own research before you hit the buy button to make sure it's worth the cost to your business!

March 06, 2010

The "Cost" of Custom Photography

How many times have you heard you charge WHAT for an 8x10? I know, I hear it too. There's a great article that I have posted on my blog from Marianne Drenthe that helps to educate clients on what custom photography is and what all goes into the 8x10 print that costs a lot more than their glossy print at the local drug store. Marianne welcomes professional photographers to take experts from her articles to post on their websites and share with clients with of course the proper credit to Marianne for writing. If you'd like to read more, you can find all the details at the Professional Child Photographer website!

March 02, 2010

How to Make Twitter Work for Your Photography Business

I'm obsessed with social media, probably more than I should be. But it's also part of my day job, so I take in as much as I can learn about the subject. I Google everything, I no longer own a phone book because if I need to find something I just go online. As time goes on I believe more and more people will get most of their information via the web be it Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Now, I also believe that positive word of mouth is huge too, so don't think that I put all my eggs in the social media basket, but I do believe it helps.

I signed up for my Twitter account 6 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes, 9 seconds ago. And in that time I've Tweeted just over 1,100 times. I talk about everything, not just my photography business. I'm currently doing Biggest Loser at my day job and Tuesday mornings you can check my page and see what I weigh in at (I know, bold move). I talk about meeting up with other people I'm friends with on Twitter, the weather, sports, and just life in general. I think to talk solely about your business is missing out on a big part of the Twitter experience. I've gained some cool local followers who also own small businesses, met some great photographers who live on the other side of the country or world for that matter and get my daily dish on the celebrities I follow. I get the chance to learn about new sales and promotions from the vendors I use and also read new blog posts from marketing gurus I follow.

I'm currently looking for some dog models for a pet photography project I would like to do in the spring. I've already photographed most of my friend's dogs and wanted to meet some new pups and people. I created a blog post about what I was looking for and how to apply, then I Tweeted about it. One of the local pet groomers saw my Tweet and re-tweeted it to their followers. In turn, I had 3 local people send in their information! So for my 10-15 minutes to write the blog post and link it to Twitter I made contact with 3 people who didn't know about me prior. And best of all, I didn't have to spend a dime on marketing my project. I think 3 new local connections is a big deal. These people may or may not participate in my project, but they now will think of me if anyone they know is interested in pet photography.

So, if you're not on Twitter (or Facebook or LinkedIn for that matter) I think you should take the time and set-up an account. But, just like anything on the internet, make sure you only allow x amount of time a day or week for social networking. I've been caught in the trap a many of times that I plan on sitting down and working on something and end up on Facebook or Twitter for the entire evening.

If you do jump into Twitter, make sure you follow me and say hello! My Twitter page is

And if you're totally confused about Twitter, Mashable has a great Twitter Guide Book that will give you the basics and more on building your Twitter page and all the do's and don'ts. The Mashable Guide Book is completely free and has tons of useful information! Happy Tweeting!!

February 06, 2010

The OneLight Workshop

I had the chance to attend the OneLight workshop with Zack Arias's this past Thursday. It was a great learning experience. I typically am a natural light photographer and while I learned lighting in college, I rarely use it. Zack explains everything as simple as possible and shows you how it's done.

On Wednesday night there was a mixer open to the local photography community that I attended. It was great to me some other local photographers who were not participating in the workshop. We got the chance to talk with Zack and also learn a little more about his background.

Thursday's workshop started at 9:30 am and went past midnight! But, we all knew we were looking at a long day before we even started. The first half of the day Zack shared his knowledge, reviewed the basics of lighting with off camera flash and gave us suggestions for the gear to get the job done. The best part, Zack is totally into staying out of debt and has come up with extremely inexpensive options for working with off camera flash. Later in the afternoon we broke into 3 small groups and worked with our models to see what different types of looks we could achieve with our one light setup. God bless our models, we made our way outside into the Ohio cold as the sun was setting to work more with the one light setup. Once back inside, Zack reviewed any problems we were having and broke it down even further for us.

If you've thought about using off camera flash or working with one light and you haven't in the past, this class is a must. If you're like me and you know about lighting, but you just aren't sure how to use it when you're photographing on location, it's a must for you too. There was a variety of photographers at this workshop - about half wedding and the other half portrait. The skill levels and knowledge varied a bit from photographer to photographer. I think most of the class was extremely pleased with what they learned. The class was $800 and I thought it was worth every penny I paid. Just keep in mind that this isn't going to answer all your lighting questions and I know I have to continue to work on my off camera flash lighting to make it work best for my clients and their needs. But OneLight has been a great springboard for me to push myself into a different aspect of working with light and continuing my education!

February 02, 2010

Always Great Customer Service at Portfoliositez!

I love, love, love the gang at! I just upgraded to their new Jackson template and it's so cool!! There are so many advanced settings I haven't even gotten into half of them! I have to admit, I was getting pretty bored with my previous template, Dorthea. It worked, did it's job but I needed some freshening up on my site. I have been following Portfoliositez on Twitter and saw before the holidays that they were planning on a few new templates after the first of the year. The day Jackson was released, I signed up!

These guys are great. I purchased the upgrade on Friday and they had it posted to my site by Tuesday. I hit a few snags, probably more user error than anything else, and my support tickets were answered within 24 hrs (even on the weekend I got answers!). Every problem I had they had a solution or they checked and made the back-end fix for me. So in just over a week I was able to go live with the new site. It would have been quicker, but I was dragging my feet on re-sizing images for the galleries.

Some things I love about this new template - bigger photos!!! My last template the photos were what seemed like half the size of the new template. Plus this template re sizes based on the width of the viewer's monitor. So if they've got a giant screen - it fits, if they have a tiny laptop, it fits! You can directly link to each page in the flash website - which is fantastic if I'm blogging about something and what to direct my readers directly to that gallery! There is also a video option which I haven't had the chance to use yet. They also include a shopping cart, but since I already use PhotoCart and I'm happy with it, I can't give you details on the cart. With all the updated features and options I'm also hoping that the Jackson template will improve my SEO as well.

I HIGHLY suggest Portfoliositez for website templates. In the over two years I've been with them and the three template changes I've never had any problems and their CS is top notch! Be sure to check them out, they will be releasing more new templates in the next few weeks. Best part, when you become a customer, it's very inexpensive to change templates if a new one comes out that you love more than your current!!

Full Disclosure: commission on sale via my link.

January 23, 2010

Follow-up on SEO School

I really didn't expect to see any results so quickly from using the tips in the SEO School, but I have already in just a few weeks! If you didn't read my initial post about the ebook, check it out here. I redesigned my splash page using her suggestions for keywords, did some minor tweaking on my blog and splash page and I'm seeing a difference already!

I use as a very rough estimate of where my website ranks. I do not believe the Grader is 100% accurate but I do think it does help to show when you've made changes that are effective. I was in the low 60's prior to making the changes suggested in the SEO School, I'm now at an 84! But there are tons of ways to see how your page ranks, and while mine is still pretty low on the list. I have seen an improvement using the various free SEO checker programs out there. I'm still not ranking on the first three pages of Google for Columbus Ohio Photographer, but when I Google some of the suburbs that I work with I'm on page two and three, so I'm getting closer.

I'll continue to track the changes on my website over the next few months. There's a lot that I have changed that has yet to show results, but I have a feeling they are coming. I just ordered a template change of my current website. The new version from the girls over at Portfoliositez has improved SEO features, along with a few other cool upgrades. I can't wait to see the difference that will make as well. Once I get my new site up and running, I'll be sure to let everyone know about that as well.

January 17, 2010

Images For A Cure 2010

If you're not familiar with Images For A Cure, it's a great program! On October 11, 2009 – a collection of photographers donated their time and session fees to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I found out about the program from a mutual friend of mine and the founder, Orlando Photographer Kristen Weaver. When I contacted Kristen about participating in the '09 event, we realized we went to the same high school, such a small world! Kristen had a great turnout for the event in 2009 and I can only expect bigger and better things this year!

If you're interested in learning more about the program, registration for the 2010 Images For A Cure is coming soon. Use this link to sign up for the email list and you'll be notified when registration starts. And if you're on Twitter, follow Kristen at @KristenWeaver.

January 15, 2010

ProPhoto Blog Theme - Version 3 Is Here!

I'm currently on version 2 of the ProPhoto Blog theme, but version 3 has been released! I'm holding out for a bit till I get a little more money in, but I'm pretty sure I'll be upgrading soon.

There's a huge list of new features available in this upgrade. The biggest new feature is the gallery slideshows. A huge feature is also the watermark overlay, you can add your custom watermark over any posted photograph with one click. They've also included new features with sidebars, widgets, social media icons and RSS feed image protection. There are tons of other great new additions and changes, too many to list here.

If you're new to ProPhoto, the Do It Yourself Package is $199 (this is the option I picked when I purchased) and the Handheld Installation is $279. If you're upgrading from version 2 of ProPhoto it's $89. Looking for a discount code for the theme? Use at DANNE232B checkout for an additional $10 off your purchase!

Full Disclosure: commission on ProPhoto Themes sold via coupon code.

Full Disclosure

Starting December 1st, 2009 the FTC requires bloggers to provide disclosure when there could be hidden interest or bias when talking about product recommendations. First of all I'm a photographer and this blog is far from my income in life (that's why I still work a day job too!).

Yes, sometimes I get freebies from people when I want to try out their products. Joyce Smith has been a peach and lets me try out her Wordsmith guides for free. But Joyce never has asked that I give her a good review, I do because her products rock my socks off! Alicia Caine gave me nothing for free and I spent full price on her products from the Easy As Pie series, but she's another one that rocks my socks off so I asked her to share a coupon code with my readers. Not really a benefit to me, but it sure is for my readers.

So I've decided to make it easy for everyone and note at the bottom of each review if there is a possibility of me receiving money or if I've received a free sample from someone. If there's nothing in the post, then I don't receive anything from that I don't want the FTC coming after me!

January 12, 2010

Best and Worst Purchase of '09

As I've been getting 2009 paperwork in order I realized that I've made some great and some horrible purchases over the last year. Now, I try not to do bad reviews because, well some things just don't work for some people! So what I might not like, you might fall in love with. And of course, what I love you may hate. But I thought this was a good time to go through my best and worst. I now try to find reviews and ask other photographers about any big purchases, because who wants to keep throwing money out the window. So lately, most of my purchases have been on the good end. Grab a cup of coffee, there's a bit of info in this post! Let's start with the best:

Best Purchases of '09
Wacom Tablet - You would think that being a graphic designer for 10 years I would have already owned one, but I didn't. I picked this up in '08 but didn't take it out of the box for months, so we'll call it a '09 purchase. After forcing myself to use it for a few weeks now I can't live without it! I currently have the Intuos3 4x6" Tablet. I figure smaller was better when I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep it. I'll be upgrading to a larger model hopefully this year.

Blackberry Curve - Not sure why I waited so long to pick one of these up! Now, I really wanted an iPhone, but since I'm on the Verizon network that was not an option. I finally caved an got the Blackberry Curve. If you're dealing with clients I think you really should have a Smart Phone. I love that no matter where I am I can receive client emails and get back to them as soon as possible. I also love that I no longer have to carry around a paper calendar for scheduling session or life for that matter. I've got everything sync'ed to my Mac, so if something happens to either, I have it in another place.

Insurance - After reading tons of stories on the twitter and blogs about all the bad things that have happened this year to other photographers, insurance is a must!! If you don't have your gear insured, do it immediately!! So many people have lost gear due to fires, water damage and theft and they didn't have any insurance. If you charge people for your services, please, please, please make sure you have liability and equipment coverage!

MobileMe - I recently wrote about MobileMe here, check it out for details on how I backup my client files.

Joyce Smith's WordSmith Guides - I'm not a write, nor do I even pretend that I'm a writer. That's why I love all of Joyce's guides. I've talked a lot about her products in the past you can find out about the Senior Pricing Menu template and {what to wear} seniors guide here, how to sell guide here, and the {what to wear} guide here.

Easy As Pie - Thanks to Alicia Caine, I've got a clue now. I talk more about Easy As Pie here, so take a look. I just finished my 2010 pricing and I love how simple it now is. My clients actually understand my pricing now! If you're struggling with pricing yourself correctly, this is a must! Be sure you read the entire post, Alicia just gave me a $20 coupon code to offer to my readers, it's at the end of my review here.

Education - I think education is a must! No matter what level photographer you are, you can always learn more! I talk more about the Unleashed Pet Photography Workshop that I attended in 2009 here. I'm currently kicking myself for not attending this year's Imaging USA from PPA. After seeing all the rave reviews and great time that everyone is having on Twitter and Facebook, it's going to be a must for me in 2011. I also think forums can be extremely helpful in building your knowledge base. I also believe sometimes they can be time wasters as well. As long as you don't get sucked into hanging out all day long on the forums, you should be fine!

The not so hot purchases of '09:

Props - I was a bit out of control this year with props for session. I was on a newborn kick and bought tons of hats, blankets and other items. Guess what, I decided that newborns aren't my thing and don't plan on photographing them again! Luckily, I found other photographers who were more than happy to take those props off my hands. The bad news, I lost a bit of money on them when I re-sold the props. From now on I'm going to give myself a yearly prop budget and stick with it. It needs to be a must have instead of just because it's cute!

Random Forms
- When you're starting out you just aren't sure what you need, believe me, I totally overspend in this area. I purchased form after form from other photographers. Portrait contracts, other contracts and lots of forms. Too many forms in my option! Guess what, Business and Legal Forms for Photographers has pretty much everything you need in it. Go figure there's a book out there with all the forms you need AND it comes with a CD of the forms so you don't have to re-create them. So much for me spending over $100 on forms from other photographers, I got the Business and Legal Forms book for under $25.

Samples - Last year I wanted to do it all and sell it all. My bank account took a huge hit with samples. Now granted, you need to have samples to show clients for them to want to buy, but keep what you offer simple. I spent upwards of a thousand dollars on various album, canvas and boutique item samples. This year, with my revised pricing, I'm not even planning on offering half the items I have samples for. And those items that I'm not offering, didn't even sell last year. Make sure when you're getting samples of products you plan on offering them to your clients! Be sure to check out various trade shows and conventions to see the items in person before you consider ordering them!

Softboxes - With being on-location and not having a studio, I really plan on focusing on learning more about Off Camera Flash (OFC) this year. And, I wanted a great softbox to use for my OFC work. I'm currently on softbox number 3! The first one was inexpensive, but it did the job. I decided to upgrade to a softbox that other photographers rave about. It was close to $300 ... and I hated it. It was cumbersome and a total pain while I was out at sessions. I parted with softbox #2 and have moved on to #3. The current softbox was less expensive than #2, and since it's a newer purchase, I haven't used it enough to say if I love it or hate it. I can tell you that it's much lighter and easier to assemble while out in the field, so that's definitely a bonus! Looking back, I wish I would have just gone down to the local camera store and checked some of these out in person before I continued to make purchase after purchase. I'll be trying it out over the next few weeks and let you guys know if #3 stays or goes!

So, some great purchases and some real money burners this year. Live and learn, right? I'm going to be overly cautious about my spending this year. It needs to be an absolute must have before I make the purchase.

Make sure to post in the comments below the best and worst that you've spent money on this year!

Full Disclosure: Samples received from WordSmith.

2010 Your Best Year Ever

Going through my emails from the last few days and I came across this one from Sarah Petty's Joy of Marketing and thought I would share. Great advice as usual from Sarah!!

Here are 5 Resolutions to Make 2010 Your Best Year Ever....

1. Live your dream. To live your dream and do what you want, you need to have a plan. When you wake up 12 months from now, will you be living the lifestyle you want? To be able to live your dream, you must have a good map. Would you head to Florida on a vacation without a map? Not if you want to get there the most efficient way as possible. Sure, you'd start by heading South, but you may get disoriented with road construction and begin traveling West. If you don't have a map or even worse, don't look at it, there's a good chance you'll end 2010 in Montana. A plan keeps you focused on your end goal.

2. Be good to others. My favorite saying from Zig Ziglar is that by helping others get what they want, you will get what you want. So figure out how you can work with another business to grow their business and in return, you will prosper.

3. Set limits. Do you ever feel like you are working ALL THE TIME? Brian Tracy, internationally acclaimed speaker and educator says to give yourself time to heal, like you would a wound. If you are hopping on your computer all weekend working a little here and there, it is like picking at a wound. He recommends having a 36 hour timeframe EACH WEEK where you don't work. That is how your engine recharges. I'm just as guilty at this, but am going to work on this in 2010.

4. Invest in yourself. The smartest way out of most difficult situations is education. Find a way to constantly educate yourself on the areas you need help. Because many of us are artists, the business side is scary and can be overwhelming. The way to take the fear away is to learn the answers. They are out there. Trust me!

5. Eliminate obstacles. Make a list of the things standing in your way of succeeding in small business ownership. Is it lack of funds? Lack of equipment? Lack of time? Lack of knowledge? By identifying the issues standing in your way, you are on your way to conquering your objectives!

Whether 2009 was a good, bad or an indifferent year for your business, resolve to make 2010 even better.

January 09, 2010

Off Site Storage & Backups for Your Files

After seeing the people's house behind mine catch on fire one evening, I started thinking, what would ever happen if I lost my house. Or even just my computer or my backup drive? Then I realized I didn't have my files stored off site. I know a lot of folks burn two copies of their disks and store one on-site and one off. But I didn't have an off-site location to store mine. I decided to created backups of everything to date and when I went to visit my family over the holidays, I left my duplicate DVDs with my mom, 3 hours away. Good plan to start, but what if my system went down and I needed something sooner rather than later? So I began the search for an online backup to use as well. I'm on a Mac and needed something that would work well with Mac, welcome to problem number one. Most of the online backups that were reasonably priced were made to work with Windows. I stumbled across MobileMe from Mac, easily syncs to my computer and I can back-up up to 20GB of files.

I've stored all of my client's purchased jpeg files, proofs and current working files on there. Clients know that there files are on record for one year, so the plan is every 4 months to clear out any files that are more than a year old. I will still have a DVD copy of any files over a year old at both my home and my mother's home, so no need to keep older files on MobileMe for more than a year. For $99 a year, you you get 20GB, not a bad deal at all. For an extra $49 a year you can store 40GB and 60GB for an additional $99. So if I get to the point where I know I'll be storing more than 20GB, I'll have additional options.

Hopefully I'll my system won't crash or my house destroyed by natural disaster, but just in case, it's nice to know that all my current client files, as well as my forms, actions and other purchased files are backed-up online as well.While MobileMe might not be the type of storage you're looking for, I highly suggest if you don't have a backup plan in process, get one now! You never know what could happen to your home or studio and of course computers and backup drives aren't perfect and may fail!

January 08, 2010

SEO for Photographers - Totally Over My Head!

I've been on a mission for the last year to improve my Google rankings. Currently when I Google Columbus Ohio Photographer - there are 1,860,000 results. Yep, that's a lot of pages to be clicking though for clients to even come close to finding me!! I've done tons of research on SEO from better blogging to getting my splash page right. While I've learned a lot of information from my free (aka internet) research I knew I still missing out.

I was really, really tempted to pick up some new DVDs that are out there specifically for photographers. Till, *gasp* I realized they were over $1,000. What? I don't have that kind of money to improve my SEO! So, I passed on those. I'm sure they're great, but I'm also sure I don't want to spend that kind of money to find out!

So, I keep seeing this crazy Ninja SEO School icon when I'm on various blogs. Honestly, at first, I thought that it was just some lame paid for ad and who knows what silly ebook they were offering. Then I read a few reviews about it and thought what the heck, it's only $39. I can spend $39 way easier than $1,000+. So I ordered SEO School by Naomi Dinford of Itty Biz. This ebook is not for everyone! If you're offended by some profanity mixed in, then it's not for you. Naomi is pretty funny about it, but I wanted to make sure I warned you off the bat! Is this the be all end all of SEO? No. Will it help you to figure out what the heck to do. Yes.

Naomi does not say go to your wordpress or blogger blog go to xyz and do abc. So if you want a quick fix, keep on searching and if you find it, please call me asap and let me know! If it was that easy, we'd all be doing it! What she does do is explain how search engines work, Google in particular. There were some things that she talks about that I already knew, but there were other things I had no idea about. As I read the ebook I started making changes on my blog and website. Do I have results for you? Not yet, it's been too soon to see if the changes I made have worked. BUT from what I previously knew about SEO and how she explained everything, I'm pretty darn sure that it will help.

The SEO School - How to Become an SEO Ninja covers a few things: What search engines are looking for; how to find the right keywords for your business; the do's and don'ts of both optimizing your site and also optimizing links coming into your site; and a section for bloggers.

You do need to know how to do some minor tweaking to your site. If you're too scared to go into the back end of your blog or website or cannot update your own web template, then do not get this book. If you're fine with changing a few little things here and there (no major code writing involved) then I say go for it. This ebook is for any sort of business, so unlike a lot of other SEO tips and pointers for photographers, this is for anyone with a blog or website.

I've marked down where my blog and website were before I started making changes. I'll be tracking any improvements over the next few weeks and months and keeping everyone posted on how the SEO optimization is going for me!

January 04, 2010

Free E-book - The Boutique Experience

Sarah Petty shared the below link to her new e-book, The Boutique Expereience. She and Erin Verbeck discuss what a boutique business is and how in this economy it's harder than ever to compete. I haven't read the e-book just yet, but knowing Sarah, there's probably tons of good info in it. To get the e-book, follow this link and fill out your info to download.