January 11th, I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix and attend PPA‘s (Professional Photographers of America) Imaging USA. This was my first photography convention. In order to keep my certification valid, I need to attend two conferences in three years or find other workshops that will help me reach my 15 credits. Imaging covers all the requirements necessary to stay in good standings with the CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) program. The convention started on Sunday and wrapped-up on Tuesday. There were numerous guest speakers throughout the three day event. All I had to do was decide which classes to attend.
The first class I attended was titled “No Holds Barred” with Julie Klassmeyer. Her class was about photographing babies and toddlers. She gave a live demonstration on photographing both of these age groups. She photographed a seven month old boy and a three year old girl. It was great to see her lighting set-up, posing choices and how she interacted with the children. Even though she went over it quickly, seeing some of her post-production editing was helpful as well.
My biggest take away, may seem silly, but I think it will really be helpful with my two and three year old clients. Julie asked the three year old if she could sound like a cow. Well, without hesitation the girl mooed. Not that you want a picture of a girl mooing, but the smile that followed the moo was priceless. Julie then told her that she could sound just like a cow, too. Well, the little girl was very excited to hear. Then Julie meowed. The facial expressions of the three-old were amazing. I am definitely going to try the “Animal Noise Switcheroo”.
The second class was titled “Milestones: Newborns Through Childhood and Beyond” with Rachel Williams. Her class was about educating clients on “Milestone” sessions. It covered your typical maternity, newborn and 1 year old type sessions. However, she also went over examples of Milestones that might not seem that obvious, but are huge moments in peoples’ lives. Things like moving into a new home, or leaving an old home, a multiple generational family portrait and many other significant events.
My biggest take away was her suggestion on using the same prop in a newborn session and the 1 year session. I found that to be a great way to really show the changes that have taken place during the baby’s first year.
The third class was titled “Secrets of Great Portrait Lighting” with Brian Smith. This celebrity photographer was really down to earth and at times rather amusing. He gave some insight into numerous lighting set-ups. I also found being able to see the different light modifiers (octabank vs. beauty dish) in action, very helpful.
My biggest take away was seeing his lighting set-up for a white background. I find myself struggling with this backdrop. Trying to keep the background very white and appearing to glow, while keeping the subjects perfectly exposed, is challenging.
The fourth class was titled “Getting it Right in Camera” with Sandy Puc. This class went over many topics, such as basics of lighting, understanding a histogram and metering. For the most part this class was a review, but I really wanted to see Sandy Puc. I have followed her work for a few years, so getting to see her in person was a treat.
My biggest take away was her description of creating a custom white balance for her images. I know this will save me a ton of time in my editing workflow. I even purchased the same digital calibration target she used during the class. Seeing that the Expo disc and Ezybalance card have not helped, I’m hoping this will solve my white balance issues.
The first class of the day was titled “Post-Production Speed in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC” with Jared Platt. Even though the class title involved both Lightroom and Photoshop, Jared only had time to go over his workflow in Lightroom. Since this is also the software I use to do the bulk of my editing, his tips were quite helpful. They were simple tips and ones I should have been doing the whole time, but wasn’t. He suggested that you don’t delete images as you go, but use the star rating system to categorize the ones you like. This alone was a huge tip. The amount of time it takes to delete a file can be a few seconds. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when added up over time, is a huge time waster. He also suggested to look at a grouping of pictures (that are similar) instead of one picture at a time, to decide which is better. By placing these images side by side you can get a better idea of which one you like better. Instead of going back and forth, between single images.
My biggest take away was using the Auto Sync Mode in Lightroom. Why I wasn’t doing this before I attended this class, is beyond me. I actually used the Auto Sync on the last session I edited. I was able to take similar images and make the same corrections (highlight, shadow, color balance, noise reduction, etc.) to all of them by just correcting them in one single image. Instead of making the same corrections over and over again. A huge time saver!
The second class was titled “My Top 10 Favorite Money Making Nuggets” with Kimberly Wylie. She offered some great information on running a profitable photography business and had some great ideas on how to implement it all into your own business. She gave tips on increasing your number of sessions, increasing your average sale, ways to decrease costs, organizing your business and much more. I really appreciated the fact that Kimberly spent the entire class time giving us a great deal of valuable information and only talked about her own business when it was relevant to the topic at hand.
Though Kimberly gave a lot of information and tips that I do plan on using in my own business, the biggest take away from this class that I will be using immediately, is creating an email response list. You basically take the signature feature in email and instead of a signature you write in a response to an email that is often sent to you. You then create a menu of responses. This prevents you from searching for past emails and copying and pasting. Now, my friend that attended the convention with me, found out that Gmail (which is the email I use) does not allow you to have more than one signature. So, she discovered that if you enable “Canned Responses” in your Gmail Settings, you can create a long list of email responses. I can’t even tell you, how huge this will be for my business. It seems so simple, but the time saving capabilities of this tool are endless!
The last class of the day was titled “Focus on the Future with 20/20 Vision” with Steve Kozak. This class was offered to CPPs only. To say the least, I was very excited to attend and once I saw the summary of what was to be covered in the class, I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the majority of the class discussed marketing your business. Which is a very important part of running a successful business, but the suggestions given were a bit dated. Not to mention the templates that were being shown to display marketing material, were not something I would find myself spending money on.
My biggest take away from this class, was the idea of gift cards. Not a certificate (which is what I’m using now), but a plastic card, similar to what you find on the display racks at Walgreens or your local grocery store. He had past a few examples around and I did like how they looked and felt. I imagined people opening gift boxes to find my brilliantly designed gift card and jumping for joy! Well, maybe not jumping, but at least smiling.
Tuesday brought, what was probably the most helpful class of the convention, “New Media and Social Networking for Photographers” with Lindsay Adler. This twenty something fashion photographer really knew her stuff. She gave her “Top 10 Best Practices” when using social networking to promote your photography business. She discussed Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and having a Blog. Lindsay gave examples on how to use each network to your advantage.
Though I could list quite a few big take aways from this class, the one I just implemented, was finding out who is talking about me. I have used Google Alerts before to notify me when new information is posted about various photography topics. Lindsay suggested that you receive “alerts” whenever your name is used on-line. I am now signed up to receive notices whenever “Sharon Gaietto” pops up on the internet.
The second class was titled “The Art of Creating Beautiful Family Portraits” with Trey and Elizabeth Homan. This class went over numerous posing scenarios for family portraits. The husband and wife team also discussed how they handle a portrait session from the first consultation with the clients, all the way through the delivery of the finished product.
My biggest take away from this class was their description of the initial consultation. I plan on spending more time discussing a session with a client and using many of their suggestions. Whether that happens in-person or over the phone will depend on the clients preference, but I look forward to getting to know my clients before our session date.
The last class of the convention was titled “Creative Edge in Maternity and Newborn Photography” with Angela Lynn Pencsak. This class revolved around how Angela runs her own business and prepares for sessions. It was helpful to see her list of most haves for a maternity and newborn session. She also shared the names of a few vendors she uses, one of them being Baby Dream Backdrops. Though they are a little pricer then my go to for child friendly backdrops, Lemon Drop Stop, I will have to check out their designs.
My biggest take away from this class, was Angela’s Baby Plan. She only includes 4, 8 and 12 months sessions in her plan. Even though I was a strong believer in the 3, 6, 9, and 12 month sessions, I have to admit her plan does make sense. There really isn’t a huge difference in the baby’s appearance from 6 to 9 months. Having an 8 month session, also insures the likelihood that the baby will be sitting up. I think I might have to go ahead and offer these age options into my Baby Plan.
Overall, I had a great time at my first Imaging USA. I took away a great deal of information to better my business and photography skills. The Expo was at times overwhelming, but it was great to see so many products up close and personal. I even bought my biggest backdrop to date from White House Custom Color (WHCC). I look forward to heading down to Nashville next year for Imaging USA 2015.