Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free Action Set Makes Editing Easier, Faster - Results in Better Sales Sessions!

Actions. We love them. Every one of us is looking for that one new action to make our workflow smoother and set our images apart from the rest of the crowd. We get antsy to buy as platform speakers extol the virtues of their latest-and-greatest action sets.

So, if I told you about one simple action that would speed up your workflow and make your editing a breeze, would you be interested?

What if I told you that using a related action would confuse your clients less, resulting in enjoyable sales sessions that make you look like a rockstar photographer? (Are you reaching for your credit card yet?)

But wait . . . there's more! What if I also told you about a secret bonus action that would keep you from overshooting on each and every session? (Now do I have your attention?)

Fasten your seat belts, boys and girls, because I am already using these actions and am reaping the benefits of their results.

Before you waste time looking for the link to click and the box in which to enter your PayPal info, take a deep breath. I'm a nice guy . . . I wouldn't charge you for these! Best of all, you can perform these simple actions right now and it takes just a few seconds.


Action #1: Take your camera off continuous shooting. Yup. Single frame.

You see, we do it to ourselves. We set the camera on continuous and hold down the shutter. It's almost like when I was a kid. I wasn't always confident that I could knock the can off the fence with a single rock, but if I had a whole fistful of rocks, I was bound to hit something!

I once photographed with someone who complained bitterly about the amount of editing they had to do, yet rattled off 6-10 frames each time they captured an image. TV commercials don't even show cameras shooting that many frames!

Capture your images carefully and thoughtfully. Change the pose or the camera angle and go for quality rather than quantity.

Action #2: Edit brutally and only show the very best images. Do the hard work before the client sees them. Make choices that show your clients good variety without repetition.

As artists, we have the tendency to overwhelm our clients with choices. Trying to impress them with how awesome we are often backfires. Rather, show them just the best frames from the session. Less is more.

Side benefit: When your client only sees the best of your best, it make you an even more amazing photographer in their eyes.

But wait . . . there's more! As promised, here's the bonus action that helps prevent overshooting.
Secret Bonus Action: Load only the proper size memory card you need to complete the session. If this was film, you wouldn't have loaded a 220 roll when you only need a 120. (Hmmmmm . . . wonder how many people I lost there?)

What I'm saying is this: you already know approximately how many images fit on a specific card, so avoid the tendency to use the 4 gig card when you only need a 2 gig. Why select the 2 gig when 1 gig is adequate? We all get carried away and overshoot, so just plan in advance and save yourself time later.

Using these 3 simple actions, I guarantee you'll have more time to spend with the people you love rather than wasting it in front of your computer!

- David Grupa

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adobe Photoshop Celebrates 21 Years

I love sending greeting cards, I just never get them out on time. Fortunately, I think the folks at Adobe are going to have a lot of greetings coming their way, so my tardiness will be excused.

This past Saturday - February 19th - Adobe celebrated the 21st birthday of one of their most popular products, Adobe Photoshop. When Thomas and John Knoll (how many times have you seen those names on the opening screen) approached Adobe with their idea for a program to manipulate pixels in digital images, few people realized just how popular their new software would be. The rest, as they say, is history.

Early versions of the program featured color balance and correction, as well as levels and curves adjustments. The Clone Tool, however, forever changed the way we looked at image enhancement and retouching. What began as a simple display program has evolved into what is easily considered the industry standard for photographers and many graphic designers. Photoshop claims over 10 million users worldwide!

My introduction was with Photoshop 7.0. The brand-new healing brush tool was yet one more advancement in the way we would manipulate digital files and made blemish retouching almost effortless. With CS5, we're now on version 12 . . . easily converting camera raw files to jpg and batch processing through Bridge.

In addition to the name of our industry's most revolutionary software, the term "Photoshop" has gained use as a verb. While I am hardly what one would call a "Photoshop geek", I marvel at the way this industry has changed so quickly in such a brief time frame.

Last year, Adobe released a retrospect on all of the Photoshop products. Check out Photoshop's timeline here:

Thanks, Adobe, for 21 years of giving us the awesome tools we need to become even better photographers and photographic artists!

- David Grupa

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Weekend Only - Great Deal from Groupon / Canvas On Demand

It's that time of year for photographers; we stand in the middle of our studios and think "wow, I should really change my display images."

We know that maintaining a fresh, updated display is an integral part of our sales process. Showing clients a variety of new products is equally as important. It's just . . . expensive!

Here's your chance to put a fresh 16x20 gallery-wrapped canvas on your wall and save a bundle doing it. My friends at Canvas on Demand have teamed up with Groupon to offer a great deal.

Refresh your display for an awesome price . . . but do it today. This offer expires Sunday, February 20th.

Here's the link for the deal:

- David Grupa

Friday, February 18, 2011

Attend Camp David at the NorthernLightPP Convention PLUS more for just $129!!

Not going to Vegas? 

I realize that this is the time of year where people sit back and wait for the "busy season" and use excuses for not attending events such as these like "I have no money." How will you get what you need to better yourself when all of your competition is learning lighting, posing, sales and marketing from the Camp David Gang and other top people in the industry?

Here's your chance. You can attend programming at the 2011 Northern Light Convention on Saturday, February 26th and Sunday, February 27th for just $129. That's it. $129! 

Learn from David Jones, David Johnson, Kirsten Holscher and David Grupa when you take in Camp David. (But wait, there's more!) Experience a live shoot with Martin Grahame-Dunn, hear Canon Explorer of Light Michele Celentano tell us how she converts her children clients into family portrait buyers. Watch "The Lightroom Dudes" Kerry Garrison and Jason Anderson demystify Adobe's newest software.

And there's still more. A FREE Backstage Pass gives you access to even more programming, print competition and a Trade Show with some of the top vendors in the region. Socialize, network, learn, party and play at Breezy Point Resort for just $129! Really, it doesn't get any better than this.

This is a $260 value and the offer is not available online. You must call 763.390.6272 or 877.397.3241 to take register for this special rate; do it right now!

Don't forget to check out the Northern Light PPA Website and follow Northern Light PPA on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

To Sell The Files or Not To Sell The Files . . .

There are always loads of questions centering around "should I sell my digital files?" My answer is always the same; "I have no problem including files as long as I am still meeting the amount I need from each client. With senior portraits, the number is set based on number of files purchased after a qualifying order; with weddings, that number is higher (since the average wedding sale is considerable higher.)

However, we all know of those who are selling (or worse, giving) the files for little or no compensation at all! I can not even begin to think that I am making a profit (or even a reasonable living) if I am photographing a session for $100-$150 or a wedding for $750-$1000 and simply turning over a disk of printable images and a print license. I'm just leaving far too much money on the table that the same client is now going to spend with SOMEONE ELSE.

My business model is based on providing top-quality finished products to a client. I want to sell portraits, albums and frames at a price-point that allows me to make a living without spending the rest of my natural life in front of a computer. If you have a family or spouse (and want to stay married), my suggestion is that this is the way to go.

A number of years ago there was a team call "Power Consulting". Jerrold Deck and Sondra Ayers spoke on the important of "Market Positioning". You could position yourself as one of the following three types of merchants:

  • Price
  • Service
  • Quality

As a Price-based vendor, you would be focusing on selling your product for a low price. Of course, you'll have to do a lot of volume to make any money, but you will definitely be busy!

As a Service business, you are focused on providing a great experience for your client. You take your time and overwhelm them with great service during and after the session.

As a Quality merchant, you feature only the best products. Print are mounted, lacquered, textured and delivered in quality packaging materials (not the plastic baggie the lab sent them back in).

You can even choose to position yourself as any two of these, as long as neither is price. (As a Price merchant, you won't have time to give good service and you won't have the profits to give top quality.)

Ultimately, you may choose whatever business model works best for you, as long as you are able to make a reasonable living doing it that way.

This past summer I actually had a client call me after her son's HS senior portrait session to tell me that "we are a very technologically advanced family and don't have photographs in our home. We prefer to put in a disk and watch them on our big screen tv. Our son doesn't need wallets; he just wants to share the images on Facebook."

She wanted only the digital files and no physical photographs. Is it a monetary decision? Initially, I didn't think so. Both of their children attend high-priced private schools and they drive some fairly high-end automobiles. They live in one of the high-end suburbs . . . surely this could not be about being cheap.

Since I don't sell (or give) digital files as a part of my business model, I quoted her a dollar amount for the files she wanted that was comparable my order average for a HS senior boy. It was then that she looked at me as if I was an alien. "That's ridiculous. I mean, I'd be willing to pay you the same amount as you charge for a 5x7 . . . "

So, I asked her how big the TV is on which she'll be viewing the images. "Oh, it's a 52" Sony, top-of-the-line. They'll look just like big wall pictures on that." My quote to her was in the same ballpark as I charge for a 20" or 24" portrait, yet she's only "willing to pay me for a 5x7."

We've done it to ourselves. Photographers (professional and otherwise) all over have set the bar so horrifically low that clients expect "all photographers" will follow suit. In the case of this woman, she left without placing an order. (I did receive a small print order from her via email a week or so later . . . but very minimal.)

Set the expectation with your clients from the beginning. We are trained artists and photographers. We are not mass-producing widgets for a nickel each, we are creating one-of-a-kind images and working with our clients on a personal level.

Is it okay to let a client walk? As painful as it is, the answer is Y-E-S. Not everyone is our target client; we need to identify that from the initial consultation. We have to allow them to aspire to own our work. Anything else devalues our own work and talents, as well as affects the profession as a whole.

Don't be afraid to say no . . . and always attach a price to the ability to say yes.

Remember, photography is not our life. Photography is what we do in our attempt to create a good life.

- David

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hints For a More Successful Bridal Fair Experience

If you're a wedding photographer, odds are you've spent your fair share of time at bridal fairs and expos. This is a busy time of year for events such as these; while they can be great events for marketing and displaying your product, they can also work against you if you aren't prepared. Worse yet, you risk damaging your image and reputation if your attitude is too casual.

Long ago, I decided that if I was going to invest the money, time and effort into doing these events, I was going to get the most bang for my marketing dollar. Time and money are too precious to waste.

While you need to make your table or booth appear inviting, simply having a few large photographs or a slideshow playing isn't going to make you stand out from the other photographers in the show. You need to do both some advance work as well as follow-up.

Here are five simple (yet important) tips about getting the most from your bridal fair marketing investment:

   1.  Do your homework. Check the vendor list in advance. See which photographers will be displaying, as well as other vendors. If you have (or would like to have) a partner relationship with the vendors in attendance, see if you can trade table space for a small display. For example, if you have photographed at a specific venue, printing a small quantity of marketing pieces featuring images from that venue could work in your favor. I generally give the vendor 8-10 of these shortly after the wedding. The card may be a small press card (4x5, 5x7) featuring your images of their work. (Of course, you've discreetly placed a photo credit along the edge of the card; something like © David Grupa Portrait - The vendor now has a professionally-designed card with their work in-hand; I always attach a little note that says "how much I enjoyed working with them and hope to again soon. Please accept these marketing cards with my compliments."

Invariably, they'll want more cards. Since they're handing out samples of my work for me, I supply them at a "preferred vendor rate". You get referrals, they get great images. Everyone wins.

If you need something to spruce up your table or booth, check with vendors who do decorating or floral arrangements. You may be able to work a deal where you can have a fresh arrangement or decor from that vendor (along with a sign, crediting that vendor's work) on your table. Again, offer to give them images from weddings you've photographed where they have also worked.

   2.  Control your environment. If possible, set up your booth or table so that it allows prospective clients to come in and interact. Too often, the table becomes a barrier between you and a bride. I like to set up my images on easels along the sides and pull the table to the back wall. This way, brides can "come in" to your space. It also maximizes the space available and provides the illusion of a larger booth.

   3.  GET RID OF THE CHAIRS! There is nothing that makes a vendor look completely uninterested as a booth at an event where the vendor is sitting behind a table. Stand. Interact. If possible, put the chairs in a position where prospective couple can sit and view your work. Get off your tail and look excited to be meeting new clients.

Also, keep any food, drink, snacks, etc. out of view. A half-eaten sandwich or partial bottle of soda just looks sloppy and unprofessional.

   4.  Network. When traffic slows and you are able to walk away from your table, use the time to speak with other vendors who appeal to the same type of client with whom you wish to work. Trade brochures, build a referral list with other businesses. Even though a particular person may not be in a position where they refer prospective weddings your way, they may have other connections which will prove valuable. Talk. Smile. Exchange cards and info.

DO NOT become a clock-watcher. While I realize these events can consume a good portion of the day, don't be one of those idle people standing along the sideline muttering "45 minutes left" to other merchants. You paid for this time, so use it wisely.

   5.  Follow up. Many shows supply you with a list of registered attendees, along with their dates and contact info. A follow-up message via USPS or email is often an effective method of spurring a potential client to action. If you choose the email route, design an attractive piece using a bulk email program such as iContact. Using a program such as this will also allow you to track when the email is opened, as well as any embedded links that were clicked on.

Do the same with the vendors you met; drop them a note and a small stack of marketing pieces or business cards. Better yet, schedule a visit and offer to photograph their site in exchange for a small display in their sales area.

Of course, the main thing is to do something. Doing nothing simply pushes you to the back of the pack where you'll be soon forgotten.
Whatever you do, make sure you do it in a timely fashion while your name is still fresh in the minds of your prospects.

Good luck - happy marketing!

- David Grupa

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Add Your Facebook "Fan Page" Link to the New Profile

If you're like me, you love Facebook. It's a great tool for business, not to mention keeping up with friends and family who are scattered across the globe.

Like so many technology-related items, Facebook is constantly evolving. Much to the chagrin of some users, Facebook began rolling out the "new profile" the past December. In an effort to make some areas more "user friendly", a few key items were changed or eliminated.

One such change was the addition of a "Company Page" when you completed the "employment" section of the profile. Some users seamlessly transitioned into existing employer pages, while others had difficulty linking to their existing business "Fan Page". For many, the visual of the generic briefcase was as far as they could get.

To end this frustration, Social Media expert and blogger Ching Ya created a workaround. Although the process has a few steps, it took me about 15 minutes to complete the change and successfully link my existing "Fan Page" to my personal profile.

If you're among those who need to perform this workaround, follow the instructions at Ching Ya's Social Media Blog.

Happy Facebooking!

- David Grupa

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Camp David Minute; PPA's Studio Management Services Get You On Track!

We are already over a month into 2011; during the past 4 weeks many of the conversations I've had with photographers revolve around getting their business started on the right foot. Marketing, pricing, selecting a business model and setting up the accounting and bookkeeping systems for a business are things from which many photographers shy away. Being the creative type, we don't always gravitate toward the numbers and often end up running the business based on the current balance in the checkbook.

One of the great things about being a member of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is that your membership dollars are hard at work for YOU, the member photographer! Taking advantage of the Studio Management Services (SMS) program will put you in touch with the right people who will be able to guide you through the steps to operating a successful and profitable studio.

New Hampshire photographer Jeff Dachowski is a mentor for the SMS program and we chatted briefly during Imaging USA.

To learn more about PPA's Studio Management Services, visit the website.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stock20; Great Royalty Free Music for Website and Slideshows!

As professionals in the media industry, we often have need for great music for our websites, slideshows and other endeavors. However, as much as we like it, it's not legal to use popular music (ie: the stuff you have on your CDs or hear on the radio) on any product we produce unless we have an ASCAP or BMI license, or have paid for reproduction rights.

If you're like me and have ever attempted to do that, you know what a complete runaround and hassle it can be. Ugh.

Enter the music professionals at Stock20. creates high quality music for media production. If you create a free account using the link below, they will give you one free song. Best of all, their music is highly affordable. Stock20 even offers discounts when you purchase entire collections.

Here's one last tip: Until this Wednesday, February 9th, Stock20 is offering their entire catalog of music on disk for just $249. That's over 170 songs, each song in a variety of lengths. You read that right . . . no more editing a song, or having it cut out in a spot that just isn't right. You'll get 7-10 tracks of each song in a variety of times. One more reason I love these guys.

Since there have been questions about this type of thing recently, I wanted to toss out a solution. When I received the sale notice in email today, I had to pass it along.

Even if you don't need all of that music, go ahead and get your free song just for visiting Stock20's site. One caution . . . there are so many cool tunes, you could spend all day listening!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Vote For NILMDTS to receive this generous donation!

Ok friends . . . I need 2 minutes of your time. Please click the link below and cast your vote for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. We are in the running to receive this donation from "The Mommies Network"; it would mean a great deal to our organization and the service we provide . . . hurry, voting ends Saturday, February 5th!
If you'd like more info on Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, please check it their website. I am a volunteer photographer for this very worthwhile organization that provides photographic services to families suffering the loss of a child.
Your vote does count!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Camp David Minute; Put The Power Of Numbers Behind Your Business!

Most of us are very similar in our studio operation, running sole-proprietor operations and doing much of the work ourselves. What if you could have the power of an entire organization behind you to offer educational opportunities from the best in the business? What if that same organization offered the ability to measure the quality of your work against other photographers across the globe?

Add to that discounts from major industry vendors, and representation in Washington DC covering areas such as Copyright and Health Care, along with an award-winning industry publication and you have the oldest, strongest member-owned photography association in the world. I caught up with the CEO of the Professional Photographers of America, David Trust, at Imaging USA.

Personally, I've been a PPA member for over 30 years and consider it the best investment I have ever made in my photographic career. Because of the people I've met and the friends and contacts I have made, I have taken my business to a new level.

Learn more about membership at!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Open Letter To Photographers From Northern Light President, Mike Aulie

Feb. 2, 2011

Greetings!   As your Northern Light President, I hope to see all of you at the convention Feb. 26-Mar. 1 at Breezy Point.

However, I have another event I would like you to consider.

An Appeal to Do Something for Our Troops

Sometime later this spring, some 750 troops from the Midwest are scheduled to be deployed for overseas duty.  They will be at Cragun's on Gull Lake with their families for workshops and some fun on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 26 and 27. (Yes, that is the first two days of the convention.)

Last summer, we made a contact with people involved in planning and suggested that we might be able to provide several stations manned by professional photographers to take family portraits and provide them with a free 5x7.  At that time, no date had been set...until now.

Cragun's is located on Gull Lake, about a half hour drive from the convention site at Breezy Point on Pelican Lake.

Basically, it would work like this:  We will have four shooting bays with lights and backgrounds already setup. Photos would be taken between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. It would flow sort of like prom pictures - taking an ID image using  a whiteboard and then 3-4 shots of each family - no breakdowns or extras.

We would like to have a number of photographers involved that would be willing to work shifts of 2-3 hours.  They would need to bring their own camera and flash cards which would be returned to them as soon as the images are downloaded. It would be good for each station to have one or two assistants to help register and pose the families.

If you're coming to the convention (or even if you're not) and would be interested in helping out with this project, please email me at by this Friday, Feb. 4th. We need to know if we will have enough photographers to make it work, or we will have to cancel out.

Because several people will be busy getting the convention going, I am also looking for a project manager that could coordinate and oversee this event.  Let me know if anyone is willing to take this on.

As I mentioned, it looks like we have the lights we will need (dual umbrellas for each station). However, it has been suggested that we use some sort of backgrounds with flags or patriotic themes.  If you have such a background that could be used for the weekend, please let me know that as well.

I know that it is inconvenient for this to fall on the same weekend as the convention, but it is one way for us to give back to our troops for the all that they give and do for us.  And, while it may be inconvenient for us, it is much more inconvenient for them to be separated from their families for a year or more including the holidays.

Please let me know if you are willing to help.

Mike Aulie
Northern Light President

Register for Convention

David Grupa Named NILMDTS February Volunteer of the Month

David Grupa
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Volunteer of the Month
February 2011

The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Volunteer of the Month for February is David Grupa from Maplewood, Minnesota. David has been a NILMDTS photographer since 2006 and is also a Membership Application Committee (MAC) Member.

David was nominated by Area Coordinator Sheri Wegner for his continued dedication to taking sessions and serving as a continuous reminder that this truly does help families. For example, this past Christmas Eve David took 3 NILMDTS sessions.

"It took most of his day at two different hospitals. He was called for one, sent on a second and took the third because he was already at the hospital for the 2nd session so a different photographer was spared. That was pretty remarkable," stated Wegner.

Mary Louise Delano, Area Coordinator and MAC member, says, "David has always been willing to help me out if I needed technical advice, needed to talk about an applicant or just to chat. He is a true asset to NILMDTS."

Additionally, Vicki Zoller, Area Coordinator and MAC member, says, "Being a part of NILMDTS has allowed me to make some amazing new friends all over the world. David is one of those! We both serve on the MAC team and his expertise in photography, professional demeanor and great sense of humor help to make our tasks easier and certainly more enjoyable. It takes commitment to run a studio/business, to teach, to volunteer as a photographer, as well as a MAC member, and still bring quality to all those tasks! Not many are capable of that, but David is! Congratulations David on VOM. It is well deserved and definitely earned!"

From our headquarters office, "Thank you David and all of our other wonderful volunteers who helped families in need during the holidays. We know this means that you are away from your own families and guests and we so appreciate you taking the time to help others. The heart to serve, commitment to the NILMDTS mission, and dedication by our volunteers over the holidays is remarkable!"

NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, IRS EIN# 77-0656322.
All proceeds go directly into the operation of this organization to help parents who are experiencing an early infant loss.

©Copyright 2011 NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP