Friday, April 29, 2011

Here's a Peek at What You Missed If You Didn't Attend Camp David 2011!

I know that you can't condense a full day into 2 minutes, but let's give it a try anyway. We all had a great time this past week at Camp David 2011; we had a great group of photographers who traveled from 5 different states for a day of education and fun! Make sure to follow us so that next time you won't miss out on the fun!

- David Grupa

Thursday, April 28, 2011

How Many Files Do YOU Have to Sell to Equal a Good Paycheck?

There are constantly discussions being opened in online groups in which I participate that revolved around the nagging question of pricing for actual photographs vs. "should I sell my files?"

A local colleague (who is an amazing artist!) commented "I still think it is better for the client to have US do the artwork and printing, but (purchasing files) is an option available for when someone needs the file. I had an image to be published in a book . . . because I did his (the subject's) wedding and the publisher bought usage of 1 jpg. What I charge per jpg is $450 for just 1. 3 jpgs are $1000, 10 jpgs are $2000 and 30 jpgs are priced at $3000. So, with a (minimum) order of $1500 or more the jpgs are $100 each, but only IF you are purchasing 30 of them. In this instance it would be at least a $4500 (sale)."

I'm pretty sure that there are too many photographers giving away their work because "that's how my friend does it" or "my client complained I wasn't including files".

You can certainly sell your files (although my personal preference and business model is to do the artwork and printing myself) AS LONG AS you're still making your session averages! Too many newer photographers think "Wow . . . I just made $100 shooting that portrait session and giving away a CD of printable images. All it cost me was a 50 cent disk - this is gonna be awesome!"

Do you remember the cereal commercial? "You'd have to eat TEN bowls of their cereal to equal the vitamins/fiber/whatever else that's in just ONE bowl of our cereal!" What we do is actually very similar.

Since there are only 24 hours in a day, do you really want to work 20 of them? There are just 5 days in a typical work week (bet your spouse/partner/kids are already thrilled to see you working nights and weekends). With 52 weeks in a year, you probably had paid vacation at your other job and enjoyed the benefits of that.

Suddenly, it's not so awesome if/when you figure out that you're actually making less than minimum wage. You're probably not even making enough to pay for the gear you own (not to mention the "wish list" of toys you want to buy!) The goal here is to make a living while creating awesome images for our clients. They, in turn, will compensate us appropriately for the portrait and lasting enjoyment they will receive!

My artistic colleague has the right approach and mindset. This is not about selling 80 square inches of photographic paper or a digital file, it's about the time and talent we put into the creation of each portrait. It's about the image, the emotion, the art.

This isn't about giving family, friends or frugal clients a cheap way out. It's about taking positive steps to insure we can make a living doing something we love.

While a great deal of my time is invested in this industry, photography is NOT my life. Photography is what I do so I can actually HAVE a life!

Take a look at what you are doing. What do you need to change to have a great life?

- David Grupa

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stay Legal and Hip with Your Website and Slideshow Music

It's part of a dilemma photographers face all the time. First, do I use music or not on my website? Second, I want cool music by recognizable artists on my slideshows and my sites. Let's take a look at both of these issues.

There are arguments for and against music on websites. Those in favor feel that it sets a mood and helps draw the viewer into the images. Like a slideshow, many feel that the right music on a website is essential to creating a brand. It can engage the viewer and cause them to linger on the site while the tune plays out. If the viewer connects with the song, the possibility exists that they will feel a connection to you as well.

Opponents of website music (I fall into this category) feel that it's distracting, even annoying. While the tune on your site may be your personal favorite, it may be exactly the opposite for someone else. Many people browse at work; a sudden blast of music from their otherwise quiet speakers can cause a viewer to hastily close the window without even a second glance at your contact info. They move on to other sites with no noise and you're long-forgotten.

I'm often asked to visit the websites of other photographers just to "let them know what I think of their work." One of the biggest problems I encounter is the amount of "popular" music being used. Having jumped through the licensing hoops previously when assembling a slideshow using music from a mainstream artist, I know what a hassle (and expense) it is to acquire rights to use such music, so I'm relatively safe in assuming these steps were skipped. Yet, here it is playing on a website; the same song and artist that was just on the radio a few minutes ago.

We are mortified and angry when we discover our clients have copied our work in order to save a few bucks. On discussion groups I visit regularly there is usually someone explaining why they sell a disk of images for nearly nothing because "people are going to scan my photos anyway." (And I'm not even going to open the Pandora's Box of those photographers who constantly are complaining about how "my competitor is copying my style!")

Yet, these same people have no issue using copyrighted music on websites and slideshows. They'll even justify it and say something as silly as "I paid for the CD." ("I paid for this 5x7, why can't I get copies at Wal-Mart?") Hmmmmmmm . . .

SongFreedom is a company that is helping professional photographers and videographers operate legally and ethically by offering affordable licensing option on popular tracks. Now you can use artists such as Jason Mraz or tracks like Train's "Hey Soul Sister" on your website, slideshows and video without fear of legal repercussion.

Here's a great deal; sign up at by May 1, 2011 and use the code Camp David. You'll receive the bronze package for your first year for FREE. If you wish to upgrade to a different package, the code is good for 25% off. How can you lose?

When you choose to add music to your website and slideshows, respect the same copyright laws that we expect our clients to honor.
If you're still thinking "yeah, but who's actually going to turn me in for that?" odds are it won't be a representative of the artist, but rather, your clients who've been told they can't copy your work. Maybe it's a competitor who's unhappy that you're not playing by the rules. If that happens, do you really want the front page of your website to be replaced with this?

- David Grupa

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Skill Are You Lacking To Make More Money?

One of the things on my perpetual To-Do List is clean off the kitchen countertops. We could even expand that to "any horizontal surface on which items of indecision are placed." Wow . . . that might be . . . my entire house!

But back to the kitchen for a minute. I probably wouldn't have taken the initiative to do this myself had it not been for the urging of someone else. You see, I was out to breakfast Sunday morning with Kirsten doing some planning for our upcoming Camp David - Taking Control event. During the process, she suggested that I spend just one hour clearing various papers off my kitchen table and countertop that afternoon. Not only would it make future cleaning a lot simpler (and less stressful), it would make my life less stressful by having things in organized places and just plain decluttering. I knew she was right (she usually is!)

During the process, one of the items I found was a tablet on which I'd taken notes from a seminar I'd attended. One of the quotes I wrote on this paper was by motivational speaker and self-help author Brian Tracy.
"Most of us are just one skill away from doubling our income."

Think about it. Most of us already know about our own shortcomings. We can probably make a list of them without skipping a beat. Sadly, we can also rattle off a list of excuses why we "aren't able" to do anything about them.

Our own self-defeating behaviors are costing us money!

Think about it. What's your weakness? Lighting? Posing? Color management? Workflow? Pricing help? Sales techniques? Time management? Something else?

The year is almost 1/3 complete. Where are you in your resolutions? Have you accomplished the things you set out to do?

Sometimes, it takes a little urging from an outside party to get you motivated. Kirsten was my catalyst. We all need someone or something that motivates us, pushes us and helps us to grow.

What one skill do YOU need to double your income? Don't leave money on the table. Plan to do something about improving yourself and acquiring the skills you need to make a great living in this awesome profession!

- David Grupa

PS - Still wondering about that catalyst in your life? We think the Camp David team can be one of yours. If you are serious about doing something to improve those skills today, register for Camp David 2011 today. You get a full day of photographic education in an environment where you can ask questions without feeling intimidated. Call  651.748.8779 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            651.748.8779      end_of_the_skype_highlightingnow to register!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Install a "Fan Gate" on Your Facebook Business Page!

One of the most popular modifications made to Facebook Business Pages is the Welcome Page or "Fan Gate". Essentially, it's a "splash page" created by you to entice viewers to "Click Like" and add your page to their favorites.

While the initial task seems rather daunting, it's actually quite easy. Here's what to do:
  • First, create two banners for your visitors in Photoshop. Each banner must be no wider 520px, however you may create it as tall as you wish. (Just remember that your viewers may have to scroll down to read your entire message.)
    • Your first banner is a welcome to new visitors and asks them to click the "Like" button.
    • Your second banner will be shown to returning visitors when they come back to your page.
    • (Don't worry, you can always edit them later on if you decide to change.)
  • Second, install the iFrames application to the Business/Fan page(s) you wish to update. Simply type "iFrames" into the Facebook search tab, or click this link
    • Once you install the application, you will be prompted to apply it to the specific business page you choose. Select the appropriate page you are going to update.
    • Next, upload the image(s) you've created. There is a place for "new visitors" (people who don't currently "Like" your page) along with returning viewers (those who already "Like" your page.)
  •  Here's the tricky part; since you're the Admin of your page, you won't be able to actually see the new splash page even if you "unlike" your own page. Your fans will let you know that it's up. ;-)
That's it! You now have an intro image that you can change as you wish; use it to introduce special offers or announce upcoming studio events. The key is to use it!

- David Grupa

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bring a Friend to Camp David 2011 With This Great Offer!

One of the best parts of going to seminars and educational events is attending with friends. You can take and compare notes afterwards, with each of you drawing different points of interest from the presenter. Having attended the South Dakota Spring Seminar in Sioux Falls this past weekend, I compared notes with Kirsten on the drive home. Both of us had some common points in our jottings, while each of us also took some of the info in different directions, based on what the need is in our respective studios.

We want you to have those same experiences at Camp David 2011, so here's our special offer:

Register both yourself and a friend for just $149! That's a savings of 25% off the individual registration price. CLICK HERE to download the registration form and get signed up today. (Don't worry; if you've already sent your form, drop us a note and we'll give you a rebate when your friend registers and uses your name.)
We have an amazing day planned and we don't want you to miss out. We have some excellent sponsor participants who have provided us with some generous gifts to give away during the course of the day as well . . . maybe you'll be the lucky one!

Bring a friend, share the experiences and let's learn together.

- David Grupa

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's Your Socialnomics IQ? Are Your Twitter and Facebook Accounts Tools or Toys?

It's no secret that Social Media is a huge presence in our everyday lives. To realize the true impact, spend the next 4 minutes watching this video from social media author and lecturer Eric Qualman. It's an eye-opener!

The first time I viewed this video (actually, it was an earlier version), I was stunned by the numbers shown. As we change the way we communicate, your business also needs to change with the times. Qualman's book Socialnomics details this paradigm shift in the way we communicate, both personally and professionally. 

Take a look at how your business utilizes platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and emails. If you're just using Facebook and Twitter to let people know that you're waiting in line at the drive-thru or what you're making for dinner, it's time to look again. Remember, social media can hurt your business as well as help it.

Learn to use these powerful tools to your advantage!

- David Grupa

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Anatomy of a Business Card 101

You probably never even give it a second thought. Someone asks for your card, so you smile and hand over a 2x3.5 inch piece of paper that gives them the very first impression of you and your business. Stop and think for a minute; what's on your card?

Generally, a business card contains these 5 very basic pieces of information:           
  1. Your business name
  2. Your name
  3. Your phone number
  4. Your website
  5. Your email address
Simple, right? Apparently not.

At a recent gathering of photography professionals, the speaker collected business cards from those in attendance to use in a drawing for door prizes to be given away that evening. After the meeting ended, the bag of business cards was left on a table. Curious to see what other photographers are using for cardstock, layout and design, I grabbed a handful of these cards. What I found surprised me.

While all of the cards contained the business name, most of them also contained the name of a specific individual. Here's where the surprises came:

Nearly 20% of the cards in the bag were only printed on one side.
            With business cards available inexpensively, why would you not use both sides? Put info about you or your business on the flip side. Use a photograph in conjunction with the contact info. (If it's not a client image, use a headshot of yourself!) Use association logos to let your clients know you're a member. Flaunt the fact you're a Certified Professional Photographer.

Choose a readable font and use it in a size that can be easily read.
            I was amazed at the number of cards where the font was so small, I had a difficult time reading it. Other cards had fonts where the numbers were difficult to discern because of the font style. Be sure to choose a font that reproduces well in different sizes without disappearing, running together or blocking up.

Almost 50% of the cards had a website and phone as the only contact information.
            Electronic media is a staple of our daily lives; include an email contact address so your clients can reach you via this method. Even though you have a contact form on your website, there are a percentage of prospective clients who won't work that hard to find you. Make it easy; include your email address on the business card.

Less is more.
            The cards with the most impact were the ones with fewer, larger images. Some attempted to cram so many tiny images onto the card that they were barely visible. Rather than try to showcase everything you do on a single business card, make up a card for weddings, for seniors, for children, for families . . . whatever you photograph! Labs who press print cards usually allow quantities as few as 50, so you can afford to have the right look for the right prospect. 

Take a peek at your card; is it making a powerful impression?

- David Grupa

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Do You Portray Your Business?

Let's start this week off with a smile. I was going through the "What the Duck" comics the other day when I ran across this one. It struck me as funny, because I feel the artist hit the nail on the head.
Maybe I just don't understand some people. As photographers, we get together at conventions to share ideas, get charged up and find inspiration to bring back to our studios. Yet, it seems that these gatherings also turn some people into Eeyore. (You remember, the eternally pessimistic donkey from Winnie the Pooh.) The conversations with these people can be depressing!

"Hey John, how have you been?"

"Terrible . . . business is down 30%; customers aren't willing to invest in quality portraits. The darn camera-mommies are ruining it for everyone!"

Ok, so perhaps we occasionally do this with other studio owners who also understand the plight. After all, we need to support each other. It's always easier to blame someone else than to admit our own shortcomings.

When it becomes a problem is when we take it outside of our own photographic community and have these conversations with clients. We project a negative image of not only our business, but ourselves as well. Who wants to do business with Eeyore? No one.

Photographic artist and lecturer Monica Sigmon gives a great example during her program. She talks about a local Chevy dealer and his attitude (during what has been a devastating economy for the automotive industry.) Running into him in a local restaurant, she asked him the same question. "Hey John, how have you been?"

It was his reply that surprised her. "I'm great, Monica! Business has never been better; people are really pulling out of this slump and buying new vehicles. Last week was awesome!"  Needing some service on her own vehicle, she brought it into the dealership and while making small talk with one of the salespeople, she mentioned her conversation with the owner. The salesman looked at her with a somewhat surprised look on his face, wondering aloud if she had spoken with the right person.

The point here is that had the owner of the business painted a bleak picture, he may have driven away any potential clients with his negativity. Instead, his upbeat attitude enticed Monica into bringing her vehicle in for needed service.

Who wants to do business with Eeyore? No one.

We all talk about photography being what we love. We don't make anyone or anything we truly love the subject of complaints and negativity. This should be the case when talking about our profession and businesses as well.

Smile when you talk about your business!

- David Grupa
(Enjoy "What the Duck"? See more of Aaron Johnson's work at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Don't Fall Victim To a Photography Scam!

It happens more often than we care to admit. There's virtually nothing you can do about it once it happens. Odds are high that you've already been targeted.

I'm talking about scams in the photography industry and in order to not be tricked, you need to understand how you can become an unsuspecting target.

Here's the ploy:
You are contacted, usually via email, by someone posing as the groom or a friend of the couple. They are "making wedding arrangements and found your website and are inquiring about pricing, etc." Once you contact them with your info, they will send a check to reserve the date.

Here's the problem:
In almost all cases, the check is for an amount considerably larger than your required retainer. You are then contacted again via email by the party, asking you to wire the overage to another vendor. Often it's a florist or other service provider, strangely far from your area. You deposit the check, wire the money (immediately, because it's urgent!) only to find out later that the check is fraudulent. You're now out all the money you wired (usually to a foreign address) plus the bank fees for the bad check!

A few years back I had nearly been duped by one of these myself, fortunately realizing what was happening before it was too late. All of the communication listed vendors they would be working with in my area and while I was aware of this type of scam, the individual in the email was well-educated on the industry and the local venues. It seemed completely legit. Then came the email asking me to wire money to their "florist" who just happened to be in Canada. Fortunately, the email came prior to me receiving the check. When the check arrived, I called the issuing bank to validate the account and was told that no such account existed. The check was fake.

Whew! Expensive bullet - dodged!

Here's how to avoid getting scammed:
  1. Don't deal exclusively through email. Make sure to get other contact information such as addresses and phone numbers.
  2. Make sure any payments actually clear before you issue any refunds.
  3. Never, ever forward a payment to another vendor.
  4. If it seems fishy, check it out. Call the bank to verify the check is good.
  5. Any time it seems like easy money or a deal too good to pass up . . . check it out first!
The folks at PhotoShelter recently made a list of other scams targeting photographers. Check it out here:

Hoping this saves you from an expensive mistake,
- David Grupa