Sunday, March 25, 2012

You Can't Get by Solely on Designer Jeans and Expensive Shoes.

There's been a firestorm brewing on Twitter, Facebook and private blogs the past few days over something called "The System - A 10 Step Guide to Starting Your Photography Business". A number of heavy hitters have weighed in on this already and while I don't really want to start anything over this one, because David Jay isn't the only one preaching it . . . I do feel compelled to make a couple of comments (oh, c'mon, you knew I would!) ;-)

I have a difficult time getting on board with the "Stuart Smalley" logic of "Go ahead, you can do it." There is something to be said for experience (be it one wedding or one hundred) that cannot be replaced by "blind faith" or "passion". You have to be good at what you do, no matter how likeable you are as a person. Photographers at all levels still need training and experience; "spray and pray" is a HORRIBLE philosophy under which to send anyone out to do a job professionally.

Yes, even a blind squirrel still finds a nut now and then, but you're more apt to get more than a "lucky shot" if you know what to do, where to be positioned and how to set your camera (and I don't mean on AUTO-everything!)

I love baseball. Those of you who know me understand this . . . I have played, coached, broadcast it on radio and cable tv . . . BUT . . . no matter how much I want to be a professional baseball player, the fact remains that my skill set is nowhere near what is required to play in the Major Leagues. Just because I want to be a pro baseball player doesn't make it so; I'm now too old and too slow, and even if I did train all year long and get into "playing condition", I'm still not going to even get a look by a club. "Buy a ticket and watch from the stands."

Photography, however, is not determined by age, as Mr. Jay claims. Those of us he's calling "old guys" (I'm not old, but since I've been in this business longer than many of you have been alive, I'll put myself there) still look for new ideas, new ways of doing things and what's current in the industry. We attend seminars with new, young speakers and make those changes in our business to remain competitive. Unlike a pro ball player, I don't have to "hang it up" just because someone younger and faster has come along.

While I understand that there are people who just want a DVD of images, the bulk of the consumers out there still want quality photography to hang on their walls and display in their home. This business has always been about service, but not in the "shoot and burn" way he preaches. There is a great deal of service in satisfying the needs of my client by providing a top-quality product.

He's giving people a taste of the product to entice them to purchase. Why does the grocery store or Sam's Club set up little demo booths all around the space? If they give you a sample of what you can buy and convince you that you want more, you'll pay them for the entire product. David Jay details this in his "shoot for free" philosophy (although he calls it "sharing"). It's showing them they want what you have.

He's doing the same thing in this entire ad piece which he has very cleverly disguised as a helpful article. It it a bad thing? Not at all. It's his marketing. He can market however he chooses.

Caveat emptor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Actually More Expensive to NOT Join PPA Groups.

So . . . I'm back after an awesome weekend at the Northern Light Regional Convention.

Not only do I love the learning opportunities presented at these events, I love the camaraderie and fellowship that I get to share with my colleagues from the 3 state area. That experience is second only to serving on the board of directors; planning and putting on awesome events such as this really get my blood flowing.

Since this is a place for photographic education, I would be remiss if I didn't seriously suggest that you take the next few minutes of your life to check out your state's PPA affiliate associations and inquire about membership.

I know, you're thinking "dues are too expensive."

PPA pays the premium on $15,000 in equipment insurance as a part of my membership dues. MNPPA will pay for the hosting of my Wordpress website on their server and offers special member events that are included in my membership. TCPPA has monthly gatherings and even picks up the tab for dinner.

What benefits does your Facebook group offer? (I mean, other than sucking the life out of your productive time . . . )

You don't need another toy for your camera. You need education. Invest that money in yourself.

What are you waiting for?

You can find your nearest affiliate group at the link here:

Let me know if you have any questions; I'm happy to help!

- David Grupa

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

PPA Charities Commemorative T-Shirts Available!

It's no secret that the Limited Edition PPA Charities t-shirts sold at ImagingUSA go quickly and have become a popular collectible item. 

So . . . if you missed your opportunity to get the 2012 New Orleans version, here's your opportunity to support PPA Charities and Operation Smile.

Sizes available run from Small to XXL in both traditional crew neck and women's v-neck cuts.

The gray logo appears on the crew neck shirts, while the pink logo adorns the v-neck version.  

These shirts are 100% cotton and are superb quality. Price is just $20 each (add $5 per order for shipping.)

Make your check payable to PPA Charities and mail to:
David Grupa

PPA Charities
1994 Duluth St
Maplewood MN 55109-3415

Friday, March 9, 2012

Most Days, I Really Don't Feel My Age.

Here's a funny story to end the week with a smile . . .

For the past 2 years, I've been volunteering at Hill-Murray School helping out in the black and white photography class. We're teaching basic skills as well as processing film and printing in the darkroom. Yes, in this digital age it's definitely "old school", but the kids are learning about lighting and exposure and how it correlates to the appearance of their final images.

Since we're also using older film cameras, I keep spare batteries in an old film canister in the desk drawer. Since I buy them in bulk and they don't come carded, it just keeps them all in one place.

So this week, a student comes in because her light meter wasn't working. After checking to make sure she had the camera turned on, etc., I decided to replace the battery. I took the canister out of my desk drawer, popped off the top and replaced the cell. As I handed it back to the student, she thanked me and then said "Wow. That's really cute -  I didn't know they made Tupperware containers that small!"

I guess I really am this old.

Have a great weekend!

- David

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Copyright Alert - Action Required!

The software company Teorex has introduced an inexpensive retouching program called "InPaint". While this in itself is not a bad thing, the website is advertising the software as a way to "remove logos and watermarks" from images.

I have already spoken with PPA's Copyright and Legal Dept, but am encouraging ALL of you to write a letter to this company to ask them to stop advertising their program essentially as a way to violate copyrights.

My letter to Teorex is posted below.

Their email is or ; if you are a PPA Member, I would also recommend CCing Maria Matthews of PPA at .

Thanks for your help, but PLEASE REMEMBER: 
The software itself is not the problem, it's the manner in which they are marketing it. If you choose to write a letter, please make sure to keep it polite and professional. This will get us a lot farther than threats and trash-talk.

- David Grupa


Teorex Software
March 8, 2012 
RE: InPaint

Good Morning - 

Your website ( was brought to my attention this morning by a concerned colleague. After reviewing the site and your software, I was disappointed to see that you are promoting it as a way to remove logos and copyright markings from images.

"Remove undesirable objects from still images, such as logos, watermarks, power lines, people, text or any other undesired artefacts.”(sic) 

Professional photographers rely on watermarking their images with copyright or studio logos to prevent online image theft and illegal use. By advertising your software as a way to remove these markings, this is essentially encouraging the practice of copyright infringement.

The screenshot page ( actually shows an example of how to remove such a watermark from a photograph.

While I understand that your software in and of itself can be a helpful product for manipulation of images, I am asking that you simply remove references to "removing logos and watermarks" from your products description, along with any images or screenshots that depict your product being used in this manner. This will still allow you to demonstrate the qualities of your product without encouraging and profiting from copyright infringement or other illegal activity.

Thank-you for your understanding and cooperation.


David L. Grupa, CPP, M.Photog.Cr., AFS-MNPPA

CC: Maria Matthews - Professional Photographers of America - Copyright & Legal Affairs



Thursday, March 1, 2012

Showing Your Work - Just How Much is Too Much?

A question that comes up in conversation (especially among newer photographers) is "should I show my client before and after examples of their images so they can see just what I've done?"

While having examples of finished images in your marketing materials is acceptable to let the client know you will remove skin blemishes, soften lines and brighten teeth, I make it a personal habit to not show the SOOC (straight out of camera) image alongside the finshed product. Even thought the differences can be striking, I don't want the client to also see areas I've chosen to liquefy, or just how deep their wrinkles or eye bags appear without digital assistance. I just want them to love the finished product because they look beautiful. They will understand that I am a talented photographer whether or not I choose to share just how the image got to the final point.

One definite thing not to do is work the image in front of the client. I have spoken to so many photographers who have said something like "oh, just give me a minute and I can have that ready" or worse yet, actually done the Photoshop work while the client waits and watches.

Here's the reason for keeping the production aspect "behind the scenes". It completely takes the magic out of it and undermines your ability to charge for what we do. I can retouch a file in 3-4 minutes because I've gotten proficient in it after years of practice, not to mention the in-camera skills that made the file easier to finish in the first place.

There's a story about a woman who was walking through a park and she came across a man doing a painting. As she drew closer, she realized that the man was Pablo Picasso . . . and she became very excited. She walked up to him and said "Mr. Picasso, I have admired your work for so long . . . and I would love to have you paint my portrait. I will pay anything for that . . please?!?"

The man sighed, took the canvas he was working on off of his easel, replaced it with a fresh canvas and began to paint. About 20 minutes later he turned the canvas around to show her. The woman was elated! "Oh Mr. Picasso, it's beautiful! I can't believe how wonderful it is . . . and to be able to own such a personal piece of your art . . . how much do I owe you?"

Picasso calmly stated "Twenty-five thousand dollars."

The woman's tone abruptly changed. "Twenty-five thousand dollars?!?!? Why, it didn't even take you 20 minutes!"

Picasso, who had already replaced the canvas with his previous project, paused and said "On the contrary, my dear woman. It has taken me a lifetime."

Think about it . . . we didn't snap our fingers and get good. We were not overnight sensations. We've spent a long time learning, creating, perfecting. Don't devalue your work by making what we do seem "easy". Just because we've gotten good at a particular aspect of this business is no reason to make it appear that anyone with a DLSR, a computer and a mouse can be a Photoshop wiz.

And since we deserve to be well-paid for the amount of time, effort and money we've put into educating ourselves . . . please, don't give your work away.

- David Grupa