On the PMA Podcast: Protect your photos with copyright registration

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“You really feel violated when  you are infringed, when someone takes your work and uses it illegally,” says commercial photographer Jack Reznicki.

There are tried-and-true ways to head that off, and Reznicki will provide the legal and practical details at his presentation at the PMA Conference in Las Vegas in January. We sat down with him this Fall to get an advance look at that talk, and a look back at where he came from.

You can subscribe to our podcast or download the episode here:

 Or listen in now through the player below.

Focus On: Tom Hayes, Visual Image Photography

Tom Hayes

Tom Hayes

— This week Sheila Pursglove reports on a long-running family business in Wisconsin:

Visual Image Photography president and owner Tom Hayes jokes that his entire family had fixer in their blood.

“The fingernails of my father’s right hand were always stained a sepia brown from hours of darkroom activities,” says the longtime PMA member.

Bill Hayes had worked out of the family’s basement in the late 1940s as a portrait photographer, before launching Hayes Studio in Shorewood, Wisconsin. Tom Hayes received a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex camera on his 12th birthday, and then followed in his father’s footsteps as a shutterbug. “I loved the darkroom, but insisted on using tongs to avoid the telltale toner-enhanced nails my father sported,” he says with a smile.

Tom learned the basics of portrait lighting styles from his father. “I loved how you could literally sculpt a subject’s face with various lighting techniques – accenting the cheekbones, broadening a thin face, or burying a portly face in shadow. These were the main gifts my father passed on to me, and I loved the challenge of applying those techniques while working to catch a natural expression from my subject,” he says.

While studying business administration at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1972, Tom purchased Hayes Studio from his father.

In 1978 sports photographer Ron Christopher wandered into the studio with a portfolio of team portraits taken in Arizona. “I was sold on his Visual Sports Network as a vehicle to grow our portrait business,” Hayes says. “Taking my portrait training and applying it to a higher volume business appealed to my instincts to grow, and I ran with it.” Then in 1980, former coach and high school principal Ray Behnke joined them, and for 19 years helped grow the sports business through an increased emphasis on new sales.

In the early years, they concentrated on sports team and individual photography, and over the years has photographed team pictures for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Admirals.

When an outsourced photo lab hit a rough patch in 1994, Hayes and his team decided to control their destiny by purchasing their own lab equipment. “That year we attended our first PMA Conference and Trade Show in Las Vegas, where we made all the equipment contacts we needed to establish our lab and the newly formed Visual Image Photography,” he says. “Our relationship with PMA grew along with our business, as we took advantage of the educational sessions, business advice, and business connections we made through the Association.”

Since that time, VIP’s relationship with PMA has grown and flourished. Hayes has served on PMA advisory committees, chaired PMA’s Sports Photographers Association of America (SPAA) for 10 years, and is a past president of PMA’s Association of Imaging Executives (AIE) – and remains active with both of those groups. His daughter Courtney Lutz, vice president of VIP, is the first woman to sit on the board of PMA’s Professional School Photographers Association (PSPA).

“I’ve learned more about the realities of business operation through the friends and associates I’ve met over the years with PMA than any business school could have ever taught me,” Hayes says. “The best thing about our association with PMA is the relationships and friendships we’ve formed with people next door, and with people worldwide. We have a wealth of resources we never would have developed without our association with PMA.”

After Lutz joined the team in 1996, father and daughter developed the school photography division and, returning to their roots, opened portrait studios in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, and the Chicago suburb of Wheeling. Headquartered in Cedarburg about 20 miles north of Milwaukee, VIP now provides photography services for athletes, graduating seniors, families and corporate organizations, and sports photography services for more than 160 high schools, and more than 500 youth organizations throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. The Illinois High School Association and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association have chosen VIP to photograph all the action at their state finals events for the past decade.

The family business launched decades ago by Bill Hayes is flourishing in its third generation. “We love providing our products and services to customers in the tradition of the local portrait business I grew up with,” Hayes says. “High quality portrait photography provides a visual history of the families we proudly serve, and that legacy remains our inspiration today. I think my father would be very proud of where we have taken his dream of portrait photography.”

 

 

 

Business Success: Compete with your customers?

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The “democratization of photography” also means that the people who once paid for work by skilled professionals now think they can do it themselves — and thanks to easier and better cameras, often they can indeed produce “good enough” results. What the best strategy now for professional photographers? Top shooter Dave Stock takes stock of the situation. (Sorry Dave, couldn’t resist the awful obvious pun.) Dave’s company, Dallas-Fort Worth-based TeamDSP, serves public and private schools, youth leagues, club teams, and businesses.

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The Digital Dilemma
By Dave Stock

Digital cameras:  the best thing since sliced bread or a threat to our continued existence?
Ask the question and you get a wide range of answers.  Our potential customers have jumped on the bandwagon and embraced the new advances, buying record numbers of cameras and smart phones…
What they are not buying in record numbers are prints and services provided by pro photographers!
Simply put, the new technologies are making it easier for our customers to take and print their own high quality images, reducing the likelihood they will buy from us, the working pros.

Remember when your competition was that relatively small group of names listed under “Photographers” in the Yellow Pages?  I started working professionally back in the early 70’s, almost 20 years before the first digital cameras became available to the public.  My first camera, a Konica Autoreflex, was unique in that it was the first SLR camera with auto-exposure capability.  With any other camera, the user had to rely on feedback from a floating needle at the edge of the viewfinder to arrive at a combination of shutter and lens settings that would produce a well exposed image.  It was left to the photographer to mentally sort through the full range of shutter speed/aperture pairings to select the combination that produced the desired result.  What was most important for each subject, each situation?  A fast shutter speed to freeze the action, or a small aperture to yield sharp focus from near to far?

The limited capabilities of those cameras required the shooter to do all the thinking: there was no on-board computer in a chip to help the process along.  And exposure determination was just the beginning of the challenges.  This was long before Nikon came out with the first autofocus camera in 1983.  Ever tried manually follow-focusing a 600mm f4 lens on a running back hitting the hole?  It’s a special skill that had to be developed over hundreds of hours spent squinting into an eyepiece.  And how about color balance?  To do it right, you needed a pricey color meter and large collection of gel filters, held in place in front of your lens with frames of varying thread diameters.

But even then, these “dumb” cameras lacking electronic brains could produce beautiful images when in the hands of the right operator, which is something that the popular consumer cameras from that era could not do.

If our customers had their own cameras back then, it was likely an Kodak Instamatic 104 or something similar.  These cameras had one f-stop, one shutter speed (1/90th), and produced small 1-inch square images on grainy 126 cartridge films.  Most of the pictures produced by these cameras were poor to abysmal and even the best fell well short of the quality coming out of the cameras used by pros at the time.

The net result is that if you owned pro equipment in the 70s you looked like a pro and your photos were going to be far better than those taken by amateur photographers, simply because of your choice of equipment.

Fast forward to 2012, and consider how technology has radically leveled the playing field.  Can you tell the difference between a Canon 5D and a Digital Rebel from across a room?  How about the difference in sharpness and color accuracy between 8×10 prints coming out of the two cameras?  Probably not.  Simply buying professional equipment no longer guarantees that you can produce significantly better photos than our customers can with their own equipment.  Did you know that highly respected pro shooters are now offering three day workshops aimed at pros and serious amateurs using their iPhones for image capture?  The iPhones of today produce far better images than the $20,000+ Kodak 520 DCS digital camera I leased for $450 a month back in 1999!

The first challenge for us as professional photographers is to acknowledge that this threat is real and it is already affecting our industry.  This problem is not going away.  If anything, it’s going to grow larger as cameras of all types, including smart phones, become more technologically advanced while their prices drop.  Digital printers used by our customers will likely continue to improve as well, making better prints more quickly and more economically.  Faster internet connections will make it easier for our customers to send their own images to labs or share their images with friends and relatives, completely bypassing the need to print the images altogether.  What are the implications for us when our customers save money spent on prints by capturing images on their phones before posting them on Facebook to share with others?  Why buy a 5×7 from us for $5 when they can take their own photo, have Costco make them a 37 cent 5×7, or simply save it in a digital album on their phone or iPad?

So what is the answer?    Many in our field respond by lowering the prices on their order forms.  Others focus on adding a wide range of novelty items to their offerings, highlighting whatever is the newest “hot item” offered by their lab or supplier.  Both of these potential solutions represent serious risks to the bottom line, however.  If you lower prices you must lower costs to preserve your profit margin.  Do you achieve this by paying your workers less or reducing the size of your staff on the shoots?   Do you cut corners back at the office, spending less time preparing and enhancing the images before submitting them to your lab?   Novelty items may sell like crazy, but can leave you with less profit if the parent that budgeted $25 for soccer photos to buy three sheets of prints instead gets a single photo statue after seeing a sample at your photo shoot.  Novelties are great if the parent makes an impulse buy, spending more than they initially planned to spend.  If they buy novelties instead of straight prints, you lose because the standard mark up on portrait units greatly exceeds that of most novelty items (magnets, buttons, trading cards, etc.).

We choose not to lower prices, but to entice our prospective customers by offering them more for their money.  A five-star restaurant can’t compete with McDonald’s prices, but they can offer a better experience.  The highly acclaimed restaurant can’t sell an entrée, side and drink for only five bucks and make a profit.  What they can do is create a superior product combined with exceptional customer service in a pleasant atmosphere that easily justifies menu prices that go well beyond the cost of the raw ingredients used to prepare the meals.  Parents with cameras save tremendously by taking their own pictures and having Walmart make their prints.  The challenge for us is to provide a level of quality, creativity and service that will both justify our higher prices and earn their business.

There’s another element in this dynamic that is hard to quantify, but is very powerful.  For most of us, dining out at an expensive restaurant with a recognized chef is a special event.  If you’re like me, you cringe when you see the tab, but you’re willing to pay the price because of the special feeling you have when you’re being pampered by the restaurant staff and you’re enjoying a meal prepared by a master.  It’s this same feeling of being special that we try to give our customers by always striving to produce not only great images but a great customer experience.

Restaurant owners and photographers share the same goal:  give customers what they want, do it better than anyone else and you have the foundation for a successful business.  As a photographer specializing in youth sports, I need to understand what my customers want and why they sometimes feel that taking their own photos is their best available option.

Who are my customers and what do they want most from me?  My customers include anyone either buying, using or benefitting from my products or services.  Parents want great pictures that bring back special memories.  They don’t want to stand in lines.  They don’t want to call with a question or a problem and get an answering machine.  They don’t want to pay for a poorly lit or sloppily composed photo that they could have taken themselves.

High school coaches don’t care as much about quality as they do about their precious practice time.  They want fast, efficient photo shoots and quick delivery of images and prints to yearbook advisors, printers and parents.  They don’t want to deal with problems of any kind:  collecting late payments, fielding parent’s complaints, tracking down missing packages not picked up by kids on the day the photos were passed out.  Youth league board members want the picture day schedule to run on time so that the game schedules are not disrupted.  And like school coaches, they hate getting phone calls from unhappy parents.  Don’t give parents any excuse to complain about any aspect of picture day.

Yearbook advisors, webmasters and program printers require fast delivery, accuracy, quality and organization.  Make their job easier by getting them what they need quickly.  Organize the images in folders, provide names linked to frame numbers, crop group photos loosely to allow designers maximum flexibility when planning page layouts.

In trying to please our customers, we focus on leveraging our people, experience and resources to outperform our competitors, whether they are professional photographers or our own customers.  As an organization, we are obsessive about  achieving quality in five key areas of our business:

1 – The quality of our products.  Our goal is to produce studio quality on location, indoors or out.  We typically use anywhere from two to four studio flash units modified by umbrellas, soft boxes or beauty dishes for each setup.  All images are brought into Photoshop or Lightroom to be cropped and enhanced (sharpness, exposure, color balance, retouching when requested) prior to being submitted to Richmond Professional Lab for printing.  We frequently use multiple 18×27’ tents, each with four lights, for league shoots so that we can control ambient light and work in adverse weather conditions.

2 – The quality of the experience.  Our expectation is that our customers can quickly and easily navigate through the picture day experience without waiting in long lines, dealing with feelings of frustration or confusion, or ever feeling like we aren’t completely dedicated to the task of getting good photos of everyone posing for our photographers.  Keys to accomplishing this goal include having adequate numbers of experienced workers on the shoots, taking multiple photos of each person posing for photos and using highly efficient work flows that best match each worker’s skills with their assigned tasks.  Photographers shoot anywhere from two to four lines of individuals simultaneously, assisted by a team of posers and assistants recording image numbers.

3 – The quality of our staff.  We hire exceptional people and pay them substantially more than what is considered customary in our industry.  Our team members share a common vision, striving to work together and do whatever is necessary to provide an exceptional customer experience.

4 – The quality of our customer service.  Customer service starts before the job is booked and never ends.  We strive to respond to every email and every phone call within hours of receipt.  We offer a “no-hassle” guarantee if a customer is unhappy for any reason:  we will either reshoot, reprint or refund depending on the nature of the dissatisfaction.  Our goal is to consistently go above and beyond what our customers expect and what most people consider reasonable.

5 – The quality of the opportunity offered our staff.  We treasure our workers and endeavor to provide them with a work environment where they feel appreciated and supported.  Paying them well is only a part of the puzzle.  Maintaining a corporate culture where finger-pointing is forbidden and contributions are acknowledged and rewarded leads to great morale and higher production, not to mention fun times working together as a group to overcome challenges.

Evolving technology requires that we keep on our toes and look for new ways to serve our customers.  While the digital revolution has put more powerful yet affordable cameras in the hands of our customers, it has also given us great tools that professionals can use to create unique products that parents will want to buy.  Greenscreen technology, cameras with HD video capture, Internet storefronts, on-site proofing and printing systems and social media all represent but a few of the many new paths we can pursue to grow our businesses.

Beyond that, not losing sight of the basic values that transcend all technological evolution is essential.  There is no substitute for working hard, working smart, continually striving to improve — and always treating people right.

 

 

Focus on: Thomas Mümken, Mümken Sales

Mümken

Mümken

 

This week Elisabeth Scherer reports on a successful young firm in Germany:

In 2011, Thomas Mümken’s new firm became the exclusive distributer for Noritsu’s photochemical and duplex inkjet equipment, and consumables such as paper and ink.

The distribution area for Mümken Sales* now covers 18 countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In the last four years, the company has sold and installed 300 Noritsu duplex inkjet printers and other equipment.

Operators of these devices are almost exclusively stationary photo dealers who produce high-quality prints and value-added products for their regional customers on spot, such as photo books, greeting cards and calendars. Silver halide labs are sold in small numbers only to specific imaging service companies with high volumes, such as school photo labs and specialized photo labs.

Now general manager, Mümken is the former sales director of Noritsu (Deutschland) GmbH. He is assisted in sales and technical support by eight colleagues — all former long-term Noritsu employees as well — in addition to distributors such as Kurt Freund, who is active in Switzerland and Austria.

Since January 2014, the head office of Mümken Sales has been in Hünxe, on the Lower Rhine. The community is conveniently located on the northern edge of the Ruhr area, 50 km from both the Dusseldorf Airport and the Dutch border.

Mümken lives with his wife and three daughters in nearby Oberhausen. He is an enthusiastic  cyclist, and often rides his racing bicycle for the 25 km commute to the company in Hünxe, instead of driving by car. “Consequently, I stay fit for business, and thus easily cope with the daily challenges,” says the confident entrepreneur.

Mümken has been a PMA member for many years, and regularly attends the PMA tradeshows in the US, “because I appreciate the perfect organization of the PMA, and the interesting exchange of ideas with colleagues from industry and commerce from around the world.”

(*Dipl.-Ing. Th. Mümken Sales GmbH, in full)

On the PMA Podcast: Get on board with Save Your Photos Day

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PMApodcast_icon_sqOn this episode of the PMA Podcast, Jen Kruger, publisher of PMA Magazine, talks with Cathi Nelson, founder of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO) and the Save Your Photos Alliance. The Alliance held its first annual Save Your Photos Day for the first time on September 27. Listen in at www.pmapodcast.org, or using the player below, as Cathi discusses the concept behind the event, how the idea spread to four different countries in only 90 days, what imaging businesses did to make the most of it in their communities, and how you can get involved next time around.

How to hang ’em…

shutterfly hangs

shutterfly hangsWe’ve all matured past the point of taping prints onto the sheetrock, right? >cough<

And tacks? Please no…

It can be tricky to get your large prints up onto a drywall, let alone concrete or other materials. Shutterfly is offering a thorough overview of how hang a big photo on just about any type of wall.

“Creating a gallery wall is easier than you think,” the company says. “Whether you want to create a family wall or add decorative artwork to your office, our design-a-wall tool will help you do just that. You can hang canvas prints, metal prints, wood wall art and more. This guide will help you hang pictures on any surface: drywall, plaster, brick and concrete.”

The full infographic is here.

(via PetaPixel)

 

Focus on: Raj Patel

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In this week’s “Focus on” column, we invited Raj Patel, from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, to tell his own story.

Raj Patel photo Oct 14I started my career in Nairobi, Kenya, fresh from school,and worked my way up from junior assistant to General Manager of a well-known retailer before leaving to emigrate to the United Kingdom in 1992.

During my 21 years there, I gained invaluable experience of their successful multi-channel business, and the new minilab business in particular, which was especially helpful when I later joined one of the main processing businesses in the U.K. and took over the running of one of their minilab businesses.

However, I had always had the ambition to run my own business, and when the opportunity came along in 1999, I did not hesitate to open my own new minilab business in Welwyn Garden City, with the support and assistance of my wife Urvi who still works alongside me today. I have also benefited both from being a member of PMA and having access to other members and colleagues who can offer advice and support when needed.

So, fifteen years later, despite many changes in our industry, my business continues to provide for me and my family, and by embracing the changes that have come along and by providing our customers with excellent service and quality products, we continue to grow stronger. Long may it continue!

On the PMA Podcast: Options in output – Moving from kiosks to mobile

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PMAN PMApodcast_100pxPhoto Finale spun-off from Lucidiom a year ago. In September 2014, the original company declared bankruptcy, so we spoke with co-founder Steve Giordano Jr. about what lead to the birth of each firm, where things stand in the photo output business today, and how you can better employ analytics and targeted marketing in your own business.

You can subscribe to our podcast or download this episode here.

Or tune in now through the embedded player below.

Welcome, new members of PMA and PPFA

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We are happy to welcome so many new members to PMA and PPFA!

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Avondale Artworks, Inc., Jacksonville, FL,

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Coastal Colors LLC, Cape Canaveral, FL,

Cyancolor Com Serv Fotograficos, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil

Dataline Engineering, Westlake Village, CA,

David Thomas Photgraphy, Bayport, NY,

Fazio Art Custom Frame & Supply, Charlotte, NC,

Grads Photography, Glendale, AZ,

Ivan Kobiolke Photography, Alice Springs, NT, Australia

Khalid’s Studio, Karachi, Pakistan

Lors Photography Inc, Union, NJ,

Mat About You, Ellicott City, MD,

MatShop Art Supply, Saanichton, BC, Canada

Media Meditations, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Miter Tighter Color Glue, Pickerington, OH,

Ramon Davis Photography, Glendale, AZ,

Sami Farag Ltd, Newe Yark, Israel

Studio De Chêne, Baton Rouge, LA,

The Art Factory Framing & Gallery, Marianna, FL,

The Ink Well, Allegany, NY,

Yellow Lab Imaging, Overland Park, KS,

 

On the PMA Podcast: PMA Official Business Sessions speakers Colby Jubenville and Bill McCurry

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PMApodcast_icon_sqColby Jubenville says being unique, agile and fast is paramount to your success in business. The co-author of “Zebras and Cheetahs,” he has suggestions to help you rethink your approach to being unique. This episode of the PMA Podcast features Jubenville on the McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange. Listen and discover that just as every zebra has unique stripe patterns, every successful business can use its strengths and collective passion to be unique. On January 4, 2014, spend some time with both Colby Jubenville and Bill McCurry at the Official Business Session during the PMA 2015 Conferences at Bally’s Las Vegas. Get ready to kick start your business to move at cheetah speed with agility to respond to whatever 2015 holds for your organization.