Prepping for IUSA 2016

by Christine

Are you ready? For some reason, it’s really crept up on me this year, how about you? I finally did the dreaded IUSA gown-shopping trip today and in the midst of all the dress-trying-on frenzy, I wound up getting excited. I don’t know what it is, but this year… maybe it’s because it’s so close to the holidays, but I was just not feeling the excitement very much before today.

So, let’s go over some stuff:


By now you should have your registrations and hotel reservations at the bare minimum. If you want to register for a pre-convention class, you probably ought to get cracking on that, too. If you haven’t done any of that yet, put down the pop-tarts and head over to these links:





Those of you really organized types (ie people who are my very.dear.friends.) will want to make sure that you download the IUSA app onto  your smart phone.  The link for that is HERE.

It shows the entire schedule of the whole shebang and allows you to design your own custom schedule of classes you are interested in seeing. That part is pretty cool,

BUT (note to any PPA bigwigs who have a hand in the design of these things, the rest of you can skip to the next paragraph) PLEASE for the love of all that is holy allow the option to insert my own personal time slot into this app. There are a number of specialized PPA and IUSA-oriented events and meetings that I am supposed to be at that are not open to the general public, so they’re not on the public schedule… For example, the Judge’s Refresher Training, The CPP Liaison Meeting, My Mentor Booth Appointment, Degrees & Awards Ceremony Rehearsal, ASP Banquet, etc – you know what I mean? Make it easy on a lot of us and combine everything into one schedule, it’s driving me mad to have to cross check the IUSA schedule with my own personal calendar.

OK Rant over, sorry, not sorry.

So, anyway, some kind of schedule is going to help you out, I suggest a combination of the IUSA app and whatever calendar (smartphone, daytimer, etc) you usually utilize.

As a bare minimum, you’re probably set. It’s just fine to walk through the front doors and bounce from class to class like a Roomba, but you’re probably better off checking the schedule over thoroughly and at least following some kind of semblance of order. I prefer to stay on the “portrait” track, myself, but you’ll find me in other topics, depending on the instructor.

The first year I went to IUSA, I met some friends there and basically went to whatever class one of the other ones was going to that I thought sounded the most interesting. Believe it or not, I’m a little shy and was just not comfortable entering classrooms with so many people in them by myself. True story. I have trouble in crowds. Sometimes.

What I wound up with was a smattering of helpful things and only one speaker I truly enjoyed.

This is certainly an effective way to get a haphazard dose of education, but I suggest going it on your own if you have to, and save the socializing for the meal times and designated party times.

I set a very complex schedule up for myself last year with something in every single class time slot as well as every slot with a trade show speaker. I was busy from morning until night and for me, that’s the best way to utilize my time. I generally don’t get to attend classes at my state convention (because I’m usually on the team running it), so this is my way to get in as much education in as I can.

Hey, this trip costs a lot of money  – I need to maximize my investment.


I generally wait until the night before the trip to pack my bag, and then I just sort of fit as much of my closet in there as I can. Since I’m flying Southwest, I’m allowed to check two bags, but realistically, toting two bags on the MARTA is not going to be a pretty sight, so I’m trying to really plan well to minimize the extra clothes I wind up taking back home with me unworn, this time. Plus, I need to allow some extra room because, well… trade show.

One of the things that’s helpful is to check a 10-day weather forecast to help you pack. It looks like the first few days are going to be warmer than the last time I was in Atlanta for Imaging, so I’m not packing much in the “heavy outerwear” department. Those of you staying at the OMNI will be delighted to know that the convention center is attached to the hotel via a covered walkway of some sort – so carrying your coat around the trade show will not be on your pet-peeve list this year.

If you’re attending the ASP Banquet or being honored onstage at either the Grand Imaging Awards or the Awards and Degrees Ceremony, you’ll want to make arrangements for slightly dressier clothing than normal. No, I can’t help you with this – did you read the part about how I waited until 4 days before my flight to shop for a dress?

For the most part, I recommend that you be comfortable. Wear shoes that you’ve already worn a lot and wear layers, you never know if a place is going to be warm or cool and layers are your best bet for working around that. Yes, I know, I sound like my grandmother.

Another helping hint: a backpack. If you’re like me, slugging around bags and purchases and notebooks and purses and cameras causes me angst. The most convenient mode of dealing with all of that is a backpack. It’s pretty much a fanny pack on steroids.

Depending on what kind of student you are, you ought to throw a notebook in that backpack. I’m  a note-taker and I have a specific notebook I bring to classes. If you forget, don’t worry, though, the last few years, PPA had some cool little information books at the registration desks that had pages in them for note-taking. They’re not ideal, if you take lots of notes, but they’re helpful in a pinch.

So, that’s pretty much the basics. How are you doing with your prep? I did that dreadfully responsible thing and paid for my trip piece by piece months ago. Except for buying my gown in June*,  the rest of the prepping in advance was a wise decision. Now I’m not going to get hit with a bunch of expenses in one fell swoop. All that’s left is to check the schedule for any recent additions and pack my suitcase.

If you’re still reading this far – I’d like to cordially invite you to join a group of my students and mentees on Sunday, January 10 at 12 noon in the PPA eatery by the Image Exhibit. We will hang out and have lunch together and then walk through the Image Exhibit afterwards. Last year was a great time, we ran into a number of judges and artists that I knew and they took the time to give our group several impromptu talks about image competition or their images. The link to the Facebook Event is HERE.

*It’s like Murphy’s Law; the minute you buy a dress for a future event, you gain just enough pounds to not fit into it any more.

Peace, Love & Pop-Tarts,





Mentoring with Kelly – Session #1

by Christine
A selfie while prepping to meet with Kelly. I love that I can schedule mentoring sessions at convenient times for each individual student.

A selfie while prepping to meet with Kelly. I love that I can schedule mentoring sessions at convenient times for each individual student. Plus, holding a session on my deck while the birds are singing… you can’t beat that with a stick! 🙂

A behind-the-scenes look at my online private mentoring…

Today I had an appointment with a new mentee, Kelly, from Ohio and she was gracious enough to agree to let me blog about her mentoring progress. I thought it would be nice to use a real-life example of a student’s mentoring session – so mucho big thanks to Kelly for allowing me to chat about it. (hopefully she’ll agree to a wrap-up interview when we’re all done).

My mentoring program, for the time being, is a 6-meeting arrangement between one student and myself. The reason is this – that is the kind of education *I* like. It’s the kind of education *I* learn the most from, and I pretty much wanted to work with other students that desired the same kind of personal attention that I like.

Kelly and I set up our first appointment for today at 10 AM. I had given her a number of pre-session homework assignments, and she came through with flying colors, sending me 17 images to review before our first meeting. I also reviewed her website, her blog and her business Facebook page and sent her several survey forms with pertinent questions about her education, technical skill level and information about previous competition participation.

Yes, I want to know a lot of stuff.

Here’s why – my students are going to fork over a chunk of change and I want to make sure that they get every penny’s worth out of it. I want to know what equipment they have access to and what types of clients they photograph for money. Then I want to know what they photograph for the love of it. I want to know what makes them tick and I want to know what gives them “juice.”

For the next 6 weeks, my mentees trust me to guide them towards their goals – I’m going to make sure we do this with a level of great success. So yes, I’m going to spend some extra time getting to know them as individuals as well as photographers.

Kelly and I spent a little over an hour reviewing her images and talking about her goals. I used an online meeting company that gives me the capability to record our sessions, and a copy of that recording was sent to Kelly at the conclusion of our session.

We reviewed 14 of the 17 images she sent for homework and will be reviewing the remaining 3 in session 2.

At the end of our session, we scheduled the next 5 session dates and times and I assigned Kelly some homework for session #2.

Now, this all may sound a little bit vague, but I just don’t do the same thing with each student, so I don’t have a plan that is replicated across the board. Besides, it’s called private mentoring for a reason.

Anyway – Kelly got some homework that was pertinent to her work and her goals. She was given some pointers on how to change up the way she shoots in a few technical areas the next time she encounters certain situations. I became acquainted with Kelly’s level of software competence and reviewed her current methods of retouching and enhancement before assigning her the rest of her homework.

I believe in stretching the existing skill set – not necessarily changing everything over to what *I* do, you know?

So, there you have it – a couple of hours of review work for me – mentoring session #1 – followed up by a recording of session #1 – a 4 part homework assignment and some additional help with a CPP certification renewal (because I’m kind of handy helping with CPP stuff, too).

The additional bonus for the day was discovering that Kelly had attended Ohio Institute of Photography and had Rich Newell as her instructor. What a small world! Rich was my sponsor when I received my Master’s Degree from PPA in 2013 and he currently serves as PPA’s IPC Manager.

Whoda thunk?


 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you think you’d like to set up a private mentoring program for yourself, send me a note at or call 330.407.6677. I have just a couple of more slots left for the fall session, which ends October 31. The last day to join this session is September 18, the tuition is $299.

IUSA15’s Image Competition Track

by Christine


I’ve been prepping for the long awaited trip to Nashville. Part of that prep involves putting together a schedule of recommended classes for myself and my students. There’s quite a selection of information available about image competition this year, so I thought it would be helpful to share.

I recommend the following IUSA scheduled events and classes for my fellow image competition junkies, students and mentorees:


Saturday, January 31, 2015:



If you are going to be at IUSA on Saturday night, I highly recommend you sign up for this class. Did you catch that? SIGN UP for this class. Dave already has the exact same class scheduled on Friday night that was sold out so quickly the PPA added in a second one. You must preregister for the class. Call PPA at 800.786.6277 to arrange that.

On a personal level – I give Dave five stars as an instructor. He was my judges’ workshop instructor in 2013 and I have high regard for him. Read my judging school post HERE.

Imaging USA 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015


^^^You need to see the exhibit. Allow yourself plenty of time and you may even want to visit several times. The prints are arranged throughout the exhibit and the digital images are shown on large screens, separated into an alphabetical order across several screens. It takes quite awhile to scroll through the digital images and several sittings to watch is recommended.


^^^ It would behoove you to see ALL of the presenters in this program. They are all PPA affiliated judges and have more experience than you can shake a stick at. (Please don’t bring sticks, it’s just a saying). It’s being offered every day and there is a little bit of change-up with the speakers & topics, but not a lot. If you plan it right, you can hit 2 or 3 of these a day and get them all covered in 3 days.

Monday, February 2, 2015


^^^ Oh, hey, look, here it is again. If you missed it yesterday, please check it out today.


^^^ And here we are for day 2 of Merit Cafe. Which ones are you going to see? I’ll be seeing Donna Goodhale & Jeff Dachowski for sure !


^^^ For inspiration and a gander at the finest photography culled from IPC 2014, you’ll want to be here for sure. Cheer for those on stage and offer your congratulations to our finest PPA photographic artists.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


^^^OK, this is your LAST chance, I’m serious! Check it out thoroughly because today the exhibit goes down at 3:30 PM. On the positive side, those of you that have been waiting patiently for the return of your prints and cases will have them back within the next few weeks.

learning to see_Tues

^^^I am super duper excited about this!!! See those names in the right-hand column? Those are some uber-talented and successful competitors who are going to share their mad competition knowledge & skilz with us. Be there or be square!

Links to presenter biographies:

Angela Kurkian, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

Christie Kline, M.Photog.Cr., CPP

Suzy Fulton, M.Photog., CPP

Tom Munoz, M.Photog.Cr., CPP


^^^ Take three of Merit Cafe. The day is a bit short, today, so make sure you see the speakers you weren’t able to on the first two days. I’m probably going to see Gabriel Alonso speak twice. I may ask him to read my grocery list out loud.


^^^And last, but not least. Come to the event that most competitors dream of; the day you get to walk across the IUSA stage and receive your Master’s Degree medallion from your sponsor and shake a bunch of peoples’ hands. It’s heady stuff, I’m tellin’ ya. 🙂 Seriously – show your fellow competitors your support and pride. It’s been a tough journey, no matter how easily it may have seemed for some. And when it’s your turn, we’ll be there for you.

I will be at every single one of these events (except for the Saturday class with Dave Huntsman, I am in the Friday class). If you see me, say hello.

All Day Print Competition Education FREE | Lewis Center, Ohio: March 13/14, 2015

by Christine


If you are already a PP of Ohio member, this benefit is FREE for you.
If you’re NOT a member – it’s FREE for you, too – YAY!!


All day education for FREE? This is a joke, right?

No joke, folks, here’s the scoop. The PPA allows anyone who wants to attend a District Judging to view it for FREE.

And you know what’s even better?

You can do it TWICE!

That’s right, you can sit in a dark room for two entire days and absorb the combined knowledge of our esteemed judging panel.

Did I say “esteemed” ?

Why yes, yes, I did. The panel we have engaged for this competition are ALL PPA Affiliated Jurors. This is the Northeast District judging, run by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) with some help from the PP of Ohio team. These judges are the cream of the crop and this group contains several of my own personal heroes.

If things go according to past history, we will have a print judging room and a digital image judging room, so you will be able to move freely between them, depending on your mood/preferences. We just ask that you stay extremely quiet in the judging rooms.

Feast your eyes on the educational team we have for you:


I’ve said it a jillion times already, but here it is once more:

Aside from participating, watching a print competition is one of the most educational things you can do for your photography. Even if you never enter a competition. Listen and learn as the judges compliment the good things and critique the things that may be holding an image back. Pay attention to the scoring categories and the 12 elements that the judges refer to while speaking about an image.


This will be the best education, HANDS DOWN!

And if you can get this for FREE – HELLO?? What are you waiting for? I expect to see you lined up, waiting to get a front row seat when I show up at 6 AM. Okay, maybe 7 AM.

Get in on this before the powers in charge realize they could be charging.

Judging dates and times are:

Friday, March 13, 2015: 9 AM – 1 PM and 2 PM – 7 PM

Saturday, March 14, 2015: 9 AM – 12 PM and 1 PM – 5PM

NorthPointe/Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center
100 Green Meadows Drive South
Lewis Center, Ohio 43035

I will be there – please say “hello” if you see me. Slip me your business card so I know who you are – I’ll probably be crazy busy since I’m the print room headmaster – but I will want to meet you 🙂

I hope to see you there!

PS – If you’re not a member and you’d like to hang out for the whole weekend  – we’ve got a groovy discount for you – just buy a membership and save all the day-pass shenanigans for another time. If you mention my name (Christine or Wootness), I’ll get a $25 discount when I renew my dues – so thanks in advance for that 🙂