Be more brave – Photographic competition and personal work

by Christine


It’s been awhile. You and I. It’s almost like we’re having an affair, with how little we meet these days. I can give you all kinds of blah blah, but the honest truth is that I’ve been afraid.

I’ve come to recognize that my hands are an extension of my heart when they’re poised over a keyboard.

My writing is art.

My art.

My personal work.

And sometimes the words and feelings and thoughts flow in a way that cause me pain, or perhaps reveals a part of myself to you that I’m just not sure I want you to know.


If ever.


So here I am, after much of an absence because I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff that leaves me in a position of being afraid to write.

Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

One more time for those of you that aren’t getting it.


Afraid to let my stuff influence my art.

Those of you still with me, thanks for sticking it out.

I’ve been admiring an artist friend of mine, a talented photographer, who has been pouring her energy into creating competition images.

So what?

The thing is, that energy is being fueled by some personal issues in her life. I don’t know exactly what they are, and it’s none of my business, but I’ve got to admire her guts. Her ability to be all “yeah, things are sucking, this is some art I made about how I’m feeling about that” and then she shows what she created and I’m blown away.

Seriously. Blown away.

Because it’s good. Very good, in fact.

I get it. I feel it.

My heart says

Oh yes!

But more… because she’s just putting it out there. She’s already got a hot mess going on and she’s packaging it all up real pretty for a panel of judges take a gander at.

And others.

Thousands of others.


Here’s my heart.

I want to do that. I want to be like that. I want to rise above this pain that’s silenced me.  I want to wrestle and wrangle it into submission and two dimensions.

But, I’ve been afraid.

I tried, several months back, to create an image as an outlet of some stuff. It didn’t work out so hot, technically, and still needs some refinement. But it was also tough to do, and I might have been using that technical refinement issue as an excuse to keep from finishing it.

It was that uncomfortable.

And then there’s the whole “will they get it?” part…

And then I question whether I’m creating for me or for my audience.

Of course, what I create will be as technically perfect as I can get it because that’s just how I am.

But how experimental and touchy-feely and true to myself am I willing to get with my work, knowing it might not fly in competition?

Knowing the judges might not get it?

Knowing that others will see a piece of me that’s vulnerable?

I’m going to try and change things up. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this kind of thing, lately, and I think I’m going to try to fill that last slot in my case with something intensely personal.

And hopefully, intensely well-done.

I’m going to stop being afraid to let my stuff influence my art.


Peace, love and merit scores,




IUSA 2016: Please put the ceremonies on your schedule

by Christine

*of note; go ahead and take this article with a huge grain of salt, if you wish. I am being honored several times myself and have a vested interest in the topic. However, since personal experience is the basis for most of what I write, it is what it is.

Something that I’ve noticed about IUSA and it’s numbers – not all that many people attend the Awards & Degrees Ceremony or the Grand Imaging Awards.

I’d like that to change.

Whether or not you know any of the honorees, watching the incredible pride in craftsmanship, work ethic and a job well done within our industry can truly be inspiring.

I know that I, personally, am inspired by the Diamond Photographers of the Year (honored at the Grand Imaging Awards). To me, that means that they have achieved perfection within image competition. Yes, perhaps only for that one moment in time, but wow – that’s impressive.

You might not have a clue what I just said, and maybe that’s why you’re not interested. I’m going to explain it in English and very simply – please bear with me for a few paragraphs, k?

Monday, Jan 11, 2016 6:30-7:30 PM Grand Imaging Awards

First of all, it’s only an hour and PPA has this gig down to a science. They get’r’done pretty well and a boatload of people are honored in a fairly expedient, yet not rushed manner. It’s kind of impressive, especially after you see the lengths they go to audio-visually to keep us entertained with image slideshows while we are waiting for the event to start and informational and image slideshows during the ceremony.

In a nutshell, this is where the image competitors are honored. All year long, they work on their best four images (called a “case”) and they go into competition. It’s their absolute best work and many lengths and hours of time may be gone into the creating of them. When all is said and done, your image can either not pass, pass, or pass with extra credit. Your end ranking depends on whether or not all 4 of your images passed and how many of them got extra credit. We call those teachers’ pets that get extra credit for every darned thing “Diamond Photographers of the Year”. (Y’all know I love and respect you, I’m just being funny – see Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friends).

Anyway – anyone who had everything pass (if you pass, we call that a MERIT) gets to get up on stage and they’re in 5 different groupings, depending on how many of their images got extra credit (we call that a LOAN). So the groupings are Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. They’re all called Photographers of the Year and/or Medalists.

All in all, this is a pretty impressive feat. Folks work really hard on these images and getting to this level is fairly impressive. If you’re a new competitor, or interested in image competition at all, this would be a great event for you.

After those groups are honored, they Go on to the Grand Imaging Awards (GIA). The PPA takes those images that got the extra credit and has their judges vote on their top ten images in each category. After the top 10 are narrowed down, the judges vote again, ranking their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place choices. (That is my understanding of the process, any judges reading, feel free to correct me if this is wrong).

Those top 10 images in each category are considered GIA Nominees/Finalists. There are actually 6 overall categories, but the Portrait category is subdivided further, so in total, there are 10 group announcements. The top 3 in each category get trophies, and the 1st place winner gets $500. Then all the first place winners are brought up (6 – there is an overall portrait 1st place – the subdivisions do not appear here) and the overall GIA winner is given another trophy and another $500. *sigh*

ok, and that’s pretty much it. There are a number of other awards afterwards, as organizations tend to do.

Oh – yes – I mustn’t forget – the World Cup…

The World Cup is kind of like the Olympics of photography. The very first USA Team was announced and revealed while I was in the audience at this event several years ago. The absolute top cream of the crop images are chosen from all the LOANS and that makes up Team USA, who then go head-to-head with teams across the world.

“We are watching history being made,” said the voice behind me in the audience. He was right, so very right. The USA has been a strong force to be reckoned with in the past, let’s see what you think when the new team is announced at the ceremony.

Tuesday, January 12, Award and Degree Ceremony 6:30-7:30 PM

Bonus! Another well put together event that only takes an hour, yet is jam-packed with stuff. Way cool audio visual effects last year, too!

The PPA confers degrees to people, again, who have done a boatload of work over the past number of years. These are your competitors, your speakers, your teachers, your organizational volunteers. Those who have shown a level of work and dedication above and beyond. The PPA acknowledges these accomplishments with a variety of Degrees (Master of Photography, Photographic Craftsman, Master Artist). There are also different medallions and levels of achievement beyond the degrees that are acknowledged as well. Each person receiving a degree will be announced and go on stage with the sponsor of their choice who will then place their medallion and ribbon around their neck and then there will be hugs, handshakes and hula dancing. Seriously. One of the delightful aspects is the little twists that folks put into this moment. I didn’t do anything, personally, but my friends thought that yelling “SQUIRREL!” would make the moment memorable. Yes, it’s on video. To those designing the twists – stay classy – I’ve seen it go borderline.

Anyway – those walking across that stage have devoted at least a few years to the process that led them to this evening. The new Master Photographers have amassed at least fifteen images in competition that passed, or if they were exceptionally talented, eight with extra credit (those get double merits). It’s some pretty heady stuff if you think about it.

I want you to experience the same inspiration I get from these ceremonies.

What would be really cool is if you all could go and seek out the folks from your home state that are up on stage at any point in the evening. They worked really hard to be up there, this event might be the thing that swayed them to come, and they very well might be there by themselves. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but (stop reading, honey) I had to find a quiet area a few times the evening I got my Master’s Degree a few years back and regroup. It bothered me more than I realized that my husband wasn’t there. Fortunately, I had a group of very sweet friends who cheered me on (even though it wasn’t allowed) and met up with me at the party later – and that helped me, immensely.

Additionally – if you’re reading this far, I’ll let you in on a secret….. those folks that are GIA finalist/nominees have not been allowed to publicly announce the honor. The ceremony announcements need an element of surprise, and folks have been asked to be discreet. Of course, I’ve heard a number of little birdies tweeting here and there and a couple of not vauge-book enough posts to have a good idea of some of the names, but I can’t help from feeling a little sad that they’re not able to whip up some hooplah prior to the event. You know?

So, I’m betting there are some folks there that could use an extra pat on the back and congratulated.

Or maybe even a social event companion.

I know a number of my competitor friends that travel to these things alone; conjuring up a banquet escort can sometimes be an issue – fellows, you know any ladies there by themselves (or rooms of ladies) ? Not to be sexist – but it’s not necessarily comforting to be slogging around the streets of Atlanta hailing cabs, etc in gowns and high heels  – ask your solo traveler friends to join your group if you can.

And if a friend with a purse needs to go onstage, offer to keep it safe while they do that, nobody wants to drag a purse up there.

OK, that’s all I have – peace, love and high heels,



5 rules for event attendees with cameras

by Christine

Over the years that I’ve been a photographer, I’ve covered a large number of events; from stage shows, to pageants, to weddings, to award banquets. And across them all, there’s some fairly similar issues that plague the hired photographer.

Because these events are generally attended by the general public, from guests to ticket-holders, the chance that some of these attendees will have cameras of their own is fairly high. Some of them are just capturing a few shots for their own enjoyment, which is perfectly fine, but others… well , there are others who are trying to utilize the event in a professional capacity that has not been offered to them.

To those, I have these five rules:

1. Get out of the way.

Seriously. Sit in your seat and don’t move. Don’t lean out into any aisles, don’t stand up, don’t move your chair out of the position it’s in so you get a better angle, and especially, don’t stand in front of me.

Just. Sit. Down.

And if you place yourself into the center of the activity, thereby appearing in my photographs, we are going to be having a special kind of chat.

2. Don’t try to share my space while I’m shooting

I’m here to do a job. You are not.

I am not required to give you any kind of preferential treatment because you have a camera in your hands. I don’t care of you’re working for the Associated Press, you aren’t here on the clients’ dime, I am. Allowing you in my work space and allowing you to interfere with the relationship between my clients and my camera reduces the level of quality service that I am providing to them. If you desire to take your own photographs, do so in a way that does not interfere with me. Shooting over my shoulder is just bad etiquette, and asking clients to look in your direction so you can have your own shot is just downright interference.

Occasionally there are circumstances where it behooves me to let another photographer take a shot or two. If you are granted this privilege – here are some special rules for you:

Do NOT assume that you now have control of the photography and can re-pose my clients. Get in, get your shot and get out. You’d want me to act quickly and quietly if our roles were reversed. This isn’t the time to showboat.

Do NOT criticize me, my setup, my photography or my polite request that you just take a few shots so we can maintain our timeline. I’m not being paid to argue with you.

Do NOT complain about me and my limitations on you to my client or on social media. I always find out.

Do NOT utilize the photographs I allowed you to take for anything other than the very special intended purpose that resulted in you being granted the opportunity to photograph. If you do, I’ll assume your very special reason was fabricated. That’s fancy for “lie.”

You were granted a favor. Appreciate it, or you will never be granted that favor again.

3. Don’t ask to pick my brain

I love that you have a passion for photography and I love that you respect me enough to want to ask my opinion on some photographic matter. But please, I’m working. I just don’t have the time to chat with you about photography.

I don’t want to be rude, but introducing yourself and asking me for my business card so you can contact me later with questions is a much better approach, and I will gladly give you a card when I have a moment free.

4. My formal background area is not a photo booth

Time and time again, it seems that folks misunderstand the intention of a formal background area. I pay many many dollars-es for backgrounds and lights and all the accessories that go into a formal photographic setup. If I bring that setup with me, it’s because the client has requested their formal photographs to have a “studio” look. It’s not so you can keep dashing in to use the pretty background when I’m in between shots.

It’s not a photo booth. Seriously. Do you see any crazy hats and mustaches for people to wear?

I didn’t think so.

5. Don’t “gift” my clients with your own images publicly

There’s been a number of times that I’ve been out-spray-and-prayed by an amateur who “only wants to give a gift to the bride and groom.”

Yeah. Right.

You and I both know that you’re an aspiring photographer and you’re looking at this event as an opportunity to either pump up your portfolio or get paying gigs of your own. If you’re wanting to “gift” my client with your own images – do so privately. That’s what you do with gifts. Plastering 839 images on Facebook within 24 hours of an event is not a gift, it’s advertising.

Yours in Wootness,

IPC 2015 | the waiting begins…

by Christine

Not too long ago I registered my entries for IPC 2015 and pushed that final little button that sent them on to the netherland of waiting until August 3. Two are physical prints, so they still  need labeled and shipped off. Two are digital entries and are currently in server-land some where.

And I, am just sitting here feeling pretty much like… well…  I’m not sure.

Generally I’d say “I hate my case,” but I’m not sure that’s entirely appropriate this time. There are a couple of entries I really like. One, I love. I don’t really hate any of them –  and overall, there’s not really anything I’d change on any of them. I’m not feeling rebel enough to break a seal and wasn’t particularly feeling the need to do so – so moot point, anyway.

So, what’s the issue?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m taking this all too seriously. Is it possible to even do that? I know I stressed myself out with it this year. I kept pushing and pushing. I kept changing things up – for awhile I was trying to follow too many peoples’ advice and the whole thing became an exercise in pleasing someone else. But that’s the whole “game” isn’t it? Pleasing someone else?

No, not really.

The game is to compete with yourself and do the best possible work that you can. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Did I do that?

Well…. I guess I’d have to say “yes.”

But whether my best is good enough to meet the goal I set for myself – not so sure….

… to be continued

Yes, Virginia, you can model with your clothes ON…

by Christine

Dear young ladies of the world:

I see a great many of you embracing “modeling opportunities” that are advertised by “professional photographers.”

Let’s just have a moment of truth here: You are not a model and you will not become a model through these gigs.

Advertising for a model is a fancy way of saying “I need a warm body to practice on.” You will probably be offered  a TFP (trade for prints) or TFCD (trade for CD) deal for your time. Sometimes this works out well and both the photographer and model have a win-win arrangement. And that’s very cool.

But a lot of what I’m seeing out there doesn’t look too “win-win” to me.

A lot of it looks downright scary.

I’m concerned, nay, I am DISTURBED by the number of images I see out there that are a result of this kind of exchange of services. Most often, the images are bad. Really bad. Basic skill sets are not evident in the slightest and the image content is pretty much riding on the edge of pornography.

Sexually explicit, nude, semi-nude and fetish images are NOT standard photography model scenarios and you should never accept this kind of arrangement if you are not comfortable with it. NEVER allow a photographer to push your boundaries or take you outside your comfort zone.  Just because they have a fancy camera in their hands does not entitle their creative vision to override your personal level of comfort and safety.

Please make sure that the photographer in question is, in fact, a professional and takes good photos. A simple review of their website should flush out this information rather quickly. Ask for references and ALWAYS take a chaperone with you to your sessions. TALK to your photographer beforehand about the scope of the session and discuss boundaries and limits so that you’re both on the same page and there are no “surprises.” Take a look through his/her portfolio and reach out to other models who have worked with them. Any reputable professional will understand and encourage your need to check them out, first.

THINK about what you are allowing your images to say about you. THINK about what you are wearing. THINK about the poses you are allowing yourself to be put in. THINK about the fact that in this modern-digital-social-media-obsessed world, these photos WILL last forever.

And after the rush of flattery and I’m a Model! euphoria wears off, you may be embarrassed. Very embarrassed.

For a long, long time.

Be careful, please.

Thinking about IPC 2015…

by Christine
An empty case. Much like mine...

An empty case. Much like mine…

Yet another IPC 2015 delaying tactic… my personal musings & Wootnessy thoughts…

So, y’all are turning on the steam and getting it done. If you haven’t gotten your IPC entries finished, you’re in the middle of the end of it.

Or maybe not.

I’ve resigned myself to the impending, looming truth that I will be paying the late fee and have therefore embraced a 2.2 week extension on the deadline. Some of you all may just want to face the fact you’re not going to make it; take the stress off, admit it now and go enjoy the rest of your day.

Aside from this entry-angst we all seem to have a subconscious desire to inflict upon ourselves repeatedly – I rather quite enjoy IPC. It’s my favorite competition.

Because it’s not so competitive.

I absolutely enjoy watching the IPC live-streaming and cheering on other makers, some friends, some unknown, that are being judged for merits and loans. It’s darned near patriotic, the feeling of satisfaction and joy I get from IPC. It’s the true spirit of competition; trying our darndest, working our hardest, cheering on our colleagues, and sometimes commiserating with them.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things – there is a settling out of strata – emerging triumphantly at the top are those who earn a Diamond Photographer of the Year title – there are multiple levels of achievement depending on the number of merits and/or loans received – and it is possible to come away disappointed…


Everyone has the same opportunity to achieve; the number of loans, merits and medals is not restricted. And in that sense, the competition between makers loses its sharp edge.

And that pretty much makes me breathe a sigh of relief.

Because sometimes I really dislike competition.

I know. I probably shouldn’t say that. That’s a pretty hard statement coming from someone who professes to love it to a fairly extreme level.

But sometimes, it really has its days.

And generally those are the days that there is a competition with trophies. For some reason trophies bring out the absolute worst side of some competitors. And since I’m pretty active in competition, whether it be working a print crew, judging, competing, or just observing someone else’s competition – I wind up seeing a lot of bad behavior resulting from trophies. I’m kind of over trophies.

Trophies are awesome, but when the joys of competition are eclipsed by bad feelings among my competitor friends because they’ve taken competing for trophies to a personal level – *sigh* – well, that’s when it’s one of those days. And those days make me kind of dislike competition. Just a little bit.

So IPC, with its rewards in plentiful supply and the bulk of competition occurring within ourselves, is at the top end of my scale of appreciation. And it places competition back on the list of things I enjoy.

And that…brings me Wootness.

*Technically, the Grand Imaging Awards, selected later this fall from the IPC Loan Images, ARE trophies from IPC, but since voting occurs several months down the road and winners are not announced until IUSA 2016, that angst does not occur during or near IPC 2015 judging and the veil of Wootness is not pierced.

What Kind of Board Member Are You? | My Manifesto

by Christine

2015/2016 Executive Board: The Professional Photographers of Ohio

In our journey in and out of our professional organizations, we take on a number of roles. Members, committee members, chairmen, board members, executive board members. Maybe not all of them, maybe only one of them.  And most likely, not in any specific order.

At some point in time, you might find yourself in a board of director’s seat. And I think it’s very important to decide, in advance, what kind of board member you will be.

Once upon a time, I was the president of a non-profit organization. A 501c3 organization. In my state there are guidelines for non-profits and one of those guidelines is “duty of loyalty.” At the end of the day, when the meetings are over, I must exit my board meeting willing to support the decisions that we made as a team for the organization. Even if I did not agree with proposal or vote in favor of whatever action we took, I supported the decision that was made by the board as a whole. I didn’t get to say “I didn’t support that”, or “I didn’t vote for that.”

When I was nominated for the position, I stood and introduced myself to the general membership. And I was honest. Very honest. I told them I’d be the one that was the pain in their rear end. I’d be the one with the policies, procedures and bylaws in my hand. I’d be the one that questioned everything.

And 9 months later, when the board voted to sweep a financial mishandling/loss/theft under the rug, I resigned. I’m a black and white gal and when areas of gray start interfering – that gets my dander up – I don’t support dancing around with rules and laws and I didn’t agree with failing to take action to address a potential theft. I quietly resigned, took some time to think, filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office and went on with life.

Yet, here I am again. In spite of that experience, I’ve sucked it up and took the step onto the executive board at the Professional Photographers of Ohio. That took a lot of reflection.

A lot.

And so I feel the need to create my manifesto – my list of things that I will die on a hill for, or at least put up a struggle over….

I believe in honesty. In telling the truth and doing what’s right, even when it might be embarrassing or painful.

I believe in transparency. My actions and words will always align. You won’t be left wondering where I stand.

I believe in loyalty. I will do my best job for the organization I am tasked to lead. It is now a priority and I will do everything in my power to serve its needs. I am one of its protectors. A knight of its round table, if you will.

And because I believe that boundaries should be clearly defined:

I do not believe in politics. And I know about three smart-alecs just quipped in their heads about not believing in something that exists, so I will re-define; I will not participate in politics. If it makes you happy as a clam to let other people dictate how you handle something because of favors wanted/needed/owed or personal biases – then bully for you. But that’s not how it works for me.

I will do what I believe is right for the organization. Period.

So yes, I’m gonna be a pain in your rear end. I’m going to ask questions. A lot of questions. And when things don’t make sense or seem to be going against a policy, procedure, bylaw or law, I’m going to open my mouth and say something.

I have a heart, and I have empathy. But I also have a good old-fashioned conscience and a grasp on what is right and what is not.

And that – is where I stand.

Shooting for Competition: Let’s Be Realistic

by Christine

Take a look at this image. A really good look. Pretend you are a judge. Pick it apart and tell me what’s wrong with it. Take a moment, I’ll wait while you ponder…



 Does anything jump out at you?

Here’s a hint – the finished image:

"Bluecifer". 2010 IPC General Collection.

“Bluecifer”. 2010 IPC General Collection.

If you’re still struggling – take a closer look at those wing straps – the first image shows them, the second image does not. The second image is from my very first IPC case in 2010 and it earned a merit. During the course of working on it and prepping it for competition, I asked some advice on it. PPA Affiliated Judge Keith Howe asked me the question

“Is this a devil, or a boy pretending to be a devil?”

In other words ‘lose the straps on the wings, we aren’t playing ‘dress-up” here’ (my words, not Keith’s).

This CC made a lot of sense to me. Before photography, the occupation that involved a lot of my free time for the past 30+ years was working at my local community theatre. Over the course of the years, I’d learned to be diligent about propping a production correctly. We would be inviting hundreds of audience members to join us in the suspension of reality. Yet, we still needed to be realistic. If we were to bring you fully into the proper viewing of our play, we need everything about it to be believable; realistic. If I wanted you to believe a dude was a devil, I certainly wouldn’t have him sporting a pair of wings with straps, right?

That’s pretty much how it should be with competition prints, as well.

Your audience is the judging panel. You want them to buy into your story, to be drawn into the image you have created. You’ve paid wonderful attention to your lighting and posing. Now pay attention to the realism factor.

Perhaps you’ve decided that a formal portrait of a woman in an 1800’s ballgown is your next project. Maybe it’s because you found the most awesome dress and became inspired. That’s so cool! And exciting!

But don’t get lost in the wave of creativity that is swirling around you. You need to pay attention to the hairstyle, the makeup, the piece of furniture that you will most likely be using as a prop. And even though the ball gown is long and may cover it up, you’ll want to make sure the footwear is time-period appropriate, as well.

After all this is prepared, you should be ready to go, right?

Take another look. Everything in that image needs to be correct. And I’m betting if you look a little closer, you might find something that’s an issue.

Like hoop earrings.

Or a currently fashionable ring.

Or that ombre haircoloring that’s presently in style.

Look at the floor – is there a carpet or floor covering present that is appropriate to the subject matter? Is every prop, every part of the costuming, every part of your scene tied into the believability factor? Every single thing you add to your image MUST support your concept.

This isn’t official PPA print competition advice, but it’s a process that I utilize in my own entries that I think would be of benefit to competitors who find themselves shooting time-period-ish images.

Here’s another example:

"The Hit Man" 2010 IPC General Collection

“The Hit Man” 2010 IPC General Collection

This image was set in the 20’s. This fellow (Scott) is an actor and had just finished filming a movie called Sugar Wars, which inspired the shoot. [Movie info/FB page HERE]. It had to do with the Mafia, Hit Men and other assorted unsavory characters.

Scott provided his own clothing for the shoot – a practice that I rarely support, but since he is a bona fide vintage clothing expert, he was the perfect person to allow this freedom. [Check out Scott’s project The Fedora Lounge].

I provided the viola case. Note that “viola” is an important word. I had done some research about hit men and Tommy Guns. I did not have a Tommy Gun and didn’t really want one –  I’m not all that crazy about putting weapons in comp prints ( a personal work preference only and does not affect how I judge images with weapons) – but I wanted to provide the illusion of a weapon. He was a gangster, after all.

I did some research on Tommy Guns and discovered that they were actually too large to fit in a violin case and required a viola case. That may be an insignificant difference to most people, but to me – it was enough of a difference to assure I had the right case available for the shoot.

Another detail item in the image was the signet ring that Scott wore. It is the letter “D” and stood for his last name. I flipped the image for presentation and of course, the initial has been flipped, as well. I knew this might be an issue and spent some time looking at the image and finally decided that the fancy script of the “D” practically rendered it unreadable in the correct orientation, anyway, so didn’t fret too much about flipping it. (But normally, you wouldn’t want to flip anything with text in a comp image – so pay attention to that kind of thing.)

Eyeglasses are another thing worth considering. This image was enhanced by the use of more traditional-looking, classic glasses and we would not have gotten quite the same impact with a set of horn-rimmed ones, you know?


“Weathered’ 2013 IPC Loan Collection

The next time you’re prepping for a shoot, whether it be for competition, a client, or personal project, I encourage you to really consider every single item you bring onto your “set.”

This IS a production and you ARE the director.

Give us, your audience, the opportunity to respond with a standing ovation because you completely sucked us in to your reality.

Moments in Mentoring: D. Craig Flory, Cr., CPP

by Christine

I’ve come to realize that mentoring has a variety of faces. What may have been a few moments of discussion can prove to have an incredible impact on someone’s future.

This is one of those stories…

Once upon a time… well, actually, because of the marvel of modern-day technology, I can pin down the date to 2009…

This happened:


I had discovered Mr. Flory’s post on the Our PPA Forum.

He didn’t know it, but I was fairly desperate at the time. The CPP portion of things was not near as organized as it is today. Online test registration did not exist and candidates were at the mercy of the whims of liaisons who didn’t return phone calls or emails. My state offered one test per year at the annual convention. Which looked like I was going to miss, given the state of non-communication I was dealing with. (This newbie-at-the-time had not yet learned the power of knowing the PPA customer service number).

With a sigh of relief, I made plans to travel to Pennsylvania to take the exam. D. Craig was the liaison for Pennsylvania and proctored the exam at a convention that April 17.

We didn’t have much conversation at first, D. Craig and I. He gave the test-takers some pencils and some Hershey kisses and explained the protocol.

When the test was over, we chatted for a bit. He showed me his Craftsman’s medallion, talked about his journey to achieving it, and challenged me to earn it, as well.

It was my first in-person chat with someone from a professional photography organization, now that I think about it.

My first PPA member contact. Hmmmm…  (You paying attention here, PPA?)

Honestly, I thought he was a bit off his rocker with the Craftsman thing. I figured he must say that to everyone, it’s probably part of what he “did” with being a liaison and all. But it stayed in the back of my mind.

And then later, I looked into it. And was intrigued.

Without getting all fancy-schmancy with the lingo – it’s a degree awarded for speaking and teaching. And mentoring and writing. And other stuff.

Just like a college degree has a bunch of requirements for classes in your major, this degree requires a certain number of experiences (the PPA calls them merits) in speaking. Then, like college degrees require a bunch of other classes that have nothing to do with your major, you’ve gotta suck it up and get some merits in other stuff, as well, for the Craftsman degree. (They’re earned by volunteering or attending classes and are referred to as Service Merits).

So anyway, the Craftsman Degree required 13 speaking merits and I set out to earn them. And I did. It wasn’t spectacularly easy, but it wasn’t terribly hard. Each time I did it, though, it became easier and there came a time when I began to enjoy it and look forward to it. I was still nervous as heck, but it wasn’t something I dreaded like the first time.

Every once in awhile I’d think of D. Craig and wonder … how did he know? Perhaps it was just a suggestion inspired by his own accomplishment; earning a degree takes a fair amount of work and time. It’s not an instant reward by any means and you must work towards it purposefully. By the time you have completed the requirements, you have truly earned it.

And earn it, I did. In January 2012, I was notified it was mine. Unfortunately, I had not yet discovered the joy of attending the PPA National Convention and I elected to have my medallion mailed to me. (Sidebar: Worst. Decision. Ever.)

And here’s where it gets kind of interesting. whatever prompted D. Craig to challenge me was effective. I didn’t stop. The 13 merits required for the Craftsman Degree were only the FIRST thirteen. I discovered a passion for teaching that I didn’t know I had. And then I began to channel my writing into teaching efforts and discovered an additional facet to my career that had not existed a few short years earlier.

Obtaining the Craftsman Degree allowed me to become a member of the American Society of Photographers. I feel like I’m in the hallowed halls of modern PPA photographic history when I’m at an ASP function. I’ve discovered that they have their own designation, the ASP Educational Associate. Right now I describe it as “the Craftsman Degree on steroids” so I don’t have to go into all the fancy-schmancy talk. It requires a bunch of extra speaking merits. Thirty, to be exact. I’m just about there, so…

Yay me!

But actually, it’s more like…


Stolen from D. Craig's FB page because I tried making up a reason to ask him for an image and failed.

Stolen from D. Craig’s FB page because I tried making up a reason to ask him for an image and failed.

Because you reached out to everyone, you reached out to me. And you made a huge huge difference in this photographer’s journey. You helped me in my path to being a Certified Professional Photographer and then you kick-started me towards becoming a Photographic Craftsman. Now, I’m journeying again, thanks to you.

What began as a small gesture of help has dominoed into more.

So very much more.

I am grateful.

Thank you, D. Craig.




Judging: PPCO 2015 Image Competition

by Christine


One of the things that I’ve discovered about judging is what an incredible honor it is to be asked to do it. I know that sounds all hoity-toity and prim and proper and what you’d expect a judge to say. Publicly, anyway. But it is the truth. You have trusted me to evaluate your prints. With my back to you, you allow me to say what I will about your images. You hope that I am kind and fair. You expect I will be professional. That’s a fair amount of responsibility to place in my hands and I’m always humbled to be asked and hope that I am able to deliver in a way that pleases us both.

It takes great courage to enter your first competition. That’s usually the hardest one. And depending on how your work was received by the judges, that will more than likely dictate whether or not you go on to compete a second time. I know this, and I try to be as careful as I can when judging your images. I want your competition experience to be a positive one. I cannot promise that I will give you the score you hoped for, but I can promise my comments and critiques of your work with be done with great care.

I recently had the pleasure of judging at a small Ohio affiliate, the Professional Photographers of Central Ohio. I was impressed at the number of entries that were in the competition and the quality of photography shown. I had heard that there were a number of first-time entrants with work in the competition and a quick survey showed that there were a number of them present to watch. This intention of this competition judging was to be educational by having comments made on each image. We had two and a half hours to judge 65 images, which was very do-able.

I was even more fortunate to be judging with my good pal Robert Kunesh. He and I co-taught a print competition class this past fall at the Professional Photographers of Ohio conference. It was scads of fun, there were a number of trophy winners in that evening’s competition from our class, and I think we all learned a lot. So, being able to judge with him was a great bonus! Robert and I have both been through the PPA Judges’ Workshop, and he has many years of experience under his belt. I, on the other hand, am rather new to the judging scene, and am still a Juror-In-Training, but I think if you average our years together, it works out.

That is how it works, right? 😉

Robert is highly creative and I am highly technical, so I think, as a team, we provided a nice balance to the judging. We wound up both commenting on almost every single image, which in the end, ran us over time, so I appreciated those who toughed it out to the end. I know staying out late on a weeknight isn’t all that preferable. (When you have two judges that are also print competition instructors – they tend to talk).

One of the lovely things about judging at a local affiliate is that they do not have to adhere to the more formal rules of state and district judgings. They may stipulate their own requirements and choose as few or as many judges as they prefer. They can also allow the atmosphere to be somewhat relaxed in that the judges may spend extra time speaking about the competition process or a photographic theory that presents itself in the course of the judging. We still judged according to the rules, but we were able to maximize the educational potential of the competition.I found great enjoyment judging under these conditions and I applaud PPCO for wanting the process to be educational.

There were many very good images that came across our screen that night. I hope that our input was valuable and I look forward to seeing a lot of those images at the Ohio/Northeast District Image Competition. I won’t go into any of the images here, since we are in the middle of competition season, but I have high hopes for many of the competitors and their images.

Look for me at the PPO Convention in March and let me know how you did. I will be more than likely found in the company of my co-judge, Bob; we’d love to know how your images did in competition and what you’re up to.