MAP Stories – MAK Images

Always an art lover, Melissa decided to use digital photography as a creative outlet.

After doing some volunteer photography of babies for a local medical center, one of the moms called and asked, “We love your photos . . . how much do you charge?” That session, photographing twin babies, was the start of MAK Images.

Word about Melissa’s sparkling personality and fresh approach to photographing babies, children, and families spread quickly by word-of-mouth, and soon she expanded her session offerings to include high school seniors and weddings. By 2011 Melissa was considering leaving her secure career for the risky world of self-employment.

“The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to be all in or all out. My main concern was whether it would be possible for me to replace my income through photography. Ryan had calculated that I would need to double my sales in order for the business to replace my bank income, and I knew that I needed knowledgeable guidance to create this kind of growth.”

In a timely twist of fate, Melissa crossed paths with Mark Weber at a family wedding. Mark, who had photographed Melissa in his Omaha studio when she was 3 years old, was now working at Marathon Press. He suggested that she attend an upcoming workshop that he was conducting at Marathon.

“The workshop really helped me to understand how much goes on behind the scenes of running a full-time photography business,” she says. “At that point I was photographing everything on location, which was very time consuming, so Ryan and I recognized that we had to commit to building a studio in our walkout basement as part of the choice for me to take the photography business full-time.”



Committing to Monthly Payments

With these decisions out of the way, things began to move rapidly for Melissa.

“I left the bank on a Friday and joined the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP) the next Monday. It was a bit scary to commit to monthly payments, but I realized that it was not an option to just sit there and hope that the business would work. I knew I could not do it alone. It wasn’t enough to hope that people would continue to talk about me and come to see me. I needed someone to guide me along the way.”


Creating a Business and a Brand

By February, Melissa was keeping regular appointments with her facilitator to achieve a clear direction for her branding. Since Marathon’s headquarters was only a few hours away, she traveled there to work with facilitator Tina and designer Angie. Melissa explains:

“We started with the logo I already had and I told Angie I liked blues and browns and I wanted my design style to be colorful and funky, but versatile enough that I could use it across numerous product lines. As I looked through samples, Angie began to work with graphic elements and refined as we went. I love the final designs because they are kind of retro. Plus, we’ve been able to use blues and creams for weddings and bolder colors for seniors.”

In less than a year, Melissa proved just how much a one-woman business can accomplish with focus, hard work, and taking the best possible advantage of the guidance, structure and marketing consistency provided by the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP). Not only has she created a memorable and meaningful brand that is displayed in Marathon marketing materials for all of her major product lines, she also has created relationships with local mom-based businesses as well as the Knot in Omaha. Consequently, Melissa is well on her way to replacing the income from her former career.

Fox Face Photoshop Speed Edit

This is just a quick speed edit on how I do a fine art photo edit from start to finish. In this particular video I show tattoo removal, skin retouching, and overall color balancing. Personally, I enjoy a more natural skin retouch. I try to avoid body manipulation like thinning and anything that just isn’t realistic. I enjoy fighting “The Man” like that. Also you’ll notice purple or blue tint to my darks. It’s because you rarely find a true black when you are looking at classic paintings. I like to use the Noise Reduce just to soften the background just to give it one more painterly feel. I’m a big fan of the Imagenomic Portraiture Plugin and that was the plugin I used for base skin retouching.

Submitting Images for Print Competition

If you are a professional photographer, chances are you have either entered a print competition or thought about it. I’ve always thought the name should be changed to “Personal Print Challenge” because in my mind, the only competition is with myself to constantly improve. It’s not about winning awards, beating other photographers or breaking records. If that happens, fine. For me it’s about improving my craft each and every year. In any case, a new season of print competition is upon us and you might be considering submitting some images.

There are a number of opportunities for you to enter images even before the official PPA submission deadline. You might consider submitting images in your own state or regional competition first. This gives you the opportunity to see how your images score first-hand by sitting in the judging room and listening to any comments the judges make. If you have more questions, you can also speak to one of the judges after the competition and ask him or her to give you some personal advice and opinions about your prints. They’re usually more than willing to give you some valuable feedback and you’ll learn a lot.

Once you learn where and when the competition is, you’ll need to get your images selected. There’s a potential merit image on your hard drive somewhere, right? But which one has the most potential? Which one will give you a couple of extra points and take you to the top of the scores? Here is the link to PPA’s article titled “12 Elements to a Merit Image”

All of the elements are important, but originality is one of the most important considerations for you to keep in mind. Just like in business, if you look like everyone else, you will have a hard time standing out. Judges see so many images and most of them are technically well executed and beautiful, but sometimes a particular print stands out like a bright light in a dark room. You know the kind I’m talking about. It just has that “wow” factor the minute you see it and you want to keep looking at it. It can be because of an extra special strength in one or more of the 12 elements used to judge a print, but usually the impact just smacks you in the face.

Personally, I always strive to challenge myself on something unique in each of my submissions. Sometimes that can be risky, the judges will either get it and I’ll be rewarded a few extra points or they won’t see my “genius” and it will cost me some points. Either way, I always feel that as long as I keep challenging myself artistically and creatively, I’ll always feel good about my choices regardless of what an image has scored.

Originality is harder when you are newer to competition. A good source of inspiration is to look through the PPA Loan and Show books.


If you are newer to competition, don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. Be open to learning and don’t take it too personally. If you’re the overly sensitive type, my advice is not to enter. If potential criticism and average scores ruin your whole experience and continue to bother you for many days afterwards, print competition may not be for you. I’ve heard it described by some that print judging is like standing in front of a room full of people naked. It can take a thick skin to put your heart and passion on the table, but always keep in mind that you are no less of a person, or less valued by your clients or your peers because you receive average scores. On the other hand, you’re not going to suddenly get rich if all your prints score very high and you win lots of awards. The latter sure feels a lot better and gives you more confidence, but as long as you learn something in the process, you’re bettering yourself, your business and your craft. Your willingness to constantly improve will pay off on many levels.

In the words from 1989’s Dead Poets Society –  “Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

I encourage all of you to break out. Challenge yourself and your creativity by entering print competition. You will be glad you did.

Don’t Waste Postage

Individuals are far more likely to respond to a direct mailer if it comes from a company where they were a previous customer. Direct Mail is a great way to win back customers. That is something to definitely to keep in mind as you construct your next direct mail piece!

Happy Planning!


Get the Most out of Education

I’m a big believer in education, but sometimes people use it as an excuse as to why they are not as successful as they could be! Here are the warning signs that you might not be using your education wisely.

  • You have more notes than time to look through, so you never do it.
  • You have educational material you purchased and have never looked at . . . EVER!
  • You get so overwhelmed with new ideas that nothing gets done.
  • You feel guilty about what you haven’t accomplished as a result of attending all those classes and workshops, so you make excuses why nothing is done and repeat the process again and again.
  • You go to events just for the social aspect rather than to really learn.

Okay, are you laughing yet? Are any of these you? Let’s face it, none of us are perfect and if we implemented even 1% of what we learn at conventions, workshops and seminars, we’d all have a much different looking profit margin! The question is, what can we do to break this habit? Let’s start with YOU!


5 Steps For Turning Ideas Into Profit Margins.


1. Narrow it Down
Pick three things that you will do as a result of attending a workshop. It could be just ONE thing, but pick no more than three and set a deadline to have them completed.


2. Have a Plan
We’ve heard this a million times. Successful studios not only have a plan, they keep tweaking that plan and making it better. The foundation of the Make Money Now workshops that Ann Monteith and I have taught is built around helping studios create a marketing plan. It takes time and effort, but aren’t you worth it? Studios with a marketing plan made up of believable and achievable goals outperform studios that are inconsistent with their marketing efforts.


3. Invest in Your Marketing
I’m a photographer and I love equipment and software as much as everyone else. But I have to say, marketing products are getting really, really creative and being creative helps you stay a step ahead of the competition. Set aside a budget and stick to that budget based on your goals.


4. Goals & Accountability
Create a marketing plan that’s broken down into weekly goals. Your marketing can be as hard to steer as the Titanic. Check your map frequently to allow for much-needed steering corrections.

Your marketing is no different. A ship without a rudder will never reach its destination. Breaking down your marketing goals into smaller, bite-size pieces with short-term measuring points allows you to make adjustments weekly rather than monthly. That way you have time to make adjustments while they are still manageable, which improves your odds for success.

Keep your goals in front of you. Many people have a big wall calendar where they can post their plan. Some people have an Excel file that tracks the previous year’s sessions and sales results with percentage increases added to the numbers for the year as goals for each week. Don’t forget to calculate what your reward will be if you attain these goals.


5. Take Action
Just like the old Nike ads say – Just Do It! Successful studios are the ones that simply take action on one or two ideas. They don’t even have to be BIG ideas, sometimes it’s the little things you do that make a big difference.


Bonus: Simplify
If it doesn’t get done, learn from it! If you are constantly overwhelmed about where to start, just pick one or two ideas with the most potential to improve your business. Keep a list of the ideas you haven’t used and review them weekly for future consideration. Remember, you won’t get anywhere unless you start somewhere.

Learn more about marketing from Ann Monteith

Until Next Time, Mark Weber