If you’re serious about getting into the portrait photography business, having a good camera and a passion for photography are important. But there’s so much more that must be learned. For example, in order to sell enough work to make a decent living, you should know how to pose and light your clients in the most flattering way, efficiently manage your workflow and costs, and market your services to different groups of clients.
Although some of this knowledge can be acquired by reading books, joining online forums, and attending national and regional conferences, long-time portrait photographer Alan Davis recognized a need for more intensive, personalized instruction. So, he and his wife Saundra and their business partner Bob Rabold opened the Kentucky Academy of Photographic Arts (KAPA) in Bowling Green, KY and started offering hands-on instruction during one-, two-, and three-day classes.
“Almost anyone can make a perfectly exposed digital image,” says Davis. “But not everyone knows about composition, or how to use posing and lighting to emphasize the subject’s good features and de-emphasize the bad features.” He acknowledges there is room for experimentation in portrait photography, but says at the end of the day, “People really want portraits they can feel good about showing to their friends and families.”
Learn with Your Own Equipment: KAPA classes are held on the second floor of the historic building in which his own studio, Alan Davis Photography, is located. Attendees bring their own cameras and laptops so they can apply what they’ve learned using the equipment they use every day. Images shot during each class can be output on either the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 or Epson Stylus Pro 4880 that Davis uses to print his own photography. Class sizes are limited to 20 participants, allowing plenty of time for one-on-one advice and critiques.
Classes have been taught by a variety of accomplished photographers, including Jen Hillenga, Fuzzy Duenkle, Beth Forrester, Jane Conner Ziser, Mike Fulton, Shawn Wright, and Gary and Pam Box. So far, sessions have focused primarily on lighting and posing techniques related to senior, family, and wedding photography.
In 2010, Davis is planning to branch out a bit and offer sessions on baby and children’s portraits, website design and SEO marketing.
Course on Profitable In-Studio Printing: Davis is also considering teaching a course on profitable workflows for in-studio printing because “We started doing all our own printing in-house about six months ago.” He calls it one of the best decisions they’ve made for their business in recent years. He uses the Epson 9900 and LexJet Sunset Select Gloss Canvas to produce enlargements on canvas and an Epson Stylus Pro 4880, the ImagePrint RIP, and LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin paper to output all of the studio’s 16 x 20 and smaller-size portraits.
Printing your own photos in-house isn’t for everyone, Davis acknowledges: “There is a learning curve, and you have to enjoy figuring things out and setting up a workflow that will be profitable for you.” But Davis loves having total control over every step of the process.
KAPA is located in Bowling Green, about 60 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee in the gently rolling hills, and “cave country” of central Kentucky. According to Davis, KAPA has attracted students from as far away as Detroit. But most people who have attended KAPA classes are photographers who want to set up portrait-photography businesses in nearby states such as Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, and Illinois.
While Davis is a proud and active member of the PPA and a Master Photographer, he notes that KAPA is an independent, privately owned business, and isn’t affiliated with the KPPA (Kentucky Professional Photographers Association) or any other regional or national association.
For more information about KAPA and classes being planned for 2010, visit www.kapaclasses.com. You can also connect with Alan Davis online. He contributes regularly to pro photography forums such as www.pro4um.com and the forum at Luminous Landscape.