Photographers for Charity: A New Way to Make a Difference

In the late 1990s, then Professional Photographers Association president Bert Behnke created PPA Charities. “It was a way for photographers to work together and make a difference. People are impressed when someone gives a big check, but so many of us can only give $5 or $10 at a time,” he says. “PPA Charities was a way people bonded together to show how our industry helped people.”

After 20 years of coordinating charitable activities and organizations, PPA Charities was shuttered in 2018. Behnke felt there was more the industry had to offer to the organizations that received donations and assistance from the original program and Photographers for Charity was born.

“Last summer, we finally got all the paperwork completed,” he says. “In fact, PPA was generous enough to give us a $2,000 donation – our first – to help us get started.” Currently, it’s just Behnke and his son, Al, putting things together. “This program just started. We officially launched at Imaging USA [in January 2020],” Behnke says.

Right now, they are slowly exposing the organization to the industry. “We will have a small presence at PhotoPro Expo in Covington, Ky., and we have some other marketing programs with Marathon Press,” Behnke says. “We hope to reincarnate Celebration of Smiles, an event PPA Charities held where photographers offer a mini session and a print for a $25 donation. We want to launch that in May, but we’d like to have a little more participation.”

Some of the organizations that will benefit from the generous donations of time, talent and money include:

Behnke is partnering with a former PPA Charities trustee to bring in more groups and plans to hold a charitable marketing conference sometime in 2021.

If you are interested in becoming a member, there are three donation levels: $250, $500, and $1,000, or you can pledge monthly $25, $50, $100 for a year. To help create excitement for P4C, Behnke is offering charter memberships, which recognizes donors as founding members, and they are part of the “Honor Wall.” The wall will be limited to 200 members and will be part of a 10 ft. x 8 ft. backdrop for P4C tradeshows and events.

“We are still in our infancy, so we’re still finding our way around,” Behnke says. “The website isn’t complete, but our Facebook page is active.”  If you are interested in charter memberships, the Honor Wall or to learn about upcoming projects and missions, you can email Behnke for more information.

Imaging USA – 3 Days of Education, Awards & Fun in Nashville

Last month, the photography world gathered in Nashville to celebrate all things photo. From new technology to equipment insurance to the unveiling of Team USA who will compete in the World Photographic Cup, the sights and sounds from Imaging USA proved that the photography industry is more vibrant than ever!

The festivities opened with keynote speaker Jim Kwik, who provided some “kwik” tips on improving memory to enhance business. Whether using the tips to be more organized or to help remember clients’ names, the photographers were excited to kick off the event with Kwik and utilize some of his methods of remembering people they met at the show.

(l-r) Kimberly Smith, Brian Castle, Brooke Kasper

One of the most exciting events to take place during the conference was the Award and Degree Ceremony. Here, photographers – including top Sunset Award Winners Brian Castle, Kimberly Smith and Brooke Kasper – were on-hand to receive their hard-earned PPA degrees or award them to fellow photographers.

Speaking of the top three Sunset winners, they were awarded their 2019 International Print Competition trophies and cash prizes on the second day of the show.

All three winners are adamant about the artistic importance of printing their photos and the importance of being a Sunset Print Award winner when working with their clients.

Kasper feels that being part of an elite group of Sunset Print Award winners is an honor, especially because it celebrates the printed image, a practice she feels is disappearing all too quickly. “It’s such a wonderful honor to receive this award,” she says. “Especially for something that I believe in and that is becoming less [frequent], with more people doing digital. It has to be printed, it’s just not art until it is.”

Smith also considers it an honor to be recognized for printing her work. Her favorite media is Sunset Bright Velvet Rag, a fine art paper that helps her create a signature look. “I like to do color pencils over. I love the way it tears on the edges,” she says. “Winning the award is even better because this is the paper that I love. I think it [the win] is important because I print on it and I believe in it.”

Castle, who received his first two degrees – Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman – at the ceremony, believes strongly in printing his photos. “Winning an award on a national level is a pretty big achievement,” he says. “It helps me market myself, too. It shows that I take care of my prints, and I make sure they look right. It’s not just a digital file that I’m giving you, it’s a piece of art.”

Throughout the week, the convention center was teeming with classes and learning opportunities for photographers of all backgrounds. The PRINT for Success Theatre was a 3-day session that of quick hit 30-minute workshops that showed photographers how they can make more money by selling and marketing printed images. Other longer seminars ranged from Adobe Lightroom techniques to how to establish your brand.

If you are a photographer looking to gain new skills, update your equipment or be inspired by other photographers, you won’t want to miss Imaging USA 2021 in Grapevine, Texas. If you are interested in the Sunset Print Awards and competing for the top prize, ask your chairperson to register for the 2020 Awards.

Visit Our Redesigned Sunset Print Awards Website

The next time you log on to the Sunset Print Awards website, you’ll notice some changes. The sleek new appearance makes it easier for photographers to learn about the prestigious Sunset Print Awards as well as local print competitions offering the award.

Other updates include:

  • Easier navigation
  • Better views of past winners
  • Easy access to the blog for all the latest Sunset news
  • Interviews with winners
  • Recommended Sunset branded media

What hasn’t changed are the benefits to district and local winners or the top three prizes awarded at the International Photographic Competition. Each winner receives a customized crystal trophy, a lapel pin, and a free pack or roll of Sunset Media, while the three IPC finalists receive engraved trophies and cash prizes.

If you are involved in a local PPA group, camera club or other photography organization that has a minimum of 150 printed entries and would like to include the Sunset Print Award in your competition, have your chairperson register today.

This year, we will be presenting awards to the 2019 IPC winners at Imaging USA in Nashville. If you are attending later this month, be sure to stop by the IPC Display and pick up some information about the 2020 Sunset Print Awards.

2019 International Photographic Competition Winners Recognized

Congratulations to the 2019 International Photographic Competition winners. Earlier this summer, the top images were selected from the PPA District Sunset Print Award recipients:

1st Place – Brian Castle “Sins Broken Chains

2nd Place – Kimberly Smith “Owl Always Kneed You

3rd Place – Brooke Kasper “Solitary Journey

Each year, the judges award the top three prints that best embody the 12 Elements of Merit. This year’s district winners included everything from a rocky rush of water in Kari Douma’s “Just Around the River Bend” to a burgeoning chemist in Vanessa Longuski’s “Science.” As always, the talent at the district level makes it difficult for the judges selecting the National IPC winners.

Castle, who took third place in last year’s event, was once again inspired by a dream. “I dropped to my knees and prayed, this light came from above and Archangel Michael came and loaned me his wings to rip the chains apart so we could ascend to Heaven,” he says. What he didn’t expect was to be so personally affected by the photo shoot. “What did people go through back in Biblical days when they were chained like this? I teared up, it was emotional, I couldn’t hold it back,” he says.

Smith, who consistently finishes with district and national wins, had a most unusual image serve as the inspiration for her 2019 entry. “I had to have a knee MRI and they sent me home with the disk,” she says. “As I’m going through them, I noticed one of them looked like an owl.” She combined an image of a tree from a previous photography session and the base image from the MRI into an artistic image of an owl and her owlet. She won the PPA Southwest District award, subsequently leading to her second-place national finish.

Kasper says her award-winning image is extremely personal. While she may be on her own “Solitary Journey,” she has a strong faith in God, so she knows she is never truly alone. “We all have our own personal stories, and this one represents how I’m charting my course,” she says. “We may feel abandoned and alone at times, but we are surrounded by so many wonderful memories of people and things that have given us strength, even in solitude.”

Along with an engraved crystal trophy, the winners also receive cash prizes: $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. The awards for the winning photographers will be presented at Imaging USA – Nashville in January.

We want to thank all the participants in the 2019 Sunset Print Awards. You can see these and other winners on our newly redesigned Sunset Print Awards site. If you are interested in the 2020 Sunset Print Awards, have your chairperson fill out the application. The Sunset Print Award is offered to those competitions judging a minimum of 150 printed entries.

Prints That Win: Solitary Journey

Plano, Texas photographer Brooke Kasper jumped into photography in the most unusual way. With a background in painting, she was spending her days working as a graphic artist. That is until her mother died. “I quit cold turkey and picked up a camera. It will be 15 years on Dec. 4,” Kasper says. “To heal, I went out and shot everything I could with the camera. It was an inauspicious start to a photography career.”

Her work often conveys a heavy message through symbolism and the somber technique known as low-key photography. “I use ropes a lot in my imagery,” Kasper says. “They represent the ties that bind.”

Kasper’s photograph “Solitary Journey” won the Southwest PPA District and placed 3rd in the National competition held this summer. Her award-winning image is rife with symbolism. “We all have our own personal stories, and this one represents how I’m charting my course,” she says. “We may feel abandoned and alone at times, but we are surrounded by so many wonderful memories of people and things that have given us strength, even in solitude.”

Kasper adds personal and tangible items to her photoshoots. “If it’s not on the set, it doesn’t get added,” she says. “The lantern is in the center and represents God, who is an important light at the center of my life. My mother’s picture is also in it, as are other things that are important to me.”

Studying the image closely, the story begins to unfold of just how lonely the journey of life can be. “Above my mom’s photo is her old bible and a compass that is pointing to true north, which is what God represents to me,” Kasper says. “Then you have the ropes. I put in the mouse as an homage to my husband. There’s another lantern but the light is out. There’s only one light that guides me ever since my mom died.”

Many photographers may find it unnerving to enter such a personal piece into a competition. For Kasper, it was about healing and finding peace. “You can’t always verbalize your woes, but you can find an outlet, and that’s what I’ve done,” she says. “The greatest honor is when someone wants to know the story behind the image, and they are moved when they see it. If I’ve reached someone, what better compliment is there?”

Jumping into photography like she did, Kasper relies on the Dallas PPA and Professional Photographers of America (PPA), as well as her mentors for support and guidance. Her merits and degrees include Certified Professional Photographer (CPP), Master of Photography, and Photographic Craftsman.

Through it all, she’s been inspired by – and learned from – David Edmondson. “David is a good friend and one of the most phenomenal people, inside and out. He has taught me how to be an artist and keep those characteristics in my life. That’s the most important thing to me,” she says. “There were times when I wanted to quit, but David is the one who encouraged me to go on. We share a strong faith and it means so much to know he has my back.”

Kasper is adamant that all photos should be physical, not just an image on a computer screen. “I don’t think it’s really completed until you print it,” she says. For her low-key images, Kasper prefers a satin photo paper, like Sunset Photo eSatin 300g, to ensure the fine details are captured with every print.

The popularity of local, state and national PPA competitions isn’t slowing down and Kasper believes that is because photographers are pushed to be better. “You have to keep moving forward, keep reinventing yourself. If you’re not getting better, you’re stagnant.”

2018 International Print Competition Winners Announced

Congratulations to the 2018 International Print Competition winners. In August, 26 District PPA Sunset Print Award winners vied for the coveted top spot, when the judging was finished, the winners were announced:

1st Place: Leaving with Dignity – Kimberly J. Smith

2nd Place: From the Ashes – Dawn Muncy

3rd Place: Heaven’s Hands of Hope – Brian Castle

There’s always such creative diversity in the Sunset Print Award winners and 2018 was no exception. From a snowy landscape in Winter Pastel to a canine Gentle Giant to a train bringing families Home for the Holidays, the judges did not have an easy job selecting the top three images.

“From the Ashes” by Dawn Muncy – 2nd Place

For Smith, winning back-to-back titles is exciting and she’s incredibly happy that her work has such an impact on the judges, “Impact is so important. I put a lot of emotion behind the story in my images and the judges can tell,” she says. “It’s not just another pretty picture. When they see the title [of the image], I want them to brace for impact, I want them to feel something, and apparently, they did.”

Muncy describes the stages of her “competition journey” and how the third and final phase allows her to be expressive with her work: “When you get to be yourself and let your creativity flow, that’s when competition becomes powerful. I know the rules, now I want to show the world who I am.”

First-time Sunset Print Award-winner Castle also thrives on creating emotional impact through his visual storytelling.

“Heaven’s Hands of Hope” by Brian Castle – 3rd Place

“When I can give my clients an image that creates emotion and causes them to tear up, I know I’ve done my job,” he says. “I would never have learned that unless I started competing.”

Along with an engraved crystal trophy, the winners will also receive cash prizes: $2,000 for First Place, $1,000 for Second Place and $500 for Third Place. We want to thank all the participants in the 2018 Sunset Print Awards and will have information regarding the 2019 awards coming soon.