Is Your Photography Business Giveaway Legal?

You’ve probably entered hundreds of giveaways yourself on the internet. Maybe you’ve even hosted one for your photography clients? Either way I’m sure you’ve seen them going around social media and if you’re reading this it’s probably because you’re considering hosting one yourself. Before you jump in and host one there are lots of laws to consider and I’m here to give you a few tips to get you started.

First let’s talk about various types of contests you might encounter here in the US. There are sweepstakes (giveaways) where a prize is given to a randomly generated winner. There are contests where winning is dependent upon criteria or skills. Finally there are lotteries, where you can buy a chance to win. These are the three big ways you can offer a type of contest. Most photographers and contests in our industry are giveaways so we’re going to focus a little bit on what you need to include to give away a prize to a randomly generated winner!

  • Comply with Federal and State Law – First, all giveaways need to comply with both federal and state laws. You may have to limit who can enter your giveaway based on laws in various countries as well as the states here in the US. Some countries actually restrict sweepstakes so you may not be able to offer the giveaway to all of your followers. Most importantly, here in the US you need to look up your federal and state laws before hosting a giveaway. Giveaways in the new world of the internet are even more difficult because the laws were created on an older sweepstakes style system and our new system doesn’t always account for how the internet plays a role. That means some of the laws may be hard to decipher and fully understand, so do your research and call your state and federal departments that govern giveaways.
  • Outline the Rules and Regulations of the Contest – You will always need to outline on your giveaway what the official rules are and how things work to be considered compliant. Below is a list of basic things you may need to comply, but the laws may vary depending on where you’re at and who you’re allowing to enter.
    • Age – Usually 18 and older
    • Country and States – Make sure if there are any states that cannot participate you list them. It’s also a good idea to state that your giveaway may be void where it is prohibited by law.
    • How to enter
    • Who can enter
    • Identify the prize and list the total value
    • State no purchase necessary – in order to qualify as a sweepstakes (giveaway) you need to make it clear people don’t need to purchase anything to enter
    • Explain how you will re-award the prize or deal with unclaimed prizes
    • Dates and duration of giveaway
    • Odds of winning and how the winner is chosen
    • Liability release
    • How you will handle any problems that may arise during the giveaway – These could be technical like your website being unavailable etc.
  • Value of Your Giveaway – The total value is important here in the US. The value will dictate what types of laws you may need to follow. If the total value of your prize is $600 or more you will be required to collect the Social Security Number of your winner(s) and issue a 1099 at the end of the year. This means your winner will have to claim the value of the winnings on their taxes as income received. If you have multiple winners any of them who receives more than $600 in prizes will need a 1099. It’s important to disclose this information on your giveaway so your winners know what is expected. Also, some state and federal laws may have very specific rules for any giveaway over $5000 specifically.
  • Considerations – Operating a giveaway means you’re running a sweepstakes. In a sweepstakes everything around winning is based purely on luck or random chance. A consideration is usually something a participant has to do in order to be considered for winning, such as purchasing a product or a ticket. Sweepstakes are what they are because they don’t require any considerations to win, that’s why it’s so important for you to put “no purchase necessary” on your giveaway. However, the complex part of considerations are that a certain action required to enter a giveaway may result in financial gain for the giveaway host, and therefore void your giveaway. Anything that could benefit the company could potentially be a consideration and mean your giveaway is illegal. It’s difficult to specifically say what is and is not a consideration. I’ve read sources that say asking people to like your page, sign up for a newsletter, or share the giveaway are considerations because they bring the company benefit by showcasing the company to potentially new people. Each state and the federal government has its own laws on how these things work. Unfortunately it’s really difficult to give a concrete answer on if doing any of these things will void your giveaway since the laws are still vague. Some people argue that simply needing a computer or internet access to enter a giveaway could be a consideration. Since these laws surrounding consideration are deep and complex I recommend contacting a lawyer who has worked on sweepstakes or similar contests to ensure you are complying with the law before offering a contest.
  • Social Media Platforms – If you are going to promote your giveaway on any social media you will also need to ensure you comply with their rules and regulations regarding giveaways.

Now that you’ve read up you’re probably incredibly scared to dive into offering a giveaway or contest to your clients. If you’re looking to do any type of contest, giveaway or lottery as a marketing tool please make sure you contact a lawyer to ensure you are doing it correctly. Unfortunately many of us have made mistakes that don’t follow US law regarding giveaways in the past and now we have an opportunity to do them correctly. Please know this blog post is intended as informational content only based on my own personal research and is not legal advice. If you’re looking for more information on the official side of doing business check out our Get Legit blog archives or sign up to take the Taxes and Official Ickiness Bootcamp that starts next week and runs continually all year long!

8 Pinterest Tips for Business Owners

marketing tips for beginnersMy goal is to become a Pinterest ninja. If you weren’t aware ninjas are generally extremely skilled people. They can take out anything quietly and effectively. So my goal is to quietly and effectively take my Pinterest account by storm. So far it’s working. My followers didn’t even know what hit them! Out of nowhere my Pinterest account got organized (with business in mind) and I’ve been steadily gaining 10-20 new followers a day and sometimes more on weekends.

Generally ninjas don’t like to keep other ninjas in the loop. We are silent and sour faced, but this social media ninja is here to share the love with you. I want to make all of you Pinterest experts with a few new things I’ve learned the last couple months.

  1. Pinterest is the Best Social Media – To give you some background let me explain how much I hate social media. In fact, I really disliked Pinterest when it first became a thing. I mean people were just pinning stuff that they could never attain and it seemed shallow and odd to me. Now I’ve found some practical use out of it as an individual and a business owner and I can put my past feelings aside and look at it in a more positive light. From a business owner’s perspective I have to tell you that it really is one of the best social media platforms out there. Unlike Twitter and Facebook where you post something and it stays ‘hot’ for a matter of minutes or only hours and then gets buried under everyone else’s stuff, a pin on Pinterest can become more useful and get more traffic over time, even once it gets old. In fact, some of my most pinned things are the ones that have been there the longest and they’re the ones bringing the most traffic to my websites. Unfortunately Facebook and Twitter just don’t have that kind of lasting effect and in my opinion it’s one of the things that makes Pinterest such an amazingly useful tool for business owners. If you aren’t on it, you should be!
  2. Create Boards With Your Followers in Mind – As with all social media, blogging and the like, the most important thing you can do is to be a resource for your readers and followers. Often times in the photography industry we get sucked up with this idea of ‘personality marketing.’ I’m not saying it’s wrong. I mean I use the tactic and it works wonders for me. What I am saying is that personality marketing becomes all about “me me me!” Unless you’re just an amazingly interesting person, it’s rare that you’ll gain followers without offering them something in return. I use personality marketing to grab people’s attention and connect with them, and I want to keep them as followers by providing them with information and resources they can use. When you set up your Pinterest account as a business owner assume that people are looking for tips, advice, and information and that you can help provide that on a variety of topics you may be interested in. Create your Pinterest boards with the idea that you’re pinning stuff for other people and compiling a board of useful information for other people to use. I’ve actually made all my public boards on Pinterest be useful topics for other people and the stuff that I want to keep personal for me are private or ‘secret’ boards. Things like posing ideas are private, but ideas for planning weddings are public so my clients can get use out of them.
  3. Make Your Account a Business Account – Lots of social media platforms have a way for you to get a ‘checkmark’ next to your profile to assure users that you are official. On Twitter, you have to wait and be approached by them first. To be verified on Facebook you can submit an application, but they only want to verify global people, businesses and celebrities so it’s hard for us little guys to get that exclusive checkmark on our profiles. Even though it seems silly, that check next to your name can actually increase your followers. On Pinterest you can get that simply by verifying your business and connecting your account to your website. It takes only a few minutes and you can find the instructions here. Once your account is verified you can connect it to Facebook and Twitter, and have links provided at the top of your Pinterest profile to those things.
  4. Board Titles – Isn’t it fun to get creative sometimes? You can call the board where you keep recipes “I Can’t Cook” or you can put all your board titles in pretty parethesis like this – {amazing photography}. Or you could be really awesome and use titles where all the letters are separated by extra spaces like this – w o r d s  t o  l i v e  b y. I’m here to tell you that while these things are pretty and fun to do, they actually decrease your chances of gaining followers and converting them into website traffic. Pinterest as a search engine (because let’s face it, it is one), likes nice happy direct terminology for searches. You’re limiting your chances of one of your pins showing up in a search when you don’t use awesome direct titles. No extra spaces, no wonky symbols fro your keyboard, and no oddly creative (yet funny) titles. Rename your boards with direct terminology so people know exactly what to expect.
  5. Board Descriptions – Along with great and direct board titles comes their descriptions. Each board (if you hit that ‘edit board’ button) comes with a place for you to type in a description of what that board is about. Don’t leave this blank, utilize it! The description shows up in search results so it’s your opportunity to type up a little bit more details and use some key phrases people might search for. For your recipe board maybe your description could say, “easy delicious dessert, dinner, and lunch recipes. Lots of paleo, vegetarian and gluten free ideas.” This would allow you to use a few key terms like “dinner, lunch, recipe, paleo, vegetarian, and gluten free” which are all heavily searched on Pinterest.
  6. Pin Descriptions – Whenever you pin something, especially off your own website, make sure you give it a good lengthy description with lots of words so it can show up in other people’s searches. If that means you change the description on something you’re pinning from someone else, that’s okay too.
  7. Pin Frequently – The more often you pin the more your followers will go up and hopefully convert to traffic to your website. I recommend taking 10 minutes two times per day and pinning 5-10 things on a variety of your boards. This way you have several new pins a day on a variety of topics and increase your chances of being found.
  8. Vertical Images – Pinterest’s set up for showing images is vertically oriented. If you go take a look at Pinterest right now you’ll see what I mean. Images that are vertical display bigger, and it seems that Pinterest favors them. Horizontal images can still get a lot of traffic and re-pins, but since they are displayed smaller I’d recommend you use and pin vertical images as often as possible, especially when pinning your own photography or blog posts online. If you write blog posts with information for you readers and you create an image for it with words to show what the article is about (like the one for this blog post), I recommend always using a vertical image.

For more information on using Pinterest for business or on social media tips in general check out our Social Media Tips section of the blog. You might also like 5 Ways to Use Pinterest for Business, How to Advertise on Facebook,  and our Marketing Tips section.

Stop being a Bit@h to your ‘Competitors’ (and you may just help your business)

cass bradley business bossy big sister business coach

Raise your hand if you are in competitive market?One where you feel like you ‘fight’ for every client? That someone is always cheaper?  Or, you feel their work is better?  …Published more  (the list goes on…)

Yah–Me too.

If you threw a rock out of my studio window you would hit no less that 10 photographers who have physical studios.  (And hundreds more working out of their homes or scrambling to nab the last available table at the Starbucks.)  It could be very easy to  want to be self-protective.  To get “competitive.”  To hoard what we know. To be hesitant to help and share and fiercely guard such items as our pricing, process, shooting locations and the like.

Or worse yet—to feel the need sling mud, to undercut, to let our insecurities take over and act like a real bitch to/about your competition.

—Well, wake up Sally, because I have got news for you:   Your competitors can often be not only a very valuable resource (and great sounding board based on being some of the few people in this world that truly understand how difficult it can be to be a professional photographer) —but can also have great impact on your bottom line.


Your bottom line.

As in—more bookings.  More profitability.  More dollars in your pockets for travel, red wine, high-heeled boots and drawers full of red lipstick.  (ok—those are mine..substitute your vices here).

So HOW do you get over yourself and build ‘competitive’ relationships that matter?

  • First—Know yourself and ‘live’ your authentic brand with confidence.    (In which case—you really do not have competition in the traditional sense)  As a business coach I had worked with once stated  “anyone can compete with what you do but they cannot compete with who you ARE,”  (or, something like that…maybe that shouldn’t be in quotes. I digress….)  But you get my point, right?  For example:  I tend to focus on clients who adore intimate and elegant , outdoor weddings.  My couples are a tad glamorous and definitely fearless and fiery!  They are witty-ass people who focus on bringing their family and friends together for their wedding day and less about it simply being  a ‘pretty wedding spectacle.’   Whereas, another photographer friend specializes in younger/southern brides who monogram all-the-things.  ‘Mom’ is making a good majority of the decisions and have both large bridal parties and guest counts. More traditional/Southern.   Our ‘ideal clients’ could not further worlds apart!   So guess what? The more I know ME and she knows SHE….the less we need to feel and act competitive.
  • Join some local groups:  my market has more than few larger photography groups that offer a place to make valuable connections, share information and  even group shooting outings , etc. (And can really better an entire market by elevating each other vs. each of us trying figure it all out on our own.)
  • Form a small group of local/trusted advisors:  Though I enjoy and benefit from the larger groups—they can vary in experience level and can be less ‘personal.’   A ‘competitor and I started a small group last year with the premise being “an intimate group of photographers hell-bent on helping each other succeed.”    We have a private Facebook group and share ideas, ask questions and even share things like insurance agents, shooting locations, sample contracts and pricing.  We also  gather once a month for dinner and starting to add some educational components.    We laugh, vent, drink wine…and most importantly:  help each other grow.
  • Refer each other:  A funny thing happened this past week.  I booked a wedding and received 3 referrals from other photographers in my market. One of which —is one of the most tenured wedding photographers in my market.  And, in this case-we  do actually have some similarities in both our photography style and attract a similar clients. (and she also delights in red wine and high-heeled boots  😉    So we have every reason to be ‘competitive,’ right? WRONG.  There are only so many weddings we each want to book in a year (around 25)  So when one of us is booked?  Who better to refer than someone who attracts a similar client?   The few couples she has sent my way have been some of my easiest to book!  They come in warmly referred by someone whose opinion they valued enough to inquire with,  who already like a similar style of work,  and prefer our shared way of interacting with clients.  (both my competitor-turned-friend and I enjoy a very personal interaction with our clients vs. just being their ‘photographer.’)
  • Give what you want to get: Not new, news..but so spot on.  I had a photographer say to me once ‘its just effing stupid to help someone else in your market with SEO.’  While I understand the logic in that if a competitor successfully works on their SEO they have the potential to bypass my hard fought toggle between 2nd and 3rd page.   To this I say—if 40 photographers in my market are listed in the first 3 pages…I’d rather be surrounded by 39 other photographer who realize there is room enough for us to be successful and there is great benefit in helping each other. So I am happy to help with SEO or anything else for that matter!  If you are closed-off, protective and competitive..that is exactly what you will find your market to be.  However, if you are open honest, giving and helpful….guess what you will find?   ‘Competitors’ who are the same.    …and it just may impact your bottom line.

Here is a little peek at our intimate group of competitor-friends at some of our recent meet-up.  –I adore these talented women. (and please forgive the servers iPhone/skilz:-)

charlotte best wedding photographers

Bridal Show Tips and Photos

I thought I would take today’s post and focus a little bit on the bridal show I did yesterday. I know not everyone who reads is a wedding photographer, but if you’re thinking about doing an expo of any kind maybe this might inspire you.

To make a long story even longer I’ll say that I’ve been preparing for this bridal show for quite some time. I did a re-brand of my business this Spring. Re-brand isn’t even the right word. I branded for the first time ever and I learned so much.

What I learned about branding this year really changed the focus of my business and the types of clients I am getting. I can’t even begin to tell you what a valuable investment branding was. I really wished I had taken the time years ago to understand the ins and outs of branding, how it works and mostly, and how important it is.

So the story of the bridal show is that I started going shopping for antiques and purchasing items that I felt expressed my brand to use in my booth. My booth ended up looking like a cute antique shop store front. I focused on showcasing images that best expressed my brand and the types of clients I was looking for. A lot of photography booths at these big expos have huge industrial-style set ups, tv screens and other things that I don’t think are as visually appealing. My goal was to use my branding as a way to draw in clients. Although my images aren’t edited in a vintage style, vintage stuff expressed my personality and that’s what I use to brand my business.

You can check out some of the photos of the booth below. They are iphone photos. The bridal show is crazy busy so I don’t like having my fancy camera sitting around just in case. This was probably the most successful bridal show I’ve ever had simply because of the way my booth looked. Sometimes the booth was so packed that my husband (who helped) and I couldn’t even stand in the booth. Normally, with bridal shows it’s my goal to email everyone who left info within 24 hours and I was receiving emails all evening when I got home, into the wee hours of the morning and again today. My inbox hasn’t ever been so full of inquiries all at once and normally I’m the one chasing them down instead of the other way around. I think it’s all due to having a cohesive brand that people can connect to. There were definitely some ladies who gave my booth the “that’s gross” look because they don’t like rustic and that’s great. I have always emphasized that a really strong brand is one that people either immediately love or hate and there’s no wishy washy feeling in between. Brides connected with my booth because it appealed to their own likes and they immediately felt we had something in common.

I also wanted to touch on what my booth cost me for display items, etc. I don’t ever want to display a lot of huge framed photos or buy big industrial displays, big TVs etc. None of that is my style. I have always emphasized that you could run an awesome business that’s also not going to break the bank. So, here’s the lowdown.

10 Canvases in various sizes from CGPro Prints – $270
500 Business Cards from Vistaprint – $20
200 Handmade Fliers with burlap and lace textures – $100 + lots of man hours of labor 😉
3 Antique Doors – $35 each
1 Antique Window – $30
100 4×6 Prints from WHCC (purchased through my own PASS galleries) – $100
Big Banner Sign in the Back from Vistaprint – $70 ($40 for banner and $30 for stand)
Antique Desk from Flea Market – $15 (yep you heard me)
Antique Chair from Flea Market – $15 + my mom bought fabric and recovered it for me – she’s AMAZING!
Mason Jars and Vases – Approx $40 (purchased at goodwill or Hobby Lobby)
Ribbon and flowers for Jar Decor from Hobby Lobby – $20
Candles and Candle Holders from Target – $20
Vintage Suitcase (it’s a Newborn Prop I’ve had for years) – $0
Old 7up Crate (family heirloom) – $0
Business Card Basket (old newborn prop) – $0
Canvas Stands (used from my own wedding years ago) – $0
Burlap Table Runners from Hobby Lobby – $10
iMac (it’s my own regular computer) – $0
Bulletin Board that matches Chair – $0 (made by mom)
2 Notebooks and Pens (Target) – $10

Total Spent: $825

I realize the total may not seem affordable to some, but this is on the cheap side for what most photographers spend for a bridal show investment. You can customize this look and spend less by purchasing less canvas, less prints, no banner/sign, print cheap fliers at Kinkos, etc.

I really hope this experience might inspire you to do something different for your own business. To brand and see what happens and how it can affect your business success. I also hope that I could show you that you don’t need big fancy tv screens, light up frames, and all the really expensive features to build an expo booth. You can have an amazing booth at an affordable price that people absolutely love.

Also, don’t mind the last image of me and my shoes. I like to brand myself to match, so I’m wearing vintage boots (that have lace) and a lacey sweater and a dress I felt expressed a little of my brand too!


How to Get Your Photography Published

Emma and Josh are photographers who get featured a lot on weddings blogs online. I don’t have a lot of experience in this area so I invited Emma to come and write a little bit about how it works for her. It can be a great marketing tool. If a wedding blog choses to feature your photos they will link back to your website, which can help your SEO!

There are a couple different ways to connect with blogs and submit your photography to be featured. One is the old-fashioned way – emailing them a link to a gallery or just emailing them photos. However, many blogs are now using an online service called Two Bright Lights to submit their photos and connect with blog owners. Emma has been featured many times by using their service so I’m super thankful she’s taking the time to tell us about it!!

By Emma Smith

Two Bright Lights is a website/service that helps you streamline your submission process to blogs, as well as gives you an option to share your photos directly with vendors. I personally only use it for submissions to blogs and share my photos with PASS for clients.The amazing thing about this system is everything you need to know is right online. They list ALL the blogs/Magazines and Editors ( that accept via Two Bright Lights, not every blog accepts submissions with this online service. ) They have information on who is accepting what. If you want to read more about each blog you can and Two Bright Lights gives you information as to the blogs’ publication schedule, how often they post, and how many images they post. It’s really great information.The submission process is very simple. After creating an account you can first upload photos into an album on the website. Then list all the vendors involved in a wedding or photo shoot so they are credited accordingly. A vendor you worked with might already be listed, so you can search the database to see if they are on there. If not, add them manually. Then you can move to the actual submission process.Two bright lights walks you through the submission process using various filters to narrow down who you can submit to. For example you’ll want to decide between exclusive and non-exclusive blogs. An exclusive blog will expect that you feature a certain wedding or shoot only with them and with no one else. There are categories to submit weddings/engagements/ parties/lifestyles/pets…you name it. There are also filters such as location, style, and budget. When you are finally done Two Bright Lights filters out so you get a list of blogs/magazines who are accepting those types of weddings and shoots. You can choose where you want to submit. Finally, you use the categories to break your event down with colors, cultures, themes and add in any additional information and ‘SUBMIT.’

Submissions might take as quick as 24 hours or up to 2 months. Each publication lists the time it might take, and you wait until you hear back. Two Bright Lights also shows you when your submission is under review and you will get an email if it’s accepted that includes a publication date. If you’re not accepted you may receive an email saying, “sorry not at this time.” Sometimes they list reasons and sometimes they don’t. You can then resubmit to another publication if you wish.

If you’re selected to be featured, when the publication date hits, you get an email saying your feature has been published and right from that email you can share directly to Facebook or tweet about it! THAT’S COOL!

A few tips to keep in mind…

1. Make sure you follow instructions. Most blogs want non-watermarked, single images and they request a certain amount of images. If a publication wants 100 images and you submit 40 odds are you won’t get accepted due to failure to follow instructions. So, always read up on who you are submitting to and know the rules.

2. Dont take it personally if you’re not accepted (which is hard – I speak from experience), but there are many blogs and sometimes they just have a different vision. Try, try again…

3. Being published doesn’t make you a rock star and it wont get you 10 bookings. However, it gives you exposure.

Some of my features for you to check out: