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Check out 10 of our favorite photography articles from across the web in this week's edition of the Round Up. (Star Wars is mentioned twice, it's a special week).

INSPIRATION:  Sometimes it is what we can't see that separates us from the rest. In this article about famous French photographer Marc Riboud, we gain access to a sliver of insight into the amazing career of one of history's greatest cataloguers.

GEAR: It's okay to occasionally bust out that old SLR film camera! There is something very romantic and satisfying about shooting film. In this video the folks over at DigitalRevTV count down their picks for the five best film cameras money can buy for under $1000.

FOR FUN: Soooo this is one of the coolest things we've seen in a while. What happens when you stick a bunch of Star Wars geeks in the woods with some drones and cameras? Pod racing of course!

TUTORIAL: In this article, photographer Joe McNally talks about how he chooses what light to use on different faces. From aggressive, weather torn looks, to younger, softer faces-- this is a great one for all the portrait photographers out there.

VACATION ADVICE: Getting away from the office is often times crucial to both the success of your company and to your sanity. This article breaks down a great plan for how you can vacation without feeling guilty and without letting your business deteriorate while you're gone. 

WORKFLOW: If you're like us you use social media a lot. Like a lot, a lot. As a photographer it's become a necessity to maintain your business' presence online. So if you're as big of nerds as we are, (and we know you are) you're going to love this--you can now schedule Instagram posts with Latergramme! Check it out at the jump.

FOR FUN: Two Star Wars posts in one day! They must have put something in the coffee over here at PPA headquarters. Remember when I said that the Star Wars pod racing drones were the coolest things I'd seen in a long time? Yeah I changed my mind. THIS IS AMAZING! Thomas Dagg makes creative use of Photoshop, everyday locations, and Star Wars to amazing effect. 

WORKSHOP: Still on the fence about PPA's Super 1 Day? PPA photographer Susan Gertz wrote a brief synopsis on how awesome her experience with Christine Walsh-Newton was. Be sure to check it out!

INSPIRATION: Jenna Garrett captured her mother, who suffers from mental illness, in stark (and often brutal) detail throughout this five year photo-shoot. It's an honest and beautiful look at a relationship filled with as much love as there is volatility. 

BUSINESS: The LawTog makes another appearance this week as Rachel breaks down some of the big mistakes a lot of photographers make that are easily avoidable. Check the jump to find out how you can improve your business in just a few simple steps!

There it is! Your top 10 photography blog posts from around the web this week. What photography blogs have you been enjoying? Let us know on theLoop!

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For photographers with businesses new and old, the Benchmark Survey has been proven to help their businesses. Don't believe us? You heard from June's winner, Heather Sams, CPP, who started her own studio seven years ago. Now, meet A. Michael Fletcher, CPP, of Figge Photography in Newport Beach, California. His family's studio dates back to 1946.

"We're a family of photographers," Fletcher said. "Two master photographers founded our studio, and though we lapsed as members for a spell, we rejoined PPA in 2008 and are so thankful that we did!"

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial snapshot and has been helping businesses get a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Survey participants get a free side-by-side comparison of the results to their financial data. Plus, participants are automatically entered in the monthly giveaway for great prizes. This month, Fletcher won a $500 American Express gift card.

"The Benchmark Survey allows us to measure our success, ferret out our shortcomings and focus on creating solutions, not just for us but everyone who is a PPA member," Fletcher said. "We're proud to be included in this year's survey, and we can't wait for the results!"

Want to better your business and have a chance at winning August's prize - a $500 gift card to B&H? Go to PPA.com/Benchmark and participate!

Participating in photographic competitions can change your business, but only if you enter. How? Let us count the ways using the International Photographic Competition (IPC) as an example:

1. Get inspired! Take a good look at who else enters in the IPC--there are some pretty creative folks out there! See if any of their work trips your creative trigger and helps you produce even more out-of-the-box images. Nothing helps get the creative juices flowing like being exposed to fantastic works of art.

2. Define your style. The more you compete in photographic competitions, the more you'll be able to hone your personal style. As you fine tune your skill set, this signature style can become a great calling card for your business!

3. It will make you a better photographer. Opt to get an image critique and listen to an IPC Judge walk you through what you did right, what could use some improvement and offer suggestions on things you may have never considered. Even award-winning image makers can learn a thing or two from a fresh, professional set of eyes. Apply what you learn to your next client session and see your business grow!

4. Take on a personal challenge. You want to stay current, push yourself outside your comfort zone and stretch your artistic abilities? The IPC gives you an amazing opportunity to do just that! Set goals for yourself and keep entering year after year to continually improve your work. You can also work on projects that aren't in your typical client assignments. Broaden your photographic horizons! It might transpire into a new product line.

5. Prove you're the best. Let's face it, we all like a little (or a lot) of validation now and again. Entering in the IPC lets you put your best work up against photographers from around the world to see who reigns supreme. And you can see how you can improve year over year to improve yourself! Talk about a confidence boost! Your clients will see your swagger.

6. Charge higher prices. Being able to call yourself an "award winning photographer" gives you some serious clout over your local competition. You can now justify higher prices by letting your clients see the difference between yourself, an international award-winning photographer and that mom with a camera down the street. And if you continue to compete and earn your masters of photography, the designation of "M.Photog." behind your name will pack a punch.

7. Make connections. Even the best photographers can't do it alone. Make some life-long friends along the way as you compete. You'll bond over the thrill of victory (and the occasional agony of defeat). Connect on theLoop or the OurPPA Forums to get support from newbies or seasoned vets on anything competition-related. Still making edits hours before the deadline? They'll be right there with you. And there are countless mentoring opportunities--between the portfolio reviews done by PPA Judges at Imaging USA or finding mentors in your community before you enter, there are plenty of folks who are eager to help you!

8. Judges & clients want different things. Your clients probably don't come to you because they know you'll rock the 12 elements of a merit image by name--but they do come to you because of your style and brand. Competitions give you an opportunity to take risks your clients might be afraid to take with you. 

9. Rejuvenate your love of photography! Fall back in love with what you do. Get out of any mental rut you may be in, stretch your creative wings and do what you love! You have time to work on these works of art (early bird entries close June 26th), so you won't be as constrained by crazy turnaround times. You might be amazing what epiphanies you have with a little extra time on your hands.

10. It's the next step. You're an accomplished professional photographer. With earning high scores at the IPC, you'll earn merits that will set you on the path of earning your master of photography degree. You can also become a judge after earning 18 exhibition merits, taking the judges workshop and starting with local or regional competitions. Continuing your education is important to staying relevant and in tune with what your clients are expecting.

Have more reasons entering competitions will change your business? Let us know on theLoop! This year PPA's International Print Competition is open for entries from May 26 through June 26. It's a great way to be more!
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Want to work less and make more? Awesome! Have a plan on how to do that? Don't worry--PPA's got your back (and it's not as complicated as you'd think). 

Every few years, PPA invites studios from around the country--from home studios to brick and mortar locations, weddings to pets and everything in between-to complete the Benchmark Survey. This survey gets stronger with the more studios that participate. (Hint, hint - sign-up here to be an integral part of the upcoming survey! The information isn't difficult to obtain, in fact you'll have plenty of it readily available since you just completed your taxes!) 

Here's another way to look at the Benchmark survey: 


Once the survey is complete, PPA's CPAs and industry experts create an all-encompassing photography business guide and compile other resources that will show you where to increase your own business' profitability. And if you don't want to wait for the results of this year's survey, check out the new tool that  helps photographers plan for a profitable business model by beginning with their/your end in mind. How? Easy! 

  1. First, you'll start by deciding how much you'd like you're annual net income to be each year, then the tool works its way back to show your cost of sales and overhead and how they impact your profitability from get-go. All of these calculations come from past Benchmark Surveys, so you know they're based on real life examples of what's worked and more importantly, what hasn't. 

  2. Second, the survey will help you sidestep common mistakes many photographers unknowingly make. It will help you understand  how to determine or adjust your pricing (and it's not based on what the guy down the street is charging)! You'll also be able to determine if it's financially realistic to hire an employee or if it makes sense to move into a retail space. And the best part is, you'll be able to make sound calculated decisions, not just based on your "gut" feeling!

  3. And third, we understand you don't know what you don't know. That's why there are additional Benchmark Resources--resources, tools and guides that can quickly impact your bottom line! You'll get things like a comprehensive guide to the results. This will allow you to get the most from the survey by breaking it down to plain English and extrapolating the results into things you can do to change your business for the better. It will also give you access to comparison tools that allow you to size your studio up to the top performing studios in the nation (and learn from how they do business), along with how to see where you fit in the bigger picture of the photographic industry. 

It might sound too good to be true, but we assure you it isn't! You just fill out a few simply questions and you'll be ready to see how many sessions you need to book and at what prices to make the money you want. Get started at square one today! 

And there's a bonus if you participate in the survey: you'll get side-by-side results (personalized just for you!) from the 2014 Survey for free! This is HUGE! Best part: If you're a PPA member, this is included in your membership. If you're not, join today to improve your bottom line now! 

You can't afford to wait. Access these great resources today and sign up to participate in the 2014 Survey!


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