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PPA Today: April 2014 Archives

April 2014 Archives

Spring sure is a beautiful time of the year, and here are the beautiful discussions happening on theLoop during the month of April, 2014. 

What do you take with you to a portrait shoot? PPA Members share what they pack in their kits in this discussion. There may be some things you're not thinking of that you can add to your own toolbag! 

Photographers debate the merits of donating an image to a non-profit, and point out some important things to be aware of before you donate! 

Do you hire interns to help you out in your photography business? If so, jump in on this discussion on the benefits, disadvantages and points to be aware of when hiring an intern. If you're thinking about putting together an internship program, this is a great discussion to read first. 

Do you ever get requests to create albums using images you didn't make? If so, read this discussion before you get in over your head! 

It's a problem wedding photographers deal with all the time: guests getting in the way of your work! This discussion provides some good advice on how to deal with this problem. 

Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not a PPA member? It's easy: join today!

By Mariah Ashley

Trish is looking at me from across the lawn. She's halfway between me and the bride's family who she has just positioned for their formal wedding portrait. She's giving me the "How does it look?" look. I check the back of my camera and give her the thumbs up. I'm shooting with a 200mm lens so I can't exactly shout, "Like $#!+" without everyone hearing.

I make a few adjustments to my ISO and take another shot. I've made it worse. Now I'm sweating. More adjustments to the flash, another shot. It's horrible. To paraphrase my favorite TV show Modern Family, it's like vomit and poop had a wedding inside my camera and this was the resulting image. Cue my complete and utter panic. I hate myself right now.

We should have known better than to attempt family portraits in this location which was plan B (i.e. blaring noon sun and barren background), but in our defense we were blindsided. The wedding was at an exclusive yacht club perched on top of an impossibly steep green hill with a sweeping view of Newport harbor. Truly a magnificent panorama... to your eye.

Upon arriving, Trish and I scoped a few lovely spots with nice open shade and amazing old trees with interesting bark and branches, perfect for portraits. Unfortunately, as soon as we entered the bride's room she spoke the eight words we always cringe upon hearing: "I really want the water in the background."

She added, "Someone in my family suggested doing photos outside under the trees. I don't want that so ignore them. I really just want the water."

Hear that? That's me flushing Plan A down the loo, where plan B actually belongs. Just to drive the point home, the wedding planner also took us aside and said, "FYI, the bride really wants her photos taken with the water in the background." Got it, water in the background.

So here we are; the bride and the groom, the bride's parents and her siblings taking what amounts to the most important photo of the day since the bride's parents have generously footed the bill for us to be here. I am failing miserably at creating a proper Christmas card and framed photo on the mantel for them.

As you probably already know, midday, full-sun family portraits with the water in the background are akin to drinking saltwater to quench your thirst--it looks good to the eye but with disastrous results in-camera. In our case, no one is going to dehydrate and become delirious but all that sun mixed with bald heads, wind and wrinkles is not going to be a flattering sight either. Someone get these people in the shade and give them a cool drink for the love of Pete! For Pete's sake. Who's Pete anyway? I digress.

I have no idea how to fix this so I just keep shooting until we've gone through our list. As Trish tells the parents they are free to go, I spot a small patch of shade in the corner of the yard with some shrubs and even a sliver of blue water in the distance. I make the casual suggestion that we should do a few more in this spot. I am sure the bride won't like it, but the light is perfect.

I look at Trish and scream with my eyeballs, "We need to redo everything we just did!" Lucky for me she knows how to read my eyeballs and she sets about recreating all the groups without it seeming strange at all. I check the back of my camera in between shots and the images are lovely.

When culling the images, we won't delete the harshly-lit photos with the water in the background. That's what the bride wanted, so that's what she'll get. If I had to bet, my guess is she'll choose those shots for her album too. But by redoing the photos, we can feel proud of the images that we deliver knowing we used our technical knowhow and artistic eye to the best of our abilities. We can deliver a set of images that is consistent with what our clients see in our website galleries and on our blog.

I feel strongly that the day of the wedding is not the time to say "NO" to the bride or the wedding planner for that matter. When a client makes a request on the wedding day, it should be met with a positive response and a good old fashioned college try.

The time to say "NO" to the bride happens way before she gets into her wedding gown because, TIP: making the bride cry on her wedding day is major photo-faux pas. Because "NO" can sound a little harsh, let's think of this as giving your client a little Photography 101 lesson. The bride hadn't sabotaged our portraits, we had. By not managing our client's expectations we created an impossible situation for ourselves and subpar photos for them. There's not always time to recreate and entire set of family formals on the wedding day. This time we were lucky. Lesson learned. There won't be a need for a next time.

We send a questionnaire to our brides twelve weeks before the wedding to help us formulate our photo plan for the day. We'll be adding an information section to this questionnaire entitled, "How we achieve flattering portraits of your family and bridal party" with an explanation of why we choose the locations we choose and why the "water in the background" is 9 times out of 10 a bad idea.

You know, like drinking salt water if you're thirsty. We'll tell our clients to think of shade, trees, and background textures like a root beer float. Sweet and balanced with an unexpected dash of cool and deliciously satisfying.

About the author:

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Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.



Keith Howe had his follow-up PET scan last week, and it's the first image in his whole career to score a 0. That's right; they got the "all clear"! The Howes could not be happier.

Says Keith: "I've been lucky enough to score a perfect 100 in print competition and that felt awesome, but this zero feels even better!"

You can read their story in full below.

If you don't remember longtime members Keith and Holly Howe's story from a post we published around Christmas, it's worth the read. At the time, Keith was entering an aggressive treatment program for his cancer. But thanks in no small part to their positive attitudes and familial support system made through PPA, the Howe's are positively moving forward.

Their story picks up generally right where we left it--with Keith heading back to the hospital for more treatment. Although this time, it's for the final week of his final cycle. That's because the Howe's are on the verge of the ultimate good news: all clear.


Naturally, Keith is the star patient of the Nebraska Medical Center. 

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"They keep throwing stuff at him and he keeps bouncing back," said Holly. "No matter what they do to him, he takes it in stride."

Keith had a repeat PET scan after the fourth round of chemo and the cancer is almost all gone. Since then he has undergone another round and a half. On April 8, Keith spent his final week in the hospital. He is finally done with chemo. His medical team all made very positive comments about his prognosis and the oncologists are optimistic the Howes will receive the "all clear" when Keith gets his final PET scan May 12.  

From here on it's just re-checking the scans every three months and getting his feet back under him--quite literally. Keith will soon begin physical therapy to regain some lost balance and mobility. He can walk and drive, but some of his nerve endings just don't fire the muscles like they used to.

"It's kind of like stringing new telephone lines," said Keith. "I'm feeling pretty good overall, but I still can't do those quick movements I need to be able to do, especially during a family portrait session." 

Keith does some computer work. He's even back behind the camera a little bit helping out with a session a day.

"It's great to see clients still coming and the phone ringing," he said, with a laugh. "It's looking like I still have a photography business here."

A big part of Keith's recovery has been played by fellow photographers and PPA members.

As a PPA-approved juror for the International Photographic Competition, Keith has been actively involved in mentoring photographers who enter competition images for years. And despite cancer and chemo, this year was no different. In fact, Keith was even more active than usual.

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Competitors sent their files and Keith would take a look from his hospital bed and talk them through things over the phone. He'd browse print competition pages on Facebook and give his advice. He was still out there lending a helping hand.

One of those he's helped is Michelle Parsley, M.Photog.M.Artist., CPP, of Woodbury, Tenn. Michelle was one of the women (referenced in the December story) who asked Keith to be her sponsor at the Award & Degree ceremony at Imaging USA. Michelle shared in Keith's regret that he wasn't able to be there to walk her across the stage, but she made sure his presence was felt nonetheless.

"I know without his input I would not have walked for those degrees this year," said Parsley, who received her master of photography and master artist degrees this year in Phoenix. "So I had them announce his name as my sponsor even though he couldn't be there."

Keith and Michelle first "met" in 2011 when Michelle posted her images in a PPA forum looking for answers as to why they did not merit. Keith responded with his advice and offered his advice anytime she needed it.

"There's no telling how many times he's helped me," she said. "He's so good at identifying where you are in your artistic journey and talking to you in a way that makes you want to do better. He's encouraging on one hand, but on the other he's not blowing sunshine. He's been really good at telling me, 'This is what you've got to do to accomplish your goal.'" 

"Even this year I could send him prints and he could still give a heck of a print critique. He always had time to critique, no matter how he was feeling. And it's not just me; he does it for so many people. His advice was just what I needed. The funny thing is, I've never ever even met Keith in person."

It's one of many such connections Keith and Holly have made through PPA.

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"What other industry could I possibly have that kind of connection in? It's crazy when I stop to think about it. I live in the middle of nowhere Tennessee. To have someone as talented and willing to give their time from Nebraska, I've never even been to Nebraska, it blows my mind."

Keith also received daily support and encouragement from good friend and PPAedu instructor, Jeff Dachowski, M.Photog.Cr., CPP,--yet another friend made through PPA.

"It's amazing how people can rally around and help you," said Keith.

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Photographers in Nebraska have come and stepped in for recent sessions. A couple women from Wyoming came out to photograph their annual big dance school earlier this month. A photographer from Virginia helped with a recent shoot. Photographers in Florida have raised their cameras and offered support if needed. It all started through PPA.

"We know without a doubt that his amazing reaction (or should I say lack of reaction) to the extremely intensive chemo is because of his continuing positive attitude," said Holly. "And we also know we could never have sustained that positive outlook without the amazing outpouring of support we have received from our photography family.

"We still don't know what the future will hold as far as our business--whether Keith will bounce back enough to handle the physical demands of photographing a diva high school senior or a hyperactive two year old, but we are in a good place emotionally and financially because of our friends. We know we will be okay no matter what."

So... What's next?

Physical therapy! Lots of it.

Keith will get to work on bringing up his energy and regaining his balance.

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"I want to be photographing high school seniors again," he said. "We also have a wedding to shoot in July for a woman who's been a client forever. She said she couldn't go elsewhere, it'd be like cheating on her spouse."

Keith and Holly also have a pretty big wedding to attend coming up.

"Our oldest son is getting married in California in May," said Holly. "From the moment he got engaged he has wanted his future in-laws' dog as his ring bearer, but wasn't sure what to do with the dog during the reception.

"Well, Keith was talking with a friend of ours and fellow PPA member who lives out in the area about possible venues and asked on a whim if she knew anyone that could watch a dog. It just so happened that she fosters dogs and would be happy to.

"They were amazed that we knew someone, who fosters shelter dogs, no less, that lives so close by. We weren't because we have friends EVERYWHERE. That's how PPA works."

Keith's original recovery goal was to be well enough to attend the wedding, but now he's thinking more. He's on target to be there in a California meadow under lofty redwoods for the ceremony, then dance at the reception in an apple orchard as the sun dips into the Pacific.

It might make for some good pictures.



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!
Here are the 10 photography blogs from April 20 - 25, 2014, that we hope will inspire you and
 professional photographers around the internet to be more!

Nobody likes hearing about a photo copyright violation, but it's important to be aware of all the same! After photographing the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus at a live show for a publication, photographer Rohan Anderson was surprised to find the band using one of his images on Facebook without his permission. Even more surprising, the band started bullying him online when he requested that the photo be removed! Check out Rohan's blog to read the full nightmarish saga, how he resolved the violation and how the photography community helped him through the process.

The Phoblographer heard about the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus copyright ruckus as well this week, and that inspired them to interview Rolling Stone photographer Nicole Fara Silver about how to deal with bands using your images without permission. If you do this type of photography, you'll want to check her advice out!

This video of a photography workshop from 1961 on Fstoppers made us laugh, and it's a great look at some photography history. Any long-time PPA members out there remember taking a workshop like this one? 

April 22 was Earth Day and in honor of the event The Big Picture put together a series of photos from Earth Day events around the world, as well as photos of distressed environments. There's definitely some powerful photography in this series! 

In Focus gives us another impactful photo series this week. Check out these amazing images of squatters living in an unfinished high-rise building in Venezuela. It's yet another example of how photography can makes us see the world in a new way. 

As a photographer, you probably have taken hundreds of photos that didn't make the cut in the final product you delivered to your client. Digital Photography School points out why you shouldn't just get rid of these images, and why it's worth to go through them every now and then. There are more opportunities with these images than you thought! 

Do you use lens filters in your photography? If you do, Photography Life points out some issues to be aware of when choosing filters in this post. 

All wedding photographers would probably like to speed up their post-production time and deliver images to their clients faster. Virtual Photography Studio points out 3 simple things you can keep in mind while shooting a wedding that can help speed the process up. 

In golf, the 'Yips' are an apparent loss of fine motor skills without explanation, making the game impossible to play. Believe it or not, this same phenomenon can happen to photographers as well and affect the quality of your photos. One photographer explains how he noticed the problem, and overcame it, in this post for The Online Photographer. 

SmugMugFilms interviewed acclaimed commercial advertising photographer (and Imaging USA speaker/PPAedu instructor) Joel Grimes about his creative process. If you're in need of inspiration, this short video is sure to stir up some ideas.

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.
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!
Written by guest blogger Danielle Brooks

If you have ever been to a circus you have run across a professional juggler. The fact that these people can concentrate on three things at the same time amazes me. Typically they have someone add more items to the mix until they are juggling six or seven things simultaneously. 

I am not the most graceful person. I trip going up the stairs, I run into things, and my high heels get stuck in the sidewalk cracks. So the thought of juggling seven things at the same time is intimidating. But this past week I had to juggle more things than I've ever had to... 

Here is what my week looked like:

Sunday, April 5th: Wedding in the morning. Sports photos for local gymnastics team in the afternoon.

Monday, April 6th to Thursday, April 10th: I was hired to travel with the Admissions Department of my Alma Mater, Flagler College and take photos of their East Coast Tour to welcome newly admitted students. We flew to Baltimore, Virginia Beach and Long Island. 
Friday, April 11th: Sunrise family session on the beach in St. Augustine.

Saturday, April 12th: Sunset wedding in Tampa.

Did I forget to mention that I got food poisoning on my flight home? Also, Sunday the 12th was my 26th birthday. Needless to say, I had to wear several hats that week. I needed to be a wedding photographer, event photographer, family photographer and a sports photographer. 

But through this experience, I was able to pick up a couple tips and tricks that might come in handy for you. 

For starters, I would not have made it through this week of craziness without creating multiple checklists. The equipment I needed for the sports photos was drastically different than what I used for the family shoot on the beach. In order to keep track of everything, I created a list of things I needed to bring. I proactively packed for my events. While I was getting my equipment together, I thought about potential issues I could encounter and packed things that could come in handy. In case my battery died, I had a back up and the charger. In case my backdrop got ripped or needed a quick fix, I had a mini sewing kit handy.

Secondly, I would suggest investing in multiple CF/SD cards. This is kind of a no-brainer. However, I didn't really see the importance of it until recently. Normally all I need is one card while on a job, but while touring with the admissions department, I didn't have the time to upload all of my photos. So they ended up staying on the cards until I got home to edit them. It's also good practice to bring extra memory in the event something goes wrong with the one you are using. 

Another tip is to always maintain composure. Things will go wrong, but your clients don't need to know about any potential problems. Hear me out. If the issue is going to affect the final product, then yes, you should talk with your client about it. But if you let them know about every small glitch it makes you seem less experienced, and invites them to insert their opinions. You are the professional. Maintain your professionalism. 

When I was shooting the sports photos, I had to get 40+ people in front of a backdrop. Not everyone fit in the small space I had to work with. I knew I could Photoshop the backdrop in behind some of the girls that were just on the edge of the backdrop. It wasn't the best situation to be in, but I made the best of it.

Lastly, it's important to remember your audience. My game plan was different for each type of session I did. For the weddings, I was in go mode. I had a lot of photos to take of the bride, groom and family, and a short amount of time to take them in. For the family session, I could take my time composing the shot, but I had to make a fool of myself to get the one year old to smile. For the sports and event photos, I had to balance between go mode and taking time to make sure I stayed organized with paperwork. 

For you more experienced photographers out there, these tips might seem kind of basic. But for those of you who are still fairly new, I hope some of these will help you out in the future. What have you all learned in your years of photographing multiple events? How did you deal with the stress and stay organized? 

Here are the 10 photography blogs from April 13 - 18, 2014, that we hope will inspire you and
professional photographers around the internet to be more! 

Did you see the cover of Sports Illustrated this month? It's a giant Boston Strong group shot (3,000 people!) to commemorate a year since the marathon bombing. And guess who was behind the camera?! Imaging USA speaker Gregory Heisler! If you thought wrangling a family of five was tough, you need to see this behind-the-scenes video.

Getting an image or project to go viral can be a real boon to your business. It can also get you... nothing. California photographer, Mike Kelley, unfortunately knows a thing or two about that. Read his cautionary tale on posting your images to social without any form of protection.

Have you posted one of those silly Buzzfeed lists to your social media pages with an "OMG this is SO true!" Admit it, you have. Well, if you're a wedding photographer, we've got one here for you. Check this one out on the many emotions of wedding photography.
Approximately one out of six people in the world live on a dollar a day. Photographer Renée C. Byer traveled through four continents capturing what life is like under extreme poverty. The stunning images are a heartfelt reality check for most of us living in "first world" countries. 

We're suckers for a good time lapse. And we can say for certain we haven''t seen one quite like this! Get your smiles ready and be prepared for a good heart-string tug. Kids... they grow up so darn fast! (Especially in fast forward.)

Good luck finding this one on Amazon Prime. This week, one lucky husband and wife team drove a pretty special package across the country--a friggin T. Rex! National Geographic takes us along as "The Nation's T. Rex" is transported from Montana to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. It's as simple as wrapping it and putting it in a box, really... but it's a 38-foot, 66-million-year-old fossil. You won't see the full dinosaur on display until 2019 so check this video out while you can!

Did you see the lunar eclipse this week? It was all over social media! If you didn't, these photographers did. Discovery News compiled some of the best photos from the rare event. Check 'em out!

This one touches on a real hot-button issue. You'll be hard-pressed to find more passionate and protective animal lovers than pit bull owners. One photographer decided to put their passion on display and bring them together to raise awareness with his Not a Bully portrait campaign. Read on to learn the story and view some of the portraits!

Ever encounter questions about why you can't photograph for free? Photography Talks came up with a pretty cool list of reasons. Take a look and see if you agree!

Slate delivers this collection of group portraits from photographer Neal Slavin, who's been doing this for, well, a while. There's some really beautiful, really funny, and really weird pictures posted in there. Take a look!

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.

PPA is proud to announce a HUGE agreement the Nickles Group to help us out on Capitol Hill. This will put us front and center during the ongoing copyright discussion at the most critical time. Momentum is really building toward that Next Great Copyright Act and we will now be more plugged in than ever. 

In fact, with the Nickles Group, we're now the only photography association with a full-time presence! This agreement is a really big deal and you need to know about it.

Here is the press release in its entirety:


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Professional Photographers of America (PPA) announced today it has reached an agreement with The Nickles Group, LLC, to represent PPA on Capitol Hill. The Nickles Group will help the association's lobbying efforts for photographers' copyrights.

Through the Nickles Group, one of the preeminent lobbying firms on the Hill, PPA will be at the center of the action on a daily basis. Using the Nickles Group's extensive network, PPA will make introductions, build relationships and arrange meetings with key players and also create opportunities to testify at Congressional hearings. The partnership looks to build upon the strong foundation PPA has established in Washington over the past 15 years.

Founded in 2005, the Nickles Group brings together an accomplished team of public policy advocates and experts to provide strategic advice, policy development and political navigation for clients seeking to engage in the federal legislative or executive process.

"We're pleased to join forces with the PPA to be an important advocate for the rights of photographers and other creators," said Don Nickles, chairman and CEO of The Nickles Group. "With copyright issues becoming more complex as Congress reviews the laws that govern rights, we look forward to partnering with PPA and impacting policy for the better."

Nickles, a Senator for the state of Oklahoma from 1981 to 2005 certainly knows his way around the Hill. In his tenure, Nickles built a legacy of advancing free enterprise causes, from natural gas deregulation and repeat of the windfall profits tax in the 1980s, to repeal of onerous ergonomics regulation and the fight against federalized healthcare during the Clinton Administration. He was the author of the Congressional Review Act and the Child Citizenship Act, and the principal sponsor of President Bush's economic growth package in 2003, which cut capital gains and corporate dividend taxes to 15 percent.

Thanks to this agreement PPA now has the ability to put its members front and center, a coup for PPA given the recent discussions on orphan works and the U.S. Copyright office's push for the Next Great Copyright Act. 

"This could not come at a better time for us," said David Trust, CEO of PPA. "We are entering one of the most critical eras in the history of copyright law. This relationship with the Nickles Group will ensure that PPA members, and photographers in general, will have an increased position in the copyright discussion on Capitol Hill."

The Nickles Group represents the likes of the Comcast, Eli Lilly and Company, Exxon Mobil and now PPA. The agreement makes PPA the only professional photography association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill.

In addition to having the photography world's only copyright and government affairs department, PPA provides a wealth of resources for photographers online, including sample contracts and model releases. For more information, visit


Of course, as the Nickles Group reports back to us, we will forward the info on to you! Things are really cooking up there in Washington. BE MORE!



By Mariah Ashley

Aaah, the elusive tropical destination wedding.

The question always asked is: "How do I book one?"

I think the more important question might be, "How do I survive it once I book it?"

Booking a destination wedding is relatively easy. Executing one, well... that's a different story altogether.

Come along for an adventure while I break down the most difficult wedding we've ever shot in the prettiest place we've ever worked. A destination wedding can be broken down into 10 separate categories: Travel Arrangements, Packing, Traveling, Arriving/Acclimating, Scouting, Relaxing, Shooting, Networking & Making Friends, Relief and Debauchery, Dragging Your Butt Home, Regrouping and Recouping.

Travel Arrangements: Setting yourself up for success starts before your flip-flop ever hits the tarmac. As a rule, Trish and I always make our own travel arrangements. We've arrived at one too many mildew-coated hotel rooms, sending Trish into anaphylactic shock, to rely on our clients to set up our accommodations. We've stuck to this rule for ten years--that is until last week when we traveled to the Dominican Republic.

The bride and the wedding planner assured us we'd have a lovely villa to stay close to the wedding in a swanky, exclusive, gated community. We were asked if we wouldn't mind sharing the villa with the female videographer and her husband/partner, female singer for the band and female wedding planners. That was all cool with us. They also chose our flights based on our preferences, scheduled a shuttle to get us back and forth from the airport, and agreed to provide us with a stipend for food and a car for getting around to the various event locations.

*Tip: Whenever possible make your own travel arrangements. If it's not possible make sure that your travel arrangements are clear and written into your contract. Things to consider: flight, airport parking, shuttle to location and back to airport, meals, customs fees, baggage fees, tipping.

DR Vendors0083.JPGPacking: We had to pack light for our trip so that we could fit all the equipment we needed into two backpacks that we would carry onto the plane. This meant leaving behind much of our backup equipment and peace of mind. After some creative packing we managed to squeeze 3 camera bodies, 70-200mm lens, 24-70mm lens, 60mm macro, 85 mm lens, 35 mm lens, 3 flashes, 3 battery packs, a large video light, a small video light, a reflector, a monopod, a rogue flash bender, phototix transmitters and receivers, lots of batteries, compact flashcards, and a lens cleaning kit into our two backpacks.

*Tip: Take only what you need, but have backups. Pack, unpack, and repack. Don't forget battery chargers (we did). Camera equipment arises suspicion and almost always results in your bag being searched at customs, usually when leaving the country you just shot in. Arrive early to the airport to allow for this. You don't need to panic if you have the right documentation and work visa if applicable.

Traveling: We breezed through security and customs with our backpacks and arrived in the Dominican at... 2 a.m. The flight the client booked for us was a redeye; it was... you guessed it... cheaper. But, it was also a direct flight which we were thankful for.

I assumed the airport was not too far from our villa but I was mistaken. By the time we got to bed it was 4:30 a.m. Lack of sleep=bad. Luckily I had the foresight to insist we arrived at least two days before the wedding. This gave us an entire day to ourselves before we had to shoot any of the festivities.

*Tip: Definitely allow for time to yourself. In this instance the wedding was on Saturday but we arrived early Thursday morning. Delayed flights and unforeseen circumstances can put you behind right from the beginning and you don't want to be running to the wedding having just landed.

Arriving/Acclimating: We spent the morning catching some Z's but were driven out of bed by a possessed woodpecker determined to drill his way into our villa. Waking up in the light of day we discovered our villa was all the bride had promised and more. The villa had 6 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a pool and hot tub, a maid and a cook! Our friend Dave, one of the videographers, dubbed us the 1 percent (of wedding vendors)!

Reading the itinerary we discovered that we would also be sharing the villa with the band. (Say what?) Not quite how it had been sold to us, but at least we arrived the day before them so we could stake out the bedrooms we wanted, relegating the band to the bottom floor of the villa where they could stumble in late and do whatever musicians do in the privacy of their own floor. We had been told there would be a stipend waiting for us, but there were no pesos in sight so we set out in search of food with credit card in hand. In addition to the car we also had a golf cart for exploring so naturally we opted for that mode of transportation! Golf cart antics=good.

*Tip: Be self-sufficient, arrive with cash and credit card. Exchange some money at the airport for local currency, just in case your all-inclusive... isn't.

Scouting: After procuring some grub we decide we better scout our locations. We needed to find the beach, the villa where the groom was getting ready, the first look location and the house that the bride's family owned where the ceremony and reception would be happening. We took our time, (partly because our golf cart only went about 2 miles an hour, and partly because we didn't have a schedule to keep).

Our mission started at 11:30 a.m., we found the first look location and scouted the area that we would use for formal photos. By 12:30 we were scouting the beach and I discovered... a beach bar! Eureka, rum punch and lunch! After about two hours we spent the afternoon relaxing. After dinner we went out again for another two hours with the videographers to take some atmosphere photos of the scenery and sunset. Keep in mind, none of this time is technically "on the clock," it's us using our own time to get prepared so that we could do a great job the next day. Because we were leisurely and there was rum punch and palm trees involved, I didn't feel weird about "donating " my time.

*Tip: Familiarize yourself with all the locations you'll be shooting at, preferably at the time of day you'll actually be there.

Relaxing: We had most of the second day to relax because we didn't have to be at the rehearsal into late afternoon. We took a nice walk, went to the beach, swam, ordered 11 a.m. mojitos, ate a big salad and took a little nap. After about six hours to ourselves, we were refreshed and ready to photograph the rehearsal. Turquoise sea, palm trees, beach bar, and bathing suits... balmy.

*Tip: Eke out a little time for yourself. This is the perk to all the other headaches!

More Scouting: I had included 2 hours of rehearsal dinner coverage in the contract but we went an hour and a half early so that we could watch the actual rehearsal at the bride's home. The set up was a little unorthodox, with the bride walking over a platform serving as the aisle for the ceremony, built above their pool so we wanted to make sure we understood the set up and we also wanted to touch base again with the wedding planners in case any changes had been made to the schedule. Again, this is time we "donated" so that we would be prepared for the wedding day.

Shooting: The whole reason we've come... the wedding day! Is there a personality type that is more intense than type A? Is there an A++? We give our lovely little bride an A++. She weighs about 85 pounds soaking wet, but she's a force to be reckoned with. She had expectations and requests--lots of them. We knew we'd be working our butts off but we had no idea the level of effort and energy we'd be exerting over the 10 hours of shooting that ensued.

To begin with, the very tight, very strict schedule (in 15-minute increments) prepared by the bride went flying out the window when she and the groom ran an hour later than planned. Guess what that means? Less time for photos, that's what. We needed to keep the bride happy by getting her 100 requests filled, the planner happy by making up an hour of lost time, all the while fulfilling a 100 more spontaneous requests from the bride as we went. I can say with cramped trigger finger that I have never shot more images at a wedding, at least twice as many as our normal 2500-3000 shots. Between the locations we guzzled water, blasted the air-conditioning and scarfed down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Oh, and just to keep us on our toes, sprinkle in a rainstorm just as we were about to start family formals. Change-of-plan. The first bathroom break I took was at 8:30, 6 hours into our day. Luckily for me I was sweating so much I didn't have much liquid in me to begin with. We left no guest unturned (200 guests to be exact), as we fired off table shots (aargh), college group photos, high school friends photos, neighborhood friends , work friends and commuter -train friends (huh?). The evening was a blur of groups shots that we snapped happily knowing that our bride's high expectations would be met.

At 12:30 when the band finished playing and the party ended we packed our cameras away and made our way over to the bride to say our goodbyes. Only she had one more request. So we wiped our tears and reassembled our cameras and shot one more group of her college friends. We were finally finished.

*Tip: Dig deep. Your clients are going to have very high expectations of you because they feel they are doing you a favor by bringing you to a tropical location for a mini vacation. They won't have any understanding of the amount of preparation you have made for their event. That's okay. You're a professional and you don't need to toot your own horn. Just make it happen for them.

Networking and Making Friends: I've heard that after people go through an intense event together they form a deep bond. I guess that's what prompted me to pick the wedding planner up around the waist and spin her around with a big hug at the end of the night. She had spent four days of battling customs, managing the bride and the families, keeping track of the vendors all flown in from the Boston area, overseeing the event set up, and praying for good weather.

She had also watched us keep calm under pressure, never waiver in our upbeat and positive attitude and get done every shot that needed to happen. She rewarded us with a couple bottles of wine for winding down and a reciprocated hug. Hopefully having this experience with the planner will lead to many other confident referrals from her and her company.

*Tip: Photograph the vendors. Everyone working at the wedding is probably pretty excited to be there. A destination wedding is a big deal for most vendors. Take photos of them! Share on Instagram, tag them on Facebook, blog about it after. Make some new BFF's, and be REALLY easy to work with.

Relief and Debauchery: Maybe it was the dehydration, maybe it was the elation that we had made it through the event. Maybe (probably) it was the wine, but 2 photographers, 2 videographers, and 6 band members all ended up in the pool at 1 a.m. Enough said. What happens in the Caribbean...

*Tip: Ignore Relief and Debauchery and go straight to bed.

Dragging your butt home: Only ten more hours till we were home in our beds which included: a ride on a Muppet bus (some of us hungover), 2 bag searches in customs, pouring rain on the tarmac, less than ideal aisle mates on the plane and a dead car battery waiting for you in the airport parking lot.

*Tip: Don't get too used to the cook and maid service. It will make you soft. And don't leave the dome light on in your car at the airport.

Regrouping and Recouping: Conservatively, it will be two days before you feel human again and take two days to return all the emails and phone calls you received while away.

So, is a destination wedding worth all the trouble? Hard to say. I guess it depends on you. I can tell you that it's a lot more work than you might imagine. Over the course of 4 days Trish and I spent 19.5 hours traveling, 6 hours scouting locations, 15.5 hours shooting the event, and about 10 hours "on vacation."

Over the course of 91 hours that we were away and not in vacation mode, I've calculated that Trish and I made roughly $34 per hour each to go and shoot the destination wedding. Because we priced ourselves properly, I feel like there's a lot of worse things we could be doing making a lot less money. The ten hours I got to have to myself for "vacation" were priceless after a long, cold, grey, New England winter.

The connections we made with the coordinator and the friendships we forged with the band and the videographers? Also priceless. Does that mean I am ready to start marketing myself as a destination wedding photographer? No. Well, maybe. Visions of palm trees sway in my head.

To see a behind the scenes look at our tropical tribulations go here:

 About the author:

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Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.
Here are the 10 photography blogs from April 6 - 11, 2014, that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the internet to be more!

Do you use your DSLR's preset shooting modes? You'll want to read this post. Photography Talk examines DSLR preset shooting modes and the danger of relying on them too heavily.

You've probably heard about it this week: the Heartbleed bug is an error in internet security that was recently discovered. The bad news? Hackers could exploit this flaw to gain access to your personal information through many websites you may use daily. The good news? Mashable has developed a guide that will show you how to protect yourself from this abuse. (Oh, and don't worry about your account being hacked, our security is up to date, so your data on theLoop, My PPA and your PPA profile is all safe and sound!)

Have you been wanting to get into the pet photography market? This podcast from Improve Photography can be a great starting point for you as you enter the market. It provides not only technical tips, but some business tips as well!

This is a great post for those of you in need of inspiration. The Phoblographer goes behind-the-scenes of Australian photographer Alexia Sinclair's "A Frozen Tale" photo shoot that took place in an old European castle. There are a lot of cool ideas here, including a shooting diagram! 

Is there anything more annoying than capturing a blurry image when you've got everything else right? This post from Digital Photography School will show you how to choose the correct Autofocus mode and help you avoid this problem. 

Occasionally, you'll get a bride and groom that just don't want to follow your instructions. They just don't get that you've done this before and that there's a process for a reason. This short post from Virtual Photography Studio provides a great tip for how to overcome this challenge. 

Did you know that Lightroom launched their mobile version of the software for tablets and other mobile devices? If you're curious about what Lightroom Mobile is capable of, be sure to check out this post from Lightroom Killer Tips. You might be surprised how much of your workflow can be taken care of from an iPad!

Shoot video and trying to capture movement? These videos on PhotoFocus will show how to do just that. Learn how to use a camera slider to capture fluid movement and create some really interesting shots! 

Do you struggle with color management, or maybe just need a refresher? Check out this step-by-step color management tutorial (complete with examples) from FStoppers. These techniques can help add impact to your photography. 

There's a lunar eclipse coming up on April 14/15 (date might vary depending on where you live) that nature photographers out there will love to photograph. The PhotoNaturalist provides some tips for photographing the eclipse so you can get the best photographs possible. 

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.

Yesterday, PPA's board of directors visited with key staffers and senators on Capitol Hill to voice their concerns on copyright protection. You can view yesterday's post on their visit to get caught up. 

Maria Matthews, manager of PPA's copyright and government affairs department is back with an update on what went down!


We talked, they listened!

On behalf of PPA members and professional photographers everywhere, an excited PPA board of directors spent their Tuesday in our nation's capita. They met with chief counsels, judiciary aides and senators and told their story. They explained the impact copyright theft can have on their business and families--as well as the potential economic impact for their state--and light bulbs went on.

The board asked staffers and senators to deliver this message to the senate: Copyright affects more than just big industry; it impacts mom-and-pop businesses in every corner of their state. Many of the offices we met with agreed that strong copyright laws are essential to ensuring a thriving creative community. They also admitted that most of their efforts on the intellectual property front as of late have been focused on patent and not copyright reform--something they will be looking to remedy!

This visit was great progress for the copyright debate. Next up: Keep lobbying to get the talk moving toward action on the senate!

The board had a great time in D.C. and shared their visit all over social media. Check out their posts below.

(Click the images to view the original posts.)


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PPA will continue to provide updates on the ongoing copyright movement. Things are getting really exciting!

Want a copyright update? You got it!

PPA's board of directors is back on Capitol Hill today to visit U.S. Senate offices. They're returning to drive home a message--that strong copyright laws are critical to the small business photographer.

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The board takes to the Hill during a very active period in the copyright reform efforts.  While there have been a number of recent roundtables hosted by the U.S. Copyright Office and regular copyright themed hearings held by the House of Representatives, activity on the copyright front has been relatively quiet on the Senate side.

But no longer! Each board member will meet with at least one of their home state's senators and offer firsthand insight on what it means to be a professional photographer in today's world. Hopefully hearing about the importance of strong copyright laws directly from working photographers that are among their constituency will urge these senators to champion the cause within the Senate. And from there... some new legislation!

And don't forget, while the board is on the hill advocating for your copyrights, you can take action too! Sign up to participate in Copyright Awareness Month and spread the word.

Look for a recap from the board's visit to Capitol Hill soon!




Here are the 10 photography blogs from March 30 - April 4, 2014, that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the internet to be more!

Since April Fool's Day was earlier this week, and hopefully full of tom foolery - here's one of our favorite cartoons, What the Duck to give you a giggle

First things first, don't try this at home. Check out how Katerina Plotnikova used some furry (and some not so furry) friends to make beautiful, dream-like portraits. 

Sometimes your skills need a bit of a workout to make sure they are where they need to be. Digital Photography School has your top three moves to sharpen your skills and up your game. 

Tax Day is right around the corner and the folks at PhotoShelter want to help you keep every penny you can! Check out their top 10 common tax deductions that could save you a bundle! 

That's right--it's a whole month dedicated to educating the greater photography industry on copyrights! What do they mean to you, your clients and your vendors! See you how you can get involved here. 

This is amazing! Instead of just guessing if it's going to rain (or snow), there's a website that predicts cloud cover! This is perfect for landscape, night, or nature photographers, as much as for outdoor portrait image makers! 

Andy Smith took the helm of Rick Sammon's Photography blog and talks about all of the beautiful ways you can capture a sunburst effect. Not only is it great information, but has some beautiful examples! 

The CANIKON is here! Well--not exactly. Get the quick and dirty on why this new M15P-CL is making an impact on the market from PetaPixel. 

The man behind the images of Jane Goodall sits down to talk to National Geographic about his experiences behind the camera, interacting with the scientist and the natural habitat around them. 

If you want to get into the world of making videos from your images, but don't know how--PhotographyTalk has a wonderful first step in using your photo booth images! Get the details on how to expand your offerings here.

There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.
Photographers who belong to PPA get many benefits, like the free print and digital versions ofthe award-winning Professional Photographer magazine so you can keep up with the latest photography techniques, products, and business advice, and also perks and discounts on photography products and services. There's 15 families of tangible benefits for photographers to be more profitable, more protected, more prepared, more inspired, more connected and more productive. 

You surely have access to some of these benefits on your own, but they'll cost you more! How come? Because PPA is a non-profit in the business of helping photographers, not stockholders. Plus, we're the only one able to negotiate rates for 27,000 people at once, and therefore, able to transfer the drastic savings down directly to you.

One of these benefits is PhotoCare Equipment Insurance. The next time your camera or lens breaks, you'll be thankful for your membership. The insurance won't avoid the stress, fear or the frustration an accident or a theft can cause, but knowing that this insurance is there should give you pure peace of mind. Price tag? $300+ to PPA, but nothing to you! Isn't that priceless?

Here's what makes PhotoCare so awesome: You get up to $15,000 worth of coverage on photography and video equipment due to theft, breakage or fire. This comes at no cost to you! You read that right! PPA pays the entire insurance premium, so other than the deductible, you'll pay nothing out of pocket as long as you're a PPA member (valid for U.S. and Puerto Rico-based Professional Active or Life members). 

Replacing broken equipment can break the bank, but with PhotoCare Equipment Insurance you won't have to stress nearly as much next time your camera, lens or other piece of photography equipment gets wet, dinged, dropped, cracked, smacked, frozen or stolen! 

What if you already have an insurance you're happy with, you ask? Simple: PhotoCare will act as a secondary insurance, filling the gaps where your insurance will leave you hanging!

And what if you want MORE than the $15,000 PPA PhotoCare coverage? There's an option for that too! PhotoCare Plus offers up to $100,000 of coverage and extends to theft of equipment in unlocked vehicles (yep!), mysterious disappearances (yep again!), and non-PPA member employee coverage (up to $1,000). That option isn't included with the PPA membership, but it's well worth it. Learn more about PhotoCare Plus here

Either way, we highly encourage you to read more about Photocare and check the FAQs. It will help you get the coverage you need and avoid any surprises down the road.

Also, check out the video below that explains more about how this equipment insurance works.

What if you've already joined PPA but not activated your insurance? Easy! Log in to and opt-in through the My PPA section. Boom, $15,000 of equipment insurance just like that! The video below will walk you through how to opt-in; it's a really quick process that will only take a moment of your time. 

Stop stressing about your expensive gear or the risks associated with owning and hiding your stuff! We want you to be more protected, so that you can do more of what you love!

Join PPA today to opt-in or activate your coverage now if you haven't! It costs you nothing and it's a great safety net! Stay tuned to the PPA blog, as in upcoming weeks we'll be explaining even more of the benefits your PPA membership gives you, why they are here and what you're missing out on by not leveraging them!

It's time to educate the greater photography community on your copyrights. You, as an image maker, might even learn a thing or two!


Throughout the month of April, PPA is taking the initiative to educate the industry on copyright compliance. This is to benefit photographers, as such a critical part of your revenues come from printed work, so we need your help!


WHY? They might just be printing whatever comes in and not checking for copyrights. No one wants to infringe the law. You can help them know what they don't know. They will appreciate you helping protect their business, while you will also be protecting your own work!


There are two ways you can do your part and get involved:


1.     Educate photo retailers in your area. We're talking those who print photos for consumers, especially those high volume/low quality retailers. Hint: focus on larger retail chains, where your clients are most likely to have access to self-printing and scanning services. We won't name names, but you get who they are

Sign up to participate in the program. It's easy: As soon as you sign up, we'll send you the "Helpful Tips For Handling Professional Photographs" brochure that you can use as an icebreaker and excuse to visit photo retailers. It's a good leave behind for them too.  (When you sign up, you're committing to visiting at least three).  


As soon as you have dropped off the copyright materials with at least three photo retailers, let us know at We'll notify each corporate headquarters that you get the most up-to-date information on copyright compliance to their local centers.


Don't shrug this one off! Helping photo retailers understand your copyrights will benefit you.

2.     The other initiative PPA is undertaking during this Copyright Awareness month is helping photographers like you understand the basics of copyright with a webinar to review how to protect your images. Even if you already have a firm grasp on your copyright, please consider this as a refresher. You'll gain information on the basic facets of the law, quick tips on maximizing your copyright ownership and how PPA can help you address an infringement.

Are Your Images Protected?
1-hour webinar, Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 2 pm ET

Maria Matthews, PPA's manager, Copyright & Government Affairs Department


You might feel comfortable with what you are already doing, but the law keeps evolving and you never know what you're missing!  Be more prepared, be more protected, be more aware...  all photographers need (more) copyright protection!

Copyright matters. And as always, PPA has your back. This is your chance to get involved.
Be More.




with Bridget Jackson, CPA and PPA Business manager


Say hello to your newest guest column! It comes to you from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!

Hopefully you've filled out your taxes for 2013 by now, but if not, Bridget's got your back! She's got some advice on how to get the most out of your 2013 tax return. Here are some last minute tips for you slackers.


There's plenty to be on the lookout for in these last couple weeks of tax season!

1) The first tip is a big one for you photographers! Are you familiar with Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code? It allows a taxpayer to elect to deduct the cost of certain types of property on their income taxes as an expense, rather than requiring the cost of the property to be capitalized and depreciated. This property is generally limited to new or used tangible, depreciable, personal property which is acquired by purchase for use in the active conduct of a trade or business. This means you might be in line for some tax breaks on your photography purchases as long as they were done for your business. The deduction is limited to the taxable income of the business.

2) How about even more money coming your way? Bonus Depreciation means you can take an additional 50% special allowance for new qualified property placed in service in 2013. The allowance is an additional deduction you can take after any Section 179 deduction and before you figure regular depreciation under MACRS for the year you place the property in service. There is no taxable income limitation. If your 2013 business income is low, opt to depreciate equipment purchases over time rather than all at once.

NOTE: You can't depreciate more than you purchased! For instance if you buy a computer for $3,000 and you take section 179, you only get $3,000. You would not get any additional depreciation under bonus deprecation. Talk to your accountant to ensure you file these purchases correctly!

3) Think ahead! Effective for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, the De Minimus Safe Harbor Election can elect to treat amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve tangible property costing $500 or less as an expense, rather than capital. The election is made annually by including a statement with the taxpayer's timely filed original tax return for the year elected.

4) Do you have a home studio? Home Office Deduction is for the 100% business use of a portion of your home. Determine whether you can use the simplified home office deduction, which allows you to write off $5 per square foot of home office space, and up to $1,500 for 300 square feet. There is no home depreciation deduction or later recapture of depreciation for the years the simplified option is used.  However, due to the maximum deduction of $1,500 for the simplified method, it might be more tax advantageous to use the regular method.

5) The business use of your automobile is based either on the standard mileage method or actual expense method. Keep in mind, once you elect to use the actual expense method you cannot switch back to standard mileage method. The standard mileage rate for 2013 and 2014 is 56.5¢ and 56¢, respectively.

6) Pay estimated taxes. If you're self-employed, don't forget your first 2014 estimated tax payment is due April 15. One way to avoid penalties is to take your 2013 tax liability and pay 100 percent of it (110 percent for high-income earners), split into four installments.

7) Fund your retirement. Yes, it's 2014, but you can still contribute to an IRA for the 2013 tax year through April 15. For tax year 2013, you may deduct a maximum contribution of $5,500 to a traditional IRA if you are less than 50 years old. Those 50 or older may deduct up to $6,500. Contributions to a SEP or 401(k) are required to be made by the due date (including extensions) for filing your federal income tax return for the year.

8) Avoid penalties. Failing to file your tax returns on time or failing to pay taxes you owe will cost you. The corporate tax filing date was March 17, so if your company is organized as an S corporation, every shareholder will be charged $195 a month, for a maximum of 12 months, until your return is filed, if an extension was not requested.

9) Healthcare! In 2014, the Affordable Health Care Act requires that you will either need to keep your current insurance plan, purchase coverage, face a penalty tax or get an exemption. The requirement to have insurance is known as the Individual Mandate. The March 31 deadline has been extended two weeks. The penalty for failing to obtain coverage will be inputted on your 2014 tax return due April 15, 2015. The penalties for 2014 are 1% of taxable income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child for a maximum penalty of $285. However, the maximum penalty for 2015 increases to $975, and $2,085 in 2016. Beyond 2016, the penalties are adjusted annually for cost of living increases.





Spring has sprung! The birds are singing, flowers are blooming and these discussions are hopping on theLoop! Here are the top discussions happening on our safe and secure online community:

If you had a time machine and could go back and tell yourself one thing as you began your journey into professional photography, what would it be? This is a great conversation for veterans and newbies alike!

Are you into commercial photography? Talk tech and debate between Lightroom 5 or Creative Suite 6 for software! 

How much are you worth? Not how much do you charge per session, or how much you have in the bank--but how much are you (the photographer, owner, operator, visionary) of your business worth? Learn how to come up with an answer here.

This is always a popular question! We all have limited resources--so how do you use them effectively in your marketing? Google AdWords? LinkedIn? Facebook? There are an overwhelming amount of options! See what your fellow photographers are doing successfully here.

For all of you Do-It-Yourselfers out there! Save some big bucks by performing your own sensor cleanings, but be sure to read the whole thread. There are some horror stories of DIY gone wrong. Weigh in with your personal stories of successes and failures (there's no judgment here!) 

If you ever have clients that refuse to order at an ordering session--this thread is for you! How do you deal with customers that just don't want to purchase in the studio and only want to do it online? Join the conversation (and learn a few tricks in the process) here!

Sometimes it's nice to not worry about all of the equipment and just focus on the subject matter. Do you have a favorite point and shoot? What do you use it for? Get back to your photography roots with this great thread! 

Don't forget, theLoop is PPA's safe and secure online community where members can discuss various photography topics! Not a PPA member? It's easy: join today!

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