Ad image

PPA Today: Helpful Hints Archives

Recently in Helpful Hints Category

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!

Here are the 10 photography blogs from March 23 - 28, 2014, that we hope will inspire photographers to be more!

1. Head in the Clouds: Mike Olbinski's Storm Photography

From the B&H blog, we found this great interview with storm photographer Mike Olbinski. It's a good look at how to do storm photography and there are some awesome photos as well.

2. 8 Essential Underwater Photography Tips from Sarah Lee

Are you curious about how to capture great images underwater? This post from PetaPixel is for you! Experienced underwater-photographer Sarah Lee shares her advice for how to get the best images in this setting.

3. How to Deal With Blushing Red Skin in Adobe Lightroom

If you've ever faced the challenge of re-touching blushing skin, check out this post from the Phoblographer. You'll get some great tips for how to tackle this challenge using Lightroom.

4. Bigger Than Life - Ice Caves

This video from Firefight Films is just plain cool! The filmmakers used a drone with camera attached to take you inside the beautiful 12-mile long Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, Alaska. You can also watch the behind-the-scenes video to see how they did it. 

5. 6 Good Reasons to Organize your Portfolio

Does your portfolio needs some organizing? This post from Photography Talk will show you why you've got to stop putting it off and get organized today.

6. Getting Started With Aerial Photography

The rise of commercially available drones has led to exciting new possibilities in aerial photography. If you're considering getting involved in aerial photography using a drone, check out this guide from Camera Dojo on what you need to know before starting.

7. Getty Images Image Embed: Progressive or Destructive?

If you're a stock photographer, you can't miss this post. Photoshelter provides a guide to Getty Images' new rule allowing images from their library to be used for free online for editorial and non-commercial purposes. Needless to say, this has caused quite a stir in the photography community! As this piece points out, it might not be all bad news. Find out how the new rule affects you and read the reactions of some of the stock photography community.

8. Can You Apply Multiple Presets in Lightroom?

If you use Lightroom, this post from Lightroom Killer Tips is one you'll want to check out. Find out how you can speed up your workflow by applying presets in Lightroom.

9. New Documentary Focuses on Mysterious Photographer

This article from the New York Times reviews "Finding Vivian Maier," a documentary on the famously mysterious street photographer. The film searches for the enigmatic woman behind the lens, and also ponders her as an artist. And more importantly, it takes on the question of if photography itself is an art form.    

10. How To Make Fantastic Wedding Photos Even When It's Raining

Rain on the wedding day can be a major challenge, but as Fstoppers shows you in this post, it can't stop you from getting great, memorable photos for your clients.

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.

The healthcare insurance open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act closes March 31. That means you only have a couple weeks to enroll in a qualified health insurance plan and avoid tax penalties!  After March 31, everyone will have to wait until 2015 to enroll in a qualified health plan. You don't want to have to wait a whole year!

Read more about the plans offered by Pallay Insurance Agency below:


Are you familiar with the health insurance options available to you as a PPA member? That's right! PPA can help you and your family find the best medical and dental insurance in your area, with several different plans available.

PPA partners with Pallay Insurance Agency, Inc., to assist members in securing affordable and quality medical and dental coverage.

Ross and Scott Pallay are both very knowledgeable about all the options available to you and are very open to speaking with you. They can answer any questions about the new healthcare structure, open enrollment, fines for not having coverage (you read right, you can be fined for not having coverage) and more. They are also able to quote members on policies if you live in any of the 50 states except the ones listed below.*

Make sure you check out all of the insurance options available to you and reach out to Pallay Insurance Agency with any questions or to receive a quote.  

*coverage not available in AK, HI, ID, MA, ME, MT, NJ, NM, NY, RI, SD, VT

P.S. After open enrollment ends, Pallay can still offer Limited Benefit Fixed Indemnity AND Short Term Medical Insurance Plans to members looking for some form of health coverage. While these plans are not qualified health plans, they do provide members and their families with benefits to assist them with medical expenses which can help them get by until the next open enrollment.

It's already February? How did that happen?! Here at PPA, we're devoted to always helping you be more as a professional photographer. With that in mind, here are 10 photography blogs from the week of Feb. 2, 2014 that we think will help inspire and educate you.

1). What Happens When You Pose Two Strangers Together for an Intimate Portrait?
This one has been circulating the web this week. For six years, New York photographer, Richard Renaldi, has been working on an unusual portrait project. It's called Touching Strangers, and the results are pretty surprising! View the video. View the gallery.

2). Have Camera, Will Travel: 50 Awesome Photo Workshops Around the World
Obviously, you don't want to miss any upcoming PPA workshops. But if you really want to be more, take a look at this list from PetaPixel of 50 others happening all over the world! Read the list.

3). Timelapse: Northern Lights So Bright They Overexpose the Photos
A trip to Alaska to see the Aurora Borealis should be on every photographer's bucket list. Take a look at this astonishing timelapse from photographer, Chad Blakely and see why. View the post.

4). Photos from Sochi

You might have heard, but the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are under way! Here's a decent round-up of photos from Sochi, from the weird (tandem toilets?) to the magnificent. For a good giggle and a few awes, view the photos. 

5). Alex Webb Looks Back in Black and White

The New York Times official photo journalism blog, Lens, is taking a look back at the best work of famed photographer, Alex Webb. Naturally, they're looking back in black and white. Read the post

6). Don't Pose, Give Direction
From FStoppers, this post will teach you how to make posed photos look natural. Read the advice.

7). You Have a Big Impact

Here's a little inspiration from Imaging USA speaker, Jeffrey Shaw. See why you are never too small to make a big impact! Read the post.

8). Life of a Crash Test Dummy
This Reuters blog takes a photographic look at the lives of these brave car safety specialists. View the images.

9). A Taste for Music

Fusion restaurants are all the rage these days, but what about blending into other mediums? Take a look at photographer Vincent Kessler's visit to the Vegetable Orchestra in Vienna, Austria. It's real! Read the article.

10). Landscape Photos Exposed onto Handblown Glass  
These are SO COOL. See how artist Emma Howell is breathing new life into the landscape genre. View the post.

There you have it, our favorite blog posts of the week! Don't forget that you can share your own blog posts, or others that you have enjoyed, on theLoop

Maria Matthews drops in from PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs Department to fill you in and the Government Shutdown as it applies to professional photographers.

It's been just about one week since many federal departments and agencies closed their doors due to lack of funding. As processes slow, or have already come to a complete standstill, more and more businesses are feeling the effects. As a photographer and small business owner here's what a shutdown means to you.

Copyright Registration
The U.S. Copyright Office remains closed. The Public Information Office and the Technical Support Desk of the Copyright Office are not being staffed and access to some sections of has been limited.

You can still file copyright registrations online using the eCO however; your application will not be processed until the office reopens. Filing your claim now will help ensure the earliest possible effective date of registration so don't delay in ensuring your works are eligible for the fullest protections available under the law.

The Office's closing does not mean any loss of copyright ownership. You should however continue to ensure you are properly marking your work and arranging licensing agreements whenever you allow someone to make use of your images.

Foreign Travel
Need a passport for an upcoming assignment? As of October 7, the U.S. Passport Office is open and will continue to issue passports. While operational, you may experience a delay in processing. The office estimates a four week turnaround time on "routine" service and two weeks for "expedited" service. 

If you've already applied for your passport and have not yet received it you can visit: to find out its status. If you've not yet applied, visit the passport office website to find out if the nearest passport office to you is open.

If you're looking for information about your destination you can continue to visit the International Travel page for up to date information about entry and exit requirements as well as any special travel alerts.

Healthcare Exchanges
As most government offices were ramping down on October 1, the health insurance marketplaces were just revving up their engines. You can visit to find out how you can purchase health coverage that will take effect January 1, 2014. If you're in a state that operates its own exchange you can access it through this site as well. If your state is not managing its own exchange you can purchase through the "federal exchange" operating in your state. It is important to note that these sites are experiencing heavy volume so you're likely to encounter delays and other hiccups in navigating their pages.

For additional information on how the new healthcare laws apply to you, watch the Health Insurance Reform webinar series presented by Ross Pallay of Pally Insurance Agency.

National Parks and Other Federal Property
Land operated by the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture have been closed. These sites include properties managed by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forrest Service. This shutdown has also extended to their respective websites.

This means that even if you or your client has obtained a permit for a session on this property, you will not be allowed on park land. It is important to note that any permit or special use fees that have been paid to the location are non-refundable. Whether these permits will be honored for future dates remains to be seen. 

If you have an upcoming session at one of these properties you will need to make alternate arrangements with your clients. 

Small Business Administration
Yet another government agency affected by the shutdown is the Small Business Administration. The only services that continue to function under this arm of the government are Disaster Relief Services. If you have applied for a loan, grant, or any other assistance offered by this agency services have been suspended until they are fully funded.

PPA is closely watching all developments on Capitol Hill and will keep you informed as to how they impact you. As always, feel free to email with any questions.

Yes, you still have to file and pay your taxes even though the shutdown has affected the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Whether you filed an extension through October 15, 2013, or have to complete your quarterly filing responsibilities you, or your tax preparer must still meet this deadline.

General assistance through their automated service line is still available along with all of the resources at If you're planning on e-filing, your tax preparation software should have agents available to help you as you will not be able to reach staff at this agency. If you're planning to paper file, it's highly likely your return will not be processed until the IRS is fully funded. Other services that will see a delay are issuing refunds. For more information about day to day operations visit, their website
teh_pets_3.jpgMost pet photographers start because of a love of pets but, well, you can't live on love. It takes a certain set of skills to deal with those four-legged kids, their "parents" and turn a profit...without going barking mad. In fact, here's what three respected professional pet photographers suggest all budding pet photographers do.


Once off-limits, the tender time right after the birth of a child has become a new frontier for portrait photographers. Increasingly, photographers are offering hospital visits as part of their maternity-baby portrait options. While styles and approaches vary widely, many photographers approach these sessions as a way to record the child's first few hours, and topete_wright_blog0919_1.JPG portray the family's closeness during this time.

Timing the Sessions

It's important to note that "birth" photography doesn't usually mean documenting the actual birth, but instead providing a series of portraits at the hospital or birthing location shortly after the birth. (Many hospitals do not even allow photographers in the delivery room, so be careful about what you promise clients.) Often, photographers try to time these sessions within a few hours of the birth, or perhaps the next day. This differs from the timing of a newborn session, which typically occurs a week to two weeks postpartum.

Packaging the Sessions for Return Visits
The birth sessions fit well into ongoing packages, with display options including collages and albums that can be added to as the child grows. They also serve as another key bonding element to help a photographer establish a stronger relationship with the clients. You can plug such birth sessions into a program that might also include a maternity session, a standard newborn session, and baby portrait sessions at regular intervals.

Thumbnail image for pete_wright_blog0919_2.jpgThat's how PPA member Pete Wright, M.Photog.Cr., of PW Photography in Richmond, VA, uses birth sessions:  to deepen his relationship with his clients and to add another element to their growing collection of imagery. Pete created a structure that incentivizes clients to return regularly during the maternity period and baby's first year. The ultimate product is an album, and parts of the process include a maternity session, a hospital visit/birth session, a newborn session seven to 10 days later, another early baby session about six weeks after that, and then follow-on baby sessions at six, nine and 12 months.

"The key is that we try to get two or three sessions in, as well as the preview appointments, before the baby hits eight weeks old. That's the honeymoon phase with a new baby when parents are crazy in love with him/her to the point where they'll spend a lot more," says Wright. "We wanted to offer a different option with some incentives to come back in. It makes our customers more proactive about coming back so they can finish their book."

Wright says that his system (which includes birth photography) "trains clients to keep returning at key points in their family's growth, and that process may continue long after they're finished with the baby book. Some keep returning for years as their children grow!"

Is birth photography for you? Do you approach it differently? Share below!



johnstone_helpfulhints1.jpgWho here would like to save while still creating cool-looking packaging for your clients? (It's probably unanimous, huh?) Then you won't want to miss this article we put together with the help of PPA members Trevor and Tourine Johnstone of Johnstone Studios, a wedding, portrait and design studio. They've shared the ways they make the most of every bit of material they have, resulting in beautiful packaging and other items branded with their look. You'll soon be searching through your own studio to see what you can repurpose, too!

Read the full article.


forester_xmas_promo1.jpgWhen it comes to holiday promotions, response is often contingent upon getting clients in the spirit well in advance of the holidays. Key to generating holiday enthusiasm in, say, July is good imagery. After all, you are running a photography business, and the images should ultimately speak for themselves.

Color Scheme
The first thing you should consider is the color scheme. Beth Forester, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, of Forester Photography in Madison, WV, says that she's experimented with different color combinations, but nothing sells quite like red and green. "When I'm putting together my card designs to show clients, I experiment with different colors, but I always have a red and green option," she says.

Read the full article

Image ©Forester Photography

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Helpful Hints category.

Faces of PPA is the previous category.

How They Did It is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Live Chat is open