Saturday, February 27, 2010

WPPI 2010: Cheap Eats

My first trip to WPPI was also my first trip to Las Vegas. Everyone kept telling me over and over how cheap food is there and how you don't have to budget much for food because they practically give it away. That may have been the way years ago, but I quickly found out that much of my gear budget for the tradeshow was going to have to be spent on food. I found out that there IS cheap food, but in order to find it you have to travel quite far away from the convention or eat in the food court. Here's some tips to hopefully helping you keep your food budget in check and maybe even save a few $$.

Hit the Grocery Store

Even if you didn’t score the deal at The Signature most rooms at the MGM have at the very least a mini fridge that you can stock up with goodies. Hit up a grocery store on your way into town if possible and load up on water, snacks and other foods to keep you from hitting the stores within the MGM. The markup is INSANE.

Take this food with you when you go to any classes or the tradeshow. They will have tables of food and drinks set up in the convention area, but the pricing for the deli sandwiches and bottles of water are OUTRAGEOUS. I think the deli sandwiches were around $10 and the bottled water was $3 a shot. Even bringing an empty water bottle and filling it up at the numerous water fountains will save you some $$.

Cheap Eats at MGM

Last year WPPI offered discount dining cards to all attendees of the convention. The cards allowed each person to a buy one get one deal at many of the MGM restaurants - mostly the high end ones (and also drinks) as well as a discounted buffet price. The catch is that you had to order the same thing for most restaurants that offered BOGO and it did not include any of the tasting menus. Make sure that you register as soon as you get to Las Vegas, even if you aren't planning on attending any WPPI activities for a few days, to get this card to have on hand for all meals/drinks (if they offer it again that is).

There is a food court within MGM midway between the lobby and the convention area. They offer McDonalds, Haagen Dazs, Nathan's, Mama Ilardo's Pizzeria and Studio Wok. You’ll find that the typical McDonald’s rates are a bit higher here. Personally I wasn’t a fan of the pizza here, if you’re looking for GOOD pizza (that’s cheap!) read futher.

During the afternoons Diego was open last year offering a boxed lunch for around $10 or so which included a sandwich, chips, dessert and a drink and it would easily fill two people. The sandwiches are all premade so if you have any allergies you need to be forewarned of this. One of my favorites though as their food was VERY tasty and reasonable.

A few other cheap eats inside of MGM include the Stage Deli is located near the Race & Sports Book and has NY style eats for around $10. There’s always the buffet which had a discounted rate last year for WPPI attendees and ‘witchcraft which can be pricey but can easily be split between two people. Finally, there is Studio Cafe which isn't quite CHEAP (around $15 for a full meal) but is the cheapest eat inside MGM with table service and offers your typical greasy spoon fare.

For a list of all the dining options within MGM, visit their website. If you feel like splurging, I highly recommend Craftsteak.

Cheap Eats Nearby

By far my favorite place cheap place to eat last year was Sirrico’s Pizza over at NYNY. They are open until 3AM and their pizza kicks the pizza inside of MGM’s booty. While it may not be award winning, for $3 a slice at 3AM beggars are not choosers and I really loved this pizza. They are located on the game floor near the dueling piano bar.

Another cheap eat nearby is the food court within the Showcase Mall which is located to the north of MGM Grand. Inside their food court you'll find Wendy's, Subway, Del Taco, Noble Romans, Panda Express, Weinerschnitzel, Dreyer's Ice Cream and Duffy's Fish Fry. While not gourmet options by any means, it adds a bit of a variety to the offerings in the tiny food court inside MGM Grand.

Finally, my favorite cheap eat in Vegas is not too far from the MGM Grand - especially if you are staying at The Signature. Earl of Sandwich is located inside Planet Hollywood. Think of it as a gourmet Subway. They have REALLY good food that is made to order. If I remember correctly, I had a full meal here for about $6. If you're looking for a great meal at a great price, this is definitely worth the walk!

Hopefully this helps you find some cheap eats while you are in Vegas so that you can afford that lens you've been drooling over!

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Getting Out of the Part-Time Trap

When you're a bargain, work finds you very easily. Everyone loves a great deal, and once word gets out that you're offering your services for a steal, you'll find yourself with more work than you can handle! It's not a bad place to be if you like working all the time, but eventually you realize that you're working many more hours with no benefits, for less overall pay, and less personal time to spend with friends and family! What was once a fun hobby on the weekends, suddenly turned into a wildfire of business! GREAT, RIGHT?! Than why haven't you given up your other job(s)?

Some people say it's because they could never give up the great benefits they receive from their company. Some say it's because the amount they charge working part time would never be able to support them full time. Some say it's because running a small business is too risky. Well, whatever the reason for remaining part time, you're right. Here is a common list of things part-time photographers want, and what holds them back from getting them...

Greater Confidence - don't have extra money to spend on workshops
Networking/Learning - don't have time due to other job schedule
Better Equipment - not charging enough to afford it
Want to Charge More - fear that raising prices will reduce amount of work
Take on more work - don't have time due to other job
More Personal Freedom - not charging enough to hire additional help

If this were the only thing you were doing, you would have more time to attend seminars, more time to network and learn from other photographers, and more time to grow your business, give better service, develop more relationships, and take on more clients. When you have more time to spend on your business, you are naturally going to make more money because you'll be taking yourself seriously and so will those around you. You'll start saying, "I'm a photographer" instead of "I also do photography on the side". You'll have more clients who will send you more referrals and share your work with more people.

When you are self-employed, you will value yourself and your time a lot more because you will know exactly what it is worth and what you NEED to in order to support yourself (and/or family), your benefits, and your retirement plan. You will also find that you have the money to buy better equipment, to attend better workshops, and to hire or outsource additional help, giving you more personal freedom. People worry that when they raise their prices, the work will stop coming in- only if you turn it down or do absolutely nothing to attract it! Even if you stayed part time and simply doubled your prices and ended up with only half the amount of work - you're better off because you now have more time and are making more profit for less work! If you still have another job, now is the BEST time to raise your prices and start taking yourself seriously so that it only becomes a matter of weeks or months before you realize how much time you've wasted working for someone other than yourself.

Did you know that working for yourself is actually less risky than working for someone else?

When you work for yourself....
  • no one can fire you
  • no one can suddenly decide to lay off your department
  • no one can downsize your benefits
  • no one can determine what age you'll be able to retire
  • you control what benefits, doctors, and services you receive
  • you control how your retirement money is invested and spent
  • no one can fire you for taking time off to deal with family matters
  • you can always have the corner office with the view
  • you can deduct so much more when it comes to taking care of your business, vs. taking care of someone else's business
  • you control how much money you make each month
  • the profits you help bring in go to buying you a better house and car, rather than the executive you work for
  • you control your vacation and sick time
  • you decide how much your time is worth
  • you control who you get to work with
  • you decide how much you want to work
When you look at it closely, working for yourself is a lot less risky than working for someone else. I don't want to make it sound too easy, because it's certainly not something you should pursue if you prefer to just float by in life and let others control your future. However, if you find yourself really enjoying the business side of your hobby turned part-time job, than you need to seriously consider why you remain in other job(s) that are holding you back from having more control over your life?
I'm not a celebrity photographer. I don't charge an obscene amount for my services. I haven't invented any fancy gadget or product to make me millions. I haven't hosted a super expensive workshop. I don't have DVD tutorials for sale. But since I started working full time for myself... I have put more money into my retirement than I ever did when I was working for someone else. I have been able to afford the best equipment, backups, and repairs the exact moment I needed them. I have been able to invest in my education, my confidence, and my network. I have been able to buy sample products even to decide I just didn't like them. I have been able to spoil my favorite clients. I have been able to pay down my debt and loans at a pace that was never possible when I was working for someone else. I have been able to take better care of myself and my health. I've been able to take time to travel with my husband, to spend more quality time with family, and to decide when enough work is enough. I have been able to hire other people to help me when I've fallen behind, or when what I have is too overwhelming. I have been able to continue doing what I love with passion, and to share it all with you.

Once you're ready to go full time, find a mentor. They don't have to be local, though the easier they are to access, the better. While it's nice if they've been in the business for a while, it could be equally helpful to find someone who's in the same position you are so that you can grow and share ideas in a mutual relationship based on helping each other grow- rather than a teaching-centered relationship which tends to be a one-way street. Message boards are a great way to meet people with similar interests. When you're ready to announce to the world that you're open for business, get a great website and read my previous post: "Advertising is like.. *WHOOSH*" to explore easy ways to promote your business and get your name out in the community without spending a ton of money. If you haven't already established your business legally, contact a local business college and ask if they can give you any free resources for small or starting businesses (like free legal guidance). Many states and local governments are also eager to help new businesses get started by offering free or reduced fee small business programs and seminars. Search college business departments as well as local government websites for information. For all of your tax needs, the IRS has created a great free online resource with many different products to help you! Check it out at ==> "Small Business and Self-Employed One-Stop Resource".
(Note: this article was originally written in 2007 but is being republished for relevance.)

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Check out her next workshop at Smarter Business Workshop. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Making the Most of Your Mentoring Experience

While everyday mentoring happens quite randomly with just a few questions here and there until a regular relationship forms with someone over time, a consultation or set-aside time for mentoring requires more preparation and focus in order to get the most information possible in the shortest amount of time.  Since 90 people will win great mentors in the Thirst Relief Mentor Auction ending THIS evening, I wanted to share some tips to help you get the most out of your mentoring experience!

Know Your Goals

Start by writing out what you need to need to know, or do, in order to move forward in your business. This list is just for you, so write everything that comes to mind. After you've listed everything you can think of, start prioritizing items by what is most important right now, versus things you'd like to do eventually. Once you've identified your top priorities, pick 3 that you'd like to explore with your mentor. By sticking to 3 prioritized goals, you'll be able to focus on what you can start implementing right away, which will help you feel a greater sense of accomplishment.

Communicate Difficulties

It's one thing to have goals, but you also need to be able to communicate why you've had a hard time moving forward with your goals. Understanding the difficulties you're facing will help your mentor provide solutions or alternative approaches to the problems. Everyone faces similar difficulties at some point in their attempt to build a business, so be honest about the challenges you're facing, even if you think they might seem personal, insignificant, or silly.  This is not the time to hide your insecurities, because sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Create Action Steps

Once you've worked with a mentor to create solutions for difficulties in achieving your goals, turn those solutions into action steps. Action steps should be small and concrete. For example, your goal might be to create a new website, but that involves many small action steps like: selecting favorite images, writing a new bio, getting an updated headshot, updating pricing information, etc. Your mentor should be able to help you identify exactly what those small steps are and possibly even help you accomplish them by providing feedback on what works best. When solutions are broken down into small steps, suddenly the goal doesn't seem so overwhelming or impossible to achieve, and progress can be made.

Set Due Dates

Deadlines are the ultimate motivator for actually accomplishing goals. Your mentor can help you determine reasonable due dates for each of your action steps and if they're really cool, they'll even check in with you to make sure you accomplished everything. To help yourself, put your due dates in your calendar with reminders along the way to set time aside for getting everything done, because sometimes things only get done when you've set time aside for them.

Get Feedback

Once you've accomplished the goals you worked with your mentor on, share your success with them and invite their feedback on your accomplishments. Mentors love seeing the results!  Be open to what they have to say and welcome any suggestions for further improvement. Often times the biggest mistake we make is in thinking that we're "done" when there's always more that we can improve upon. Great mentors will care about your results, so don't be afraid to reach out to them after the time they've committed to giving you. Just make sure that you're respectful of their time by only asking for responses that can't be found elsewhere online.

Good luck with the final hours of bidding!  I hope you win a great mentor!

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years practicing marketing & management in corporate and non-profit businesses before pursuing her passion for photography as an independent small business. She loves helping others find creative and low-cost solutions to business problems. Follow her on Twitter to see her daily adventures and thoughts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thirst Relief EBay Auction Tips

This is the 3rd year that I've participated as a mentor in the Thirst Relief Mentor Auction sponsored by Thirst Relief International and ShootQ.  With the help of an EBay savvy family member, I've put together a few tips to help you win a mentor and put your donation to good use.  Check back tomorrow for tips on getting the most out of the mentor that you've won!

Tips for bidding & winning mentor auctions on EBay:

Identify your mentors.  Select your ideal mentor, and then identify two or three more people that you would be interested in learning from.  It's important to identify several possible mentors in advance in case you get outbid on the mentor you initially wanted.

Know what's included.  Some auctions only include a particular product, some are giving you a couple hours of their time and dinner at WPPI only, and some are willing to give everything they have.  Make sure you're bidding on a mentor that is going to give you something that you really need and value.  Personality alone may not be enough to help you out in the ways you need it, and some people you've never heard of may actually end up being the most helpful.

Watch your favorites.  Once you've identified the mentors you'd like to work with, click "Watch This Item" under the bid button to help keep track of the mentors you're interested in so that you have a quick link and summary for just the auctions you're interested in.

Place maximum bid.  I believe in having a budget and sticking to it, which is why I advocate placing your maximum bid right up front.  This doesn't mean that you are actually bidding your total budget right off the bat, it just means that you're telling EBay the maximum you are willing to donate and then letting the system incrementally bid for you against any potential competition until you've reached your maximum bid.  It's also useful to place your maximum bid an odd amount above the whole dollar amount you've budgeted.  So, instead of $500, bid something like $507.89, so that you're just above the other people who weren't savvy enough to think outside of the zeros.  With this method you may actually win for less than your maximum bid, or you will be notified as soon as someone has busted your bidding budget, so that you can move onto another option that might be within your budget.  It's the most efficient bidding method, so that you aren't spending your precious time watching an auction instead of doing things that will help your business.

Get notification.  You can set up EBay to notify you in a variety of ways, so set up a notification that works best for you- whether it's email, text to your phone, skype, or some other method.  That way you can be on the ball when you need to and not worry about it until then.

Note ending times.  Each auction ends at a different time in order to allow losers from one auction to find another auction they can win.  Note the order in which your favorite auctions end so that you can be proactive about the plan you'll take to find a great mentor so that you can put your donation budget to good use. (Note: It appears that this year's auctions end in alphabetical order by last name.)  If you find that all of the auctions you're interested in are bidding higher than your budget, than it might be a good time to start considering other mentors out there. Remember that your budget was established as what you are willing to donate to the Thirst Relief cause, not just what one person's time is worth.  Everyone in the auction has been invited because they have something valuable to offer, and they've all agreed to participate because they want to help others.  Taking a chance on someone you've never heard of means your bidding budget still goes to a good cause, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you can learn from someone who spends most of their time working "out of the spotlight".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WPPI 2010: PLC Meetup

There has been a lot of questions asking if there is going to be a Photo Lovecat party during WPPI like in the years past. Sadly, the answer is no. Our fearless leader Anne will not be attending this year and quite frankly, a party isn't a party without Anne! ;)

Before Anne decided not to attend, she had expressed the hope of instead of having a party to have a retreat area where readers and Lovecats could go to during WPPI to chill out and just chat. While parties are fun, they are not remotely conversation friendly with the loud music, hot rooms and people galore! This ended not being a reality but the idea of a more serene setting to meet up may not be totally gone (yet).

Christine and I will be at WPPI this year and we have been discussing the idea for having a low-key meetup for readers of Photo Lovecat. No throwing out of items. No crazy contests. No dancing. Just people and talking.

We're thinking either a meal or a drink meet up that's coordinated so it doesn't conflict with other goings-on for WPPI. Ideally we'd try to organize this event for the early days of WPPI so that you could meet some new friends to enjoy WPPI with. Perhaps we'll even Skype Anne in ;) Maybe drinks Sunday night before the festivities begin or a breakfast meetup Monday morning?

Would this be something you're interested in? If so, commet below and let us know what day would work out best for you and what your thoughts are!

Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel guru, deal hound and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.

Friday, February 5, 2010

12 Terabytes of Fast File Storage for less than $2000

In my previous article, A Strategy for Data Backup, I committed to outlining what I think is a solid, cost-effective, and reliable solution for wedding and portrait photographers.

Now as a little up-front disclaimer I would like to say that the equipment and software recommendations I list in this article are my own and I am not compensated in any way, shape, or form by any of the manufacturers or sellers of these products and services. I also offer this advice without an guarantees that they will work perfectly for anyone else. This particular setup is basically an updated version of the one we have been using the past three years.

About the system
This system is designed to offer the best compromise between access speed, raw storage space, backup automation, flexibility for rotating backups, and accommodating future growth for file storage needs. It's a bit of a DIY solution, but in my opinion it's preferable to a Drobo, which is essentially a proprietary RAID system.

System components
The basic components of the system are:
• A port multiplier-capable box, used for housing the hard drives
• Eight hard drives
• An eSATA card, for accessing the box at faster-than-USB/Firewire speeds
• Anti-static hard drive cases, for the offsite drives
• Chronosync, automated and configurable backup software

Recommended Components
Burly Port-Multiplier box ($500)
Mac Pro eSATA card ($200) OR MacBook Pro eSATA card ($200)
1.5 TB Hard Drives ($115)
Weibetech protective cases (10 for $55)
Extra Burly drive tray ($30)
Chronosync (Backup software for $40)

Putting it all together
1 x Burly Box @ $500
8 x 1.5 TB drives @ $125 = $920
1 x eSATA card @ $200
10 pack of protective cases = $55
2 x Burly drive tray @ $30 = $60
1 x Chronosync software @ $40
Total = ~$1755

Using the system
Since duplication is key, it's important to note here that this system is not designed to be the only backup. Ideally this system would be one of three total copies that exist of the work a photographer is attempting to back up -- and have it readily available for taking off site as well as restoration (if necessary).

Four of the drives will be in use regularly, the other four drives will be for offsite/emergency purposes, so the idea is to split data across the drives in a way that makes sense.

Storage system drives
• Drive A: 2010 RAW Files
• Drive B: Work In-Progress
• Drive C: Archived Work
• Drive D: More Archived Work + Business Files

Offsite/clone drives
• Drive E: 2010 RAW Files Clone
• Drive F: Work In-Progress Clone
• Drive G: Archived Work Clone
• Drive H: More Archived Work + Business Files Clone

These silos will allow a photographer to separate the work-in-progress files from RAWs and business files. Separating the work also allows for pairing up these backup drives with the other four drives, giving each drive a same-sized clone.

Chronosync, or a similar smart automated backup program, can run on a set schedule to manage the process of backing up to specific drives. Setting the backup program to do nightly dumps of a local work folder to a Work In-Progress drive is a great way to ensure that a drive failure will only mean one day of lost productivity after restoring.

Sample workflow
Here is a sample workflow for using this system to back up work and incorporate an off-site strategy as well:

1. Shoot a job
2. Download the images to the internal drive of the main editing workstation
3. Copy the RAW images to the 2010 RAW Files drive
4. Burn a DVD of the RAW images (optional but recommended)
5. Process the RAWs in Lightroom and export the corrected Jpegs to a working folder on the main editing workstation
6. Make additional adjustments to the work-in-progress images at the main editing workstation
7. Nightly backup process (Chronosync) store the work folder in the Work In-Progress drive automatically (set up folders & schedules for this up beforehand)
8. Insert the clone drives one by one and sync the contents from the storage system drive to the offsite/clone drive (on a regular basis; weekly, monthly, or after each job)
9. Take the clone drives (in the Weibetech boxes) to another location

What about the cloud?
As of February 2010, the cost of storing data legitimately* with a cloud-based service is still a little high for the average photographer to handle, especially as data grows. I have linked a spreadsheet that estimates the cost of cloud storage for a year.

*After some research I found that, unfortunately, webhosts offering "unlimited" storage only mean unlimited for files that are actually there in support of the website. For example, Dreamhost's terms of service say: "The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose. DreamHost Apps servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service." Go Daddy's hosting agreement says more plainly: "Go Daddy's shared hosting servers are not an archive"

Backup System and Cloud Storage Calculator

Please feel free to comment and leave your thoughts on this system and alternatives. I'd love to hear/see them!

Damon is the technical (and bag-carrying) assistant to Agnes Lopez, a commercial and wedding photographer who works primarily in Ponte Vedra Beach and Amelia Island, Florida. When he isn't standing still as a lighting test dummy, setting up a c-stand, or holding a reflector, Damon works as an IT Business Analyst, where he gets to solve technical problems on a daily basis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Haiti Donations & Tax Relief

I received this informational email from Grazier Photography and their accountant today about deducting donations for Haiti relief and thought the info was so good it needed to be shared on PhotoLovecat!

This month Congress passed a law that the President signed, giving taxpayers the choice of deducting donations for Haiti relief on their 2009 tax returns – even though the donation actually happened in 2010.  If you made Haiti relief donations and wish to deduct them on your 2009 returns, be sure to let [your accountant] know!

Here are 10 important facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about this special provision.

  1. A new law allows you to claim donations for Haitian relief on your 2009 tax return, which you will be filing this year.
  2. The contributions must be made specifically for the relief of victims in areas affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
  3. To be eligible for a deduction on the 2009 tax return, donations must be made after Jan. 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010.
  4. In order to be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified charities and can not be designated for the benefit of specific individuals or families.
  5. The new law applies only to cash contributions.
  6. Cash contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card may be claimed on your federal tax return.
  7. You must itemize your deductions in order to claim these donations on your tax return.
  8. You have the option of deducting these contributions on either your 2009 or 2010 tax return, but not both.
  9. Contributions made to foreign organizations generally are not deductible. You can find out more about organizations helping Haitian earthquake victims from agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development ( ).
  10. Federal law requires that you keep a record of any deductible donations you make. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given. For cash contributions made by other means, be sure to keep a bank record, such as a cancelled check or a receipt from the charity. Receipts should show the name of the charity, the date and amount of the contribution.

For more information see IRS Publication 526 , Charitable Contributions and Publication 3833 , Disaster Relief: Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations . To determine if an organization is a qualified charity visit, keyword “Search for Charities”. Note that some organizations, such as churches or governments, may be qualified even though they are not listed on

 Thank you Matt & Enna for sharing!