January 15, 2010

ProPhoto Blog Theme - Version 3 Is Here!

I'm currently on version 2 of the ProPhoto Blog theme, but version 3 has been released! I'm holding out for a bit till I get a little more money in, but I'm pretty sure I'll be upgrading soon.

There's a huge list of new features available in this upgrade. The biggest new feature is the gallery slideshows. A huge feature is also the watermark overlay, you can add your custom watermark over any posted photograph with one click. They've also included new features with sidebars, widgets, social media icons and RSS feed image protection. There are tons of other great new additions and changes, too many to list here.

If you're new to ProPhoto, the Do It Yourself Package is $199 (this is the option I picked when I purchased) and the Handheld Installation is $279. If you're upgrading from version 2 of ProPhoto it's $89. Looking for a discount code for the theme? Use at DANNE232B checkout for an additional $10 off your purchase!

Full Disclosure: commission on ProPhoto Themes sold via coupon code.

Full Disclosure

Starting December 1st, 2009 the FTC requires bloggers to provide disclosure when there could be hidden interest or bias when talking about product recommendations. First of all I'm a photographer and this blog is far from my income in life (that's why I still work a day job too!).

Yes, sometimes I get freebies from people when I want to try out their products. Joyce Smith has been a peach and lets me try out her Wordsmith guides for free. But Joyce never has asked that I give her a good review, I do because her products rock my socks off! Alicia Caine gave me nothing for free and I spent full price on her products from the Easy As Pie series, but she's another one that rocks my socks off so I asked her to share a coupon code with my readers. Not really a benefit to me, but it sure is for my readers.

So I've decided to make it easy for everyone and note at the bottom of each review if there is a possibility of me receiving money or if I've received a free sample from someone. If there's nothing in the post, then I don't receive anything from that I don't want the FTC coming after me!

January 12, 2010

Best and Worst Purchase of '09

As I've been getting 2009 paperwork in order I realized that I've made some great and some horrible purchases over the last year. Now, I try not to do bad reviews because, well some things just don't work for some people! So what I might not like, you might fall in love with. And of course, what I love you may hate. But I thought this was a good time to go through my best and worst. I now try to find reviews and ask other photographers about any big purchases, because who wants to keep throwing money out the window. So lately, most of my purchases have been on the good end. Grab a cup of coffee, there's a bit of info in this post! Let's start with the best:

Best Purchases of '09
Wacom Tablet - You would think that being a graphic designer for 10 years I would have already owned one, but I didn't. I picked this up in '08 but didn't take it out of the box for months, so we'll call it a '09 purchase. After forcing myself to use it for a few weeks now I can't live without it! I currently have the Intuos3 4x6" Tablet. I figure smaller was better when I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep it. I'll be upgrading to a larger model hopefully this year.

Blackberry Curve - Not sure why I waited so long to pick one of these up! Now, I really wanted an iPhone, but since I'm on the Verizon network that was not an option. I finally caved an got the Blackberry Curve. If you're dealing with clients I think you really should have a Smart Phone. I love that no matter where I am I can receive client emails and get back to them as soon as possible. I also love that I no longer have to carry around a paper calendar for scheduling session or life for that matter. I've got everything sync'ed to my Mac, so if something happens to either, I have it in another place.

Insurance - After reading tons of stories on the twitter and blogs about all the bad things that have happened this year to other photographers, insurance is a must!! If you don't have your gear insured, do it immediately!! So many people have lost gear due to fires, water damage and theft and they didn't have any insurance. If you charge people for your services, please, please, please make sure you have liability and equipment coverage!

MobileMe - I recently wrote about MobileMe here, check it out for details on how I backup my client files.

Joyce Smith's WordSmith Guides - I'm not a write, nor do I even pretend that I'm a writer. That's why I love all of Joyce's guides. I've talked a lot about her products in the past you can find out about the Senior Pricing Menu template and {what to wear} seniors guide here, how to sell guide here, and the {what to wear} guide here.

Easy As Pie - Thanks to Alicia Caine, I've got a clue now. I talk more about Easy As Pie here, so take a look. I just finished my 2010 pricing and I love how simple it now is. My clients actually understand my pricing now! If you're struggling with pricing yourself correctly, this is a must! Be sure you read the entire post, Alicia just gave me a $20 coupon code to offer to my readers, it's at the end of my review here.

Education - I think education is a must! No matter what level photographer you are, you can always learn more! I talk more about the Unleashed Pet Photography Workshop that I attended in 2009 here. I'm currently kicking myself for not attending this year's Imaging USA from PPA. After seeing all the rave reviews and great time that everyone is having on Twitter and Facebook, it's going to be a must for me in 2011. I also think forums can be extremely helpful in building your knowledge base. I also believe sometimes they can be time wasters as well. As long as you don't get sucked into hanging out all day long on the forums, you should be fine!

The not so hot purchases of '09:

Props - I was a bit out of control this year with props for session. I was on a newborn kick and bought tons of hats, blankets and other items. Guess what, I decided that newborns aren't my thing and don't plan on photographing them again! Luckily, I found other photographers who were more than happy to take those props off my hands. The bad news, I lost a bit of money on them when I re-sold the props. From now on I'm going to give myself a yearly prop budget and stick with it. It needs to be a must have instead of just because it's cute!

Random Forms
- When you're starting out you just aren't sure what you need, believe me, I totally overspend in this area. I purchased form after form from other photographers. Portrait contracts, other contracts and lots of forms. Too many forms in my option! Guess what, Business and Legal Forms for Photographers has pretty much everything you need in it. Go figure there's a book out there with all the forms you need AND it comes with a CD of the forms so you don't have to re-create them. So much for me spending over $100 on forms from other photographers, I got the Business and Legal Forms book for under $25.

Samples - Last year I wanted to do it all and sell it all. My bank account took a huge hit with samples. Now granted, you need to have samples to show clients for them to want to buy, but keep what you offer simple. I spent upwards of a thousand dollars on various album, canvas and boutique item samples. This year, with my revised pricing, I'm not even planning on offering half the items I have samples for. And those items that I'm not offering, didn't even sell last year. Make sure when you're getting samples of products you plan on offering them to your clients! Be sure to check out various trade shows and conventions to see the items in person before you consider ordering them!

Softboxes - With being on-location and not having a studio, I really plan on focusing on learning more about Off Camera Flash (OFC) this year. And, I wanted a great softbox to use for my OFC work. I'm currently on softbox number 3! The first one was inexpensive, but it did the job. I decided to upgrade to a softbox that other photographers rave about. It was close to $300 ... and I hated it. It was cumbersome and a total pain while I was out at sessions. I parted with softbox #2 and have moved on to #3. The current softbox was less expensive than #2, and since it's a newer purchase, I haven't used it enough to say if I love it or hate it. I can tell you that it's much lighter and easier to assemble while out in the field, so that's definitely a bonus! Looking back, I wish I would have just gone down to the local camera store and checked some of these out in person before I continued to make purchase after purchase. I'll be trying it out over the next few weeks and let you guys know if #3 stays or goes!

So, some great purchases and some real money burners this year. Live and learn, right? I'm going to be overly cautious about my spending this year. It needs to be an absolute must have before I make the purchase.

Make sure to post in the comments below the best and worst that you've spent money on this year!

Full Disclosure: Samples received from WordSmith.

2010 Your Best Year Ever

Going through my emails from the last few days and I came across this one from Sarah Petty's Joy of Marketing and thought I would share. Great advice as usual from Sarah!!

Here are 5 Resolutions to Make 2010 Your Best Year Ever....

1. Live your dream. To live your dream and do what you want, you need to have a plan. When you wake up 12 months from now, will you be living the lifestyle you want? To be able to live your dream, you must have a good map. Would you head to Florida on a vacation without a map? Not if you want to get there the most efficient way as possible. Sure, you'd start by heading South, but you may get disoriented with road construction and begin traveling West. If you don't have a map or even worse, don't look at it, there's a good chance you'll end 2010 in Montana. A plan keeps you focused on your end goal.

2. Be good to others. My favorite saying from Zig Ziglar is that by helping others get what they want, you will get what you want. So figure out how you can work with another business to grow their business and in return, you will prosper.

3. Set limits. Do you ever feel like you are working ALL THE TIME? Brian Tracy, internationally acclaimed speaker and educator says to give yourself time to heal, like you would a wound. If you are hopping on your computer all weekend working a little here and there, it is like picking at a wound. He recommends having a 36 hour timeframe EACH WEEK where you don't work. That is how your engine recharges. I'm just as guilty at this, but am going to work on this in 2010.

4. Invest in yourself. The smartest way out of most difficult situations is education. Find a way to constantly educate yourself on the areas you need help. Because many of us are artists, the business side is scary and can be overwhelming. The way to take the fear away is to learn the answers. They are out there. Trust me!

5. Eliminate obstacles. Make a list of the things standing in your way of succeeding in small business ownership. Is it lack of funds? Lack of equipment? Lack of time? Lack of knowledge? By identifying the issues standing in your way, you are on your way to conquering your objectives!

Whether 2009 was a good, bad or an indifferent year for your business, resolve to make 2010 even better.