Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Going all HGTV about the situation...

For the past three days since getting back from Chicago, Jus & I have
been running around like crazy getting all the stuff we would need for
our new meeting space (not to mention doing three awesome client meetings in between all that!). And today it finally all starts coming together, starting with a fresh coat of paint. We'll post the results later!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Habitat Cabaret

Last night was one of those really great "feel good" nights, when you can just see real change happening all around you. Mary and I are both proud Habitat for Humanity supporters, and so when we got a call from Traci Romano to help out with a Cabaret event to support our Greater New Haven Habitat chapter, we jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

Special thanks to Pat Cardozo for all of her hard work in organizing everything, and also Hope & Steve Patton who opened up their beautiful home to host the event. Here are a few shots of the amazing cabaret singer, Marie Robert:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spread the Love... just the beginning

We just wrapped up an awesome 2nd day at the Spread the Love workshop here in Chicago! The whole crew is pretty tired right now, but I just wanted to post a handful of images from day 1. Mary and I will be in the air most of tomorrow, but will bring you guys up to speed when we get back home. (I totally stole the first 2 shots from Shyla's blog... you can check more pics there too!)

Abby, Sarah, Mary & Shlya

Day 1 shoot: We had the lovely and adorable Beth & Nick as our models.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


For 4 year old Teagan, a pair of pink cowgirl boots and a hat were just the beginning of an adventure which undoubtedly will stick with her for the rest of her life. Teagan is just one of 163,000+ kids with a life threatening medical condition, who have had their wish granted by the amazing generosity of the Make-A-Wish organization and all of its individual supporters since it began in 1980.

Last Sunday we witnessed just how amazing of a community we live in, as the CT chapter of Make-A-Wish honored Teagan and her family at the the Make-A-Wish Gala at Foxwoods, after returning from her trip to a dude ranch in Arizona. The silent and live auctions and other donations raised over $90,000 for future wishes! We were so blessed to be part of this event and witness the beauty of people who really care about the joy that they can bring to others.

A special thanks goes out to Tara Navara and her awesome team who did a fantastic job putting the event together and the amazing Shyla who came down from Boston to help us out. Here are a few images from the night:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Headin to Hotel Barlow!!

Headin to Hotel Barlow!!, originally uploaded by justinmarantz.

Just got into Chicago and can't wait to check in at Hotel Barlow. Ooh
I hope there's a mint on my pillow!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Blah blah blah Business!!

We had our latest PUG meeting on Wednesday and Eric Foley led an awesome session called "Can we do this forever?" that was all about what it really means to stay in a photography business for the long haul and how much harder we all have to work to plan for the future than people in more traditional employment jobs do. Which really got me thinking about how very little is put out there about the nuts & bolts of actually running a business. I'm not even talking about things like word of mouth marketing or branding because I feel like there is a lot of sharing going on with things like that, which is awesome!! But just all the no-fun-at-all, gotta do it, hate to do it, super unglamorous sides to running a business. Like tax planning. YUM! Incorporation. super hot. And bookkeeping. And well c'mon it just doesn't get any hotter than bookkeeping! So like I said at the meeting, I think we all work really hard to share things about the latest trends, cool new actions, camera settings...and we should be working just as hard to share information that could help (maybe someday save?) someone else's business. So in an effort to get that ball rolling, I just wanted to share a couple things that we've learned for our business over the past couple years that might help somebody else out there.

If you've been around Justin or me in the past couple weeks, I'm sure you've heard about our ginormous tax bill. Yea, Uncle Sam as the schoolyard bully who pushes us down and takes our lunch money kinda big. :) See the funny thing is, we had been of course hoping & praying for our business to just explode this year...but we hadn't been doing anything to plan for that actually happening! Which reminds me of a story:

Two farmers desperately needed rain for their crops. So they both prayed about it. Then one of them went out into the field and began tilling up the soil. His bewildered wife asked him, "What on earth are you doing?" He replied simply, "I'm preparing for the rain."

So when that rain came down, guess which one was able reap the harvest. This is so true in life & business as well. We pray for God to rain down that abundance... but when He does, if we haven't prepared for it it can feel more like a flood. Which brings us back to tax planning! Of course you should go and get your own accountant because everyone's situation is different, but here are a few things to think about in the coming year to prepare for next year's taxes:

Mileage, Mileage, Mileage:
One of the best deductions out there. It's deceiving because it starts out so small, but it can really add up. For 2007, the deduction was 48.5 cents per business mile driven. This year it goes up to a whopping 50.5 cents per mile. So every two miles you drive for business, you get to take a dollar out of your gross income which translates to 10 to 35 cents off your final tax bill depending on your tax bracket. At the end of the year, this can take thousands off your gross income. A word to the wise, keep a detailed mileage log: where you were going, why, how far. This is good for two reasons: a) you can whip it out if Uncle Sam ever comes calling and b) if you keep track of it as you go you are far more likely to get in all those little trips you might otherwise forget about.

Retirement as a tax break!:
To Roth or not to Roth, that is the question. Back in Federal Income Taxation class in law school, I can fully remember the fabulous Professor Anne Alstott singing the praises of the Roth IRA, but I never really thought much about it until it was time to start my own IRA. To get started, I had to decide whether to make it a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. Now at the time, there really wasn't much of a choice in the matter because I needed a big deduction to offset some summer earnings at a law firm, so we went with the traditional. Ok, so what's the difference? Tax exempt v. Tax deferred

Roth IRA: The money you invest in a Roth is still taxable in the year you invest it. So if you make $50,000 and you invest $5,000 in a Roth IRA your gross income remains $50,000. BUT when you withdraw the money you've invested (and it can be withdrawn at any time penalty free), any of that money you've put in plus all of the growth it has seen over the years can be collected totally tax free. It is really one of the sweetest deals out there for retirement. The Roth IRA is fully available to single people making up to $95,000 and married folks making up to $150,00 jointly (an example of the marriage penalties found throughout our tax system. If there are two people you would think it would be 2x 95,000 right? Not so.) So although you are taxed on the money going into the Roth, you are free from the tax on the money coming back out (which should be dramatically larger if invested wisely) thus making it tax exempt.

Traditional IRA: investments made now are 100% deductible for the tax year in which you make them up to $5,000 for single people, $10,00 for married people (no marriage penalty here). So if you make $50,000 but you contribute the maximum $5,000 into your traditional IRA then your AGI (adjusted gross income) goes down to $45,000 right off the bat. However, you can not withdraw any of this money before age 59 1/2 without big penalties, and it plus any growth it has earned will be fully taxable at the time you withdraw it. Tax deferred

So what's the deal? If you need a big tax deduction right now, traditional is the way to go. But for long term retirement planning, Roth is usually the winner. This will all depend on what you anticipate your tax bracket to be at retirement v. your tax bracket now. If you intend to be wealthy in your golden years, the Roth is your way to go.

Home Office, blah blah blah:
I feel like most people know about this one so I won't go on too much about it. Suffice it to say, you can deduct the percentage of your mortgage/rent, utilities, etc that correspond to the percentage of your home that your business office takes up. For us it was 33%. So we could take one third of our rent, electric, etc. as a deduction. Be careful with this one, I've been told that if an IRS agent came into your home and found anything personal mixed in with the "office" space (lol, Office Space!) they would void the deduction.

LLC v. S Corp
There is a LOT of talk lately about going LLC v. S Corp for your incorporation. First off, why should we incorporate at all? Because it protects your personal assets in the event that your business is ever sued. It basically sets up what is called in Business Law world a "corporate veil" between you the person and you the business. So what are the differences between an LLC and an S Corp? Both offer liability protection. Both offer pass through taxation (members of traditional corporations have to pay tax twice: once as a corporation, once on their own income). But with an S Corp or an LLC you only have to pay tax once, as a sole proprietor would. The real differences between the two are a) flexibility and b) self-employment tax savings. ( I soo should've remembered all of this from taking Biz Orgs at Yale, but actually most of this comes from doing Google searches. Yea that would've been the cheaper way to go.)

LLC: Super flexible in every way. You can set up how profits will be distributed. No formal requirements such as board members, issuing stocks, annual meetings, minutes, etc. And the members can decide any way they want to split profits. But , there is no self-employment tax protection.

S Corp: Much more formal. Requires annual meetings, minutes, the issuance of stock, etc. More restrictions on how profits are split. But it does offer substantial savings on self-employment tax.

As business owners, we are subject to a hefty 15.3% self-employment tax (note that this is on TOP of your federal and state income tax, although 50% of it can be deducted for income tax purposes) that goes toward social security and medicare. More traditional employees split this tax with their employers. For us, this amounted to more than half of our tax bill. The S-Corp, however, offers self-employment tax savings. Here's how it works: only an employee-owner's salary is taxed for self-employment tax purposes. Any other income they receive from the company is deemed a "distribution" from owning stock in the company and is not taxed as self-employment. Ex: Your S Corp makes $90,000. You deem $50,000 to be a fair market price*** for a principal photographer and pay yourself that income. You have self-employment tax of $7,650 ($50,000 x 15.3%) on that amount. The other $40,000 is not taxed for self-employment purposes because it is deemed a distribution. Under an LLC you would have self-employment tax on the whole amount of $90,000 equaling $13,770 ($90,000 x 15.3%). So the S Corp would offer you a tax savings of $6120. However, coming back to its super-formal roots, the S Corp then requires you to set up your tax payments as monthly payroll taxes instead of a one time April 15th self-employment tax payment.

***Note that you MUST set a salary for yourself that is a fair market value or the IRS will eat you alive! So don't try to pay yourself $1 and call $89,999 a distribution.

So what's the deal? Hire a tax professional if you want to get into this murky water, but the tax savings could definitely make it worth it. There is also a third option to be an LLC filing as an S Corp which we are currently looking more into. Ideally it would offer you all the flexibility of the LLC and the self-employment tax savings of an S Corp. We'll see.

Hope this helps somebody out there! Sure beats putting pennies in a jar. :)

Feel free to email if you have any questions!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Seriously...what's the deal??

I HATE the new Starbuck's cups! They're so inappropriate.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting SOOO excited!!

It's less than a week until our Big workshop in Chicago and Sarah, Jus & I are getting SOOOO excited!! We literally squeak every time we talk on the phone. Justin especially :) This is just going to be the BEST time and I can't wait to get out there and hang with everyone. And we just found out yesterday that we have a couple of unbelievable (seriously I can't believe it!!) surprises in store for you guys, so that has me even MORE pumped. As if that was possible!! We talked to Sarah last night and decided that we actually have room for two more spots if more people want to come. So if you didn't get to sign up before we sold out definitely shoot us an email asap!! I'm sure they will go fast!

Love you guys!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Wiebners Raising Money for Portrait House TONIGHT!!

A couple weeks back, Mary and I got the chance to meet the wonderful Joel & Rita Wiebner when we went down to speak at the Philidelphia PUG meeting. These guys are so awesome! Tonight they'll be speaking at the first ever "Photo Nights for Charity" event in Savage, MD which was started by photographers Jennifer Domenick and Mary Gardella of Love Life images. Joel & Rita have chosen Portrait House as their charity to sponsor for the night, so all donations that are made will go toward PH. They are already looking to raise about $1200 from people who have pre-registered!!! If you're in the Washington, D.C, Baltimore, MD or even the Philadelphia area be sure to go check these guys out. They are so amazing and we just love them so much for doing this!! There is also more information about the event and future lectures on the Photo Nights for Charity blog... so go show them some love!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rediscover Your Love

Ok, whew...now that all the dramatics are officially behind us (for a day or two at least :) I can tell you about what I *really* should have been posting about yesterday. Rediscovering Love.

"So...why are you all photographers?" she asked in that all too familiar tone where "i'm challenging you to step up" meets "I know you can do this." That's just the Carla way. She's going to love you, which means she's never ever going to stop pushing you. And we are all the better because of it.

On Monday, Jus & I had the awesome opportunity to cheer on (not to mention give the official introduction for) some of our best friends in the whole world, Carla & Steve, as they hosted their first all-day intensive workshop entitled "Rediscover Your Love of Shooting." In just a couple of weeks they'll be taking this show on the road to Vienna, so about 20 of us from CT, NY and as far away as NC were honored to get the sneak preview at Carla's studio in Hartford this week. They pushed us, they challenged us, they gave us a good healthy shove out of our comfort zone...and at the end of the day, they left us all in awe of their passion, their knowledge, and their talent for teaching. Carla & Steve, you guys ROCKED this and we're just so proud of you we could pop. But we won't. That would be unseemly. :)

After a full day of shooting, these guys had us pick out our four favorite shots for a group critique. This was my first ever critique and I was more than a bit nervous. Nauseous might be a better word! :)

First, here's a shot of everyone workin' it:

And the following four were J's top picks:

Rising Country Star, Nicole Frechette

And mine:

Jus & I also served as the models for the engagement shoot portion of the day, so I'll be sure to post some of those once we go steal, ummm borrow, those from everyone's blogs!

"For you I would bring a bouquet of chocolate Reese cups"

I flung back the quilt my great-grandma had made and pulled myself up off the couch. I tromped dramatically to our bedroom, flung myself on the bed beside a soundly sleeping Justin, and promptly burst into tears. Ugly, sobbing tears. Julia Roberts crying scene kinda tears. The kind of irrational, incoherent "Don't talk about me like I'm not here" Steel Magnolia tears that only a sleepless night of sickness can bring.

After feeling so much better for the past couple of days and finally thinking I had this thing kicked, it came back out of hiding last night to rear its ugly head with all the force of a preemptive air strike. I tossed. I turned. I fluffed my pillow. My throat felt like I had taken up sword swallowing in my spare time. And breathing took all the effort of running a 10k marathon. Three episodes of "Without A Trace" later I finally drifted off into a fitful slumber for a grand total of three hours. Three whole hours. I was miserable. And misery loves company.

"What's wrong little one?"

Despite desperately wanting to give an articulate account of the hours that stretched behind me, I just sobbed louder. He smiled a little, kissed my forehead, and pulled the quilt up around me. It's a good quilt.

"I'll go get you some orange juice."

He came back from the corner store, bags in hand, and proceeded to shuffle things around in the kitchen. He was in there for what seemed like forever and I started to whimper again. Finally he came in carrying my orange juice-Airborne morning mimosa....and this. A bouquet of chocolate reese cups. Now that's just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

We Remember.

40 Years Later

My award winning photographer!

Ok...  I have to brag a little.  Not only do I have the most beautiful, wonderful, amazing, loving wife but now she is also an extremely talented award-winning wedding photographer.  Check out Mary's awesome winning shot "Getting Ready to Give Her Away" in the Getting Ready category of the:

This girl can shoot!  I'm so proud of how far she has come, since first picking up the camera just two years ago! Being sick the last couple of days has had its advantages.  We've had some time to go back through our favorite images from the past year to update our website.  After ranking our favorite images to try and figure out a placement order for the featured shots Mary had 2 of the top 3!!  

I love you so much M!  Congratulations!!

Also a huge congrats to our friend Anne Ruthmann who had two winning shots this year!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lunch w J&M!!!

Ugh! Sorry we've fallen off the face of our blog lately, but that nasty flu bug that's been going around officially landed at the Marantz household and we've been out O' commission. Our official theory is that we got it from our buddy Steve. We think it crawled out of his house, jumped in his mini-Cooper and drove Italian Job style going mach-three with its hair on fire until it landed smack dab at our front door. You can see that right...

Anywho, Mary & I have been having a blast going all over the country meeting photographers, and we realized that in the past two and a half months we've been to over 20 states!! That's so crazy to think about! But it's been amazing and we've gotten to make so many awesome new friends this way. We actually have three whole weeks off at home before our workshop in Chicago and then we'll start back in with some West Coast stops on the tour. So with all this traveling, we realized that we haven't gotten to really connect with photographers in our own backyard in wayyy too long. So we decided to start "Lunches with J&M" (yea...we need a better title. Our fevered little brains just aren't working right now). We're going to have the first one on Monday, April 14th and it'll be a chance to just get together, talk shop, and ask us anything you want (so long as it's not "when are you having kids!" :-) Just shoot us a line at justin@justinmarantz.com if you want in on all the fun!

K, Chicken soup time.