Palm Springs Photo Festival
In an intimate setting in Palm Springs, California, hundreds of new and established photographers meet for a week and learn from their peers, industry leaders, educators and master photographers. And to ensure that events run smoothly, the Palm Springs Photo Festival created a conference registration system with bar–coded tags.

Palm Springs Photo Festival

Palm Springs is synonymous with wealth, seclusion, golf and tennis. It was the favorite home of some of the biggest stars of yesteryear, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, all called Palm Springs home, a refuge from the prying eyes of photographers and autograph seekers. So it's no small irony that the Palm Springs Photo Festival takes place there, bringing several hundred aspiring "snappers" to learn the craft from some of the best in the business.


  • Annual photographic workshop and conference for several hundred attendees
  • Palm Springs, California
  • Seamlessly manages and provides the courses, lectures and meals needed by several hundred attendees


  • Creative Services


  • FileMaker Pro 9 deployed on laptops across Palm Springs, CA

Deploying Henry's FileMaker solution was a quantum leap forward.

— Jeff Dunas, Founder, Palm Springs Photo Festival

Business Challenge

The organizers of the Palm Springs Photo Festival faced several challenges. Palm Springs is low and spread out meaning that Festival events took place in different venues across town. That in turn created the need to track the attendees, their classes and lectures, their meals and meetings, and ensure that the right person was in the right place in front of the right mentor, and with the right boxed lunch at the right time.

The festival is the brainchild of Jeff Dunas, a renowned photographer who had attended many such photographic events in other places. But he said, there was nothing quite like it in the United States. "The idea came to me in the early '90s," he told the online magazine "Double Exposure" last year. "I had been attending the Rencontres d'Arles Photo Festival in France every year since 1986, and I always thought that it would be interesting to have a kind of adapted version of this event in America," he explained. "But it really didn't exist. I kept thinking that somebody would do it, but no one ever did."

Jeff told the magazine that he'd visited a friend who owned a spectacular Moroccan–style hotel called Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs. Dunas said he thought it would be the perfect location for the festival. "It's very accessible to a huge population," he told "Double Exposure" adding "and you can get around on foot—you don't even need a car."

But with the setting came the challenge. Hordes of people moving from one area to another, the delivery of boxed lunches to the attendees and participants at the right place at the right time. And it didn't stop there — attendees weren't only going from symposia to seminars — there were also vitally important peer reviews of their work – a whopping 505 portfolio reviews in 4 days.

Successful Solution

To solve the logistics and delivery challenges, designer Henry McLaughlin created a system of bar–coded attendance badges which were scanned at every venue. Using the data collected by a third party vendor who organized the conference registration, Henry created a custom database which eventually contained some 6000 records, The system was deployed on laptops so that badges could be scanned at the different venues.

For Jeff, who describes Henry's system as "simple and elegant," the FileMaker application had another benefit. The ease with which attendees could be tracked meant that he could grow the festival. "We could never have managed the number of people we served without our FileMaker barcode system," Jeff enthused. "Our revenue doubled and our customer satisfaction increased, and a large part of that picture was our FileMaker system."

Other FileMaker features including PDFMaker also came into play says Jeff. "It also allowed us to re–print bar–code badges if there was a printer jam or another problem. This was very helpful in managing the hundreds of badges printed on a half–dozen different types of badge–blanks."

We could never have managed the number of people we served without our FileMaker barcode system. Our revenue doubled and our customer satisfaction increased, and a large part of that picture was our FileMaker system.

— Jeff Dunas, Founder, Palm Springs Photo Festival

Customer Benefits

Jeff was clearly delighted that the features in FileMaker Pro 9 could smooth out the Festival's rough edges from the previous year. As he explains, deploying Henry's FileMaker solution was a quantum leap forward.

"Our customers greatly benefited during our portfolio review process," he recalls. "Last year we used a whiteboard showing the time slots available for reviews, staff would then hand–write the reservations into the slots and hole–punch the attendee's badge. It was a time–consuming and confusing process, which created a lot of anxiety on the part of both our attendees and staff alike. Now it is all handled via a barcode scan and shows up on a monitor like a smoothly running train schedule."

Next year Jeff has plans to expand again with a database to track attendees, their lodging, transportation, equipment, the reviewers' timeslots and instructor schedules. "If time and budget permit," he says, "we'd also like a simple system to track a very small volume of sales of items like books, T–shirts and hats."

And there's more! The Palm Springs Photo Festival also intends to deploy a contact/equipment/scheduling database for its staff via the web. And, adds Jeff, the 2.0 enhancements to the system for next year also "include using a sound file container field to give a 'Welcome' or 'There is a problem' message while scanning attendees into seminars, thus freeing the laptop operator from looking at the screen while they let people in." In the true spirit of ubiquity Jeff also hopes to use broadband wireless connectivity so that the system can be most easily accessed.

For FileMaker:

Kevin Mallon
Public Relations Manager
FileMaker Inc.

For Palm Springs Photo Festival:

Jeff Dunas
Palm Springs Photo Festival