My guest lecture experience at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism taught me something

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

This week I was asked to be a guest lecturer at the Grady School’s Advanced Photojournalism class on the campus of the University of Georgia.

I think this was my sixth year in a row I have spoken on business practices to this class.

While the content hasn’t radically changed from the first time I spoke to now, each year I try to do a better job than the year before in the presentation.

This year I just felt like I was off my game and did a poor job. You see I felt like I was preaching rather than teaching with this class.

Preaching vs Teaching

… the answer is more straightforward than any of them, and rests in the meanings of the words themselves. A kerux (the usual word for “preacher” in the New Testament) in the ancient world was simply a herald: a guy who rode into town to deliver significant news. A didaskalos (the usual word for “teacher”) was an instructor: someone who explained or taught something to someone else. There, it seems to me, is the difference. Preaching is proclaiming, heralding and announcing news to people – the gospel – especially (but not exclusively) to those who haven’t heard it before. Teaching is explaining things about the gospel that people don’t understand, and instructing them on how to live in light of it.

In other words, the difference between preaching and teaching is not shouting versus whispering, or illuminating versus bamboozling, or revealing versus informing. In a nutshell, it’s the difference between heralding and explaining. 

– Andrew Wilson

What triggered the Preaching?

When traveling abroad in a different culture and language it is quite common for people to talk slower and louder in their own language hoping this helps the person who doesn’t speak their language to understand. Often when it is apparent communication is failing we get louder, as if this somehow helps foreign language translation.
The questions and responses from some in the class were frustration being communicated about the content. 

“Where are you finding these clients willing to pay those prices?” was asked in different ways. After the class we had a real situation.  

A student had been asked to use one of their photos in a magazine. “What should I charge?” After talking through some of the pricing considerations we gave the student a range that might be good for her to use.  

She was being offered $25 for something that for the most part should have been paid $75 – $150 as a minimum price.  

“What do I do when they want pay it?” My response is to walk away. “But she will be losing $25 she could have had,” was the comment by another student. 

When students don’t like an answer and I have spent time explaining the content I realize the problem is like taking a science class without the lab portion of the class. They needed to see the proof of how this works.
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75

The need of a Lab

There was just not enough time to cover all the content and do a lab. I was stuck with knowing I have introduced some of the concepts of running a photography business, but they need to experience this first hand. 
I had made the presentation and even gave them all my PowerPoint notes they could download. 

The Key to Good Teaching

Great teachers don’t necessarily work harder at teaching than others as much as they care more about their students. Educator Ben Johnson said it best:

My experience is that good teachers care about students. Good teachers know the content and know how to explain it. Good teachers expect and demand high levels of performance of students. Good teachers are great performers and storytellers that rivet their students’ attention.

All of this is good but great teachers engineer learning experiences that maneuver the students into the driver’s seat and then the teachers get out of the way. Students learn best by personally experiencing learning that is physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. John Dewey had it right in 1935 when he espoused his theories on experiential learning.

So next time I will try and relax more when challenged. I will do a better job of demonstrating I care for them as people and fellow colleagues. I will also prepare some better stories that help demonstrate the concepts in a better way than I have done up to now. I will do a better job teaching and minimize the preaching next time.

After next time I speak to the class again, I will then dissect my presentation as much as I did this time and make changes once again, because I can always do a better job next time.  

Learning to manage expectations

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

The one thing that helps to calm my fears for an assignment is seeing what the client has gotten in the past from other photographers. I also love it when they tell me how they felt about that coverage.

The best thing you can do before you take on an assignment is to find out what the expectations are of the client for the project. I call this calibrating your creative juices.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/160

Before shooting this wedding the parents of the groom showed me the brides sister’s wedding coverage from two years ago. I knew after seeing the other photographer’s work what the standards for their wedding were for their photographer.

They were happy with the photos. I made mental note of the style and then decided to meet that and then to put my own touches onto the images. I was just adding icing to the cake.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 2800, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

My strength is finding moments like these here. Capturing the “True Love” of a bride and groom is what I loved doing with this wedding.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/60–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

I also love making the light look better when needed.

Do you know the expectations of your client? Are you able to not just meet those expectations but give them some images that take the coverage up a notch or two?

Overcast and Gloomy day–No Problem

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 – [2] Alienbees B1600 triggered with AC9 on Pocketwizard TT5 talking to the TT1 with the AC3 to control the power output from on the camera.

Yesterday it was overcast and really flat lighting. No problem, I just brought the Alienbees and used them to create sunlight for me on the subject.

I basically used the same setup and just moved around the park.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens,  ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 – [2] Alienbees B1600 triggered with AC9 on Pocketwizard TT5 talking to the TT1 with the AC3 to control the power output from on the camera.

Now there is one more “NEW” piece of gear that I was using this time. I purchased the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens and really loving the lens. It is great for the portrait photographer who needs to do group photos and then also switch to individuals in photo shoots.

It is much sharper than my Nikon 28-300mm before applying the Lens Optimization in Lightroom. This makes a huge difference when shooting video.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400 – [2] Alienbees B1600 triggered with AC9 on Pocketwizard TT5 talking to the TT1 with the AC3 to control the power output from on the camera.

While I could have shot these individuals with the Sigma 24-105mm I decided to shoot these with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8. Since the AC9 lets me shoot at any shutter speed with my Alienbees I was able to shoot at ƒ/1.8 with no problem. I just cranked up the shutter speed to 1/400.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400 – [2] Alienbees B1600 triggered with AC9 on Pocketwizard TT5 talking to the TT1 with the AC3 to control the power output from on the camera.

I love the BOKEH on these photos.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G,  ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400 – [2] Alienbees B1600 triggered with AC9 on Pocketwizard TT5 talking to the TT1 with the AC3 to control the power output from on the camera.

Having the right gear on an overcast day can give you the results you desire. You are in control.

Adobe Lightroom Tip – Correcting Multiple Images

This is just a simple tip for those of you editing in Lightroom and want to correct a series of photos at one time, but there is a slight variation in exposures. This often happens when your camera is in some form of auto exposure mode like Aperture or Shutter priority mode.

  1. Select All images in series
  2. Make all corrections you need to do in one photo
  3. Go to Settings>Match Total Exposures
Once you do this then if say you had bracketed the exposures -1 EV to +3 EV Lightroom will make all of them equal as best that it can. 
After I do this I just quickly click through the images and 99% of the time it is dead on. 

Don’t just click the shutter – Learn to click with people

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 560, ƒ/8, 1/100

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”
– Alfred Eisenstaedt

Yesterday I was talking with the family after the wedding and was told they were thrilled to have had me at their wedding. They said it felt so right to have me there and they thought I was just part of the family.

It was also important to them to tell me the day of the events that my presence made them relax and enjoy the wedding. They knew that I would get every photo that they needed and this made them know they could look back later and enjoy.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/3.5, 1/6

The wedding was for a client that has hired many photographers through the years in their line of work. They had hire some of the more famous photographers. This was their child’s wedding and they wanted it covered well and at the same time they wanted someone who would fit in with the two families coming together.

Over the past seven years this person has watched me put together teams of photographers covering events like the Chick-fil-A Bowls and Chick-fil-A Kickoffs. They watched me work and cover annual meetings for corporations. They continued to hire me over and over to cover those events and to help with the planning of the strategy of the types of coverage to be done for many other communication projects.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/200–2 Alienbees B1600 bouncing off the ceiling for lighting.

“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.”– Eve Arnold

You might be thinking I wish I had customers they told me nice things about myself or my work. You might also think that getting told this is why my photographs a much better than others.

TIP

I hear from many wanna be photographers all the time. If they would just send me on that coverage I could do it. The key is they believe in their minds they are capable, but they haven’t the portfolio that demonstrates they have already done this before.

People do not give you work before you have shown them that you can do it. You must show us all you can do and then they will give you work.

I had to demonstrate over and over to my clients that I have done this before and that I had their best interests at heart all the time.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/200–2 Alienbees B1600

I learned this very early in my life through my faith.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
– Romans 5:8

The very best thing I can ever recommend to improving your photography and character so that more people are wanting to hire you is to find that mentor that exemplifies all these characteristics. For me that person is Jesus.
A few years ago a bracelet became very popular. It had WWJD on it. It was a simple reminder for those who follow Jesus to ask themselves in any situation “What Would Jesus Do?”

Where is your true North pointing you?

Who’s your mentor and if you had a bracelet on your arm that helped to remind you what to do in a situation what would it say?
Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding where he turned the water into wine. The love and joy inherent in a wedding ceremony are also characteristic of the ministry of Christ, who came into this world because of love and brought joy to all who believe.

My goal for my business is to be known for my love and to bring joy into their lives.

Lessons from my last wedding with second shooter

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/30–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

Available light or strobes?

First of all I had a wonderful second shooter for my last job. Laura Deas Espeut is one of my favorite people to work with through the years.

I asked her to just shoot as she normally does and that the two styles would give the bride and groom some options. She did a great job.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L, ISO 640, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

Now I am not going to make a call as to which is better. This is about seeing how each is as much a style choice as anything else.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/30–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

Here I strobed the group jumping and then Laura shot about the same time from slightly different angle with available light.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 28mm f/1.8, ISO 640, ƒ/1.8, 1/500

Here is another example:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8, ISO 640, ƒ/1.8, 1/800

This is Laura’s shot of the bridesmaids with the bride.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/30–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

I personally love available light and think most of the time if it looks good then go with it. Every once in a while I think strobes can make a photo a lot better.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/100–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

Here I had the groomsmen and the groom walk towards the camera in the flying formation. This helped them keep their eyes open rather than walking straight into the sun.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/400–Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

Recommendation: Know available light and the ability to create light with strobes or constant light

My recommendation is for every working pro to know how to do both and use whatever you need to get the photo and remember to try and make your work distinguishable from all the competition.

You can never scout enough before the shoot

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, /100

I am in the suburbs of Chicago, IL this weekend in the town of Homewood to photograph a wedding for my friends.

At the rehearsal one of the people said you just don’t see photographers at rehearsals.

That is very true. Now if you are shooting weddings in your hometown and you know all the venue’s there is less reason for you to go to a rehearsal.

However, if you are starting out you want to do what my friend and fellow photographer Randy Wilson does for his weddings and as I am doing here.

Randy and I discovered that by going to a rehearsal everyone gets to know you and feel more comfortable on the wedding day. That is a HUGE!!! bonus for getting better moments.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 4000, ƒ/3.5, 1/250

By seeing everyone practice I along with my assistant Laura Deas Espeut, who also shoots weddings, were able to see what the sight-lines were for taking photos. We knew we had to be at certain places in the church to even get a photo.

At this rehearsal we also noticed that the placement of the unity candle and where they planned to wash each others feet was not just bad for photos, but for everyone to see. By being there we were able to not just help them have better photos, but a better experience for those attending the wedding to see the symbolic moments they had chosen to do in their wedding.

Why Scouting Helps

  • You get to see the location and take test shots
  • You find the best sight-lines to take photos
  • If there like a wedding rehearsal you can plan for the timing so you are in the best location at the right time
  • You get to speak into the event. If you see a problem that could impact the photos as we did, you can call attention to this with the event planners. Here they made changes, which improved the photos.
  • You can plan for bringing the right gear to get the best possible photos
I cannot stress enough how much preparation for anything you do will always impact your end product. 
We have all heard how 20/20 hindsight is always better than in the moment. While last second things can change you can come pretty close to 20/20 with enough foresight. Just showing up and going with the flow means you are always reacting rather than anticipating.

The best photos you can make are the ones where you anticipated–not those where you reacted.

Pocketwizard AC9 a Game Changer with Alienbees High Speed Sync 1/8000

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 125, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250

Today for the very first time I was shooting with my Alienbees outside with shutter speeds above 1/400. That is all I could sync before using my Pocketwizards and plugging into the Alienbees with an 1/8 plug.

I bought the Pocketwizard AC9 to combine with my Pocketwizard TT5 and then using the phone cord plug into the back of the Alienbees B1600.

With this combination I could shoot up to 1/4000 on my Nikon D750 and up to 1/8000 with my Nikon D4.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1000, ƒ/1.8, 1/4000

As you can see here is the D750 with Flash @ 1/4000.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1000, ƒ/1.8, 1/4000

This is with no flash outside. So you can see how much the flash really helps.

Now with the AC3 on top of the Pocketwizard Mini TT1 you can control the power of the Alienbees.

Here is the chart of how that would work:

  • +3 = Full Power
  • +2 = 1/2 Power
  • +1 = 1/4 Power
  • 0 = 1/8 Power
  • -1 = 1/16 Power
  • -2 = 1/32 Power
  • -3 = 1/32 Power
You also have the 1/3 increments also to use in between. 
So here is the basic setup I was using. Here is the list of gear:
  • 2 – Alienbee B1600s
  • 2 – Vagabond Mini
  • 2 – Cowboystudio 7’ 4 Section Portable Adjustable Stand
  • 2 – Westcott 2001 43” Optical White Satin Collapsible Umbrella
  • 2 – Pocketwizard AC9
  • 2 – Pocketwizard TT5
  • 1 – Pocketwizard Mini TT1
  • 1 – Pocketwizard AC3
  • Nikon D4
  • Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8
I pack the lighting gear all into this Seahorse SE-920 with padded dividers. This is a really super basic kit that I can fly with to jobs where I need something a little more powerful and now capable of still shooting at ƒ/1.8 to get that great BOKEH.

Halloween Photography Tips

Coolpix P7000, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/7

Time for Halloween is just days away. This can be a fun time for photographers to document their kids through the years and get some fun photos.

Coolpix P7000, ISO 1061, ƒ/2.8, 1/280

Take the time and photograph your family getting ready for Halloween. Here I am with my daughter and her friend a few houses down from us as we take time to carve our pumpkins.

Coolpix P7000, ISO 1600, ƒ/3.2, 1/230

A couple of years I set up a background in our garage and took photos of the kids as they came by and then posted a gallery for them to get their photos. Many parents loved having nice photos of their kids.

Coolpix P7000, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/640

The reason I setup in the garage rather than our house is the parents could see their kids throughout the whole process and I got more photos. Had I requested people to come into our house I am not sure that would have gone as well.

This is a super simple setup. Two strobes pointed onto the white background. They are one stop brighter than the two lights that are on the subject.

This is when you don’t know what everyone will wear and works reasonably well.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/80–Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash. 

My daughter has a very creative imagination. One year she wanted to dress up as a princess of the enchanted forest. We went out in our backyard and I captured her where she loved to play, but now in her Halloween princess outfit.

This same year I took photos in my home studio that I setup in our basement.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/16, 1/200

Some of the photos we like best through the years of our kids are from Halloween. They had so much fun dressing up and having fun with their friends.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

Since my daughter’s birthday is just a couple days after Halloween she has had many Halloween themed birthday parties. Here she is with her friends going putt-putt before going out for trick or treat later that evening.

Halloween Photography Tips

  • Take photos of your family getting ready for Halloween. Carving pumpkins or shopping for pumpkins on a farm
  • Setup a small studio or space to make Halloween photos. You may want to even create a small set.
  • Photograph your kid in a natural setting that compliments their theme for their costume

Photographing The Citadel’s Ring Day Weekend

Nikon D3, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

The Citadel Ring Day Weekend

This weekend is the time the seniors at The Citadel get their rings. Most cadets go through the ring with their parent and date. Here my wife is going through the ring with my step-son and his date.

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

I can tell you that you are better off shooting without your on the camera flash. You are just too far away for it to really make a difference. You need a camera with and ISO of 6400 or higher to really get a good sharp photo.

You may want a lens that covers 50mm to 200mm if you stand down on the floor.

Tips:

  • Arrive early
  • Take test shots at different White Balance settings.
  • Custom White Balance is the best [blog on how to do that] Also the blog explains how to set presets as well.
  • Set ISO up high like ISO 6400 or higher. I shot the second photo at ISO 12800
  • Keep shutter speed up pretty high as well, so shoot wide open with your aperture
  • Make test shots and take a look
Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/125–Two off camera flashes on either side of the camera.
Take photos other than going through the ring. Here I photographed them in the Quad of the Barracks.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80
Good news is the afternoon before walking through the ring the seniors get their rings. Great time to practice in the same room they photos will be that night. Here my son helps with name pronunciation.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/80
Here is he is getting the ring. Good news is when they are standing in the ring and walking down the carpet there are more lights on them.
Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/3200
You will shoot a lot of these photos of your cadet holding the ring close to the camera. Be sure your aperture is pretty high. Here it is ƒ/8. This helps keep their ring and faces in focus.
Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.3, 1/60–Two off camera flashes on either side of the camera.
If you son/daughter isn’t a senior this is a great time to practice a year or two earlier so that when your time comes you are seasoned. If you get great photos then you can share them with the other families.
We are grateful to have all these photos to remember our son’s journey through The Citadel.