Do you feel adrift? Time to take some action

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/4.5, 1/60 [President of Honduras talks with Maria Saporta]

Do you feel like you are working hard, but just are not getting any traction? You might even feel adrift in this world.

Here is a good indicator you are struggling and not getting traction to move forward in your life. Look at your calendar and see if you can see things on it that you put there that are different than what you had on your calendar last week, last month or even last year. If things look the same all the time then you are in a rut.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/6.3, 1/30 [Vince Dooley talks with the President of Honduras. They are building a soccer field in the Agalta Valley that will be named Vince Dooley field]

Once you are in motion on a bicycle the spinning of the wheel helps to stabilize you due to angular momentum. You may remember a physics teaching taking a bicycle wheel and then spinning it at a high speed and maybe sitting in a chair and having a student move it and watch how it moved them.

Watch this video if you need a refresher course on the concept.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwQtOGWgS-k]
Using this principle of angular momentum you will not move as long as no change is made. If the bicycle wheel spins and you do not turn the handlebars you will remain going straight.

Change

The largest obstacle to your life getting better is your willingness to change your routine.

While I do not recommend just doing something different today than you have in the past, it will change your life. Why not just do anything different, well that will likely result in you turning your bicycle into a ditch.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

The other day I was in the Delta Airlines corporate offices board room. This room was magnificent and where the airlines board meets. This room is where change happens for Delta.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

While my board room is our kitchen table changes happen around here that affect our family just as much as discussions around the board room tables changes.

Here a few tips to help you steer your life in a new direction:

  1. Brainstorm–Take some time and just dream.
  2. Pick the best ideas
  3. Be SMART
    1. S–Specific
    2. M–Measurable
    3. A–Achievable
    4. R–Relevant
    5. T–Trackable over time
Since many who read my blog are photographers you might have goals in several areas:
  • Portfolio–You may want to grow artistically and add new images to your present portfolio or even completely change it
  • Financial/Career–You may want to achieve working for certain media or corporations. You may also want to have a certain income 
  • Lifestyle–This can be family goals of marriage, children or moving to a new place
  • Attitude–You may just want to be more positive and not as negative
  • Health–Maybe you want to lose weight or get into better shape
  • Volunteer–Maybe you are wanting to give back and find an organization you can plug into to do more public service
I can tell you from my own life two types of changes have had profound effects on my life. 
First are those accidents or things that were from more outside forces. Car wrecks, layoffs, health emergencies and you get the idea, but all of these had dramatic impact on my life.
Second are those things where I made conscious decisions. Marrying my wife was one of the most profound and life changing things I could have ever done. Having a child was life changing. Going to college and later to seminary changed my life.
Here is my challenge to you. Take some time and just sit still and ponder where you are and if this is where you want to be in life. Then if there are things that are not where you want to be then brainstorm for what could be. 
Be realistic in your thoughts. Your plan that you come up with will be very similar to you planning a vacation abroad somewhere. You will have to had picked your destination and what all you want to see and do. Then you will put aside the money and then make all the plans to make it happen.
TIP
You can easily set a goal that age 35 to retire and many have done this. I recommend a goal that all those who reach that goal then put into place. Setting a goal that gives your life meaning and purpose. This way everyday you are much happier and satisfied than having a goal that eventually you realize was empty.

My takeaways from the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/160

One of the best things for photographers when they go to conferences is reconnecting. Here you see Robert Seale talking with Andy Dunaway, the Nikon Representative while in the background Gladys and Frances are busy doing clean and checks.

What I like about the photo is the expressions capture why I attend these events year after year. Now do I connect with everyone like this? No. I really wish all conferences were more about relationships than just how good you are or what gear you own or even who you work for.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/.1.8, ISO 2000, ƒ/1.8, 1/250

The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar has been running continuously since 1973. My uncle Knolan Benfield was one of the organizers in those early years. To this day I am still close to some of the founders like Ken Touchton.

Don Rutledge

I have heard the stories about getting Eugene Smith to come and speak. My mentor Don Rutledge has a piece of paper framed with a photo of him meeting Eugene Smith. Don spoke the same year as Eugene Smith, which was 1975.

Don Rutledge was one of the 20 Black Star Photographers back during this time. He had better connections and could call many of the big names and ask them to speak at the seminar. This is how they would get Howard Chapnick and others to speak in those early years.

Here is Don’s talk that year if you want to hear it: http://stanleylearystoryteller.com/Don1.mp3

Here are a few more links to hear Don Rutledge:

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 25,600, ƒ/4, 1/220

This photo is of Oliver Janney who is currently a CNN photojournalist based in the Washington bureau. His topic for his talk during the Friday workshops was “Shooting With Your Ears.”

He realized too many still photographers who add video/audio to their skills do not understand that audio is what drives a successful package. He went over the gear and more specifically the audio gear he uses daily in his work.

One of the tips I took from Oliver and a new technique to me was to “Lead with Audio.” This is where you start the sound before you show the visual which shows what is making that sound.

While some of what he said isn’t new to me, how he worded it was new. I loved his statement, “shooting audio without headphones will fail for the same reason when shooting video without looking at the screen.”

One last tip I might try was he would mic people with a wireless lavalier and then say he was going to shoot some b-roll for a moment. While shooting the b-roll he was listening. If he heard them talk with good content then he would turn and shoot some longer lens capture of the person, but had great “real” audio of the person.

He also tries to interview people while they are working if possible. This tends to get them to be more natural.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/4, 1/350

This is Jamie Squires who is a Kansas City-based staff photographer for Getty specializing in Sports. I remember him as a student at Emory University back in the 1990’s.

One thing that I noticed with Jamie’s successful images they were not about just reacting to a moment. He had often arrived early and set up a remote camera sometimes as much as 10 hours earlier to capture one shot.

He first understood the story and then would break down the day to the big moments. He would know for example that the celebration at the World Series final game was normally between home plate and the pitchers mound, so he had one remote just on that area.

Knowing that someone will often get in his way he setup remotes to cover this as well. But with all the remotes he reminded everyone that remotes fail and the one camera you must depend on is the one in your hands.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/20

“GoPro: Dos, Don’ts, and Drones,” was the topic that Eric Seals spoke to during the Friday Workshop. Eric is a staff photographer for the Detroit Free Press.

Eric is a gear head who showed us all his toys and reminded us gear will not hold the attention of the audience. The Story Matters Most.

Eric uses gear to help leave visual breadcrumbs for his viewers. He also warned about over using gear and then your package will become gimmicky and lose your audience.

One thing that I could not agree more with Eric was how he emphasized knowing your gear. Read the manual he said. Know what it can do and then take chances with it.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 25000, ƒ/4.8, 1/30

Miami photojournalist Al Diaz has been presented the Humanitarian Award by the National Press Photographers Association. He was given the award because of his actions to put the subject first and being sure a baby that had stopped breathing was taken care of before he picked up his cameras.

You can read more about this on NPPA’s website by going to this [link].

The best part of Al’s presentation was giving us the story behind the story.

When photographers share their work the best thing they can do is to share the events surrounding the photograph and how they happened to be in that place at that time.

The other thing that is good about Al’s sharing is that it is therapeutic for everyone. He shared more images of the baby today being healthy. We learned the baby had a cyst in the throat and that has now been removed.

We also learned that to get the images and tell all the story required a lot of people skills from Al Diaz and patience. Some of his friends helped him, because the woman was really upset at him for taking the photos. She didn’t even know he was the first person on the scene to call 911 and get the EMS to the scene. It was days later when she would put this together with Al in a meeting they had.

What did I learn? First connect with people and develop a real relationships. Care for them as human beings and then the story will tell itself.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 12800, ƒ/1.8, 1/60

Ken Lyons is Senior Photo Editor at The Denver Post. Why was he a speaker? Here is the text they used to promote him:

The Denver Post was recognized with the Angus McDougall Overall Excellence in Picture Editing Award in 2013. The Denver Post has recently been recognized with two feature photography Pulitzer Prizes. The staff received the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for coverage of the Aurora Theater shootings. Other honors for his picture editing work include first and second place picture editing portfolio in the POYi editing competition. The newspaper has also been awarded first place Best Use of Photography in the Best of Photojournalism competition.

One thing I really liked that they are doing at his paper is a ‘Photo Night’.  This is where they invite the public in one evening to listen to their photographers talk about stories that the public votes on to hear. The first few to arrive win a signed print. Often they invite the subjects that were covered in the story to be a part of the evening as well.

Ken is all about elevating photojournalism in your community. I am now thinking of ways I can help do this with even corporations that I work with daily.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 25000, ƒ/3.8, 1/45

 Scott Strazzante is a staff photographer at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he recently starting working after a 13-year stint at the Chicago Tribune.

My favorite thing about Scott’s career is Common Ground–a personal project on the transformation of a piece of land in suburban Chicago from rural to suburban. He took photos of a farmer who lost his farm and then years later went back and showed those living on that land in a subdivision.

Here is a trailer that tells you a little about the project.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ITqZrhLXng]
CBS News Sunday Morning just did a package on Scott this past Sunday. Here it is for you in case you missed that package http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/scott-strazzante-on-finding-common-ground/.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/17

Amy Toensing has been a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine for over a decade.

My takeaway from Amy is that we need to be curious. It was her curiosity while shooting stories that would lead to her discovering another story that she would then pitch to National Geographic Magazine and eventually would shoot for them time and time again.

She was shooting an assignment given to her in Australia when she was asking herself about who drew these stories on the rocks thousands of years ago. Then she met a aboriginal couple and realized they were a connection to the past. They had lived in the wilderness without clothing up until World War II when the husband was asked to help the Americans build a landing strip that they used to fight the Japanese.

She also shared how this was an ongoing lifelong story for her.

Like Al Diaz she put the subjects first. They even asked her to film a ceremony for them and not to publish it in the magazine. She honored their request and because of it deepened the relationship with the community.

My Tip To You

Go to conferences and take notes. Learn from others and get inspired. But remember most of all that it isn’t about the gear or you capturing images–it is about the relationships you develop with the subjects that you then share with your audience.

How I covered the President of Honduras for a day

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/50–Image stabilization on

Yesterday was a whirlwind for me and felt like a highlight reel. I was the official photographer for the President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández all day long.

This photo of him with former President Jimmy Carter was my favorite.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/6.3, 1/50

Maria Saporta interviewed the President of Honduras at the Georgia Chamber breakfast at the Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 9000, ƒ/5, 1/100–Image stabilization on

Edward H. Bastian, the president of Delta Airlines met with the president in their board room. It was a difficult picture to make of the meeting. I wanted to be sure to capture the warmth of the meeting. So I had to concentrate more on the individuals.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100–Image stabilization on

I think I got the expressions of the open and transparent discussions. But this isn’t enough.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/250–Image stabilization on

As you can see the table was huge and made them look far apart. But they were able to sit across from one another and sit eye-to-eye.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

I decided to make some photos that were just visually appealing to give to the client.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

I just continued to look for ways to make it look interesting after I got the basics covered.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/50–Nikon SB900 off camera triggered using the PocketWizard Transceiver TT5, PocketWizard Mini TT1 and AC3 set for -3EV

While throughout the day I had photos of the president speaking at podiums even here I was looking for something different after a while.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
I am shooting through plants on the corners of the room.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2800, ƒ/6.3, 1/100

Again, I am looking for a different angle to make the viewer feel like they are there, or just peaks their visual interest. I am shooting like someone leaves breadcrumbs to lure you into the story.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200
My point is not to go and shoot all the artistic angles. My point is to do this in addition to the standard shots you would expect.
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
Most of all remember that the best photo I liked was the first one, a good expression and moment between the two presidents.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 4000, ƒ/8, 1/40

This was the attaché with the President of Coca-Cola International.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.8G and High ISO are great combination for bands

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

I returned to Swayze’s Venue in Marietta last night with my daughter and her friends to see Say We Can Fly.

I put one of his most popular songs here so you can hear his music. Braden Barrie is the singer who grew up in a small town and feeling a sense of abandonment, he shows listeners that no matter what struggles we face, we always have the power to make it through.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofVPaPVXprw]

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

Since I broke my foot less than a month ago I wasn’t feeling like running around to setup lights. I decided to shoot the entire concert with available light.

Couple of things that become a problem when there is very little light in the venue. The major concern is bands are moving so too slow of shutter speed and they will be a blur.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

This is why I love my Nikon D4 camera and combining it with the super fast lenses Nikon makes like the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G and the AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 51200, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

Since Say We Can Fly was the headliner for the night, I took the opportunity to try a few things early on to see what I needed to capture all this with just the lights on the stage. By the way that is only 3 household tungsten light bulbs lighting the front, which seemed to be in the 60 watt range with one as a backlight. The one in the back I think is for the drummer to see his drums.

I started shooting Like Mike band at ISO 51200 and realized that would work, but I decided to continue to compare the different ISOs. But with the punk band Like Mike I would have had to stay at ISO 51200 because they just bounced around the stage.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 25600, ƒ/1.8, 1/320

I would later in the set of Say We Can Fly shoot some of the photos at ISO 25600 because I wanted to shoot faster than 1/200 shutter speed.  Here you can see one of those photos.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

I worked on moving around and trying to capture the small venue feel and show my daughter and her friends down front enjoying the concert.

I also like the fact that my daughter not only got to meet Braden but interview him for her YouTube Channel.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/160

Besides getting some photos of her interviewing Braden I also got some posed photos of her and friends with Braden.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/160

Now the most important photos to my daughter will be the ones with her friends and Braden. One of the front bands got my daughter and friends attention and that was Sanchez.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/10–Nikon SB900 bounced with soft dome, slow sync and -1EV

Here they are with Sanchez.

While I was prepared to shoot low light concert photos, I also had my flash for a moment just like this with my daughter and friends. There was no light on them and the flash made this a moment to be held dear to her and her friends.

If I was covering this for a publication the photos of my daughter with her friends most likely wouldn’t be included like this. I most likely would have shot a photo of someone taking a photo like this to show how this is part of the event.

Think Story when shooting a Band Concert

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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. 

Think Story

Too often I see people going to concerts and just getting the photos of the band playing. Hey I like doing this just as much.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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.

I even work really hard to get close so the viewer is right there with the band. You need to do this if you are shooting any stage performance of a  band.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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.

Now I backed up a little to show the bands audience. While it is a small group you quickly can see how an all boy band will attract mainly young women.

I rounded out the coverage with some detail shots like the one of the management reminding everyone that bands must play their original music to be legit and not breaking the law. You have to pay royalty fees to the songwriters who own the copyright if you perform their music.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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.

Now having people shopping and buying all the band’s T-Shirts, CDs and arm bands would have made a better photo by itself, I find still needing just simple photos help. This is really true if I were to put this into a video.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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.

While I would normally say this is more of a snapshot photo you take for yourself and not to tell a story, I think here is really communicates the small venue and how the young ladies enjoy being so close to their favorite bands.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

We arrived early for a VIP time where you get to hang out with the band before they perform. This is a way that the band can make a little extra money. But when you arrive early you quickly see this bands all do the work themselves. They set up and take down without much help.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.2, 1/60–Bounce flash with SB900

Here you can see how the band members just hang out with their fans during their VIP time.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60–Bounce flash with SB900

The key to having a successful package is to be sure you have a WIDE VARIETY of photos. Don’t just shoot the band on the stage.

Capturing my daughter’s 16th birthday

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 8000, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

My wife and daughter planned a wonderful 16th birthday party. My daughter invited her group of friends. Some couldn’t make it, so capturing moments so could feel like they were there was key.

I shared a gallery of images for her to share with her friends and for her proud parents to share with our friends.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60

I chose to shoot as many of the images with my AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens because to fill the frame you must get close. I think this helps pull the audience into the moments a lot more than a longer telephoto lens.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/9, 1/100

Occasionally I cranked the aperture up to ƒ/9 to be sure everyone was in focus. Here in this photo of my daughter Chelle on the telephone I wanted to be sure I captured my wife Dorie. Dorie had arranged for some of my daughter’s favorite bands to call and wish her happy birthday. Here is Farewell My Love calling Chelle.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/9, 1/100

I wanted to capture how much fun all of Chelle’s friends were having as well. What was really cool is they were all in on the surprise phone calls. What I was enjoying as much as Chelle’s reaction was her friends being excited for Chelle.

Knowing my daughter is loved by more than her family and has great friends really makes you proud.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

Chelle also had a phone call from Late Nite Reading early in the evening. However, we had setup in our living room the computer with Skype.  Late Nite Reading Skyped in and played three songs for Chelle and her friends. What is cool is even the band was excited for Chelle.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Here you can see everyone in the living room watching Late Nite Reading. In the years to come we will cherish the memories through the photographs.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I put a lamp just behind the computer to be sure there was enough light on Chelle so that Late Nite Reading could see her and her friends. This is just a tip in case you decide to do this yourself.

I encourage anyone who wants to do storytelling to learn how to capture your family events and capture them so that those who were not there will know the story and capture the emotions of the event.

We also setup a video camera to capture the Skype call. This was for her friends primarily who couldn’t be there, but wanted to know what happened. Here is that video in case you want to hear my daughter scream and the excitement of everyone.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipdty9JEZx0]

How much do you cost?

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 500, ƒ/6.4, 1/500
My stepson looked at his first paycheck and asked, “Who is FICA?” This was his first hard lesson about where the money goes – the cost of doing business.

A lot of the money we pay for a service doesn’t stay with the service provider.

According to Dun & Bradstreet, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37% chance of surviving four years (of business) and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” Of these failed businesses, only 10% of them close involuntarily due to bankruptcy and the remaining 90% close because the business was not successful, did not provide the level of income desired or was too much work for their efforts.”

So many good photographers I know have to turn to other ways to make a living not due to any lack of photographic skills, but because of poor business practices.

Nikon P7000, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000
Two things caused their businesses to fail: 1st – they didn’t know their real cost of doing business and 2nd – they failed to promote themselves.

In 2001, I left a staff position and started full-time freelancing. My business has averaged a 20% growth rate each year for the past six years. Many of my colleagues ask me how I do it.

This coming week I go to Hawaii to teach business practices for the third year in a row at the University of Nations in Kona. First, I require the students to calculate how much it costs them to live for a year. I’ve found that even the older students who have been on their own for a time typically do not know what it costs them to live.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/15
No matter the profession, if you do not know your cost you cannot estimate what you are worth in the market place.

Once you’ve know your cost and decided how much net income you want to earn it is easy to determine what to charge for each project in order to reach that goal.

Take a moment and think of everything needed to do your job. Here are some categories from the National Press Photographer’s Association list I use just substitute your terms for similar categories to figure your annual cost of doing business.

  • Office or Studio
  • Phone
  • Photo Equipment
  • Repairs
  • Computers (Hardware & Software)
  • Internet (Broadband, Web site & email)
  • Auto Expenses (Lease, Insurance & Maintenance)
  • Office Supplies
  • Photography Supplies
  • Postage
  • Professional Development
  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Subscriptions & dues
  • Business Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Legal & Accounting Services
  • Taxes & Licenses
  • Office Assistant
  • Utilities
  • Retirement Fund
  • Travel
  • Entertainment (meals with clients)
Add your desired net income to your annual business expenses, divide that total by the number of projects you reasonably expect to do in a year. The answer gives you the average per project you must charge clients so you can pay those bills, stay in business and live the way you want to live.
Now you must find out if the market place will sustain this charge.

Let’s say you need to charge on average $1,000 for per project to reach your goal. If the services you provide are what people can get anywhere then they will shop for price. If the going rate in your community is $1,200 then you are in good shape. If the going rate is $900 then you need to look at cutting your overhead—your hoped for income or business expenses or both.

The key to earning what you want comes down to service. You must be able to demonstrate to potential clients that you offer something more if you want/need to charge more than other photographers do.

I have found that I need to know about the subjects I cover more than other photographers do. In addition, I deliver my images a good deal faster than most others do. I also listen carefully to what clients say they want and try to, not only meet their needs, but to go beyond their expectations.
When I first determined my cost and income goals, it was a revelation just as my stepson’s response to FICA and other deductions from his pay were for him.

I do my best to keep my overhead low, but even so close to 50% of my gross goes to business expenses. It was quite shocking for me to see what I must charge to pay the bills. This knowledge was the fire I needed to get me to put the time and effort into finding ways to make me more valuable to clients and to find those clients by seriously marketing myself.
Do you know what you cost?