Understanding Copyright and Cost of doing business isn’t the secret to success

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, 4–Alienbees B1600, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 1/160

For the past 20+ years the photography community has been pushing for photographers to know their rights. Copyright is at the top of that list. Right next to it was you knowing the cost of doing business.

I even perpetuated many of these tips that photographers needed to know to be sure they were running a healthy business.

Before 2002 quality images were hard to come by versus today where almost daily the amount of well exposed, in focus images are being created faster than we can calculate. The reason I picked the year 2002 is that is when a 6-megapixel camera went from $25,000 to under $2,000. This made if very affordable for the masses.

Today there are so many images available that for the most part photography is now a commodity.

As photographers were pushing for more from customers and trying to explain why they must get more money the customer needed them less and less.

Let me start the business lesson where we never did in the past for photographers. We need to start running our business based on the customer/audience.

Nikon D100, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,, ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/160

What is the customer’s problem?

The best possible customer for you is the one going through a major crisis. You can be the super hero and help save their business. You can see plainly their problem and you have a solution that will not only fix the problem but also help them be more successful.

The reality is that this is your only kind of a customer. If they have no problem needing to be fixed with your services they do not need you. Businesses don’t spend money on things that will not help them reach their objective. At least we know they cannot afford to do that very often without going out of business.

Next you need to figure out how much it costs you to provide that solution to the client.

You see if you don’t know the problems you are solving for a business you cannot figure out what you need to be doing in the first place.

[Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Do the math

Now this math you are going to do has two parts. You have what we call ongoing expenses, which you must spread over all your jobs. This is not just what money you need to pay your home budget needs, but also your business budget. This includes your gear, your costs to find out about customers and costs to communicate to them about your solutions. Remember you have to do all this because they may not hire you and you still have to pay for it somehow.

This cost of doing business is then spread out over all your jobs through a year. Maybe that figure is about $600 per the average job you must build into the price.

Next you must do your math again and add up all the expenses to do the specific job to solve this client’s problem.

You add these together and this is what you must make to stay in business.

How you arrived at this price or what this figure is should never be discussed with the client. This is for you only.

Now if you have a client for example in a ditch with their car in the middle of no where and you have a tow truck and are there to help them you are in a great position, especially if they are in a hurry. This is when you can get a lot more money than had you been in a large city with many more options for the customer to choose from than just you.

Take the time to get to know your market and what prices are typically being charged for these services.

Determine your Target Audience

Now if the going rates are lower than your figure you need to charge you have a problem. You will need to somehow convince people that you are a better solution. That is possible because an oil change can run from $19.95 to $20,000 for a Bugatti Veyron.

Believe it or not there is a formula for true luxury and it is called the Intrinsic Value Dependency Index. Now I am not an expert in this, but in general a product must be of the best quality and in the process creates a space in the market of it’s own. It is important that this item be rare as well. True luxury comes with over the top service as well.

When you get a $20,000 oil change they are doing a lot more than you driving into a bay and stay in the car while they change your oil. They are offering your wine, Champaign or a wonderful latte. Good chance they even picked up your car from your home and brought it back to you at your convenience.

Once you know your figures that you need to charge and you know the market place and have decided where you want to be in that market you not only set your price you create a marketing plan to execute.

You have a website, portfolio, brochures, business cards and other materials you will use to help showcase your work, which is a solution for the customers problem.

Going back to the side of the road with our customer in distress you give them your sales pitch. I am here to help you. I can have my limo driver come and pick you up and take you to where you need to be next and while that is happening I can get your car out of the ditch and take this to the repair shop of your choosing. If you don’t have a repair shop you prefer I have a few that I use regularly that will work with your insurance and get you back up and running.

They love it and ask you how much. You give them the price and they gladly pay. Your limo driver picks them up and offers them some beverages and takes them to their appointment.

Your business is grounded as every other business–you solve other people’s problems. The key is much more than the cost of doing business, copyright or having the latest camera gear. Knowing your client first and foremost is the key.

Photography/Video/Multimedia is the tool to solving problems for customers. Those who are the most successful are not waiting by the phone like a plumber getting a call because a toilet overflowed. The most successful are like Steve Jobs creating products to solve the problems for clients that they didn’t even know they had until they saw the solution.

Summary:

  1. Start with the problem of the client
  2. Come up with a solution to that problem
  3. Know all the costs involved in providing that solution
  4. Create the sales pitch that addresses their problem with your solution and how the outcome will look if they use your services.
  5. Create a price that will cover your costs and help position your services within the market place. Hopefully one that is a luxury and not a commodity.

The secret to successful business is one that is focused on solving clients problems.

Who’s your Audience?

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, /500

When Jimmy Carter became president of the United States back in 1977 the world started to hear about being a “Born Again” Christian.

Many years later I would be in seminary where Wes Black, my youth education professor opened my eyes to understanding “Born Again.” Professor Black pointed out that in the scripture of John 3:1-21 Jesus was talking to specifically Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was Pharisee who was a member of the Jewish ruling council due to being born into his family. His status in life was due to his parent’s. Jesus was pointing out that his true value must be placed solely in God and not into things of this world. He needed to be “born again” or as in the Greek it meant be “born from above.”

This was the starting point for the lecture that day many years ago in Professor Black’s class. Black would go on to talk about how Jesus would talk to the woman at the well, to those he would heal and others to help us see that each time the message was different. He didn’t tell all of them they needed to be “Born Again”, he only said this to Nicodemus.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75

Dr. Black shifted from the scripture and went to the white board and started to draw the map of a school. He then labeled the different rooms and places around the campus. One room was the band room, another art, then the library, on to the cafeteria and then the other end of the school had the shop class and the gym. Out front of the school he drew a tree and talked about where the smoking students would hang out.

Then room by room Black asked us how would we talk to them about God. In the gym people talked about God being like the coach or the quarterback. When we got the the library, where many of the geeks hang out, someone said that God is like ROM. ROM is strictly, read-only memory refers to memory that is hard-wired in a computer and the computer relies on to work.

It was becoming quite clear that the lesson was that before you can communicate who God was to a person or group you had to know them. You had to know their nomenclature.

Moses had predicted that Jesus would be the greatest of all the prophets. He was predicting that he would be the greatest of all communicators.

Dr. Wes Black opened my eyes that day in class as to one of the biggest reasons Jesus was such a great communicator–Jesus started with the audience.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800

To truly communicate you must understand your audience. You cannot assume the same way you communicated to others will work with the new audience. You cannot assume that if you are interested in the subject they will be. Also you cannot assume they will understand why they need to know something unless you communicate this clearly.

Too many Christians went around telling people they needed to be “Born Again.” There largest mistake is the audience had little in common with Nicodemus.

Do you know your audience? 

Interviewing Techniques for Kona, Hawaii Multimedia Storytellers

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/100

When I teach students photography, multimedia and/or storytelling I often find myself reflecting over the content.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

When I was down at South Point on The Big Island of Hawaii you see how all the trees are bent in one direction.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/200

When I say all the trees I really mean all the trees are bent from a constant wind. The wind is so constant and good that they put windmills here for wind power.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/800

While this strong wind is great it will affect the landscape. Well when I teach I am trying really hard to not make so much of an impression it looks like my students are too over powered.

Some of the things we discussed today was interviewing techniques. Now when I taught with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery we compiled a list of tips that we give to the students. Here is that list plus some that I have added this week:

INTERVIEWING TECHNIQUES
  1. Remember the audience doesn’t know the question from the interviewer if they are not recorded or on camera. Remind the subject to phrase their answer so that the question is understood in their answer, sometimes by repeating the question.
  2. Write down at least 5 good questions beforehand
    1. Listen to their responses and be ready to deviate from your list
    2. Listen as if you only hear their words, not the question you asked
  3. Ask open-ended questions
    1. Ask questions that CAN’T be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  4. Ask “how” and “why” questions
    1. If the person speaks in the abstract, ask “Can you give me an example of that?”
  5. Dig for anecdotes and details
    1. Ask the person to tell you exactly what happened moment by moment
    2. Ask specific details along the way.
  6. Understand them and their story
    1. Try to see the world through their eyes
    2. Remember, it’s not your story. Get their story right.
  7. Ask your questions then be quiet. Use silence and don’t be afraid of it. No noises to affirm them. Affirm with gestures. Your noises will distract from the sound quality. 
    1. Don’t finish their sentences.
    2. Be a good listener. Sit quietly as they wrestle with what they are trying to say.
  8. Coach the person to speak with the passion they feel about the subject.
    1. Can you say that again, but with more feeling?
    2. Remember they may be pretty up tight in front of the camera and need to not just relax but bring the emotion through their voice.
  9. Get the basic details right
    1. Get the spelling of their name (business card, or have them write it down).
  10. Clarify
    1. If something they said didn’t make sense, ask for clarification.
    2. Review your footage while you’re still overseas, where follow-up is much easier than after you go home.
  11. Get to know your subject before interviewing them. This will not just help them be more relaxed but help you know how to interview them and perhaps help them relax.
  12. You can do the interview at the end of the coverage and not the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have them talk about a lot of stuff that by the end of the day I never caught on camera. This helps you from lacking in b-roll or images. 
  13. Ask the subject to summarize what you have seen that day. While you may not use all of this, it will help you with a starting place for the narrative.
  14. Mirror them. Keep them going by nodding and smiling.
  15. Keep them on topic. If you have two or more interviews in your package planned, then each person needs to know what they are covering. Sometimes I break it down as to let one person tell me why something happened and the other to explain what they did to make it happen. 
  16. Help them revise their comments. Often i need about 30 to 45 seconds of comments and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later their will not be a good flow. I try and help them summarize what they just said or even edit. When I say edit–I mean cutting content.
  17. Get variety. I like to often record a longer comment and then follow up with them making it really short. Sometimes I use the longer comment. Get another direction just in case. After doing this for a few minutes often this gets their minds engaged and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.

    Now just remember that you don’t need them to tell you everything in words. You will help communicate a good part of what they do also with visuals that you will capture and use as b-roll. You need get them to tell you the things that the visuals don’t convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn’t help the audience know why.

    If you do a good job interviewing then the story will be unique the branches of the story can be like Angel Oak Park on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. Angel Oak is estimated to be 500 years old. The character of the subject will shine through and be who they really are rather than all the wind forcing it’s power on the tree.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/250

    Tips to get better tourist photos

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    While shooting my own photos of the Kilauea Volcano in the Hawaiian Volcano National park you cannot help but notice everyone else taking photos.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/500

    Here was one family doing this the more traditional way of having a stranger use their camera/smart phone to take the photo for them.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5. 1/1000

    The other thing we saw a lot of was the selfie sticks.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 110, ƒ/11, 1/100

    Now if you had a real camera you most likely have a lens that will get you and your friends into the photo without a selfie stick.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/640

    Now I was watching these three ladies in the shade and just a second ago they were taking photos of the volcano way the heck away from them. But they couldn’t see their screens in the sun, so they backed up to get the photo.

    The downside to this is the only way that people are getting close up shots is to zoom in.

    When you zoom in on your smartphone you are not actually zooming, you are cropping in on the image and now shooting a more pixelated version. As long as it looks good on the phone you are OK as long as everyone sees it on a phone, but if they see it on their computer monitor or even large screen TV it will not look so good.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 32000, ƒ/3.5, 1/500

    While the guy has a camera with a zoom the lady has an auxiliary lens she put onto her photo to help her get closer without cropping. She is basically doing the same thing as a person with an interchangeable lens. She is put another lens on her camera phone to get closer.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 65535, ƒ/3.5, 1/160

    Many of these camera phones do a great job. This photo here of Akaka falls is with my DROID TURBO by Motorola. It is a 16 megapixel camera that does actually really well.

    Now here is the same shot with my Nikon D5.

    Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/400

    Basically in good sunlight the smartphones do a great job.

    Now the tip I would like to share with you is that if you can fill the frame of your smartphone without cropping then most of the latest and greatest smartphone do an excellent job in sunlight. Now if you need to get closer and this is your once in a lifetime trip either buy some auxiliary lenses for your smartphone or buy a camera with a zoom. You will get better photos that you can see on other devices and even make wall prints with excellent results.

    Now one finally tip. Even if you have the right gear don’t walk backwards to stand in the shade so you can see your monitor. Just take you second hand and create the shade to see your screen.

    Turning Pro from Amateur Photographer isn’t for the faint of heart

    Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

    I reposted a blog I had done a way back that had gotten a lot of positive feedback from the photographic community.

    Seven Reasons Not to Become a Freelance Professional Photographer was the blog.

    It was shared 32 times through Google Plus alone. It ranks 5th of the 1098 blog posts I have written for most read. There are 44 comments on this post. Everyone on the post was positive except one that was more of a question. “Is all lost when most of these points have been true?”

    My response was, “No. You just cannot continue to fail over the long haul. Again you don’t have to do all of them yourself, you can outsource. My recommendation is to realize to be successful you need to 1) have good solid product consistently, 2) you need to deliver more than you promise, 2nd mile service and 3) WOW them. You need to connect with people way beyond your product. Just think of the TV show Cheers, the people came back to the bar regularly because of friendships on top of the food and good service.”

    When I reposted it I had the most negative response I have had for anyone of my blogs. I started to examine why was this person so taken back by my post.

    The poster slammed the blog as Listicle.

    In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short-form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure, but is fleshed out with sufficient copy to be published as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema. The word is a portmanteau derived from list and article. It has also been suggested that the word evokes “popsicle”, emphasizing the fun but “not too nutritious” nature of the listicle.

    After reading a few more comments I started to realize what I think the person was having an issue with from my article. In My Humble Opinion [IMHO] the person was new to the industry and experiencing the difference from being an amateur to now the experience as a pro.

    In a workshop with Scott Kelby I loved one of his comments. “If you need a hug you post in Flickr.com.”

    You see as an amateur your friends and family will comment on how great of a photographer you are. However, the minute you turn pro that all changes.

    I was feeling the same thing this poster seemed to be indicating in his comments that we need to wrap each other in emotional support as pros. My wife pointed out to me that you are a pro, people expect you to have great photos. They don’t comment to you for doing what is expected.

    For this article I want to be clear that the difference between the word amateur and professional is solely the difference of hobby versus making a living. My comments are not about the quality of images, because I think there are many amateurs who produce better images than pros. Most amateurs however could use a dose of reality that the biggest difference for the working pro over the amateur is business skills and not photographic skills.

    As an amateur you may even join a photo club where you all help one another and encourage one another. I know many of the camera clubs around me have had me speak to them and judge their competitions. I really enjoy doing this and sharing some of my knowledge with them.

    Professionals understand that when they go to workshops and meetings with pros for the most part we are getting together to all get better at our business skills. We may be learning some of the same things that a camera club gets together to learn about the latest software, but we need this knowledge to remain competitive rather than just make photos.

    Professionals also understand they need to pay for those classes and workshops. The people teaching them are working pros that are giving you information that will help you make a better living.

    Going Pro will be a lonely journey for several reasons. Most of all your friends and family comments of how wonderful you are now will seem emptier if they are not hiring you to shoot for them. If they really thought you were so awesome wouldn’t they hire you?

    While most professionals will help you not everyone will be as enthusiastic that you showed up on the scene. First of all remember in some areas of the industry like newspapers the opportunities are disappearing. When pros were making $200,000+ for shooting stock years ago and now they can barely make $20,000 doing the same type of work you showing up and taking more of the slice of pie that is smaller is very threatening.

    New pros need to be aware of one major thing when they turn pro. Just because you graduated and know how to make wonderful images does not mean there is work for you right away. Every client that hired photographers last year will most likely hire those same photographers. When you do get hired often one of those photographers just lost that job you are shooting.

    Now some pros take this the wrong way and therefore will do everything they can to sabotage your career. This is especially true if you setup shop in their town.

    Now there is a great group of photographers I have been apart of that do not take this attitude. Now you may find one of our members like that, but I can tell you we do not encourage that at all. This group is ASMP.

    Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

    ASMP [American Society of Media Photographers] have championed business skills for photographers better than any other organization that I have been a member of for my career. I joined in 1987 and have learned more through the organization and fellow members than from any other place. Like the photo of the Citadel cadets carrying one another as they might have to do in battle to save their comrade, my ASMP fellow members carried me.

    To join ASMP as a member you must get a sponsor who is satisfied that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for Professional Membership, namely:

    1. Good moral character and reputation, and
    2. At least three consecutive years of experience as an imaging professional.

    Now if you are just starting out we have an associate’s membership where you have pretty much all the same access as a member, just not voting rights. If you haven’t proven you can run a successful business for three years straight we don’t need you making business decisions for the organization.

    We see the new photographers much differently. We work to find another chair and welcome you to our table. We take you under our wings and do everything we can to be sure you are successful.

    The best things I learned right away from the start with ASMP were the importance of good business practices. I learned about how to figure out my cost of doing business. I learned that when I create estimates that often the client would try and negotiate for a lower price or more services for the same price.

    ASMP worked to protect my copyright by helping to inform congress what this means to photographers to have copyright protection.

    Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

    My fellow ASMP members didn’t give me a group hug like I would experience as an amateur on Flickr. It felt like they took the legs out from under me and they did. They were carrying them just like you see in this photo. They helped me by challenging me on my low prices. How are you making a living on that price?

    The one thing that really made me sad about the comments the poster made was “no matter the pay” he wasn’t going to be swayed to stop shooting. You see he is the type of new pro that needs ASMP.

    His attitude of “no matter the pay” means he will accept just about any job because he loves to shoot. After all he said, “It’s in my blood and who I am.”

    Through the years I along with my ASMP colleagues have helped countless photographers learn how to make a living and even a great living. One of those I took under my wing was a young lady who when I met her was a nanny and going to school full-time.

    I had her assisting me and talking with her answering all her questions. She took on a client that had her traveling all over the state shooting travel magazine packages for the publication.
    The magazine had traded out with hotels to keep costs down. So every town she went to there was a hotel she stayed in for free. So it appeared in many ways the magazine was thinking about her.

    It was when we spent a few hours going over her expenses and what they were paying her she discovered she was making way below minimum wage.

    It was when her car started to have mechanical issues that she realized she could get it fixed and continue doing the work. She wasn’t making enough to cover the true costs of owning a car.

    This is when she realized that continuing with this magazine she wasn’t just making below minimum wage, she was paying them to shoot for them. YES!!! You heard me clearly.

    Her mother rented her a car so she could go and do the assignment, but the assignment didn’t pay enough to cover the rental car fees and all the other costs associated with doing the work.

    Today that young woman is not only doing better she is doing great. She not only is making a good living she has a staff working for her of more than three people.

    Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

    ASMP members know that the photographers who do not understand business principles are not only going to go broke they leave the industry worst off. Now those clients think that the rates they were paying to those failed photographers was reasonable. We need you equally lifting up the industry just as these guys are doing in carrying the log. They cannot do it alone.

    Turning pro from amateur status is when you start to have adult conversations. This is when you will not like everything you are hearing from a seasoned pro who is really trying to help you out, but you see it as them trying to get rid of you.

    Young photographers can learn something from professional bull riders. They started out on riding young calves before graduating to bullocks and then bulls. Between the ages of four and six they hone their skills by “mutton busting” on sheep. You see bull riding is thought to be one of the most dangerous sports in the world. An estimated one in every 15 bull rides ends in some sort of injury.

    I can tell you that many pro photographers feel like one in every 15 assignments ends up in some sort of injury. We like to call that scar tissue which builds wisdom.

    I recommend joining ASMP and/or NPPA that has in the last few years changed to help freelancers even more with business practices than when I joined in 1985.

    Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/6.3, 1/320

    Remember when you turn pro you are expected to have great photos so don’t go looking for a group hug like you got as an amateur.

    In military training young men come together with a very diverse mix of our american landscape. Those differences melt away through their training which pushes their limits to each person realizing that those strangers they met on day one are their along side them even willing to die for them.

    You will see if you look hard enough seasoned pros taking on a lot of fire and struggling to stay alive. ASMP members know that each of us has gone through our training of at least three years. We know we are all battle tested and helping one another.

    Orlando Massacre’s Silver Lining

    Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 2 sec

    James 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)

    Live Well, Live Wisely
    13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

    17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

    Waking up Sunday morning to the news of the Orlando massacre where one man took the lives of 50 people and injured another 53 people was gut wrenching.

    Today our country is more divided to me than at any other time in my lifetime. Seems like every group is saying if you just think like us all will be well.

    One of the most difficult things I have wrestled with in my faith is the concept of Free Will and at the same time having a God who is totally omniscience. If God actually knows everything that can be known, then how can you have true Free Will?

    If God allows for our Free Will how much should we allow each other to exercise Free Will?

    I am reminded of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.

    John 17:14-17 

    14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

    The Christian ideal is not freedom from work, but strength to do it; not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome it; not freedom from suffering, but joy in an abiding sense of the Father’s love; not absence from the world, but grace to make the world better for our presence; not holy lives driven from the world, and living apart from it, but holy lives spent in the world and leavening it.

    I have been really sad for many years as I watch those who call themselves people of faith not showing grace or love, but rather condemnation and hate of those who do not hold to their beliefs.

    I watched as political parties wrapped themselves with what they call faith, but what I saw as condemnation of those who didn’t believe as they did.

    John 13:35 The Message (MSG) 

    34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

    To me this is one of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible. It tells us how we are to live our lives. Jesus says this at the last supper and before his arrest and crucifixion. So many of us are just like Peter when he said to Jesus –

    36 Simon Peter asked, “Master, just where are you going?”

    Jesus answered, “You can’t now follow me where I’m going. You will follow later.”

    37 “Master,” said Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!”

    38 “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.”

    Our purpose here is to not talk about our faith as much as we are to live it. Living it is to show the love of God through our actions with others.

    The power of true love is most profound with great loss. The actions of the lone gunman in Orlando Night Club were extremely severe. Each time our country has suffered such a loss the community responds. The stories after 9/11 were a great healing to our country.

    Our response should be that no matter who you are–your life matters and you matter. Our community will always suffer when anyone dies. We suffer even more when that loss is due to violence such as in Orlando.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250

    This past memorial day we celebrated those who gave their lives through the armed forces that we can have the freedom for Free Will in our country. This is very personal for my family.

    ON THE BEACH: The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the sand dunes on Saipan beach, during the World War II invasion of Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still listed as missing in action. Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns

    I think one of the hardest things our country is going through is for those who are new to the concept of being able to exercise their Free Will. This is because where many are from they were not able to enjoy such freedoms.

    I am so thankful that I do not live in a Democracy but rather a Republic form of Government.

    The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

    A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate.

    Let us remember the words of James Madison on the regard of the republican form of government:

    “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

    It takes more thought and purpose to create laws than it does to just react. We think of how the law we create will impact everyone. We want those laws to benefit all of us. We are careful not to create a law that singles out one person, because one day that person could be us. We must be a community that values each person’s life.

    The more I understand and study storytelling the more I see the importance of protecting the rights of people to make their own choices. I also see that for the main subject in a story to solve their own problem basically is not possible. They must have help. This is why my belief in God and community is at the core of a good story.

    Shoot some with other photographers so you can grow

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500

    Just the other night our instructors got on a conference call and talked through our plans for one last time before our trip for Storytellers Abroad workshop in Managua, Nicaragua.

    This was the first draft and all that pink and green is our time shooting our stories. All the light blue is class time and editing time.

    One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to network and shoot some things with other photographers. Plan an outing soon where you can get that immediate feedback from others.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/30

    I will be teaching techniques to help steady one’s DSLR as they are shooting video. All these tips and tricks are to help the students capture the stories of the people in Nicaragua.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

    I am looking forward to helping the students as they shoot with tweaking their settings on their cameras to get a better image.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

    Maybe you would like to learn how to tell stories using video/audio/stills and need someone to help you navigate all those settings on the camera and all the possibilities of using software like Adobe Premier.

    While the trip next week is sold out you can join Gary S. Chapman and I in Honduras. Spend a week with us getting to know the people and countryside of Honduras as well as having time to show us your work and get some feedback and tips.
    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
    At the end of the week we all gather with the subjects and some in the community for them to have the big reveal of all our stories. We show them what we put together that week on them.
    Well I am off to buy some more bug spray to be ready for the mosquitos in Nicaragua.
    Check out how to go with us to Honduras here http://workshop.stanleyleary.com/

    Storyteller tips before you leave for your coverage

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    Last June I was in Bucharest, Romania teaching the Storytellers Abroad Workshop. In just a few days I will fly to Managua, Nicaragua to teach the same workshop with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery.

    Let me give you a few tips for doing storytelling that we are doing this week before the class goes to Managua.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    I have never traveled for any story that I did not have an idea of who and what the story was before I left my house. You need to go prepared as much as you can and if things change that is OK, but don’t go unprepared.

    Each and everyone of the students will have a person/story that they will be given before they leave. Typically for the working professional if you are traveling overseas you most likely will have a month or more time to prepare for your story due to the logistics of traveling.

    Once you have the contact information of your subject do all you can to correspond with them as soon as possible. Sometimes I have not had the luxury of working directly with the subject. In those times I was working with the NGO staff person on the ground in that country. Often with church organizations this was the missionary.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

    Most of the time someone with an organization has identified a person and tells you their story. While this often changes from what you hear till the time the story is done, I always use this storyline as a way to formulate questions to help “flesh out” the story. To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete.

    There have been a few times in my career that I was able to do so much research before I arrived that the story was pretty much set. I had asked enough questions that I felt comfortable and had even been able to tell the story as I understood it back to the subject to be sure I was on target.

    When that happens I have an outline which had the text/verbal part of the story being told and then a visual shot list that I would use as b-roll. In interviews and documentary films it may describe secondary footage that adds meaning to a sequence.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100

    Now besides interviewing the subject I also spend a lot of time researching all I can about the country and the region I will be going. Before the internet this meant going to the library and pulling all the books I could find and periodicals on the country. Today with Google this process is so much easier.

    I also love to read if I can find them documentary novels on a culture. One such writer who view history with a visitor’s eye is Sarah Vowell. She wrote Unfamiliar Fishes, which is the short and awful history of Western intervention in Hawaii, up to U.S. annexation of the kingdom in 1898.

    Sometimes a novel can really help you feel like you have been somewhere even before you have experienced it. I know many people who have read Pat Conroy’s book South of Broad feel like they know that area of Charleston, SC just from reading the book.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1.6 sec

    Now the other thing that is cool with Google is when you research a location like Seattle, Washington you can narrow that search to just see images.

    This is a great way to get ideas on some establishing shots for the beginning of your story. When I did all this homework before I show up in a city I have already got the street addresses and know what is the best time of day to shoot that skyline shot. It is on my calendar with all the other appointments with the subject before I leave for the trip.

    Tips Summary

    • Identify the story/subject before you go
    • Contact your subject and find out all you can before your trip
    • Research the area you are going
    • Find as many photographs of the area before you go

    Do you like reading my blog? How about something even better?

    Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 500, ƒ/16, 1/100

    I am hoping that if you read my blog with any regularity that I may be able to get you excited about having more time with me in a workshop, where you can ask questions and have me clarify even more than you get through this blog.

    I am getting really excited about teaching storytelling workshops over the next few months.

    I a couple weeks I am flying to Nicaragua to help teach a storytellers abroad workshop with my friends James Dockery and Jeff Raymond. Right after that workshop I will be in Kona, Hawaii with my good friend Dennis Fahringer teaching the same skills to his students who will be going to Brazil to cover stories around the Olympics.

    Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 720, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

    While seeing sites like the sunset above in Kona are part of the trips, we spend a lot of time like James is doing here with student Jon Franz. We enjoy working with people and watching stories come together over just one week.

    Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/16, 1/50

    Unfortunately both the Nicaragua and Hawaii classes are full, but you can join Gary S. Chapman and I in Honduras this fall.

    Come with us to the remote area Agalta Valley in Central Honduras. We will be staying at Rancho el Paraiso, a 1,400-acre working ranch. You can learn to milk a cow if you like and watch the heard of cattle being taken out to the fields each day and brought in to be milked.

    When Honduras Outreach was started 25 years ago they bought the ranch and created dorms and cafeteria to house the volunteers who come year around to do projects in the valley. Their 60 local Honduran staff members work year-round with communities in the areas of healthcare, agriculture, education, faith building, and commerce.

    Honduras Outreach has had the president of Honduras to visit not only the ranch but come to the US to give them an award for such outstanding work.

    Enjoy your days taking pictures in the beautiful Agalta Valley and showing your work to world traveling seasoned professional photographers [Gary Chapman and Stanley Leary] for feedback each day.

    We will also be teaching how to capture a story for a nonprofit. We will give you tips that you can use in your future travels.

    Go here to learn more about the workshop.

    Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

    “The reason I do workshops is so I can learn, and I am fortunate that I’ve probably gained more from the whole experience of teaching than any one participant has. It is all about asking.” – John Sexton

    There are a couple things that the workshops I am teaching all have in common. See if this appeals to you.
    1. ACCESS – One of the hardest thing about having great images and stories is access to those people that are interesting. All the workshops I am working with have already lined up stories for the workshop participants.
    2. MORE THAN – This is a deeper dive than that as a tourist. You get a chance to meet someone and hang out with them and get to know more about them. This is what tourists seldom get to do on a vacation.
    3. SEASONED PROS – Getting feedback each day from professionals whose life has been traveling the world and doing stories on people of every walk of life. Having them review your work and give you tips each day.
    4. LOGISTICS – All the logistics of the traveling has been taken care for you. You just have to pack and get to the first location and we plan the rest for you.
    5. TRAINING – We will teach you how to use software, how to get a story and how to put it together in a package.
    Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000
    While there is education and things to learn the lure of the travel to a new location is seeing the wonderful sites of the location.
    Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1600

    Are your stories or visuals just flat?

    Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/3.9, 1/70

    Do your stories/photos just seem flat to you? I know many times after I have worked so hard on a story/photo I just feel like the results just were not capturing something, but what was I missing?

    Now when I cover sports, which is really a short story, where the winning team must overcome obstacles, to win I can see the problem with a flat coverage. The teams just never really put forth the effort that visually showed greatness.

    Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

    I have been having wonderful emails sent to me over the past couple weeks about my daughter’s performance as the witch in the musical Into the Woods. Now while I would be proud of her no matter what as her dad, I was really proud of her as an artist.

    Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

    Some of those emails started to capture the nuance that she was able to deliver in her performance. One person wrote that my daughter was “making the part your own, not a stereotype or a copy of another actor’s work, but an artful blending of jagged, mean, ugly, playful, quirky, needy, and finally, channeling the almighty in condemning flawed mankind to tend the garden alone.  Your character arc was spot on.”

    So exactly what is a character arc? It is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of the story. While many things may happen to a character in a theater performance, unless those are portrayed in someway on the stage the audience isn’t allowed to experience those changes.

    This is what I would like to say is often the missing secret ingredient to a compelling story.

    Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

    When I work often with a NGO in telling their story I must interview a person about the before the climax of the story. I am most often telling a success story which means I have missed the opportunity to show this main character struggling.

    What I can do and often do is have them tell me about what it was like before. I want them to articulate the struggle they experienced. After hearing this part of the interview I then can go and get b-roll of others also going through this. I should be able to find this because most NGOs are raising funds to help others like their success story.

    Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 2200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

    The main plot for most of these stories I am doing is that the main character is unable to overcome opposing forces, because they lack the skills, knowledge, resources or friends.

    My audience is who I am appealing to be the ones who help with supplying the skills, knowledge, resources and being the friend to help other like this person to overcome their obstacles. It is imperative that I have done a good job of articulating why they cannot do it alone.

    The last part of the story is showing the changes in the main subject. Today for example because of the changes they have gone through now their children can go to college and have a better life than the main subject.

    The story is often flat because I have done a poor job of capturing the struggle and problems of the main character.

    Don’t be the storyteller who only searches for those who take little effort on you to communicate their struggle. This is where you search for only stories that are often cliché. You find a person with major physical deformities to help you capture the struggle so you don’t have to work at it as hard.

    Remember, everyone has a story, if we take the time to get to know them!