The Catch-22 of finding work for the freelancer

2017 SOP1 Group Photo–L/R Juan Carlos Sanchez De Fuentes, Thema Black, Daisy Wang, Fred Tesone, Hayley Webb, Michael Gellerstedt, Laurelee Martens, Chance Punahele Ortiz,Heather Morse, & Dennis Fahringer. Also featuring Keiko the dog.
[Fuji X-E2, Fuji 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/80]
A month from now I will be back in Kona, Hawaii to teach the YWAM School of Photography 1 portrait lighting and business practices for a week.

This group photo is last year’s class. This year’s group will be twice the size of last year.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

While I will be teaching a great deal about lighting the business practices is the one thing that over the years has proven even more valuable to the classes.

“How do you make a living doing photography?”, is answered through solid business practices.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180

Knowing your Cost-Of-Doing-Business and how to price your work doesn’t get you clients. It only makes sure that you make money when you price jobs rather than losing money.

How do you get those clients? Well this is the Catch-22 of Freelancing.

When you are a professional photographer you are like every other business person. You are in the business of solving people and businesses problems through the use of photography.

What you need to be doing is interviewing people and listening. You need to find out what their problems are so that you can pitch to them solutions for which you can provide those services.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/200

Having a portfolio is like any other business where you can display your wares, or as in this example Maine lobster buoys on the side of the road of commerce.

If the client know what they need then this works really well, except now your work is more of a commodity. This is an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service. Due to your work being seen as a commodity it is much harder to get prices that work with your Cost-Of-Doing-Business.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/320

You need to be seen as a visionary for the person’s business and not just a commodity if you are in the creative arts type of a business.

Mark Johnson’s Photojournalism Class [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/100]
You need to put yourself in situations where you get to listen to business people talk about what they do. You need to learn about their business. You need to ask questions that give you understanding.

Only when you really understand what problems they are facing with their business can you then think of ways that you can help solve some of those problems.

Now often they do not even know that your solution is to a problem they have. This will come over time where you start to recognize problems facing business owners and knowing that there are solutions you have done for others that could work for another business.

Here is the Catch-22 you must face each day to make a living as a photographer. You have solutions for a business to thrive, but you must first find a way to know what problem a particular business is facing before you can offer a solution.

Making this even more complicated is that if the client already knows what they need then you will be treated as a commodity. You need to be the photographer that has business solutions and not just the ability to take a picture.

Sharing my own struggle with depression related to storytelling

Witch doctor and his family in Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
I believe that many journalists look for validation that the work they are doing is important. I sure do look for it myself. I want to know that I am making a difference.

However, I believe that too many put that validation within the industry through awards that are for the most part given by the high priests of journalism. Awards like the Pulitzers and POYs are judged by our peers and not by our audience.

Children of the local pastor in his corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]
I stopped entering contests more than 25 years ago and only recently can articulate why. I felt like the awards didn’t validate if the stories I worked on made a difference in the audience’s lives.

When journalism is done right it is often a very slow pace of change that takes place in the communities that it serves. Sometimes the hardest part of the job is our impact can take years to see. Sometimes we often take credit for change we see that is really the work of others long before we came on to the scene.

This little shepherd boy is part of the Fulani tribe which is known for being herdsmen and is working in the village of Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/90]
We as journalists should really be looking to our audiences and how they are responding to our stories about our communities for validation.

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.

Lisbon, Portugal [Nikon D4, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1.3 – On Tripod]
We need to ask ourselves, “Who’s paying attention? Why does the story need to be told? Why should the audience care?”

When the inner drive in our souls is that of a calling to journalism then it is much easier to endure long time sometimes necessary for us to see any real change.

The times when I am most depressed from burnout is when I am no longer really in touch with the audience and really know what they care about. If there are stories we think they should care about and they don’t then this is where I struggle the most.

I have discovered when I see no impact from my work it is often because of the metaphors and simile that I maybe using does not resonate with the audience. I must really know my audience so that while doing the story I am thinking of what the audience would be interested in and why.

Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
I think one of the best questions journalists should be asking of themselves is not how much time they spend on telling their stories, but rather how much time are they spending on getting to know their audience.

Once you have sought to understand your audience and your subject completely is only when great journalism can take place.

Woman in Nicaragua showing her kitchen to us and the lunch she is preparing. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]

How To: Christmas family photo where everyone will look great – Even pets!

Christmas Family Photo [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/200 – (2) Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT with MAGMOD MagSphere]
This is a family photo we did this year of our family with my wife’s family. One of our son’s couldn’t be there and had to work with a new job.

To get this final photo required me to be behind the camera saying “Do you want a treat?” to get the three dogs in the middle to look at the camera.

Photo without me

So this is actually the photo I took with me behind the camera.

Photo with me but the dogs not paying attention

Here are the steps to then add me into the photo with dogs looking the best.

Open photo with me in photo shop. Open the second photo in photo shop with dogs looking best. Select all and copy the photo of dogs best.

Go to the photo with me in it and paste the other photo on top of it.

You will now have two layers. the top will be the one with dogs looking best and I am not in the photo. See the copy of PhotoShop screen grab.

Now we need to create a mask. Down below the layers click on the mask.

It will now look like what I have screen grabbed here for you. Be sure the brackets are around the mask (white box) and that it is the top photo, which is the one without me. We are going to use the eraser and now erase the empty chair and reveal me.

You just need to brush me in. See the photo of the tools here. Pick the eraser. It has box around it.

Next be sure the foreground color is black and on top. This will let you erase me.

Now if you make a mistake you can then click so that the white is on top and use the same brush and brush back the photo on top.

 As you brush you can see in the mask that what you brush over becomes black.

Now when we I finished and showed the photo they wanted the small dog on the far left to look at the camera as well. So I looked for a photo of the small dog looking great.

So I found this photo and then using the same technique brushed in the dog.

Here the tips you need to follow to make this work.

First put the camera on a sturdy tripod. You want to lock down the composition so that nothing changes.

Second do not change the zoom if you are using one.

Third if you are in the photo use the timer or use a remote to fire the camera. I had left my remote so I set the camera timer to 10 seconds.

Fourth, be sure you have good lighting on everyone. For this photo I used two Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT with MAGMOD MagSphere. Here is what the setup looked like:

Over the digital learning curve and on a plateau

First Snow for Winter 2017 in Roswell, Georgia. Christmas Tree with our Magnolia tree in the backyard. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 400, ƒ/14, 1/40 – Godox V860IIN with MAGMOD MagSphere]
One of the biggest things to ever hit photography was the move to digital.

No matter how experienced you were in photography if you were a film shooter and you went to digital you went through the digital learning curve.

In the 1980s I went through learning about computers. I remember learning Quicken to track my checkbook and credit cards. I used a dialup modem to connect to the internet and go to the NPPA forums where similar to the message board here was my first time connecting to photographers around the world.

Early 1990s I experienced the learning curve for scanning film and learning PhotoShop. I kept waiting for the digital camera to surpass the film so I could jump to digital capture.

In 2002 I bought my first digital Nikon D100 camera. Just one year earlier a similar 6 megapixel camera cost $25,000 and then I was able to buy the Nikon D100 for $1,999.

Jimmy Carter peanut Christmas Tree Ornament [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 6 sec]
All my colleagues and newbies to photography were all part of the digital learning curve.

I remember being told to shoot Adobe RGB yet when I took the pictures to the local pro lab they came out all screwed up. This is when I started to learn about color space and realized the printers could read sRGB at the time and not Adobe RGB.

This is when photography workshops exploded. We all needed help to learn PhotoShop and then later Lightroom.

Other advances were also happening. Most in the industry with film were using the hot shoe Vivitar 283 which was an automatic flash where you dialed the output by picking yellow or red and if you bought the adapter you could control it by power.

Hummel design Christmas Tree Ornament [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 6.5 sec]
Nikon introduced a pretty complex TTL hot shoe system that changed lighting. Again we needed workshops to learn to use them.

The web evolved from forums to delivering videos. Now you can Google almost anything on YouTube and find a video showing you how to do just about anything, including everything around photography.

This meant workshops started dropping off in attendance.

Camera stores started building online stores and that changed the industry as well.

We no longer have the entire industry on the same learning curve at the same time as we did with the change from film to digital capture.

Now we are back to where we were just before the digital revolution hit. We are talking about the subject.

Wreaths Across America Day at Roswell Presbyterian Church Cemetery. [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/105]
Workshops now are coming full circle. We are now talking about how to make a living in this industry again that is concentrating on how to capture subjects and tell stories.

We are also talking about the business side as well. Great customer service and how to protect yourself when working with clients.

Who do we seek out now to listen to? I find now I am having a harder time to find those who are “trending”. There are just so many mediums in specialties that you may not even know about some incredible photographers because we no longer have just a few publications as in the past.

This is what we are looking for is those people producing great images and want to learn from them.

What I think we want more than anything now going forward is a way to find great work being produced all over the world.

The problem is that most pros are scared to promote other work in fear of losing work. Therefore how do you find great work? I think whoever creates the new place to point us to great work that is what will be the next big thing in photography.

Photographers it isn’t about the gear

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100]

We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order. – S. Truett Cathy

How people approach photography these days has me very disappointed. There is way too much emphasis on gear and techniques. While you must master your gear and learn techniques they are not the purpose of photography.

The essential purpose of photography is communication. Few people take pictures solely to please themselves. Most of us take them because we want them seen by others. Pictures are a photographer’s means of expression as a writer’s means are words.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Every time a new piece of camera gear comes out there is so much talk about it. I was privileged to have started my career before the digital revolution.

When I would go to workshops before digital cameras were introduced we had been working with the same technology for more than one hundred years. While the cameras did evolve in this time and the film technology got better the understanding of how to take a photo didn’t change.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm, ISO 450, ƒ/1.4, 1/200]
Here are what I would like to think of are the four “Ps” to make your images better.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving

A great photo connects with people. If you know what you want people to take away from looking at your photo, then you have a good chance at making a great photo. When you don’t know why you are pushing the shutter at that moment is one of the greatest indicators that the audience will not know either.

Problem solving requires you to be very curious. I didn’t know it at the time I was first labeled by my dad as “Curious George” that this quality would prove to be one of the most important skills one should have when being a professional photographer.

You see Curious George is a sweet African monkey who can’t help but run into trouble. George’s friend, “The Man in the Yellow Hat,” tries very hard to care for George and is always saving the day.

Curious George is intrigued and pursues his curiosity while not paying attention to what he is doing. While photographers shouldn’t get themselves into trouble they should be curious enough to want to figure out things and ask why.


If you look through history you will notice that great things could not have happened often before that moment or after. There is often a season for a good idea.

Mathematicians often do not solve some of the most complex problems until often other ideas are able to be mixed to create the new solution.

For example Guglielmo Marconi is credited with inventing radio, but his equipment was based on Tesla’s ideas. Without Tesla there would not have been Marconi’s solution.

One of the best things one can do is to keep a journal or at least write down some of your ideas in a book. You may pitch these ideas to others and find they are not interested.

Then often years later you can go back to that book and pitch those same ideas and now the season is right for them. You may have learned something in between that helps you do a better job of communicating your idea as well.

As we know the word photography means to write with light. Well you must have a lot of patience if you want to take photos using natural light.

There have been many photographers who for example need a lot of time to do the research to know when to take a photograph. When Steve McCurry was working on the story for France’s BiCentennial for National Geographic he spent more than two weeks going around and making notes about the light and places. He took photos more for research than for publication.

He then realized certain places would be great photos, but he needed to come back at a different time of day.

One photographer was doing a story on a train and saw this gorgeous landscape with a railroad track that went through it across a bridge. The photographer decided to wait until the peak of fall season to capture the moment.

I know that in just photographing a person making a speech that I must anticipate the moments that capture those expressions that will do the best job of capturing the mood and message the speaker was making.

I have also photographed a few people that were difficult to capture due to their unusual blinking. So besides being patient to get them looking the right direction with the right face expression and body language I had to get it when their eyes weren’t closed or half closed.


Closely related to problem solving is being persistent. Musicians may study music for years and practice eight to ten hours a day so that they can take the stage and perform with such skill that it makes people want to pay to hear them.

You see probably the most famous photographer of all time Ansel Adams was described as having same qualities of Curious George as well. He was described as a hyperactive child. He transitioned from being a concert pianist to being a photographer.

He grew up going to Yellowstone and other parks. He spent years working on finding the right location for photographing some of his most famous photos. This also required him to return to the park for right time of year, day and weather to get the photos we now see of his in museums, homes and books of these iconic places.

While Ansel Adams happen to drive upon the scene Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico he would later spend much time in the lab to get all the values he could out of that negative to make the prints that we see today.

When we think of the famous photojournalist Eugene Smith we think of all the time he spent on stories like the Country Doctor. He followed the doctor for days to build a story. Smith was hired to produce 100 photographs of contemporary Pittsburgh for a book in honor of the city’s bicentennial. Two years after beginning the planned three-week assignment the editors demanded the photos and if it were not for the funding stopping Smith would have continued to pursue better photos than he had.

Hawaii High School StateRodeo Finals on The Big Island [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 560, ƒ/4.5, 1/4000]


“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

This famous quote is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. Let me rephrase this question for the photographer.

“If a photographer makes a photo and no one ever sees it, then what is it’s purpose?”

Even if what you photograph isn’t a person but a thing you are most likely making the photograph to share with other people. You want them to appreciate something you saw as much as you did.

Matthew 22:37–40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I believe photographers when we do our jobs at the best are loving our neighbor. We care for them in such a way we want to share our experiences with them or make photos of them to share their essence with other people. 

I see photography as serving the purpose of the glue that helps connect people to one another.

Until someone actually invent the transporter device used on Star Trek to beam people around time and space we only have photography/video that allows us to see people around the world and even into outer space.

Putting it all together

You need camera gear to capture photos. Learn to use the gear the same way you use a car. While you may have never driven a stick shift, I do remember there was a moment when I was no longer thinking about shifting gears but just doing it. This would be the same as the photographer who shoots today in manual mode.

Most likely there are more photographers using some of the automation on their cameras just like we use automatic transmissions and some of us even have cars that help drive themselves today.

Most of us don’t really care that much about how the car works, we just buy a model that we like and then use it to take us places.

Use your camera like your car. Let the camera take you places. Spend your time like you do when you plan your trips. Focus on the destination and the people you will see. Make the trip with your camera about what is in front of the camera and not the camera itself. This is how you will make great photos.


Looking back to 2004 with the Nikon D100

Learning to make bricks are Anna Roberts (left age 7), Brandon Roberts (2nd left age 10), Shaquaja Washington (3rd age 8) and Caleb Edge (age 10) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/180]
Thirteen years ago I had been shooting with my new Nikon D100 for just a couple of years. This was my first digital capture DSLR camera.

My daughter and I drove down to Americus, Georgia to photograph the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center for Disney’s Family Magazine.

For the past few days I have been going through my old CDs and DVDs looking through my work. In good light everyone of my digital cameras was pretty outstanding as compared to my days of shooting film.

Enjoying the Tanzania House are Brandon Roberts (left age 10) Anna Roberts (age 7), Shaquaja Washington (right age 8) and Caleb Edge (right age 10), at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4.8, 1/80]
In doors with that first Nikon D100 I was using flash more than I would have to do today. But the results were just great.

Learning to make bricks are Anna Roberts (left age 7), Shaquaja Washington (2nd age 8), Caleb Edge (3rd age 10) and Brandon Roberts (age 10) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/180]
The lens I used on this camera was the Sigma 18-125mm, which wasn’t super sharp but did great with that camera. I loved not having to carry a lot of lenses.

Tatiana Suarez, tour guide shows how to make bricks like they do in many third world countries to Anna Roberts (blue shirt age 7), Brandon Roberts (solid dark blue age 10) Caleb Edge (checkered shirt age 10), and Shaquaja Washington (pink shirt age 8) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/3.5, 1/2500]
I was shooting pretty wide with the 18mm on a DX cropped sensor. So I was only shooting about 27mm if it was an FX sensor. It would be a few years before Nikon introduced the full sensor.

Tatiana Suarez, tour guide shows the Sri Lanka house to Brandon Roberts (front age 10), Anna Roberts (middle age 7) and Caleb Edge (back age 10) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/250]
For those of you wanting to do a great day trip I cannot say enough about the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center. You can see how people live all over the world and how Habitat builds different houses depending on the country.

David Bottomley, tour guide shows how they are building an example of the homes built by Habitat International in Mexico using a new light weight brick made of aluminum and concrete to Anna Roberts (blue shirt age 7), Brandon Roberts (solid dark blue age 10) Caleb Edge (checkered shirt age 10), and Shaquaja Washington (pink shirt age 8) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4.8, 1/1600]
Here the kids are seeing brick made of aluminum and concrete, which is what they have used in Mexico.

Caleb Edge (left age 10) and Brandon Roberts (right age 10) run by the Malawi House on the left and the Kenya House behind them at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.7, 1/640]
I think this is one of the great day trips for families to see how the rest of the world lives.

Caleb Edge (front left age 10), Brandon Roberts (back left age 10), Anna Roberts (front Right age 7), and Shaquaja Washington (back right age 8) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.7, 1/400]
Kids and adults get to see actual streets scenes, homes and other things like school rooms in different countries.

David Bottomley, tour guide shows the African Schoolhouse is a new experience for Anna Roberts (blue shirt age 7), Brandon Roberts (solid dark blue age 10) Caleb Edge (checkered shirt age 10), and Shaquaja Washington (pink shirt age 8) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.7, 1/180]
When I was shooting fill flash outside with that Nikon D100 I had to shoot at 1/180 to not see the shutter curtain.

While the cameras today are much better I believe that no matter the camera if you know what you are doing you can get some great photos.

David Bottomley, tour guide shows the Global Village to Anna Roberts (blue shirt age 7), Brandon Roberts (solid dark blue age 10) Caleb Edge (checkered shirt age 10), and Shaquaja Washington (pink shirt age 8) at the Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village & Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia. [Nikon D100, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4.8, 1/1250]

Monday Devotional: Celebrating the life of Anacleto Rapping

Anacleto Rapping
Treat your neighbors like celebrities and celebrities like your neighbors.
-Anacleto Rapping

This Sunday I lost a good friend Anacleto Rapping to colon cancer. Because of my faith in Jesus I believe in the after life and heaven. I believe one day we will be reunited.

Revelation 21:4

4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

While I will miss Anacleto I didn’t want us to hold onto him and have him suffer in pain. Today Anacleto is no longer suffering, but I believe in the presence of God.

I met Anacleto at Southwestern Photojournalism Conference many years ago. Here was the bio we had posted in 2015 when he was one of the speakers.

Anacleto Rapping
Los Angeles, California 

Anacleto Rapping has placed his passion for storytelling at the heart of every picture he has taken over a more than three-decade professional career.

As a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times for two decades, Rapping brought us four Presidential campaigns, five Olympic Games, three World Cup Soccer tournaments, three Academy Award shows and countless breaking news stories and sporting events. His gift for visually capturing historic moments broadened his understanding of world and national events and afforded him the chance to chronicle news events as they unfolded throughout the United States as well as in foreign locales such as South Africa, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Guatemala, Mexico and Canada.

While at the Los Angeles Times, Rapping shared three Pulitzer Prizes for team coverage in news, and individually he received a Pulitzer nomination for his photography at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Rapping has taught and developed classes across the Brooks Institute Visual Journalism curriculum including International Documentary, Portraiture, Sports Photography, Picture Story and Advanced Lighting. He currently teaches photography and shoots freelance for editorial and commercial clients. Rapping continues to tell life’s stories, using his camera to portray the profound relationships between people and their environments.

Visit his website at

One year we were both in Nashville for a college media workshop. I was covering the event and Anacleto was helping teach.

While Anacleto was teaching I walked up on the stage behind him, Gary Fong, and Jim Veneman to get a nice photo of the students listening to him. Well in seconds of me coming on stage the entire room started to laugh and look at me.

Only as Anacleto could do it he used his soft voice to explain how he had told everyone that he had been watching me cover the event. He said at some point Stanley is going on the stage to get some photos from behind the speakers–so just watch and see when it happens.

Then just a minute after he said this I had come from another room and walked in and up on the stage.

This is a great insight into how Anacleto taught. He didn’t just tell the students here is a shot list and you do it. He taught them not just what they needed to do to cover an event, but he also was teaching the students the power of observation.

Anacleto also was teaching the ability to anticipate.

When I teach a long week workshop I like to Skype in a few of my friends and this helps break up the teaching and reminds the students to develop friendships with other photographers.

Anacleto was one I always loved to Skype in with the classes.

One of the topics that Anacleto liked to talk about was access. To get great photos you need access. Now he often talked about how credentials didn’t always work all that well. He talked about how being kind and courteous to everyone you meet will give you great access.

He talked about being back stage at the Oscars and how during the practices he talked to the guards and all the people backstage. Because he had developed those friendships those people not only let him through because they recognized him, but also alerted him to things going on that made for great photos.

Anacleto Rapping on far left and Joanna Pinneo on far right review a student’s portfolio at the Southwester Photojournalism Conference.

Anacleto loved to help others grow. I often watched Anacleto search out students at the workshops and ask to see their work. He knew they were probably too scared to ask and he wanted to break that ice.

Now Anacleto wasn’t so kind to make everyone feel like they were awesome photographers. Anacleto gave constructive criticism and also asked lots of questions during those portfolio reviews.

Anacleto also wasn’t one of those that only showed up at workshops if he was paid to be there. I saw Anacleto come to the Southwestern Photojournalism workshop almost every year, except this past year when the cancer returned.

Those students who showed Anacleto their work the previous year would go and find him to show him their progress. He was their mentor.

Anacleto loved watching others enjoying life.

Whenever I would meet up with Anacleto he always would take a moment and change his demeanor and ask in the most caring way I know–”How are you doing?”

I once had the privilege of hiring Anacleto to shoot the Rose Bowl for Chick-fil-A. This was the first time I saw how he worked for a client. I felt so comfortable with Anacleto throughout the process and he delivered wonderful images.

I came across this poem which Anacleto seemed to have lived by.

Life is an echo.
What you send out,
comes back.
What you sow,
you reap.
What you give,
you get.
What you see in others,
exists in you.


Monday Devotional: Help me overcome my unbelief!

Airborne School First Jump of school

Leap of Faith

A leap of faith is the act of believing in or accepting something outside of the boundaries of reason.

“Thinking can turn toward itself in order to think about itself and skepticism can emerge. But this thinking about itself never accomplishes anything.” Søren Kierkegaard says thinking should serve by thinking something. Kierkegaard wants to stop “thinking’s self-reflection” and that is the movement that constitutes a leap. He’s against people thinking about religion all day without ever doing anything. But he’s also against external shows and opinions about religion and in favor of the internal movement of faith. He says, “where Christianity wants to have inwardness, worldly Christendom wants outwardness, and where Christianity wants outwardness, worldly Christendom wants inwardness.” – Wikipedia

I am part of a Sunday School class where we love to ask those taboo questions. The questions which are really often embedded in our logical thinking minds of trying to work out our faith.

This one piece of scripture is one of my most favorite, because I can so relate to the boys father talking to Jesus.

Mark 9:23-25

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is just something I will probably never do. Watching my son jump at Fort Benning was something to behold.

Airborne School First Jump of school

As a freelancer I continue to find like all business owners that I am often praying to God, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Like the farmer who has planted his crop and to be caught in a draught is how many freelancers feel. How will I feed my family and what will I do?

Most farmers plant different crops in different fields and while one crop is weak they have something. But if the weather is really bad they can lose it all. This is why farmers learn to store up during those great times to weather the bad times.

This is why all accountants tell their customers to have six months of reserves saved. This way if something bad happens you have a cushion to pay all your bills for six months.

Let’s just be real. Many of us are often having life happen and we are looking at our bills and seeing the revenue stream just doesn’t seem like it is there. We are doing all we can to cut down on those expenses.

If you are in this position then you are like most of mankind. While some may have the financial resources they are lacking something. They too feel desperate for different reasons.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

I am always looking into the future to see how it will meet the needs of the present. I can never really see the future like God. The hardest thing for me to do is to put my trust in God, who knows the future.

God wants me to be working each day and doing something. Faith is not sitting and letting God do it all, but trusting that he is with us and walks with us and wants the best for us.

Pray today, Dear Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

There’s no such thing as winning an argument

Three different ethnic backgrounds, but all of them are friends.

As a business owner I know first hand about how important a relationship with customers is over me being right.

The reason certain brands have “Raving Fans” is because those businesses are thinking of the customer and doing all they can to meet the needs of their customers with solutions they can provide.

One of the most difficult things I struggle with when looking out for the best interests of a client is when I know that a client is going to suffer because of a decision they are making.

In the 1980’s I remember quite clearly my uncle, Knolan Benfield, discovering using a projector to show clients their family portraits.

Knolan Benfield in a bank lobby with his display of the pastors of the churches in Hickory, North Carolina.

He was watching way too many people select 11×14 prints for their walls when they really needed often a 40×60 to do justice to the print.

Knolan was able to help people understand that he wasn’t trying to make more money off a bigger print, but really believed that prints in a typical living room on the wall needed to be a certain size to be appreciated.

He had a watch and a clock in the room where he would project images. By having the smaller clock face most obvious they would often squint to tell the time. Then he would point out the other clock where the size of the face was larger.

Then Knolan would project the photos on a screen. The projector lens was a zoom so he could adjust the size of the image for the clients to see. Having them sit in chairs that were about the same distance from their walls of their house customers would then pick the size they liked. Knolan even had frames to show with the photo once they chose the size.

A headshot could be a lot smaller than say a large family outdoor group photo, because when you make the face the size of a clock for telling time then you have a good guide that helps to guide the customer.

Even with this show and tell customers would choose smaller images when they saw the price difference. The hard costs prevented my uncle from giving them what they really wanted and needed to enjoy the photo they had already invested a great deal to make.

At this point Knolan had to choose the relationship over being right. If he pushed to show how wrong they were then the relationship would dissolve and while they might still buy the smaller print they wouldn’t be back for more photos in the future.

I worked very hard taking these photos of people from around the world. I wanted you to get to know them. They are all God’s children. None of them should be treated like White Supremacist do.

You cannot be profitable in business if you do not treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect. You cannot look down on your customers. You must be able to look them in the eye.

I believe if the United States wants to survive they must learn to act like the small business owner. They must work to embrace everyone they come in contact with.

There are some really great things that will come from someone who puts relationships first.

One of the best things that come from dealing with people you disagree with is that it is quite challenging. When you are passionate about your ideas and beliefs it makes it quite difficult for you to be willing to listen. I have found time and time again that I have done a really poor job of thinking of all the ramifications of my thoughts. Having someone challenge me is in the end a good thing for me.

Your critical thinking cannot be selfish or it is flawed. When grounded in fair-mindedness and intellectual integrity, it is more balanced.

When others disagree with your ideas take it to heart and understand why an idea may not be supported by them. This respect of others ideas means you are really trying to see the other’s perspective. When you really learn to do this well it doesn’t mean you will end up agreeing with them, but you are able to see why they have a different perspective.

This is my uncle James Stanley Leary during WWII as part of Anti-Facists disrupting a large gathering of ethnic supremacists on Saipan.

The past few days Donald Trump has done a great deal of Mansplaining to the public through the media. Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for Charlottesville violence, spurring outrage. Our military fought against regimes that have believed in ethnic cleansing.

Throughout history different groups have been persecuted. Very seldom are they able to stop the violence. The Indian people were not allowed to turn their crops into fabric by the British. They were beaten if they even owned a spinning wheel. It was Gandhi who used non-violence to show the world how they were being treated by the British.

Martin Luther King used peaceful protests to show how white supremacist would torture them in the streets.

I was at an event where in the audience was The Honorable Maynard Jackson, Jr. He commented in a discussion that what was needed most to combat racism was whites standing up for their black friends.

I think he was right. Everyone needs to speak out against injustice that is like what we saw in Charlottesville. We also need to hold our president accountable for the role of the presidency, which is to unify our nation and not divide it as his words are doing now.

We cannot allow to happen to the United States what happened in Germany after World War I that allowed for a White Supremacist movement that caused World War II. It is hard to say with exact certainty how many people were killed during World War II, but estimates vary between 50 million to over 80 million. One thing that everybody agree with is that it has been the deadliest war ever, wiping out around 3 percent of the world population at the time.

You see the Nazi’s were allowed to pursue winning their argument rather than about building relationships.


You can’t handle the truth

In the bush village of Sabtenga a small outreach group has been started. The oldest man in a hat was Musanai Zemnai, the Chief of the Young People, who is welcoming the group. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/350]
I grew up singing in Baptist churches “Blessed Assurance”. The refrain went like this:

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.

The words of this song are key to the photojournalist’s ethics. We are not there to tell our story, but rather the subjects story. As long as the subject is honest with the journalist then they must reciprocate.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm ƒ/3.5-4.5, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/160]
When I was visiting the Chief among the young people of the bush village in Sabtenga I took many different photos of him.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/500]
While I ended up with a variety of photos that I could use it was imperitive on me to pick those photos that helped to tell his story.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/640]
Often the photojournalist is limited to just one photo, so which one is the one photo?

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/400]
How a journalist arrives at the photo is one of determining the storyline. Often the journalist will pull together a narrative using the photos in a certain sequence to tell the subjects story.

Look at these different photos here and pick which photo you think is the best photo for the story.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/180]
[Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/180]
[Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/180]
I hope you took your time and looked at each one closely. Most of those who may read this will have picked a photo.

If you picked a photo and would run this photo you have now just violated the ethics of photojournalism.

The question you should have been asking is what is the story and which photo does the best job of telling the story. Since you didn’t know the story then you must say I cannot choose without knowing the storyline.

What are the code of ethics? Here is the National Press Photographers Association code of ethics.

Code of Ethics

Visual journalists and those who manage visual news productions are accountable for upholding the following standards in their daily work:

  1. Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects.
  2. Resist being manipulated by staged photo opportunities.
  3. Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.
  4. Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.
  5. While photographing subjects do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events.
  6. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context. Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.
  7. Do not pay sources or subjects or reward them materially for information or participation.
  8. Do not accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
  9. Do not intentionally sabotage the efforts of other journalists.

Ideally, visual journalists should:

  1. Strive to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public. Defend the rights of access for all journalists.
  2. Think proactively, as a student of psychology, sociology, politics and art to develop a unique vision and presentation. Work with a voracious appetite for current events and contemporary visual media.
  3. Strive for total and unrestricted access to subjects, recommend alternatives to shallow or rushed opportunities, seek a diversity of viewpoints, and work to show unpopular or unnoticed points of view.
  4. Avoid political, civic and business involvements or other employment that compromise or give the appearance of compromising one’s own journalistic independence.
  5. Strive to be unobtrusive and humble in dealing with subjects.
  6. Respect the integrity of the photographic moment.
  7. Strive by example and influence to maintain the spirit and high standards expressed in this code. When confronted with situations in which the proper action is not clear, seek the counsel of those who exhibit the highest standards of the profession. Visual journalists should continuously study their craft and the ethics that guide it.

But we are not journalists!!!!

We have to protect our __________

You may have inserted into that blank your organization or even the subject. You feel like you know how best to help people by not telling the complete story. The audience just will not understand.

Just remember that you put yourself on a very high horse just like in the movie

Could “we the people” handle a bit more of the truth? One would certainly like to think so.

When you get in the way of “truth” you have changed the narrative. You have robbed the subject of “their story” and replaced it with “your story” or “your organizations story”.

Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

When it is finally shared do you want to be the one person that altered the story in any way that could diminish it’s power?