Tips for Off Camera Flash for +/- exposure problems

Off Camera Flash Setup with Nikon Speedlights

When I first wrote about doing off camera flash I realized I need to come back to this and highlight some points.

ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture and +/-

There are a few things that will affect you getting a proper exposure.  Let’s set each of these on a Nikon so that everything will work.

ISO – Be sure you are not using Auto ISO.  Start with the lowest ISO and adjust up for various reasons.  You may want to up the ISO to help open up the background for example.

Go into the menu and set the Auto FP high sync speed to 250*. Auto FP High Speed Sync is a flash mode used for fill-flash photography under brightly lit conditions. When it is set you will be able to shoot faster than 1/250 sync speed and do this only with your Nikon Speedlight system.

Set the flash setting to Slow Sync or Rear Sync.  I prefer Slow Sync for most everything. This will fire the flash and if needed the shutter may stay open for longer, but this will freeze the subject when you push the shutter.  If you choose Rear Sync then the flash will fire at the end of the shutter cycle. You may not know when the flash fires using this setting.

Please refer to the older posts on this to know how to control how much light is on the subject and how to control the background.

Ambient Light and Flash Combined

Improve your Flash photos by not lighting everything

Flash Over Exposing

First be sure to turn the flash as far down as possible.  Using the SU-800 it will go to -3 Stops.

If you still are over exposed it is usually your ISO is set too high. Lower your ISO setting.

Background is too dark

Crank up the ISO and double check to be sure you have Slow Sync chosen or you will be syncing at the lowest shutter speed of about 1/60. You may need to be slower.

Background is controlled by the camera +/- exposure compensation dial as well as ISO.

Flash is too bright or dark

Remember the control for this is the SU-800 or the master setting in the pop up flash on the models having this control.

Nikon D4 & Nikon D3S Differences

While the cameras appear very similar, there are differences with shooting still images.

Now that I have practiced shooting the past few days with the camera, I have noticed a few changes I had to get used to. First of all I prefer to have two identical cameras. I like to not have to think about any differences between cameras while working. There are some button changes on the D4 from the D3S.

Due to the buttons not being exactly alike, I can see me making some errors. So, very soon I will try and replace my Nikon D3S with another Nikon D4.

The Nikon D3s is a great camera and if it were not for the changes in all the buttons I might have been able to live with the small differences in the still image shooting of the cameras. However, while the changes might well be great improvements having to adjust my shooting from camera to camera could cost me an image.

I think Nikon did think through this and still made the changes, because some of the functions I think are improvements.

On the back are more differences than the front. While many buttons appear to be the same, they are not all the same.

I am not going into every button difference here in this post.  I just wanted to highlight some that I use all the time.

First of all the choice of metering modes is located in very different places. The choices are the same, but you now push the choice on the left top and rotate the thumb dial to choose the different metering modes.

I seldom use the average meter and am picking between spot and the matrix.

One difference is the choices with metering. The Nikon D4 has removed the dial on the viewfinder and moved it to the left top menu.

This is the back of the Nikon D3S

The next major change for me is the focusing modes. On the Nikon D3S you just flipped the dial on the back and depending if you had the camera in AF-S or AF-C you got different functions which were tweeked in the menu.

On the Nikon D4 most of the choices are now visible on the top menu as you push the AF button on the front and dial the thumb or index finger dials.

This is the back of the Nikon D4

This is the Auto Focus button on the Nikon D4.  You push the button and turn the aperture or shutter dial to change functions.

This is the Auto Focus button on the Nikon D3S

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the thumb dial on the back you change the AF from AF-S to AF-C.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the 3d choice.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d51 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d21 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d9 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the single [ ] that you move around.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the auto function that locks in on faces and other subjects based on algorithms.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-S to two choices, Single or Auto.

This is the dials on the Nikon D3S.  The lock button has been changed on the Nikon D4 to the meter and the lock function is now in the menu and not a dial.

This the the Nikon D4. In some ways having the meter choice here is nice. I do miss the lock button from the Aperture and Shutter not being here anymore. It is still accessible in the menu.

This is the Nikon D4. You will notice a new red dot on a button. This is for the movie function as the start and stop function. The rest is the same.

There will be even more updates as I continue to get used to the new Nikon D4.

Nikon D4: Still breaking it in

Nikon D4, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm

I am leisurely just getting use to the new camera. I like having some vacation days down at Jacksonville Beach, Florida shooting some photos for fun before needing to shoot a job with the camera.

It is very fast at locking in the focus. This is very impressive. Also, I am equally pleased at the buffer.  You can shoot NEF Raw files as fast as you could shoot JPEGs on previous cameras–this is how it feels.  I am sure technically there is a difference.

(Nikon D4, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm) This is an eagle’s nest with the young eagle flapping it’s wings waiting for mom to come back to the nest.

 I was shooting a eagle nest and played with shooting it on high speed frame rate.  It just zips through and you are almost creating a movie with just still frames.

(Nikon D4, ISO 900, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm) This is how my family got to see the eagle’s nest that was in the marsh area of the coast.  We took an air boat ride with Fl Crazy Fish Air Boat Ride.  It was a lot of fun.  The guy who took us out was a biology major and really showed us a lot of the marsh and told us about the wildlife.

I will continue to shoot some on vacation, but next week I will shoot a large job with it and then I will be able to know how it responds when I am shooting 2,000 – 3,000 images a day.

This is how I recommend starting with a new camera. Shoot some fun things that are not a job.  Read the manual. Test some of the new functions that the camera manufacturer built into the camera.

You need to be fully aware of your equipment so that you are able to concentrate on the subject and not your gear. Get to know your gear so you can make it do what you need without much thought having to go into it, because you have already mastered the camera.

Nikon D4: Breaking it in

Nikon D4 with 28-300mm

I got the newest high end Nikon and I will blog about it a few times as I become more familiar with it.

The first thing I do when I get a new camera is to become familiar with it. I do this before I shoot a job with it.


Camera Manual

Here is the direct Nikon US link for the D4 manual.

This is the first camera that I downloaded the manual and put it on my iPad to read using Kindle Reader.

The reason I left the camera manual and a few other things unopened is to help later when I want to upgrade I can sell the camera with all the peripherals that came with the camera in mint condition.

While I do have the manual, I try to first see how much of the camera is similar to my last Nikon. In this case I am comparing it to the Nikon D3S.

Similarities and Differences

One thing I like to do right away is try and customize some of the settings like I had on the older camera. On the Nikon D3S and Nikon D4 you can assign custom functions to your buttons and dials on the camera.

Info Button

One major upgrade is the graphics display of the Info Button. You can see which button you are changing. You need a graphic with so many controls. I am excited to see a camera company upgrade their menu to include graphics.

If you are wondering what I have learned about the controls is there are more buttons which some take a on the roll I used to used custom settings to create.

IPTC

The really cool thing I discovered with my Nikon D4 was it has built-in support for 14 of the more important IPTC fields.

The D4 and the IPTC Preset Manager software support the following IPTC fields:

Caption
Event ID
Headline
Object Name
City
State
Country
Category
Supporting Category
Byline
Byline Title
Write/Editor
Credit
Source

You can save 10 Presets of these.

Besides doing this in the camera you can also type all these on your computer PC or Mac and then put them on your memory card and import them into the camera. That software is available from Nikon here http://tooldl.nikonimglib.com/iptc/index.html.en

It requires an up-to-date version of Microsoft Silverlight to download. here is that link http://www.microsoft.com/getsilverlight/Get-Started/Install/Default.aspx

In addition to the usual USB and HDMI connectors, the D4 also incorporates an Ethernet port, mic and headphone jacks, and a connection for Nikon’s wireless transmitter.

Connections

One of the other things you notice other than all the new buttons are the connections on a D4.  Nikon added to the D4 an Ethernet port, headphone jack and a connection for the wireless transmitter, which wasn’t on the Nikon D3S.

I will work on testing some of these in the next few weeks. Come back and look for posts talking about this later.

First Shots

Nikon D4, ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/100, 28-300mm
Nikon D4, ISO 640, f/5.6, 1/30, 28-300mm

I shot a few images at my church’s Palm Sunday services. I am pleased with all the images from the Nikon D4.  When comparing the Nikon D4 to the Nikon D3S images there was minor differences.

Nikon D3S, ISO 12,800, f/8, 1/200, 14-24mm

Nikon D4, ISO 900, f/5.6, 1/30, 28-300mm

I think the D4 focusing is a little quicker and locks in a hair bit faster, but for the most part this situation wasn’t the best test for really low light.  I will test this even more in the next few weeks.

A college freshman has advantages over a senior

Photography advice for the college student

So you want to be a photographer. I have some general suggestions after having written numerous students lately. I want to help others who want to become photographers.

Freshman

If you are reading this and you are a freshman in college or younger you will benefit more from my suggestions than a senior getting ready to graduate in May.

The time to start looking for your job after college is now.  Where do you start? 

Your Dream Job

First you need to actually have in mind a dream job that you would like to be doing. The sad thing is there are seniors getting ready to graduate who cannot tell you their dream job.  Ouch! Four years of wandering, when they could have been focused and know what they were working towards.

You need to find someone who is doing pretty much what you would like to do when you graduate. 

There are two types of people you may want to have their jobs—staff or freelancer.  It is OK whichever job you choose. The point is that you now have a target in mind. The surest way not to find a job after college is not to know what kind of job you want.

You need to make contact with the person holding that job or someone in a similar job. There is a very simple question you need to ask them.  How do I get a job like yours?

A Master Plan

After you have this discussion with a professional doing the job you would like to have later, you will find that you can put together a plan on how to proceed.

I can give you one thing that almost every pro will recommend to you right now; take some business courses.  What they are saying is take business courses that will help you run a small business.  Even if you are in a staff position you need to know more about how the bills get paid.

They may recommend classes that would help you. If you want to work for National Geographic Magazine, they most likely would encourage you to become an expert in a subject other than photography.  Some of their best photographers are anthropologists, biologist or something else.  They can go on projects because they know something about what they will be photographing.

Most likely they will give you some baby steps to get you started and recommend you keep in touch.

It’s about whom you know and whom they know

People are hired more because of a relationship than about their portfolio. There are many arrogant photographers with outstanding portfolios that no one wants to work with.  You need to be a team player. You will most likely need to show how you can be a team player and not a loner.

When there is an opening it is the last person they can remember who could do the job they call. This is why as a freshman you need to start building relationships.


Networking

You need to join a photographic association like PPofA, ASMP, NPPA, or another professional group as a student.  They all have student rates and most all of them give out scholarships as well.

Don’t just pay your membership dues; get involved. Volunteer to help at meetings. You do this in order to get your face in front of as many people in the industry as possible.  You may find people wanting to take you under their wing and help you out.

Go to the meetings and don’t hang out with other students while you are there all the time. Why? Are they going to hire you in four years? I don’t think so.  You need to learn how to speed date.

What I mean by speed dating is learning how to be genuinely interested in every person making your best impression so that you land a date/job.  Often at speed dating after the event people talk about whom they met and compare notes. If you come off not so good to one of the people’s friends that you were interested in that can kill your chances with them. 

It is this way in the photo business.  Photographers talk to other photographers about recommendation for assistants, interns and possible hires. Remember you are building your brand all the time. Don’t screw it up by an off handed comment that tarnishes you for a long time.

Mentor/Coach

Besides taking some classes in photography in school you need to have a mentor other than your professor. You need to find someone to help coach you. It could be the person in your dream job, or someone between you and them that can get you down the road.

You need to shoot assignments for class, for your school paper and yearbook.  Send these to your mentor/coach and ask for a critique from them. After they give you feedback, be sure you implement people’s recommendations.

If you are really smart you will reshoot an assignment so it now is perfect for your portfolio if possible.  If you do reshoot the assignment then resend this to your coach/mentor and ask if this is what they meant for you to change or do.

Personally I would have a mentor and also be sending your updates to places that might hire interns or you would like to work long term.  Let them see you grow and improve.

Are you teachable?

By keeping in touch you will demonstrate either that you are listening to their advice and implementing it or you demonstrate you cannot listen.  You will miss the mark a few times. Sometimes by reshooting and submitting the work to them again can help you see that you didn’t understand a concept. Go and reshoot it again and then resubmit it.

This will show more than anything else you can do that you want to improve and you are looking for their advice. Most importantly it shows you are listening and asking for clarification.

Sophomores & Juniors

Do the same as I recommend to the freshman. Continue to expand your database of names in the industry. Continue to refine your portfolio.

Internships
As a true student you can get more internship opportunities than when you have graduated. There are legal reasons for this. Employers cannot hire someone who isn’t in school and say it is an internship.

What this means is apply for internships all the time. Do not wait till your senior year—you may have waited too long and now there are none to find. Better to get one your freshman year than not get one your senior year. 

You cannot do enough internships in my opinion. What you learn in the classroom will help a great deal in your job. Just about every class will at sometime find useful as a photographer. The reason is will encounter someone whose job is in that subject. You can hold some kind of a conversation with them if you paid attention in class.

Seniors

If you are graduating in May and haven’t done an internship, found your dream job and have a coach or mentor it isn’t too late, but your opportunities are greatly diminished.
You need to spend as much time building that database of names to contact as you do studying for finals.  Having straight “A’s” and no contacts is not as good as “B’s” and contacts.

Everyone

Manage your brand all the time. Watch what you post on Facebook and Twitter. When you go to parties remember others are taking photos and posting them to social media.

I recommend learning to help anyone you can and not just those who you think will get you somewhere.  Your reputation as someone who is kind is better than someone who is only in it for him or herself.

Summary

People want to work with their friends. Do your best to build good relationships and try to be a friend to others.

When it comes to marketing: Act like a freshman and not a senior

Yesterday I was privileged to speak at THE BUSINESS OF VISUAL JOURNALISM WORKSHOP held at the Grady School of Journalism on the campus of University of Georgia.

Mark Johnson, Senior Lecturer in the Grady School of Journalism, welcomes everyone to the workshop.

The first speaker was Allen Murabayashi, CEO and co-founder of PhotoShelter, who covered fundamental web marketing tactics, essential website design requirements and critical features (plus some advance concepts) that helps photographers better utilize their website as a business and marketing tool and grown their online presence to best generate new business.

Some of the points that Murabayashi covered were very similar to my topics, but a little different perspective.  Hopefully by the end of it all people are realizing that if a few people are mentioning similar things then maybe it is something they should pay attention to.

Allen Murabayashi is very vivacious speaker and kept everyone entertained and informed.

One of the things that we were trying to do in our talks was to help those who are starting out or struggling on what we are doing with our time.  Earlier I wrote a post about how I spend much of my time.  Here is a link to that blog post.

It doesn’t take long before you start to see some common themes when you try to apply marketing to any industry.  First of all you must realize that not everyone is a candidate for your services. When you run the numbers it is more likely in the 10% range of those who are interested in hiring you.

You need a large fishing net to be successful when fishing for clients. In that earlier blog post I talked about this process of the Marketing Funnel.

This is the process I talked about earlier.  The idea is to get as many people in the first stage of being aware you are there in the marketplace. At each step you improve that area to help increase the likelihood of people choosing you.

Allen Murabayashi also used the marketing funnel.  He was also letting everyone know that the first thing is to make people aware of your services.  It is very important that you define your niche because otherwise your awareness group has to be even larger than if you are more defined in your niche.

Allen Murabayashi talks about the marketing funnel and how to get people to visit your website and then to use your website to help move them to becoming a client.

Freshman vs Senior Social Networking Skills

Since most in the audience were college students I felt like the best illustration I could use was for all of them to remember what it was like as a freshman.  How when they went to parties they had to go around and introduce themselves and meet folks.  They were proactive and needed to find some friends.

I contrasted how they went to parties as a freshman to as when they are a senior. As a senior you go and usually meet with your friends and just enjoy each other.  You are not looking for more friends you have them.

I challenged the class to act like freshman again and never loose this perspective–looking for friends.

What happens your senior year is graduation. After you leave you discover that many of those friends you had move on and you loose touch.  You are forced to be a freshman again–you are new at your first job and have to make friends again.

Old School Social Networking

I highly recommend getting off your computer where you are on Facebook and Twitter and try the old style of social networking.  Go to meetings, parties and social mixers in your community.

Join an organization and get involved. As you serve you will meet more people. If you have done a good job in defining your niche then it will be easy to identify those organizations where your potential clients are already.

Get involved and serve. One of the best ways to meet everyone is to volunteer to work a registration desk.

How do you grow your business?

The first step in that marketing funnel, after defining your niché, is creating awareness of your services to those who need them. How do you grow your business, grow the numbers of people you come into contact with.

Anticipation is key to capturing a decisive moment

Three elements I look for in sports photo: 1) The Ball, 2) The Competition & 3) Expression

One of the more obvious moments in capturing a decisive moment in photography I think is in sports photography.  Most everyone understands what the purpose of the game—scoring points.

I have written in previous posts about what I think are some key elements to some great sports photos. (Click here for that link)

Key ingredients (Most of the time)

1.    The ball
2.    The competition
3.    Expression of the athletes

Decisive moment in sports requires anticipation. I know that the purpose is to score points and the best place to capture this is with a camera placed behind the glass where you can show the goal scoring. What else is helpful is the three elements again: 1) Ball, 2) Competition & 3) Expression.  Had I captured a major break away the slam dunk would be missing the competition because you couldn’t see them in the photo. 

To capture these moments requires the photographer to anticipate more than just the ability to recognize the moment when you see it. The action is moving so fast in most sports that if you push the shutter button when you see it, in the time it can take to make the shutter trip to the time it captures the moment it has already passed.

Great sports photographers are the ones who consistently capture peak action. To do this a sports photographer has studied the sport, the team and the players and can anticipate those peak moments.

What about peak action outside of sports?

“the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”
–Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson is credited with coining the phrase of the “Decisive Moment.” He may have been first to express it this way, but painters like Michael Angelo were painting them long before.  I think one of the greatest examples of this is the painting of the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Many consider this the crowning achievement of all his work. 

The Creation of Adam by Michael Angelo

As you can see in the painting you see Adam almost touching God.  To me this epitomizes the concept of the anticipated moment in photography, which often is the decisive moment.

This is when the anticipation is often greater than the moment itself.  It is like the effort of the basketball player as they are scoring rather than the actual point.

A mother touching her dead son and having her husband and family with her communicates much more about the loss of this soldier.  While there were many other moments that showed parts of the funeral, this communicates the loss and those who must cope with the loss.

While we may wish to capture the moment just before people touch, the touch itself can be just as powerful of a moment.

For me this is just an average photo of the Summerall Guards performing on Corp Day Weekend at The Citadel.
I was excited to capture this moment of the Summerall Guards performance. You see they perform this drill in silence and the only way they communicate is through small sounds.  Here you can see them sniffing, which is a small sound they can here next to each other.  I felt like I had captured the expression of the members doing all they could to stay in step and precision with each other.  This to me is a Decisive Moment of the performance of the Summerall Guard.

Moments are quite subtle indeed. I have written before about how the eyes are where true smiles are detected and not in the mouth.

Looking at the eyes of the guy talking and the guy listening lets you see there is a connection going on between them even though they are not looking directly at each other.  The eyes are giving away how this is a real moment and not something posed.

Here you can tell the lady is listening just by looking at her eyes.  There is a look people have when they are attentive with their ears that shows with their eyes.  You must capture these moments carefully by anticipating them.

Compare these two moments:

How do you capture the moment consistently?  You have to first shoot enough to begin with.  Way too many photographers never have learned to first overshoot.  Before you can learn to pick your moments you must first overshoot an event.

What happens when you overshoot?

First of all, over time you will discover that technically a lot of situations just will not work. I remember when I saw things and after a while would pick up the camera and shoot these only to discover later there were things from where I was standing making this impossible to capture.  Next time I saw something similar I was aware of either not making the photo or maybe doing something that would make it possible–like adding a flash.

Second, you realize their is a build up to a moment and then often just after the moment happens that the drop off is quite abrupt.  In sports there is the moment of the score and seldom just after you might see a moment when say a catcher at the home plate looses the ball in the tag and therefore the player is safe.  However for the most part the tagging of the player out is the moment.

Celebration after the touchdown.

Third, you start to see another moment develop shortly after the peak and give you a second great shot.  In sports this is often the jubilee shot.  The celebration after the score or sometimes the defeat you see on the defense or the loosing team after a score.

Last, you learn that moments are happening all the time and you must be on your toes watching and anticipating.

I tried to capture Tommy Bassett in many different moments in a desire to show the complexity of the man.  Here I have Tommy as a serious thinking and concerned person.

Here I think I have a lighter and humorous moment of Tommy with the ladies who formed a cooperative restaurant in Mexico.
Tommy Bassett is interpreting for our trip to visit the coffee farmers in Mexico for Just Coffee.

This is Tommy taking photos and getting contorted to get the right moment and composition.

When I went back through my coverage of my trip to cover the Café Justo in Chiapas, Mexico I realized I had a series of photos of our guide Tommy Bassett and one of the founders of the cooperative.  I also realized that had I wanted to do a story just on Tommy I would have wished I shot even more images of him.

You need to learn to think on your feet and continue to ask what are you trying to say.  What is the story? Then continue to shoot those things that will help you convey to your audience the story.  Remember you need to shoot enough to capture those moments that communicate.  Often these moments will have to be anticipated if you are to capture them.

Take that lens cap off your camera and get out there and start shooting.

Photography Rules: Don’t get religious

Just picture St. Peter at the gates of heaven and he is checking which camera you have to let you in.  Do you have a Nikon, Canon, Olympus or maybe you have a Pentax camera, but will this get you into heaven?

You would think this is going to happen when we die when you talk to some photographers.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTVfFmENgPU]
There are even videos spoofing camera brand loyalty

There have even been converts in this battle over camera brands. You will find many photographers have switched when their brand of camera fails them after a few times. You would switch too if you photos were no longer in focus.

I watched one photographer years ago get so frustrated on the sidelines of a Georgia Tech football game that he just threw the camera after game across the field. 

These are the photographers who often feel the need to convert and once converted are on the street corners preaching.  They want to help others to join them and not go through the hell they had to go through to get their camera to make pictures the way they wanted.

I shoot with Nikon cameras. This is one of my Nikon D3 cameras I am selling since I am upgrading to the Nikon D4.

One of the main reason professional photographers upgrade their gear is to be sure they have all the competitive advantage they can.  You cannot loose a job to another photographer because they are able to deliver something that you cannot, just because of the gear you have. 


True Pro Photographers aren’t that Religious

Professional photographers know that it is the photographer more than it is the equipment that determines how good a photograph turns out.  So they are less about equipment than most amateurs think we are. 

It is OK to have faith in God and practice your faith. However, when your religion of camera gear comes into the discussion, it will more than likely have the pros realizing you think it is the camera that makes the photo and not the photographer.

Confession Time

While it is true I understand that it is the photographer that makes the photograph, the camera can fail you.  If it fails and another camera will be more consistent–then it is time for this photographer to convert.

My confession is that I changed camera systems a few times for not the right reasons.  I just wanted the latest camera and I could have kept my last camera and the quality of the images I was giving to the client wouldn’t have changed.

I must also confess that I have tried to get by with off brand lens just because of how inexpensive it was rather than about it’s performance.

The Nikon P7000 is the camera I carry all the time.

If St. Peter is a photographer

When you get the gates of heaven I think the question will not be what camera you shoot with, but let me see your camera. I think St. Peter will judge you a true photographer based on if you have your camera on you more than what camera you own.

Famous Photographers: Are there really any?

I don’t think there are many photographers who don’t want to be recognized for their work. Most everyone I know wants to have their work and themselves judged as being significant.

I have tried numerous times, as many other photographers have tried, to get hired by National Geographic Magazine.  I wanted to cover significant stories and to be viewed as significant.

Jay Maisel, Bernie Boston, Hugh Morton and George Tames.  Four famous photographers in my book. I took this at the Southern Short Course in the 1980s.

I’ve had the priviledge to meet some of the greatest photographers of our time. What was interesting to me is that most people in the room had no idea who they were. They knew their images, but didn’t know what they looked like.

Bill Fortney emcees a photo event in the 1980s.

Then one year I met Bill Fortney who gave his personal thoughts on the subject. He pointed out that other than maybe Ansel Adams, that most any other “famous photographer” who walked into a local mall would most likely not be recognized.  I think he is right.

Fortney went on to talk about how his pursuit of being a “famous photographer” was probably a big mistake. It was only when he was diagnosed with cancer did he come face to face with the demons of pride in his life.

Don Rutledge my mentor and friend for the most part enjoyed working as the fly on the wall. Sure he liked being recognized like all of us, but he had learned to get out of the way of the story. He knew he had to diminish for the story to be center stage.

Don Rutledge, my mentor and friend, taught me a great deal about being a photographer. I have yet to see anyone who was as masterful with storytelling with a camera. I also was impressed that he would talk with anyone and help anyone who asked him to help. Rutledge helped just about everyone he met even those just starting out.

The Road to Success

I have spent most of my career trying to figure out the steps to success. There are numerous books that help people climb the corporate ladder.  Not very many for those who are using photography as a path, but none the less there are many books on the topic.

What I continue to see over and over is “The Secret.” Most everyone one of the books was helping me to realize that to succeed I must serve.  However, this formula left a bad taste in my mouth. The message was more about how to rise to the top rather than how to live in the moment.

It continued to bother me that the only reason all these authors were writing the book was to tell everyone do this for a while and then you will be in charge.

What Don Rutledge Taught Me

Don wanted to tell stories with his camera, but because he was so good every where he worked they wanted him to manage communications departments. Don knew he was not gifted to lead, but was gifted with visual storytelling.

People around him were mad at him for not stopping doing what he was good at and to lead the division.

What I was learning from Don was that if I were a ditch digger and good at it, there is no reason I couldn’t make a career out of it.

Finally a book about how to be your best

Order it here on Amazon

While in Hawaii I met Jack Hart.  Jack was the art director for many years at CBS for TV shows like The Price Is Right.

For some reason after we were talking for a while Jack said he had a book I need to read.  I had to run off to teach class and just before I was to start Jack came in the room and handed me this book The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places: The Joy of Serving God in the Ordinary.

It is a very quick read and you can also get it as an eBook.

This is the first book that I have ever picked up that outlined what I had learned from Don Rutledge.

I believe the key to success is being joyful in life where you are now and not where you might be in the future.


What does this have to do with photography?

I have been working on a book to help students and those starting in this profession to be successful photographers. One of the key messages I believe is learning to connect the eighteen inches between the head and the heart.

The connection of why you do what you do can make all the difference in your attitude and your attitude is what makes people want to hire you over and over. 

It took me many years to understand how important the question “why” is to a story. I had been trained to ask Who, What, Where, When, When and How, but I was just filling the holes with the information.  I needed to be like a child and ask “Why is the sky blue?”

Why does the story need to be told? 

Attitude Adjustment

I have come to see that it is the photographers who understand they are here to serve others.  They serve by helping others communicate effectively using visuals.

When you are a freelancer you will have a client occasionally insult you–or at least it feels this way.  They may demean your position or some other way you feel insulted. You have a choice to respond and set them straight and sometimes this might be necessary, but you need to ask yourself is it worth loosing the account.  

As I read Ken Barnes book I came across this quote he had from Gordon MacDonald, in his book Rebuilding Your Broken World.

“You know whether or not you’re really a servant by the way you react when you’re treated like one.”

Do you seek significance?  Do you want to be recognized? Is this getting in the way of your joy for living?

Chick-fil-A is one of my best clients. They are my best for many reasons, but one that I have come to realize over time is teaching me the value of service.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, helps clean up trash at a Habitat for Humanity build in Columbus, GA.

Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, had trained his children that whenever they came to the restaurant that before they come in to pick up any trash.  Truett also does the same even today. If he sees something he will bend over at the age of 91 and pick it up.

Chick-fil-A trains their people to do any job joyfully, this includes the bathrooms and the dirty dishes.

Will you become a “famous photographer” if you serve others–maybe. I think the real question is will you be happy in the role of a servant, only when you discover the joy in it.

Key to selling on eBay: Take good photos

Have you sold anything on eBay before? I am selling some cameras and lenses and will replace them with a new Nikon D4.

If you are wanting to sell your stuff on eBay I recommend buying a lighting tent.  You can then take this outside and use the sunshine as your main light and the tent will do the rest.

This is the primary photo for my eBay sell for my Nikon D3.  I am selling this one first and then will sell another D3 once I have my new Nikon D4. The price is $2,500.

eBay recommends that you post many photos of your product so the buyers can get a good look before purchasing it.  There are two things the tent lighting will help you with the sale.  First it helps you to be totally transparent in the sale.  You are showing the product in the best possible light so that everything is viewable–even the flaws.

Here is how it appears on eBay.  Check it out

I made a couple more photos to help sell the camera.

Second, the more photos you use the less verbiage is necessary to tell everyone all they are getting. However, please be sure and list those things in the text that someone will search eBay.  If you have the manual and original box this will help you up your price.

I am trying to show all sides of the camera hoping this will improve my selling of it.

Now as you can see in the photo of the setup I have here in my basement office I am using strobes in addition to the tent to help with lighting.  Using the flashes will improve your color and believe me when you are selling something online the better the color the more likely a sell.

So many folks just use the manufacturer’s photos and because they are this will make some buyers a little cautious. They want to see the product you are selling and not a brand new one from a catalog.

This is my setup for photographing the camera and lenses.  Nice very even lighting.  We call this tent lighting where you are wrapping the object with light. B&H Tent Light

What are other tips to selling on eBay?  Please put those tips in the comments below so others can learn from the community. 

This is one of two 24-120mm Nikon zooms I am selling. 
This is the second 24-120mm lens I am selling.