Clean Background isn’t the only way for photos with IMPACT

You have most likely heard the mantra, “Easiest way to make better photos: photograph your subjects against a clean background.”

They may even say, “99% of photos fail because the background is messy.”

I am here to tell you they are right and wrong. For the beginning photographer it is much easier to simplify a background than to take a complex and even cluttered background and make it work.

Egypt—Missionary Mike Edens (left) worked closely with Egyptian Baptist pastors trying to enhance their discipleship and pastoral ministries. These pastors—(left to right) Mikhail Shehata Ghaly and Anwar Dakdouk—took MasterLife discipleship training in Cyprus during 1984. [photo by Don Rutledge]

What my mentor Don Rutledge taught me was that backgrounds give context.

Seth Godin [photo by Stanley Leary]

Having a clean background makes the subject pop out, but where are they? What are they doing?

Israel—Missionary kid Sommer Hicks plays on the rocks of the sea of Galilee with her dad, Ray Hicks, in the background. [Don Rutledge]

Don taught me that it is a matter of composing to make sense of a scene and also waiting for the “moment.”

Appalachian migrant family in Ohio during 1968. [photo by Don Rutledge]

Depth-of-field—is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. Most photographers use a shallow depth-of-field to clean up their background.

Fireman [X-E3, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, ISO 200, ƒ/4.2, 1/75] [photo by Stanley Leary]

The closer you get to something and the wider the aperture the shallower the depth-of-field. Also, you are removing context.

Don Rutledge photographed many stories about the struggle for racial equality and justice in the South during the height of the civil rights movement. This image reveals the dignity of men and women who had long been denied their rights as Americans – and as human beings. I think this is from Martin Luther King Jr funeral. [photo by Don Rutledge]

You see it is seeing all those people’s faces behind this man that helps give more context for this photo.

March 1985, was when Don went to Ethiopia to cover the hunger problem. Here volunteer nurse Sally Jones holds an Ethipian child and comforts the child in the midst of other babies who are being held by their mothers. [Photo by Don Rutledge]

It is seeing all the people in the background and their expressions that helps photos many times.

Poland [photo by Don Rutledge]

Don had the patience and ability to see everything inside the frame. He taught many photographers how to see the edges and everything in between.

While legislators around the nation were debating the need for rat-control laws–and disputing their funding–Don discovered these two youngsters who proudly displayed the results of their morning hunt. In that section of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1968, rats were not particularly difficult quarry to locate. [photo by Don Rutledge]

I think it is the background that helps make many of Don’s photos. Had he followed the advice you hear about simplifying the background he would have never been the communicator he was.

It is the background and everything around a subject that can give context to a moment.

Surgeon Tim Pennell was able to get five of his colleagues from Bowman Gray School of Medicine to commit weeks of vacation time and thousands of dollars to meet their Chinese counterparts. [photo by Don Rutledge]

Without the women in the background with the nurse’s hat on you might not get from the photo that this photo has something to do with healthcare.

Siberia—Working with outsiders means listening and being heard, according to Eduard Genrich, of Second Baptist Church in Novosibirsk. People here say they are encouraged and helped by outsiders, but taken advantage of by some. [photo by Don Rutledge]
L/R Laura Standard, Almond Standard, Pam Pullen (Almond’s daughter) & Christine Burton (Almond’s sister) & Kyle Standard (Nephew of Almond) & Rick Standard (Almond’s Son) Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Tignal, Georgia. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4] [photo by Stanley Leary]

Don’t go out and shoot everything to include background. Clean backgrounds have their place.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100 [photo by Stanley Leary]
[photo by Stanley Leary]

Photojournalism Associations

I am writing this because I am seeing the demise of ASMP and NPPA. While they may survive I do think they have lost their luster.

The purpose of a professional association is to further a particular profession, those that work in the profession and the public interests.

Photojournalism in America took off in what many would call the Golden age of Photojournalism with the invention of Leica 35mm camera in 1925 and the flash bulb in 1927. This era would be from about 1930s to the 1960s.

It is the size of this camera that made it so easy to go just about anywhere and create pictures. The flash allowed you to take photos where there was no light.

Taking advantage of this new technology magazines like Life, Sports Illustrated and Paris Match published these photos that prior to this time the public would have never seen.

It was during this time and specifically 1940 to 1950 that both National Press Photographers Association and American Society of Media Photographers were formed.

NPPA was formed more around the advancement of photojournalism and so it was heavily focused on education and contests to help its members grow in their skills and raise the industry standards as to the quality of photojournalism being produced in newspapers. Most of the members were staff photographers.

ASMP was formed by a small group of New York City photographers who were working with magazines. They formed to address their common issues: lack of credit lines, unauthorized reproduction of their images, and uncredited copying of photos by illustrators and artists. They also were hoping to raise the rates for pay. Most of the members were freelancers.

Photo of me while a photographer for my college and yearbook at East Carolina University in 1983. (Photo by: Gary Patterson)

I joined NPPA in 1985 when I was working for the Hickory Daily Record as a staff photojournalist and am still a member. In 1987 I joined ASMP (at the time American Society of Magazine Photographers) since I was working on The Commission Magazine.

Around 2005 NPPA realizing that more and more members were freelancers started doing more on business practices.

Internet & Social Media Impacts Associations

I remember getting my first Radio Shack computer in 1988. It would be the turning point of my skill set going forward.

I was becoming familiar with all the resources that my computer was bringing to me from all over the world. I had joined CompuServe it was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major influence through the mid-1990s. At its peak in the early 1990s, it was known for its online chat system & message forums. NPPA had one of those forums.

Mosaic, is the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web and the Internet. It was introduced in 1993 and the first browser to display images inline with text instead of displaying images in a separate window.

It was Microsoft licensing Mosaic to create Internet Explorer in 1995 that was the real take off point for websites.

Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California.

Facebook would be available to the public in 2006.

The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 was the turning point in history of communications that now people could be connected 24/7 to the internet and changed the volume of users of the internet, websites, social media and more connectivity to the world to a whole new level. People always had their phones no matter where they were and due to this would use them to connect and help organize their lives and work.

Instagram launched October 2010 exclusively on Apple products. By 2016 it was available on all platforms.

The Perfect Storm

Prior to Mosaic that was introduced in 1995 the only way for journalists to be published was through the traditional gate keepers of printed publications. Now with very little cost (access to internet) one could publish content and reach not just readers of a printed publication, but the entire world. At least all who had access to the internet.

One such person in our industry to do this and become a rock star was David Hobby. He created The Strobist where he was sharing tips for using flash. While it cost him almost nothing to publish it also cost nothing to get his content.

Thousands would do the same on almost any topic you could imagine. Those who produced the best content were getting huge followers and then the advertisers followed helping to support those content providers with funds if they could advertise on their platforms.

Once someone had access to the internet they could become a content creator or just a consumer of the content.

Right around the introduction of the iPhone the numbers of users on the internet began to explode. As the numbers went up so too the numbers were going down for many associations.

NPPA & ASMP core offerings of educational content were no longer as valuable when all this content was being offered for free other places on the internet.

Once Facebook, which helped people come together and create groups websites like Classmates.com lost their base. Why pay to find your high school classmates when Facebook offers a way to find them for free and organize your class in a Facebook Group.

Now through social media Facebook Groups were replacing the need for Associations. The best thing that NPPA & ASMP do was to create groups on the Social Media Platforms for their members. Basically, Facebook was offering a better solution for connecting than most associations.

What is left for Associations to offer

The one place NPPA has put all their eggs is in Advocacy. Most everything else they offer you can get online for free.

It was ASMP in 1973 that got the Copyright office to change that all images were copyrighted without being registered.

The purpose of copyright registration is to place on record a verifiable account of the date and content of the work in question, so that in the event of a legal claim, or case of infringement or plagiarism, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government source. Registration remains a prerequisite to filing an infringement suit, and also because important remedies depend on prompt registration—such as attorney’s fees and statutory damages. [Wikipedia]

Now one of the worst things to happen to the profession of photography is the devaluation of photography, which occurred because new technologies [internet] made it possible for good photographs made by inexperienced professionals to flood the market. Get lots of photographers who don’t know about pricing producing work for clients who have lots more options from which to choose, and things go south fast. In other words, it’s really a buyer’s market.

So, the problem we have now is that even if you can change how copyright works the price you can get for a stock image is so devalued that few can benefit as compared to the investment costs to make those images and put them on a cloud system for people to buy.

When it comes to registering images today with the copyright office I personally find that the costs, which are $55 for 750 images, is no longer economically feasible to warrant.

The costs a few years ago were $35 for unlimited number of images in a submission.

So, all the legal advocacy work done in the past few years has been totally undermined by the copyright office. Makes you wonder what you have been paying for when you are now worst off than ever in this profession when it comes to copyright protection.

Example of Advocacy that doesn’t benefit photojournalist

News outlets have greatly benefitted from cameras being allowed in the courtroom. Great examples are Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, OJ Simpson, and Casey Anthony to name just a few.

Defense attorney Robert McGlasson, left, talks with his client Brian Nichols during a pretrial hearing Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Atlanta. Nichols is accused of killing a judge, a deputy sheriff and two other after escaping from the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary)

NPPA advocacy often is to help get photojournalist access. However, NPPA members are never compensated more because they have paid out of their own pockets to help those news outlets get the content that lines the pockets of those publishers.

In 1976 the National Labor Relations Board determined that ASMP was a group of independent contractors and not a union. Due to that decision neither ASMP nor NPPA can help its members in setting industry prices for their members.

Today both ASMP and NPPA have social media groups for their members and still produce educational resources, put on meetings for their members and provide legal assistance to their members.

How do they compete against the free offerings for groups in social media?

Membership requirements were the way that they distinguished themselves.

ASMP requirements for a Professional Membership is reserved for still and motion photographers of good moral character and reputation who have been actively and consistently engaged in professional practice for at least 3 years. There are other categories for membership.

NPPA requirements – working or aspiring towards working in the field of visual journalism.

Those membership requirements have been lowered in how they verify your qualifications due to their desperate need for members to support the organizations.

My recommendations

If you are new to photojournalism and need to learn how to make better photos then NPPA is great. Their contests and education programs are all about learning the craft.

If you are in business for yourself and not on staff then you should join ASMP. This organization will do more to help you navigate how to make a living and all their education and workshops do and excellent job of helping you run a successful business.

For those starting out, you may need both.

My wish these past few years was that these two organizations could combine. They are different and yet also have so much in common. Sadly NPPA turned down ASMP’s offer to do just that.

Knowing when to add light for weddings

I have never been to a wedding where something doesn’t go to plan. Because of the constant changing of schedules during a wedding, photographers have to go with the flow on the wedding day.

Laura Espeut shows Scott & Nathália Dunford how to do a pose for a photo during their Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 200, f/9, 1/125, Focal Length = 24]

For today’s weddings it is almost impossible for a photographer to work alone. If you are smart then you don’t look for just anyone to help you. You find someone who is better than you in some way.

Laura Espeut is one of the best photographers I know and her personality is so wonderful. Her ability to help communicate with people her concepts to get the best possible photos is incredible. She also does an awesome job shooting creative photos.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/160, Focal Length = 100] photo by Laura Espeut

If you are looking for a photographer to shoot your wedding most likely you will have two photographers. If you ask them about the second shooter, see if they brag about them. I always brag about Laura.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640, Focal Length = 75] photo by Laura Espeut

Laura knows in photography it is all about emotions on the wedding day. So she is coaching the bridal party to be sure those emotions are right on the surface for the photos.

She also is aware that if you are not capturing an expression then you need to make the light and composition create an emotion.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250, Focal Length = 28]

Having someone like Laura helps me to relax as much as you can as a wedding shooter. I am able to problem solve the changing light scenarios through the day. If things are not going to plan you often cannot count on natural light to stay constant for you during a wedding.

The one thing that is so difficult to deal with in photography is the natural light. Sometimes it is so incredible for a photo you just have to capture it as it is. However, this photo of the groomsmen is a time where I was fighting with the light. I used an on camera flash to help with the shadows. It just wasn’t working really well.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200, Focal Length = 38]

I quickly realized that photo wasn’t so good with the harsh shadows. I moved the guys and put the sun to their back and used the flash to just be sure I was getting good light on their faces. Remember great wedding photos are first about capturing expressions.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON D5, Sigma 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125, Focal Length = 150]

During the wedding I am alternating between camera bodies and lenses. This photo of the groom saying his vows to the bride I shot a couple ways. The biggest difference is with and without flash. The first one is without flash.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320, Focal Length = 105]

I think the flash helped a lot on the second photo you see. The expression was better on the first one, but I hope you get my point of how a flash on a sunny day can help over come the harsh shadows around the eyes from the sun overhead.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 320, f/8, 1/100, Focal Length = 48]

Carl House, the venue for the wedding, had a back porch that was perfect for natural light photos. I prefer this over shooting with flashes and having to wait for them to recycle between flashes. Expressions on faces don’t wait for flashes.

So the porch had wonderful light pouring in and none of the was direct. This was creating a massive soft box effect for the posed photos.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 220, ƒ/8, 1/100, Focal Length = 24]

While I would have preferred having the green background, I had already discovered how difficult it was going to be doing group photos in the direct sunlight.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 500, ƒ/10, 1/100, Focal Length = 42]

The best way to describe what light I look for outside for weddings is the shadow side of a building. This is where the sun isn’t the shining directly on the subjects, but rather the large sky creates a large soft box. It is often called open shade.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125, Focal Length = 24]

When I have to shoot in the direct sunlight as here with the wedding party all waiting for the bride I use a flash to help open up those shadows.

Before you hit the record button for an interview

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100]

I have been teaching some form of photography my entire career. Each time I teach I discover one more thing that can be tweaked and improved. Often I am coming up with a new way to communicate a concept.

The longer I am in this profession I find that I am still learning. This blog post on Narrative Storytelling was prompted by my students taking Intro to Photojournalism at The Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Georgia.

“If you want to be a better photographer stand in front of more interesting stuff”

Jim Richardson

So how do you find more interesting stuff? How do you find interesting stories?

I have found there are two main ways I have found stories. Often it is just by meeting someone and hearing their story. Could be someone behind the counter of a business I am visiting or someone who sits beside me on the plane.

The other way I have found stories is when I have an audience in mind. Often this is a client that I am working with on other projects. They tell you what they are working on and then my mind starts trying to solve their problem by finding stories to tell for them.

No matter how you discover some great stories there is one place you must start–THE AUDIENCE.

To help you get your head around what I am talking about just think of you going on the trip of your lifetime. You come home and want to tell your parents. You first get your mom by herself and you tell her about your trip. Then later you and dad have some time together and you tell him about your trip.

Parents watch as the limo pulls away taking our kids away for senior prom. (photo by Robin Rayne) [NIKON D4, 24.0-70.0 mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 320, ƒ/7.1, 1/60]

Are they interested in the same things? Most people will tell a different story because they have different interests.

When I say know your audience I am really saying know their story. Now often newspapers and magazines that I worked with had a fictitious family they created based on research of their audience.

Knolan Benfield in Hawaii with me helping teach posing to photography students with Youth With a Mission. (Photo by: Dennis Fahringer)

My uncle Knolan Benfield, pictured above, told me one of the best stories that changed my photography and storytelling for the better.

Knolan had taken his wife’s [my aunt] grandmother to the beach in North Carolina. She was quite old at the time and he tells how he watched her walk into the ocean for the very first time in her life. She had never gone to the beach in her 80+ years of her life. She had really never traveled much more than 50 miles from her home most of her life.

Knolan said that moment sealed into his memory what he was doing with his camera when working on stories. He was taking people to places they will often never see in their life. It was his responsibility to make those visuals as strong as possible to transport them through his lens to the place.

A good storyteller must always have their audience in mind. The biggest mistake many storytellers make is telling a story because it meant a lot to them and really never consider the audience. You might do pretty well with this method and I have seen many make a career doing this, but seldom are they the great storytellers. The great storytellers move their audiences heads and heart and not just their own.

When we put together a Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop we visit the location during a pre-trip. During this time we meet with the missionaries. We do a mini-workshop with them on storytelling and then ask them to help identify people for stories.

We talk to them about the audience and the other key thing we talk about is what they want to accomplish with the stories.

It is very typical that they need a building. Can you do a video helping promote our building need? This is where we always are having to educate them that we have to not come up with a solution for the audience, but rather establish the need with the audience.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Bucharest, Romania

What can’t you do right now because you don’t have a building? After multiple questions and chasing of tangents we have them understanding how telling the story of someone they impacted by sharing that story helps lay the foundation to show they need a facility to help more people like the person of the story.

Now when it comes to telling a story for an NGO this is much different than photojournalism storytelling. We want the audience to take action and even build in a call to action at the end of the story.

In journalism we are informing them and sometimes it is more entertainment in feature storytelling and sometimes the stories are meant to inform before an election. The journalist isn’t trying to sway your vote, but educate the public on the facts.

With non profit work I am more of an advocate than a journalist.

Once you have identified a person as the subject of the story you will need to interview them and basically spend enough time to discover their story. I recommend using the narrative story arch as something to help guide you.

Now in nonfiction there should be a point to your story. In fiction you don’t necessarily need to have some moral of the story for it to be effective.

As you work on your story always keep in mind what you plan to share and what parts of the diagram that they play in the story.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” While you might be thinking of me talking here about the visuals I am really talking about all of it. When someone tells their story by taking you to the day of the big event from which everything in the story revolves around, the more the person talks in a way to paint a picture this too does a much better job than just the facts.

“The most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Keep the Exposition short. When giving us the background we do need some, but that doesn’t mean we need to know every detail. What is the key take away from all your research the audience needs to know so as to have some context for the “big event”? Then creatively tell what is necessary to only do that.

“Squirrel”

In the movie UP there is one repeated humor of these dogs that no matter how focused they are in doing something if they see a squirrel they stop in their tracks and then go and chase it.

Too many storytellers do this in telling their stories. The character mentions something that isn’t necessary to the story, but is so good they can’t let it go.

Once you have your parts of the story and a narrative then you are ALMOST ready to start. I am really talking about those who are using audio/video to capture the person’s story.

Use Vivid Details, Not Lots of Facts

Ask the subject to take you to the moment when something happened. Get them to tell you how it felt at that moment. Remind them to help you understand how it felt then, because now they may look back and know things would get better, but at the moment they may have felt hopeless or overjoyed.

Once you have heard all the parts of the story that you know you will use and they move your head and heart you can then sit down for the formal on camera audio/video recording of their story.

You can ask questions to help them tell their story, but most of the time you will be just prompting them. You might say to them that the other day when we were talking you shared this moment you experienced, can you share that again?

One thing before I start, I tell them their story as I understand it. I ask do I have your story correct and OK with you. If something needs to be corrected for accuracy this is when I do it. Once they agree on what I think the story is and how I told it, that is really what I am now trying to get them to say. You see I have summarized all those conversations I had to dig and get the story. I have done some editing in my own mind and distilled it to the parts that help tell the story. If you do this in the 90 to 120 seconds for most stories then you will find the rest of this super easy.

Georgia Dome – Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000, 35mm Equivalent=240mm]

Take Control

Because you have done the diagram and remember all the parts you are wanting to capture, keep your subject on topic. Don’t let them expound and now make your content longer.

I have had to ask them to repeat their answer and say your first response was 2 minutes, I am looking for a couple sentences. You said this … and then when you started on this part, just leave that out. That is just going into more detail than needed right now. You want to remind them of what we agreed were the key points we are sticking with for their story.

Call to Action

When I am telling stories for organizations and not journalism purpose I have a call to action. Now that you have heard this story here is where you can go to learn more, get involved or give money to support this organization as they help more people like the person you just heard about.

After the Interview

I will spend time talking with the subject about their schedule. What is going on with them that I can come along and capture video/stills to add to the story. The additions are to be shown while they are telling their story.

For this blog post I am not going to go into visual storytelling.

The Hook

One thing you need for a video is the first 8 to 10 seconds you need a teaser. The easiest way I have found is just to find the most shocking thing subject says and use this. Be sure it doesn’t give away the story.

Hopefully at this point you have a better idea of how important it is to identify a story for an audience and how important it is for you to have done all the research and preinterview so that when you hit record you are ready to capture the story and not discover it.

Taking it to the next level

“The advanced level is the mastery of the basics.”

Ray Mancini
[NIKON D5, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/200, Focal Length = 28]

So often we think that getting to the next level and doing that one more incredible thing will be what makes us more successful.

A Champion makes sure he/she eliminates ALL sources of error or potential problems. The all-time greatest Basketball Coach John Wooden would teach ALL his new recruits how to tie their shoe laces as part of their initiation because in his words “the last thing I want is to lose a point because your shoe laces come untied at the worst possible moment.”

I love teaching so much. I like to know I am helping someone else achieve their dreams. I also love teaching because it has made me better at my craft.

When you teach you have to return to the basics and when students hand in work that isn’t what it should be you re-examine what you taught. It is this process that made me realize that it is just very simple concepts done well that are the things that make someone look outstanding.

Chelle Leary [NIKON D5, 85.0 mm f/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/9, 1/160]

My daughter found her passion in high school for theater. She loves all aspects of the theater. She enjoys working on sets, costumes, lighting, dancing, acting and singing.

My daughter the banshee is on the back of Caleb Jackson who plays a monster in the play “She Kills Monsters” opening March 1 at CSU’s Riverside Theatre Complex. in Columbus, GA. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 4500, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 48]

When you love doing something you want to do more. My daughter has been impressing those at the school because when she works on a play and finishes something she is asking the leadership, “What else can I do?”.

My daughter is learning that just doing what you are asked to do and doing it on time is making her a standout at Columbus State University.

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many of my students I teach in Intro to Photojournalism are just taking this to check off a requirement for graduation.

The sad thing to me is those who are complaining the most about their grades, are often putting in the least effort.

I have a News Event Package assignment where they must cover News Event and turn in three to five photos that captures the event with captions. Now in the software I can see the time codes of the camera.

While reviewing the work I noticed that many looked like very little effort was being put into this assignment. It looked like one student had gone to a parade and just stood still and took a few photos and left.

I then pulled up the time code of the photos. The photos turned in were all taken in less than four minutes.

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

John Wooden

Covering a News Event usually takes about two to four hours. Once you have captured the event it usually takes no more than an hour to edit the photos and turn them in.

One student had waited to cover an event that started at 6:00 pm and the assignment was due at 8:00 pm. They didn’t have many action shots of the event taking place because it really didn’t start on time and the student had to leave early to make the deadline.

When I said it was being lazy to wait to the last minute they were upset. Now even the dictionary says lazy is “moving slowly”.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2018, Auburn 27 vs University of Central Florida 34 [NIKON D5, Sigma 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 8000, f/2.8, 1/4000, Focal Length = 300]

Do you want to get better? If so, then the best thing you can do is to revisit the basics in your job.

Here are some basics for every job that might help:

1. Never Be Late – Start on time and Close on time

“I have learned one thing. As Woody says, ‘Showing up is 80 percent of life.’ Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.”

Woody Allen

2. Seek knowledge, not results

“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.”

Shakuntala Devi

3. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand, utilize, and reason with emotions. Emotionally intelligent people are able to understand not only their own emotions but those of others as well.

4. Focus on Intrinsic Motivations

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you.

5. Don’t compare your own life to other peoples’ lives

Rather than comparing yourself with people who are “better off” than you, think about all of the people who are homeless, chronically ill, or living in poverty. This will help you appreciate what you have rather than feeling sorry for yourself. Try engaging in volunteer work to help make this more apparent. 

6. Count your blessings

No matter how much you achieve in life, you will always feel unhappy if you constantly focus on what you don’t have. Instead, devote time every day to appreciating the things you do have. Think beyond material items; appreciate your loved ones, and cherish happy memories.

Multimedia Guide using Adobe Premiere Pro

Nikon D5 Video Settings

The very first thing we need to address is settings for your camera when shooting video. Your camera’s options for video can limit your choices. Also please keep in mind the higher the resolution and frame rate the more powerful computer you will need with even more free space for editing.

Resolution

Full HD – 1920×1080 is now a common setting on newer DSLRs 

High Definition (HD) – 1280×720, A very practical balance between broadcast quality and storage space / render time. ESPN broadcasts in this setting.

Other HiDef DSLR settings – 2K, 4K and 6K DSLR video  resolutions are available, but overkill for web distribution channels. Great to shoot in and then when you export a project downsize. 

Frame Rate

      • 60 FPS – use for slow motion effect 
      • 30 FPS – Standard video “look” 
      • 24 FPS – Cinematic “look” that is used in motion pictures 

While there are many other resolutions like 2K, 4K, 6K and even 8K I believe they are overkill for web distribution. Even my friend Ben Smallbone whose credits include the movies: Priceless, Taken, and Steve McQueen: American Icon to name a few of his movies told me that when it came to distributing their films to movie houses all over the country that they said not to give them anything bigger than 2K.

Now there are really two resolutions in video just as there are two resolutions with stills. You have the 1) capture setting and the 2) exported resolution.

While you can shoot say at 4k for the similar reasons you would shoot RAW your computer must be really top of the line to process the 4K files. Unless you want to crop in on your video in post-production I believe there is little to gain for the average project to shoot higher than the Blue Ray Full HD 1920×1080 resolution.

Frame Rate – I recommend 24 Frames per Second

Here is a good video showing why 24 fps is an industry standard for movies.

24 FPS is the Cinematic Look that is used in motion pictures. There are reasons to shoot other FPS and one worth mentioning is to shoot super high rate to then slow down for that “Slow Motion” affect.

Shutter Speed – I recommend 1/48 or 1/50

As a rule of thumb, you want the denominator of your shutter speed to be approximately double the number of frames per second that you are recording. For example, when shooting at 25fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50 of a second. If you have the 24fps and do not have a 1/48 then pick the closest frame rate like 1/50 or 1/60.

Manual Mode – Shoot this rather than Aperture, Shutter or Program mode

If anything on the camera is set to automatic your exposure can change when say something changes in the frame like your subject just moves a little. The camera may think the lighting has changed and it hasn’t. Shoot manual mode and manual focus as well.

Look – use Neutral

In video, just like stills, you can pick a picture color mode. There are modes on most cameras like: Standard, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Neutral. If your camera doesn’t have a Neutral setting then pick Standard.

When later we cover your post production you can do more with a Neutral setting than with say Vivid. More on that in later posts on making videos with your DSLR.

Nikon D5 Audio Level

AUDIO RECORDING SETTINGS

Watch this video if you own a Canon to set your audio levels

Watch this video if you own a Nikon. While this is Nikon D7100 you just need to find the menu item on your Nikon. Very similar.

You want to have your recording levels set manually and not automatic for the same reasons for the video. When someone stops talking the Auto level will increase the volume and introduce noise.

Most levels on cameras or a separate recording device like the Zoom Digital Audio Recorders have a way to show you it is too loud.

Most video editors agree that the overall audio level of your audio mix (all of your audio combined) should normalized between -10db to -20db. I personally level my videos around -12db with occasional peaks to -8db.

What this means for me on my Nikon D5 is I want the level to peak right up to the last line before it goes red. I have a person talk for a while and then set the sound recording level before actually recording.

I recommend doing a test video for sound. Set your video settings to get a good exposure and audio levels for good sound. Record 30 seconds to a minute and then download to your computer and play using Quicktime or other video software that came with your computer.

For testing sound play something on your computer like music you downloaded. After you set your speakers for proper volume when listening to your music then play your video. If you have to adjust the volume to hear the recording then you need to adjust your recording levels. The biggest problem is if it is too quiet or if too loud and giving you distortion.

Headphone Volume

Be very careful that you are not using the headphone volume as a way to see if the audio level is set correctly. Use the levels for audio the same way you use a histogram. Once you have those levels set then adjust your headphone volume to where you can hear properly.

Lukas & Nate interview Scott Brock, missionary to Trinidad [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 9000, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 35]

PICKING A LOCATION TO DO AN INTERVIEW

When picking a location you need to pay attention to two things: 1) Sound in the location and 2) lighting/visual.

My recommendation is to just turn on your microphone and put your headphones on and just listen to the environment. Are you trying to do a interview next to a waterfall or water fountain? That will prove to be difficult to impossible.

Finding a totally silent location would be “ideal,” but not always possible.

Make finding the perfect location weigh sound quality over visual.

When doing an interview there are a few things you need to do every time.

FILL THE FRAME

When doing an interview you need to choose good composition and background carefully. Pay attention to everything inside the frame.

Get tight on the person you are interviewing.

KILL THE NOISE

Once you have put the microphone in place and have your headphones on you will be able to hear all the ambient sounds. This is where everyone is quiet for a moment while you just listen.

Lets say you hear the ceiling fan or the air conditioner running. I would turn these off for the interview.

If you cannot turn off something like a water fall or water fountain, then move to a quiet location.

Togo, West Africa

STEADY THE CAMERA

Use a tripod or put the camera on a table. Just keep your primary camera for the interview still. If you have a second camera to use then you can maybe do something like putting that camera on a slider or fluid head that will let you move the camera during the interview.

I believe you always need one camera that is locked and on a tripod for the interview.

Togo, West Africa

LIGHT THE SUBJECT

My suggestion is to find a great place with light so you don’t have to use lights. I find the open shade on the side of a building works as well as porches as you see in these two photos of interviews we were doing in Togo, West Africa.

AUDIO IS KING

There are times for different microphones just as there are times for different lenses. You need to know the difference between a lapel, on camera & shotgun microphone.

SHARPNESS IS QUEEN

Sharp focus is critical. I advise against shooting ƒ/1.4 for video unless this is your second camera perspective. Have a depth-of-field that is forgiving if the person moves during the interview.

Use manual focus and not Auto-Focus.

LOCK DOWN THE LENS

Don’t zoom in and out on your primary camera. You can do some of this with a second camera, but be sure at least one camera is locked down and you have a solid framed shot that is in focus and has enough depth-of-field that the person can move a little and still be in focus.

Chick-fil-A Kickoff
Georgia Tech vs Tennessee

Scoring a touchdown is about knowing where your goals are in the game.

Before the football team steps onto the field they will practice for many months together. When they execute a play they know what they are doing and trying to accomplish to win the game.

Alan Alda interviews Rob Michelson about the Aerial Robotics competition he oversees at Georgia Tech.

Before you turn the camera on and start your interview you need to practice. You need to interview your subject and from what you learn you then formulate your questions so that the responses help convince the audience what you want them to know just as a lawyer does to convince a jury what they want them to know about their client.

You do not want to sit down and just turn the camera on and ask the subject, “What is your story?” and expect them to give you a succinct well thought out presentation.

Getting to know your subject before you start recording. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 68]

GET TO KNOW YOUR SUBJECT

Even before you sit down and talk to the subject for the first time do all the research you can on the subject. Sometimes there have been other interviews done with the person that you can read or even watch.

Other than learning about the subject being the person, learn all you can about the subject of the story. If they are a coffee farmer then learn all you can about coffee.

The more you know the better questions you will ask. I like to say you are peeling an onion. Each question gets you closer to the core of the onion.

You are not just asking questions to find out everything about the subject. You are trying to find the thread that will keep someone interested in them as you reveal more and more about them to the audience.

The Bourne films are a series of action spy thriller movies based on the character Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin suffering from extreme memory loss who must figure out who he is.

To keep the audience’s attention and pull them into your story you may often hold out on the juicy part of the story towards the end as they did in the Jason Bourne movies.

YOUR GOAL

You know you are ready for the on-camera interview when you have your storyline figured out from your informal interviews.

Like a lawyer who calls witnesses and interviews them to reveal in their own words the content that will help build the storyline so that the jury has no choice but to make the right call. Like a lawyer you may need to put different people on the witness stand to help build your story.

Now it is quite common that even when you have done all your homework that in the camera interview subjects can surprise you with new content that improves or even can complicate the story.

Be flexible and be sure you are listening to what they are saying.

Ideally it would be great if someone can just tell you what you need and leave out all those trails that lead no where. I have found time and time again that towards the end I have asked them to summarize what we just talked about and they often in one take say exactly what I need.

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome.

You see it can be just like the football game. The players have practiced so many times that often the coach just calls the play and you get the touchdown.

Stanley interviewing James Dockery, senior editor for ESPN. photo by: Jeff Raymond

TWO CAMERAS

When I do my interviews, I try to always use two cameras. There are many benefits like:

Backup of the interview if one camera fails
Different looks using slightly wide shot and a tight shot
Helps with editing

Let me talk a little about how much two cameras can help with editing. Almost all the time you need to edit someone’s comments. This means you cut something out and when you do it the person’s head will jump on the video and give us the telltale sign that you just cut something.

Now if you have two cameras you can switch camera angles and it doesn’t tip the audience that you cut something. It will just look like you went to a different angle.

Now if you have a slightly wider shot that includes the hands then when the person is quite talkative with their hands and not just their mouth it is good to include the hands.

Besides cutting out a long comment that really doesn’t add to the storyline there are times you need to rearrange their comments. Maybe the last thing they said would make the strongest lead for the story.

Again having that second camera lets you change angles and it will look like they started with this thought.

In the end you will help the subject sound more coherent and look like this was just a straight take and easier for the audience to absorb.

REASONS TO REDO THE INTERVIEW

The first time you do interview someone be sure and tell them you may need to come back the next day or two for a second interview.

Unless you are a seasoned pro most people will not catch everything happening in real time and will notice missing information during the post processing editing time.

If this happens I highly recommend having the subject redo the parts that you liked for several reasons.

  • They often have changed clothes
  • Matching the lighting and camera angles is difficult
  • Matching the sound can be difficult as well

You may want to even play the video parts you liked and have them rehearse a few times before you redo it. I have found that often the person realizes they can even say it better now that they have heard themselves.

I must tell you this funny story about a seasoned photographer learning to do video for the first time. He thought of locations he wanted to use as the background for the interview his subject.

We realized that while teaching we failed to tell people to do their interviews in one place. While in a still photo that would make since to show your subject in the different locations when it came time for editing the sound didn’t match, the lighting was so different and when you finished editing the content and put the takes in the logical order of how it best told the story the guy was jumping all over the city back and forth.

It was so funny. Just imagine the evening news where instead of going to Washington to listen to the correspondent there and then to West Coast correspondent to maybe an East Coast correspondent as well it was the same person. That was what it looked like.

If you do a good job with the interview and have a well thought out storyline being told by the subjects you should be pleased with the results that if this is all the audience saw and heard it would work.

One strategy for editing most any type of production is to do a “radio” edit. Focusing your cuts and the assembly of your timeline on the dialog [AUDIO] places the content of the story as the highest priority.

Once you have this done you will then work on getting visuals to supplement the audio. More on that in the next part of Shooting Video with your DSLR.

SOME MORE TECHNICAL TIPS

I recommend a magnifier for your LCD. You need to be sure your shot is in focus.

Another option is using a video monitor. The advantage of external monitor is not just bigger picture for focusing and exposure control, but with some monitors like this Atomos Ninja Blade 5″ HDMI On-Camera Monitor & Recorder is recording for longer periods of time than the time limits on most DSLR cameras. You are only limited to the size of the hard drive you use.

Atomos Ninja Blade 5″ PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

Key Features
– 325DPI, 5″ IPS 1280 x 720 capacitive touchscreen monitor/recorder.
– Waveform RGB & luma parade, vectorscope with zoom, and test pattern generator.
– Adjustable gamma, contrast and brightness.
– HDMI input and output.
– Real-time monitoring, playback, playout to a PC or Mac with QuickTime, and edit logging.
– Focus peaking, 0-100% zebra, and two modes of false color monitoring.
– Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 in ProRes or DNxHD.
– S-Log / C-Log recording.
– Trigger REC/STOP from camera (Canon, Sony, ARRI, Panasonic, RED, JVC)
– Timecode from camera. [Nikon has no timecode]
– 2.5″ HDD/SSD media storage.

It records up to 1080 30p/60i resolution via HDMI to an available HDD or SSD using either Apple’s ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD codecs. Recording at 10-bit with 4:2:2 color sampling, this unit provides you a monitoring and recording solution in one compact battery powered unit.

ADOBE PREMIERE PRO CC TIPS

Before opening Premiere create these folders inside one folder on your computer or external hard drive.

Open Premier and choose NEW PROJECT 

1. Name your project: PREMIERE_EDIT_rev_01 putting it in the folder you created called “Premiere Edits”. 

2. Scratch Disks tab – Using the 6 Browse… buttons, point each of the six sources to the Project Folders you created using screen shot on next slide


These are suggestions for what to put on each track. This is what Storytellers Abroad uses as our format so as to make it easier when a coach sits with a person working on the story we are all using similar setup. Helps cut down on confusion.

These are the export settings we use as well.

To add text to a project, click on the Type tool as you see in blue here to the left.

Then click on the picture in the Program Window on the video and start typing.

You can drag the type to where you want and if you want to make modifications to the type then go to the top menu bar to Windows>Essential Graphics.

This is how you gain access to change your Font, Size, Color and things like drop shadow and more.

Auto Ducking: How to set sound levels on dialogue, ambient sound & music


Select all the interview Audio only. Then go to the Essential Sound and click on Dialogue. This will tell the software that this is the Dialogue and not ambient sound or music. This will now be the most important sound in the video.

There are now four selections within the Essential Sound for the Audio Interview which the software is now calling Dialogue.

When you click on the word Loudness, Repair, Clarity or Creative it opens up more controls.

Click on Loudness and then click on Auto-Match. It will set all the volume for the interview to the standards.

Listen to the interview now. If you have problems with noise or air conditioner hum or something else then click on “Repair” and try each of the options here one at a time. Go with the default at first and then if that is good for repair just stop. If not use the slider to see if less or more can help. If either works then you can stop again. If not just unclick that option and try the next.

Often you have to play with all of these in some combination to clean up the sound. There are ways to do more than this, but this usually fixes most common issues.

Now pick the music or ambient sound and click on either music or ambient sound. When you do you can then select “Ducking”.

When you click on it be sure you have the Dialogue icon highlighted. This will say to the software this is the most important sound, which is your interview.

Click on Generate Keyframes.

Then play the sequence. How does that sound. Does the music or ambient sound not overpower the interview? Is it OK or too loud or soft?

Play with the Sensitivity, Reduce By & Fades to tweak this to your preference. Then click on Generate Keyframes. Do this over and over until satisfied.

Some great tips I have found through the years.

Keyboard Short Cuts

Keyboard Shortcuts Used: (Cmd for all Ctrl on Mac)

Arrow Keys – Navigate Timeline One Frame at a Time
Shift + Arrow Keys – Navigate Timeline 5 Frames at a Time
Up, Down Arrow – Jump to beginning and end of clip
Ctrl+K – Cut at current playhead
D – Select clip at current playhead
Del – Delete Selected Clip
Shift + Del – Delete Selected Clip, and Bring Forward Clips back
I,O – Set in and Out Points Respectively
; – Delete Selection With In and Out Points
‘ – Delete Selection With In and Out Points, and Bring forward Clips Back
Shift + T – Go in to Edit “Edit Point” Mode
Edit Mode + Ctrl + Arrow Key – Move the edit point backwards or forwards
Ctrl + R – Speed and Duration on Selected Clip
G – Audio Gain on Selected Clip
J,K,L – Shuttle through timeline Backwards, Stop, and Forwards Respectively

Be sure the Sequence has blue line around the box. The go to File>Export>Media

The above picture will show up but with Black Background. Copy these fields:

  • Format: H.264
  • Preset: Vimeo 1080p Full HD

Double Click on Output name. Put in the Export Out folder you created with Your Name.

Click on Export at the bottom.

Storytellers Lukas Benson and Nate McClain: Homecoming

Storytellers Lukas Benson and Nate McClain were a team from Cedarville University. During their spring break they went to Trinidad to learn how to tell a multimedia story of missions.

Nate McClain & Lukas Benson are capturing b-roll of Lennox Boodram as he is counseling two of the guys in his program at Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 4000, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 32]

They did their story on the founder of Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre Lennox Boodram.

Lukas Benson talks with Lennox Broodram & Scott Brock in the kitchen. Lukas is doing a story on Lennox. The one thing Lennox uses to draw addicts into his program is good food that he cooks at Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 5600, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 48]

We learned about how important food is to Lenox. It was the one thing that helped get him the help he needed at a terrible time in his life. He would work as a dish washer in a five-star restaurant in the United States. This is where he learned what he could from the chefs.

Lennox Broodram shows how he always has some food ready to cook up a delicious meal if someone is in need at Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 51200, f/10, 1/200, Focal Length = 28]

Listen to the story that they captured of Lennox.

We have openings in our up coming trip in the Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Missions Workshop. Click on the link to learn more.

Mixing the Pigeon Peas with curried chicken at Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 51200, f/14, 1/80, Focal Length = 90]

If you want to take your group on a workshop like Cedarville University did with Storytellers Abroad write to me and let’s plan a workshop.

Storytellers Lane Yoder and Nathan Hiser: Hopeless Evangelist

Lane Yoder and Nathan Hiser took their first Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Missions Workshop in Trinidad with other Cedarville University students during their Spring Break.

Storytellers Lane Yoder and Nathan Hiser tell Ashmir Mohammad amazing story of transformation. Ashmir grew up in a Muslim family in St. Augustine, Trinidad, where he continues to live with his wife and kids.

Jeff Raymond listens to the story about Ashmir with the Storytellers Nathan Hiser and Lane Yoder during one of their many editing sessions. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 16000, Ä/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 62]

Listen and watch the story of Ashmir Mohammad that Nathan and Lane captured.

Come with us on our next workshop. Check out Storytellers Abroad website to learn more about our workshops.

Storyteller Hannah Dunlap: Simple Service

Hannah Dunlap took her second workshop in Trinidad with Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Missions Workshop. Her first trip was to the Balkans two years ago.

Reeanna – Works and ministers at the drug and family rehab established by Lennox. Is a Christ follower and has a tremendous testimony as to how God brought her minister at the rehab center. Ñ at Turning Point Drug & Family Resource Centre. Reeanna – Teaches student how to make Roti. Roti is a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent made from stoneground wholemeal flour, traditionally known as atta, and water that is combined into a dough. Roti is consumed in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, Maldives, Malaysia and Bangladesh. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 14400, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 35]

Hannah captured Reeanna’s story and it is best to just see her video here.

Jeff Raymond is walking the class through the resources created in a report size notebook for them at Trinidad & Tobago Urban Ministries. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 8000, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 28]

Come and join us on our next workshop. Go to the website to learn more. Http://StorytellersAbroad.com

Storytellers Carrie Bergen and Sara Slater: Creative Servant

Lauralie Brock, missionary to Trinidad, talks with Carrie Bergen and Sara Slater who are a storytelling team while we are at our base camp Trinidad & Tobago Urban Ministries. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, f/4, 1/320, Focal Length = 35]

Carrie Bergan & Sarah Slater worked as a team of storytellers during our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Missions Workshop to Trinidad.

Watch the story they captured about Felisha.

Carrie Bergen works on editing the video about Felisha at our base camp Trinidad & Tobago Urban Ministries. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 40000, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 105]