Create Checklists and Digital Workflow

The top photo is one of the laminated lists I was using in 2002.

When I mentioned in a recent post creating a Digital Workflow that you laminate, one person asked for that list.

To be honest I have been doing this so long I no longer need the list, but did come across one of my laminated lists in my van to help me be sure I had everything before I left the house for a photo shoot.

This list had 4 sides of two laminated cards held together with a clip.

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”

John Ruskin

I was shooting a lot of college basketball games at the time and had to arrive early to put up remotes and turn on my strobes.

I also was doing a good number of headshots and couple shots for a missionary agency.

Each assignment I did was often so different that I would bring some gear I wouldn’t use for another assignment.

Today I still take the time to pack before I leave for a trip or photo shoot the day before.

Here are some of the things I am doing that impacts my Digital Workflow.

Day Before Photo Shoot Preparation
  • Charge all camera batteries and other batteries
  • Format all XQD Memory Cards for Cameras in Camera
  • Inspect all camera sensors with Sensor Loupe
  • Clean if necessary sensor with Cleaning Kit
  • Make list of gear needed for photo shoot
    • Do I need a studio?
    • Do I need tripod?
    • I am doing video?
    • Do I need microphones?
    • Do I need constant light source for video?
  • Pack the necessary gear into cases
    • If flying then I will weigh all the cases
    • Often this is rearranging items to stay within weight limit
    • If over weight I will arrive extra early to the airport to get the Media Baggage Rate This applies to only working media and not hobbyist
Day of Shoot
  • Check cameras one last time for battery power
  • Pack Van and leave
  • Meet contact and brief on expectations and any last minute changes
  • Scout location – Often with client
  • Take gear out and assemble what is necessary
  • Go to each location and do a custom white balance
  • Pick all settings for shoot
  • When changing locations pick the custom white balance [on Nikon I can store 6 different WB settings and just pick the one needed or do a new custom white balance]
  • Go to spots I identified during scouting that would be ideal locations to shoot from just before the best time to be in those locations.
  • Often if there is a long shot list I will pull this out and be sure I am on track and help remind me the next shot or place to be for the photo shoot
  • Shoot the event
  • Touch base with client before leaving
Post Processing
  1. Ingest to PhotoMechanic
  2. IPTC information is filled out and part of the ingesting process
  3. Select the keepers
  4. Delete all untagged images
  5. Import into Lightroom, because I am shooting RAW
  6. Using metadata I select all the photos with the same lens
  7. Select all with the same lens
  8. Go to Develop Module “D” shortcut
  9. On far right go to lens correction
  10. Go back to Library and pick another lens and do the same until all photos have been lens corrected
  11. Click on profile and enable profile for Adobe Color or select another more appropriate profile by using browsing in the menu
  12. Tip to select multiple images shot in the same scene and do correction to all at once
  13. Go to settings and then tell it to Match Exposure on all those selected
  14. ⌘D unselect
  15. Go one by one and check those correct. Repeat this step for different scenes
  16. Correct for blown out highlights
  17. Pull in blacks if necessary
  18. I am often using the Dehaze and Texture sliders
  19. For sharpening I use this technique
  20. Export all images to sRGB JPEGs Quality 80
  21. Open PhotoMechanic
  22. Upload to my PhotoShelter account for the client

I love the updated Adobe Lightroom. I am using three of the controls that if used properly can really help out some photos that in the past without these controls would have been so-so photos.

I love the Texture, Clarity and Dehaze sliders. I cannot recommend them enough.

For sharpening I hold the Option key on the Mac while sliding the Masking control. The masking is around 70 for my older cameras that were 12 megapixels or less. 80 for my Nikon D5 and closer to 90 for the higher resolution cameras. Once I can see that just the edges are white then I slide the amount of sharpening to 150.

When your quality isn’t up to standards it is often because you skipped a step in your Digital Workflow.

“The biggest cost of poor quality is when your customer buys it from someone else because they didn’t like yours.”

W. Edwards Deming

Become the best version of yourself

Pam Goldsmith is an emeritus winner of the ‘Most Valuable Player’ award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Her viola playing has been heard on countless records, films and television shows. 
[NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/125, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 28)]

“If you just focus on getting better, and not being the best, you have such a good time.”

James Acaster

The other day I was reminded I am working with many people at the top of the field and when I work with those starting out I have to be patient. This post is about how to become a better you by reflecting on how I got to where I am today.

I have been so blessed to have gotten to know some of the world’s best in a few fields. One of those is my sister-in-law Pam Goldsmith. I have written about her before.

She plays in the studio musicians group that plays for many of the movies, TV, records and other places you would be surprised about. She sits in the first chair most of the time. When the studio musicians show up to play the music for a movie that has never been played, they don’t practice it–they play it for the first time and 95% of the time that was the last time they played it for the final recorded version you see in the movie. The 5% of the time they do it again, it wasn’t due to their execution, but the composer realizing during the recording that they made a mistake and after a rewrite they record it again.

At the Suzuki Institute children are nurtured through daily master classes, during which each student receives some focused attention from an expert teacher, group lessons, ensemble experiences, performances and related musical enrichments. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 8000, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 105)]

It takes a long time to get to that point of expertise from just learning to play the instrument.

Don Rutledge (photo by Ken Touchton)

In 1984 during my Spring Break I was hired by Robert Reed at the Hickory Daily Record and would start working just after I graduated that May. While driving from Delaware to Hickory, North Carolina I stopped by the International Mission Board to meet Don Rutledge.

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, had worked with Don for more than nine years when they were on staff for the North American Mission Board in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the 1950s Don was shooting stories for all the top magazines. He would go on to work with and basically help lift the quality of photography done by the mission magazines to compete with LIFE, Look, and National Geographic Magazine.

Pam Goldsmith grew up in California near all the great musicians and due to being surrounded by the great viola players became one. In some ways I too was growing up in the environment of great photographers and storytellers.

I remember my uncle Knolan Benfield talking to me about how you get to the top. You go and talk to the people at the top. He let me know of many of the experiences where he noticed famous photographers at conferences standing by themselves because people were afraid of them. He just walked up and talked to them and got to know them.

Today I know that there are very few at the very top of the profession that can help others. These are the ones that can teach and not just do. Don Rutledge happened to be one of those few.

While Don taught me a lot about composition, body language and learning to see light, Knolan taught me how create using lights.

Researchers are testing a new jet nozzel using a laser to measure the efficiency at the Georgia Tech Jet Propulsion Lab.

In 1993 I started to work at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech named one of the most prestigious schools in the world. My role there was storytelling on research, education, athletics and alumni for distribution through campus publications and outside media. I worked there until 2002 and during this time I perfected lighting.

Greg Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications, Chick-fil-A [NIKON D5, 85.0 mm f/1.8, ISO 100, Ä/1.8, 1/30]

In 2008 Greg Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications for Chick-fil-A, asked me to come and help him build his team. Chick-fil-A is the third largest American fast food restaurant chain and the largest whose specialty is chicken sandwiches.

Greg was building an incredible team. He recruited Ken Willis who had run the largest PR agencies in Atlanta. He had just sold one of them and then started a new agency KWI.

Greg was scooping up talent from Coke, Porter Novelli and recruiting some of the best students to start their career with Chick-fil-A.

Again I was being surrounded by some of the best in the profession of storytelling.

Mark Johnson and Andrea Briscoe in Mark’s office enjoying some time together. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/5, 1/10]

In 2018 Mark Johnson, Senior Lecturer, Journalism at Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication for the University of Georgia, asked me to come and teach for the year Intro to Photojournalism to four different classes while they looked for a full-time professor with a Phd.

What I learned quickly was I had worked my entire career with people at the top of their game. Everyone I worked with was always doing whatever it took to tell the story in the most effective way possible.

Many of these students were not desiring to being visual storytellers. Many were taking journalism as undergrad degree before going on to another profession like law.

Dennis Fahringer has been leading photography schools 30+ years as the leader of School of Photography at University of the Nations in Kailua-Kona, HI, [NIKON D5, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, Ä/14, 1/250]

In 2006 I got a call from Dennis Fahringer asking me to come to Kona, Hawaii to teach his students lighting. He originally asked Joanna Pinneo, photographer for National Geographic Magazine, who told him to contact me. Joanna and I both worked with Don Rutledge.

Dennis’ students in YWAM had a passion for God. Most taking the class were exploring if photography was one of the ways they could serve the church or learn how to work their faith into running a photography business.

Using Studio Strobe for a “Walk and Talk”

Again I was asked to dial back from shooting at the highest level in my profession to talking to newbies about literally “Step One” in photography.

Michael Schwarz speaking to group of photographers

I am often hiring photographers to help me with projects at Chick-fil-A. Two that I love to hire over and over are Michael Schwarz and Robin Rayne.

Robin Rayne

I have hired so many through the years, but only a few are consistent in meeting the demands of the customer. When I hire either one of them to do work, I know that I am sending to the customer storytellers that are not just as good as me, but better than me. This is how I see them.

Be the best version of yourself!
  • Show Up! – It is amazing how many people just don’t show up
  • Start With Baby Steps – you can’t skip the line. You have to start at the beginning
  • Stop Looking For Shortcut – “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity” While it may look like a shortcut it is often years of working hard and then you get a lucky break. If you are not prepared then you may have just lost your one chance.
  • Accept Help From Others – Most of those at the top didn’t get their alone. Don’t be prideful, take the help.
  • Celebrate Small Accomplishments – Realize that learning at the level you are at in the moment is just as important as the finish line. Break down the “Big Goals” into bite size pieces.
  • Help Others – Pay it forward. Don’t be about taking. Be known for giving.
“Become the BEST VERSION of Yourself!” | Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) | Top 10 Rules

How I Covered A Gala at The Atlanta Marriott Marquis

Harpist plays for the VIP Reception at Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala”
[NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/200, ƒ/3.2, (35mm = 14)]

On October 12th I was covering the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” that was held at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

This is how you take a group selfie inside the atrium of the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/200, ƒ/3.2, (35mm = 14)]

If you ever have to cover an event like this I recommend a few things.

Two or More Cameras

Anytime you shoot professionally you need a backup camera. This is in case one stops working for any reason at all. I tend to put the Nikon 28-300mm on one camera and the Nikon 14-24mm on the other camera.

I can get every thing I need with this range of glass.

Andrea Young accepting her award at Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 16000, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

For this event I had a third camera on a tripod with the Sigma 120-300mm & 2X converter so that I can shoot more straight into people’s faces from across the room rather than everything shooting up at them when I am closer.

Dr. Farah Khan introduces the award winner Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 14400, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

I had to be down front sometimes and had to shoot up at the speakers on the podium as you see here.

Ann Cramer, Faraz Iqbal, Hiba Ghalib & Dr. Houda Abadi at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/200, ƒ/4.8, (35mm = 62)]

After a speaker was introducing an award winner I snapped a photo of them together with some of the board members.

Award winner Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur acceptance speech at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/200, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 100)]

As I mentioned in my last blog post I went on stage before the event started and did a custom white balance with my Nikon Cameras. On the Nikon Z6 & Nikon D5 you can store up to 6 different presets. This way you can do a custom white balance for the stage and then go to another room with different setting and set it on a different Preset.

Soumaya Khalifa, Executive Director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau with this years Award Winners Jill Savitt, Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Andrea Young, Dr. Houda Abadi & Duriya Farooqui at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/200, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 36)]
Have a Flash

Now with the stage having two sets of lights at 45º to the stage it was really even lighting. However, walking around in the Atrium of the Marriott Marquis the light was needing help with flash.

Duriya Farooqui in the center at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 7200, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 32)]

Laura Espeut, the second shooter, got this photo of me with the Nikon Z6 with a 28-300mm as well as the Godox V860ii on the camera and the MagMod Magshpere on the hotshoe.

Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala [Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM, Mode = Manual, ISO 3200, 1/80, ƒ/4, (35mm = 40)]
Save your Back

To carry two cameras I use the HoldFast Gear Money Maker Two-Camera Harness with Silver Hardware (English Bridle, Chestnut)

HoldFast Gear Money Maker Two-Camera Harness with Silver Hardware (English Bridle, Chestnut, Medium)
Former Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta introduces Jill Savitt at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]
Quality Photography Demands A Digital Workflow

The bottom line is you need a workflow. You prepare days ahead from talking with the client to manage expectations to getting a shot list. You then must prepare before the event by charging batteries and checking the sensor of each camera for dust.

I recommend you creating a workflow list of things you need to do for every photo shoot. Be sure that the order you do things is in the correct order. Print it out and even laminate that list and keep it with you in your camera bag.

Jill Savitt at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta during the Islamic Speakers Bureau’s “Celebrating Women of Influence ISB Gala” [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 180)]

In my last blog post I showed you some of the white balance when done without a custom white balance and then doing one.

What I hope you are hearing from me today is that if the quality isn’t up to the standards you want to represent what you can do for clients, the answer is most likely in your workflow. It is something you skipped or modified from what is the ideal way to shoot the assignment.

Why You Should Use Custom White Balance

While I try to be consistent and do a custom white balance all the time, I confess I sometimes get sloppy and choose to try and fix it in Lightroom.

Here is a photo I shot with my Nikon Z6 shooting with Auto White Balance.

Temp: 3,350 Tent: +26 [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

When the camera is seeing this scene it is factoring in the projection screen behind the speaker which was a different color temperature than the speaker.

I realized all the photos on the stage were off, so I selected all of them and did a color balance based on my calibrated monitor. Here is the result.

Temp: 3,250 Tent: +4 [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

I had used the eye dropper on a microphone. Well it is close but not perfect.

Then the next day I got there early and asked the lighting guy to turn the lights on so I could go on the stage and get a custom white balance using the ExpoDisc. Here is another blog post on using the ExpoDisc.

Temp: 3,650 Tint: +11 [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 11400, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 150)]

This is shot with the custom white balance. Big difference in nailing the skin tone.

Moral of the Story: Get A Custom White Balance

I recommend using the ExpoDisc. You can use it to help you 1) White Balance, 2) Set Exposure & 3) Dust Mapping. Here are the instructions for doing all this if you didn’t already know how.

Take the Time to Caption Your Photos

[Cristina Baccay Holdsworth, Eleanor Baccay Reece, & Blair D. Sullivan]

Back when I was on staff at Georgia Tech [1993 – 2001] Facebook had not been created and the iPhone didn’t exist. I was still shooting film.

While was founded in 1995 students were still doing silly things at Georgia Tech to get dates in 2001.

Clockwise: Qing Xu (dark grey shirt and back to camera), Roger Buggrabe, David Lee, Dan Ketuaryure & Gordon Jones [Mamiya RZ67 & Provia 100]

I was shooting with ISO 100 most of the time. This meant I was lighting almost everything inside.

L/R Benjamin Hobson, Jaclyn Schlieper and Blair Dowling

The cool thing is we did have PhotoShop. It was released February 19, 1990. This let me scan all the images we were making and put Metadata with each photo. So most of the photos we would put some caption information on each photo.

“Bucky” Johnson retires as director of bands at Georgia Tech the fall of 2001. Behind “Bucky” is Dr. Wayne Clough and Dean Galloway.

So often when we go back to photos the biggest problem is having some context around the photo.

2001 ground breaking for Georgia Tech’s Technology Square

This week I stumbled over a folder of images that I created when I left Georgia Tech to start freelancing in April 2002.

Chelle Leary points to computer as mother Dorie Griggs looks on.

Seeing the family photos during this time of starting my new season as a full-time freelancer has put into perspective how long I have now been freelancing full-time.

Scott Godwin is being measured by Radar for his gate. Operating the radar is Jonathan Geisheimer.

Today it is easier than ever to just take a moment when you are in Lightroom, PhotoShop or Bridge to add just a few words about the photo that will help give context.

This is the info box in PhotoMechanic, which I use primarily for captioning and key-wording all my photos today.
PhotoShop Info box
Adobe Bridge info box
David & Bonita Leary wedding August 20, 1958. The reception was held at the Kistler house. This was the house my grandparents lived in during his early years as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Morganton, NC.

Without some captions generations in the future will not know any of the significance or who people are in the photos that you have been taking.

Don’t Rely on Social Media to Store Your Photos

My Samsung Galaxy S10 takes the wide shots at 3456 x 4608 pixels. When I upload this to Facebook it will cut that size to 1500 x 2000 pixels. This is basically cutting the quality in half.

For social media that is fine, but if later you want a large wall print now you are limited greatly to the size you can print.

There are many online services that you can use with your phone to store all your images at high resolution. Google Photos, Amazon Photos and many others can do a great job of storing images for you.

Adding Text with Google Photos

The process of adding a custom description to a single photo is the same whether you’re on the Google Photos app or website:

  1. Tap or click in to view a single photo, then select the information button (a small “i” icon) to view more details on the photo.
  2. You’ll see things like the capture date, file name, camera model and location — select “Add a description” to add more to it.
  3. There doesn’t seem to be a character limit (or if there is one it’s quite large), so go ahead and add in any extra information you think is relevant to the photo. Maybe a little back story, what’s going on in the picture or perhaps some other bit of information that can’t be picked up from the plain EXIF data of the photo.

The extra details should help if you’re searching for pictures in the future on Google Photos, but at least right now you’ll have those details synced up to that photo for your own benefit when you view it manually. Go forth and add all of the extra info your pictures deserve!

Looking Back 17 Years Ago

I came across a folder of images from when I was on staff at Georgia Tech. Just take a look at some of these memories. Can you find images on your computer from years ago?

In the past 20 years the technology has really improved. Here is a scan I did 18 years ago:

Original [Gregory Abowd at the AWARE Home]

Then today using the latest Adobe PhotoShop software I was able to get this with just minor editing:

Gregory Abowd at the AWARE Home

The Camera Raw Filter has some cool features.

The best feature for scans is the Dehaze slider.

When you slide it to the right you get less haze, which comes from a backlight used to scan the film transparency.

The other feature is all the tools at the top of the Camera Raw. I use the Detail tool [two triangles] where I adjust for noise and sharpening.

By the way the Develop Module of Lightroom is the same as the Camera RAW filter of PhotoShop.

Hope this tip helps you if you have old transparency photos that you scanned and look washed out.

Here some photos I fixed just today

In 1996 I photographed Dr. Sam Shelton the guy who designed the Olympic Torch.

Then in 2002 Dr. Sam Shelton designed the Winter Olympic Torch. These are some of the photos from then that were used to promote Georgia Tech’s involvement in the Olympics.

The Salt Lake City Olympic Games Torch 2002

While the cameras are better today, with enough light the past cameras did a great job as well.

The Olympic Torch for the Salt Laek Olympic Games in 2002.
Sam Shelton with the Olympic Cauldron SUV.
Olympic Cauldron

I have been going through old photos from 17 years ago during my last staff job before going full-time freelance in 2002.


I was working at Georgia Tech as their only staff photographer, which I did since 1993. I did lots of photos of Buzz the mascot during those years.

Tech Square was just being built.

Christyn Magill

I was always in the research labs capturing the latest technology.

Mark Hay pulls a fishing net through the coast of Savannah to catch crabs for research. He is being assisted by Erica A. Kinard.

Sometimes those researchers were working the coast of Georgia.

GT #35 Joe Burns takes on Citadel #4 Rob Nichols and knocks off his helmet.

Georgia Tech beat The Citadel back then. This year they lost to them.

GT #98 Merrix Watson tackles UNC # 33 Maurice Murphy.
Student Maria J. Kommeth sets lens for the laser as professor Jeannette Yen looks on. This is research about microorganisms in the Biology Department.
Michelle E. Grant

I was often capturing lasers and the researchers working on projects.

Atlanta Beat Soccer

Be sure you store your images on hard drives. I recommend using SSD and have your images in 3 places. 

Travel Photography

A Jamaican dancer dances the limbo under a stick of fire which is held in place by coke bottles. 

Today’s digital camera makes travel photography easier than ever.

NEXTO DI NPS-10 Nexto Photo Storage – You add a SSD hard drive of your choice and size. Many photographers use the Samsung 2TB 860 EVO SATA III 2.5″ Internal SSD.

You’ll need several memory cards if you plan to take a lot of pictures or you can carry a small Memory Card Back-up Device to store and view your digital images. These are available in various hard drive capacities and are equipped with screens for viewing your images. If you have your laptop computer you can store your images on it and free up your digital cards for more photographs. 

The Island Breeze Lu’au at the Kona Beach Hotel located in Kona, Hawaii takes place just at dusk and makes for dramatic lighting. 

A single zoom lens such as an 18mm – 200 mm may be all you need to carry. Traveling light not only makes your trip easier and more enjoyable it has some hidden advantages. I love shooting with my Nikon 28-300mm.

Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus

One, it is easier to make natural photos when people don’t perceive you as a professional photographer. They relax and are more themselves. Whipping out a huge lens or lugging a large camera bag around can intimidate your subjects. Another advantage to traveling light – you want attract as many thieves. 

Buy a good guidebook about the places you plan to visit. National Geographic publishes great travel guides that not only help you plan your trip, but your photography as well. We used their book for our trip to Hawaii. 

Guidebooks tell you about the great places and many tell the best time of day to photograph specific locations. Guidebooks are a must have. They’ll keep you from being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong light for great photos. 

Check out the postcards. They can save you time finding the best angle. Looking at the postcards and perhaps asking the locals where they were made puts you on the trail to the most dramatic locations for great photos. Once you find that general area look around, you can probably improve on the post card picture. 

At the Holei Pali Lookout, just before the 15 mile marker, there is a great view of the mountain lava flows, where you get a feel for the volume of a’a and pahoehoe that drooled down the mountain.

When you find the perfect spot make the best photograph you can, then do the obligatory “in-front-of” shot. You know, the one that shows that you and yours were there, but be careful. There are a couple of things to watch out for. Place the family so that where you are is (1) the only place that photo could have been made. Place the people to one side, perhaps up close, so that (2) the folks are recognizable and be sure the “scenic attraction” is also recognizable in the photo. If you cover it up then you could just have stayed home and made the photo in the backyard. 

Compose the background first
And then put the people in the photo. South Point, Hawaii is the southern most tip of the United States. 

Over shooting insures great photos. Give yourself room to edit when you’re back home. If you seldom write you probably wouldn’t use the first sentence you thought of to start a paper. In writing we usually put down as many thoughts as we can and then edit. From all the thoughts and ideas jotted down we find the ones that work best. 

A young boy makes me some coffee using Nescafe Instant coffee at a roadside cafe in Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso where they serve food, petrol and drinks. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50, Focal Length = 27]

Do the same in photography. Take lots and lots of photos. It gets the creative juices flowing, besides, it’s fun. Try different angles: close-up, wide angle, zooming in. Shoot at low angles, climb up high and look for new ways of seeing the subject. Back up and take the long, establishing shot. Turn around and see what’s behind you, it could be just as exciting as what is in front. 

Use your camera to journal your trip. Photograph the food you eat, where you stay and the people you meet. Some of these “notes” may end up as a large print on your wall. 

Different angle which highlights the cultural differences of these kids in a class in West Africa.  [NIKON D2X, AF Zoom 18-50mm f/2.8G, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/50, Focal Length = 75]

With digital you can shoot the equivalent of a thousand rolls of film and fit it all into a memory card. Talk about traveling light… and cheap -no film cost. 

I’ve never heard anyone say they took too many photos on their trip. I have heard the sad stories of many people who left the camera in the room and missed the golden opportunities. 


A person’s expression can make the photograph or break it.

Everyone recognizes and is affected by people’s expressions of being happy, sleepy, cheerful, silly… you get the idea.

[NIKON Z 6, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/250, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

Understanding how our feelings our translated into expressions help you understand and capture these moments. 

You need to learn to look at people’s expressions and immediately be able to know how this makes you feel.  Your reactions to other’s expressions help you understand the power of what they are communicating to the world through their expressions.  One of the benefits of this exercise is realizing each of us is communicating how we feel to the world through our own expressions.

Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop Kosovo Leadership Academy (KLA) [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/100, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

Once you have taken the time to realize what an expression communicates you then can ask what causes this expression.  The answer to this question will help one to anticipate.  What caused them to smile?  This cause and effect helps you to know when you recognize those events which get reactions—you need only point the camera in the right direction of the reaction and zoom in for a successful photograph.

Chelle celebrated her 11th birthday on Sunday November 1st with Julia, Katarina & her sister, Simone, Finona, and Erin Snedeker [NIKON D3, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/20, ƒ/4, (35mm = 14)]

When people open their birthday presents it is often those who bought the gifts will know if this was on the person’s wish list.  Watching my daughter open her presents at her birthday and Christmas was easy to anticipate the expressions of joy.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, known to millions worldwide through his work for LIFE Magazine, made a famous photograph of children’s reactions to a puppet show.  Today professional photographers are pointing their cameras as much to the reactions as the actions for story telling expressions.

Monday in Trinidad [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/250, ƒ/4, (35mm = 48)]

Where are some of the best places to start with making great expression driven photos?  I think special events where there are some obvious timeline scheduled events are the best places to start.  Opening the presents we have already mentioned.  Another would be an audience reaction to a speaker. 

RPC Children’s Choirs present “Table for Five. . . Thousand! The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes” A musical by Tom S. Long and Allen Pote Mother’s Day [NIKON D3S, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/500, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 120)]

Some of the funniest expressions are when people forget they are the center of attention—like a children performances.  Parents can capture great photos of their children during performances.  But to capture the expressions you have to be close.

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 51200, 1/80, ƒ/16, (35mm = 105)]

A good rule of thumb for being sure an expression is seen is to remember can you tell time by the size of the person’s face.  There is a very practical reason we do not have wrist watches hanging on walls to tell time with and just a good of a reason we don’t wear wall clocks on our wrists.  When you look at a wrist watch on your hand it is very close to your face.  It is almost the same size as the clock face on the wall across the room when you hold your hand up with the clock on the wall in the background.

Military Appreciation Event [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/250, ƒ/5, (35mm = 40)]

So, if you want people to see the expressions get close.  Great expressions only work if they have the “WOW” factor and this is achieved by the expression being large enough for people to see it.

Are you a Hawker or Fixer?

Hawker – a person who travels around selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting.

Fixer – A fixer is a person who carries out assignments for someone else or who is good at solving problems for others. The term has different meanings in different contexts. In British usage the term is neutral, meaning “the sort of person who solves problems and gets things done.” 

Stanley Leary Portrait

I have always been a fixer. I am a fixer. I like problems, and I like puzzles, and I like to help people, so I have been a fixer, and I have always been an educator.

Tabatha Coffey

I feel like Tabatha says what I believe about myself so well. Just the other day a college student came and stayed with us. He had an event to go to the next day in our town.

While we were sitting around he pulled out his Macbook Pro and then pulled out a separate keyboard and mouse. I asked why he was using the keyboard.

His track pad and keyboard were no longer working. He was a poor student and before he left our house I had the track pad and mouse working again. It was my mission to solve his problem.

Become a fixer, not just a fixture.

Anthony J. D’Angelo

Sometimes you need to be a Hawker, because you cannot find anything to fix for others. Hawking is then a matter of telling people the skills you have to fix things that they have forgotten to mention to you.

Cesare Bambaro (male Lay Leader) is the lay leader of 1st Baptist Garango. Jay Shafto helps with the translation from Bissa language into English. (Photo by: Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2X, AF Zoom 70-200mm f/2.8D, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/250, Focal Length = 270]

The problem is if you just see yourself as a Hawker you cannot become the Fixer. You are too busy Hawking.

Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.

Ross Perot

I would change that quote to “Spend a lot of time asking questions and listening to customers face to face.”

Your questions should not be “do you have photography needs,” but rather what keeps you up at night? What are the largest problems your customers are struggling with today? How is that different than a few years ago?

Get to know their business, not just looking for how they can use your business. Sometimes the best way to build a client is to refer them to someone else for something you don’t do, but someone you know does really well. They will remember you.

While there are times you may need to be a Hawker, spend most of your time trying to be a Fixer.

Want to be a full-time Pro?

I have written several posts in the past talking about business practices to make it.

Today I want to address what I have noticed is the difference between those who are successful and those who fail.

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (4) breaks up an interception attempt by Duke cornerback Josh Blackwell (31) in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday August 31, 2019. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 380)]
What kind of a Dreamer are you?

There are typically two types of photographers. There are those who dream about having the experience of enjoying the perks of being a photographer.

Former President Jimmy Carter speaks to the moderator Karin Ryan, senior policy advisor on human righs and special representative on women and girls at the Carter center during the Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights Conversations at The Carter Center on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]

I know many people are fascinated by who I have met by being a photographer.

Tonight’s Sunset looking towards the Andes Mountains from Santiago, Chile. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 450, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 75)]

Many people want the experience of seeing the world. Whatever it is they dream about it is more about the experience of being a photographer that occupies their dreams.

The other type of photographer dreams as well. They are thinking about their clients and prospects. They are thinking of how their photography can help them.

Cosmic Bowling for 2014 Awards Book [NIKON D750, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2200, 1/80, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

I often find myself thinking through assignments and what I will need to help take the end product up a notch. I am thinking about questions I need to ask to better understand the expectations of clients and prospects.

If you just dream about how fun it would to have a career then don’t pursue this as a career, keep it as a hobby.

However, if you are thinking of how to problem solve for people to use your skills to improve their lives–you just might make it.