Roasting Coffee and Multimedia have a lot in common

This is Arabica coffee on the plant just before it is picked.  The pickers go through the plant picking the red berries leaving the green for later. (Nikon D3S, ISO 8000, f/8, 1/400, 28-300mm)

I went to Mexico last year to cover the coffee growers and help them tell their story. The story was to talk about how they were able to turn around the industry in their communities. Prior to Café Justo (the Coffee Cooperative group) being formed the coffee growers were going North to cross the border to look for work so they could feed their families.

Photographers I think are struggling like the coffee growers when they were not roasting their coffee but selling to intermediaries who then sold to the roasters.  They were struggling.

Photographers I think are going through a similar opportunity when it comes to multimedia. I define multimedia as combining still images with audio and/or video.  In the old days we had slide shows where multiple projects were being synced for conferences and workshops. With the web today the world is your audience so you no longer are restricting the audience as we did in the past.

This is the Arabica Coffee in the bushell before it has the outer shell stripped off. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12,800, f/5.6, 1/125, 28-300mm)

The coffee growers of Just Coffee cooperative were exploited by the coyotes before they formed.  They were being paid $35 a sack.  Once they formed they paid themselves $130 a sack and today they pay themselves $160 that is $1.60 per pound.

You see he who roasts the coffee makes the money.  The cooperative bought a roaster and due to this expense they went from only 20% of the total price that went to the farmer to 100%. Watch the video below to understand their story.


Photographers are similar in that who publishes a story is where the money rests.  When photographers are putting together the complete package they can increase their income dramatically just like the coffee farmer.  Multimedia is the roasting process for the journalist.

When I started putting these packages together is when I truly started to feel like a visual journalist.  I no longer was handing over raw material.  When you do the interviews and put the whole package together you really feel like you are telling the story on a whole different level than just producing the elements for a story.

While the learning curve is quite steep the rewards are even greater.  As you start to produce packages it will influence how you shoot and make you a better photographer.

Becoming a producer made me a better photographer

You learn to shoot more.  You realize you need more images to tell a story than you needed for a print piece. You need transition shots, details and sometimes more variety to help move the story visually while the audio is laying the foundation.

You listen more. For the most part it is the audio that drives the story and not the visual. You learn how important a good quote is from a person.

You ask better questions. When you realize you need good audio for the story you start to ask questions and when editing realize what you would change. This changes the next time you interview someone.  You are more present and forming the story much earlier in the process.

You are aware of verticals and horizontals more. When you have a rectangle screen to fill you don’t want to waste that space with nothing, so you learn to shoot even more horizontals. Since most of my material is also going to print, I still need good verticals.  Now if I see a photo that I might have just shot as a vertical, I now make sure I have it as a horizontal.

The coffee growers of Café Justo. (Nikon D3, ISO 500, f/5, 1/1600, 14-24mm)

You are aware of the quality of sound. I have learned to close doors and not interview people in front of a water fountain. I hear little noises that I didn’t hear before. While this helps me get better audio it also impacts how I see. When you cannot get rid of a noise you then need a visual to help the audience resolve the noise. If you hear a chicken in the background then having a photo with the chicken will help the audience not hear this as an annoying noise, but to give context because you helped with a visual.

If you are like the coffee growers looking for work somewhere else because your pay for your work is low, look to become the roaster like they did–learn a new skill. I recommend multimedia, but it could be web design and helping people put together websites.


You are not going to go and buy the software and tomorrow start charging clients for this work.  I believe it takes about a year or two to master the software the sound gathering and most importantly developing the visual storytelling ability at a different level–the final product.

Website Tips for Photographers

It is important to me to have the navigation always visible so people can quickly find what they need.

If a potential customer were to find your website would they hire you?

A photographer’s website is to showcase their work and help them book jobs. I have been designing my website for 17 years and I have learned a few things through those years.

Here are some tips I have for a photographer’s website.

Contact Information

LinkedIn: Stanley Leary
Skype:  StanleyLeary
Twitter: Stanley Leary
Facebook: Stanley Leary

How does someone reach you? This should be all through the website and not something hidden. Remember at any point when the customer is ready to hire you after reviewing your work they need to be able to find out how to do so with ease. Sometimes people already are wanting to hire you and go to your website to find your contact information, don’t make them jump through hoops to find it.

I think there are two ways a customer wants to contact you, email and by phone. Remember you need this to be easy and not cumbersome. If you fear getting spam email and do a lot to protect yourself, but in the process make it burdensome for the potential customer—you may not have a customer.
Examples of your photography

I think people are searching for very specific needs to fill. If they need a headshot they want to see some headshots. If they need an event photographer, they want to see examples of events you have covered.

I recommend dividing your work into categories that make it easy for someone to find example of what they are looking to hire a photographer to do for them.
Tear Sheets

Having a few examples of your work being published by clients helps the potential customer know they are not the first to take a risk on you.  This helps build some credibility.

Client Comments

Having a few of your past clients writing about your work also helps. There are a few things that can help make these better.  When a customer talks about how you solved a problem they are helping potential clients understand something beyond your portfolio. They understand something about how you work and your customer service.

Having comments that talk about how nice your are and easy to work with are nice, but not as compelling as description of how you made their day.

The inverted pyramid is a metaphor used by journalists and other writers to illustrate the placing of the most important information first within a text. The format is valued because readers can leave the story at any point and understand it.

Inverted Pyramid

Put your strongest photos first. When they go to the next photo let is show another skill. Look at these two examples for portraits.  See how I would lead with the little boy and then follow with the lady.

I would most likely lead with this photo on portraits.
I might follow the photo with this one because now this shows I can use strobes and mix it with daylight. Art directors would like to see the variety of skills.
This photo shows my ability to create a concept out of nothing and make it happen in the studio.
This photo helps to show how I can use light to photograph a very dark subject (the hand gun) and grab your attention.
This photo shows I know how to photograph lasers in a research lab.  This is a skill few photographers have.
To get this photo I had to get access. This shows I can be trusted in very intimate moments. The family gave me their permission.

Remember your portfolio shows more than just that you can make pleasing photos.  As you can see each of the above photos tells more about me than I can get a cool photo.

Client List

If you have been working with a variety of clients this is good to showcase.  It helps to separate you from the photographer just starting out and not having much experience.  It also helps clients call their friends at those companies and see what experience they had with you and would they hire you again.  Don’t list a company if they are not in good standing with you.


You need to introduce yourself to your audience. This is where you help set yourself apart from other photographers in ways that your pictures cannot. This is where you may give some of the reasons why you pursue certain subjects. This is where you may want to tell everyone you have degrees in the topics that you cover regularly. This helps them understand how you are a expert on maybe what they want to hire you to photograph.

Some clients will hire you because of things you have in common in your bio. All clients that visit this page are wanting to know as much as they can about you to help them feel more comfortable about the decision to hire you.  This will give them talking points when they justify to their superiors why they are hiring you.

Wait there’s more

I like using that phrase. When we moved to our new house our daughter enjoyed taking some of our close friends through the house.  The house is larger than our previous home, so she was excited to say after a few rooms, but wait there’s more.

There is more things to do but I will stop here for now and blog about other tips later.