Christmas Holiday Moments

Fly On The Wall

Ever heard someone say that they would like to be a fly on the wall during that conversation? This means you would like to overhear the conversation as if you were not there. You want the situation to be accurate and not know you are there.

Being the Fly-on-the-wall also refers to the documentary style of photography where you work as unobtrusively as possible to capture those candid moments.

In the first photo, I captured the newest addition to our family. His older cousin and great-aunt are entertaining him and loving his reactions.

Body Language

I love this photo of the nieces and nephews getting measured to see who is taller while their aunt looks on. What makes this photo fun is that this isn’t all that is happening; you have the youngest boy being held by his mother and looking at me.

The body language tells the story that most likely happens during the holidays at many homes where the children are measured to see how much they have grown since last year.

Leaving some things out

You don’t need to see everything in a photo to work. Here the proud mother holding her child comes through clearly. Do you need to see all of the kids for it to work? I don’t think so. You may want more in the photo, and if you took it, you would include more. The strength of sometimes leaving something out makes you want to know what is going on. By leaving something out, you help pique the curiosity of the audience. Keep everything in, and often you lose that curiosity.


So often, the small things around the holidays help tell our family story. For example, how often does your family talk about something grandmother cooks during the holidays? Do you have photos of this to pass along to your family?

My sister makes these rainbow cookies every year, so I thought I would document this for our family history. I keep talking about gathering our family recipes and creating a book. Now imagine this photo with a photo of the recipe card in the original family member’s handwriting that started the tradition. Maybe you have a picture of them as well on the page of the family book.

The Patriarch Speaks

Every year my dad likes to remind us how important family is to us. This year he read The Dash Poem by Linda Ellis. Here is a link to that poem if you want to make it part of your family tradition.

Crawling on the floor

Please don’t walk around the room and take all your photos from the standing position. Instead, get down to the little ones’ level as I did here. What happens when you are at eye level with the family’s baby? Well, the last time most of us saw things from this perspective was when we were just children.

When you get down on the ground, you help the audience feel like they did when they were children.

Have some fun

Here my daughter on the right with her friend is making music with Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A. He had these shakers with egg-shaped cow spots. During my daughter’s Christmas break, she had fun with her friends and Dan Cathy.

Where did you go?

We drove just a few miles from the grandparent’s house to where they filmed some of the Hunger Games.

You may recognize this photo as the baker’s shop.

Maybe you remember Katniss running here in this scene.

Holidays are about memories; here, my daughter is excited to be in front of the waterfalls where Katniss ran across.

How did you do with capturing your family this Christmas?

Workshops can be better than new equipment

If you are still looking for a present for the photographer friend then consider a gift certificate to a workshop. If they don’t have one then give a VISA or AMEX gift card with a print out of the website to tell them you are giving them the funds to go to the workshop.

Difference between Photography Workshops/Seminars and College Programs

First of all for the most part all your Photography Workshops and Seminars are put on by working pros. Most of the college programs have people teaching who have academic credentials.

Some college programs do have working pros teaching, but this is the major advantage of a workshop and seminar. You get to talk to the pros shooting for National Geographic Magazine or Sports Illustrated.

They will teach you tips that will help you use what equipment you already have better and the recommendation for new gear will help you navigate that next purchase.

I continue to go to workshops and help put them on as well. I just attended earlier this month the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.  That was a great refresher for me and a chance to talk to other pros doing what I am doing.

Advice to Students

If you are in a college program you need to go to a workshop/seminar to help you meet people in the industry. You may find a great place for an internship.

I have learned more in a week workshop doing nothing but photography than I did in college classes. One of the best reasons for this is that is all you are doing when you are there.

You don’t stop after an hour and then go take an English class and then later to a history class. You are not working on other papers and projects at night that are not related to photography.

One of my favorite programs is the Youth With A Mission’s School of Photography. This is a 12 week photography program where guest speakers are brought in to get the students hands on training.

Many of the students have gone on to create their own businesses in photography and many have incorporated photography into other careers.

Tips to make the most of a workshop/seminar

  • Always have business cards. Gives you opportunity to share with not just the speakers, but those in class with you.
  • Always have a portfolio with you. With iPads, Laptops and photo books you should never not have your most recent portfolio to show for feedback and to help you grow.
  • Eat with the instructors if you can. Ask them if they have meal plans and take them to lunch.  This will be your best investment ever. Ask questions and listen. Don’t take them to lunch to tell them all about you. 
  • Take notes.
    • Write down notes from speakers
    • Audio record them if they will let you.  Always ask first.
    • Take notes with your camera. (again ask)
  • Get to know as many of those in your class as you can. Sometimes the people sitting next to you are just as valuable of a resource as the teachers.

Cost saving tips

  • Register earlier to take advantage of discounts
  • Find the social media pages for the workshops. This is a great way to share rides or even rooms. I find many college students will fit a few people into a hotel room and save.
  • Find out if Nikon or Canon and sometimes a camera store will provide free cleaning for your cameras. They may limit how many items, but if they will clean two cameras that can save you $30 to $50 for each camera.
  • Try and eat at the meeting space rather than driving all around for lunches and dinners. You will find many of the speakers eat right on site to save on time. You can pack a sandwich and get something small just to sit at their table with other attendees.
  • Always let people know you are going that are potential jobs in the area. If you go to a college be sure and check to see if any of the sports teams are playing nearby. going early or staying later you may tag on a paying assignment which will help lower your costs.

Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar’s
2-Minute Shows 

This is March 1 – 3, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. They still have some slots left for the student practicum that takes place February 28 – March 1.

2-Minute Shows: The conference has a great opportunity that I don’t know any other seminar or conference offers. The first 45 to signup can show their work to everyone in 2 minutes or less.  This is such a great tradition that everyone loves to see everyone’s work.

If you come to SWPJC and do not sign up for the 2-Minute Show you will have missed a great opportunity–especially if you are trying to get jobs or do this professionally in the long run.

My suggestion to any photographer who wants to be sure their loved ones know what they want for Christmas is to forward this email to them and suggest a workshop you might want to attend.

Photography: Assignment Details

Photographers can learn a thing or two from other businesses. You go to just about any business and if you are receiving any services they are going to fill out some forms.

When you go to college they get all your information and put you into their system. Hospitals do the same thing and get information about where you live, phone numbers and most of all payment information.

When you get your car repaired the same thing happens. You will not get service before they gather information in most service providers.

Mistake Number One

When you get that first call from a new client there is a tendency to rush through your business practices. Your fear of loosing the client can cause you to miss some vital information which is done during the intake process.

You are setting the tone for the relationship going forward. The clients are generally understanding of you asking some questions to then later be able to give them a quote.

Create a form for new clients

One of the best things early in your career is to have a physical form you fill out so you can be sure you do not miss information which is critical to meeting their expectation and you getting paid.

Information you should get:

  • Contact Information
    • Name
    • Company Name
    • Mailing Address
    • Phone numbers
    • email
    • website
  • Project Details
    • Name for project
    • Deadlines
    • Usage Rights
    • How will it be used
    • What are the deliverables
      • JPEGs, RAW
      • CDs, DVDs or hard drive
      • Online Gallery
      • Prints
      • Contact Sheets
    • What is the style and approach for the project
    • Location
    • Contact names
    • Names of different people on project
      • Creative Director
      • Client contact
      • Location contact
    • Examples
      • Shot List
      • Sketches/Diagrams from Art Director
  • Information about location
    • Lighting
    • Crew (Will you provide or them)

These are just some of the things I often am asking for during my intake process. You may need to add some more or take something off, but either way having a physical list near your phone or on your computer that you can reference in the first contact will help you be successful.

The Power of Questions

For the most part each client that calls you will be getting a customized price for their needs. If you are just letting them choose from a price list you are more of a commodity and therefore not as service oriented as transaction based.

The accuracy of identifying the specific problem that the photography will help solve will give you a clear objective to meet.

When a new client calls and wants your price for doing head shots you can clarify how they will use them and how this helps their company. If the head shots are to be done of all their upper management to put on their website asking a few more questions can determine a more accurate pricing and meeting of their objective.

They may just want to show their people so when their clients call in they know who they are talking to or to expect when they come to them. This is more of an identification photo. However, lets say they are trying to help people get to know them to leverage themselves against their competition. The photos are to help them with branding and showing how personable they are as compared to the competition.

This is where maybe environmental portraits of their people not in their workspace, but rather with their hobbies may fit the bill better.

To get to the real problem being solved with photography requires some questions. Your questions maybe met with uncertainty. This is where you are helping them define their problem. You are also showing your expertise.

Mistake Number Two

Miscommunication is more common than anyone of likes, but it happens. The time to see if you were on the right track to meeting their objective is not when you are totally done.

Too many photographers forget that the best way to clarify the deliverable is with examples. If you have something you can send to them which is similar to what you plan to deliver then you are way ahead of the problem of miscommunication.

Take a moment once you have a good photo of the first thing you have and show them it. “Is this the right direction?,” is a great question. Often clients who have a lot to do will often leave once they see you are going the direction they want and let you take it from there.

If you have a number of locations on a job, take a moment and send them the first shots you can before continuing.  I had a few photographers who I gave a series of subjects to photograph and the photographers shot a few of these over a few weeks and then sent me the results. They were not what I had asked them to do.

Mistake Number Three

Too many photographers shoot for themselves and not for the client. This shows up in a few ways to the client.

The photographer will crop the photographs to the way they like them. I have seen way too many photographers not paying attention to the way the client will use the photos.

The client needs the photos to put into a video. Most videos are designed to fit a TV screen. The photographers are providing squares or verticals which means there is a lot of black that will need to be used around the photos.

The client may need to put these in a layout of a publication that the client has approved of a specific layout design. If the photographer crops too much the photos become unusable.

The photographer also needs to provide several options for the client. Clients do not enjoy having just one photo that could work to have to use. Do your best to give the client a few options for any photo they need to use. Unless their are some pretty extreme circumstances preventing this, always make the effort to provide options.


While you may have some great questions you need to clarify their answers. You need to solicit their questions. The more you peel the onion of the assignment the closer you get to the core and meeting of those objectives.

While you may loose the bid to someone else, you are still auditioning for a future assignment. It is quite common that clients will use a friend or try to give someone a break and get burned. They will remember you as the one they should have gone with to do the job.

Photography Linguistics Lesson: Portrait and Landscape

When you do page setup in Microsoft products you get to choose between Portrait or Landscape.  Many other computer software programs have the same terms for how you want to print on a rectangular sheet of paper.

Language barrier

Abbott and Costello performed the classic “Who’s on first?” baseball sketch in their 1945 film “The Naughty Nineties.”  Here is the video clip of that classic  If you have never watched this skit I highly recommend it. Sometimes in my household we have these conversations. We come to things from different perspectives.

When talking to your photographer you could easily be having this same skit except it would be about photography instead of baseball.

This is a landscape photograph taken in Cades Cove, Tennessee.

This is a portrait photograph taken in a home.

Portrait and Landscape

In photography these terms refer to a style of photography. When you are taking portraits the person is the main emphasis over objects. Portrait photography can be of one person or a group.

Landscape photography is another style of photography.  Landscape is about photographing nature vistas.

Neither of these terms portraits or landscape in photography are used to refer to orientation of the print.

While many cameras use the rectangular format there are many cameras that use the square format like the Polaroid camera and a Hasselblad.

Telling a photographer you need a portrait photograph when you are referring to the orientation of the print can get you into the Abbott and Costello sketch of “Who’s on first.”

Use the terms vertical and horizontal when referring to orientation of the final photograph.

When printing on a Mac the screen that will pop up will look like this where you are picking a graphic and not words to help you with the orientation. The one on the left is vertical and the one of the right is horizontal.

One of the places I worked in the past before the computer had really come to be so dominate would ask for vertical or horizontal photos. I would give her what she asked for and then she would be quite upset.

I would find her note and show her she did ask for what she got–her problem was she didn’t no what vertical or horizontal really were. She had them confused so often she started to draw out the orientation.

When you talk with your photographer or when photographers talk with their clients be sure you are talking the same language.

Covering Tragedy

Jesus & Gloria say good-bye before the funeral service for their son Jesus Fonseca, Jr.

The recent events in Newtown, Connecticut have lit up social media and forums about how will we go forward and change.


While photojournalists and journalists have trained to cover tragedy nothing truly prepares you for the actual event. An event can be gut wrenching and can trigger Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the journalist. Even if the journalist doesn’t suffer long term from PTSD they are never the same after experiencing events like the school shooting in Newtown.

Often journalists are sent to cover events and because of the shock it is difficult for them to get their head around something when the emotions alone are making it so difficult to concentrate.

I believe one of the best things a journalist can do is to feel the situation  I think too often in order to make it through an event journalists tend to try and shut down their emotions and cover the event logically.

Always ask yourself two questions whenever you pick up the camera:

  1. Why am I taking this photograph?
  2. What am I trying to say with this photograph?
If you shut down your emotions and not ask these questions truthfully you can end up traumatizing the subjects you photograph and your audience needlessly.
In the photo above I asked the family about covering the funeral for the Catholic Newspaper.  They wanted to share their experience with the community. I wanted the community to experience the loss of the family. I wanted them to want to respond. For this audience praying for the family would be an appropriate expectation for the Catholic Newspaper.
In the lower photograph I was working at a small newspaper and shot this image. Showing the child getting out of the car for me was a relief. While you can see the mangled car you also see hope of the child being rescued by the man.
The best photos I make in these situations are when I feel my emotions and learn to help them guide me to help the readers experience what I am feeling. I also am careful not to needlessly shock for shock value.
Today’s News Media are young
The last few years the media has been laying off all the veterans and hiring younger and younger people to fill the roles of the journalists.  The downside to this is many of them are covering some of their first traumatic events. Most all of them have not been trained like our military that goes through classes to help avoid PTSD.
If you find the journalists not quite sensitive, they might just be traumatized and having a difficult time themselves. Just look at how many journalists during 9/11 and just this week have broken down while covering the story.
Take a moment and pray for these journalists that they understand their role and are in touch with their emotions. Pray that they are asking what is the story and what are they trying to say so we stay informed.

Today is tomorrow’s resumé

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I was talking to my friend Gil Williams about how I look for photo assistants. Gil started his career in Atlanta doing photo assisting in the 1990’s.

We were talking about the do’s and don’ts of assisting.


  • Show up early
  • Always ask about how to dress for the job
  • Keep track of all equipment during a job
  • Always be a second set of eyes. Pay attention and see if lights are flashing for example.
  • Have your own little emergency kit. Keep things like a leatherman, gaffers tape, spring clips, etc.
  • Look for ways to be helpful. 
  • Be first to grab all the bags and carry them.
  • Keep positive attitude all the time
  • Run late
  • Dress inappropriate
  • Forget where equipment goes when repacking
  • Wait to be told what to do all the time
  • Talk to the client. Always talk to the photographer unless they ask you to entertain the clients.
  • Negative attitude and words are inappropriate
After talking about some war stories of our experiences Gil told me what he lived by on every job to the best of his ability. “Today is tomorrow’s resumé,” is what Gil told me. 
He even told me about how he was cleaning up around the studio with one photographer. Later that photographer asked him to help convert a bathroom into a closet for him. At first Gil was disappointed that the photographer hire him to do cleaning work. What he realized is that the photographer appreciated him and gave him extra work.
Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/60
What I do to help today be my resumé tomorrow
The photos I posted here are ways that I tried to go above and beyond. In the first photo, I used lights outside on a rainy day to give a better color profile than an overcast sky and helped to increase the dynamic range.  
In the lower vertical shot I used the Nikon 85mm wide open at ƒ/1.4 and used off camera flash to help pop the subject out from the background.
I could have shot both with available light, but I used the off camera flash to help take the quality up a notch.

Two types of photos: Posed Portrait and Lifestyle Photo/Photojournalism

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/40 with Nikon SB800 and SB900 on RadioPoppers which communicate with the Nikon SU800 to do TTL flash.

Posed Portraits

These are the staples of photography for most families. They are a great way to capture in time everyone looking their best.

We are so trained in our society about making these photos that often many of us are thinking this is what is a good photograph is all about—everyone looking at the camera and smiling.

These family photos are often associated with family reunions. Approximately 46 percent of families organize an annual reunion, according to The most common time of year to hold a reunion is during the summer, as most people do not have as many engagements. However, holidays are another time many get together to reconnect.

A family reunion provides a means for younger family members to learn about their heritage. In such a case, your elders will lead the reunion with stories about the start of the family tree. Depending on your own unique heritage, you may hear personal stories about war, struggle and immigration.

For the most part these photos are experienced within the family. You may have them on the walls or in albums, but usually there is someone from the family there to explain who is who and how they are connected.

Without someone there to explain these connections and the stories the photos by themselves do very little to communicate on their own to those who do not have a connection to the people in the photo. Most likely seeing a family photo of someone you do not know will most likely trigger memories about your family photos and family.

Nikon P7000, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1900 and fill flash from built in flash.

Lifestyle Photo/Photojournalism

While the photo of the same family playing ping-pong may not have everyone smiling and close to the camera, the photo tells us more about the family than the posed photo does alone.

You can tell from this photo they enjoy the beach.  We could have stopped everyone and had them look at the camera and had a formal photo on the beach, but this communicates how much fun they are having together.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/100 with Nikon SB-900 and a Nikon SB-800 on PocketWizard Flex TT5, which are held on to the Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stands with a Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamps with a Flash Shoe.  To trigger the flash from the camera I am using the PocketWizard Mini TT1 with the AC3 to control the flash output in the TTL mode.

This is one more family photo in a home setting. This is taken during a family vacation. However, the photo does little to communicate vacation and more a informal posed portrait.

Nikon P7000, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/17 and fill flash from built in flash.

This second photo is what I like to do with people to get them relaxed—just hang out.  Here you can see the family just enjoying time in each other’s presence.

Most likely you do not know the families above. Which photos to you communicate something about the families other than what they look like?

When you use photos for work to help communicate—choose lifestyle or photojournalism over a posed portrait.

Lifestyle vs Photojournalism

The difference between Lifestyle and Photojournalism is if one is setup and one just happens naturally. When you need to restage a situation because you cannot capture it as it happens then you are definitely doing a lifestyle photo shoot and not photojournalism.

Many news outlets will not use photos of situations that companies setup for the press. They will choose not to run the photo because they know this is setup. However, the news media will run images where they naturally find things.  This has to do with ethics and the purpose of their publications.

It is perfectly fine for the photographer and/or stylist to remove a Pepsi can in a photo that will run in the Coke annual report for example. However if it were to run in a newspaper that would be unethical and jeopardize their reputation as journalists.

Flash helps dynamic range

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/160 with off camera flashes

My final image for this photo shoot was to be used as a Black and White in a book. To be sure the quality was as high as I could get I did a few things for this photo.

First, I communicated to the subject that please do not wear white and wear a solid color. While I could do everything technically right, the offset printing can be hit and miss. Not all black and white photos print the same on certain type of papers and one of the first places this will show up is either in the whites or the blacks.

Here you can see the photo as I shot it in color. One of the first things I was aware of in this photo was the hand gun. It is solid black. If I am not careful this would be turn out to be just a solid black object with no details.

I decided to use two hot shoe flashes to help give me 5500º Kelvin temperature light, which would give me the greatest dynamic range.

Photo by: Ken Touchton

My friend Ken Touchton was with me and took a couple shots of me working. Ken knows I do this blog and while I wasn’t using one of my cameras took some photos of me working.

I am using a Nikon SB-900 and a Nikon SB-800 on PocketWizard Flex TT5, which are held on to the Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stands with a Manfrotto 175F Justin Spring Clamps with a Flash Shoe.  To trigger the flash from the camera I am using the PocketWizard Mini TT1 with the AC3 to control the flash output in the TTL mode.

When I first started shooting the black ground went totally black, because I had the ISO set at 100.  I cranked the ISO up to 3200 so that the background isn’t going black.

While the window light would normally work well, it was an overcast day. So this wasn’t 5000º Kelvin temperature light. More like deep shade light in terms of color temperature.

I am shooting at ƒ/8 to keep the depth-of-field somewhat in focus from the subject to the gun.

In many ways this is similar reason to use a flash as when I shoot indoor sports under Sodium Vapor lights. I just want to clean up the light and take the quality to the next level.

Why am I not getting jobs?

The energy you exude has a lot to do with the jobs. Smile, laugh and be positive in your interactions and you will find clients will seek you out.

As a visual consultant for companies I am occasionally hiring photographers as well as shooting. I can tell you hiring photographers to shoot jobs has been one of the best experiences.

I wish I could have had this experience earlier in my career and I think I would have been better at negotiating.

Disclaimer: I am not the expert on this, but what I am sharing is my perspective and may help you working with other clients.

Who do I hire most often and why?

The first person I call is capable of doing the job and I enjoy working with them. Often this would be a good friend who I know can not only deliver, but will carry themselves in a way that all those they come in contact with will be pleased.

My database of photographers:

Friends – They call, email, Facebook and in general we keep in touch. The key here is I hear from them as much if not more than I am contacting them. 

Acquaintances – Photographers who I have met and seen their work. Many of these people have been to the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference that I help staff each year. Many others I have met at ASMP, NPPA and the Atlanta Photojournalism Conference. There are still others I have met while shooting events for news services. 

Friend of a friend – I like to think of these as blessed by people I trust. I need a photographer in a city and I don’t have connections to anyone there, but my friends do. Linkedin refers to these people as in your “network.” So while I have 1,224 connections on Linkedin I have 26,373 people in my “network.”

    Photographers I think who do this well

    Ken Touchton – Ken’s number one way of connecting is the telephone. I learned that on Sunday nights that Ken makes a list of those people he needs to contact this week.  He will call 5 new people and then he has a list of his clients that he will call that week to touch base.  When Ken calls he picks up where the conversation left off. How’s was your kid’s soccer game? How did your meeting go? 90% of the conversation is about how I am doing in life and only 10% is about business. Those questions are usually what are you working on.  Ken’s customers are often telling him they love hiring him because when he shows up he always has a smile.

    Esther Havens – Twitter and Facebook are her ways of reaching out and she is touching base with so many people. She shares her life with her friends through Facebook and connects to the rest of the world with Twitter. Her content is so cool that people are sharing it with their friends and so on.  She has 4, 411 friends on Facebook and 9,450 followers on Twitter.  The girl is well connected.

    Here is a typical tweet from Esther: The September Campaign hit its goal and 26,000 people in Rwanda will soon drink clean water 

    Billy Calzada – Just always greets me with a smile in person and on the phone. Yes your smile shows on a phone. I always feel like I am talking to a good friend whenever I call Billy. He always wants to help. He is a great negotiator as well. His way of negotiating is low key and asking if he can do something. He doesn’t tell you he needs something. To me he is really asking the same thing, but the attitude makes you want to help the guy.  You need to just meet Billy and you will know what I am talking about. Everyone seems to like Billy.

    These are just three photographers I think who create an atmosphere around them that makes you want to work with them. By the way not one of them is working for free or cheap these days. All three of them are making a living and have for many years as photographers.

    How to answer the phone

    After calling around the country and talking to many photographers the past few weeks for a project I am working on I have some tips for how to answer the phone for a job.

    First sound excited to be talking with them. As they tell you about the job, even if you will turn it down sound excited about their project.

    Be careful not to jump to quickly to the calendar. Yes you will need to see if you are available and you do need to get to this point right away to see if you can do the job, but remember you are also auditioning for future jobs and not just this one.

    If you are available communicate it like you just won something verses a flat response. Remember it isn’t the words you choose, but how you say it. You can say, “I am available” and sound excited or disappointed.

    If you are not available also communicate with emotion your disappointment. “I am sorry I am booked, would you like me to get you someone for you?,” is an appropriate response.

    Negotiating price. No customer needs to hear about your Cost-of-Doing-Business.  If they communicate a lower price than you hoped for, it is OK to respond with disappointment. However, do this in moderation.

    You can say, “The rate is lower than what I normally get for this type of job. Do you mind paying for mileage in addition?” They can respond one of three ways: 1) Yes; 2) No or 3) Maybe or a little hesitation.  The last response is where you really need to listen for tone. Do they feel backed into a corner or something else? Give them time to respond.

    Be careful at this point and if you negotiate farther to get them to come up don’t push it too far. Know your client at this point. Some clients may expect a little more back and forth, but some find this a turnoff.  Know which type of client you have. After going to junior high and high school in New Jersey I can tell you they negotiate a lot different than where I was born in North Carolina. Know the culture of the person you are negotiating with and you have better chance.

    If they cannot move on the price this is where you must make a choice—accept the job or turn down the job.  If you take it—do the job with the same upbeat attitude as if you got the price you wanted.

    Ask clarifying questions to be sure you know exactly how they want this shot. Be sure you understand their concept. Ask them to send examples if you are unclear. Offer an idea or two to see if it is OK for you to try something for them.

    How not to answer the phone

    Answering the phone with an attitude of let me wait and see. Let me hear about your project and then I will respond if I like it or think it stinks.  This comes across even if they cannot see you.

    Don’t turn your negotiation into a lecture on how low their prices are for the market.

    Don’t ask whose crazy idea was this to shoot it this way. You could offer some ideas and see if they are interested, but if they don’t bite on your idea, be careful that you are not communicating you have better ideas than the one they are giving to you.

    If you don’t ask any clarifying questions you can communicate you know it all or are not very attentive.

    It boils down to just one thing

    Do everything you can to develop a friendship with those you want to work with.

    Now if you are having a hard time wanting to do this, then it is time to market yourself until you find those clients you want to become friends with. After all wouldn’t the dream job be working with friends?

    As you can see by my go to list, I work from friends to acquaintances to my larger network. I am sure most everyone else works in a similar fashion. You will not become best of friends with all those who hire you, but at least move from the fringes of their network to an acquaintance. 

    Photographers need calibration

    Bill Bangham, Gary & Vivian Chapman and Ken Touchton sit on the front row of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar in Atlanta on Saturday, December 1, 2012.

    Industry Workshops and Seminars

    Why do pros who have twenty, thirty, forty or more years of experience continue to go to workshops? You would think they know all there is to know about photography. Well for the most part they do know most everything to do for what they are currently doing. Sure they could use a tidbit here or there, but most photographers are not going to learn a tidbit at these workshops.

    Michael S. Williamson is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who joined The Washington Post in 1993 after working for the Sacramento Bee from 1975-1991. He taught at Western Kentucky University (1991-93). 


    Michael Williamson titled his talk to us “It Ain’t The Tool. It’s The Fool.” He was helping us to understand it isn’t about all the gear it is the what you do with it. While teaching at Western Kentucky University Williamson had two things he required the photographers put on the back of their cameras.

    1. What am I photographing?
    2. What am I trying to say with the photograph?
    The seminar audience was “photojournalists” whose purpose is to tell stories with their cameras.  He even joked about not being an artist. “It must be art because I don’t get it,” is how he was trying to distinguish the difference between a picture just created for no reason and the other of having a message, which is the journalists’ job.
    Michael would joke about he was shooting a silouhet because he wasn’t over his limit for that today. His joke was to remind us to look for different ways to engage our audience. “Photos that work are not good verses bad, they are interesting verses boring,” commented Williamson.

    Michael Schwarz captures some of the event with his DSLR as video and is helping to put together a package on what the conference is all about.
    Your gifts and talents
    Vincet Laroret told us to know your role and those around you. He was helping photographers understand as they take on bigger projects some of the roles they play will change when they must collaborate with others.
    Laforet used movies to help us know the role of those making them. You have your visionary Director, the director of photography,  ADs, Gaffers, talent and more working on a movie set to create the movie. He was emphasizing the need to be clear in your communication and why each person had roles that all needed to be flexible.
    What I was learning from his discussion was that as the lone guy producing a package you must juggle all these roles. I reminisced that had I not spent time in different roles through my life I couldn’t do this all by myself today at times. I also started to see how I was mentored to learn how to come up with an idea–the vision. 
    Early in my career I was just executing many other creatives visions. I was like a first camera guy on a movie set. There was a senior photographer (Director of Photography) and they helped to guide me.

    Today I bring on other pros to help me on projects as the budget allows.  

    My take away to pass along:
    1. Learn how to work your camera
    2. Learn how to be a storyteller
    3. Learn how to create a vision (How to find a story)
    4. Continue to learn all you can about tools that will help you tell the story more effectively
    5. Learn to collaborate
    David Gilkey is a staff photographer and video editor for NPR, covering both national and international news. He has produced award-winning photo essays, videos and multimedia presentations for, as well as radio reports for NPR.
    National Public Radio
    Dave Gilkey talked about at NPR for the staff means “No Planning Required.”  He has had to jump on planes at the last second to cover major stories around the world. 
    Gilkey commented on coming to NPR that he learned from the best how to do audio. He knew he had to master it or face the wrath of his counterparts and is bosses. Before coming to NPR Gilkey knew how to shoot a photo story, but now he had to produce them with sound and at the quality of NPR.
    Today he works on every story with basically two lists working simultaneously in his head. 1) Shot list like he had always done, plus more shots were needed and 2) Natural sound list.
    He also was working many times with the NPR reporters and discovered the two of them were trying to get the same thing often. He needed a shot of the door opening and closing sometimes and so did the reporter need to capture that sound. So the lens and microphone were often needed to be close to get those clean shots and sound.
    The Calibration
    I was learning over these days of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar what was being produced today in the industry. This helps me know more than my little world. Without this time to come and see what others are doing I could easily become irrelevant to my clients.
    Storytelling for the most part hasn’t changed since before the invention of the camera. Writers were writing visual stories before we could capture them for the audience. 
    Todays movies are using the latest technology to help communicate the storyline more effectively than before. The movie Avatar let us into a world that prior to computers could only be told with words.
    I was learning some new twists on the storytelling to help me be the best I can be for my customers.
    My question to you is have you calibrated to the industry yourself? Are you loosing jobs to other photographers and not knowing why?  
    Going to a workshop will not stop you from loosing every job, but it will help you be more relevant in today’s marketplace.
    Besides calibrating myself, I was able to get my camera checked out and cleaned by Nikon. Hey there are many things to calibrate if you are a digital visual storyteller today.

    Photography Workshops and more

    Vincent Laforet is keynote speaker at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.

    The Stars

    I always am interested in who is the faculty of a workshop/seminar. I come wanting to see their work and learn something that I cannot get from just seeing their work online or in a publication.

    Vincent Laforet did a great job impressing us at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar with his work, which most of us will never shoot.  It was still inspiring.

    While I learned years ago to go up and ask the instructors questions I learned how to make better use of my time. I learned that if I get to the event early I could grab the speakers before when few people were wanting their time.

    The more I went to these events I got braver and then asked the speakers to eat lunch or dinner. I then got great time with some of the best in the field.

    Christians in Photojournalism had dinner together at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar


    Slowly I started to realize those people going to the seminar were just as valuable a resource as the “Stars.”

    Today I cherish my time listening to just about anyone. I love to hear what they are doing. Usually this gives me a very unique time to learn something new.

    Ron Sherman shares with a few of us during lunch break.

     I love to sit around and just listen to stories people are sharing. Today I listened to a lot of photographers. Ron Sherman told us some fun stories.


    While you may go the the seminar/workshop for the stars the people sitting next to you are just as valuable as a resource. The other thing is by just being interested in them and what they have to share you can learn a great deal. What I also learned is I get more time with them than the stars. They have more time and do not have a line of folks waiting to talk to them.

    The key is spending time with someone. It is about getting to know them. Now when I see them again we acknowledge each other and catch up with each other.

    Bill Fortney the Nikon representative has become one of my best friends and resources. 

    Another great reason to go to conferences with Nikon is they often will do “free” camera cleaning.  I had two cameras cleaned that would normally cost about $30 to $50 each.  

    Going to conferences is where I grow and learn. I get the side benefit of getting my cameras cleaned and learning about the latest gear. I can put my hands on the new gear and ask questions to those who are experts.

    The first thing you want to be sure you do if you do not already have a photography seminar/workshop on your calendar is to put one on for next year.  I personally recommend joining me in Fort Worth for the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar, March 1 – 3, 2013.  Here is a link to that conference