Use Christmas lights for foreground and background

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 900, ƒ/1.8, 1/80

Wrap your subject in light. I shot all of these photos wide open to get the out of focus lights.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 560, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

I just created this setup to show how putting lights in front of these nutcrackers and using the Christmas tree in the background gives a great use of perspective.

Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 2500, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

I think I liked the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM shot at 200mm the best.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/4, 1/80

The wide shot here shows the setup.

Another idea is maybe use candles.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

I also stopped and smelled the flowers today in our yard. Just a parting shot for this post.

Great BOKEH with Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art on Fuji X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/300

I wanted to test the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art with Nikon mount on my Fuji X-E2. With the help of the Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X converter I shot some of our Christmas ornaments we just put up.

This is shooting as close as the lens will focus.

Fuji also added magnification options for fine tuning focus, which is great. You simply press the rotary dial on the back of the X-E2 and the camera switches to zoom mode. In magnified mode, autofocus still works and you can see it much better.

Fujifilm X-E2, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

Now the Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X makes the depth-of-field is even more shallow because the lens isn now further from the sensor.

Fujifilm X-E2, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X, ISO 4000, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

As you can see this combination of the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 with the Fuji X-E2 will give you some great BOKEH!!

Fujifilm X-E2, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm X, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/500


Shooting ornaments on Christmas tree with Nikon D750 and Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 280, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

Just a quick comparison of shooting the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art wide open capturing ornaments on a Christmas tree.

I love the extreme shallow depth-of-field of the 35mm @ ƒ/1.4.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3200, ƒ/4, 1/80

While the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens isn’t as fast as the ƒ/1.4 35mm I like the tighter shot at 105mm.

Which do you like more?

BOKEH Test with Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 & Sigma 24-105mm f/4

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000

I was at an event lately, and another photographer noticed my lens, and the first thing he asked was how the BOKEH was on that lens.

I just wanted to see what the BOKEH was on three of my lenses. I am showing you the 1) Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, 2) Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, and the 3) Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens for comparison of the BOKEH.

Click on the image to see bigger

So this is the closest I could focus the Sigma 35mm, and then I just shot it at each aperture so you could see what the BOKEH looks like at each aperture setting.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400

This is the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G lens, and as you can see, I cannot get as close to the pocket watch as I could with the Sigma 35mm. This is very important in how an object looks with a lens. If your subject is tiny and you are trying to fill the frame, then you can see that some lenses with great BOKEH create a problem because now you have to crop the image to load the frame with the subject.

Look at how the aperture affects the BOKEH with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G lens.

Click on the image to see it larger

You can already tell you are getting less width of the background than the 35mm.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, @24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

Here I am focusing as closely as possible on the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens. I am shooting a wide open aperture of ƒ/4. The shallow depth-of-field isn’t there like with the 35mm or 85mm prime lenses.

Click on image to see larger

There is just not a massive difference in the aperture since starting 4 ƒ-stops less than with an ƒ/1.4 lens.

Another thing is the closest focusing distance with the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens is 17.7″.

Closest Focusing Distance for the lenses

  • 11.81″ – Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art
  • 17.70″ – Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens
  • 2.62′    – Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G

The 85mm is measured in feet versus inches with the other lenses. However, when you are shooting primarily headshots, that is a reasonable distance.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, @105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/100

Now when you take the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens and zoom to 105mm at the closest focusing distance, you fill the frame more with the subject and get a pretty lovely BOKEH at ƒ/4.

Click on image to see it larger


Know your lens. You should know what look your lens will give you with a subject at a certain distance and aperture before you shoot a job because you have taken the time to do something similar to what I have done here. I now have a baseline from which I have a pretty good idea of the look these three lenses give me at their closest focus distance with a subject.

The question is simple. Do you know what your lenses will give you before your next job?

Covering the oldest football rivalry in the south–The 125th Game

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The weather in Richmond for the football game was between 48º and 57º F and sunny, which was great fall football weather.

This was the 125th meeting between the University of Richmond and William and Mary making this the oldest football rivalry in the South.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 750, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The sun was so bright that on this pass play the receiver was looking straight into the sun and therefore missed this well thrown pass.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125

While I wanted to surely capture some action shots of the historic game I also realized that photos like this with former Spiders Coach Dal Shealy with some former players and staff was just as important to commemorate the day.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

Richmond’s #1 Jacobi Green leaps over his offensive lineman during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against William & Mary, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015 in Richmond, Va. Jacobi Green ran for 217 yards on 36 carries with a touchdown to help lead Richmond to a 20-9 win over William & Mary on Saturday, clinching a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title in the process.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

Jacobi Green’s third quarter touchdown gives him 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, which rank atop the CAA.  Green stands alone in third on the single-season rushing touchdown list.

Equipment I flew to Richmond to use for the game.

  • 2 Nikon D4 Camera Bodies
  • 1 Nikon D750
  • Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S
  • Sigma TC-2001 2x
  • Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens
I did take more gear that is always in my Thinktank Airport Security™ V2.0 rolling camera bag, but this is what I took onto the field throughout the game. 95% of the time I just shot with Nikon D4 and the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S and the Sigma TC-2001 2x which gave me a 240-600mm lens.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I kept the 2X converter on most of the time until the team would get past the 20 yard line and then I would take it off and shoot with the 120-300mm range.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I was always facing the Richmond Spiders. Either I was covering their offense or defense where I could see their faces most of the time.
This way when they had those break away plays like this one of Jacobi Green I could capture it.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
By covering the game from the endzone I was able to capture the defensive play of the game where in the fourth quarter defensive back David Herlocker makes on interception. He returns it all the way back to the Richmond 30.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 360, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Remember when covering sporting events they are much more than just the game action.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 640, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Capture all you can from the sidelines to the stands.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
I even was able to catch a photo of Sports Illustrated’s rates top 15 college athletes of all time Brian Jordan.
So keep your eyes and ears open and you never know all you can capture. Just remember there is more than just the action during the play taking place at a college football game–especially one with a tradition of 125 years.

How to shoot at ƒ/1.4, ISO 50, 1/4000 Shutter Speed and with Studio Strobes

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 50, ƒ/1.4, 1/4000–2 Alienbees B1600

Getting this photo of Truett Cathy at the Original Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA wasn’t as simple as just pulling out the camera and shooting it at ƒ/1.4. Here is what you get if you do that alone.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 50, ƒ/1.4, 1/4000

I put two Alienbees B1600s on light stands. I used the Vagabond Mini™ Lithium to power each light. To trigger the lights I am using the Pocketwizard Mini TT1 with the AC3 on the camera and using the TT5 with AC9 on the flashes. This lets me shoot using Optimized High Speed Sync.

I would not been able to shoot with the flashes at ƒ/1.4 with flash that limits me to the sync speed of 1/200 due to the limits of the D750 and most flashes. I was already at ISO 50 which is as low as the camera will go.

I put a CTO gel on one of the Alienbees Strobes and position this a little behind the statue so I would make it look like the sun lighting the scene. Then I put the other strobe straight on acting as a fill light.

I just turned the power up and down on each flash using the Pocketwizard AC3 to control the flashes. This meant I could just take a photo and look at the back LCD and then make changes, rather than having to walk over and dial the power up and down on the back of the Alienbees B1600 flashes.

How a faith impacts the work of photographers

Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/100

My faith has a lot to do with who I am. I am often asked what it means to be a “Christian Photographer?”

There is an assumption that my faith impacts my work in a way that makes me different than those who are not Christian.

I really wish those of the Christian faith that are photographers were in some way able to outshine all others because our faith in God has illuminated us in some special way that our work just stands out from others, but that is not the case.

Martin Luther was one of the most influential priests in the Christian faith. He is one of the main architects of the great reformation. When asked about being a “Christian tradesman,” he responded so well with

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

The more I think about Martin Luther’s words it has shaped my thinking of what it means to be a “Christian Photographer.”

The Proof is in the Pudding

The biggest thing that faith can do for someone is to give them the compass to use when making decisions. You could still make the right decisions in life without a compass, but it will not be as intentional and consistent as someone who has a compass.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. – Psalms 119:105

I think the advantage of people of faith verses those without a belief in God is our ability to hold a compass [scripture] in our hands and to meet in a house of worship regularly that helps to shape our moral compass in life.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

When I see people today taking “selfies” with their friends and sharing them this is how I see people of faith with their God. They are having a relationship with God and often are sharing through their social media their best friend who helps to guide them through this life.

How Studying Scripture Helps

Now one of the best things that scripture does for us is gives us so many examples of characters just like us that also dealt with difficult situations in life. People of faith will not only read these stories but gather in classes and study these stories. They learn to look at a situation and break it down.

Studying scripture is a skill that will help you study your business and learn how to dissect the decisions that you will need to make and also predict outcomes based on moral laws.

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.” 

― Augustine of Hippo

“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” 

― Confucius

I do know that my faith should not just be evident in my photos, but in all areas of my life. How I treat my fellow man. As a follower of Jesus I seek to emulate his example and learn to serve others.

As a person of faith and a follower of Jesus I believe my purpose is to live a life that God touches people through me. My goal is to get out of the way of God doing that through me.

I believe that faith in God is what helps to shape us into better people. I believe that I would be very self centered if it were not for my faith.

Your Plan B should be really your Plan A

Former Mayor Shirley Franklin is the keynote speaker to the Islamic Speakers Bureau “Building Bridges Awards Dinner” a the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta on Saturday November 14, 2015. [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

I wrote this as a post on a forum for predominately journalists who are being laid off and having to find a new job. I just thought after writing this it would make for a good blog post here.

Finding ones purpose in life is what figuring out your Plan for Life. For those of us growing up where your parents could follow a well worn path of those before them that others clearly understood, then you are the ones thinking more about things as a Plan B episode.

However, if you are someone who grew up with your parents lives coming apart due to layoffs and job losses you are not looking at those ruts in the road for a path to success. You are the generation that is not bound by the golden handcuffs of corporations that kept their promises, which kept you employed and taken care of like generations past.

You are the generation that understood that you were called to a profession and not to an industry. Your generation is not looking to be committed to a corporation, but rather to the ideals of the profession. You may pursue being a nurse rather than working at a local hospital.

Journalists are one of the professions that have followed what other industries like textiles, car manufacturing and other trades went through in the 1970’s and 1980’s where factories shut down and those jobs disappeared.

Many of those trades were very specific and with some training these same people who were gifted in problem solving found their core gifts and then learned how to apply these with a different industry.

I believe that storytelling is at an all time high and growing by leaps and bounds. Storytelling is the core skill to the journalist.

For many journalists their “Plan A” was to be employed as a journalist, which meant being part of the journalism profession.

If you are able to examine those core gifts and discover you are a storyteller then there are many places, industries that is, that you can serve and offer your talent.

Here are some storytelling things I am doing for other places than my roots in photojournalism at a newspaper.

  • I am doing a series of “Getting to know you …” multimedia packages where we interview an employee of a company and in 2 to 3 minutes we capture what they do for the company and something about them that is unique to them. Great example of all those feature packages I did for newspapers.
  • I have covered many natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, Moore Oklahoma and Joplin Tornadoes for a company that goes to those communities and volunteers helping them rebuild. Very similar to those breaking news events I did in newspaper days.
  • I have also covered multiple hurricanes and tornado destruction for nonprofits that are also responding to disasters.
  • I have been covering sporting events for corporations for many years just as I would have done for wire services and newspapers in my past.

“Now where do I find these nonprofits and corporations that will hire me?” is the question I am often asked.

Former President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday School at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains, GA on August 23, 2015. Many are like Carter in that they needed to have a job for the ability to then do their next job. Many say Carter used the job as President of the United States as a stepping stone to greater things. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]

The answer to this question is most likely your “Plan B” that you will need to pursue. If you are coming from working as a journalist then you need to put on your investigative hat. This is where you are ASKING QUESTIONS. You are not TELLING PEOPLE WHAT YOU DO AND PLEASE HIRE ME.

The largest fault I see in many journalists is their tendency to think of their work as MY STORY. It really never was your story. You just helped someone else tell THEIR story better than they could.

Ask questions about what a company is doing or what a nonprofit does. Ask them how they get their funds to run and who is their audience. What problems are they solving for our communities.

Then don’t ask them as much as ask you, “What can I do with storytelling that will help them connect their solutions with their audience?”

The best journalists question for most any organization that you are used to asking is WHY?

Your Plan B should have been your Plan A, which is your ability to ask those questions and uncover truth. You are a storyteller that continues to shape our communities. You just will do it through another industry. Once you understand that your skills are still needed, but the problem has been you are focused too much on an industry rather than your core profession you will start to see the possibilities all around you.

The answer to Plan B is really your ability to ask the question WHY?

Meet Ray with my new Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art lens

Milestone: This is my 1000th blog post

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 110, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

I want you to meet my barber Ray Espinal. Ray is 75 years old and from the Dominican Republic. He has been cutting my hair for years.

Three years ago Ray at the age or 72 decided to buy the Barber Shop.

Ray’s Barbershop is in the Roswell Village shopping plaza at 613 Holcomb Bridge Rd, Roswell, GA 30076. Give him a call (678) 205-8227.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

Ray is always sharp dressed and in a tie. Each time I visit through the years I catch up on Ray’s life with his family.

I used to hear about him planning trips to see his mother in Dominican Republic. Today Ray is excited about shutting down the shop over Thanksgiving and taking his family to the Georgia Aquarium. “I haven’t taken a weeks vacation in the past three years,” said Ray. “I am going to close up shop for four days and enjoy time with my family.”

I love catching up with Ray and will do so again before Christmas.

I enjoyed shooting photos of Ray with my new Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art lens. I did some research before buying it. One of the websites I went to was DXOMark.

I have learned through the years that today Camera manufacturers don’t always make the best glass in their class. DXOMark is a great place to see the research someone has already done on a lens and most likely not just the lens but on the camera body that you own.

Price is not the first thing I am looking at when buying a lens. If the price is majorly different and the quality is close I may buy the cheaper item.

When I did my research for my 85mm I found Nikon to be the best scores and the difference between the ƒ/1.4 and the ƒ/1.8 was more about $1,100 than any other aspect. So I pocketed the $1,100 and bought the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 2000, ƒ/1.4, 1/1000

I can tell you I am loving getting really close to items and shooting wide open with the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4.

If you fill the frame with the same subject you will end up with more background with the wide-angle. If you are trying to show silky smooth BOKEH then the wide angle lends itself more so to this style.

Fixing a Macbook Pro that crashes

My computer crashed many times the past month and I was attributing this to the new El Capitan Mac Operating system.

After reading the crash log report I kept noticing similar crashes no matter what programs I had open. One thing in common was the programs that were crashing were using a lot of memory like Lightroom and Final Cut Pro X.

After reading around on different forums I discovered this cool APP to test your MacBook Pro’s memory. Rember is free and is a great way to just test your RAM to see if this is the culprit. Rember says on their website:

Defective memory can cause computers to malfunction, crash, and behave in a variety of ways which can sometimes baffle end users and computer technicians alike. Apple provides hardware test CDs with most of their products, and there are some third-party utilties for Mac OS X which perform memory testing. In my experience, these tools have not always been able to quickly and efficiently diagnose memory problems. Rember has been designed to simplify the testing, and diagnosis of these problems.

I downloaded the APP and ran it and it alerted me to the fact that this was indeed what was crashing my computer.

Ran to my Fry’s store and bought replacement memory and put it in myself in about 5 minutes.

How to replace the memory is super simple. Here are the directions for my Macbook Pro 15″ Midyear 2012 laptop.

Now not only is my computer not crashing like it was doing the computer is a lot faster. Bad memory can do more than just crash your computer.

Software can get corrupted as did my Microsoft Outlook yesterday. I had to rebuild the database. Microsoft Outlook message popped up and I followed the directions and it was fixed. This is just one of many other things that bad RAM can do to your computer.

CONCLUSION: Too many times people will blame software when sometimes you computer is just wearing out. It is similar to an automobile. Some of the parts just break down over time. You don’t need to go and buy a new computer every time the computer starts to have problems. If you don’t want to self diagnose the computer then just take your computer to the store. If it is a Mac they will diagnose it in the store and if under warranty fix it for free.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul …

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.8, 1/200

My mentor Don Rutledge said the the eyes are the windows to the soul. When I am really connecting with another human being in conversation I am very much aware that we are locking in on each other’s eyes.

We are allowing the other person into our world as well as they are letting us see into them.

I have even written previously that eyes are so revealing that this is where we truly smile.

For this blog post I want to emphasize how important it is to have the eyes in focus for portraits. Keep the eye closest to the camera in focus.

I believe if everything is out of focus except the eyes you can have a very successful portrait, but if they are out of focus it really can be quite disturbing.

In the first photo the eyes are pretty much the only thing that is in focus. I think this is in many ways what can draw you to the eyes and help the audience connect with the subject.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

Notice that by just closing down the aperture, which creates more depth-of-field that now your eyes tend to look are more of the face than in the first photograph.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

I believe that inside this square is the most important part of a portrait. You can capture the essence of the person where as outside of this square just helps to add more information. It compliments this core of where the audience and the subject will connect.

While the famous war photographer Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” I believe this also applies to portraits.

Get as close as your lens will focus with your subject. Try that and see what kind of results you get.

What happens when you get as close as the lens will focus?

There are a few things that take place when you get as close as a lens will focus. Technically your depth-of-field gets even more shallow. This will mean that you will help bring even more emphasis to the eyes than any just about any other thing you can do once you have the aperture wide open. The other way is to light the eyes more than the rest of the face.

Another HUGE thing that happens when you get this close you will either make your subject quite uncomfortable or if you have built trust you will be let into their world even more. We call this getting into their intimate space.

Here is information that will help you understand how this can impact your photos from Wikipedia:

Click to see larger

In 1966, anthropologist Edward T. Hall identified four zones of personal space that residents of the United States of America like to maintain around them:

Intimate distance: extends roughly 18 inches (46 cm) from the individual and is reserved for family, pets and very close friends. Displays of affection and comforting are commonly conducted within this space. The only strangers an individual typically accepts within his or her intimate space are health care professionals.

Personal distance: extends 1.5 to 4 feet (0.46–1.22 m) and is reserved for friends and acquaintances. A handshake will typically place strangers at least 2 to 4 feet (0.61–1.22 m) apart, preserving the personal distance. However, a friendly kiss on the cheek by a woman as a greeting is widely practiced.

Social distance: extends from about 4 to 12 feet (1.2–3.7 m) and is used for formal, business and other impersonal interactions such as meeting a client.

Public Space: extends more than 12 feet (3.7 m) and is not guarded. Secret Service agents will commonly attempt to ensure 12 feet (3.7 m) of open space around dignitaries and high-ranking officials.

Now my Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 has a minimum focus distance of 2.6′, which is inside that personal space zone for Americans. Funny but did you know that most 50mm lenses minimum focus distance is 18″? I wonder if this is how they discovered the intimate zone?

I believe that if you are inside 4 feet for Americans you are getting more intimate photos. It is quite difficult to get intimate photos if the photographer isn’t able to be intimate with the subject using the camera.


  • Focus on eyes and specifically the one closest to the camera
  • Get close as your lens will let you to get truly intimate photos
  • To be allowed through the window into the soul you must build a rapport with the subject
  • You must allow the time for all this to happen

If the eyes are the windows to the soul … 


Quick Passports using Nikon D750 and Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4

Here is the gear I used to create these passport prints

  • Nikon D750
  • Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens
  • 5 Alienbees B1600
  • 30º Honeycomb Grid for 7″ reflector
  • Paul Buff Beauty Dish – 22-inch diameter, bright white reflector with white sock
  • Paul Buff 86″ Extreme Silver PLM™ with On-Axis Speedring Mount
  • Pocketwizard Plus System
  • Epson PictureMate Charm to print
  • Adobe Lightroom CC
Here is the setup for you to see in my basement studio:
 The lighting was set to the lowest output on all the flashes to start the process. After I did this the ƒ-stop was ƒ/8 on my face. The background was little brighter. After a few test shots I bumped the background up to just a little under ƒ/11. This gave me a pretty clean white background.

After ingesting the RAW photo I processed and output to a JPEG and this is the one I chose. Here is an birds eye view of the setup.

Go to this website created for US Passports.
All the technical specs are here to help guide you. Notice in the far right lower corner is a “Start Photo Tool.” Click on this and you will see this:
Click on the bottom button “Choose Photo” and then find the photo you took. Next after you do that you will see something like this:
Now use the slider to fit the head into the guide.
Here is how it will look for you, unless you have hair. Well actually hair doesn’t matter, keep the face the size of the outline.
Click on crop at the bottom.
Once your photo looks something like this then click on “Save Photo.”
Import this JPEG into Adobe Lightroom and go to the Print Module as I have done here. I chose the 4×6 print size since I will use the Epson PictureMate to print which prints 4×6 prints.
I dropped the photo into the print by dragging from the lower filmstrip to the working area.
The in the Add to Package section on the right I adjusted the photo to 2.05 in. I printed the photo a few times till I got the setting just right. You can thank me later for saving you this time.
So the photo now meets the US Passport office guidelines for size.
Also to be sure it prints to the printer you need to select Printer under PrintJob otherwise you create a JPEG file.
I would also save the print by clicking on “Create Saved Print” as shown by arrow above and then you can just use this as a template next time.
Also I let the color management be handled by the printer since I have already color calibrated the monitor and it looks good to me.
Hit print and then just wait for it to print on the Epson PictureMate Charm. Cost per 1 sheet of 4″ x 6″ is 27¢. That includes ink and paper.
Now that you have this system I recommend trying it and getting everything down. Maybe save this blog post or print it out. Make notes on the setup and then you are ready for business of shooting passports.