It is time for ASMP and NPPA to combine

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100

I have been at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference for the past few days. Through the years, many who have attended the conference have been members of either NPPA or ASMP. Many like myself have been members of both organizations.

Don Winslow is the editor of the News Photographer Magazine for NPPA and is in the photo above. I commented to him about how we should combine the two organizations. Don said that sounds like a great blog post.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/4, 1/250

I am tired of being a naysayer about things in the industry. I can continue to be a whiner about the changes I don’t like, or I can put forth this idea that many of my friends and I have discussed through the years.

I think their members should combine them because when I looked around the room, I saw people like Stacy Pearsall, Anacleto Rapping, Brad Smith, and Dave Black, and none of them were the staff. They are now all freelancers or, a better term, independent contractors.

The most significant difference between the two organizations is that NPPA was primarily staff photographers and ASMP was freelancers.

In an earlier blog post, I wrote:

You’ve probably heard that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, there are already 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) that fall into this category. That number is growing based on a number of factors. Some from employers who see this as a better choice and many employees who want more control over their lives as well. 

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:
“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

Many NPPA members like Bill Bangham [pictured above] are joining ASMP for similar reasons I did so back in 1987. They see how important it is to help the freelancer.

NPPA has had to catch up with ASMP to help its members understand business practices.

Due to the decline of staff jobs and even the number of independent photographers, these two organizations have fewer members. At one time, the NPPA had a membership of 15,000+; today, they are closer to 5,000.

I believe that the members of both organizations have more in common than different and, therefore, would benefit from combining the two organizations.

How all this would happen, I do not have that worked out in my head, but I know they need each other more today than at any additional time.

I do know that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the cost of membership. We have so many NPPA members living in poverty or so close that every little penny counts.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/100

Here is Anacleto Rapping teaching a class at the workshop. He has always been on staff like the LA Times and Brooks Institute before the past couple of years, having to run his own business. We need his talent and knowledge to help grow our industry.

Many NPPA members make around $24,000 salary. Without employers paying their dues, they don’t have the funds to join.

I know the cost of ASMP membership is well worth it for the freelancer. It is more valuable early in your career since they can help you navigate the business aspect better than you going alone.

Since the executive director of ASMP was on the board of NPPA and NPPA needs an executive director, why not just combine the two organizations and let Tom Kennedy and the boards help lead us to a healthier organization than two struggling organizations?

Create that triangle with your flash, camera and subject to improve your photos outside

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900 ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/3200

Photographing this year at the Fort Worth Stockyards, I encountered a noon-day sun combination with cowboy hats.

The hats are supposed to shade, which means you don’t see their faces unless you add some flash. So I said the off-camera flash to fill under those hats as done here to make the faces pop out.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 2.8, 1/2000

Just compare what flash can do by looking at the cowboy on the other horse in the background. You cannot see his face like the buy in front.

Here is an earlier post going over the technique. Get the camera, flash, and the subject to form a triangle. Here the flash is held to the far left off the camera and zoomed to 200mm to create a shaft of light to just light the cowboy’s face.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Pocketwizard TTL system with Nikon SB-900, ISO 100, ƒ/ 4, 1/1600

Flash is a great way to improve the photo of the cowboys because now I see their faces.

Photographers what is it that you provide your customers?

Link to Amazon

Today I met and listened to Matthew Kelly, the New York Times bestselling author of The Rhythm of Life and twenty other books published in more than twenty-five languages and sold more than 15 million copies.

Kelly says, “To win their hearts, you must take care of their legitimate physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs.”

Professional photographers need to know they are problem solvers if they want to stay in business. People don’t need photos; they need photos that solve their problems.

When you learn to tap into others’ dreams and aspirations and help them attain them, you connect with the real issues in their hearts.

Read his book to help you understand why people dream. Kelly says, “If you help your people accomplish their dreams, they will massively invest in your company.”

Earlier in the day, another Keynote speaker I listened to helped me to understand Habitudes.

Dr. Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders (, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization created to develop emerging leaders.

You may want to pick up his book Habitudes Book #1: The Art of Self-Leadership.

He shared one thing that I think many photographers need to hear. He shared how one company that made bits had a sales meeting with a new CEO. After everyone spoke on the sales that quarter about how they were the #1-bit manufacturer, the CEO got up and said we are not in the bit industry–We are in the hole industry.

When you lose focus on what you are there to do, then the industry can leave you.

Photographers, you have been too long in the picture business. Our pictures help people in industries solve their problems by helping those bit makers to visualize the holes they are creating.

Tip today is to analyze what you are doing for customers. For example, are you making bits or making holes?

Four tips to grow your photography brand

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 5600, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

I am in Orlando, Florida, covering a great meeting. I learned about four key elements today to grow your business.

  1. Avoid Complacency
  2. Know the Customer
  3. Focus to Win
  4. Work Together
I already knew this, but the speaker packaged them in a neat package for the audience.
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/500
Here is my interpretation of these points for photographers.

Avoid Complacency

If you as so dependable that your coverages all look alike, you have become complacent. So it would help if you mixed it up. 
If you struggle to do this, buy a different lens and force yourself to work differently.
Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/500
I did this recently by buying a 35mm ƒ/1.4. But, let me tell you, I tossed out a lot of shots tonight from shooting because the depth of field was so shallow the photos looked like I missed the focus.
Now I owned this lens when I first started shooting for a newspaper in 1984. However, I hadn’t held the fast prime in maybe 25 years. 
I used this lens to push me to do something different tonight.

Know The Customer

I work hard to understand the problem I am solving for the customer. It isn’t about me just taking pretty pictures. They need photos of specific things.
Way too many photographers think they know better than the customer. But unfortunately, most of these photographers don’t know as much as they believe.
Always know precisely the requirements you need to fulfill for the customer, so their problem is solved. Now, for fun, if you choose to go and shoot more stuff, that’s not only OK but also great.
Matthew 5:41 talk about people having to carry a Roman soldier’s gear for one mile if they were a Jew in the time of Christ. Jesus told people to carry that load 2 miles. 
Many companies today talk about 2nd-mile service, which references the Bible story. But, unfortunately, the mistake many make is they think they are doing the 2nd mile and don’t do the first mile, to begin with, for the client.

Focus to Win

To get a customer and to KEEP them, you need to understand the customer’s beliefs and behaviors. Then, you want to influence these.
A wedding photographer understands they are not just taking and documenting photos of the wedding. Instead, they know they are writing the book’s first chapter of the bride and groom’s life together.
When I started social media, the photographers who understood how to influence customers’ beliefs and behaviors would Tweet photos from the day. They also helped them create those no look but touch photos of the bride and groom before the wedding. Using social media is a new phenomenon that didn’t exist before photographers started offering this, and all couples wanted it.
The photographer who first started this and other ideas quickly became in high demand. They influenced the beliefs and behaviors of engaged couples, their choices for photographers, and what was concerned gowith od wedding photography.

Work Together

Social media still applies even if you don’t have a staff and it is just you. If you are married, your spouse can make a huge difference in their lives. As you work with your client, you help them to see this is a collaboration. 
I learned today about how Uber delivers puppies for you to play with. Just read this story. Not only does a puppy cheer someone up like flowers, but it also helps the local humane society with a donation. Uber is working to make communities better in many ways.
In what ways can you do something that, when someone does business with you, benefits your community?
Check out Warby Parker Eyeglasses for another example of a company that when customers work with them, the entire community benefits. Buy a pair, give a pair.
While these four ideas are not new, they can revolutionize your business. However, each of these requires a commitment at a pretty high level to execute them wisely.
Are you up to the challenge?

How a photo agency can help you

My good friend Ken Touchton and I are covering a Georgia Tech football game. Ken has been one of my best business mentors.

Both Ken and I worked with the photo agency Black Star.

Black Star, also known as Black Star Publishing Company, was started by refugees from Germany who had established photographic agencies there in the 1920s. Today it is a New York City-based photographic agency with offices in London and White Plains, New York. It was the first privately owned picture agency in the United States and introduced numerous new techniques in photography and illustrated journalism. Life magazine’s editor Henry Luce relied on them for coverage.

Black Star was formed in December 1935. The three founders were Kurt Safranski, Ernest Mayer, and Kurt Kornfeld. In 1964, the company was sold to Howard Chapnick.

He taught annual workshops at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In 1994 he published a book called Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism, summarizing his many years of experience in dealing with photojournalists and sharing it with those who want to be one.

Howard Chapnick was a principal founder of the W. Eugene Smith competition and Memorial Fund, which awards grants for projects in humanistic photography. After he died in 1996, this Fund established in his memory a gift to encourage and support leadership in fields ancillary to photojournalism.

 I was talking with Ken the other day, and he let me know how he first started to work with Howard Chapnick.

Now the way it worked in those 1970s – 1990s, the agencies signed on photographers, and if you signed on first in New York City, then if the job called for your skills, you were the first they contacted.

Well, when Ken was talking to Howard about working for them, Howard pointed out where he lived or mentioned moving to they already had photographers.

Ken said to Howard, “Well, Howard, I need you to handle my administrative side for me. I will find the clients, bring them to you, and ask you to help negotiate rates and collect my payment.”


If you are starting and don’t know the business side of this industry, then what Ken Touchton did in the 1970s was a brilliant move. While taking this approach, Ken gave up a sizable chunk of money for the clients he found. Agencies often take 20% – 50% of the billings, which can be substantial.

Ken knew and admitted up front to himself that Black Star, specifically Howard Chapnick, could do a better job of knowing a reasonable rate for the work he was doing and negotiate a better deal than Ken could do by himself.

Put yourself into Howard Chapnick’s shoes. Which photographer do you want to represent? Do you want to describe someone you have to go and find a business for or the photographer bringing you a business?

It didn’t take long before Ken wasn’t just bringing business to Black Star but now getting business from them.

Now there are so many things I learned from Ken about business and my time working with Howard Chapnick, but I want to be sure and point out what Ken and I discovered through the years.

We learned to listen to those photographers whose business success was extraordinary. Sometimes their photography was mediocre, but we did notice they understood how to put food on the table. One of those was Howard Chapnick. He didn’t take photos for a living but helped administer some of the most outstanding photographers ever careers.

Black Star photographers include Robert Capa, Andreas Feininger, Germaine Krull, Philippe Halsman, W. Eugene Smith, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Charles Moore, Lee Lockwood, and my mentors Don Rutledge and Ken Touchton.

Summary: If you are not good with the industry’s business side, partner with someone who is, and you will do much better than going it alone.

Are you all Sizzle or Steak?

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600

“All About That Bass”

Because you know I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass, no treble

I’m all about that bass

‘Bout that bass… bass… bass… bass

Megan Trainor’s pop single “All About That Bass” made it to the top of the charts. Many women have felt they are not good enough for years because the only body type celebrated in our culture was that of a Barbie Doll.

Stanley’s top five strengths after taking the Clifton StrengthFinder Test.

As you may know, the Clifton StrengthsFinder measures the presence of talent in 34 categories called “themes.” Gallup determined these themes as those that most consistently predict outstanding performance. The greater the presence of a talent theme within a person, the more likely that person is to exhibit those talents in day-to-day behaviors spontaneously. Focusing on naturally powerful skills helps people use them as the foundation of strengths and enjoy personal, academic, and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.

Today we still celebrate certain traits in people. However, if everyone in the band only played the trumpet, the type of music you would hear would be very limiting.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.2, 1/500

Here the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band takes the field during half-time at the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The diversity of the instruments brings the whole musical experience to the audience.

Sizzle & Steak

Today in the communications field, we have two major parts to communication. I tend to discuss these as the Sizzle [Presentation] and Steak [Content]. 

In many songs, we might think of this as the music and the words, but that might stretch the metaphor a little. However, this might be a great way to see my point about the two parts.

Many people often love a song because of how the music makes them feel. Often people mishear the lyrics.

Top 20 most common misheard lyrics:

1. REM – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite

Real lyric: ”Call me when you try to wake her

Misheard lyric: ”Calling Jamaica”

2. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze

Real Lyric: ”Excuse me while I kiss the sky”

Misheard Lyric: ”Excuse me while I kiss this guy”

3. Aerosmith – Dude Looks Like A Lady 

Real Lyric: ”Dude looks like a lady”

Misheard Lyric: ”Do just like a lady”

4. The Foundations – Buttercup

Real Lyric: ”Build me up buttercup”

Misheard Lyric: ”Fill me up buttercup”

5. Adele – Chasing Pavements

Real lyric: ”Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements”

Misheard lyric: ”Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing penguins”

6. Bon Jovi – Living On A Prayer

Real Lyric: ”It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not”

Misheard Lyric: ”It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not”

7. ABBA – Dancing Queen

Real Lyric ”Dancing queen, Feel the beat from the tambourine, oh yeah”

Misheard Lyrics: ”Dancing queen, Feel the beat from the tangerine, oh yeah”

8. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – One That I Want

Real Lyric: ”You’re the one that I want”

Misheard Lyric: ”You’re the wobbly one”

9. Nirvana- Smells Like Teen Spirit

Real Lyric: ”Here we are now, entertain us”

Misheard Lyric: ”Here we are now, in containers”

10. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Real lyric:  ”Spare him his life from this monstrosity”

Misheard lyric: ”Spare him his life for this one cup of tea”

11. Johnny Nash- I Can See Clearly Now

Real Lyric: ”I can see clearly now the rain has gone”

Misheard Lyric: ”I can see clearly now Lorraine has gone”

12. Madonna- Papa Don’t Preach

Real Lyric: ”Papa don’t preach”

Misheard Lyric: ”Poppadom Peach”

13. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Real Lyric – ”Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango”

Misheard lyric: ”Scallaboosh, Scallaboosh, will you to the banned tango”

14. Bee Gees- Stayin’ Alive

Real Lyric: ”Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”

Misheard Lyric: ”Steak and a knife, steak and a knife”

15. Prodigy – Out of space

Real lyric: ”I’ll take your brain to another dimension. Pay close attention”

Misheard lyric:  ”I’ll take your brain to another dimension.  Hey close the kitchen”

16. ABBA – Dancing Queen

Real lyric: ”See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the dancing queen”

Misheard lyric: ”See that girl, watch her scream, kicking the dancing queen”

17. ABBA – Mamma Mia

Real lyric: ”How can I resist you”

Misheard lyric: ”Have I got a sister”

18. Take That – Babe

Real lyric: ”Babe”

Misheard lyric: ”Dave”

19. Blue Oyster Cult- Don’t Fear The Reaper

Real Lyric: ”Seasons don’t fear the reaper”

Misheard Lyric: ”Jesus don’t fear the reaper”

20. Annie Lennox- There Must Be An Angel

Real Lyric: ”Must be talking to an angel”

Misheard Lyric: ”Must be talking to a ninja”

Many people fall in love with the song’s music and mood, and the words are not all important to them. This is where the Sizzle is dominant in the song.

Now, with the song “Cats In The Cradle,” I believe the words connect with the audience as much as the music. Here the Steak is king. The emphasis in Japanese business culture is on the gift-giving ritual rather than the gift itself. For this reason, you may receive a gift that seems too modest or extravagant. Here the Sizzle is more critical than the Steak.

What am I talking about

Too often, we fall into the trap of thinking it is all about one or the other. We either overly emphasize the Sizzle or the Steak. Photographers may forget to include captions to help the message be understood, or Designers may get carried away about the design and ignore the notice that is supposed to be king. Excellent communication is not one or the other. Executing the Sizzle and Steak together is the goal. Together is when the total package is stronger than the individual parts. Many people who come over from the entertainment industry into corporate communications make the mistake of thinking that just because they like their song, they got the message. When the task is to communicate a message, you cannot have the lyrics misheard and be successful.

REM – The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite

Real lyric: ”Call me when you try to wake her”

Misheard lyric: ”Calling Jamaica”

At the same time, you cannot afford to create content that doesn’t pull people in because the Sizzle is not there.

Combining Sizzle & Steak

Start with always asking WHY?

  • Why am I writing this press release?
  • Why am I creating this video?
  • Why am I taking this photo?
  • Why am I creating this poster?

Once you understand what you are doing, you also need to ask the second question.

Who is my AUDIENCE?

Is your audience toddlers that will more likely connect to Teletubbies than Metallica? How you package that content is your Sizzle.

Test your MESSAGE

Too many communicators make the mistake of asking did you like it only? Show your product to some people in your audience demographic. Then ask them to tell you what they got from it.

If they articulate the message, you were trying to get across–SUCCESS!!. If they cannot tell you the news, but they loved it, you have a case of Sizzle and no Steak.

If they got the message but weren’t giving you high marks for delivery, you may have all Steak and no Sizzle.

If you were creating advertising, your success would be measured as if sales go up, down, or stay the same.

Warning Signs for Becoming a Professional Photographer

[Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/18, 1/500]

While taking my drive around the Big Island of Hawaii last week, I turn onto the 4 mile scenic route
of Old Mamalahoa Highway just outside of Hilo, Hawaii. About halfway on the road we came across this beautiful view of a bay area.

This was next to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a wonderful exotic part of the Big Island. Through the years the views have been changing. More and more fences are going up alongside these views with signs of warning.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/18, 1/500

You see the entire Island is a volcano. The rocks are quite porous and can easily break off. One of the years when I visited a large section of the Volcanoes National Park broke off and fell into the sea. It was about the size of a football field. Some people died when that happened.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500

Scenes like this of Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii are one of the things drawing people into thinking that if this is what a photographer does then sign me up.

The lure of what photographers get to take photos of is what draws way too many people into this industry and then without warning many people have the ground fall away underneath them and they often do not survive the industry.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

There are signs when you go to the Black Sands beach telling you to not touch the turtles and to stay 15 feet away and that includes when taking pictures.

Photographers it seems need a lot of signs to tell them what not to do, because they seem to just take unnecessary risks.

Signs are now going up

I think slowly people are getting the message that being a photographer isn’t as easy as it seems. There are now warning signs all over the industry.

My friend called me while I was in Hawaii. I had asked if he could help me with a project and be a shooter for me. He was sick when I asked and was going in the next day to work and would check with his boss.

He was calling to let me know half of the staff was laid off. My friend was now very available to help me.

Just in the past few months other icons also were slicing their staffs.

More and more of my friends no longer had staff jobs.

Shortly after Sports Illustrated laid off the staff of photographers even my friend Brad Smith the director of photography lost his job with a few others.

What this means

If you want to be a teacher, lawyer, fireman and most any other profession you just go and study and become that professional. You graduate from a degree program and apply to be a staff employee somewhere.

Well that has majorly changed in photography. When I graduated from college I was hired by a newspaper. While there are some staff jobs, the number of them is drastically less than just a few years ago. Not only are there fewer staff jobs there are fewer newspapers.

You’ve probably heard that by 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, there are already 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) that fall into this category. That number is growing based on a number of factors. Some from employers who see this as a better choice and many employees who want more control over their lives as well.

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:

“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Freelancing vs Staff

You need to know a lot more about the business side of your profession than if you were a staff employee. You need to understand the Cost of Doing Business and your business needs to solve a problem for someone or you are just not going to be in business very long at all. Here is a great blog for you to follow about the business side of photography

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000

Just like these cowboys trying to rope a cow, it takes a lot of practice before you can turn pro.

Lighting Assignment: Combining Studio Strobes with Available Light

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/50

This last shooting assignment I have given my class this week is to take a studio strobe out and make a photo where this compliments the light already in the scene.

Before they shot in the field, I did two different shoots. Here is the second shoot I did with them where we left the classroom, and I showed them how to talk to folks and get them to pose for an environmental photograph. So again, this is an environment that tells us something about the person.

Here we are showing the guy doing his job as a barista in the local coffee shop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

I first made this photo of him working and showed it to the class. I showed them the light on the subject and didn’t make him pop. Then, as he continued to work, I took another photo with the studio strobe to make him pop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

The setup was like this for the shot:

I put a 10º Grid and a neutral density filter on the flash, which was still pretty bright. I used the grid to keep the light from going everywhere and lighting up too much in the scene.

Then I just had him turn and look at the camera for the first photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/500

We heard sawing nearby, so we checked it out and saw if we could get another person in their work environment. Here is the first photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/80

After adding the flash, I took this photo and adjusted the shutter speed to where I didn’t blow the background away.

When I first talked about the assignment, we walked outside the studio, and I took these photos to give them some understanding of the assignment.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

After making this photo, I then added a flash.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

Then I added a CTO Gel, an orange-colored gel, to the light. I then took a custom white balance and reshot the photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/250

I also underexposed the background by 1 1/2 stop by turning the strobe up in power but keeping everything else the same. Unfortunately, this adjustment meant I had to close down the aperture from ƒ/10 to ƒ/22. The change made the background darker since the light didn’t affect it.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/18, 1/250

I then added a CTB to the light and did a custom white balance. The background went orange with a blue gel on the flash and corrected the white balance to give a good skin tone.

Make this your assignment as well. Here are the directions that I gave to the class:

Mixed Lighting
This assignment aims to demonstrate that when you are out of the studio, you can use your strobes to improve an otherwise dismal situation.
Whatever you choose, you must provide two photos. 
  1. Photo without strobes. In other words, your subject needs light to make it look better. You want to make this the best exposed as possibly you can do. (the same as with strobes)
  2. Photo with the strobes.
Some Blog Posts to help get your juices flowing and walk you through the steps:

  1. 20% for proper exposure
  2. 20% for focus
  3. 20% Showing rules of composition
  4. 20% Demonstrating each technique
  5. 20% for expression

Lighting setup 2 assignment for my class: 3:1 Lighting Ratio

Photo by: Maile Powell

The first assignment I gave the students this week with one light gave us excellent Rembrandt lighting. The downside to this type of lighting is sometimes you need to fill in those shadows.

This week’s second assignment for the students in my photo class is a 3:1 Lighting Ratio.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200

Here is the setup

Assignment Description:
3:1 lighting ratio. This photo uses classic lighting.


Octobox closest to subject
This light is your leading light. Set a light reading with just this first. The light should be 45 degrees off the axis of the camera and 45 degrees above the subject’s eyes.

Your subject should have the main light lighting only part of the face, and the shadows should be just a little to show the 3:1 ratio.

Choose the lowest ISO. Ideally, on a full-frame camera, a lens is close to 85mm, and on the cropped sensor, it a 50mm. S t your shutter speed to the sync speed for your camera [in your camera manual] or slower. M  camera was 1/250, but I shot at a slower speed of 1/200.

Octobox behind the camera
The second light is your fill light and get just a reading of this 2nd. B sure it is 1/2 the power (1 f/stop less) than the leading light. After this is done, get a 3rd light reading of both lights, which will be the setting for the camera. It can be level with the eyes, but you may have to move up with glasses to avoid glare.

First, set the leading light, and here is what that will look like:

Due to using such a large softbox, the shadows are not as severe as in our first assignment using the grid light. So e of the light is bouncing off a white wall a few feet to the model’s left or right of the camera position.

Turning the leading light off after finding out your setting, you need to take a reading and get the fill light to 1 stop less than the main light. For example, the main light was ƒ/4, so the fill light should read ƒ/2.8.

The photo below is what it looks like without the main light on. You can see a little darker, but no actual shaping of the face as the main light is 45º to the side.

When you combine them, you get the first photo of the model we started.


The main light is twice as bright as the fill light. So to show this using math, we would say the main light has a value of 2, and the fill light has the value of 1.

Where both the main and fill light fall on the face is getting the combined value of the 2 + 1 = 3. Ho ever in the shadows, only the fill light hits those; therefore, the value is only 1.

So the bright areas get 3 and the shadows 1 giving you a 3:1 lighting ratio.

Now I showed the students how they could add a background light. I put a blue gel over it to show them they can also color the background.

Seeing Rembrandt lighting and then creating it

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/500

This morning while eating breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo, Hawaii, I noticed what appeared to be a mother and daughter together. After analyzing the photograph, I know it caught my eye because of the lighting on the mother’s face.

We call Rembrandt lighting, named after the famous painter known for using this lighting technique in many of his paintings.

Ken’s House of Pancakes
Around the Island Trip

There is a little triangle of light on the dark side of the face when the light is 45º to the subject’s side and 45º above the issue.

Tomorrow the students in the class will learn how to create the triangle on a person’s cheek to create Rembrandt lighting. Rembrandt lighting is my first lesson in lighting, which I think is a great place to start.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, , ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200–four Alienbees

To get this triangle, the students will use a similar setup to this shot. For this shot, I used four lights. The students will only use one.

They will use just one light with a spot grid on it.

Here is the assignment they will get tomorrow. How about you try it yourself?

Rembrandt Lighting Assignment

I gave the class an assignment on making a Rembrandt light portrait using just one light with a 10º or 20º spot grid.

Most of the class has never even turned on a studio strobe before.

Here is the assignment:

SOP 1 Studio Shots

Rembrandt’s portrait uses one grid light


Please get the best possible expression. For example, it would be best if you saw a triangle on their cheek. Be sure the triangle includes lighting their eye.

Monobloc with 10 or 20-degree grid
You may use any power setting you choose. Be sure skin tone is exposed correctly and correct white balance.

Choose the lowest ISO setting for your camera. For example, use a portrait lens of 85mm – 100mm; if you don’t have a full frame, then 50mm will be OK.

You may use a black background as well. No other lights are to be used in this assignment.

Here is one of the students shot from the past:

Photo by: Lauren R. Tercero

Success is most often in the nuance of the details

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/18000

The success of a photo is often in the nuance of the details. For this photo shoot, it was essential that I not only have the subjects in their costumes and makeup but that I was lighting the subjects during the daylight to look like nighttime.

I wanted to create a mood that said “spooky.” So, to help take it to that level, we got a fog machine to help make this look above.

Now, look at the photo without the fog to see how important details are in a photo shoot.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/7.1, 1/15000

For me, the difference isn’t minor but rather quite prominent in the impact of creating the “spooky” mood I was going for in the photo.

We often talk about moving the camera, so slighting to the left or right can make a difference.

If you are creating something like I did here versus capturing your subject, you can plan and think of all the tiny nuances you can control to make your photo successful.

Why I chose my Nikon D4 over my D750

While in Florida at a family reunion, we were suddenly in the backyard watching our kids enjoying Go Karting. I started shooting this with my Nikon D750 with a Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens. I quickly realized the performance differed from what I was used to with my Nikon D4.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

I returned to the car and got my Nikon D4 and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM. I immediately went to the “Shooting menu bank” and picked what I saved as my sports settings.

Next, I went to my “Custom menu settings” and picked the setting I saved as my sports settings.

Lastly, I put the shutter release on continuous high.

To see what each of these settings are on my Nikon D4, you can read this earlier blog post on my Sports Settings for the Nikon D4.

The Nikon D750 could have performed much better, but the point of this blog post is how important it is to concentrate on the action when you need to capture a moment, not your camera.

The one significant advantage of the Nikon D4 over the D750 was 11 fps. The focus tracking and 11 fps gave me more moments to choose my best shot. In addition, the buffer is more significant, so you can shoot more frames before the buffer fills.

The best thing to know is that if you need to get the shot, you must know that you have maximized your camera settings. You don’t do this when you need a photo; you do this when you take your camera and go and practice. For example, maybe you go by a busy road and practice shooting moving traffic so you can tweak your focus settings. After you get that set, then you move to another location to set.

Once you get all the settings just right, then save them. My Nikon D4 gives me four different memory banks to save my settings.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

The payoff for maximizing my camera’s settings is having a moment like this to remember my daughter and her cousin having fun.

You will pick the camera you are most comfortable with to get the photo you need, so take the time and calibrate the camera for the situations you will shoot.