Monday Devotional for Photographers – Full-time Ministry

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500

Capturing moments like this one in Togo, West Africa, is what I thought many years ago would be my full-time career today.

During a youth retreat in high school, I responded to what I believed was a call to full-time Christian ministry. My church licensed me into the ministry. This was the first step down a process I thought would have me do ministry/missions full-time. Full-time, meaning I would pay all my bills from being on the staff of a missions agency.

I received this call while a senior in high school. My father, a pastor/missionary, gave me counsel. My father mentored me and guided me to avoid some of his mistakes. Together, we determined that I needed a path in education.

You will open more doors with a master of divinity degree. This is required for most pastor and missionary positions. Before you can get a master’s, you need a bachelor’s degree. This is where my father gave me some wisdom from his experience. He said he worked a great deal in two areas that a master of divinity doesn’t prepare you well.

BAREBACK RIDING–The Cobb County Classic Rodeo @ Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2500]

Most ministers and missionaries are an organization’s leaders, and a business degree would help you with administrative responsibilities. The second area was that of a counselor.

I decided to major in social work, and then I planned to go to seminary.

While in college, I discovered photography and, more specifically, photojournalism. In my senior year, while on spring break, I was offered a job as a photojournalist for a newspaper. I didn’t see this as a departure from ministry but a call to a specialist role in the church.

I met Don Rutledge during my senior year in college; he would become my mentor. Rather than telling that entire story here, you can read more here. Don was a photojournalist who worked for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board as the primary photographer for The Commission Magazine.

A year and a half later, I would get a phone call from Don Rutledge about a photographer position on their staff.

I would spend five years working on the staff before they went through the financial crisis and cut my position.

This was a great time with Don Rutledge. Unable to find a staff job due to the economy, I believed seminary would help open closed doors. This was one of the best things I have ever done. I thought I would study and learn all this theology that would help me, and I did, but I didn’t know how much I would learn about education. I learned a lot about lesson planning and how people learn.

Upon graduating, I thought I was better equipped to help tell those missionary stories and a better communicator. However, no positions opened up for me in the church. I did find a job at Georgia Tech.

The assignments here stretched me in other ways. I worked with Gary Meek, and the two of us helped to tell the stories shared through all kinds of media. We have published in many national magazines and newspapers as well as all the public relations materials for the school.

I thought my time at the school was God’s way of further preparing me for something in missions. Well, it did help me in so many ways, and I learned many new skills I use today.

For the past fifteen years, I have been a full-time freelancer, taking any job in photography and communications to help pay the bills. I was assisting NGOs with web design. I had learned how to create my webpage to help me with freelancing, and others heard and asked me to help them.

I would make a mission trip every few years but never turned this into a full-time career. Last year, I made four separate mission trips, each for a week. The rest of my freelancing helped pay the bills, allowing me to do those mission projects.

I am still longing for the opportunity to do full-time ministry work.

Ring Weekend for the seniors at the Citadel [Nikon D3S, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/8000]

Today, I am asking myself, did God call me? Why am I not working full-time for an organization doing missions/ministry if he did?

Most likely, I am limiting God with all my questions. Maybe I am doing missions and ministry, and my understanding of what defines ministry is more limiting than how God sees it.

The one character in the bible I can relate to the most is Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob. He was given a dream that wouldn’t come true for most of his life. In telling the story, it wouldn’t be fulfilled until the very end of the story, which took most of his lifetime.

His older brothers knew Joseph as their father’s favorite. For this reason, his ten older brothers conspired against the boy and sold him to slave traders while telling their father an animal had mauled him. Joseph had been given dreams of God’s plan for his life, so he endured this fantastic story in Genesis with confidence and strength.

He would be falsely accused and thrown into jail. It would be his gift to interpret dreams that would have him later become a leader for the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead them through a time of famine and for his vision as a young boy to come true.

Are you, too, feeling depressed and beaten down? Do you wonder if God ever called you to pursue your profession?

Did you know that scripture commonly associates those who minister for a paycheck as false ministers?

“No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold.”

– Matthew 6:24

The first missionary was Paul, who earned his living as a tentmaker. He said:

If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:12

Paul also instructed people to work and earn a living:

Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people-no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.

2 Thessalonians 3:11

The biblical word “pastor” is the same as “shepherd” (which is simply a caring servant of God’s people), and Jesus Himself made this point clear when he said the following about such “ministers”:

“A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.”

John 10:12-13 (MSG)

Christians supported Paul’s travels financially, and Paul encouraged the Saints to consider those who spent their lives ministering the Gospel. Still, the gifts were given freely, from love and in response to need (ACTUAL NEED – i.e., FOOD AND CLOTHING).

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NKJV)

I fully believe that IF God has ordained their service, He will also fully provide every legitimate need. But the minister should not have a high and mighty opinion that he is above the need to earn his living and provide for his family and ministry.

That provision may be having another job to pay the bills.

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

If you have the money and time to do missions full-time, then God wouldn’t get any credit, but if you lack money and time, then when you get to do missions, you know it is because of God and not your abilities that made it happen.

Three Quick Photo Tips

A shallow Depth-of-Field can help draw more attention to a subject and diminish things in the background. For this photo, I used my Nikon D5 and Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art lens with the camera set at ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, and 1/100.

Record breaking snow for 2011 [NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/8000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 170)]

You must adjust the exposure when shooting on snow or at the beach. I find that adding +1 stop using the exposure compensation dial gives the best results. Depending on how your meter interprets the scene, you may need more or less.

Into the Woods Performances

This is tricky lighting, but I could tweak the image before I shot it. I saw the results I would be getting, and in theater, the lighting changes so much that this is a blessing to shoot with the mirrorless Fuji X-E2. The electronic viewfinder lets you see what the CMOS chip is seeing and capturing.

Gear recommendations for Spring Sports like Soccer

Saint Martin’s Soccer [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

The teams are practicing now for Spring soccer and baseball. Here are some tips for getting those action shots for soccer.

You need the right gear to get those peak action shots. Your camera phone is just not going to cut it.

For most of your action shots, you will need a lens to bring that action close to you. I recommend a lens covering the 300mm to 600mm range.

Here is what I use:

Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S

I also use the 1.4 or 2x converter with it.

Sigma TC-1401 1.4x & Sigma TC-2001 2x

This lets me get close to the action.

Saint Martin’s Soccer [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Now there are less expensive choices for you to use. I would recommend for the Sigma 150-600mm. It comes in two versions a contemporary and sports version. If you are a heavy user you would want the sports version.

You need to pair these lenses with a good camera body. You can use DSLR and mirrorless cameras to capture the action.

Saint Martin’s Soccer [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

I like to shoot at a high shutter speed of 1/4000. This lets me freeze the action, which makes the photos even sharper. I also enjoy shooting wide-open aperture to keep a shallow depth of field.

Saint Martin’s Soccer [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

When I bought my lens, Nikon had not made the 200-500mm, selling today for about $1250.

These lenses let you shoot from the end zones. I like to be not far from the net, capturing the player’s faces as they move closer to the goal and defend the plan.

Many people try to shoot this action with 70-200mm lenses, but they are not long enough for soccer. They work ok as the action gets close to the goal, but you need to be close to that goal.

Let me say that all of these lenses paired with the latest camera bodies of the major camera manufacturers will give you incredible results.

Here are some features that I would compare with camera bodies.

  1. ISO – I recommend cameras with a high ISO of 12,800 or higher
  2. Shutter Speed – you need to be shooting at 1/1000 or faster.
  3. Motor Drive – I recommend 5+ per second
  4. Buffer – The higher, the better. The Nikon D500 and D5 have a pad of 200 shooting RAW.

I believe that the Nikon D5 is in a class all its own for shooting sports. If you don’t want to shell out $6,500, look at the Nikon D500 for $2,000.

While I say all the time, it is the photographer and not the gear that determines a good photo–with sports, you do need some long glass, or you cannot capture the action.

Great photos require intentional photographers

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320

Before you read this post, take a moment and look at all the photos. Then take a moment and think about what you think they are all about. Once you have done that, come back and pick up the reading.

Why did I take this photo and the others I am showing you today? Let me talk about each one separately. Also, I would rarely not include some text with these photos no matter where I share them because I want to communicate what is going on.

I was accompanying one of the workshop participants I was helping teach in Togo, West Africa, on her story of a pastor. This was part of the story.

This is a Charlatan Witch Doctor of Fetishes in Togo, West Africa, going into the temple he built for the different gods he worships. In Togo, about half the population practices indigenous religions, of which Vodun [worship of fetishes] is the largest, with some 2.5 million followers.

Vodun cosmology centers around the vodun spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth, a hierarchy that ranges in power from major deities presiding the forces of nature and human society to the spirits of individual streams, trees, and rocks, as well as dozens of ethnic vodun, defenders of a particular clan, tribe, or nation. The vodun is the center of religious life, similar to doctrines such as the intercession of saints and angels that made Vodun appear compatible with Christianity, especially Catholicism, and produced syncretic religions such as Haitian Vodou. Adherents also emphasize ancestor worship and hold that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living, each family of spirits having its female priesthood, sometimes hereditary when it’s from mother to blood daughter. [Wikipedia]

I took this photo and how I took it to communicate the belief in many gods by the people of Togo. For many who become Christians, it is still common for many to still practice these Fetishes. The tradition has been so strong for so long in their culture that it is difficult for them to break away from these practices.

Here is the story that the student Hannah Teramura tells the tale of Martouka.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 1800, ƒ/8, 1/100]

Why did I make this photo?

Before we sent all eleven students out individually to go and work on their stories, we did a refresher on capturing the interview.

We walked around as a group and agreed on this place to do the interview. We did this based on the lighting, the sound, and the background. We then set up the camera with the subject to be interviewed, the translator, and the student asking the questions and doing the story.

We then practiced and stopped here and there to talk about the camera settings, the interviewing process, and the importance of the student listening with headphones and watching that the subject doesn’t move too much to put them out of focus or out of the frame of the camera.

Can you see how I composed and picked a moment to convey much of this information, but text helped explain who each person is in the photo and their role?

When did I figure out all this?

Before I clicked the shutter! Very important to think through what is going on in front of the camera and then distill all this into a moment that will convey the point you want to make.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/640]

Why did I make this photo?

This is pastor Martouka Anani’s son. Now he was very interested and intense. You can tell he is a thinker trying to figure out why these white people are doing with those cameras.

As I brought the camera up to take her photo, I could see this intensity in his face and body language. I decided I needed to capture this tension. I also decided I wanted to isolate him in the corn field and hint that his brother was in the background.

I felt this girl was fearless, unlike his brother, who was playing. Like his father, this little boy wants to know more than he sees on the surface of people’s faces. He is peering into your soul with his eyes.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]

Now contrast this to his older sister, who, while still engaging with her eyes, has more softness with her gaze than her younger brother.

Martouka Anani, their father, fell deathly sick after years of growing up in fetish worship and remembered the gospel he had heard as a child. Even though his parents disowned him from walking away from the fetish religion, he pursued Jesus and devoted his life to sharing the good news with others.

Their next-door neighbor is the Charlatan Witch Doctor in the first photo. Just imagine living next door to a faith your father gave up and lost his family and all their day-to-day interactions with that family. I am sure the kids play together but imagine they have to understand why their parents are so different.

Maybe the reason for these looks of the children is they are not sure what we believe and will also be their faith for themselves.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 900, ƒ/1.4, 1/200]

Why am I taking this photo?

I wanted to capture how important faith is to the community we came to cover. This photo by itself doesn’t capture the whole story. But paired with the images above in a larger story helps me convey the culture’s intricacies a little more and helps the reader understand what they are dealing with each day.

Had we just taken photos only in the church buildings, the images are not different than here in the United States. Yes, the building is a little different, but the expressions in prayer look similar. However, with the other photos showing this pastor living next door to a Witch Doctor and that this is the life he left for Jesus, we can see what maybe is something different that they pray about that we don’t have to deal with here.


I hope you can see that I must take the time to think about what is happening around me. I then have to consider what I want to share with someone through my photos.

If you take photos without knowing what you are trying to say, then your audience will have no clue as to what you are trying to say.

Here are some places to start thinking about the photo that you want to make.

  1. What is my emotion right now? Are you happy, sad, melancholic, joyful, etc
  2. What is the subject? What is the noun if I put this into a sentence?
  3. What is the verb? Thinking again like a sentence, what is going on that I need to show? What would be the verb in the penalty if I were writing this all down? Your shutter speed may help communicate motion, for example, or freeze something.
  4. What should I include or exclude? You may do this by composing by moving around and picking a particular lens to capture the content. You may also decide how much is in focus on the subject. You may even choose to not just go from a wide angle to telephoto, but super close with a macro lens.
  5. Do I need to alter the light to help with capturing what I need? Do you need a flash? Do you need to wait till the subject moves into the light?

You can ask many more questions to help you determine what to capture with your camera. 

Great photographs are like great poems. The differences are in the nuances. Finding the perfect balance of grammar, simplicity, intricacy, feeling, imagery, and rhythm is one of the most difficult challenges a poet will face. In some cases, a poet’s work might never be done. For example, he might spend several years, or even his entire life, trying to perfect one single poem. He might often omit a word or two here or change some terms there.

The photographer is always looking for ways to improve. They work to understand the technology to help improve their images. They study the subjects to see those nuances to give more understanding.

My challenge to you is to be intentional. Know why you are clicking the shutter, or your audience will not know.

The How To – 12′ x 8′ Oklahoma! Musical Banner

Putting up the 12″ x 8″ banner for Oklahoma! at Roswell High School [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/100 [photo by: Dorie Griggs]]

This year we are getting our PR for musical Oklahoma! Started much sooner than last year’s production of Into The Woods. About two months before the performance with the 12′ x 8′ banner.

Last year we were up just a little more than a month before the performance.

[photo by: Dorie Griggs]

Last year the banner was 9′ x 6′. When I put the flag up the previous year, I can remember feeling it wasn’t big enough. I believe the 12′ x 8′ is plenty big for the space.

Putting up the 12″ x 8″ banner for Oklahoma! at Roswell High School [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/8, 1/100 [photo by: Dorie Griggs]]

Every 2 feet, there is a grommet to help you tie the banner to posts like I am doing here. If you are putting this outside and not on a wall, you need to use every one of those grommets. When you do, and wind comes along, each grommet has less tension than if you used just the corners. Your banner will do better in the wind if you tie it well with all the grommets.

Putting up the 12″ x 8″ banner for Oklahoma! at Roswell High School [photo by: Dorie Griggs]

You can get an idea of how massive the banner is from the back with me on a 6-foot ladder.


1) Select your source to make the banner. I use Here is a link to their specs to give you an idea of what you need to supply as file size.

2) Select your image. I recommend shooting in RAW and Lightroom or PhotoShop, resizing the image to the size of the banner. I did it here and exported the photo as a JPEG to 12 feet on the long side. You need to check with your banner source to see their specs. They said 150 dpi or more.

 3) Open the large JPEG photo in PhotoShop and then put text over the photo.

4) All State Banners can take most file types. The first time I sent them, the PhotoShop file was saved as PSD. The last two banners I just exported out of PhotoShop as JPEG. Again the size is the exact size of the banner at 150 dpi. As a PSD, the file is a 1225.1 MB file. As JPEG, it is 66.1 MB file size.

The total cost this year was $229.44. I only paid $206.50 because they were running a 10% discount.

Now, this is only part of our PR. Here are two Facebook Cover size photos for the people to post on their pages to help promote the musical.

Stay tuned to see other ways we use photography to help market the musical.

Still Photographers – Showstoppers

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/80

When you go and experience the Theatre, you see the story’s sequencing into moments. Within each scene, there is build to a crescendo, and then all of these different scenes build to a showstopper most of the time.

A showstopper is a performance or segment of a theatrical production that induces a positive audience reaction strong enough to pause the show.

People’s Fest 2013 @ Atlantic Station Celebrating the People’s Food Truck launch featuring Marc Broussard + Sonia Leigh + Ben Deignan + Jameson Elder Food trucks + food curated by chef Ford Fry of The Optimist + JCT. Kitchen VIP event hosted by chef Shaun Doty of Bantam & Biddy + Chick-A-Biddy [Nikon D4, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/125]

Now, comparing the two photos above, the main difference is that one is a theatre production, and the other is real life in real-time.

For a scene to be a real showstopper, the actors must portray what would be in a real-life situation through their body language, expressions, and tone of voice.

Now what the theatre has in common with still photography is that real life is more like video and moving constantly and with theatre and the still image, the pause of the action allows the audience to absorb the moment.

St. Pius X High School [Nikon D3, NIKKOR 85mm ƒ/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]

In life, we have moments where we ponder and think. If a writer is describing this brief moment, it may take four or five pages to tell all that weighs on the character and their thoughts and dreams. In real life, you cannot hear or read people’s thoughts. However, in real life, the person’s expressions often communicate some of this, which a writer only has text to convey.

RHS advanced drama presents: Almost Maine by John Cariani [Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]

Actors must convey those four to five pages of text from a book into the play version of that book. The playwright may have notes to the side of the script to help the actor know what they are trying to communicate, but still, what it boils down to is capturing in a moment the expression, body language, and tone to speak to the audience the character’s thoughts.

Photojournalists/photographers are not actors in a play. If they are a photographer and are shooting a scene that will be used in advertising to sell something or doing public relations for a corporation, they often will assume the director role. They will place the actors and create the scene to communicate all they need to capture to move the audience to action.

If they are photojournalists, they cannot take on the director role. They take on different parts. The best way to describe that role has been to be the fly on the wall. The photojournalists can fly around the room looking for a better perspective to see what is going on. Then they capture moments as they happen to later communicate to their audience what happened.

Into the Woods Performances [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.3, 1/400]

What do the novelist, playwright, director, actor, and photographer all have in common, regardless of their role? Each is aware of what they are communicating and why. To move the audience, you must know what you are trying to capture as a photographer.

President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday School Class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA [Nikon D750, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]

If you are a photographer, you are capturing moments for which you hope they make others pause. As a photojournalist, I have learned to do my research before I show up. Listen a great deal with my ears and eyes. I clarify through questions to understand the situation, so I am doing all I can to be true to the moment and not preconceived thoughts. I look for those moments that will capture and hopefully be the showstopper that makes you pause and absorb the moment.

I want my pictures to be worth the price of admission my clients pay to see them. 

More than just a photographer

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800

I can relate to these boys in so many ways. What they are thinking I am not sure, but they do make me think of feeling alone even tho there are people around me.

The reasons these boys may feel isolated is quite different than my own isolation. They are living in one of the poorest nations on earth–Togo, West Africa. When you go into their homes they don’t have a closet with many outfits and shoes. This maybe the only thing they have to wear or maybe one more outfit.

When I would peek into their kitchens I saw no food.

So we might interpret their expressions as related to their poverty and hunger for food. However, I believe that people hunger for true friendships that are deep with roots that bind them to others.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

 They are looking for nourishment that comes from deep within people.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/500]

When people have deep relationships with friends, they have wells within them that are overflowing and able to glow and give to others. Here you see these guys who are friends that exude happiness.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 450, ƒ/1.4, 1/250]

I continue to find those with wells complete in the houses of worship. These people search beyond what people can give to them for even a relationship that will sustain them even more.

What I love about my profession is capturing all of this and helping to direct people to know where to find that living water that refreshes the soul. It comes from being able to be open and honest with your friends. They know your flaws, and you know theirs. It comes from God, who forgives and seeks a relationship with you.

When people see me as a photographer, I feel isolated. When they see me for who I am and not what I do, I really connect.

I use many different skills from my studies of Social Work, Education, Theology, and many experiences to help people connect to the world in which they live. My ultimate goal is to connect people to deep relationships with others, and I also hope to God.

Who am I? I am looking for another person to go through this life together. I will need many people to make this journey exciting and new.

Tip to make your website work for you

This is a marketing tip I learned about websites. When people come to your website, they need to know what you do and then have an action item you are encouraging that they take.

This is my website, and the action item is at the top of the menu. “FREE Download” is what I want people to click on to be able to get their email address and contact information. They are then enrolled in my monthly e. Newsletter and I give them the FREE Download of the “Tips for Better Photos” PDF.

They fill out the form you see here and then get an email with their download link.

I am not expecting a ton of signups for this FREE Magazine/Book, but I am hoping I get some engagement from my website that I can measure with something I can then use.

Go to my website at to experience this and see if you think you need to do something similar for your website, and then I hope you enjoy the FREE “Tips for Better Photos.”

Creating the Publicity Photo for the Musical Oklahoma

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/8000

This morning we shot promotion shots for Roswell High School’s Theatre performance of Roger & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. We were shooting a variety, and then we will pick the one favorite we all have for the 12′ x 8′ banner we will put in front of the school.

Oklahoma Banner [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/400]

This is me and the setup for shooting the first photo that Dorie, my wife, took of me. I am shooting a High-Speed Sync of 1/8000 to make the sky darker and create more of the “Big Sky” look you would have in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Banner [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/4000]

This was the first photo we started shooting.

Oklahoma Banner [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1400]

Here you can see my setup. I am using [2] Alienbees B1600 for the lights. To power them, I am using the Paul Buff Vagabond batteries. To trigger the lights, I am using Pocketwizard AC-9 pugged into the Alienbees B1600 and then into the Pocketwizard TT5. This is receiving the signal from the Pocketwizard TT1 with the AC-3 to dial in the exposures on the camera.

Oklahoma Banner Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/8000

I am shooting low again to emphasize the big sky.

Oklahoma Banner [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/640]

I tried to keep it simple by not moving all around the farm but instead using more time at the exact location and varying the camera angle.

Oklahoma Banner [Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/4000]

Last night we watched the movie of Oklahoma with Shirley Jones starring Laurey Williams. This last photo has the same look and feels as the movie.

I wonder which of these might be our banner photo to promote musical Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Banner

Here you can get a feel for what we are creating when all the type is added.

Treat your Camera like a Pen and you will get better photos!

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 1400, ƒ/1.4, 1/200

If photographers would take photos the way, they write, all of their images would most likely be ten times better in quality.

So many people pick up their cameras and point and shoot. Just try and do that with writing. Go ahead and try it. Pick up the pencil or pen and write.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]

How is that working for those of you who use the “Spray & Pray” methodology? Your percentage of a photo you like is probably better than just clicking one time and moving on.

Enjoying our family in Morganton, NC during Christmas. [Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 320, ƒ/4, 1/100]

The famous photographer Ansel Adams’s first chapter in his very first book was about the concept of previsualization in photography, where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Adams often says, “Visualization is the single most important factor in photography.”

Adams was referring to not just what was in front of the camera but rather his interpretation of what was in front of him to the print before he clicked the shutter.

Most photographers are not producing work like Ansel Adams because very few have taken the time to think about what they are trying to capture and say with their photos.

Previsualization is applied to techniques such as storyboarding, either in charcoal-drawn sketches or digital technology in planning and conceptualizing movie scenery makeup.

The advantage of previsualization is that it allows a director, cinematographer, or VFX Supervisor to experiment with different staging and art direction options—such as lighting, camera placement and movement, stage direction, and editing—without having to incur the costs of actual production. The directors work with actors in the visual effects department or dedicated rooms on the larger budget project.

At the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, they have displayed the sketches, which then are turned into models like here.

After they have done this then they make the actual set that will be used in the movie as you see here for Diagon Alley.

Now compare this set to the street of Cecil Court that most likely inspired J. K. Rowling for Diagon Alley.

This is why Harry Potter the movie is a little more exciting than the just point and shoot of the tourist that I was on Cecil Court. The street has been the inspiration and then the artists create their vision of what they want to use to convey a mood for a story.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Even in sports, the creative photographer is anticipating. I am downfield, waiting for the action to come to me. I have thought about where I need to be and what I want to capture.


Treat the camera like a pen. Before picking it up and putting it to your eye, have some idea of the sentence you will write. If you don’t, you will only have gibberish, which is why your photos don’t work. You didn’t know why you took the picture, and no one else will.

Take this one step further and consider the caption that will also accompany that photograph. This will help you know what you are trying to say with your photo.

Super Simple Headshots

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200 – [2] Alienbees B1600, White Background & Lastolite Triflector silver/gold kit.

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid

Keep your gear as simple as possible so you can concentrate on the people. For this headshot setup, I keep it super simple.

Here is the Lastolite-Triflector reflector that I am using for the headshots.

This helps kick light under the chin and into the eyes for what I consider a very flattering light. Now the main light is a beauty dish most of the time or a white umbrella. I prefer round light modifiers for the catch lights shape.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200 – [2] Alienbees B1600, White Background & Lastolite Triflector silver/gold kit.

The reflector is always slightly less than the leading light. To soften it more, just use white rather than silver. If you want to warm it up, use a gold reflector.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200 – [2] Alienbees B1600, White Background & Lastolite Triflector silver/gold kit.

You want the leading light up about 45º above the camera lens and straight above it. This will make the light hitting the face come down across it, help those cheekbones pop, and give some contours to the front. Straight on to the model will kill those cheekbones and flatten out their features.

By the way, I also like to use a tripod to glance above the camera to keep a personal connection with the people. 

How I get clean images with my Nikon D5

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough (9) hurdles a Washington Huskies defender during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Anonymous said…very clean images for such a high ISO, …. is that because of the shutter speed? I feel like above 6400ISO (D5 – f/2.8 – MMA), my images degrade heavily

This morning this was a comment left on my last blog post. I realize that way too many people buy a camera and pull it out of a box and just shoot. The camera should give me great images.

First of all it isn’t due to shutter speed. It is due to proper white balance, exposure and post production that let me get more out of the camera than many with the same camera.

Now when the Smart Phone manufacturers want to show off their camera capabilities they rarely put it in the hands of just anyone and then use those photos to sell the phone. They hire a professional. The professional not only will know how to compose, but they know how to use all those settings on the camera.

Backstage Tour

So I will take you on the backstage tour of my process. First let’s see the image above as a JPEG right out of the camera first.

This is the RAW Nikon Image and then I just told the PhotoMechanic Software to generate a JPEG. This would be very close to what the camera would have produced had I had it set to save as JPEG rather than RAW.

Hopefully you can see that I rotated and cropped the image and then I did a little more work. However there is a critical step that I do that made the color look correct. I did a custom white balance using the ExpoDisc.

Here is a blog post just explaining custom white balance with the ExpoDisc.

Since I am shooting RAW I ingest all the images into Adobe Lightroom.

First after cropping the image in the editing module I correct for the lens
Second I adjust vibrance. Usually between +25 to +28. Then I adjust the exposure, highlights and shadows.
Occasionally I will adjust the noise.

When I do slide the Luminance slider I often need to sharpen the image as well. Here I am showing you that in Lightroom. Always have the image at 100% and I prefer to see the skin tones if available when doing this. I don’t want to over do it and they now look plastic.

Usually this takes care of 98% of most of my workflow.

On another forum we had new Nikon D5 users talking about how horrible their noise was when shooting at high ISO.

First off, often people miss the exposure and are at least a 1 stop under exposed or over exposed. That would certainly contribute to increased noise.

Second, if the Active D-Light function features is on, that would explain why the images look flat. Now if you shot RAW then the Active D-Light function will not affect the RAW file and you can fix it. I recommend not shooting JPEGs and shooting RAW and this alone will help tremendously.

Third, I would recommend using noise reduction in post verses having it active in-camera.

Another photographer Joey Terrill did his on test and created a blog on the Nikon D5 here on noise.

Here I did my own lowlight test using just one candle as the source of light.


All cameras have many settings that can make your images look like crap or incredible. These settings were designed for all kinds of conditions. You must understand what the settings will do and then set the camera to technically get all you can out of a situation. Then you take that image into a software light Adobe Lightroom or Adobe PhotoShop and pull even more out of the RAW file.