Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 is perfect for “Selective Focus”

[Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 5000, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]

I love isolating subjects in a room using selective focus. Selective focus is using a limited depth of field to focus sharply on a specific object in a scene while other parts are out-of-focus.

[Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]

The Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 is a great lens to use in a social function like I was covering here. It helps throw the background out of focus and keep your eyes focused on the subject you have picked out of the room.

[Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 3600, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]

Now I love to have layering as in this photo. The lady in the foreground and the lady in the background are out of focus while the subject is super sharp.

[Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 3200, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]

By shooting over a person’s shoulder, I am giving context to who the subject is talking to or listening to in these photos. So while the aperture of ƒ/1.8 uses selective focus, you can still add information that is secondary to the main subject.

Try and always have the eye closest to the camera in focus when using this technique. Many of today’s cameras have a focusing mode that locks in on the eyes.

With the Nikon D5
Auto-area AF: The camera automatically detects the subject and selects the focus point; if a face is seen, the camera will prioritize the portrait subject. The active focus points are highlighted briefly after the camera focuses; in AF-C mode, the main focus point is displayed after the other focus points have turned off.

While this is a great way to shoot an event, please don’t only shoot this way for an event. Always use more than one aperture setting. Vary your depth-of-field, so you have a variety of types of photos to give to your client.

Photo Tips: Covering a Meeting

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 51200, ƒ/13, 1/100]

Most meetings will have some similar elements. I am showing here some of what I call the photos typical for the bullet list of shots.

The first one here is the keynote speaker showing people are listening. Here I shot at a large depth-of-field to be sure you could see the crowd.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 4000, ƒ/13, 1/100]

Now I always back up in the corner of a room and try to capture the entire room. Most meeting planners like to have this for the following years for planning purposes. They can see the room layout and prepare for the following year’s meeting.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/100]

At many meetings, there is an Expo. In these situations, I have tight and medium shots, and then this is what I look for as the one shot to show what happens. You have multiple conversations going on all through the room. This helps capture why someone would like to attend the meeting for all the networking opportunities.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/55]

Usually, there are panels of speakers. The important thing is not just to show an element in a meeting but to capture a moment. Here you have the speaker gesturing and passionate with the other panelist having some reaction. This is better than all the panelists just sitting there waiting to speak, for example.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/50]

Look for audience participation. This comes in many forms. Show them listening and look for that body language that captures them in thought. It shows that the content of the meeting is engaging.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/80]

Shoot tight and medium shots to show the engagement.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.4, 1/80]

Ah yes, the questions. Here I not only show the person questioning but those around him.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.7, 1/75]

Also, isolate the questioner. I did include just a few of the room participants here.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/3.8, 1/100]

PowerPoint presentations can prove difficult due to the fair value on the screen compared to the speaker. But I do try and compress this by shooting from the side for a more pleasing, interesting shot than straight on. However, with that said, I still shoot straight on, but the key is to give the client variety.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]

Don’t just get a person behind the podium. Look for gestures and facial expressions that capture their passion for the subject.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/55]

Specific photos communicate the conference leaders over the speakers. This is an excellent example of where one of the event planners stands up to give a few comments.

My tip for every photo you take of people is to capture the body language and facial expressions that help to tell part of the story.

Besides looking for the aesthetics, be sure to vary your aperture to include more and less in the situations. With today’s cameras and the high ISO they can capture, you can treat a conference room like an outdoor scenic shot where everything is in focus, or you may want to direct the eyes using selective focus.

Photographing The Citadel’s Rifle Legion Drill Team in a ballroom.

The Citadel’s Rifle Legion Drill Team performs for the Project GO meeting held at the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston, SC.
[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]

Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants posted on this blog may be an affiliate link which means that I may receive a commission from any purchases made using the affiliate link. This is at no additional cost to you.

I am in Charleston, SC covering a meeting where The Citadel’s Rifle Legion Drill Team performed.

The Citadel Rifle Legion Drill Team is an all-class co-educational drill team at The Citadel. Members of the Legion are essentially volunteers from the corps of cadets who wish to not only further a proficiency in drill, but also to represent the Citadel and the state of South Carolina through a developed expertise which forms from being on the team. The team also strives to promote community service as much as possible and takes part in many parades, performances, and special details throughout South Carolina and the neighboring states.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]
Now to capture the team inside in a large ballroom I had very little light. So I used my Nikon D5 with ISO 10000 to be able to capture them using available light. I shot at 1/250 shutter to somewhat freeze them, but did want a little movement with the rifles to show they were spinning them and throwing them to each other.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]
To get a good skin tone I used the ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance.

How to capture an Awards Show – Hint it doesn’t involve your phone

Ramone Nelson from Heritage High School won the best actor for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at the Shuler Hensley Awards 2017 at the Cobb Energy Center on April 20, 2017. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.4, 1/160]

Last night we were part of the “LIVE TV AUDIENCE” at the 2017 Shuler Hensley Awards Show, which is for Georgia High School Musical Theatre.

We were blown away by the performance of Heritage High School’s Les Miserables.

Most other families were not getting these photos because their Smart Phones do not get well-exposed pictures from far away. The images start to follow apart when they crop in because the photo’s resolution drops. Next, it is difficult for them to set the white balance and control the exposure. Now the very best they can do if they know what they are doing is get well-exposed photos. However, they cannot see or recognize their kid because the phone’s lens can’t reach them.

Heritage High School won the Overall Production Award for “Les Miserables” at the Shuler Hensley Awards. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.2, 1/400]

I use the Fuji X-E2 coupled with the Fuji 55-20mm. Here are the latest camera versions if you want to buy them.

I receive a commission from any purchases made using the affiliate link. This is at no additional cost to you.

We started the evening with the Red Carpet, where our daughter Chelle and her friend Camile came in together.

Shuler Hensley Awards [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]

I was photographing this event like every other parent there with a camera.

The school chose our daughter and Joe Pitts from her high school to represent them in the ensemble, which performed the opening and closing numbers.

Joe Pitts from Roswell High School is on the far right with the puppet during the Shuler Hensley Awards. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/250]

I shot with my Fuji X-E2 because I wanted a quiet camera while in the audience. It did a great job.

My daughter, far right with Shuler Hensley center during the opening ensemble number of the Shuler Hensley Awards. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/300]

I chose to shoot the performance on a tungsten white balance setting. This way, as the light color changed, it would look like the audience saw it rather than the auto-white balance trying to correct it.

Shuler Hensley Awards [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 4000 ƒ/4.8, 1/400]

Don’t rely on your phone to take photos of everything you want to preserve for your family memories. Buy a camera designed for theater, sports, or something else you need to capture.

Travel photography tips for your next vacation

Lisbon, Portugal [Nikon D4, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1.3 – On Tripod]

For me, the second most fun thing to do other than traveling the world and meeting new people has photos to share with others about my travels.

I hope you are making some vacation plans for your summer. Here are some tips for capturing your vacation and keeping them for the years to come to help you remember your travel and share them with others.

Which Camera?

Here are three solutions I recommend: 1) The Point & Shoot; 2) The Mirrorless Camera; & 3) The DSLR

The Point & Shoot

Me shooting the Nikon P7000. It has a versatile 28-200mm lens that ranges wide to capture landscapes and zooms to get close to the action. ISO up to 6400 and 5-way VR Image Stabilization System.

This is the newest version of the Nikon P7800. Click on the image to buy. This link takes you to Amazon, and I get a percentage of the sale. You pay the same price.

Now the advantage of a point and shoot is size.

The Mirrorless Camera

This is my mirrorless travel kit. Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses.

This is the newest version of the Fuji X-E2s. Click on the image to buy. This link takes you to Amazon, and I get a percentage of the sale. You pay the same price.


Nikon D750

I recommend the Nikon D750 with the Nikon 28-300mm as a small kit that will let you capture just about anything. Also, many prefer the Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/4 since it is a fixed aperture.

What to look for in all three cameras:

  1. High ISO of at least ISO 6400 or higher
  2. If there is only one lens, I recommend a zoom that covers the 28-200mm range.
  3. Buy extra batteries
  4. Buy multiple Memory Cards
Use two hands to stabilize the camera

Now the Fuji X-E2 and the Nikon D750 both had wifi that let me upload to my phone using their Apps and then post immediately to my social media. Very cool!

Keep your camera steady

When taking photos, the #1 problem is motion blur. Hold the camera still and SQUEEZE the shutter release. Don’t punch it.

Sometimes when I am excited to be somewhere, I will take my shutter speed and crank it up to be sure my photos are sharp and not blurry from camera motion. The rule is your shutter speed should be at least a fraction of a second of the lens’ focal length.

When I am excited, I use a faster shutter speed of 1/250 or 1/500 to avoid motion blur.

Talk to people

James Dockery is talking to a lady on the streets in Portugal in our Storytellers Abroad Workshop.

Don’t stand across the street with the longest lens and take pictures of people on the other side of the road. Do go up and introduce yourself. Tell them why you want to take their photo. I love your outfit. I like the things you are selling.

Lisbon Mission Storytelling Abroad Workshop. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/3.6, 1/800]

While taking portraits of people are great, be sure to back up and take over all shots to help capture the place you traveled so far to go and see.

Lisbon Mission Storytelling Abroad Workshop [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/11, 1/500]

Notice my shutter speeds are a little higher than maybe necessary. I grabbed shots and didn’t want them to be unusable due to camera movement.

Lisbon Mission Storytelling Abroad Workshop [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80]

Also, get super close. Please take photos of the food you eat and how it is served. Some traditions are different from where you grew up.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/300]

Don’t forget to capture things like the jewelry sold in the market and a closeup.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]

Be careful when you get super close. Your Depth-of-field will shrink. So the part of the photo in focus from front to back will get so shallow at an aperture of ƒ/1.4 that it can look out of focus. Here I shot the flower at ƒ/5.6. I could have quickly shot at ƒ/11, and the background would still be out of focus.

Carry extra batteries

Carry Extra memory cards

Carry them with you during the day

Every night is sure to recharge your camera batteries. Each morning, remember to pack the extra batteries and memory cards in some small case you can put in a pocket or a backpack.

Carry Pocket Size Moleskin Notebook

Get a good notebook. Mine stands up well to living in my pocket for a few weeks, no matter what I might be doing.

Carry a good pen

The pen must write with a very high level of reliability on the pocket notebooks that I use. “Dud” pens aren’t acceptable, nor are cells that sometimes choose to write only at a certain angle. These pens must be faithful and reliable, always writing when I pull one out to jot down a note.

I write down things like where I have been during the day. If I talk to someone, then I write their name down. Sometimes I get business cards and stick them in the notebook.

This is the screenshot of my software PhotoMechanic that I use to embed the text into each photo.

My workflow may be pretty different than yours, but I take time to be sure I put in the IPTC the location as well as some caption information so I can share this when I post a photo on social media, and it also helps me remind me where I have been and seen.

Book Cover – Buy the book on

Shoot for a coffee table book

While you may not do one every time, having something in mind will help you capture more variety.

Check out the link on the book above. You can see a preview of the book without purchasing online. Here is a blog post on producing a book I wrote earlier.

You can see how I combined some text with the photos to help me remember all we saw.

These are just some tips, and while there are many other things to share about the shooting, I hope this gets you started and excited about your travel plans this summer.

Photographer’s Monday Devotional: Called to serve

This is a Christian cross at the Masaya volcano, a caldera located in Masaya, Nicaragua, 20 km south of the capital Managua. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]

This past week Christians around the world celebrated Easter. A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

I have been reflecting on how my faith is impacting how I live.

This is a shepherd boy in Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso, West Africa. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-125mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125]

I have been thinking about how Jesus came to earth and taught us how to live and did so by introducing us to deal with the most difficult of situations.

Matthew 5:38-48

Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

When Jesus was here on earth, the Jews were under the rule of the Romans and treated much like slaves. Jesus also didn’t come as a warrior and take on the Romans. He used the opportunity to teach us how to live under the rule of others.

Most of us are not in positions of authority over others. After running my own business for more than fifteen years, I am more aware of this than ever. I am very much like a servant to my clients.

These verses in Matthew 5:38-48 remind me of how Jesus was teaching us the power of serving while being mistreated.

Women carry their wares to market in the bush village of Sabtenga, Burkina Faso, West Africa. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1000]

Luke 11:46

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Jesus also talked to those in positions of power and pointed out how they create burdens for people and do nothing to help them. 

What I find interesting in the scripture is that Jesus appeals to each person’s heart to do the right thing and doesn’t use the power play to change them.

A little boy in Nicaragua. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 560, ƒ/4, 1/100]

I am thankful for my faith. I am grateful for having Jesus Christ as a teacher. As I read the scriptures, I realize that these are not stories of way back when but examples that help me live today.

No matter how much I struggle due to others, I must take on these burdens with love. We truly live out the Christian faith through our love of those who persecute us.

Man with his son and horse in downtown San Benito, Nicaragua. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/100]

I often feel like this man on his cart being pulled by a horse surrounded by cars. I think the burden of trying to live with so little often while it appears those around me are in such luxury.

The family photo was taken on vacation in 2002 at Sawgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra, Florida. [Nikon D100, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/180]

Then I am reminded of what a wonderful family I have and the vacations we have taken.

Have you got $2200? In this world, you’re rich. Assets (not cash) of $2200 per adult place a person in the top 50% of the world’s wealthiest.

If you have sufficient food, decent clothes, live in a house or apartment, and have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, you are among the top 15% of the world’s wealthy.

You earn $25,000 annually in the top 10% of the world’s income earners.

You earn more than $50,000 annually in the top 1% of the world’s income earners.

What is remarkable about Jesus is he taught us how to live no matter our status. His instructions, if we choose to obey them, will change our lives from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

Here are a couple of verses about obedience to Christ’s teachings for the Christian:

Romans 2:6-8

6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

John 14:15

15 “If you love me, keep my commands.

A woman in prayer in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]

Romans 8:26

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

We have been given Jesus as an example of how to live within this world. He showed us how to pray because I think he understood how our life is so complicated that we need God to navigate it each day.

Jesus taught us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and the only way to do this is, in my opinion, through a lot of prayers.

J. K. Rowling wrote in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

Long before the writings of J. K. Rowling was the Gospel writer Mark wrote to Christians who said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Learn to say “YES”

This is Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/80]

For the past ten years, Mark Johnson has invited me to speak to his advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA on business practices.

One of the tips I always share with the class is to Learn To Say YES.

I learned how to say yes from my friend Tony Messano, a creative director and a voice-over talent. This tip had a significant impact on my life in many ways.

Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you agree to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that you ethically disagree with doing.

Patrick Murphy-Racey keeps things positive for his clients by solving their problems rather than becoming a problem. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160]

Tony advocated that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses rather than becoming a problem.

The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here, can you do _______? Tony helped me see how to take this request and not only meet the demand but also make more money.

I learned how to price for the project, and then when this type of request came up, I could say “Yes.” Yes, I can make that happen; however, since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it, I need to charge XYZ for the additional work.

I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then responded with a “NO.”

What Tony helped me understand was that when I was saying no, I wasn’t helping the client at all. If they still needed it done, they would find someone who could make it happen, and often then, I would usually no longer be used for future projects.

Why do I want to say no?

Before I could say yes, I learned I needed to know why I wanted to say no.

When I was in a staff job, I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer, I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.

Had I learned this tip earlier in my career, I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone asked me to do something, I would now say how I want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.

Yes, I can make that happen for you if you tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.

As a freelancer, I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have, or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.

On the far right at the computer is Akili Ramsess, executive director for NPPA, reviewing a student’s work at the Southwestern Photojournalism Student Workshop. What I like here is not just that Akili is helping and the student is engaged, but it reminds me that others are watching us help.

Let the client say NO

Tony said my goal is to say yes as much as possible and to be sure the client is the one saying no, not me.

As a freelancer, the client asks me to do something, and my response is I would love to help you. The additional cost to make this happen is XYZ. Just sign right here to the changes on the contract, and I will make it happen.

The client will then respond great or no; we cannot afford to do that. If they have to have this done, then you are not the reason it gets done; they don’t have the resources to make it happen, or maybe the request then no longer necessary.

As a staff person, I am not asking for more money. I am taking the burden of what is on my plate and the difficulties of making it happen back onto their plate.

My boss asked me to take photos of their event; in the past, I would have said no, I am already booked. I now say I am already covering another event at the same time. I am more than willing to cover this event if you need me to. Which event do you want me to cover, and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot hide?

Seeing this photo of my daughter with Bell from Beauty and the Beast reminds me of how the Beast had to change and learn to love. The latest movie gives us the back story of how self-centered the man was and why he was turned into a Beast. He said no to the old lady rather than helping her.

Saying No makes you a problem–Saying Yes Makes you a problem solver.

When you say no, the person requesting your help will have to find someone else. Had you said yes, their problem is solved.

Today when I get a request for something, and I am already booked, I always offer to find someone for them. One of the best ways to keep those clients returning is to handle the booking of the photographer and have the photographer work as a subcontractor for you. This way, they show up to shoot the project, and you handle the billing. This way, they continue to come back to you.

Another tip I share with the students is about how to network. I tell them to act like a first-year student and not a senior. Here is a previous blog post that I did explaining this tip for you.

A side note about speaking to the class is I get to spend time with Mark Johnson. Every time I go, I have lunch with Mark, and I learn much each time.

This time I listened and watched how Mark worked hard to present content to the students in a positive manner. He doesn’t speak down to the students. He challenges them so that he is also communicating that he knows they can do whatever he asks of them.

It is a joy to visit UGA and spend time with the students and Mark.

Touching Moment vs Decisive Moment

Inside the Artic Circle, 1967: Eskimo child chasing ball. [photo by: Don Rutledge]

What a moment this is of a little boy playing with a ball. No matter where you are from in the world, this captures a moment of joy that we all experienced playing ball.

“Photography is not like painting,” Henry Cartier-Bresson told the Washington Post in 1957. “There is a creative fraction of a second when taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative,” he said. “Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Cartier-Bresson published a book in 1952 called The Decisive Moment. In the preface, he quoted Cardinal de Retz, “Il n’y a rien Dans ce monde qui n’ait un moment decisive” [“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment”].

Shortly after coming to the Home Mission Board, Don spent six weeks photographing inside the Artic Circle, Alaska, in 1967. This photo was taken as Don, with two volunteer workers, visited an Eskimo house. So happy was the family to see their friends, everyone ignored Don’s click-click-click. {photo by: Don Rutledge]

If you have studied photography, you will know about Henry Cartier-Bresson and The Decisive Moment. If you haven’t, you will most likely have no clue what it is all about.

Today I was hit with the problem that when we as photographers start talking to our clients on our terms rather than their terms, we lose them and often create a divide between us.

The Citadel Recognition Weekend in Charleston, SC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 | Sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/4000]

When talking to the public about capturing a “Decisive Moment,” I think we should say we are about capturing a “Touching Moment.”

You will hear people say “What a Touching Moment,” more than ever, and hear them say what a “Decisive Moment” is. You will see what I am talking about if you Google the two.

Philip Newberry has no hands or feet from meningitis, with Matilda, a neighbor’s cat. [photo by: Stanley Leary]

The Decisive Moment search yields all the stuff about photography, and the Touching Moment will turn up photos and videos about emotional moments.

While the Decisive Moment is more than just a Touching Moment, you still take time to educate your audience about what you are talking about and, in the exact moment, never give it the justice it needs.

Father Flor Maria Rigoni is a missionary with the San Carlos Scalabrini and works in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico.

I only suggest using “Touching Moments” as something the average person understands more than trying to educate them on what I call a “photographic term.”

I am often guilty of digging in my heels and trying to explain my position. If you want to win people over, learn their perspective and talk about your position from their perspective and not yours.

Freelancer’s Anxiety–Using Faith to Cope

A little girl lost in her thoughts while in her family’s corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]

A few things produce such anxiety in my life that physically affect me. Going to the dentist for more than a cleaning creates high pressure in my life.

My blood pressure rises, and my heart rate increases.

This anxiety response isn’t limited to my fear of a dental procedure. My friend Brad Moore posted this just the other day on FaceBook:

Brad’s responses let him know that not only did we all suffer from this, some people gave them their solutions on how they have learned to deal with worrying.

This young teenager’s expression seems to convey some anxiety. I photographed him in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/250]

When I was studying social work, we had to be trained to help people with their worries and anxiety. We learned to unpack those thoughts, creating fear. Worrying about something can help motivate you to do something, whereas stress can shut you down.

Let me talk a little more about Anxiety and then get back to worrying.

During this training, I learned about two types of anxiety-producing thoughts. There are first those things we have control over, and then there are those we have no control over.

When you let those things, you have no control over taking control of your thoughts; they can freeze you and send you into anxiety-produced depression. If you do not want to be motivated, you need to see a clinical counselor like a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

You could be in this situation not due to your thinking but because of your genetics and how your body chemistry is set up. You can be very depressed just because the chemicals in your body are out of balance. A medication under medical supervision can bring you out of that deep depression.

Learning that I need to categorize something as in my control or out of my control helped me more than anything else I learned in the lesson. Once I could determine something was out of my control, I knew that no matter how long we pondered it, we were not going to do anything but waste our time.

However, there are things we can do for some things that cause us to worry.

One of my lighting cases. This one is for my Alienbees B1600s with vagabond power packs to let me shoot anywhere without power.

One of the ways I addressed my worries was to create separate cases for my lighting gear needs. I have a chance for video LED lights, another issue with my Speedlights, stands, and umbrellas, and then this one pictured here for when I need a lot of power and might not have the ability available.

I still have two other cases that allow me to bring larger lights for those big jobs.

Interior of my Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag fully packed.

Worrying about my gear isn’t the only anxiety freelancers deal with regularly.

Remember, there are things out of your control, and these are the things that often still keep me up at night.

When these thoughts start affecting our bodies, like my time in the dentist’s chair, this can produce anxiety, which can be debilitating. Stress is like a hamster wheel that spins us around but doesn’t lead us to productive solutions.

Worry and Anxiety come with living

My personal experience has taught me that I will never get rid of worrying and anxiety. Even these tips are not enough. Life can be just overwhelming at times.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

–– Matthew 6:34

I turn to my faith as my way of navigating these times of stress. While scripture tells us not to worry, it also has the Lamentations.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or the Psalms may be seen as a cry of need in a context of crisis. Another way of looking at it is essential: laments simply being “appeals for divine help in distress.”

These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, a description of the suffering/anguish from which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one’s enemies, an expression of the belief of one’s innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.

I struggled with fear and worry for years. But through time, I began to find that the things that once would have sent me down an anxious spiral no longer had the same effect. It didn’t happen quickly but over days, months, and years.

I read words – of life – of truth. I was soaking them in, over and over, praying them out loud. Until they became so familiar, they replaced the other things in my mind that I’d battled against. There’s nothing magical about words and verses, but there is power through them.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200]

“My God, My God, Why?” –Psalms 22:1

I see the laments as a time when we complain to God about something that isn’t right in our eyes. We then go on and request God.

I want to emphasize here that the writers of all the laments then go to the next step in their crying, where they express trust. This often is in the form of God. In the past, you did this. I know from my experience you do intervene. It is the remembrance of how God has taken care of them in the past, and they are asking for his deliverance from what they are suffering from now.

A Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, reasonable, and just. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.

What happens when I pray a lament?

I have had many sinus infections throughout my life, and this painful, disgusting condition is how I feel before I pray. While the response is not always immediate, I know that the answer to my prayer is like being able to breathe again.

The anxiety that froze me and kept me paralyzed is gone. I now am in a state of worry with hope. I can then think about what I can do that I have control over.

So on those nights, I cannot sleep because I wonder where my next check will come from; I can get out of bed and start writing emails. These emails may be pitching ideas to clients and potential customers or something else I haven’t done before.

Once I have written those emails, I can go to bed and sleep.

I believe God helped me get unstuck and even possibly have some ideas.


Stanley’s Stages of Freelancer’s Anxiety

  1. Feeling of being overwhelmed, which leads to anxiety that depresses me
  2. Please list what I can do and what I have no control over
  3. Take action on what I can do

While these three things sometimes work, more than often, this is really what is happening.

  1. Anxious thoughts which paralyze me
  2. Depression due to realizing how much of this is due to my past decisions putting me in this situation. [Beating myself up stage]
  3. Tears begin to flow that I have no way out of this situation.
  4. Brought to my knees in prayer, where I am often yelling at God
  5. Slowly I can tell God what the problem is about
  6. Asking God to take action
  7. I remember how God has helped me before. This reminds me to trust that God will help me again
  8. While the problem doesn’t disappear, God has helped me become un-paralyzed.
  9. I can think of some things I can do to take action
  10. I realize I have done all that I can think of doing
  11. I can relax and have hope. Because this happens at night, I can go to sleep finally.
A little girl is jumping rope with her friends in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]

I suggest reading the book of Lamentations in the Bible. Here are five ways it can help you.

  1. They help you express your feelings in honest and healthy ways.
  2. They help shape your senses, helping us interpret them in light of God’s redemptive plan for the entire world.
  3. They teach us more about ourselves by revealing our greatest needs and how our minds and hearts influence our lives.
  4. They teach us more about God, his character, and activity in us and the world.
  5. They reorient us to the gospel’s truth and how it transforms us from the inside out.

Shooting my daughter’s Senior Photo

Chelle Leary’s Senior Portrait [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/2000]

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive small percentage of sale. This helps cover my costs for blogging.

I did some senior pictures of my daughter this weekend for graduation announcements. Here is one of the photos, and here is the lighting setup.

I put a strobe behind the bushes and added a CTO +1 to warm up the background.

Chelle Leary’s Senior Portrait [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250]

Here is the same setup but without the CTO +1 gel on the background light.

Chelle Leary – Senior Portrait [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/2.2, 1/8000]

I wanted to use the blue sky to compliment the blue dress for this photo. I got down really low on the ground and shot up. Here is the lighting setup.

Chelle Leary – Senior Portrait [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/2500]

Here is another setup I did with Chelle for a different look.

One last photo. I took this to show Chelle in her prom gown, a replica of Hermione’s Yule Ball gown, in the blue as described in the book by J. K. Rowling.

Chelle Leary – Senior Portrait [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/2500]

Now I am letting the sun be the hair light, which most of the time is opposite the leading light. The main light here are two Alienbees B1600s with translucent white umbrellas. One is over the other to create a strip lighting effect.

The trend today with senior portraits is to bring into the shoot those hobbies and passions of the senior. Chelle loves Harry Potter, and we used the book and the dress as ways to personalize the photos so that it conveys what is important to her.

Now we just picked a fun outfit that communicates her style to others.

I prefer the outside to the studio. However, I like the background to be out of focus and create a mood for senior photos.

Pocketwizards are used to shoot with High-Speed Sync on Alienbees B1600.

My lens for the photos Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8.
My Camera the Nikon D5
Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1 kit
Pocketwizard AC-3
Pocketwizard AC-9
Westcott 2001 43-Inch Optical White Satin Collapsible Umbrella
Alienbees B1600

When one photo is needed from an event

Chick-fil-A Dwarf House in Newnan is renovating, but while renovations are taking place, there is a new shipping container restaurant for drive-thru-only service. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200]

This week I have had a few assignments. Each one needed one main photo that would work with an extended caption.

While I shot hundreds of photos around these locations, it came down to one main shot: if there was space for just one photo, I had to have one that summarized the event the best.

I like this first one for showing a brand new shipping container modified for a temporary drive-thru restaurant.

The Georgia Historical Society put a historical marker at the Original Hapeville Dwarf House. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1100, ƒ/16, 1/500]

On Tuesday, there was a dedication ceremony where they unveiled the historical marker at the Original Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA. I arrived early, put my Nikon D5 with a 14-24mm lens on a monopod, and hoisted it up high to capture this shot. The fire the shutter, I just used the timer on the camera to trip the shutter release.

Now I had hundreds of photos of speakers, and people gathered around the historical marker, but all of them didn’t make the simple statement that this photo does. There is a historical marker in front of the Dwarf House.

The key to finding the photo is knowing the storyline. Now you cannot tell the entire story, but can you come close? Just think of what the audience needs to see.

Vince Dooley, the chairman of the Georgia Historical Society and advisory board member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, was one of the speakers. Being the famous UGA football coach, I continued to think of fun captions for this photo where he is commenting on playing between the hedges. [Nikon D5,AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 320, ƒ/9, 1/500]

3 Settings for Sports Photography

[NIKON D4, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/1250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 270)]

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Before you snap a photo like this, you must set your camera to the proper settings.

3 Settings: Exposure, Focus, & Motor Drive


Cameras today let you automate the exposure settings and concentrate on getting the moment.

You can put the camera into Manual mode, where you pick the Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO. But first, I want to tell you why you want to choose specific settings.

It would help if you had a fast shutter speed to freeze the baseball, or it would blur so much you can’t see it. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

First, you must freeze the moment for most of your sports photos. So I recommend shooting as fast as you can. I recommend 1/4000th of a second. Of course, there are lighting situations that will not let you get that fast, but you must remember that shooting as quickly as possible is the priority.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4 with off-camera flash

Use a slow shutter speed only if you want to show the blur.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 720, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Second, choose a shallow depth of field to clean up the background by throwing it out of focus. Yes, there are moments when you may want a lot of depth of field, but this is the norm for most sports photos.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Third, too many people are concerned about a high ISO’s poor image. If you are shooting in daylight, this is not a concern with cameras made in the last couple of years. Take a look at the baseball player. Note the setting for ISO 1000.

What is essential is a photo that is sharp and in focus more than if there is any noise in the image. You can live with noise more than with out-of-focus or blurred images.

Last thing I recommend if you have it is to turn on the VR [Vibration Reduction], often called OS [Optical Stabilization], which will help minimize the effects of your body movement on the image.


With today’s cameras, you can get many more in-focus cameras with autofocus than we could use manual focus.

First, set your camera to continuous autofocus rather than singular. The constant focus will keep the camera focused as long as you are keeping the camera active. The default setting for cameras is to push the shutter release halfway down. The back focus button activates your focus but doesn’t take the picture.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Many cameras offer a second button on the back that your right thumb can push. For example, you can enter your menu and separate the focus from the shutter release. This way, you make the back button with your thumb, keep it held, and follow the action. Then, press the shutter release with your index finger when you want to take a photo. Using these settings will increase the probability of in-focus images.

I highly recommend getting out your camera and studying the Auto Focus section. Each camera is different from all other cameras and valid even if you own the same brand name.

Also, search the internet by putting in your camera and looking for videos where someone has already studied the camera and discovered the advantages of specific settings.

Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Motor Drive

You want to set the camera to take more than one photo when you press and squeeze the shutter release. I recommend going to the highest frame rate. After that, your camera will let you shoot.

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

Learn to anticipate and push the button milliseconds before the moment and hold the shutter to capture 2 or 3 frames. The reason is that you may get the ball popping out of the glove, which changes the play from safe to out.

Don’t just keep the shutter pressed all the time. First of all, you will find the camera will stop firing. The camera must write those images to your media card, and you will miss better moments because you cannot take photos.

For those who own the Nikon D4, here are my settings for that camera for shooting sports. Next, here are the settings for the Nikon D5. Finally, here are my latest sports settings for the Nikon Z9.

My Gear for these photos
Nikon D5
Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport
Sigma 2x