Embracing Vulnerability and Putting Yourself Out There

Lauren McGuire performs her comedy routine at The Basement Theatre in Buckhead. The show is Produced by Mark Evans. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200, Focal Length = 300]

Jeff Justice is a standup comedian that in 1990 was noticing many beginners in comedy could use some help. He gave a few of them tips to rewrite their material so that the jokes were better. He also gave some tips on timing in delivery of those lines.

Surprised that some of them listened and even more surprised with a group of them asked him to do a workshop.

Bonnie Works Gardner performs at The Basement Theatre [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 22800, ,ƒ/5.6, 1/200, Focal Length = 125]

Here is a quick overview I did for Jeff back in 2012.

My wife took both of Jeff’s classes. Now the hard part is after your graduation standup routine at the Punchline the next step is no longer a class, but a live and unforgiving audience.

Mark Evans [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 22800, ƒ/4.8, 1/200, Focal Length = 68]

Mark Evans took Jeff’s class back in 1993 and it changed his life. He is a successful comedian today. His latest tour Southern Not Stupid is where you can see him perform.

He remembers that the graduation night was such a fun event and wanted somehow to recapture that time where the audience was a little more forgiving than jumping straight into the hecklers that can be in a typical audience.

Amy Lyle performing her comedy at The Basement Theatre in Buckhead located in Atlanta, Georgia. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 20000, ƒ/4.8, 1/200, Focal Length = 65]

Sunday night, April 29, 2019 was the first Jeff Justice Comedy Workshoppe Alumni show organized by Mark Evans at The Basement Theatre located in Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia.

While helping the students write better jokes is central to Jeff’s workshops, he is also helping them with timing. Delivery is everything. Jeff often says that saying, “‘I’m a wild and crazy guy’ isn’t funny. But Steve Martin delivering it like he did was hilarious.”

The Basement Theatre [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED, ISO 9000, ƒ/4.2, 1/200, Focal Length = 45]

I think Mark Evans knows that the one thing that everyone needs to get better is practice. It is only by doing this enough times that you help manage those butterflies so you can get that Comedic Timing down for delivering a joke that gets laughs.

While you are putting yourself out there by performing once, you really don’t improve until you do it consistently.

No matter what you want to learn to do, taking a class is just the first step. You must work on your craft. Put yourself out there consistently and you too have a better chance of making it.

For photographers, you need to shoot lots of photos and share them. Then you must embrace the honest critiques of your work. That is how you grow.

Some business tips for the photographer

IRS Updated the 1099 form
IRS UPDATED THE FORM LAST OCTOBER Click here to update your 1099 to send to clients
Pricing & Negotiating

With new clients I always give three prices. Low, medium and high price. Each has variables such as time, quantity and usage. I also always spell out payment time. Once I have worked with client they normally have the same requests. If they have a new and different request I use the three price options when giving a quote. By having 3 prices you also are spelling out the negotiables.

Here are some other negotiables for the freelancer:
  • Payment time table
    • Deposits before job is started – Often to cover expenses
    • Pay on the day of the shoot
    • Pay upon delivering of the product
    • 30, 45 or 60 days
    • AVOID – Payment upon publication. What if they never publish?
  • Bartering
    • Instead of money you trade services. My suggestion is to trade at retail values
    • If you get a good number of extra printed pieces, like a magazine, then you can use these as marketing pieces to your clients or potential clients.
  • Sliding Scale – You offer to do the work for lower price if they agree to future work. The trick is to have them pay the normal rate up front and as they give you more work you discount for the volume. This way if they cancel after the first job you didn’t get screwed.
  • Usage – Highly recommend FotoQuote that is a stand alone software. which also comes bundled with FotoBiz
    • Unlimited
    • Number of years
    • Types of usage
      • Editorial
      • Advertising
      • Web
      • TV
      • Quote packs of combinations of usage
Find a professional group to join

I am finding that many of my “Secret” Facebook Groups are more helpful than the professional associations. First of all there is someone almost always on the Facebook group and second because these are secret groups they only invite people to those groups who can help each other.

Don’t post into public groups anything where a client or potential client could see your content.

Closed and secret Facebook groups seem like they should be fairly similar. The difference is that closed groups can be seen by the public, while secret groups can’t. If you create a closed group, the name of it, its members, and its description can be seen by the public—basically everything but the posts in the group.

Buy Camera/Business Insurance

I have been using Tom C. Pickard & Co. for years and recommend them.

I will think of some other tips to share in the future. If you have topics let me know.

Clean Background isn’t the only way for photos with IMPACT

You have most likely heard the mantra, “Easiest way to make better photos: photograph your subjects against a clean background.”

They may even say, “99% of photos fail because the background is messy.”

I am here to tell you they are right and wrong. For the beginning photographer it is much easier to simplify a background than to take a complex and even cluttered background and make it work.

Egypt—Missionary Mike Edens (left) worked closely with Egyptian Baptist pastors trying to enhance their discipleship and pastoral ministries. These pastors—(left to right) Mikhail Shehata Ghaly and Anwar Dakdouk—took MasterLife discipleship training in Cyprus during 1984. [photo by Don Rutledge]

What my mentor Don Rutledge taught me was that backgrounds give context.

Seth Godin [photo by Stanley Leary]

Having a clean background makes the subject pop out, but where are they? What are they doing?

Israel—Missionary kid Sommer Hicks plays on the rocks of the sea of Galilee with her dad, Ray Hicks, in the background. [Don Rutledge]

Don taught me that it is a matter of composing to make sense of a scene and also waiting for the “moment.”

Appalachian migrant family in Ohio during 1968. [photo by Don Rutledge]

Depth-of-field—is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. Most photographers use a shallow depth-of-field to clean up their background.

Fireman [X-E3, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, ISO 200, ƒ/4.2, 1/75] [photo by Stanley Leary]

The closer you get to something and the wider the aperture the shallower the depth-of-field. Also, you are removing context.

Don Rutledge photographed many stories about the struggle for racial equality and justice in the South during the height of the civil rights movement. This image reveals the dignity of men and women who had long been denied their rights as Americans – and as human beings. I think this is from Martin Luther King Jr funeral. [photo by Don Rutledge]

You see it is seeing all those people’s faces behind this man that helps give more context for this photo.

March 1985, was when Don went to Ethiopia to cover the hunger problem. Here volunteer nurse Sally Jones holds an Ethipian child and comforts the child in the midst of other babies who are being held by their mothers. [Photo by Don Rutledge]

It is seeing all the people in the background and their expressions that helps photos many times.

Poland [photo by Don Rutledge]

Don had the patience and ability to see everything inside the frame. He taught many photographers how to see the edges and everything in between.

While legislators around the nation were debating the need for rat-control laws–and disputing their funding–Don discovered these two youngsters who proudly displayed the results of their morning hunt. In that section of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1968, rats were not particularly difficult quarry to locate. [photo by Don Rutledge]

I think it is the background that helps make many of Don’s photos. Had he followed the advice you hear about simplifying the background he would have never been the communicator he was.

It is the background and everything around a subject that can give context to a moment.

Surgeon Tim Pennell was able to get five of his colleagues from Bowman Gray School of Medicine to commit weeks of vacation time and thousands of dollars to meet their Chinese counterparts. [photo by Don Rutledge]

Without the women in the background with the nurse’s hat on you might not get from the photo that this photo has something to do with healthcare.

Siberia—Working with outsiders means listening and being heard, according to Eduard Genrich, of Second Baptist Church in Novosibirsk. People here say they are encouraged and helped by outsiders, but taken advantage of by some. [photo by Don Rutledge]
L/R Laura Standard, Almond Standard, Pam Pullen (Almond’s daughter) & Christine Burton (Almond’s sister) & Kyle Standard (Nephew of Almond) & Rick Standard (Almond’s Son) Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Tignal, Georgia. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4] [photo by Stanley Leary]

Don’t go out and shoot everything to include background. Clean backgrounds have their place.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100 [photo by Stanley Leary]
[photo by Stanley Leary]

Photojournalism Associations

I am writing this because I am seeing the demise of ASMP and NPPA. While they may survive I do think they have lost their luster.

These are just some of my observations on why associations are struggling so much today. I think there is a timetable of events in the past 20 years that cumulatively have eroded the benefits of belonging to a professional photography association, especially when those memberships start at $150 to $335 per year.

Photojournalism History

The purpose of a professional association is to further a particular profession, those that work in the profession and the public interests.

Photojournalism in America took off in what many would call the Golden age of Photojournalism with the invention of Leica 35mm camera in 1925 and the flash bulb in 1927. This era would be from about 1930s to the 1960s.

It is the size of this camera that made it so easy to go just about anywhere and create pictures. The flash allowed you to take photos where there was no light.

Taking advantage of this new technology magazines like Life, Sports Illustrated and Paris Match published these photos that prior to this time the public would have never seen.

It was during this time and specifically 1940 to 1950 that both National Press Photographers Association and American Society of Media Photographers were formed.

NPPA was formed more around the advancement of photojournalism and so it was heavily focused on education and contests to help its members grow in their skills and raise the industry standards as to the quality of photojournalism being produced in newspapers. Most of the members were staff photographers.

ASMP was formed by a small group of New York City photographers who were working with magazines. They formed to address their common issues: lack of credit lines, unauthorized reproduction of their images, and uncredited copying of photos by illustrators and artists. They also were hoping to raise the rates for pay. Most of the members were freelancers.

Photo of me while a photographer for my college and yearbook at East Carolina University in 1983. (Photo by: Gary Patterson)

I joined NPPA in 1985 when I was working for the Hickory Daily Record as a staff photojournalist and am still a member. In 1987 I joined ASMP (at the time American Society of Magazine Photographers) since I was working on The Commission Magazine.

Around 2005 NPPA realizing that more and more members were freelancers started doing more on business practices.

Internet & Social Media Impacts Associations

I remember getting my first Radio Shack computer in 1988. It would be the turning point of my skill set going forward.

I was becoming familiar with all the resources that my computer was bringing to me from all over the world. I had joined CompuServe it was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States. It dominated the field during the 1980s and remained a major influence through the mid-1990s. At its peak in the early 1990s, it was known for its online chat system & message forums. NPPA had one of those forums.

Mosaic, is the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web and the Internet. It was introduced in 1993 and the first browser to display images inline with text instead of displaying images in a separate window.

It was Microsoft licensing Mosaic to create Internet Explorer in 1995 that was the real take off point for websites.

Google was founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California.

Facebook would be available to the public in 2006.

The introduction of the iPhone in 2007 was the turning point in history of communications that now people could be connected 24/7 to the internet and changed the volume of users of the internet, websites, social media and more connectivity to the world to a whole new level. People always had their phones no matter where they were and due to this would use them to connect and help organize their lives and work.

Instagram launched October 2010 exclusively on Apple products. By 2016 it was available on all platforms.

The Perfect Storm

Prior to Mosaic that was introduced in 1995 the only way for journalists to be published was through the traditional gate keepers of printed publications. Now with very little cost (access to internet) one could publish content and reach not just readers of a printed publication, but the entire world. At least all who had access to the internet.

One such person in our industry to do this and become a rock star was David Hobby. He created The Strobist where he was sharing tips for using flash. While it cost him almost nothing to publish it also cost nothing to get his content.

Thousands would do the same on almost any topic you could imagine. Those who produced the best content were getting huge followers and then the advertisers followed helping to support those content providers with funds if they could advertise on their platforms.

Once someone had access to the internet they could become a content creator or just a consumer of the content.

Right around the introduction of the iPhone the numbers of users on the internet began to explode. As the numbers went up so too the numbers were going down for many associations.

NPPA & ASMP core offerings of educational content were no longer as valuable when all this content was being offered for free other places on the internet.

Once Facebook, which helped people come together and create groups websites like Classmates.com lost their base. Why pay to find your high school classmates when Facebook offers a way to find them for free and organize your class in a Facebook Group.

Now through social media Facebook Groups were replacing the need for Associations. The best thing that NPPA & ASMP do was to create groups on the Social Media Platforms for their members. Basically, Facebook was offering a better solution for connecting than most associations.

What is left for Associations to offer

The one place NPPA has put all their eggs is in Advocacy. Most everything else they offer you can get online for free.

It was ASMP in 1973 that got the Copyright office to change that all images were copyrighted without being registered.

The purpose of copyright registration is to place on record a verifiable account of the date and content of the work in question, so that in the event of a legal claim, or case of infringement or plagiarism, the copyright owner can produce a copy of the work from an official government source. Registration remains a prerequisite to filing an infringement suit, and also because important remedies depend on prompt registration—such as attorney’s fees and statutory damages. [Wikipedia]

Now one of the worst things to happen to the profession of photography is the devaluation of photography, which occurred because new technologies [internet] made it possible for good photographs made by inexperienced professionals to flood the market. Get lots of photographers who don’t know about pricing producing work for clients who have lots more options from which to choose, and things go south fast. In other words, it’s really a buyer’s market.

So, the problem we have now is that even if you can change how copyright works the price you can get for a stock image is so devalued that few can benefit as compared to the investment costs to make those images and put them on a cloud system for people to buy.

When it comes to registering images today with the copyright office I personally find that the costs, which are $55 for 750 images, is no longer economically feasible to warrant.

The costs a few years ago were $35 for unlimited number of images in a submission.

So, all the legal advocacy work done in the past few years has been totally undermined by the copyright office. Makes you wonder what you have been paying for when you are now worst off than ever in this profession when it comes to copyright protection.

Example of Advocacy that doesn’t benefit photojournalist

News outlets have greatly benefitted from cameras being allowed in the courtroom. Great examples are Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, OJ Simpson, and Casey Anthony to name just a few.

Defense attorney Robert McGlasson, left, talks with his client Brian Nichols during a pretrial hearing Thursday, March 6, 2008 in Atlanta. Nichols is accused of killing a judge, a deputy sheriff and two other after escaping from the Fulton County Courthouse in 2005. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary)

NPPA advocacy often is to help get photojournalist access. However, NPPA members are never compensated more because they have paid out of their own pockets to help those news outlets get the content that lines the pockets of those publishers.

In 1976 the National Labor Relations Board determined that ASMP was a group of independent contractors and not a union. Due to that decision neither ASMP nor NPPA can help its members in setting industry prices for their members.

Today both ASMP and NPPA have social media groups for their members and still produce educational resources, put on meetings for their members and provide legal assistance to their members.

How do they compete against the free offerings for groups in social media?

Membership requirements were the way that they distinguished themselves.

ASMP requirements for a Professional Membership is reserved for still and motion photographers of good moral character and reputation who have been actively and consistently engaged in professional practice for at least 3 years. There are other categories for membership.

NPPA requirements – working or aspiring towards working in the field of visual journalism.

Those membership requirements have been lowered in how they verify your qualifications due to their desperate need for members to support the organizations.

My recommendations

If you are new to photojournalism and need to learn how to make better photos then NPPA is great. Their contests and education programs are all about learning the craft.

If you are in business for yourself and not on staff then you should join ASMP. This organization will do more to help you navigate how to make a living and all their education and workshops do and excellent job of helping you run a successful business.

For those starting out, you may need both.

My wish these past few years was that these two organizations could combine. They are different and yet also have so much in common. Sadly NPPA turned down ASMP’s offer to do just that.

Knowing when to add light for weddings

I have never been to a wedding where something doesn’t go to plan. Because of the constant changing of schedules during a wedding, photographers have to go with the flow on the wedding day.

Laura Espeut shows Scott & Nathália Dunford how to do a pose for a photo during their Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 200, f/9, 1/125, Focal Length = 24]

For today’s weddings it is almost impossible for a photographer to work alone. If you are smart then you don’t look for just anyone to help you. You find someone who is better than you in some way.

Laura Espeut is one of the best photographers I know and her personality is so wonderful. Her ability to help communicate with people her concepts to get the best possible photos is incredible. She also does an awesome job shooting creative photos.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/160, Focal Length = 100] photo by Laura Espeut

If you are looking for a photographer to shoot your wedding most likely you will have two photographers. If you ask them about the second shooter, see if they brag about them. I always brag about Laura.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/640, Focal Length = 75] photo by Laura Espeut

Laura knows in photography it is all about emotions on the wedding day. So she is coaching the bridal party to be sure those emotions are right on the surface for the photos.

She also is aware that if you are not capturing an expression then you need to make the light and composition create an emotion.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250, Focal Length = 28]

Having someone like Laura helps me to relax as much as you can as a wedding shooter. I am able to problem solve the changing light scenarios through the day. If things are not going to plan you often cannot count on natural light to stay constant for you during a wedding.

The one thing that is so difficult to deal with in photography is the natural light. Sometimes it is so incredible for a photo you just have to capture it as it is. However, this photo of the groomsmen is a time where I was fighting with the light. I used an on camera flash to help with the shadows. It just wasn’t working really well.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200, Focal Length = 38]

I quickly realized that photo wasn’t so good with the harsh shadows. I moved the guys and put the sun to their back and used the flash to just be sure I was getting good light on their faces. Remember great wedding photos are first about capturing expressions.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON D5, Sigma 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125, Focal Length = 150]

During the wedding I am alternating between camera bodies and lenses. This photo of the groom saying his vows to the bride I shot a couple ways. The biggest difference is with and without flash. The first one is without flash.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320, Focal Length = 105]

I think the flash helped a lot on the second photo you see. The expression was better on the first one, but I hope you get my point of how a flash on a sunny day can help over come the harsh shadows around the eyes from the sun overhead.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 320, f/8, 1/100, Focal Length = 48]

Carl House, the venue for the wedding, had a back porch that was perfect for natural light photos. I prefer this over shooting with flashes and having to wait for them to recycle between flashes. Expressions on faces don’t wait for flashes.

So the porch had wonderful light pouring in and none of the was direct. This was creating a massive soft box effect for the posed photos.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 220, ƒ/8, 1/100, Focal Length = 24]

While I would have preferred having the green background, I had already discovered how difficult it was going to be doing group photos in the direct sunlight.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 500, ƒ/10, 1/100, Focal Length = 42]

The best way to describe what light I look for outside for weddings is the shadow side of a building. This is where the sun isn’t the shining directly on the subjects, but rather the large sky creates a large soft box. It is often called open shade.

Scott & Nathália Dunford Wedding [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125, Focal Length = 24]

When I have to shoot in the direct sunlight as here with the wedding party all waiting for the bride I use a flash to help open up those shadows.

Before you hit the record button for an interview

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100]

I have been teaching some form of photography my entire career. Each time I teach I discover one more thing that can be tweaked and improved. Often I am coming up with a new way to communicate a concept.

The longer I am in this profession I find that I am still learning. This blog post on Narrative Storytelling was prompted by my students taking Intro to Photojournalism at The Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications, University of Georgia.

“If you want to be a better photographer stand in front of more interesting stuff”

Jim Richardson

So how do you find more interesting stuff? How do you find interesting stories?

I have found there are two main ways I have found stories. Often it is just by meeting someone and hearing their story. Could be someone behind the counter of a business I am visiting or someone who sits beside me on the plane.

The other way I have found stories is when I have an audience in mind. Often this is a client that I am working with on other projects. They tell you what they are working on and then my mind starts trying to solve their problem by finding stories to tell for them.

No matter how you discover some great stories there is one place you must start–THE AUDIENCE.

To help you get your head around what I am talking about just think of you going on the trip of your lifetime. You come home and want to tell your parents. You first get your mom by herself and you tell her about your trip. Then later you and dad have some time together and you tell him about your trip.

Parents watch as the limo pulls away taking our kids away for senior prom. (photo by Robin Rayne) [NIKON D4, 24.0-70.0 mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 320, ƒ/7.1, 1/60]

Are they interested in the same things? Most people will tell a different story because they have different interests.

When I say know your audience I am really saying know their story. Now often newspapers and magazines that I worked with had a fictitious family they created based on research of their audience.

Knolan Benfield in Hawaii with me helping teach posing to photography students with Youth With a Mission. (Photo by: Dennis Fahringer)

My uncle Knolan Benfield, pictured above, told me one of the best stories that changed my photography and storytelling for the better.

Knolan had taken his wife’s [my aunt] grandmother to the beach in North Carolina. She was quite old at the time and he tells how he watched her walk into the ocean for the very first time in her life. She had never gone to the beach in her 80+ years of her life. She had really never traveled much more than 50 miles from her home most of her life.

Knolan said that moment sealed into his memory what he was doing with his camera when working on stories. He was taking people to places they will often never see in their life. It was his responsibility to make those visuals as strong as possible to transport them through his lens to the place.

A good storyteller must always have their audience in mind. The biggest mistake many storytellers make is telling a story because it meant a lot to them and really never consider the audience. You might do pretty well with this method and I have seen many make a career doing this, but seldom are they the great storytellers. The great storytellers move their audiences heads and heart and not just their own.

When we put together a Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop we visit the location during a pre-trip. During this time we meet with the missionaries. We do a mini-workshop with them on storytelling and then ask them to help identify people for stories.

We talk to them about the audience and the other key thing we talk about is what they want to accomplish with the stories.

It is very typical that they need a building. Can you do a video helping promote our building need? This is where we always are having to educate them that we have to not come up with a solution for the audience, but rather establish the need with the audience.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Bucharest, Romania

What can’t you do right now because you don’t have a building? After multiple questions and chasing of tangents we have them understanding how telling the story of someone they impacted by sharing that story helps lay the foundation to show they need a facility to help more people like the person of the story.

Now when it comes to telling a story for an NGO this is much different than photojournalism storytelling. We want the audience to take action and even build in a call to action at the end of the story.

In journalism we are informing them and sometimes it is more entertainment in feature storytelling and sometimes the stories are meant to inform before an election. The journalist isn’t trying to sway your vote, but educate the public on the facts.

With non profit work I am more of an advocate than a journalist.

Once you have identified a person as the subject of the story you will need to interview them and basically spend enough time to discover their story. I recommend using the narrative story arch as something to help guide you.

Now in nonfiction there should be a point to your story. In fiction you don’t necessarily need to have some moral of the story for it to be effective.

As you work on your story always keep in mind what you plan to share and what parts of the diagram that they play in the story.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” While you might be thinking of me talking here about the visuals I am really talking about all of it. When someone tells their story by taking you to the day of the big event from which everything in the story revolves around, the more the person talks in a way to paint a picture this too does a much better job than just the facts.

“The most important things to remember about backstory are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. Stick to the parts that are, and don’t get carried away with the rest.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Keep the Exposition short. When giving us the background we do need some, but that doesn’t mean we need to know every detail. What is the key take away from all your research the audience needs to know so as to have some context for the “big event”? Then creatively tell what is necessary to only do that.


In the movie UP there is one repeated humor of these dogs that no matter how focused they are in doing something if they see a squirrel they stop in their tracks and then go and chase it.

Too many storytellers do this in telling their stories. The character mentions something that isn’t necessary to the story, but is so good they can’t let it go.

Once you have your parts of the story and a narrative then you are ALMOST ready to start. I am really talking about those who are using audio/video to capture the person’s story.

Use Vivid Details, Not Lots of Facts

Ask the subject to take you to the moment when something happened. Get them to tell you how it felt at that moment. Remind them to help you understand how it felt then, because now they may look back and know things would get better, but at the moment they may have felt hopeless or overjoyed.

Once you have heard all the parts of the story that you know you will use and they move your head and heart you can then sit down for the formal on camera audio/video recording of their story.

You can ask questions to help them tell their story, but most of the time you will be just prompting them. You might say to them that the other day when we were talking you shared this moment you experienced, can you share that again?

One thing before I start, I tell them their story as I understand it. I ask do I have your story correct and OK with you. If something needs to be corrected for accuracy this is when I do it. Once they agree on what I think the story is and how I told it, that is really what I am now trying to get them to say. You see I have summarized all those conversations I had to dig and get the story. I have done some editing in my own mind and distilled it to the parts that help tell the story. If you do this in the 90 to 120 seconds for most stories then you will find the rest of this super easy.

Georgia Dome – Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000, 35mm Equivalent=240mm]

Take Control

Because you have done the diagram and remember all the parts you are wanting to capture, keep your subject on topic. Don’t let them expound and now make your content longer.

I have had to ask them to repeat their answer and say your first response was 2 minutes, I am looking for a couple sentences. You said this … and then when you started on this part, just leave that out. That is just going into more detail than needed right now. You want to remind them of what we agreed were the key points we are sticking with for their story.

Call to Action

When I am telling stories for organizations and not journalism purpose I have a call to action. Now that you have heard this story here is where you can go to learn more, get involved or give money to support this organization as they help more people like the person you just heard about.

After the Interview

I will spend time talking with the subject about their schedule. What is going on with them that I can come along and capture video/stills to add to the story. The additions are to be shown while they are telling their story.

For this blog post I am not going to go into visual storytelling.

The Hook

One thing you need for a video is the first 8 to 10 seconds you need a teaser. The easiest way I have found is just to find the most shocking thing subject says and use this. Be sure it doesn’t give away the story.

Hopefully at this point you have a better idea of how important it is to identify a story for an audience and how important it is for you to have done all the research and preinterview so that when you hit record you are ready to capture the story and not discover it.

Taking it to the next level

“The advanced level is the mastery of the basics.”

Ray Mancini
[NIKON D5, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/200, Focal Length = 28]

So often we think that getting to the next level and doing that one more incredible thing will be what makes us more successful.

A Champion makes sure he/she eliminates ALL sources of error or potential problems. The all-time greatest Basketball Coach John Wooden would teach ALL his new recruits how to tie their shoe laces as part of their initiation because in his words “the last thing I want is to lose a point because your shoe laces come untied at the worst possible moment.”

I love teaching so much. I like to know I am helping someone else achieve their dreams. I also love teaching because it has made me better at my craft.

When you teach you have to return to the basics and when students hand in work that isn’t what it should be you re-examine what you taught. It is this process that made me realize that it is just very simple concepts done well that are the things that make someone look outstanding.

Chelle Leary [NIKON D5, 85.0 mm f/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/9, 1/160]

My daughter found her passion in high school for theater. She loves all aspects of the theater. She enjoys working on sets, costumes, lighting, dancing, acting and singing.

My daughter the banshee is on the back of Caleb Jackson who plays a monster in the play “She Kills Monsters” opening March 1 at CSU’s Riverside Theatre Complex. in Columbus, GA. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 4500, f/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 48]

When you love doing something you want to do more. My daughter has been impressing those at the school because when she works on a play and finishes something she is asking the leadership, “What else can I do?”.

My daughter is learning that just doing what you are asked to do and doing it on time is making her a standout at Columbus State University.

“Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many of my students I teach in Intro to Photojournalism are just taking this to check off a requirement for graduation.

The sad thing to me is those who are complaining the most about their grades, are often putting in the least effort.

I have a News Event Package assignment where they must cover News Event and turn in three to five photos that captures the event with captions. Now in the software I can see the time codes of the camera.

While reviewing the work I noticed that many looked like very little effort was being put into this assignment. It looked like one student had gone to a parade and just stood still and took a few photos and left.

I then pulled up the time code of the photos. The photos turned in were all taken in less than four minutes.

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”

John Wooden

Covering a News Event usually takes about two to four hours. Once you have captured the event it usually takes no more than an hour to edit the photos and turn them in.

One student had waited to cover an event that started at 6:00 pm and the assignment was due at 8:00 pm. They didn’t have many action shots of the event taking place because it really didn’t start on time and the student had to leave early to make the deadline.

When I said it was being lazy to wait to the last minute they were upset. Now even the dictionary says lazy is “moving slowly”.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2018, Auburn 27 vs University of Central Florida 34 [NIKON D5, Sigma 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 8000, f/2.8, 1/4000, Focal Length = 300]

Do you want to get better? If so, then the best thing you can do is to revisit the basics in your job.

Here are some basics for every job that might help:

1. Never Be Late – Start on time and Close on time

“I have learned one thing. As Woody says, ‘Showing up is 80 percent of life.’ Sometimes it’s easier to hide home in bed. I’ve done both.”

Woody Allen

2. Seek knowledge, not results

“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.”

Shakuntala Devi

3. Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand, utilize, and reason with emotions. Emotionally intelligent people are able to understand not only their own emotions but those of others as well.

4. Focus on Intrinsic Motivations

Intrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. In other words, the motivation to engage in a behavior arises from within the individual because it is naturally satisfying to you.

5. Don’t compare your own life to other peoples’ lives

Rather than comparing yourself with people who are “better off” than you, think about all of the people who are homeless, chronically ill, or living in poverty. This will help you appreciate what you have rather than feeling sorry for yourself. Try engaging in volunteer work to help make this more apparent. 

6. Count your blessings

No matter how much you achieve in life, you will always feel unhappy if you constantly focus on what you don’t have. Instead, devote time every day to appreciating the things you do have. Think beyond material items; appreciate your loved ones, and cherish happy memories.