President Emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology and former Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution says that maintaining a photo library “speaks to the integrity of the institution.”
In his book, “Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age,” G. Wayne Clough, the Smithsonian’s 12th Secretary, surveys the efforts of many world-class institutions, including his own, to use technology to open their collections and programs to the world.
Secretary Clough’s thoughtful perspective as a museum leader, educator, and enthusiast provides invaluable insight into how digital technologies will radically alter our existing institutions, make access to their embedded knowledge widely available, and enable learning and research anytime, anywhere.
Today I led an online Zoom meeting for FOCUS on archiving. I led the group and talked about my experiences and how I had worked on digitizing photo libraries since about 1994. Here is that video if you want to watch it:
For the last 12 years, I have been helping Chick-fil-A. One thing I learned that they know all too well is that if your bathrooms are not clean, customers will walk out on you. It speaks to the cleanliness of the rest of the place. If the toilet looks this bad, do you want to take your chances with the food?
Creating visual content for an organization is expensive. If you can repurpose that content, you are spreading those costs over many projects.
Imagine a college that doesn’t have a photo library of its history. How can you even offer degrees where people must do research, and you don’t even have a digital photo library of your history. That speaks volumes about how that institution portrays its integrity to the world.
How to Ruin a Perfect Photograph
The easiest way to hurt your sales on any photograph is not to hide text in the picture. This is called embedding searchable text in the metadata.
There are two fields that most people get confused about when adding metadata to your images. Metadata is the hidden text that computers see that helps them find content. Even documents, spreadsheets, pdfs, photographs, graphics, and videos can all have text inside. Computers look for hidden fields unless you have software to see them.
Description/Caption: Remember this field contains all the information for why you initially take the photo.
Keywords: These are all the words to describe how they could be used in the future.
You need the digital photos in 3 places. This is so that something can go wrong while backing up from an A to B drive. If you don’t have C, you just lost all those images.
For organizations, I recommend you put the images online. If you have done an excellent job placing text that tells us the Who, What, Where, When, How & Why, and keywords for descriptors, those photos are now searchable.
Your online services like PhotoShelter that I use help people find your photos. This is great for an organization to have.
These companies work just like your bank for those worried about security. They are all online, but only you can get your money. You can share your information so your mortgage company gets paid, and your employer or clients can deposit money.
You can even use your phone to deposit a check.
A photo library online for an organization helps the organization grow.
Where do “Good Ideas” come from?
It is when content that already exists is accessible and able to percolate and if you want your organization to grow, be sure the people know the history. That often gives them new ideas.
Protect your integrity with others, get your photos in order, and share them.
A photo finish occurs in a sporting race when multiple competitors cross the finish line nearly simultaneously. As the naked eye may not be able to determine which of the competitors crossed the line first, a photo or video was taken at the finish line may be used for a more accurate check.
Life happens so quickly we often need to stop and assess.
While at East Carolina University, I fell in love with photography. One thing I did was take lots of photos of my friends.
As with all young men, I enjoyed dating and meeting new young ladies. Photography lets me photograph them and remember them.
A new study by the University of London’s Hannah Scott and colleagues (2018) is about the idea that people stare, because “faces, and in particular, the eyes, provide lots of useful non-verbal information about a person’s mental state.” The eyes contain “socially relevant information,” they explain, because when you see what people are looking at, you have some idea about what they might be thinking. However, as the example of the shoes illustrates, it’s not just the eyes that people stare at when they look at you.
In other words, the authors suggest that people read your body language to extract as much information as possible, and they will direct their gaze toward the part of your body providing that information.
I studied social work at East Carolina University, where I studied body language. Photography allowed me to freeze moments and analyze them later.
While I started by enjoying looking at pretty women, I slowly began to study expressions and body language.
“Our hands seem to play just as important a role in orienting people’s attention as our eyes do.” However, if the person looks directly at the viewer while performing a manual task, the viewer will respond in kind and look at the individual’s face. When someone’s gaze is directed at you, you tend to stare back in a “nonverbal acknowledgment.” Therefore, looking at someone who looks at you becomes essential to nonverbal communication.
Most of us love wedding photos because they help preserve one of the happiest days in a couple’s life. The couple’s vows often refer to the moment they first met. The first look, the first kiss, and those moments that helped to define their relationship are celebrated.
Sometimes moments are enhanced in a circumstance, like in this photo where I caught the photographer taking a picture of a daddy and daughter posing before going into Chick-fil-A for their date night. I saw his flash, which helped tell the story even better.
When Civil Rights icon John Lewis died, I found some photos of him. Again these are moments that become historical after they are made.
As a professional communicator, I aim to capture those moments that help tell a story. I was working at Clayton State University and shooting for their photo library. The purpose of the photo is to show the teaching and learning that takes place. The body language at the moment shows the desire of the student to remember the teacher’s point.
Another time I was shooting recruiting photos for a Catholic High School. My purpose was to show the school welcomed diversity and that this was where friendships took place.
In his presentation to the FOCUS group in a Zoom meeting, Michael Alexander talked about anticipating those moments. Michael said he spent a lot of time watching someone before taking photos. Since he often photographs priests at the pulpit, he realized long ago that they have a rhythm and pattern. Every once in a while, they make a gesture or expression. He would observe until he could predict those moments and then time his shutter to capture a moment.
While some gestures are big and held out to be sure others are seeing them, many of our expressions are microexpressions. These are the expressions we have just reacting to moments versus trying to communicate to another person. The TV show “Lie to Me” was based on the science of reading facial expressions. Here is a video helping you see how minuscule these moments are and how if you catch them, you will know how someone feels in the moment.
Great visual storytellers harness these microexpressions in the telling of the story.
I love it when I have captured one of these involuntary microexpressions. They show a genuineness that is often missing in other photos.
Learning to hit the pause button on life is much easier to do with a camera than with the mind alone.
The best thing that ever happened to me was discovering photography. It helped me to slow down and pay attention to details. I learned to become more like photojournalist Michael Alexander who watches people and then learns to anticipate those moments and compose them so that I can bring the audience to that moment where I hit the pause button on life for the moment to sink in truly.
By the way, I married one of those beautiful women.
Photo Above: Women are taught how to prepare food from what they already have at home in a more nutritious way to improve their family’s health at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/20, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]
I spent a good chunk of my life releasing myself from the anxiety monster.
But lately, a creepy little monster called ‘Am I Making a Difference’ has surfaced.
The beast most often haunts me at night when I am about to fall asleep. I put my head down on my pillow, spent from the day, and I wonder: Am I making a difference? Is anything I’m doing helping anyone?
When I took photos of news events, I knew I relayed what happened that day to the audience from my front-row seat.
Most of my career has been documenting first-world issues. However, throughout my career, especially the last ten years, I have spent more time in the Third World writing their problems. I am using the term “Third World” as shorthand for poor or developing nations.
My first trip to Africa was in 2005. For the first time, I saw how used liquor bottles were repurposed for many things. One is using them to sell petro by the side of the road. There were few gas stations, so business people would fill bottles and then resale them on the side of the road.
I saw firsthand how people survived with no electricity and no cupboards full of food like we have here at my home in Georgia.
I was able to go to the hospital to see the care being provided by just two doctors.
I later went to the Chiapas region of Mexico to do a story on coffee farmers. Due to roasters underpaying them for their coffee for years, many came to the states to work in our communities to support their families back home. Telling their story, we were helping them to return home and be prosperous by selling their coffee at fair prices because they were able to form a cooperative and, through a nonprofit’s help, buy a roaster that made them competitive. My purpose was to spread the story so more farmers could join the cooperative.
I was privileged to tell their supporters the success story of Honduras Outreach Inc. We put together a video that was played when the President of Honduras came to Atlanta to present them with an award for all they had done to help the Agalta Valley in Honduras.
Here is the video I did for that event back in 2014.
Last year I was privileged to go to Togo, West Africa, to help tell the story of a hospital built in the 1980s with no improvements since then and was in significant need of upgrades and expansion to meet the needs of that community.
Here is the video I did for that project:
I don’t know how much money was raised due to my work through the years. I do not know how many people’s lives were touched, and I felt a call to help others because of the stories I have helped to tell.
One of the biggest stories I am documenting, which most everyone is doing, is that of my family story.
I would say that the most crucial story I am capturing is one of my own family’s milestones.
We all go to each other’s events to celebrate with them. They become part of all of our lives.
I am always asking, “Did I make a difference today?”
I hope so, but we don’t always know the impact we make on people. So getting a note from someone telling you how you are making a difference is enormous.
During the Pandemic, I started an online Zoom meeting for communicators. I call the group FOCUS [Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially].
I got a note from one participant saying, “First off, I would like to thank you for this great fellowship group. I am enjoying it a lot. I feel like I am being watered like a plant and not drying up like I would if I was completely alone. Such a good group of people with great talent.”
So I do think I am helping someone.
Earlier, I got this note from another group member: “Thank you for hosting a great discussion again today. I am humbled to be involved and grateful for the substantive topics and questions you and others raise. I find it personally stimulating to hear the depth of the dialogue. This has been missing from my career for a long time.”
We are wired to serve one another, but I also believe we need affirmation, which helps us know if we need to modify our efforts to make a difference in this world.
When did you realize that you grew up with different experiences than those around you?
You may recognize that you have had some unique experiences as I did with going in a hot air balloon with my wife, Dorie. I also realized not everyone breaks their bones as I have throughout my life.
One year my parents treated my sisters and our families on a cruise. I would have never afforded this, and this was a wonderful experience to put into our memory banks.
The moment that became my awakening was when our family moved from Eastern North Carolina to Englishtown, New Jersey. Every day for a long time, I saw new things and took in a world so different from where I came from.
The cross-cultural experience is what this was for our family. It influenced our views, our values, our humor, our hopes, our loyalties, and our worries and fears. So when you are working with people and building relationships with them, it helps to have some perspective and understanding of their cultures.
To understand your culture, the best thing you can do is to leave it and experience another culture.
You begin to ask yourself questions you would never have done had you stayed within your bubble. Just experiencing food worldwide and how they prepare it can be eye-opening.
I believe one of the most significant problems we face today is that so many people have lived in a bubble for way too long. They look at how people do something different than they do as inferior rather than just different.
I think many are like children who will not eat only one thing. I had a cousin that only ate hot dogs for a long time.
I was brought up to eat whatever someone put in front of me. We had to be members of the “Clean Plate Club.” We even had children’s plates with this on them.
I’m sorry, but many of you live in a bubble.
It’s a bubble made up not only of your work but also your friends, the books you read, and your day-to-day routine.
It’s a bubble built from the meals you make each week.
It’s your Monday/Wednesday/Friday gym schedule.
It’s the route you take to work or the favorite coffee shop you write in on Sundays.
Yes, all those things are your bubble.
Your bubble is the safety net you surround yourself with every single day. The routines and schedules make your life stay stable and on track.
And yes, your bubble is also the building blocks of happiness, meaning, and creativity. But it’s also a wall that separates mediocrity and greatness and gets harder and harder to cross the higher you build it.
I believe less is more when it comes to lenses. This means that when I am shooting, I usually have just two lenses on me.
I love wide-angle lenses. They force you to get close to fill the frame. They give the context of what is around the subject, and they bring the audience into the scene.
By giving context, you can see how a lens choice helps you tell the story.
I love the wide lens to capture the subject’s surroundings.
While some love to use it to show a flower in a field with a mountain in the background using this lens, I do the same by putting company signs near the lens and other information in the background.
I love shooting most of my people’s photography in the 24-105mm range. While shooting people is maybe better between 35mm and 105mm getting those group photos, I prefer a wider lens.
When running around overseas for a client, I love using this lens.
I can show people in their context wide with the lens and then get a lovely portrait just seconds later from standing in the same place as another person.
I like the Sigma 24-105mm lens, the 24mm. But what I dislike is that it stops at 105mm. The other lens in conjunction with the 14-24mm covering events is the Nikon 28-300mm.
When I travel, there are times, like in Hawaii, when I have the opportunity to shoot a rodeo, you need a reasonably long lens to get close to the action.
Taking photos for a school to use in their recruiting materials, I can use this to get the normal lens range here and then close up in the music room.
Now when I want those silky smooth BOKEH shots, I plan for those. I have two lenses I go to most of the time.
This fast 35mm ƒ/1.4 is maybe my favorite lens, but to shoot everything with it isn’t practical. But I love the distance I work with when using this and the results when shot wide open at ƒ/1.4.
With today’s cameras, you can get that razor-sharp image even with such a small depth-of-field because the camera can quickly lock in on the focus point.
It is excellent to use in low light, and it helps you isolate the subject and emphasize them, especially the eyes.
I have shot a lot inside of Chick-fil-A kitchens. I try to use the 35mm ƒ/1.4 lens the most because I cannot show everything in the back. However, please focus on their people as I do here.
I also love getting tight and just showing people more than always giving context.
Due to the new Nikon Z6, which lets you see what you are getting before you click the shutter, I have been getting even tighter shots.
As you can see, the 85mm, ƒ/1.8 does a great job isolating the subject when shooting wide open at ƒ/1.8.
Now when it comes to being far away and needing a longer lens I use the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens with the 1.4x or 2x converter made for the lens.
Now while sports and wildlife are where I use this often, occasionally, to get a different look with portraits, I use the lens.
This is where I wanted to compress the background of fall colors with the subject. Ask yourself some questions. Why are you shooting this? What do you want the audience to think? What do you want the audience to feel?
Always consider what you want the image to say before you decide how to say it. Then pick the best lens for the moment. You may compromise, as I often do with my zoom lenses.
Remember always to think conceptually and not just aesthetically.
Here are links to a couple past blog posts on specific lenses:
[NIKON Z 6, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 145)]
Stanley doesn’t believe in “cookie cutter” graduation photos or senior portraits. That’s why each graduation photo session is all about the grad. Our photos will reflect your style, highlight your interests, and let your personality shine through!
Senior portraits can be taken at a location of your choosing, including anywhere in or around Metro Atlanta. If you’re looking for some awesome and unique photoshoot locations, we’d be happy to suggest some of our favorites, such as Roswell Mill, Roswell Parks, or Canton Street. Looking for more of a traditional background? No problem! We would be thrilled to take some portraits of you in my home studio, located in Roswell, GA. Whatever you choose to do, know that we want you to feel like your amazing, authentic self. That’s why we permit as many outfit changes and the use of props in your photos, to ensure that each photo is truly a reflection of you and your interests. We just create the unique package for you.
Graduation marks a new chapter in your life, and you must preserve these precious memories while you can. Get amazing and affordable graduation photography and senior portraits by Stanley. He will work with you to ensure that you are comfortable during the photoshoot and completely satisfied with the results. Let him help you create keepsakes that you will treasure forever!