“Fearless to a Fault”

This past weekend many of us went back to the movie theater and watched “Top Gun: Maverick”. Tom Cruise brings Maverick back to the big screen.

Maverick has a rogue pilot’s attitude to life. It takes the death of Goose for Maverick [first movie] to look back on his actions with anything resembling a critical eye, as the young pilot is initially a reckless, feckless recruit who couldn’t care less about the lives he endangers and the potential damage he could do himself.

Our culture teaches us we are to take calculated risks. However, Maverick tells Rooster to “Don’t think, just do.

“Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

– Zig Ziglar

Without spoiling the movie Maverick takes us on a journey where he is willing to push his limits. The greatest lesson Maverick teaches is the importance of believing you can do something.

One of the film’s central themes is, “It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.”  Maverick added, “What is achievable comes down to the pilot in the box.” 

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

– Norman Vincent Peale

Creatives Need To Embrace Fear

Fear can be healthy. It is programmed into your nervous system, and gives you the survival instincts you need to keep yourself safe from danger. Fear is unhealthy when it makes you more cautious than you really need to be to stay safe, and when it prevents you from doing things you would otherwise enjoy.

I watch many freelancers who have a hard time surviving in this industry. They overthink. They suffer from Analysis Paralysis. Analysis Paralysis is an inability to make a decision due to over-thinking a problem. An individual or a group can have too much data. The result is endless wrangling over the upsides and downsides of each option, and an inability to pick one.

You Must Fail to Succeed

Failure is not a step backward; it’s an excellent stepping stone to success. 

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

– Winston Churchill

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

It’s good to get into the habit of asking yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” in any given situation. If the worst thing is not that bad, then you might be spurred into action. If the worst thing that can happen is really bad, then it might cause you to sit this one out and stay on sidelines because the possible downside is so terrible, even if the chance of it happening is very small. It’s better to err on the side of caution than the side of catastrophe.

Aron Ralston, who went rock climbing alone and got his hand pinned against a rock wall by a boulder that moved while he was climbing down it. He didn’t tell anyone that he was going hiking, so no one was going to look for him. He was stuck there for 5 days. He then realized that although he couldn’t move or break the boulder that trapped him, he could escape the boulder by cutting off his trapped arm with the small, dull knife he had. So that’s what he did. He cut off his arm to survive. Quite a story.

Had Ralston asked himself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to me while hiking alone?” before going hiking alone, then he probably would have told someone where he was going, in case he got in a situation where he needed help.

Mitigate the Risks

Take the time to come up with a game plan to grow your business. Dream Big! The only thing you need to do is plan out your actions that you will need to take to implement your dream.

Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” If you can lose money to implement the plan, just be willing to lose that money. Consider it a way to test your idea out. It is you doing research.

“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”

– J.K. Rowling

I love how Thomas Edison looked at what many would call failure. He tried over and over to invent the light bulb. He probably failed more than most. It took over 10,000 failures to find the right material to make it work. Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What is the difference between most of the successful freelancers vs those who had to leave the industry? Confucious said, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.”

Those who get back on the bicycle after falling are the ones who learn how to ride a bike.

“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Not Your Mom and Dad’s Senior Photos

When parents of today’s seniors had their senior photos taken they were shot on film and not digital as today.

My two sister’s and I taken on my oldest sister’s graduation from Manalapan High School

For our family we all had senior photos made in the style of the day, but the number of photos you had taken was a lot less than we do today.

My younger sister Hannah senior photos in Hockesin, Delaware

Today it is much easier to take hundreds of photos so that we can not just get a variety of images, but the best expressions.

Kids who seemed confident throughout childhood may struggle to maintain self-assurance during the teen years. For many, adolescence is a time filled with self-doubt, a questionable body image, and insecurity.

Feeling self-conscious about your appearance is normal. The way most of us are photographed throughout our lives doesn’t really help. You see most of the time when a photograph is taken, that is it. One photo is taken and maybe a second where everyone is acting goofy. What are the chances that moment was your best?

Look for a Seasoned Professional Photographer

Most all professional photographers can get a well exposed and sharp photo. When you look for a photographer, pay attention to the expressions of the people in the photos. Pay a lot of attention to the eyes.

Look for a variety of expressions. You can tell if they are genuine expressions.

Some photographers are great with their personalities, but they don’t bring out their subjects personalities. Sometimes the best photographers are quiet and listen more than they talk. That is because they are looking for real connections.

Some of the best people photographers I know had degrees in psychology, social work and counseling professions. They studied body language. There are other photographers without those formal education, but have spent a lifetime studying people. They have gone to workshops and studied with seasoned professionals to perfect their people skills as well as photographic skills.

Jane Yandel Senior Photos

Tips for Your Senior

Have FUN!!!!! Act up! Be Goofy!

After 40 years of working in photography I can tell you that those people who are willing to take the risk and look ridiculous and take risks are those with the best images I have ever made.

I started taking portraits in college. I found that those who would work with me and take direction always got the very best expressions.

My Brochure and Prices for Senior Photos

“What are the rates for ________ ?”

This was posted today on Facebook. Pretty much every day somewhere a newbie to the industry or to a new genre of photography/video asks the question, “What can I charge?” Here is that Question on this post:

Client: Environmental NGO based in California
1 day Shoot: portraits, candid shots, etc. outside on the US
Usage: social media, website, other marketing material
Duration: they haven’t specified


  • Would you charge a day rate or flat fee?
  • How may pictures would you deliver?
  • What sort of usage would that include (i.e. non-exclusive, 2-3 years?)
  • If day rate, do you charge additional editing day considering is all minor colour correction, etc.?
  • What’s the standard rate for NGOs in the US? (I know the rates vary quite a lot for NGO based outside and inside the US ranging from anything btw $360/day to $1,500.)

Here was my response, which I hope may help even more people.

What is an NGO?

The biggest difference with an NGO is the scope of work that most non-profits assume. Many non-profits are affiliated with churches, boys and girls clubs, and alumni associations. An NGO, on the other hand, has broader and internationally driven footprint.

Similarities of non-profit and profit organizations

Both make income, but reinvest all earnings back into the organization to continue operations and to support their causes. Although both have a staff consisting of mostly volunteers, they also hire and pay some higher-level employees within the organizations.

Their utilities are pretty much the same. The staff must be paid a going rate in their location or they will not be able to hire.

Special events costs don’t change because they are a non-profit. The catering is the same cost. The cost savings usually come in volunteers helping.

Don’t be the one vendor giving their work away for less while all the other vendors are being paid their full-price.

Day Rate or Hourly Rate vs Flat Fee or Project Based Pricing

Charging by the hour is one of the worst mistakes a freelancer can make. If you charge by the hour, it will only be natural for you to work less efficiently than if you had priced on a per job basis. And given that you only have a certain number of hours available in the day, you are essentially capping your maximum earning potential.

If on the other hand you price on a per job basis, you are limited only by the speed in which you can complete your work. You will learn to work more productively, and in turn, will earn a higher equivalent hourly rate (and impress clients with your efficient style and quick turnaround).

I suggest Project Pricing with contract

Spelling out what is to be photographed and what the deliverable will be for the client is necessary in this model.

When you are doing the job, it is quite common for clients to say, “Since you are here” or “Can you take a few shots of this for me?” By having contract with the scope of the project outlined you now have a way to handle those requests which makes you more money or keep you from giving away work for free.

“I would love to help you get more photos. Since this is beyond the contract, the extra cost will be $_______.” They may say no, but you offered to do the work and they are not able to take advantage of you.

You can also respond by saying, “The list of shots we have to do on the list will not all get done if we stop and shoot this. What on the list do you want to eliminate for this photo?”

The number of photos delivered

Delivering a few finished photo options for each situation is bare minimum. Some show most of the take and then only deliver a limited number for which the client picks for further finishing edits. Usually in contract a number is given on the number of deliverables, but good to always spell out the price for additional photos from those taken.

If you are new to shooting this type of assignment, have the client tell you what they want. Then over shoot and have them limit the final number.


Always 3 prices in an estimate. Always have three levels of pricing. Low, Medium and High prices that something changes in what the client gets for the price.

Usage is one of the best ways to create three prices. Also, by spelling out the usage and other factors in pricing you are setting up some of the parameters for negotiating with the client before starting the job.

Do not make your lowest price something that you will complain about if they choose to go this direction.

I have found most of the time that the client picks the middle price.

For large corporations or organizations, add a 4th price. This I call the Whoop T Doo. If they go this direction you will benefit and so will they.

Post Processing Fee

Always let clients know you can do more with the photos. For example, fixing skin issues or changing colors of clothing in post-production.

Personally, it is easier for the client to have some pricing idea before asking for the work. Sometimes it is just easier to have examples of before and after with pricing.

Don’t make clients feel like they are being nickel and dimed by you. Make them feel like they are at a spa and upgrading the experience and enjoy spending for the luxurious experience.

What’s the standard rate?

There really are no standard rates in photography.

The costs of living around the country alone make prices fluctuate. It just costs more because everything in that market costs more and they have to make a living.

The prices I am hearing in the Metro Atlanta area go around $600 day to $4,000 or more.

There are always those who are cheaper, but rarely are they in business over many years.


  1. Know your Cost of Doing Business. I like to know what my monthly expenses average out over time and have a figure I know that I cannot walk out the door to do work or I will be paying them to work for the job.
  2. Know your hourly rate, but never quote it. Fast food restaurants know how much they must pay an hour to each employee, but their prices on the menu do not show those hourly rates. Neither should you. Use this rate to help you configure your project price.
  3. Sliding Scale. If a job is for an hour for example the client will pay much more for the most part than the person who hires me for a project that takes a day. So, if I am paying myself $300 an hour for first hour, I may charge the client $1,100 for half-day of my time. Again, this is how I am building my price in my head for the project. They get a $100 discount for more work. I may only charge $1,800 for the day verses 8 X $300 = $2,400 for the day. Again, give me more work you get a discount.
  4. Usage & Risk. If the client is going to use this in a major multiyear ad campaign, then most likely your photos are going to help make them a great deal if successful. You want to get paid more. If this is something like a wedding where you have no do overs, the risk means you should be paid more. High risk jobs require more redundancy and preplanning to avoid unnecessary risks.
  5. Always provide 3 prices. Give clients the ability to add fries to their order. This is how you can grow your business.

Show the Story vs Tell the Story

If you can’t identify what makes your story unique and interesting, chances are nobody else will either.

  • Who is driving the story? Who is it about? Who is affected? Who benefits? Who loses?
  • What has happened? What are the consequences? What does this mean for the reader?
  • Where is this taking place (building, neighborhood, city, country)? Where should readers go to learn more?
  • When did it happen (time of day, day, month, year)? When was the last update? When can you expect to learn more? When will the effects be felt?
  • Why did this event take place? Why is this important in the big picture? Why should readers care?
Chick-fil-A Supply DC being built in Cartersville, GA, Brian Kemp, Governor of Georgia is keynote. The CFA Supply team is in attendance, as well as a Cathy family member, CFA leadership, other key partners on the project, and local government stakeholders and a few local media outlets. Paul Trotti, Brent Ragsdale, Dan Cathy, Commissioner Pat Wilson, Governor Brian Kemp, Tim Tassopoulos, Commissioner Steve Taylor, Glenn Jordan, Mike Haselton, & Matt Rumsey [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/400, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

Storytelling is Key

While you can have all the answers to the 5 Ws and have all the visuals from the close-up, the medium and the wide overall photos to tell the story, you need a way to engage the audience and also weave the parts into a comprehendible storyline.

Stories are either a 1) Drama or 2) Tragedy. There is always a tension for which everything pivots around.

Jeff Ellis, a mechanical engineering student at Georgia Tech, does research on a new heart valve under the direction of Dr. Ajit Yoganathan. Dr. Yoganathan’s current research is in the fluid mechanics of valvular regurgitation.

When the storyteller starts off with a kidnapping event, the tension is established right away and the question of if this is a tragedy or drama is what hooks the audience to stay on the edge of their seats for the ending.

The Atlanta Science Festival [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/80, ƒ/8, (35mm = 14)]

Businesses often fail in telling their story

Most businesses put most of their money into events like ground breaking, award banquets, kickoff events, and other celebrations.

Imagine Star Wars starting the story with the celebration of the victory. Imagine any movie starting with the ending, but this is what most businesses do with their Public Relations.

Either Or?

Am I proposing that instead of celebration events you do storytelling instead? No. I am proposing that storytelling be a priority so that the celebrations become even better. Why do we celebrate? We had to overcome a great deal to get to this point. Tell that story, so that everyone knows what got you to the point of the celebration.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 11400, 1/4000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 195)]

Invite your Audience to the Game

Do you think people would show up just for the trophy presentation? No. People want to see the game. They want to see and experience the tension of overcoming obstacles to win the game.

K’Lavon Chaisson #18 of the LSU Tigers is given the Most Outstanding Player award by Dan Cathy after beating Oklahoma Sooners in the 2019 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 28, in Atlanta. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 9000, 1/4000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 240)]

What is your play of the game for your business this year???

Hire a professional storyteller to tell your story. Most of your audience isn’t going to be present while you play your game. They will need the storyteller the next day to pull the highlights and the play of the game to tell your story.

The coffee berry borer is a small, black beetle, just a few millimeters long. The females bore holes into coffee berries and then lay their eggs in the seeds within—the bits that we know as “coffee beans”. The larvae devour the seeds when they hatch, destroying them.

Establish the crisis that your business provides the solution.

Just Coffee and Frontera de Cristo [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/1000, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 62)]

How to Fight The Coffee Borer Beetle

  1. Regularly inspect your crops for signs of infestation. …
  2. Immediately separate all infected samples and cherries. …
  3. Use pesticides (organic farmers may also be able to find appropriate pesticides).
  4. Use traps.

Are you telling effective stories or are you killing the story by starting with the ending by only celebrating with events? My suggestion is to do both. Tell your story and celebrate those milestones.