Branding or Good Enough?

89% of shoppers stay loyal to brands that share their values

Your message is likely very sales-heavy if you’re focused on simply selling a product and not building a brand. Consumers are constantly being sold to. Instead of focusing on what you can get from them, brand-building allows you to focus on what you can give, and after you’ve built a foundation of trust with your audience, they will be more likely to hit “Buy Now” on your next offer.

Selling products in the short term may be a necessary goal to launch your business, but branding can set up your business for success in the long term.

Selling stuff you no longer need on eBay to get some cash should look a lot different than how your business sells its products or services.

Steve Jobs’s impact on Apple was continually pushing products back to his team for simplifying and design. He went for the clean back of the MacBook Pro. Something that most in the industry were not paying attention to that kind of detail that customers didn’t see when using. Jobs knew better.

Build your brand, and don’t just succumb to Good Enough for your marketing.

Flash: The Photographer’s Lightsaber

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/320, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

The lightsaber is the weapon of a Jedi, an elegant weapon of a more civilized age.

Flash is the lightsaber tool of photographers

The Jedi used the Lightsaber as a weapon. It made them even more powerful.

The photographer uses lights [flash & constant light source] to make them more powerful.

For the original Star Wars film, the film prop hilts were constructed by John Stears from old Graflex press camera flash battery packs and other pieces of hardware.

Without a flash, a photo often misses that “WOW” factor.

Add flash, and now the color and the people “POP.”

While silhouettes are often powerful by themselves, I could reveal the subjects by adding flash.

Learn How

I teach this in workshops that colleges, photography programs, camera clubs, & individuals hire me to demonstrate and then coach them to do it themselves with my supervision.

Here you can see the photography workshop participants watching and learning.

Fire Dancer in Kona Hawaii [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 7200, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 35)]

Contact me to do a workshop for your group or you individually.

Importance of Practicing with Nikon Z9

Laughing Gull at Ocean Isle Beach, NC [NIKON Z 9, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8G + TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 500, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

When you buy a new camera, there are many situations in that you can shoot with minimal understanding of your new camera.

[NIKON Z 9, 85mm f/1.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/125, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 85)]

I believe headshots are super easy for a new camera. Setting the camera to manual and sync speed is minimal to get great results. With the Z9 and having the eye-tracking activated, it does great. This is because there is only one set of eyes to track, and focusing is quite simple.

Michigan State vs Pittsburgh [NIKON Z 9, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8G + TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 18000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 440)]

More Eyes

Now with football in a stadium, there are many eyes to track. This is where the camera gets confused as to what you want in focus.

Now taking the camera out of the box and going off to a sporting event for a job is just crazy. This is such a complex subject to get into focus without understanding all the camera settings. So much so that Nikon has a unique instruction manual for just sports.

Nikon Z9 Sports AF Edition

Acknowledge the Complexity

It gets very complicated and quicker. Just look at this chart alone.

With so many dials and choices, you must understand what they all do before shooting a critical job.

Today’s top-end cameras take much time to master all the controls.

Boeing 747 Cockpit

I am unsure which has more controls, the Nikon Z9 or a Boeing 747. Pilots will train in a flight simulator before actually flying the Boeing 747. The primary purpose of a flight simulator is to help the pilot to achieve, test and maintain proficiency in handling airplane operations without involving any risk to property or lives and at a much lower cost than training in the air.

How long does it take to become a 747 pilot?

Becoming an airline pilot takes two years to gain the required 1,500 hours of flight time.

One of the major problems with many buying the Nikon Z9 is they have minimal experience with photography in general.

Total Hours Required
Private Pilot License40 Hours
Commercial Pilot Certificate250 Hours
Airline Transport Pilot Certificate1,500 Hours

Those are hours flying and don’t include all the ground school for each certificate.

Manuals & Community Groups Don’t Substitute for Hands On

On Nikon Z9 community groups online, I am seeing people asking questions that are more basic than just the knowledge of the specificity of the Nikon Z9. You have got to spend a lot of time learning all the menus, and the reference manual is the best way to do that. The second thing you have to do is test out what each of those settings does and take some photos changing those settings, so you understand what that setting does to help you in a given situation.

One of the best ways to get those hours under the belt is by practicing with all subjects and situations. You cannot practice enough.

This past week while on vacation at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, I used the time to play and, most importantly, become more aware of some of the controls on my Nikon Z9.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 9, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8G + TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 360, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

One of the most challenging things about photographing birds was keeping the bird in flight in the frame. My brother-in-law tried my Nikon Z9, and his first comment was how difficult it was to track the birds.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 9, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8G + TC-2001, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 900, 1/4000, ƒ/8, (35mm = 300)]

While playing/practicing with the Nikon Z9, I did the same thing with my Drones. I flew my DJI Air 2S.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [DJI Air 2S, Mode = Normal, ISO 150, 1/240, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

My new Nikon Z9 can do way more than I have understood. I am practicing with different situations so that when I have a client that needs something that my camera will do, I need to have the correct settings to maximize the camera’s ability. You can also screw up most all the photos if not in suitable locations.

I will be shooting the Roswell Alive After Five on Canton Street this week. This is where I am also practicing. The last time I did this, I shot with two prime lenses. I shot with the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art and the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8.

Alive in Roswell is a free, family-friendly monthly festival held every third Thursday evening (5:00 – 9:00 PM) from April through October. The festival is held concurrently on Historic Canton Street, Roswell Antique and Interiors Lot, and Historic Roswell Town Square. Regular trolley service connects the free parking at Roswell City Hall and the Historic Town Square. Dogs are allowed at Alive in Roswell, but please bring them on a leash, be a good fur parent, and clean up any deposits from your baby. The only place that they are not allowed is on the free trolley. [NIKON Z 9, Sigma 35mm f/1.4G Art, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/800, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

I loved shooting shallow depth-of-field to force you to look at what I wanted to be the subject in the photo.

[NIKON Z 9, Sigma 35mm f/1.4G Art, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/1250, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]
[NIKON Z 9, 85mm f/1.8G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/640, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

Procedural Memory

Procedural memory, also called implicit memory, is a type of long-term memory involved in performing different actions and skills. Essentially, it is the memory of how to do certain things. Riding a bike, tying your shoes, and cooking an omelet without a recipe are all procedural memories.

Tips To Master Your Nikon Z9

  • Download the Nikon Z9 Reference Manual
  • Watch YouTube Videos – Go to YouTube and put in the search term for “Nikon Z9.”
  • Watch YouTube Specialty Videos – Put in “Nikon Z9” and “Specialty,” ie. “Bird Photography”
  • Set aside time in the day to go and shoot practice situations
  • Evaluate your shoot. I recommend using Nikon’s NX Studio. The advantage is this can let you see where you were focusing and help you understand user error
  • Rinse & Repeat – Continual Repetition will help you know when you need to change the camera settings and which settings to use in any situation

Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. The camera is highly customizable for you to do things no one thought possible, but you must have the camera setup for that subject and situation.

Beach Family Photos

This year we did the family photo up on the walkway to the beach. This was easier for my parents to navigate than on the beach.

Photo by Dorie Griggs [my wife]

Here is the basic setup for this photo.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [DJI Air 2S, Mode = Normal, ISO 120, 1/60, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Now I also took a family photo with my drone this year. The wind blew so much that we didn’t get one shot, with everyone looking great. We did get many pictures without the drone.

Now getting a moment with little children takes a village. They were done after a couple of shots, but we needed them for different groupings.

“Patience grasshopper”

– Kung Fu
Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/100, ƒ/8, (35mm = 38)]

I believe that recording real moments is what we cherish years later. Of course, I am thinking about how we can get a better photo with everyone looking their best. I suggested the oldest cousin sit in front of one of the younger ones to make them feel special. IT WORKED!!!

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/125, ƒ/8, (35mm = 38)]

I then took my lights onto the beach for those who wanted photos on the beach.

Rebecca Kramer Manzi being a photo assistant [photo by Dorie Griggs]

Again I had some help from the rest of the family. They held the lights so the wind didn’t blow or damage them.

Madison & Joshua Poe at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/1000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 95)]

By the way, I shot the photos on a tripod in case I needed to combine multiple photos to get the best expressions.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 64, 1/80, ƒ/8, (35mm = 38)]

This last photo combines a couple of photos to get the best expressions.

Setup for the photos on the wooden deck