Which Background for Your Headshots?

There are many options for backgrounds for a headshot. However, whether this is an executive, actor, or casual, all backgrounds must have one thing in common there aren’t any distractions behind your subject.

Brittley Woods

Brick backgrounds have become popular in the past few years and can work. However, since they are rarely solid, the pattern of the bricks is much more distracting than something like brush strokes or solid.

Yoko O’Brien New Start Counseling Center

A counseling center’s colors for their logo were teal. So I went to the fabric store and found a velvet-like fabric in teal to use as the background.

Now, this is the same background in the two side-by-side photos. The difference in the look has more to do with how I lit the background. How much light do you put on the background compared to the subject and evenly lit or with spot?

This background is the same in these two headshots. One on the left, I only had the light on the subject. The background is white and lit by the spillover from the leading light. In the right photo, I put light on the background to be sure it was white.

I would say the least often chosen is black. If you prefer it, you must use a hair light to help create a separation between the subject and the background. The separation becomes a merge if the hair or clothing is black. On the other hand, black can look quite good, as seen here with the tuxedo and black background.

What Aperture Should You Use For Group Photo?

[NIKON Z 9, 14-24mm f/2.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 400, 1/125, ƒ/8, (35mm = 16)]

While setting up for this photo, my photo assistant for the day asked me what is a good aperture to do group photos. The assistant had left another profession in the last couple of years and was still learning the ins and outs of photography.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 24)]

Here is the light setup for most all my group photos.

Sometimes when doing a large group, I often have a few smaller groups to do, like in this large group. I kept the lights the same and just posed the people in the same space. We removed the risers.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 48)]

There are a couple of things that affect depth of field. 

  1. The ƒ-stop/aperture – As you already know, the lower the number, the less depth-of-field you have.  
  2. Distance to the subject – The closer you get to a subject, the shallower the depth of field when the ƒ-stop stays the same. In macro photography, for example, when you get as close as a 1:1 ratio, you often have to be at a ƒ -stop at a minimum of ƒ /11 to appear in focus. When I do macro photography, the aperture is often at ƒ /45 and still seems like a shallow depth-of-field.  
[NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/200, ƒ/9, (35mm = 28)]

Compare these traditional rows of people to shooting down on everyone looking below.

[NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/50, ƒ/9, (35mm = 28)]

In the first photo, the person on the front row is a few feet from the person on the back row, so I must adjust the aperture to be sure all are in focus.

In the second photo, the distance of each person’s face to the camera is similar. Therefore, the aperture can be a shallower depth of field as compared to the first one.

When you set your aperture and focus, the depth of field in front and behind the subject is called the hyperfocal distance. The link above will let you put your camera, lens, aperture, and distance to your focus point to get the depth of field.

Graphic by Broadway Camera

If you are focusing on the person closest to you, then you will always need a much higher aperture to get everyone in focus. The key is to focus about a 1/3 of the distance from the front of the group to the back. Look at the graphic from Broadway Camera above to show you how this works.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 250, 1/60, ƒ/8, (35mm = 24)]

I focused a little on the group. See the photo below with the red box around the lady I was focusing on to get everyone in focus.

Now here is the focal point for the very top photo.

Study the graphic above from Broadway Camera. You will soon see how I use this technique to get the most depth of field with the lowest aperture.

[NIKON D3, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/100, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 24)]

Why not just shoot ƒ16 or ƒ/22?

If you use the smallest aperture on your lens for group photos, you will have everyone most likely in focus.

Every adjustment on the camera affects something in the final photo. Remember the Exposure Triangle to help you know why you don’t want to shoot at the smallest aperture, if possible.

There is one more adjustment to consider if you are using flash. The power of the flash will also impact exposure.

If you use ƒ/22 vs. ƒ/8, then you will need to adjust for one if not all of these:

  • More flash power
  • Higher ISO
  • Slower Shutter Speed

The higher ISO will introduce noise without a flash, and a slower shutter speed will raise the possibility of blur due to camera movement or subject moving.

[NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Manual, ISO 1000, 1/100, ƒ/9, (35mm = 35)]

I have repeatedly found that ƒ/8 works most of the time. However, if you have a smaller group but more rows, I might change the aperture to ƒ/11.

Couple Tips

  • Use Flash – You get rid of raccoon eyes due to shadows from lights overhead inside and the sun above outside.
  • Start with 400 ISO inside – With today’s cameras, there is very little difference in photos shot at ISO 100 or 400 as in the past. However, just shooting at ISO 400 makes your flashes are now 2-stops brighter. In addition, 400 ISO helps you shoot at ƒ/8, and recycle time is often better.
  • ƒ/8 – Start with this aperture. Increase if needed to high aperture.
  • Test with Model – I usually have a photo assistant to stand in for test shots. If you don’t have an assistant, just ask someone from the group to help. Check for white balance, exposure, and most of all, set your focus point and have them stand close and the in the back to see if the depth of field is suitable for the photo.
  • Use Computer for Viewing – When possible, put the test photos on a computer screen. It is much bigger than the screen on the camera, and you will see details that are hard to see on the back of a camera.

Which Style Of Headshot Do You Need?

There are many types of headshots. You must factor in a few variables to decide what is best for you, your team, or your organization.

  • Style – The look of the headshot. Lighting, background and expression/feel vary from each style.
  • Time – How long did you spend creating your headshot
    • Hair/Makeup
    • How many outfits
    • Number of locations
    • Environmental location or Studio look
    • Number of photos/looks
  • Price

Headshots for a person rather than an organization are more like Actor’s Headshots. Since this is the primary way you market yourself, Actor Style headshots will get the very best look for you. You spend more time doing hair and makeup. Often you will change your makeup and hair for more looks. Shooting in three or more outfits is normal.

Since these headshots can open or close doors for you, it is vital to spend the time and money to get the best. Therefore, you will spend at least a half day or full day getting a variety of headshots.

Many Actors will have a few headshots that they will submit depending on the role.

Types of Acting Headshots

Kalyn Wood

Dramatic Headshots. These are the bread and butter of most actors. Typically theatrical headshots are very moody, with prevalent shadows and a more intense expression. Very popular for stage actors, this headshot style represents a lot of the lighting found in your typical theater production.

Tyler Morris

Comedic Headshots. Bring out all the personality for these headshots! These images are supposed to be full of life and a bit quirky. The lighting for this style doesn’t have a lot of intense shadows. For film and stage, the lighting of those productions is typically very bright because it makes you feel happier and warmer.

Sydney Rhame

Commercial Headshots. Similar to comedic but with a bit more shadow work, these headshots have a little more variety. In addition, commercial headshots are more relaxed in personality – most casting directors want a simple, casual look (not even a gigantic smile).

Types of Corporate Headshots

LinkedIn / Standard Headshots. The most straightforward style of the headshots. These are what everyone thinks of when you hear “headshot.” The lighting is simple and typically soft, closely matching an actor’s commercial headshot. The personality for these is pretty typical, a friendly, natural smile.

Team Headshots. Effectively these are the same as the LinkedIn / Standard headshots but matched with your colleagues of the company where you’re employed. Many offices with smaller teams will have a webpage dedicated to identifying their staff and making it look professional; they’ll try to have everyone get the same headshot.

Woody Faulk

Presenter / Speaker Headshots. I call these portraits. These images are usually a little more personality-based and better suited to be a 1/2 body or even 3/4. The goal of these images is to be marketing material to show off your personality and expertise for a keynote or event. The lighting can also be more diverse, depending on the mood and message you want your viewers to interpret when seeing these images. Serious topic? Go dramatic. Want to be warm, inviting, and jovial? Go for something with less intense shadows and a giant smile.

Light in photos can be like the icing on the cake.

[NIKON D4, 85.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/160, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 85) Constant lights with softboxes]

One of the most significant mistakes most public relations professionals make when it comes to photography is thinking that their smartphone camera is good enough.

The most significant downside of the smartphone camera is that you cannot use flash with it.

To get high-quality pictures, you need the proper lighting. You don’t just need sufficient lighting but the right light to help capture the narrative for your image; the temperature, the intensity, and whether soft or hard light plays a crucial role in your photography.

[NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/60, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 98) Off-Camera Flash used]

Just because the sun is out doesn’t mean you will have a compelling photo.

A photographer who knows how to use light with their camera can take something quite ordinary and improve it. The light they add to the photo is like the icing added to your cake.

You don’t need to take my word for why your smartphone images are not enough; look at the number of photos taken daily.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/60, ƒ/4, (35mm = 58) Off-Camera Flash is used]

In 2022, 54,400 photos are taken every second, 196 million per hour, 4.7 billion per day, 32.9 billion per week, 143 billion per month, and 1.72 trillion per year.

The Public Relations Professional’s job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation. However, just having a photo isn’t good enough. It would help if you grabbed people’s attention.

The Poynter Institute reported:

  1. We know that 90 percent of readers enter pages through large photos, artwork, or the display type (headlines, promos, etc.).
  • We know that running a visual element with text makes it three times more likely that the audience will read at least some of the text.
  • We know that headlines are more likely to be read when a photo is nearby.
  • And we know that the bigger the picture, the more likely readers are to read the cutline – to be intrigued.
[NIKON D750, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/9, (35mm = 62) Off-Camera Flash used]

The word photography means writing with light. Once you understand light, you’ll know to create various creative images.

A camera in the right hand will yield far better results than anyone using it. Professional photographers know how to make the most of light. Sometimes they rise early to capture sunrises or stay late to get the sunset or moonrise.

[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/800, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85) Off-Camera Flash]

People often manipulate light through reflectors and artificial light to direct the eyes of the audience.

If you know that photos work, try to create images that engage the audience.

Light used well in a photo is equivalent to a well-written story. Don’t use images that bring down your communication. Instead, use light to put the icing on your messaging in photos.

[NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 110, 1/100, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 16) Off-Camera Flash]

Hang in there – Give others time

Today I decided to give another visit to the A2D, Analog to Digital, social group of photographers that meets every Friday at Einstein Bros. Bagels in Atlanta.

A2D is a very mixed group of photographers. Besides the mix of professionals and amateurs, what they like to photograph is diverse. Some were into art, some nature, and the list of topics they wanted to photograph was vast.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/200, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 32)]

This group all made me think of my days playing in orchestras and bands. Each instrument was part of a sectional. I was always part of the trumpet section. We didn’t all play the same trumpet part. Some were playing 1st. Others played the orchestration’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th parts.

In an orchestra, the different sections were not even using the same type of music. For example, some instruments were reading treble clef, bass clef, alto clef, and tenor clef.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 500, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 24)]

This morning, I was reminded of the diversity when a lady asked how much I would charge to do selective color editing of one of her landscape photos. I realized then that her request was like a violist asking me, the trumpet player, to play along with her music. It just wasn’t going to happen for me. I had never learned to read alto clef.

While I could most likely help the lady with her photograph, I would have had to work on her picture with little experience doing the selective color. It is just not my approach to photography.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 560, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 24)]

The differences between people don’t have to lead to divisive.

If everyone in the group had to have everyone do the same style of photography, most of the group would no longer exist. We each have unique ways of seeing the world.

Learning to stay engaged with people who are so close to your passion will enlarge your worldview. They can stretch you and help you become a better version of yourself.

Since 2002, this eclectic group of photographers has socialized and enjoyed each other’s company.

Here are a couple of things that have helped them overcome some speed bumps with many social groups that fall apart

  1. No politics
  2. No dues
  3. No leaders
  4. No agenda

I did notice that someone would mention having a party or a zoom meeting to complement their social time on Fridays, but it was serendipitous in the approach.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 32)]

Could you start a similar group in your community? For example, if you live in metro Atlanta, you can join this A2D group at Einstein Bros. Bagels on Fridays from 10:00 am to noon at 2870 N Druid Hills Rd, Atlanta.

It is much easier to walk away from a social group if you don’t think you fit in rather than trying to find common ground. The question that can motivate you to work at it more is whether you are looking for relationships or just someone who agrees with everything you believe.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 640, 1/200, ƒ/8, (35mm = 35)]

Nuance in communications is a Lifesaver or Dealbreaker.

The art of communication is so complex at times. But unfortunately, the complexity has more to do with the audience than the messenger.

It is rare when you are communicating with anyone that you don’t understand what you are saying to them.

However, it is more common that we have been on the receiving end of someone trying to tell us something that has us scratching our heads.

“Does that make sense?” is one of the phrases I say too often after saying something to a person. But unfortunately, what can still happen is they can say yes, but we are still not on the same page.

Importance of Formal Estimate

Over the years, I have needed to create a formal agreement for jobs with clients.

Here are topics covered in an estimate:

  • Description of the job
    • Date and time of work
  • Copyright & Usage
  • Terms
    • Whom the agreement is with
    • Payment – when and how
    • Cancelations/Postponement
  • Pricing
  • Deliverables
    • What is delivered
    • When it is delivered

You can include more, but this is an excellent place to start.

I like to think of an estimate as a way to manage expectations. It also helps me WOW the client when I go beyond what I agreed to provide.

When you don’t talk about some of the items in that list is when you have problems.

A client can call and cancel at the last minute. You may have turned down many other jobs since you had reserved this time for their project.

I have communicated that if you cancel, you will pay me 50% of my creative fee and 100% of any expenses incurred. So, for example, you get stuck with airfare, rental cars, and other costs.

My contracts state that if within 48 hours, you pay 100%.

The Nuance!

I can quickly slap those fees on clients, but there is a good chance I may lose the client if I do charge it. So the key here is that you must take some time and think through and weigh the benefits and losses if you do go through and have them pay the cancelation price.

There is another nuance in bringing up topics that could help a client, but just bringing them up can create a problem.

A hot topic with almost every client is getting model releases. But unfortunately, they see it as a nuisance, not a reward.

I have found that helping them see how important it is to have releases to avoid legal problems and their ability to use the photos for more situations than the initial project make it well worth the effort.

Most of the clients embrace getting the model releases. So I hire an assistant to help me get those through the day.

Taylor Hall during the Carpet Capital Collegiate at The Farm in Rocky Face, Georgia. [NIKON D2X, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/2000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 480)]

Team Player

Another nuance is doing your best to say yes to almost any request from the client.

Now, if something is unethical or illegal, then say no.

If you have an estimate and at the last second, the client says to you, “While you are here, can you just take this photo as well?” With the contract, you can oblige them, or if they are overreaching in your opinion, you can say one of two things: 1) to get that for you, there isn’t enough time; what of the remaining lists in the contract do you want to give up? Or 2) Love to help, but since this is beyond the project’s scope, I need to charge more for your request.


You and the client need to be on the same page during communications. You must state what they are requesting [formal estimate], and if they think something is wrong or missing will let you know.

Try your best to have the time to think through and even phone a colleague before responding. Create a dialogue rather than statements. Always ask them for their response and let them know you are interested in their thoughts.

As long as you work with a client who believes in a Win/Win negotiation, you probably will find common ground. However, you will likely have to walk away when dealing with a Win/Lose negotiator.

“Hey Stanley, I’d love your advice.”

Photo by Dennis Fahringer

After being in the industry for forty years, I am often asked for business advice from newbies and other pros.

By the way, most pros still phone a friend for their advice every once in a while. We ask for advice because you never learn it all and are always looking for a better way to handle business situations in the future.

Research shows that those whose advice you don’t take may have a worse view of you afterward. Those you ask for help may even see you as less competent or avoid you. So you don’t ask too many people for their advice; you cannot follow everyone’s recommendation.

Develop those relationships so you can return to them in the future.

Photo by Dennis Fahringer

Nearly all those coming to me for advice are interested in working with photography or video. I get more questions about gear than business, but those who ask the business questions will be asking me more questions in the future because they will still be in business.

The American Society of Media Photographers, ASMP, is what I joined way back in 1987. Back then, the name was the American Society of Magazine Photographers.

I learned more about how to be business successfully than any other organization I have been a part of through the years. As a result, ASMP members wanted to help each other with business questions.

ASMP members know it takes about three years to determine if your business practices will let you survive. Therefore, it was in the member’s best interest for you to understand how to price your work based on what it costs to run your business.

The most significant problem with newbies is that most start by trying to get work by undercutting everyone in their market with lower prices. The problem for the newbie is that those prices are not sustainable to stay in business. Over time they soon learn they are losing money and not making a living.

The undercutting also hurts the market. It is hard for those charging prices that produce a livable wage when customers can hire the newbie for less. When newbies have to find another way to pay their bills, they put other pros out of business.

It was a problem when Walmart started putting its stores in small communities. First, the downtown shops in many of those towns all disappeared. Then, years later, when Walmart pulled out, the city was decimated.

Photo by Dennis Fahringer

Are You Interested In A Photo/Video Business Workshop?

I realized the market lacks workshops and seminars to learn the business side of photography. So I have been teaching this for the past 16 years in Kona, Hawaii, and helping One-on-One with people.

If you are interested in a one-day business practice workshop, please email me at [email protected].

Lifestyle Corporate Stock Photo Shoot

Lifestyle Photography

Lifestyle photography has an almost photojournalistic reputation. Lifestyle photography is where interactions are candid and without any direction from the photographer.

[NIKON Z 9, 35mm f/1.4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/400, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

So, what is lifestyle photography nowadays? It’s somewhere between actual documentary photography and classic portraiture.

Lifestyle photography captures portraits and real-life events. Day-to-day interactions are the best way to tell the story of the moment.

Don’t over-plan client interactions during lifestyle photo shoots.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2000, 1/320, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Corporate Stock Photography

While any business can buy stock photos, there is a significant risk that your competition is using the same images.

[NIKON Z 9, 14-24mm f/2.8G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 320, 1/125, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 14)]

Having your people in photos helps your company build transparency with your employees and customers. In addition, the images you use will reflect what you do rather than what any company would do if you use stock photos you buy from an agency.

[NIKON Z 9, VR 24-105mm f/4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/500, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Many clients understand the value of photographing their people and getting them to sign model releases.

Innovative companies have online photo galleries that are searchable. This way, their people can find images to use for PowerPoint presentations, websites, banners, and other uses.

Shopping around for a photographer with a style you like is just part of what will build your brand the best.

Companies that build a relationship with the photographer over time get the advantage of the photographer understanding them better. Your best brand builders are those who know you the best and use their skills to engage an audience.

Atlanta‘s Analog to Digital Friday Get Togethers

Finding your social group is so vital to your health and well-being.

You may belong to many different groups: a religious group, an ethnic group, your workplace colleague group, your college class, a sports team, etc.

A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact and share a sense of unity and common identity. In other words, it’s a group of people who see each other frequently and consider themselves a part of the group.

Today I met with a small group of photographers who have been getting together every Friday for more than twenty years. There is no leader, no plan, and no dues. They appear every Friday at Einsteins Bros. Bagels, located at 2870 N Druid Hills Rd, Atlanta, GA, from 10:00 am to noon.

My first time today was joining the group and seeing what they were doing. A good many of them were early, and some stayed late.

Ron Sherman

This past Sunday, I saw Ron Sherman share his lifetime of work in a talk and show at Roswell Cultural Arts Center. It was there that I ran into Chuck Rogers, Eric Burkhard, Jay Kaufman, John Hyjek, Kevin Ames, and many others. A few of them invited me to join the group on Friday.

Chuck Rogers, one of the group’s founders, introduced me to everyone and was the consummate hostess.

Many people brought something they had been working on and passed it around. Most everyone was there to connect.

A few of them were more than ninety years old. I might have been one of the youngest in the crowd. Most are retired and can get together on a Friday.

Analog to Digital get-together at Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Everyone loved photography, and either was a professional photographer or hobbyist.

I noticed that everyone appreciates acceptance into a group of photographers. A couple of the hobbyists talked about how much they enjoyed the group. They knew their work wasn’t on par with everyone, which is why they loved the group. They had room to grow.

I have been around a few groups of photographers. In many of those groups, photographers walk around as if they are God’s gift to the industry. But, unfortunately, those people make others not look for a long-term relationship with those groups. I would say this is why some professional organizations struggle.

John Hyjek sat with me during the Analog to Digital get-together at Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Takeaway Tips

If you want a group of photographers to join and make it a regular thing, you must learn to accept others in the group as equals. Acceptance does not mean everyone’s skill level is the same but treating everyone with honor, dignity, and respect.

Be giving your time and attention to others.

Be willing to help another person get better. But don’t feel threatened by them.

I recommend finding a group to be a part of for your health and well-being.

Simple One Light Headshot

Chelle Griggs Leary [NIKON Z 9, 85mm f/1.8G, Mode = Manual, ISO 64, 1/125, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 85)]

My daughter has a new job as a musical theater teacher at a dance studio in Columbus, Georgia. This is in addition to the many other jobs working at Springer Opera House.

She needed a different style headshot for this job. So, I drove down to Columbus and shot some photos of her in her apartment.

This is a simple headshot: one light, Lastolite-TriFlector, and white background. Here is the setup.

I love shooting with the Nikon Z9 paired with my Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.8G lens. I turned on the eye tracking to keep my daughter’s eyes in sharp focus. Here are some of the different looks we got with the one light.

“Short cuts make long delays.”― J.R.R. Tolkien

Shortcuts are generally derived from laziness in an attempt to perform a job with the most minimal effort required. Unfortunately, this creates the opportunity for negative results and possibly severe consequences.

In reality, shortcuts usually lead to disappointments rather than quicker success. The key to any long-term success is to take the necessary steps to progress steadily rather than skip any of them.

Taking shortcuts is well within human capacity and certainly within our nature. It’s instinctual; it’s what we’re hard-wired to do. So to encourage a safe workplace, we must understand this human tendency to take the easy way out and find ways to combat it.

Chick-fil-A Kickoff 2021 Louisville vs Ole Miss [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

Ways to Avoid Taking Shortcuts

Hold yourself to a higher standard. Do not take the easy way out. Instead, take the time and energy to perform tasks correctly. Make it a habit to follow safety policies and procedures.

My suggestion to get better is to put in the work. The best way to do that is to study with a master artisan and other professionals. Learn to analyze their work and see if you can reproduce it yourself.

I have taken many workshops through the years. These are usually a week long and give me time to listen, observe and then shoot while getting feedback from a pro.

With YouTube, I have found just about any topic I want to know more about covered. Just search for what you want to learn to do. Then, after watching a few different YouTubers, I will subscribe to the channels whose teaching style appeals to me.

“There are no shortcuts to success.”

– Malcolm Gladwell
Buttigieg visits Georgia to promote the administration’s scaled-back infrastructure plan.
[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/640, ƒ/4, (35mm = 105)]

Twist – Always look for shortcuts.

After mastering the craft, it is a great time to look for those shortcuts. Just don’t make the shortcut your go-to approach.

Innovation almost always tries to choose the path of least resistance. As a result, many photographers discover ways to stand out by doing something different.

Woodstock Park [DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/120, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Whose Burdens Do You Carry & Who Is Helping Carrying Yours?

The Citadel Recognition Day – Recognition Day begins much the way the first day of military training began for the knobs — with intense physical and mental challenges. Knobs awake well before the sun rises to start a series of seemingly endless exercises. They do push-ups, sit-ups, and run drills back and forth across Summerall’s field for hours. [NIKON D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 S + TC-2001, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

While there’s no way to avoid sorrow, adversity, or distress in life, there are ways to help smooth the rough waters and regain a sense of control.

I was having lunch with Jon Franz and James Dockery at the Salt Factory Pub in Woodstock, GA [NIKON Z 9, 35mm f/1.4G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 8000, 1/500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

Connecting with friends and family during tough times can help ease stress, boost your mood, and make sense of all the change and disruption. Instead of feeling like you’re facing your problems alone, you can draw strength and build resilience from having others to lean on.

Even though relationships are vital for good mental health, building resilience, and getting through tough times, many of us feel that we don’t have anyone to turn to in times of need. But there are plenty of ways to build new friendships and improve your support network. If you know others who are lonely or isolated, be the one to take the initiative and reach out.

Two are better than one,

    because they have a good return for their labor:

10 If either of them falls down,

    one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

    and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Studies have shown a correlation between physical well-being and your social circle. Good friends are clinically proven to improve your mental well-being and physical health. Keeping a good friendship circle can also encourage avoiding unhealthy lifestyle habits.

Bill Bangham and Stanley Leary at the University of Nations campus located in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii [COOLPIX P7000, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 153, 1/250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 28)]

A smaller inner circle means you can invest time in your relationships with your close friends.

I have found that many of us might have a small circle of friends, but do you get together with that small group? I found my work and personal life much more enriched when I would find my small group and listen to them.

“A small team of A-plus players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Steve Jobs
Bill Bangham, Gary & Vivian Chapman, and Ken Touchton at the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar 40th Anniversary. [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1600, 1/10, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 28)]

What I have found strange is that my faith has taught me this for a long time, but I never really found a small circle within any church that I belonged like I did when I saw a group of Christian Photojournalists. While this was my first real connection, I learned I could invite people into this group who were photographers but not necessarily like-minded in faith.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

When I was younger, I went to the small circle of like-minded photojournalists to draw from the well they had created. Forty years later, I find that I am meeting an even deeper need than I have always had by taking a more active role in listening and helping others in the group. I always wanted to feel like I had a purpose.

John White poses with a participant at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/15, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 27)]

It is a hard pill to swallow for some of us because the idea of having lots of friends feels…comforting. I am here to tell you that it is not. You have to understand that every person in your life is not there to support you.

When a person genuinely cares, your troubles almost become theirs and vice versa. When having real friendships, you tend to work through things together—taking in and putting out the same energy of love and respect for one another.

Bob Black, John White, Bill Fortney, and Stanley Leary at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/80, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 36)]

Your true circle of friends should not sugarcoat the truth from you. That’s not being a good friend. They are there to tell you the hard and gritty truth about yourself when you are in doubt or when you’re being a straight jerk. You need people in your circle for these times to bring you back to reality when you think your head is getting too big. They’ll snap you back quickly. A true friend is also there to remind you of the magical person you are when you tend to forget under pressure.