Photography is more than the HOW

[NIKON D100, 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 , ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180, Focal Length = 67]

Cameras have improved a great deal over the years. With digital cameras and all the new improvements, one might think an idiot could make a photograph.

However, a good photographer is someone who is no longer satisfied to produce pictures that are merely correctly focused, exposed, developed and printed. Such technicalities are nowadays taken for granted. No matter how sharp a photograph and how natural its colors, it still can be the world’s most boring picture.

Why? Because the How—the “technique”—is not the end, the standard by which to evaluate a photograph, it is secondary to the WHY, the WHAT, the WHEN. It is the impression the subject makes on the photographer that decides the approach. And as a good writer knows grammar-and-spelling, synonyms and different literary forms of expression, so a good photographer must know the devices and techniques that will help them communicate with an audience their emotional impressions of the subject. To be able to do this the photographer must know the technical and aesthetics to make more than a memory jogger, but a powerful message.

Recording artist Soulja Boy poses for a portrait at his Atlanta Buckhead Penthouse on Thursday, April 23, 2009.

To produce interpretations instead of representations, a photographer must possess two qualities: vision and craftsmanship. Vision—the power to recognize the essence of a subject and translate it into graphic form—is a mixture of perceptiveness, sensitivity, imagination, interest in the subject, and that intangible quality called “talent.” It is a gift a person either does or does not possess. It cannot be taught. Craftsmanship, however, can be acquired by anyone willing to make the effort. Craftsmanship is the use of things like:


The first thing a photographer does is observe with all their senses. The good photographer then takes all these impressions and emotions and isolates the subject using only the sense of sight. How does the passionate photographer communicate all these emotions of all the senses with just the sense of vision?

A good photographer is aware that the camera’s vision is objective, uncompromising, and matter-of-fact in contrast with the human eye which is subjective, selective, and unreliable. The camera is a machine and the eye are part of a living, thinking, and feeling being controlled by a brain.

People are susceptible to a multitude of sensory stimuli. The camera is only a light sensitive machine.

Fire Dancer [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/100]

You must understand how to use the symbolic forms which the camera can capture to excite the observer to respond emotionally. You may want to choose to change a color photograph into a black and white photo so as to emphasize graphics. You may choose black and white to force the viewer to look beyond the beauty to the content. The famous LIFE magazine war photographer David Douglas Duncan preferred to photograph war in Black and White because he felt the flowers in the countryside took away from the horror of the dead soldier in the photograph.

You must feel passionate about what you are photographing—negative or positive. The emotions of the war photographer who hates seeing how much death is caused by war is as powerful of emotion which can be captured by the camera as the wildlife photographer who captures the beauty of an animal in nature.

Reach for the camera when you feel something about a subject. Before you push the shutter release mute all your senses except for what you see in the viewfinder. Look all around the subject and eliminate or include those elements which help create a mood and capture what you feel. Pay attention to the background and be sure that it is secondary to the subject and helps just as adjectives in a sentence to draw to the viewer into the photograph as you would want to do as writing does for the reader.

She Kills Monsters [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4500, 1/250, ƒ/4, (35mm = 38)]

When only those things you see in the viewfinder start to evoke the same emotions you felt before reaching for the camera are attained should you push the button to capture what you intended. This is when you are then able to communicate with others more than a memory jogger. You will be creating new memories for your audience.

With a lot of practice a photographer learns how to isolate how the camera will see. This craftsmanship is how they will interpret the subject using various techniques to create emotional response from their audience.

The more passionate a photographer is about the subject, the better the chances of obtaining a successful photograph. If the subject has no appeal to the photographer—it is better for the photographer not to waste the time of pushing the shutter release to make the photo.

Photographing Children

Remember standing there in your new clothes, in front of the hedge, squinting into the sun, while dad or mom backed across the yard, pointed the camera and told you to smile?

Our family has years and years of pictures like that all made in front of our grandparents house. Flipping through the albums you can follow the year-to-year changes in the children as well as the changes in the bushes and trees that take up most of the picture.

Nelson and Taylor enjoyed the go-carts at Lost Treasure Raceway and Golf for afternoon of fun during our family vacation at Ocean Bay Villas in Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina during the week of July 30 to August 6, 2005. [NIKON D2X, Sigma AF Zoom 18-125mm f/3.3-5.6G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/320, Focal Length = 250]

These old photos bring back memories for us because we were there. For a stranger, looking at the same snapshots, the pictures show them nothing, because the children are too far away to really see what they look like and the poses tell them nothing about the children themselves.

Chelle looses her second tooth on Monday, September 26,2005. Her gum was irritated and red. She went to the dentist to be sure it wasn’t infected. While there they found no infection and asked Chelle if she wanted it pulled. They pulled the tooth. [NIKON D2X, 18.0-50.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/90, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]

Here’s an idea. Get closer. Always get closer and the pictures (almost any picture) will improve, especially pictures of children.

When we travel the pictures we make of children we see usually are quite different from those of our own kids.

Togo, West Africa [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2500, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

We make photos of children playing, being themselves and not all cleaned up. The expressions and colors of their clothes are what draw us to make these photos.

Introduce yourself to the adults supervising the children and ask for permission to photograph them. You may have to do this with gestures if there is a language barrier.

No matter if it is your own kids or ones you photograph on trip get down to the child’s eye lever. Crawl on the floor with a toddler or get on your knees to photograph preschoolers. Not only is this a better camera angle for children, but the kids like it when you are on their level.

Jeff Raymond gets on his knees to get eye level with the small children in Togo, West Africa. [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/200, ƒ/9, (35mm = 14)]

The trick is to take the time to let the child become comfortable with you and your camera. When they begin playing, in their own world again, you can peak in with your camera and capture something of the real child.

Children often mimic their surroundings. Give them a pot and spoon or some other grownup stuff and let them play to their heart’s content.

To add to the story value, place a toy in the photo of the child playing with the grown-up things. Use a wide-angle lens or set your zoom at it’s widest setting. Get close to the child and show their surroundings.

Chelle, our daughter, enjoys getting a hug from Georgia Tech’s mascot Buzz at the Georgia Tech Women’s basketball game against Miami on January 5, 2006. [NIKON D100, 18-50mm , Mode = Manual, ISO 100 , 1/250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 30)]

Take a lot of photos. With today’s digital cameras there is no cost to making many photos; just edit them on your computer before you print.

So take lots and lots of photos. Truly explore your subject in their world.

By following these suggestions your pictures will be true treasures and even a stranger will be impressed.

Chelle’s Dress Rehearsal for her first dance recital. [NIKON D100, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/50, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 202)]

Hats & Headshots

My wife just got her fire helmet for her role as Chaplain for our local fire department here in Roswell, Georgia.

I wanted to get a good photo of her in it for her to use in some PR for her role.

Chaplain Dorie L. Griggs [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/400, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

The main light I used for this portrait is the Godox V860iiN on a Godox Bracket which let me use the Godox Beauty Dish. Here is the setup which also included one more Godox V860iiN as rim/background light.

Normally I put the main light 45º above the person’s eyes, but when they have a hat on like my wife did in these photos I had to compromise and lower the light.

Chaplain Dorie L. Griggs [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

Here I just backed up a bit and got a nice vertical using the same lighting setup.

Chaplain Dorie L. Griggs [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/200, ƒ/3.5, (35mm = 85)]

I also came in much tighter and shot this as well. I shot these at an aperture of ƒ/1.8 to keep the emphasis on her face. The background is legible but not distracting.

Hope these tips help you with your next portrait.

A Memory Jogger or Communication?

[NIKON D4, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 4000, 1/250, ƒ/8, (35mm = 70)]

Through the years I have been asked to speak to various groups about photography. Many of these groups are photo enthusiasts.

Alabama 35 vs Virginia Tech 10 [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/100, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 17)]

Many of us make photos of our friends and family and when we look at the photo we remember. Most of these types of photos are memory joggers. The difference is when we look at the photo it helps to revive a memory. For those who were not present when the photo is made, will they know what is going on or what you are trying to say?

One of the points I always make about how to improve your photography is comparing making pictures to writing. Photos are like sentences—every sentence must have a subject and a verb. Every photo needs these same elements.

Manziel, Aggies Edge Duke 52-48 in Chick-fil-A Bowl [NIKON D4, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 220)]

Many photos which are not successful are often like run on sentences. What is the point of the photo? Where is the subject? What is going on?

The best way to improve your grammar is to start simple and then add elements. The best way to improve your photos is to keep it simple.

  • Come in close and eliminate as much as you can out of the viewfinder. This requires you to look all around the subject and start cutting things out of the photo.
  • Watch for busy foregrounds and backgrounds.
  • Action is important. This is the verb part of the photo.
Cosmic Bowling for 2014 Awards Book [NIKON D750, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/80, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

The best way to make a photo is first to put what you want to say into a sentence. After you have done this, it is much easier to compose to be sure this is all you are saying and nothing else when making the photo.

Often the problem with most failed photos is the photographer never thought about what they wanted to say with the photo.

This Gray Squirrel is enjoying the left over apple pieces Dorie put out for them on our deck. Eastern Gray Squirrel [X-E3, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/60, ƒ/4.8, (35mm = 300)]

Remember photos which communicate the photographer thought about what they wanted to say before pushing the shutter button.

360 Panoramics

Many years ago I started doing 360 degree panoramic photos. They were first done with Adobe Flash.

Today we can use html5. HTML5 is the latest evolution of the standard that defines HTML. The term represents two different concepts. It is a new version of the language HTML, with new elements, attributes, and behaviors, and a larger set of technologies that allows the building of more diverse and powerful Web sites and applications.

Here are some I have updated for you.

360º Panoramic of Chick-fil-A Corporate Offices
360º Panoramic of Chick-fil-A Corporate Offices Waterfall
Roswell Presbyterian Church 360º Panoramic
Chick-fil-A @ State & Lake

If you are interested in this high definition 360 panoramic give me a call.

Here are more 360 Panoramics for you.

Pray for wisdom

Looking at the fence along the border from Agua Prieta, Mexico to Douglas, Arizone, US. [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 500, 1/2000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 120)]

Three mass shootings this past week. Shots rang out as Americans attended a local food festival in California, shopped at a Walmart in Texas, and headed downtown to enjoy some nightlife in Ohio. 

Most of these mass shootings in America are carried out by white supremacists and terrorists who are white males.

Mark Adams, Coordinator, Frontera de Cristo [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5000, 1/2000, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 120)]

My friend Mark Stephen Adams, the coordinator for Frontera de Cristo, invited me a couple times to cover the work they are doing on the Mexican/US border. Frontera de Cristo’s Mission Education Ministry focuses on building relationships and understanding across borders. We have facilitated the crossing of borders for more than 400 persons a year who wish to enter into relationship with their sisters and brothers in Mexico. These trips and the insight gained help churches, presbyteries, seminaries, and individuals reflect and act biblically and theologically on what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ when borders divide.

A large bearded man named Tommy Bassett rolls a shopping cart full of wooden crosses into a small square off the Pan American Avenue. Someone has painted them all white. One block south of where we stand, the United States ends abruptly. [, , Mode = , ISO , , ƒ/, (35mm = )]

This was to be a vigil, but I don’t know what we’ll be doing. They come out here every week with the white crosses that bear the names of the people killed in this sector. They slowly walk down Pan American Avenue taking turns picking up a cross, speaking the name of the deceased, and placing it name-faced-out toward people driving in their cars. 

The first parishioner takes a cross and calls out a name. She raises it above her head and the rest of the group calls out “Presente,” an affirmation of the personhood that was extinguished by the barrier. Cars slow as they pass. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 560, 1/250, ƒ/5, (35mm = 34)]
The fence that is the barrier between Agua Prieta, Mexico and Douglas, Arizona. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/60, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 120)]

Why do so many people risk their lives to cross the border? The U.S. Border Patrol has recorded 6,915 migrant deaths along the border between fiscal year 1998 and fiscal year 2016, and humanitarian groups estimate the figure to be much higher.

“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made them drop their prey from their teeth.”

Job 29:15-17

Mark the and Frontera de Cristo team have had great success with one of the solutions which was to help the Coffee Growers in Southern Mexico get a fair price for their coffee. Here is that story I did in 2010.

Mark has helped to educate me on how many of the reasons people are trying to cross the border are because of the US policies like NAFTA. NAFTA made it that US crops were cheaper than Mexicans could charge.

With their society being primarily an agricultural society they had to go through their version of the “Industrial Revolution” in about 10 years rather than the 100 years we took to go through it.

Migrant is a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work or better living conditions.


Arabica Coffee in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/2500, ƒ/8, (35mm = 120)]

Most crossing the border today do not have a coffee farm. To stabilize the rest of the region so that there are jobs and they can feel safe living where they are from is the solution as shown by the Just Coffee cooperative solution for the coffee growers.

A man and his donkey just outside of Tapachula, Mexico. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/500, ƒ/8, (35mm = 32)]

“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.”

Hebrews 13:1-3

Today I just hope you will take time and pray for those who were killed just for the color of their skin. Pray for their families and pray for economic stability in the region so that families can stay together.

Ladies running a food stand along the Guatemala and Mexican border Migration Guatemala El Carmen. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 720, 1/250, ƒ/8, (35mm = 120)]

A Picture of Faith

Storyteller Michael Dulaine talks to Jaime Palma as he shows him his work in magazines. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 18000, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

Michael Dulaine was given this paragraph on his subject at the beginning of the workshop.

Dave Rogers translates from Spanish to English while Michael runs the camera and asks the questions during the interview. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 14400, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 105)]

Jaime Palma came to Vida Nueva church broken and discouraged with emotional issues. After counseling, Jaime is now an active leader in the church. He wants to be involved in outreach and is a professional photographer.”

Michael sets the audio levels before beginning his interview. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 9000, 1/200, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

If you are passionate about church planting, start the conversation with ABWE here at

Michael, Jaime, & Dave Rogers [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 42)]

Maybe you work in the media industry and want to explore telling missions stories. Go here to learn more about Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Missions Workshop.

Can you shoot this style?

“Can you shoot this style?”– That is the one question that is almost never asked of a photographer. However, if you have been in the industry for a while is the one question you wish your clients would ask.

Georgia Tech College of Management Dean’s Report 2009 [NIKON D3, 85.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/100, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 85)]

Your clients are more likely to go and hire a different photographer that they like their “Style”. If you are like me, there is a really good chance that after 35+ years of shooting I have done that “Style” in my past. The problem is that it isn’t on my website, because I changed to the latest “Style” to get clients and haven’t changed it to a different “Style” lately.

Chick-fil-A Mall Shoot [NIKON D3, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/160, ƒ/8, (35mm = 180)]

Now the only time I have seen clients go to a photographer and asking them to copy a “Style” is when the person they want to hire is out of their price range. This happened to many who wanted to hire Anne Geddes. Today there are many who try and copy her style, but few ever are really good at it like her.

Stock shoot for teen organization [NIKON D100, AF Zoom 70-200mm f/2.8D, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/640, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 142)]
Centennial High School Prom [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/60, ƒ/9, (35mm = 45)]

There are many pros who can do many different styles. Through the years I have done photojournalism, research photography, portraiture and many more.

Timothy Villalovas [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 85)]

For a client looking for a “Fresh Look” it is easier to just hire someone that they like their “Style” than to try and communicate to a photographer what they are looking for in a photo. Can you shoot some photos for us like the photo on your website?

Jason Freeman with his research project “Glimmmer.” [NIKON D2X, , Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 2, ƒ/16, (35mm = 18)]

So, what do you do if you are a photographer and seeing some of your clients leave you?

Stylized Soccer shoot [NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/200, ƒ/11, (35mm = 14)]
Personal Project

Throughout my career I have been to so many workshops and conferences to learn from the masters that I can no longer count them all. What is a common theme these experts shared as wisdom? YES!!!

Everyone has said you need to always have a personal project you are working on. Another way to put it is you need to push your personal “Style” and try new things.

Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2006 season poster [Nikon D2Xs, 24-120mm , Mode = Manual , ISO 200 , 1/200, ƒ/11, (35mm = )]

I posted some of the variety I have shot here so you can see how much I have tried different things through the years.

Philip Newberry with his father, Randy.

The first five years of my career I rarely if ever used a flash. I shot available light. I learned to see light.

St. Pius X High School [NIKON D3, 85.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 640, 1/100, ƒ/1.6, (35mm = 85)]

After years of using flash the latest cameras have let me return and do the natural light photography, but this time in color.

[NIKON D3S, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/320, ƒ/9, (35mm = 250)]

Today I mix light sources and do what I can to make the subject look the best and communicate quickly.

[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/125, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

Most likely you will never get clients to come to you asking you, “Can you shoot this style?” You can go out and shoot a different style than they are use to seeing and send them your new work.

By the way, trying to do something new and different will stretch you and often you will find ways to improve your eye and your portfolio.

Is Your Life in Knots?

Red-Tailed Hawk [X-E3, XF55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/60, ƒ/4.8, (35mm = 300)]

but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31 

Life is just difficult for everyone. When we just look at our own lives these struggles can be overwhelming. My colleagues in photography have gone through many years of turmoil.

Nathan Jones is editing his raw footage in between shoots in Santiago, Chile. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2800, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

Making the switch from film to digital was so difficult that many left the profession due to all the frustrations of learning what amounted to a knew language involving computers.

Since the introduction of the SmartPhone where anyone can take a photo and post right away to the internet the industry has been changed.

I am constantly trying to figure out how to be of service to my clients. The problem is that much of what I have done in the past with supplying photos is less and less important to clients. Many of the things they would call me to do, they now use their phones to capture those images themselves.

Most of those in my profession feel daily like they are in a crisis. They have bills to pay and the number of clients seems to be shrinking.

Do you try to understand others before trying to have them understand you? Success is not about you; it requires others. You need to help others reach their dreams if you want to reach yours. You need to connect to their memories, their desires.

This past weekend my wife and I enjoyed watching “Call Me Francis”. It is about Pope Francis on his path to becoming Pope, Father Jorge Bergoglio pursues his religious vocation in a country ravaged by a brutal military dictatorship.

It is a four part series. There is this one point after going through so many struggles in Argentina, he runs into a lady praying to Mary Undoer of Knots Novena. This resonated with him. When you see the story you understand how difficult it was to help lead the church in a country being run by dictator. More than 30,000 people were killed by the government when he was helping lead the Catholic church.

The devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots has become more popular ever since Pope Francis encouraged the devotion in Argentina, and then spoke about it during his first year as pontiff. The theology of the devotion actually goes back to the second century. Saint Irenaeus wrote that, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”

I personally just pray to God for all my requests. I do find that a book of prayers sometimes helps me find the right words for where I am in life. Here are some daily prayers for Mary Undoer of Knots.

Dr. Henry Cloud interviews Jack Welch Leadercaste 2013 [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/320, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 180)]

“We’re taught how to raise our hand to answer every question. The problem is that leadership, that building an organization, is all about knowing how to help others raise their hands and answer questions.”

GE CEO Jack Welch

We get so busy with our stuff, it’s easy to forget others’ needs, and our affect on them.

There is one other way you [especially me] that we are too inwardly focused while we think we are outwardly focused. Can you imagine a business that never focused on reaching new customers? However many of us [myself included] are focused only on those we know.

Strategy Question for You

Do you have a strategy to reach out to new people for your company? What are you doing this week to talk to someone new? Do you have a list of people to talk to you don’t know?

Honduras Outreach [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/100, ƒ/5, (35mm = 16)]

Maybe the knot you need to pray for God to untie is your resistance to actively looking for new clients.

Can others find your photos?

Twenty-six years ago in 1993 I started my new job at Georgia Tech after just graduating with my masters degree in communications. The very first project I was assigned was to use the new Nikon Scanner to help start a computer catalogue of the photos shot for our department at Georgia Tech.

I tried to design a system using Filemaker Pro, but found the software that came with the Nikon Scanner. That software was actually Cumulus.

I created the first computer photo catalogue system for Georgia Tech using that software.

In 2008 I was also given the same task for Chick-fil-A’s corporate communication team. I chose PhotoShelter as the system to handle the photos online.

PhotoShelter did a story on how we implemented their online database system. Here is that link.

I have consulted many different businesses, nonprofits and colleges through the years helping them setup their photo catalogue.

Just this week I saw online that Andrew Wiard had posted a great article “THE FOUR CS – METADATA MUSTS”.

I have written about Metadata and the International Press & Telecommunications Council a few times on this blog. I recommend using PhotoMechanic for embedding your text into your photos, so that they are searchable. You can also use the Adobe products Lightroom and Photoshop to do this as well. I just find that PhotoMechanic is the fastest and easiest way to edit and most of all deal with embedding metadata.

When you are adding content to the metadata and you click on the triangle on the right of the Keywords, you will get the pop up you see with what I use is the Structured Keywords.

You can type each of the words or you can use a database that is so much faster.

Carl Siebert has created two videos I recommend to help you speed up the process of creating keywords with PhotoMechanic.

I have created structured keyword lists for my clients as well as use a generic list for my own tagging. For example Chick-fil-A needs what I call industry specific lingo for their searches. This would be true for any business.

Google is the Gold Standard for search. Google continues to work on their system, so that when you search for something you find what you are needing. Now Google is very advanced. If you had 10 different people search the same word each of them will most likely get a different result.

You see Google knows your past searches and goes to great lengths to be sure your search results fit you the best way possible.

Most photo search fields for photo databases look similar to the Google search bar and you can refine those searches like I show here with PhotoShelter.

Andrew Wiard’s “Four Cs, Five Ws and an A” is missing what I think is key. Keywords will help your clients find your photos.

Client Searches

If you shoot an assignment for a client, they most likely will not need you to find those images. Clients will call and ask if you have a photo. They will then describe what they are looking for from your collection.

Do you have back to school photos? Do you have beach photos? Do you have bad weather photos?

While you can remember shooting a photo and find it, you will improve your ability to find your own images had they been tagged with keywords and not just a caption.

Link to blog post explaining that, “Photographers need to understand difference between Captions & Keywords

Too often photographers do a poor job because, “We Assume and Use Our Own Words”. We have to think about the client looking for a photo. Not the words we would use to find it, but they will use.

We often create databases that communicate something beyond the level of comprehension of the target. Use words your readers will be comfortable with. 

Avoid using jargon or acronyms – and if you absolutely must use them make sure you explain them in simple terms. Think about the client. Be clear on what you’re trying to say and structure your words so that they make sense to your audience.

Click on the image above to go to fotoKeyword Harvester if you want to buy a keyword generator. It works great. Especially if you are new to putting keywords with your images.


You need to embed words into your images to make them searchable. The words you use need to be the words that clients will use to find the photos and not the ones you would use to describe the photos.

You need good Keywords besides writing a good caption – that’s the 5 ‘W’s. Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Without this information a picture is useless for editorial purposes. There is no limit to additional details but these five are mandatory.

I suggest buying a Keyword list to start out with and then learn to create custom structured keyword lists for your clients and use PhotoMechanic to embed these into the photos.

One of the best ways to create a custom keyword list is to ask your client to do this for you. Can you give me the search words you would like to use to find photos in your image library? I did this with Chick-fil-A and this really helped me to help them find the photos they needed. You can combine that list with a traditional keywords list.

When you take these steps then you will make your images easier to find for your clients–as well as you.