How to remain competitive as a freelancer

Photographing Island Breeze Dancer Victoria Taimane Kaopua, Stanley is teaching location off-camera flash lighting to Youth With A Mission Photo School 1 [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/100 photo by: Dorie Griggs]

“The gig economy…is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and expected to be 43% by the year 2020,” says Intuit (INTU) CEO Brad Smith. “We think self-employed [work] has a lot of opportunity for growth as we look ahead.”

To get jobs and get repeat business there are a few tips for you:

Marketing – You need to get your name in front of as many people as possible in your target group. Your target audience will be those people most likely to need your style of work.

Be Prepared – While you are not an employee you still need to be up on the organization as much as an employee. Do your research so that you are aware of as much as possible to know how to best serve the client on a job.

Show Up! – “80 percent of success is showing up,” says Woody Allen.

Wait on the client – You want to always be early and if anyone is waiting on the other be sure it is you waiting on the client and not the other way around.
Be Reachable – Respond promptly to all communication.
Say Yes! – Use the rule of Improv of saying YES. The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun. Do your best to say yes to requests. If they cross the line of your ethics then say no.
Deliver – Be sure you are meeting the expectations of the client. Never under deliver.

Stanley shows the students what he is capturing while teaching location off-camera flash lighting to Youth With A Mission Photo School 1 [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/420 photo by: Dorie Griggs]
Focus on Relationships – While doing excellent work is vitally important even more important is how you get that work done with others. How you treat people trumps all things.

Back to Marketing – If you do an excellent job on average you will only have less than 10% of those you talk to who will be interested in working with you. Learn to treat those who don’t hire you for a job that they know best. Sometimes they love you and they had already someone booked or they cannot easily switch freelancers due to hiring policies. If you remain professional in how you are rejected this often helps open closed doors later on for you.

The #1 Way to Get Better as a Photographer

Alive After 5 in Roswell, GA. [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/10, 1/55]
Keeping yourself fresh is vital if you do this professionally. I do this by taking a small camera with me everywhere. I just take a few photos here and there and in the process keep myself fresh for my professional jobs where I am getting paid by a client.

Alive After 5 in Roswell, GA. [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/13, 1/25]
I have been doing one-on-one teaching with a person wanting to pursue photography as a career. We started by shooting in total manual mode. The camera is set where the student must pick for each shot the following:

ISO
Shutter Speed
Aperture

As we were reviewing some the photos shot since the last time we met the photos had improved a great deal, but then there were these photos of ducks that just didn’t work at all.

Cyneria & Sadarius Lucas Wedding [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/7.1, 1/50]
What had happened is the excitement of getting photos had them shooting before they had thought through all the settings.

When shooting the ducks the person hadn’t thought about what of those three setting took priority and why. I explained how birds are really like shooting sports. You need to freeze them or they will be totally blurred using the settings the camera was set on before seeing the birds.

Tufted titmouse [Fuji X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
This is when I stopped and I talked to the student about how you must slow down get your camera settings just right before taking photos. If you don’t do this then none of the photos will be usable. “I was trying to get the birds before they flew away.” was the excuse. So not one of the photos was usable, but this became the teachable moment.


My mentor, coach and friend Don Rutledge – photo by Ken Touchton

There was a teachable moment with my mentor. A few of my friends also would tell me later how this helped them as well.

In the days of film you shot 36 shots and then you had to change your roll of film. Most photographers would reach into their bags and change their roll of film pretty quickly.

The problem is when you change the roll of film you can make a mistake and not get the leader of the film to catch. If this happened you would close the back of the camera and because you are in a hurry you take more photos but none of them recorded on the film because every time you advanced the film the film wasn’t moving.

The way I learned what to do was from watching Don, not because he told me what he did. Don would turn his back to whatever he was photographing and change the roll of film. He would always turn the rewind lever to tighten the roll before he would then advance the film to be sure it caught.

Once the film was changed Don then turned around towards the action.

Cyneria & Sadarius Lucas Wedding [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500]
Often when I am shooting I evaluate the scene and realize I need a flash. Taking the time to set that up for the photo here takes time. The photo is better because I slowed down long enough to get my flash, put it on a light stand and then set the flash to work with the scene.

Alive After 5 [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/13, 1/150]

#1 Tip: Shoot More

Don Rutledge taught me a great deal. One tip was to shoot stories for yourself. Often these are stories you can go back to work on in your own hometown. You work slower than you do when you are say traveling and having to rush to get photos due to the schedule.

My personal tip that no one taught me is to ask yourself before you start taking photos is “Why do I want to take this photo?” What is it you are trying to say with the photo? I am also trying to get in touch with my feelings and not just feel what is going on, but what words would describe this feeling?

Then I pause long enough to decide what Aperture is best to capture the scene. Do I need shallow depth-of-field where you cannot tell where the person is but I want you to see the expression or do I need more context and need a greater depth-of-field.

I am also evaluating what shutter-speed will freeze the photo enough that it will be sharp or do I need to add motion with a slower shutter speed.

Female Cardinal [Fuji X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/10, 1/280]
With some subjects somewhat fast shutter speed will still blur like this bird.

You must really know your camera and subject to know proper shutter speed. Over the years I have learned that faster shutter speeds improve the sharpness of the photo due to camera shake.

The largest difference of having lots of experience is that when I am in most any situation it is becoming rare that I haven’t shot something like this before.

Don taught me that I need to shoot as much as possible to grow and get the shot.

 

Spring Cleaning Time

While I think I have done an excellent job in editing of my photos when I submit them to stock agencies they sometimes catch things I miss.

Island Breeze dancer with Poi balls – for Maori dances

When I first submitted this photo I had missed in the top right hand corner some dust that had gotten onto the sensor.

This is 100% enlargement of the right top corner of the photo. Are you getting frustrated with seeing small dark spots in your images that seem to show up in every image? If you see them consistently in the same location (the size and darkness of the spots can vary depending on aperture), you are most likely dealing with dust particles on your camera’s sensor.

I have noticed they show up more at smaller apertures like ƒ/22 or ƒ/16 and there is a light area of the photo where the dust is located.

Berrie Smith – Camera Guru

The first thing I do when I notice dust on the sensor is to pick up the phone and call Berrie Smith who lives near me and for many years worked for Nikon as a camera technician.

Berrie Smith, professional camera repairman, is one of the guys Nikon sends out to large sporting events to provide live repair and sensor cleaning service to the NPS pros covering the event.

Without proper camera cleaning and digital camera sensor cleaning most photographers have experienced their photographs ruined by unsightly dust spots in their images – these dust spots are characteristically gray/black areas and are usually visible when photographing continuous tone scenes. Cleaning your camera equipment is not only a great way to ensure it continues working properly but is also a necessity in today’s digital world. Digital sensors are electrically charged devices, which attract dust particles because of their static electric charge. The digital camera sensor, if not cleaned properly, will result in images with black spots scattered throughout your photographs.

You can buy off the shelf sensor cleaning kits and attempt to clean your image sensor but if you are not careful you can do a lot of expensive damage, very quickly. The cost to replace a scratched low pass filter / image sensor assembly ranges from $600 to $1,600 (parts and labor) depending on the camera.

Berrie does repairs for photographers all over the world.

When I travel I don’t have the luxury of calling Berrie and sending him my cameras to clean. No one wants to touch up every single photo on a shoot in the same spots over and over.

Carson SensorMag 4.5x30mm Camera Sensor Magnifier Cleaning Loupe

What is crucial in the kit is the loupe to examine the sensor up close.

LED Lighted with 6 Bright White LED Lights | Loupe can be adjusted 45 degrees to allow users easier access to clean your sensor

Often all you need to do is point the sensor down and just using the Air Blower to force air onto the sensor which often dislodges the dust.

I recommend at least owning a Air Blower to just safely remove dust. If that doesn’t work then give it to the expert Berrie.

This is Berrie at my kitchen table cleaning my cameras. So how do you reach Berrie? Here you go:

Berrie Smith | bbmw@bellsouth.net | (770) 312-0719

Breakthrough in your communications

Octane Coffee Bar in West End Atlanta. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/420]
This is how I start most days–a cup of coffee. Everyone has a time of day that we are most productive. Over time we most likely try to be most productive during our sweet spot of the day.

Today more than any other time in my life trying to get any message to an audience is more like trying to getting people’s attention on the highway.

Chick-fil-A Cows Billboard in downtown Atlanta. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/2400]
Do Billboards Work?

According to the Arbitron study, billboard advertising is effective. According to the study, which reported that 71 percent of Americans “often look at the messages on roadside billboards,” a majority of Americans at one time or another learned about an event that interested them or a restaurant they later patronized.

However, consumers are no longer looking at billboards in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago. While they may still be considered a premium advertising space, consumers are engrossed in their smart phones, tablets, and gaming systems. Eyes are down, not up, for much of our lives.

Six Words or Six Seconds

Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard. So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.

The Superhighway

In the 1990s we started to call the internet the Superhighway. Our messaging has become more like a billboard on the highway.

If you can get your message to be short and sweet and it delivers all one needs to know to take action then you are poised to make people’s daily commute in life worthwhile and more productive.

The More Billboards, The Better.

Being sure your audience is getting your message on the highways often requires more billboards. Your message must be concise. As billboard experts will tell you if you are using a headline that explains your visual, you’re wasting words.

When your are limited to 5 to 10 seconds for messaging, you need to be sure they see it. You need your billboard on the bypass and downtown as well to be sure you are reaching your audience.

Engage & Deliver

We all get ticked when someone takes more of our time because they are not well organized. I get even more frustrated when someone has done a great job of hooking me and leading me through well written or visual communication, but in the end don’t deliver.

Before you can talk you must listen.

In most conversations, the person who speaks least benefits most and the person who speaks most benefits least. This is why social media is often preferred over main stream media, they get to talk and be heard on those platforms.

Instagram, Facebook, Google, Pinterest

Some of the Friends TV show set part of the tour at Warner Brothers Studios. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/3.5, 1/125]
Today due to Starbucks, Seinfeld and Friends in the late 80s and early 90s we have the third space–The coffee shop. Today brands are realizing that people are looking for an experience. They are looking for a place beyond work for an encounter that leaves an impression. They want a place they can interact with others.

BREAKTHROUGH with your audience!

Don’t think of your job as creating content. Think of your job being like a counselor, parent or friend. If you really care for someone you want to know how they are doing. You want them to be happy.

As a counselor you are trained to not just take what someone is telling you are being the real problem. Often what they are talking about is a symptom.

As a parent you tend to know your child’s personality and how that can shape how they see the world and how this can affect their child’s view of circumstances.

As a friend you often tolerate some traits because you know their heart.

Can you as a communicator say you know your audience well enough to know their hopes and fears?

Your breakthrough is probably pretty simple, but it will start first with you understanding others more than just knowing yourself and what you can do.

Sometimes your breakthrough isn’t about your skills or service at all. Often it will be in helping someone with something other than your product.

Look what guides on of the Gold Standard brands the Ritz Carlton:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

I love the words “Genuine Care” in that first sentence.

Genuine – truly what something is said to be; authentic.

Tips shared by Jeffery Salter to Atlanta ASMP meeting

Jeffery Salter speaks to ASMP Atlanta/SE. Jeffery, an editorial and advertising photographer from Miami. Jeffery has created insightful portraits of celebrities, athletes and CEOs for publications worldwide, and his work has been exhibited widely. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 25600, Ä/4, 1/35]
How do some photographers get so successful? I think this is one of the reasons many came to see Jeffery Salter.

Capture Integration sponsored the event. Jeffery is one of their clients using their Phase One backs.

It didn’t take long and someone in the audience asked the question, “How did you get hired to be on staff with Sports Illustrated?”

Jeffery said while he was working on newspaper staffs like The Miami Herald he would look for opportunities to shoot medium format. While most staff photographers would continue to shoot all assignments on 35mm SLR film cameras he was shooting on a Hasselblad or Mamiya 6×7.

He shared how he was shooting for where he wanted to work not for where he was shooting. He worked hard to have a style that stood out. His photos are quite surreal in nature and often need much more space to be appreciated than in a newspaper.

He got an assignment to shoot some athletes in their homes from Sports Illustrated. They liked his style and work and after so many assignments brought him on staff not to shoot sports action, but to shoot the behind the scenes of the lives of famous athletes.

Michael Schwarz helps Jeffery Salter with a computer problem before the event started. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/3.6, 1/80]
A little while into the presentation Jeffery was showing his work in Haiti. He shot it all medium format with Phase One back. “Why are you shooting with medium format? Who is your client?” was asked.

The person asking the question knew that the magazines cannot show a difference between today’s DSLR and Medium format. Jeffery then spoke to that he often doesn’t pick the camera for the client but for himself. He wants to be able to have his photos later displayed in the Museum of Modern Art as large as they can be displayed.

He is shooting for the next venue and client.

A couple of tips which are not new but Jeffery also subscribes:

Do self assignments
Learn how light works in nature [he shoots a lot of nature]
Build a photo one light at a time [use strobes to enhance natural light]
Shoot on the very best camera for the situation
Use histogram to be sure you have it in the camera

Now one last thing Jeffery shared that I do, but it was good to hear was he often shoots tethered and is able to open images in PhotoShop or Lightroom and put the curser on highlights and shadows to see the numbers that the computer sees.

Now on gray scale you go from 0% to 100% with amount of light in a scene. The computer records this as 0 to 255.

Jeffery likes his blacks to be around 35 and his highlights to be around 235. he gets the photo in the camera as he always has from his film days shooting transparencies.

Jeffery also answered some business questions as well. To have experiences like this I recommend joining ASMP and come to our meetings. You will be inspired and hopefully from what you learn become a more successful photographer.

Creative Backgrounds for Tabletop Photography

[Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 50, ƒ/10, 1/160]
You can have a lot of fun shooting small items on a table. This type of photography is call Tabletop Photography.

This is a lighting diagram if you are trying to do a product on a white background.

My friend Susan Hawkins came to me to photograph some of her product and wanted to change the backgrounds. She had a great idea I want to pass along to you.

She went to the store and bought different wrapping paper that we used as a background.

[Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 50, ƒ/4, 1/30]
If you want to have fun shooting today and it is raining, then find a table and create something with what you have around the house. Look for the left over Christmas or birthday wrapping paper for possible backgrounds.

[Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 50, ƒ/7.1, 1/160]
The wrapping paper helps to create a mood for your product.

 

Monday Devotional: Anxiety-free Life is a choice

Island Breeze Fijian warrior [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/400]
Anxiety raises it’s ugly head in my life every so often. It is produced by things that often I have no control over in my life. It is a war that takes it’s toll on your life.

During World War II in 1939 the British government coined the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It was made into posters. If you have seen the latest movies Dunkirk and Darkest Hour you learn how close Britain was to total defeat to the Germans.

Amicalola Falls State Park [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/20, 1/10]
My Christian faith has taught me in scripture that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” [John 10:10]

What I have learned through my faith is that there is much in the world that happens that I cannot power through using my willpower.

What I have found that is one of the best things for me to do is to turn to my creativity using photography. I go and find those subjects that are interesting to me and photograph them.

Azaleas in our backyard. Shot with a LensBall. It was the final round of the Masters Golf Tournament when I went into my backyard and captured the Azaleas are in full bloom as well. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/250]
The British lost a lot of people during WWII and one of the things that helped many of them to survive was prayer.

Philippians 4:6-7
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

When you have anxiety, you cause many issues that lead to muscle tension: As adrenaline pumps through your body, your blood vessels constrict. That causes your muscles not to receive the blood flow they need, which in turn causes them stress that leads to tension and aches.

Life is just too short to have anxiety rob you of your living life.

Dogwood in our yard. Photographed using the LensBall. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/100]
“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” ― George Mueller

Anxiety-free life is a choice for us. It requires a Leap of Faith. This requires us to an act of believing in or attempting something whose existence or outcome cannot be proved.

The corner stone of photography

T-Ball baseball game

This is the time that little girls and boys are learning to play America’s favorite pastime baseball.

Some of our families favorite pictures are the ones I took while our kids were playing baseball.

I shot this photo of our son Taylor 22 years ago on film. The camera I used at the time was a Nikon F4. As compared to today’s cameras it had very few controls.

In 1996 I was shooting Fujifilm Provia transparency film which had an ISO of 100. When you put this into the camera it set the ISO. Then I had only two other controls for exposure. I could control the Aperture, which was an iris just like your eye that can open and close to let in more or less light. The other control for exposure was shutter-speed. Shutter-speed would control how long the camera opened the door covering the film.

To master photography so that you can can great pictures anytime of your family and get consistent results you have to master the Exposure Triangle.

I hope this picture helps you see what you need to understand. ISO, SHUTTER, & APERTURE individually control how exposure. You must know instinctively when you turn the dial which way will make it darker and which way will make it lighter.

When you look through the viewfinder of your camera and you are on “M” mode, which is manual, your camera will display a meter on the edges of the screen.

You will change one or all three controls until you get the meter to read on the middle saying it is properly exposed.

Some meters have numbers like the Canon and others like the Nikon have hash. As you can see when you look at the two side by side as I have here where the number and hash are located is exactly 1-Stop from the next number to the left or right.

A stop is a measure of exposure relating to the doubling or halving of the amount of light.

No matter if you turn the ISO, Aperture or Shutter-Speed dial to the left or right [if analog] when you move it the distance between the number or hash, as shown below, you increase or decrease the value by 1/2 the amount of light. We call that moving it 1-Stop.

You can buy a Black, Gray, & White target to use when trying to set your exposure. If you took a picture where you had equal amount of the three in the photo then you can look at your histogram and it should look like this below.

Most photographers will use a 18% Gray target which looks like just the Gray in the middle. As long as the meter shows it is 0 and not + or – then the photo will give you a histogram with the spike in the middle.

So if all you want to do is make photos of your kids playing ball and you want them to be well exposed then you have to master this concept of the exposure triangle.

Then you will know how to stop the ball as I have done in these photos and have just what I want in focus, which is the ball and the faces.

You have to know the Exposure Triangle like you know your Multiplication Tables–by memory.

This is the foundation piece for all of photography. Once you master this concept your ability to get consistent results and make creative decisions as to Depth-of-field and stopping or blurring action is possible.

 

Are You Serving Yourself or Serving Your Client?

The Citadel vs North Georgia College in Rugby [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]

Editor’s note: I am sorry that this is so long. I was struggling on how to make this shorter. Hopefully when you read this it will spark you to have some great ideas for your clients. That was my goal.

My clients are hitting the same wall I was hitting back when digital photography finally became affordable for everyone.

I had cut my teeth in professional photography shooting sports for newspapers, magazines, for colleges and for professional sports teams.

Tennessee’s tight end (82) Ethan Wolf is pursued by Georgia Tech’s line backer (51) Brant Mitchell, which he drops the pass, during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The cameras had gotten so good that it was feasible to go to a camera store and buy your gear and show up on Friday Night or Saturday to a football game and get reasonably good photos. The exposures would be OK and the focus would be OK. If it were not just right you could look at the LCD and make changes to the camera settings on the spot. In the past you wouldn’t know if you were exposing correctly or in focus until you looked at the film.

Working at Georgia Tech I saw this happening faster than other places because the alumni of the school were more prone to enjoy the technology of photography. Soon we had the sidelines filled with photographers shooting for free just to have access to the games.

While I still get called to shoot sports and paid the field is so over saturated that few people are able to make a living shooting sports as compared to prior to the digital revolution that too place in 2002 to 2007.

Brenau University Dance [Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/16, 1/160]
One of the ways I stayed competitive was through my skills with lighting.

However the year that was the most pivotal in our society impacting my profession the most was 2007.

Three things happened that year that would impact photography like nothing had for many years before that moment.

Nikon introduced the D3 camera. This camera almost retired my lighting kit all together. This was the most revolutionary camera that Nikon had made in my career as compared to those before it.

Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, it leapfrogged far beyond the competition and launched the mobile revolution. Few industries or societies have been left unchanged. The iPhone transformed photography from a hobby to a part of everyday life.

Mark Zuckerberg opened up Facebook to everyone and not just college students the end of 2006. By 2007 with the iPhone it was exploding. I joined in 2007.

Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watch

Facebook Changed the Way We Consume Content

While Facebook isn’t the only place we consume content it is 3rd only to Google and Youtube. Roughly 71% of 18- to 24-year-olds credit the Internet as their main news source.

Traditional media was loosing their audience while the internet and things like Facebook News Feed, a never-ending stream of content from the people and companies that you’ve connected with on the platform. News Feed never ends; in theory, users could scroll on forever, a feature that was unheard of when News Feed debuted in 2006.

Now that anyone can create content and reach the world using the internet and most likely do this all from their iPhone the audience is now oversaturated.

Some forms of media have seen a resurgence. I have enjoyed my daughter’s theater performances. Just a couple of years ago Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical broke new ground. It was different. When the musical came out they were thinking of retiring Hamilton off the ten dollar bill, but that musical gave life to Hamilton.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
Today it is so difficult to get someone’s attention for more than a brief second. Many covering stories around the world for NGOs are having to rely on one photo and just a small caption to “entertain” the audience with an “experience” rather than having their attention enough to truly inform.

This is why FAKE NEWS has taken place. If the audience wants something for an “experience” because spending more time they do not have, then it is easier for those who want to create propaganda to succeed today.

How do communications offices, public relations, and marketing get their audiences attention?

Chrysler at the Old Car City in White, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm Ï/4, ISO 360, ƒ/4, 1/200]

BREAKTHROUGH

Today I am seeing a lot of mediocre communications. The reason it is working has more to do with it being “different” than better.

A few years ago one of the most powerful things I heard that changed my approach to working was professional photographer Dave Black saying that to be successful your photos don’t always have to be better–they have to be DIFFERENT.

Just look how we do this with text. We can bold, italicize or even change the color of the type to highlight something. This draws attention because it is different from the rest of the text.

Professional communicators are not sure what works a great deal of time today. They go to Instagram and look for those people with the greatest number of followers and assume that hiring them will translate into more followers for them.

Little do they know that many of those people with a lot of followers bought them through a service and even when they post only a small percentage actually see a post.

Wake up

Your client is struggling to sleep these days as much as you are struggling. The difference is in understanding who you are serving.

When your bills are mounting up and you find yourself in a panic as I often find myself, you need to take deep breaths and calm yourself down. [I am not good at this either, so just know I might not be the best person offering this advice, but I think I need to hear it myself]

What you will soon discover is that when you concentrate on meeting your needs is that you will go without work. It is when you concentrate of how to meet the needs of others that your bills get paid. You are helping someone who needs your help and will compensate you for it.

Pam Goldsmith, world renowned violist played for us when we were visiting her. She is my sister in-law. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/4.5, 1/125]
My sister in-law Pam Goldsmith for most of her career has played as part of the orchestra for many movies, cartoons and major records. That group is so good that most all the music for movies has only been played one time when it is recorded. They don’t practice. The music was never played before they did so the first time, but they are that good of studio musicians.

I mention this because we should be perfecting our craft so that when we are aware of a way to help our clients with their problems using our skills that our skills are so good that it lifts up the content we produce for the client.

Be transparent

If you are really thinking of ways to help your client then you need to really understand your client’s problems they are facing.

I have a client that their audience is saying stop sending me more stuff already. Just stop it with all your communications. Send us just those things that are going to help them do a better job running their business.

Too often I have proposed interesting feature ideas to my clients. While they may be interested in maybe 1 of every 1000 ideas I pitch to them. They are more likely to be interested in 1 of every 100 or even 10 ideas I have that will help their audience run their business better tomorrow.

Now take a moment and think about your client. If they are Amazon, Apple, or Google do they need to be more successful? Sometimes the companies we are trying to help are having capacity issues. They are so successful that their new problems are not how to make more money, but how to handle the work they have and still enjoy doing it every day.

Oklahoma Banner

Our job is to help our customers to see a brighter future. We are to be serving their best interests. If you look at some of the big companies, they may look like they have it all together, but you talk to them internally, and you see that they don’t.

If you are a photographer, videographer, writer or a producer don’t think of what you do as producing content only. You need to be the one coming up with good content ideas that your clients need to reach their audience.

The Power of Authenticity

Worship in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Have you ever heard someone say, “Let’s get real here.”?

Often in meetings and going about life we are performing for others. What I mean is we read the room and situation and plan how we will act. The thing is that organizations often take on this personality as well.

Two little boys I met in a village in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800]
Organizations and people look to the audience they are playing for and try and figure out what they want to hear in order for they to get what they want, which is often a living.

Everyone longs for love, acceptance and connection. We often do not know how to make it happen. We learn over time that we cannot manipulate people and trying to pull people closer to us, because that does just the opposite and pushes them away.

Jacob Tarnagda is a leader in the church and is 40 years old. His wife’s name is Clenence. His home is in Soumagou. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250]
When we interact with authentic people, we feel we’re interacting with a “real” ones, people free from pretension and without false fronts. For a group of people to experience authenticity requires leadership to foster a place where sharing of their true selves will be welcomed.

A few years ago when teaching at the end of the week I shared a little about myself. When talking to the person who invited me later to review what I could have done better, he made a profound comment that changed my life. You know if you had let people know what you shared at the end of the week earlier on then I think people would have connected with you more than they did.

YWAM SOP Class that I taught in Kona, Hawaii. My daughter had Skyped with the group and told them about my Monkey face. Here the class is doing the monkey face with me.

The following year I started my week of teaching by being much more vulnerable. I told the class my life story and growing up with autism.


This little boy shepherd is part of the Fulani tribe which is known for being herdsmen and is working in the village of Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso on October 15, 2005. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young boy cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso. [Nikon D2X, 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/90]
Organizations can do the same thing in their communications by choosing to be authentic with their audience. One of the best approaches to achieving authenticity is photojournalism.

Still photograph stops time. It gives the viewer a moment to think, to react, to feel. When the camera captures a “real” moment in time rather than one that is “setup” then the power of that moment gives validity to the storyline.

Surgeon Danny Crawley is in theatre doing a hernia operation and Comfort Bawa, theatre assistant helps him at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/250]
The viewer often cannot know if a situation is real or not, so it is up to the photographer to be sure that they have a moral compass that guides them to remain truthful. All it takes is for a photographer to manipulate one image and then all their work is called to question.

Many nonprofits and businesses use stock photography for their communications. It is often more about convenience than any other reason that they choose to use a photo that isn’t about their organization to communicate some of what they do.

There have been numerous times where the same stock photo is used by competing organizations. The same photo of a person carrying a laptop was used by competing computer companies. The same photo was used by different insurance groups. Just google “same stock photo used in two ads” and look at all the examples.

My friend Gary S. Chapman encourages those organizations he works with to hire him to create real moments. He also encourages them to use his byline. “Photo by contributing photographer Gary S. Chapman” gives authenticity to the photo and helps people know it isn’t a stock photo.


I suggest finding stories that reflect what you do for people. Once you find that story is when I would then assign a journalist team to cover the story. The team can be a photojournalist who writes and shoots or it can be a team that consists of the writer and photographer. You may even choose to use video as well.

David Cifuentes and family sharing with the delegation from Frontera de Cristo how since the forming of the coffee cooperative all his family is finally together. Here he is introducing his children and grandchildren. His son went to Atlanta, GA to work on golf courses to feed his family back in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]
You need to give them the time to “peel the onion”, which is getting to the deeper story, so that they can inform your audience how your organization made a difference in their lives.

Personally I would find a few stories and have them cover all of them so you have a series that helps to validate what you are doing in people’s lives.

What I have found is that those organizations who talk about how they have made mistakes early on and are always correcting to do a better job will win over their audience.

I loved how the organization Honduras Outreach or HOI told their own story about a kiln they bought for the people in the Agalta Valley of Honduras.

These girls are able to go to school due to the giving of the HOI community. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/6.3, 1/250]
The people in Honduras asked what are they do with the kiln. Well you make pottery and sell it to the tourists.

A couple years later HOI noticed that the Hondurans had been making donut bricks that they used to then create chimneys for the stoves in their homes. They then started making tiles for their homes and schools with the kiln.

What I love about the story being told is that HOI admitted that they learned that they were not the ones coming to help out these totally helpless and inferior people. The people of Honduras were very smart and creative. While they couldn’t have make the stuff they did without the kiln they also knew that making pottery for the tourists didn’t make sense at all. There just were no tourists and just the volunteers coming to work in their communities.

This story helped HOI be more authentic with their audience. It helped them to get more people involved.


There are times when you may need to setup a photo. Sometimes for the safety of the people involved you cannot get a photo. You may choose to setup a photo for illustration purposes. This is OK to do, but you do need to tell your audience you did this. Credit the photo as an Illustration and where it is possible explain why you chose to illustrate the photo.

Sometimes in the caption of telling why you had to do a setup photo you help the readers to understand even more of why you need their help.

Today’s young people are looking for authenticity.  They want to work with organizations whose words match up with their actions. The strongest way to communicate authentically is to use photojournalism.

Is your communications grounded in a moral compass?