Be an Anticipator and not a Procrastinator

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

Meet recording artist Sydney Rhame. She was a contestant on The Voice a couple years ago. Here she is singing “Photograph”. By the time Sydney had gotten on the voice she had already been performing for many years. She actually started singing at age six and then started performing at age eight.

Recording artist are practicing all the time. They work hard for years for their “break.”

I spent some time setting up for Sydney. I had not only setup the studio like this for her to make some headshots, I had also scouted around to get colors to match her clothing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

I found some fall foliage that I could use in the background to compliment her hair.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250

To get to the big games like the Chick-fil-A Kickoff these players put in many practice days and games spanning years of preparation.

Most Folks

I am finding that more people are procrastinators in their work than are anticipators. People wait until they are near a deadline to actually start working on a project.

In school teachers have projects that they tell us about long before they are due, but most of us wait until the night before. Now after we have done a few of these and found out that doesn’t leave us enough time we may actually start it a little sooner–like a day or two earlier.

Word vs Photograph

Throughout my career there has been a healthy tension between writers and photographers. One thing you will hear photographers saying to writers is I can’t call the subject and change the ƒ-stop.

A writer can more easily make changes in their part of a project at the last second whereas a photographer has to reshoot to make a change.

When I started out I would just pick up a small camera bag and run out the door for the newspaper. Today I realize that the more I plan and prepare for a photo shoot the better the results.

Today I ask a lot more questions when I get a project. Why are you needing these photos or video? What are you looking for from the project? What is it that the audience to do once they have seen the project?

The questions go on more than just these few questions. Once I am comfortable with the direction and style they are wanting I can then plan for what gear I need for the shoot. Sometimes this requires me renting gear.

For most of my projects today travel is involved. I must book flights, hotels, rental cars, assistants and more.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/160

Advantage of Anticipating

When you anticipate as I must do for assignments there is a lot of dialogue with a client. Much of this is in written form between me and the client. The great thing about this process for me is I have a paper trail showing how I was proactive and getting their approval before executing anything.

When you talk through a treatment with a client in as much detail as possible when the assignment is given then you give yourself and the client the advantage of keeping the costs down and pushing the quality up.

Since I am working in an artistic field for a career then the one thing that keeps you receiving a paycheck is being in demand. Believe it or not but the busiest photographers I know are the ones who are Anticipators and not the Procrastinators.

Some things you can do that are disciplines of an Anticipator:

  • Going to clients with project ideas
  • Responding quickly to phone calls, emails and texts
  • Asking questions when client gives you a project–Immediately and not closer to the deadline
  • Delivering the photos quickly–Photos processed for client without quality suffering
  • Creating estimates and invoices quickly
  • Raising concerns and issues before the client realizes a concern–While there are somethings you cannot anticipate you are always trying to take ownership as if the success or failure of this project can make the client be super successful or put them out of business
They say if you want something done, ask a busy person, even though this idea is somewhat paradoxical. 
The reason is that people with hectic schedules have, by necessity, gotten really good at realistically estimating how long things take. The thing that is interesting is once you know someone like this you are prone to go to them to help you. The one thing you hope never happens is that they say no. The reason they will say no is that they know if they can deliver your request or not.
If you find yourself busy and having to occasionally turn down people it is a good sign that you are most likely an Anticipator. However, if you are desperately trying to find work you might just be a Procrastinator.
How to turn yourself from a Procrastinator to an Anticipator
One of the best things I learned in my time at Georgia Tech working on the communications staff was from our art directors. They had reversed engineered the timeline for producing print projects like view books and magazines.
I would be part of the meetings with the clients going over new projects. The art director then took a couple of minutes and walked through the deadlines, starting backwards.
When do you need this project? Then they would start with that date and then say well the printer needs two weeks from the time they have it to turn it around without any rush fees. Before this the graphic artist will need two weeks to layout the piece and then have you sign off on it. This includes two reviews. By the way your review time puts on hold the project. So if you take 24 hours to approve or make changes then that is how much the project is delayed. If you take a week to get it approved then that means we need to move up the date for you to get materials to us.
Now before the graphic artist can start work the writer and photographers have to create their content. The good news is often the photography and writing can be done simultaneously.  They both need two to three weeks. For them to stay on schedule the subjects they need to work with need to be available as well or that also impacts the schedule.
Based on this we need six to eight weeks to produce your project. When working with most new clients we were often only three to four weeks from their deadlines. Most of the time we had to move their deadlines out due to make things go faster often meant rush fees from printers and or hiring more writers, photographers and or graphic designers to tag team.
The question you must know the answer to for any project is how long do you need to produce your very best portfolio quality of work?
Anticipators are really those people who are gifted at time management and know how to get the very best quality of work and understand the time they need to make it happen. They are also good at executing their plans and producing quality work which creates a demand that creates an even higher demand because they are know for being busy.

London taught me that creating an EXPERIENCE is important in business

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/220

In business your product is just part of why people will do business with you. Now if your product is on par with the rest of the industry then the other thing that people are paying for is EXPERIENCE.

We just spent our vacation traveling to London for an EXPERIENCE. One of the major things we were paying to enjoy was to relive the Harry Potter movies. We wanted to experience the movies as if we were there in them. So here we went to Kings Crossing Train Station to 9 3/4 to get our pictures made as if we were going through the wall onto Hogwarts.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

We went to the House of Minalima. Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima met in 2002 when a happy coincidence of fates meant they were to work together as graphic designers on the Harry Potter film franchise. Here they had a unique opportunity to establish the visual graphic style from the outset of the productions. The design aesthetic they created for Harry Potter is still sought after, be it designing collectable merchandise or collaborating on the much anticipated Warner Bros Studio Tour.

Rather than just have a store with items on the shelf they created a self guided tour of their artwork and created moments like we remember of Harry Potter’s invitation letter to Hogwarts. They created an EXPERIENCE for us to enjoy.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 640, ƒ/3.6, 1/100

One of the biggest phenomena’s in the past few years as related to photography has been the selfie. While we have always done some form of this with photography through the years the selfie stick came along to help us include more people in our photos.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Here you can see all the women getting in close to the London Bobby to get their photo made with him. It is an experience that not only are they having they are now sharing this in their social media. Then their friends will comment on how much they: like, love or other ways of expressing their joy of the photo.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 640, ƒ/3.6, 1/100

In the Harry Potter tour at the Warner Brother’s Studio outside of London they had different things you could do on the tour. Here my daughter is being taught how to dual with a wizarding wand using a mirror to see her style as compared to the teacher on the TV screen to the left.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/70

We went on a Harry Potter Muggles tour where they showed us some of the filming spots in London as well as take us to places like Collier Street which was J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Notice the tour guide is dressed in Gryffindor attire and looks like she could easily just walked off the set of the movie. To help us with the EXPERIENCE she had screen shots of the movie [in her hand] that she would pull out at different stops and pass around to help us see in the movie what we were EXPERIENCING first hand.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/75

Now my daughter dressed up in her Gryffindor robe and enjoyed not only having people ask to be photographed with them, but she was excited to see this guy dressed up as Newt Scamander from the latest movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Even last night I heard my daughter yell out that the guy dressed like Newt was in another documentary she just saw. Again it is about an EXPERIENCE.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/45

One of my daughter’s favorite scenes from the Harry Potter series is when Harry Potter talks with Remus Lupin on the Bridge. She is standing where they stood when they filmed that scene. What an EXPERIENCE it was for her.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/90

For me it was the scale model of Hogwarts that just let me see the detail for which they created this mystic place that captured me the most.

Question for You

What are you doing to create an EXPERIENCE that people will tell their friends about and want to do business with you.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

Can you see your customers smiling at certain points in their interactions with you and your company?

Can you think of something that can create more of an EXPERIENCE than you are doing now?

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/110

My trip to London just reminded me that all those little details like clothing can help create something that keeps people traveling from all over the world to get the EXPERIENCE first hand.

Most importantly for everyone in business is to concentrate of creating a great PRODUCT and creating an EXPERIENCE that separates you from everyone else.

Google Analytics can mislead you if you let it

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scores his very first collegiate touch down while UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles was unable to stop him during tonights Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game September 3, 2016 at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

In the photo here I am sharing of the touchdown the photo without words communicates. The text adds more meaning. However how will you measure it in your meetings with your team?

Now I am sitting in a meeting where every week they look at the analytics of how their audience is responding to their communications work. Most of those in the profession are doing something similar. Most use things like Google Analytics to evaluate and measure their effectiveness of communicating.

Finally the light bulb came on for me when I realized that everyone was evaluating their work mainly based on the analytics we were using. Well actually that isn’t the light bulb moment.

What was the moment was realizing that Google Analytics, YouTube or Vimeo analytics don’t measure still images.

However we know that research shows that people respond better to visual communications and specifically they respond first to a still image over all the other forms of communication. We just cannot get that feedback through present analytics.

Here is one of the latest research projects about how people view images.


Funded by the National Press Photographers Association, this study follows a long line of research, looking at how people consume news content.

“You can tell which ones are done by people who know what they are doing,” said a 21-year-old male participant, “whether it’s the focus, or the angle or the lighting, being allowed to be up close — all that stuff.”

The sad thing I realized while sitting in that meeting was that this latest NPPA study was not new but had been done in the past in some other way but gave us similar results. The problem I was facing in this meeting was we couldn’t get that same type of data each week. There is no way to know without using eye-tracking technology to then give us the analytics we so desperately need in this meeting.

Each week we only see what Google analytics are telling us, which are what stories are getting clicked on, and it does not help us know how to engage the audience by use of visuals. Since we can get analytics on video there is a high volume of videos being produced as compared to still photos because they can see engagement scores.

If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It.

A Forbes magazine article debunks this statement and goes on to say “The important stuff can’t be measured.”

I think communications professionals today are suffering the same syndrome of the people in the scriptures of the Bible. They often lacked faith because they want something measurable.

Scripture also teaches us that …

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1

Because we have the research that shows us how people prefer to get information we need to do what we know works rather than wanting to rely only on that which we can measure each week.

Wells Fargo executives instructed their employees to “Do what it takes to make money,” even if it leads to some fraud.

You see taking care of the customer and doing what is right requires one to have faith in something that isn’t always measurable in the short term.

Successful business always are serving their customers and making their lives better. In so doing this the business will become successful.

The businesses that fail are those who turn the focus from serving their customer to serving themselves over the customers.

The key thing to take away is that you can’t just look at data from a macro level and think it tells you a story. Digging deeper into your analytics is the only way to see the real situation and always want to make decisions with the right information. Realize that some of the most important things impacting your customer are not always measurable.

Understanding Copyright and Cost of doing business isn’t the secret to success

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, 4–Alienbees B1600, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 1/160

For the past 20+ years the photography community has been pushing for photographers to know their rights. Copyright is at the top of that list. Right next to it was you knowing the cost of doing business.

I even perpetuated many of these tips that photographers needed to know to be sure they were running a healthy business.

Before 2002 quality images were hard to come by versus today where almost daily the amount of well exposed, in focus images are being created faster than we can calculate. The reason I picked the year 2002 is that is when a 6-megapixel camera went from $25,000 to under $2,000. This made if very affordable for the masses.

Today there are so many images available that for the most part photography is now a commodity.

As photographers were pushing for more from customers and trying to explain why they must get more money the customer needed them less and less.

Let me start the business lesson where we never did in the past for photographers. We need to start running our business based on the customer/audience.

Nikon D100, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,, ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/160

What is the customer’s problem?

The best possible customer for you is the one going through a major crisis. You can be the super hero and help save their business. You can see plainly their problem and you have a solution that will not only fix the problem but also help them be more successful.

The reality is that this is your only kind of a customer. If they have no problem needing to be fixed with your services they do not need you. Businesses don’t spend money on things that will not help them reach their objective. At least we know they cannot afford to do that very often without going out of business.

Next you need to figure out how much it costs you to provide that solution to the client.

You see if you don’t know the problems you are solving for a business you cannot figure out what you need to be doing in the first place.

[Nikon D5, Sigma TC-2001 2x, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Do the math

Now this math you are going to do has two parts. You have what we call ongoing expenses, which you must spread over all your jobs. This is not just what money you need to pay your home budget needs, but also your business budget. This includes your gear, your costs to find out about customers and costs to communicate to them about your solutions. Remember you have to do all this because they may not hire you and you still have to pay for it somehow.

This cost of doing business is then spread out over all your jobs through a year. Maybe that figure is about $600 per the average job you must build into the price.

Next you must do your math again and add up all the expenses to do the specific job to solve this client’s problem.

You add these together and this is what you must make to stay in business.

How you arrived at this price or what this figure is should never be discussed with the client. This is for you only.

Now if you have a client for example in a ditch with their car in the middle of no where and you have a tow truck and are there to help them you are in a great position, especially if they are in a hurry. This is when you can get a lot more money than had you been in a large city with many more options for the customer to choose from than just you.

Take the time to get to know your market and what prices are typically being charged for these services.

Determine your Target Audience

Now if the going rates are lower than your figure you need to charge you have a problem. You will need to somehow convince people that you are a better solution. That is possible because an oil change can run from $19.95 to $20,000 for a Bugatti Veyron.

Believe it or not there is a formula for true luxury and it is called the Intrinsic Value Dependency Index. Now I am not an expert in this, but in general a product must be of the best quality and in the process creates a space in the market of it’s own. It is important that this item be rare as well. True luxury comes with over the top service as well.

When you get a $20,000 oil change they are doing a lot more than you driving into a bay and stay in the car while they change your oil. They are offering your wine, Champaign or a wonderful latte. Good chance they even picked up your car from your home and brought it back to you at your convenience.

Once you know your figures that you need to charge and you know the market place and have decided where you want to be in that market you not only set your price you create a marketing plan to execute.

You have a website, portfolio, brochures, business cards and other materials you will use to help showcase your work, which is a solution for the customers problem.

Going back to the side of the road with our customer in distress you give them your sales pitch. I am here to help you. I can have my limo driver come and pick you up and take you to where you need to be next and while that is happening I can get your car out of the ditch and take this to the repair shop of your choosing. If you don’t have a repair shop you prefer I have a few that I use regularly that will work with your insurance and get you back up and running.

They love it and ask you how much. You give them the price and they gladly pay. Your limo driver picks them up and offers them some beverages and takes them to their appointment.

Your business is grounded as every other business–you solve other people’s problems. The key is much more than the cost of doing business, copyright or having the latest camera gear. Knowing your client first and foremost is the key.

Photography/Video/Multimedia is the tool to solving problems for customers. Those who are the most successful are not waiting by the phone like a plumber getting a call because a toilet overflowed. The most successful are like Steve Jobs creating products to solve the problems for clients that they didn’t even know they had until they saw the solution.


  1. Start with the problem of the client
  2. Come up with a solution to that problem
  3. Know all the costs involved in providing that solution
  4. Create the sales pitch that addresses their problem with your solution and how the outcome will look if they use your services.
  5. Create a price that will cover your costs and help position your services within the market place. Hopefully one that is a luxury and not a commodity.

The secret to successful business is one that is focused on solving clients problems.

Do you ask your client the right question? Michael Schwarz tells us his thoughts on this question.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 2500, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

Michael Schwarz said a mouthful in just a couple minutes during our FOCUS panel discussion.

When he was new in the profession he asked clients, “What do you want me to do?” Later he would discover that wasn’t the right question.

Listen to Michael explain this evolution in his career.
“What are you trying to accomplish with this project? or Why are you hiring me?” is the better question. Which often is met with, “I don’t know, let me get back to you with an answer.”

While the client had a shot list the better question helped to focus all the content and also gives Michael ideas on how to pitch some of the solutions he can deliver.

So what question do you ask your client?

Photographers need to lead an organization of one

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Col. Tom Clark, director for Citadel’s Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, spoke last night to the Atlanta Citadel Club. Clark brought his leadership tool bag and the first thing he pulled out of the bag was a hammer.

When he was a cadet at the Citadel this was the tool used by the leadership at that time. The downside of this being your only tool is applying a hammer to every situation doesn’t get the results you are needing.

“Ever tried hammering a screw?”, was a question he asked us.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/60

Then he pulled out a screwdriver which had many different tips that could be switched out.

This tool reminds us that we must look at the head of the screw and figure out which of the tips: Flat Head, Philips, Square or something else is needed to fit the head of the screw.

Nikon D3s, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, also has a leadership tool bag he uses when talking to people about leadership. Dan Cathy has a slinky as one of his tools. Dan says:

Just as one end of the Slinky has to be the first to descend a staircase in order to put the whole thing in motion, leaders must be the first to move forward in any endeavor in order to put the rest of the team in unified motion. Just as the Slinky won’t work without one part of it “leading the charge”, any team endeavor we desire to complete—whether as a family, a group of friends, or an entire organization—will not happen unless a leader takes the first step. Let’s remember this the next time we’re on the precipice of a new endeavor, and let’s be leaders who get the whole thing moving.

Nikon D750,  AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Both Col. Tom Clark and Dan Cathy are leaders who teach leadership to people. They realize that these tool bags filled with examples are those “visual” reminders that help people grasp the concepts of good leadership and remind them to put those into practice.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/250

Compass as Ethics Tool

A compass is a relatively simple instrument based on a simple concept. With its northward facing needle, it is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. By placing “moral” in front of compass, we evoke a clear picture of mental processes that point a person in a particular direction in life. These processes are consistent and true indicators upon which personal belief and action can be based.

Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

No system of morality is accepted as universal. For many people they use their faith as the set of doctrines that will be their true north for their morality compass.

Leadership? But it is just me

You may have been passing over all those leadership books because you are just an independent photographer. You don’t even use assistants, so how could this possibly help me?

Glenn Gutek wrote that “Great Leadership Starts With Leading an Organization of One.” These are some great tips. There are two that I think many photographers would benefit from using that I want to highlight:

  1. Control Time–You should be always focused on your top priorities for that moment. When you get up and start your day the first things you do for your business should be the highest priorities. When you finish your day and go home then your priorities should be focused on your family and what is most important. Knowing how to get the most out of your time during the day is great leadership skill.
  2. Temper Emotions–This is the one thing I struggle the most about. The reason it is such a struggle is because I am so passionate about my work. You have to be to get emotionally impactful images. 
Gutek said about tempering emotions, “at times it is critical to practice the discipline of being dispassionate.
Being dispassionate allows a leader to protect the environment from becoming toxic and engaging in the wrong battles. Leaders should fuel their energy by investing in their passions, but keep things from running off the rails by not pouring gas on a volatile situation.”
Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/750

You are playing Chess not Checkers

The greatest thing you will learn in dealing with clients is how different each and every situation there is to one another.
Almost nothing looks more orderly than chess pieces before a match starts. The first move, however, begins a spiral into chaos. After both players move, 400 possible board setups exist. After the second pair of turns, there are 197,742 possible games, and after three moves, 121 million. – Popular Science

James 1:5

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

All these tool bags of leaders have one thing in common–Strategy. Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.Strategy is important because the resources available to achieve these goals are usually limited. Strategy generally involves setting goals, determining actions to achieve the goals, and mobilizing resources to execute the actions. 

Does your tool bag have only a hammer? What are you doing to learn about what tools are best to put into your leadership toolkit bag? 

I am in the People Business

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100


Most people don’t realize it, but McDonald’s is not a burger-flipping restaurant chain; it is one of the world’s best real estate portfolios. Franchisees flip the burgers. McDonald’s simply owns the best commercial property all over the world.

Well through the years and more so lately it has struggled. At one point Ray Kroc said, “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” However, that wasn’t a consistent quote from their leader.

Another time Kroc said, “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in show business.” But the one I hear the most often when you are at business schools is “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, 1/400


The founder of Chick-fil-A Truett Cathy said, “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”

Today Chick-fil-A has a corporate purpose that is in front of their company headquarters that everyone in their company if you ask them can pretty much quote this for memory.

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

I have been in countless meetings where I continue to hear “we have made a commitment to take care of the people who take care of our communities.”

Dan Cathy says,

At Chick-fil-A, we are convinced that Jesus had it right in Matthew 20:26 when He said, “Those who want to become great (leaders) must be willing to become servants.” WE built our leadership competency model around the word SERVE, because we believe that great leaders…

S ee the future
E ngage and develop others
R einvent continuously
V alue results and relationships
E mbody the values

In the lobby of Chick-fil-A Support Center is this statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Here you can see a tour group in the background.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 11400, ƒ/4.8, 1/100

Every manager goes through training on the SERVE model and when they complete the training they get a miniature replica of this statue to put on their desks and remind them of their role.

Communication Professionals

Are you in the people business or are you defining what you do a different way? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the basic question of WHY? for all your work it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Now many of you might think that Jesus was just a push over and a doormat based on the washing of his subordinate’s feet.

If you read John 2:13-22 you will see Jesus clearing the temple with a whip.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320

Humanitarian Communication

Great communication with an audience requires the communicator to ask, “Why should the audience care?”

I think the key to great humanitarian photography is tapping into people’s compassion for one another.

Compassion literally means, “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related. While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

Sadly today to get the audiences attention on caring for those who are in need it takes a lot to move the human spirit. After covering those around the world who by no fault of their own are struggling to live and find audiences not responding it can cause the heart of the communicator to break.


You can define your business as Ray Kroc or as Truett Cathy did with their models.

In 2015, McDonald’s closed down more than 700 of their restaurants.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Chick-fil-A just celebrated their 2000th store opening in Springfield, IL. Here is the story. They have plans to open 95 stores this year.

You maybe thinking that this is nothing compared to all the McDonald’s worldwide, but the reputations of the two chains couldn’t be further apart.

Chick-fil-A is the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015.

If you are in the people business then the most important thing is the customer satisfaction, because sales are always there with this model.

Your Plan B should be really your Plan A

Former Mayor Shirley Franklin is the keynote speaker to the Islamic Speakers Bureau “Building Bridges Awards Dinner” a the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta on Saturday November 14, 2015. [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

I wrote this as a post on a forum for predominately journalists who are being laid off and having to find a new job. I just thought after writing this it would make for a good blog post here.

Finding ones purpose in life is what figuring out your Plan for Life. For those of us growing up where your parents could follow a well worn path of those before them that others clearly understood, then you are the ones thinking more about things as a Plan B episode.

However, if you are someone who grew up with your parents lives coming apart due to layoffs and job losses you are not looking at those ruts in the road for a path to success. You are the generation that is not bound by the golden handcuffs of corporations that kept their promises, which kept you employed and taken care of like generations past.

You are the generation that understood that you were called to a profession and not to an industry. Your generation is not looking to be committed to a corporation, but rather to the ideals of the profession. You may pursue being a nurse rather than working at a local hospital.

Journalists are one of the professions that have followed what other industries like textiles, car manufacturing and other trades went through in the 1970’s and 1980’s where factories shut down and those jobs disappeared.

Many of those trades were very specific and with some training these same people who were gifted in problem solving found their core gifts and then learned how to apply these with a different industry.

I believe that storytelling is at an all time high and growing by leaps and bounds. Storytelling is the core skill to the journalist.

For many journalists their “Plan A” was to be employed as a journalist, which meant being part of the journalism profession.

If you are able to examine those core gifts and discover you are a storyteller then there are many places, industries that is, that you can serve and offer your talent.

Here are some storytelling things I am doing for other places than my roots in photojournalism at a newspaper.

  • I am doing a series of “Getting to know you …” multimedia packages where we interview an employee of a company and in 2 to 3 minutes we capture what they do for the company and something about them that is unique to them. Great example of all those feature packages I did for newspapers.
  • I have covered many natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, Moore Oklahoma and Joplin Tornadoes for a company that goes to those communities and volunteers helping them rebuild. Very similar to those breaking news events I did in newspaper days.
  • I have also covered multiple hurricanes and tornado destruction for nonprofits that are also responding to disasters.
  • I have been covering sporting events for corporations for many years just as I would have done for wire services and newspapers in my past.

“Now where do I find these nonprofits and corporations that will hire me?” is the question I am often asked.

Former President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday School at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains, GA on August 23, 2015. Many are like Carter in that they needed to have a job for the ability to then do their next job. Many say Carter used the job as President of the United States as a stepping stone to greater things. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]

The answer to this question is most likely your “Plan B” that you will need to pursue. If you are coming from working as a journalist then you need to put on your investigative hat. This is where you are ASKING QUESTIONS. You are not TELLING PEOPLE WHAT YOU DO AND PLEASE HIRE ME.

The largest fault I see in many journalists is their tendency to think of their work as MY STORY. It really never was your story. You just helped someone else tell THEIR story better than they could.

Ask questions about what a company is doing or what a nonprofit does. Ask them how they get their funds to run and who is their audience. What problems are they solving for our communities.

Then don’t ask them as much as ask you, “What can I do with storytelling that will help them connect their solutions with their audience?”

The best journalists question for most any organization that you are used to asking is WHY?

Your Plan B should have been your Plan A, which is your ability to ask those questions and uncover truth. You are a storyteller that continues to shape our communities. You just will do it through another industry. Once you understand that your skills are still needed, but the problem has been you are focused too much on an industry rather than your core profession you will start to see the possibilities all around you.

The answer to Plan B is really your ability to ask the question WHY?

Photographers self-sufficiency is another word for poverty

Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/1600

Self-sufficiency is another word for poverty.

I read that and immediately bristled, but then as I listened more to Matt Ridley’s comment the more I realized he was right.

Listen to Matt here:


The more we work for each other the better off we are.

The key to how much work you get is directly dependent on how much networking you have done. What you learn from networking is two things that is extremely important to you being able to pursue your passion of photography.

What you do must benefit others

No matter how nice you are and how much you care no one cares. What matters is how those things which are inside you move you to action. You are measured by what you do and not by what you think.

I am reminded of the story where Jesus cursed the fig tree for not producing fruit [Mark 11:12-25]. That was the purpose of the tree.

People will not buy what you produce unless it benefits them.

David Wong wrote:

Either you will go about the task of seeing to those needs by learning a unique set of skills, or the world will reject you, no matter how kind, giving, and polite you are. You will be poor, you will be alone, you will be left out in the cold.

Does that seem mean, or crass, or materialistic? What about love and kindness — don’t those things matter? Of course. As long as they result in you doing things for people that they can’t get elsewhere.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/400

Sell the Dream

No matter how passionate you are about something, nobody cares about it simply because you do.

I love to watch Shark Tank the TV show. each week I hear many who have ideas that after you hear them they are not really marketable.

If you want clients or customers, you need to be concerned with why they should care about what you’re doing, even when you’re doing what you love. Don’t be so in love with your passion and busy doing it that you forget to look up and show others why they should care as much as you do.

Your challenge is to persuasively communicate the gift of your passion, your mission and your unique value.

Nothing succeeds like success

One of the best ways to get people to get excited about what you offer is to show them your success. This is how many NGOs get their support. Here is the problem and here is a success story where we have made a difference. They then will go on to show how there are many more to help and need your support.

Here is a great example that I helped Honduras Outreach produce this past year.

Summary: Don’t focus on being self-sufficient. Focus on being a service to your fellow man. The key to your success is to not just find your passion, but finding out how this benefits other people. Once you have this nugget you are well prepared to promote what you can do for others.

The Organic Process Professional Photographer

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/5000

This “Chicken Man” was on the road between Tenkodogo and Ouagadougou in the country of Burkina Faso, West Africa. These are “free range” chickens that they tie their feet together to take them to market.

Instead of ordering “free range” chickens off the menu they are called “bicycle chicken.” They get that name as you can see on how they are brought to market.

We hear today the benefits of eating natural organic food. We think of organic as natural process.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/400

Mergers and acquisitions, which is inorganic growth, is an aggressive approach to growing a business. While most photographers are too small to think of merging or acquisitions the aggressive approach to business is what is hurting their growth.

When you start a small business, you must focus on growing your customer base, reinvesting profits in new assets for greater income, and improving productivity to increase your bottom line. All of these efforts are examples of organic growth. In a nutshell organic growth is focused on preplanning and being prepared for the future.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 125, ƒ/14, 1/250

Photographers need to operate their business like a farmer. He prepares the ground, plants the seeds, weeds the fields, waters the crop and when storms are predicted does what they can to protect the crop. The percentage of the farmers time is in the preparation versus the harvest.

Advice for the photographer

  • Dream first of what you hope for
  • Think of all the steps necessary for you to reach that dream
  • Invest your time and energy in getting the things you need to make the dream a reality
  • Create your action plan
  • Execute the plan

Couple major insights from the farmer. There is a season for planting and a season for harvesting. The farmer clears the fields when they first start. They may have to clear trees and brush as well as remove rocks and stones from their fields before they can plow the fields to prepare the ground for the seeds.

In West Africa the farmer is so poor they cannot buy fertilizer. It costs more than they will get out of the harvest. Many of these farmers will plant two seeds in field because if they get enough rain then one of the plants will thrive, but if it is a dry season the other plant will do better.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/500

This farmer here working the fields in Koudougou, Burkina Faso.  This is part of the bible school where they not only teach theology, but farming to help the pastors feed their families while they minister as a bi-vocational pastor.

Photographers may need to be bi-vocational as well today.

Overnight Success

You will look like an overnight success only if you are prepared. There are some things in your dream that you will try and force to happen. We all do this and then we slowly learn that sometimes the problem was we have been planting seeds in the fall and not the spring or we were trying to harvest in the spring rather than the fall.

Here are a few things to help you become that overnight success.

  1. Have an elevator speech ready [earlier blog on elevator speech]
  2. Have ideas ready for clients – Don’t just show your portfolio, do some research and have some ideas that you can pitch to them when that opportunity presents itself.
  3. Prepared replies – Think about those situations that a client may ask you to do something and how you should respond. The more you can anticipate issues the better you will come off when they come up.
You have heard of Natural Leaders–Well they are really those who have invested a lot of time on the front end. You may have also heard of those who are “Good Natured.” Well most likely they have thought about situations enough to one know how to respond or to understand how a situation isn’t a problem to begin with anyway. You know how to go with the flow because you have thought enough about things prior that your response is actually well thought out.
This is a really key thing to understand. You need to know enough about your industry to be able to know how to be very flexible and when to take those “organic moments” and speak into them. 
A farmer who has plans to put the seeds into the ground one week and realizes that if they move it up a few days they can take advantage of the rain verses loosing days because they were delayed.
The photographer who has invested some time into thought about their business is prepared like the farmer. So the question is how well prepared are you?