Learn to say “YES”

This is Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/80]
For the past ten years or so Mark Johnson has invited me to speak to his advanced Photojournalism Class at UGA on business practices.

One of the tips I always share with the class is Learn To Say YES.

I learned about how to say yes from my friend Tony Messano who is a creative director as well as voice over talent. This one tip had a major impact on my life in so many ways.

Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you are agreeing to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that ethically you disagree with doing.

Patrick Murphy-Racey keeps things positive for his clients by solving their problems rather than becoming a problem. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160]
Tony was advocating that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses, rather than becoming a problem.

The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here can you do _______. Tony helped me to see how to take this request and not only meet the request but make more money.

I learned how to price for the project and then when this type of request came up I could say “Yes”. Yes I can make that happen, however since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it I just need to charge XYZ for the additional work.

The way I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then was responding with a “NO”.

What Tony helped me to understand was that when I was saying no I wasn’t really helping the client at all. If they still needed it done then they would find someone who could make it happen and often then I would no longer be used for future projects.

Why do I want to say no?

Before I could say yes I learned I needed to know why I wanted to say no.

When I was in a staff job I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.

Had I learned this tip earlier in my career I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone would ask me to do something I would now be saying how I really want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.

Yes I can make that happen for you if you can tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.

As a freelancer I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.

On the far right at the computer is Akili Ramsess, executive director for NPPA, who is reviewing the work on a student at the Southwestern Photojournalism Student Workshop. What I like here is not just that Akili is helping and the student is engaged, but it reminds me that others are watching us help.

Let the client say NO

Tony said my goal is to say yes as much as I can and to be sure the client is the one saying no and not me.

As the freelancer the client asks me to do something and my response is I would love to help you. The additional cost to make this happen is XYZ. Just sign right here to the changes on the contract and I will make it happen.

The client will then respond by great or no we cannot afford to do that. If they really have to have this done then you are not the reason it gets done, they don’t have the resources to make it happen or maybe the request then no longer important.

As a staff person I am not asking for more money. I am basically taking the burden of what is on my plate and the difficulties to make it happen back onto their plate.

My boss asks me to take photos of their event and in the past I would have said no I am already booked. I now say I am already covering another event at the same time. I am more than willing to cover this event if you need me to. Which event do you want me to cover and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot cover?

Seeing this photo of my daughter with Bell from Beauty and the Beast reminds me of how the Beast had to change and learn to love. The latest movie really gives us the back story of how self centered the man was and why he was turned into a Beast. He said no to the old lady rather than helping her.

Saying No makes you a problem–Saying Yes Makes you a problem solver.

Every time you say no the person requesting your help will now have to find someone else. Had you said yes their problem is solved.

Today when I get a request for something and I am already booked, I always offer to find someone for them. One of the best ways to keep those clients coming back is to handle the booking of the photographer and have the photographer work as a subcontractor for you. This way they show up shoot the project and you handle the billing. This way they continue to come back to you.

Another tip I share with the students is about how to network. I tell them to act like a freshman and not a senior. Here is a previous blog post that I did explaining this tip for you.


A side note about speaking to the class is I get to spend time with Mark Johnson. Every time I go I have lunch with Mark and each time I learn so much.

This time I listened and watched how Mark works really hard to present content to the students in a positive manner. He doesn’t speak down to the students. He challenges them in a way that he is also communicating that he know they are able to do whatever he is asking of them.

It is a joy to visit UGA and spend time with the students and Mark.

Photographers be like farmers in the Springtime–Prepare the fields

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

This is a time you can drive around your neighborhood and see a major difference in lawn care. This photo shows just the difference between spreading Weed & Feed with watering can make in the appearance of your lawn.

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.

B. C. Forbes

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

A few weeks ago I decided to really tackle the problem with bare spots on my yard. Well actually they are bigger than spots. There is a lot of shade so this will always be an area that needs more work than the sunny sections of the yard.

I went to HomeDepot and bought Powermate 10 in. 43 cc 2-Cycle Gas Cultivator to help turn the soil with the Rebel tall fescue, pelletized limestone, & Vigoro 15m weed & feed.

Just two weeks later and you can see in these photos the results of a much greener yard.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

Now here you can see the areas I didn’t cultivate did not produce as much grass. Some grass seed and fertilizer fell in those areas but the difference was in the turning the soil about 2″ – 3″ that buried the seeds and helped them grow.

With just celebrating Easter at our church I was reminded of the Parable of the Sower that Jesus told.

Matthew 13: 3-9
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

Photographer Tips:

You reap what you sow. We have all heard this before, but what can a photographer learn from this? You need to go back to your present clients and reconnect with them. You need to give them more information about you and what new things you are doing. This is like fertilizing your yard.

Now some ground is hard as rock. A farmer uses a tiller to break up ground that has not been farmed or has become extremely hard. A farmer uses a cultivator for loosening the soil in an existing planting area, weeding the area during the growing season and mixing compost into the soil.

You may have to do a lot a leg work and go and really beat the pavement finding those new clients. You may need to have some good examples to leave with them either through your website, e-newsletter, or printed material. You may need to get some friends that work with those potential clients to help introduce you and break the ice for you.


Even Jesus knew that your competition will try and sabotage all your good work. He told a parable about it as well. It follows the Parable of the Sower:

Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. 

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

They didn’t have weed & feed in those days. We as photographers may not have the weed control to put out either, but the lesson is clear others will try and attack you at times. Be careful at trying to fix this–you could end up damaging the good seed you did plant.

The message is clear to have a big harvest requires you to work the field. You need to get that tiller and break up the really hard ground. You need to use the cultivator to mix the seed and fertilizer. You will need to then water the field as well if you expect to see a crop that will be worthy of harvesting.

You can’t reap what you do not sow.

Key to growing your business—Surprise your Customer

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 50, ƒ/4, 1/160—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at 1/128 Power

How to make emotional connections

There are brands like Apple, Starbucks, Ritz Hotels and others you can think of that have some of the most loyal customers. These are what we call Raving Fans.

As Ken Blanchard wrote in his book, Raving Fans, a raving fan is “a customer who is so devoted to your products and services that they wouldn’t dream of taking their business elsewhere and will sing from the rooftops about just how good you are.”

So how do you get these loyal fans of your brand?

Ken Blanchard says to give the customers what they are asking for, and then give them 1% more. That 1% more is what I call the surprise.

Knowing what customers are asking for is the key ingredient. However, Steve Jobs did more than give customers what they were asking for, Apple anticipated needs that customers didn’t even know they had until they saw the Apple product.

Probably the most famous example of total customer service empowerment is the carte blanche monetary discretion The Ritz-Carlton have given to staff members for decades: $2,000 per employee per customer, to be used to solve any customer complaint in the manner the employee felt was appropriate.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 400, ƒ/1.8, 1/200—off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger with flash at 1/128 Power

I don’t have $2,000 to spare

There are more ways to give great customer service and surprises than with money.

Quick & Inexpensive Gestures

  • Listen and Remember—You have to really care about your customers to pull this off. This is where you listen for not just what they need but what is going on in their life. How you remember is the next time just asking them about the family member they told you about.
  • Thank You Note—Just a simple hand written thank you note goes a long way.
  • Mix Thank You Note & Remembering—Maybe the customer said something that made your day. Tell them about how that thought stuck with you and made your day.
  • Piece of Candy—I had a defective part from MagMod. I wrote to them and they sent me a new one and also just a small fun size bag of M&Ms. That was a great surprise. Cost very little but I have never had a company do anything like it before.
  • Operational Excellence—You cannot do any surprises if you product isn’t top notch. While your competition is doing everything to keep costs down, sometimes you need to spend a little more and keep that quality. One thing I notice my work stands out from many is skin tones. Too many people shoot on Auto White balance but I work hard to dial in the white balance to be very precise.
  • Quick Turn Around—When all your competition is always on a two week delivery, just turn your product delivery time faster. The one industry I think this is terrible is weddings. That is because many of those wedding shooters have other jobs. I know many shooters who are booked up because they deliver great images quickly.
  • Small Gift—You can remember their birthday or at a holiday just send a card, gift card or small gift just to let them know you are thinking of them. This works best if it is later after the job is complete and near a significant moment for the customer.
  • Celebrate their accomplishments—Keep in touch with your customers. If they like your facebook page you can see their posts. If something great happened in their life, comment on their post, give them a phone call or send a card. 
Biggest Surprise
How you talk about your competition and your colleagues can surprise your customer in one of two ways—Positive or Negative.

James 3:16-18 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
16 Whenever people are jealous or selfish, they cause trouble and do all sorts of cruel things. 17 But the wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. 18 When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice.

You may have heard if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all. That is great advice. I challenge you to also say something nice about your competition when you can think of nothing but something positive to say.

I often have clients call me and I am booked. I tell them I can find someone for them or I tell them let me send you a couple of names and links to their websites that I recommend for them.

I do my very best to talk about all the reasons these other photographers are great for the client. I have had even a few of those photographers come back and ask to use my recommendation for others. They had never had anyone talk so positive about them and their work.

Because I talk up the photographers the customers actually get excited to meet them and ask about some of the things I have bragged about on them.

Who will you surprise today?

Business Tips from Truett Cathy for Photographers

Truett Cathy promoting his book “How did you do it, Truett?”

Shortly after making this photo of Truett Cathy I was asked to be on retainer for Chick-fil-A. For the past eleven years I have had the privilege to work with such a wonderful organization.

I have learned a great deal from Truett Cathy and here are some of those tips for you.

Truett Cathy the founder of Chick-fil-A had a Bible verse he used as a compass for his life.

Proverbs 22:1 — “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches and loving favor than silver and gold.” [King James Version (KJV)]

Here is a more modern translation from The Voice that I prefer, “A good reputation is preferable to riches, and the approval of others is better than precious silver or gold.”

Every time I was around Truett I was inspired and entertained. He loved to have fun as hard as he worked.

Here are some quotes from Truett that I think every business person should adopt and would make them more successful.

“Fall in love with your work and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Truett would follow up this comment with if you are not having fun then you are not doing something right.

One of the keys to understanding this principle is learning the difference between GIVING and GETTING.

Too many people are focused on themselves. Its not all about you. Once you understand this it is easier to experience the joy of life.

“My riches are my family and my foster children. I try to store any material wealth in my hand, not my heart, so that I always feel free to give it away when the opportunity rises.” 

Being around Truett you see that he was very frugal and when he did spend money he was often getting a great deal. I heard more stories about a great deal Truett would get and I was always impressed.

“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else—our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”

No strings attached was the way Truett operated. He was the first to put a restaurant into a mall and to get people aware of his Chick-fil-A sandwich he gave away free samples.

If you met Truett you most likely were give a BOG—Be Our Guest card. All you had to do is go to a Chick-fil-A restaurant and give them the card and they gave you a sandwich. You don’t have to buy anything to get it.

“My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”

Everyday Chick-fil-a is checking to see that their standards for food preparation are at the highest they can be. They hire consultants to come into their restaurants and measure the operational side of the business. They look for ways to improve the experience for the customer and cut waste.

Chick-fil-A has a training program that helps not just train but retrain everyone to keep the customer always first.

“Many of the unexpected opportunities we encounter are small but significant.”

Words are carefully analyzed so that the customer feels appreciated. Truett Cathy trained the entire workforce that when someone says thank you the proper response is “My Pleasure.” I learned more about this little phrase through the years.

You see many people respond with “No Problem” when they are thanked. I was taught that “No Problem” communicates that this is not my job but I did it anyway. However, the phrase “My Pleasure” communicates that it is my job and I love to help you.

“Looking back I can see that I had been preparing for twenty-one years to open the first Chick-fil-A restaurant.”

Truett started the Dwarf House in Hapeville, GA back in 1946. He expanded to two restaurants, but one day the second one burned down. He started the restaurant with his brother Ben, but two years into their business Ben died in a plane crash.

Later the original Dwarf House had a fire and over the weekend Truett made all the repairs and kept on going.

“Sometimes success is disguised as hard work.”

As you can see there were many opportunities for Truett to give up and do something else.
Many of my photographer colleagues are going through some tough times. Other than winning the lottery the only other way for success is hard work.
“One of the most meaningful truisms I have learned about leadership is that it’s all about action.”

I have talked to many photographers who are struggling and the most common thing I hear from them is I know what I should do, I just don’t get around to doing it.

Truett learned his work ethic from his mother. Truett was moved to tears during an interview. The person interviewing Truett asked if he was OK. Truett said he just realized that the only time he ever saw his mother’s eyes closed was when she was in the coffin.

While Truett worked very hard he also will most likely be remembered for the blue signs for Chick-fil-A on the highways which also say, “Closed on Sunday.”

“Businesses are not dishonest or greedy, people are. Thus, a business, successful or not, is merely a reflection of the character of its leadership.”

Years ago one magazine wrote about the success of Chick-fil-A making about 1.5 Billion that year. They said that being closed on Sunday left half a billion dollars on the table. When someone asked Truett about it, he disagreed.

Truett believed by giving all his employees one day a week off that they worked harder those six days. The restaurants that never close drain their employees. They need a day of rest to be with their families and go to church if they choose.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing? I can hardly wait to get here.”

Truett was in his forties when he invented the Chicken Sandwich. He was 46 when the first Chick-fil-A restaurant open in Greenbriar Mall.

Truett was 52, the same age I am, when he started Team Member Scholarship Program and was 63 when he started the WinShape foundation.

At the age of 92 Truett was still working and open Truett’s Luau in Fayetteville, GA. A new menu, a new concept and new restaurant was what he created.

Truett passed the baton to his son Dan when Truett was 92 years old. This past Monday Truett Cathy passed away at the age of 93.

Here are a few more quotes for you from Truett:

Like wealth, poverty also has the power to build us up and make us appreciate what we have, or it can break our spirits. 

By ‘staying small,’ we also remain sensitive to the needs of others around us. 

As long as you are being kind to your customers why not be kind to each other. 

I realized the importance of doing a job and doing it right. Pleasing your customers and enjoying what you’re doing. 

I worked hard for a C, but I had to work… I find that most successful people are C students. 

I say the world is ruled by C students cause I was in that category, I didn’t get to go to college, because I was drafted when I finished, soon after I finished high school. 

More tips from Truett

Eleven Dos and Don’ts of Proven Entrepreneurial Success by S. Truett Cathy

Your photography gets better when you synthesize

Teaching in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]

Synthesizing is the combining of two things for something completely new. I have discovered through the years some things that by combining things in teaching is making my photography better.


I have discovered that as I came to understand Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey as a framework for telling stories, I could not only analyze a project and make it better I am also able to apply this storyline to my own life and make changes.

Studying the concept of the storyline helped me to then do a better job throughout the storytelling process. I was able to do a better job for pre-planning and in the midst of the shooting of the story adjust more quickly and improve the storytelling due to understanding of the power of the myth of The Hero’s Journey.

Steve Johnson did a great job a few years ago talking about how synthesis takes place in ideas.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU]

I really have enjoyed teaching a lot more than I thought I ever would. I was terrified at first, but over time learned to thrive.

Teaching students in the Storytelling workshop in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]

I have shared in many of my past blog posts about how teaching is the highest form of the learning process.

Combining photography, video, audio and writing I have been able to tell stories more effectively than when I was just doing photography.

When I started to teach I was perfecting my storytelling skills. I was having to connect the subject with the audience. Often that audience is just one person. I would have to understand enough about the audience to know how to choose the right metaphors to engage them and to teach different complex concepts.

[photo by Jeff Raymond]

One thing I noticed is that when I showed the audience something the understanding increased over just talking about it. I was synthesizing [combining] the visual and the spoken word to create a more meaningful and understandable presentation.

I have had many “Aha moments” where what many might consider a failure was a calibrating moment. You try a metaphor and realize this did not work with that audience. You may use it later, but then you must come up with another way to connect with the audience the subject you are trying to teach.

When pros take photos their first pictures they make in a studio, for example, is to check the exposure, white balance and often checking a composition. They then look at the photo and analyze it. Does it need to be lighter or darker? Is it too green or magenta? Do I need to do a custom white balance to fix it?

Teaching storytelling has me teaching a variety of subjects. Here are some of the topics I am teaching for example:

  • Software like Adobe Lightroom, PhotoShop, Adobe Premier or Final Cut
  • Lighting— Hot shoe flashes, studio strobes, radio remotes, flash metering, custom white balance, high speed sync, slow speed sync
  • Camera — ƒ-stops, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, EV, White Balance, composition, lens choices
  • Subjects — Sports, Fashion, Portraiture, Science, Features, Photo Stories, Environmental Portraits, 360º Panoramics, Landscape
  • Audio — microphones, setting levels, natural sound, voice over
  • Video/motion — formats, audio, story boarding, scripts

There are more topics, but you can see when I start to teach multimedia storytelling I am synthesizing all of this into the class. You cannot teach a subject effectively if you do not know it inside and out. The reason is once the student starts to ask questions on thing you haven’t thought about you must be able process the question and pull upon all this information to help formulate a response.

When you are able to answer the students questions and help everyone learn you get invited to teach more and more. You then get exposed to more and more questions which often may have you saying let me get back to you on that question. I then might find myself with a camera and working on a solution to the student’s question.

You see when you teach you will synthesize the material and through the process of combining the content you create new content. You will start to CREATE new IDEAS. These new creations are what will make your portfolio stronger and help you get more work.

Since I don’t always have a class to teach I use the blog as a way to help me continue to synthesize content and improve my skills. This is how you build a better portfolio—combining ideas.

How are you getting better?

The fastest way to being a great photographer

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/13, 1/180

The fastest way to become successful is to study the masters. There are a few things involved in studying the masters and it is not just being aware of their work.

Don Rutledge

Don Rutledge my mentor and friend for so many years until he passed away last year knew more about other photographers than anyone else I have ever known. I found out about a scrapbook he put together early in his career and continued to add too for many years.

Don clipped magazines for many years and studied those photos that moved him and this was in the early 1950’s. Back then the magazines like LIFE and LOOK was on almost everyone’s coffee tables across America. He also was looking at magazines like Mirror, National Geographic Magazine, and Sepia to add a few more names.

Don was studying psychology at the time and used many of the skills that he learned about observation and things like body language to analyze the styles of those early photojournalists.

Don was creating sections on different photographers like Eugene Smith and Robert Capa. He noticed many of these photographers had credit lines that showed Black Star a photo agency based in New York City represented them.

Read more about my mentor Don Rutledge here on my blog post about mentors.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/13, 1/180

My collection of photographer’s work grew and continues to grow even today. My personal library of photographers is larger than most any library I have been.

Don and I would talk for hours about the styles of the masters and how they were able to consistently shoot a certain style and why it resonated so well with the audience.

Inside the Artic Circle, Alaska, an Eskimo family waits for visitors to arrive at their home. My most favorite picture by Don. (photo by: Don Rutledge)

Here are a few tips that I think will help you start your own scrapbook of the masters.

  • Find those photographers that are recognized historically as greats in the industry.
    • Read their biographies
    • Buy books of their work
    • Study their composition and figure out how this is so compelling
  • Look at those current photographers work that is in fad right now
    • Why is their work considered great today?
    • Read reviews by critics
    • Go hear them speak in person & if you are lucky ask them questions
    • Buy their books
  • Copy their work. I don’t mean to go and copy their work and then try and fraudulently try to sell it as if it was their work. I think unless you can pull off their style or approach, then you may not just understand what they are doing.
  • Buy prints of the masters and hang them in your home. This will remind you of what you are setting the bar for your work to match.
  • Learn to be a good critic yourself. Learn how to articulate each of the master’s styles and distinguish their work from each other.
  • Remember even the masters’ shoot some crap. Learn to distinguish an artist’s own pieces of work from other pieces they produce. Be very careful not to think just because they are a big name that everything they shoot is great. This skill will take many years to perfect for you.
  • Get together with other photographers and discuss the masters. Ask people to share their thoughts.
You see the quickest way to success is to stand on the shoulders of those who went before you.

Don’t be a Naysayer

This photo is of the Mexico/US border in Douglas, Arizona. A record number of children are now crossing the Mexican border without their parents. You can read more about this here. Why? They are desperate to solve a problem they have and even risking their lives in the middle of the desert is better to them than remaining in their situation.

I mention this as to remind us that when people come to you with a problem you are either part of the solution or not.


nay•say•er: a person who says something will not work or is not possible : a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something

For many years while I was a staff photographer I was classified by people as a “naysayer” due to how often people came to me to ask me to do something and I explained why it wasn’t possible.

I remember the moment when it finally hit me how negative I was being when my co-worker jokingly said that I always was saying no. While I was hurt by the comment I realized he was right.

Are you a Naysayer?

My experience has been there are more naysayers on staffs than freelance. You cannot grow your business by saying no. You must learn how to say yes. Those freelancers who say no too often are soon looking for another career. However being on a staff their is a little more protection to being negative. However this has a time limit as well.

A good clue that you might be a naysayer is other people are starting to do what you perceived as your job.

“Why are they bringing in an outsider to do what I am suppose to be doing?” is a question that you might be asking if you are a naysayer. While working as a staff photographer for a college I couldn’t understand why the admissions office was hiring freelance photographers to shoot their recruiting catalogues.

This is not always due to being a naysayer. Many colleges around the country have staff photographers who do most all the work for a school. However, when it comes to the advertising of the school, they are looking for a particular style. As long as you are offering to help them and the photographer coming in to shoot then you should be fine.

If you feel threatened by this outside photographer take a deep breath. Ask yourself has anyone come to me and I answered them with reasons their request isn’t possible. If you did then you should feel threatened.

Too often people take the attitude that is their job and the rules say I have this responsibility. You do have this until you start becoming an obstacle to people in the company trying to get their projects done.

Be an Optimist

The opposite of the naysayer is the optimist. When people come to you with a request learn how to turn their request into a reality. While someone’s request has some really huge problems look first for something positive. Big clue if nothing seems good about their request at the bare minimum you can start with being excited that they came to you with their idea.

“I am honored that you thought of me to help you with your project,” is a great way to start on a positive note.

When talking about an obstacle that needs to be addressed be sure to talk about a solution. Let’s say you don’t have a particular piece of equipment to make that happen. Tell them if we can rent or buy a piece that you don’t have that it would make it possible. Maybe you just need an extra hand to make it happen. You know for me to move the couch from this room to another I just need some help carrying it, would you or can you find someone to help? I am more than willing, but am busy at the moment and could use some help to find another person.

The trick is to let them know from your experience that we need to address something for their to be success.  I am more than willing to help you, but my boss has me working on these projects. While I can ask him/her to let me help you it would be better for you to make the request for my time.

Remember Storyline

If you look at the elements of storyline it will help remind you why you need to be the optimist and not the naysayer.

The person coming to you has a Conflict/Task and they are looking to you to help them as a Guide/Resource. If you say no, their issue didn’t go away. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz she will move on down the yellow brick road to find the solution to her problem.

The difference between the Optimist and the Naysayer is the Assignment they give to the person. Give them the solutions [Actions] that will help their story turn into a Comedy and not a Tragedy. You saying no is just not an option to someone who needs to solve a problem.

When someone proposes a new program that will compete with your program tell them how you want to help and really need to understand their goals. Also ask for their critique on how the present program you are doing isn’t meeting those needs. DON’T be quick to defend your program.

If you listen you may learn that your program isn’t serving all the needs or maybe you need to just tweak the communication about your program to show how it is addressing those needs. Either way there is a perception that is not meeting the needs of the audience.

Your role may change going forward, but by learning how to listen and adjust you make yourself more valuable to them and the organization.

As long as you are helping the organization address the new issues facing it then you are part of the solution and will have a job in the future. If you try and protect and keep things the way they are you are not growing and slowly helping the organization die.

Photographers you will lose clients

Sometimes you will feel like this UNC football player being swarmed by LSU. Your competition seems to have the upper hand and no matter what you do nothing seems to be working.

No matter which play you run you feel that have it in for you. Your competition is taking you down day after day.

You then try to take them out in some way and they seem to be just beyond your reach and you just cannot catch them at all.

Why the sports analogy?

How many teams this year will have a losing season? How many of these teams pack it up and get out of the game?

You need to acknowledge first that you will lose occasionally. The Super Bowl Champions this year were the Seattle Seahawks. They lost 3 games last year and were the best team in the league. Very seldom does the Super Bowl Champions have a perfect record. If they do the year before or after they have losses.

You need to be realistic about how often you are losing a client. It happens for a variety of reasons. Most of the reasons you lose a client are often out of your control. You played your best possible game and the other team had some advantage that day.

Do you have cheerleaders?

One of the best things I have going for me is my family that cheers me on everyday. I even have some clients that sell me to their friends and that helps me get new clients.

Sometimes it is just one person that helps keep you going, but that is what you need. Be sure you have people around you that are your cheerleaders.

Do you have a coach?

Also, you need a coach. This is someone who is watching what you are doing and talks to you about your strategy. You can have people cheering you on that just want you to succeed and without the coach to give you a reality check you will soon be cut from the industry.

Take the time to do like every football team and go and review the tapes of the games. Analyze your actions and see if there is something you can do to improve your game.

Another thing that all sports teams do before playing a team is to analyze their game footage. Remember those who are beating you all the time know your game. They beat you because they can see your weakness and exploit that with the client.

Did you see the NFL draft?

Last night the NFL teams picked new talent and traded talent off their teams. They have analyzed their weaknesses and are making changes for next season.

This summer they will have workouts and refine their team even more than today.

What are you doing today that you need to stop? What are you not offering your clients that you need to add to your skills?

If you have been through a losing season then this is the time to rebuild. Maybe you need to go to a workshop like the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Workshop where you learn how to tell stories using audio, video and stills.

Call me and take a one day personal workshop on lighting or business practices. This is  a capital investment. Just like the teams that pay a lot to get the first round pick you need to invest into your business or you may have another losing season.

Is your life as a photographer a good story? Here is how to make it better.

To be the subject of a story that is compelling requires the subject to be called to a task that is outside their comfort zone. It is necessary for the subject’s survival and to the benefit of others.

Donald Miller is a best-selling American author and public speaker based in Portland, Oregon. He writes a great deal about storyline on his blog here http://storylineblog.com/.  Miller says that a story is a sense-making device. A good story brings about clarity whereas our normal lives seem disjointed.

Miller uses the parallel of music and how it parallels story. Sounds are just noise until they are put into a form. That form transforms the noise into music. A storyline is no different to Miller. The author has put together a series of events so as to be told through a set form.

This is the basic formula that not only Miller uses to tell many stories but movies like the Hunger Games and Star Wars used.

The very first thing that takes place for a character in a story is a conflict must happen or you will lose the audience.

When you are just enjoying your life and you are doing everything to keep some normalcy into your life this is a sure sign of a boring story.

Here in this sports photo of a quarterback being pursued by what looks like most of the defense and no one between them you have all the makings of the story, minus the ending. The character has a problem of getting tackled. He has trained up to now in practices and with a coaching staff to prepare for this moment. All this is implied with the school team uniform. The task is simple move the ball forward to keep the ball for your team or make a touchdown. The outcome is either a comedy or tragedy.

This is John Howard Griffin transformed as a black man while he was doing the research for his book Black Like Me. Sitting beside Griffin is the photographer Don Rutledge who followed him documenting his trials as a black man in the south. This was done in 1959 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

John Howard Griffin walking down street in New Orleans.

The two of them traveling together through the deep south for the book was extremely dangerous. Paul Guihard was a French journalist covering the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1960s. He was murdered in rioting at the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford after James Meredith attempted to enroll at the all-white school. He was shot in the back at almost point-blank range by an unknown assailant near the Lyceum building. Guihard’s case was closed without success and never re-investigated. In his last dispatch made the very same day, he had written “The Civil War has never ended.”

Just taking on this project was a story in itself. Not only was Griffin a character in the story, Don Rutledge was also being transformed through the coverage.

I remember Don trying out new camera systems that would stretch him to learn the new system and in doing so it stretched his photography. He was always putting himself in new situations to capture new stories. By the end of his career he had traveled into more than 150+ countries of the world.


Some of the best stories are not the ones that are the big hit on New York Times best books or the blockbusters in Hollywood. The best stories are the ones that are most clearly told.

You see our lives are like run on sentences. What we do throughout our days are often not a great sequence for a story. It is quite disjointed.

A great story starts by establishing the hero of the story and the problem they face going forward.

The best way for you to grow is to get out of your comfort zone.

I am not qualified

Too often you will turn down great opportunities because you feel ill equipped. Hey that is the problem facing Luke Skywalker. He will go off and meet Yoda to train and have him help him with a game plan.

I bought this Dodge Viper model for $12 and then spent time lighting an all black car to make it interesting. This was my way of challenging myself for a day in the studio.

Find a problem

Step One—The first thing to grow as a photographer is to find a problem. maybe it is a story that is difficult or maybe it is getting a photo of something from an angle no one has done before. Whatever it is you need to have a problem you need to tackle.

Step Two—Find a guide to help you. This means you either find resources through reading, videos or maybe find someone who can teach you. Most likely the guide you look to will be someone who has been there and done that.

Step Three—Make an action plan on how you will go forward to deal with your problem.

Step Four—Take action. Don’t procrastinate. Go and get your feet wet.

Step Five—Evaluate yourself. Was this a comedy or tragedy? It is a good story either way and you will learn something from it that will equip you to go forward. 

Photographers: Daylight Savings Time—More Than Clocks

Menu for resetting the Fujifilm X-E2

Saturday’s Headline—Daylight Saving Time: Set Your Clocks Ahead Tonight

Did you get all your clocks set forward?  I know it usually takes a couple weeks for me to remember all the clocks I have around me.

One that many photographers forget is the ones on their camera. Be sure you take the time today to adjust your camera’s clock.

My Nikon D4 lets you even set the Time Zone you are in. This is great when traveling and you really just need to show the time zone you are shooting in.

Many people use this time each fall and spring to remind them to do more than just change their clocks. I recommend everyone add to the list of things to do around clock changes each spring and fall.

Here are some for photographers to do that need to be done every so often, but not something you need to do all the time.

  1. Firmware Updates
    1. For your camera
    2. For your lenses
    3. For your flashes
  2. Software updates
Here are two links to check if you have a Nikon or Fujifilm camera.  
The reason you want to get everything updated is to get the best performance out of your gear.