This past weekend I spent both Saturday and Sunday doing headshots for Columbus State University Theatre students.
Here you can see the basic setup for the photos.
I had two lights on the white background and would turn them off for the grey background look.
I kept them on for the white background. I also had a hair light up straight behind the subject.
My main light was a beauty dish and I kept the aperture at ƒ/5.6 with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8 lens. Not too shallow of a depth-of-field and not too deep either.
I prefer ƒ/4 to ƒ/5.6 when shooting individual headshots. Occasionally I will use really shallow depth-of-field of ƒ/1.4, but you and the subject must be really still to make that work.
The fun thing with Theatre students is they enjoy trying all kinds of expressions.
So we had some fun looking surprised.
We tried a lot of expressions.
The one thing that happened after trying some goofy photos, surprise photos and even being sad was that the expressions that followed were more genuine and authentic. Actors are up for the fun and challenge, but even they need to loosen up and the best way to do that is to push the limits and then dial it back.
One of the biggest mistakes new photographers make that are trying to do photography as a profession is not investing soon enough in a light kit that lets them take photos with the light source off of their camera.
The super simple kit I have above is so inexpensive to take off-camera flash photos.
Here is what I recommend for just about everyone and they make this kit for Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Fuji. There are many other solutions like this, but just invest in an off camera light source.
$225.00 – Godox VING V860II TTL Li-Ion Flash with X1T TTL Trigger Kit
$57.15 – Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand – 6.2′
$17.90 – Godox S-Type Speedlite Bracket for Bowens
$20.50 – Westcott Optical White Satin Diffusion Umbrella (45″)
This alone will make your photos stand out. This photo below is without a flash.
Now just look at everything the same but an off-camera flash can do at 45º from the camera.
The only difference between the photos for the most part is the off-camera flash.
Which one of the photos will people pay you to take more often than the other? The one with the flash, because they can get the other photo with their camera on their phone.
Matthew 18:3 ESV And said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Little children have a special humbleness and are easily taught. Most adults are not this way. A little child is enthusiastic and eager to learn, and has a love that is forgiving. He has simple trust.
My mentor Don Rutledge says, “Photography … forces us to see, to look beyond what the average person observes, to search where some people never think to look. It even draws us back to the curiosity we experienced in our childhood.
“Children are filled with excitement about their surrounding world: Why is the sky blue? Why is one flower red and another yellow? How do the stars stay up in the sky? Why is the snow cold?
“As the years go by that curious child matures into a normal adult with the attitude of ‘who cares anymore about those childish questions and answers?’ The ‘seeing beyond what the average person sees’ fills us constantly with excitement and allows us to keep the dreams of our youth.”
I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer. — Stephen Hawking
“When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die.” — Lillian Smith
If you have a staff job in the communications field the odds of being let go are higher than ever for very good reasons.
One of the largest costs for an employer is healthcare. Freelancers come without that cost to the employer. When it comes to cost savings many companies are seeing this a good reason to outsource their communications to freelancers and agencies.
When a company hires a creative person they are stuck with that person’s creativity. As the company grows and needs to change it is much more difficult to do that with creatives who cannot produce different kind of work beyond their own style.
“Say goodbye to full-time jobs with benefits”
“In the Future, Employees Won’t Exist” was the headline of Tech Crunch story.
Microsoft has nearly two-thirds as many contractors as full-time employees. Even the simplest business structures, sole proprietorships, have increased their use of contract workers nearly two-fold since 2003.
“40% of America’s workforce will be freelancers by 2020” said Quartz.
“Stanley if you put in as much work as you have been doing at Georgia Tech into your freelance you will be successful,” said a friend in 2002 when I started freelancing full-time.
That was the most profound statement at the time and made me think of treating my freelancing just like a full-time job.
One of the best mentors I have ever had in my life is Ken Touchton. When I started out freelancing full-time Ken called every week to check on me.
Ken told me how when he started out he would get up, get dressed with a shirt and tie and then go to the next room and start his day, even if he had no assignments to go anywhere.
If you find yourself laid off and having to look at freelancing let me give you just a few tips that are very general but worked for me.
Photographer are you Liked or Loved – Your need table food and soul food. The best way to get both is the personal project that shows your business solution through a photo project for example that shows how you solved this problem for someone.
How much you can make as a photographer? – You need a good understanding of the cost of doing business. One key element is to know your personal family budget. If you don’t know what your personal bills are and how much you bring in and the difference you are probably going to fail in business.
Create a calendar with actions for you to do. Here are some things that should be on your list:
People to contact by phone [weekly] – These are your clients and prospects.
Targeted marketing campaign – this is where you write a letter for example that targets people in your database that are in a particular industry.
Blog – this is where you share something that continues to build your reputation as an expert. I recommend three times a week.
e-Newsletter – I send one out monthly to my clients. This is just a way to reconnect with your audience. Remember to think of why they want to get this not that you want them to hire you.
Snail mail – you can send hand written thank you cards to all your clients that hire you recently. Do this after each job. Maybe create a postcard or some other mailing. Remember they have to physically touch this before it goes in the mail, whereas emails will get automatically deleted and never seen.
Networking events – You need to be out and meeting new people. I call this fishing with a big net.
Workshops – You need to continue to grow in knowledge so plan to attend meetings through the year to help you expand your skills.
I think this photo illustrates my inner frustrations when I am asked to do just one more thing or someone wants to add something to my load. The cops are not seeing the big sign saying “Still Too Busy” but are right their to arrest me for not complying.
Usually there are two answers for a request–1) Yes and 2) No. Sometimes you even can supply more information to the person asking to see if they will withdraw their request.
There are some really legitimate responses that most people would take back their request. Say today is your wedding anniversary and you have plans you should tell them. Maybe you have nonrefundable tickets to an event you have had planned for a long time.
I will never forget a moment when I was shocked when the person I was saying no to wanted complete access to my calendar to then call everyone to have them rescheduled so that I would do their project.
That particular time I was reporting to 5 different directors. I needed a hand big time to pull me out of this quandary.
I wish I had known then what I know now. What helped me was to see this from the requester’s perspective. 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.
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.
My new goal since learning this technique 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 have this event covered. Which event do you want me to cover and would you like me to get another photographer to cover the event I cannot cover?
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.
Dorie, my wife, knew when making plans for our children when they were young that there was a time limit. It was about 2 hours and then it was as if we hit a wall.
We like being at a fair: there are rides, games, entertaining acts, and tons of food. It’s exciting at first, then it becomes overwhelming, and finally it makes you sick (and you hate it!).
When you’re sick of something it shows in your attitude and performance most of the time. Just like our kids would be at places like Disney World.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
Often we hit the wall in our careers just as we did when we were young. It isn’t fun for us any more. If you are a freelancer you can feel that you are just not in step with your client as you once were.
I have discovered this happens with every client that I hit a wall at some point. It is the same feeling that happened with our kids on an outing.
I think what happens is we have become too focused on what we do in our jobs and less on the people that we work with in doing those jobs. This can happen to you if you are extroverted or introverted.
Too much focus can be a problem: It drains your brain of energy, makes you care less about people, and prevents you from seeing what is happening around you. When you become more focused on say a product that you are producing in a job rather than realizing you are working with other people and they need to enjoy the process and not just the end result.
I came to this conclusion when over the years I find that I must rekindle a working relationship. In the past I would work on my portfolio or some new skill to talk to my client. I was thinking the client needed to see my skills are valuable.
While working on some materials this latest round of rekindling relationships I realized that no matter what I did it was going to look like I was going to do some “Explaining” to the people in the meetings I was setting up.
This approach can be very condescending to others. It actually undermines the relationship that you are trying to nurture.
Thinking about his it really hit me – I had not worked enough on the relationship with my clients.
In your work have you been measuring using your skills in our work as well as developing relationships?
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We spend a lot of time at work; there is nothing worse than someone who cannot get along with others. It’s so important and involves being helpful, understanding the unwritten rules, being respectful, reliable and competent.
Here is a simple way to start this conversation, “We’ve been doing business together for almost a year. I’d like to take you to lunch to get to know you a little better.”
The single most important thing you can do at a business meal is to listen. You want to hear what the other person cares about, what their interests are, what makes him or her tick. They need to know you care about them as people and not just the money they give you to pay your bills.
One time we were at Disney and we ran into my daughter’s friend from home. While normally our daughter would be ready for a break from the theme park this “Relationship” gave a burst of energy to go through not just our daughter but the entire family.
Theme parks can be like your product in business. At a certain point this really isn’t going to keep your client enthused. Remember friendships do keep your help energize business relationships as well.
SOBERING statistics published earlier this month show that the annual rate of suicide in the US has risen by almost 28 per cent between 1999 and 2016.
I believe this is affecting businesses as well as individuals.
Both celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade committed suicide this month and has helped to open the can of worms which many people today are experiencing. That topic is depression.
For this topic I believe many of us are experts. Almost everyone will go through events in their lives that cause upheaval and crisis.
Depression causes one to look for relief. Many who are dealing with addiction started with some sort of depression.
I believe in today’s economy I am seeing signs that companies are showing signs of depression.
Today many are trying to be the one man band and do it all. Just look at some of the advertising campaigns which are not so much cohesive as just everywhere.
When you are depressed you are prone to reach for things that give you pleasure, but are not always the best for you. Ask any addict.
So many of us are looking for Likes or comparing our life to other people’s Facebook feeds.
We have now gone for just liking a post to loving, laughing, wow, sad and even mad.
We are losing our compasses on how to navigate life. We are now looking to measure what is good or bad based on skewed analytics.
Opioids are primarily used for pain relief, including anesthesia. Many in business reach out for things like an opioid to make them feel better. That person has more followers than us lets hire them. They can make it better. Remember opioid not only can relieve pain it can anesthetize you. I think many in business today are operating in a fog.
Communications departments have moved away from what is a solid story to choosing to use work based on the content providers social media feed of likes and number of followers.
Teaching in college and in workshops I experience more students who feel like they are already good photographers based on their social media likes from friends.
Brandon Stanton, creator of Humans of New York said, “Photography felt like a treasure hunt, and even though I sucked at it, I’d occasionally stumble upon a diamond. And that was enough to keep me wanting more.”
Stanton’s success is based in one simple truth–Everyone Has A Story!
People were drawn to his storytelling and yes this ultimately led to him having a huge following, but he didn’t go out and find someone doing something and copy it. He just went with his interest in the people on the streets of NYC. At first he focused on those who were visually exotic, but slowly he discovered that everyone had a story.
Instead of you trying to find the next “Cool Trend” why not go with storytelling.
Stories allow the listener to learn vicariously and discover lessons seemingly on their own.
Stories make us feel a part of the situation.
Storytelling is tapping into people’s emotions that will help you to influence or persuade them.
Stories build connections between people. Those who tell stories are the ones building strong connections with their audience.
Storytelling is powerful because it engages the entire brain. A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect.
Let me work with you and make your stories visual so that they more engaging.
Give me a call and let’s capture the stories of how your business continues to transform people’s lives. It will lead to more business.
This year I got a notice in the mail from the IRS requesting documents. This is an Audit.
Every year when I file my taxes I have been using TurboTax.
For the past 10+ years I pay a little amount for their accounting service that helps you in the case of an audit. While working with them to get all my documents in order for the IRS I learned a few things that I think you need to know.
Three Documents for Expenses
I learned through this process that there are three things you are needing to document and have ready like a book keeper.
Invoice – Need to show what you were billed for from the provider Payment – Need to show that it was paid You Paid It – Besides showing it was paid, you must show that you paid it and not someone on your behalf.
I am using Quicken for Mac to track all my expenses. Here are a few of the ways I pay bills:
Check – Checking Account Visa Debit Card – Checking Account MasterCard American Express Card PayPal
I am paid two ways
In the software Quicken you can attach to every entry documents. Before I can attach those receipts, invoices and statements I must have a digital file like a PDF or a picture. I bought a Neat Desk Scanner years ago and have been using their software, which is now an online system.
The Neat Desk scanner lets me scan a stack of receipts making things go much faster than a flat bed scanner would do.
After scanning documents I save them in a separate folder for the year they were created. Then I attach them in Quicken to the transaction.
In Quicken they have categories already for you to use and customize. The best part for working with your Taxes is they have all the Schedules included so that you can assign a category to a tax schedule like I have in this example with the Camera Repairs in Schedule C: Repairs and maintenance.
While I have all my documents I quickly realized the problem was getting exactly what the IRS needed in a format that met their requirements was the biggest problem.
I had to go through my AMEX & Bank statements and circle every item related to a particular category showing that this was paid with my money.
You can also do this with a scanned receipt of each and every transaction.
It was easier for me to contact all the Doctors, Hospitals and medical providers and ask for a 2016 statement for all charges than providing scanned invoices. I was missing a few of the statements because I had thought I just needed to show I paid the bill not show the invoice as well.
Using Quicken I was able to create a spreadsheet of each category and payee for a particular topic that I was being asked to provide evidence to the IRS. I was mainly dealing with medical expenses due to a very expensive year for our family with medical issues.
I was misinformed
I had always been told you just need to put all your receipts in a box and if ever audited just show up and they can go through them if they want. WRONG!!!
My accountant informed me that the IRS on numerous accounts with her have said they are not their clients book keeper. You must have this in order. Also the box could only work when you are actually called in. You don’t want this to happen. You have opportunities to provide all this electronically to the IRS and handle without going for the face-to-face audit.
Spreadsheet – Be able to provide spreadsheet for any category which Quicken helps with this Invoices & Statements – Scan all these or have them ready to scan if audited Receipts – Scan all these or have them ready to scan if audited Bank & Credit Card Statements – Keep all of them and have them ready if you need to scan them for the IRS during an Audit Scanner – I recommend a scanner that is a sheet feed scanner capable of scanning multiple documents and software to help organize you documents. Accountant – Work with an accountant to do at least your initial setup of how you need to gather documents for Taxes and for possible audit.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.