How to handle client negotiations

The Slam Dunk

A Slam Dunk in business is when you exceed the client’s expectations. I have made a mistake many times throughout my career of not doing a great job of managing those expectations.

We have all had the client call and the bills stacking up, and due to our need to get the job, we rush to do whatever is necessary to get the job. This is like going to the grocery store when you are hungry. You will make unnecessary purchases.

Houston Astros Chick-fil-A night [NIKON D3, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 6400, 1/1000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 190)]

Know the client’s expectations

When you have a brand new client, managing expectations is so important. You need not just listen and hear what they are saying, but I often ask for examples of what they are used to working with or if they have not worked with a photographer, examples of what they would like that they have seen somewhere before.

This week I had two new clients I had never worked with before. In both cases, I asked if they could send me some examples of what they are looking for so that we are on the same page.

I had one client send me work that would take little effort to meet and exceed the quality of work they showed me. However, the other client was talking to me about a photojournalistic coverage of where I was shadowing someone. Still, the photos they sent me were well-crafted lifestyle photos that would be used in an effective advertising campaign.

The funny thing is that one client’s budget was more like a campaign budget, and the other was a beer budget.

In the case where the budget was cheap, the taste was luxury. This is where your attitude and negotiation skills help educate the client or price the job correctly to ensure you can deliver the product to meet those expectations.

Father Flor Maria Rigoni is a missionary with the San Carlos Scalabrini and works in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 82)]

It is a conversation

Be careful not to jump to the very end of the process and write a contract that is a take it or leave it situation. Pace yourself.

I talked with my contact and let them know that the price range would be three to four times more than we had first discussed if the images they showed were precisely what they wanted. I also asked if they were offering a situation or more the quality they are looking for in the photo.

I don’t need to spend much time producing an estimate for an advertising shoot when they need a groundbreaking photo.

I always do my best to start with how I am able and more than willing to meet their expectations and can make it happen for them. I let them know my concern is always getting them the most for their budget.

Ryan Patrylo’s family [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 98)]

Don’t be shortsighted, Have Foresight

Your creativity should not be limited to your work with the camera. You need to make the entire experience for your client so unique that they love your work and tell others about you.

Your goal should be to surprise your client. One of the ways I started to shake my clients was to use an off-camera flash. Just like here with this family photo.

Mike Dodson [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/50, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 200)]

In this photo of the hunter, it was raining. My flash is covered in zip lock bags. Had I not used the moment, the skin color would not be as accurate, and the dynamic range would have made the photo look incredibly flat.

One way I continue to surprise my customers is a quick turnaround. I shot a client’s son’s wedding before the Bride and Groom left for the honeymoon the next day; they had all the photos in an online gallery. Compared to most wedding photographers who take a month or two to get those photos of the bride and groom, I had surprised them.

I have many clients constantly changing things at the last moment. My response is always that it is OK. I am here to make it happen for you—[Side Note: I do price to cover my need to be flexible]. My clients often make changes, and I will do my best to move things to work to get their projects done. However, if I cannot make it happen for me to be there, I line up a photographer/video person to give them the same quality as me or better.

Fossil Rim Wildlife Center [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/2000, ƒ/10, (35mm = 14)]

Take care of your photographer colleagues

This reminds me to be sure you are developing great friends in the industry. You want to give them work when you can, and they should do the same for you over time.

If a job is not suited well for you, take care of the client and find a photographer who will be a good fit. They often will come back to you for other assignments when you show them you are looking out for their best interests over just yourself.

On The Same Page

When you and the client are working from the same page of notes, your ability to meet and exceed their expectations is something you can manage. However, suppose at any point you make assumptions and don’t verify their expectations for a job. In that case, you can often find yourself reshooting for the same underestimated budget and therefore losing money or the customer overall.

Here is a little secret I discovered over time. When you ask these questions to the client to clarify the scope of a job, it makes you look more like an expert, and their trust increases in you.

Still Photographers – Showstoppers

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/80

When you go and experience the Theatre, you see the story’s sequencing into moments. Within each scene, there is build to a crescendo, and then all of these different scenes build to a showstopper most of the time.

A showstopper is a performance or segment of a theatrical production that induces a positive audience reaction strong enough to pause the show.

People’s Fest 2013 @ Atlantic Station Celebrating the People’s Food Truck launch featuring Marc Broussard + Sonia Leigh + Ben Deignan + Jameson Elder Food trucks + food curated by chef Ford Fry of The Optimist + JCT. Kitchen VIP event hosted by chef Shaun Doty of Bantam & Biddy + Chick-A-Biddy [Nikon D4, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/125]

Now, comparing the two photos above, the main difference is that one is a theatre production, and the other is real life in real-time.

For a scene to be a real showstopper, the actors must portray what would be in a real-life situation through their body language, expressions, and tone of voice.

Now what the theatre has in common with still photography is that real life is more like video and moving constantly and with theatre and the still image, the pause of the action allows the audience to absorb the moment.

St. Pius X High School [Nikon D3, NIKKOR 85mm ƒ/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]

In life, we have moments where we ponder and think. If a writer is describing this brief moment, it may take four or five pages to tell all that weighs on the character and their thoughts and dreams. In real life, you cannot hear or read people’s thoughts. However, in real life, the person’s expressions often communicate some of this, which a writer only has text to convey.

RHS advanced drama presents: Almost Maine by John Cariani [Nikon D750, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]

Actors must convey those four to five pages of text from a book into the play version of that book. The playwright may have notes to the side of the script to help the actor know what they are trying to communicate, but still, what it boils down to is capturing in a moment the expression, body language, and tone to speak to the audience the character’s thoughts.

Photojournalists/photographers are not actors in a play. If they are a photographer and are shooting a scene that will be used in advertising to sell something or doing public relations for a corporation, they often will assume the director role. They will place the actors and create the scene to communicate all they need to capture to move the audience to action.

If they are photojournalists, they cannot take on the director role. They take on different parts. The best way to describe that role has been to be the fly on the wall. The photojournalists can fly around the room looking for a better perspective to see what is going on. Then they capture moments as they happen to later communicate to their audience what happened.

Into the Woods Performances [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.3, 1/400]

What do the novelist, playwright, director, actor, and photographer all have in common, regardless of their role? Each is aware of what they are communicating and why. To move the audience, you must know what you are trying to capture as a photographer.

President Jimmy Carter teaching Sunday School Class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA [Nikon D750, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]

If you are a photographer, you are capturing moments for which you hope they make others pause. As a photojournalist, I have learned to do my research before I show up. Listen a great deal with my ears and eyes. I clarify through questions to understand the situation, so I am doing all I can to be true to the moment and not preconceived thoughts. I look for those moments that will capture and hopefully be the showstopper that makes you pause and absorb the moment.

I want my pictures to be worth the price of admission my clients pay to see them. 

Some of my favorite Sports photos

Nikon D100, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180

Georgia Tech’s #2 Isma’il Muhammad slams one early over NC State’s #14 Engin Atsur during play at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia, February 13, 2005. The final score was NC State 53 and Georgia Tech 51.

Isma’il is one of those photos most players either love or hate. I love that Isma’l flew over the NC State player Atsur for a slam. It made the ESPN highlights play over and over during that week. When Isma’l graduated, the coach had a large print made and gave it to him.

Kerri Walsh spiked the volleyball against Jenny Krop & teammate Nancy Mason in the 3rd round of the Women’s $100,000 AVP Crocs Tour at Atlantic Station in Atlanta on Saturday, May 31, 2008. Team Walsh won. [Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/2000]

I just thought I would share some of my favorite sports images that I now have in my most recent “Sports Portfolio.”

This first photo shows Kerri Walsh spiking the volleyball against Jenny Krop and teammate Nancy Mason in the third round of the Women’s $100,000 AVP Crocs Tour at Atlantic Station in Atlanta.

Georgia Bulldog’s #2 Defensive Back Maurice Smith breaks up the pass to North Carolina Tarheel’s #3 Ryan Switzer in their win over UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome on September 3, 2016. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 36000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Georgia Bulldog’s #2 Defensive Back Maurice Smith breaks up the pass to North Carolina Tarheel’s #3 Ryan Switzer in their win over UNC 33 to 24 during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome.

I love the photo because it shows the anticipation of the big play. We see both the offense and defense in a very competitive and athletic moment. Both players appear to be giving it their all at the moment.

Georgia Bulldog’s Freshman Running Back #35 Brian Herrien Scored his first collegiate touchdown. In contrast, UNC’s Safety #15 Donnie Miles could not stop him during tonight’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on September 3, 2016, at the Georgia Dome. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 45600, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

I love the effort made by both the teams during the competition. Games are about getting a touchdown and defending, all wrapped up in a split second.

Jaron Nunnemaker attempts to ride Hot Rod during the 2004 RBR Atlanta Classic at the Georgia Dome.

Bull Riding is the wildest and most dangerous event in rodeo. In the American tradition, the rider must stay atop the bucking bull for eight seconds to count as a qualified ride. Then, the rider tightly fastens one hand to the bull with a long braided rope. It is a risky sport and has been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports.”

Bull Riding is the wildest eight seconds in all sports and the most dangerous event in rodeo. The Cobb County Classic Rodeo is held at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000]

The bulls are rated and even more famous in many ways than the cowboys who ride them. For example, this bull had 27 consecutive buck-offs; now, that is 28. A cowboy must stay on the bull 8 seconds for the ride to count. Then they get a score that considers the bull they are riding.

Bull Riding is the wildest eight seconds in all sports and the most dangerous event in rodeo. The Cobb County Classic Rodeo is held at Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000]

When a bull is determined unrideable, every once in a while, the Professional Bull Riders Association has a million-dollar ride. At $125,000 per second, this bonus ride offers one of the largest payouts any athlete has ever received for the time required to compete. In comparison, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo received roughly $12 million to play in 15 NFL games in 2013. At 54,000 seconds per season, it took Romo 4,500 seconds to make $1 million.

Georgia Tech’s #1 B. J. Elder lays up and passes Duke’s #2 Luol Deng during second-half play at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum in Atlanta, Georgia. Duke beat Tech 82-74.
[Nikon D100, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180]

I love basketball, and this is my favorite place to photograph teams that take it to the net. You can see the effort in their facial expressions and how close they are to either making the basket or defending it.

Mike Trapani is chased down by Chris Campbell and finally tagged out by Nick Chigges of the College of Charleston during play at the Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2x, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000]

I love the steal in baseball. If I am in the correct position, I can capture the effort of both offense and defense as they try to advance a base or stop it.

Nikon D2X, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/16, 1/200–[6] Alienbees B1600

Sometimes, my favorite moments were when I made the team photo to help sell season tickets. Seeing this photo on the side of buses around town to promote Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2006 season was a pleasure.

I hope you enjoyed some of the moments in sports and mine through the years.

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 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 in front of their 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 committed 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 differently? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the question of WHY it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Many of you might think that Jesus was just a pushover and a doormat based on washing 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

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

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

Compassion means “to suffer together.” Emotion researchers define it as the feeling that arises when confronting another’s suffering and feeling motivated to relieve that suffering.

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

Sadly today, it takes a lot to move the human spirit to get the audience’s attention on caring for those in need. Covering those worldwide who, by no fault of their own, are struggling to live and find audiences not responding 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 its restaurants.

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

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

You may think 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 customer satisfaction because sales are always there with this model.

What photojournalism has taught me

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 400, ƒ/11, 1/250 

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work is both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media. ––Wikipedia

In photojournalism, you are capturing moments rather than creating them. Therefore, photojournalism is a great way to learn how to capture those moments that help convey the day’s events.

Since you cannot stage your coverage, you learn how to go about capturing life. You are trained that you need to get those elements that you can later choose from to help construct a sequence of images that, when accompanied by words, will tell a story of the day.

The Establishing Shot

The photo above is an excellent example of an establishing shot. Well, maybe not great as in call the Pulitzer committee, but for covering the Fort Worth Stockyards, it does help establish the place where your story takes place.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320 

Stand Alone

When shooting for news, the photojournalist is mindful of the space of the publication. They are looking for the one shot that helps convey most of the story elements. Here is an example from the morning I was at the Fort Worth Stockyards that might work as a stand-alone shot. You can see the herd of cattle herded as the cowboy does daily.

Detail Shots

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/320

You may go down the street to the world-famous Billy Bobs and capture some boot scoot dancing for detailed shots.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 2500, ƒ/1.4, 1/320

You may capture some portraits of the patrons for some of your detailed shots for the story.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/160

The photojournalist’s challenge is capturing those eye candy moments that are part of the story and not just graphically interesting.

Thinking larger package

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

My mentor Don Rutledge taught me there are times you don’t have an ending shot but rather just more examples of the flavor of the story. For example, here is the world-famous Joe T. Garcia restaurant where you cannot make a reservation. Bridal parties will just come and wait to be seated on their wedding days.

Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/160

Whenever I am at the Fort Worth Stockyards, I feel like I am in a travel story for some western magazine.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/320

What photojournalism taught me was that if you pay attention and are sensitive to the moment, you can anticipate great moments that are more powerful for the most part over a well-produced movie. I believe it is true because the moment’s authenticity always trumps something made up.

Expression is often the key element to great photos

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
Key elements of the sports photo often include the ball and the competition. Here you can see the player’s expression and the valiant effort of the receiver to catch the ball. He is fully extended, running full speed, and keeping his eyes on the ball. Also, the defensive player can see the catch and his concentration on the ball.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Here you can see the runner extending for all he can and also see a defensive player’s look of concern that he is still moving ahead.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

The key to almost all good to great photos of people is EXPRESSION. In sports, it can be the one thing that helps tell you more about the game.

The closer crop of the top photo shows how intense the defensive player is playing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In this photo, you can see the defensive players reacting to the quarterback starting to pass the ball on the left and right.

Sometimes sports photographers tend to crop tight to ensure that you need to see. However, sometimes pulling back and including more of the action helps to communicate more about the play. For example, you miss that two players’ faces are reacting, and you forget how close the sack of the quarterback is on the play by being a little looser on the space.

Sports enthusiasts like to see the game elements, whereas those who are just a photographer will tend to crop tight for impact.

As one who played sports, I can tell you that we like to see more play. Seeing the player’s feet during basketball is how players decide which way to drive, for example. It is why the crossover is such a big deal.

While this cropped version helps you see the player’s faces, the looser shot gives you the perspective of the play development.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

When you have very little space to use a photo, it is better to go tight, but this is why so many sports enthusiasts love getting Sports Illustrated. Those photos that filled two pages didn’t need to be tight as the photo in the newspaper’s sports section. Instead, they had the space, which helped those who play sports better understand the play.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In a high school game, the quarterback concentrates more on the execution, which shows in the face. However, they are moving so much quicker in the pros that it must be an instinct that kicks in for the quarterback to make the handoff.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Expression is more than just in the face. Here you see the bodies all twisting to adjust to the play that just went by them. You also see the ball carrier looking more downfield and missing the defensive player to his left.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

This photo is a split second later when his forward advance is stopped.

Which photo here is the best picture? You will see photo editors studying an image for the nuances of the expression of the bodies in motion.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

 This first one looks like the defensive player is about to give up.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

 In the second photo, the defensive player looks like he is matching his stride, and you wonder if he will catch him.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

In the last photo, you can see the offensive player pulling away, and the defensive player is giving his previous diving effort to stop the touchdown.

Which photo is best? Well, which one not only tells the outcome of the play, but it often needs to be the moment that communicates the game. Unfortunately, most media outlets do not have unlimited space and must choose the moments they use to communicate.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

You have to pick the right moment to capture the intensity of the play.

Returning to the photo above, compare it to the previous split second.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

See how the defensive player’s head is down, and you don’t see the eyes?

Now, look at the photo from the split second later of the same play.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

The most significant difference between the two photos is being able to see the expression.

Order of importance:

  1. Expression
  2. Composition
  3. Exposure
The difference between the genuinely great photos and the rest is that all three are well executed. But the sign of the technician photographer is often those who concentrate more on the last two elements of composition and exposure and not enough on expression.
Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/7.1, 1/200
The expression can also be in the form of light, which helps to create a mood.
Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/100

Getting Good Skin Tones Shooting Basketball

Nikon D3, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/7.1, 1/200

Using strobes is the best way to shoot the basketball and get the best skin tones. I have four Alienbee B1600s on a catwalk lighting the basketball court.

Depending on the room’s colors, the color can shift and give you a color shift even with the studio strobes. The reason is the light is bouncing off those colored walls and ceilings. Even the crowd’s clothing can affect the color temperature.

There are a couple of ways to get a color measurement of the light. One way is using the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport system. Then, after I pull the RAW photo into Lightroom, I just click on the eye dropper tool and put it on the grey square I pointed to in the picture.

Walk onto the court, hold the card where the players will be, and then take a photo.

As long as you shoot RAW, you will get the best colors because you can tweak this later in the post-production of PhotoShop or Lightroom, for example.

So when the play is going quick and correct in front of you, just take the photo.

While strobes will give you the best color, as long as you are shooting RAW and taking these pictures of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, you can dial in and get the best color with the existing light.

My first preference is the ExpoDisc, but the cool thing with the ColorChecker is you now have more colors for comparison. You will be able to see under some lighting conditions that even after you click on the 18% grey square, you may not be able to get an actual purple color, and since that is on the card, you will see that it is the best you can get.

How a faith impacts the work of photographers

Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/100

My faith has a lot to do with who I am. People often ask me what it means to be a “Christian Photographer?”

There is an assumption that my faith impacts my work in a way that makes me different than those who are not Christian.

I wish those of the Christian faith that are photographers were in some way able to outshine all others because our faith in God has illuminated us in some unique way that our work stands out from others, but that is not the case.

Martin Luther was one of the most influential priests in the Christian faith. He is one of the principal architects of the great reformation. When asked about being a “Christian tradesman,” he responded so well with

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

The more I think about Martin Luther’s words, the more I think of what it means to be a “Christian Photographer.”

The Proof is in the Pudding

The biggest thing that faith can do for someone is to give them the compass to use when making decisions. Of course, you could still make the right decisions in life without a compass, but it will not be as intentional and consistent as someone who has a compass.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. – Psalms 119:105

I think the advantage of people of faith versus those without a belief in God is our ability to hold a compass [scripture] in our hands and meet in a house of worship regularly, which helps shape our moral compass in life.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

When I see people today taking “selfies” with their friends and sharing them, this is how I see people of faith with their God. They have a relationship with God and often share their best friend through social media, who helps guide them through this life.

How Studying Scripture Helps

One of the best things that scripture does for us gives us so many examples of characters just like us that also dealt with difficult situations in life. So people of faith will not only read these stories but gather in classes and study these stories. They learn to look at a problem and break it down.

Studying scripture is a skill that will help you explore your business and learn how to dissect the decisions that you will need to make and also predict outcomes based on moral laws.

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

― Augustine of Hippo

“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”

― Confucius

I know that my faith should be evident in not only my photos but all areas of my life and how I treat my fellow man. As a follower of Jesus, I seek to emulate his example and learn to serve others.

As a person of faith and a follower of Jesus, I believe my purpose is to live a life in which God touches people through me. So my goal is to get out of the way of God doing that through me.

I believe that faith in God helps shape us into better people. I think I would be very self-centered if not for my faith.

Photographing The Citadel’s Ring Day Weekend

Nikon D3, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

The Citadel Ring Day Weekend

This weekend is the time the seniors at The Citadel get their rings. Most cadets go through the ring with their parents and date. My wife is going through the ring with my stepson and his date.

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

I can tell you that you are better off shooting without a camera flash. You are just too far away for it to make a difference. It would be best if you had a camera with an ISO of 6400 or higher to get a good sharp photo.

You may want a lens that covers 50mm to 200mm if you stand on the floor.


  • Arrive early
  • Take test shots at different White Balance settings.
  • Custom White Balance is the best [blog on how to do that]. Also, the blog explains how to set presets as well.
  • Set ISO up high, like ISO 6400 or higher. I shot the second photo at ISO 12800
  • Keep shutter speed up, so shoot wide open with your aperture.
  • Make test shots and take a look.
Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/125–Two off-camera flashes on either side of the camera.
Take photos other than going through the ring. Here I photographed them in the Quad of the Barracks.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80
The good news is the seniors get their rings in the afternoon before walking through the ring. Great time to practice in the same room; the photos will be that night. Here my son helps with name pronunciation.
Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/80
Here he is getting the ring. The good news is when they are standing in the ring and walking down the carpet, there are more lights on them.
Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/3200
You will shoot many photos of your cadet holding the ring close to the camera. Be sure your aperture is pretty high. Here it is ƒ/8. The larger aperture helps keep their ring and faces in focus.
Nikon D3, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.3, 1/60–Two off camera flashes on either side of the camera.
If your son/daughter isn’t a senior, this is a great time to practice a year or two earlier so that when your time comes, you are seasoned. If you get great photos, you can share them with the other families.
We are grateful to have all these photos to remember our son’s journey through The Citadel.

Are you a photojournalist who finds yourself suffering from depression?

Nikon D3, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/160

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see the truth.

Nikos Kazantzakis

These are a few sentences I found interesting in an article by Rev. Peter M. Wallace a few years ago.

There has never been a more challenging time in [fill in the blank]. Everyone is scrambling to find the right way to connect to an audience that has fractured and fragmented to numerous different platforms.

And yet the reality some fail to acknowledge in this midst of this chaos is that the need or function all these declining institutions used to fulfill remains. People are simply choosing different ways, different platforms, to meet these needs.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 2 sec

It has been easier for me to focus on an institution and set my path in life to get to its destination. But unfortunately, this path is what many photographers concentrate on working for Sports Illustrated or National Geographic rather than the need or function these institutions serve.

Sports Illustrated just let go of its staff photographers; National Geographic has shrunk its staff through the years.

I had focused on working for The Commission Magazine. It was the flagship printed piece for missions for the Southern Baptist denomination I was once a part of years ago. While I did get there and worked on the magazine for a short time, I never really got to be one of the leading photographers for the magazine. They would do three or more important stories a year.

During the financial crisis of the late 1980s, the agency had to make cuts to balance the budget and cut my position.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, Sigma 2X, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3000

I went into a major depression. My first marriage fell apart. Nevertheless, I continued to push forward, realizing I needed more skills to add to my resume, and I went to seminary and got my masters in communications.

Upon graduating, none of the missions agencies were hiring, so I found a job at Georgia Tech. While I was there for ten years, it was a temporary job on my way to my original dream—still no openings through the years I could find.

Nikon D2Xs, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, ISO 400, ƒ/5.3, 1/2000

Slowly I was coming out of depression, but I still was finding that my dreams were not becoming a reality. My skills had improved dramatically, and I was thrilled to be working, but I never felt like I was fulfilling my purpose all the time.

Maybe you find yourself in this exact spot as I did. Today I, too, find I drift into this depression. My friend Gary Chapman spoke at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference a few years ago and introduced me to the book Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and Your Life. For Gary, the photography stock market was his cheese. He had built a library of images at Getty and other smaller agencies, and each month could expect a pretty decent check. But then, that check started to shrink. Soon all he saw was just crumbs each month rather than the large block of cheese he was used to experiencing.

One of the biggest mistakes storytellers make is focusing too much on the what and the how. When someone’s experience moves them from an NGO trip, when you ask them to tell you the story, they give you a timeline of their experience. They inform you what and how they did their work.

What is missing is, too often, the WHY. Once you hear why you are more likely to stay engaged, many Christians disgusted with their churches will say they are followers of Jesus today. So they choose to focus on Jesus rather than the institution.

Maybe so many of us are depressed and feel like someone moved our cheese because we have been focused on these institutions more than we should have been. I might better wrap up the key to our purpose by focusing on the need these institutions were fulfilling. Focus on WHY these institutions started.

Due to the leadership decisions of the church, people were leaving. A Gallup poll reported that “Most Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in the U.S. But 75% say American society would be better off if more Americans were religious.

You see, the need still exists. People are looking for what faith brings to their lives.

When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

– Viktor E. Frankl

Maybe we are struggling in this profession because we have been too focused on institutions and not enough based on WHY these institutions existed from the get-go. 

Photojournalist Job Description

The primary role of the photojournalist is to be a visual storyteller.  By photographing, editing, and presenting images, they tell a story in a way that no other media can.  Some photojournalists will work for a local publication, while others will travel nationally or abroad, sometimes putting themselves in constantly changing or even dangerous situations.  The subject matter can vary greatly, from local civic issues, national political races to social unrest in a foreign country.  Many photojournalists are freelance photographers and sell their photos to various organizations around the world.  The photographs serve the purpose of enhancing the story for the reader or viewer.

 As you can see, the role of the photojournalist isn’t limited to an institution. It is just a matter of having stories to tell and finding the audience that needs to see them.

Great Photography Implores Yin-Yang of …


Photography requires one to understand yin-yang.

Wikipedia definition of Yin-Yang

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (also, yin-yang or yin yang) describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, and male and female) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality of yin and yang.

Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang shows a balance between two opposites with a little bit in each.

Here are some Yin-Yang dualities in photography that I deal with constantly, and this list isn’t comprehensive by any means.

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/2.8, 1/20, Nikon SB-900 off camera triggered with Pocketwizard TT1 and TT5 on the flash

Shutter-Speed/Aperture–You cannot change one without the other being affected. Changing Shutter-Speed or Aperture was more accurate in the days of film when you were stuck with one ISO until you changed the film.

ISO/Noise–As you change your ISO, you affect the image quality. Today’s cameras’ high ISO capabilities make this less noticeable, but it still exists.

Flash/Authentic Moments–When I shoot with a flash, I announce myself, and blending into a room is much more challenging.

Nikon D3S, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

Mixed Lighting–Situations where you have, say, window light and fluorescent lights in a room competing as the subject moves closer or further from the window, the constant fighting of color temperature is ongoing.

Gear/Photographer–This is the biggest issue I have regarding Yin-Yang. There is an ongoing struggle between the science and philosophy of the image. It is like a struggle between science/technology and the liberal arts; you need both to make the best images.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/160

Lifelong Learning

What I love the most about photography continues to frustrate me just as well as I have rarely looked at my work and felt like the images I made couldn’t be improved.

Great photos, I believe, are the results of years of understanding and knowledge of the gear to make it perform at the peak of its capabilities, along with years of knowledge of the subject. You can anticipate and execute an incredible image because you are ready for the “moment.”

Sooner or later, I have had gear fail me because I pushed it beyond its capabilities. Photographers complain, and the manufacturers listen and create newer equipment that exceeds the previous gear’s abilities.

I have to admit while photography can frustrate me, it pales to the learning curve of humanity and my ability to anticipate what people will do.

While I know today’s cameras will do even more than their predecessors, I don’t think we fully maximized all that the simple box camera will do.

Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/1100

Two topics that will result in better images

We need to spend more time getting to know the subject of the images. We need to become experts on our subjects to capture moments that help people connect through photos to those subjects in ways they did not see before.

Second, we need to constantly be learning all that our camera gear will do and what we can do to capture those “moments” with our subjects that help clear up the image so that the “moment” really “clicks” with the audience.

Sometimes I can’t give my work away. Guess what? That is a good thing.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/2.8, 1/100

A couple of my close friends have just gotten engaged. While I do not promote myself as a wedding photographer, I will do them for close friends.

I offered to both of them to shoot their weddings as a gift.

Anytime I have done this in the past, most people think about it and get back to me. But, of course, one of the first decisions the couple makes together is our wedding plans.

Great News!

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200

My first friend wrote back and said:


This is beyond kind and generous of you to offer your services to us!! We have already been so blessed through this process by so much outpouring of peoples love and generosity.  

We want to find the perfect fit with the perfect style to capture the most important day of our lives. Currently we are looking at all our planning options and haven’t gotten that far in the process. We will get back to you in a few weeks once we decide. 

Thank you again for this wonderful and generous offer of your talent and time!

I was pleased that they didn’t say yes right away. The client was not rushing, which means they are not trusting the most significant event in their lives to anyone.

How can I get all my clients to be more concerned about photography for their business, as this couple is about their wedding?

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/60

My second friend wrote and communicated a little more about their concerns:


We are very grateful with the offer. We have just a question.  Have you ever shot a wedding?   My fiance has only seen you as a sports photographer, but I thought I’d ask. 

Maybe you can send us examples for her. 

Many photographers might get upset thinking they cannot even give away their services, but what I was pleased about is my friends as the ones that do know the difference between just having anyone document their big day. They are willing to pay versus free if they think someone is a better fit.

Nikon D3, 24-120mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/80

The key is ensuring you talk with your client’s projects like they are as important as a wedding. In some ways, they are more critical because business photos need to help give a Return On Investment [ROI]. Of course, you don’t need wedding photos to get married. But they are nice to have.

When people do not jump at free, you know they care, and you are not just a commodity. They will appreciate your talent more when they say yes than those friends who even ask you to do it for free.