“With my iPhone we need to face the sun,” said the golfer

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, Godox V860IIN, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/640]

I was contracted to cover a golf tournament at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the guys told me we needed to turn everyone around and have them face the sun to get the photo.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, Godox V860IIN, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/400]

The executive director, taking me by golf cart around the course, stepped in to explain that I was the professional they hired.

The guy was thinking about what he had to do with his iPhone. You cannot get the photo I took above with your iPhone.

[Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000]

One of the main reasons people wear hats is to create shadows on their faces. This is how they make the shade for their eyes. Well, good for them and bad for photos.

Now using Adobe Lightroom, I could open up the shadows a little more on the photo, with the guy with a baseball cap, than you can typically do with your iPhone.

By having the group face opposite the sun, they are all backlit. I then used my flash on the camera to fill in the shadows. This is one of the rare moments I will use a flash on camera.

I didn’t have an assistant, and I had to move quickly.

Using the Godox V860IIN flash on i-TTL I could shoot at any ƒ-stop because the flash works with High Speed Sync. So the picture above I was shooting at 1/640 shutter speed.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, Godox V860IIN, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]

While the golfers were warming up on the practice putting green, I used the same flash setup to fill in under those hats. With the golfer looking to the ground towards the ball, their faces are more often in the shadow.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, Godox V860IIN, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]

While this is a vast improvement over no flash, had I been shooting this for a company to use in their advertising, I would have gotten that flash off the camera.

The two photos below demonstrate how getting the flash off the camera gives a better-looking light.

[Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/2000]
[Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]

Just know that if you need professional quality photos of golfers, you will have them squinting with your iPhone, or you can use flash and have them face away from the sun.

Be an Anticipator and not a Procrastinator

[NIKON D4, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/1250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 270)

Sydney Rhame [Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200]

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

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

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

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

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

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (4) breaks up an interception attempt by Duke cornerback Josh Blackwell (31) in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday August 31, 2019. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 380)]

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

Most Folks

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

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

Word vs Photograph

There has been a healthy tension between writers and photographers throughout my career. You will hear photographers saying to writers that I can’t call the subject and change the ƒ-stop.

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

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

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

The questions go on more than just these few questions. Once I am comfortable with their direction and style, I can plan what gear I need for the shoot. Sometimes this requires me to rent equipment.

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

Teenager in San Benito, Nicaragua [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/160]

Advantage of Anticipating

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

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

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

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

  • Going to clients with project ideas
  • Responding quickly to phone calls, emails, and texts
  • Asking questions when a client gives you a project–Immediately and not closer to the deadline
  • Delivering the photos quickly–Photos processed for the client without quality suffering
  • Creating estimates and invoices quickly
  • Raising concerns and issues before the client realizes a problem–While there are some things you cannot anticipate, you are always trying to take ownership as if the success or failure of this project can make the client be super successful or put them out of business

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person, even though this idea is somewhat paradoxical. 

The reason is that people with hectic schedules have, by necessity, gotten good at realistically estimating how long things take. The interesting thing is once you know someone like this, you are prone to go to them to help you. The one thing you hope never happens is that they say no. They will say no because they know if they can deliver your request or not.

If you find yourself busy and having to turn down people occasionally, it is a good sign that you are most likely an Anticipator. However, if you are desperately trying to find work, you might be a Procrastinator.

How to turn yourself from a Procrastinator to an Anticipator

One of the best things I learned at Georgia Tech working on the communications staff was from our art directors. They had reversed engineered the timeline for producing print projects like view books and magazines.

I would be part of the meetings with the clients going over new projects. The art director then took a few minutes and walked through the deadlines, starting backward.

When do you need this project? Then they would start with that date and say, ” Well, the printer needs two weeks from when they have it to turn it around without any rush fees. Before this, the graphic artist will need two weeks to lay out the piece and then have you sign off on it. This includes two reviews. By the way, your review time puts the project on hold. So if you take 24 hours to approve or make changes, that is how much the project is delayed. If you take a week to support it, we need to move up the date for you to get materials to us.

Before the graphic artist can start work, the writer and photographers must create their content. The good news is often that photography and writing can be done simultaneously.  They both need two to three weeks. For them to stay on schedule, the subjects they need to work with must be available, or that also impacts the program.

Based on this, we need six to eight weeks to produce your project. When working with most new clients, we were often only three to four weeks from their deadlines. Most of the time, we had to move their deadlines out to make things go faster usually meant rush fees from printers and hiring more writers, photographers, and graphic designers to tag team.

The question you must know the answer to for any project is how long do you need to produce your very best portfolio quality of work?

Anticipators are people who are gifted at time management, know how to get the best quality of work, and understand the time they need to make it happen. They are also good at executing their plans and producing quality work, which creates a demand that creates an even higher order because they are known for being busy.

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. 

Wedding photography to me is about emotional moments

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Nikon SB-900, ISO 400, ƒ/3.5, 1/6

I do not promote myself as a wedding photographer. I have shot many weddings in my career, but today I have been just doing weddings for close friends and family. There was a time I turned down any requests.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, Alienbees B1600, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/60

I am not as fond of shooting weddings because of the number of people posing. I can do an excellent job of capturing great moments in posed shots, but my favorite thing to do in all of the photography is capture those not posed moments.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, Alienbees B1600, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

I love a moment like this where the groom’s mother dances with her son, and the groom’s friends and family are all caught up in the moment.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 11400, ƒ/4, 1/200

I love the moments where the Bride and Groom are in a moment where you see their love for each other, and you can see why they are getting married.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/4.5, 1/50

Sometimes the moments are subtle, or they are bold as here.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Nikon SB-900, ISO 400, ƒ/3.5, 1/6

I love capturing people’s expressions where you can see their emotions on their faces. The other thing I notice is at weddings; the guests are just as happy as the couple.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/8

The hard part about shooting weddings is you do so many photography styles throughout the day. So you have to do studio lighting fashion shoots and then turn right around and do more event photography and get those moments.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art Lens, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Capturing the moments is what I work on the most in my photography. I believe the expressions are the most powerful thing in a photograph. Therefore, I spend a great deal of time trying to be sure the technical parts of photography: Lighting, Composition, Depth-of-field, and more, are ready for when the moment happens.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art Lens, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/100

Sometimes those moments are posed, but you wait for the moment when they are into it rather than stiff and just posing.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 2800, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

Working on capturing the mood and place for a community

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/320

I am working on a story that requires me to go to a few states and capture some of the cultures in those communities.

This week I am in Hyannis, Massachusetts. I cannot think of Hyannis without thinking about the Kennedy family. It is also a beach town and this is the closest I could find to bring me to what I think about when I think of this community.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/800

I tried to capture the beach in a way that said Cape Cod. Some of the lighthouses in this area are in private communities guarded by gates. I didn’t want to go all over the coast when the size I needed to concentrate on was Hyannis.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

Just turning around is the ocean, but this could have been anywhere on the east coast. I was missing something that made me think of Hyannis in Cape Cod.

I am capturing not just moments but symbolism, and I needed a building that was classic to the architecture of Cape Cod.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/400

This is a typical home in Hyannis. What I mean are the color of the house and the cedar siding.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/320

I went to Main Street and captured some shops along the street. While this isn’t the peak of the summer when the place would be packed, I think I was catching some of the community.

Samsung 7S Edge, ISO 50, ƒ/1.7, 1/18816

While in Lansing, Michigan, I went to the local GM plant and shot this through the chain link fence on a bridge. I used my cell phone because my camera lenses were too big and captured the border. The lens on the Samsung 7S Edge was small enough to fit in the fence’s opening.

Some photos are not as dramatic but help establish what a community is about. Many people are employed here from the district.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/100

The other thing about Lansing is it is the state capital of Michigan. I worked at getting a decent photo of the state capital to help talk about the community.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1800, ƒ/8, 1/800

Sometimes detailed shots like this lamp around the capital can be beneficial in a package to tell a story.

All of these stills are part of a larger story where I will use motion and interviews to put the story together. My goal with the photos is to have some b-roll that I can use just like Ken Burns does in his films. I often find panning across a still image is much smoother than video sometimes can be, and I can get many more shots in than the time it takes to get a 20-second motion clip.

Here are some travel tips that I am using for each of my trips.

  • Google the City and look under images for your search
    • Make a list of possible locations
    • Research was to take some of those photos may be 
  • Schedule my interview early with the subject so I have time to go out and capture some of the images of the things the issue talks about in their comments.
  • Talk to people from the area
  • Talk to the front desk people at the hotel for their input. Sometimes they can give you unique insights.

Now many times the city skyline is quite famous. This is a photo you need if the community is known for its unique skyline. Here is a post I did about the St. Louis Skyline.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 2.5 sec

Sometimes like with the famous skyline of Seattle, you get what I call a WOW photo. The key is to try and find a way to surprise your audience.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12500, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

Sometimes it just gets close to an icon like the Auburn War Eagle.

Monday morning devotional for photographers

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

There are many reasons in sports they tell you to keep your eye on the ball. However, all of them have something in common. There are many distractions in the game.

Studies on golfers showed that those who kept their eye on the ball sank more putts than those who didn’t.

They discovered that when you look at the ball, then the target, and back to the ball, the brain desperately tries to process all that information, which can yield unwanted results. So by glancing at the target first, then focusing on the ball, you narrow the mental chatter and get a more accurate shot.

The technique where before you act, you focus your gaze on the salient aspects of your goal—the rim, the catcher’s mitt, the malignant tissue, and so on is called “Quiet Eye.”

The quiet-eye technique stimulates the dorsal area of the brain, which regulates focused, goal-directed attention. It may also suppress activity in the ventral region, which oversees stimulus-driven engagement—the kind that keeps track of a scattered, fluid set of variables.

Not So Easy

According to researchers, the focusing times are as short as a fifth of a second between beginner and expert.

Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/6.3, 1/5000

The moral to the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” is that children must obey their parents and that they must never talk to strangers. Even an amiable stranger is capable of having bad intentions.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/400

Red Riding Hood is distracted by the Wolf, and we know what happens to her grandmother because of her not listening to her mother and not talking to strangers.

What is my ball?

I continually ask myself what the ball I should concentrate on today is. What is the target that I should be focusing my attention on now?

I go to scripture to help me discover the ball for today.

Timothy, you belong to God, so keep away from all these evil things. Try your best to please God and to be like him. Be faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle. Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. God offered it to you when you clearly told about your faith, while so many people listened. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

We must do the right thing by being faithful, loving, dependable, and gentle. Those words are verbs implying action.

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” ― Martin Luther

Martin Luther was incredibly, overwhelmingly busy. His calendar was always full. And yet, despite his incredible workload, he found praying necessary. He had to meet with God before meeting with the day’s cares. He would not dive into his day without first being refreshed by the Lord. He knew he couldn’t serve the Lord well without first asking God for help.

I do not know what your ball is for today. I know that you will be more likely to find it through prayer. Taking the time to stop and spend time being still will let your mind calm itself. You will be able to concentrate and have that “Quiet Eye” moment where you can eliminate all those distractions keeping you from seeing the ball.

Watch background and lighting ratios in your photos.

Nikon D750, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 50, ƒ/7.1, 1/160

When I shoot something in the studio, as simple as this setup is here, I test a few things to be sure all the lights are as I want for the final image.

Here is the setup for the photo above:

Watch your backgrounds

One of the things all photographers need to pay attention to is their backgrounds. Now, not just compositionally, but just as important is the golden ratio compared to the subject. For the most part, you want it to be more brightly.

Here, your eye goes to the background, not the subject I want your watch to go to first. Pay attention to this when you are shooting in natural light.

How do you fix this? You can move the subject or your feet and circle the subject until you find a darker background. You can also add more light to the subject. You can do that with a reflector or a flash, for example.

Another thing that can help your photos is a backlight shining on the subject to create a rim light.

Here, there is a light just slightly behind the subject pointed down. Now, here, it is a little too bright. But sometimes, it can work.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 50, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

Here are a few more examples of backlighting:

Nikon D3S, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/400
Nikon D3, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/4000

The photos show how the background is slightly darker than the subject. With photography, you can take control of this with your camera. In all three portraits, I use an auxiliary flash off the camera to brighten the subject enough so that the sunlit areas in the background are correctly exposed.

Three tips to remember:

  • Watch your background
  • Use Backlight
  • Watch the ratio of light on the subject versus the background.

Turning Pro from Amateur Photographer isn’t for the faint of heart

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

I reposted a blog I had done a way back that had gotten a lot of positive feedback from the photographic community.

Seven Reasons Not to Become a Freelance Professional Photographer was the blog.

People shared it 32 times through Google Plus alone. It ranks 5th of the 1098 blog posts I have written for the most read. There are 44 comments on this post. Everyone on the base was positive except for one that was more of a question. “Is all lost when most of these points have been true?”

My response was, “No. You cannot continue to fail over the long haul. Again you don’t have to do all of it yourself; you can outsource. My recommendation is to realize to be successful, you need to 1) have a good solid product consistently, 2) you need to deliver more than you promise, 2nd-mile service, and 3) WOW them. It would be best if you connected with people way beyond your product. Just think of the TV show Cheers; the people came back to the bar regularly because of friendships on top of the food and good service.”

When I reposted it, I had the most negative response for any of my blogs. So I started examining why this person was taken back by my post.

The poster slammed the blog as Listicle.

In journalism and blogging, a listicle is a short form of writing that uses a list as its thematic structure but fleshing out with sufficient copy publishing as an article. A typical listicle will prominently feature a cardinal number in its title, with subsequent subheadings within the text itself reflecting this schema. The word is a portmanteau derived from a list and article. Suggesting that the word evokes “popsicle,” emphasizing the Listicle’s fun but “not too nutritious” nature.

After reading a few more comments, I realized what I think the person was having an issue with from my article. The reviewer was struggling with a newbie vs. a seasoned pro.

In a workshop with Scott Kelby, I loved one of his comments. “If you need a hug, you post on Flickr.com.”

As an amateur, your friends and family will comment on how great of a photographer you are. However, the minute you turn Pro, that all changes.

I felt the same thing this poster indicated in his comments that we need to wrap each other in emotional support as pros. My wife pointed out that you are a pro; people expect you to have great photos. My experience is they don’t comment on you for doing.

For this article, I want to be clear that the difference between the word amateur and professional is solely the difference of hobby versus making a living. My comments are not about the quality of images because I think many amateurs produce better images than pros. Most amateurs, however, could use a dose of reality that the most significant difference for the working Pro over the amateur is business skills, not photographic skills.

As an amateur, you may join a photo club where you all help and encourage one another. Many camera clubs around me have had me speak to them and judge their competitions. I enjoy doing this and sharing some of my knowledge with them.

Professionals understand that when they go to workshops and meetings with pros, we are getting together to get better at our business skills. We may learn the same things that a camera club gets together to learn about the latest software, but we need this knowledge to remain competitive rather than take photos.

Professionals also understand they need to pay for those classes and workshops. The people teaching them are working pros that give you information that will help you make a better living.

Going Pro will be a lonely journey for several reasons. Most of all, your friends and family comments about how wonderful you are now will seem emptier if they are not hiring you to shoot for them. If they thought you were so awesome, wouldn’t they hire you?

While most professionals will help you, not everyone will be as enthusiastic that you showed up on the scene. First of all, remember in some areas of the industry, like newspapers, the opportunities are disappearing. When pros were making $200,000+ for shooting stock years ago, and now they can barely make $20,000 doing the same type of work, you showing up and taking more of the smaller slice of the pie is very threatening.

New pros must be aware of one major thing when they become pros. Just because you graduated and knew how to make beautiful images does not immediately mean there is work for you. Every client who hired photographers last year will likely hire those same photographers. When you get hired, one of those photographers often just lost that job you are shooting.

Some pros take this the wrong way and, therefore, will do everything they can to sabotage your career. Pros feel threatened if you set up shop in their town.

Now there is a great group of photographers I have been a part of that does not take this attitude. You may find one of our members like that, but I can tell you we do not encourage that. This group is ASMP.

Charleston, SC The Citadel Recognition Day 2019 [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

ASMP [American Society of Media Photographers] has championed business skills for photographers better than any other organization I have been a member of in my career. I joined in 1987 and have learned more through the organization and fellow members than anywhere else. Like the photo of the Citadel cadets carrying one another as they might have to do in battle to save their comrade, my ASMP fellow members took me.

To join ASMP as a member, you must get a sponsor who is satisfied that the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for Professional Membership, namely:

  1. Good moral character and reputation, and
  2. At least three consecutive years of experience as an imaging professional.

Now, if you are starting, we have an associate’s membership where you have the same access as a member, just not voting rights. If you haven’t proven you can run a successful business for three years straight; we don’t need you making business decisions for the organization.

We see the new photographers much differently. We work to find another chair and welcome you to our table. We take you under our wings and do everything we can to be sure you are successful.

The best things I learned right away from the start with ASMP were the importance of good business practices. I learned about how to figure out the cost of doing business. I knew that when I create estimates, the client would often try and negotiate for a lower price or more services for the same price.

ASMP worked to protect my copyright by helping to inform congress what this means for photographers to have copyright protection.

Charleston, SC The Citadel Recognition Day 2019 [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

My fellow ASMP members didn’t give me a group hug as I would experience as an amateur on Flickr. It felt like they took the legs out from under me, and they did. They were carrying them just like you see in this photo. They helped me by challenging me on my low prices. How are you making a living on that price?

The one thing that made me sad about the poster’s comments was that “no matter the pay,” he wouldn’t be swayed to stop shooting. You see, he is the type of new Pro that needs ASMP.

His attitude of “no matter the pay” means he will accept just about any job because he loves to shoot. After all, he said, “It’s in my blood and who I am.”

Through the years, my ASMP colleagues and I have helped countless photographers learn how to make a living and even a great living. One of those I took under my wing was a young lady who, when I met her, was a nanny and going to school full-time.

I had her assist me and talked with her answering all her questions. Then, she took on a client that had her traveling all over the state, shooting travel magazine packages for the publication.
The magazine had traded out with hotels to keep costs down. So every town my assistant went to, there was a hotel she stayed in for free. So it appeared in many ways the magazine was thinking about her.

When we spent a few hours reviewing her expenses and what they paid her, she discovered she was making way below minimum wage.

When her car started to have mechanical issues, she realized she could get it fixed and continue doing the work. But unfortunately, she wasn’t making enough to cover the costs of owning a car.

The expenses were when she realized that continuing with this magazine; she wasn’t just making below minimum wage; she was paying them to shoot for them. YES!!! You heard me.

Her mother rented her a car so she could go and do the assignment, but the project didn’t pay enough to cover the rental car fees and all the other costs associated with doing the work.

Today, that young woman is not only doing better but also doing great. She not only is making a good living, but she also has staff working for her more than three people.

Charleston, SC The Citadel Recognition Day 2019 [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 1100, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

ASMP members know that photographers who do not understand business principles will not only go broke they will leave the industry worst off. Now those clients think that the rates they were paying those failed photographers were reasonable. We need you equally lift the sector just as these guys do in carrying the log. They cannot do it alone.

Turning Pro from amateur status is when you start to have adult conversations. These conversations are when you do not like everything you hear from a seasoned pro trying to help you out, but you see it as them trying to get rid of you.

Young photographers can learn something from professional bull riders. First, they started riding young calves before graduating to bullocks and then bulls. Then, between the ages of four and six, they hone their skills by “mutton busting” on sheep. You see, bull riding is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. An estimated one in every 15 bull rides ends in some injury.

I can tell you that many pro photographers feel like one in every 15 assignments ends up in some injury. We like to call that scar tissue which builds wisdom.

I recommend joining ASMP and NPPA, which has, in the last few years, changed to help freelancers even more with business practices than when I joined in 1985.

Corps Day Weekend Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/6.3, 1/320

Remember, when you turn Pro, people expect you to have great photos, so don’t go looking for a group hug like you got as an amateur.

In military training, young men come together with a diverse mix of our American landscape. Yet, those differences melt away through their training which pushes their limits to each person realizing that those strangers they met on day one are there alongside them, even willing to die for them.

You will see if you look complex enough, seasoned pros taking on a lot of fire and struggling to stay alive. ASMP members know that each of us has gone through our training for at least three years. We know we are all battle tested and helping one another.

Orlando Massacre’s Silver Lining

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

James 3:16-18 The Message (MSG)

Live Well, Live Wisely
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s how you live, not how you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—animal cunning, devilish conniving. Things fall apart whenever you’re trying to look better or get the better of others, and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other and treating each other with dignity and honor.

Waking up Sunday morning to the news of the Orlando massacre where one man took the lives of 50 people and injured another 53 people was gut-wrenching.


Today our country is more divided to me than at any other time in my lifetime. Yet, every group seems to say that all will be well if you think like us.

One of the most challenging things I have wrestled with in my faith is the concept of Free Will and, simultaneously, having an omniscient God. If God knows everything we can learn, how can you have faithful Free Will?

If God allows for our Free Will, how much should we allow each other to exercise Free Will?

John, the disciple, recorded Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.

John 17:14-17 

14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth.

The Christian ideal is not freedom from work, but strength to do it; not freedom from temptation, but the power to overcome it; not freedom from suffering, but joy in an abiding sense of the Father’s love; not absence from the world, but grace to make the world better for our presence; not holy lives driven from the world, and living apart from it, but sacred lives spent in the world and leavening it.

I have been unfortunate for many years as I watch those who call themselves people of faith not show grace or love but rather a condemnation and hate of those who do not hold to their beliefs.

I watched as political parties wrapped themselves with what they call faith, but what I saw as a condemnation of those who didn’t believe as they did.

John 13:35 The Message (MSG) 

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

To me, this is one of the most powerful scriptures in the Bible. It tells us how we are to live our lives. Jesus says this at the last supper and before his arrest and crucifixion. So many of us were just like Peter when he said to Jesus –

36 Simon Peter asked, “Master, just where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “You can’t now follow me where I’m going. You will follow later.”

37 “Master,” said Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!”

38 “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.”

Our purpose here is to not talk about our faith as much as we are to live it. Living it is to show the love of God through our actions with others.

The power of true love is most profound with significant loss. The actions of the lone gunman in Orlando Night Club were extremely severe. Each time our country has suffered such a loss, the community responds. The stories after 9/11 were great healing to our country.

Our response should be that no matter who you are–your life matters, and you matter. Our community will always suffer when anyone dies. We suffer even more when that loss is due to violence, such as in Orlando.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250

This past memorial day, we celebrated those who gave their lives through the armed forces so that we can have the freedom of Free Will in our country. Memorial Day is very personal for my family.

ON THE BEACH: The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the dunes on Saipan beach during the World War II invasion of the Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at the far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still missing in action. Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns

I think one of the hardest things our country is going through is for those who are new to the concept of being able to exercise their Free Will. It is hard because where many are from, they could not enjoy such freedoms.

I am so thankful that I do not live in a Democracy but rather a Republic form of Government.

The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is the Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of Government. Our Government is designed to protect the individual’s rights, not for a majority rule. The definition of a Republic is a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here, the term “the people” means the electorate.

Let us remember the words of James Madison regarding the republican form of Government:

“As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

It takes more thought and purpose to create laws than it does to react. We think of how the direction we make will impact everyone. We want those laws to benefit all of us. We are careful not to create a rule that singles out one person because one day, that person could be us. We must be a community that values each person’s life.

The more I understand and study storytelling, the more I see the importance of protecting the rights of people to make their own choices. I also see that solving their problem is not possible for the main subject in a story. They must have help. Individual rights are why my belief in God and community is at the core of a good story.

Shoot some with other photographers so you can grow

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500

Just the other night, our instructors got on a conference call and talked through our plans for one last time before our trip for the Storytellers Abroad workshop in Managua, Nicaragua.

The chart was the first draft, and all that pink and green is our time shooting our stories. All the light blue is class time and editing time.

One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to network and shoot some things with other photographers. So plan an outing soon where you can get that immediate feedback from others.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/30

I will be teaching techniques to help steady one’s DSLR as they are shooting video. All these tips and tricks help the students capture the stories of the people in Nicaragua.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I look forward to helping the students as they shoot by tweaking the settings on their cameras to get a better image.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

Maybe you would like to learn how to tell stories using video/audio/stills and need someone to help you navigate all those settings on the camera and all the possibilities of using software like Adobe Premier.

While the trip next week is sold out, you can join Gary S. Chapman and me in Honduras. Spend a week with us getting to know the people and countryside of Honduras, and having time to show us your work and get some feedback and tips.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
We wrap the workshop up with a showing of all the videos. We show them what we put together that week on them.
Well, I am off to buy some more bug spray to prepare for mosquitoes in Nicaragua.
Check out how to go with us to Honduras here http://workshop.stanleyleary.com/

Storyteller tips before you leave for your coverage

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1800, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Last June, I was in Bucharest, Romania, teaching the Storytellers Abroad Workshop. I will fly to Managua, Nicaragua, to teach the same workshop with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery in just a few days.

Let me give you a few tips for storytelling that we are doing this week before the class goes to Managua.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

I had never traveled for any story that I did not have an idea of who and what the story was before I left my house. You need to prepare as much as possible, and if things change, that is OK, but don’t go unprepared.

Every one of the students will have a person/story that they will produce into a video story. Typically for the working professional, if you are traveling overseas, you will most likely have a month or more to prepare for your story due to the logistics of traveling.

Once you have the contact information of your subject, please do all you can to correspond with them as soon as possible. Sometimes I have not had the luxury of working directly with the subject. During those times, I worked with the NGO staff person on the ground in that country. Often with church organizations, this was the missionary.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

Most of the time, someone with an organization has identified a person and tells you their story. Often in the interview process, the story can evolve or change. I always use this storyline to formulate questions to help “flesh out” the story. To flesh out something is to give it substance or make it fuller or more complete.

A few times in my career, I was able to do so much research before I arrived that the story had little changed. I had asked enough questions that I felt comfortable and could tell the story as I understood it back to the subject to be sure I was on target.

When that happens, I have an outline with the text/verbal part of the story and a visual shot list that I would use as a b-roll. In addition, interviews and documentary films may describe secondary footage that adds meaning to a sequence.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100

Besides interviewing the subject, I also spend a lot of time researching the country and the region. Before the internet, this meant going to the library and pulling all the books I could find and periodicals on the land. Today with Google, this process is so much easier.

I also love to read if I can find documentary novels on a culture. Sarah Vowell is one such writer who views history with a visitor’s eye. She wrote Unfamiliar Fishes, the short and awful history of Western intervention in Hawaii, up to the U.S. annexation of the kingdom in 1898.

Sometimes a novel can help you feel like you have been somewhere before you have experienced it. For example, I know many people who have read Pat Conroy’s book South of Broad feel like they know that area of Charleston, SC, just from reading the book.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1.6 sec

Now the other thing that is cool with Google is when you research a location like Seattle, Washington, you can narrow that search to see images.

Google images are a great way to get ideas on some establishing shots for the beginning of your story. When I did all this homework before I showed up in a city, I already got the street addresses and knew what the best time of day to shoot that skyline shot was. It is on my calendar with all the other appointments with the subject before I leave for the trip.

Tips Summary

  • Identify the story/subject before you go.
  • Contact your subject and find out all you can before your trip
  • Research the area you are going
  • Find as many photographs of the area before you go.

Do you like reading my blog? How about something even better?

I hope that if you read my blog regularly, I may get you excited about having more time with me in a workshop where you can ask questions and have me clarify even more than you get through this blog.

I am getting excited about teaching storytelling workshops over the next few months.

I am flying to Nicaragua in a couple of weeks to help teach a storytellers workshop abroad with my friends James Dockery and Jeff Raymond. Right after that workshop, I will be in Kona, Hawaii, with my good friend Dennis Fahringer, teaching the same skills to his students who will go to Brazil to cover stories about the Olympics.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop
Bucharest, Romania
Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania

While seeing sites like the sunset above in Kona is part of the trip, we spend a lot of time as James does with student Jon Franz. We enjoy working with people and watching stories come together over a week.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop
Bucharest, Romania
Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania

Unfortunately, the Nicaragua and Hawaii classes are full, but you can join Gary S. Chapman and me in Honduras this fall.

Come with us to the remote area of Agalta Valley in Central Honduras. We will be staying at Rancho el Paraiso, a 1,400-acre working ranch. You can learn to milk a cow if you like and watch the herd of cattle being taken out to the fields daily and brought in for milking.

When the founders started Honduras Outreach 25 years ago, they bought the ranch and created dorms and a cafeteria to house the volunteers who come year-round to do projects in the valley. Their 60 local Honduran staff members work year-round with communities in healthcare, agriculture, education, faith-building, and commerce.

Honduras Outreach has had the president of Honduras visit the ranch and come to the US to give them an award for such outstanding work.

Enjoy your days taking pictures in the beautiful Agalta Valley and showing your work to world-traveling seasoned professional photographers [Gary Chapman and Stanley Leary] for daily feedback.

We will also be teaching how to capture a story for a nonprofit. Finally, we will give you tips you can use in future travels.

Go here to learn more about the workshop.

Honduras Outreach

“The reason I do workshops is so I can learn, and I am fortunate that I’ve probably gained more from the whole teaching experience than any participant has. It is all about asking.” – John Sexton.

 There are a couple of things that the workshops I am teaching all have in common. See if this appeals to you.

  1. ACCESS – One of the most challenging things about having great images and stories is access to interesting people. All the workshops I am working with have already lined up stories for the workshop participants.
  2. MORE THAN – This is a deeper dive than that as a tourist. You get to meet someone, hang out with them, and learn more about them. Meeting people where they live is what tourists seldom get to do on vacation.
  3. SEASONED PROS – Getting feedback each day from professionals whose lives have been traveling the world and telling stories about people from every walk of life. Have them review your work and give you tips each day.
  4. LOGISTICS – All the logistics of the traveling have been taken care of for you. You must pack and get to the first location, and we will plan the rest for you.
  5. TRAINING – We will teach you how to use software, get a story, and assemble it in a package.
Rodeo Parker Ranch, Waimea, Hawai’i

The lure of travel is seeing new things and places. 

Wind Mills at South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii.