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

Who’s your Audience?

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

When Jimmy Carter became president of the United States in 1977, the world started to hear about being a “Born Again” Christian.

Many years later, I would be in seminary, where Wes Black, my youth education professor, opened my eyes to understanding “Born Again.” Professor Black pointed out that in the scripture of John 3:1-21, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus specifically.

Nicodemus was a Pharisee who was a member of the Jewish ruling council due to being born into his family. His status in life was due to his parents. Jesus was pointing out that his value must be placed solely in God and not in things of this world. He needed to be “born again,” or as in Greek, it meant to be “born from above.”

“Born Again” was the starting point for the lecture that day many years ago in Professor Black’s class. Black would talk about how Jesus would speak to the woman at the well, to those he would heal, and to help us see that each time the message was different. He didn’t tell all of them they needed to be “Born Again”; he only said this to Nicodemus.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75

Dr. Black shifted from the scripture and went to the whiteboard, and started to draw the map of a school. He then labeled the different rooms and places around the campus. One room was the band room, another art, then the library, on to the cafeteria, and then the other end of the school had the shop class and the gym. He drew a tree out front of the school and talked about where the smoking students would hang out.

Then room by room, Black asked us how we would talk to them about God. People talked about God being like the coach or the quarterback in the gym. When we got to the library, where many geeks hang out, someone said God is like ROM. ROM is strict; read-only memory refers to hard-wired memory in a computer that the computer relies on to work.

It was becoming quite clear that the lesson was that before you can communicate who God was to a person or group, you must know them. You had to know their terminology.

Moses had predicted that Jesus would be the greatest of all the prophets. He expected that he would be the greatest of all communicators.

Dr. Wes Black opened my eyes that day in class as to one of the biggest reasons Jesus was such a great communicator–Jesus started with the audience.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800

To communicate honestly, you must understand your audience. You cannot assume the same way you spoke to others will work with the new audience. For example, you cannot believe that if you are interested in the subject, they will be. Also, you cannot assume they will understand why they need to know something unless you communicate this.

Too many Christians went around telling people they needed to be “Born Again.” Their most significant mistake is the audience had little in common with Nicodemus.

Do you know your audience? 

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.

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

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.

Are you in a fog trying to find your way?

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 450, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

In any sport, winning requires recruiting and getting the best people. You then need to practice together and have a game plan against your competition, which you have scouted and prepared to play against.

Executing your plan flawlessly will most often give you then win, and mistakes will most likely cost you the game.

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 110, ƒ/1.4, 1/80

Many of my friends in communications are losing their jobs. When talking with many of these professionals, I have discovered a lack of understanding of business. Many professionals are coming out of a fog and waking up in the middle of a game. They find themselves in the middle of a contest for which they do not know the game’s rules or goals.

By 2020, 40% of the U.S. workforce will be independent workers. Today, 53 million Americans (34% of the workforce) fall into this category. That number is growing based on several factors. Some employers see this as a better choice, and many employees want more control over their lives.

Being a communications professional will become increasingly difficult if you do not understand business. But, unfortunately, this is the game you are now playing. As a result, there will be fewer staff jobs where other people take care of the business while you are just a writer, photographer, or some different role in the industry.

Business Insights for my Communication colleagues are just learning about business skills.

The first thing you need to know about every business is to have good people skills because everything about business is about people.

Your audience for communicators is people. Your clients are people. Your stories are about people.

If you do not understand how to work with all these groups, then you will not be successful.

Second, in any business is your expertise with your product. Expertise in subject matter is where many of my colleagues are also getting tripped up. They think it is photography, for example. I believe the earliest caveman communicators didn’t have cameras and used other ways to communicate using visuals. I also believe that the storytellers around the campfires during the caveman times were the communicators of their time.

Today you need to be an excellent communicator. You may be more potent as a writer than a photographer or some other skills, but today you still need to be a person who can sit around the campfire of your community and tell those stories.

Due to today’s budgets, many professionals will be responsible for more parts of the storytelling process than when they were part of large staffs where specialization was possible.

A third thing you must master to survive in business today is having worked on your processes. You must be excellent at executing your job as well. Execution means not just that you know how to research a story, but you can take care of all the travel plans and budgets so that you can create an estimate that makes it profitable to do the work. Then you must also know how to bill and pay those taxes on your business.

These are just some processes you must execute to run a successful business at the highest standards. You need to master these before you do the last step.

The last thing you must master to get business is having clarity in communicating your business to customers.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1140, ƒ/1.8, 1/1000

How it works to get those clients

Your potential clients have communication problems they cannot solve independently. Many of these potential clients don’t even know they have the problem. For example, most of the world didn’t think they had a problem that the smartphone would help solve until Steve Jobs gave his presentation on what the iPhone could do.

It would help if you positioned yourself to fix the problems you are an expert on.

If someone asks you what you do, talk about the problems you solve for people and how you might be able to solve their problems. For example, if they see your marketing materials, is it crystal clear what you will do to help them?

Be sure your marketing articulates the problems that you are solving for your potential clients.

Protecting Camera from the Rain

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/11, 1/15

Tonight I got caught across town in NYC with the rain coming down. I tried to get a Taxi and couldn’t get one quick enough, so we took a Manhattan Rickshaw Taxi. It even had a plastic cover which made for some cool pictures.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 8000, ƒ/11, 1/100

So riding in a Rickshaw through Times Square was a lot of fun.

It was an awful weather moment, and we were able to turn it into a fun moment. Our cameras all remained dry at the hotel.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1000, ƒ/4, 1/100

Now one thing I noticed was shooting a shallow depth-of-field wasn’t as good as stopping down from ƒ/4 to ƒ/11 gave me a better result for my taste.

I was also impressed with the driver. He got us in pretty quick time to our hotel, passing many of the cabs.

Go 10 or 20 miles to the left or right

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 4 sec

Sometimes looking for that perfect angle requires more than moving a foot to the left or right; sometimes, it means driving 10 to 20 miles around the subject. Driving around is what I was doing yesterday in Portland, Oregon.

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

I Googled the best places to see the Portland skyline, and then we drove to a few of those locations and tried to get a different angle.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/400

So these are three that I was willing to share from our adventures in finding the establishing shots for a video package I am working on about Chick-fil-A having their Grand Opening in Portland Market.


  • Google images of a city and see what pops up.
  • Look for great places to shoot the skyline.
  • When is the best time to photograph from those locations
  • Shoot a variety of images so you have choices

Photographers need to lead an organization of one

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

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

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

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

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

Then he pulled out a screwdriver with many different tips that I could switch out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compass as Ethics Tool

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

Psalm 139:23-24

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

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

Leadership? But it is just me.

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

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

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

You are playing Chess, not Checkers.

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

James 1:5

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

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

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