Be an Anticipator and not a Procrastinator

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 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 actually started singing at age six and then started performing at age eight.

Recording artist 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 setup the studio like this for her to make some headshots, I had also scouted around to get colors to match her clothing.

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.

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

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 are procrastinators in their work than are anticipators. People wait until they are near a deadline to actually start working on a project.

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

Word vs Photograph

Throughout my career there has been a healthy tension between writers and photographers. One thing you will hear photographers saying to writers is 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 out I would just 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 are you needing these photos or video? 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 the direction and style they are wanting I can then plan for what gear I need for the shoot. Sometimes this requires me renting gear.

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

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/160

Advantage of Anticipating

When you anticipate as I must do for assignments there is a lot of dialogue with a client. Much of this is in written form between me and the client. The great thing about this process for me is I have a paper trail showing how I was proactive and getting 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 then 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 then 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 the 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 client gives you a project–Immediately and not closer to the deadline
  • Delivering the photos quickly–Photos processed for client without quality suffering
  • Creating estimates and invoices quickly
  • Raising concerns and issues before the client realizes a concern–While there are somethings 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 really good at realistically estimating how long things take. The thing that is interesting 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. The reason they will say no is that they know if they can deliver your request or not.
If you find yourself busy and having to occasionally turn down people it is a good sign that you are most likely an Anticipator. However, if you are desperately trying to find work you might just be a Procrastinator.
How to turn yourself from a Procrastinator to an Anticipator
One of the best things I learned in my time 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 couple of minutes and walked through the deadlines, starting backwards.
When do you need this project? Then they would start with that date and then say well the printer needs two weeks from the time they have it to turn it around without any rush fees. Before this the graphic artist will need two weeks to layout the piece and then have you sign off on it. This includes two reviews. By the way your review time puts on hold the project. So if you take 24 hours to approve or make changes then that is how much the project is delayed. If you take a week to get it approved then that means we need to move up the date for you to get materials to us.
Now before the graphic artist can start work the writer and photographers have to create their content. The good news is often the 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 need to be available as well or that also impacts the schedule.
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 due to make things go faster often meant rush fees from printers and or hiring more writers, photographers and or 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 really those people who are gifted at time management and know how to get the very 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 demand because they are know 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 are seeing the sequencing of a story 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 production.

Nikon D4, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/125

Now when you compare the two photos above the main difference is one is a theatre production and the other is real life happening in real time.

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

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

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 they may take four or five pages to describe all that weighs on the character as well as their thoughts and/or dreams. In real life you cannot hear or read those thoughts of people. However in real life the expressions of the person communicates often some of this which a writer only has text to convey.

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 communicate to the audience the character’s thoughts.

Photojournalists/photographers are not actors in a play. If they are a photographer and they 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 roll of the director. They will place the actors and create the scene to communicate all that they need to capture to move the audience to action.

If they are photojournalists they cannot take on the roll of director. They take on a different roll. The best way to describe that roll 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 and then they capture moments as they happen to the later communicate to their audience what happened.

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.3, 1/400

What does the novelist, playwright, director, actor, and photographer all have in common no matter their roll? 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.

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 that I am doing all I can to be true to the moment and not to my 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 worth the price of admission that 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

The reason I am not as fond of shooting weddings is the amount of people posing. I can do an excellent job of getting great moments in posed shots, but my favorite thing to do in all of photography is capturing those moments that are not posed.

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 mother of the groom is dancing with her son and the grooms friends and family are caught up in the moment as well.

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 the love they have 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 the expressions of people where you can see on their faces their emotions. The other thing I notice is at weddings the guests are just as happy for 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 are doing so many styles of photography throughout the day. You are having to do studio lighting fashion shoots and then turn right around and just doing more of event photography as well as getting 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 it is the expressions that are the most powerful thing in a photograph. I spend a great deal of time trying to be sure the technical parts of photography: Lighting, Composition, Depth-of-field and more are all ready for when the moment will happen.

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

Sometimes those moments are posed, but you just 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 back 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 specifically Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was 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 parent’s. Jesus was pointing out that his true value must be placed solely in God and not into things of this world. He needed to be “born again” or as in the Greek it meant be “born from above.”

This was the starting point for the lecture that day many years ago in Professor Black’s class. Black would go on to talk about how Jesus would talk to the woman at the well, to those he would heal and others 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 white board 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. Out front of the school he drew a tree and talked about where the smoking students would hang out.

Then room by room Black asked us how would we talk to them about God. In the gym people talked about God being like the coach or the quarterback. When we got the the library, where many of the geeks hang out, someone said that God is like ROM. ROM is strictly, read-only memory refers to memory that is hard-wired in a computer and 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 had to know them. You had to know their nomenclature.

Moses had predicted that Jesus would be the greatest of all the prophets. He was predicting 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 truly communicate you must understand your audience. You cannot assume the same way you communicated to others will work with the new audience. You cannot assume 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 clearly.

Too many Christians went around telling people they needed to be “Born Again.” There largest 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 am shooting 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 them to be 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 light ratio as compared to the subject. For the most part you don’t want it too bright.

Here your eye goes to the background and not the subject that I want your eye 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 move 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.

Now another thing I think 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

Now notice in the photos how the background is slightly darker than the subject. With photography you can take control of this with your camera. In all three of the portraits here I use an auxiliary flash off the camera to brighten the subject just enough so that the sunlit areas in the background were not blown out.

Three tips to remember:


  • Watch your background
  • Use Backlight
  • Watch the ratio of light on 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 Storytellers Abroad workshop in Managua, Nicaragua.

This 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. 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 are to 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 am looking forward to helping the students as they shoot with tweaking their 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 I in Honduras. Spend a week with us getting to know the people and countryside of Honduras as well as 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
At the end of the week we all gather with the subjects and some in the community for them to have the big reveal of all our stories. We show them what we put together that week on them.
Well I am off to buy some more bug spray to be ready for the mosquitos 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. In just a few days I will fly to Managua, Nicaragua to teach the same workshop with my friends Jeff Raymond and James Dockery.

Let me give you a few tips for doing 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 have 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 go prepared as much as you can and if things change that is OK, but don’t go unprepared.

Each and everyone of the students will have a person/story that they will be given before they leave. Typically for the working professional if you are traveling overseas you most likely will have a month or more time to prepare for your story due to the logistics of traveling.

Once you have the contact information of your subject 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. In those times I was working 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. While this often changes from what you hear till the time the story is done, I always use this storyline as a way to formulate questions to help “flesh out” the story. To flesh out something is to give it substance, or to make it fuller or more nearly complete.

There have been a few times in my career that I was able to do so much research before I arrived that the story was pretty much set. I had asked enough questions that I felt comfortable and had even been able to 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 which had the text/verbal part of the story being told and then a visual shot list that I would use as b-roll. In interviews and documentary films it 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

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

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

Sometimes a novel can really help you feel like you have been somewhere even before you have experienced it. 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 just see images.

This is a great way to get ideas on some establishing shots for the beginning of your story. When I did all this homework before I show up in a city I have already got the street addresses and know what is the best time of day to shoot that skyline shot. 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?

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 500, ƒ/16, 1/100

I am hoping that if you read my blog with any regularity that I may be able to 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 really excited about teaching storytelling workshops over the next few months.

I a couple weeks I am flying to Nicaragua to help teach a storytellers abroad workshop 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 be going to Brazil to cover stories around the Olympics.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 720, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

While seeing sites like the sunset above in Kona are part of the trips, we spend a lot of time like James is doing here with student Jon Franz. We enjoy working with people and watching stories come together over just one week.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/16, 1/50

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

Come with us to the remote area 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 heard of cattle being taken out to the fields each day and brought in to be milked.

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

Honduras Outreach has had the president of Honduras to visit not only the ranch but 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 feedback each day.

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

Go here to learn more about the workshop.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

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

There are a couple things that the workshops I am teaching all have in common. See if this appeals to you.
  1. ACCESS – One of the hardest thing about having great images and stories is access to those people that are interesting. 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 a chance to meet someone and hang out with them and get to know more about them. This is what tourists seldom get to do on a vacation.
  3. SEASONED PROS – Getting feedback each day from professionals whose life has been traveling the world and doing stories on people of every walk of life. Having them review your work and give you tips each day.
  4. LOGISTICS – All the logistics of the traveling has been taken care for you. You just have to pack and get to the first location and we plan the rest for you.
  5. TRAINING – We will teach you how to use software, how to get a story and how to put it together in a package.
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000
While there is education and things to learn the lure of the travel to a new location is seeing the wonderful sites of the location.
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1600

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 to win requires you recruit and get 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 loosing their jobs. When talking with many of these professionals I have discovered a real lack of understanding of business. Many professionals are coming out of a fog and waking up in the middle of a game. They are finding themselves in the middle of a game for which they do not know the rules or the goals of the game.

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

It will become increasingly difficult to be a communications professional if you do not understand business. This is the game you are now playing. There just will be fewer staff jobs where other people take care of the business while you are just a writer, photographer or some other role in the industry.

Business Insights for my Communication colleagues just learning about business skills

First thing you need to know about every business is that you need 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. This is where many of my colleagues are also getting tripped up. They think it is photography for example. I believe that the earliest cave man 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 a excellent communicator. You may be stronger 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.

I think due to budgets of today for many professionals they will be responsible for more parts of the storytelling process than when they were part of large staffs where specialization was more 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. This 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 of the process you must be executing at the highest standards to run a successful business. You need to master these before you do the last step.

The last thing you must master to get business is having clarity on communicating your business for 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 that they cannot solve on their on. Many of these potential clients don’t even know they have the problem. Most of the world didn’t know they had a problem that the smartphone would help solve until Steve Jobs gave his presentation on what the iPhone could do.

You need to position yourself to fix those problems that you are an expert.

If someone asks you what you do when you are done telling them will they know what problems you solve for people and that you just might be able to solve their problem? 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. 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 really 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 a bad weather moment and we were able to turn it into a fun moment. Our cameras all remained dry all the way to 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. This 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 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 best time to photograph from those locations
  • Shoot the 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. The downside of this being your only tool is applying a hammer to every situation doesn’t get the results you are needing.

“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 which had many different tips that could be switched 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

Both 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. With its northward facing needle, it is a consistent and true indicator of physical direction. By placing “moral” in front of compass, we evoke a clear picture of mental processes that point a person in a particular direction in life. These processes are consistent and true 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. For many people they 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 been passing over all those leadership books because you are just an independent photographer. You don’t even use assistants, so how could this possibly help me?

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

  1. Control Time–You should be always focused 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 priorities. When you finish your day and go home then your priorities should be focused on your family and what is most important. Knowing how to get the most out of your time during the day is great leadership skill.
  2. Temper Emotions–This is the one thing I struggle the most about. The reason it is such a struggle is because 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 each and every situation there is to 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. Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty.Strategy is important 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 about what tools are best to put into your leadership toolkit bag?