I am in the People Business

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100


Most people don’t realize it, but McDonald’s is not a burger-flipping restaurant chain; it is one of the world’s best real estate portfolios. Franchisees flip the burgers. McDonald’s owns the best commercial property all over the world.

Well, through the years and more so lately, it has struggled. At one point, Ray Kroc said, “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on that counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.” However, that wasn’t a consistent quote from their leader.

Another time Kroc said, “We’re not in the hamburger business. We’re in show business.” But the one I hear the most often when you are at business schools is, “We are in the real estate business, not the hamburger business.”

Nikon D3, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 2000, ƒ/2.8, 1/400


The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, said, “My business grew on my understanding that customers are always looking for somebody who is dependable and polite and will take care of them.”

Today Chick-fil-A has a corporate purpose in front of their headquarters that everyone in their company if you ask them, can pretty much quote this for memory.

To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.

I have been in countless meetings where I continue to hear, “we have committed to take care of the people who take care of our communities.”

Dan Cathy says,

At Chick-fil-A, we are convinced that Jesus had it right in Matthew 20:26 when He said, “Those who want to become great (leaders) must be willing to become servants.” WE built our leadership competency model around the word SERVE, because we believe that great leaders…

S ee the future
E ngage and develop others
R einvent continuously
V alue results and relationships
E mbody the values

In the lobby of Chick-fil-A Support Center is this statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet. Here you can see a tour group in the background.

Nikon D3S, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 11400, ƒ/4.8, 1/100

Every manager goes through training on the SERVE model, and when they complete the training, they get a miniature replica of this statue to put on their desks and remind them of their role.

Communication Professionals

Are you in the people business, or are you defining what you do differently? I believe the core of what we do is all about people. When you ask the question of WHY it will lead you to a group of people or a person.

Many of you might think that Jesus was just a pushover and a doormat based on washing his subordinate’s feet.

If you read John 2:13-22, you will see Jesus clearing the temple with a whip.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/320

Humanitarian Communication

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

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

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

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

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


You can define your business as Ray Kroc or as Truett Cathy did with their models.

In 2015, McDonald’s closed down more than 700 of its restaurants.

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

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

You may think this is nothing compared to all the McDonald’s worldwide, but the reputations of the two chains couldn’t be further apart.

Chick-fil-A is the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2015.

If you are in the people business, then the most important thing is customer satisfaction because sales are always there with this model.

Are you a Performer or a Creator?

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/250

Jeffrey Masin is a one-person band that entertains New Yorkers in the subway stations. I ran into him a few times while in NYC.

I am using Jeffrey as a point of reference because his performances are stopping folks, and they not only listen, but many of them are posting videos of him on their YouTube channels. Isn’t that what you want your work to do to make people STOP and LISTEN?

Here is a taste of his music:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy_Pudxacps]
Here is another music performance, but this is by a band, The Queens Cartoonists. They, too, have audiences STOPPING and LISTENING.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/160

You also want to hear them, so here is a clip of them playing.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwe02zWr94E]
It is essential to realize that they are both entertaining and very different. From a purely economic perspective, I doubt that the Queen’s Cartoonists are being tipped in the subways all that much more than Jeffrey Masin.

Just doing the simple math, you can see that there are now six verses, only one person. So for the Queen’s Cartoonists to make a similar living to Jeffrey Masin, they need to book bigger venues where they are not relying on tips. By the way, when you Google both groups, you quickly understand what appears to be happening.

The Queens Cartoonists are getting paid to do commercial work for recording and play in clubs.

photo by Jeff Raymond

Today I am a multimedia storyteller. The hats I wear look like Jeffrey Masin, the one-person band. I am the producer, camera guy, sound guy, lighting director, editor, and marketer for many projects I am working on for my clients.

They also love the sound of the six-piece band, but most of them cannot afford to hire that size band compared to hiring me. So you need to figure out expenses on top of the creative fee. The costs for six people push your price to the client beyond their budget.

But just like The Queens Cartoonists, Jeffrey Masin stops the crowds on the subways of NYC and gets their attention.

By all means, you need to learn to collaborate and work with a team to get the best product quality, but you also need to know how to do it all yourself, or you might not be working that often.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/4, 1/60

To make music, you don’t need to play every instrument, but for the most part, those songs that resonate with people are often stories. So in this way, if you are aware of the storyline, you can, as a producer, figure out how to tell that story with your abilities.

The difference between working and begging for work is how to craft a solid storyline.

I will teach this skill this year in Nicaragua, Hawaii, and Honduras. The Honduras trip still has openings. Go here http://workshop.stanleyleary.com to learn more about how to do storytelling and do it as a one-person band because many that will hire you cannot afford the expenses of a larger band.

Gary S. Chapman is the other instructor on the Honduras trip. Gary works with NGOs and other organizations, helping them to tell stories. Gary’s clients include Delta, World Vision, Atlanta Mission, National Geographic publications,  National Geographic TV, and TOMS Shoes. Check out Gary’s marvelous work on his website http://www.garyschapman.com.

What do all these musicians above have in common with me?

We are not just creating great content; we are fully responsible for the performance and finding our audience.

What do musicians and photographers not working have in common?

I would say that the main thing I see from my perspective is that they are all calling up other groups and asking if they can join them. They are not storytellers. They are technicians wanting a storyteller to hire them to help that storyteller tell a story.

Just look at the tens of thousands of “performers” on TV shows The Voice and American Idol. The overwhelming majority of them are just technicians. They are not songwriters. That is why you might think they sound good performing another writer’s song, but you don’t see 99% of them making a living in the industry.

Almost every successful photographer, videographer, and writer I know has taken on a personal project where they produce their content and find an audience.

I can never do all that.

If you are saying this, I understand. I, too, felt that way. If you come with me to Honduras, Gary and I will walk beside you and help you navigate the deep waters of storytelling. Register today!! Come with us and learn how to become a creator of content and not just performers.

How to Ruin a Perfect Photograph

Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 50, ƒ/1.4, 1/400

The easiest way to hurt your sales on any photograph is not to hide text in a picture. The hidden text in computer files like photos is called metadata.

Now, if you shot your photo with a digital camera, there is already some metadata text inside the image. Even your smartphone captures some metadata. It is EXIF metadata.

EXIF is short for Exchangeable Image File, a format that is a standard for storing interchange information in digital photography image files using JPEG compression. Almost all new digital cameras use the EXIF annotation, storing information on the image such as shutter speed, exposure compensation, F number, what metering system was used, if a flash was used, ISO number, date and time the image was taken, white balance, auxiliary lenses that were used and resolution. Some images may even store GPS information so you can easily see where the images were taken!

That is how I know all that information I put under the photos I post here on my blog. I used PhotoMechanic software and adjusted my preferences to show this information under the image in the software. So it looks like this for me:

Now even if you had photographs as great as Ansel Adams, if you didn’t have some hidden text in the picture, then to find those photos, they would have to look at them somehow. But, still, they couldn’t search for them through Google, or even if they are on your computer, you couldn’t find them using the search function on your computer.

Most people who do not hide text in their photos create folders on their computer and then use the filename as another way to search for the photographs.

Now while your camera phone and digital camera are recording important information into the EXIF data fields, there is another set of data fields that you can use to give you even more versatility. Those fields are called IPTC. [International Press Telecommunications Council]

The IPTC Photo Metadata Standard is the most widely used standard to describe photos, because of its universal acceptance among news agencies, photographers, photo agencies, libraries, museums, and other related industries. It structures and defines metadata properties that allow users to add precise and reliable data about images. It has been around since the early 1990s.

Probably the most used software that lets you embed text [hide text] in photos is PhotoShop. Here is what the file information box looks like:


Now you can see and change a lot of those fields.

Another software used in the industry and especially by news photographers is PhotoMechanic. Here is what IPTC looks like in that software:


Using the search tool on my Mac, I can search any of the text in those fields, and it will pull up everything on my computer that has that string of text. So I searched the copyright field of the IPTC using “© Stanley Leary,” and this is what shows up:

I can click on “Show all in Finder…” and see the list of documents, emails, and, most importantly, photos with this information. So even if your client doesn’t have software to embed text into their images, they can search your photos using the reader and find them.

One more software used in the profession is Adobe Lightroom, and this is how the IPTC shows up in that software:


You can see the IPTC information in the Library Module of Lightroom.

Here is a detailed step-by-step on my digital workflow that explains how I put this information in the photos when I ingest the disks into my computer.

Now the cool thing about all this is you can create your system for file naming and what information you want to put into photos for yourself, and then with each of these software systems, you can export the images using your client’s system.

Now there are so many fields that you can use that I needed to take two screenshots of the PhotoMechanic software to give you an idea of what you can do:

I then scrolled down to show you the rest of the form you can fill out:


If you are a photographer, you should make your clients aware that you do this, making your photos more valuable because they can find them!!!

If you embed all your photos with metadata IPTC information, then more than just PhotoShop, PhotoMechanic, Lightroom, or the search engines on your client’s computers can see this information. Online database systems will read all this information and make this available to the world to find your images.

PhotoShelter is one provider many photographers and stock agencies use to help market photos. For example, PhotoShelter interviewed me on how I helped Chick-fil-A adopt their Libris system for image archiving. You can see the interviews here on their blog post.

Not for the faint of heart

Accuracy with your metadata is critical. If you misspell a word, then people will not find the image. Metadata is tedious, and many people don’t do it because it is time-consuming.

Most photographers are not all that professional in their work. They like to shoot. If professional football players behaved the way most “professional photographers” work on Sunday afternoon, they would be carried off the field on a stretcher, never to play the game again. You see professional football players lift weights, do cardiovascular workouts, watch what they eat, and practice throughout the week. Most professional photographers just show up at the game time and think that is all they have to do.

You know how your cost of doing business, practicing with stand-in subjects before the subject is in front of the camera, and doing the detail work like metadata is what truly separates successful business photographers from those who only dream of it.

Now you might understand why someone else’s work is published that you think is subpar to your work–others could find their photos.

What photojournalism has taught me

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

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

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

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

The Establishing Shot

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

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

Stand Alone

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

Detail Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking larger package

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time for ASMP and NPPA to combine

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5000, ƒ/4, 1/100

I have been at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference for the past few days. Through the years, many who have attended the conference have been members of either NPPA or ASMP. Many like myself have been members of both organizations.

Don Winslow is the editor of the News Photographer Magazine for NPPA and is in the photo above. I commented to him about how we should combine the two organizations. Don said that sounds like a great blog post.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/4, 1/250

I am tired of being a naysayer about things in the industry. I can continue to be a whiner about the changes I don’t like, or I can put forth this idea that many of my friends and I have discussed through the years.

I think their members should combine them because when I looked around the room, I saw people like Stacy Pearsall, Anacleto Rapping, Brad Smith, and Dave Black, and none of them were the staff. They are now all freelancers or, a better term, independent contractors.

The most significant difference between the two organizations is that NPPA was primarily staff photographers and ASMP was freelancers.

In an earlier blog post, I wrote:

You’ve probably heard that 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. 

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:
“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

Many NPPA members like Bill Bangham [pictured above] are joining ASMP for similar reasons I did so back in 1987. They see how important it is to help the freelancer.

NPPA has had to catch up with ASMP to help its members understand business practices.

Due to the decline of staff jobs and even the number of independent photographers, these two organizations have fewer members. At one time, the NPPA had a membership of 15,000+; today, they are closer to 5,000.

I believe that the members of both organizations have more in common than different and, therefore, would benefit from combining the two organizations.

How all this would happen, I do not have that worked out in my head, but I know they need each other more today than at any additional time.

I do know that one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is the cost of membership. We have so many NPPA members living in poverty or so close that every little penny counts.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/100

Here is Anacleto Rapping teaching a class at the workshop. He has always been on staff like the LA Times and Brooks Institute before the past couple of years, having to run his own business. We need his talent and knowledge to help grow our industry.

Many NPPA members make around $24,000 salary. Without employers paying their dues, they don’t have the funds to join.

I know the cost of ASMP membership is well worth it for the freelancer. It is more valuable early in your career since they can help you navigate the business aspect better than you going alone.

Since the executive director of ASMP was on the board of NPPA and NPPA needs an executive director, why not just combine the two organizations and let Tom Kennedy and the boards help lead us to a healthier organization than two struggling organizations?

Four tips to grow your photography brand

Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 5600, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

I am in Orlando, Florida, covering a great meeting. I learned about four key elements today to grow your business.

  1. Avoid Complacency
  2. Know the Customer
  3. Focus to Win
  4. Work Together
I already knew this, but the speaker packaged them in a neat package for the audience.
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/500
Here is my interpretation of these points for photographers.

Avoid Complacency

If you as so dependable that your coverages all look alike, you have become complacent. So it would help if you mixed it up. 
If you struggle to do this, buy a different lens and force yourself to work differently.
Nikon D4, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 6400, ƒ/1.4, 1/500
I did this recently by buying a 35mm ƒ/1.4. But, let me tell you, I tossed out a lot of shots tonight from shooting because the depth of field was so shallow the photos looked like I missed the focus.
Now I owned this lens when I first started shooting for a newspaper in 1984. However, I hadn’t held the fast prime in maybe 25 years. 
I used this lens to push me to do something different tonight.

Know The Customer

I work hard to understand the problem I am solving for the customer. It isn’t about me just taking pretty pictures. They need photos of specific things.
Way too many photographers think they know better than the customer. But unfortunately, most of these photographers don’t know as much as they believe.
Always know precisely the requirements you need to fulfill for the customer, so their problem is solved. Now, for fun, if you choose to go and shoot more stuff, that’s not only OK but also great.
Matthew 5:41 talk about people having to carry a Roman soldier’s gear for one mile if they were a Jew in the time of Christ. Jesus told people to carry that load 2 miles. 
Many companies today talk about 2nd-mile service, which references the Bible story. But, unfortunately, the mistake many make is they think they are doing the 2nd mile and don’t do the first mile, to begin with, for the client.

Focus to Win

To get a customer and to KEEP them, you need to understand the customer’s beliefs and behaviors. Then, you want to influence these.
A wedding photographer understands they are not just taking and documenting photos of the wedding. Instead, they know they are writing the book’s first chapter of the bride and groom’s life together.
When I started social media, the photographers who understood how to influence customers’ beliefs and behaviors would Tweet photos from the day. They also helped them create those no look but touch photos of the bride and groom before the wedding. Using social media is a new phenomenon that didn’t exist before photographers started offering this, and all couples wanted it.
The photographer who first started this and other ideas quickly became in high demand. They influenced the beliefs and behaviors of engaged couples, their choices for photographers, and what was concerned gowith od wedding photography.

Work Together

Social media still applies even if you don’t have a staff and it is just you. If you are married, your spouse can make a huge difference in their lives. As you work with your client, you help them to see this is a collaboration. 
I learned today about how Uber delivers puppies for you to play with. Just read this story. Not only does a puppy cheer someone up like flowers, but it also helps the local humane society with a donation. Uber is working to make communities better in many ways.
In what ways can you do something that, when someone does business with you, benefits your community?
Check out Warby Parker Eyeglasses for another example of a company that when customers work with them, the entire community benefits. Buy a pair, give a pair.
While these four ideas are not new, they can revolutionize your business. However, each of these requires a commitment at a pretty high level to execute them wisely.
Are you up to the challenge?

Warning Signs for Becoming a Professional Photographer

[Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/18, 1/500]

While taking my drive around the Big Island of Hawaii last week, I turn onto the 4 mile scenic route
of Old Mamalahoa Highway just outside of Hilo, Hawaii. About halfway on the road we came across this beautiful view of a bay area.

This was next to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a wonderful exotic part of the Big Island. Through the years the views have been changing. More and more fences are going up alongside these views with signs of warning.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/18, 1/500

You see the entire Island is a volcano. The rocks are quite porous and can easily break off. One of the years when I visited a large section of the Volcanoes National Park broke off and fell into the sea. It was about the size of a football field. Some people died when that happened.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500

Scenes like this of Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii are one of the things drawing people into thinking that if this is what a photographer does then sign me up.

The lure of what photographers get to take photos of is what draws way too many people into this industry and then without warning many people have the ground fall away underneath them and they often do not survive the industry.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

There are signs when you go to the Black Sands beach telling you to not touch the turtles and to stay 15 feet away and that includes when taking pictures.

Photographers it seems need a lot of signs to tell them what not to do, because they seem to just take unnecessary risks.

Signs are now going up

I think slowly people are getting the message that being a photographer isn’t as easy as it seems. There are now warning signs all over the industry.

My friend called me while I was in Hawaii. I had asked if he could help me with a project and be a shooter for me. He was sick when I asked and was going in the next day to work and would check with his boss.

He was calling to let me know half of the staff was laid off. My friend was now very available to help me.

Just in the past few months other icons also were slicing their staffs.

More and more of my friends no longer had staff jobs.

Shortly after Sports Illustrated laid off the staff of photographers even my friend Brad Smith the director of photography lost his job with a few others.

What this means

If you want to be a teacher, lawyer, fireman and most any other profession you just go and study and become that professional. You graduate from a degree program and apply to be a staff employee somewhere.

Well that has majorly changed in photography. When I graduated from college I was hired by a newspaper. While there are some staff jobs, the number of them is drastically less than just a few years ago. Not only are there fewer staff jobs there are fewer newspapers.

You’ve probably heard that 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.

Chauncy Lennon, who runs JPMorgan’s workforce initiatives said:

“The workforce of the past was organized around company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker. If we can’t find the right people, it’s going to hurt our bottom line.”

Freelancing vs Staff

You need to know a lot more about the business side of your profession than if you were a staff employee. You need to understand the Cost of Doing Business and your business needs to solve a problem for someone or you are just not going to be in business very long at all. Here is a great blog for you to follow about the business side of photography http://blog.photoshelter.com/category/business/.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000

Just like these cowboys trying to rope a cow, it takes a lot of practice before you can turn pro.

Lighting Assignment: Combining Studio Strobes with Available Light

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/50

This last shooting assignment I have given my class this week is to take a studio strobe out and make a photo where this compliments the light already in the scene.

Before they shot in the field, I did two different shoots. Here is the second shoot I did with them where we left the classroom, and I showed them how to talk to folks and get them to pose for an environmental photograph. So again, this is an environment that tells us something about the person.

Here we are showing the guy doing his job as a barista in the local coffee shop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

I first made this photo of him working and showed it to the class. I showed them the light on the subject and didn’t make him pop. Then, as he continued to work, I took another photo with the studio strobe to make him pop.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2500, ƒ/10, 1/60

The setup was like this for the shot:

I put a 10º Grid and a neutral density filter on the flash, which was still pretty bright. I used the grid to keep the light from going everywhere and lighting up too much in the scene.

Then I just had him turn and look at the camera for the first photo.

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

We heard sawing nearby, so we checked it out and saw if we could get another person in their work environment. Here is the first photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/11, 1/80

After adding the flash, I took this photo and adjusted the shutter speed to where I didn’t blow the background away.

When I first talked about the assignment, we walked outside the studio, and I took these photos to give them some understanding of the assignment.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

After making this photo, I then added a flash.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/250

Then I added a CTO Gel, an orange-colored gel, to the light. I then took a custom white balance and reshot the photo.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/250

I also underexposed the background by 1 1/2 stop by turning the strobe up in power but keeping everything else the same. Unfortunately, this adjustment meant I had to close down the aperture from ƒ/10 to ƒ/22. The change made the background darker since the light didn’t affect it.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/18, 1/250

I then added a CTB to the light and did a custom white balance. The background went orange with a blue gel on the flash and corrected the white balance to give a good skin tone.

Make this your assignment as well. Here are the directions that I gave to the class:

Mixed Lighting
This assignment aims to demonstrate that when you are out of the studio, you can use your strobes to improve an otherwise dismal situation.
Whatever you choose, you must provide two photos. 
  1. Photo without strobes. In other words, your subject needs light to make it look better. You want to make this the best exposed as possibly you can do. (the same as with strobes)
  2. Photo with the strobes.
Some Blog Posts to help get your juices flowing and walk you through the steps:

  1. 20% for proper exposure
  2. 20% for focus
  3. 20% Showing rules of composition
  4. 20% Demonstrating each technique
  5. 20% for expression

Seeing Rembrandt lighting and then creating it

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/500

This morning while eating breakfast at Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo, Hawaii, I noticed what appeared to be a mother and daughter together. After analyzing the photograph, I know it caught my eye because of the lighting on the mother’s face.

We call Rembrandt lighting, named after the famous painter known for using this lighting technique in many of his paintings.

Ken’s House of Pancakes
Around the Island Trip

There is a little triangle of light on the dark side of the face when the light is 45º to the subject’s side and 45º above the issue.

Tomorrow the students in the class will learn how to create the triangle on a person’s cheek to create Rembrandt lighting. Rembrandt lighting is my first lesson in lighting, which I think is a great place to start.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, , ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200–four Alienbees

To get this triangle, the students will use a similar setup to this shot. For this shot, I used four lights. The students will only use one.

They will use just one light with a spot grid on it.

Here is the assignment they will get tomorrow. How about you try it yourself?

Rembrandt Lighting Assignment

I gave the class an assignment on making a Rembrandt light portrait using just one light with a 10º or 20º spot grid.

Most of the class has never even turned on a studio strobe before.

Here is the assignment:

SOP 1 Studio Shots

Rembrandt’s portrait uses one grid light


Please get the best possible expression. For example, it would be best if you saw a triangle on their cheek. Be sure the triangle includes lighting their eye.

Monobloc with 10 or 20-degree grid
You may use any power setting you choose. Be sure skin tone is exposed correctly and correct white balance.

Choose the lowest ISO setting for your camera. For example, use a portrait lens of 85mm – 100mm; if you don’t have a full frame, then 50mm will be OK.

You may use a black background as well. No other lights are to be used in this assignment.

Here is one of the students shot from the past:

Photo by: Lauren R. Tercero

Why I chose my Nikon D4 over my D750

While in Florida at a family reunion, we were suddenly in the backyard watching our kids enjoying Go Karting. I started shooting this with my Nikon D750 with a Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens. I quickly realized the performance differed from what I was used to with my Nikon D4.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

I returned to the car and got my Nikon D4 and Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM. I immediately went to the “Shooting menu bank” and picked what I saved as my sports settings.

Next, I went to my “Custom menu settings” and picked the setting I saved as my sports settings.

Lastly, I put the shutter release on continuous high.

To see what each of these settings are on my Nikon D4, you can read this earlier blog post on my Sports Settings for the Nikon D4.

The Nikon D750 could have performed much better, but the point of this blog post is how important it is to concentrate on the action when you need to capture a moment, not your camera.

The one significant advantage of the Nikon D4 over the D750 was 11 fps. The focus tracking and 11 fps gave me more moments to choose my best shot. In addition, the buffer is more significant, so you can shoot more frames before the buffer fills.

The best thing to know is that if you need to get the shot, you must know that you have maximized your camera settings. You don’t do this when you need a photo; you do this when you take your camera and go and practice. For example, maybe you go by a busy road and practice shooting moving traffic so you can tweak your focus settings. After you get that set, then you move to another location to set.

Once you get all the settings just right, then save them. My Nikon D4 gives me four different memory banks to save my settings.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000

The payoff for maximizing my camera’s settings is having a moment like this to remember my daughter and her cousin having fun.

You will pick the camera you are most comfortable with to get the photo you need, so take the time and calibrate the camera for the situations you will shoot.

Make your family photos more valuable for future generations

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 200, ƒ/6.3, 1/160–Neewer T850, Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Radio system

This past weekend our family flew down to Jupiter, Florida, to surprise my wife’s oldest sister for her 80th birthday.

We met some of the family for the first time and others my wife hadn’t seen in 39 years.

After taking this photo, I didn’t wait till I got home to work on it on the computer. I wanted to be sure to make this photo the most valuable asset it can be to our family from now on.

Here is a video to help you know how to do this in Adobe Lightroom:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45_zCZnqmqU]
After I had the photo in Adobe Lightroom editing software, I used Face Recognition technology to help identify every person in all the photos I took this weekend. Now the software, while not perfect, did a great job. However, I did have to force it to tag some of the faces.

The good thing is now inside the metadata of the image is everyone’s name in this photograph.

Metadata is “data that provides information about other data”. Two types of metadata exist: structural metadata and descriptive metadata. Structural metadata is data about the containers of data. Descriptive metadata uses individual instances of application data or the data content.

Metadata was traditionally in the card catalogs of libraries. As information has become increasingly digital, metadata is also used to describe digital data using metadata standards specific to a particular discipline. Describing the contents and context of data or data files increases their usefulness. For example, a web page may include metadata specifying what language the page is written in, what tools were used to create it, and where to find more information about the subject; this metadata can automatically improve the reader’s experience.

The main purpose of metadata is to facilitate in the discovery of relevant information, more often classified as resource discovery. Metadata also helps organize electronic resources, provide digital identification, and helps support archiving and preservation of the resource. Metadata assists in resource discovery by “allowing resources to be found by relevant criteria, identifying resources, bringing similar resources together, distinguishing dissimilar resources, and giving location information.”

This photo is from my dad’s side of the family. I know the man on the far left (even though this is sketchy) is my great grandfather, who owned the blacksmith. He is H. P. Sewell.

Who are the rest of the people? We don’t know.

Make your photos from your family more valuable. Take the time to identify who is in the picture.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

This photo is of the three sisters from the weekend and my wife’s great niece. Just imagine a few generations later where they tell their children stories about who their ancestors were.

In the past, people put the names of people on the back of the print. Today embedding that information using metadata is even better.

In PhotoShop, go to the menu item File>File Info.

Under the primary table in the description box, put the people’s names in the photo. You can even put them from left to right and row 1, 2, and so on to help people in the future who will not know who anyone is in the photograph.

This screenshot is the Spotlight search on a Mac, but you can do a text search on a PC and get the same results. Because the names are embedded in a photo, you can now search and find those people. Here I put the last name in for Teubner. I didn’t even have to finish spelling it before the photos started listing for me in the search box.

I set up two umbrellas with hot-shoe flashes to make the group photos this past weekend. Once I had them set up, we had one of our family members take a picture of our family, which rarely happens. Like the cobbler, we have a few photos of us as a family.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 180, ƒ/4, 1/250–fill flash.

While we set up and took some posed photos, we enjoyed those moments, capturing the family having fun.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/2000
Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60

I feel great about this past weekend. I not only got to meet family members I didn’t know we had, but I can now look back at the photos, tell my family who is who, and help them know what a wonderful family heritage we have.

3 Light High Key Headshot

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/80

Keeping your setup simple and concentrating on expressions is my suggestion. For example, here is my setup for this photo above.


Here is the gear that I am using for the photo.

  • 3 – Alienbee B1600
  • Paul Buff – White High Output Beauty Dish
  • Lastolite Triflector kit silver/gold
  • Collapsible Background – 5 x 7′ (Black/White)
  • Nikon D750
  • Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G

In my basement, I have a similar setup; the only difference is that I have a hair light mounted on the ceiling.

I am shooting on the lowest power setting possible for all the lights.

This setup works well for men as well.