The Power of Storytelling in Photography: Capturing Attention and Creating Impactful Photos

In today’s world, where visual content is consumed at an unprecedented rate, capturing and holding people’s attention is more challenging than ever. As photographers, we wield a powerful tool: our camera. But to truly stand out and make a lasting impact, we need more than technical skills and creative flair. We need to harness the art of storytelling.

Why Storytelling Matters

Storytelling has been a fundamental part of human culture since the dawn of time. It’s how we make sense of the world, share experiences, and connect with others on a deeper level. In photography, storytelling transforms images from mere snapshots into compelling narratives that evoke emotions, spark curiosity, and invite viewers to engage with the scene on a more profound level.

A little girl joyfully jumps rope, surrounded by children playing together in the vibrant community of Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.

Asking the Right Questions

Strong storytelling photos do more than capture a moment; they ask the audience questions. They invite viewers to ponder the emotions and actions depicted. Questions like:

  • Why are they happy?
  • Why are they sad?
  • What are they doing?
  • What’s happening next?

By provoking these questions, you create a sense of mystery and intrigue, drawing the audience into the story. This engagement is what makes your photos memorable and impactful.

Full of curiosity, a young boy in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa, eagerly poses for the camera, capturing a moment of connection with the photographer.

The Photographer’s Journey: Asking “Why?”

To create resonant storytelling photos, photographers must ask themselves a crucial question: Why am I taking this photo? This question is the foundation of your storytelling journey. Here’s how to navigate this journey:

  1. Identify the Story: Before picking up your camera, think about the story you want to tell. Is it a story of joy, struggle, triumph, or sorrow? Understanding the narrative will guide your creative decisions.
  2. Capture Emotion: Emotions are at the heart of every great story. Look for moments that convey strong feelings and capture them in a way that allows viewers to experience those emotions, too.
  3. Focus on Details: Sometimes, the smallest details can tell the most powerful stories. A tear rolling down a cheek, a hand reaching out, or a shared glance can speak volumes. Pay attention to these moments and use them to enrich your narrative.
  4. Compose with Purpose: Composition plays a vital role in storytelling. Think about how you frame your subjects, using light and shadow, and the elements you include or exclude from the shot. Every choice should serve the story you want to tell.
  5. Create Context: Provide context to your story by capturing the main subjects and their surroundings. The environment can add layers of meaning and help viewers understand the broader narrative.
  6. Seek Authenticity: Authenticity is key to storytelling. Candid moments often tell more compelling stories than posed shots. Strive to capture genuine interactions and real emotions.
In their home in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa, a Pastor and his wife share their stories and experiences during an interview, offering a glimpse into their life and faith.

Enhancing Your Storytelling Skills

Continuous learning and practice are essential to becoming a master storyteller with your camera. Here are some tips to help you enhance your storytelling skills:

  • Study Great Storytellers: Look at photographers known for their storytelling work. Analyze their photos and try to understand how they convey emotions and narratives.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Be present in the moment and observe everything around you. This mindfulness will help you notice the subtle details that make a story come to life.
  • Experiment with Techniques: Don’t be afraid to try new techniques and approaches. Experimenting can lead to unexpected and powerful storytelling opportunities.
  • Solicit Feedback: Share your work with others and seek constructive feedback. Understanding how others perceive your photos can provide valuable insights into how effectively you’re telling your stories.
In the Obreja Veche, Moldova community, people wait outside the Golgotha Church to see the Medical Missions team for health check-ups. The local pastor and church planter had struggled to start conversations with residents, as they rarely answered their doors. However, when he brought a medical missions team from the United States to offer free services for a day, the community turned out in large numbers, allowing the pastor to finally engage in the conversations he had long desired with his neighbors.


Storytelling is a powerful tool that can elevate your photography to new heights. You can create images that resonate deeply with your audience by asking the right questions and focusing on the “why” behind your photos. Remember, the key to impactful storytelling lies in capturing emotions, paying attention to details, composing with purpose, providing context, and staying authentic. As you hone your storytelling skills, you’ll find that your photos capture attention and leave a lasting impression.

So, the next time you lift your camera to your eye, ask yourself, “Why am I taking this photo?” Let that question guide you, and watch as your storytelling prowess transforms your photography into a powerful medium for connection and expression.

The Lifeline of Creativity: Why Constant Content Creation is Essential for Success

In today’s fast-paced, content-driven world, staying relevant as a creative professional means constantly producing new content. For storytellers, photographers, and videographers like myself, this is not just a strategy; it’s a necessity. Potential clients must see you as a wellspring of fresh ideas and innovation. Here’s why continually generating new content and how you can effectively showcase it to your audience is vital.

The Importance of Continuous Content Creation

  1. Demonstrates Your Skills:
    • Personal projects are a fantastic way to highlight your abilities. They allow you to showcase what you can do without client constraints, often leading to some of your most creative work.
  2. Showcases Your Range:
    • Regularly sharing different types of content shows the variety of your ideas and the breadth of your skill set. Whether it’s a stunning landscape photograph or a compelling brand story video, diversity in your work makes you more appealing to a broader audience.
  3. Evolves Your Style:
    • Creativity is a journey, not a destination. By constantly creating, you let your style evolve naturally over time. This progression keeps your work fresh and engaging for you and your audience.
  4. Keeps You Top of Mind:
    • Consistently putting out new content ensures that you stay on the radar of potential clients and collaborators. It’s a gentle reminder of your expertise and availability.
  5. Builds Your Portfolio:
    • A robust, diverse portfolio is crucial for attracting new clients. Regular content creation means you always have new work to showcase, keeping your portfolio dynamic and up-to-date.
Chick-fil-A Holcomb Bridge Road & Alpharetta Hwy, Roswell, Georgia

Getting Your Content in Front of Clients

In today’s digital age, there are more ways than ever to get your work seen by potential clients:

  1. Blogs:
    • Write blog posts about your latest projects, industry trends, and creative processes. Blogs are great for SEO and can drive traffic to your website.
  2. Video Platforms (Vimeo/YouTube):
    • Share your video content on platforms like Vimeo and YouTube. These platforms have massive audiences and are great for showcasing your storytelling and videography skills.
  3. Newsletters:
    • Create a regular newsletter to keep your audience updated on your latest work, upcoming projects, and insights. This helps maintain a direct line of communication with your followers and clients.
  4. Social Media:
    • Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn are excellent for sharing snippets of your work and engaging with your audience. Consistent posting helps build a loyal following.
  5. Printed Promotional Content:
    • Don’t underestimate the power of print. High-quality postcards, brochures, or portfolios can make a lasting impression, especially in face-to-face meetings or networking events.

How Often Should You Post New Content?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some general guidelines:

  • Social Media: Aim for at least 3-5 posts per week.
  • Blog Posts: Once a week or bi-weekly is a good target.
  • Newsletters: Monthly or bi-monthly.
  • Video Content: Aim for a new video every month or more frequently.
Elite Dance Academy Spring Recital at Springer Opera House

Using a Content Calendar

Planning your content with a calendar can be incredibly beneficial. Here’s why:

  1. Organization:
    • A content calendar helps you stay organized, ensuring you always have something ready to share.
  2. Consistency:
    • Regular posting is key to keeping your audience engaged. A calendar helps you maintain a consistent posting schedule.
  3. Strategic Planning:
    • It allows you to plan content around key dates, events, and campaigns, ensuring your content aligns with your overall marketing strategy.
  4. Time Management:
    • By planning, you can allocate time more efficiently and avoid last-minute rushes.


For creatives, constant content creation is more than just keeping busy; it’s about continually pushing boundaries, showcasing your evolving skills, and staying relevant in a crowded market. By leveraging multiple platforms and maintaining a consistent posting schedule, you can ensure your work gets the attention it deserves. So, grab that camera, start that blog, and let your creativity shine!

Please contact me for more personalized advice or help with your content strategy. Let’s keep those ideas flowing and your portfolio growing!

The Importance of Overshooting: Capturing Dance Recitals and Beyond

Yesterday was a special day for me. I had the pleasure of photographing my daughter’s students from Elite Dance Academy during their Spring Dance Recital at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia. This venue holds a special place in our hearts because of its rich history and because my daughter works full-time at the box office, conducts ghost tours, and hosts No-Shame Theater every other week. It was a joy to see her in her element and to capture the artistry of her students on such a grand stage.

Why Overshooting is Essential

Photography, especially in dynamic settings like dance recitals, demands a keen eye and quick reflexes. The fleeting nature of “peak” moments – those split seconds where the dancers’ expressions, movements, and lighting converge perfectly – makes overshooting an invaluable strategy. Here’s why:

  1. Capturing the Unpredictable: Dance is all about movement. Unlike posed photography, you can’t predict when a dancer will hit their stride. By overshooting, you increase your chances of capturing those perfect, unscripted moments that define the performance.
  2. Compensating for Inexperience: While I don’t shoot dance daily, even seasoned photographers who specialize in dance know the importance of taking numerous shots. When you’re not regularly photographing a particular subject, overshooting helps mitigate the risk of missing key moments.
  3. Ensuring Coverage: At yesterday’s recital, there were over 80 separate dance routines, ranging from young children to high school students. Shooting around 100 images per dance routine might seem excessive, but it ensures that I have a wide selection to choose from, highlighting each dancer’s best moments.
  4. Capturing “Peak” Moments: Dance photography is all about timing. Those brief, peak moments where a dancer’s skill and emotion are fully displayed can be challenging to capture. Taking many shots maximizes your chances of freezing these moments in time.
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Tips for Effective Overshooting

  1. Know Your Equipment: Familiarize yourself with your camera’s burst mode settings. This allows you to take multiple shots quickly, which is crucial for capturing fast-moving subjects like dancers.
  2. Anticipate Movements: Study the dance routines beforehand if possible. Understanding the choreography helps you anticipate when those peak moments might occur, allowing you to be ready to capture them.
  3. Be Selective with Your Shots: While overshooting involves taking many photos, it’s also about being strategic. Focus on moments when the dancers will likely express the most emotion or demonstrate impressive technical skills.

Culling the Images: Finding the Best Moments

Once the event is over and you have thousands of images, the next step is culling – sorting through to find the best shots. Here are some tips to streamline this process:

  1. Initial Pass: Please look at all your images and discard any that are out of focus, poorly composed, or otherwise unusable. This will significantly reduce the number of images you must review more carefully.
  2. Star Rating System: Use a star rating system to categorize your images. Start with broad categories (e.g., 1-2 stars for average shots, 3-4 stars for good shots, 5 stars for the best shots). This helps you progressively narrow down your selection.
  3. Look for Emotion and Composition: Focus on images that convey strong emotions, tell a story, or have excellent composition. These are the photos that will stand out and resonate with viewers.
  4. Seek Feedback: If possible, get a second opinion. Sometimes, another set of eyes can catch details you might have missed and provide valuable insights into which images truly capture the essence of the performance.


Overshooting is a powerful technique, especially when every moment counts and the action is unpredictable. Yesterday’s dance recital at the Springer Opera House reminded me of the beauty of these fleeting moments and the importance of capturing them. Whether you’re photographing dance, sports, or any fast-moving event, don’t be afraid to overshoot. The extra effort will pay off when you see the final images that truly encapsulate the spirit and energy of the performance.

Remember, the key to successful photography is not just the moments you capture but also ensuring you have enough material to choose from to tell the best possible story. Happy shooting!

Embracing Golden Hour Lighting for Naturally Stunning Photos

Photography enthusiasts and professionals alike have long revered the magical moments of the golden hour. This period, occurring just after sunrise and just before sunset is characterized by its warm, soft light, creating an ideal atmosphere for capturing stunning, naturally-lit photos. As trends in photography shift towards more authentic and less edited images, golden hour lighting remains a steadfast favorite.

Kona, Hawaii [NIKON D750, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/100, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 55)]

The Beauty of Golden Hour

Golden hour lighting is renowned for its natural warmth and softness. During these times, the sun’s low angle results in longer shadows and a diffused light that wraps gently around subjects. This creates a natural glow that is difficult to replicate with artificial lighting or post-processing.

  1. Warm Tones: The golden hues during this time add a natural warmth to photos, enhancing skin tones and landscapes alike. This warm light can make even ordinary scenes look extraordinary, infusing them with calm and beauty.
  2. Soft Shadows: The light during golden hour is diffused and less harsh than the midday sun. This results in softer shadows that add depth to images without the stark contrast often seen in harsh daylight.
  3. Enhanced Textures: Low-angle light enhances textures, revealing details in landscapes and portraits. Whether it’s the rugged surface of a mountain or the subtle lines of a face, golden hour light beautifully accentuates these features.
Antoine Tarnagda (brown shirt) and Zongo Tarnagda (on the bicycle) in Soumagou. Antoine and Zongo are part of the Bissa tribe. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/125, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 27)]

Tips for Capturing Golden Hour Photos

Maximizing the potential of golden hour lighting requires some planning and technique. Here are some tips to help you make the most of this magical time of day:

  1. Plan Ahead: The golden hour is fleeting, so preparation is crucial. Use apps or online tools to determine the exact timing of sunrise and sunset in your location. Arrive early to scout your location and set up your equipment.
  2. Use a Reflector: A reflector can help you control the light and reduce shadows, especially for portrait photography. Reflectors bounce light back onto the subject, filling in shadows and creating a more even lighting effect.
  3. Experiment with Angles: Don’t be afraid to change your perspective. Shooting with the sun behind your subject can create beautiful backlighting and flares, while side lighting can enhance textures and add depth.
  4. Shoot in Manual Mode: Golden hour light changes rapidly, so manual mode allows you to adjust your settings on the fly. Pay attention to your exposure, as the light can vary significantly from one moment to the next.
  5. Capture the Glow: Take advantage of golden hour’s natural glow. This is the perfect time for silhouette shots, lens flares, and capturing sunrays filtering through trees or buildings.
In the bush village of Sabtenga, the oldest man in a hat was Musanai Zemnai, the Chief of the Young People, who welcomed the group. [NIKON D2X, 18.0-50.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/640, ƒ/4, (35mm = 27)]

Why Golden Hour is a Timeless Trend

The shift towards more natural and less edited photography underscores the enduring appeal of golden hour lighting. In a digital age where images are often heavily processed, the authenticity and simplicity of golden hour photos stand out. This trend celebrates the inherent beauty of natural light, aligning with a broader movement toward authenticity in visual storytelling.

Golden Hour offers photographers a unique opportunity to create visually striking and emotionally resonant images. The warm, natural light enhances the photos’ aesthetic quality and evokes a sense of peace and tranquility. As we continue valuing authenticity and natural beauty in photography, golden hour lighting will remain a cherished technique for capturing genuinely stunning images.

A lady stops just before entering the local grocery store in Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania.
[NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/160, ƒ/9, (35mm = 14)]


Golden hour lighting embodies the perfect blend of natural beauty and photographic potential. Its warm, soft light creates an ideal setting for capturing visually stunning and authentically real moments. As the trend towards naturally lit photography grows, golden hour remains a beloved and timeless technique for photographers worldwide. So, set your alarm early or prepare for a late afternoon shoot, and let the magic of golden hour transform your photography.

Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [DJI Air 2S, Mode = Normal, ISO 150, 1/240, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

The ƒ/16 Challenge: Elevate Your Photography Through Composition

As a photographer, I’ve always believed in pushing the boundaries of creativity and honing our skills to capture compelling stories through our lenses. Today, I want to introduce you to an exciting exercise that will challenge your eye for composition and elevate your photographic artistry: the ƒ/16 Challenge.

Why ƒ/16?

When we shoot with a shallow depth of field, such as ƒ/2.8 or ƒ/1.8, it’s easier to create visually appealing images because the background blurs into a creamy bokeh, isolating the subject and minimizing distractions. While this technique can produce stunning portraits and close-ups, it doesn’t always push us to explore the full potential of our compositional skills.

Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Tignal, Georgia. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 15-30mm F3.5-4.5 EX DG Aspherical DF, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/4, ƒ/13, (35mm = 33)]

Enter the ƒ/16 Challenge. By setting your aperture to ƒ/16, you’ll achieve a deep depth of field, meaning the foreground and background will be in sharp focus. This requires you to carefully consider every element in your frame and use your compositional prowess to guide the viewer’s eye through the image.

Composition Tools for the ƒ/16 Challenge

Here are some compositional tools to help you create compelling images with a deep depth of field:

  1. Leading Lines
    • Use natural or manufactured lines to draw the viewer’s eye through the image. Roads, rivers, fences, and shadows can all serve as leading lines.
  2. Rule of Thirds
    • Divide your frame into a 3×3 grid and position key elements along these lines or at their intersections. This creates a balanced and engaging composition.
  3. Framing
    • Incorporate elements in your scene to frame your subject, such as natural frames like tree branches or architectural frames like doorways and windows.
  4. Symmetry and Patterns
    • Look for symmetrical scenes or repetitive patterns that can create a sense of harmony and rhythm in your images.
  5. Foreground Interest
    • Include interesting elements in the foreground to add depth and guide the viewer’s eye into the scene.
  6. Depth and Layers
    • Arrange your composition with distinct foreground, middle ground, and background elements. This creates a sense of depth and dimensionality.
  7. Contrast and Color
    • Use contrasting colors and tones to highlight your subject and create visual interest. Bold colors can make elements pop, while subtle contrasts can add nuance.
  8. Negative Space
    • Embrace negative space to give your subject room to breathe and create a minimalist aesthetic.
[NIKON Z 6, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/1.7, ƒ/8, (35mm = 14)]

Are You Up to the Challenge?

The ƒ/16 Challenge is not just about technical settings; it’s about training your eye to see the world differently. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Set Your Aperture to ƒ/16
    • Switch to aperture priority mode (A or Av) or manual mode (M) and dial in ƒ/16.
  2. Choose Your Scene
    • Find a scene with potential for depth and interesting elements from foreground to background.
  3. Compose Your Shot
    • Use the composition tools listed above to create a balanced, dynamic image.
  4. Shoot and Review
    • Take your shot, then review it on your camera’s screen. Adjust your composition if needed and shoot again.
  5. Analyze and Improve
    • Review your images later on a larger screen. Analyze what worked and didn’t, and think about how to improve next time.
These people dressed in white are going to the Eny River to be baptized and become members of the First Baptist Church in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Thirty-five people are in the group. The person leading them is a deacon in the church. His name is Vladimir Korniyshin. Photo by: Don Rutledge

Embrace the Depth

Taking on the ƒ/16 Challenge will push you to be more mindful of every element within your frame. By mastering the art of composition with a deep depth of field, you’ll become a more versatile and thoughtful photographer, capable of crafting images that tell compelling stories regardless of your aperture setting.

So, are you up to the challenge? Grab your camera, set that aperture to ƒ/16, and let’s see the world through a new lens.

Happy shooting!

Why Not Everyone Will Benefit from Upgrading Their Camera

In photography, the allure of the latest camera gear is hard to resist. With each new release promising higher resolutions, faster autofocus, and better low-light performance, it’s easy to feel that upgrading is the only way to stay ahead. However, the truth is not everyone will benefit from upgrading their camera. Here’s why:

Higher ISO Isn’t Always Necessary

For many photographers, shooting at high ISO settings isn’t a daily requirement. Most digital cameras today perform exceptionally well at lower ISOs, providing crisp and clear images without needing the latest model. If your photography rarely involves dim lighting or fast-moving subjects, an upgrade might be more about wanting the latest gadget than needing it.

Tripod-Based Photography

If your work involves using a tripod and your subjects are stationary, such as in landscape, architecture, or product photography, the benefits of upgrading from a crop sensor to a full-frame camera might be minimal. When you’re shooting with controlled lighting and stable setups, the difference in sensor size becomes less critical. Your current gear can likely deliver the quality you need.

Studio Portraits

For portrait photographers who primarily work in a studio setting with controlled lighting and flashes, upgrading your camera might not significantly improve your work. Studio flashes offer ample light, allowing you to shoot at low ISO settings where most modern cameras excel. The resolution and dynamic range provided by even mid-range cameras are more than sufficient for stunning portraits.

Other Photography Genres That Thrive at Low ISO

  1. Still Life Photography: Life involves careful composition and controlled lighting, like product photography. The need for high ISO is rare, making most modern cameras perfectly adequate.
  2. Macro Photography: When shooting macro, you typically control the lighting and your subject’s movement. This allows you to use lower ISO settings and longer shutter speeds with a tripod, minimizing the need for the latest camera tech.
  3. Food Photography: Often involves well-lit environments, whether natural or artificial. With controlled lighting setups, there’s no need for high ISO performance, and your current gear will likely do the job well.
  4. Astrophotography: While it might seem counterintuitive, astrophotography relies more on long exposures and precise settings than high ISO performance. Using a stable tripod and techniques like stacking images can yield excellent results without needing the latest camera model.
  5. Fine Art Photography: Often created in controlled settings, fine art photography can benefit more from the photographer’s vision and technique than the camera’s specifications. Low ISO and careful post-processing are key elements.


Upgrading your camera isn’t always the key to better photos. Assessing your specific needs and understanding the strengths of your current equipment can save you money and help you focus on improving your skills. For many genres of photography, mastering the basics and using the gear you already have will bring more significant improvements to your work than the latest camera upgrade.

Remember, the storyteller behind the camera, not the camera itself, makes a compelling image. Happy shooting!

When Upgrading Your Camera is Worth It

Consider upgrading your camera if you find yourself in any of these situations:

  1. Low-Light Conditions: Frequently shooting in dim environments such as:
    • Event Photography
    • Wildlife photography at dawn or dusk
    • Indoor sports
    • Concert photography
  2. High ISO Performance: Better sensor technology is needed to reduce noise and improve image quality in low-light settings.
  3. High-Resolution Demands: Requiring extremely high resolution for:
    • Large prints
    • Detailed commercial projects
    • Fine art photography
  4. Advanced Autofocus Systems: Benefiting from faster and more accurate autofocus for:
    • Action photography
    • Sports photography
    • Wildlife photography
  5. Meeting Client Demands: When your current gear limits your ability to deliver the quality and detail your clients expect.

If any of these scenarios apply to you, investing in an upgrade can be a wise decision to enhance your creative potential and professional capabilities.

Navigating the Ever-Changing Photography Industry: How Professional Photographers Can Thrive

The photography industry has undergone significant changes over the past few decades, with each wave bringing challenges and opportunities. Photographers have faced numerous disruptions from the transition of film to digital, the commoditization of stock photography, the rise of smartphones, the impact of the pandemic, and the advent of artificial intelligence. But does this mean the professional photographer is a fading presence in society? Absolutely not. Here’s’ how professional photographers can stay in business and thrive in this evolving landscape.

Major Shifts in the Photography Industry

Transition from Film to Digital The shift from film to digital revolutionized how photographers work. It democratized photography by lowering entry barriers allowing more people to take up photography as a hobby or profession. However, it also meant photographers had to adapt to new technologies and workflows.

Stock Photography Market Changes Platforms like Getty Images, influenced by the tech industry and individuals like Bill Gates, commoditized stock photography, driving prices down. This made it harder for photographers to earn a living solely through stock images, pushing many to diversify their services.

The Rise of Smartphones High-quality smartphone cameras put powerful photographic tools into the hands of the masses. This increased competition and reduced the perceived need for professional photographers for casual and even some commercial photography needs.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic halted many in-person events, significantly impacting photographers who relied on weddings, conferences, and other gatherings. Even as the world has started to recover, many businesses have cut back on hiring photographers due to budget constraints or shifting priorities.

The Advent of Artificial Intelligence AI can now generate images and enhance photos, presenting both a threat and a tool for photographers. AI-driven tools can assist in editing and managing images, but they also raise concerns about the authenticity and value of human-created photography.

Despite these challenges, there are several strategies professional photographers can employ not just to survive but thrive:

Embrace Technology and Continuous Learning Stay updated with the latest camera technology, editing software, and AI tools. Use these advancements to enhance your work, streamline your workflow, and offer new services that add value for your clients.

Specialize and Differentiate: Find a niche where you can excel and stand out. Whether it’s commercial photography, portraiture, event photography, or a specific style, being known for something unique can set you apart from the competition.

Offer a Full-Service Experience Go beyond just taking photos. Provide end-to-end solutions, including pre-production planning, post-production editing, and even marketing services for your clients. Storytelling, which I excel at, is a powerful tool for connecting with clients and creating lasting value.

Build Strong Relationships Networking and maintaining solid client relationships can lead to repeat business and referrals. Personalized service and excellent customer experiences can make a big difference in client retention.

Leverage Social Media and Online Presence Use social media platforms to showcase your work, tell your story, and engage with a broader audience. A solid online presence can attract new clients and create additional revenue streams through print sales, workshops, and more.

Diversify Your Revenue Streams Explore different ways to monetize your skills. This can include teaching photography workshops, creating online courses, selling prints, or offering consulting services for businesses looking to improve their visual branding.

Focus on Authenticity and Quality In a world flooded with images, high-quality, authentic photography stands out. Focus on producing work that resonates emotionally and tells compelling stories. This can create a strong connection with your audience and clients, making your work more valuable.


While the landscape for professional photographers has undoubtedly changed, opportunities still abound for those willing to adapt and innovate. You can survive and thrive in today’s photography industry by embracing new technologies, honing in on your unique strengths, and continuously finding ways to add value to today’s clients. As a storyteller and brand builder, I’ve seen firsthand the power of authentic, compelling photography. It’s about keeping up with the times while staying true to the art of storytelling through imagery.

Here’s to thriving in the ever-changing world of photography!

Feel free to connect with me, Stanley Leary, for personalized photography services and workshops that can help you elevate your visual storytelling and branding. Together, we can navigate this dynamic industry and create impactful stories that resonate.

Embracing High ISO with the Nikon Z9: Breaking the Myth of Low ISO for Low Noise

As a professional photographer and storyteller, I constantly push the boundaries of my gear to achieve the best possible results. The Nikon Z9, my camera of choice, has shattered many long-held beliefs about ISO settings and noise. The notion that you must always shoot at the lowest ISO for the best low-noise images is outdated. Here’s why embracing higher ISO settings can transform your photography, especially when combined with flash.

High ISO, Low Noise: A New Reality

With the Nikon Z9, I can comfortably shoot at ISO 5000 and even higher in certain situations, delivering images with acceptable noise levels. This is a game-changer. When viewed as the public typically sees them—on a phone screen filling the frame rather than zoomed in at 200%—the noise is barely noticeable, if at all. This capability allows for greater flexibility in various shooting conditions.

Chelle Leary at Krog Street Tunnel in Atlanta, Georgia [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/160, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

Flash Photography and ISO: A Perfect Pair

Combining the Z9 with flash photography, I often start my ISO around 400. Here’s why:

  1. Efficient Flash Use: At ISO 400, my flashes don’t need to output as much light as they do at ISO 100. This results in faster recycle times and extends the battery life of battery-powered lights, reducing the worry of running out of power during a shoot.
  2. Lighting Large Spaces: Sometimes, I need to light a large room and might only have my Godox V860IIN instead of the more powerful Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL. Increasing the ISO allows me to light a larger area effectively.
  3. Battery Longevity: Higher ISO settings like ISO 400 with my Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL ensure longer battery life. This is particularly useful for extended shoots, such as real estate interiors, where I need consistent lighting throughout.
Roswell Fire Department––Ole Timers’ Dinner
[NIKON Z 9, NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/100, ƒ/5, (35mm = 20)]

Practical Tips for Testing ISO and Flash

To see the benefits for yourself, try this simple exercise:

  1. Set up a scene with your Nikon Z9 on a tripod to eliminate the camera shake.
  2. Shoot the same scene at different ISOs, keeping the aperture constant, and observe at normal viewing distances when noise becomes noticeable.
  3. Repeat the exercise using a flash. You’ll likely find you can push the ISO even higher without significant noise issues.
A Staff Celebration at the Delta Museum [NIKON Z 9, NIKKOR Z 24-120mm f/4 S, Mode = Manual, ISO 5000, 1/125, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 46)]

Dispelling Old Myths

Forget the advice from old photography books that insist on shooting at the lowest ISO. Those guidelines were relevant in the film days and early digital era. In 2024, with advanced cameras like the Nikon Z9, you can comfortably shoot at higher ISOs. I’ve found that noise only becomes a concern around ISO 6400, and even then, tools like DXO Pure Raw 4 can effectively reduce it.

High ISO in Action: Sports Photography

When shooting sports, I often use manual settings with a fast shutter speed (1/2000 or 1/4000) and a wide-open lens, relying on Auto ISO. This approach ensures I capture the action with minimal blur. If noise appears at high ISOs like 25600, noise reduction software cleans up the image.

Conclusion: Redefining ISO for Modern Photography

The Nikon Z9 empowers photographers to break free from the constraints of low ISO settings. By embracing higher ISOs, especially when paired with flash, you can achieve better lighting efficiency, extended battery life, and faster recycle times. Don’t let outdated advice hold you back—explore the possibilities of higher ISOs and discover a new realm of creative potential.

Happy shooting!

Stanley Leary Storyteller & Brand Builder

How to Choose the Best Photo to Engage Your Audience: A Guide for Nonprofits and Businesses

In today’s visually driven world, selecting the right photo can significantly affect how your audience engages with your content. Whether promoting a nonprofit cause or marketing a business, the right image can capture attention, evoke emotions, and tell a compelling story. Here’s a guide to help you pick the best photo to engage your audience effectively.

The Top Question to Ask

Does this photo tell a compelling story or evoke an emotional response?

This is the most crucial question you need to answer. A photo that tells a story or evokes an emotional response will naturally engage your audience more effectively. It’s the emotional connection that makes a photo memorable and impactful.

Additional Questions to Consider

  1. Is the subject of the photo clear and well-composed?
    • Ensure the main subject is easily identifiable and the composition draws the viewer’s eye to the focal point. Clarity and focus are crucial to keeping the viewer’s attention.
  2. Is the photo high-quality in terms of resolution, lighting, and clarity?
    • A technically sound photo with good lighting, sharp focus, and high resolution is essential for a professional look. High-quality images reflect well on your brand.
  3. Does this photo align with our brand identity and message?
    • The image should be consistent with your brand’s tone, style, and values. It should reinforce what your brand stands for and the message you want to convey.
  4. Is the photo relevant to the content it accompanies?
    • The image should enhance and complement the text or video paired with it, providing context and relevance. Irrelevant images can confuse the audience and dilute your message.
  5. Does the photo stand out in a crowded feed?
    • Consider whether the image is visually striking enough to capture attention amidst other content. Unique and eye-catching photos are more likely to stop a user from scrolling past.
  6. Is there a clear context or setting in the photo?
    • Photos with a recognizable context or setting can help tell a more detailed story and make the image more relatable. Context adds depth to your narrative.
  7. Is the photo culturally sensitive and appropriate for our audience?
    • Ensure the image is respectful and appropriate for your target audience, considering cultural and social norms. Sensitivity to these factors can prevent misunderstandings and backlash.
  8. Does the photo include a human element or emotional expression?
    • Images featuring people, especially with visible emotions, tend to connect better with viewers. The human element makes your content more relatable and engaging.
  9. Is the photo unique and authentic?
    • Authentic and unique photos stand out more than generic or staged images, making them more engaging. Authenticity builds trust with your audience.
  10. Does the photo inspire action or provoke thought?
    • An engaging photo should encourage the viewer to think, feel, or act in a specific way, supporting your call to action. The best photos motivate and inspire.
  11. Is the photo versatile for different platforms and uses?
    • Consider if the image can be effectively used across various platforms (social media, website, print) and formats (thumbnail, banner, etc.). Versatility ensures you get the most out of each image.
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Choosing the right photo involves more than just picking a pretty picture. It requires a strategic approach to ensure the image attracts attention, effectively conveys your message, and resonates with your audience. Remember, the top priority is to choose a photo that tells a compelling story or evokes an emotional response. By asking these additional questions, you can ensure that your visuals support your overall communication goals and maximize engagement.

Investing in high-quality visuals, especially those created by seasoned professionals, can significantly enhance your marketing efforts. Professionals bring technical proficiency and storytelling skills crucial for creating impactful images. This investment ensures that the money spent on videos and text content is supported by strong visuals, maximizing the overall impact of your campaigns.

For expert advice and services in creating powerful visual content, contact Stanley Leary, your trusted storyteller and brand builder.

Stay connected, and let’s create visuals that resonate and inspire action!

Thank you for being part of our journey to making impactful visual storytelling a reality. Together, let’s create visuals that resonate and inspire action.

Best regards,

Stanley Leary

The Journey of the Red-Shouldered Hawks: A Personal Photo Project

Since the onset of COVID-19, many of us have spent more time at home, discovering new hobbies and appreciating the nature surrounding us for me, this period of increased home time turned into a unique opportunity to connect with and document the lives of the red-shouldered hawks that nest in our backyard.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

A New Beginning

It all started during the early days of the pandemic when I noticed a pair of red-shouldered hawks beginning their courtship in late January. With a newfound abundance of time, I embarked on a personal photo project, capturing their journey from mating to independence. Little did I know this project would become a profound and rewarding experience.

Heartbreak and Hope

Last year, the hawks’ nesting attempt ended, but the nest didn’t go well. All their eggs were lost, a reminder of the fragile balance of nature. I was determined to follow their story more closely this year, hoping for a different outcome. Equipped with my camera, I started documenting their progress, visiting the next day after day, eager to fill in the story’s gaps that I had missed the previous year.

The Stages of Growth

Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.

Mating (January – March)

In late winter, the hawks began their courtship. Their aerial displays and vocalizations signaled the beginning of a new cycle. This initial stage, filled with excitement and hope, was a perfect start to my photo series.

Hidden from view, moments like these remind us of the red-shouldered hawk’s tender care and nurturing instinct. Witnessing the circle of life unfold in the cozy confines of their nest is a testament to the beauty of nature’s delicate balance.

Nesting (February – April)

By February, the pair had chosen their nest site high in a sturdy tree. They diligently constructed their nest, a labor of love and precision. Capturing these moments highlighted their dedication and teamwork.

Egg Laying (March – April)

In early spring, the female laid her eggs. Over several days, 2-5 eggs appeared in the nest, each promising new life. I documented the serene beauty of the eggs nestled safely in their home.

Incubation (March-May)

Incubation required patience and vigilance. Both parents took turns warming the eggs, a task primarily shouldered by the female. I captured intimate moments of this nurturing phase.

I was thrilled to capture a momentous occasion today as I finally snapped a photo of all three baby Red-Shouldered Hawks! These adorable bundles of fluff are still sporting their pristine white feathers, eagerly awaiting their next meal from their doting parents. Did you know that baby hawks, known as eyasses, rely entirely on their parents for food and protection during this stage? It’s a testament to the remarkable bond between these magnificent birds and the dedication of their caregivers.

Hatching (April – May)

Late April brought the long-awaited hatching of the chicks. They emerged, fragile and downy, eyes still closed to the world. Witnessing and photographing this tender stage was incredibly moving.

Red-shouldered Hawk juvenile out of the Nest and exploring our backyard

Brooding and Feeding (April – June)

The female brooded the chicks for the first few weeks while the male provided food. As the chicks grew, both parents hunted tirelessly to feed their hungry young. This period was a flurry of activity, a testament to the parents’ unwavering care.

Groparents’Development (May – June)

The chicks grew rapidly in May. Their eyes opened, and they began to develop juvenile feathers. I captured their clumsy movements and curious explorations, each day revealing new milestones.

Red-shouldered hawk nestlings eagerly anticipate their next meal from their devoted parents. These adorable fluff balls are likely around three weeks old, displaying behaviors like enthusiastic feeding, wing stretching for strength, and tentative exploration of their surroundings. Their downy feathers transform into juvenile plumage as they grow, mirroring their majestic adult counterparts. Sibling squabbles and vocal calls fill the air, signaling their rapid development towards fledging.

Fledging (June – July)

By late June, the chicks were ready to leave the nest. Their tentative flapping and short flights were a thrilling sight. Photographing their fledging was both exhilarating and bittersweet.

Red-shouldered hawk nestlings eagerly anticipate their next meal from their devoted parents. These adorable fluff balls are likely around three weeks old, displaying behaviors like enthusiastic feeding, wing stretching for strength, and tentative exploration of their surroundings. Their downy feathers transform into juvenile plumage as they grow, mirroring their majestic adult counterparts. Sibling squabbles and vocal calls fill the air, signaling their rapid development towards fledging.

Post-Fledging Dependency (July – September)

The young hawks stayed close even after leaving the nest, learning to hunt under their parents’ watchful eyes. I documented their growth into skilled flyers and hunters, and their confidence soared.

The juvenile red-shouldered hawks are out hunting today. I saw the parents show up and try to feed the juvenile in our backyard. If you were at our house, all you would hear is the constant screeching of the hawks.

Independence (September – October)

Red-shouldered hawk in pursuit of a squirrel in our neighbor’s yard.

Finally, by late summer, the young hawks became independent. They dispersed to find their territories, marking the end of this year’s chapter. Capturing the year’s journey to independence was a fitting conclusion to my project.

Reflections on a Personal Photo Project

Like any personal endeavor, this photo project required time, patience, and persistence. Returning to the nest day after day allowed me to document each stage thoroughly, creating a comprehensive visual story. This project has been a reminder of the value of long-term commitment to photography and the joy of witnessing nature’s cycles up close.


Through my camera lens, I have come to appreciate the resilience and beauty of red-shouldered hawks. Their journey from courtship to independence mirrors the dedication required in any creative project. I hope these images inspire you to start your photo project, find stories in your backyard, and embrace the process of documenting them over time.

Stay tuned for more updates and stories from Stanley Leary, Storyteller and Brand Builder. Until then, enjoy these glimpses into the lives of our backyard hawks.

The juvenile red-shouldered hawks are out hunting today. I saw the parents show up and try to feed the juvenile in our backyard. If you were at our house, all you would hear is the constant screeching of the hawks.

I hope this blog post inspires you to look closely at the nature around you and to consider starting your project. There’s a whole world of stories to be told outside your door.

Embracing Change: My Journey of Upgrading Photography Gear

As a photographer, I’ve continually upgraded my gear over the years, but there’s one area where I’ve been slower to make changes: lenses. Unlike camera bodies, manufacturers don’t update lenses as frequently. I bought a converter to use my existing lenses when transitioning from DSLR to mirrorless cameras. My philosophy has always been to avoid debt and only purchase equipment with cash.

Early in my career, I didn’t drive the best cars. Occasionally, I had to rely on credit cards for repairs, which taught me the importance of saving. You can’t always predict disasters, so I understand when borrowing is necessary.

When I started freelancing full-time, I invested in some Sigma lenses. They were affordable and performed well. Notable lenses included the 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport and the 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art lens. When I switched to Nikon Mirrorless, other brands weren’t making lenses for the Z mount, so I began transitioning to Nikon S lenses.

Two juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks, just over a month old, stretch their wings as they prepare to leave the nest in the coming days. Though once three, these siblings now face the world together, their strength and resilience a poignant reminder of nature’s delicate balance. 🦅 #NatureWatch #WildlifePhotography #BabyHawks [NIKON Z 9, NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Z TC-1.4x, Mode = Manual, ISO 5000, 1/3200, ƒ/11, (35mm = 560)] Cropped 2X in post

Andy Dunaway, my Nikon representative, recommended the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Z. I had already been impressed with the 14-30mm ƒ/4 and the 24-120mm ƒ/4 lenses. Their build quality and sharpness were remarkable.

In December 2022, I bought the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Z and have never felt more confident in my gear for covering events. I kept my Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport with the TC-1401 & TC-2001 converters for a while. The central combination with the 2X converter weighed around 8 lbs with the camera.

The NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S Z weighs only 3.2 lbs and, even with a converter, is still half the weight of my Sigma setup. Recently, I added the Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x. Within minutes, I was outside photographing Red-Shouldered Hawk juveniles. I noticed a color difference and an improvement in image sharpness.

I chose the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S because a 70-200mm lens wasn’t long enough for many meetings I covered. The Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 required a monopod or tripod, and 300mm was short. The 400mm range was ideal for my style.

HoldFast Gear MoneyMaker 2-Camera Harness

The 100-400mm lens is only 4.8 ounces heavier than the 70-200mm. I carry the 24-120mm on a Nikon Z9 and the 100-400mm on another Z9 using the HoldFast Gear MoneyMaker 2-Camera Harness. Adding the TC 1.4X converter gave me a 140-560mm lens at just 7.76 ounces more.

The Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x is highly praised for no image quality loss and only a 1-stop light difference. Combined with my Nikon Z9 and denoise software, I can shoot in most situations and produce usable images for clients.

So this past week, I sold my Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Sport lens and the 1.4X and 2X converters. Today, I knew I had upgraded and lightened my load after shooting with the Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x on the NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S.

While Nikon’s technology is impressive, Andy Dunaway’s guidance helped me make the best lens choices for my work.

The Path to Mastery: The Power of Repetition and Practice

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the “10,000-hour rule,” asserting that the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply practicing, albeit correctly, for at least 10,000 hours. David Epstein’s fascinating new book The Sports Gene argues that the ten-thousand-hour idea must be average.

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson looked at students studying violin at the elite Music Academy of West Berlin. I was interested in the general finding: the best violinists, on average and over time, practiced much more than the good ones. In other words, within a group of talented people, what separated the best from the rest was how long and how intently they worked.

I can personally attest to the fact that I am still learning. I am working on a project to review a photographer’s raw photos from 2007 to 2024. There are easily 300,000 images that I am culling through and then picking the best ones to edit.

This process is very similar to when I played trumpet regularly. In college, I practiced many hours outside of East Carolina Jazz Band class and as part of the marching band.

I didn’t just practice the music I would be playing but also practice books.

The best thing that happened for me early in my professional career was working at the Hickory Daily Record. I was shooting every day and processing it over and over and over. Before that, working for the school paper in college, I would come even close to what one week was at the Hickory Daily Record in a month at best.

So here is my tip: Repetition, and lots of it, will improve your skills more than anything else.

So shoot all you can and practice, practice, practice.