The Power of Personal Projects: Fueling Creativity Through Ongoing Endeavors


Creativity knows no bounds, and for those who thrive on artistic expression, the importance of personal projects cannot be overstated. Whether you’re a photographer, filmmaker, writer, painter, or any creative, personal projects offer an invaluable avenue for growth, self-expression, and building a compelling portfolio. In this blog post, we’ll explore why personal projects are crucial for creatives and share tips on how ongoing endeavors can help you create impressive portfolio pieces. To illustrate the concept, we’ll dive into the example of revisiting familiar places with a drone, as I’ve done with my new DJI Air 3.

  1. Unleash Creativity Without Constraints

Personal projects allow creatives to explore their ideas and passions without external limitations. When you embark on a project that resonates with you, you’re not bound by client expectations, deadlines, or commercial considerations. This freedom allows your creativity to flourish, resulting in work reflecting your vision and style.

In my case, revisiting familiar places with my drone allows me to capture the beauty of my town from unique angles and perspectives. Without the pressure of a client’s demands, I can experiment with different shots, lighting conditions, and compositions, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

  1. Consistent Growth and Improvement

Creativity, like any skill, requires practice and continuous improvement. Personal projects provide a structured platform for honing your craft over time. When you revisit a project periodically, as I’ve been doing with my drone, you can track your progress, identify areas for improvement, and implement new techniques and technologies.

With each visit, you can challenge yourself to capture more captivating shots, experiment with advanced drone features, or explore different editing styles. This iterative process allows you to measure your growth as a creative and see tangible improvements in your work.

  1. Building a Cohesive Portfolio

A diverse portfolio is essential for creatives looking to attract clients or collaborators. However, personal projects are vital in creating a cohesive body of work that showcases your unique style and expertise. When you revisit a specific project over time, you’re more likely to develop a signature look or storytelling approach that sets you apart from others in your field.

My ongoing drone project, for example, can become a showcase of my evolving skills and style. As I accumulate new footage and refine my editing techniques, I’ll have a rich portfolio piece demonstrating my growth as a drone videographer.

Tips for Maximizing the Benefits of Ongoing Projects

  1. Set Clear Goals: Define the objectives of your project from the start. What do you want to achieve, learn, or convey through this endeavor? Setting clear goals will help you stay focused and motivated.
  2. Create a Schedule: Establish a regular schedule for revisiting your project. Whether weekly, monthly, or annually, consistency is key to tracking progress and improvement.
  3. Document Your Journey: Keep a journal or create a digital record of your project’s evolution. Note your thoughts, ideas, challenges, and breakthroughs. This documentation can provide valuable insights and serve as a source of inspiration.
  4. Seek Feedback: Share your work-in-progress with peers, mentors, or online communities. Constructive feedback can help you refine your project and gain new perspectives.
  5. Stay Open to Serendipity: While having a plan is important, don’t be afraid to embrace unexpected opportunities or creative detours that may arise during your ongoing project. Serendipity often leads to some of the most remarkable creative breakthroughs.


Personal projects are a treasure trove of creative expression, growth, and portfolio-building opportunities. Just as I revisit places around my town with my DJI Air 3 drone, remember that the journey is as valuable as the outcome. Your ongoing project is a testament to your dedication as a creative and powerful tool for showcasing your talent to the world. So, keep exploring, experimenting, and letting your creativity soar through personal projects—it’s a journey worth taking.

Mastering the Lens: Wide Angle vs. Telephoto for Photographers


Photography is an art form that thrives on choice, and one of the most critical decisions a photographer can make is selecting the right lens. The wide-angle and telephoto lenses are two of the most versatile options in a photographer’s toolkit. Each has unique strengths and applications, but choosing the right one requires carefully assessing the situation. In this blog post, we will explore the strengths of both lens types, provide some essential questions for photographers to consider when deciding which lens to use, and discuss depth-of-field considerations.

[NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/125, ƒ/9, (35mm = 22)]

Wide Angle Lens: Inviting the Audience In

Wide-angle lenses are like magic wands that can transport your audience into the heart of the action. They excel at creating immersive, expansive scenes and are perfect for storytelling, where intimacy is essential. When you can get up close and personal with your subject, a wide-angle lens can capture the emotions, details, and environment like no other.

For instance, when documenting a person’s life, such as a portrait or documentary project, a wide-angle lens can make the viewer feel like they’re with the subject, fostering a solid emotional connection. This lens type draws the audience into the scene, making it one of the most impactful choices for such scenarios.

[NIKON Z 9, NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/2000, ƒ/4.8, (35mm = 145)]

Telephoto Lens: Bringing Distant Moments Closer

On the other hand, telephoto lenses are a photographer’s go-to when distance is a factor. They allow you to get close to your subject even when you physically can’t. In situations like capturing a speaker on a stage or an issue at a significant distance, telephoto lenses shine. For example, a 100-400mm lens can be invaluable during meetings or conferences when you need to get closer to your subject without physically intruding.

Similarly, sporting events demand telephoto lenses due to the physical barriers between the photographer and the action. These lenses help you bring distant subjects closer, creating stunning, detailed shots of athletes in action. Moreover, using remote cameras can be a clever workaround to achieve the desired proximity in situations where you can’t be physically present.

A Remote Camera behind the glass on a backboard [NIKON D100, 15-30mm, Mode = Manual, ISO 400, 1/180, ƒ/6.7, (35mm = 22)]

Critical Questions for Lens Selection

  1. What is my subject? Consider whether your subject is a person, landscape, or object. This will influence whether a wide-angle or telephoto lens is more appropriate.
  2. How close can I get? Assess your proximity to the subject. If you can get physically close, a wide-angle lens might be ideal. If you need to maintain distance, consider a telephoto lens.
  3. What is the story or mood I want to convey? Wide-angle lenses excel at creating immersive scenes, while telephoto lenses can isolate subjects. Think about the emotional impact you want to achieve.
  4. What is the lighting condition? Generally speaking, the standard rule is to make the shutter speed equal to your focal length when hand-holding your camera. For example, if you shoot with a 200mm lens, you want to keep your shutter speed at 1/200 sec or above to avoid blur from the camera shake. The Aperture is the other factor in choosing a lens for a lighting situation—the lower the ƒ-number, the better the low-light performance. Usually, ƒ/2.8 or faster is needed in very dark conditions.
  5. Do I need supplemental flash? Consider whether you’ll need supplemental flash to illuminate your subject correctly, especially in low-light conditions. Telephoto lenses may require more powerful flash units at a distance. Also, if you need more depth of field, as I did with the remote camera on a backboard for basketball, then you need to use strobes like I did to light the entire basketball court.
[NIKON Z 9, NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 400)]

Depth-of-Field Considerations

Depth-of-field (DOF) is another critical factor when choosing between wide-angle and telephoto lenses. Wide-angle lenses naturally have a deeper DOF, making them suitable for landscapes and scenes where you want everything in focus. Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, have a shallower DOF, which can be used creatively to isolate a subject from its background, perfect for portrait photography.

In conclusion, choosing between a wide-angle and telephoto lens is not arbitrary. It should be a thoughtful decision based on the specific requirements of the situation and the story you want to tell. By asking the right questions and considering the depth of field, you can maximize the potential of your lenses and capture truly captivating photographs that resonate with your audience. Remember, the lens you choose can make all the difference in how your images turn out, so choose wisely and creatively.

Capturing Resilience and Unity: My Experience at Roswell’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony

Caption: Chaplain Dorie Griggs of the Roswell Fire Department stands in front of a ladder truck positioned at City Hall during the 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony on September 11, 2023.


Today, I had the honor of covering Roswell, Georgia’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony at City Hall, marking a significant milestone in my journey as a photojournalist. This event was a poignant tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001, and my inaugural submission to Zuma Press as a stringer. As I embarked on this mission to document the ceremony, I couldn’t help but reflect on the vital role of photojournalism in preserving the memory of significant moments in history.

A deep passion has marked my journey as a photojournalist for storytelling through images. It all began when I started shooting for East Carolina University’s school paper, where I honed my skills and developed a keen eye for capturing moments that mattered. After graduating, I ventured into professional journalism, working with the Hickory Daily Record in 1984-85. This experience provided invaluable insights into the field, solidifying my dedication to photojournalism. As the years passed, I embraced opportunities to contribute as an AP Stringer and collaborate with the prestigious Black Star photo agency in New York. These experiences were a return to my roots as a stringer for news events, allowing me to continue documenting the world’s unfolding stories through my lens.

Tip 1: Understand the Event

Before delving into my experience, I want to stress the importance of understanding the event you are covering as a photojournalist. Roswell’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony was a solemn occasion dedicated to honoring the victims and first responders of the September 11 attacks. This understanding guided my approach to capturing the essence of the event.

Tip 2: Planning and Preparation

To capture this event effectively, I needed a solid plan. I arrived early to scout the location, determine the best vantage points, and assess the lighting conditions. This preliminary work ensured that I was prepared to capture critical moments as they unfolded.

Tip 3: Equipment

As a photojournalist, your equipment is your lifeline. I carried my Nikon Z9 cameras with a 14-30mm, 24-120mm, 100-400mm and my DJI Air 2S drone, ensuring I had options for different angles and focal lengths. I also brought extra gear left in my car just a few feet from the event.

My Submission

Now, let me share what I submitted to Zuma Press, with some insights into my thought process and the stories behind the images.

Mayor Pro Tem CHRISTINE HALL of Roswell, Georgia, provides a timeline of the events of September 11, 2001, while citizens gather on the steps of City Hall to listen on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

I needed to get the main speaker, Christine Hall, but I also was listening to know what to add to the caption to help tell the event’s story.

City of Roswell firefighters occupy the front row during today’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, while citizens of Roswell, Georgia, gather on the steps of City Hall to listen on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

343 FDNY firefighters, plus one New York Fire patrolman, were killed in the terrorist attacks, along with dozens of other public safety personnel. I wanted to show the Roswell Fire Fighters and help remind the community that firefighters run towards danger every day to help serve our communities by saving citizens and property.

Roswell Fire Chaplain DORIE GRIGGS delivers the invocation as city council members CHRISTINE HALL, MIKE PALERMO, WILLIAM MORTHLAND, and SARAH BEESON bow their heads in reflection during the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony. GRIGGS says, ‘We thank you, God, for the work of our first responders, who without regard to their safety work to keep our communities safe,’ reminding us of how our first responders continue to sacrifice for our community on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

One of the ways Americans coped with 9/11 is through their faith. I was sure to capture the invocation. Invocation is crucial to civic events like 9/11 ceremonies, setting the emotional tone, fostering unity, and providing comfort. Chaplains work diligently to ensure their prayers are inclusive, respecting the diverse backgrounds of attendees and avoiding exclusivity. Their goal is to promote tolerance, inspire hope, and maintain the secular nature of these events, offering solace to those still healing from past traumas while emphasizing shared values and humanity. Dorie is my wife and gave the invocation.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, are the defining moment of the 21st century to date. In the wake of this national tragedy, many people exhibited renewed religious commitment. 

The City of Roswell Ladder Truck proudly flies the American Flag above 9/11 Ceremonies, with citizens of Roswell, Georgia, attentively gathered on the steps of City Hall on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

The symbolism of the fire truck displaying the American flag over the ceremonies is picturesque and adds a nice touch to the coverage.

City Council Representative SARAH BEESON, Liaison to Public Safety and Communications for Roswell, reflects on the bravery of NYC firefighters on 9/11, highlighting their selfless determination to rescue survivors amid the known risks they faced. At the same time, Mayor Pro Tem CHRISTINE HALL stands to her left on the steps of City Hall on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

For the photojournalist who isn’t writing the whole story coverage, we usually use a photo with a caption to help tell the story. I included the picture of councilwoman Sarah Beeson because of her comments about the bravery of the firefighters. The image itself isn’t necessary, but with a package and specifically the caption, it makes an excellent photo package for an editor to use for event coverage.

Citizens of Roswell, Georgia, gather in front of City Hall as their community leaders stand on the steps, leading a 9/11 remembrance service twenty-two years later on September 11, 2023. [Photo by: Stanley Leary/Zuma Press]

I thought that taking the time to fly my drone above the event would help evoke The Star-Spangled Banner’s words, “Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight. O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?”


Covering Roswell, Georgia’s 9/11 Commemorative Ceremony, was a profoundly moving experience, reminding me of the power of photojournalism to convey stories and emotions through images. As I submitted these photos to Zuma Press, I hope they will help preserve the memory of this important event and serve as a testament to our community’s resilience, unity, and enduring spirit. Remember the tips mentioned here to all aspiring photojournalists – they can make all the difference in effectively capturing the essence of an event and sharing it with the world.

Capturing the Thrilling Moments: My Experience Shooting the Atlanta Thrashers for the Associated Press


As a photographer for the Associated Press, I’ve had the privilege of covering many events. Still, one of my most memorable experiences was getting the opportunity to photograph the Atlanta Thrashers in action. Surprisingly, when I first stepped onto the ice rink, I had only photographed hockey a few times. However, little did I know that my childhood experiences playing street and ice hockey in New Jersey would prove invaluable. It was a journey that rekindled my love for shooting sports and reinforced the idea that sports photography has much in common with capturing life’s moments.

St. Louis Blues goalie Chris Mason (50) makes a save against the Atlanta Thrashers during the second period in an NHL hockey game in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2Xs, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/640, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 450)]

Hockey: A Beautiful Challenge

  1. Peak Moments and Scoring: In sports, whether it’s hockey, football, or basketball, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation leading up to a peak moment that can change the game – a goal, a touchdown, a slam dunk. Similarly, in life, some moments can define our experiences. Whether it’s a graduation, a wedding kiss, or a child’s first steps, these peak moments are the equivalent of scoring goals in our personal stories.
  2. Anticipation Over Reaction: One of the critical lessons I learned while photographing the Thrashers was the importance of anticipating moments versus reacting to moments. A photographer must expect the critical moments like a seasoned goalie who anticipates where the puck will go. In life, too, predicting significant events and being prepared can make all the difference.
Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) makes a save while St. Louis Blues left wing Steve Regier (41) pursues during the second period in an NHL hockey game in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary) [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5000, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 110)]

The Common Thread: Sports and Life

I discovered that sports photography has much in common with capturing moments in everyday life. It’s not just about fast-paced action and freezing moments in time; it’s about telling a story, conveying emotion, and connecting with the viewers. Here are some tips that I found essential not only for sports photographers but for anyone looking to capture the essence of any moment:

Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Tobias Enstrom (39) of Sweden pushes the puck out from St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) of Sweden. At the same time, Atlanta Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) protects the goal during the third period in an NHL hockey game in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. St. Louis Blues won 4-2. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary) [NIKON D3, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/1250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 380)]

Tips for Photographers (and Everyone Else)

  • Know Your Subject: It is crucial to understand your subject and its dynamics, whether it’s a hockey game or a family gathering. Study the game, the players, or the people you photograph to anticipate where the action will unfold.
  • Patience is Key: Not every moment is action-packed in sports and life. Sometimes, the most potent images are captured during the quieter, more contemplative moments. Patience allows you to be ready when those moments occur.
  • Use the Right Equipment: Just as a hockey player needs the right gear, a photographer needs the right camera and lenses. Choose equipment that suits the conditions and allows you to capture sharp, clear images.
  • Master Your Settings: Understanding your camera settings is essential. Whether adjusting exposure for a well-lit shot or using a fast shutter speed to freeze action, knowing your camera inside out ensures you’re always prepared.
  • Anticipate, Don’t React: The golden rule of sports photography also applies to life. Anticipate the moments you want to capture, whether a winning goal or a loving embrace. Please don’t wait; make it happen by being ready. If you wait to see a moment, the time it takes you to react it is already over.
  • Embrace Emotion: In both sports and life, emotions run high. Capture the raw emotions – the joy, the frustration, the love – because they make the images relatable and powerful.
  • Tell a Story: Every photo should tell a story. Consider the narrative you want to convey through your images, whether a game-winning shot or a candid family moment.
An ice crew at a Thrashers game on November 30 at the Omni Center in Atlanta. At least nine times every game, the crew must clear the ice of shavings within a two-minute time limit. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary) [NIKON D3, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 420)]


My time covering the Atlanta Thrashers reminded me that photography, much like life, is about capturing and precisely anticipating peak moments. It reinforced my passion for shooting sports and reminded me that sports and life photography have more in common than meets the eye. Whether you’re behind the lens or living in the moment, these tips can help you capture the essence of any experience and tell a compelling story through your images. So, get out there, whether on the ice rink or in everyday life and seize those peak moments with your camera or simply with open arms.

Atlanta Thrashers right wing Colby Armstrong (20) of Saskatchewan and St. Louis Blues center Keith Tkachuk (7) pursue the puck during the third period in an NHL hockey game in Atlanta, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. Blues won 4-2. (AP Photo/Stanley Leary) [NIKON D3, 122.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/1000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 390)]

Capturing the Essence of Football: Key Elements for Winning Shots

Caption: Blessed Trinity’s #6 Ryan Davis scored against Hart County during the second quarter of high school football in Roswell, GA, on September 16, 2016. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 102400, 1/1250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 440)]


As a sports photographer, capturing the thrilling moments of a football game is both an art and a science. To produce winning shots that truly encapsulate the essence of the game, it’s essential to focus on three critical elements: the players’ expressions, the ball, and the intense competition. In this blog post, we’ll delve into each of these elements and provide valuable insights on how to master the craft of football photography.

  1. Expressions of the Players: One of the most captivating aspects of football photography is the ability to freeze the raw emotions and words of the athletes in the heat of the game. Whether it’s the determined look of a quarterback scanning the field or the jubilant celebration of a wide receiver after scoring a touchdown, these expressions convey the passion and intensity of the sport. To capture these moments, position yourself strategically on the field. Many photographers prefer the endzones, as they offer a unique perspective. When covering a specific team, try to face them so you can capture their expressions both on offense and defense. By doing so, you’ll be able to tell a compelling story through your photos.
  2. The Ball: The football itself is a crucial element in football photography. It’s not just an object; it’s the heart of the game. Pay attention to the ball’s movement and interaction with the players to create dynamic and impactful shots. When shooting from the endzones, you can precisely capture the trajectory of passes, receptions, and interceptions. Zoom in on the ball, ensuring it’s in sharp focus. These shots excite your portfolio and help viewers follow the game’s flow.
  3. The Competition: Football is a sport defined by competition and rivalry. The fierce battles between teams, the tackles, and the moments of triumph and defeat are all essential components of the game. To convey the intensity of the competition, anticipate where the action will unfold. This requires a deep understanding of the teams you’re covering and the plays they tend to run. Top sports photographers don’t merely react to the action; they anticipate it. Knowing the players, their strategies, and the game’s dynamics allows you to position yourself for those game-changing moments.

Technical Tips for Success:

Now that we’ve explored the three key elements let’s discuss some technical tips to enhance your football photography:

  1. ISO Settings: Don’t be afraid to increase your ISO settings to freeze the action effectively, especially in low-light conditions. Modern editing software like Lightroom, DXO PureRAW 3, and Topaz Photo AI can help reduce noise, ensuring your shots remain crisp and clear.
  2. Arrive Early: Arriving early to the event allows you to set up correctly, get a custom white balance, and adjust it as the lighting conditions change, especially during night games.
  3. Shutter Speed: Use fast shutter speeds, such as 1/2000 or 1/4000 during daylight games, to capture sharp and dynamic images. A faster shutter speed helps freeze the action, preventing motion blur.

I prefer standing in the endzone using longer lenses, like 400mm to 600mm [see photo on left]. You can stand as well and most likely will have to unless the team is in the red zone with shorter focal lengths like 200mm or 300mm lenses [see photo on the right].


Football photography is an exhilarating endeavor that combines artistry and technical skill. By focusing on the players’ expressions, the ball, and the fierce competition, you can create images that truly encapsulate the essence of the game. Remember to be technically prepared, anticipate the action, and arrive early to capture those winning shots that will leave a lasting impression on your audience. With dedication and practice, you can become a master of football photography, telling the captivating stories of the gridiron through your lens.

Capturing Success: How Opportunity and Preparation Define a Photographer’s Journey

Introduction: One quote stands out in photography as a timeless guiding principle: “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Zig Ziglar’s words ring true for photographers seeking to excel in their craft. This powerful mantra underscores the importance of being ready when the right moment arises. In this blog post, we will delve into three essential aspects of a photographer’s journey where preparation and opportunity intersect: Technical, Marketing, and Mental and Emotional Preparation.

Technical Preparation: Gear Matters

In photography, technical skills and equipment go hand in hand. To be prepared for opportunities that may come your way, it’s crucial to have the right gear and the proficiency to use it effectively.

  • Investment in Gear: Quality cameras, lenses, tripods, and lighting equipment are the tools of the trade. Ensure you have the equipment for various situations, whether portrait, landscape, or macro photography.
  • Practice and Mastery: Knowing your equipment inside out is key. Practice with your gear regularly, experimenting with different settings and techniques. This ensures you can adapt quickly when opportunity knocks.
  • Maintenance and Backup: Regularly maintain your gear and have a backup plan. You never know when a piece of equipment might malfunction; being prepared with a backup can save a shoot.

Marketing and Business Preparation: Seizing Opportunities

In the digital age, photography is not just about taking stunning photos but also about marketing your work and managing your photography business effectively.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop Bucharest, Romania Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania
  • Online Presence: Create and maintain a strong online presence through a professional website and social media profiles. Showcase your best work to attract potential clients and collaborators.
  • Networking: Build and nurture relationships within the photography community and related industries. Networking can lead to opportunities that you may not have encountered otherwise.
  • Business Strategy: Develop a clear business plan, including pricing strategies, contracts, and financial goals. Being prepared on the business front ensures you can capitalize on opportunities to grow your photography career.

Mental and Emotional Preparation: Staying Resilient

Photography is not just about capturing images; it’s also about navigating the emotional and mental challenges of the craft.

  • Creativity and Inspiration: Foster your creativity and stay inspired by exploring different genres of photography and seeking new perspectives. Be prepared to adapt and evolve as an artist.
  • Handling Rejection: Rejection is a part of the journey. Prepare yourself mentally to handle setbacks and rejection, using them as opportunities for growth.
  • Self-Care: Photography can be demanding physically and mentally. Prioritize self-care and mental well-being to stay prepared to tackle challenges head-on.

In conclusion, Zig Ziglar’s quote, “Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation,” is a guiding light for photographers. Whether it’s technical proficiency, business readiness, or emotional resilience, being prepared in these three crucial aspects will enable you to seize opportunities and thrive in the ever-evolving world of photography. So, gear up, market smart, and fortify your mind – success awaits the prepared photographer.

A Surprise Victory: Winner of Best Photographer in North Atlanta

Have you ever experienced a moment that left you speechless? A moment where you were completely caught off guard, not expecting any recognition, only to find out that you had won a prestigious award? Well, that’s precisely what happened to me when I was named Best Photographer for North Atlanta by the Appen Media Group. Let me take you through this incredible surprise and share the valuable lessons I’ve learned.

The Unexpected Win

It all began with a simple notification that popped up on my phone. I had not entered any contest, let alone heard about one, but there it was – a message congratulating me on winning Photographer of the Year for North Atlanta. I was in disbelief; how could this happen when I hadn’t even participated in the competition?

Building My Brand, One Click at a Time

As a photographer, building a personal brand is an ongoing process. Every project I undertake is not just a job; it’s an opportunity to showcase my skills and creativity. Little did I know that my dedication to my craft and clients would lead to this unexpected honor. Looking back, I realize that the key to my nomination was the trust and support of my clients. They appreciated my work so much that they nominated me for this prestigious award. It’s a testament that in today’s digital age, word of mouth and client recommendations can be more powerful than any marketing strategy.

The Two-Part Selection Process

During this journey, I discovered that the Best of North Atlanta contest had two distinct phases: the nomination period and the voting round. During the nomination period, readers of the Herald Newspapers and the general public could nominate their favorite businesses and individuals in various categories, including photography. Then, the top nominees advanced to the voting round, where people could vote for their favorites.

A Priceless Moment: Friends and Clients’ Support

Winning was undoubtedly an exhilarating moment, but what truly touched my heart was knowing that friends and clients had voted for me and nominated me. The support from those who had seen my work firsthand was priceless. It reinforced the idea that my work had made a lasting impression on them, enough to motivate them to take the time to nominate and vote for me. For any freelancer or entrepreneur, this kind of affirmation greatly boosts your confidence and motivation.

Marketing vs. Doing the Work

One valuable lesson from this experience is the stark contrast between marketing efforts and the actual work itself. As freelancers or entrepreneurs, we often wonder whether our marketing strategies are making a difference. We may have loyal clients who love our work, but sometimes, the market may not provide steady opportunities. This experience reminded me that effective marketing requires time and consistent effort. Your clients might not always have work for you, but if they believe in your abilities and are willing to recommend you to others, it speaks volumes about the impact of your branding and reputation.

Tips for Others

  1. Consistency is Key: Building your brand and reputation takes time and persistence. Keep refining your skills and delivering exceptional work with every project.
  2. Engage with Your Clients: Foster strong relationships with your clients. Their support and referrals can be an influential asset in your career.
  3. Embrace Unexpected Opportunities: Sometimes, the best things happen when you least expect them. Be open to unexpected opportunities and be ready to seize them.
  4. Don’t Underestimate Word of Mouth: In today’s digital world, word of mouth still carries immense weight. Treat every client like they could be your next referral.
  5. Keep Marketing Efforts Consistent: Don’t neglect your efforts during slow periods. Your brand should always be visible to potential clients.

In conclusion, my journey from unaware nominee to Photographer of the Year for North Atlanta was nothing short of a thrilling surprise. It’s a reminder that the hard work, dedication, and passion we put into our craft can lead to incredible recognition when we least expect it. So, keep building your brand, doing the work you love, and never underestimate the power of your clients and supporters. You never know when your moment of surprise and celebration will arrive.

Equipping Yourself for Success: The Importance of Experience and Assertiveness in Your Career


Success is often associated with fame, fortune, and prestige in entertainment and storytelling. Many aspiring individuals are eager to step into the producer/director role, dreaming of creating cinematic masterpieces that captivate audiences worldwide. While the allure of the spotlight is undeniable, it’s crucial to remember that being willing to serve is not enough; you must also be equipped for the journey ahead. In this blog post, we’ll explore the vital role of assertiveness and the significance of gaining real experience in your career. Let’s delve into why these factors are critical to your success and how to cultivate them over a lifetime.

Lennox Boodram – a ministry partner saved from drug and alcohol addiction, runs a Christian drug and family rehab center (Turning Point)that has been operating for the past five years. He is talking with some of the students from Cedarville University taking the workshop this week in Trinidad.

The Essence of Assertiveness:

Being in a producer/director role requires you to know how to be assertive. It’s a quality often acquired after many years in the business. Assertiveness is not about being domineering or controlling; instead, it’s about confidently expressing your ideas and making decisions that benefit your projects. In the realm of communications, it took many years of projects to realize that if you don’t speak up (i.e., be assertive), failure or, at the very least, lower-quality outcomes are likely to occur.

Assertiveness is a skill that can be honed over time. It involves communicating your vision, standing your ground when necessary, and collaborating effectively with others. It’s a delicate balance that requires practice and self-awareness.

Experience vs. Exposure:

Both the concepts of assertiveness and gaining experience are rooted in the understanding that exposure alone won’t cut it in your career. Many individuals are eager to be exposed to the glitz and glamour of the industry, but true success comes from deep and meaningful experience. Exposure may give you a glimpse into the industry, but experience allows you to serve your clients and create a lasting impact.

Storytellers Abroad Brazil

My Role as a Storyteller:

As someone in the role of a storyteller, I’ve realized that assertiveness is a crucial component of my work. Developing this skill took years of working on various projects, wearing different hats, and navigating the industry’s complexities. The ability to assertively convey the narrative’s essence, work with the character of the story and the client, and handle unforeseen challenges is something that can’t be rushed.

Tips for a Lifelong Career:

Now that we’ve established the importance of assertiveness and authentic experience let’s discuss some tips on how to create a career that lasts a lifetime rather than aiming for overnight success:

  1. Embrace Variety: Don’t be afraid to explore different roles within your field. Each part offers unique insights and experiences that contribute to your growth.
  2. Learn from Mistakes: Failure is an essential part of the learning process. Embrace your mistakes, analyze them, and use them as stepping stones toward improvement.
  3. Seek Mentorship: Connect with experienced professionals who can offer guidance and share their wisdom. Their insights can help you navigate the industry’s challenges more effectively.
  4. Stay Current: The entertainment industry is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies, and storytelling techniques to remain relevant and innovative.
  5. Be Patient: Success often takes time. Avoid rushing your journey and focus on continuous improvement.
Stanley is taking pictures in the classroom Storyteller’s Abroad planning trip in Lima, Peru. Photo by Jeff Raymond


In entertainment and storytelling, assertiveness and genuine experience is the key to serving your clients effectively and building a lasting career. Remember that success is a journey, not a destination. Embrace the process, keep learning, and be prepared to evolve with the industry. By following these tips and committing to lifelong growth, you’ll be better equipped to make a lasting impact in your chosen field.

Crafting an Effective Custom Keyword List for Enhanced Photo Metadata and Searchability

In today’s digital age, visual content is more important than ever for organizations. Photos play a crucial role in conveying information, Whether for marketing, documentation, or internal communication. However, the sheer volume of images can make it challenging to find the right picture when needed. This is where a well-structured custom keyword list comes into play. You can significantly enhance photos’ searchability and streamline your organization’s workflow by tagging photos with relevant metadata. In this blog post, we’ll explore creating your custom-structured keyword list to improve photo metadata and search capabilities.

1. Understand Your Organization’s Needs:

Before you begin crafting your keyword list, you must clearly understand your organization’s goals, industry, and the types of images you’ll be dealing with. Identify the primary categories and themes relevant to your organization. For instance, an e-commerce company might need keywords related to products, while a travel agency might require keywords for destinations.

2. Collaborate with Stakeholders:

Involve key stakeholders from various departments in the keyword list creation process. Their input can provide diverse perspectives and ensure that the list caters to everyone’s needs. This collaborative approach helps in capturing a comprehensive range of keywords.

3. Brainstorm Relevant Keywords:

Gather a group of individuals who are familiar with your organization’s content and initiate a brainstorming session. Encourage participants to think creatively and suggest keywords that reflect different aspects of your visual content. Think about nouns, adjectives, verbs, and location-based keywords that can describe your images accurately.

4. Organize Keywords into Hierarchies:

Group similar keywords into hierarchical structures or categories. This step enhances the organization of your keyword list, making it easier to navigate. For instance, if you’re a fashion retailer, you could have hierarchies like “Clothing > Women’s Clothing > Dresses > Summer Dresses.”

5. Prioritize and Refine:

Not all keywords will be equally important or relevant. Prioritize keywords based on their frequency of use and importance to your organization. This step helps streamline the search process by giving more weight to the most commonly used terms.

6. Consider Synonyms and Variations:

Language is diverse, and people might search for images using different terms. Include synonyms, alternate spellings, and variations of keywords to ensure comprehensive coverage. For instance, if your organization deals with “automobiles” and “cars,” include both terms.

7. Incorporate Metadata Standards:

Adopt widely used metadata standards like IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) to ensure compatibility with various software and systems. This standard includes fields for keywords, captions, and other essential metadata.

8. Test and Refine:

Before finalizing the keyword list, conduct a testing phase. Apply the keywords to sample images and see if the search results match your expectations. Adjust and refine the list as needed based on this testing.

9. Train Your Team:

Introduce your custom keyword list to your team and provide training on using it effectively. Explain the importance of consistent keyword application and its benefits to the organization’s workflow.

10. Regularly Update and Adapt:

Industries evolve, and so do the keywords that define them. Set a schedule to review and update your keyword list periodically. This ensures your list remains relevant and aligned with your organization’s changing needs.

Creating a custom-structured keyword list is an investment that pays off through improved searchability, streamlined workflows, and efficient content management. By understanding your organization’s goals, collaborating with stakeholders, and applying a systematic approach, you can build a keyword list that transforms how your organization interacts with its visual content.

The Timeless Importance of High School Reunions: A Glimpse into the 1973 Forest Park High School 50th Reunion


High school reunions hold a special place in our hearts, serving as powerful reminders of our past, connections, and the passage of time. A recent experience at the 1973 Forest Park High School 50th Reunion underscores these events’ importance for people. The event brought together classmates who hadn’t seen each other in decades, resulting in smiles, laughter, and a flood of memories. This blog explores why high school reunions are significant and why they hold such a cherished place in our lives.

A Joyful Reunion

As the photographer at the 50th Reunion, I had a front-row seat to witness the profound impact of the event. The classmates from the Forest Park High School class of 1973 hadn’t smiled or laughed as heartily in years. The atmosphere was charged with nostalgia, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging that only comes from shared experiences.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

One of the most touching moments of the evening was the 25-minute slide show put together by a classmate. The attendees remained glued to their seats, unwilling to miss a single frame. The slide show, set to music, transported them back in time, weaving together images from their high school years and the various reunions they had enjoyed over the decades.

These images weren’t just photographs but windows into their collective history. The laughter that erupted throughout the slide show was a testament to the enduring bonds that had been formed during their high school years and had persisted through the years. Each photo was a chapter in their shared story, bringing back cherished memories and igniting conversations that had them reminiscing well into the night.

A Reminder of the Fleeting Nature of Life

While the Reunion was filled with joy, it also held a bittersweet reminder of the passage of time. More than 10% of their classmates had passed away over the years. This sad reality served as a poignant reminder that life is finite, and opportunities to reconnect and relive memories shouldn’t be taken for granted. The Reunion underscored the importance of taking the time to savor life’s moments and cherish the relationships that have shaped our journey.

The Power of Connection

The Forest Park High School reunion was a testament to the power of human connection. In an age where digital communication has become the norm, the Reunion reaffirmed that there’s no substitute for face-to-face interactions. The joy that radiated from the attendees as they shared stories, laughter, and even tears was a powerful reminder that proper connections are built on shared experiences and genuine emotions.

Looking Forward

As the photographer at the event, I had the privilege of contributing to creating new memories that will undoubtedly be cherished by the class of 1973 in the coming years. These photos will serve as snapshots of a moment in time, a testament to the enduring power of friendship, and a tangible link to their shared history.


High school reunions are more than just gatherings; they’re celebrations of shared experiences, reflections on the passage of time, and reminders to cherish life’s moments. The Forest Park High School class of 1973’s 50th Reunion showcased the profound impact these events can have on people’s lives. Laughter, camaraderie, and nostalgia intertwined to create a memorable evening that left attendees with hearts full of joy and a renewed appreciation for the bonds that tie us together. So, if you ever receive an invitation to your high school reunion, consider it an opportunity to reconnect with your past, create new memories, and celebrate the enduring power of friendship.

The Power of Personal Branding: Why Headshots Matter for Small Businesses

Personal connections have become more critical than ever in a world dominated by digital interactions. For small companies, especially one-person enterprises, the people behind the brand are what genuinely define its identity. In this era, where authenticity and relatability are cherished, showcasing the faces and personalities that drive your business can set you apart. This is why having headshots of your team members and maintaining consistency as your organization grows is a strategic move that can significantly impact your brand.

Putting a Face to the Name: The Personal Touch

For small businesses, building trust and rapport with customers is essential. Unlike more giant corporations, where the brand name often takes precedence, people play a pivotal role in establishing credibility in small companies. Clients want to know who they’re working with, and having headshots on your website creates an immediate sense of familiarity.

A headshot isn’t just a photograph; it’s a glimpse into your team’s personality, professionalism, and approachability. It adds a human touch to your brand, making it easier for clients to relate to your company. When potential clients can connect with the faces behind your services, it becomes easier for them to envision a partnership with your business.

The Evolution of Your Brand: Consistency Is Key

As your small business grows, maintaining consistency becomes crucial for brand development. Your brand isn’t just your logo or tagline; it’s people’s collective perception of your company. Including consistent headshots as part of your branding efforts establishes a uniform visual identity.

When clients or potential partners visit your website and see a collection of headshots with a similar style and aesthetic, it communicates professionalism and attention to detail. Consistency creates a cohesive image that makes your business appear organized and reliable. The visual thread weaves through your branding efforts, ensuring that your brand remains instantly recognizable even as you expand.

The Importance of Having a Clear Online Presence

Having a website is non-negotiable in today’s business landscape. Your website is often the first touchpoint for potential clients, where they form their initial impressions of your company. Incorporating headshots into your website can transform it from a static page into an interactive and inviting space.

Alongside headshots, your website should clearly state the services you provide. A concise and straightforward description of your offerings helps visitors quickly understand what you bring. Remember, people’s attention spans are short online, so making this information readily accessible is vital.

Crafting Your Message: The Power of Clarity

In the digital age, clarity is king. Your potential clients shouldn’t have to guess what your business does or what value you bring. A clear statement about your services helps visitors understand your offerings and leaves a lasting impression.

Your brand message should align with the personalities you showcase through the headshots. Whether it’s innovation, customer-centricity, or expertise, your letter should resonate with the attributes your team embodies.


In the realm of small businesses, personal connections, and relatability are at the heart of success. The people behind your brand define its identity; showcasing their personalities through headshots adds authenticity and familiarity. Maintaining consistency in your headshots and branding becomes paramount to building a recognizable image as your business grows.

So, do you have headshots that capture the essence of your team? Do you have a website that welcomes visitors with open arms and offers a clear understanding of your services? Are your branding efforts reflective of the personalities that shape your company? Remember, in a world of businesses vying for attention, the power of personal branding through headshots and clear messaging can set you apart and leave a lasting impression.

Mastering the Art of Clamshell Lighting: Perfecting Headshots with a Balanced Background

As a photographer with over forty years of experience, I recognize the power of lighting setups in creating stunning portraits. In my recent venture into headshot photography, I’ve found the clamshell lighting technique invaluable in my arsenal. But what exactly is clamshell lighting, and why did I choose it for my headshot sessions?

The Clamshell Lighting Setup

Clamshell lighting is a sophisticated technique that involves positioning two lights in a manner that resembles an open clamshell, hence the name. The primary goal of this setup is to create soft, flattering light that minimizes shadows and highlights the subject’s features while maintaining even lighting across their face.

Typically, one light is placed directly before the subject, acting as the “main” light. This light is often equipped with a softbox or diffuser to ensure the light falls gently on the subject’s face, reducing harsh shadows. The second light is positioned under the person’s face, acting as a “fill” light. This light helps to fill in the shadows created by the leading light, resulting in a well-balanced and flattering look. As you can see in the setup, I used a reflector for this light.

A Twist on Clamshell Lighting: The Background Game Changer

In a recent endeavor, I stumbled upon a variation of the clamshell lighting technique that has completely transformed my headshot sessions. While the traditional clamshell setup focuses on the subject, I realized that a similar approach could work wonders for the background.

To achieve this, I introduced two additional lights aimed at the background. Now, you might wonder why you need extra lights for the background in a headshot session. The answer lies in achieving a uniform background illumination.

Consistency is Key

When working with a single light source for the background, inconsistencies can arise, especially when dealing with subjects of varying heights or positions. As an experienced photographer, I know that even subtle changes in positioning can result in uneven lighting, ultimately affecting the final shot’s quality.

I effectively eliminated this issue by incorporating two lights aimed at the background. Like in copy work, where the objective is to ensure uniformity, this setup guarantees that the background remains evenly lit from top to bottom and left to right. Whether I’m capturing a tall individual or a shorter one, the background maintains uniformity, adding a professional touch to each headshot.

Diverse Choices and Creativity

One of the remarkable aspects of this lighting setup is its versatility. Not only does it provide consistent lighting, but it also offers the creative freedom to experiment with various backgrounds. I prefer white or light grey backgrounds, creating a clean and professional look. By having complete control over the background lighting, I can ensure that the subject remains the focal point while complementing its features with an appropriate background.

Putting the Setup to Work

Recently, I shared this innovative lighting setup on my Facebook page, showcasing my “office of the day” for headshot sessions. Surprisingly, the post garnered interest from fellow photographers and potential clients. Several inquiries poured in, asking about the reasoning behind my choices and the benefits of this setup.

The journey to perfecting my headshot photography has led me to a lighting technique that highlights my subjects’ best features and brings a new level of consistency and professionalism to the background. With clamshell lighting’s ability to adapt to different angles and positions without moving the lights and enhanced background lighting, I’ve found a winning combination that elevates my headshot game.


In the world of photography, lighting can make or break a shot. With its variations and adaptations, the clamshell lighting technique offers a pathway to creating captivating headshots with even illumination across subjects and backgrounds. As my experience evolves, I’m excited to see how this technique will continue to shape my craft. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with fellow photography enthusiasts and clients alike.