The #1 Way to Get Better as a Photographer

Alive After 5 in Roswell, GA. [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/10, 1/55]
Keeping yourself fresh is vital if you do this professionally. I do this by taking a small camera with me everywhere. I just take a few photos here and there and in the process keep myself fresh for my professional jobs where I am getting paid by a client.

Alive After 5 in Roswell, GA. [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/13, 1/25]
I have been doing one-on-one teaching with a person wanting to pursue photography as a career. We started by shooting in total manual mode. The camera is set where the student must pick for each shot the following:

ISO
Shutter Speed
Aperture

As we were reviewing some the photos shot since the last time we met the photos had improved a great deal, but then there were these photos of ducks that just didn’t work at all.

Cyneria & Sadarius Lucas Wedding [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/7.1, 1/50]
What had happened is the excitement of getting photos had them shooting before they had thought through all the settings.

When shooting the ducks the person hadn’t thought about what of those three setting took priority and why. I explained how birds are really like shooting sports. You need to freeze them or they will be totally blurred using the settings the camera was set on before seeing the birds.

Tufted titmouse [Fuji X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
This is when I stopped and I talked to the student about how you must slow down get your camera settings just right before taking photos. If you don’t do this then none of the photos will be usable. “I was trying to get the birds before they flew away.” was the excuse. So not one of the photos was usable, but this became the teachable moment.


My mentor, coach and friend Don Rutledge – photo by Ken Touchton

There was a teachable moment with my mentor. A few of my friends also would tell me later how this helped them as well.

In the days of film you shot 36 shots and then you had to change your roll of film. Most photographers would reach into their bags and change their roll of film pretty quickly.

The problem is when you change the roll of film you can make a mistake and not get the leader of the film to catch. If this happened you would close the back of the camera and because you are in a hurry you take more photos but none of them recorded on the film because every time you advanced the film the film wasn’t moving.

The way I learned what to do was from watching Don, not because he told me what he did. Don would turn his back to whatever he was photographing and change the roll of film. He would always turn the rewind lever to tighten the roll before he would then advance the film to be sure it caught.

Once the film was changed Don then turned around towards the action.

Cyneria & Sadarius Lucas Wedding [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 800, ƒ/4, 1/500]
Often when I am shooting I evaluate the scene and realize I need a flash. Taking the time to set that up for the photo here takes time. The photo is better because I slowed down long enough to get my flash, put it on a light stand and then set the flash to work with the scene.

Alive After 5 [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/13, 1/150]

#1 Tip: Shoot More

Don Rutledge taught me a great deal. One tip was to shoot stories for yourself. Often these are stories you can go back to work on in your own hometown. You work slower than you do when you are say traveling and having to rush to get photos due to the schedule.

My personal tip that no one taught me is to ask yourself before you start taking photos is “Why do I want to take this photo?” What is it you are trying to say with the photo? I am also trying to get in touch with my feelings and not just feel what is going on, but what words would describe this feeling?

Then I pause long enough to decide what Aperture is best to capture the scene. Do I need shallow depth-of-field where you cannot tell where the person is but I want you to see the expression or do I need more context and need a greater depth-of-field.

I am also evaluating what shutter-speed will freeze the photo enough that it will be sharp or do I need to add motion with a slower shutter speed.

Female Cardinal [Fuji X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/10, 1/280]
With some subjects somewhat fast shutter speed will still blur like this bird.

You must really know your camera and subject to know proper shutter speed. Over the years I have learned that faster shutter speeds improve the sharpness of the photo due to camera shake.

The largest difference of having lots of experience is that when I am in most any situation it is becoming rare that I haven’t shot something like this before.

Don taught me that I need to shoot as much as possible to grow and get the shot.

 

Spring Cleaning Time

While I think I have done an excellent job in editing of my photos when I submit them to stock agencies they sometimes catch things I miss.

Island Breeze dancer with Poi balls – for Maori dances

When I first submitted this photo I had missed in the top right hand corner some dust that had gotten onto the sensor.

This is 100% enlargement of the right top corner of the photo. Are you getting frustrated with seeing small dark spots in your images that seem to show up in every image? If you see them consistently in the same location (the size and darkness of the spots can vary depending on aperture), you are most likely dealing with dust particles on your camera’s sensor.

I have noticed they show up more at smaller apertures like ƒ/22 or ƒ/16 and there is a light area of the photo where the dust is located.

Berrie Smith – Camera Guru

The first thing I do when I notice dust on the sensor is to pick up the phone and call Berrie Smith who lives near me and for many years worked for Nikon as a camera technician.

Berrie Smith, professional camera repairman, is one of the guys Nikon sends out to large sporting events to provide live repair and sensor cleaning service to the NPS pros covering the event.

Without proper camera cleaning and digital camera sensor cleaning most photographers have experienced their photographs ruined by unsightly dust spots in their images – these dust spots are characteristically gray/black areas and are usually visible when photographing continuous tone scenes. Cleaning your camera equipment is not only a great way to ensure it continues working properly but is also a necessity in today’s digital world. Digital sensors are electrically charged devices, which attract dust particles because of their static electric charge. The digital camera sensor, if not cleaned properly, will result in images with black spots scattered throughout your photographs.

You can buy off the shelf sensor cleaning kits and attempt to clean your image sensor but if you are not careful you can do a lot of expensive damage, very quickly. The cost to replace a scratched low pass filter / image sensor assembly ranges from $600 to $1,600 (parts and labor) depending on the camera.

Berrie does repairs for photographers all over the world.

When I travel I don’t have the luxury of calling Berrie and sending him my cameras to clean. No one wants to touch up every single photo on a shoot in the same spots over and over.

Carson SensorMag 4.5x30mm Camera Sensor Magnifier Cleaning Loupe

What is crucial in the kit is the loupe to examine the sensor up close.

LED Lighted with 6 Bright White LED Lights | Loupe can be adjusted 45 degrees to allow users easier access to clean your sensor

Often all you need to do is point the sensor down and just using the Air Blower to force air onto the sensor which often dislodges the dust.

I recommend at least owning a Air Blower to just safely remove dust. If that doesn’t work then give it to the expert Berrie.

This is Berrie at my kitchen table cleaning my cameras. So how do you reach Berrie? Here you go:

Berrie Smith | bbmw@bellsouth.net | (770) 312-0719

Breakthrough in your communications

Octane Coffee Bar in West End Atlanta. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/420]
This is how I start most days–a cup of coffee. Everyone has a time of day that we are most productive. Over time we most likely try to be most productive during our sweet spot of the day.

Today more than any other time in my life trying to get any message to an audience is more like trying to getting people’s attention on the highway.

Chick-fil-A Cows Billboard in downtown Atlanta. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/2400]
Do Billboards Work?

According to the Arbitron study, billboard advertising is effective. According to the study, which reported that 71 percent of Americans “often look at the messages on roadside billboards,” a majority of Americans at one time or another learned about an event that interested them or a restaurant they later patronized.

However, consumers are no longer looking at billboards in the same way they did twenty or thirty years ago. While they may still be considered a premium advertising space, consumers are engrossed in their smart phones, tablets, and gaming systems. Eyes are down, not up, for much of our lives.

Six Words or Six Seconds

Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard. So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.

The Superhighway

In the 1990s we started to call the internet the Superhighway. Our messaging has become more like a billboard on the highway.

If you can get your message to be short and sweet and it delivers all one needs to know to take action then you are poised to make people’s daily commute in life worthwhile and more productive.

The More Billboards, The Better.

Being sure your audience is getting your message on the highways often requires more billboards. Your message must be concise. As billboard experts will tell you if you are using a headline that explains your visual, you’re wasting words.

When your are limited to 5 to 10 seconds for messaging, you need to be sure they see it. You need your billboard on the bypass and downtown as well to be sure you are reaching your audience.

Engage & Deliver

We all get ticked when someone takes more of our time because they are not well organized. I get even more frustrated when someone has done a great job of hooking me and leading me through well written or visual communication, but in the end don’t deliver.

Before you can talk you must listen.

In most conversations, the person who speaks least benefits most and the person who speaks most benefits least. This is why social media is often preferred over main stream media, they get to talk and be heard on those platforms.

Instagram, Facebook, Google, Pinterest

Some of the Friends TV show set part of the tour at Warner Brothers Studios. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/3.5, 1/125]
Today due to Starbucks, Seinfeld and Friends in the late 80s and early 90s we have the third space–The coffee shop. Today brands are realizing that people are looking for an experience. They are looking for a place beyond work for an encounter that leaves an impression. They want a place they can interact with others.

BREAKTHROUGH with your audience!

Don’t think of your job as creating content. Think of your job being like a counselor, parent or friend. If you really care for someone you want to know how they are doing. You want them to be happy.

As a counselor you are trained to not just take what someone is telling you are being the real problem. Often what they are talking about is a symptom.

As a parent you tend to know your child’s personality and how that can shape how they see the world and how this can affect their child’s view of circumstances.

As a friend you often tolerate some traits because you know their heart.

Can you as a communicator say you know your audience well enough to know their hopes and fears?

Your breakthrough is probably pretty simple, but it will start first with you understanding others more than just knowing yourself and what you can do.

Sometimes your breakthrough isn’t about your skills or service at all. Often it will be in helping someone with something other than your product.

Look what guides on of the Gold Standard brands the Ritz Carlton:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

I love the words “Genuine Care” in that first sentence.

Genuine – truly what something is said to be; authentic.

Are You Serving Yourself or Serving Your Client?

The Citadel vs North Georgia College in Rugby [Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]

Editor’s note: I am sorry that this is so long. I was struggling on how to make this shorter. Hopefully when you read this it will spark you to have some great ideas for your clients. That was my goal.

My clients are hitting the same wall I was hitting back when digital photography finally became affordable for everyone.

I had cut my teeth in professional photography shooting sports for newspapers, magazines, for colleges and for professional sports teams.

Tennessee’s tight end (82) Ethan Wolf is pursued by Georgia Tech’s line backer (51) Brant Mitchell, which he drops the pass, during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The cameras had gotten so good that it was feasible to go to a camera store and buy your gear and show up on Friday Night or Saturday to a football game and get reasonably good photos. The exposures would be OK and the focus would be OK. If it were not just right you could look at the LCD and make changes to the camera settings on the spot. In the past you wouldn’t know if you were exposing correctly or in focus until you looked at the film.

Working at Georgia Tech I saw this happening faster than other places because the alumni of the school were more prone to enjoy the technology of photography. Soon we had the sidelines filled with photographers shooting for free just to have access to the games.

While I still get called to shoot sports and paid the field is so over saturated that few people are able to make a living shooting sports as compared to prior to the digital revolution that too place in 2002 to 2007.

Brenau University Dance [Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/16, 1/160]
One of the ways I stayed competitive was through my skills with lighting.

However the year that was the most pivotal in our society impacting my profession the most was 2007.

Three things happened that year that would impact photography like nothing had for many years before that moment.

Nikon introduced the D3 camera. This camera almost retired my lighting kit all together. This was the most revolutionary camera that Nikon had made in my career as compared to those before it.

Steve Jobs announces the iPhone. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, it leapfrogged far beyond the competition and launched the mobile revolution. Few industries or societies have been left unchanged. The iPhone transformed photography from a hobby to a part of everyday life.

Mark Zuckerberg opened up Facebook to everyone and not just college students the end of 2006. By 2007 with the iPhone it was exploding. I joined in 2007.

Hamilton Railroad Pocket Watch

Facebook Changed the Way We Consume Content

While Facebook isn’t the only place we consume content it is 3rd only to Google and Youtube. Roughly 71% of 18- to 24-year-olds credit the Internet as their main news source.

Traditional media was loosing their audience while the internet and things like Facebook News Feed, a never-ending stream of content from the people and companies that you’ve connected with on the platform. News Feed never ends; in theory, users could scroll on forever, a feature that was unheard of when News Feed debuted in 2006.

Now that anyone can create content and reach the world using the internet and most likely do this all from their iPhone the audience is now oversaturated.

Some forms of media have seen a resurgence. I have enjoyed my daughter’s theater performances. Just a couple of years ago Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical broke new ground. It was different. When the musical came out they were thinking of retiring Hamilton off the ten dollar bill, but that musical gave life to Hamilton.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
Today it is so difficult to get someone’s attention for more than a brief second. Many covering stories around the world for NGOs are having to rely on one photo and just a small caption to “entertain” the audience with an “experience” rather than having their attention enough to truly inform.

This is why FAKE NEWS has taken place. If the audience wants something for an “experience” because spending more time they do not have, then it is easier for those who want to create propaganda to succeed today.

How do communications offices, public relations, and marketing get their audiences attention?

Chrysler at the Old Car City in White, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm Ï/4, ISO 360, ƒ/4, 1/200]

BREAKTHROUGH

Today I am seeing a lot of mediocre communications. The reason it is working has more to do with it being “different” than better.

A few years ago one of the most powerful things I heard that changed my approach to working was professional photographer Dave Black saying that to be successful your photos don’t always have to be better–they have to be DIFFERENT.

Just look how we do this with text. We can bold, italicize or even change the color of the type to highlight something. This draws attention because it is different from the rest of the text.

Professional communicators are not sure what works a great deal of time today. They go to Instagram and look for those people with the greatest number of followers and assume that hiring them will translate into more followers for them.

Little do they know that many of those people with a lot of followers bought them through a service and even when they post only a small percentage actually see a post.

Wake up

Your client is struggling to sleep these days as much as you are struggling. The difference is in understanding who you are serving.

When your bills are mounting up and you find yourself in a panic as I often find myself, you need to take deep breaths and calm yourself down. [I am not good at this either, so just know I might not be the best person offering this advice, but I think I need to hear it myself]

What you will soon discover is that when you concentrate on meeting your needs is that you will go without work. It is when you concentrate of how to meet the needs of others that your bills get paid. You are helping someone who needs your help and will compensate you for it.

Pam Goldsmith, world renowned violist played for us when we were visiting her. She is my sister in-law. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/4.5, 1/125]
My sister in-law Pam Goldsmith for most of her career has played as part of the orchestra for many movies, cartoons and major records. That group is so good that most all the music for movies has only been played one time when it is recorded. They don’t practice. The music was never played before they did so the first time, but they are that good of studio musicians.

I mention this because we should be perfecting our craft so that when we are aware of a way to help our clients with their problems using our skills that our skills are so good that it lifts up the content we produce for the client.

Be transparent

If you are really thinking of ways to help your client then you need to really understand your client’s problems they are facing.

I have a client that their audience is saying stop sending me more stuff already. Just stop it with all your communications. Send us just those things that are going to help them do a better job running their business.

Too often I have proposed interesting feature ideas to my clients. While they may be interested in maybe 1 of every 1000 ideas I pitch to them. They are more likely to be interested in 1 of every 100 or even 10 ideas I have that will help their audience run their business better tomorrow.

Now take a moment and think about your client. If they are Amazon, Apple, or Google do they need to be more successful? Sometimes the companies we are trying to help are having capacity issues. They are so successful that their new problems are not how to make more money, but how to handle the work they have and still enjoy doing it every day.

Oklahoma Banner

Our job is to help our customers to see a brighter future. We are to be serving their best interests. If you look at some of the big companies, they may look like they have it all together, but you talk to them internally, and you see that they don’t.

If you are a photographer, videographer, writer or a producer don’t think of what you do as producing content only. You need to be the one coming up with good content ideas that your clients need to reach their audience.

Freelancers date their clients and clients are not looking for a marriage

[Nikon D3, 85mm, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/5000]
Freelancing is like dating. Dating however isn’t the same as marriage.

Dating is a tryout for marriage. Dating offers you the chance to explore and learn before you make the serious commitment of marriage. … It’s not, however, the same as being married. There are different legal aspects of marriage (such as bank accounts, taxes, will’s, etc.) that you can’t experience while dating.

Now the biggest difference in freelancing and dating is that your clients are not looking for a marriage.

[Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 2800, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]
Dating provides the opportunity to build a secure foundation before entering into the marriage commitment, but also offers less stability in relationships. Marriage lowers depression risk.

While these are breakup lines for couples dating, they are very similar lines the freelancer hears from their client.

1. “Something about us doesn’t feel right, and I have to act on that.”
2. “I don’t know what I want, and as long as I feel this way, it’s not fair to you.”
3. “I need something more.”
4. “We’ve really tried to make this work, but now it’s time to let it go.”
5. “I have a lot more growing to do before I’m ready for something like this.”
6. “I love you but I’m not in love with you.”
7. “I wish I’d met you five years from now. I’m just not ready for this yet.”
8. “Someone out there is perfect for you, I promise. It’s just not me.”
9. “We are not each other’s soulmate.”
10. “We’ve both changed and grown apart.”
11. “You’re my best friend, which is so much more important to me than a lover.”
12. “I just don’t see this working.”
13. “Love shouldn’t be this hard.”
14. “I love you enough to want something better for you than what I can give.”
15. “I think we need to work on ourselves before we can ever share a life together.”
16. “You deserve to find your perfect match. It’s just not me.”
17. “I’m not in a place to date someone right now, but I still love you.”
18. “I need to figure out myself before I can share my life with someone.”

What you should hear in all these breakups is you can be great looking, be a wonderful person, but still they are looking for something different. They are not wanting you to change to accommodate them.

Now we need to look for some of those silver linings. When you go on staff you will not be able to do as much work for others.

Employees have to deal with the politics of working for a single employer. A freelancer may have to deal with solitude and loneliness. I mention this because we need to honest, freelancing is hard and an emotional rollercoaster.

I have lost my job two times as a photographer on staff jobs. I came to realize with so many others in every profession that the days of working an entire career for one employer are rare today.

While Divorce peaked at the end of WWII and even with it going down through the years to the lowest ever, it impacted the mindset far beyond families.

“Welcome to the family…,” is how many employers great you when you are hired. However, the uptick in divorcing those employees has been climbing. Now more and more companies are using temporary employees/contractors over hiring and making them employees.

This is why today you are more likely to be freelancing than working as an employee.

Not surprising to me is that the latest findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Report show that from 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate in the U.S. increased 24 percent.

[Nikon D3S, 60mm, ISO 400, ƒ/3.2, 1/40]
Prayer for Financial Peace

Dear Father,
     You who are gracious and kind, hear my prayer! I face more financial pressure than I can bear.
     “Save [me] now, I pray.” Show me, Lord, what I must do to get out from under this heavy burden.
     Give me Your wisdom and discipline, I pray, that I may move toward resolution of this situation.
     Guard my heart, Lord, and my steps; protect me from bad advice and foolish actions.
     Draw me close to You, for I need Your comfort and guidance.
     In Jesus’ name Amen.

Airborne School First Jump of school [Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
When Your Parachute Says Cliff-Diver you are in trouble. So many freelancers are losing clients for all the reasons similar to the breakup list above. Your clients didn’t marry you–they were only dating you.

Like it or not, your industry is changing. Everything changes; it always has, and it always will. You can keep up with and be part of the changes, or you can overlook and ignore changes and let others pass you by.

Take the time to read up on the industry and how things are changing. While some traditional media is going down like newspapers the upswing of media like Instagram is growing.

Join an association like NPPA or ASMP. Both of these associations are communicating what is happening now and who is making the most of the the changes happening and who is going out of business.

Build relationships with people smarter than you. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I found that when I played basketball with better athletes than myself I was getting better. When I played people with similar skills that I didn’t evolve all that much in my game.

Create your own board. Boards advise executives of large companies. Executives go to their boards and bounce ideas off of them before they implement ideas. Do you have a small group of friends that serve as your advisors?

Listen to your customers. When customers are talking you need to listen. What is on their minds? Also, ask them questions about what is important to them now and what they see as a future need.

Look for ways to change. Try and adapt to trends rather than letting your competition come in and do this for your client because you were resistent to change.

Here is a great scripture which is a prayer that I will end with for you.

Psalm 25

A Prayer for Guidance and Protection

To you, O Lord, I offer my prayer;
in you, my God, I trust.
Save me from the shame of defeat;
don’t let my enemies gloat over me!
Defeat does not come to those who trust in you,
but to those who are quick to rebel against you.

Teach me your ways, O Lord;
make them known to me.
Teach me to live according to your truth,
for you are my God, who saves me.
I always trust in you.

Remember, O Lord, your kindness and constant love
which you have shown from long ago.
Forgive the sins and errors of my youth.
In your constant love and goodness,
remember me, Lord!

Because the Lord is righteous and good,
he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
He leads the humble in the right way
and teaches them his will.
With faithfulness and love he leads
all who keep his covenant and obey his commands.

Keep your promise, Lord, and forgive my sins,
for they are many.
Those who have reverence for the Lord
will learn from him the path they should follow.
They will always be prosperous,
and their children will possess the land.
The Lord is the friend of those who obey him
and he affirms his covenant with them.

I look to the Lord for help at all times,
and he rescues me from danger.
Turn to me, Lord, and be merciful to me,
because I am lonely and weak.
Relieve me of my worries
and save me from all my troubles.
Consider my distress and suffering
and forgive all my sins.

See how many enemies I have;
see how much they hate me.
Protect me and save me;
keep me from defeat.
I come to you for safety.
May my goodness and honesty preserve me,
because I trust in you.

From all their troubles, O God,
save your people Israel!

Where is the “B” [Business] button on my camera?

Many who first buy a camera put their camera on the Green “P” button or like on this camera the Green Camera. That is the mode where the camera does all the thinking for you.

Soon you realize to get the results that you were looking for you have to tell the camera what to do. This is when you start to learn what M, A, S and the other settings on that dial do other than the green camera or even the P mode.

When photographers start trying to make a living at this they look for the green “B” mode for their camera. They want a simple business mode that thinks for them and tell them what they need to do to be successful.

If they are not careful on some camera models the B mode is actually standing for “bulb” and that is another discussion for another day.


What prompted this blog post was a Facebook post.

Facebook post question: What is it that editors, photo buyers and parents are sick of the most as far as buying photos?

My first response: Photographer over explaining their prices. Just tell us the price. Give me a low, medium and high price option and let me pick.

Facebook response: Are you talking about editors parents or both?

My response: Everyone

Facebook Response: I just got fotobiz X. Is there a way to package that for people?

My long response:

Yes there is. The software is really designed for editorial, freelancers who do B2B verses B2C. However you can create your own price items. It doesn’t create a price list that you hand to people. It is used to create estimates and invoices.

I notice you and many others post a lot of detailed questions that really cannot be adequately answered on a Facebook or even blog post. Those questions about business are often show some lack of understanding of business practices.

This is quite common in photography. People take up photography and most realize at some point that putting their camera on “P” doesn’t mean professional photos.

The learning curve then becomes quite steep as they go from pointing and shooting to making the camera see the way they want it to see. Most will spend some money on classes or workshops.

Once you then decide to charge for your services and try to make money doing photography you quickly realize the “B” setting on trying to run your business doesn’t work. Well it is even more difficult than photography because there is no “B” setting.

You really need to take a class in business practices for the profession. You can pay a photographer with more than 3 years of experience that is successful to help you get started. I recommend talking to photographers who are members of ASMP.org or PPA.com. Both of these organizations have business practices at the core of the reason they were formed.

Because where you live can also impact how you run your business due to tax laws you also then need to talk to an accountant and an attorney. Each of the organizations have a list of those who work with photographers. Nothing can be worst than making money and then finding out that you owe more taxes because you didn’t do something right.

In most communities there is the US Small Business Administration that offers many classes for free. They want you to be successful. here is where you can find out more about their “FREE” help https://www.sba.gov/.

Going back to your original question that started this thread. You basically have asked about two types of businesses, one is business to business model and the other is business to customer.

Talking to a customer who is part of the industry [i.e. editor at publication] is totally different than talking to someone not a part of the industry [i.e. a mother wanting photos of the family]. One person hires photographers regularly and will talk a lot differently about hiring you.

While you can create a basic price list for services, in this industry you will find yourself having to create custom estimates pretty often. It is much easier to do when you understand the how you create a price for a service.

You have to know how much you have to bring home to cover your base. You know your phone, rent, gear, software, marketing materials and more are always ongoing expenses to run your business. You must know this number and if you don’t you cannot create a price for anything. You don’t even know what you must charge to break even.

99% of every photographer I have ever helped that came to me about business practices was losing money on every job. They were actually paying most people to shoot for them, but because they didn’t know what their bottom line was to run their business they were charging most of the time 50% or more lower than the price that they needed to break even.

Here is a blog post I wrote talking about just getting to know your expenses.

Here is a blog post on tips on price estimating.

FREE is not necessary for photographer with a portfolio

[Nikon D750, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 125, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]
One of the best ways for restaurants to get you to buy their food is to sample it. Walk through almost any malls food court and one of the restaurants is giving out samples. When you have low market awareness with your food then you have to do something to get people to know you exist and what you offer is good.

Now photographers don’t have to give their photos away for people to know what they will get if they purchase a photo from you. They can look at your portfolio and it serves the same purpose.

Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved. The problem for most people starting out in business is they don’t know what they don’t know.

The devil doesn’t come dressed in pointy horns. He comes in everything you wished for …

Drug dealers give free samples to get you hooked. They don’t work in back alleys all the time. Today many are selling what appear to be legitimate prescription drugs. There are even doctors who have been doing this because it is so lucrative to them because of the kickbacks they get from drug companies.

When most successful business start out they hired lawyers, accountants and other experts to help guide them so they would be successful.

When you start out I cannot recommend enough getting expert help. One of the best photography organizations I know is ASMP [American Society of Media Photographers]. I have been a member since 1987.

The group was founded to help represent magazine photographers in matters of wages and working conditions. Those early years ASMP was acting as a union for photographers. While today it isn’t a union the purpose of ASMP at its core is to help photographers be successful businesses.

Remember Groupon? Businesses thought that giving super discount to get customers in their doors would have them later pay full price. A study by Lightspeed Research shows that 63% of Groupons are purchased by existing customers. … Sucking value out of the small business market will ultimately damage the local merchants that are the bread and butter of Groupon’s base. Groupon’s model is not sustainable.

Now if Groupon which is a discounted price sucks value our of small business what do you think of Unsplash?

Beautiful, free photos.
Gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers.

Remember photographers do not have to give photos away like you see in a mall’s food court. They can show their images on websites or displays. People can get a taste of what you offer without you giving anything away.

Remember: “Successful business model is one that is a win-win deal for all involved.

Mikael Cho is a graphic designer who was solving “his problem” when he started UnSplash.

Mikael’s problem was that when he needed samples for an idea he was working on he realized that when he went to Google Images he couldn’t just use those images. Not sure exactly how he knew that those were copyrighted and not for free, but I am guessing it would be similar to others who start out. They made mistake and someone pointed out you cannot do that without paying for the images.

By the way Mikael had his bills paid by another way it appears than graphic design. He thinks of himself as an artist. He just wants to create and share.

This is great if you have a job. Then your creativity is a hobby and not a career. The problem is that Mikael sucked people who want to do this for a career into his creative vortex.

Mikael seems to be talking as an artist. I have heard this many times before. Usually in the past I would then hear they don’t want to “sell out.” Wikipedia defines: “Selling out” is a common idiomatic pejorative expression for the compromising of a person’s integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.[1] In terms of music or art, selling out is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience; for example, a musician who alters his material to encompass a wider audience, and in turn generates greater revenue, may be labeled by fans who pre-date the change as a “sellout.” A sellout also refers to someone who gives up, or disregards, hence the term ‘sells’ – someone or something – for some other thing or person.

Simply put, you can’t live out your purpose if you aren’t selling and that’s why sales is a critical skill for artists to develop.

Even if you don’t participate in Unsplash and give your images away you should be very concerned. You cannot stay in business if your clients can get what you could provide through a “FREE” service like Unsplash.

All working photographers need to educate the public and especially those who are trying to be photographers on the pitfalls of highly discounting their work or giving it away for free.

I understand shooting your first wedding for a friend to get samples to show for a portfolio. You do have to do some work for free to create a portfolio, but once you have examples you no longer have to do free to show what customers can expect when they hire you.

Your goal as a successful business should be to have customers who are willing to pay full price and come back to you over and over.

7 Tips for the financially struggling photographer

A few weeks ago I had a Facebook friend request. It was another photographer. Now this scenario has happened more than just once for me. I want to walk you through what happened and what I want to share with those photographers who are struggling financially.

Since I didn’t recognize the name I went to his profile and clicked on his “About” section. Here you can see my information.

Now little did he know that I wasn’t just a photographer, but I hire photographers throughout the year for a few of my clients. I act as a director of photography role as well as other roles for those corporations.

I was looking for a few things that I feel like show me you are a successful professional photographer who is growing their business.

Do you have a way for me to contact you other than Facebook? I like to see three things: 1) phone number, 2) email, & 3) website.

It wasn’t long in our messaging that he said something like he is struggling as a freelancer because his market is over saturated.

When I asked if he had a website he said I need to work on that. He even said he knew that was important.

7 Tips to get more jobs

1 Get a website. You don’t have to know much at all to make this work. You can go to WordPress [https://wordpress.com] and create one for free. You can also go to places like PhotoShelter [www.photoshelter.com], Godaddy [https://www.godaddy.com/] and many other places that cater to photographers.

2 Create a domain name. I recommend Godaddy, but there are others. This is where you create your personalized web address. A .com address runs about $12 a year, but if you buy it for many years the price drops. You basically rent these addresses. You can also “mask” your website domain name with your custom domain name.

3 Create email with your domain name. I have actually had so many email addresses through the years that I cannot remember them all. I started with Compuserve and it was a number. The cool thing is once you own your domain name you can “mask” your @gmail.com address to be me@yourdomainname.com. People send you email to your address and it actually can go to your @gmail.com address. The advantage here is that in 20 years when Google goes out of business or is bought and the email address changes to all your customers and prospects you are still me@yourdomainname.com.

Back of Card
Front of Business Card

4 Create business card. Be sure your card has: 1) your name, 2) phone number, 3) email address, 4) website address, 5) your town & 6) your specialty. You want people to find you but you don’t have to put your street address on there to advertise to people where all your camera gear is located. You do want people to know if you are close by for an assignment. Don’t put just photographer on the card. That is as useful as putting human on the card. Put what you are the very best at doing on your card.

5 Buy business software. I recommend to photographers Cradoc’s FotoBiz. It will help you with creating cover letters, creating estimates & invoices and tracking of your receivables and payables. It also includes FotoQuote, the industry standard pricing guide for freelance photographers.

6 Create a home budget. This should be the very first thing you do. You cannot know what to charge if you don’t know what you need to pay your household bills. Once you have created a home budget that takes into account everything you spend money on during a year from rent, food, and the basics; it should also include things like vacations and retirement as well.

When done celebrate! This is what I would call the foundation for your business.

7 Last step is a Marketing Plan. In a nutshell this is where you will identify all those potential customers who need your specialty.

Rule-of-thumb marketing. If you contact 1,000 contacts only about 100 of these will be interested in your services. That means that 900 have various reasons that they are not interested. The reasons they are not interested run from every thing from they has someone they are happy with or that your style of work doesn’t mesh with their style.

Out of the remaining 100 only 10 will hire you. Again there are many factors here. The best way to put this is 90 are willing to date you, but not marry you.

No matter what you are doing, you are marketing yourself. Either you are helping your brand or hurting it. When you meet new people how many know that you are a photographer?

Since I used the marriage metaphor earlier, your marketing should be like the process you find your mate. You are working on building a relationship. So the first time you meet someone you don’t ask him or her to marry you. Also you need to be clear that you want to date or you never make it clear that you are interested.

I have written many articles on marketing that you can search for on my blog here.

I hope this has given you some things that can turn your lack of getting work into the road to prosperity.

Go to Lens combination: Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 & Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6

Impact 360 Institute’s Campus Expansion
Dedication [Nikon D5, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 2200, ƒ/8, 1/100]
One of the types of photography I do a great deal of for clients is the event coverage. This is the type of coverage that you are capturing the photos with available light and an occasional on camera flash for a quick grip and grin.

Impact 360 Institute’s Campus Expansion
Dedication [Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/500]
In these situations you need to go as wide as possible to pretty close up. I find that the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 is the best lens for capturing those super wide and wide angle shots.

Impact 360 Institute’s Campus Expansion
Dedication [Nikon D5, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 5000, ƒ/8, 1/100]
With a new campus dedication I needed to show tour groups going through and around the new campus. I used the 14 -24mm to capture the room interiors with people to give a sense of perspective and to capture as much of the room as possible.

Now I was also using the 28-300mm because I was needing to capture moderate to telephoto shots of people around the campus and the speakers at a podium.

Larry Cox
Impact 360 Institute’s Campus Expansion
Dedication [Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 11400, ƒ/8, 1/200]
Now this lens combination works great for just about any situation. Now for a smaller venue I am often using the Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4 when I just want to carry one camera.

Impact 360 Institute’s Campus Expansion
Dedication [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/400]
If you are to cover things where you have speakers an need to capture rooms where you cannot back up enough then the 14-24mm and 28-300mm lenses will help you do a great job.

I am also loving my Fuji X series cameras and lenses. I am finding shooting with the Fuji X-E2/X-E3 with the 10-24mm and the 55-200mm lenses will give you a similar lens coverage.

Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm ƒ/4, ISO 10000, ƒ/4, 1/200]

The Fuji is much lighter system than the Nikon.

[Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
It is much easier to walk around at an event all day with the Fuji system.

I haven’t tried the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS. I would love to try this with some high school football games to see if it could work. However, I am super confident with the Nikon D5 & Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with the TC-2001 converter keeping up with the action.

I am also more pleased with the Nikon D5 having microphone and headphone jacks for recording video. The Nikon D5 is the camera system that does it all and really my only complaint is the weight.

My recommendation is to have lenses for covering events that are at least 20mm wide to 30mm for a full-frame camera. As far as a camera I cannot see ever buying a camera today that doesn’t have ISO of at least 51200 and the low of 100. This will let you shoot in almost every situation without the need of a flash. The reasons I use my flash today are to add light to improve the photo where often there is no light.

Shooting events requires you to be ready for just about everything, so be sure you have the lenses, camera and flash to do deliver for the client.

Don’t raise Cain in your business

Story of Cain and Abel [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4, 1/200]
Yesterday when I was in my Sunday School class we were studying the story of Cain and Abel. While I have read this story over and over since a little child each time I come to the scripture a little differently. Life experiences and where I am in life really can impact one’s perspective.

Reading this as a business owner I saw this in a new light. I thought of how I see this story lived out in business every day.

Just read the story with a customer being God and while Cain and Abel are two freelancers giving estimates to get a job.

Genesis 4:1-15

4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

While discussing this passage in our class I was struck by why God didn’t treat both Cain and Abels gifts equally. The scripture doesn’t say why he treated them the way he did.

You would think God should treat them equally.

I can think of many Christmas and birthdays where opening a present I was disappointed or one of my family/friends were disappointed with a present. It was always important in my circles that you were appreciative for the gift.

So I can get why God might like one gift more than the other, I am that way. Our customers and potential clients also have reasons they pick one vendor over another and they don’t always tell you why.

Instead of dealing directly with God over his gift Cain got angry with his brother Abel. Sound familiar. We often are upset with our competition.

Instead of taking our anger out on others we need to work on ourselves. We need to remember there is always a next time. Maybe not with that client, but with another.

Maybe you are like Cain and realize you only have  “fruits of the soil” as a farmer and not an animal to sacrifice because you are a farmer and not the cowboy. Don’t be shortsighted and think the only way you can win a contract is to take out your competition. [You could be just talking about your competition in a bad way to the customer.]

Look at what you have to offer and do everything you can to be sure that your presentation of your gifts is as good as the gifts themselves.

Focus on your Audience’s Needs. … As you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.