Photo Tips on Covering Meetings

While this photo shows everyone in a room at a meeting and even an interesting angle, you need photos showing people being engaged.  This is a photo that is important to have. You need photos helping to show the size of the meeting and location. This helps establish how important this meeting is to the company.

If you were to calculate the cost of meetings it would shock most of us. Just how effective and important are these to your organization?

Meetings are important and help in business or they wouldn’t be done. However, if you are the one putting one on you quickly discover how important it is to get all you can out of the investment.

Photography is one of the best ways to help stretch your budget.

Training a sales force on how to use the iPad with their companies resources. This photo is helping show what was presented and who was presenting. Also, it is important that you capture a moment where you can see the presenter is enthusiastic about the material. Just a shot with the elements will not inspire people. This is a medium shot which is needed to help bring the reader into the content. If you have an iPad or iPhone you will quickly recognize iBooks. You might want to know why is this being taught at a meeting. This will inspire you to read more of the text.

Improve Retention of Content

You can have a photographer cover your event and then use the photos to help put the content online for the rest of your company. It also helps those who attended review what was covered and improve retention of the material.

This is a good example of what a photojournalist can capture for you during a meeting. They will help capture moments showing people are interested and engaged in the material. Here the two sales people are helping each other learn how to use the iPad. This photo also celebrates your employees. When your workforce sees that others are interested this helps using peer pressure to get them on board. If you let the photographer know which folks you would like to try and get photos of doing this, then they can try and capture it. As you know some people showing interest will have more impact than another.
This is a photo that not only shows audience participation, but the face expressions shows genuine interest in the topic. You see interaction from all in the photo. A person talking, people listening and even getting two people to turn towards the person to hear better.

Celebrate your people

When a photographer is pointing a camera towards your people in a meeting, they know this is important or the company wouldn’t have a photographer their. This is like the red carpet treatment for your employees.

People will sit up and pay more attention when they are on camera. They also get excited when they later see these photos in publications or online. This recognition can help them feel good about themselves and the company.

A good photographer is going to be aware of capturing these moments where people are engaged.

Having people look at the camera and smile is not the same as catching them in a real situation. This authentic moment will help communicate a message as well as authentically show them participating.

Having activities for the participants will help them retain information better than a pure lecture. These also translate into wonderful photo opportunities. Here the photographer is trying to capture the activity engaging the people.
Photographers will give you good detail shots as well as the personal interaction. This photo with the one above it will help talk about not just an activity, but what they company is now emphasizing. The detail shot in combination with the other photo now helps tell a more complete story.  It is a faster read than had you written text about it. Also, the text would have a difficult time explaining how interested the participants are in the content.

Its about relationships

Your photos will help do something that cannot be done with text as effectively. It helps show the relationships.

Before the meeting is even officially started, you can see relationships that communicate the family atmosphere for your company.

While you think the photos are just to communicate what happened at a meeting, this type of photograph is something a recruiter could use to show how much people like working with the company. I can see this and the photo above communicating how the company is a place where relationships are encouraged and to create a family atmosphere.

Too often companies focus on the wrong type of photos. Sure you may want photos of people receiving awards, but other than the person getting the award who else would really want the photo.

This is a typical awards photo that happens quickly on stage. These are good photos to make prints and give to the person receiving the award.

Too many companies use only these award photos in their publications after a meeting. Do you think having 30+ of these award photos really is the best use of photography or do you think the other photos above can help you more?  Why not make prints of all the award winners and give these to those in the photos?

You need both, but remember you can use photography to communicate and not just celebrate.

How to help your photographer

  • What is the purpose of the photography? You need to be able to give a clear direction on why you need the photos.
  • Who is the audience? A photographer needs to know the audience. Shooting for the media, your internal company people or to give photos to the award recipients makes a huge difference in approach.
  • What medium will it be used in? If all the photos are going to be part of a video later, then the photographer will probably shoot more horizontals than verticals. This is true also if it is primarily being used on the web.
  • Have someone assigned to the photographer. This is important for a new photographer working with you. They could benefit as to someone pointing out key people in a room. This person should not be a micro manager. Too much direction to a seasoned pro can actually stifle the creative process. They should help point out the key people that have been predetermined as important to the story.  That is the CEO and this is the major donor can help the photographer then capture a moment where they may be interacting very naturally. This is almost always a better photo than when they CEO call them up and they have an official moment on stage. Having a photographer who you use regularly and understands you should be something you are willing to pay a little more for, because you will be saving costs on someone with them all the time.
  • When is your deadline? A photographer needs to know before the estimate is given when you expect the photos in your hand.
  • What is the deliverable? Will the photographer give you a DVD of high resolution, low resolution or a combination? Are you wanting these delivered as an online gallery where you can order prints and/or download high to low resolution photos?
  • What is the dress code? While most professionals will dress professionally, be sure they know this is a black tie event or if everyone is expected to wear jeans.  Sometimes you may require them to wear all black since you are having video crews shooting and having them in all black when they are near the stage will look better.
  • Give them directions and time expectations. Be sure and provide parking close to the event. These photographers will be bringing tens of thousands of dollars of equipment.  For their safety and security be sure they are not walking blocks back to their car after an event. Let them know when you expect them to be onsite.  Do not assume they know you expect them an hour before the event starts onsite–tell them. 
  • Give clear billing instructions. Be sure they know who is to get the invoice. If they need to provide a W-9 form to be paid, tell them to do so when they send the invoice. If there is a PO# required by accounts payable for them to be paid–get that to them right away.
Photographers should be capturing moments like this where the speakers are engaged on the topic and where the audience is also excited. Now the photographer cannot shoot what doesn’t exist, but few employees would not want to look engaged when a photographer is present.
Good meeting photography will not be all smiles. Here you can see this guy is thinking and engaged. I think the reason for most meetings is to give people new material. Showing the employees digesting the material is showing them engaged.

Did you hire the right photographer?

If you did not provide the information to the photographer and they don’t ask about those topics–it is a good clue you have a rookie or a clueless photographer.

When you get the photos you will also know if you got the right photographer. Do you see moments of people interacting with each other or only posed looking into the camera? If only posed–you hired the wrong photographer.

Hire a pro every once in a while, even if you shoot most meetings

Why would you hire a pro when you know how to take a photo? On the job training for one. I know many organizations that have so many meetings they cannot afford to hire a photographer all the time. Be careful not to never hire a photographer.

Try and hire a seasoned pro once in a while so you can learn from them. Your photography will improve when you see what they are doing.

How much you can make as a photographer

My stepson looked at his first paycheck and asked, “Who is FICA?” This was his first hard lesson about where the money goes – the cost of doing business.

A lot of the money we pay for a service doesn’t stay with the service provider.
According to Dun & Bradstreet, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have only a 37% chance of surviving four years (of business) and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” Of these failed businesses, only 10% of them close involuntarily due to bankruptcy and the remaining 90% close because the business was not successful, did not provide the level of income desired or was too much work for their efforts.”
So many good photographers I know have to turn to other ways to make a living not due to any lack of photographic skills, but because of poor business practices.
Two things caused their businesses to fail:  
  1. they didn’t know their real cost of doing business and 
  2. they failed to promote themselves.
In 2001, I left a staff position and started full-time freelancing. My business has averaged a 20% growth rate each year for the past eleven years. Many of my colleagues ask me how I do it.
I speak often to photographers on business practices and many of these are students in college. When I teach workshops on the business of photography we do some very practical exercises to help them.

First, I require the students to calculate how much it costs them to live for a year. I’ve found that even the older students who have been on their own for a time typically do not know what it costs them to live.

No matter the profession, if you do not know your cost you cannot estimate what you are worth in the market place.
Once you’ve know your cost and decided how much net income you want to earn, it is easy to determine what to charge for each project in order to reach that goal.
Take a moment and think of everything needed to do your job. Here are some categories from the National Press Photographer’s Association list I use just substitute your terms for similar categories to figure your annual cost of doing business.
  • Office or Studio
  • Phone
  • Photo Equipment
  • Repairs
  • Computers (Hardware & Software)
  • Internet (Broadband, Web site & email)
  • Auto Expenses (Lease, Insurance & Maintenance)
  • Office Supplies
  • Photography Supplies
  • Postage
  • Professional Development
  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Subscriptions & dues
  • Business Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Legal & Accounting Services
  • Taxes & Licenses
  • Office Assistant
  • Utilities
  • Retirement Fund
  • Travel
  • Entertainment (meals with clients)
Add your desired net income to your annual business expenses, divide that total by the number of projects you reasonably expect to do in a year. The answer gives you the average per project you must charge clients so you can pay those bills, stay in business and live the way you want to live.
Dueling Pianos is OK when it is an act, but not when you are competing for a solo act.

Now you must find out if the market place will sustain this charge.

Let’s say you need to charge on average $1,000 for per project to reach your goal. If the services you provide are what people can get anywhere then they will shop for price. If the going rate in your community is $1,200 then you are in good shape. If the going rate is $900 then you need to look at cutting your overhead—your hoped for income or business expenses or both.
The key to earning what you want comes down to service. You must be able to demonstrate to potential clients that you offer something more if you want/need to charge more than other photographers do.
I have found that I need to know about the subjects I cover more than other photographers do. In addition, I deliver my images a good deal faster than most others do. I also listen carefully to what clients say they want and try to, not only meet their needs, but to go beyond their expectations.
When I first determined my cost and income goals, it was a revelation just as my stepson’s response to FICA and other deductions from his pay were for him.
I do my best to keep my overhead low, but even so close to 50% of my gross goes to business expenses. It was quite shocking for me to see what I must charge to pay the bills. This knowledge was the fire I needed to get me to put the time and effort into finding ways to make me more valuable to clients and to find those clients by seriously marketing myself.

Do you know what you cost?

Advice for those going from staff position to freelance

Landing in a sand trap is how I would describe my layoff. You don’t want to be in one, but it is something you can get out of. (Nikon D2x, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/750, 600mm)

In 2002 I was laid off from what I considered a great job. Well truthfully I was very frustrated with the environment for the last few years I was on staff. While I enjoyed the opportunities to shoot a variety of subjects, I was finding myself out of sync with my coworkers.

I should have left earlier, but I didn’t think I could made it as a freelancer. I liked having people just give me things to photograph and go home and come in the next day and do it again.

When I got called in and told that my position had been eliminated I was devastated. I called my wife and friend to come and help me pack up my gear and books and move out. As we were packing up my things my friend was trying to comfort me and made a very profound comment. “Stanley if you put in the amount of effort you have been doing here in your freelance, you will be a very successful photographer.”

I thought about his comment a lot that first year of freelancing.  He had said it to me with such conviction that I realized he really believed it to be true. Later even my wife would comment and say that he was right.

My life did change and each day I got up and worked hard. I didn’t drive to downtown Atlanta every morning, but I did put in many hours of work. Here are the things I did and still do today. I call these tips for the freelancer.

Take your time and get your thoughts in order. Just like this golfer has to read the green to sink the putt, look at your goal and you too will see how you will need to plan some path to success. (Nikon D2x, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000, 400mm with 1.4 extender)

Tips for the freelancer

  • Keep a similar work schedule to the one you had on staff. Get up and go to work. While you may not have to drive anywhere to commute, still get out of bed eat breakfast and then take that commute to another part of your house/apartment.
  • Get dressed for work. One of my friends Ken Touchton told me in those early days that he used to get dressed and put on a tie just to go to the next room. It helps put you psychologically in a different frame of mind.
  • Create a calendar of events. Just like you had in your last job, schedule time for different thing you need to be doing. You need to create; meetings, lunch dates, and find events from things like the Chamber of Commerce to attend in your community.
  • Create a database of clients, prospects, and family/friends. You may need to buy a list to add to your present list. You may need to go to the library and find those resources with contacts in them for your niche´. Remember this formula that for every 1,000 contact names in your database only 100 of them will be interested in your services. Of those 100 contacts only 10 of them will become a client.
  • Create a plan on connecting to those in your database. Another formula is to know that it takes about 6 – 8 touches with a contact before they remember you. Therefore you need to have a plan on how to contact these folks in a way that is positive and not annoying. I recommend mixing up your arsenal. I use: Phone Calls, emails, eNewsletters, Blogging, Postcards, and events as ways that I can make contact with my prospects and clients.
  • Develop an elevator speech. You need to be able at a moments notice explain to anyone what you do. Here is a link to mine.

Attitude Adjustment

When on staff you had a role. You would contact people asking if they needed your services. If this is how you worked then you need to change.

Your goal should be to develop friendships. You need to get to know people so well, that as they talk about their life, you can see ways you could help them. This is a lot of listening and offering good advice that isn’t solicited. Once you are at this level in a friendship, it is much easier to give them suggestions of something that might help them.

With my best friends I listen and often if I have a suggestion to help them I am pointing them to a friend and not me. This is how I have learned to build my business. I am there as a resource and to help point my friends (clients) to solutions and other friends I have to help them.

My friends (clients) see me as someone looking out for them and helping them to be successful. When my friends do the same things for me I know I can go to them with even more things. I try and include them even more in my life.

We all have those acquaintances that are always trying to get us to use them. We do use them when they are a good fit, but we don’t go to them and talk about our life. We can’t trust them like our friends.

Continuing Education

You need to continue to get better and more relevant for your prospects and clients. Set aside time to do research on your industry. Find out what is next on the horizon. Go to associational meetings and hear what others are doing.

Join a professional association. Become friends with your competition and you will discover they are your colleagues. I am often booked and have just a few friends that I can trust with helping my clients and not trying to steal my clients.

Get involved in those professional associations by helping with meetings and serving as an officer. It will help you grow in knowledge and make you more valuable to your clients.

A team works together for the good of all. The practice together so they can perform flawlessly. (Nikon D3S, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/640, 300mm)

Build a team

You need to find an accountant, lawyer, and maybe someone to assist you on a contract basis. As you grow you will need to farm out things that take up your time that can be done by someone else.

When you start out you need to consult experts. One of those should be a mentor/coach. Find someone who will help you navigate the waters of freelancing. They may live in another city. Whoever you find, be sure you regularly work with them.


Freelancing is like a farmer. You will be plowing the fields, weeding and doing a lot of work long before you will be able to harvest the crop.

If the farmer doesn’t put in the time and investment then there is no harvest.

Just like the farmer you can do everything right, but there are things outside your control. Most of the farmers I know have a tremendous faith in God and know that while they can do everything right there is much out of their control. They pray for guidance and wisdom. Most of all they pray for grace.

Getting the moment

Nikon D4, ISO 12,800, f/4.8, 1/50, 28-300mm

You have probably heard about “The Decisive Moment” coined by the famous Magnum Photographer Cartier-Bresson.  What I think you need to explore when actually picking the right moment is more than just the subject.

As you can see in the first photograph the main subject is really animated and this could be a wonderful moment. If you were to get just this photo you might be really pleased with your results.

However, take a look around the frame. Look at everyone’s expression in the photo. When you do that the photo above starts to fall apart.

Nikon D4, ISO 12,800, f/4.8, 1/50, 28-300mm

Now take a closer look at the second image here. As you can see the other people are in a better moment and even the main subject is better than the first photograph. I would have preferred to have more of the young boy in the photo on the left, but the expressions are still pretty good to carry the photo.

Nikon D4, ISO 8000, f/4, 1/80, 28-300mm

In this example the composition is OK and the moment is OK, but just not much energy here is there in the photo.

Nikon D4, ISO 8000, f/4, 1/80, 28-300mm

Now in this photo the expressions are more engaging and the musician is reaching out to the man in the blue shirt. You also can see the lady on the left being moved by the moment.  Definitely a better moment than the photo above.

Nikon D4, ISO 8000, f/4, 1/80, 28-300mm

In the third example from the same situation you can see the handshake is more complete.  The second photo the hands look quite awkward.  The expression is not as huge as the first one, but the moment is much stronger because everyone looks good and no funny hands as in the second one.

To get the right moment often takes you to shoot just a few more than just one photo. You are shooting not just for the main subject as you can see in these examples.  You are trying to capture everyone in the best possible moment when it all comes together.  This is what “The Decisive Moment” is about. It is about getting all the elements in the photograph working together.

Tips for Off Camera Flash for +/- exposure problems

Off Camera Flash Setup with Nikon Speedlights

When I first wrote about doing off camera flash I realized I need to come back to this and highlight some points.

ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture and +/-

There are a few things that will affect you getting a proper exposure.  Let’s set each of these on a Nikon so that everything will work.

ISO – Be sure you are not using Auto ISO.  Start with the lowest ISO and adjust up for various reasons.  You may want to up the ISO to help open up the background for example.

Go into the menu and set the Auto FP high sync speed to 250*. Auto FP High Speed Sync is a flash mode used for fill-flash photography under brightly lit conditions. When it is set you will be able to shoot faster than 1/250 sync speed and do this only with your Nikon Speedlight system.

Set the flash setting to Slow Sync or Rear Sync.  I prefer Slow Sync for most everything. This will fire the flash and if needed the shutter may stay open for longer, but this will freeze the subject when you push the shutter.  If you choose Rear Sync then the flash will fire at the end of the shutter cycle. You may not know when the flash fires using this setting.

Please refer to the older posts on this to know how to control how much light is on the subject and how to control the background.

Ambient Light and Flash Combined

Improve your Flash photos by not lighting everything

Flash Over Exposing

First be sure to turn the flash as far down as possible.  Using the SU-800 it will go to -3 Stops.

If you still are over exposed it is usually your ISO is set too high. Lower your ISO setting.

Background is too dark

Crank up the ISO and double check to be sure you have Slow Sync chosen or you will be syncing at the lowest shutter speed of about 1/60. You may need to be slower.

Background is controlled by the camera +/- exposure compensation dial as well as ISO.

Flash is too bright or dark

Remember the control for this is the SU-800 or the master setting in the pop up flash on the models having this control.

Nikon D4 & Nikon D3S Differences

While the cameras appear very similar, there are differences with shooting still images.

Now that I have practiced shooting the past few days with the camera, I have noticed a few changes I had to get used to. First of all I prefer to have two identical cameras. I like to not have to think about any differences between cameras while working. There are some button changes on the D4 from the D3S.

Due to the buttons not being exactly alike, I can see me making some errors. So, very soon I will try and replace my Nikon D3S with another Nikon D4.

The Nikon D3s is a great camera and if it were not for the changes in all the buttons I might have been able to live with the small differences in the still image shooting of the cameras. However, while the changes might well be great improvements having to adjust my shooting from camera to camera could cost me an image.

I think Nikon did think through this and still made the changes, because some of the functions I think are improvements.

On the back are more differences than the front. While many buttons appear to be the same, they are not all the same.

I am not going into every button difference here in this post.  I just wanted to highlight some that I use all the time.

First of all the choice of metering modes is located in very different places. The choices are the same, but you now push the choice on the left top and rotate the thumb dial to choose the different metering modes.

I seldom use the average meter and am picking between spot and the matrix.

One difference is the choices with metering. The Nikon D4 has removed the dial on the viewfinder and moved it to the left top menu.

This is the back of the Nikon D3S

The next major change for me is the focusing modes. On the Nikon D3S you just flipped the dial on the back and depending if you had the camera in AF-S or AF-C you got different functions which were tweeked in the menu.

On the Nikon D4 most of the choices are now visible on the top menu as you push the AF button on the front and dial the thumb or index finger dials.

This is the back of the Nikon D4

This is the Auto Focus button on the Nikon D4.  You push the button and turn the aperture or shutter dial to change functions.

This is the Auto Focus button on the Nikon D3S

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the thumb dial on the back you change the AF from AF-S to AF-C.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the 3d choice.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d51 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d21 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the d9 points

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the single [ ] that you move around.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-C to many different choices. This is the auto function that locks in on faces and other subjects based on algorithms.

Nikon D4 – When you push the AF button on the front of the camera and rotate the index finger dial on the front you change the AF-S to two choices, Single or Auto.

This is the dials on the Nikon D3S.  The lock button has been changed on the Nikon D4 to the meter and the lock function is now in the menu and not a dial.

This the the Nikon D4. In some ways having the meter choice here is nice. I do miss the lock button from the Aperture and Shutter not being here anymore. It is still accessible in the menu.

This is the Nikon D4. You will notice a new red dot on a button. This is for the movie function as the start and stop function. The rest is the same.

There will be even more updates as I continue to get used to the new Nikon D4.

Nikon D4: Still breaking it in

Nikon D4, ISO 500, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm

I am leisurely just getting use to the new camera. I like having some vacation days down at Jacksonville Beach, Florida shooting some photos for fun before needing to shoot a job with the camera.

It is very fast at locking in the focus. This is very impressive. Also, I am equally pleased at the buffer.  You can shoot NEF Raw files as fast as you could shoot JPEGs on previous cameras–this is how it feels.  I am sure technically there is a difference.

(Nikon D4, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm) This is an eagle’s nest with the young eagle flapping it’s wings waiting for mom to come back to the nest.

 I was shooting a eagle nest and played with shooting it on high speed frame rate.  It just zips through and you are almost creating a movie with just still frames.

(Nikon D4, ISO 900, f/5.6, 1/2500, 28-300mm) This is how my family got to see the eagle’s nest that was in the marsh area of the coast.  We took an air boat ride with Fl Crazy Fish Air Boat Ride.  It was a lot of fun.  The guy who took us out was a biology major and really showed us a lot of the marsh and told us about the wildlife.

I will continue to shoot some on vacation, but next week I will shoot a large job with it and then I will be able to know how it responds when I am shooting 2,000 – 3,000 images a day.

This is how I recommend starting with a new camera. Shoot some fun things that are not a job.  Read the manual. Test some of the new functions that the camera manufacturer built into the camera.

You need to be fully aware of your equipment so that you are able to concentrate on the subject and not your gear. Get to know your gear so you can make it do what you need without much thought having to go into it, because you have already mastered the camera.

Shallow Depth-of-Field

Figure 1 – Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4

For this e.Newsletter I thought I would answer a question I received the other day from a friend.

Hey Stanley,
I have a quick question for you. I bought a Canon ƒ/1.4 50mm prime lens last year and I love it. My only issue is that when set to automatic the depth-of-field can be so narrow that a nose is in focus and an eye is out of focus. I’m assuming that the aperture is just too open. Is there a rule of thumb when taking portrait-type shots as a minimal (or max – not sure which is which) aperture? Maybe I just need to stay on aperture priority and ƒ/1.8, or something. What’s your recommendation?

One of the most popular lenses being bought today is the 50mm ƒ/1.4. The reason for the popularity is the silky smooth shallow depth-of-field obtained when shooting at ƒ/1.4. You will see a lot of wedding photographers using these to not only get that look, but also used because you can use it to make photos when flash is not allowed—like during the ceremony.


Figure 2 Nikon 60mm ƒ/5.6

Often when you are inside and you cannot use flash the rooms are so dark you need a lens with an aperture of ƒ/1.4 or ƒ/2 to get photos. The problem is that you can only go only so slow with your shutter speed before the photos are blurry due to movement. If you were photographing objects and not people then you could take a photo with a shutter speed of 1 second, but with people you need to be shooting at least at 1/30 of second or faster to avoid movement issues, which will give you, blurred images.

When using the lens for portraits wide open at ƒ/1.4 and filling the frame with someone’s face will very quickly give you the results that you just described.

There are a couple things that affect depth of field.

1) The ƒ-stop/aperture.

As you already know the lower the number the less depth-of-field you have.

2) Distance to subject.

The closer you get to a subject the shallower the depth-of-field when the ƒ-stop stays the same. In macro photography for example when you get as close as 1:1 ratio you often have to be at a ƒ -stop at a minimum of ƒ /11 to appear in focus. When I do macro photography the aperture is quite often at ƒ /45 and it still appears like a shallow depth-of-field.

Figure 3 Nikon 60mm ƒ/45

This photo here (figure 3) is at ƒ/45. See how the eye is out of focus. You would think at ƒ/45 everything would be tack sharp, but it isn’t.

My suggestion is the closer you get you will need to increase the ƒ/stop to keep the facial features of the eyes, nose and mouth in focus. I personally don’t mind the ears out of focus.
I occasionally will shoot with my 85mm ƒ/1.4 wide open and just get a persons eye in focus, but the number of photos you need to take to get an acceptable photo can increase due to them or you moving. I usually shoot between ƒ/4 and ƒ/5.6 for headshots to keep most things in focus.

When doing group photographs, people are often two or three deep in the photo. In these situations you need to be shooting at ƒ/8 or greater aperture or either the people on the front or back will not be sharp.

If you own a shallow depth-of-field lens like ƒ/1.4 just remember if you want that silky smooth out of focus look behind the subject you need to be sure what you want in focus is in focus. On many of the new cameras you can move the focus point around in your viewfinder. This will help you maintain your focus and composition. Focusing in the center of the frame and then recomposing the photo will often give you poor results since the tolerances are so critical.


Figure 4 Nikon 60mm ƒ/8

Practice by making portraits at ƒ/1.4, and then do some at ƒ/4 and then some at ƒ/5.6. Get comfortable with the look of each aperture and when you want a certain look you will feel confident that you can deliver, because you have practiced.

Got a question about photography you would like to see me write about, send me a note and let me know at

Photographing your Passion

Your dream assignment often will be a self generated one. This is my conclusion after pitching ideas to National Geographic Magazine and other publications for the past 25 years.
The first step to the dream assignment is defining your passion. What gets you excited and willing to champion a cause?


Early in my career I got that dream job as a photographer for The Commission Magazine. This magazine covered Christian missionaries all over the world. The magazine was competing with National Geographic Magazine for the best use of pictures in the Picture of the Year contest put on by the National Press Photographers and Missouri School of Journalism.
This was my second job after a newspaper job. Since I was the new guy, my job wasn’t as glamorous as the other photographers who on a regular basis traveled the world. I was making portraits and passports for all the missionaries and their families as well as teaching them how to tell their story using slides.


Occasionally I got to do a story, and it was always in the states showing how local churches were supporting their missionaries.
I did get to hangout with Don Rutledge, Joanna Pinneo and Warren Johnson when they were not globe trotting the world. While I would say my favorite thing is shooting a story I am passionate about, my second favorite thing is listening to other photographers tell their stories that they are their passionate about. This is why I regularly invite photographers to my home and let them share their photos from around the globe.


Just this past month we had 20 photographers at our house sharing stories about Pakistan, Alaska, Japan, Haiti, Mexico and other spots. This is equivalent to having the photographers of National Geographic Magazine sit beside you as you turn the pages and give you the behind the scene look of the story. It is even better because they show you even more photos than they were able to publish.
My passion is showing the love of God for his people. Sometimes I show the joys, and sometimes I show the pain.
Just this past October I was privileged to tell a story with a twist on what I thought was a traditional missions story. I traveled to Mexico to get a close-up view of why Mexicans have risked their lives to travel north to find jobs. Why would people spend $2,000 to $3,000 to pay a coyote to help them navigate the desert for 3 – 5 days and nights? Since 1994, 5,000 Mexicans have perished in their attempts to cross the border.

I discovered one solution to the illegal immigration for coffee farmers. About ten years ago while sipping a $5 cup of coffee, Mark Adams was talking to a former coffee grower who told him how coffee growers’ income dropped over 70 percent in just a short period of time in the late 90’s. This was just about the time that illegal immigration was getting worse.

Mark was working for Frontera de Cristo. It is one of the six Presbyterian Border Ministries of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The group was doing micro loans to help families start small businesses to support their families. The coffee issue was bigger than they had addressed.
They then formed a Just Trade Center to help address the issue of the coffee growers. They, along with the help of others like Catholic Charities, gave a loan to the coffee growers for $20,000 that was enough to buy a roaster. It was such a huge success that they hope to find other industries where they can help a community like they have done with Café Justo.
Take a look at a package I created to help introduce people to their concept. I believe once you learn about their story you will start to explore other ways you can become an informed consumer helping to address the issues facing immigration.


As you can tell I got a little side tracked and this is what happens when you find a passion. Even if you have to donate your time to do a story you feel passionate about do it. Then you have something to share with folks about what you want to do for them.
As you can tell from my project, I had to get some friends involved to help me with the voice over, help in picking the best folks to tell the story and many eyes and ears to help refine the story. So when you get ready to tell others about your passion and need help—give me a call.