Wax On, Wax Off

Often, I feel like I am watching people pass me by as they reach their destinations while I seem stuck in life. Today I know differently. I often only saw people way into their journey and missed seeing their start.

Last week while teaching three students in their 20s studio lighting, I had an “Ah Ha Moment.”

I turned 60 this year and was reminded that I was 40 years older than these young women.

They were not sure what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives, and in a way, we’re doing a GAP Year type of program by studying photography for three months.

Clamshell Lighting

While teaching them how to use studio lights, I knew I could share some insights that come only with hindsight.

 When I graduated from college, the movie Karate Kid came out. There is a scene where the kid is fed up with doing chores around the teacher’s house. So he demanded to learn Karate. Pardon the language, and watch this clip.

I am on the autism spectrum and realized in hindsight that God had given me opportunities through my life that was like 1) Sand the Floor; 2) Wax on, Wax Off; 3) Paint the Fence; and 4) Paint the house.

Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel always to keep eye contact and, from inside, respond.

I wanted to impart to these young ladies that it isn’t the destination but the critical journey. I had learned that God was with me on the trip, but I was always to focus on the destination. However, I think the goal was the carrot I needed to be like Daniel and learn through repetition skills that I would later need to perform from inside and not have to think so much about what I was doing in photography.

I needed to look people in the eye that I was photographing. I would be doing this while looking through my camera lens.

Taken during my time as a photojournalist for The Hickory Daily Record

Sand The Floor: Learning the fundamentals of photography

From the time my dad and mother gave me my first DSLR until the end of my first year working in a newspaper was about five years. I was primarily learning to take available light photos with occasional flash photos.

This was when I mastered how to expose photos properly and understood elemental composition and capturing the moment. Getting the moment was easier for me to know during this time with sports than in meetings.

I had to learn how to listen to people and communicate with them to understand the story I was covering and then capture it to tell that story to the public using primarily photos and adding captions to complete the message.

This is from my story on Philip Newberry, whose parents were missionaries to Brazil. While on Furlough, Philip got spiral meningitis, and they had to amputate his legs and arms to save his life. I did this coverage while working for the International Missions Board in Richmond, Virginia.

Wax On Wax Off: Learning Lighting

One of my primary responsibilities when I worked for the International Missions Board, was doing portraits and covering meetings. As a result, I learned how to light people and objects with lights.

What I was also learning was how to interact with people. I had to meet people and get the best expressions that captured their personalities in just a few minutes. I would often photograph 30 to close to 100 people in a day at some of those conferences.

I would work here for five years. When I left my job here, I spent ten years learning photography and how to talk to people.

During these five years, I also had a wonderful mentor Don Rutledge. He had studied psychology and was teaching me the body language and how to incorporate that into my photos. I would spend hours with him as he was editing coverages worldwide. I asked questions, and he taught me so much.

I did not get any overseas coverage during this time, but I did fly around the USA doing stories on churches and missionaries on furlough.

Paint the Fence: Manager of One-Hour Photo Labs & Computer Sales

Due to the recession, I lost my job, and my wife and I moved in with my parents on Long Island, New York. I would work for Tandy selling computer systems to schools and businesses.

I had bought a PC a few years earlier and understood them well enough to sell them. Next, Tandy sent me to workshops on making sales, which helped me understand marketing.

I also decided this was an excellent time to go to seminary. I had started on this path earlier but took a ten-year detour to learn photography. At the seminary I chose, they had a master’s in communications. I did that program hoping the recession would be over when I finished and then off to work with some missions agency, but this time covering the world.

I managed a couple of one-hour photo labs to pay the bills while in school. This taught me to work with people as a manager and with customers. This also helped me learn my color wheel even better. I was learning that if I saw magenta in the negative, that would print green, and where I saw cyan would print red, for example. This would later help me with choosing colors for clients.

Paint the House: Studio Lights on Location

For the next ten years, I worked at Georgia Tech. I would be putting everything I had done before into practice. Everything I shot I would have to process in our photo lab. I would have to do occasional portraits but found myself using studio strobes to light classrooms, coliseums, and research labs.

I was doing photojournalism, recruiting photography, sports photography, portraits, editorial, and just about any style of photography you can imagine.

Putting it all together: Full-Time Freelancer

Since 2002 I have been a full-time freelancer, which means I own a business. My income surpassed my staff job positions in just a few years. I finally was making money without always having a credit card balance.

The primary thing I was doing as a freelancer that I wasn’t doing as a staff photographer was all the business side of the job.

I had to market myself. In many ways, this was me telling my own story. I had been telling other people’s stories for twenty years. Now I would have to tell my own story, emphasizing how I can tell others’ stories to grow their business.

A few years into freelancing, my friend Bill Bangham asked me to go to West Africa for almost a month to do some stories for him.

Today I have been to many countries to tell stories and teach others how to tell stories.


Today I am doing work that I could only do because I had spent years perfecting those skills necessary to do the job today. The only way I could look people in the eye today and let those skills that had become muscle memory work for my clients was from learning like Daniel the hard way.

While I don’t have a Mr. Miyagi who led me to where I am today, I think God was there with me on this journey. I look back today on almost all of those milestones of knowledge and remember the people I met and the stories I got to tell. Those experiences helped mold me into someone with a lot of scar tissue, which translates into wisdom.

In each of those places on my journey, I was making mistakes. I seldom made those mistakes again. Instead, I learned from those moments. However, I was still going to be doing something new in the future; I would make new mistakes and learn from those as well.

While I thought I would be telling stories around the world when I first started at the International Missions Board in 1985, it was twenty years later when Bill Bangham sent me on my first international coverage trip in 2005.

Malcolm Gladwell says:

in my book “Outliers,” when I wrote about the “ten-thousand-hour rule.” No one succeeds at a high level without innate talent; I wrote: “achievement is talent plus preparation.” But the ten-thousand-hour research reminds us that “the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.” In cognitively demanding fields, there are no naturals. Nobody walks into an operating room straight out of a surgical rotation and does world-class neurosurgery.

To be a successful photographer is to be a successful artist. It takes time to develop the skills that allow you to create art from within. I am a communications artist; therefore, my work must help tell a story.

I told the students this last week, so they know not to be discouraged but to enjoy the journey.

One Week Lighting Workshop With Stanley

Since 2006 I have been doing a one-week lighting workshop as part of the School of Photography program of YWAM with Dennis Fahringer in Kona, Hawaii.

This year I was asked by two of his former students to come to Dunham, Quebec, Canada, and teach the same thing, but this time to a school that will be in French and English.

This was their very first time leading a School of Photography for YWAM. The leaders Raphael Paquet and Julie Gavillet hosted me during the week and translated me into French.

We did four lighting assignments.


© Heidi Bergeron

The students were learning where to place the leading light for a starting position with portraits. They also were learning not to light everything evenly.

Students in class working on Rembrandt Lighting

1:3 Lighting Ratio

© Heidi Bergeron

Clamshell Lighting

To demonstrate the Clamshell/Butterfly lighting, I took everyone’s photo. Here are the three students.

Tent Lighting for Products

This is because some students work with the tent lighting setup to photograph products.

Table Top Photography
Lighting Setup: Table-top Product Photography

I also told about my journey in photography and how it took time before I got the assignments I wanted. I also taught them a little about how to make a living with Business Practices.

You may be interested in a Lighting Workshop. Drop me a line if you are interested.

Should You Invest in Gear, Marketing, or Education?

What is holding you back from living your dreams? This is the time of year we set goals for the year.

Often we are thinking budget and about making equipment purchases. I think just as important as investing in yourself and your people through education. 

While it is easy to point to so many things that are obstacles for us, most of these are out of our control. All is not lost.

Chelle playing at the mall

All the books and articles on this topic point to taking control of what you can do. That is your superpower. Decide what you will do in the face of all that life gives you. 

Borrowing from the great Ted Lasso, “Don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.”  

This year I turn sixty years old. I have been working in communications since 1982 while in college. I want to offer forty years of experience to you and your organization. 

“Scar Tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.” – Henry Rollins 

When I was younger, I broke my neck, was in traction for a month, and then in a body cast for eight weeks.

Through the years, I have many more events that I learned from that made me who I am today.

That scar tissue of mistakes through the years was one way I grew and learned what not to do and what to do next time.

The other way I was learning was from others. Formal and informal education is what taught me just as much as learning from my mistakes and success. 

I am now in a time of life where I want to give back and help others. 

I want to help you realize your dreams and aspirations. I have found that I do have a gift for teaching. It has a great deal to do with the empathy developed from the struggles of learning something new. Also, it came from learning from others.

While working on my master’s degree in communications, I had to take education courses. I had specific classes for Adults, Youth, and Children, as well as courses on teaching principles.

Teaching lighting with the School of Photography with YWAM in Kona, Hawaii. photo by Dennis Fahringer

What this means is I had to demonstrate that I could teach all these learning styles to pass those courses. By the way, I didn’t just get by with these studies; I was thriving. I made the Dean’s list almost every semester for my studies. 

I have learned through the years of teaching in different environments that students learn best when they want to grow and understand a topic. Workshops are where I discovered that almost everyone was highly engaged and wanted to know the subject.

“Stanley’s able to combine decades’ worth of experience in photojournalism and commercial photography with an acute sensitivity to the needs of my photo students. He teaches here in an efficient hands-on way on lighting as well as business practices. Those are just a small fraction of his expertise. It’s a joy each time we invite him back to teach.”

– Dennis Fahringer, YWAM School of Photography

Often in school programs, students are taking courses because they are required. They don’t understand why and usually are not engaged with the content. 

However, the best part of the workshop is that the instructor has the time to get to know you better than in a presentation one does, for example, the Rotary Club. 

The four core learning styles include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. You will find many who might break this down into more categories, but I think this works pretty well for understanding that people learn differently. 

I have found that you can incorporate those styles in a workshop environment. I have also discovered that when working with a person one-on-one, I can customize my approach even more to that person.

Here are some of the topics I teach on through the years


  • Digital Asset Management – Learn how to spend less time organizing and more time being productive with your assets.·      
  • Photo Selection – Learn how to pick the best photos that communicate your brand. Also, learn about model releases, copyright, and usage concerns so that you do not get into trouble when using photos.


  • One Light Workshop – Learn how to use on flash off camera. You will learn the difference between hotshoe flashes and studio strobes. Light modifiers will also be taught. 
  • Lightroom for the photographer – Learn workflow of shooting RAW with your camera to producing edited JPEGs.
  • Creating your own photo library – Learn how to use Lightroom or Photo Mechanic Plus to organize your photos for easy searching and finding of your photos.
  • Business [separate topics]
    • Basic overview of being a professional photographer
    • Marketing
    • Blogging
    • Newsletter
  • Sports Workshop
  • Posing Workshop

My guest lecture experience at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism taught me something

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80

This week I was asked to be a guest lecturer at the Grady School’s Advanced Photojournalism class on the campus of the University of Georgia.

I think this was my sixth year in a row I have spoken on business practices to this class.

While the content hasn’t radically changed from the first time I spoke to now, each year I try to do a better job than the year before in the presentation.

This year I just felt like I was off my game and did a poor job. You see I felt like I was preaching rather than teaching with this class.

Preaching vs Teaching

… the answer is more straightforward than any of them, and rests in the meanings of the words themselves. A kerux (the usual word for “preacher” in the New Testament) in the ancient world was simply a herald: a guy who rode into town to deliver significant news. A didaskalos (the usual word for “teacher”) was an instructor: someone who explained or taught something to someone else. There, it seems to me, is the difference. Preaching is proclaiming, heralding and announcing news to people – the gospel – especially (but not exclusively) to those who haven’t heard it before. Teaching is explaining things about the gospel that people don’t understand, and instructing them on how to live in light of it.

In other words, the difference between preaching and teaching is not shouting versus whispering, or illuminating versus bamboozling, or revealing versus informing. In a nutshell, it’s the difference between heralding and explaining. 

– Andrew Wilson

What triggered the Preaching?

When traveling abroad in a different culture and language it is quite common for people to talk slower and louder in their own language hoping this helps the person who doesn’t speak their language to understand. Often when it is apparent communication is failing we get louder, as if this somehow helps foreign language translation.
The questions and responses from some in the class were frustration being communicated about the content. 

“Where are you finding these clients willing to pay those prices?” was asked in different ways. After the class we had a real situation.  

A student had been asked to use one of their photos in a magazine. “What should I charge?” After talking through some of the pricing considerations we gave the student a range that might be good for her to use.  

She was being offered $25 for something that for the most part should have been paid $75 – $150 as a minimum price.  

“What do I do when they want pay it?” My response is to walk away. “But she will be losing $25 she could have had,” was the comment by another student. 

When students don’t like an answer and I have spent time explaining the content I realize the problem is like taking a science class without the lab portion of the class. They needed to see the proof of how this works.
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75

The need of a Lab

There was just not enough time to cover all the content and do a lab. I was stuck with knowing I have introduced some of the concepts of running a photography business, but they need to experience this first hand. 
I had made the presentation and even gave them all my PowerPoint notes they could download. 

The Key to Good Teaching

Great teachers don’t necessarily work harder at teaching than others as much as they care more about their students. Educator Ben Johnson said it best:

My experience is that good teachers care about students. Good teachers know the content and know how to explain it. Good teachers expect and demand high levels of performance of students. Good teachers are great performers and storytellers that rivet their students’ attention.

All of this is good but great teachers engineer learning experiences that maneuver the students into the driver’s seat and then the teachers get out of the way. Students learn best by personally experiencing learning that is physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. John Dewey had it right in 1935 when he espoused his theories on experiential learning.

So next time I will try and relax more when challenged. I will do a better job of demonstrating I care for them as people and fellow colleagues. I will also prepare some better stories that help demonstrate the concepts in a better way than I have done up to now. I will do a better job teaching and minimize the preaching next time.

After next time I speak to the class again, I will then dissect my presentation as much as I did this time and make changes once again, because I can always do a better job next time.  

For you Mac users: The best way of teaching is by example

Screenium software is available through your App Store on Mac for $39.99.

Don’t just describe a person what to do! It’s slow, it’s frustrating and chances are it’s easily forgotten so you’ll have to repeat that lesson at some point. Instead, record a screencast of your instructions and make it available online. What started as a one-on-one tutorial could help thousands of less experienced users all over the world.

I have done a few tutorials for folks and here is one I did on “Exposure Composition”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbV1fckAi5E]
To make this I used the software Screenium.  It is available in the App Store on Macs.  It is very simple to use.

You can just record a: single window; a fixed area; fullscreen; or the mouse area.  If your Mac has microphone built in then just sit close to the monitor start the session and when you are done stop the recording.

You can then just post your video.

If you have a web camera hooked up you can also include this in the video if you like showing you talking to everyone.  Maybe you just want to use that to introduce yourself and then close the window or shrink it and then come back to it occasionally.

Here is one more video I did explaining depth-of-field. It has helped a lot of people see what DOF is all about and how to control it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5BR_5Zvoto]
Now I think you can see from those two examples that seeing me walk you through it is much better than me just telling you something—wouldn’t you agree?