How will your audience see your photos?


When you are shooting for print and especially a magazine you would compose some photos for the cover. You leave a little more space than you would had you not been trying to make room for the text that needs to be on the cover.

Most editorial photographers are paid more if the photo runs bigger as well as for how many photos they use in the printed piece. Getting a double-truck [two full pages–side by side] also will give you more money.  Here you have to take into account the gutter, the place where the two pages are divided.

Sometimes they use one photo that bleeds off the pages or sometimes a grouping like here above. Most designers are aware of the gutter and minimize this affect on the image.

Knowing you are shooting a photo story most pros will do all they can to make the images so good that the editor feels like the story must be on the cover and get extra pages. This not only helps the story be told, but the photographer also benefits from a bigger pay check.

The designers used to joke with my mentor, Don Rutledge, they they thought he had templates inside the viewfinder to help him help them with layout. Really Don shot so many variables in situations that for any situation he usually had a cover shot, a double truck, some variation of the double-truck and then some tighter shots for impact.


Today the most likely place your photos will be seen are on the web. This is a horizontal space and the general rule of photography is to fill the frame of the camera and watch the corners. This also applies to your photo when filling the hole the designers are working with on the computer screen.

This is how a vertical shot will look in the space for a designer. This is the space it would fit within a video. The video format is about 16:9 proportion.

Now the photo of the man here is the full 3:2 frame from the camera placed inside the 16:9 format with no cropping. While this is much better, the designer would prefer to fill their space and so too does the video editor.

My suggestion is to shoot a little looser giving some room for the cropping. I know some photographers will even put some guides over the LCD screens to help them with their framing.

If you really want to grow your business, be the guy that not only shoots for the use that the project is intended, but to meet other uses. This is great stewardship because you can show to the client that they now can use your photos for many other things from brochures, newsletters, displays, PowerPoint, websites and more.

Besides understanding the proportions you need to think of what they audience is using to view your work. This is where knowing your demographics can help you plan the coverage better.

What it the photos are going to be used in a video that will be put on a website. Now if your audience is mainly going to the web through a desktop or even laptop you would shoot this differently than if they are using a Smartphone.

If the experience will be on a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone, then shoot tighter. A panoramic shot with a person in the corner just doesn’t read well on a 3″ screen. This is where tight shots of faces and objects are better for the space.

Think of how you tell time. Be sure the face of the clock fits the space to be able to tell the time.

This photo of the watch makes it easy to tell the time.

As you can see in this photo the watch and clock are about the same size.  If your point is to see what time it is, get closer than this photo. On a iPhone in a video playing at full speed this image would loose it’s ability to communicate.

Are you asking the client, “What is the end use of the photos?” If not you need to do this and then you need to plan to be sure your photos make the best use of the space. 

Is all your company communication treated the same?

Are you a good steward of your communication budget for your company? What am I asking?
First we need to understand really what stewardship is all about. According to Webster’s Dictionary it is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially:  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”

In the headlines this week and spreading all over the web “Corporate profits almost double historic norm.”  Check out this article by Jay Bookmen on it here.

When things are going well and you are not pinching pennies is when you are most prone to wasteful spending.

Be strategic and plan out your corporate communications. Do this using the pyramid above. Every corporation has main objects for the year and then there are other things that still need to be done, but are always behind those key initiatives.

A Level 

In your top category put those things that are the most important. Now this is where you will dedicate more time, space and budget to communicating this than all the other items. For example you would have this lead or be in every newsletter you send out. You will make videos here because you know you will use those over and over again.  You commit to writing about this in different ways. It may even be a special place on your companies main webpage.

B Level

These are items that had it not been for those in A Level would be. You commit to only communicating regularly on these topics maybe once a month in the newsletter rather than the weekly newsletter. You will make less videos on this because they will not get used as often.

C Level

This level means that you are committed to the topic and may do a quarterly story or project to keep this in the companies mind.

You still may do a few pieces that do not fit in A, B or C, but those are more of a one off and not committing the resources at a level to really tax the budget. You may have also departments coming to you for help, but if they don’t fit into the plan you may turn them away explaining how they are not part of what the company has decided as a priority. Maybe they fund that themselves.

Possible Scenario

Your company is rolling out a new product. You decide to produce a video for the company internal people to get everyone on board. You decide that you will use this piece in the annual meeting, quarterly meetings and in department meetings. Due to the wide use of the project and the importance of it, you want to be sure it is a high impact piece. The production quality is important since it will be used on large screens.

Contrast this to one of the many C Level projects that go up on your company website every week and come down after a week or so. Do you commit the same level of production to something that has a short life span?

Gold, Silver or Bronze

Many companies like a certain quality of video. They are producing what amounts to a small Hollywood Film. The problem is they are producing this quality all the time when the simple news cast quality we see each night on the six o’clock news would work not just fine but perfect for communicating our message.

Consider in your communications about creating levels of product and when they will be used for your tiered communication strategy.  You may have a news cast, documentary and Hollywood produced videos all used in the A Level. However, you may only have documentary and news cast quality in the B Level.  You may be fine with using a news cast quality or non at all for the C Level.

Being a good steward is putting the right amount of resources to accomplish the goal. Don’t over do it even if it is A Level.

Just because you have the money, don’t always spend it all.  Spend what you need and no more.

Nikon D4 Audio recording in video mode

While I read all the manuals it takes some practice to really refine your results when shooting with any camera gear.

My first recommendation is to choose manual sensitivity on your microphone. When the microphone is set to Auto and your subject stops talking the Auto setting will crank up the gain [volume], which will introduce noise or a hum in the background.

After a lot of trial and error I have noticed that if you move above the setting of 7 on microphone setting you will introduce a noise.

My recommendation is to buy an external microphone. I have two. I normally record all my interviews with two cameras. One camera that is pointed straight onto the subject has the shotgun Røde Video Pro microphone on that camera. On the second camera that is to one side or another has a wireless lavalier Shure FP1 microphone on it. WL183 (Omnidirectional): Recommended for general purpose sound reinforcement, recording, or remote monitoring applications. Low handling noise. Pickup angle: 360 degrees. Clip on the subject and keep close to their mouth. 

    Both of these microphones are designed to work with the DSLR video cameras. They have a stereo 1/8″ plug to put the mono sound on both of the channels. Next both of these microphones let you boost the gain so that the sound coming out of the microphones is boosted so you do not have to turn your gain up too high on the camera.

    The Røde microphone has a +20 dB gain. My recommendation is to use this setting and then listening through your headphones adjust the input gain level. By doing this you will avoid most of the time going above the 7 gain level on the Nikon D4.

    On the Shure FP1 lavalier there is on the transmitter and receiver gain controls. My mistake early on was I only adjusted the receiver. If you turn both of these all the way up, just like with the Røde microphone you can avoid going above 7 on the gain setting with the Nikon D4.

    If you continue to find that you need higher than 7 on a regular basis then you need to get an amplifier on the line to increase the volume so you can keep that number lower than 7 on the Nikon D4.

    You may want something like the Beachtek DXA-SLR PRO HDSLR Audio Adapter, which will let you increase the volume so you can keep the gain level lower on the camera.

    Multimedia is the way to go when going back in time

    I am working on a project this year where I am interviewing graduates of the IMPACT 360 gap year program located in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

    The audience for these videos are high school graduates who have not gone to college or have only one year of college completed as well as their parents.

    While there are many questions that this audience will have depending on their individual situations, there are a couple of questions which most all will have for a person who completed the program.

    I think the best question for just about anything you are doing is WHY? This is the question that gets to the heart of most any story. Why should the audience care?

    So my first question I asked of Nathan McFarland was why did he choose IMPACT 360 gap year program.

    The second question was how did IMPACT 360 help him in his ultimate purpose for college–getting a job.

    The last question I wanted him to address was how did this impact his college plans? Did this one year gap program add more time to his college years?

    I wrote to Nathan and gave him the over all questions and asked him if he could try and answer these questions in two or three minutes.

    The first take was great, except for people walking by and talking over him. The only reason I needed to do more takes was so I could get my assistant to help keep people quiet for the three minute interview. Take a look and see what we did for this interview.

    Thank goodness for the Ken Burns effect. While this technique was not invented by Ken Burns it is he who made it famous with his documentaries like the one he did on the Civil War.

    This is a screen grab from Final Cut Pro X where I edited a still image into the video. The great thing about this technique is you can find photos of people from before you talked with them. We asked Nathan for photos of himself at Florida State University that we put into the package and IMPACT 360 had some photos of Nathan in the program that we also included.

    The effect of moving around a still image helps create a motion that helps move the story along. You do not need to use this and sometimes it works against you. I think sometimes we over use this technique, but it is helpful.

    Shooting with Heart or Head is often a camera choice

    Stills vs Motion

    When a still photographer photographs people they are able to quickly capture decisive moments. For the most part they are reacting to what is happening in front of the camera. Those who do it the best are good at anticipating a moment, but still the are reacting to how people are behaving in front of them. Most photographers are able to shoot from their heart because when something moves them they are able to capture it.

    When a videographer captures something over time. They start rolling and then stop at some point. They cannot just react to a moment and turn the camera on. The videographer must think about what they want to capture and plan out their coverage.

    The major difference with shooting stills [photographs] and motion is shooting from their heads. They cannot shoot from their heart. They must plan their shot more than the still photographer.

    This is an example of a storyboard from the book Using Your Camcorder by Mandy Matson.

    Every book on capturing motion will address the need to plan your shots list out before hand. You will find every one recommends storyboarding your shots so you have a good idea of what you are planning to get.

    As far as just capturing daily life it is rare to get the same emotional content that a still photographer will capture because they cannot just react, they must plan their shots.

    When filming for a movie they not only shoot to a storyboard they must create the emotion through the actors. As we know there is usually one angle that can improve the emotional moment than another. Many times the storyboard will have multiple camera angles to jump from to help make this work. They are filming Dumb and Dumber here in Atlanta. Take a look at some of the photos shot of the set by John Spink the AJC photographer here. You can see the same scene shot by John from what is two different places on the set. The reason he was able to do that, is they will redo the scene over and over for different camera angles or variations from the actors themselves.

    When in the editing suite they are picking from multiple camera angles and different performances to then craft the scene.

    As you can see to shoot video the head is how it is done and not reacting from the heart in the moment.

    The one thing that video does have over stills for capture emotion is the sound. This is why a good amount of the evening news footage that is moving is often the interview where the human voice is what is conveying most of the emotion.

    Television news knows the power of the still and use it all the time for major news events. Eddie Adams photograph from the Vietnam War of the officer shooting the prisoner is seen all the time on the news when they talk about the war. They had a film crew who caught the entire shooting, but it is the still image that capture the emotion even stronger or they would not be using it over the film.

    I believe many of our iconic photographic images of people are where a photographer caught a microexpression. A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans according to emotions experienced. They are very brief in duration, lasting only 1/25 to 1/15 of a second.

    Most people do not seem to perceive microexpressions in themselves or others because they cannot freeze the moment to see it. You must slow a video down and look frame by frame to see them and running at full speed the average audience will not see them. This is why I think video has a more difficult time to capture emotions.

    The Wizards Project was a research project at the University of California, San Francisco led by Paul Ekman and Maureen O’Sullivan that studied the ability of people to detect lies.

    Truth Wizards use microexpressions, among many other cues, to determine if someone is being truthful. The Wizards Project has identified just over 50 people with this ability after testing nearly 20,000 people. So the research pretty much shows that in real time most people miss microexpressions.

    For me the power of the photograph is if they capture the “Decisive Moment” then the truth telling makes this a powerful storytelling medium. The photograph can capture the storytelling moment that communicates emotion, because the audience will have time to see it and absorb the moment.

    Video or Photograph?

    I believe from all my experience that the best visual storytellers are using both their head and hearts.

    The still photographer uses their head to plan to be in the right place at the right time. They are able to anticipate moments due to their knowledge of human behavior on a particular subject.

    The videographer know how to craft a sequence that will pull on your heart as a package. From their experience they know what has moved their heart in the past.

    My suggestion for those telling stories of life happening and not creating stories with actors, is to do like so many news outlets do when it comes to communication news events with a lot of emotion–use stills and the human voice to pull the audience in.

    Three ways using visuals to show building expansion
    360º Panoramic

    If you are engaging your audience online then one of the coolest ways to show a space is with the 360º Panoramic. Put your mouse in the photo click on it and drag it around and you can get the feel of standing in the room and turning around to see the space as if you are there.

    That same interactive 360º panoramic can also be output to just a still image, but I think most people are not quite grasping what this is as compared to the interactive version, but it does give you documentation of the space.

    The traditional still photograph

    This single wide-angle image of the classroom being used really gives the viewer the feel to how the room is being used.

    It gives you a slice of the room in a moment in time. However, you can use a series of photos from the classroom to help give a more complete story of the usage.

    Small groups in the classroom using technology at the desk with also larger monitors to share what one person has on their device with the group.

    Here you can see the groups in discussions with the instructor moving through the space to check in on each group. The space is large enough that the group discussions are possible without interfering with each other.

    You can see here that the student is sharing with the classroom and using a microphone to be sure everyone present can here what is going on.  They also can use video in the classroom to create live classrooms online for those around the world to participate.


    Just a quick clip can help communicate the space to your audience.

    Where video is at it’s best is when you are wanting to lead your audience through the message. Here in this clip I am able to tell a more complete story about the expansion of the IMPACT 360 gap year program that is in Pine Mountain, GA.

    Which one is best?

    Too often people think more about “either/or” rather than “and.” The answer to this question lies within the strategy of your plan. If you do not have a strategy then you are more prone to make a major mistake.

    For example had I only done a video then the organization would have nothing to use in their printed newsletter they send out to all their supporters.

    Had I just done the panoramic interactive, I would have something online and as you can see the stretched still image that could be used in the printed piece.

    What about doing it all every once in a while for those big projects where you will use the stills, the interactive panoramic and the video to help engage your audiences in many different spaces?

    I do contend that today too often the still image is overlooked for video. Video appears to be more sexy and cool. However, I believe that the base from which all visual communications of a project similar to this must contain the still image.  Even NPR realizes the power of the still image and importance in their online packages.

    They took away the video cameras to train their people on how to make strong still images. Why do this? Just go to their website at and notice how they use the still image as the place to start. Before you click on any video online it usually has a place holder of a still image. If that still image isn’t engaging then you have most likely wasted all that money on a video that few will see except those who already would watch it regardless.

    Remind yourself to not be trapped into thinking “either/or,” but rather think “and” when choosing a medium for your audience.