Relationships Help Shape Excellence

Editors note –

Taking better pictures and being a better communicator has a lot to do with working with people. My latest series of e.Newsletters addresses areas which have helped improve my photography. Becoming an expert on people is what helps me to specialize in covering people.

I love to play basketball. Over the years I’ve had the rare opportunity to play with not only good players, but with a few professional basketball players as well. However, just because I played with outstanding players didn’t make me a pro player. It did open my eyes to the potential of a player.

I’m not in the physical condition of my youth, but my improved understanding of the game makes me a better player than I was when I could jump above the rim.

Being around the best in a field will help us learn. On the flip side when we reach out to help others, more often than not, we are blessed at least as much as they are.

I have photographed the homeless in downtown Atlanta and heard them pray for the wealthy people in the suburbs. They’re worried that wealth may cripple the hearts of the rich and harm their relationships with others. They’re not praying for handouts, they are praying for people’s hearts.

I’ve served dinner at an overnight shelter to men who are homeless yet they have jobs at places like UPS. They send their money to their families living in towns where the cost of living is much less.

I’m not sure if I could make some of the sacrifices these homeless are making. Just being around these people teaches me a lot.

Some of my neighbors are from Bosnia, Croatia, Chili, Jamaica, Kenya and Mexico. One family, from Croatia, had to pack in the middle of the night, leave everything they owned and flee from danger – not just once, but twice.

Another neighbor, having already escaped the war and living safely in the US, returned to Bosnia to help his family and friends in the war raging in his home country. Now, back in the US, he spends his time in a wheelchair with a bullet in his back from that war. Last year his wife suffered a heart attack and died.

Just living around these immigrant neighbors teaches me so much about sacrifice. Their determination to make a better life for their children is astounding.

As a photojournalist I have had the opportunity to meet so many people and hear their stories. It has given me a better perspective in life.

Another way I have been able to expand my relationships is through education. Formal education in the classroom forced me to learn about subjects I would have never encountered had the classes not been required. What I gained from my education experience is the desire to learn.

Reading biographies helps me to discover how a person was changed through time and experiences.

The Internet helps me connect with many people and reconnect with friends from the past. Our oldest son went off to college this year. Through the Internet and cell phone was able to remain connected to many of his high school buddies.

This is a major change from when I left for college. Then, with no Internet and cheap long-distance phone service, we just had to sever ties to many of our friends.

I’m learning that in order to improve my game I need to reach up to those who are further along than me, out to those alongside me and down to those who may need my help. I’ve also learned that when I reach down I’m often really reaching up.

Reach out and get connected—it can change your life.

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Are you a joiner?

Student is getting face paint during the Jell-O Wars at Anderson University.

Too many people join associations as if they are buying tickets to a sporting event. They want to sit in their comfortable seats and watch others perform. When considering joining an organization, one of the first questions most people ask is, “What do I get for my membership?” That’s a valid question, and most organizations list the benefits their members will receive.

Ask Not What an Organization Can Do for You

But sometimes the more important question to ask is what you can give. I am reminded of the famous words of John F. Kennedy:

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.”

Kennedy helped forge the idea of service with the creation of the Peace Corps; he believed that the success of the country depended on people becoming involved. Focusing on service, rather than entitlement, can be a key to our professional success — as well as our personal fulfillment.

When you join a group, receiving the newsletter and being listed on the membership rolls will have little impact on your success. Unless you’re willing to commit yourself, you’d be better off saving the dues money and not wasting your time — or the group’s.

The leading figures in most industries are consistently those who volunteer in their professional organizations. They network with others, they help organize the competitions and awards for the industry, and they mentor others in their industry.

Today there are groups whose sole purpose is to teach their members how to be successful. Although these groups may teach you how to be a better net-worker, if the only reason you join is to promote your own success, you will probably fail.

Go Where Your Passion Leads You

Success through an organization starts with matching your passions with volunteering. You can become involved in a community theater, entertain others and become known in your neighborhood. Through your involvement, people will get to know you and you will get to know others. You can join the community of faith through a local congregation, play a sport in a local league … if you follow your passion, you’ll naturally want to become more involved.

You know you’re plugged into a group when others are depending on you. People will not only want you around because of what you are giving to the organization, but will come to value your friendship. They get to know you and appreciate your passion.

Looking for leaders not followers

Working with universities, I have become good friends with some of the people overseeing the recruiting. At Georgia Tech, they changed how they recruit. One of the changes had to do with the list of organizations a person was involved in; they now only want you to list your top five.

Why only five? They are recruiting the leaders of tomorrow, and they are looking for leaders — not just members. An Eagle Scout is more than just a Boy Scout.

There are two groups I have worked with that take this concept of involvement through service way beyond most other groups. As a result, they transform those in these organizations and have a profound effect on those around them. These organizations are Youth With a Mission and Chick-fil-A.

Truett Cathy promoting his book “How did you do it, Truett?”

Truett S. Cathy

The founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, can be seen even today picking up the trash around a store before he goes in. All of his managers are trained to do every job regularly. They can be seen cleaning the bathrooms. When a Chick-fil-A event is over, everyone in the organization volunteers to help clean up.

Ellis Peters was in the YWAM School of Photography 1 school this year. She is from the Netherlands and is here working in the kitchen. It is a twelve week program where they are only studying photography and every other weekend have a work duty in the kitchen. This not only helps keep the costs down for the school it fosters the servant concepts taught by Jesus.

When students enroll at the University of Nations, part of Youth With a Mission, they are all expected to work while going to school. They have found that some people are like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They talk a good game and sound caring and warm, but on the job, a different person emerges. The Mr. Hyde side might believe they are better than other people; they might not want to do certain jobs they think are beneath them.

Choose Wisely

We can learn a lot about ourselves by volunteering. It can even change who we are. Volunteering helps smooth out those rough edges we all have.

Accountability has influenced most organizations today. People don’t want to waste their time or money. They want to make a lasting difference.

Habitat for Humanity changes not only those who receive the homes; those doing the building are changed as well. The first family to receive a Habitat home was so transformed that each of the children went to college and became successful. Habitat has provided volunteers with the opportunity to enrich their lives while making a real difference in their communities.

Two of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have joined together to give money back to society. Their foundation’s activities are focused on world health — fighting diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis — and on improving U.S. libraries and high schools.

Bill Clinton, in his book Giving, tells stories of people who give. These remarkable stories suggest that the act of giving takes many forms and emphasizes that offerings of time, skills, objects and ideas can be just as important as contributions of money.

We have a choice. We can watch the game of life or be one of the leading players. Choose wisely; your success — and fulfillment — may depend on it.

Professor and student working in biology lab at Anderson University.

Are all your eggs in one basket?

To “put all your eggs in one basket” is to risk losing everything all at one time. For me this applies to two aspects of my business.

First, if you have a niche’ market it is good to develop a second niche’. Kodak saw the writing on the wall years ago and diversified beyond making film products only. If they hadn’t they would no longer be around. For me I have my interests directing my photography. I love sports and this is really where I first started in photography. In college shooting all the college sports was exciting. I didn’t out grow this interest, but added other areas.

My faith has always been what drives much of my passion. I have worked for Christian denomination’s mission organization covering missions around the world and continue to do so today. I really enjoy things that challenge my heart the way my faith does for me.

I also love technology. This challenges my mind. I love to figure how things work and how to fix things. This has driven my interest in research and technology photography through the years. All three of these loves exist in higher education. This is why I have helped many schools, colleges and universities through the years with their recruiting and public relations photography.

There are times when each of these has peaks and valleys through the year. By diversifying a little and yet still being niche driven and not all over in my work I have been able to keep my eggs in separate baskets with my work.

The second area where I have divided up my eggs is in marketing of my services. One of my best marketing is done through networking. This is getting me involved in my communities. By joining a photography association I learn from others and plug into friends who occasionally get over booked and refer to others they know in the industry. I have joined the Atlanta Press Club because many of those who are members go to the social events and meetings that I would not meet anywhere else. I have been able to meet people who not only might hire me, but become good friends.

I have gone to the library and found every list of people in the markets I am interested in working with to build a database. This database of 3,500+ names is categorized. I have categories for family, clients, prospects, and broken into almost every imaginable group I can think of. I have phone numbers, mailing addresses and emails. Each of these is a different way to contact the people. I call them, I send postcards and I send out an e.newsletter as well as individual emails.

When someone writes me back to unsubscribe to my e.newsletter I don’t delete their name—I add them to my no newsletter category. They still get postcards and occasional phone calls.

Lately I signed up for a new cell plan that lets me make unlimited phone calls as long as I am using the Wi-Fi feature of the phone. This lets me make lots of phone calls. I am learning how to have meaningful short conversations with many people. They are meaningful because I really do care about each person. If you don’t feel genuinely interested in people you have to be one incredible actor (which I am not) to pull this off. This is why I work hard to find as many new people I can to add to my list. If you are not genuinely interested in a person, it is important to have someone else to talk to if they don’t exist.

One of the gifts I have which I have learned to use more each day is my memory. For some reason once I learn something (really learn it) I usually don’t forget. This has helped me in ways I am now only beginning to realize. When I meet someone I haven’t talked to in a long time I can remember so much about them I can almost remember our last conversation. So, I tend to ask how they are doing and how something we talked about last time is going. I know others who call a lot for business need to write down something about a person when they talk to them to remind them to do this later when they call them again. I started to do this to help me and just by writing it down once I remembered it, so when I met them again in a grocery store and not planning on contacting them, I remember to ask about how they are doing with what we talked about last. This isn’t asking like I am doing therapy and they have a problem. It usually is asking about something exciting that has been going on in their life.

When you think you have done all you know how to do in a particular niche’ in your field try to apply those principles to a new niche’. When you are trying to find a new client or knowing how to keep your present ones, remember dating. Be persistent and try many different approaches.

What’s the biggest room in the world? Room for improvement.

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Share Your Calendar with Your Clients to Get More Bookings

I recently got a BlackBerry Curve after some friends convinced me it would help me in my business. They were right; it’s made a huge difference — particularly in conjunction with Google Calendar. Here’s how I’ve used these tools to communicate better with clients — and to win more bookings.

The learning curve on most new technology takes just a little time for me, and I guess this is why they call my model the BlackBerry Curve. But it’s been worth the investment.

With the Wi-Fi feature, I now have much easier Internet access on assignments. Before, I was relying on my laptop and cell phone to connect. It has worked pretty well for the past seven years, but the time it takes to turn on a laptop and hook up to the Internet to check messages can be easily 10 minutes. Now, I can glance at the e-mails as they come in as I work, and when I take a break can easily respond to my messages.

Out with the Old, In with Google Calendar

“Honey can you send me an updated calendar?” was one of my wife’s frequent refrains. Sending her my calendar not only helped me with our family plans, but also helped her to answer client questions when I was out. To accommodate her, I would go into Outlook, print my calendar to a PDF, and then e-mail her a copy. This system worked well enough — until the business became so successful that I needed to update the calendar more than once a day for her.

I realized I needed a better solution. And since the solution for just about every problem I encounter is to Google it, that’s what I did. I Googled and found Google Calendar.

Google Calendar synchs with Outlook every five minutes, once a day, or as often as you need it to. With the calendar, you can set up what I like to call visibility layers. You can let the world see every detail of your calendar, parts of the calendar, or nothing at all. You can invite people to have the ability to edit your calendar as well.

I chose to add my wife and let her have the ability to make changes. Sometimes I am on the road for a few days, and she needs to let my clients know what I have open and reserve a date. I also gave my uncle rights to see the details, since he has been assisting me on many of my photo shoots.

Sharing Your Schedule to Increase Bookings

As for the rest of the world (especially my clients), I decided to let them know when I was free and when I was busy. So I added my Google Calendar to my Web site. Google gives you the html code, so it’s easy. You can customize whether the day, week, month or agenda is the default page, as well as the colors and look of the calendar.

Adding this tool to my Web site has not only improved my business’s efficiency; it has also helped me increase bookings.

For most of my career, I’ve banged my head against the wall trying to convince clients to plan ahead — so, for example, we can take advantage of the time of year (like spring or fall) to show off the landscaping of their business. Until I had Google Calendar, I really believe most everyone thought I was blowing a lot of smoke and just trying to book myself.

In the past, clients would contact me and I would give them the dates I had open, and they typically would take their time and come back to me later — only to find some or all of their times had been given away to someone else who was ready to commit.

Since adding Google Calendar to my site several weeks ago, I have had people commit to dates and times right away. They have already checked my availability, and when they contact me are ready to book. (You can see my calendar on the left navigation at

By the way, I no longer have to send a copy of my calendar to my wife; she is better informed than ever before. Maybe this can help you as well.

Stanley works to make your job easier

Stanley usually provides a DVD-R immediately following your event. The ID information is printed directly on the inkjet-writable DVD-R, which is more archival than a paper label. The data includes the name and date of your event plus Stanley’s contact information making it easy to locate images later.

A duplicate DVD-R is kept on file by Stanley as an off-premises backup for you. Everyone should make their own backup as well.

Each image is high resolution JPEG. Usage rights of the images are negotiated prior to the assignment.

For most editorial assignments, photo identification is embedded with the image. This is helpful when writing cut-lines for your newsletter or matching the photo with the person in a story.

One of Stanley’s clients has 500 plus new portraits made every year. Many of the faces are new. The office staff uses the imbedded identification to match the portraits to bios. This helps those who have not met the new people to match the person with the name.

Below is an example of what this looks like for you when you are using Photoshop to view the images. Go to the menu option Menu>File Info to pull down the box.

If you have many photographs made each year and have ever had trouble locating a particular photo the above example should interest you. This ID information is recognizable by most image archiving software such as Cumulus . The file information box of Photoshop is known as IPTC for short.

Here is example of the same example of the photo in PhotoShop now in MediaDex.















As you can see, the information is the same. Since Stanley has done this work for you, after setting up the software like MediaDex to recognize IPTC then you only need to drag the folder from the DVD-R, which Stanley provided to you into the database software and let it ingest the images. You do not need to add any more information. The name of the event is searchable and you can find people because you can search the caption for names.

You can also use services on-line like PhotoCore. This provides a live, searchable database for you to use. Your photographers can upload from anywhere in the world and you can determine access by creating accounts for photographers, designers and clients. Look at some of Stanley’s examples here.

With this service provided by Stanley, you can find a photo within seconds. If you choose to save all the images on a server then the artist only needs to click to place the photo into their design. It only takes a second.

You can use the information printed on the DVD-R to locate a project, place the DVD-R the computer and just drag the photo from the Database straight into your document.

Today we must be good stewards of our budget and resources. Since Stanley has completed most of the data entry for you he has saved you hours of work that translates into savings for you.

There is more than meets-the-eye in Stanley’s photos. Not only has he provided you with the images you need, he has increased their value to you because of the wealth of information he has provided about those images.

The ease of use, the ability to locate quickly a single photo in you collection and the in-depth information about that photo all located together is what makes a photo shoot by Stanley more valuable to you.

Yes, Stanley truly does work to make your job easier.

Seeing Eye to Eye Isn’t Always Best

In Psychology 101 we learn the value of relating to others at eye level. Many books on photography discuss unusual angles such as a worm’s eye or a bird’s eye view. Such perspectives can create interesting photos, but there is much more to the choice of the angle of view than just making a nice picture. Indeed, the angle from which you photograph a person sends a message to the viewer about that person. Do you know what message you’re sending?

The three letters in the illustrations below stand for Parent, Adult and Child. If you photograph another adult at their eye level the camera (audience) is, of course, on the same level with your subject. This adds dignity to the subject.

On the other hand, if you shoot down at the subject you place the audience above or over the subject much the same way a parent is above or over a child. This makes the audience feel responsible for the subject. We often see photos of starving children in Africa photographed this way.

Lower the camera angle and you reverse the camera (audience) to the subject relationship. This “shot from below” adds prominence to the subject. It increases the stature of the subject and makes them more authoritative. (Don’t use flash from below a face unless you want to create the look of a monster.)

To carry the audience back to their childhood, place the camera on the floor and crawl around photographing a child at the child’s eye level.

When photographing an expert, like a research scientist, keep the camera at eye level, not below. The eyeball-to-eyeball angle helps to humanize or “warm up” the expert.

Photographing people using this simple PAC principle allows you to make statements about who they are, not just what they look like.

Like everything else in photography, knowing more than ƒ-stops and shutter speeds will make you a better photographer. And remember, seeing eye-to-eye isn’t always best.

How much do you cost?

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 500, ƒ/6.4, 1/500
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.

Nikon P7000, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000
Two things caused their businesses to fail: 1st – they didn’t know their real cost of doing business and 2nd – 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 six years. Many of my colleagues ask me how I do it.

This coming week I go to Hawaii to teach business practices for the third year in a row at the University of Nations in Kona. 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.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/15
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.
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?

Guidelines for Portraits, Headshots and Mug shots

Good Example
With LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media websites, the importance of a good headshot could not be more important.
There are a few do’s and don’ts, which if you know them can help you look your best the next time you have your photo taken.

When you are having a head and shoulders photo made the photo is suppose to be about the person and not the clothes. I doubt seriously a clothing manufacturer wants a headshot of the model to sell their shirts—they want to see the clothing predominately.

The reverse of this is what will help you look your best—the photo is about you and not your clothes and/or jewelry. So here are a few guidelines about how to keep the attention on you and not the clothes.

Example of pattern

Solid Colors—Avoid Patterns
Keeps the viewer from looking first at the clothing due to the design over the face

Darker clothing is preferable
Your eye will go to the lighter area of the photo, which will be the eyes. White shirts are difficult for printers to hold together and makes your head look like it is floating on the page without a shirt sometimes.

Example of Solid Color

Avoid herringbone jackets
On the web and television you will get a moiré effect.

Classic over trendy clothing
The classic look tend to stay fresh looking without going out of date as quickly as some of the fashion trends of the day and makes the photo look more current longer.

Simple or no Jewelry
One strand of pearls and matching earrings verses pendants and large earrings help keep the attention on you.

White Clothing & Jewelry

Do you wear casual or a suit for the photo? If you are using the photos for business—it is always best to have the suit in addition to a casual dress if you choose to use as your primary photo a casual dress. The reason for the backup suit photo is we often need a more serious tone at times. If your company is going through a merger—the suit photo would probably be a better choice to send out with the PR packet.

As you plan for portraits in the future it is always best to follow these guidelines and always bring two or more outfits to change into. If you are part of the executive team of the company you want to look your best so the company will benefit. Having a few different portraits with different outfits to pick from gives you the ability to choose the best option—and this is what most executives do each day—make choices.

Moiré Effect from Herringbone Jacket

If you need additional help in planning your next portrait session—give me a call and I will be glad to answer any additional questions you might have.

No Setup Photos

The cry of all the focus groups when they review most educational recruiting pieces seems to always say they want natural looking photos and not setup.

After having spent the last twenty plus years as a photographer shooting pure photojournalism, where you capture what happens in front of the camera to shooting for advertising pieces, where there are stylists arranging everything in a photo; my experience says most focus groups are asking the wrong questions.

“Do you like the photo?” is not as good of a question to see if the photo was successful as a question like “What did you learn from the photo?” You can even have a photo again on a questionnaire from your recruiting materials and ask, “Does the photo help you see what a typical dorm room looks like?” You could even have a follow up question “What could improve the photo to show you a dorm room?”

The reason I have come to this place about evaluating photos is my experience with truly “real” photographs. I have spent many years shooting “photojournalism” for magazines, newspapers and wire services. You do not change a thing in these photos and you do everything you can use composition, lens choices, lighting and timing to communicate the mood and reality of a situation.

Often a photojournalist’s photos are not “pretty” pictures. Photographers will even use their composition to create more conflict to add to the mood of the photo. Having a focus group evaluate war photos with the typical questions we ask “Did you like the photos?” will give you results which would say the photographers were not successful.

How can you know the right moment to take a picture unless you have a fairly clear idea of what the subject means and what you are after? When you are interested in a subject, you want to learn more about it. You dig below the surface values to the truth beneath. That way you get to know it intimately and are able to photograph it understandingly.

Understanding does not necessarily mean a technical knowledge of the subject. Understanding is interest, sympathy, curiosity, the human element of the equation.

While photojournalism will give you “real” photos, sometimes reality for recruiting will keep your institution on the same path rather than to where you would like to be.

This is where what I call the “sitcom” photography works best. We all know the sitcom isn’t real, but it can create such a reality we are all tuning in to see “Who shot JR?”

This is the type of photography where the school has determined where they want to go and then create communications pieces to help them attain the goal. For example if you want to be more diverse in the future, you will need to show diversity. If you keep it real, you would then research to find those situations where diversity exists already. Then you would photograph those situations and play them prominently in your piece.

As one person put it “You don’t want to be the lone raisin in a bowl of milk.” If everyone works to help the school to become more diverse it can be done.

As you can see there are a few ways to communicate your message using photographs. The ideal scenario is to have “reality” photos. If you had a photographer go to everything you did this year—then maybe you would get the reality you need.

Sometimes “reality” isn’t what you want to show. The student wearing another competing schools T-Shirt. A student with major over weight issues or skin problems can detract from the message. This is why so often we re-create reality like the sitcom. If properly planned, you will tune in and want to know more about your school.

Photographs are made of light, mood, texture, form, and line. The value of techniques lies in how they are used. Techniques by themselves are barren. To come alive with meaning, they must be employed interpretively. This is where I come in. Give me a call and let’s make your recruiting photos—REAL.

Sometimes a Detail Tells the Whole Story

Nikon D3S, ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/2000, 28-300mm also used SU-800 Speedlight Commander to fire SB900 Speedlight off camera.  The RadioPopper PX System are used to be sure the signal for flashes works outside.

We have all seen photographs with too much “stuff” in them. Because the photographer makes no attempt to select one subject, the image fails to communicate. It’s the visual equivalent of a run-on sentence.

A close-up of a detail frequently reveals more of the subject than a picture of the whole subject. So many photographers want to shoot general views because they believe they offer “good composition” or to capture the beautiful light. The detail photograph can have more impact and communicate more because the photographer is forced to be interpretive with the detail. The isolated part can tell more, be more emphatic, and be more quickly appreciated and understood. It tells the story in compressed, sometimes dramatic, fashion by scaling down to point out a specific idea to greatest effect.

Nikon D3S, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/4000, 24-120mm, SU800 with SB900 off camera flash

In approaching a subject, decide how much to include in the viewfinder of the camera. Force yourself to look around the subject and look at each of the corners and everything within the frame of the viewfinder. If there is anything that detracts from the theme, move in closer to eliminate it; if there is not enough to tell the story, move back to include more. The key to this process is to know what you want; the details will fall naturally into place and “composition” is achieved.

I have found the following exercise effective with my students at Reinhardt College. First, shoot a large scene, then close in on it and cut it in half. Close in again and again until, finally, you isolate the most important subject and thus make a statement about the main thing in the scene. In this way, you learn that much of what you see in a picture may not really be that important — and how to select the part or parts that are most meaningful.

Nikon D3S, ISO 3200, f/5.6, 1/4000, 24-120mm, SU800 with SB900 off camera flash

Great photographers know that composition is a matter of feeling rather than of rules learned by rote. You will develop this feeling as you gain experience, but you will never really “know it all” because, as you learn more about life, you will put emphasis on different things. Composition, ultimately, is just another way of looking at life.

Nikon D3S, ISO 6400, f/18, 1/60, 14-24mm