Creating a Portfolio

[NIKON Z 6, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/160, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

Creating a portfolio should be about showing what your are capable of doing so that others can decide to hire you. The decisions on what should go into your portfolio should be to persuade people that your style of work will help them in promoting their business.

Island Breeze Performance [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 400, 1/500, ƒ/3.2, (35mm = 14)]

With my portfolio I like to show my skills to educated buyers. Most of the time I am hired by people who are used to hiring photographers and therefore are looking for competency and warmth.

I like to show my ability to create using light and not just capturing the natural light.

Fire Dancer [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/100]

My good friend Tony Messano, an art director, coached me to show a different skill with each photo. Once you have established you can do something, don’t just show the same skill over and over.

Duke 3 vs Alabama 42 Final Score [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

One of the skills I like to show is my ability to get the moment. Sports photos show this, but also everyday life that seems to be moving slow is just as fast as a sports game. This is very true when you are looking for that “slice of life” to grab people’s attention and move their hearts as you need to do with nonprofits.

The Cows at Roswell Town Center are celebrating on Cow Appreciation Day 2018 in Roswell, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/3200 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]

Some of my clients want to know that I can “Create a Moment” as much as capturing it.

This police officer is modeling the AmeriGlo serrated ghost ring. AmeriGlo sights are machined from solid bar stock steel and assembled with laser-sealed tritium lamps. Unsurpassed tritium brightness makes this ideal for law enforcement, public safety, personal defense and recreational use. This photo was made for the client to use in a display for a trade show. [NIKON D100, 24-120mm , Mode = Manual, ISO , 1/160, ƒ/22, (35mm = 300)]
Dodge Viper [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 119)]

While the ability to get the norm is required, getting the unexpected is what can separate you from others.

Bertil Brahn, Clean Air [NIKON D2Xs, AF Zoom 122-300mm f/2.8D, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/8, ƒ/14, (35mm = 330)]
My tips for a portfolio
  • Your Best Technically Executed Photos
  • Photos that evoke emotions and engage the viewer
  • Show your technical versatility
  • Each photo is showing something different
  • Show you can work with a subject
  • Show who has already used you
  • Show what you love to shoot – Your Passion [that people will pay you to shoot]
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2018 Florida vs. Michigan [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 32000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 550)]
Fruits sold in Chick-fil-A [NIKON D750, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/40, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 270)]
Father and Son Campout [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3200, 1/25, ƒ/3.8, (35mm = 28)]

I like to show clients I know how to capture lasers which are invisible to the eye most of the time.

560Researchers are testing a new jet nozzle using a laser to measure the efficiency at the Georgia Tech Jet Propulsion Lab.

Photography is about transporting people to a moment in time that they would like to be a part of as well.

People’s Fest @ Atlantic Station Celebrating the launch of People’s Food Truck Featuring Marc Broussard [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/125, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 14)]
Early morning walk on the beach at Ocean Isle, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 110, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 48)]
You are busy but not Happy

Sometimes you have done an excellent job promoting yourself, but you forgot to pursue your passion. This is why you should do personal projects that help define what you are most passionate about. While you may still need to do some of the work you are good at to pay the bills, it is important you have projects on your calendar that you look forward to as well.

Children of the local pastor in his corn field in Togo, West Africa [NIKON D5, 35.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2000, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 35)]

I love shooting work missionaries are doing around the world. I love meeting people from all walks of life.

Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania [NIKON D750, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1400, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 250)]
Work in remote village of El Pedrero, Honduras. [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 160, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 15)]
Father Flor Maria Rigoni, “a world leader in the field of migration”, after working in Europe and Africa, Father Rigoni settled in Mexico in 1985. Since then, he has fought tirelessly to better the lives of migrants seeking relief at the Scalabrinians’ Bethlehem shelter in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico. [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 82)]

Check out how I have presented my work on my website under “Portfolio”

Calibrating the Face for Portraits

Christi Lamb
[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

Every semester I go down to Columbus, Georgia and help Columbus State University Theatre majors by doing headshots for a small price.

I find that getting actors in front of the camera that they just need permission to show what they can do with their faces. To be a good actor they often spend a lot of time in front of a mirror perfecting expressions.

I like to think of this as like stretching before you run or warming up the voice.

Then when you hit an expression you are more relaxed.

Debrinja Watts [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 85)]

When you laugh it is more genuine.

Gabrielle Solomon [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

I always have so much fun with the actors.

Jasmine Campbell [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

This year we had more freshman than in the past. It was great to meet so many new students. I can’t wait to see them in performances.

Britt Woods [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

While often this is all you will see as the final headshot that they use, we had fun working on this to get those natural and authentic expressions.

Next time you have your portrait made ask the photographer to let you try a range of expressions.

Kiki Ellis [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

Ian Rossin is not trying to be an actor, he is studying theatre tech. That is the guys who deal with lighting, sound, costumes and set design. He however could easily find himself on stage or in front of the camera.

I had a couple who just tried more expressions than I have seen out of one person.

Coco Holt [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]

To be a professional actor/actress you have to be able to do more than just one expression. The more you can do the more opportunities for different roles.

Coco Holt [NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 50, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 85)]
Now my clients are promoting me since I started doing this

No Longer Just Pictures

I have been reflecting on the work I am doing, what I used to do and what I think I will be doing in the years ahead.

If I had the same skills I had ten years ago today, I wouldn’t be a photographer now. In 2002 I had just bought my first digital camera the Nikon D100. I was able to make the digital switch relatively easily.

In 2002 most of my work was shooting still images. I was shooting a great deal for colleges and publications covering sports. I was covering the games, shooting portraits and helping shoot the team photos that were used for promotions. Many of these photos were used in the media guides, used for promoting ticket sales and some of the photos even made it to the sides of buses.

Today, there are mainly hobbyist who trade out giving the photos for free to those organizations for the opportunity to be on the sidelines. Some of their work is quite good. However, I could no longer get the clients to pay me when they were getting the photos for free.

In the fall of 2005 I did a coverage in West Africa. When I returned I worked on my first Slide Show using the software SoundSlides. They now have a newer version that no longer uses flash. I haven’t tried it but this may be a good solution for those just wanting to combine still images with a sound file.

While I just put the images to African Music I had recorded, it was a turning point for me. Now I am shooting video and combining it with still images and audio to create multimedia packages. Now I am using Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro CC.

The majority of my work today is as an executive producer who shoots, edits and then gives this to clients to post on the web. Many of these packages are 2 to 3 minutes in length. Here is one I did on my daughter’s mission trip to Chattanooga this summer.

Many of the packages I have done are for “Best Practices” of people in a company to share internally. The stories have helped spread good ideas.

Looking into the future has been very difficult to speculate. If cameras continue to change as they have these past ten years then I can expect to be upgrading a camera every two years.

My computer will need to be replaced every 3 years to keep up with the software and the camera files. My first computer’s hard drive was 20 mbg. That would not even hold one of my photos that I shoot on my Nikon D5 or Nikon Z6 today.

I will most likely still be telling stories in ten years, but how I tell them will most likely change in some way. I will still use visuals and audio to communicate, but who knows. Maybe we will be able to capture smell and play it for audiences as well in the future.

If the past is any indication of the future, I know I need to stay informed of changes happening. I need to read all I can to stay current. I need to be involved in professional organizations. Most of all I will need to remain curious and asking myself “What if” questions.

Don’t be like a lot of my friends who didn’t like to change and today are out of work.

My thoughts on Photographing Sports

Duke’s running back (21) Mataeo Durant fumbles the ball due to defensive pressure of Alabama’s defensive back (22) Jalyn Armour-Davis during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Saturday, August 31st at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

The ultimate sports photo for me is when there is a conflict between players who are fighting for the ball and I have capture the emotions of the moment shown in their face expressions and body language.

Chick-fil-A Kickoff Duke 3 vs Alabama 42 Final Score, August 31, 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

Getting to the game early helps me to scout best spots to shoot from. I prefer shooting from the endzone for football, because that is where the offense is trying to go.

[NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

When you are not shooting the offense from the endzone you can see the faces of the defense.

Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (4) breaks up an interception attempt by Duke cornerback Josh Blackwell (31) in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday August 31, 2019. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 380)]

I grew up watching on ABC Wide World Classic “The Agony of Defeat” by the skier Vinko Bogataj. When plays don’t go well and there is an “Agony of Defeat” moment, it reminds us of how difficult it is to play the sport.

You can see in this series the competition and the emotions in the body language of both players.

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) makes a move on Duke safety Dylan Singleton (16) the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday August 31, 2019. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

Getting these moments takes really high end professional gear. You need a camera that is able to focus quickly and shoot enough frames so that you don’t miss the action.

[NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]

While you are following the quarterback you are quickly then transitioning downfield to the receiver. My Nikon D5 screams speed. From the focus to the frame rate to the way you can scrub through images on the rear LCD. With your eye to the viewfinder, a light press of the shutter release see’s the camera unleash its almost endless volley of image capturing prowess. A minimal viewfinder blackout time makes it easier to see the action and follow your subject.

Alabama wide receiver (17) Jaylen Waddle is forced out of bounds by Duke linebacker (49) Koby Quansah. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 20000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]
David Cutcliffe, Duke’s head football coach, talks with Nick Saban, Alabama’s head football coach prior to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 640, 1/320, ƒ/4, (35mm = 58)]

By arriving early I was able to get onto the field prior to the kickoff and capture a light moment between the two head coaches for Duke and Alabama. For this moment I went with my Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera. Other than for fast action sports I love this camera. Seeing the image before you click the shutter is just awesome.

You can see if the exposure is correct. You can see the white balance. You can see the Depth-of-Field. You can see if you are in focus.

The mirrorless Nikon Z6 lets you see the photo before you shoot except for the split second that you capture. The Nikon D5 doesn’t give you this ability through the viewfinder. You could do this in live view, but not as easy to see.

This is CJ Byrd and Mohamed Massaquoi before the game. They were roommates at University of Georgia and played football together. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 640, 1/160, ƒ/4, (35mm = 28)]

There is so much more than just the plays on the field that make this a community event. The bands, the celebrities, and much more, but you must look for them.

Duke Band during the pregame show [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 18000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 600)]
Alabama’s Color guard performing choreographed dances and routines with various equipment to enhance and interpret the music of the marching band show. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 25600, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 340)]

Bands, Cheerleaders, and Color Guards help bring fans to their feet.

Duke takes the field [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 36000, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 260)]

Just coming onto the field today with a football team is a spectacle.

Nick Saban wears the leather helmet after winning the Chick-fil-A Kickoff over Duke 42 – 3. [NIKON D5, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Shutter Priority, ISO 5000, 1/800, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 150)]

To keep objectivity in sports media, a photographer cannot cheer for teams while doing their jobs. Now if you are the team photographer, this is different because you are not reporting as the media.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) passes against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday August 31, 2019. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 22800, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

Camera Setting Tips for better photos

These are some photo tips I taught to staff camp photographers for WinShape Camps located in Rome, Georgia.
Here are some camera settings that we all made on the cameras.
Nikon D5 Auto ISO setiup
  • Quality of Image. We chose to set the camera to the largest JPEG file at the highest quality setting. (The camp did not provide the software for all the computers to use RAW)
  • Auto ISO on a NikonAuto ISO. We all then set out cameras to Auto ISO and set our lowest ISO on the camera default preferences of either 50 to 200 ISO. We then set the highest ISO on what the camera is realistically capable of shooting. For most of the cameras this was between ISO 1600 and 6400. Both Canon and Nikon allow you to also set your highest shutter speed.  We set this according to the situation.
  • Shutter speeds (Using auto ISO) The camera will raise the ISO to get the optimum shutter speed and will drop the shutter speed once it hits the maximum ISO.
    • If shooting under fluorescent or sodium vapor lights we recommended that shoot at 1/100 shutter speed, unless they had to shoot sports.
    • For shooting sports we recommended setting 1/2000 shutter speed
    • For general shooting we recommended 1/250 shutter speed
  • White Balance
    • We recommended getting a custom White Balance as the primary choice
    • Our second choice was to use a preset like Fluorescent, Daylight or tungsten for example
    • When we were changing lighting that affects white balance often we recommended using Auto White Balance
  • Aperture
    • For general shooting we recommended to not shoot wide open but use f/4 or f/5.6 so that your subject is in focus.
    • When your subject can cooperate a little more with you then we recommended shooting wide apertures if you choose for artistic reasons. This is when f/1.4 is more appropriate. We have found the trend of too many shooters buying 50mm f/1.4 lenses and shooting all the time wide open and having very few in focus photos due to the shallow depth-of-field.
  • Inside Flash or when dark. Use a higher ISO to help open up the background. Here is an earlier blog post on how using the higher ISO helps open the background up. 
  • Flash outside in daylight. When it is the middle of the day and the sun is straight up you are most likely to get dark circles around the eyes. I call this the racoon eye look. If you are less than 10 feet away from the subject you can use either your built in flash or hot shoe flash to fill in those shadows. In addition to filling in the shadows you will get a nice catch light in the eyes. You can also use the flash when you back light a subject. (I wrote about this in earlier blog post here)  This helps them from looking directly into the sun and squinting. Since the shadow side of the face is now towards the camera a flash can help balance the light.
Camp staff photographers are discussing ideas that they will be doing with the campers in a couple weeks. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2000, 1/100, ƒ/5, (35mm = 28)]

Some of the camp photographers are photography students or recent graduates of photography programs, but not all the photographers were photography majors. Due to the range of talent we showed them a place that would help them get more photos in focus that are properly exposed and good skin tones.

Staff plays some games with each other after dinner. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/500, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 112)]

After practicing with these settings we then covered the three stages of composition. I will refer you to my earlier blog on this topic about what we covered.   

The last thing we did during our time was go out and practice shooting looking for photos that tell a story. Then we reviewed everyone’s best 5 photos for our last hour together.

The staff of one of the boys camps shows their camp cheer that they will be teaching the campers. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/400, ƒ/5.3, (35mm = 112)]

If you would like me to come to your organization and do this workshop for me just give me a call. I am doing this same workshop in a few weeks for the Boy Scout troop that meets at my church. We will do the class time and then meet four weeks later after they shoot a photo story.

The really cool thing about WinShape camps is the emphasis on relationships. As you can see the staff really enjoy each other and this spills over to the campers. [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4500, 1/500, ƒ/5, (35mm = 28)]

The KISS Rule

Portrait Tip

Do you like taking photos of your family and friends? Here is an easy way to get really good portraits of them. This is keeping it simple.

[NIKON D4, 85.0 mm f/1.4, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/8000, ƒ/1.4, (35mm = 85)]

The key to any good photo is the old KISS rule, which is simply put Keep ISimple Stupid.

For this portrait of my dad I chose to shoot this outside and use some of the sunny weather we were having down at the beach.  We shot this outside on the balcony of our cottage. The reason for the location was it was the fewest steps I needed to make to get a good photo.

Start with the sun back lighting the subject

One of the reasons I always start with the sun on the back of the subject and not where it is lighting their face has to do with expression. I find it almost impossible for getting a good expression when people are squinting and straining due to the sun being directly in their eyes.

The benefit of the back lighting of the subject is you get a good rim light around the subject, which will help you separate the subject from the background.

Look for a darker background

I like to find a simple background that is not have blown out highlights in the background. I normally look for a much darker background than I chose here. My point is to be careful or your blinking highlights will be in the background and distracting rather than complementary to the subject.

Choose a shallow depth-of-field

I am using my favorite portrait lens for this photo, my Nikkor 85mm ƒ/1.4.  You need to be sure that the eyes are what you are focusing on and the sharpest point in the photo when shooting with this lens. I still recommend having the eyes the place you focus even if you choose to shoot this at ƒ/22.

In general if you are doing a portrait of a person and not an environmental portrait, then the background and surroundings is not really that important.  Since this is the case here for this photo I threw that background way out of focus by shooting at an aperture of ƒ/1.4.

Fill Flash

I love to use an off camera flash as my fill/main light outside for portraits. Here is a diagram showing you where the sun was and the off camera Nikon SB-900 speedlight placement for this photograph.

You can trigger the off camera flash many different ways. I often use the Nikon SU-800 which uses infrared to trigger the off camera flash. I chose to use the PocketWizard Mini TT1 on the camera with the AC3 which lets me alter the power of the flash from the camera and not the flash.  Saves you a lot of steps back and forth for tweaking those fine adjustments.

The Nikon SB-900 has the PocketWizard FlexTT5 on it to receive the signal and talk to the cameras TTL system to give you consistent exposures.


I placed the light 45º to the right of the camera and not quite 45º above the eyes.  I am a little lower since my subject has deep set eyes. 

What is the benefit of the flash say over a reflector? If I used the reflector I will be bouncing the sun into their face and often getting the squint I was trying to avoid.

Second, by using the flash I get good skin tones because of the color temperature of the flash will give it that “pop” I like to see.

Third, I like seeing a catch light in the eyes and the flash helps me be sure one is there. I think this helps bring the eyes to life.

Go and try this setup yourself. Adjust it to your conditions and the subject and see what you come up with.

What do you want to read about?

I would love for you to write to me ( and let me know what you would like me to cover in a blog or e-newsletter. Maybe if I don’t know I can find a guest blogger to help me on that subject.

I love to hear from you so, please drop me a note.

How to Meet the Priority of Your Boss/Client

When someone asks you for $40 you don’t tell them OK if you only have $20. You tell them you just have $20 if you want to share. So how come when your boss/client asks for something you don’t have the ability to do you can’t tell them?

A little secret – You can learn to say yes and the boss/client then can say no.

Learn To Say YES.

Improvisation rules are also great for client support. Just look at Tina Fey’s Four Rules of Improv:

  • Rule 1: Say Yes. The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. …
  • Rule 2: Say Yes AND. The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. …
  • Rule 3: Make Statements. The next rule is MAKE STATEMENTS. …
  • Rule 4: There Are No Mistakes.

When your client says this is their priority – AGREE. Then you should respond with YES, AND to meet your priority I need …

Just like improvisation you don’t want to come back with lot’s of questions, but statements that help clarify the scene.

I love Rule 4 that there are no mistakes. That is because you are trying to meet your client’s needs.

I also learned about another way to say yes from my friend Tony Messano who is a creative director as well as voice over talent. This one tip had a major impact on my life in so many ways.

Tony was not advocating becoming a “Yes Man” where you are agreeing to “anything” regardless of how crazy or stupid – and sometimes illegal – it is. You still will say no to things that ethically you disagree with doing.

Tony was advocating that we turn ourselves into problem solvers for our clients and bosses, rather than becoming a problem.

The way this whole topic came up in the first place with Tony was over me trying to deal with clients that kept on saying since you are here can you do _______. Tony helped me to see how to take this request and not only meet the request but make more money.

Roswell High School Theater Short Attention Span Theater [X-E2, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1600, 1/100, ƒ/4.5, (35mm = 96)]

I learned how to price for the project and then when this type of request came up I could say “Yes”. Yes I can make that happen, however since this wasn’t part of the proposal and is outside the scope of it I just need to charge XYZ for the additional work.

The way I had been handling these requests or similar variations for my whole life up to then was responding with a “NO”.

What Tony helped me to understand was that when I was saying no I wasn’t really helping the client at all. If they still needed it done then they would find someone who could make it happen and often then I would no longer be used for future projects.

When I was in a staff job I often said no because I didn’t have time with all the other things on my plate. As a freelancer I was saying no because they were asking for more without offering more pay.

Had I learned this tip earlier in my career I would have become a more valuable team member. When someone would ask me to do something I would now be saying how I really want to help them. I would be saying YES–IF.

Yes I can make that happen for you if you can tell me which of these other projects I can delay or not do to be able to take on this extra work.

As a freelancer I am saying YES–IF you decide what on the list we were shooting comes off because I don’t have time to do all you have or I might be saying yes if you agree to the extra XYZ cost.

[NIKON D5, 85.0 mm f/1.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3600, 1/100, ƒ/1.8, (35mm = 85)]

Ask your boss/client what is their priority. By the way, I recently learned that modern society corrupted the word priority. One hundred years ago, there was no plural form: priority was singular only — it meant the single most important item.

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. In a recent innovation workshop with HR executives, one team won an award for developing a simple tool to prioritize incoming requests by filtering them by business need, the source of the request, and the anticipated effort involved. We must ensure that the top priorities actually take precedence.

What separates a priority from just another task on the to-do list?

Focus on client projects before internal work; setting up the new CEO’s computer before re-configuring the database; answering support tickets before writing training materials, and so on. Another way to assess value is to look at how many people are impacted by your work. In general, the more people involved or impacted, the higher the stakes.

You probably can’t get to everything on your list. After you prioritize your tasks and look at your estimates, cut the remaining tasks from your list, and focus on the priorities that you know you must and can complete for the day.


[NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/160, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 14)]

The difference between two parties who compromise or collaborate is huge. 

Compromising leads to disappointment with all parties.  When the parties come together they have a creative idea or solution for a problem.  Each party wants their idea out there more than the other one.  In this scenario a watered down version of both ideas emerge. In the end no one is satisfied with the solution.

[NIKON D3, AF Zoom-Nikkor 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6D IF, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/200, ƒ/18, (35mm = 98)]

Collaboration isn’t about negotiating solutions.  It starts where the parties come together and listening to each other.  They are open to new ideas.  This is where everyone realizes that alone no one gets their ideas implemented, but by partnering with others they can accomplish their goals.

Rowing is a good illustration on how to collaborate.  It is the oldest intercollegiate sport in the United States.  

The Harvard-Yale Boat Race or Harvard-Yale Regatta is an annual rowing race between Yale and Harvard universities. It is America’s oldest collegiate athletic competition. It takes place each year on Thames River, New London, Connecticut.

In this sport the team must work together.  Each person has to stay in sync with his teammates.  For me it is the perfect picture of collaboration. 

If just one person is out of sync the team suffers.

When a client hires me they expect collaboration and not compromise.  Trust is the foundation of this process. You must first trust to your clients, lower your barriers and be exposed.

Listen.  Take notes while listening to the client.  Note taking prevents you from responding to quickly with your ideas.  Active listening means you ask questions to clarify and be sure you have their perspective.  You may want to paraphrase their idea and ask if you have it right.

The key is understanding what they want to accomplish.  You need to also listen and learn where they have very little room for flexibility.  When the client feels like you know what they want and the parameters they are under you have the necessary information to be able to collaborate. 

Meeting and exceeding the client’s expectations is easy, if you listen and check with the client to be sure you understand their project. 

Many clients will have done an excellent job articulating their project from the very beginning.  You still need to explore with them to understand how much flexibility they have.  You still need to articulate their project in your own words. Skip this step and you will experience friction with the client.

All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends.  True friends collaborate rather than compromise.

My friend Tony Messano talks about what he looks for when he hires a photographer in this video clip.  Here is his website

Writing With Light

Available Light no flashes at night. We’re headed to the corn maize! Jumpee pillow, hayride, smores, corn cannon too. [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/80, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 14)]

In writing we use italics, bold, quote marks and other techniques to emphasize parts of the composition. In photography we use light to do the same thing.

Theater and movie directors many times use light to draw our attention to the main subject in a scene. This may be as dramatic as turning a spotlight on a character while everything else goes completely black. More often it is much more subtle. Without the light to guide us we might lose the lead actor on stage amidst all the other actors and scenery.

During a concert a spotlight is constantly on the main performer. So rarely are they not in that spotlight that the famous clown Emit Kelly did a comedy act where he tried to stay in the spotlight only to give up in the end and sweep the light up off the floor.

Using fill flash to capture it in the camera. [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/8000, ƒ/7.1, (35mm = 14)]

Another way to lead the viewer’s attention to a person or part of a scene in video photography is zooming in on that subject. In TV and film they use multiple cameras to help direct the audience. The director will cut from a camera with a wide view to one showing a close-up of the subject.

Still photographers don’t have the luxury of simultaneous shots zoomed in or out cutting from a wide to a close shot. The still photographer can do all of this, of course, but he or she ends up needing to tell the whole story in a single shot. Print advertising does this all the time.

The still shooter should do all that is reasonable and feasible to capture the image in as high a quality as the situation will allow. (More about that in a minute.)

There are two ways that you can help direct the attention to the main subject using light in photography. One is done in the camera and the other is done in post processing.

Getting it in the camera

Students are taking a test, so I used available light. [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1250, 1/250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]
Available Light

With today’s digital cameras it is relatively easy to work with the available light in almost any location.

If people are sitting at a table with poor light move them to a table in better light. After a few moments they’ll pick up on the conversation where they left off and you now have them in light that will work for the photos. In a photojournalistic coverage this is inappropriate, but for advertising or a corporate shoot it is perfectly fine to do.

Use a reflector to help improve the light. It is much less intrusive than flash and can work just as well. Have an assistant hold a reflector just out of the view of the camera and bounce the light back into the subjects face. This helps to draw attention to the main subject.

Adding Light
Used a flash to light his face inside of a furnace/air conditioner blower. No other lights in the room. [NIKON D3S, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 12800, 1/250, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 14)]

You can use either a constant light source or flash to light the subject. Use spotlight effect as much as possible rather than floodlight where everything is lit equally.

Another trick of the trade is to place a colored gel over a light used on the background. This will simplify a junky background by making it all one color. The orange extension cords and red tools hanging on the wall in the background no longer vie for attention with you subject. At least two lights are needed one on the subject and one on the background. The light on the subject should be brighter than the background light.

Postproduction lighting
Using fill flash to capture it in the camera. [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/80, ƒ/3.5, (35mm = 24)]

This is done so much today that a photo being “PhotoShopped” is now a verb and not just a noun. Before the days of PhotoShop, photographers would “burn” and “dodge” in the darkroom. A face could be lightened and the background darkened.

With digital today you can do even more than we did in the darkroom and with more precision. You can select only the subject, just a single color or anything one part of a photo and alter it in many ways. You can remove, change or add color. You can make objects lighter or darker. Parts of the photo can soften or blurred.

If all this can be done in post processing… why use lights?
Using colored gels to help the background and create a science look and feel. [NIKON D3, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/160, ƒ/14, (35mm = 14)]

The need for post processing disappears if you capture it in camera saving time and money.

A properly exposed subject contains information at its fullest value.

When should auxiliary lights be used and not used?

(Here’s the “more on” reasonable and feasible.)

In Hollywood everyone is being paid to produce a professional product people will be willing to pay to see. (Pardon the alteration; I got carried away as always – oops.)

In news coverage the only ones being paid are the news crew or maybe just a single photographer and they are being paid to get the story regardless of the quality. Sure, it should be as high a quality as is practical, but the story is the thing.

The colored carpet and chair colors distracted you now they don’t with the gels. [NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 1/15, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

When a photographer comes to do a job, particularly an event, what determines the approach? Can it be with all the lighting using multiple flashes (Hollywood) or will it need to be photographed using the available light (News coverage)?

What is the deciding factor? You need to consider the friction you may cause while capturing the moment.

Perhaps the subject or event can be moved to a more photogenic area that would not require much, if any, additional lighting. Perhaps reflectors can be used instead of flash thus reducing the interference with an event.

You need to explain to the client the choices (and the resulting photos) and together find a solution. (HINT: Whoever is paying for the project needs to decide or this maybe your last job with them.)

Final thought

Use light to direct attention; it can improve the communication of the composition.

The Creative Photographer

Pine Knoll Shores, North Carolina. [NIKON D2X, Sigma APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 200, 1/160, ƒ/10, (35mm = 183)]

We often talk about being either an amateur photographer or a professional photographer. What is the difference between these two? The professional earns a living with their camera.

The workshops or seminars for most professionals frequently talk about how we as professionals must remain always an amateur. Two of the three definitions in the dictionary refer to somebody who does or takes part in something for pleasure or is greatly interested in the subject. Only one of the definitions differentiates the amateur from the professional as more than just pay, but somebody who has only limited skill.

We took the Lookout Express, the world’s largest speed boat, out to see Cape Lookout Lighthouse on the end of North Carolina on August 3, 2005 while we were on vacation at Pine Knoll Shores beach in North Carolina. Cape Lookout National Seashore is the 56-mile stretch of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, running from Ocracoke Inlet to Beaufort Inlet. Thee pristine barrier island make up the national seashore – North Core Banks, South Core Banks and Shackleford Banks. [NIKON D2X, Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/2000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 72)]

As you can see our choice of words in describing a photographer can mean many different things. I was reminded recently at my family reunion about how diverse photography has become. I was trying to explain what I do to my relatives.

While there are many amateur and professional photographers, I believe the one thing distinguishing most seasoned professional photographers from those who fall by the wayside is creativity. The Creative Photographer is by nature always trying to see the world in new ways.

GTRI research engineer Shayne Kondor, right, and graduate student Paul Lowe are working on a digital version of patented technology called DentAART, which allows dentists to precisely capture a patient’s exact anatomic tooth position and form and then produce a unique prescription for use in planning and delivery of facial procedures – restorative, orthodontic or surgical.

The Creative Photographer is rarely a generalist—yet can often handle most assignments. The Creative Photographer usually specializes and often is considered an expert in a subject outside of their photography knowledge.

I have an uncle who also was a photographer. What was one of his specialties was wildlife. He was called on to write a column for a magazine where he often helped the reader to know more about a wild animal.

For me I have specialized through the years in different areas which typically involve people in a unique location. My major specialties have developed into some of these areas of interest: Corporate Storytelling; Science/Technology; Religion; Sports and Humanitarian.

4th of July Fireworks at Roswell High School [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 4, ƒ/11, (35mm = 24)]

While still in my crib my parents tell me of how I would take the screws out of the crib. I wanted to take things apart and know how they work. This grew through the years to me enjoying sound systems, cars, computers and anything which your typical geek may be interested.

Growing up in a preacher’s family I was surrounded by faith. This interest is still there today and after not only being active in my own church I went to seminary and earned my masters. Today I work with a team leading Missions Storytelling Workshops around the world.

I also spend a great deal of time working with Chick-fil-A as consultant.

Beavers live in family groups or colonies that include a breeding pair and four or five offspring which range in age from newborns to two years. [NIKON D2X, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/500, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 202)]

My earliest memories involved sports. I remember being taken to sporting events and later played most sports in some league. Today I play basketball two or three times a week for exercise.

When I show up on a photo shoot for any of these areas, I am not just thinking about setting the camera or lights. I am thinking about what is going on and how a geek, theologian or athlete would be interested in the subject. While my studies as a social worker helped me to watch body language and capture a peak moment, it is my interest in science, faith or sports which help me to know what to include and how much to inform the reader.

There have been times through my career where I struggled on how to capture the moment to communicate clearly an idea. It was then I would gain new skills with photography to inform the reader better. However, most of my life I have been just curious to want to know more about these subjects. You will find books, magazines and if I had kept all my pages from surfing the web you could see even here I was wanting more about: science/technology, faith or sports.

The Creative Photographer is one who is curious most of the time and a problem solver when it comes to knowing how to communicate in a way to hook the reader and inform them about the world in which they live.

Give me a call so I can learn something new about your area and help you to communicate to your audience. Everyone wants those who work on their projects to add creativity and make your project better.