Good photos start with interesting subject and good light

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 119mm, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/1000 – 2 Alienbees B1600 with Soft box]
You may want to take up the challenge today of finding something interesting to photograph. The first trick is to come up with something that interests you.

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 55mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/1250]
For me I chose to photograph a Dodge Viper one day. I have just always liked the design of the car and thought why not photograph it.

I put the car in my studio and use a white background that I could throw the red gel on for dramatic effect if I chose to or just keep it simple with the white background.

One thing I noticed was just shooting at a different focal length changed the look and feel of the car. Starting with the first photo I shot it at 119mm, then to a 55mm and this third one is at 30mm.

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1250]
I moved around the car trying all kind of angles and focal lengths.

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1250]
I thought it was a fun shooting assignment. Just studying the car from all different angles.

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 108mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000]
Getting close also was fun and mixed up the variety of looks I was getting.

Dodge Viper [Nikon P7000, 28mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/1250]
I found all I had to do for all these shots was get a basic lighting set and I then just picked the car up and moved it around for each photo.

Dodge Viper


What I was hoping to surprise you with is that without some visual clue you cannot tell how big or small something is in a photo. That is why it is so important in some situations to leave things out or include them.

Dodge Viper

This was my lighting setup for the photo shoot and this was the camera I used for all the photos.

To teach yourself how to see start with a subject and then really explore just that one subject. Force yourself to take as many different photos of the one subject as you can.

The one thing I didn’t do in this exercise was to change backgrounds. With a small model car that is simple to do. Just take your can with you to different locations. See how much a location can impact the mood of the subject.

Here is a great article Model Cars Look Life-Sized Through Forced Perspectives. 

I think I spent less than $20 for the car and continue to have fun pushing my visual perspective pulling it out every once in a while and learning to see it in new ways.

Auto ISO and why I use it

Nikon D5 ISO Setting

On your camera you can pick your ISO setting or you can pick Auto ISO.

On my Nikon D5 you choose the ISO setting and then you can toggle right into the AUTO ISO setup screen.

Nikon D5 Auto ISO setup

You pick your range of the lowest ISO and the highest ISO you want the camera to use. This is great for the photographer who says I like up to only ISO 5000 and while another photographer is ok with ISO 102400.

On the Nikon D5 you also can set the maximum ISO when the flash is detected. This works with the flashes using the hotshoe and have TTL.

Now in photography we talk about the exposure triangle. All three of these controls together can over expose, under expose or properly expose a photo.

When you set your camera to Aperture priority then you set the Aperture and the camera will adjust the shutter speed if you have chosen a specific ISO like ISO 100.

If you are in Shutter-Speed priority, you pick the shutter speed and the camera picks the aperture.

Now if you have AUTO ISO picked the Auto ISO will pick the lowest ISO as the Shutter-Speed you selected and then you can control the Aperture when in Aperture priority.

If you are in Manual mode and using AUTO ISO the camera will pick the lowest ISO to expose the picture based on the Aperture and Shutter-Speed you picked.

If you choose to not use AUTO ISO then you must go and manually change this every time you change Aperture or Shutter-Speed and the camera let’s you know you are either over-exposed or under-exposed.

I found that 99% of the time the camera is making the same choice I would make when I set the AUTO ISO to what I want as the low and high ISO as well as the Shutter-Speed.

When I need to turn off the AUTO ISO for things like shooting with strobes on the Nikon D5 I just push the ISO button on the back and spin the front wheel and turn it off. To turn it back on I do the same thing.

Auto ISO for me is similar to anti-lock brakes on a car. The AUTO ISO will adjust the camera faster than I can and let’s me get more photos that are properly exposed.

Billy Howard’s presentation to FOCUS

Billy Howard keynote speaker for the FOCUS Atlanta event held at Professional Photographic Resources on March 10, 2018.

This past weekend Billy Howard gave a wonderful presentation to FOCUS at Professional Photographic Resources in Atlanta, Georgia.

Billy talked to us about the people he had met that ended up being subjects in the stories he was doing.

Getting a letter from his dentist saying he was no longer practicing started him down the road of photographing people with Aids that became a book.

EPITAPHS FOR THE LIVING–Words and Images in the Time of Aids

Billy Howard keynote speaker for the FOCUS Atlanta event held at Professional Photographic Resources on March 10, 2018.

Billy printed 11×14 prints and left a large area for each person to write their own words. One person took over a year to get the print back to Billy. When the guy talked about how hard it was to write what would most likely be his last words is when Billy realized these words were Epitaphs.

Blending words and pictures all started when Billy was a writer for a newspaper and wanted to take photos.

To hear more about how Billy became a photographer and the many other projects he is working on click on the video below to hear and see his presentation.

Where is the “B” [Business] button on my camera?

Many who first buy a camera put their camera on the Green “P” button or like on this camera the Green Camera. That is the mode where the camera does all the thinking for you.

Soon you realize to get the results that you were looking for you have to tell the camera what to do. This is when you start to learn what M, A, S and the other settings on that dial do other than the green camera or even the P mode.

When photographers start trying to make a living at this they look for the green “B” mode for their camera. They want a simple business mode that thinks for them and tell them what they need to do to be successful.

If they are not careful on some camera models the B mode is actually standing for “bulb” and that is another discussion for another day.

What prompted this blog post was a Facebook post.

Facebook post question: What is it that editors, photo buyers and parents are sick of the most as far as buying photos?

My first response: Photographer over explaining their prices. Just tell us the price. Give me a low, medium and high price option and let me pick.

Facebook response: Are you talking about editors parents or both?

My response: Everyone

Facebook Response: I just got fotobiz X. Is there a way to package that for people?

My long response:

Yes there is. The software is really designed for editorial, freelancers who do B2B verses B2C. However you can create your own price items. It doesn’t create a price list that you hand to people. It is used to create estimates and invoices.

I notice you and many others post a lot of detailed questions that really cannot be adequately answered on a Facebook or even blog post. Those questions about business are often show some lack of understanding of business practices.

This is quite common in photography. People take up photography and most realize at some point that putting their camera on “P” doesn’t mean professional photos.

The learning curve then becomes quite steep as they go from pointing and shooting to making the camera see the way they want it to see. Most will spend some money on classes or workshops.

Once you then decide to charge for your services and try to make money doing photography you quickly realize the “B” setting on trying to run your business doesn’t work. Well it is even more difficult than photography because there is no “B” setting.

You really need to take a class in business practices for the profession. You can pay a photographer with more than 3 years of experience that is successful to help you get started. I recommend talking to photographers who are members of or Both of these organizations have business practices at the core of the reason they were formed.

Because where you live can also impact how you run your business due to tax laws you also then need to talk to an accountant and an attorney. Each of the organizations have a list of those who work with photographers. Nothing can be worst than making money and then finding out that you owe more taxes because you didn’t do something right.

In most communities there is the US Small Business Administration that offers many classes for free. They want you to be successful. here is where you can find out more about their “FREE” help

Going back to your original question that started this thread. You basically have asked about two types of businesses, one is business to business model and the other is business to customer.

Talking to a customer who is part of the industry [i.e. editor at publication] is totally different than talking to someone not a part of the industry [i.e. a mother wanting photos of the family]. One person hires photographers regularly and will talk a lot differently about hiring you.

While you can create a basic price list for services, in this industry you will find yourself having to create custom estimates pretty often. It is much easier to do when you understand the how you create a price for a service.

You have to know how much you have to bring home to cover your base. You know your phone, rent, gear, software, marketing materials and more are always ongoing expenses to run your business. You must know this number and if you don’t you cannot create a price for anything. You don’t even know what you must charge to break even.

99% of every photographer I have ever helped that came to me about business practices was losing money on every job. They were actually paying most people to shoot for them, but because they didn’t know what their bottom line was to run their business they were charging most of the time 50% or more lower than the price that they needed to break even.

Here is a blog post I wrote talking about just getting to know your expenses.

Here is a blog post on tips on price estimating.

Unbiased reporting doesn’t mean unemotional reporting

Robin Rayne Nelson keynote speaker for the FOCUS Atlanta event held at Professional Photographic Resources on March 10, 2018. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/90]
A young college student asked Robin Rayne Nelson after her presentation to FOCUS meeting on Pixels and Picas, “How do you deal with your emotions when covering a story like you shared?”

Robin said earlier, “We’re taught that journalists are to be objective in their work. That should be our goal. But we are human, not robots.”

Click on photo here to see the story that Robin shared as used by the Marietta Daily Journal.

I realized hearing this question that the young college student didn’t understand being a human being means you should feel all the emotions that the story takes you. You don’t bury these emotions, you embrace them. You explore them. It is through embracing you are taping into subject’s world. It let’s you really get closer to understanding their struggles.

Robin Rayne Nelson keynote speaker for the FOCUS Atlanta event held at Professional Photographic Resources on March 10, 2018. [Fuji X-E2, 10-24mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/40]
It is when you are really honest with your emotions that you can then be unbiased. You are able to understand what you feel is real and then backup and look at things from a different perspective, which the subject often is unable to do.

Robin said, “Some might call what I do advocacy journalism, and I’m okay with that, but I am first and always a journalist.”

While doing stories on disability for the Institute on Human Development and Disability at the university of Georgia Robin says, “Most important, my ‘why’ is to help reshape how society views and treats those with developmental challenges.” Robin is trying to persuade the audience to consider the realities of people dealing with disabilities.

Billy Weeks, Billy Howard and Robin Rayne Nelson were the keynote speakers for the FOCUS Atlanta event held at Professional Photographic Resources on March 10, 2018. [Fuji X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4, 1/100]
In persuasion, your message has to focus on emotions, all the while maintaining a balance between logic and feelings. Logic and emotion are the two elements that make for perfect persuasion. We can be persuasive using only logic or only emotion, but the effect will be short-term and unbalanced.

If you want to move your audience emotionally, you have to experienced it first as the communicator. People will not cry if you didn’t cry. The audience will not laugh if you didn’t laugh.

The subject’s story must move you enough to poor all you have into the storytelling process so that the subject’s story will move the audience’s heart and minds into action.

You can hear and see Robin’s presentation here in the video I made of her talk.

My message for student’s learning this craft of journalism and storytelling is not to be afraid of stories impacting you emotionally, my concern is that you are not being emotionally moved more.

As you peel the onion of a person’s story to get to the core of the story you should be experiencing a deeper emotion than when you started. It may be tears of laughter or sorrow. Each story is different just as each person is different.

This weekend I will meet my Storyteller heroes – And you are invited along

Chelle, our daughter, is so excited to meet Snow White and show her she is on her shoes at Disney World at Magic Kingdom. [Nikon D100, 24-120mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/180]
Do you remember meeting your hero? Our daughter had just turned 4 years old when we were visiting Disney World. She was normally dressed in pink, but loved her Disney princess sneakers.

She ran over to Snow White to talk to her. Snow White even came out of character for a brief moment when Chelle told her to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Alice in Wonderland is talking to our daughter Chelle about her snow globe where she is in the scene. [Nikon D100, 24-120mm, ISO 400, ƒ/11, 1/180]
The Disney Princess Alice in Wonderland wasn’t just staying on script. They interacted with my daughter with where she was and made her day. Isn’t that what happens for our hero.

For my daughter she fell in love with their stories. Isn’t that how it happens no matter our age? We fall in love with their story.  We want to meet them and interact with them.

I created a group called FOCUS. It stands for Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially. We are professional communicators who meet in various locations around Atlanta, throughout the year, to support each other and our work.

I had reached out to Billy Howard, Billy Weeks and Robin Nelson in the past to speak to the group. This is the first time that all three have agreed to be our keynote speakers.

All three of them are my Storyteller Heroes.

Bill Bangham, Eugene Richards and Stanley Leary

Here I am with two of my other Storyteller heroes Bill Bangham and Eugene Richards.

There is one thing to see your Hero from afar and it is quite another thing to meet them and ask questions.

This Saturday I am going to have an opportunity to not just see Billy Howard, Billy Weeks and Robin Nelson, but I am going to ask them some questions that have been on my mind.

You are invited as well to come and see their work and hear them talk about what they do in Storytelling.

Go to the FOCUS website for more details and how to get there.

You can just show up and hang out with us or you can let me know today you are coming and I will have a FREE Chick-fil-A Meal for you. I have to know today to have the meal for you.

If your plans change and you can join us then please just show up tomorrow.

Here are some tips for meeting your Hero:

Be a photojournalist – Take lots of candid photos. Tell a story with them. Capture emotion, not just posed smiles. Include shots of the venue to set the tone of your story. The little details matter. By doing this, you’ll be able to look back at your photos and relive the experience.

Stop taking photos – Don’t forget why you’re there. Put the camera down, breathe deeply, and let your gratitude fill you up. Look around at everyone else and know that you are sharing a special moment together. Be present.

If you speak with your hero – do one or more of the following: express gratitude, ask a good question, say something funny, or share a short but awesome story about how your hero changed your life.

If you don’t know about these guys work then go to their websites and learn all you can. They each have a following and clients seek them out for their projects. Come and learn why they are so special. I promise I will tell you more about them at the event.

Why is this an amateur question: “What’s the best type of lens for …?”

“What’s the best type of lens for the city at night?” This is one of the variations of the question on the best lens for question that I see pop up on photography groups all the time. Then the responses are so predictable.

“A 23mm f2 is absolutely fine. A faster lens will give you a bit more latitude, but I’ve had great results with my 35mm f2.” is one of the responses.

There is no best lens for everything. There is a best lens for what you are trying to accomplish in a specific photo.

Just as there is no best bike for world class bicyclist. Bicycles are custom made for a bicyclist when you are at the world class level.

The correct answer depends not only on what you are shooting, but how you are interpreting the scene. I shoot skylines with wide to telephoto for example.

I have seen great shots from about every lens. You don’t need a fast lens either. That is a myth. People have been shooting night scenes with tripods since the beginning of photography when ISO didn’t get above ISO 20. Today with a camera that go to ISO 102400 it frees up the photographer to not have to always shoot wide open aperture.

Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. The Cobb County Classic Rodeo @ Jim R. Miller Park in Marietta. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8, 1/2500]
Now this photo of a rodeo at night was shot at ISO 64000, ƒ/2.8 @ 1/2500. Now if you were just shooting photos around the stadium of people watching then you don’t have to shoot the higher ISO or the higher shutter speed.

Little Cowboy enjoys the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 640, ƒ/1.8, 1/160]
Same rodeo and I caught the sun dipping into the sunset and shot ISO 640, ƒ/1.8 @ 1/160. Due to the ISO capabilities of the camera I could have shot this at ƒ/22 @ ISO 81920 and the same shutter speed of 1/160.

[Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/6.3, 1/250]
If you want to get the shot verses getting a style of a shot then zoom lenses are great. I find that the combination of Nikon 14-24mm and the Nikon 28-300mm will let me get just about any photo I need for a client on a photo shoot.

Here is a recent blog where I talk about using just those two lenses for shooting an assignment.

What about primes?

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 750, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]
Now there is another reason to use a different lens–Special Look. I think shooting with the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 gives you a beautiful look.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

You isolate the subject very easily at ƒ/1.4. However you also need to have your focus locked in on those eyes and shoot quickly before they or you breath again. The depth-of-field is razor sharp and thin at the same time.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200]
The other lens I love to shoot with is the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8. I used to own the ƒ/1.4 earlier version, but after shooting with the much lighter ƒ/1.8 I fell in love with the look and the lens.

What about Wide Angle verses Telephoto?

[Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.3, 1/100]
Should you use a Telephoto lens or a Wide-Angle lens? Well that all depends.

Here I walked across the street and up a small hill and shot back at all the First 100 Campers sleeping over the night in the parking lot for the Grand Opening of Chick-fil-A at Northeast 8th Street in Bellevue, Washington. The First 100 get free Chick-fil-A for a year.

I think I did a great job of showing the campers in front of the store.

[Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 9000, ƒ/8, 1/100]
Here I walked a lot closer and shot it with the 14-24mm at 14mm to really emphasize all the tents in the parking lot.

Which photo is better?

Well that all depends on what you are trying to say. The real reason I am covering this story is that Chick-fil-A is just now with this Grand Opening getting into the Seattle, Washington market.

I think the first photo shows the city of Bellevue and even the corporate offices of Microsoft just next door to Chick-fil-A. The lower photo could almost be shot anywhere because the emphasis is more about what is the same at the grand openings–tents in parking lots.

Now if I were to only need one photo I would shoot the top photo, but I am a seasoned journalist and know to cover it completely, so I shoot them all and even more angles. This is critical when you are telling the story. This is especially true in multimedia where you may show both with other photos in a series. You may talk about the campers and how this is in the city of Bellevue.

The question is not just which is best but why not shoot both and then decide later as you figure out what you want to say. Maybe you will need both.

A great question about which lens might be which lens did Henri Cartier-Bresson use when he did the picture of the guy jumping the puddle? That is trying to find the lens that helped him get that photo.

I would follow that question up with why is that a good lens for that photo and could other lenses worked just as well? This is how you learn.


Monday Devotion – The Stress of Taxes and Life Itself

This is the Halema‘uma‘u Crater inside of Hawaii Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii [Fuji X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/6.4, 1/6]
It is tax time and for those who own your own business this can be like a volcano. Did you pay enough last year or will you owe more? Did you set aside enough money or did you have circumstances like a medical emergency that took your money?

Hawaii was formed out of the ocean by a volcano. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983 and this is it in the photo above.

Maybe your life is like the Kilauea Volcano and erupting. I believe more people are experiencing volcanoes than peaceful calm waters in their lives.

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. – Peter Marshall

Waterfalls at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden near Hilo, Hawaii. [Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm, ISO 640, ƒ/22, 1/8]
Maybe you are seeking those calm waters and taking longer showers to help ease the stress on your mind.

Many of us know that being around water makes us calmer and more creative. Science knows it, too: A recent study even showed that people who live near the ocean report feeling less stress and better health than those who don’t.

While going to the beach or sitting by a waterfall can be therapeutic if the stress trigger is still there then you still have stress.

The pressures of life can overwhelm us if we let them. In my faith when pressures mount we are taught to go to the Lord in prayer.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now all of this can sound quite pious. Quoting some scriptures and saying just trust God will heal you is in my opinion useless, even if it is true. You are hurting and life is overwhelming.

I want to be very honest that I think often life can suck at times.

James 1:2-4
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

The California Honeydrops’ Lech Wierzynski, on trumpet, plays with Ben Malament on the washboard at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
Often I found that in the process of blowing my own horn I have created a problem. This is often done when I am trying to over compensate. You know when you are trying everything you can to land a job with a client.

See if any of these might be something you have dealt with as a freelancer this past year.

Lost a client because your contact changed jobs
A client went out of business
A client decided to go a new direction
Your computer crashed and you had to repair or replace it
Your camera had to be repaired
You lost images due to a bad memory card or hard drive failure
Your competition has upgraded their gear while your gear is really old
You had a medical emergency this past year
You lost a family member
You experienced a mental health crisis of some sort for yourself, your family or a client
Your transportation failed this past year. You had major car repair or had to replace a car

This is by no means an exhausted list for all the stresses of life that I have either personally experienced or had some close friends go through this past year.

Little Cowboy enjoys the Celebrate Freedom Rodeo at Wills Park in Alpharetta, GA. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 640, ƒ/1.8, 1/160]
The hardest thing I experience isn’t the things I cannot control but when I make a mistake and it causes me problems. This is the one I beat myself up over and over.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

― Marcus Aurelius

How do you think of those with disabilities?

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/100]
When I think of the developmentally disabled I think of people with disabilities that put them in wheel chairs.

In Togo I saw many people in handmade wheel chairs. They had three wheels with a bicycle chain on the front wheel where they could peddle with their hands as well as steer their cart.

Another type of disability I think of is being blind.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/2500]
I think of the people needing Braille to read.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1250]
I think of someone using a very crude technology and creating the bumps on the page that can then help a blind person read.

Today I think for the first time I am seeing most of the people I know as now having more in common with the disabled than ever in my lifetime.

[Fuji X-E3, 10-24mm ƒ/4, ISO 1250, ƒ/4.5, 1/35 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]
If you took away your smartphone and computer could you function today in our society?

We are more handicapped today than at any other time in my lifetime when it comes to getting things done. We need our technology.

Maybe you will be a little more compassionate when you see someone struggling who may just need some technology to help them function in today’s society as well.

Do they quote hourly rate when you order a sandwich?

Chick-fil-A Spicy Deluxe Sandwich [Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1800, ƒ/4, 1/250]
When I go to my Chick-fil-A restaurant and ask for my favorite Spicy Deluxe w/ Pepper Jack cheese they are not telling me how much time it took to make the sandwich and how much tomatoes, lettuce, pepper jack cheese, Chicken, bread, butter and all the coatings cost and that being the total price. They just tell me the price.

Freelancers need to learn from other industries. The only people talking to each other about what it costs to make the sandwich are other Chick-fil-A Franchise owners. The public doesn’t understand all those numbers.

To get the price of their sandwich that information is part of the formula. That is the point I am making here. The actual costs are part of the formula that gives you a total.

[Nikon D4, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/250]
Now for up selling restaurants put together packages. Do you want the meal or just the sandwich. The meal comes with fries and drink.

This is how freelancers should be talking about their prices.

Create a base price, medium price and high price.

Do you want the basic sandwich or the deluxe? Do you want the meal?  Would you like the small, medium or large?

So the point here is you need to know your costs, but don’t talk to your clients about your hourly or daily rate. Talk to them about basic, medium or large package.

Hope this helps you with knowing how to better price yourself for the public.