If I had to start over today

I would recommend for most people to invest in a mirrorless camera system. I would not recommend starting with the Nikon FM2 that I first started my professional career shooting.

Nikon Z6 with Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4

Depending on when you ask me in my career what I would recommend the market is very different. With that said there are core things that do not change.

Cut Expenses

Start with basic gear. You don’t need the top end model camera. Today’s most basic camera will do just about all you need. The only thing I would think a little about is if you are doing photography and video then you would want to go with a camera that also had headphone and microphone jacks.

Food, Shelter & Transportation are needs, but if you are not careful you can be living beyond your means. Remember you are starting out and so keep all these to the bare minimums. Drive a cheap car, get a roommate and eat at home as much as possible.

Know what everything costs. You need to know exactly what you need to meet your bills. I like to budget by the month. I know exactly what I need to pay my monthly expenses. This is your personal budget, but you also need to know your business budget. To get these numbers NPPA has a really good Cost of Doing Business Calculator. Here is that link: https://nppa.org/calculator There are little “i” in a circle on each item. Click on that to learn more about each item.


  • Camera
  • 2 lenses
  • 5 in 1 reflector
  • Hot Shoe flash, Light Stand and umbrella
  • Memory Cards, batteries
  • Computer and Lightroom

You don’t need a lot. I would probably recommend having a second camera. This is more for backup than anything else. The rule is always have 2 cameras for any job that cannot be rescheduled.

You need a basic website. I recommend WordPress. I have it hosted with Godaddy. Create a domain name. Use this with your email address as well.

Get a business card. I would have your name, phone number, email and website domain name on the card.

Find your niche. I would start with headshots and family photos. You need very little gear and your network already exists.

Too many go after niche that requires a lot of gear. Sports is a great example. To compete in this area you need expensive telephoto lenses. The downside is the going rates for sports is one of the lowest in the industry.

Don’t try and market yourself for everything, but if someone calls then of course take the job. Just don’t over reach. Start small and realize you need to spend most of your time cold calling.

Meet Storyteller Stephanie Simmons

[photo above is of the seminary night classes that share the space with a school]

Jorge Quintana is a seminary student that storyteller Stephanie Simmons was given to tell his story.

See the story she captured here.

Stephanie has lots of positive energy. She is always smiling.

Stephanie Simmons. Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/400, Focal Length = 35]

What I admired the most about Stephanie was her focus. She wanted to learn.

[X-E3, XF55-200mm ƒ/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, ISO 5000, ƒ/7.1, 1/100, Focal Length = 300]

When I talked to her about her story before she did the interview I could tell she had listened to the subjects. I could tell she cared for them and being sure she would stay true to the story.

[X-E3, XF18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 R LM OIS, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/100, Focal Length = 36]

Now I love to watch people and just observe them. I noticed Stephanie would be on the edges of the group participating but also listening.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/200, Focal Length = 24]

When the instructors were meeting each night to see who might need more help the next day on their stories, we all talked about how Stephanie welcomed ideas and was so eager to learn.

If you want to learn how to tell a missions story like Stephanie join us this June in Romania with Storytellers Abroad.

Meet Storyteller Josh Hart

Josh Hart Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0 , ISO 28800, ƒ/4, 1/200, Focal Length = 24]

Mr. Positivity is how I would describe Josh Hart. He was the first person to introduce himself to me when I first met the group in Lima, Peru. He was eager to learn and had a wonderful smile.

We spent time sitting by his computer and talking about his story on Darwin and Azucena Diaz. He went out and interviewed them and then the next day I was able to go with Josh as he spent more time getting B-Roll.

In film and television production, B-roll, B roll, B-reel or B reel is supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot. 

Here is the story that Josh produced during his week in Lima, Peru.

Josh Hart’s story on Darwin & Vanessa Diaz. He is a teacher at the Iglesia Evangelica Bautista “Las Flores” in San Juan de Lurigancho area of Lima, Peru. To the left is ABWE missionary Jon Stone who teaches at the seminary. During our time in Lima Jon was a translator, driver, food coordinator and more for the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640, Focal Length = 28]

Each student had time with their subjects at a meal with everyone when we arrived. The the following day they hung out with them again getting to know them better.

Josh Hart’s story on Darwin & Vanessa Diaz. Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640, Focal Length = 28]

Josh loves technology and shot his interviews in 4k. If you are not a geek that just means he shot them video with a very high resolution camera. This way he could shoot the couple side by side and then just zoom in on one person at a time. This made it possible to shoot with one camera but get some variety our of the interview.

While working together shooting his B-Roll I just hung back and watched. Since he had told me what he was wanting to capture I would just add suggestion when he ran out of ideas.

Josh Hart’s story on Darwin & Vanessa Diaz. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640, Focal Length = 28]

The one thing I was helping with Josh on was how to put into words his direction to the couple and translator what he needed next. He could tell them he needed them to walk in a direction, but he was having a hard time to tell them what they should be thinking about when they were being filmed.

“We are capturing you when you come to the church and have to take the taxi and unlock the building. I need you to do this a few times so I can film you from your front, back and side. Just do what you do every day when you make this trip.”

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640, Focal Length = 28]

“I want to capture the two of you doing a bible study together that you talked about in the interview. Find a passage you guys have been working on together. I need you both to talk back and forth.”

If you want to learn how to tell a missions story like Josh join us this June in Romania with Storytellers Abroad.