“Watch Me” or “Meet _______ “

In an article published in the Journal of Computers in Human Behavior, and although it didn’t prove the exact correlation between narcissism and social media, it certainly picked up on how social media enhances and possibly contributes to narcissism.

“Watch Me” is what we say when we are a small child to our parents. While later as teenagers or adults we are not trying to get mom and dad’s attention many of us are trying to get the rest of the world to pay attention.

If you are on Facebook and post something you often feel better that people are paying attention by the number of likes and the type of likes you get.

Even better than likes is positive feedback by comments.

There is another way you can use social media and one of the best examples I can give is Humans of NY.

Brandon Stanton is the founder of HONY. Initially he was just going to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. It was mainly about his love of photography and wanting to share his photos of people.

Somewhere along the way he started interviewing people. At first he was just sharing little interesting quotes with the photos.

Today Stanton is interviewing most of the subjects and “peeling the onion” as we like to say when you interview someone and get their story.

In an article on Open Eye Creative they reported:

“He partnered with Tumblr to raise more than $300K for Hurricane Sandy victims. He helped raised more than $1 million for a Brooklyn school after one of the students appeared on his blog. He reportedly raised more than $5 million for philanthropic projects in 2015.”

Today HONY has around 20 million followers through its website, Instagram and Twitter.

“It’s a dialogue, not a monologue, and some people don’t understand that. Social media is more like a telephone than a television.”

Amy Jo Martin, author of Renegades Write The Rules

Make Social Media About Others

I think especially professional photographers would grow their following by sharing stories of the people they photograph. Be sure your post focuses on them and not you. Do all you can to remove yourself from the post.

I think Brandon Stanton’s three suggestions for better stories also is a great place to start. Sooner or later you will find your own style for telling stories of the people you meet.

Stanton’s Questions

  1. Get to the heart of it
  2. Ask one question at a time
  3. Seek out the unexpected

To learn more about those questions here is a good article that goes deeper.

Why does he have such a following?

I think this video is a great example of how he is connecting with the audience.

First Others & Then You!!!!

Here is another interesting thing that research is showing us. When you share great content on others then people want to know more. They want you to take them backstage. This is where you can share a little about your experience in meeting this person.

Here is the strange thing, if you were only to share about your experience the number of followers would be drastically smaller. However, if you always lead with others and then share about something behind the story and photo then your numbers will do just the opposite. They will soar.

Now just sharing about others, well that works, but it is the combination that works the best.

Julie Gavillet wanted a job change after 10+ years in a job. It bothered her so much that she prayed that God would help her out of it. Just a few days after that prayer Julie was laid off. Because of the number of years she had been at that job she got a great package that allowed her to chase her dream of being a photographer. She was able to buy her gear and go off to Hawaii to study photography. She took two courses which each took 3 months and in between did some other work. Today she is staffing those schools and helping others pursue their dreams of being a photographer as well. Soon she will return to Canada where she will start her own business of doing what she loves rather than just a job to pay the bills. If you want to study photography like Julie here is the school she went to for her dream to be fulfilled. https://www.uofnkona.edu/uofn_courses/school-of-photography/
[NIKON Z 6, 85.0 mm f/1.8, ISO 50, ƒ/4.5, 1/125, Focal Length = 85]

This would be a great Instagram post. Today it would also be great to follow up with another photo and behind the scenes peak into the photo.

JonLinda Jourdonnais took this photo of me while I was teaching the students how to do a 3:1 Lighting Ratio. Julie Gavillet was the model. If you want to learn about how to make a similar headshot using this lighting setup here is an earlier blog post where I teach you how to do it. https://picturestoryteller.com/2016/02/lighting-setup-2-assignment-for-my-class-31-lighting-ratio/

Now when I post these to my Instagram account most of the time the second photo might get more comments. What I hope you notice is all the time I am trying to help others get better with their photography. I am not saying look at how great I am and just like my photos.

I encourage you to make Social Media a way to create community and to encourage others. When you do this then is when you will be even more fulfilled than if you made it all about you.

“When I hear people debate the ROI of social media? It makes me remember why so many businesses fail. Most businesses are not playing the marathon. They’re playing the sprint. They’re not worried about lifetime value and retention. They’re worried about short-term goals.”

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia
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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.

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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.

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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.

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