Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are you a Br'er Rabbit Storyteller working with nonprofits?

Project Gutenberg's Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit, by Joel Chandler Harris
I grew up listening to the stories of Uncle Remus about Br'er Rabbit. In case you are not familiar with the character of Br'er Rabbit. Br'er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, provoking authority figures and bending social mores as he sees fit. The name "Br'er Rabbit", a syncope of "Brother Rabbit", has been linked to both African and Cherokee cultures.

You see the animal trickster represents an extreme form of behavior that people may be forced to adopt in extreme circumstances in order to survive. The trickster is not to be admired in every situation. He is an example of what to do, but also an example of what not to do. The trickster's behavior can be summed up in the common African proverb: "It's trouble that makes the monkey chew on hot peppers."


Working for Free

There are some very good reasons to work for free or donate your time and resources to a nonprofit organization. Being altruistic is truly the best possible reason to give of your time and resources.

Another great reason to donate is that when you offer to give your storytelling skills to an organization you are more likely to remain more in control of the project and therefore more likely to do your best possible work that you can produce. Many personal projects that I have seen done through my career by photographers were altruistic acts of kindness.

There are countless people who launched their careers by giving away their work for free and using these projects in their portfolios to get work.

I actually do encourage those who have no real portfolio this is the way to build your portfolio. You find something you are passionate about, which often might be something that a nonprofit could use. The advantage of doing this early in your career is they can provide you the access necessary to put together a project that will showcase what you can do for clients in the future.

Almost no one will spend the travel expenses and let alone actually pay someone to produce something if they do not have GREAT examples.

Business Model Changed

There are just a few things that have impacted photographers doing work for nonprofits.
  • Stock Photography—years ago a photographer could go overseas and shoot and then come back and put images into a stock agency and make some pretty good money. It was very common for photos to sell from $350 up to many thousands of dollars. Today with people giving their photos away for free through things like Flicker this has dried up as an income source. It was not uncommon for a photographer long ago to shoot for free and due to the access make money and lots of money from the stock sales later. This revenue stream dried up years ago.
  • Digital—Before digital you had to really know photography skills because you would have to wait till the film was developed to see the results. Now with the LCD on the camera you can see right away and adjust instantly to be sure you have a photo. So where many organizations would pay for a pro just because they needed to know they had photos, but now with digital they just look on the LCD for that confidence.
  • Good Enough—this is what social media has contributed the most to for our industry. People are seeing that OK videos and photos are getting traction and that great photos and videos do not always get more traction for going viral. 
  • Baby Boomers Retiring—many people are retiring and wanting to just donate their time to doing something worthwhile. Most nonprofits are welcoming the volunteers with open arms and enjoying the free rather than worrying about the quality.

What to do & What not to do

When it comes to working with nonprofits I am seeing more and more Br'er Rabbits. A good number of storytellers will contact a nonprofit and even do outstanding work that in the long run doesn't really help sustain the nonprofit.

I have watched most of my career the demise of professional communicators and especially those in journalism. Loving what we do and feeling called to do it has many of us behaving like Br'er Rabbit. Br'er Rabbit represented the enslaved Africans who used their wits to overcome adversity and to exact revenge on their adversaries, the White slave-owners.

I am not seeing anyone planning revenge, however, I am seeing people do just about anything they can to do storytelling.

There are many hobbyist/pros who do not need income from their photography because they make really good money in their full-time jobs. Some of these are even professional communicators who are on staff of a corporation or even a newspaper for example.

There are many people who just love to travel and see the world. They are looking for another stamp of a country they have never been to that they can add to their passport.

What is happening with these people is they are not thinking long-term for the organization they are donating of their time and resources.

Managerial Accounting

I think you need to understand this business concept in order to do the right thing when offering your work for free to an organization.

Too many people see the savings they are providing an organization by donating of their time and resources. This is how financial accounting tracks things, but those organizations that mature over time do not use this method only. They use managerial accounting method in addition for their organization.
MANAGERIAL ACCOUNTING:
       Provides information to make decisions regarding the future
       Relevance of data is emphasized over reliability
       Focuses on timeliness of information
       Reporting is focused on parts of the organization such as departments or      
       divisions and not on the organization as a whole.
Here are just a few things that organizations address due to using managerial accounting procedures:
       1. Just in time inventory
       2. Total quality management
       3. Enterprise resource planning
       4. Supply chain management
       5. Benchmarking

Do you want your donations to an organization to multiply or just help temporarily? Most would want to know they were helping long-term.

Think about each of these when you donate next time to an organization:

  1. Is my donation helping the organization meet it's mission statement?
  2. When I stop donating is what I am doing for the organization something that they need to continue and pay for this service going forward?
  3. Am I helping educate the organization on how to use my gifts the most effective way possible.
  4. Will you be disappointed if your donation isn't used?
Storytelling is core to successful organizations

I know that every organization must do effective storytelling of what they are about at the core or they will not be successful. I do not mind donating my time as I choose, but highly resent organizations that expect all storytellers to donate to their organization. 

I believe organizations need to have a budget for their ongoing storytelling. They need to have materials that they can use over and over that help tell their story. They need to tell new stories of how they are continuing to make an impact or sooner or later they will start to die. 

Just like movie studios must continue to come out with a new movie to get people to spend their money to watch, so too must organizations continue to tell their stories or people will stop being apart of their organization. 

Time to Pay for Free

There should come a time in a nonprofit's growth where they will slowly mature by doing the right things. The day will come when the organization cannot just rely on Free.

I know one organization that has built up and continues today relying predominantly on free and all their staff raise their own support to work for free full-time. When I have worked with them I have been trying to give a presentation and the room I was too use was not useable. Due to improper wiring by free volunteers over the years the rooms were not just unusable but fire hazards.

I couldn't get the work sent to my email accounts one year because all the free IT support didn't wire their campus properly.

Even Habitat for Humanity knows it must rely on professional electricians and plumbers to meet code for their homes.  Maybe more organizations need to realize their really is a code standard for good communication.

Here is the bottom line for organizations that do not create a plan to budget for storytelling.

Organizations that continue to go to professional communicators asking for free and never budget for communications never mature.



Thought I would end with the sunset.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Photographers do you finish strong everytime or just when you are inspired?

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/50]
There are two photographers that my friends talk about a great deal when talking about the type of photographers out there. One is my friend Ken Touchton and the other person I will not mention.

The unmentionable photographer is one of the best shooters any of us had ever known, but we all qualify that statement with if he was into the subject.

If the subject didn't excite this unmentionable photographer he shot so poorly that anyone with a camera could out produce the photographer.  One time the photographer was so unmotivated that the actions he took are still legendary.

While in Europe the unmentionable photographer became so disenchanted with the story that he called the home office for the organization he was on staff with and told them his camera gear was all stolen. Miraculously the equipment showed up just as he was leaving for the airport to return home. Rather than staying and finishing the coverage, he came home.

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/22, 1.1 sec.]
All of my friends that know Ken Touchton respect him and his abilities. I hired Ken to shoot a job for me and many of my editor friends have done the same thing. All of us talk about the consistency you get with Ken.

Ken Touchton
No matter how mundane or how exciting the coverage Ken Touchton puts the same amount of heart and sweat into each and every project.

The words we use to describe Ken are dependable, consistent and most of all a good friend.

Even the way Ken dresses is very consistent and very professional for every situation. If a coat and tie is called for at a funeral, he is wearing it. No matter the situation you will notice that his clothes always look freshly pressed and clean.

It probably takes more talent and skill to finish consistently as Ken Touchton does with every job than to be a hit and miss photographer.

Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/90]

Tips to be consistent:
  • Listen to the clients needs
  • Listen to the subject and find their story—not your story
  • Know the audience that the photography is intended for
  • Know your gear
  • Build in redundancy in your gear
  • Build redundancy in your coverage
  • Use checklists to insure you have it all
  • Study the great photographers
  • Study your competition
  • Treat every person you encounter with honor, dignity and respect
Here is Ken Touchton with one of his mentors Tom Kilpatrick catching up over dinner. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Storytellers know thy purpose

The shortest distance isn't always the best route
Know Thyself
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu
We are familiar with the saying to "Know Thyself" because through understanding yourself you are able to accomplish so much more. You learn your strengths and limits which will help you navigate life.

Storytellers need to know the purpose of a story. Why were you hired to tell a story?


I have been driving many times in the Atlanta traffic when all of a sudden my GPS will alert me to traffic and alternative route to my destination.

Knowing your destination the GPS helps you navigate and get you to your location in the quickest amount of time.

Great Teachers

One of the best examples I experienced over and over growing up was when a student would ask my teacher a question. The teachers I have the fondest memories are the ones who could take almost any question and use it to engage the class on the subject. My worst memories are the teachers who like in the top illustration use that red line approach to everything. They somewhat answer the question, but are quick to say something like "now lets get back to ..." and in the process shut down the class.

The difference is the great teachers know their subject well and know their lesson plan. They know the goal and purpose for the lesson that day. They are willing to take a question and like the GPS use this alternative route, which is better than proceeding into what will be a traffic jam.

Great Storytellers are Great Listeners

I have traveled with some of the best writers and loved learning from them. These were all journalists and we were working together on stories. I was capturing the still images and video while they were responsible for the text.

I have also watched too many writers who are so self absorbed with where they think the story should go that they kill the story. I remember more than once with more than one writer where they asked a question and didn't listen either with their ears or eyes and missed the traffic jam taking place and hearing the subject helping to redirect them to an alternative route.

Chick-fil-A Cow out on Marietta Street in front of the new restaurant that is adjacent to the College Football Hall of Fame. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, 1/800—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash]
Today I am sent by news outlets and corporations to capture stories for their audiences. Just this week I was covering the grand opening of the Chick-fil-A at The College Football Hall of Fame. My audience was the internal staff and franchise owners. The Associated Press photographer was there covering the story and his audience was the public.

Associated Press photographer, Dan Goldberg, interviews a couple. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/140]
How does the new Chick-fil-A restaurant impact those audiences was my assignment? The AP Photographer and I both are covering the same subject, but because we knew our purpose we were able to adjust throughout the story as the subjects in the story helped to inform us of new content that was relevant to the story.

My primary concern in all my storytelling is the subject. I know that if I aim to please the subject that they would be pleased with the story then the accuracy is much greater than if I was focused on what someone else told me the story was all about.

Just like the teacher who knows the purpose of their lesson plan is able to adjust to bring the class along, I too must adjust to be sure I capture how this new restaurant will impact my audience.

Dan Cathy with one of the staff members from the College Football Hall of Fame reading the story of "A Better Way Ministries" person who built the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/200]
As you can see in this photo I was thrown a curveball when Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A crawled under a table and then started to talk to everyone from under the table. Just like when the teacher gets a question from a student which can help engage the classroom even more into the story, this was my question moment.

Plaque on top of the table tells about the story of the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/160]
You can read about the table in the photo above. Dan Cathy talked about how this partnership with A Better Way Ministries was also being done with their new coffee company Thrive Farmers. The process of picking Thrive Farmers was the realization there was a story there of the farmers. The artisans who made the table have a story and they were asked by Chick-fil-A to take a Sharpie and write their story under the table.

The artisan's story. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/500]
This unexpected detour actually helped me get to my destination better than without the detour. You see the story of how Chick-fil-A was interested in impacting the lives of the artisans and coffee growers by buying their products is how they were impacting those communities. It did a great job of setting up the story of how this restaurant will impact the community near the College Football Hall of Fame.


Highways vs Back Roads

Great storytellers know that those detours are like comparing the interstate highway to the back roads. Interstate highways are like the straight line from point A to point B, but rarely are they as scenic as the backroads.

I know that when I am the passenger on a drive on the interstate I am much more likely to take a nap than when I am on the backroads.

The lesson here is simple. If you know why you are doing the story, then you will know how to navigate and take advantage of the opportunities the subjects give to you which make your story a success.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Use strobes even with the sun outside

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/250 [Lighting Diagram below]
Using flash outside can really give your photos that pop you need to make your photos better.

Now I often get asked to make group photos and even with some sunlight facing the subject I find that the shadows under the eyes and sometimes from people's heads casting a shadow on another person I prefer to add strobes to take the quality up a notch.



There were clouds also in the sky, but the software for the diagram didn't have that as a choice.

Since there were clouds the people were not squinting and the flash pops in so quickly I get some pretty decent expressions.

To me the biggest change is in those black robes. Anytime I use flash the shadow to highlight difference is minimized. While it looks like a greater dynamic range it really is just the opposite. The strobes help fill in the shadows and therefore brings the exposure all over closer to a four or five stop range, rather than the ten stops often in daylight scenes outside.

Monday, August 11, 2014

First Day of School Photos

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128
First day of school photos is a tradition at our house. I know many people are out doing the same thing this morning and then posting these photos to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and anywhere else they can celebrate and preserve those precious memories.

Now taking photos just before my daughter leaves for school meant I was outside taking these photos at 7:15 am. The sun has been up just for a short time, so it was still not all that bright.

Without a flash the settings were ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1 @ 1/70. I am always in favor of using a flash when there is no great directional light with the available light.

Here is the lighting diagram I used over and over this morning:


The rule of thumb I use for placing my flash, which will be my main light, is 45º to the left or right of the model in relation to the camera as well. I also try and put the height of the flash to about 45º above the camera and the model.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128
When the light is placed correctly you will not get a shadow from the light coming across the person's nose that touches the lips.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/70—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128
Now I moved around the yard to find this location. The grass was just watered so I didn't want to get my daughter all wet before school. The photos above are pretty nice for this morning.

I did start on our driveway and tried to find a nice green background. Problem for my taste was it was just a little too dark.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/40—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. Power 1/128
I dialed down the Neewer TT850 to the lowest power of 1/128th power and did this with the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger. I dialed the ƒ-stop up to ƒ/7.1 to be sure my daughter wasn't washed out.

I recommend starting with the available light and the flash all the way down when your exposure was using ISO 6400.  Just be sure your sync speed is the same or slower than your camera's sync speed. For the Fuji X-E2 that is 1/180.

This was making the best of the time of day for the first day of school photos. Just a week ago I used similar setup in the afternoon where the light was brighter.

The only real difference is the light is on the right side rather than the left and it was much brighter than today shooting at 7:15 a.m.

I really love this simple setup for portraits. The Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm—Neewer TT850 & The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. If I were doing more of headshots I would have switched or at least shot more with the FUJINON XF 55-200mm.

Here are those photos from a week ago.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180—Neewer TT850 on light stand. The Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger to fire the off-camera flash and control the power from the camera. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Photography Tips for Covering Football

Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/1250
Action Shots

For this blog I am just focusing on what happens on the field and not the reactions to it by fans and the sidelines.

Three things I think you should strive to have in all your action shots on the field:
  1. The Ball
  2. Expression
  3. The competition
While not every great sports photo will have all three, the overwhelming majority of them will have all three elements.
Definition of Sport—an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
I like capturing the expressions of football players. This shows the "physical exertion" being put forth to play the game. The key for me is to put myself in the place where I will see their faces more often.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000
I recommend when possible to cover one team. this way you can show their team's faces on offense and defense without running up and down the field over and over to get in front of them.

I generally try to shoot way down the field in front of the teams and prefer standing in the endzones. If they are far away I just use longer glass like  600mm lens and when they are on the goal line I may switch to my 70-200mm lens.

Why the endzone? Well they are generally running in that direction and trying to cross the goal line. When you are on the sideline they may run slightly in your direction, but they could be running to the other sideline as well.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
While my knees get sore from kneeling most of the time I think you get better "athletic" moments. When you are low you make the football players look like they are much higher off the ground when they jump than when you stand. We like our star running backs to look like Roman Gods that fly when necessary. Remember the purpose of the sport is entertainment. Them flying because I am down low is a lot more exciting than from above where they look like they are closer to the ground.

Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 converter, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/2000
Some of the best defense shots of the game are behind the line of scrimmage. This is where the quarterback is sacked or the running back is caught in the backfield for a loss. You see the defense moves the ball forward for their team when they create a loss for the offense of the other team.

You can always rent long glass lenses rather than buying them. I recommend having between 300mm to 500mm lens coverage. This can be done with 1.4 & 2X converters.


Here is the list of gear I use in Football
  • (2) Nikon D4 Cameras
  • 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 Nikkor
  • 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 Nikkor
  • Sigma 70-200mm ƒ/2.8
  • 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S carried in the Thinktank Glass Taxi™ [not in photo]
  • Sigma 1.4 converter
  • Nikon SB-900
  • Manfrotto 294 Aluminum 4 Section Monopod
  • Manfrotto by Bogen Imaging 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter w/200PL-14
  • ExpoDisc
  • Shure FP15/83 Lavalier Wireless System
  • RØDE VideoMic Pro
  • Zacuto Z-Finder
  • AWP Knee Pads - Important to save your knees
  • ThinkTank System for lenses using belt and harness
  • ThinkTank Memory Card Holder
  • ThinkTank Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
  • ThinkTank Credential Holder Tall V2.0

Nikon D3S, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 with 1.4 converter, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/2000
One last advantage of shooting from the end zones—BACKGROUNDS. Your background is easier to keep clean and improve impact.

Have fun shooting this fall.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Time for Senior pictures

Nikon D4Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Two Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight [diagram below]
It is that time of year that I get requests for doing Senior photos. I have not marketed myself to this market, but friends through church and work call and ask if I will photograph their Senior.


Today's Senior pictures are much different than when I had mine made back in 1980.  Today we are seeing more and more photos of Seniors in their favorite activity.

Last night I captured Grant Newsom at the pool where he is on the swim team and also a lifeguard.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Two Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight
When we first met to start the shoot I was told that Grant's employer scheduled him to work right at the same time and didn't tell him about the change in schedule. He didn't want to let down his employer and was really concerned this was going to take a long time.

We did all these photos in one hour. Three locations and one of those required us to drive a small distance. This means taking huge soft box and setting up and taking down in three locations. It also meant that he had some outfit changes to do.

Well after to first few minutes Grant relaxed realizing we were getting great images and moving quickly.

This is why you practice over and over doing these type of photos so you are ready to go when you have to "Get Er Done." I have done this so many times through my career I was able to quickly move and set up and get some pretty good images of Grant. I will let you be the judge of the images.

I used two Alienbees B1600 flashes being powered by Paul Buff Vagabond battery packs. The reason I used two at the pool was I knew that when you do the butterfly stroke you are looking down most of the time and the light just isn't there most of the time. I filled the shadows with the flashes.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—One Alienbees B1600 with a large softbox off to the right to be mixed with daylight
We had a lot of fun capturing these photos. The main reason I feel like you get great photos in this situation is the Senior is doing what they love the most. They are in their world of comfort and I am there to join them.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—One Alienbees B1600 with large soft box and mixed with daylight
For the most part I wanted to capture the competitor in the pool, thus less smiles here. We did get some, but I like the fierce look.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30" x 60" foldable softbox with Alienbees B1600 mixed with daylight, also one Alienbees B1600 directly behind the model
We just changed shirts and locations pretty quickly to keep on schedule for the Senior to run to work.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30" x 60" foldable soft box with Alienbees B1600 on the left and then mixed with daylight [lighting diagram below]
Keeping it simple I am using one large 30" x 60" Paul C Buff foldable soft box as the main light and then letting the available sunlight light the rest of the photo. The flash is about one stop brighter than the rest of the scene. I exposed for the softbox light and used an ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance before shooting the photos.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250—Large 30" x 60" foldable soft box with Alienbees B1600 on the left and then mixed with daylight
When you look for a photographer for Senior pictures some of the best will be former newspaper photographers. They have shot everything, so it will be rare that your child has a favorite hobby that they haven't shot before.

I covered the 1996 Olympics and specifically covered the swimming and diving. I was ready for Grant in the pool.

Remember these Senior pictures we will cherish the rest of our lives and for generations later as they look back. Next year is my 35th high school reunion. It feels like yesterday and we are all pulling out those photos from back in 1980.

By the way we finished in time for Grant to go to work and have a date that night.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Everyone is a photographer—only a few will be pros

Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300mm w/ 1.4 converter, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/750
Everyone is a Photographer

Almost everyone that I know has a camera. In the past few years I would say that for the vast majority of photos my friends take are with their camera phones.

Before camera phones people took pictures, but now having that phone with them all the time has made it not just easier to take the photo. I would argue that more important than just the ability to take a photo the one thing contributing to more photos being taken today than in any other time in history is our ability to share them instantly with the world.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/1000
Every photo isn't good

Just because you are moved by your photo doesn't make it a compelling photograph. Why?

Everyone's personal photos help us to remember. Some of the things we experience are quite emotional and having a photograph to help trigger that emotion we felt the first time we lived through the experience does not mean that other people will be as moved emotionally.

There are photographers who consistently make photos that do move people emotionally and are storytellers. These photographers are able to capture a moment that creates an interest with an audience that wasn't there. The photos pull people to them and engage audiences around the world.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence

"Everyone wants to be a rockstar or a photographer," is a quote I have heard a lot. These are two mediums that emotionally move people.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/60—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.
Around age 14 we begin solidify our genre of musical taste that will be played over and over through our lives. We love to play our favorite music because it helps to take us to our "happy place" and sooth our souls.

Photographs can do the same thing—take us to our "happy place" and sooth our souls.

So not surprisingly many of us would like to help others find those happy places and feel like maybe we should be either a musician or a photographer.

Gut Check

When I was studying to be a social worker I learned that one of the things we should help people to examine in counseling is are they running away from something or running to something.

Running away from something could be a disaster in process. Most people I encounter that want to be a professional photographer are running away from their lives. They are extremely unhappy in their work.

They seek the recognition in their jobs that they see being given to musicians and photographers. A dirty little secret is that many musicians and photographers want to leave their profession for similar reasons.

A good gut check for finding out if you really should be a photographer is if your photos stir consistently the emotions of people. The key here is people will want to talk to you about the subject that you captured and not about your camera.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/2500—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.
Wired that way

There is a certain amount of healthy Obsessive Compulsive Behavior you possess. If you are looking at your work and realize that you could have done something else to make it better, then you are exhibiting some of the qualities of the artist needed to make it professionally.

If you look at your photos and see that technically they are fine and you can't see why you are not winning all the awards you are not in touch with reality. Remember musicians and photographers that are at the top of the profession move their audiences emotionally.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.3, 1/500—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.
Seeing from another person's perspective

Young children before the age of 8 seem cognitively unable to take the perspective of another person.

If you want to be a photographer that uses photography to communicate to an audience then you need to be able to see from another person's perspective.

Take a simple test for yourself. Take something that you know really well. Simple as how to make a pot of coffee from scratch and then talk through this as if you are teaching another person. Surprisingly many people struggle with this ability.

I remember one time an adult who was a genius but lacked some basic skills called my mother and asked her how to sew on the button. The next day he came to our house because he still couldn't do it. Well my mother didn't tell him to cut the thread from the spool. Everything was correct except for this step.

Sometimes you just have a slow audience. Every once in a while I will see this used as a humorous skit on TV. They will have someone tell a person how to do something that they cannot see and the person doing the task cannot see the person instructing them. What follows usually is pretty humorous, but will illustrate that it is very difficult to teach someone a simple task.

Pictionary and Charades are games that can be fun to play because it can be funny when we are trying to communicate.

You need to be someone who consistently wins in Pictionary or Charades for example before going pro, if there was such a category for these games.

Do your photos communicate? Are people asking you to take photos from them because they know your photos will help them reach their audience?

If the only reason you are wanting to be a pro is how it makes you feel, then you need a wakeup call and a good slap across the face.

Check list to be a professional photographer
  1. Your photos emotionally move total strangers all by themselves
  2. You are rarely satisfied with your photos
  3. You have insatiable desire about a subject other than photography
  4. People are asking you to photograph something for them regularly 
  5. If you want to be an independent photographer you know and understand the skills to run a business. 
    1. Know your audience
    2. Market to that audience
    3. Know your numbers for expenses to make a profit
    4. Willingness to do what it takes to find work