Thursday, October 30, 2014

Storytelling?–I don't think so

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
Storytelling?

I don't think portraits tell stories, but are part of the story. For the most part most portraits are the nouns of a sentence. For a complete sentence you need a verb.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
Storytelling?

Yes this photo has a subject and a verb that makes it storytelling. However the one photo often lacks all the elements in a complete story. This is where caption can help make up the missing parts.

Most storytellers agree you need five elements for a story. The five main elements of a story: setting, plot, characters, conflict and theme.

Subject vs Author

Great storytelling is when you never notice the author/photographer. However today I would say too many people who think they are doing storytelling it is all about the author/photographer.


I love this photo of my wife and I with the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy. I love telling the story of how Truett's son Bubba asked me to give him my camera to take the photo.

This is what I think our generation is over emphasizing as storytellers. The story becomes more about look at who I am with and what I am doing. Don't you wish you were here?

Sure take these photos and even share them on your social media, but don't let these replace storytelling where you tell the story of the subject.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5, 1/100
This young lady is peaking in and seeing does she want to be a part of this brand new Young Life club at the Rancho el Paraíso located in the Agalta Valley of Honduras. Inside the room Daniela Tereza Perez is talking to the other youth. HOI helped bring Young Life to their campus to help reach the youth in the area.

If I do my job just right I had you clicking on HOI to learn more. I am pulling you into the story.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/8, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
In my opinion–Don't confuse a nice portrait with storytelling. It is a noun that needs help to make it a story.

Think of it this way–if you are telling a good story then everyone who sees it will take away the same story. They may be impacted differently, but they will be able to tell the story. Looking at a portrait of a person allows each person to make up what they think the story is all about. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your best clients don't need you

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 640, f/5/6, 1/2000
Just the other night on the TV show Shark Tank Robert Herjavec talked about the worst thing for a startup is too much cash.

After he said this almost immediately Mark Cuban jumped in to agree. They talked about when you have a new idea you assume you know what you are doing and will throw millions into a bad idea assuming you are successful and have the cash to make it happen.

Winning football coaches are hard to get their attention, but a losing one is interested in changing their situation.

Best Clients

Your best clients are the ones that can afford your skills and pay you what you are worth. The reason they are your potentially best client is also why it is so hard to get their attention.

They are highly successful already. They are not in a crisis looking for someone to help turn their company around. Because they are so successful often this makes them in their minds experts on anything they do.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/16, 1/320, Nikon SB-900 high speed sync mode
How to get their attention

Be desirable. Just like Steve Jobs created the tablet before we even knew we wanted one we too must create work that makes people want to use us and have us on their team.

The very best way to get people to notice your skills is through a personal project. Go and do what you do best and then show it around. If your work is not just on par with everyone else, but truly different then you have a great chance of getting people's attention–even if they don't "NEED" you they will "WANT" you.

Be Authentic. If your only reason for treating someone nice is the hope of getting something from them, this is just the opposite of being authentic. Be genuinely interested in them and treat them with honor, dignity and respect.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 900, f/5/6, 1/2000
Be a friend. Really try and become good friends with your clients. Listen to them and support them. Congratulate them on their success.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What am I listening for anyway?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
How To Listen

First before you can decide on what to listen for when dealing with a client you must first tune in your listening skills.

These listening skills are not just your ears but your eyes as well.

You will listen for more than just words. You listen to their tone and same with reading people's body language you pay attention to all the small details.

Great example in the above photo. If you look at each girl you may see different things just by observing their body language.

Avoid the first mistake of listening, forgetting to clarify. I might ask the girl at the board if she needs any help or may I help. She may not need me at all and is just thinking or she maybe stuck.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
What to Listen for ...

As a service provider of certain skills I am listening for primarily where can I be of assistance to the person.

But more importantly I must first listen for their crisis. This is where they need some help with something.

Take the time to explore with clarifying questions to be sure you are correct that this is their problem.

Learn to not just listen for what you can fix, but think of your network. Can you give them names of people that could help them?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 125, ƒ/14, 1/200
One of my favorite scriptures is the passage where Jesus washes his disciples feet. To me this is so important in relationship building–Do for others the most menial jobs. Serve one another. The more you practice this the better your listening skills will become.
Jesus Washes the Feet of His Disciples
13 It was before Passover, and Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and to return to the Father. He had always loved his followers in this world, and he loved them to the very end.
2 Even before the evening meal started, the devil had made Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot,[a] decide to betray Jesus.
3 Jesus knew that he had come from God and would go back to God. He also knew that the Father had given him complete power. 4 So during the meal Jesus got up, removed his outer garment, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 He put some water into a large bowl. Then he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing.
6 But when he came to Simon Peter, that disciple asked, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t really know what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “You will never wash my feet!” Peter replied.
“If I don’t wash you,” Jesus told him, “you don’t really belong to me.”
9 Peter said, “Lord, don’t wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head.”
10 Jesus answered, “People who have bathed and are clean all over need to wash just their feet. And you, my disciples, are clean, except for one of you.” 11 Jesus knew who would betray him. That is why he said, “except for one of you.”
12 After Jesus had washed his disciples' feet and had put his outer garment back on, he sat down again.[b] Then he said:
Do you understand what I have done? 13 You call me your teacher and Lord, and you should, because that is who I am. 14 And if your Lord and teacher has washed your feet, you should do the same for each other. 15 I have set the example, and you should do for each other exactly what I have done for you. 16 I tell you for certain that servants are not greater than their master, and messengers are not greater than the one who sent them. 17 You know these things, and God will bless you, if you do them.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How good are you? Ask those you impact.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/9, 1/100
While in Honduras we were interviewing some of the dignitaries to put later into a larger video package.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/25—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
If HOI, the organization I was working with, went on camera and said that they were well received in the community it doesn't have the same authenticity that interviewing the local mayor would add to the package.

So, I interviewed the mayor at the grand opening of the new school that HOI helped to build. Listen to his interview here.


The key to documentary work is letting each person speak for themselves as much as you can.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/160

Saturday, October 25, 2014

#1 Complaint in Multimedia/Motion Packages


Context

Everytime I sit down and start to edit a package I continue to come up short with B-Roll. B-Roll is the supplemental or alternative footage intercut with the main shot in an interview or documentary. When Larry King interviews Bill Clinton, and footage appears of Clinton playing the saxophone on Asenio Hall in 1992, that is b-roll.

B-Roll goes back to the film days of labeling the 16mm film when editing. Around the 1980s when video was on tapes, many editors would label the decks in the edit suite. The A-Deck would contain the main interview and the B-Deck would often include the footage that the editor would use to compliment the interview.

All this is to say the term B-Roll isn't new.

Today with our digital editing like Final Cut Pro X I like to think of A-Roll as the main track on the timeline. Below it might be some voice over or background music. Above the A-Roll is the B-Roll which can be still images or motion footage that I use to compliment the interview.

Just remember A-Roll is the interview and B-Roll are the images you use to compliment the interview.

General Editing Guidelines

Here are some guides I use when editing my motion package:
  • Titles 4 seconds [enough time to read them]
  • Still Images 3 – 10 seconds
  • Motion Interview 5 – 10 seconds
Keeping the Titles short and simple is key. If it takes longer to read the title slide than 4 seconds really consider changing it.


I like to use the Ken Burns effect which is a type of panning and zooming effect used in video production from still imagery. Here in the photo above you can see the start and end of a pan/zoom that I implemented.

I try and keep images up between 3 – 10 seconds. The only time I am really using 10 seconds is when I must pan across a photo that if I speed it up looks choppy. So the time is also keeping the movement smooth.

The advantage of most of my motion [Video] is it has movement going on in the frame. So this can be much longer if there is decent amount of movement taking place in the shot.


I try to use two cameras when I am interviewing someone. There are a few reasons I do this. First of all having a second angle really helps keep the visual becoming too stale.  I can switch between the two angles. 

In Final Cut Pro X I combine the two camera angles into a Multicam clip. Now I can choose which video or audio I want to choose. The two cameras are synced off of the audio files on each camera.


I use two types of microphones for the interview. On one camera I use the wireless lavalier Shure FP1 microphone on it with the WL183 (Omnidirectional).


On the second camera I use the shotgun Røde Video Pro microphone. I can later choose one or blend the sound if I choose.

The best sound would be a third choice of using a sound guy with a shotgun up above the person pointed slightly down 45º at their face in front of the subject.

Since I typically work alone I use the second best, which typically is the lavalier. Sometimes I blend the lavalier and the shotgun, but most of the time I prefer the sound from the lavalier for the human voice.

The Crisis

If you are trying to not bore the audience by the same long visual then you need B-Roll.  I have never been sitting at my computer using Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere and not not been kicking myself for not shooting enough B-Roll.

The problem is not just the volume of B-Roll but the VARIETY of it.  

When you do your interview can impact the quality of your B-Roll. If you start with the interview and the person talks about what is getting ready to happen and then a lot of what they talked about doesn't happen, then you have little opportunity to get that B-Roll.

After experiencing this a few times I started trying to do the interview at the end of my time shooting and asked the subject to summarize what we had seen that day. Now the B-Roll worked more often than before.

However, in the last scenario I still found that subjects would mention things that I would want to shoot specific B-Roll.

Tips:
  • Try and keep your interview around the present unless you have a lot of B-Roll about the past.
  • Have a rough outline of your story before you shoot
    • create a list of B-Rolls shots based on what you think you may need
  • Shoot the subjects environment
    • If they have family photos on the walls or tables get B-Roll. I suggest stills and motion.
    • Photograph the home or office from the outside and inside
  • Shoot for sound
    • If during the interview you hear birds in the background, get some photos of them to drop in to help the audience 
    • If people are coming in and out of a screen door on a porch, get some motion of someone coming in and out and use it to help the audience with that sound.
  • Intro and endings
    • Shoot some scene setters to start your package, end it or use as bumps between interviews
  • Shoot textures
    • Textures make great title slides or backgrounds under the lower third titles to help the text be readable.
  • Shoot transitions
    • Moving the story along often means the subject will talk about childhood and then when they went to college for example. This might be a great place for showing your subject: getting in their car; getting out; going through a door; walking in a hallway; walking to you or walking away
    • Watch TV shows to see how they transition from one scene to another and this can give you more ideas
  • Play the interview back right after you do it and listen for all the visual cues that you can think of and write them down. Then go and shoot them.
  • Ask the subject for old photos and get copies of them or shoot a copy of them.
I find that for most of my projects where I have an interview that 90% of the work goes into the B-Roll and not the interview.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Storytelling best in the voice of the subject

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125
My first location to go after arriving in the Agalta Valley in Honduras was to this community chicken coop.

The community with some guidance formed their community development committee. They assessed all their resources and the needs of the community. They came up with the idea of a chicken coop.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
I interviewed the president of the community development. He is also one of the four families running the chicken coop.

Please pardon the voice over by me.


I believe that the voice of the subject is one of the most powerful tools available to the storyteller. Are you letting your subject speak for themselves? Do you think the audio captures more of the story than the text alone?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

easyCover–The Otterbox for your camera


When I bought my Nikon D4 cameras I was looking for a silicon cover like the Otterbox so many people use on their Smart Phones.

I couldn't find them anywhere. Just before I took off for my trip to Honduras I was searching the web again and found the easyCover [http://www.easycover.eu/].

I had invested $12,000 in two Nikon D4 cameras and I really wanted them to last. Taking care of them was very important.

For only $39.95 the easyCover is slim and smooth protects your camera from bumps, scratches, sand and dust. The custom-fit silicone provides a secure grip, and there are two included screen protectors, one hard and one soft, to shield the LCD.


The only downside is while you can still use all your buttons it doesn't label them.  So if your camera is new to you this could take a little getting used to. For me I pretty much can work my Nikon D4 in the dark.


This is my review that I posted at B&H:
Saves Cameras in Fall
I recently was covering a parade in Charleston SC and was on a park bench. As I stepped down I caught my foot and broke it. Fell on my back and shattered my 28-300mm. But both cameras had no scratches. I am sure that without the easyCover on the Nikon D4 cameras there would have been scratches and more damage.
So thrilled with the covers. Wish I had them available when I first bought the cameras.
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend.
Nikon & Canon

They make this only for the Nikon and Canon cameras. To see if your model is available go here to their list of cameras [http://www.easycover.eu/camera-cases]

While the easyCover doesn't come with a warranty for your camera, I can tell you from my personal experience that for those who have been putting tape all over their cameras to protect them that I believe this is superior to that, because the silicone give you a little bump protection and tape only really helps with scratches.

Pays for itself

When you sell your camera the condition of the camera makes a huge difference in the price you get for the camera.


The price difference that B&H gives between Like New $3120 and Signs of use, but clean $2,995 is $125.  This alone will make this investment into easyCover pay for itself.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Human Voice: Storytelling

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/320
This is a photo of Jose Mondragon, Director, Rancho el Paraiso in Honduras talking with Laurie Willing the Executive Director of HOI in Tucker, GA.

No matter how well I capture their conversation the most powerful part of the storytelling is the human voice.

Listen to Jose in this package talk about the work of HOI in the Agalta Valley in Honduras.



If you want to learn more about HOI then go here to their website [http://hoi.org/] and see how you can get involved.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When to use flash and not to use flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 160, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
Available Light

I love to use available light–that is any light that is available to use. Here I was shooting Ubaldo demonstrating how to rope a calf. Ubaldo teaches this during the family missions team trip each year to the kids.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 250, ƒ/5.3, 1/250
When I first started shooting I noticed very quickly that Ubaldo's skin was just dark enough that with the light calf he was getting lost in the photos. Also as you can see in this photo that I didn't use the flash your eye goes to the background more than to Ubaldo and the calf, which was where I wanted you to focus.

Compare that to the first photo and this photo.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
I always prefer not using a flash if the light is working for me. However, if I can improve the photo and draw you in using the flash I will use it.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/14, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
When photographing Francisca Padilla, the gardner, I wanted to show that she was in the Agalta Valley. I wanted you to see the mountains. Well the problem is where she needed to stand she was backlit.  I used the off camera flash being held by a person about 45º to my left and the subject's right. This way I was able to slightly underexpose the scene which helped the mountains pop.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
For the photo of the teacher I chose to not use a flash. There was large window on my left and smaller strip of windows on my right as well as overhead lights.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
The photo of the girl at her desk is the same classroom as the teacher above. In my opinion I liked the light as it was and didn't add the flash.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100—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.
When I was photographing this scene without flash the outside was blown out and the people were heavily backlit. I added the flashes to help light the room up and balance it to the outside light. I wanted the audience to see the location of the school.

When do you use the flash?

You have to know in each situation what you are trying to capture and why? Will the flash help you tell the story?

If you are looking for the simple formula or that always use the flash kind of an answer you will not hear that from me.

Mastering photography isn't just learning exposure, lighting and composition. Mastering photography is mastering the craft so you can control it to help the camera capture your vision.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500
Parting Shot–Moonrise over Rancho el Paraíso located in the Agalta Valley of Honduras.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Crisis Threatening Professional Photography

Mark E. Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at University of Georgia, Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/20 [photo by Robin Nelson]
I have been speaking to college photography students for many years. Mark E. Johnson has invited me to speak for the last several years to his students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.  This is Mark talking to the class just before he introduced me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/12 [photo by Robin Nelson]
GROSS - EXPENSES = PROFIT

I talk to the class about Business and Marketing Skills: How to make a living as a photographer. For most of the class I was explaining what are all the expenses the students needed to consider. The problem is getting a realistic understanding of all the money going out. Most people can see what is coming in, but really struggle with the going out to run a healthy business. Remember knowledge is power. That power gives you the ability to ask the right price for the job.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/10 [photo by Robin Nelson]
Just like the storyline starting with the WHY? is what I was trying to drive home.

The only thing stopping the students in the class from doing what they want to do starting right now is only income to cover their expenses. When I asked them what stands in the way of you doing what you want to do right now, it took a while for them to see money was the obstacle.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 [photo by Robin Nelson]
PANIC

There is no other way to describe the face expressions of the students than as Panic stricken.  After I showed them some ballpark number for living expenses and business expenses they were intimidated that they will be having to ask people to pay them a figure that they were uncomfortable with for themselves.

The wakeup was happening in the class. I have to charge WHAT? But they also understood why–to pay all the expenses like their mortgage and car payment for example.

Derek Jeter talked about how 70% of the time he was failing. That is what a 300+ batting average is all about. Failing 7 out of 10 times at bat.

I talked with the students that most successful businesses are usually 90% failure. 9 out of 10 people are not going to buy your product.

Mark Johnson made a very interesting comment in the class. He asked them the last time they went grocery shopping how many things did they buy. He then pointed out how many products were in the store that they didn't buy.

SUMMARY

The crisis is avoidable. You really need to know all your expenses and then charge enough that your income is greater than your expenses.

In some ways this is like the ice bucket challenge. Being willing to take that ice cold water bath is worth it.

Do you know your expenses?