Saturday, December 31, 2011

Know the Purpose for Success

Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, enjoys playing in the Moo Cow Band at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  This is one sure way to be sure those in attendance were awake.  They are really good band and got everyone alert for the program. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/125, 28-300mm)
If you don't know the purpose of an event for an organization, then your photos will not communicate what took place effectively. Why are they putting on the event and what do they hope to accomplish is what you should be asking yourself if not the client.

This is an event I covered this week and let me walk you through what they did and the purpose of the event.

Putting on a breakfast during the middle of the Chick-fil-A Bowl week is a daunting task. Each year the organizers work to create an event that will make each of the teams and the schools involved want to come, because it isn't a required event.

There is an art to event planning and those who put this event together each year plan throughout the year trying to find the right keynote speakers and other parts of the program so that the variety of the parts creates an overall enjoyable and memorable event.

Keynote speaker RV Brown takes the stage in a sports jacket.  He looks like a typical evangelist dressed like this. RV knows his audience and knows he has a very short time to get their attention. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/400, 28-300mm)
We have seen the entertainers through the years that dress up to draw more attention.  Elton John had those wild glasses, KISS the rock band painted their faces and wore platform boots, David Bowie even wore makeup to get our attention.

All of those musicians also made it on the Radio long before MTV came about and emphasized even more the importance of the visual part of the performance to sell records. Later the ability to put together a total package of the audio and visual is so important that singers like Justin Bieber would launch their careers on YouTube.

RV Brown removed his jacket and revealed his guns. These were not gotten with steroids he said, they were done with weights, black-eye peas and cornbread. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/400, 28-300mm)
RV knew that the room was filled with Auburn and Virginia football teams. They are all expected to eat healthy, lift weights and to get into the best possible physical shape to play the game. RV wanted to establish he too had not only been down their road, but continued to take care of himself.  He didn't say it but this helped him to overcome how some people right someone off as a "has been."

RV mixed humor with some life lessons that had the people laughing and crying by the end of his message.

RV Brown, Chelle (my daughter) and Charlie Ward. Chelle wanted a picture with the main speakers, which I enjoyed taking. Later on the ride home Chelle was talking about what each of them talked about. She knew which scriptures they used and was excited about their messages. (Nikon COOLPIX P7000, ISO 200, f/3.5, 1/30, Slow Curtain Flash)
I knew later after the event how well RV had done when my daughter is talking about the scripture references that he and Charlie Ward used in their talks.

Master of Ceremonies Ernie Johnson, Jr., Turner Sports inc., interviews Featured Guest Charlie Ward, 1993 Heisman Trophy Winner, Florida State at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/500, 28-300mm)
Charlie Ward is a quite person who commands attention more from his actions than from his talk. To mix up the program they had Ernie Johnson from Turner Sports interview Charlie and together they helped tell Charlie's story and how God plays a role in his life.

Dorie Griggs, Chelle, Regina and Mike London enjoying catching up. (Nikon D3, ISO 6400, f/2.8, 1/60, 14-24mm)
We were excited about this year's teams. University of Virginia's head football coach is a close friend of my wife Dorie. When they were at University of Richmond together they met each other through FCA.

Dorie Griggs, Mike London and Jimmy Lyles when they were students at University of Richmond
Having Chick-fil-A sponsor the breakfast really helps the FCA. What is a nice surprise each year is that Truett Cathy makes it a point to be there for the event.
Truett Cathy stands up when they said he was here.  Everyone applauded for him as well. I think people like Truett as much as they like his food. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/40, 28-300mm)

Don Perry and Truett Cathy (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/30, 28-300mm)
Ernie Johnson Jr. always closes the event with the presentation of the Gospel. This year was a very touching time for him. He lost his father who was his best friend. Later he almost lost his son.  He spent most of October in the hospital with his son who has muscle dystrophy and was suffering with pneumonia. He received a phone call while on the road working with the doctor asking permission to put a tube down Michael's throat. A matter of life or death.

Master of Ceremonies Ernie Johnson, Jr. closes the breakfast with presentation of the Gospel. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/640, 28-300mm)
Johnson became a Christian late in life.  He remembers the date of December 10, 1997.  He says this is the date where he found a direction in his life. A year later his wife had a gift for him of a compass. It is to remind him of his decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

Ernie Johnson Jr. shares how the decision to follow Christ was very much like having a compass for his life. (Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/400, 28-300mm)
If you have read this far and seen all the photos I hope you understand that the reason I put this here in my blog was two fold. First of all the most important thing in my life is my faith in Jesus.  Second I believe to be able to tell stories and capture those moments that show how much people with a faith in Christ are purpose driven you have to have walked with Jesus in your own life.

No matter the story you must be totally immersed within the story to engage the audience.

I will tell you the number one secret I have discovered in photographing people. My faith is in a God who loved us so much that he died for each one of us. He also taught us how to live. What I have learned through my walking with Jesus is that everyone is important.

If he was willing to die for all of us then each of us is worth getting to know. I spend my time listening and getting to know people and what I have discovered is for the most part I am truly blessed by each person I meet.

I hope my photos not only introduce you to the people I meet and their stories.  I believe I honor God by treating everyone with honor, dignity and respect.

Photos used by permission of Chick-fil-A

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Digital Workflow

Step 1 Ingest
Step 1 - I ingest the images from my Compact Flash Card or SD Cards. My settings for the camera are RAW and I normally use the ExpoDisc to get custom white balance. I shoot in ADOBE RGB color space as well. All the settings give me images that are the best possible for editing. Color is almost perfect because of the custom white balance and can be modified easily since they are in RAW format.

Step 2 Use PhotoMechnic for ingesting software
Step 2 - Ingest using the software PhotoMechanic.  I select the card and then I select the destination for all the images. I use + RAW
Step 3 - the destination is an external hard drive
Step 3 - External Hard Drive is chosen so that the wear and tear is not so great on my main hard drive of the computer.  If you shoot as many images as I do you will burn out a hard drive quickly if you use it all the time.
Step 4 - IPTC Information added
Step 4 - Add IPTC information that will go onto every photo from the photo shoot.  Adding the bulk metadata to the caption and keywords as well as embedding credit, copyright and contact information.  I also add information about the location of where the photos were taken.
Step 4 The IPTC information I have saved and tend to load one of the templates saved so I do not have to put in the basic information each and every time for a client.  I have templates for clients like Associated Press, and my personal use as well.  I just load the template and make minor changes.
Step 5 I cull the images down
Step 5 - Culling the images so that I am only keeping the best images or usable images.
Step 5 I check the select button for those I want to keep
Step 6 - select the Untagged Images
Step 6 I go to View and then select seeing only the untagged images and then delete all of them.  Just keeping the tagged images.
Step 7 Open Lightroom and import from the folder of selected images I created using PhotoMechanic
Step 7 Open Lightroom and import the selected images from Photomechanic.  I am just adding these to Lightroom and not copying them.
Step 8 - Select all images and in Develop Module I then enable Profile Corrections
Step 8 Enable Profile Corrections for lenses.  This will correct all the aberrations and imperfections known for each lens that I own and therefore giving me the best quality possible.
Step 9 - I sometimes will add a vignette to the images. 
Step 9 I like to darken the edges ever so slightly and heavy depending on the situation.  I will select all images and add a PC Vignette 1 for slight or PC Vignette 2 for a heavy use like for a formal portrait.  These are found in the Library Module under Custom.
Step 10 - Adjust image
Step 10 - I adjust the image or images.  I will select a group if they are all similar and this way save on time in the editing.  This has a few parts to this:

  1. Hold down "Option Key" while sliding the exposure.  You will see the highlights.  I try and have no white areas on faces for example.  Play with this to get your desired result.
  2. Hold down the "Option Key" and slide the Blacks.  Only if there are black areas do I try and be sure there is a black
  3. Adjust then the Fill Light to open up the shadows.  
  4. I will sometimes use the Recovery to bring in some highlights that might not be recovered when I did the main exposure.  Again play with this for desired result
  5. I then usually add some saturation by using the Vibrance slider. Usually no more than 35. It will affect everything but people.  That to me is really cool, because I don't like to make the people red for example.
  6. I may do other fine tuning beyond, but these 5 steps are pretty much used every time.
Step 11 Exporting
 Step 11 Exporting. Go to the Library module and in the lower left click export.
Step 12 Exporting choices
Step 12 Select a folder to export. I use + JPEGs. I select sRGB as a standard since it is more usable for more situations. I set quality to 80.
Step 12 I keep images all the same size
Very important not to check the "minimize Embedded Metadata" because this will remove all the camera data which many database software programs use to help narrow down the search by date and time that a photo was taken.
Step 13 Making of DVD/CD.  I will drag the folders from here to the Disco Software.
Step 13 Making of a DVD I use the software Disco for the Mac to burn my DVDs and CDs.  The reason is this will let me take very large shoots that need multiple DVDs and spread the project for me over a number of discs.

I name the Disc by year, month, day and time that I burn the disc
Step 14 Print on the Disc using Disc Cover 3

This helps with branding and looking professional for the client.
Step 15 Print using the Epson Photo Stylus R280 Printer
Printing on the DVD with Epson Photo Stylus R280
Step 16 Ingesting into Cumulus

Ingesting into Cumulus from DVD

Cumulus lets me search all the images. I am searching all that text I put into the metadata earlier.  I can search and narrow down my search using Boolean searching technique. 
Cumulus helps me later find images using the text search. Once it finds images I can see the thumbnail and it tells me which DVD it is stored.

Disc is put into a binder in chronological order.

Binder is put onto the shelf

I now have a way to find all the images and have it in two places minimally.  On the hard drive and on a DVD.  I normally also upload these and/or give a Disc to the client.  This makes for the third copy.  Later I will copy the files from the hard drive to another hard drive giving me in essence 4 copies.

I hope this helps you see my digital workflow.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to become a humanitarian or missions photographer

New church and well being built in Becanchen, Yucatan, Mexico. Nikon D3, ISO 200, f/8, 1/100, 24-120mm
"I feel God calling me into missions photography ..." or "I want to be a humanitarian photographer and would like to meet you," are two things I am hearing almost weekly now. 

To make this dream a reality is to engage your head and your heart in this journey.

Reasons not to become a humanitarian/missions photographer

  1. The field is overcrowded. If you live in a major city like Atlanta you are very much aware of traffic jams.  Another great comparison is going to Universal Studios or Disney World.  You are going to stand in a very long line because this is a very popular job. This field is not just crowded, every day more and more people are wanting and trying to become photographers.
Fernanda washes clothes and makes hammocks for a living in Akil.  Her son Roberto Carlos has finished school and wants to go to college. They live in the Yucatan in Mexico. Nikon D3, ISO 200, f/5, 1/8, 24-120mm

  2. Most photographers do it for free.  Translation--it is very difficult to make a living. How will you compete against others who will not only do it for free, but pay their way to cover a cause around the world?
Mayan family at their home in the Yucatan, Mexico. Nikon D3, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/250, 24-120mm
  3. It requires a large financial investment.  You need cameras, lenses, flashes, memory cards, computers, software, and training to use all this.  Did you notice the list was multiples? Everything requires a backup because equipment will fail and you must still deliver.

  4. It is a business. Since the 1970's staff jobs are actually dwindling.  More and more photographers are freelancers who must pay higher taxes and higher healthcare insurance than their staff counterparts.  Don't forget you need camera insurance and liability. You must first be a business person and then a photographer. 
David Woods stopped on our drive to BoBo from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for our lunch. You need to be able to eat a variety of food when you travel. Nikon D2X, ISO 100, f/8, 1/320, 24-120mm

 5. You have to be outstanding and not average. If you watched American Idol then you have a good comparison to this industry, but the numbers are greater.  Everyone owns a camera and many think they can make great photos. American Idol auditions hundreds of thousands to get it down to 25. If you go back to past seasons not all of those 25 finalists are making a living at it. The odds are similar in photography. There are many great photographers, but they didn't have the complete package to make it.

  6. Everyone owns a camera and can make a photo. Think about this for a while. Why pay you to photograph something when they can take it themselves?

  7. 95% of your time you are not making pictures. Even the most successful National Geographic Magazine photographers spend only a fraction of their time shooting. Most of the time you are researching a topic or an organization trying to find ways you can help them achieve their goals.
Clenence is holding Azer who is sick and 3 years old.  Her husband is Jacob Tarnagda a leader in the church and is 40 years old.  Jacob converted from Islam to Christianity.  His home is in Soumagou, Burkina Faso. Nikon D2X, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/60 24-120mm

  8. It's not about you. If you want to take pictures because you have an interest in something, well unless an audience is willing to pay you to see your work there is no career for you.

The most successful photographers today are not focused on telling a story with their camera--they are focused on connecting the subject with the audience to achieve a goal.

There is no AAA roadside assistance in Burkina Faso. My host David Woods repairs the truck that just lost a belt on the side of the road. Nikon D2X, ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/2000, 24-120mm

Here are some questions you need to answer

1) Why do you want to be a photographer?

If your answer is I like to take pictures and meet people, then keep on doing this as a hobby.  If you want to tell the stories of some people you have met, you still need to keep this a hobby.

Humanitarian and missions photographers are goal focused. When I am photographing an orphan I am wanting to help them find a parent. Some who will see my photos may give money to cover their housing and food until they find a parent and this good, but my goal is to move people's hearts to take this child in.

My goal is not to tell the orphan's story. Do you see the difference?

Dr. George Faile, family practitioner is making his rounds at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. Yes that is two children from two different families sharing a bed in a hospital. Nikon D2X, ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/40, 18-50mm

2) Why should you be the photographer?

If the goal is to do something, why are you the best selection and not a professional photographer who has given their life to not just taking pictures, but to the cause?

If the goal is to get a orphan adopted why would anyone want to have a photographer shoot it that has never helped anyone get adopted verses the photographer that does. Think about it why not hire William Albert Allard who made the famous photos of the little shepherd boy who lost his heard to a reckless driver in Peru? Allard's photos moved the readers of National Geographic Magazine to replace his herd and then some.

A mass of people wait for medical treatment at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. They are all waiting for Dr. George Faile to see them that day.  Nikon D2X, ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/25, 18-50mm

3) What are you doing to be the very best photographer?

Organizations that want to achieve their goals are not going to let just anyone photograph for them.  Actually they want to keep most photographers away from their projects.  Many photographers will do more harm than good.  Too many photographers are just trying to build a portfolio rather than help.

I am called to be a photographer

Just like a professional musician you will need to study the craft and find a teacher/mentor.  Even in Star Wars Luke had to find Yoda to help teach him the skills to become a Jedi Knight.

My suggestions:

1. Take classes in the following:

    a. Business and marketing - You need to understand how to price your work, how to negotiate with a client and most importantly how to find a client.
    b. Psychology - You need to be able to work with a variety of people from all walks of life. You need to be able to get to know people in the most intimate way possible in the shortest time possible, because you will be telling their story as an expert on their life.
    c. Photography - You need to know how to make your camera do what will work in any situation. You need to be able to not just capture something, but help capture it in a way that sets the mood as well as captures the moments. To do this you will need to master: Aperture; Shutter Speed; Hot Shoe Flashes; Studio Strobes; Available Light; Composition and much more.
We ate in a coffee growers home in El Aguilia, Mexico. Nikon D3S, ISO 12800, f/5.6, 1/60, 14-24mm

2. Study the masters - You will need to become a master.  Remember the organization will hire the person they think is best suited to help them achieve their goal. You need to become the expert they want on their team. The best way to do this is to study all the great photojournalists that have gone before you. You need to know why their work was so successful.  

3. Study with a master - Take a workshop with someone who is known for storytelling that also is known to help organizations meet their goals.  I am teaching such a class in Tibet August 5th - 15th.  I will be teaching you how to photograph in another culture, how to tell the story and reach your audience with the message.

4. Go to seminars and workshops to get inspiration. I recommend going to seminars like the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, TX February 23 - 26. Here you will be able to hear successful photographers talk about their work. The room is often filled with past speakers and current masters of humanitarian and missions photography.

5. Get critiqued to learn - Don't show your work to just get pats on the back. Show you work to people who can point out the basic things you are missing early in your career and as you grow can teach you about the nuances. If your purpose is only to show your work and have everyone applaud only - well then you need to keep this as a hobby, because even the masters of the craft look for ways to get even better. If you go to the SWPJC you can enroll in the 2 minute show. You can show everyone at the conference your work in 2 minutes. Hey this is one of the best ways to get critiqued and discovered.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Where do my photos go?

Where do my photos go? You can own the greatest camera and if you haven't established a workflow for your images you can loose all of them before you ever see them.

For the majority of my photo shoots I can capture all the images on 1 - 16GB card per camera. However, there are some photo shoots and especially when I travel overseas where I will not only fill the 2 cards in the camera I will need to download them and continue to shoot.
Nikon D3s with 2 - 16GB CF cards in the slots

I am using SanDisk Ultra 16GB CF cards in my cameras
When I am having to download the images and reuse the cards or use more CF cards I ingest them on site with my ColorSpace Hyperdrive memory card backup system.

For some photo shoots I will use one of the Hyperdrives through a day and then pass this along to someone to handle the post processing one day while I am shooting and putting more images onto another drive. At the end of that day I will trade out the drive with the one I first gave to the person for processing.

This lets me not only continue to shoot, but if there are problems with the images I can get a call from the person and if there is dust on a chip for example I would stop shooting and clean the sensor.

The advantage of the Hyperdrives is that I can turn one on and down load my images very quickly and then continue to shoot.
I have two ColorSpace Hyperdrives.  The older model which isn't UDMA and the newer UDMA model.  I have a 120GB drive in the older model and a 160GB in the newer UDMA model.
For those wanting to travel light, the Hyperdrive with a tablet will let you see your images and have backup of all the images with very minimal computer equipment.

There are two major times where the speed of your cards will become very noticable.

1) When you shoot a lot of images quickly your card will come to a stopping point until the images can be written to the cards. This is when the cheapest, which is usually not the fastest cards, will affect your ability to continue to work.

2) When you are ingesting your cards to either your computer or the ColorSpace Hyperdrives the speed of the cards will determine how long it takes for the transfer.

For the most part unless these are critical to you, you can shoot a slower card that costs much less.

One last suggestion: Always format your cards in your camera and not on you computer. The cameras format in a different way and will give you better performance.