Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The power of the still image in video

There are some differences of shooting still images and video. Here are some things that I have discovered in my journey.

First when you shoot stills you move around the subject looking for different angles, however with video you find a spot and let the action move and capture it.

The reason for the differences is with the still image you only need to capture a brief second whereas with the video you are capturing a timeline. You may start wide and zoom in during this time or just stay still and let the action move through the frame.

In the same amount of time given to a still shooter and a video shooter the still shooter will end up with more variety of shots.

Second difference is that with video you are capturing sound as well as the visuals. In general you are not capturing sound with stills. Many still photographers may choose to gather audio as a separate piece to later combine with the still images for a slide show, but you are not capturing this simultaneously as you are doing with video.

Due to the necessity of good sound for video you will spend a lot of time being sure you have the right microphones and levels set so you are capturing the best quality sound.

While I can go on about more differences, these are the ones that really have me thinking about how I work the most often.

The Package

What drives all my decisions on what I am doing and using is telling a story. In corporate work I do a good number of what I call best practices packages. This is where we are showing someone in the company that is doing an outstanding job that we would like others copy.

There are typically three things I am getting for content to help tell the story.
  1. Why are you doing this? I usually ask the person who started the new thing to explain why they are doing this. 
  2. What are you doing? While the person who started it can talk about it I try and get someone else to address what they are doing if possible. This helps mix up the packages and keep it moving.
  3. What is the response? This often is a customer who talks about how grateful they are for the product or service.
 What I have learned from the audience that watches these packages.
  • They often stop the video to study something. They may see a flyer and want to copy everything down so they can use something similar. 
  • They want to know what they need to make it work for them. 
  • They want to know if the people doing it would do it again and if they would make any changes.
The unspoken thing I have discovered is that the emotional excitement is what can trigger the best response. I get better emotional response when I use emotional moments as still images and not video. Video unlike text doesn't have the ability for the viewer to pause.

Many wonderful moments that are captured in video go by so fast it is like having a sentence with no punctuation. You have no time to absorb what you are watching.

Still images capture emotion

A still image of an emotional moment allows the audience to have a comma, semicolon, colon or even a period to the package. These punctuations are used in writing to let the reader know when to pause or even stop. These pauses help you with comprehension and most importantly absorb the thought.

Video goes so fast that unless you pause or use slow motion you miss some of the most powerful emotional moments.

Still images typically are remembered better than any video. The famous photo from the Vietnam war was also shot on movie film, but it is the still image that is remembered even more.

Joe Rosenthal shot the famous flag raising at Iwo Jima, Japan in WWII and again there was movie shot, but it is the still image that is best known.

When it comes to emotion the still image captures moments due to their symbolic metaphors.

Entertainment verses News video interviews

When it comes to the evening news you will almost never see the camera doing moves during an interview or while the newscaster is on camera. However, in music videos and other forms of entertainment you will commonly see the camera moving around the person talking.

Why is this always taking place? I believe it is because movement can be very distracting to you comprehending audio.  While the still image is able to capture iconic emotional moments better than video, keeping the video camera still will help improve audio comprehension for the audience.

My takeaway

Whenever you use movement be sure it has a purpose. Use movement with the video to help move the audience through a scene. Use movement to help move the audience from one part of the room to the next. Use movement to help with transitions.

If nothing is really moving in a scene don't introduce movement without purpose or it can distract.

If you want to entertain and create a mood and not necessarily is there a heavy message then movement of the camera can be quite helpful. A good example of this is the music video. They often use a story line even in the video, but since this will most likely be watched a few times by the audience you are creating an entertainment piece rather than an informative piece.

Whenever I want you to feel something I need to slow down and even use a still image. When I want you to listen and hear what is being said, I need to keep the camera still and not move. 

If my purpose is to entertain then using movement is less distracting and even welcomed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Photo Tips For Camp Photographers

When you drive into the WinShape Camp at Berry College in Rome, GA you will be greeted by lots of deer. I understand the ratio of deers to students is 8:1.
Friday I spent the day with WinShape summer camp photographers training them to get better photographs.

Here are some camera settings that we all made on the cameras.

Auto ISO on a Nikon
  • Quality of Image. We chose to set the camera to the largest JPEG file at the highest quality setting. (The camp did not provide the software for all the computers to use RAW)
  • Auto ISO. We all then set out cameras to Auto ISO and set our lowest ISO on the camera default preferences of either 50 to 200 ISO. We then set the highest ISO on what the camera is realistically capable of shooting. For most of the cameras this was between ISO 1600 and 6400. Both Canon and Nikon allow you to also set your highest shutter speed.  We set this according to the situation.
  • Shutter speeds (Using auto ISO) The camera will raise the ISO to get the optimum shutter speed and will drop the shutter speed once it hits the maximum ISO.
    • If shooting under fluorescent or sodium vapor lights we recommended that shoot at 1/100 shutter speed, unless they had to shoot sports.
    • For shooting sports we recommended setting 1/2000 shutter speed
    • For general shooting we recommended 1/250 shutter speed
  • White Balance
    • We recommended getting a custom White Balance as the primary choice
    • Our second choice was to use a preset like Fluorescent, Daylight or tungsten for example
    • When we were changing lighting that affects white balance often we recommended using Auto White Balance
  • Aperture
    • For general shooting we recommended to not shoot wide open but use f/4 or f/5.6 so that you subject is in focus
    • When your subject can cooperate a little more with you then we recommended shooting wide apertures if you choose for artistic reasons. This is when f/1.4 is more appropriate. We have found the trend of too many shooters buying 50mm f/1.4 lenses and shooting all the time wide open and having very few in focus photos due to the shallow depth-of-field.
  • Inside Flash or when dark. Use a higher ISO to help open up the background. Here is an earlier blog post on how using the higher ISO helps open the background up.
  • Flash outside in daylight. When it is the middle of the day and the sun is straight up you are most likely to get dark circles around the eyes. I call this the raccoon eye look. If you are less than 10 feet away from the subject you can use either your built in flash or hot shoe flash to fill in those shadows. In addition to filling in the shadows you will get a nice catch light in the eyes. You can also use the flash when you back light a subject. (I wrote about this in earlier blog post here)  This helps them from looking directly into the sun and squinting. Since the shadow side of the face is now towards the camera a flash can help balance the light.
Camp staff photographers are discussing ideas that they will be doing with the campers in a couple weeks.
Some of the camp photographers are photography students or recent graduates of photography programs, but not all the photographers were photography majors. Due to the range of talent we showed them settings that would help them get more photos in focus that are properly exposed and with good skin tones.

The staff of one of the boys camps shows their camp cheer that they will be teaching the campers.
After practicing with these settings we then covered the three stages of composition. I will refer you to my earlier blog on this topic about what we covered.  

The last thing we did during our time was go out and practice shooting looking for photos that tell a story. Then we reviewed everyone's best 5 photos for our last hour together.
Staff plays some games with each other after dinner.
If you would like me to come to your organization and do this workshop for you just give me a call. I am doing the workshop in a few weeks for the Boy Scout troop that meets at my church. We meet for class time and then meet four weeks later after they shoot a photo story.

The really cool thing about WinShape camps is the emphasis on relationships. As you can see the staff really enjoy each other and this spills over to the campers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tips for making video/audio interviews

Over the past six years I have been doing multimedia packages for my clients. Some of these are still images with audio and others are video with some still images.  The one thing that is constant in everyone is the interview.

I have taken many classes from other pros and read many books, but most of my tips here are from what I use now for most of my packages.

I want to break down the tips into two lists: technical and content.

This is a Nikon D4 with the Nikon stereo microphone

Technical tips

Rode Video Pro Mic that I use on my Nikon D4
  1. Use a good microphone and recording device. With today's iPhones and other smart phones you can use this as your recording device, but get a good microphone if you choose to use this. I prefer using a shotgun microphone on my camera/video and/or a lavalier microphone clipped onto the shirt of the subject.
  2. Use headphones. You need to hear what is being recorded and the only way to do that is to put on headphones and hear what your microphone is picking up. This will also help you set the recording levels. This is when you will hear hums from electronics and air conditioning units to water falls. When you hear these things you can then see about moving or turning off electronics for the interview. This also will alert you to any short in the line of the microphone.
  3. Pick a quite space. With your headphones on and testing your sound you need to listen and try and pick the quietest place unless you want the ambient sound of the background.
  4. With video watch backgrounds. Look for a background that is simple or compliments the subject. Be sure it isn't distracting and taking away from the audio.
  5. Back light with fill. I prefer when outside to back light the subject. This helps give them a rim light and then I use a fill light. The rim lighting separates them from the background and keeps their eyes from squinting. I use a fill light off to the side to help shape the face and fill in the shadows.
  6. Set camera and have subject talk to you. I don't always do this, but it does relax the subject.
This is the LitePanel MicroPro that I use for a fill light or main light.

This is an example of a package I did for our church. I drove up to Chattanooga, TN in between other work jobs and shot this in couple hours and drove home.  Posted it a little later that night.

Interview Techniques
  1. Get to know your subject before interviewing them. This will not just help them be more relaxed but help you know how to interview them and perhaps help them relax.
  2. Do the interview at the end of the coverage and not the beginning. I find it is easier to have someone sum up what we saw today than have them talk about a lot of stuff that by the end of the day I never caught on camera. This helps you from lacking in b-roll or images. 
  3. Ask the subject to summarize what you have seen that day. While you may not use all of this, it will help you with a starting place for the narrative.
  4. Mirror them. Keep them going by nodding and smiling.
  5. Ask your questions then be quiet. No noises to affirm them. Affirm with gestures. Your noises will distract from the sound quality.
  6. Remind them what you have that they need not talk about. Often people will want to tell you everything not understanding you have visuals that will help the audience. You need them to tell the things that the visuals don't convey. While you have a visual that shows something happening, it often doesn't help the audience know why.
  7. Keep them on topic. If you have two or more interviews in your package planned, then each person needs to know what they are covering. Sometimes I break it down as to let one person tell me why something happened and the other to explain what they did to make it happen. 
  8. Help them revise their comments. Often i need about 30 to 45 seconds of comments and a person may talk for more than 5 minutes. If I were to edit it later their will not be a good flow. I try and help them summarize what they just said or even edit. When I say edit--I mean cutting content.
  9. Get variety. I like to often record a longer comment and then follow up with them making it really short. Sometimes I use the longer comment. Get another direction just in case. After doing this for a few minutes often this gets their minds engaged and they find a new way to articulate themselves. Allow for this to happen.
These are just a few tips of things I am doing today with my multimedia packages. I am now adding a second camera to add a variety of angles to interviews.

Before I get on a plane and travel to do a story, I have a good idea of what the story is before I take off. After I get there I listen and watch. Often the story changes and is modified. I go where the story takes me, but I am ever mindful of two things: the audience and the subject. I am trying to connect them to each other. What can the audience learn from the subject? Why should they care?

I am constantly looking and listening for ways to tell the story in the shortest and most effective way possible. I hope these tips may help you.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Print Size Matters

My cubical

I have a cubical at an office I do some consulting and they asked me to decorate my cubical so people know it is used and not empty. I had some prints at home that I brought in and realized after putting them up I started something.

You see the prints that are up in my office are 20" x 30" prints. As groups go on tours through the office I have noticed they are paying attention to my cubical. I am helping everyone know what I enjoy doing.

A consultant's cubical at the same office
 Now as I walk by other people's cubicles I realize you must actually go into their cubical to see their photos and know who is in them.

The reason you want to put up photos is not just for yourself, you are helping people know something about you.

This is true also with your home. You don't want people to have to walk across the room to see your family portrait or another image that you took. They should be able to enjoy it from across the room.

What size print? Use the face size as a guide.  Have the face size the same as a clock face. If it were on your wrist then maybe a 4" x 6" print is fine. Same photo on a wall may require a 40" x 60" print to have the same affect.
One of the best ways to determine the best size is to project the image on the wall.  The general rule would be in a normal size living room 20' x 24' is a face size of at least 3" to 5". 

If the person is part of a scene you may need a very large print. If however the photo is a head and shoulder portrait then a smaller print will work.

My friend now has larger prints up of water projects she did around the world. She is always raising money to help drill wells to help in places there is no fresh water. What a great way to use photos to keep her passion in front of her co-workers.
Besides using photos in your office at work to help people know your passions, use photos throughout your office to help communicate your companies passions.

This nonprofit uses large photos of the children's lives it touches.
With people coming and going throughout your offices each day are you using the wall space to help communicate your story?  You should and give me a call and I will help you have photos that tell your story.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tips for the PR Professional when a photojournalist is sent to cover you

For more than thirty years I have been a photojournalist.  I started working for newspapers as a staff photographer and now work as a freelancer for the media.

Many times the public relations office is not ready when I show up. Most PR professionals love to show how much free space they got for their company in a magazine. They show this to the company leaders and then show them how much it would have cost to buy that space. This helps with their job security.

The smartest PR people know the value and are prepared. They treat this moment as if they hired an advertising agency to produce an advertisement for them.

Here I am traveling really light. Photo by Chelle Leary

Take advantage of this free publicity and invest in it. You will be glad you did.

While a photojournalists is trained to be truthful and unbiased, it is difficult not to respond to negative or positive behavior towards them. If you want the best story on you, then I have some tips for you.

This is what sometimes I show up on a job with in addition to a photo assistant. Getting this gear from my van to the photo shoot can be difficult. Help out the photographer by a good parking space, knowledge of where the elevators are located and handicap ramps to avoid stairs.


  1. Have your subject ready. Often your photojournalist has multiple assignments during a day. You not being ready and delaying them will have them rush your coverage. If computers and technology are part of the subject, be sure to have them running before the photographer arrives. Too many times I have arrived nothing is setup and ready to go. I have spent 4 hours waiting for a researcher to set everything up.
  2. Know where the subject is located. Too often I will show up at a corporation and be led around a building or property while they are trying to find the room we are to meet the subject. Do this before the photographer arrives. It shows you value their time.
  3. Scout for options. Go a few days early and work with the subject. What is the best setting to help tell the story? Are there items that you may need to collect before the photo shoot? Be careful not to remove everything. Photographers are sent to you to capture the subject in their environment.
  4. Take a few photos yourself. Evaluate the photos you take for what is in the background and can we clean that up for example. Check to see if you have enough room to move around while taking photos. Too often the subject is in such a small room that photographer cannot move to get a good angle. See if you can take photos without a flash. This may alert you to some lights that are burned out and need new bulbs.
  5. Plan for parking. Often magazine photographers will bring lighting gear. Don't expect just a photographer to show up with just a camera and on camera flash. If they are showing up with a cart of gear, know where the elevators are in the building and where the handicap entrance is located. This will help them avoid carrying material up and down stairs. If you need a key to access the elevator, get the key before the photo shoot is to start.
  6. Pay attention to clothing. Solid colors are better than patterns. Avoid white due to the difficulty of reproduction process for printing press. The one time you may want white is where the white lab coat helps add information to the photo. Avoid red if there is more than one subject. Red is such a dominate color that it makes the eye go to it first. This is why it is used for emergency lights and signs. Fine patterns like haring bone can create moiré patterns. (Here is a link to an earlier blog I did on clothing for portraits.)
  7. Have business cards or printed names and titles of the subjects to help with accurate spelling.
  8. Plan adequate time for the photojournalist. Let the photographer know how much time the subject has for them. Maximize their time if it is very small amount by saying the subject only has 30 minutes and since it is a limited time, why don't we just let you start and anything I can help you with just ask.  This is better than you talking and taking away valuable time of them shooting. You can always help them with information after the shoot or if you know you have limited time be sure they know they can come a few minutes early and you can help them prepare.
These are just a few of the things that I have noticed over the years that would really help me get the shot needed for the media outlet. 

Think of yourself as a host or hostess in your home entertaining guests. Make the photojournalist feel welcomed and treated as your guest, because they are your guest.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Surprise: Sports Photography is a Deteriorating Market

On SportShooter.com one of the hot topics these past few years has been USPresswire. While many are upset with them, to me they are just like Getty or Walmart. The business model is working for them, but taking out a lot of professional sports photographers in their wake.

Much of this blog is based on my reading of the book Beating the Commodity Trap: How to Maximize Your Competitive Position and Increase Your Pricing Powerby Richard Anthony D'Aveni. Read it for a more comprehensive understanding of avoiding being a commodity than I am giving here.

D'Aveni says, "The arrival of a dominant low-end player shakes up the market power of the industry, as Southwest did in the airline industry, Dell once did in computers, or Walmart is still doing in retailing. It is very hard for incumbents to compete with these disruptive players using their existing cost structures."

These are the signs of a Deteriorating Market for D'Aveni
  • A dominant low-cost competitor has emerged in your market, disrupting the status quo.
  • The economies of scale enjoyed by the disrupting company make it impossible for you to compete on price.
  • Customers are less and less willing to pay for additional benefits such as superior service and industry expertise.
  • Your margins are falling and you are losing market share, even though you have lowered prices and product benefits to catch up with the competition.

We have to concede the low-end price market and step aside. Photographer John Harrington talks about a client of his chose another photographer for something he did annually for them and were disappointed. The following year when they came back to John he realized he had a niche´. John not only got the job but he raised his price knowing they didn't want to get burned again.

I don't think there is a quick fix to the deterioration of prices being paid for coverage of sporting events.

I do think where there are no spec shooters and low ball photographers shooting events are places for profit to be found.

If we are not careful we will become like moths drawn to a flame. We need to remember the saying "Don't fall in love with the car." It will make it difficult for you to make a sound business decision.

If you have fallen in love with standing on the sidelines of sporting events with your camera, you are prone to helping deteriorate the industry even more. Once more you will deteriorate your own bank account to support your habit.

If what you offer (photography) is similar to a large group of photographers then you are just a commodity and the low price will always get the job. Basically, you can't tell the difference between one company's product and another's. When something is viewed as a commodity, it generally means that the only difference is the price tag.

If you cannot distinguish yourself from other photographers in a way that customers desire, you will have a very hard time making a living. Sometimes you may have to leave a certain niche´ due to saturation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Most organizations need a stock photography library

This photo can be used in many ways for this college. It can be used to show some of the facilities, the idea of small campus (not many people in the photos) and other ways.
One of the best things any organization can do is to create a stock photo library. These  are photos people can use for a variety of uses.

If your organization has certain main themes or initiatives, then you need images to help illustrate the concept.  "Seeing is believing," is the old saying we all know to be true.

Your company maybe in the service industry where you want to emphasize good eye contact with the customers. You would benefit from having not just a few but a variety of photos to use for your website, PowerPoint presentations, training manuals and even use these to drop into videos.

This college wants to emphasize they have trees and lakes at their campus. Even tho they are only minutes from downtown Atlanta, this campus offers a piece of nature and relaxation to its students.
Plan your photo stock shoots

Take some time to plan those photo stock shoots and you will be amazed at how much of a resource this will become for the organization.

Start by making a list of your major initiatives. Maybe your company talks about a certain value added concept you do that distinguishes you from your competition.

Create a list of things your clients are looking for that you address. High school students looking for colleges look for a few things.  See which of these might apply to your organization.
This helps to communicate faculty to teacher ratio. It also shows they have the arts at this school and it shows off the facility.

Things schools typically show
  • Teacher student ratio.  Most schools will try and have lots of photos of their faculty teaching one-on-one or in small seminar settings.
  • Diversity.  Most schools not only want to show what they are, many will shoot stock photos to recruit for what they want to become.
  • Technology. Schools want to show their state of art labs and classrooms. This communicates to a High School student they have an opportunity to work with different technology.
  • Living Spaces. Students want to know where they will live and play. This is where you show dorm rooms, coffee shops, fitness centers and more to help entice students to your campus.
  • Community. While many schools do not show the community they are apart of, most of the schools who want to show all available to a student would want to show things from skyline shots, professional sports teams near by, the arts and anything that helps recruit their ideal student.
  • Extra curricular activities. Students want to know about flying clubs, sporting clubs or anything else that can compliment their time in the classroom.
This living space in a women's dorm is a little surprising to some folks.  Looks very much like a home atmosphere.
Getting ready for the shoot
  • Recruit more models than you think you will need. The best reason to have more models than you need is many will have last minute reasons they cannot make it. another good reason is some models you picked just may not look all that good in photos. Rather than taking a lot of photos of students you will not use, switch people around. You not only get photos you can use, but more photos you can use.
  • Ask models to bring a change of clothes. Two or more outfits can really help you when someone is wearing something inappropriate or that is so busy or loud that it draws to much attention in the photo.  You may want to have some solid colored polo shirts to offer as well.
  • Ask models to wear solids. Also, avoid red and solid white. The red draws your eye to much and the white can sometimes be difficult for printing later.
  • Plan locations and time to transition from one location to another.  It would be easier to use the same classroom and switch out teachers and students than to move from building to building. Unless their are some very specific features in a classroom you are showing off, showing a class is about showing the diversity of your students, the engaging faculty and them enjoying themselves.  Plan enough time for a photographer to pack up, move and then reset things like lights, tripods and light stands.
  • Give time for the situation to work. Give enough time that once the photographer starts to shoot for people to get into it. This means the photographer can shoot a while look at the images and suggest some changes (like switching out people) to get you usable images.
School showing their TV studio facilities.

Your Stock Images are Old

Be very careful to plan stock shoots annually or every other year. Hair styles and clothing styles will quickly date your photos. If your audience is pretty much the same you will need to update more often. Years ago colleges updated their materials every other year.  They were mainly shooting for recruiting materials.

With today's internet, you need to have even a larger stock file that is replenished more often. One organization I work with puts a new photo on their home web page every day. By them rotating this every day the number of people going to the website has gone up.  They are creating excitement by having people wanting to see what is new.

One photographer is having about 175,000 hits a day on his blog and the draw is a photo a day.  Check out Trey Ratcliff's site Stuck in Customs. This is a good reason to have more stock images to help drive people to you.

Product shots 

Don't forget to have fresh images of your products as well. You will help create a mood and ambiance of your product line with images.

Use as graphic elements

When it comes to photos, they can be used as much for their graphics as for their content.

Some of your products can just look cool.  Be sure and get detail shots into your library.

Close-up images can really add impact to a presentation.  You can use them as a background as well.

Keep it Current

One of the best resources for your organization is a good photo library that is kept up to date.

These photo shoots will become your way of having visual images to compliment the initiatives and messaging you need to be doing daily for your organization.  Call me if you need help. I can not only help in shooting but help you create an on-line database for storage and searching.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Nikon D4: Tethering & 11 FPS Tips

Nikon D4 with 85mm f/1.4
Photoshop is complex

Photoshop got its start with a father and his two sons Glenn, John and Thomas Knoll back in 1988.  Not even the Knolls know all you can do with Photoshop.

It is quite common to go to some of the Adobe Photoshop users conventions and have a speaker show you how they got a result and on the same stage are the developers saying this is knew to them.

Nikon Cameras are complex

About two years ago when the Nikon D3S was just introduced, I was at a basketball game shooting with my new Nikon D3S. Next to me was Bob Rosato, who was a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated, getting a phone call just before the game started.

I could hear Bob saying he didn't know the answer to the caller. After hanging up, Bob looked at me and said that was Nikon calling asking him what settings he was using for sports.

This has been the case for many years with these new cameras that have complex computers in them. You have so many focusing modes to choose from. You can shoot is S, CL, or CH modes for how many frames the camera will fire when you push the shutter. Then you have which focusing modes you can choose from. Single, 9 group, 21 group, 51 group, Auto and then each of these in combination with the shutter mode gives you different results.

On top of those setting you have back focus settings for tracking your focus.

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Once you buy one of these cameras you will be heavily invested in learning all you can do the type of photography you do. This is important to point out that the cameras will do more than most any pro would ever use them to do. However, you must master it for your niche´.

Very quickly you will want to use a life line like they do on the TV hit show "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Sooner or later most pros will phone a friend to help them out. Even after reading the huge camera manual you will find yourself overlooking a detail.

So this week I get a call from my friend Paul Abell, a sports photographer, who shoots most of the pro teams and college teams in every sport. "Hey Stan, are you having trouble with your Nikon D4 follow focusing?" was the question from Paul.

Paul figured he had some setting in the camera not set correctly, because he knew Nikon would not introduce a camera with focusing issues after Canon had done so just recently.

I had not experienced the issue and told him I would look into it. Next day, I get another phone call from Paul. He had figured out the problem and wanted to tell me.

The answer is on page 112 of the camera manual.

Nikon D4 Camera manual page 112

My camera came from Nikon set on 10fps, but Paul's came with it set on 11fps. Once he switched to 10fps he was getting great results.

Camera manual stays with the camera

Most pros keep their new camera manual with their camera these days because of the situation Paul ran into. I don't know anyone who has memorized those huge manuals. My Toyota Sienna, which costs a lot more than my camera has a manual about half the size of the Nikon D4.

Until you have mastered all you need on the camera, keep your manual in the camera bag with you.

Tethering with Nikon D4

I have been tethering my camera to the laptop for studio shoots for many years. One of the main reasons l like to do this is with headshots. I may go to a company and do over 100 headshots in a day.  The department hiring me wants to match each headshot up to a name.

I use the Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 when I tether. It lets me put into the IPTC fields the name of each person before I shoot and then every time I shoot a photo the name of the person is embedded into each photo. I put in the name of each person before I shoot.

When I got my D4 I continued to do the same thing. However, now I had to change something. Earlier I wrote how with the Nikon D4 you can now embed this IPTC in the camera. (Earlier Blog)

I have enjoyed doing this, but now when I tether I must turn this off or the IPTC I use in Nikon Capture Control Pro 2 will not embed.

Nikon does a great job of telling the camera owner about what can and cannot be done, but for those of us who have trouble learning by reading, you need to practice.

Practice before you perform

It is very important to sit with your camera manual and read everything that you need to do what you shoot. Then practice shooting situations that are exactly like you will do for a job.

Paul was practicing in the backyard with his kids running at him to check the follow focus on his Nikon D4. He was having trouble. He sat down with his manual and then walked through all the settings and this is when he say parenthesis around his problem.

I hope by me sharing here about what I and other pros are learning about their Nikon D4 cameras will help you get the most out of your camera. Read your camera manual and then practice shooting changing the settings to see how you can get the most out of your camera in any given situation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Shooting under fluorescent requires you to slow down

Shooting under fluorescent lights can give you very unpredictable results if you do not slow down.

Fluorescent lamps using a magnetic mains frequency ballast do not give out a steady light; instead, they flicker at twice the supply frequency. This results in fluctuations not only with light output but color temperature as well, which may pose problems for photography and people who are sensitive to the flicker.

When the fluorescent light is at the end of its life it can flicker more and for those with photosensitive epilepsy it can trigger a seizure.

Today there are a range of types of fluorescent lights. You may have gone into a HomeDepot or Lowe's and noticed displays showing you different color temperature fluorescent lights.

Color Temperature

Typical incandescent lighting is 2700 K, which is yellowish-white. Halogen lighting is 3000 K.

Fluorescent lamps are manufactured to a chosen color by altering the mixture of phosphors inside the tube. Warm-white fluorescents have color spectrum of 2700 K and are popular for residential lighting. Neutral-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 3000 K or 3500 K. Cool-white fluorescents have a color spectrum of 4100 K and are popular for office lighting. Daylight fluorescents have a color spectrum of 5000 K to 6500 K, which is bluish-white.

On my Nikon D4 in the menu for White Balance you can choose up to seven different presets for fluorescent.  There is a major problem I have found trying this method, it isn't easy to pick the right color, because the monitor on the back of the camera isn't that easy to see color in all situations.

Flicker problem

Incandescent lights burn constantly and therefore your color temperature is pretty consistent no matter your shutter speed. However, since fluorescent tubes are actually acting light a flash and flickering you will get an affect different than with flash where above your sync speed part of the frame is dark.

Look at these two different photos and see the color difference.

Everything is set the same (Nikon D4, ISO 12,800, f/5.6, 1/500) in each photo, but you can see the difference in color is due to the flickering of the fluorescent.

Now besides a color shift on the whole picture you may end up with a band across the photo.  Personally this is more annoying since it isn't as easy to fix in post production. Have this happen a few times and you are screaming at that computer and camera.

Slow Down

You can get very consistent color under fluorescent if you shoot at 1/100 or slower shutter speed.

Anytime you are under Fluorescent, Sodium-Vapor, or High Temp Mercury-Vapor be sure you shoot slower than 1/100.  You may need to shoot at 1/60 with some of the older model lights.

Why Strobes Are Used

There are times when shooting at 1/100th of a second isn't going to cut it. A great example of this is shooting sports inside under those Sodium-Vapor lights in most arenas. This is why many pro photographers are using strobes for shooting sports. They need a consistent color without streaks or bands of color shift in the photograph.

If it were not for this problem of flickering with these types of lights it would be a lot more practical with today's high ISO cameras to not use strobes.

Custom White Balance

The best solution I have found shooting under these lights that flicker like fluorescent is to do a custom white balance.

My favorite way for getting a custom white balance is using my ExpoDisc.

ExposDisc goes in front of the lens and then you use it to get an incident reading rather than a reflective reading of the light.

Notice the direction of the light hitting the subject.  You move to the same position to get the light reading below.

Point the camera toward the direction of the light that is falling on the subject. 
I have found if the subject is facing me and the light is from the side, I face the camera with the ExpoDisc on it so it is pointing towards the camera position.  The chart above is to help you understand the concept, but you can modify it.

Now if you are shooting in an arena with Sodium-Vapor lights. Do a custom white balance. However, be sure you do the custom setting at a shutter speed lower than 1/100.  You can then raise your shutter speed to higher than that for shooting, but this will give you more consistent color over your images. Even doing this will still cause you problems on about 5 - 10% of the images.

Now you know to slow down your shutter speed when shooting under this light source.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

10 Year Anniversary: Lessons Learned

In May 2002 these were in my camera bag. I had two Nikon F100 cameras and was shooting mostly with Provia 100F transparency film.

It has been ten years since I went full-time freelance. It is time to celebrate.

As I look back over these ten years I have made some really great decisions and not so great decisions.

Good Decisions Made

Digital Capture

Going digital from film was the best decision I could have made. The timing couldn't have been better for me.

In 2001 the Nikon Digital Camera at the time cost about $15,000. In 2002 Nikon introduced the Nikon D100 in the $1,500 price range. The timing was perfect to jump into digital.  The cameras were rivaling the film of the day.

Back in 1993 I was using PhotoShop and scanning my images from film. This was very time consuming, but this helped me make the switch to digital capture enjoyable.

Even earlier in 1987 I bought my first computer and was active on CompuServe. I was enjoying bulletin boards before the World Wide Web which would take off in 1995 with Mosaic being introduced.


As you can see I had already been using computers and digital imaging for many years before I went freelance full-time. 

November 10, 2002 in Mossy Grove in eastern Tennessee a tornado hit. I was called and asked to go and cover it the next day. On November 11, 2002 I bought my first laptop computer.

While I new how to download images and transmit them, covering that Tornado was the first time I was transmitting photos from the field.

Cell phone as modem

In August 2004 I was asked to cover hurricane Charley.  I would shoot images in the earlier morning at a location, jump in my car and edit those images. I then would transmit using my cell phone that was tethered to my laptop to transmit images. Since the computer just needed to run for a while, I would drive while it was in the passenger seat transmitting.

The client and newspapers all over the country were shocked that I was getting images out when telephone lines were down and power was out.  I was building my reputation as the guy who was able to use technology before my competition.

Today I shoot with the Nikon D4.
Continuous Upgrades

I have gone through a number of cameras since 2002. I shot the Nikon D100, Nikon D2x, Nikon D2Xs, Nikon D3, Nikon D3S and today I am shooting with a Nikon D4.  I did these upgrades to keep me giving my clients the best possible images I could produce technically.

I have upgraded software programs like PhotoShop, PhotoMechanic, Lightroom, Microsoft Office and more regularly.  Each time the improvements and performance more than paid off over time.

Switch from PC to Mac

For many years I was a PC guy. However, during these years I also helped many people with their Macs. From 1993 to 2002 I had Macs to work with and due to this knowledge I was helping organizations on the side as their IT guy.

Two years ago I had another PC laptop give me a lot of trouble.  I had learned I was loosing a lot of time trying to fix this, so I bought a new PC laptop with Windows 7 and it ran on i7 processor.  It was fast. Less than a few months later the laptop screen went blue.

While I had everything backed up, I could not get that new laptop to work completely after reformatting the drive and starting over. I lost two to three weeks of long days trying to make it work.

Dorie, my wife, gave me the best advice--go buy a Macbook Pro.  She had a Mac and knew I was spending more and more time fixing my computer and she rarely had to do anything with her computer.

It was the best decision I had made as far as computers. I knew I could buy a faster PC for about half the cost of a Mac and this is what kept me buying PCs.  I was saving money.

Dorie pointed out to me my time was money.  Lesson learned about how important my time was to our family and me.

My cell phone today. Motorola Razr Maxx. It lets me connect wireless to the web over 4G network in most places and lets me see my emails instantaneously.
Smart Phone

While on photo shoots in those first few years as a freelancer I would stop and take a break and check my email.  It would take about 3 to 5 minutes to start-up my laptop to check those emails.

I was starting to also see a shift in the expectancy of customers for you to respond to the emails being timelier.

The cost of a smart phone like the PC verses Mac was expensive.  The monthly financial commitment to the higher cost kept me from getting one for a long time.

Once again Dorie pointed out to me how important it was to get one for me. "It is a business decision," she told me. It will help you make more money if you can respond quicker to job possibilities.

She was right--as always.

Today I use the Motorola Razr Maxx because it is the fastest phone on the market with the longest battery life. I charge it at night and when I plug it in at the end of the day it usually still has 60 - 70% of a charge left.  I am now able to connect my computer and iPad to the web using it's 4G hotspot. I am able to connect in many places at a faster speed than my cable connection at home.


The best decision I have ever made was marrying Dorie. Having a spouse who supports you as a freelance photographer is very important. Her father ran his own business and I think she learned a lot just growing up in a home of an entrepreneur. 

While I lost many nights of sleep worrying about how we will pay our bills, Dorie never doubted my abilities. She never told me to look for another job.

I have watched many of my friends whose largest obstacle for success is their spouse. Having a supportive partner can get you through just about anything.

Dorie is taken so if you don't have a spouse, be sure you find someone who believes in you and can walk by faith. I believe God helped me find such a wonderful wife and mother to our children.

Bad decisions made

Lack of Faith

My number one mistake that I continue to make is thinking that I am in control of my destiny. No question if I don't get up and work hard I will not succeed, but just because I do that does not guarantee success.

I really think it is my faith in God that has sustained me the most. I believe there is a God in control on the universe. I do not think we are all puppets either, but I do believe he works in peoples hearts and minds and due to this it is God who has helped me more than anything at all. My mistake is not acknowledging this daily.

Saving Pennies while Loosing Dollars

I grew up with a Irish and Scotch heritage. My parents watched every penny and I learned the value of a dollar from them.

My mistake has been that driving around town to find the cheapest gas can actually cost you more than you save. 

While I don't have time to research expenditures made, I try to do my best to get the best value. My mistake has not to value my time as money. I believe outsourcing some of the things I do to those who can do it better or at least remove this from my plate is something I will be trying to do more in the future.

Staying with PCs too long

I most likely have lost months of my life working on my PCs trying to fix the registry and defragging my hard drives.  You see every program on a PC interacts with all the other programs through the registry.  I was using so many different programs and they ended up over time screwing up the computer.

My programs on my Mac do not interact through a registry like on the PC. They really don't affect each other and therefore over time I am not having the same corruption problems I was having on my PC.

Slow to my competition as my colleagues

Today I try to get together with other photographers as often as I can. I not only like to hear what they are doing, I am willing to share a good amount of what I am doing. Of course if I have something that gives me a competitive advantage I am careful sharing this.

Today some of my photographer colleagues are some of my clients. They get too busy and call me to help them out. I too return the favor.

Today I enjoy working with more people I call my friends than any other point in my life. How did this happen?  I am now focusing on building relationships and this is how my business has grown.  Prior to learning this secret I was trying to build me up.

Thanks for reading and being apart of my celebrating ten years.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Photo Tips on Covering Meetings

While this photo shows everyone in a room at a meeting and even an interesting angle, you need photos showing people being engaged.  This is a photo that is important to have. You need photos helping to show the size of the meeting and location. This helps establish how important this meeting is to the company.
If you were to calculate the cost of meetings it would shock most of us. Just how effective and important are these to your organization?

Meetings are important and help in business or they wouldn't be done. However, if you are the one putting one on you quickly discover how important it is to get all you can out of the investment.

Photography is one of the best ways to help stretch your budget.

Training a sales force on how to use the iPad with their companies resources. This photo is helping show what was presented and who was presenting. Also, it is important that you capture a moment where you can see the presenter is enthusiastic about the material. Just a shot with the elements will not inspire people. This is a medium shot which is needed to help bring the reader into the content. If you have an iPad or iPhone you will quickly recognize iBooks. You might want to know why is this being taught at a meeting. This will inspire you to read more of the text.
Improve Retention of Content

You can have a photographer cover your event and then use the photos to help put the content online for the rest of your company. It also helps those who attended review what was covered and improve retention of the material.

This is a good example of what a photojournalist can capture for you during a meeting. They will help capture moments showing people are interested and engaged in the material. Here the two sales people are helping each other learn how to use the iPad. This photo also celebrates your employees. When your workforce sees that others are interested this helps using peer pressure to get them on board. If you let the photographer know which folks you would like to try and get photos of doing this, then they can try and capture it. As you know some people showing interest will have more impact than another.
This is a photo that not only shows audience participation, but the face expressions shows genuine interest in the topic. You see interaction from all in the photo. A person talking, people listening and even getting two people to turn towards the person to hear better.
Celebrate your people

When a photographer is pointing a camera towards your people in a meeting, they know this is important or the company wouldn't have a photographer their. This is like the red carpet treatment for your employees.

People will sit up and pay more attention when they are on camera. They also get excited when they later see these photos in publications or online. This recognition can help them feel good about themselves and the company.

A good photographer is going to be aware of capturing these moments where people are engaged.

Having people look at the camera and smile is not the same as catching them in a real situation. This authentic moment will help communicate a message as well as authentically show them participating.

Having activities for the participants will help them retain information better than a pure lecture. These also translate into wonderful photo opportunities. Here the photographer is trying to capture the activity engaging the people.
Photographers will give you good detail shots as well as the personal interaction. This photo with the one above it will help talk about not just an activity, but what they company is now emphasizing. The detail shot in combination with the other photo now helps tell a more complete story.  It is a faster read than had you written text about it. Also, the text would have a difficult time explaining how interested the participants are in the content.
Its about relationships

Your photos will help do something that cannot be done with text as effectively. It helps show the relationships.

Before the meeting is even officially started, you can see relationships that communicate the family atmosphere for your company.

While you think the photos are just to communicate what happened at a meeting, this type of photograph is something a recruiter could use to show how much people like working with the company. I can see this and the photo above communicating how the company is a place where relationships are encouraged and to create a family atmosphere.
Too often companies focus on the wrong type of photos. Sure you may want photos of people receiving awards, but other than the person getting the award who else would really want the photo.

This is a typical awards photo that happens quickly on stage. These are good photos to make prints and give to the person receiving the award.
Too many companies use only these award photos in their publications after a meeting. Do you think having 30+ of these award photos really is the best use of photography or do you think the other photos above can help you more?  Why not make prints of all the award winners and give these to those in the photos?

You need both, but remember you can use photography to communicate and not just celebrate.

How to help your photographer
  • What is the purpose of the photography? You need to be able to give a clear direction on why you need the photos.
  • Who is the audience? A photographer needs to know the audience. Shooting for the media, your internal company people or to give photos to the award recipients makes a huge difference in approach.
  • What medium will it be used in? If all the photos are going to be part of a video later, then the photographer will probably shoot more horizontals than verticals. This is true also if it is primarily being used on the web.
  • Have someone assigned to the photographer. This is important for a new photographer working with you. They could benefit as to someone pointing out key people in a room. This person should not be a micro manager. Too much direction to a seasoned pro can actually stifle the creative process. They should help point out the key people that have been predetermined as important to the story.  That is the CEO and this is the major donor can help the photographer then capture a moment where they may be interacting very naturally. This is almost always a better photo than when they CEO call them up and they have an official moment on stage. Having a photographer who you use regularly and understands you should be something you are willing to pay a little more for, because you will be saving costs on someone with them all the time.
  • When is your deadline? A photographer needs to know before the estimate is given when you expect the photos in your hand.
  • What is the deliverable? Will the photographer give you a DVD of high resolution, low resolution or a combination? Are you wanting these delivered as an online gallery where you can order prints and/or download high to low resolution photos?
  • What is the dress code? While most professionals will dress professionally, be sure they know this is a black tie event or if everyone is expected to wear jeans.  Sometimes you may require them to wear all black since you are having video crews shooting and having them in all black when they are near the stage will look better.
  • Give them directions and time expectations. Be sure and provide parking close to the event. These photographers will be bringing tens of thousands of dollars of equipment.  For their safety and security be sure they are not walking blocks back to their car after an event. Let them know when you expect them to be onsite.  Do not assume they know you expect them an hour before the event starts onsite--tell them. 
  • Give clear billing instructions. Be sure they know who is to get the invoice. If they need to provide a W-9 form to be paid, tell them to do so when they send the invoice. If there is a PO# required by accounts payable for them to be paid--get that to them right away.
Photographers should be capturing moments like this where the speakers are engaged on the topic and where the audience is also excited. Now the photographer cannot shoot what doesn't exist, but few employees would not want to look engaged when a photographer is present.
Good meeting photography will not be all smiles. Here you can see this guy is thinking and engaged. I think the reason for most meetings is to give people new material. Showing the employees digesting the material is showing them engaged.
Did you hire the right photographer?

If you did not provide the information to the photographer and they don't ask about those topics--it is a good clue you have a rookie or a clueless photographer.

When you get the photos you will also know if you got the right photographer. Do you see moments of people interacting with each other or only posed looking into the camera? If only posed--you hired the wrong photographer.

Hire a pro every once in a while, even if you shoot most meetings

Why would you hire a pro when you know how to take a photo? On the job training for one. I know many organizations that have so many meetings they cannot afford to hire a photographer all the time. Be careful not to never hire a photographer.

Try and hire a seasoned pro once in a while so you can learn from them. Your photography will improve when you see what they are doing.