Thursday, September 27, 2012

Freelance Photography is a Roller-coaster Ride

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Do you feel like you need a vacation? 

Living life you will experience some ups and downs. One of the things that can make life difficult is thinking you are in control of everything.

We do need to exercise self-control and even this is difficult living life. When we loose self-control we realize there are often consequences to these moments.  However, you must be careful when experiencing a difficult time that it is not always the consequence of your actions.

I studied the concept of evil when I was in seminary. The basic thing I took away from this study was that God gave us the freedom of choice and due to that evil happens. Some of this evil is a moral evil due to people's choices and other is natural evil which is things like natural disasters.

What I learned is that many times things happen due to someone else's actions.  They drink and drive and I can end up dead due to their actions.

While we may choose to free fall ride at an amusement park, it isn't so fun in life. Even knowing what you are riding can be scary because you are not sure when it will happen.

Reasons to just chill

Budgets: There are many times where everything is going well and the client has just been informed they have to make some cuts. There are many times that they do not communicate this to you. Sometimes the reason is they were just cut.

Timing: There are times that everything looks like you are being booked and then they say they need to wait.  Sometimes this waiting takes a very long time. You cannot make this move along by calling all the time. Actually this is where self-control is important. You might want to ask when would be an appropriate time to check-in with them again.

Personnel changes: While you have worked with a client for a long time, they get a promotion or go to another company. Sometimes this can be good and you end up with more work. However, the next person to take that job could have their own people they want to work with. This is not about you as much as it is about them.

Seasonal: There are times when clients will choose a direction for which you are not the best choice. They want a new look. While you maybe very flexible and able to even do what they are looking for, unless you have been showing them new work they will choose someone who is producing what they are looking for. I think of this as seasons in life.

You are not a super hero

There are times in your career where your client no longer is working with you, but against you. This is not a little bump in the road.

I had a client that was always wanting the lowest price and was letting invoices sit on their desk rather than passing them on to accounts payable. Because I was getting a fair amount of work from them I was doing everything I could to keep the client.

They were getting worse in paying me on time. I had to constantly remind them about not being paid. 3 to 6 months late was becoming the norm.

I was reading Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington when I finally found what I thought was a good solution to my problem. I now put this paragraph on my invoices:

We are now building into the invoice the cost to repeatedly follow up with accounts payable departments on past due invoices, and float the cost of payment to our vendors, which require 30 days payment.  This is approximately 10%.  If payment is made within 30 days, you may deduct this amount.
The responses I was getting from those who were habitually late shocked me. Now mind you I was willing to be flexible on the 30 days and go to 45 days.

Some of these clients were saying why am I punishing them for a late payment. The ones crying the loudest were the ones wanting the lowest rates.

I could only think of two solutions to keep these clients. Either raise my rates to compensate for late payment in the base price or put this paragraph, which isn't a late payment, but rather a discount to pay on time.

I am embarrassed to say that one of these clients I was work-for-hire contract. I signed their contract which stated they will pay in thirty days.

I did not have those super powers to make the relationship work, because they were not treating me with honor, dignity and respect.

What can you do?

Marketing: You must continue to market yourself. In those times it is slow you must increase your efforts to find new clients.

While going out and shooting new material to show clients is a good idea, do not fall into the trap of thinking this is the problem. More than likely the problem is your contact list needs to grow.

Shoot new material: You need to always grow in your craft. Try something new and even just going back and updating your portfolio so that the people in the photos look like their were shot in this century can help.

Take a vacation: Sometimes you need a break and even when things are tough financially. One of the best things to get out of a funk is a change of scenery. One of the best things ever told to me as a parent of a baby was when your baby is crying and nothing seems to calm them down--go to another room or outside. If it works for a crying baby, it should work for a crying freelancer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to stretch your communication budget during budget cuts tip

Are you suffering from budget cuts? If you are like most you have been through some cuts. You cannot stop communicating with your audience or you will put the organization at risks for more cuts due to the lack of interest and support.

Here is a tip to help save yet still produce a quality marketing campaign.

You may be aware of the marketing funnel. When it comes to buget one of the most important parts of this funnel often gets overlooked. Repeat is the last thing in the funnel steps and is extremely critical to your success.

A one-off promotion just doesn't typically work. Research shows that 80% of sales are made after the fifth contact.

What is shocking to me in the research was that 10% of sales is made by the fourth contact.

Too many marketing campaigns I see are spending a lot of money on the first impression contact with a potential customer.

One of the most expensive communication tools is video. It is very effective in telling stories. Many 2 - 3 minute videos start in the price range of $15,000+. How would you like to cut this by half or more?

Due to how one gathers video clips it takes time to produce a video. Take a moment sometime this week and watch one of your videos. As you watch it look for all the content in the video that you can use in another medium.

Now take a look at this package I did for a client and see how many images that can be used for other mediums.

Videos that I am doing for clients that use stills as the b-roll are starting at $3,000 for my clients. The savings do not just stop at the video. Now all those images shot for the video are now usable for the web, print, billboards and more mediums.

When you shoot video you are most of the time on sticks (tripod) and letting the action happen around the camera. With still photography the photographer floats around the action. They are looking for a moment and not a segment. Due to the difference in how the images are aquired, a still shooter can move around the room more and get many different angles while the video must wait for the moment to develop.

Next week I am speaking to the Grady School of Journalism's photojournalism class. I will speak on the topic of business practices for photographers. One of the metaphors I use to help drive home this concept of marketing is to act like a freshman and not a senior. Here is a blog (Click Here) I wrote on the topic last year after speaking to the class.

Remember when doing your video projects to always get the still images of those projects. This is especially true when you are creating a new video of a major initiative for your organization. If it is that important using stills later in power points, PDFs, on websites, blogs and in printed material will be needed.

Give me a call or write if you would like me to help you stretch that budget with a multimedia project or if you just need some photography of your organization.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Key to work is the right questions for the professional communicator

When is the last time you asked these core questions about a project?
  1. What is the story?
  2. What is the purpose of the communication?
  3. Who is the audience?
  4. Why does the story matter?
  5. When will the audience pay attention?
  6. Where will the audience find the story/message?
Today’s editorial photographer needs to be more concerned with these questions than ever before. 

What has changed to make this so important? It is easier to ask what hasn’t changed and the answer to that is storytelling. 

Today when a professional gets a call to help tell a story, there is a very good chance they will be involved all the way through the process.  If you are not involved there is a very good chance you will be replaced by someone who can be involved more than just making photos.

There are a lot of stories that are quite entertaining that will not help the client achieve their goals. Too many storytellers are more wrapped up in the story rather than the purpose of what the story is to help achieve.

Audience Retention

Today if the audience is finding the story online we now can study how long they were on the page and with video at what point did they stop watching. This is valuable information to the client and the professional communicator.

You can evaluate the effectiveness of your package with the audience.

Nonprofits can track the viewers giving to the organization. Bill Bangham the editor of Commission Stories, a tabloid sized publication for a missionary organization found out the organization had paid for research to see how effective the publication was. At first Bill was upset because they didn’t tell him this was going to take place. However, he was pleasantly surprised to hear that his readers gave more than 43 million dollars to the organization making up more than 50% of their budget. The cost to produce the tabloid was only $200,000 a year.

After seeing the numbers those who thought they could save the printing costs and putting it on line, it was clear that was the wrong thing to do with this audience. The audiences liked connecting to the organization through the tabloid size publication and were continuing to support the organization due to the story content.

Who's the audience

For a video I posted to help understand how to use a Depth-of-field preview button the audience was 95.6% men.  What was surprising to me is I was thinking a lot of undergraduate students would watch this, but the numbers show that primarily men ages 25 - 64 were the audience and the largest segment to be those 45 - 54 years of age.

If I were trying to reach the younger crowd I missed the mark. After doing a number of videos and blog posts I am starting to see certain topics draws in audiences more than other topics.

If I continued to only produce content that is popular then I would be missing my purpose. My purpose is to help people grow in their photography. Some of the topics I write on are key to success and the least read. 

I must revisit these topics and figure a better metaphor, example or another way to hook the audience, because some of the content is the most important for those seeking to be professional photographers.

Key to more jobs

Understanding that you are responsible for more than just a small piece in the communication puzzel will help you be more valuable to the client. Asking questions that help you understand how your content will be used will help you to provide better content.

Today I am just as likely to shoot, produce and post the content of a story. When I started I just made a picture and then many other hands touched it before the audience ever did. 

The best part of being this involved is the content I produce is so much better. The reason it is better is because I am asking more of the core questions to understanding why we are producing a story for an audience.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Photographers need community

Bill Bangham is the keynote speaker at the Christians in Photojournalism meeting Saturday September 22, 2012 in Roswell, GA.
There have been times in my life where I really experienced isolation from other photographers. I moved to Long Island years ago and for the year that I lived there I just didn't have anyone I knew that was a professional photographer to get together with and talk photography.

There have been other times where I have not had other professionals to talk with face to face. This is not good for me.

I believe we need to get together with other photographers doing what we do for fellowship and time to exchange ideas.

Do you have a photographer friend that you can have coffee with on a regular basis? Do you seek out someone to talk to that understands what you are talking about?


I am a member of a few groups and have been a member of other groups in the past as well. Today I am a member of American Society of Media Photographers, Sports Shooter and Christians in Photojournalism. I have been for most of my life a member of National Press Photographers Association as well.

These organizations have been great because they all have meetings and social media presence where I can connect with other photographers.

In the early 1980s I was a member of ASMP in Richmond, VA. Since we didn't have social media then and most all the meetings were in Washington, DC for our chapter I never really experienced the community I so desperately was wanting and needing in my life.

Living in Atlanta has been one of the best places for me because of the access to so many photography groups. I have spoken in the Metro Atlanta area to many photography clubs, colleges, and many of the organizations like ASMP. I have enjoyed attending all these groups meetings.

CIP Atlanta Meeting
What I get out of community

The number one thing I get out of all these groups is a relationship with people who enjoy photography. We have something in common to talk about and share.

How does my work stack up with the rest of photographers. I get to see other photographers work and not just see if I am better or worse than them, but to appreciate there talent. If your purpose is just to show how good you are and have people think you are great then your narcissistic behavior will keep people away from you.

If you think someone's photography is impressive go and tell them at these meetings. Be a leader and learn to encourage others, if you do sooner or later others will return the favor.

Occasionally I am booked on a day a client calls and asks me to do a job. It is because I have met another photographer through these groups that I am able to help my client out and refer them to a competent photographer. I have also talked with the person long enough to know if they have a personality that will work well with my client.

There are more things that I get than these, but this should help you see the value of networking with your colleagues.  They are not just your competition.

Be a Joiner

Here are some links to the organizations I am involved with and I encourage you to check them out and see about joining one and getting involved.
Berrie Smith cleans and repairs cameras at the CIP Atlanta meeting.
We have Berrie Smith coming to our CIP Atlanta meetings and all the members are enjoying having someone to work on their cameras at the meeting.  Another benefit of going to the meetings.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rainy day and flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 640, ƒ/5, 1/100 No Flash
Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/160 Off Camera Flash
Rainy Day

The best thing about rainy days is the soft lighting. The thing I don't like about rainy days is the color temperature.

By just winking a flash into the model's face I am able to keep the soft light and get a better color for skin tones. The other thing is I can open up the eyes a bit and put a little catch light in the eyes as well.

Here are some more examples of using the off camera flash:

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/6 Off Camera Flash (Panning)
The other cool thing about the overcast cloud day is you can use flash and panning so much easier, because the light isn't so bright. When it is sunny in the middle of the day it is almost impossible to get your shutter speed down below 1/250.

In the photo fo the young lady walking I am dragging the shutter to 1/6 at an ISO 100 setting. The flash helps to freeze her and then the rest of the photo is blurred.  I like this motion in the photo.  Helps communicate she is on the move.

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/250 Off Camera Flash

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/10 Off Camera Flash (Panning)
Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800 Off Camera Flash

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Photographers need good content just like comedians

Jeff Justice at The Punchline in Atlanta, GA.
So you get the big opportunity to show your work to National Geographic. You WOW them with your work and things couldn't go any better at this point. Then they proceed to the next step in the process--your ideas.

You see there are literally thousands of photographers who if given an idea can execute it well. What will determine if you get a job from them will have as much to do with your ideas for stories.

Story ideas?

Freelance writers and photojournalists are always writing query letters to editors. A query letter gives editors and agents what they want.  Query must be short and grab the attention of the person being written to about the idea.

Your goal is to convince them that your idea is good for their audience and that you are the person to do the job for them.

After my wife took a comedy class from Jeff Justice, I realized comedians are having to generate good ideas for their routines in much the same way photojournalists are looking for good ideas.

Listen to Jeff Justice talk about how a comedian finds a good premise for their routine and then what it takes to perfect this skill.


After I interviewed Jeff we were talking and he mentioned he saw a video that followed three comedians through a year.

In the beginning one was funny, one was OK and one sucked. The one that sucked they even interviewed his parents and they didn't understand why he was trying to become a comedian.

About half way through the year the guy who sucked stopped pointing to others that were funny and started to see the humor in himself. This was a turning point.

At the end of the year the one who was funny was about the same and so too was the OK guy, but the change was in the guy who sucked.  He was great.

Jeff said the reason he was great is he worked harder than the other two and through his persistence was able to put it together.

If you are not quite there, maybe you need to ask yourself--how much time am I willing to dedicate to photography? If you are not willing to commit to 4 to 5 hours a day, maybe you need to find another path for success.

Jeff Justice's Comedy Class

Here is a little promo for Jeff's class in case you are interested:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Advice for traveling abroad doing photography

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 
– Benjamin Franklin

I love doing a foreign coverage for various reasons. The number one reason I like doing coverage abroad is the cross-cultural experience. A simple thing as what people eat at different meals is fascinating to me. How they live life is always different from me and then there are those things we have in common.

Since traveling is expensive and for most of the budgets I work with very limited as to how much you bring you need to plan ahead.

Questions to ask

  1. Baggage limits. 
    1. How many bags can you bring?
    2. What are the weight limits?
    3. Any gear you normally use not allowed, like battery packs?
  2. Power
    1. Do you have easy access to power?
    2. Is the power available 24 hours a day?
    3. Do you need converters? (Different size plugs, power converter from 220 to 110)
  3. Clothing
    1. Proper attire for the weather and social settings
    2. Do you have access to wash clothes? If so when and how often?
    3. Special shoes

If your trip is short you maybe able to not bring as much, but if you are gone for a couple weeks or longer you need to be prepared.

Plan to carry your cameras with you at all times is my suggestion. This is very important when flying.

Carry on bags are generally limited to a total of 45” this is the total of the length, width and height of the piece. There are standard sets of dimensions that go to make up these totals (for example, 22 x 14 x 9 is the standard for 45") and if you have a bag that is an unusual shape but still within the total number of inches, you may find it being rejected.

Although most domestic airlines have no limit on carry-on bag weight, internationally, you will find that some airlines set such ridiculously low carry-on weight limits (sometimes as little as 11 lbs) that the weight of an empty carry-on bag is more than the total weight you're allowed to take with you!
You need to be aware of these rules, or else the next time you see someone desperately unpacking and repacking their luggage on the floor by the check-in counter, that person might be you!

Flying with Camera Gear Tip

Put camera gear in your clothing. While it is not all that comfortable, you can put gear in pockets or photo vest and it not count for the weight.  Once on the plane you can put it back in the bag and put it away.

Now you might understand why so many photojournalist you see wear cargo style pants or wearing photo vests.  Because you don’t want to announce to thieves and pickpockets you are a photographer there are some clothing and bags that are more discrete.

Scottevest makes vests and jackets that hide your gear and do not look like photo vests.  I highly recommend this as a way to carry some gear when traveling.

Think Tank Urban Disguise 60
Think Tank Photo makes a variety of camera bags and the one I like is the Urban Disguise 60. It does look like a computer bag, but I think it doesn’t draw as much attention as some of the photo bags.

Image Storage

Until an image exists in three places it isn’t fully protected. The reason for this is transferring images from one place to another you can loose both systems while this is happening, that is why three places is the rule for all digital systems.

Many photographers will carry enough CF or SD cards to shoot and never have to reuse a card. This would give you the first of the three locations for images.

I use the SanHo Hyperdrive UDMA for copying all my cards when traveling. Here is an earlier blog post on it.

As long as it is feasible I also carry my Macbook Pro laptop and an external hard drive. I will ingest all the images into the laptop and will embed information about the photos, location and other information.

Camera Gear

It is easier to start with my barebones traveling camera gear.

  • 2 Nikon D4 Cameras
  • 2 EN-EL18 batteries 
  • 1 Nikon MH-26 battery charger
  • Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8
  • Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6
  • Nikon SB-900 Flash
  • Nikon SB-800 Flash
  • PocketWizard Mini1, AC3 & (2)TT5 
  • RODE Video Mic Pro 
  • Sony WCS999 Wireless Microphone System
  • 20 Sanyo AA Eneloop Batteries and battery Charger
  • 77mm ExpoDisc white balance
  • Nikon P7000 plus extra battery
  • 4 16gig XQD Memory Cards
  • 8 16gig CF Memory Cards
  • Tripod (link to blog on what I carry)

Since I am flying long distances most of the time, I prefer to bring my iPad along and use it on the plane to read books or catch up on email and surf the web.

You need to plan for the conditions you will be in and carry the gear necessary to get the photos. I always carry my Nikon P7000 because I can pull this out on the street and shoot without drawing attention to me. There are other times it is easier to shoot silently with the Nikon P7000 than with shooting with the Nikon D4.  It too will shoot on silent mode, but not as large of a file.

I carry two cameras as much for backup as for ease of shooting. I have two flashes to use if necessary and to have one as a backup.

My clothing
  • 3 pair of wick away cargo pants
  • 3 pair of wick away long sleeve shirts
  • 3 sets of underwear and socks
  • hiking boots or walking shoes
  • REI Towell
  • Safari hat
Here is an earlier blog I did about clothing for a photographer. It is important for me to be able to wash my own clothes and hang dry them. Using wick away clothing lets me wash them at night in a sink and have them dry by the morning by just hanging them up.  

I find I always keep my passport with me on trips. The most difficult thing when I travel is often having to pack-up every morning and take all the gear with you all day long from location to location. 

Like the boyscouts motto says "Always be prepared."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tips on buying and selling cameras

This is the main photo I used to sell my Nikon D3s on ebay. It shows all the original packing and even the unused Nikon D3s camera strap.
When I bought my first camera I was really excited. This was back in the early 1980s and when there were camera stores in almost every town in America.

Wayne Hitt, owner of The Camera Shop in Morganton, NC sold me my first Nikon FM2 camera and gave me some tips across that counter.  This is how most people learned photography years ago, it was done by the camera store employees and owners across America.

September 11, 2012 Wolf Camera and it's owner Ritz Camera have filed for bankruptcy and are closing all their stores. Before they folded they had already closed many of their stores across the country.  I would venture to say that there will be very few bricks and mortar stores for you to walk into outside of major metropolitan areas in the near future.

I think it is becoming increasingly difficult to walk into a store and have a photographic expert to help walk you through your purchase.

Good news!

Today we do have more resources available than when I bought my camera. is one of many different places on the web where you can go and have some solid research to help guide you to the camera that best suites your needs.

The odds are also better today if you find a photographer doing what you like to do, who has a blog telling you what equipment they use and recommendations. Here are some of those blogs other than mine that are doing just that:

Moose Peterson:
Dave Black:
Joe McNalley:

There are many places other than these guys to help you know what cameras to choose to get the job done.

Lenses are important

While your first camera purchase will focus a great deal on the camera, the lenses you choose are just as important. Most every photographer expert will recommend you stay with your camera's brand for lenses rather than off brand lenses.

While not all of us have the resources to get exactly what we want, spending the money on something that you will keep longer is better than something you might not keep as long. As a rule it is safe to say your lenses will outlast your camera.  Therefore you will be replacing your camera more often than your lenses if you continue to do this professionally or as a hobby in the years to come.

Think Resale

When you buy a camera today, it is more likely than in the film days to replaced sooner. They will come out with a model that will do something you wish you had on your camera and so you upgrade.

  • Buy a camera brand that is established so that when you decide to upgrade the camera you have still has some resale value.
  • Keep all the original packing material. This will help with resale.
  • Don't use the camera strap that comes with the camera, buy a different one. (resale)
  • Baby the camera. Take really good care of the camera. Just like a car that looks like it just came off the showroom floor the value of the camera goes up the better the condition.

Timing is very important to maximize your opportunity in the market. There is a sweet time slot to sell and buy a camera.

The sweet spot is when your used camera has it's greatest value.

Camera manufacturers have a lineup of cameras very much like the auto industry does on their lots. 
  • $300- $600
  • $800 - $1,500
  • $2,000 - $3,500
  • $4,000 - $6,000
  • $7,000 - and up
In general you are going to loose between 25% - 50% on a camera that is well taken care of with all the original packing materials.

From the time you bought your camera till they replace your model is about 18 months on average. This follows the Moore's Law since so much of the camera is a computer anyway. Moore's Law is about the power of the computer chip doubling in power every 18 months and for the most part this has held true.

Camera manufactures do not as a rule roll out all their new cameras every 18 months. The new roll outs are staggered and therefore a new camera is almost introduced every 6 months.

Let's say you bought the high end camera at $5,000 18 months ago.  The new one comes out to replace it is about the same price of $5,200.  In those first 3 months you can sell your used camera for a maximum price of maybe $3,750 on the high end to about $2,500 on the low end.  Just depends on how many Shutter Actuations (How many times the shutter fired) since you bought the camera, how the point looks on the body of the camera and most important how good the sensor is performing.

As you get closer to the 6 months mark after they introduced the new camera most likely the price point just below it is getting their new model. It will sell for $3,000.  Since it is newer than your used camera it most likely will be a better camera except in durability.  But now you are competing selling your $2,500 - $3,750 with a new $3,000. This is when your camera now will take another hit to it's price value on the market.  I would guess roughly another $500 less than you could have gotten had you tried to sell it just a couple months ago.

Where to Sell

I highly recommend using to sell your gear. The days of going to the local camera store and trading your gear in and upgrading are gone for the most part. still will buy your gear, but usually at half the price they would sell the camera gear.

ebay has some great buyer protection in place making it even better than selling the camera on your own. While they get a cut it is still better than having a bad check in your hand. Even a cashiers check can be bad these days.

Take photos of the gear you want to sell. Take every angle possible and at a high resolution. This helps those looking at your gear zoom in and see the imperfections if there are any.  

I use PhotoMechanic to find out the actuations. Here are those instructions:

Edit> Settings> Set Info Text and select the "actuations" variable. Don't forget to type in some form of label before the variable so you'll be able to tell what number goes with this variable.

Then the actuations will appear in the panel when you bring up "Restore Panes"

IMPORTANT: Be sure and keep copies of everything. More than 6 months after selling a Nikon D3 the buyer filed a fraudulent charge against me through PayPal.  Because I had all my records this was taken care of right away.

Keep your cameras protected in a camera bag or you can even buy a silicon protective cover to avoid scratches. Here is a link to some of those silicon skins.


After doing this for a while it is quite common to have camera gear laying around that you no longer use. Go through your closet and pull everything you no longer use in to a pile to list on ebay.  Many things that we think are worthless are even more valuable because they are hard to find.

You can search for each item you are no longer needing and then say you want to sell a similar item and it will help you put your listing up even sooner. If you don't see anything like your item on ebay, you may want to start a little higher on price, because it is rare.  If no one buys you can always lower the price.  Auctioning it can also be a great way to get a better price than you thought you could have gotten.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Comedians and still photographers have something in common

Dorie Griggs performs at the Punchline as part of her graduation from Jeff Justice's comedy class.
Mike Sacks discovered in his research for a book on comedy a common link of many comedy writers is OCD. Sacks is on editorial staff of Vanity Fair and the author of And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft.  

Sacks admits that he is OCD and believes it is true for 70% of comedy writers.

While not all my photographer friends are OCD and I haven’t done any research on it, I have noticed many of my photographer friends have OCD tendencies.

You need to be persistent to find the right words, just as the photographer must continue to look for the right moment to communicate.

Poets will spend years on poems looking for the right word for their poem. The difference between word choices is profound.

Advertising slogans can flourish or die with the difference in a word choice.

While “it” and “something” can both be anything, “just do it” is everything “Just do something” is not. See, copy does matter. --@leeclowsbeard Twitter

It’s the story

A well-developed character is core to good comedy and not necessarily the joke. Jokes are the sauce of comedy and not the steak. They often teach comedy writers to take out the jokes and if it is not funny, go back and rewrite it. Once the story is funny adding a joke just adds to the humor.

Photographers will work situations and find they have lots of photos of a subject. When they go through and edit the photos they need to boil down to those moments that tell a story effectively.

Analyzing why something is funny is a like trying to discover why people fall in love. It is not impossible to understand, but it does take a lot of experience and certain amount of talent to understand it.


Writing good comedy is a lot like writing music. The words must fit a rhythm and beat when delivered or it just doesn’t work.

My wife took a comedy class from Jeff Justice here recently. The last class is actually their performance at the Punchline. Getting to listen and watch their first performances as compared to listening to seasoned pros had more to do with their timing than with the words.  I could feel the lack of rhythm in their delivery and then when a seasoned pro closed the night off, could sense the next line and how wonderful it felt.

What the comedian must write into their routine is silence. It is one of the most important aspects of good comedy and music. The famous jazz artist Miles Davis used silence to create his melodic melodies create mood and an atmosphere.

The audience needs time to absorb the situation and understand it before they can respond to a punchline. Some of the best comedians can take you through a series of punchlines to a great crescendo by just spacing the lines a part from each other.

The key to timing understands the need for the audience to absorb a moment. This is the common thing that still photography and comedy have in common.

A visual moment needs time to be absorbed and depending on the moment may need longer for better impact.

It is all in the delivery

While the comedian has written all their material and practiced it over and over, then final piece of success and failure is in the delivery to the audience.

Printed on the page these same routines will be flat.  The comedian brings them to life.

For the photographer the deliver of the image to the audience needs space and time as well. This is where one good image with text is far more powerful than a video that doesn’t give the audience the time to absorb a moment.

Just as the comedian doesn’t pause after every word, neither does a video need to be all stills to have impact. The communicator understands what moments need a pregnant pause.

One thing I have come to believe is a key to when something needs a visual pregnant pause is when it is emotional. It can be on either end of the emotional spectrum from pure joy to despair, both ends of the spectrum need more time to breath.

As you move more to the center of fewer emotions then the time necessary is less.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beyond Facebook for the photographer

Concept of free explodes

Chris Anderson wrote a very compelling book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, in 2009. The book was timely because it was addressing the disruptive behavior being experience primarily due to things like Google and Facebook.  However, Anderson traces the history of free back to Jello in 1896 giving away more than five million recipe books to introduce their product into the market.

Music industry and free

Between 1999 and 2001 there was a peer–to-peer file sharing network that people were sharing their MP3 files. The name of this network was Napster.

This was the turning point in the musical industry. Musicians were having their songs pirated and it was not until January 9, 2001 when Steve Jobs averted this catastrophe with iTunes. This was where the industry helped to stabilize the music industry and helped it turn around losses into profits.

Photography and free

In 2004 Mark Zuckerberg turned his school project facemash into Facebook. This was an invitation only social network until September 26, 2006 when it was opened up for anyone over the age of 13 to join. Two years later in 2008 more than 100 million people had joined.

The turning point for photography with Facebook was July 2007.  This is when users could put photos on their wall. Prior to that only text could go on the wall.

Facebook allows users to upload an unlimited number of photos, compared with other image hosting services such as Photobucket and Flickr, which apply limits to the number of photos that a user is allowed to upload. During the first years, Facebook users were limited to 60 photos per album. As of May 2009, this limit has been increased to 200 photos per album.

Before & Now


•    Sharing photos was primarily done with prints and cost for each photo produced
•    Sharing electronically was done by email attachments
•    Photo identification was rare to in general non existent with photos and photo albums
•    If you wanted to pass photos to many people you made multiple prints
•    Their was a good amount of knowledge and effort made from the time the shutter was pushed to having prints or having it in the computer to share

•    You can upload unlimited number of photos for free
•    You can tag a photo along with others being allowed to do so that now we are able to have photo identification which was missing before
•    Digital copies are in general free except for the space they take up on your computer
•    Today people are using their camera phones more than their cameras.
•    The immediacy of taking a photo and sharing it can be even automatic if you change your preferences on your phone and Facebook account.

More than Facebook

On September 6, 2012, Facebook closed the deal to buy Instagram. Unlike Facebook, which was created with computers in mind, Instagram exists only as a mobile application. As you can see the immediacy of creating and sharing images is at an all time high.

Most all photographers today are offering social media model for their clients. Most weddings are assumed that the client wants a digital version to share to their social media groups.

For most wedding photographers this is the baseline of their product. Most brides expect a low-resolution digital image to use.

Even for the commercial shooter many of their images are being tweeted or put on corporate Facebook pages.

With so much of social media being free to the client having to pay for any content is almost foreign to their world. 

However, I do not think a Steve Jobs type of entrepreneur is coming to save photography as was done with iTunes for the music industry.

Photographers need to be aware and helping the client see how they are aware of how photos are used in social media and their savvy understanding is what they are offering to help make the photos they take stand out amongst the millions of image being posted everyday.

Photographers also need to help clients understand while having photos on social media sites is important it is quickly there are other ways to break through to get their message out.

We need to help them rediscover prints, snail mailings, brochures, billboards, television and other outlets other than social media.

Photographers should lead the industry in showing clients what they can do rather than talking about what they can do, because “seeing is believing.”

You need to make some large prints so your clients can see how these can create impact. Too many corporations loose opportunities in their locations to show what they do by simply hanging large prints on the walls of their offices.

One of my clients has masterfully used the billboard. Chick-fil-A introduced their mascot in 1995 on a billboard near Turner field in Atlanta. Today these cows are helping brand Chick-fil-A coast to coast.

I recommend photographers start using these other mediums, which can turn into sales to market themselves.

If you know anything about privacy settings on things like Facebook, then you know how easy it is for people to block all your content if it is on the computer. However, snail mail has to touch their hands before it hits the trash and for a brief second you have a chance to get your message to them.

Want to grow your business—do more than provide a digital image for Facebook.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Recommendations for outsourcing for Prints & Books

Pete Casabonne recently joined PPR to head up PPRpix, a new online photo printing service. Pete brings over 30 years of experience in the professional photo processing industry. Whether film or digital, Pete's depth of knowledge will help you get the best possible results.

Pete Casabonne shows one of many 40" x 60" prints made for Atlanta Falcons.
He is excited to show some of his new book designs. I have been to their lab and the equipment he is using gives him options he has never had before in his 30 years until now.
Many photographers struggle with getting good skin tones and colors in their prints. Listen to the video to Pete what he recommends you do to get the best color.
logoPPRpix offers two ways to submit your files: 1) What you submit is what you get or 2) They will color correct your image to the best color they see fit.

Beside offering a range of photographic prints, finishes and mounting, PPRpix has a digital press that will print front and back things like business cards, post cards and posters. They also offer custom book publishing as well.

Pete will be at the Atlanta Christians in Photojournalism meeting September 22nd at Roswell Presbyterian Church.  Click here for more details.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Dissecting Party Event Photo Coverage

Let me start with the client's email to me the morning after the event. Yes I deliver quickly.
The pictures are great.  I really love the clarity; especially those that are up close.  Please send me an invoice so I can submit payment.

thanks again!!

When I cover a party I have a shot list in my head. As I work through the list I notice that I become more and more relaxed as I tick things off the list.

I have learned over time to cover an event in phases that allows me to be sure I have the "safe" shots and then slowly I can add the photos that add to the package.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100
Phase One

Arrive early and start taking photos of the location. Most likely the hosts have spent a little money on the food and the caterer has done their best within the budget to show their best.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/4.8, 1/100

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/5, 1/100

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.3, 1/100

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/100
By arriving early you can have more space to work as well. No one is really there and this gives you the ability to backup, move close, and change your angle to get what you like for representing the food.

All the food shots I did with available light. I am not trying to do the cover of Southern Living Cookbook so I am not shooting the photos at the lowest ISO and lighting the food to make it look it's very best. My purpose is to show the food as it looked for the event.

I try to use available light as much as feasible. All the food shots were done with available light.

Phase Two

I work the room trying to get photos of the people interacting. During this time I might use some flash to fill in the shadows. I want to be sure the photos are solid and not me pushing the limits of the situation, which might not work.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.
As you can see this is where I might have the guest pose for a photo. I am encouraging them to get closer to one another. Now if they do not want to get too close I just capture them with a little space or when they want to show a true friendship you might see them holding on to each other.

I try and shoot these just a little loose for two reasons. First if you shoot too tight and they want an 8x10 print then they may not have enough excess to crop the photo from long side. The same can be true for a 5x7 except this is where they don't have enough from the short side to crop. Keeping it loose allows for different dimension prints.

Second, I like to show the environment. I think this is one of the largest mistakes made by amateurs. They come in so close the pictures no longer have any context. Whose party are they attending anyway?

Why Flash?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 900, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome. They are outside on a porch with an overhang that has a white ceiling.
During the second phase I am occasionally shooting available and then quickly adding a flash. The reason is the flash will help fill in the shadows. With darker skins their is a tendency to loose the face details if you are not careful. Notice the difference in the skin tones of the face of this lady and you will see how the lower photograph is technically nicer. I prefer the expression of the first photo and wish I had the flash on for that photo and then it would be perfect for my taste.

As one who is always advocating getting the flash off the camera, unless the budget would have allowed for a photo assistant to walk around with my flash the guests would most likely bump into a light stand and maybe get hurt and/or damage my gear. So I stayed with on camera flash for this event. However, I did bounce it and never shot with it directly pointed at the subjects.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60 and no flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/3.5, 1/500 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/80 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/4, 1/250 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 and Nikon SB-900 bouncing on the ceiling with no diffusion dome.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 and no flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 and no flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash
 Notice in these two photos I have switched to an ultra wide-angle lens the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8.  I love shooting with these lens to help give context and put the viewer as if they are standing right their on the porch and part of the conversation.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 and no flash
Notice in this photo below I went just a little wider than the photo above.  The one above is shot at 24mm and the one below at 19mm.  I love seeing the three women in the back in three different conversations. You can just tell everyone is enjoying themselves and having moments of their own.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 and no flash
Using the 28-300mm lens I can zoom in as I have done below with the photo of the guy listening to another person. This was zoomed to 300mm and let me look across the room just like you would if you are there to catch glimpses of others enjoy conversations.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250 and no flash
You need some overall shots to capture how many people came to an event. This is everyone gathering for a few comments at the cocktail party. I shot it with the Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm to capture as much of the room as possible.  I am holding the camera as high as I can above my head and angling it down to show the room almost like a security camera would do in the corner of a room.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2200, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and Nikon SB-900 bounced with no diffuser.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 and Nikon SB-900 bounced without the diffuser

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/125 and no flash
Phase Three

Usually there is a point that I have photographed most everyone in the room a few times. I have the event covered if I were to stop working. This is where I am now freed up to start looking around for more interesting photos.

Now in Phase Two I did some of these photos, but this is where now I just look for moments and may push the limits of the situation.  A good example is shooting with the Nikon 28-300mm zoomed to 300mm shooting available light. Even at ISO 12800 inside you might be hand holding at really slow shutter speeds.

I did this and had to toss a lot of the photos because of camera movement or the subject moved. It would be common for the subject to start laughing and toss their head back in the process and I get a blur and nothing is sharp.  This is why I often wait to do these shots in Phase Three, but I might mix a few in Phase Two.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/160 and Nikon SB-900 bounced with no diffusion
Since I have pretty much everything the client needs, when the chef asked for a photo for himself it was easier to meet this request towards the end. I could have done this in Phase One, but he was very busy then.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash
With the photo of the man in the center and the people around the table I moved a little back and forth until I used him to block the light behind him. This is the president of Georgia Tech talking to the new tenured professors.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash
In this photo below you can see the dining room from above. Hopefully this gives you the reason why you arrive early to take photos of the food. Where do you stand to get those photos now?

Nikon D4,14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash
In the following two photos notice the slow shutter speeds and high ISO settings.  The top photo was shot at 250mm and the lower one at 210mm.  Either of these would normally be shot at a minimum of 1/250 shutter speeds to be sure there is no camera movement. In the lower photo I am shooting at 1/40 shutter speed. While I can do everything as perfect to capture this moment all it takes is for the lady to move slightly and it is a blur. This is why I shoot this type of photo without a flash and ISO 12800 in Phase Three. I am taking larger risks. If I did this in Phase Two the number of photos I would be giving the customer would shrink drastically.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100 and no flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 and no flash
The Seasoned Pro

It takes years to really know how to shoot in this way. Besides dividing up types of photos I am also pushing the limits of the flash and available light.

Notice I am shooting inside at really high ISOs and using flash. Why would I do that?  Read this early blog post of mine to answer that question here.

Shooting the way I did for this event is very complex, but the results I think speak for themselves. I think I captured real moments with very little intrusion. This is why clients hire me, not because they just need a photographer. They need a photographer who will come in and not come to them complaining about not enough light and basically creating problems.

Before my client even saw these photos they were excited to invite me back. They liked how I work was their comment to me as I left. If it is that evident they see a difference in how I work as compared to other photographers and they haven't even seen the results, then I know it is my years of experience showing in how I carry myself.