Friday, January 31, 2014

Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4D my go to portrait lens

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 800, ƒ/1.4, 1/160
Today I had a lot of fun helping a young actress build her portfolio. Her mother wrote to me saying "We are need of getting some Headshots done for my daughter's acting webpage.  She is an actress and has an agent here in Atlanta."

You can see the young actress Kalyn Wood on her Facebook page here.

They were needing four different looks. So we shot for about 4 hours and had some fun. All the images were shot with the Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4D.

Sometimes I would white balance for the modeling lights and not use the flash like in the photo above. I did this so I could shoot at ƒ/1.4. She is thinking about using this as the big photo you first see landing on her page. Makes sense because of the horizontal format will work great on the webpage.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 400, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
I think she did a great job of bringing some great variations of expressions to create those different looks and then I tried to light the photos to match the mood we were looking to produce.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 400, ƒ/1.4, 1/125
By just changing some clothes and hair we could get a completely different look.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/80
For this photo here I talked to her about the character Anna Bates in Downton Abbey.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200
For this photo with the red background we talked about The Evil Queen/Regina Mills in the ABC series Once Upon a Time.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/160
In this photo I can easily see her as one of the cast in Pretty Little Liars.

Nikon D4, 85mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/160
What is important to know is that it is much easier to have something in mind together that you are creating than to just pick up a camera and start shooting. Together we were able to get some great images, but we both had to be on the same page.

She had to bring expressions and clothing for each of the shots. I had to light and compose the photos to help create that mood.

You know anyone wanting to build a model or acting portfolio, then send them my way and we can have some fun creating something together.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Digital lets you shoot in manual mode and yet still be in auto

Fuji X-E2,  XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/1000
I was shooting some photos of birds on our bird feeder when I realized I wanted a little more depth-of-field than wide open at ƒ/4.8, so I closed down the camera to ƒ/8.  This made it possible to keep the bird in focus.

In Aperture Mode then the camera would normally drop the Shutter Speed to low to freeze the birds and it to look in focus. See the bird feeder is hanging and would swing a little as the birds would land.

Now if I choose Shutter Speed Mode and picked 1/1000 the camera would open up the aperture which isn't what I wanted.

Now in film days you would typically not get this photo, because I would normally have put ASA 100 [ISO 100] since the photo was in sunlight. You would be stuck with whatever ISO you had put in the camera, but today with digital this can change frame to frame.


The thing I love the best about digital is the Auto ISO. In this situation I then put the camera in Manual Mode and pick the ƒ/8 and 1/1000 and the camera's Auto ISO will now pick the ISO that gives me a well exposed photo.

Fuji X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/1000
The Fuji X-E2 Auto ISO

When you choose the Auto ISO on the camera the camera automatically chooses a sensitivity between the default and maximum values. Sensitivity is only raised above the default value if the shutter speed required for optimal exposure would be slower than the value selected for MIN. SHUTTER SPEED.

If the value selected for DEFAULT SENSITIVITY is higher than that selected for MAX. SENSITIVITY, DEFAULT SENSITIVITY will be set to the value selected for MAX. SENSITIVITY.

The camera may select shutter speeds slower than MIN. SHUTTER SPEED if pictures would still be underexposed at the value selected for MAX. SENSITIVITY.

I have set my AUTO ISO to have a range of 200 to 6400. The one thing I do go in change regularly is the minimum shutter speed.  I have it set for 1/500 sometimes for quick moving subjects and then maybe change it to 1/60 for inside more fixed subjects.

If you need to control the Aperture and Shutter Speed to get the photo, then let the ISO climb higher. with today's sensors the higher ISO isn't as noisy as in years past.  I think you will agree that the photos above, which are cropped are acceptable noise for shooting at ƒ/8 and 1/1000.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Storm and Epic Traffic for Metro Atlanta 2014

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/15
Note: All photos were shot on the Fuji X-E2 and while I was sitting still I would use the Wifi connection and upload these to my Facebook page.

While many people want to judge the south as not knowing how to handle snow, this was not just a snow storm. The main reason for the traffic standing still in the south is the ice.

In the photo above you can see the ice all over this semi-truck and on the road. this is on Georgia 400 around exit 7a.  The truck continued to spin its wheels and slide toward me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/15
The guy in the red KIA Sportage was spinning his wheels so much that if he did get traction would have rammed the people in front of him.  Most of the cars with front wheel drive and good tires were moving slowly and taking their time. The front wheels had enough weight from the engines to keep traction.

My trip started with excitement.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 320, ƒ/5, 1/500 TIME 12:51 pm
I was doing some work down at Chick-fil-A's corporate office. As I went out the door at 12:50 pm I took a photo of their billboard that is on their tour. Many people get up on the platform and get their photo taken with the cows.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/500 TIME 12:51 pm
Many people also like to have their photo taken with Truett Cathy, the statue that is. If he is at the office he will meet with folks in his office. Well as you can see the cows and Truett had a light dusting of snow.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500 TIME 12:54 pm
As soon as I drove out the the parking deck and got on the road I called the office and told them to leave now.  The roads already were slick. I could tell the snow was melting and turning to ice almost instantaneous.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 TIME 15:03 pm
This firetruck is going in the opposite direction to get to wrecks.  This was about halfway through my 11 hour commute.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/8 TIME 8:48 pm
I am assuming the sign had some lights burned out, but this should say:
Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/8 TIME 10:45 pm
This photo here is on Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell between Old Roswell Road and Warsaw Road at 10:45 pm or less than 1.5 miles from my house. It would take me another hour and half to drive that. When I approached Alpharetta Hwy I knew the road would go down a hill and back up. Knowing this was where most problems would be for vehicles, I turned right and no traffic at all for me to go north to Houze Way and take that road through the back of our neighborhood.

I got home at 12:05 am today. There is now color back in my knuckles from them gripping the steering wheel for 11 hours.  Seeing a semi-truck sliding towards you and you cannot do anything is enough to give someone a cardiac arrest.  Thankfully all those trips to the gym are paying off.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/500 TIME 9:10 am
Sitting at home now enjoying my coffee and I can say relaxing as I see this out my front door. There are still many people still on the road stuck until the ice either melts away or DOT clears the roads.

Keep those affected in your prayers until the roads are all cleared.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The use of color is very important to the overall look of a project

Click on photo to see bigger
If you want your portfolio to go to a new level, maybe you should be paying attention to color pallets [color schemes].

One of the things that really set professional work apart from home videos is control of the color scheme. The color scheme is simply the collection of colors in the film or video: the clothes, the backgrounds, the props, the makeup, the locations, etc.

Deciding on a color palette before you shoot and sticking to it in production will work wonders for the production value of your project.

When you dress every day you coordinate, or at least I hope you do, your outfits so they work together. When you go to the office you may have a color pallet that is quite different from what you might wear if you were to go out on the town at night to a theater or clubbing.

You are creating a mood around you just by what you wear. Now if you were in control of more than just your clothes then you could really impact people's moods as they come into contact with you.  This is exactly what Hollywood does for the big screen and TV.

Besides using music to create a mood they use color pallets. Watch this clip from Parenthood. See how close I came to picking the color pallet below it for what colors you see in each scene. Pay attention to the floors, walls, outside the window colors, what each actor is wearing and you will notice every little color is in part of a theme.

When Hollywood goes back in time I noticed they like to use a lot of blue. Take a look at the Lincoln movie trailer. See the colors below and see how close these match.

Another TV show that really exagerates the color pallete is CSI Miami.

If you want to see a large selection of color pallets like above go to Click on Explore to see all types of themes and they will even let you sort them from most popular.

When I travel around the world I find certain locations have a more consistent color pallet as in this photo from West Africa. I guess that when they make many of their own clothes they use the natural colors they can find where as in the US we import from all over the world making things more eclectic.

In this scene above it is like Hollywood coordinated the color pallet, but what really is happening is Hollywood knows that they are just duplicating natural scenes.

The biggest difference between what Hollywood is doing and we might find in everyday life is being sure they control where the subjects eyes go in a scene. If one person walked into a scene and was not part of the color pallet and everyone else was, then your eye goes to them immediately.

Here for example the purple shirt is so different that your eye goes to that person.

In the photo of the two boys they are both wearing blue and then the blue is also on the wall and the floor as well. Then you have the green and touch of the red in the boys pants, floor and flowers. We have three colors in this photo that are being played off of each other. This is what interior designers try to do when decorating and what Hollywood does to help create a mood.

Sometimes you just have to move a step to the right or left to recompose a photograph that will help simplify the color pallet and make the photo stronger.

This is why going to the home of a family you plan to do a family portrait of and help pick out all the clothes and location before you show up later to do the shoot.  If you do you are managing the color pallet and this will make for a better photo.

The use of color is very important to the overall look of a project; like most other things, although the viewer may not be discussing the color palette after watching your work, you can rest assured that the color scheme – or lack thereof – most certainly affected their perception of it. In big-budget Hollywood movies a lot of attention is given to the color of even the finest detail, and with good reason!

Monday, January 27, 2014

How will your audience see your photos?


When you are shooting for print and especially a magazine you would compose some photos for the cover. You leave a little more space than you would had you not been trying to make room for the text that needs to be on the cover.

Most editorial photographers are paid more if the photo runs bigger as well as for how many photos they use in the printed piece. Getting a double-truck [two full pages--side by side] also will give you more money.  Here you have to take into account the gutter, the place where the two pages are divided.

Sometimes they use one photo that bleeds off the pages or sometimes a grouping like here above. Most designers are aware of the gutter and minimize this affect on the image.

Knowing you are shooting a photo story most pros will do all they can to make the images so good that the editor feels like the story must be on the cover and get extra pages. This not only helps the story be told, but the photographer also benefits from a bigger pay check.

The designers used to joke with my mentor, Don Rutledge, they they thought he had templates inside the viewfinder to help him help them with layout. Really Don shot so many variables in situations that for any situation he usually had a cover shot, a double truck, some variation of the double-truck and then some tighter shots for impact.


Today the most likely place your photos will be seen are on the web. This is a horizontal space and the general rule of photography is to fill the frame of the camera and watch the corners. This also applies to your photo when filling the hole the designers are working with on the computer screen.

This is how a vertical shot will look in the space for a designer. This is the space it would fit within a video. The video format is about 16:9 proportion.

Now the photo of the man here is the full 3:2 frame from the camera placed inside the 16:9 format with no cropping. While this is much better, the designer would prefer to fill their space and so too does the video editor.

My suggestion is to shoot a little looser giving some room for the cropping. I know some photographers will even put some guides over the LCD screens to help them with their framing.

If you really want to grow your business, be the guy that not only shoots for the use that the project is intended, but to meet other uses. This is great stewardship because you can show to the client that they now can use your photos for many other things from brochures, newsletters, displays, PowerPoint, websites and more.

Besides understanding the proportions you need to think of what they audience is using to view your work. This is where knowing your demographics can help you plan the coverage better.

What it the photos are going to be used in a video that will be put on a website. Now if your audience is mainly going to the web through a desktop or even laptop you would shoot this differently than if they are using a Smartphone.

If the experience will be on a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone, then shoot tighter. A panoramic shot with a person in the corner just doesn't read well on a 3" screen. This is where tight shots of faces and objects are better for the space.

Think of how you tell time. Be sure the face of the clock fits the space to be able to tell the time.

This photo of the watch makes it easy to tell the time.

As you can see in this photo the watch and clock are about the same size.  If your point is to see what time it is, get closer than this photo. On a iPhone in a video playing at full speed this image would loose it's ability to communicate.

Are you asking the client, "What is the end use of the photos?" If not you need to do this and then you need to plan to be sure your photos make the best use of the space. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Importance of a photography community--that you belong to one

Ben Gray, Visual Manager at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was our keynote speaker. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/110]
While I have tried for many years to get a large group of photographers together for mainly social time to get to know each other, it has been a struggle. However, this weekend we had thirty-two people show up for our meeting of Christian in Photojournalism Atlanta/Southeast at our home in Roswell, GA.

I was talking to my friend Ken Touchton and he said he wasn't surprised because we had basically created a mini conference.

Berrie Smith, camera repairman, who works with Nikon and Canon on a regular basis was there cleaning people's camera sensors and doing some minor repairs. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/8, 1/125 with fill-flash set at -1 EV]
We had a keynote speaker, a devotional, camera repairs and complimentary lunch provided by Chick-fil-A.

Dorie Griggs, led our devotional time [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/100]
Dorie Griggs reminded each of us while our jobs may isolate us from one another that we do need to come together and rely on each other for support.
1 Peter 4:10
New International Version (NIV)
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 
The Bible verse she used to remind us that we are to use our gifts to reconnect with one another was 1 Peter 4:10.

Craig Carden and John Bazee discover that they have a great deal in common. Both have worked for radio stations, love music and photography. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/50]
What was different from most photography communities is we encouraged spouses and significant others to come to the meeting. The reason is they are part of our support system. Those who support photographers have a lot in common as well they found out.

Also, spouses enjoyed meeting their spouses colleagues and getting another perspective on someone else who is also doing photography.

Peggy Frazeur and Carrie Carden spend some time getting to know each other for the first time at this meeting.  [Nikon D4, 85mm, ƒ/3.5, ISO 8000, 1/200]
Since I am a photographer more than a writer I am hoping that these photographs are helping you see the emotional connections that were being made and the enjoyment people showed in being in this environment. Most everyone commented how this was a blessing for them.

I think coming together and talking to others doing photography makes a huge difference in our emotional condition. Of course people were bringing their latest cameras to show to each other. We are all have to be a gear-head to be a successful photographer and finding something that is helping us do a better job is so exciting we enjoy sharing with someone. The big hit with most folks was pulling out their mirrorless cameras and showing all that these cameras will do that fit in a pocket.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/50]
In December the Atlanta Journal-Constitution laid off all of their 10 photographers. They then gave each of them first shot at one of their 7 their new multimedia specialist positions. They no longer have just a photographer position anymore on their staff. Ben is also no longer just at the desk, he is out covering breaking news every day. In this role he is often the only AJC journalist on news scenes and is relied on to provide still photos, video, audio and reporting with accuracy and immediacy. He frequently contributes video to WSB-TV and audio to WSB Radio in the course of his work.

We asked him to walk through a typical assignment and how he gathers all this for all those outlets.

Ben's Breaking News Workflow:

  • Get photos first: He arrived at airplane crash and knew from experience that he would be moved back by the police as they established the boundaries. "I can get quotes later, but I cannot get the photos later." He has an Eye-fi card in the camera. He just tags a photo and the camera is setup to automatically send the photo using his hotspot to send those to the newspaper/radio/TV station where they can pull those while he continues to work.
  • Shoot Video on iPhone: He shoots 10 second clips that they post to the websites and WSB-TV can use as well. If they arrive with a crew he doesn't have to send the video.
  • Reporting Role: He is gathering audio with his iPhone and then he sends these interviews by email to the assignment desk where they have a writer turn this into copy for the web. 
  • Touches base with assignment desk: They may call and ask for more.
  • Formal editing: He will do minor editing of image and captioning to add to the galleries online. He will also check the photos that were pulled from his photos that were automatically transmitted. He has pulled photos off the web that accidentally showed a dead person in a photo for example
Gibbs Frazuer is one of the people who shared their work. We have always given 2 - 5 minutes for anyone to share their work. This is a great way for all of us to see what each other is doing and also a great time for us to practice showing our work. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/35]
[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/25]
Our First Project

I wanted to introduce the idea of shooting a project where we could each find a person and tell their story. To introduce the idea I showed Chick-fil-A's Every Life Has a Story.

We are all going to find a subject and put together a package which we will share at our next meeting. We are hoping to then find a space to hold an event where we can invite the subjects and the community to see the stories and maybe for us to leave an exhibit up of some prints from those stories.

Enjoying our Chick-fil-A sandwiches and getting to know one another. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/200]
When we all arrived everyone was meeting new people for the first time. In one way or another we asked each other, "So what's your story?" We all want to connect with each other. We not only want to connect through getting to know someone's story, we also want to share our story.

Dorie Griggs and Laura Espeut wanted a photo together. That is what friends do when they get together--smile. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ƒ/9, ISO 12800, 1/80]
Do you have a community? Look for a community to join and if there is not one you can find, then start one yourself.

Remember this is what God intended as we see in 1 Peter 4:10 "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms."

Once you understand God's grace you cannot help but want to pay it forward through service to others.

So, when are you getting together with some photographers?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ideas for working with NGOs & Companies using Storytelling

A friend wrote me and asked "Were you ever able to make progress on ideas around working for NGO's?" Here are my comments to help him navigate this from what I have learned.

Today as you know it is easier than ever to become a photographer and get published. The gatekeepers are removed for the most part. You can go and shoot a story today and publish it today for the world to see.  

Today worldwide travel for us is the easiest it has ever been—minus some visa and security issues. So the ability to go and cover the world is somewhat attainable. This is why so many today have traveled internationally as compared to years ago.

What is the one thing stopping then most storytellers?  The finance side. 
Matthew 6:26 reminds us " Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
This doesn't mean you just sit back, you do just like the birds—The early bird gets the worm.


I think what I have found is that these NGOs tend to be run by people who are now experiencing an all time high in volunteerism. This includes the “GWC Guy With Camera” that in a way makes what we do more difficult to sell to the NGO.  

Today we need to create better PR for ourselves and what our work can do for them than ever before. We have relied way too long on showing our work and expecting the person to get how this can help them.

You are also competing with untold numbers of great storytellers who are all trying to do the same thing. They are not just GWC but great storytellers. So, how do you stand out and get the attention that can be monetized?

ROI—Return On Investment

Besides today just creating a portfolio of your work for an NGO you need to create a portfolio of success stories. This is different from the portfolio. This is where the ROI is captured. 

Two basic elements are needed to convince and NGO to spend money when they get so much for free already. They need to see numbers and testimonies.

If you can demonstrate how one of your packages helped increase the support for an NGO then you have their ears. Once you have their ears you give them the second punch for the knockout—a testimony from that client. 

Two ways you are marketed

First, you do a great job for a client others will see it and ask them who did their work for them. Also, often they are so excited they tell your story for you. This is the very best way for your marketing to work. The second way is for you to capture this from a client and use this material to market to other NGOs. Maybe this is a brochure with photos some charts showing giving going up and then quotes from the clients.

Why do I not see this being done?

It is being done by many. Most of us stumble into it. We go on some missions trip or go volunteer and create a package for telling the story because we just like to do that. Then we share it. This is how Jeremy Cowart jump started his business. He covered a trip to Africa and put a book together. He shared it and then Britney Spears people saw it and asked him to work on their next tour.  

I think those who can find a great emotional story and invest in doing the story the best way they can show their abilities for storytelling and capture how this story helped as a change agent [ROI] then they may launch easily into more NGO coverages.

I can tell you NGOs may not be the best place to monetize what we do with storytelling. Today the trend in marketing is using storytelling as the content for marketing.  Here are some links about this being done today:

  1. Five Storytelling Strategies » Digital Marketing » 435 Digital Internet ... 
    Nov 13, 2013 - When it comes to the content on your site – whether it's a weekly blog or occasionally updating a module on the homepage – it's never a bad ...
  2. How to Use Storytelling as a Marketing Strategy | Wired Advisor Blog Everyone has a story to share. We are shaped by our life experiences, both personal and professional. Sharing stories about our own lives, and also the lives of ...
  3. Story as Strategy, How Social Storytelling Leads to Business | Social ... 
    Social Media Marketing Podcast 69, in this episode Gary Vaynerchuk Gary shares why storytelling is important for your business.
  4. 5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success - Forbes 
    Learn the five secrets that brand storytellers understand and use to ... and indirect brand marketing initiatives have become a strategicpriority.
  5. Integrate More Brand Storytelling in Your Content Marketing Strategy Jun 26, 2013 - Discover how your company can easily integrate characters and stories consumers want to share into your content, as well as examples of ...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Shallow depth-of-field @ ƒ/9 can give great Bokeh

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 100mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/200
When you first think of ƒ/9 you might think of the photo above where you can see from the lady to the sign behind her that most of photo is in focus, but that the far background of the building is out of focus.

I have written on this topic before in a different way and even created a video on it. Here is that link.

This is a little different perspective on the topic using the new Fujifilm X-E2.

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 300mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/125
Now in this photo here you might not realize it too is shot at ƒ/9.  Two things helps with the silky Bokeh in the background. First, I am now shooting at 30mm verses 100mm at ƒ/9 and second the background is far enough in the background that it is out of focus.  It is about 100 ft from here.

Nikon D3S, 28-300mm, 150mm ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/200
In this photo she is standing not too far from where she was in the first photo. However the shallow depth-of-field is helped by the distance from the building, the 150mm focal length.  

Same photo from above but just cropped
Now when you enlarge the photo you will see the eye closest to the camera is tact sharp. But the next eye is ever so slightly soft, but by her hair by her ear we are out of focus.  

Things that affect the Bokeh of the background in photos
  • ƒ-stop: The wider the aperture with everything else the same, then the depth-of-field becomes shallow
  • Distance to Subject: The closer you are to your subject the shallower the depth-of-field will be.
  • Subject distance to background: The greater this distance the more likely the smoother look of the Bokeh
Fujifilm X-E2 with Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 using the Nikon G AFS lens to Fujifilm Fuji X-Pro1 X-E1 Adapter Aperture Control Ring to connect the Nikon lenses to the Fujifilm camera








All were shot on tripod at the very closest focusing distance that the lens would focus on the eyes at ƒ/1.4. The only thing I changed was the aperture and the camera adjusted the shutter speed to keep the exposure the same.

Approximately 100% view of the ƒ/1.4
You can increase your depth-of-field by just backing up from the subject and this will increase it for you. Conversely if you want a shallower depth-of-field get closer if the lens allow you.

When you are super close you are not looking for Bokeh

Macro photography you are actually needing a large aperture or the photo can look out of focus even when it is in focus.

All these were shot with Fujifilm X-E2, Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8 Micro