Sunday, June 29, 2014

The fastest way to being a great photographer

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/13, 1/180
The fastest way to become successful is to study the masters. There are a few things involved in studying the masters and it is not just being aware of their work.

Don Rutledge
Don Rutledge my mentor and friend for so many years until he passed away last year knew more about other photographers than anyone else I have ever known. I found out about a scrapbook he put together early in his career and continued to add too for many years.

Don clipped magazines for many years and studied those photos that moved him and this was in the early 1950's. Back then the magazines like LIFE and LOOK was on almost everyone's coffee tables across America. He also was looking at magazines like Mirror, National Geographic Magazine, and Sepia to add a few more names.

Don was studying psychology at the time and used many of the skills that he learned about observation and things like body language to analyze the styles of those early photojournalists.

Don was creating sections on different photographers like Eugene Smith and Robert Capa. He noticed many of these photographers had credit lines that showed Black Star a photo agency based in New York City represented them.

Read more about my mentor Don Rutledge here on my blog post about mentors.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/13, 1/180
My collection of photographer's work grew and continues to grow even today. My personal library of photographers is larger than most any library I have been.

Don and I would talk for hours about the styles of the masters and how they were able to consistently shoot a certain style and why it resonated so well with the audience.

Inside the Artic Circle, Alaska, an Eskimo family waits for visitors to arrive at their home. My most favorite picture by Don. (photo by: Don Rutledge)
Here are a few tips that I think will help you start your own scrapbook of the masters.
  • Find those photographers that are recognized historically as greats in the industry.
    • Read their biographies
    • Buy books of their work
    • Study their composition and figure out how this is so compelling
  • Look at those current photographers work that is in fad right now
    • Why is their work considered great today?
    • Read reviews by critics
    • Go hear them speak in person & if you are lucky ask them questions
    • Buy their books
  • Copy their work. I don't mean to go and copy their work and then try and fraudulently try to sell it as if it was their work. I think unless you can pull off their style or approach, then you may not just understand what they are doing.
  • Buy prints of the masters and hang them in your home. This will remind you of what you are setting the bar for your work to match.
  • Learn to be a good critic yourself. Learn how to articulate each of the master's styles and distinguish their work from each other.
  • Remember even the masters' shoot some crap. Learn to distinguish an artist's own pieces of work from other pieces they produce. Be very careful not to think just because they are a big name that everything they shoot is great. This skill will take many years to perfect for you. 
  • Get together with other photographers and discuss the masters. Ask people to share their thoughts.
You see the quickest way to success is to stand on the shoulders of those who went before you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Two of the most made travel photography mistakes


The number one mistake I see most often made by people traveling with their camera is not having enough fresh batteries.

Depending on your camera and flash you may need more than just one extra battery. My Nikon D4 camera can go most of a day shooting still images with one battery, however, if I start to shoot video or spend a lot of time reviewing images on my LCD then I can drain the battery and need a second.

My Fuji X-E2 goes through batteries and I have used all three batteries in a day before.

I recommend having at least one extra battery and before you leave for the day of shooting be sure both batteries are fully charged.

Every evening before you turn in for bed, be sure to recharge all your batteries. That way in the morning they will all be ready for another full day of shooting your travel.

Memory Cards

It is much easier to carry a few extra memory cards on a trip than it is to carry a laptop computer.

When this is a once in a lifetime trip it is wise to keep all the images on cards until you have them all on your computer and backed up in another location as well before formatting your cards.

Memory Card Tip

Always format your cards in your camera and not on your computer. The camera will do a better job of not just clearing the cards but creating the proper directories needed for the card to work properly with the camera.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Common portrait mistake made by photographers

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500
When making a portrait of a person way too often people end up with a photo like this one above. What they are really looking for is a photo like this one below.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.8, 1/500
As you can easily see the background in the first photo is quite distracting and competing with the face of the person. In the second photo some people might even say the subject just "pops" out of the photo.

Notice the camera settings are identical.

The difference is the distance the subject is to the background.  In the first photo the person is right next to the background and the next one the subject is 30 feet away from the background.

If you have a very distracting background like the brick wall, move the subject very far away to be able to throw the background out of focus.

Even if the background is a plain solid color wall, pull the person away from it so you are not seeing the texture of the wall.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't be a Naysayer

This photo is of the Mexico/US border in Douglas, Arizona. A record number of children are now crossing the Mexican border without their parents. You can read more about this here. Why? They are desperate to solve a problem they have and even risking their lives in the middle of the desert is better to them than remaining in their situation.

I mention this as to remind us that when people come to you with a problem you are either part of the solution or not.

nay•say•er: a person who says something will not work or is not possible : a person who denies, refuses, or opposes something
For many years while I was a staff photographer I was classified by people as a “naysayer” due to how often people came to me to ask me to do something and I explained why it wasn't possible.

I remember the moment when it finally hit me how negative I was being when my co-worker jokingly said that I always was saying no. While I was hurt by the comment I realized he was right.

Are you a Naysayer?

My experience has been there are more naysayers on staffs than freelance. You cannot grow your business by saying no. You must learn how to say yes. Those freelancers who say no too often are soon looking for another career. However being on a staff their is a little more protection to being negative. However this has a time limit as well.

A good clue that you might be a naysayer is other people are starting to do what you perceived as your job.

“Why are they bringing in an outsider to do what I am suppose to be doing?” is a question that you might be asking if you are a naysayer. While working as a staff photographer for a college I couldn't understand why the admissions office was hiring freelance photographers to shoot their recruiting catalogues.

This is not always due to being a naysayer. Many colleges around the country have staff photographers who do most all the work for a school. However, when it comes to the advertising of the school, they are looking for a particular style. As long as you are offering to help them and the photographer coming in to shoot then you should be fine.

If you feel threatened by this outside photographer take a deep breath. Ask yourself has anyone come to me and I answered them with reasons their request isn't possible. If you did then you should feel threatened.

Too often people take the attitude that is their job and the rules say I have this responsibility. You do have this until you start becoming an obstacle to people in the company trying to get their projects done.

Be an Optimist

The opposite of the naysayer is the optimist. When people come to you with a request learn how to turn their request into a reality. While someone's request has some really huge problems look first for something positive. Big clue if nothing seems good about their request at the bare minimum you can start with being excited that they came to you with their idea.

“I am honored that you thought of me to help you with your project,” is a great way to start on a positive note.

When talking about an obstacle that needs to be addressed be sure to talk about a solution. Let's say you don't have a particular piece of equipment to make that happen. Tell them if we can rent or buy a piece that you don't have that it would make it possible. Maybe you just need an extra hand to make it happen. You know for me to move the couch from this room to another I just need some help carrying it, would you or can you find someone to help? I am more than willing, but am busy at the moment and could use some help to find another person.

The trick is to let them know from your experience that we need to address something for their to be success.  I am more than willing to help you, but my boss has me working on these projects. While I can ask him/her to let me help you it would be better for you to make the request for my time.

Remember Storyline

If you look at the elements of storyline it will help remind you why you need to be the optimist and not the naysayer.

The person coming to you has a Conflict/Task and they are looking to you to help them as a Guide/Resource. If you say no, their issue didn't go away. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz she will move on down the yellow brick road to find the solution to her problem.

The difference between the Optimist and the Naysayer is the Assignment they give to the person. Give them the solutions [Actions] that will help their story turn into a Comedy and not a Tragedy. You saying no is just not an option to someone who needs to solve a problem.

When someone proposes a new program that will compete with your program tell them how you want to help and really need to understand their goals. Also ask for their critique on how the present program you are doing isn't meeting those needs. DON'T be quick to defend your program.

If you listen you may learn that your program isn't serving all the needs or maybe you need to just tweak the communication about your program to show how it is addressing those needs. Either way there is a perception that is not meeting the needs of the audience.

Your role may change going forward, but by learning how to listen and adjust you make yourself more valuable to them and the organization.

As long as you are helping the organization address the new issues facing it then you are part of the solution and will have a job in the future. If you try and protect and keep things the way they are you are not growing and slowly helping the organization die.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The most under utilized setting on a camera

Your photos may look a great deal better if they were in focus in the viewfinder. This is how you make sure they are in focus.

Most cameras today have a diopter adjustment dial near the viewfinder. This arrow is pointing to the diopter adjustment on the Fuji X-E2.

The camera is equipped with diopter adjustment in the range –4 to +2 m–1 to accommodate individual differences in vision.  Rotate the diopter adjustment control until the viewfinder display is in sharp focus.

Fuji covers this in the basic setup of the camera, right after you set the date and time for the camera. It is more important than all the other settings like: ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus settings. Why? You need to see the subject and know if it is in focus and also read all the information that they provide you in the viewfinder.

First Steps 
  1. Attaching the Strap 
  2. Attaching a Lens 
  3. Charging the Battery 
  4. Inserting the Battery and a Memory Card 
  5. Compatible Memory Cards 
  6. Turning the Camera on and Of  
  7. Basic Setup 
  8. Choosing a Display 
  9. Focusing the Viewfinder 
  10. Adjusting Display Brightness
The great advantage of the mirrorless Fuji X-E2 over a conventional DSLR is when looking through the viewfinder you can do everything through it. So once you adjust the diopter you don't need your glasses to review images or change settings in the menu, just use the EVF instead of the LCD screen.

Friday, June 20, 2014

To grow as a photographer you need constructive criticism

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/210
Team Photo Story?

Today I saw the work of seven teams who were assigned themes and had to find a story on the Big Island of Hawaii to do as a team. I have never seen this done before. Usually in photo schools they give each person a story and they work on it alone.

The purpose of this class is giving young people a Discipleship Training School where they spend a month preparing to go to another country to work on a project. Some of these projects are orphanages, sex trafficking and a few other social justice issues.

To help teach everyone how to engage with people cross culturally they are using the camera to help teach this skill. Most of these Discipleship Training Schools do not use photography.

Paul & Suzi Childers [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/160]
Paul and Suzi Childers had this vision of using photography for a DTS. Suzie is a professional portrait photographer by trade and saw this would work to help teach cross cultural skills and help the students make connections.

What I taught this week was how to get permission in cross cultural settings to take photos and how using photojournalism techniques would help them to really get to know people.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/250
Working as a team they were able to potentially shoot different angles and also let one person concentrate on doing most of the talking. Another person could take notes and gather content using a recorder or video on their camera.

One group let the subject tell their own story and they used photos that they set up to help illustrate some of the concepts.

One group used an illustrative/conceptual approach of photography and combined this with them reading to the group the story.

A few of the groups wrote captions and put those up on the screen and then put the photos in a sequence that was more photojournalistic in approach.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/220
After each group presented, their peers then gave feedback. The leader asked they give some positive comments as well as things that they could improve. Please don't say you just don't like the photo, tell them what they could have done to make it better.

Earlier in the week I put up a coverage of mine, which I didn't tell them until we were quite a ways into the critique. I asked each person to look at a photo and tell me what they see as something wrong with the photo. Each person was given the microphone and each got a new photo to look at that the others had not commented on.

Manny, one of the students, said one of my photos looked amateurish. Well the point of the critique session was to teach them how to give constructive criticism. I didn't let him off without him taking the time to tell everyone why it was amateurish and what he think would make it better.

Some of the students at first thought we were arguing. What they all learned was sometimes you have to ask someone to clarify their comments. Even when they are saying your photo is crap. Why is is crap?

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.2, 1/500
I would offer to them if they paid my expenses and make up for all the income for the next two months to join them and critique every day, but that just isn't practical. What made much more sense was to help them understand how to look at photos and talk about why a photo worked or didn't work.

What they really were learning was how to listen to feedback in life. Hopefully this process will teach them how to build community with each other and grow in maturity as they learn how to serve one another.

I can't wait to see their work from around the world. They divide up to go to Panama, Turkey, Germany, Thailand and China.

Low light can be sometimes the best mood light

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/6
Last night some of the students from the PhotogenX were sitting around outside working on their projects that they are presenting this morning. It was well past sunset and just the lights from the court were in the background, but we were sitting where if it were not for the light from their laptops we would be pretty much in the dark.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/13
You need a camera that has an ISO 3200 or better. I shot these on the Fuji X-E2 using AUTO ISO with the peak setting at ISO 6400.

I opened up the aperture to the widest setting and since the lens is has a variable aperture, as you go to more telephoto the aperture gets smaller, I was shooting between ƒ/2.8 and ƒ/4.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/20
As the subjects got closer to the laptops the light from the screens would get brighter on their faces. So the exposure changes just slightly when they lean it to see something.

What you will notice is the shutter speed is slower than normally recommended. 1/6 of a second is pretty slow. The subjects were not moving that much, which really helped. Had this been some sporting activity I could not have done this.

I am not using a tripod.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/20
The vibration reduction system designed into the Fuji X camera and lenses lets me hand hold images almost 4-stops darker than without this system.

What all this means is as long as you remain as still as you can the small movement caused by your breathing and your heart beating will not blur your image.

If you have an older camera that the ISO goes no higher than ISO 1600 this is a great reason to go out and buy some of the newer technology.  If you do look for cameras that will shoot at ISO 6400 or higher. My Fuji X-E2 will go up to 25600, which I have used a few times.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Photography is about anticipating

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 8.6 sec.
I posted this photo on Facebook last night and a friend said "I love this photo it really looks a post card. What are the settings you used?"

This makes me want to say Patience Young Grasshopper. If you are not old enough in the 1970s was a TV show Kung Fu. Here is the scene that I loved:

You need patience to make the photo I made. Often when people travel they see a beautiful scene and take a photo, few will return to the spot to take it at a better moment.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm ISO 200, ƒ/22, 1/10
While I love this photo just as much as the night time photo, I like it for different reasons. It has a different mood about the photo.

I also took this photo later in the week while in Kona, Hawaii.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/5
What I realized was if I could just wait and capture a car driving down the hill I could have their headlights light up the road and the red tail lights add just a little color.

I tried the photo with cars coming up the hill, but felt the headlights were too bright. Maybe you like this better. Here is one of those photos.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5.6, 7 sec.
To take the photo I put the camera on a tripod and then timed how long it was taking cars to go down the hill.  I wanted between a 6 to 10 second exposure to have the lights move enough through the scene. I played with the ISO, ƒ-stop until I found something that worked to give me about 7 to 8 second exposures.

The other thing is that this need to be done at dusk and not too late or the sky would be black.

The lesson here can apply to all of photography. You need to find a good composition and then wait for the action to develop. You are anticipating what will happen.

Nikon D100, Sigma 15-35mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.7, 1/180
I arrived early for a basketball game to put a camera behind the backboard and to put 4 strobes in the ceiling to light the basketball court. I then had to wait for what I had anticipated would happen in the game.

Ansel Adams called this pre-visualization. For me I have seen many scenes before and now I would plan to capture them.

What will you photograph today that will require you to arrive early and wait?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How using portrait in a photo story ...

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 125, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
These are three quick photos I made of a student yesterday in class to help the students see two things that they can do very quickly to introduce a character into the story.

We preferred to not have a posed portrait but rather something of her in action. I did not take a photo to illustrate that point, but did want to illustrate lens choice and as well aperture.

The first photo here is shot with a shallow depth-of-field of ƒ/1.4.  The emphasis is all on the lady.

Nikon D4, 85mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/14, 1/100
I then just stopped down the aperture to create a greater depth-of-field so that the map was much sharper.

Now I talked to the class that my purpose was to show the student was in a class with photo students and they were going to then leave the class and do stories around the world.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/14, 1/100
For the last shot I change the lens to a wide-angle and then had the class behind her. We talked about how we can then introduce her in our story this way as well.

All three photos are acceptable photos in their own right, but the question was which one does the best job of helping tell the story.

Today I will show them another technique, so stay tuned for that example.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Advice to photography students

Downtown Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/2.8, 1/160]
To get work you need a portfolio not a degree. Yes you could have saved yourself a lot of money and not gotten a degree from a great school. Based on some of the work I continue to see by students graduating from photo schools all over the world many have just wasted a lot of money.

How do you start if you are not in a photo school? Well that is the catch. You see you need someone to help introduce you to the tools you need to master and to teach you some of the standards. Most every school does teach you how to operate your camera to get good exposures and they teach you how to use the latest software as well. Most schools do a great job of exposing you to the work of the masters in the profession.

'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink'

I think this is what a good education will do for those who want to learn how to be a photographer. They show you what you need to do. They give you assignments that teach you how to create those elements that will help you make a portfolio.

Passion not Assignments

Your portfolio needs to communicate to those that you wish will hire you that your work will grab their attention. No matter the subject you really need to SURPRISE them with your photos.

First 100 attendees at the Chicago Chick-fil-A grand opening playing Face the Cookie where they use the muscles in their faces to move the cookie to their mouth. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/10, 1/100]
Too many students are just shooting the assignments that they are given and then pull the best from their assignments and put them into their portfolio. Why is this such a big mistake?

First of all the assignment work given to you is seldom something that speaks to your passions. You then work hard at finding out the standards for the grading and then shoot to get a good grade. For a very few people this is enough to create a great portfolio image. However for the vast majority of the students they are just going through the motions to complete the assignment. Often which they waited till the last moment to shoot.

If you were not doing photography what would be the one thing you would be wanting to do? Maybe you would like to be going to soccer games and watching them. Maybe you are a foodie. You like going to farmers markets and finding the local food and going to restaurants that buy local as well. Maybe you would be spending your time working with a nonprofit and building wells around the world.

Follow your passion and build your portfolio around it.

[Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/160
If your passion is music then do more than just go to concerts. Pick up an instrument and master it. Learn music theory so you understand music at a much deeper level.

[Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300mm with 1.4 converter, ƒ/6.3, 1/2500]
If you like sports then play in a league. I used to play basketball three times a week in pickup games for more than 20 years.

Those that will hire you are experts already on their subjects. They will not respect you unless you show a similar passion for the subject as they do.

They are most likely aware of most of the best photography in their industry. To SURPRISE them will be hard to do. You have to or they will continue to use who they have shooting for them now.

Show Me!

"Show me the money," Tom Cruise, playing Jerry Maguire said in the movie in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire. The point was talk is cheap to football player who hired Jerry Maguire to be his agent. He needed a good contract.

Show me your portfolio is the same request that your potential clients are asking you to deliver to them. Your work better SURPRISE them, because they already have photographers shooting for them. You have to impress them to want to use you.

Passion NOT Assignments

The easiest thing to do is to give me your best effort for all your assignments. That kind of work seldom competes against a photographer who is passionate about their subjects.

School vs Real Word

If your photo school ran all their classes like the real world then every class would be pass/fail. Everyone would hand in their assignments and then only one person in the class passes. The best photos for that assignment as perceived by the teacher would get the passing grade. Everyone else would fail.

My friend Dr. Bob Carey, department chair for the Department of Communications at Gardner-Webb University, said he toyed with the idea of doing just that for an assignment on creating an estimate. He said he did tell the students about his idea, but wanted them to understand that is the way it will be once they graduate.

Mark Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, has created identical camera kits for each of his students. This way when they are given an assignment everyone in the class is on equal footing.

Pat Davison, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North
Carolina-Chapel Hill creates workshops overseas to give real world experiences for his students.

Dennis Fahringer, who runs the photo schools for the University of Nations, brings in working professionals to teach segments and also takes his advanced photo school overseas for a month on assignments.

All of my friends who are teaching at taking those horses to the water to drink. The assignments they give are typical assignments. The problem for the student is seldom will they be as passionate about those assignments. They need to give a self assignment on something they really care about.

Take what you learned in photo school and now go and apply it to your passions. Then you will have an outstanding portfolio.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Client's memory is very short

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 640, ƒ/4.8, 1/500
Friday 13th

Tonight there is a full moon and it is Friday 13th. For those that are superstitious I guess this is a Freaky Friday.

The June full moon is frequently the one nearest to the summer solstice, which falls on June 21 this year. Because of a neat bit of galactic geometry, this means the full moon on Friday will be the lowest in the sky of any in 2014.

Something that I am starting to notice is how clients can be Freaky. Actually clients and people in general are very finicky.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/340 [photo by Chelle Leary]
While I have been on vacation and relaxing I have had to give assignments to my friends to shoot for my clients. I do not ever tell my clients I am unavailable without always finding them someone to shoot the assignment for them if I am already booked.

We can go back to Biblical times to see how when Moses went up the mountain the Israelites became restless.
Exodus 32:1
32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.”
Only Good As Your Last Job

You may have heard the old saying that you are "only good as your last job," but I would say the lesson is to work hard at keeping fresh work in front of your clients. Don't rely on them to remain faithful.

In the movie Ten Commandments, based on the Bible events, the people continue over and over to become restless even after major miracles performed by Moses. To get the Jewish people from out of slavery of Egypt there were 10 plagues. As they were on the run Moses parted the Red Sea. Still throughout their time in the desert the people complained.

This is to say, don't be surprised when your clients move on without you, even if the work you did was the best ever done in the industry.

Importance of personal project[s]

While one of my personal projects was a series of videos on a coffee cooperative in Mexico near the Guatemala border, I continue to shoot more videos all the time.


While I continue to create new content by shooting daily and creating videos each week, I am also creating new content on this blog three times a week.


Each month I am creating an eNewsletter to connect with my clients. Here is a link to the most recent one that I sent out.

Phone Calls

I learned a while ago from my good friend Ken Touchton that calling your clients and prospects each week was a great way to remain in front of your clients. Ken told me that each Sunday evening he took a few minutes and made a list of five clients and five prospects he would call that week. Two phone calls each day to a client and one to a prospect.

Doing this helped him to build a great client base that grew through the years.


Today I also connect with clients by checking in with them through emails. I do this regularly.

Social Media

I also connect with and follow my clients and prospects through social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Linkedin and Pinterest.

So what are you doing so that you remain in front of your clients? Remember even God had a difficult time remaining on the minds his people.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Going freelance and pricing advice

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/100
Editorial Note: Writing to you while on vacation in Emerald Isle, NC. The photos are some from my time here.

Questions just this week

Question #1: if someone wants to buy a digital copy of a photo and not a print, what is the recommended price to charge them?

Question #2: I have always had a strong desire to shoot full-time on my own, so I am praying through if this transition is right for me. Would love to hear your thoughts.

First Pricing

I heard it put once very well when it came to pricing. The photographer was talking about portrait and wedding photography. First he pointed out to me that this is a luxury and not a need.

Since no one needs your photos to survive then you shouldn't feel bad about your prices. He believed that you want to be known as the most expensive photographer just like a jeweler wants to be known this way. Mind you Walmart still sells more engagement diamonds, but unless you can be a volume discounter this is a hard way to realistically build your business.

The photographer then went on to tell me your goal is to get all the money you can from their pocket to yours. Sounds a bit greedy, but they explained this as you want to get the most you can for your work that they can afford.

If the people who are talking to you about your work are minimum wage workers barely getting by, then your prices that you can realistically charge are most likely not enough for you to live on. However, if the people you are talking to live in a penthouse on 5th Avenue in New York, then you are able to charge a larger amount.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/250
What must you charge?

Now we know you can charge just about anything depending on the ability of the client to pay, what must you charge? You need a minimum price that you need to charge or you lose money. Do this too much and you are out of business or even worse you go bankrupt.

Basically you figure out what it costs you to live plus what it costs you to run your business. This figure will be very different if you choose to live in Beverly Hills, California or in Lizard Lick, North Carolina. If you choose to drive a Rolls Royce or a Nissan Versa.

I break down the parts of an estimate here in an earlier blog post.

Here is another blog 9 things you need to do before going freelance full-time, which I also recommend for reading.

Must Charge vs What Can You Get

The Gap between what you must charge to pay the bills and what you could charge is where you negotiate your price.

In assignment work and stock photography the best place to help get some industry ranges is fotoQuote Pro.

When someone wants to use one of your photos, you don't need a number pulled out of a hat, you need help to get paid fairly for your work. You need fotoQuote, the industry standard photo pricing guide for stock and assignment photography.

The fotoQuote photo pricing guide is the only source of photo pricing information for photographers that includes powerful coaching help for every category. The fotoQuote price guide not only helps you come up with a fair price for your image license, but it also gives you the negotiation information you need to help you close the sale.

Numbers by themselves don't mean anything if you can't convince your client that your image is worth what you are asking.

The license for each image can easily be copied so that you can embed it into the metadata for your image, illustration, or video clip. The license can also be pasted into an external invoice or document. It will look like this:

Usage: Magazine Editorial.Consumer
Circulation: 25k to 50k
Size: Cover
License Duration: 1 Year
Territory: US Only
Industry: Publishing-Periodicals
Rights/Exclusivity: One-Time Non-Exclusive
Release Information: No model release

The rate fotoQuote gives you for assignment work is what you charge on top of your "creative fee" or base price.

Hobbyist → Part-time Photographer → Full-time Photographer

Timing your transitions from a Hobbyist to a Part-time Photographer is much easier than going full-time.

First let me try and talk you out of doing this. Seven Reasons Not to Become a Freelance Professional Photographer 

I highly recommend keeping your day job while starting your freelance business on the side. When your day job is REGULARLY getting in the way of your FREELANCE this is when you should consider going full-time freelance.

In 2002 I was laid off from what I considered a great job. Well truthfully I was very frustrated with the environment for the last few years I was on staff. While I enjoyed the opportunities to shoot a variety of subjects, I was finding myself out of sync with my coworkers.

I should have left earlier, but I didn't think I could made it as a freelancer. I liked having people just give me things to photograph and go home and come in the next day and do it again.

When I got called in and told that my position had been eliminated I was devastated. I called my wife and friend to come and help me pack up my gear and books and move out. As we were packing up my things my friend was trying to comfort me and made a very profound comment. “Stanley if you put in the amount of effort you have been doing here in your freelance, you will be a very successful photographer.”

I thought about his comment a lot that first year of freelancing.  He had said it to me with such conviction that I realized he really believed it to be true. Later even my wife would comment and say that he was right.

My life did change and each day I got up and worked hard.

By the way my freelance was starting to really pick up before this happened to me.

Tips for the freelancer

  • Keep a similar work schedule to the one you had on staff. Get up and go to work. While you may not have to drive anywhere to commute, still get out of bed eat breakfast and then take that commute to another part of your house/apartment.
  • Get dressed for work. One of my friends Ken Touchton told me in those early days that he used to get dressed and put on a tie just to go to the next room. It helps put you psychologically in a different frame of mind.
  • Create a calendar of events. Just like you had in your last job, schedule time for different thing you need to be doing. You need to create; meetings, lunch dates, and find events from things like the Chamber of Commerce to attend in your community.
  • Create a database of clients, prospects, and family/friends. You may need to buy a list to add to your present list. You may need to go to the library and find those resources with contacts in them for your niche´. Remember this formula that for every 1,000 contact names in your database only 100 of them will be interested in your services. Of those 100 contacts only 10 of them will become a client.
  • Create a plan on connecting to those in your database. Another formula is to know that it takes about 6 – 8 touches with a contact before they remember you. Therefore you need to have a plan on how to contact these folks in a way that is positive and not annoying. I recommend mixing up your arsenal. I use: Phone Calls, emails, eNewsletters, Blogging, Postcards, and events as ways that I can make contact with my prospects and clients.
  • Develop an elevator speech. You need to be able at a moments notice explain to anyone what you do. Here is a link to mine.
Freelancing is like a farmer. You will be plowing the fields, weeding and doing a lot of work long before you will be able to harvest the crop. 

If the farmer doesn’t put in the time and investment then there is no harvest.

Just like the farmer you can do everything right, but there are things outside your control. Most of the farmers I know have a tremendous faith in God and know that while they can do everything right there is much out of their control. They pray for guidance and wisdom. Most of all they pray for grace.

Monday, June 09, 2014

A Photographer's Quest to Capture the Mood of a Place

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4, 1/500
No matter where I adventure to I am always wanting to capture a photo that encapsulates the mood that I felt about the location.

This week my family is enjoying vacation at Emerald Isle, NC. From our front porch you can see the ocean and from the back porch you can see the intracoastal waterway.  We get the sunrise and a sunset over the water.

The downside for where we are located is seeing all the telephone poles and the wires stringing along them and cluttering the view.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/30
Our neighbors up and down the coast are all in what appears to be a vacation mode. No one is in a hurry. Even driving down the road people are way below the speed limit rather than in a rush. It is peaceful and very relaxing.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/7.1, 1/640
You see couples enjoying time together in the surf and walking along the beach. Here I enjoyed watching the couple from our 3rd floor balcony.

I can feel some of what I captured in the photos, but still I am not quite satisfied that I have a photo that truly captures the mood of the place.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/75
 No ships and quiet times along the beach in the evenings.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/800
I am also enjoying capturing the moments of the youth of today reminding all of us that are older of the times we spent playing football on these same beaches years ago. Here I have captured my nephew with our new member of the family who married my niece.  I think the activity captures a mood and takes me back.

Are these just memory joggers for me and my family or are they capturing universal understood moments?

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5, 1/1800
Does the umbrellas on the beach capture what people around the world can relate? Does this help take people to their vacation memory?

This is what most photographers who shoot with a photojournalistic intent look for when trying to capture the mood of a place. Travel photographers, street shooter and photojournalists are looking for those triggers that create a mood and capture a moment.

Stay tuned and see what else I find the rest of my vacation on Emerald Isle, North Carolina.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Photographers love the triangle and for good reason

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt is generally considered one of the greatest painters. Rembrandt lighting is characterized by an illuminated triangle under the eye of the subject on the less illuminated side of the face.

If you want to learn more about how to achieve this look then read my earlier blog post where I show some the student's work from a workshop I did in Kona, Hawaii with the School of Photography at Youth With A Mission here.

Create Triangle with Off Camera Flash

Another triangle used by professional photographers is the triangle created between the camera, subject and flash.

Here you can see the simple setup I used for the photo above. The sun was behind the clouds. I caught this photo just in between showers. The flash also helped give that needed pop on an overcast day.

Create Triangle with Subject

One other way the triangle is used in photography is in subject placement within a frame. Putting subjects in a group photo in triangles creates a pleasing composition.

Create Triangle with Gear

To make your camera stable we also use a triangle. Three legs to our tripods and light stands create very stable platform for our camera and light stands.

May the triangle be ever present in your photographs: from lighting, composition and support.