Hiring a Professional Photographer? Read This First.

Hiring Professional Photographers



Last week I got a call from a potential client and discovered, upon hearing about their project, that I couldn’t help. Not directly, anyway: I suggested a couple other local photographers whose body of work matched their needs who I thought were a better fit, and wished them good luck.

It dawned on me that the client was calling me not because I was the perfect fit, but because I was a Professional Photographer who could handle any type of job involving a camera.

I walked away from that conversation realizing that those seeking professional photography are often uncertain which questions to ask photographers.  Any professional shooter worth their salt should be able to help clients ask the right questions, of course, but here are ten things to ask or consider next time you are in the market for a professional photographer that will increase the odds your experience will be good and your ultimate images, great.

Does their work fall into distinct and definable categories, or is it all over the place?

The days of the generalist photographer are gone. If a photographer shoots everything from landscape to product to family portraits to corporate work to weddings (all of them a very different clientele), then there is no obvious focus to their work. Look for a portfolio that shows depth in the type of imagery that you want or most need.  Chances are, if a situation or challenge comes up during the shoot, these expert specialists will have encountered it before and can quickly deal with it. (One side note: any experienced photographer, particularly those with editorial experience, really are trained as generalists and can do a variety of different types of work well….but they will typically separate this work into different websites.  For example, I have a headshot website in addition to my main website; others may have different portals for wedding work and corporate/commercial work.)

Does the photographer’s work speak to you?

Importantly, can you see it representing you or your brand? Beyond the ‘logical’ is the emotional.  Photography is primarily a non-literal, emotional medium that communicates mood and feeling.  At a gut level, a photographer’s work will pull you in and resonate with you (ideally).  When you think about your brand, what adjectives do you use to describe the mood and feel of your brand? If it’s contemporary, bold, and masculine, you’ll be looking for a different style of visuals than an organization wanting to emphasize teamwork, warmth, and fun.

Does their portfolio specifically represent your particular needs?

If you are a retailer and need beauty shots of your products, make sure the photographer has similar product work in their portfolio.   This seems obvious, but I get plenty of calls for people asking for elaborate product photography…yet I have none of that kind of work on my sites. If I were to agree to take on the work, my clients have no real proof or evidence that I can do the work they are paying me for.  They are gambling that I’m being above-board with them. If you are talking with a photographer who doesn’t have any (or maybe just a few) of the types of photography you are looking for on their site, ask them to provide you with additional samples of that type of work. Typically, I’ll provide a PDF mini-portfolio filled with the type of specific work a prospect is inquiring about so they can get a better sense for how I approach that type of job.

How active is the photographer on their platform(s)?

Are they constantly producing and showing new work? The frequency of work on a photographer’s blog or social media feed isn’t so important. What is important is that they are consistently, regularly showing new work. A busy photographer, passionate about creating visuals, is exactly the type of photographer you want to work with.

How responsive are they to your initial inquiry?

Most photographers operate as solo businesses and don’t have an office person answering the phones….so if you contact them and they don’t pick up the phone, it’s likely they are out on a shoot. That said, photographers are among the most tech-savvy, connected people out there. They will get your message and should respond to you quickly–certainly within 24 hours. In that and subsequent interactions, you want a photographer who is responsive, proactive and doesn’t have to be prodded.

Are they professional?

I’m not asking about whether they take amazing photographs.  What I’m getting at is this:  a professional photographer will treat what they do as a business.  They will have professional-looking estimates, invoices and materials.  They will be able to answer your questions.  Most of all, they will put your needs—the client or the potential client—first.  They do this by making you aware of potential issues with a planned shoot before it occurs, and will always have a backup plan.   What happens if you lose your images and need them resent to you, years down the road?  Do they have the relevant business insurance to protect you, your clients and the photographer?  What happens if a light explodes, or a camera breaks?  Most professionals have had to deal with these situations and much worse, and will be able to help you understand the “what-ifs”.  All you have to do is ask.

How does the photographer present themselves in public, whether in person or online?

Call up the photographer’s blog or website. Go onto their Linkedin profile, Instagram, Facebook Page and/or Twitter.  Are they professional on any of the channels that represent their brand? Do they complain about clients (crazy, but I see photographers do it all the time)? Do they complain about the lack of business, or overshare about personal difficulties (again, I see this all the time). I’m not saying the photographer can’t have personality online–they definitely should. What I’m suggesting is to look for red flags that show you that the person is not serious about what they do, is not focused or is having issues that you don’t want your brand associated with.

What kinds of questions do they ask?

Professional photographers don’t assume that you will show up with all of the answers they need to do their jobs without effort. They should ask you questions that help to flesh out what you need and when you need it, and to help them understand your brand and your short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Among the questions they may ask: what is your budget? How do you plan to use the images, and for how long? You should feel comfortable and listened to as they guide you towards a more complete understanding of the project at hand.

Are they recommended by others?

If you found the photographer from a trusted friend or colleague who has actually used them or worked with them on a project, that’s a great recommendation. You might look at their LinkedIn profile to see what recommendations they have, or check their site for testimonials. It’s certainly appropriate to ask the photographer for references–past clients that you can contact. In my years of doing this professionally, I can’t remember one occasion where I’ve been asked for a reference, but given the investment people are making in my services, I would gladly provide them if asked. It would also make me feel that the client is a serious, committed partner in the process, invested in and committed to the best results….just like I am.

How do they communicate?

I’ve already mentioned responsiveness….but the styles of communication is important too. Most photographers I know are great communicators, but that said, some are more comfortable with males, others with females. Some work well with blue-collar workers and others in professional environments. Everyone’s different.  Suss out how they explain things to you.  Are they “loop closers”, pinning down times, details and proactively offering suggestions that can be answered simply in one email, or do they communicate in blurbs and blips, using open-ended questions or only direct answers that prolong your communications, require more emails or calls, or necessitate endless clarifications?  If communication is an issue at the outset of your collaboration, it will remain an issue….and will probably get worse.

Approach a photographer as you would with any relationship–with some preparation and asking the right questions—and I guarantee you’ll be happier with the process and the results.

It’s Always About the Subject

Dunham Group


The background as subject

One of the greatest tools in a location portrait photographer’s toolbox is the context provided by the shooting location. For example, a portrait of a person standing in a long hallway covered in glass windows.  The environment—the glass windows and long hallway—conveys potentially important information about the subject.  It also gives the final portrait mood—in this case it might be bright, open, cheery, confident, clean, modern and contemporary.  Obviously, the right background is extremely important to a portrait. It does a lot of work that propels the portrait or the image..or, conversely, can sink it. The “environment” part of an environmental portrait is so critical that I think of it as the second character in the room—equally important, in terms of attention and consideration, as the human subject in the frame.


Missing Context

Until it isn’t.

Backgrounds are very important, but photographers can’t always rely on having them. Often, the backgrounds convey the wrong information, give the wrong mood, or need to be mitigated and modified. Sometimes, the background is intentionally removed from the equation entirely.

This was the case with a recent shoot.  I worked with Maggie Hoople of East Shore Studio & Print on an ad campaign for NAI The Dunham Group, a large commercial real estate broker based in Portland, ME.  The ads would feature the owners of interesting Maine-based businesses who leased their commercial spaces with the Dunham Group’s help.  We’d done the same campaign previously, featuring solo individuals.  This time, each image would feature the two partners who ran each business.

Since these images would be used in a variety of ways from print ads to large displays at the airport, on buses and elsewhere, they would need to be photographed as full-body portraits on a white seamless paper background. I’d have to rely on really engaging with the subjects since the mood and emotion of each ad would have to come purely from them. The bright white background, though featureless and without context, still would convey a bright, optimistic, clean and modern look.


Fascinating Subjects

It was a fun shoot. Business owners are fascinating people, by nature optimistic, dynamic people who have a passion for what they do.  People like Kate and Steve Shaffer from Black Dinah Chocolatiers, Peter and Noah Bissel of Bissel Brothers Brewing, Heidi MacVane and Danielle Toolan of Greener Postures Yoga and Ben Waxman and Whitney Reynolds of American Roots. The shoot was an exercise in making them feel comfortable enough that they could forget about the background, and the lights, and the setting, and to focus instead on their accomplishments, their motivations and their business plans. Having two people in the frame provided a great opportunity for interactions, too, leading to serendipitous, unscripted moments, and key props and clothing helped give clues that the background couldn’t provide.


Backgrounds are nice…but it’s always about the subject

So without the context of a background, it’s an opportunity for photographers like me to dive in and go deeper with my subjects. Freed of obvious visuals, the challenge and the reward comes from telling a story through moments that change from second to second. To me, that’s what it means to be a photographer of people. It reminds me that even when there is an interesting background in the frame, the focus should always be on the people in front of the lens. The emotional impact of the portrait comes from them, and that will make an image fly or fail no matter the background.
Dunham Group


Dunham Group



Dunham Group



Why Hobbies Matter

Healthy Hobbies


I’ve always been terrible at hobbies.

Collecting stamps, ok…collecting anything, woodworking, gardening….I just never seemed to have the time or inclination. I’ve just plain sucked at engaging in so-called “leisure activities”: watching the big game on Sunday (I hate watching sports on TV), playing golf or tennis on the weekends, Thursday night bowling. I like to work and I like to create. Since I essentially am my business, it’s pretty hard to separate work from the personal areas of my life. Lines blur. My tendency would be to work and be with my family, and to not have time for anything else.

That’s not a badge of honor.  It’s a recipe for burnout, in both a creative and a very real sense. So starting a couple of years ago, I made a real effort to create time away from my business and away from my camera so I could begin to enjoy other interests.  As a result, I now have a daily practice of meditation. I started writing every day (my challenge this year is to write 1000 words every day). I play the guitar—not well, but getting better daily—a dream I’ve had since I was little. I read a lot, 25 or so books a year. I also take lots of walks and hikes, since being out in nature is a pretty critical part of my renewal and rejuvenation.

I’ve found that it can’t just be about photography, or business, or work, as much as I enjoy those things. I’m certainly not “balanced” on a daily basis, but now I find that taking the time to engage in other activities makes everything else smoother, better, more sustainable.  I’m less stressed and more engaged in all areas of my life as a result.

I’ve learned that what inspires us as creatives isn’t always the work we’re assigned to do. Inspiration comes from many places—from our relationships, from the creative work we take on ‘for fun’ and, of course, from the play—er, hobbies—we engage in.


My Quora Story: and the Power of Incremental Action



I was a little late to the party. If not late, then, a late bloomer.

Quora is a social network of sorts—a question—and-answer platform whose slogan is, “The best answer for any question.”  Founded back in 2010, it includes luminaries such as Barack Obama to Dilbert comic creator Scott Adams to UC Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller and many, many others who meet to answer questions about specific topics at which they have expertise or a unique point of view.

It’s been described as the platform for geeks—not surprising, since it started back in Silicon Valley—that skews male, and tech.

There are a lot of photographers, journalists and others using the platform to gain answers to extreme hypothetical questions they have “What would happen if I poured a huge bucket of water on our sun” to the more mundane, “What advice can you give an 18-year-old” to topical: “What is your reaction to Trump winning the US election.”

My buddy Scott turned me on to the platform a few years ago, but I just set it aside and checked in from time to time. I enjoyed lurking, but wouldn’t commit the time to actually answering questions.

Then, last year, I had a surgery that waylaid me for about a month at the beginning of the year. I started surfing Quora, and found that I had a lot of questions that I could give answers to. My background is both as a print and photo-journalist, and I love to write.   It seemed a natural fit. I had only three unwritten rules: One, I wouldn’t ‘tag team’ on a topic, just parroting what others had already answered. In other words, I had to actually have helpful information and a point of view so that I could add to the discourse and not add to the noise. Two, I wouldn’t answer lazy questions that could have been answered just by the questioner taking two seconds to type it into Google: “How much does a Nikon whatever cost new?”  Three, I would answer no questions from people listing themselves as “anonymous” unless the question itself actually called for anonymity.

If I put myself out there in a consistent way—daily—that incremental efforts would produce exponential results.

With that as a start, and with less than 4,000 total views back in January of 2016, I started to read, choose and answer questions to the best of my ability. I thought it would be cool if I could get to 100,000 views by the end of the year.

Imagine my surprise when, on Dec. 31, 2016, my views ended up north of 300,000. Along the way, I learned a profound truth: if I put myself out there in a consistent way—daily—that incremental efforts would produce exponential results. This was not an effort related to my commercial photography business, or any desire to launch a bigger platform. It was just a daily, quiet way to share and engage a larger audience with my own experiences and point of view.

This then, are my top five posts (in terms of total views) for the entire year of 2016. I hope you enjoy:

  1.  What is the best photography tip you can teach me?
  2. What is the best thing to do in your 20s?
  3. What are some amazing historical photos?
  4. If a policeman tells me I can’t film him, am I required to “obey a policeman’s lawful order”?
  5. What is the best photo ever taken of you and why do you think it’s the best?   (Ironically, I don’t enjoy having my picture taken…but I do love this one).


Have a Monkey Mind? Here’s How I Tamed Mine.

Monkey Mind
Light graces the simple lines of a field hat and woven sandals, hung for later use, at a temple on Kurama Mountain, northeast of Kyoto. This is what I expected to find in Japan.  ©Brian Fitzgerald

This month marks 19 years since I got off a bus and walked into a low-slung complex hugging the wooded hills northwest of Kyoto, Japan, not far from Mizuho town. The Dhamma Bhanu is (still) a meditation center and retreat for those studying Vipassana meditation—a technique taught by S.N. Goenka and his followers around the world.

At the time, I had only the barest of reference points for what this ‘Vipassana’ (pronounced, vi-PAS-uh-nuh) stuff even was. A buddy of mine, a fellow English teacher at the school we worked at in Osaka, had done the same retreat I was about to—with trepidation—embark upon. I remember him telling me that it was transformational and life-changing: a ten-day stretch of constant meditation and instruction. A crucial part of the retreat was the vow of silence to occur beginning the morning of the first full day. No talking, no whispering, no making unnecessary noise until the final morning, nine days later. My friend described the intense emotion welling up inside him as he ‘broke through’ internal mental barriers and blockages, and experienced bouts of uncontrollable sobbing at several points. His arms or legs would sometimes move on their own accord. It was intense and it was difficult.

Ten days of silence, with the chance of uncontrolled emotional outbursts and sudden, spontaneous physical moments of my body? Naturally, I signed up for the course immediately. I was teaching English to Japanese students, was living in one of the most populous urban centers in the world, and a ten-day break from the world, just past Christmas, seemed perfect.

Monkey Mind
Instead this is what I usually saw while living in Japan.  A Japanese street musician wails on his keyboard organ on a pedestrian walkway near Osaka Station in Osaka, Japan. In any large Japanese city, buskers are a common sight–playing for spare change, themselves, or a few minutes of glory. © Brian Fitzgerald

I liked the concept of meditation but only thought of it in passing. This way, I’d make up for lost time—cut to the front of the line, figuratively speaking—and would jump-start something that seemed a lot more real to me after living in Japan and Korea for more than two years.

Obviously, that mindset proved I was far from ready to be successful at meditation, which involves sitting in one place, starting at a wall, focusing the breath and the mind, and (at least in my case) being incredibly uncomfortable as my body screamed in pain and my mind jolted from one thought to the next. The epitome of what Buddhist masters call, the “monkey mind”.

I made it through the ten-day retreat. Through the hours of meditation and the hour-long seatings of “strong determination” when we were challenged to move not a muscle for the duration. Through the long days of complete, unbroken, silence.

It was amazing. I won’t go into the teachings of Vipasanna, or the technique—I’m not really qualified to do that. Suffice to say that it started something that, now 19 years later, I’ve finally incorprated into my daily habitual practice. I no longer employ the Vipassana method, but instead use the NSR technique, derived from TM (transcendental meditation). My mind still behaves like a monkey. But I’ve found that as a small business owner and creative with a family, that the daily practice of meditation forms a foundation that pays incalculable dividends. It helps me practice awareness, focus, and forces me, for some long minutes or an hour, to simply ‘be’, without a goal, and without agenda. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve habitually done. It’s not fun. But it continues to help me stronger and more centered as I go about my day.

Monkey Mind
And this is what I looked like when I tried to learn most things Japanese. I don’t think she’s doing that right. © Brian Fitzgerald

How to Make a Hero…out of a Truck

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald


How do you make a hero out of a truck?

That was the question I was forced to ponder when I was hired by Pierce Manufacturing to photograph Fire Station One in Cambridge, Massachussetts last year.

The story was simple. The department was taking delivery of a brand-new fire rescue apparatus, built by Pierce, and the company wanted images that captured scenes of daily life at the station and in the surrounding community. They also wanted to showcase the gleaming hulk of steel and chrome on wheels that the department had just purchased.

I contacted the chief, Gerry Reardon, and explained that I wanted to follow his guys around for the better part of a day. Oh—and can I borrow your truck for a couple hours and potentially tie up traffic next to the station?  He mentioned something non-commital like, “we’ll see what we can do,” and we made plans to meet on the appointed day.

Then came the inevitable wrench in the works that always seems to happen when shooting on location. When I arrived, the firehouse was largely empty. The apparatus was nowhere to be found. Later we discovered it was parked across town, turning up just before we were slated to shoot. The chief was amenable to a portrait, but he wasn’t as receptive to portraits or photos of the crew. “They said you just needed photos of the truck,” he pointed out, not unkindly.

Somtimes you need to try a different tack. So I hastily revised my plans and beat a retreat to nearby Harvard campus. I photographed some of the more iconic views around the area and came back to the station just when the light was getting good. Late afternoon.

The crew had appeared, and the chief soon arrived with the new firetruck. Gleaming and gigantic, it looked too large for the small apron of asphalt in front of the station, bordered on both sides by busy roadways. I convinced them to take us to a nearby park for some daylight photos of the truck. When we returned, the sun was on its way to bed and it was time to set up for the shoot. While that was happening, I heard the strains of a bagpipe wafting out above the traffic, floating over Harvard University, located just across the street. It took me a minute to realize that one of the firefighters was upstairs on a balcony, playing to the setting sun. Not waiting to ask permission, I ran upstairs, through the living quarters to the balcony, and got a few frames before he finished.

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

Back downstairs, we had time to set up the truck on the entry ramp to the station.  It blocked almost all of the truck bays. With busy roadways full of traffic and bicycles on either side, we set up eleven different lights, in and around the firetruck, and once the sun went down we made that truck look like a hero.

I love the final image of the apparatus, but my favorite shot from the evening was the stolen moment of the firefighter playing bagpipes into the evening. One day, one evening, two heros.

Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald


Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald


Make a Hero
© Brian Fitzgerald

Client Work: Agri Cycle Website Project

Agri Cycle

I love working with innovative Maine companies that are doing interesting, important work. This week, Agri Cycle launched their re-branded website with some of the work I’ve done for them this year.

Agri Cycle recycles organic waste and turns it into renewable energy using an anaerobic digester facility in Exeter, Maine. They do great business working with other marquee companies from Waterville to Boston, including Whole Foods, Colby College, Hannaford Bros. supermarkets, and others.  They also arguably do important business—not just producing energy from matter that normally would be discarded, but by reducing the amount of organic matter in landfills (meaning: less greenhouse gas emissions).

Agri Cycle

They are so busy, in fact, that one of the biggest challenges to photographing their team and equipment was simpy to pin them down (from their perspective, admittedly, a good problem to have). Another challenge was to create visuals that spoke to the relationships and the needs of Agri Cycle’s clients rather than focusing on the waste itself—which, let’s face it—wouldn’t win any beauty contests. By focusing on their clients, and on Agri Cycle’s processes, we were able to show their reach and their impact without just showing a bunch of bins of discarded vegetables. Because ultimately, it’s not about what they do, but why.

Agri Cycle

Beauty, Revisited

The second in my series, “Beauty in Unexpected Places,” takes us to Building One of the Portland Company’s historic complex in Portland, Maine. Savannah Lee is a dancer with the Portland Ballet Company and is wearing a tutu from a production of the Nutcracker.

I love the look of the space, which contrasts so well with the intricate ballet costume. The challenge was to light enough of Savannah to set her apart from the environment. I also had to light key elements of the large space around her while not over lighting, in order to preserve the character and mood of the environment.

I think the best images happen when you let things happen, to some degree. Definitely a guiding motto is: “Set the stage, but let the pieces fall.” So we planned the lighting and envisioned the scenes, but I encouraged Savannah to move and perform as she felt appropriate. In the end, a great artistic collaboration in a historic part of Portland’s past.

With location shoots there’s always an unexpected wrinkle, and an unexpected gift—the gift that the photo gods give you when you show up, repeatedly, to do the creative work you should be doing. A few days before the shoot, the space was booked by the Portland Fire Dept. to do training drills. We arrived not knowing what portion of the space—if any—we’d be able to use, but were determined to make it work regardless. We showed up and the fire department didn’t, due to a last-minute schedule change (Had they done so, I’m guessing we would have somehow incorporated them into at least one shot). That was the gift. The wrinkle? The cavernous location was very, very cold, with a concrete floor—exactly the opposite of ‘ideal conditions’ for a professional dancer. Thanks, Savannah, for making it look easy and being a great sport. A true pro.


beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

beauty revisited

Ten Things Photojournalism Taught Me

Covering the 737th Transportation Company at Ft. Lewis, Wash. 

I spent most of my professional life as a press-card carrying newspaper photojournalist. Counting the full-time, part-time and stringer periods, it amounts to about 13 years in photojournalism, not including the years I spent freelancing and interning during college.

I know. I’m  experienced.

I completely and absolutely loved it. I look at younger photographers coming up now and I lament for them that the amazing avenue I had available to me—newspapers—is no longer so viable for them. There is no better university than a daily newspaper for developing the chops it takes to succeed as a professional photographer. Newspapers are a place where photographers can truly test themselves through regular exposure to the widest possible mix of environments, people and situations.  For those who are lucky enough to be newspaper staff photographers, the experience is transformative.

Here are a few of the lessons that newspapers taught me that I consider indispensable to my career and success as a photographer now, in no particular order:

The importance of making images, not taking photos.
In the beginning of my career, I ‘took’ photos. I photographed simply what was there. Over time, I began to ‘make’ images. I anticipated. I focused on what was important and left the rest. I discerned. I made choices. I made storytelling images. This is called, developing a point of view.

The time I was on a seven-day hike in the middle of the desert, photographing a wilderness camp for teens, and one of my two camera bodies and my long telephoto lens got smashed and dunked in a river within one hour of the trip starting? Resilience. The time I was up for days straight while embedded in Iraq, writing stories and transmitting photos? Resilience. The four years I spent working on a long-term project on the Yakama Indian Nation, working long hours, getting no-shows? Resilience. Resilience is what gets you through the rough spots when the glamour and ‘fun’ of seeing your name in print wears off.

The value of constant improvement.
In the rush of the daily newspaper, sometimes the images published in the paper aren’t the most exciting or the most dramatic photos possible. Often they are prosaic, not creative and downright boring. The kinds of images I wished I didn’t have to put my name under. On those days, feeling dejected and unworthy of the title “photojournalist,” I might have entertained becoming a “sandwich artist” at Subway. But the beauty of a daily newspaper is that there’s always the next day. A new day, a new opportunity to fight the fight. A new chance to take chances, put yourself on the line and do the type of work that makes you feel great and maybe—possibly—can make a difference in your community. At the paper I learned that every day, it was getting up every day and doing your best.

It’s about the story, not about you.
There’s a great few lines in the great movie The Paper where Bernie, the editor, talks to the managing editor, Alicia, who has just asked for another raise: “The people we cover, we move in their world, but it is their world. You can’t live like them. You’ll never keep up. If you try to make this job about the money…you’ll be nothing but miserable, because we don’t get the money. Never have, never will.”
To me this speaks about being authentic and knowing that I’m part of something bigger. Everything is in service to the story, and the journalist, like the photographer, belongs in the trenches, honing their craft. If we do it well, we get some recognition and we get financial rewards…but those are side products and not the main goal.

Sometimes, you just have to make a decision. It’ll be ok.
I learned at the paper that the quicker you could make a decision, the better. The more decisions you make, the better chance you have that some of them will be good ones. Overthinking things usually leads to paralysis and worse decisions.

Do more than the expected. Be a complete journalist.
I learned quickly that if I came back from an assignment with only one or two visual options, whether from a portrait or a news event, then my editors would not be pleased. Not only that, but I was expected to take boring photos, like building exterior “mug” shots and details that were boring, but gave the page designers more options. I was a print journalism major initially, before I picked up a camera. I’ve always loved to write. I found that providing great images was expected in my job, but writing grammatically-correct, journalistic captions elevated me in the eyes of the print journalists and editors I worked with. They saw me as someone who was a journalist first, and a photographer second. I thus learned that you have to pay attention to all aspects of the job—not just bringing back a pretty picture. In this day and age, that’s expected and it’s just not enough.

Constraints are valuable.
As a photojournalist, I rarely had enough time. I had to go into a situation cold and make something happen. Hopefully something great. At those moments, I usually did quite well. When I was given more time and more options, I found that I wasted time thinking about options and less time actually committing to my subject and the story. Journalism taught me that having less—less time, less resources, less options—made me focus on what I could do with what I had, making me more creative and nimble.

The importance of studying human behavior.
To make it in business, to make it as a journalist, to make it in life, one thing is of critical importance. If you don’t know how to deal with people, work with people and understand people, you have an uphill climb. Photojournalism taught me to be a student of human behavior; to look for non-verbal cues and to watch what people say versus what they do. It’s an endlessly fascinating area of study, and it never ends.

Moments trump the technical every time.
I learned early on that if I got so focused on making an image “perfect” from a technical standpoint that I forgot about the subject and the mood and the “moment”, then I was missing the forest for the trees. When in doubt, capture moments that connect with people emotionally. If you can make it technically perfect, great. But if you have to choose it’s not even a contest. Authentic moments always win.

Meaning matters.
What made the long hours and low pay of a staff photojournalist worth it? It was that it was about something bigger than a camera and getting my pictures in print. It was that my job had meaning. The images I took mattered to someone—maybe just the subject and their friends, but sometimes it could make a difference in a community and the larger world. I had the power with my photographs to make a difference, and that fueled me. I’ve learned that you can’t do things just for money. You have to have a reason “why”. That search for meaning has fueled my career as a photojournalist and it still does as a commercial photographer.


Those are a few of the lessons learned as a working photojournalist, shooting everything from Johnny’s first day of kindergarten to Michael Jordan during his short stint as a baseball player with the Birmingham Barons (admittedly, the reality of a newspaper shooter is 99 per cent the former and 1 per cent the latter). I could have learned these lessons and undoubtedly would have, outside of newspapers. Life has a way of rubbing the rough edges off, but I know no other environment but the newspaper that did so in such a short period of time, or so completely. I’ll always be completely thankful for that part of my career.  It gave me much more than I gave it.



Showcasing Recent Work


Recent Work

I’m happy this week to release some new images on my site. Typically, these are from shoots I did in the last couple of weeks or month.  Sometimes, they are from assignments completed months ago that I’m only now able to share. This small gallery is just the start, actually.  I’ve got a lot of fun projects in the works that I’ll be revealing over the next couple of months, and this new Recent Moments section of my site is where many of those images will live.

This fall I’ve been taking my book around to show clients and others, and the experience has been incredible. It’s unfortunately rare for me to have a sit-down, face-to-face discussion with clients about creative approach, personal work and how to provide better value, all without any specific project or assignment on the line. It’s rare because I get so busy doing my day-to-day work that I lose perspective and lose touch.   These meetings are good opportunities for me to share work that speaks to me and shows how I’m evolving as a creative who specializes in portrait and location moments.   I hope you enjoy!