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Life Changing Images

It isn’t often that we see something that fundamentally changes the way that we see the world. Some experience these moments more than others. It takes a highly powerful image with a potent message to bring about a life altering experience when viewing it. This situation can either be organic or manufactured, but the outcome resonates within the people it changes. Pictures are POWERFUL.

Taslima Akhter, who is credited for the above photo, puts together projects portraying the struggles that relate to gender and inequality particularly in the garment industry of Bangladesh. Her images are intense and propel her narrative forward in a way the sticks in the minds of us viewers.

It is simple to remove yourself from stories you hear or read about. Hearsay does not impact our lives on a very significant level unless we are directly affected by what we are learning. Photos and videos have a unique property in that they submerge the viewer into a new world. Our being able to see something in front of us brings a reality to it. Horror movies scare us because we empathize with the characters in it. It is easier to place ourselves there in the moment when we are seeing, hearing, and therefor feeling or living the experience.

This principle of using imagery to elicit an internal change goes far beyond the superficial horror-thriller with a twist at the end. Granted it is entertaining to enjoy these types of productions, but there is far more potential than jump scares. As an American, I enjoy a vastly luxurious life which I take for granted. It is difficult for citizens of our flourishing country to relate to those in environments of less fortunate circumstances. Images from around the world has helped me understand who I am and how I live relative to my counterparts in other countries, with less opportunity, and amidst tragic war and poverty.

Sometimes we see things we wish we can un-see, but we can’t. No matter what, we can’t shake that image out of our heads. This picture taken by Nilüfer Demir of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee, sent shock waves throughout the world for this very reason. We can’t un-see it. We can’t take it back. We are completely helpless and have to deal with our emotions on our own. This causes us to take an introspective look at ourselves to rectify our gut wrench by whatever means we find necessary.

Powerful images are a double edged sword. They can make us feel good, like we’re where we want to be and everything will be OK. Or, they can make us question our existence and what we are doing with it. Nilüfer Demir’s photo changed my perception of the world and how I interact with it. It put me in the shoes of immigrants, refugees, volunteers, and families who have had to witness these tragedies first hand. Next time you’re frustrated at the Starbucks line, consider how some of earth’s citizens are forced to survive. Reflect on humanity’s shame in Demir’s photo, and what changes about yourself or the way you feel because of it.

Photo Credit: Nilüfer Demir, Taslima Akhter

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Fight Club, LOTR, The Godfather & Achieving a Growth Mindset

Recently I attended a seminar by Klemmer & Associates called Personal Mastery where I had the opportunity to explore many of the belief systems I held in my head. My approach was not to accomplish anything in particular, but to be open and available to allowing my mind to be changed. With that mindset, Klemmer put me through a clinic that fundamentally altered my thought patterns and the feelings I associate with that which is not connected. Here are some of my realizations that I feel may help those who want to have more emotional health.

1.
Fight Club Mentality

I was once (and on many levels, still am) obsessed with Fight Club. The David Fincher movie is phenomenal, and I cannot suggest you read Chuck Palahniuk’s book enough. The counter-cultural tones that this story took on resonates strongly with my being. This seminar helped me fine tune that connection and comprehend why I related so strongly. I have the tendency to take an approach to life that relies upon the appreciation of others. There is a voice that tells me to go after accomplishment x because that defines success. Once I achieved x, that voice was right there to tell me to go after y. But what if my true self is uninterested in the alphabet of accomplishments? What if my true self felt more satisfaction with accomplishing that which society doesn’t necessarily categorize as success? I learned that although I may have needed to obtain x and y for my wellbeing, I am not defined by it. I am able to see decisions I make through my very own lens by understanding who I am and what I want more clearly.

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

2.
Gandolf Lord of the Rings Mentality All we have to decide

Truer words of wisdom have seldom been spoken. It seems trivial, and I don’t really mean to wax poetic, but the reality of life is that time continues on while we are trying to ‘figure our shit out’. I propose that our shit is already figured out. We have figured it out long ago, and we have made our decisions based on what we have figured out. If you aren’t satisfied, you need to consider what it is that you figured out long ago that took you to this point. The decisions we make are guided by our underlying purpose which we live by. I have thought a lot about what my purpose is that drives my decisions in life forward. Here’s what I came up with: My purpose is to evoke a shared perspective that brings forward positive change in the world. All that I do is revolving around those words. Sometimes are harder than others to tie my actions to that principle, but I’m committed to a lifetime of practice in it.

3.

Often times I look at what I do and who I am, thinking, ‘why am I not doing more?’ It’s like I have an expectation of myself that I am not meeting although I am accomplishing everything that I seek. What is the reason for this disconnect? The problem is not me, the problem is my mindset. My limiting belief system that told me if I were going to be great, I would have done it by now was weighing me down. That internal dialogue held me back from contributing all that I had to contribute to the world. It had me pulling away from situations that challenge me and kept me down that path most traveled. If I want to live my purpose and be a great person, I am going to have to make different decisions about what exactly I do and how I think. There is no ceiling on the growth of humanity, compassion, or care. So, why put a limit on my expectations when I approach any opportunity? I have changed my mentality around the possibilities of my growth in order to attain greater results given the same opportunities that I’ve had before.

Photo Credit:
Mcurtin
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A Personal Framework for Increased Happiness

Personal Growth Alternative Thinking
I am a firm believer in extreme empowerment on many levels of personal growth. What I mean by that is simple: you have the ability to change almost every aspect about your life. I am constantly revising the way I think, eat, and live in order to better suit my happiness. With this concept comes a constant internal revision process and continuous challenges to change. Fortunately, there are a magnitude of tools and principles to employ that naturally brings about a constant flow towards being happy.

I recently returned from Burning Man which taught me more than I could ever begin to describe. Within the context of personal empowerment, I learned about my significant ability to accomplish goals and impact others. Everyone has a personal modus operandi which they employ to move forward in life. Take a long look at what you do to get to the end of any task, cut out the fat, and streamline your thinking/doing process. I also realized how significant other actors can be in my outcomes. It dawned on me how impactful a gift could be, and what significant alteration a single interaction with someone can have on a life. Approach others as if they held the key to happiness. Treat your relationships as sacred and use them as a platform to lift your spirit and your capabilities.

Change should be considered a certainty along with death and taxes. It’s here and will continue to come regardless of resistance. It’s vital to embrace and direct change to the best of your ability in order to generate the results you ultimately desire. There are always challenges and obstacles that arise throughout life which must be overcome. Take a long look at the changes occurring now, changes that are likely to come, and potential changes we have no control over. Analyze those changes and decipher what kind of impact they will have on your life. Having a better understanding of these changes can assist your decision making skills and put you on the path to maximum happiness.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
-Socrates

One of the most vital pieces of information I have acquired is that I know close to nothing. Once I was able to hold this in my mind, I was able to learn exponentially more and get far more help than overestimating my knowledge. Simply acknowledging that I have a very specific skillset and background empowered both my ability to contribute to those around my and their ability to contribute to me. Never again will I hesitate to ask questions or say that I don’t understand. Information is power and to obtain either requires an openness to that which you do not know and cannot control.

There are currently a magnitude of different life aspects I have applied my new way of thinking to. My new approach has led me down avenues I never before thought possible. I have made staggering progress in achieving my goals and dreams which I can easily see and articulate. Constant personal revision for an improved pathway to happiness is vital for my way of living. Incorporating this thought provocation and purpose driven approach has set me up to enjoy each day more than the last. If any of this rings true or sounds bogus, message me and let me know how you feel!

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Project Management 101

There is no better way to learn anything than to do it. No matter how much reading and planning I put into a project I have no experience in, I will never truly understand how to do it until I actually do it. It has taken a long time for me to comprehend that no one is really ready for anything (for the most part). People are usually just making it up as they go. Another way to look at it is that nothing is given; everything you want must be taken by your own hand. Doing is always the best approach.

I recently helped a friend who was commissioned to put together a series of videos. It is interesting to see how these things end up taking on the persona of the man in charge. In the first five minutes of the project, it is easy to see what the leaders’ strengths and weaknesses are. It is important that the person in charge understands what those strengths and weaknesses are composed of to not allow those weaknesses to interfere with production. Play to your strengths and get help with the rest.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
-Helen Keller

As mentioned above, most of the time we need to jump into things head first in order to begin learning. So how can you know what your strengths and weaknesses are until you do that? Well, there are two sides to that coin. Partially, you know there are overlying strengths and weaknesses that you can apply to your life in its entirety. If you are a slow reader, it doesn’t make a difference what environment you are put in, the outcome will remain the same. Those weaknesses that are inherent to your personality or skillset are easily manageable in the planning stages of a project.

The other side is those shortcomings you don’t realize you have until you are diving into new territory. Learn on the fly and be honest with yourself as well as those around you. There is no shame in my game when I am in unexplored territory. Simply saying I don’t know, this is my first time, and I will do my best to get it done has to be good enough. Plus, this is a tremendous learning opportunity to not allow your weaknesses to prevail in the future.

When working with groups of people, it is vital that the right person is at the helm. The others involved will benefit exponentially from concise communication. If the ring leader is not up to those standards necessary to move a project forward in a timely manner, everyone is going to suffer as well as the final product. Take time to consider who is best suited to do what, and then place unequivocal faith in each party to accomplish what they are best suited for.

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Harnessing Complaints & Branded Products: Getting ahead of the restaurant game

The southeast United States is full of rich culture, history, and especially food. The amount of deep fried fantasy turned reality left by waist line pushing my pants to their limit. I can’t describe food all that well, but when it comes to the business of restaurants I know what I’m talking about. Hyman’s Seafood, although I felt the food average, they had a remarkable brand strategy that catapults them to success in a highly competitive market.

Beginning with the first impression, Hyman’s quoted a long wait time. It was shorter than we had anticipated, so we decided to wait. They called us to our table in less than half the quoted time. Under promising and over delivering started us off on the right foot. All the way through the dining area, on the walls, and the tables are famous and well known people who had eaten at the restaurant. Everywhere you turned there was a name dropped. What better way to make you feel as though you’re somewhere exclusive?

Our waitress introduced herself, gave us our menus, and got a drink order. Before she left, she mentioned that if we had anything at all to say about our dining experience to let her know. I thought ‘that’s nice to welcome feedback’ and moved on. We had multiple coupons given to us from various other locations giving us free appetizers or dessert. This is a great and affordable way to generate traffic and get people to come eat.

Seconds later, the new manager introduces himself to our table. He had a cheerful disposition and gave us some recommendations on what he liked best on the menu. Then, he told us if there was anything wrong in any way with any of our food, he would like to know and they would fix it. Ok, so the second prompt for feedback is something I haven’t experienced before. The manager left, the waitress returned with our drinks and we told her we needed more time. At that point, the fam starting saying how great the restaurant was and how great the food will be. Nothing had been set in front of us accept a menu and some water, and the compliments already started to flow.

Another man approached our table and gave us a load of stickers. He said if we have these on our person while out in Charleston, there are Hyman’s employees out looking for them. If they see you, they will give you free gift cards or something. Again, a small discount to bring in more bodies to your eatery is a worthwhile investment. After his spiel, he encouraged us to let him or the wait staff know if there was any complaints about anything we ordered.

We hashed out what we all wanted to order and let our waitress know what we wanted. After she left, we noticed the owner come into our dining room. It was easy to recognize him because there’s a large picture of his face and a description of the lineage of owners dating back generations on the front page of the menu. He approached our table and engaged us in a conversation about his place as well as some of the celebrity name drops we had questions about. Before he left, he was sure to emphasize that he wanted to know if there was anything wrong with any of our orders. He said they don’t mind, there’s no reason to have anything you don’t enjoy, and they really care about what we thought. Feedback is extremely important, equally as important as acting upon that feedback. Hyman’s drove that home to every guest. They were practically begging us to tell them what they thought.

After our meal, there was a complaint that was brought to the manager’s attention. He acknowledged it, and after investigation returned to inform us that it was totally just. I refuse to complain about my food in the restaurant, but the constant prompts brought those around me up to the point of comfortability to complain.

With our meal was a free magnet we could pick up when we exit through the gift shop. Gifting is a fantastic policy. I don’t believe in gifting for the sake of getting something in return at some future date (which is likely the motive). However, a gift is sacred and appreciated in all walks of life. It was great to receive one. My girlfriend wanted two (one couldn’t be split among two households). The clerk complied without hesitation. She said never would she ever turn someone down who wanted an additional magnet. Every step of the way the customer experience in Hyman’s is structured to make you feel good about being there.

The last topic I’ll touch upon is the salt scrub. In the bathrooms they offer a salt and oil mixture to moisturize and make your hands smell good. The gift shop has branded t-shirts and mugs as well as hats and whatnot. Then, they have an entire room dedicated to the salt scrubs. A line of sink and sample testers dominate the center of the room, and each of many different fragrances line the walls. You’re introduced to something you didn’t know you liked then presented with the opportunity to have your favorite flavor of your own.

I would not say that I was blown away by the food I received at Hyman’s. Nor would I say that the service was phenomenal. I will say that they have everything in place to succeed in the highly dense restaurant world of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s really a lesson in internal procedures, culture, and continuous process improvement. Everyone had a cheerful disposition (attitude is everything, as they say on their nametags), and we were all they seemed to really care about. So, although I wasn’t amazed by the exquisite presentation or savory taste of fresh seafood, and our wait staff didn’t balance thirty plates on their head while refilling our Coke, we all walked away feeling as though we had been given a positive dining experience. What aspects can you take from Hyman’s to make your business run better? Tell me in the comments!

Photo Credit: Logopedia, TripAdvisor, American Cuisine

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Disney PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell no Tales

I have long been a fan of pirates and their place in folklore. The Disney franchise has done an excellent job in stringing together a captivating story of dynamic characters for 4 movies now. The 4th film in the franchise was met with criticism, but I don’t see how a movie with peg leg pirates, mermaids, zombies, and more could be a bad thing. That’s neither here nor there because number 5 is upon us! I went into this one with high anticipation, I must admit. My anticipation was met with the same amount of passion, but the execution left something to be desired.

I’d like to begin with pacing. A good director is extremely mindful of the pace the movie needs at every turn of the corner. Each scene should be looked at intently to define the pace inherent to it as well as the pace that the filmmaker wants to dictate. For example, if I want to make the movie watcher feel that things are moving quickly and they need to be ready for it, I’d jump from cut to cut and speed up the movements. Contrarily, if I want to slow it down and put the viewer in a lull, let the camera linger for a bit. Dead Men Tell No Tales threw it all to the wind and went balls to the wall. All go and no slow made the movie a jumbled mess. It was non-stop action packed to the point that there are a million questions unanswered. The only reason to leave questions unanswered is on purpose, and it seemed as though they were left due to time. Packing too much into one movie. So how did the trident come into existence? What are its’ powers? Where had Elisabeth Swan been and why had Will Turner grown to be ‘cursed’? How is it the trident will save him and how do we know that? My list goes on and on, but I digress…

The film opens with a classic Jack Sparrow chase scene through the city. St. Marten is one of the quintessential locations I associate with piracy and it was great entertainment to see it torn up with Jack’s antics. This part was worthy of the driving pace and it really fit well. In the end, however, Jack is left ‘cause his luck has run out. That point is never revisited in the movie. Its like the foreshadowing was never followed up on and it should have been.

Too many parts of this movie felt ham fisted. Let’s just throw Paul McCartney in a jail cell and have Johnny Depp chat with him. The subtleties of the first movie where the slightest move told us something about the character, their background, or their intentions. Now, everything is coming at us with roadrunner speed and anvil force. Put it right between our eyes because otherwise no one will pick up on it.

The characters we have come to know well have been taken for granted. The development of these characters came through various means that told us what they were going to do in each situation, or if we could even make a prediction. This story leaned far too hard upon the developed prequel characters and didn’t offer up much in itself. For the most part, the characters didn’t even behave in the same manner they would have before, and the audience was never really told why. The new characters had absolutely no chance to be heard or understood through all the noise. Jack had a larger than life presence throughout the movies thus far. In 5, he’s lost along with all the others in the mad scramble to the credits.

The original score, composed by Hans Zimmer, was one of the greatest movie scores ever written. Naturally, a franchise is going to ride on the skirts of its’ success as long as it can. Dead Men Tell No Tales was far too generic to be considered decent. I have to give some slack due to the driving force in the movie’s entirety. It must be hard to compose music that allows nothing but rise.

This brings me to the ending. Would Will be freed? Would Barbossa end up with plunders of his wildest dreams? Would Jack be killed, or immortalized to torment the seas forever? For the movie to end with the cookie cutter, best for everyone fashion was a cop out. It simply fell flat and there’s not many other ways for me to describe it. I was left wanting. Questions seeking answers they will never find. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was an entertaining and fun watch, but I’ve come to expect more from the franchise and from the brand.

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3 Principles for Transforming Corporate Environments

As a business school graduate and an MBA student, how to act in the workplace is supposed to come natural to me. However, if you read any of my previous posts, you might note that I don’t believe in behaving the way everyone else does. Particularly in the corporate environment, conformity is coveted. If we can break that barrier and be open to a new wave of business thinking, we can open the doors to all sorts of possibility. Here are a few ways I know how:

1. Radical Honesty

I am in the fortunate position to have been blessed with the ability to speak truthfully without fear of prosecution based on my second amendment rights. Although this is subject to great political and legal debate, using this principle in the conservative corporate world is really not all that controversial (at least not on a micro level). I can honestly talk to my boss about what I think or feel about my job, and I should! The problem is not enough people are trying to hear this. Happy employees are good employees. Find a way to be more honest with your employer, or find a way to stimulate honesty within your department of employees.

2. Radical Transparency

Friends don’t make secrets AND secrets don’t make friends. This can be applied to the business world. Ever wonder why your company has a nasty reputation? Either among employees or among consumers? Well, chances are that the reputation could be combatted with a healthy dose of transparency. Be real with people because people don’t like fakers. Whenever I have a decision that may be unpopular with my employees, I have a very open conversation about what it is and why it had to be made. I cover all of their concerns in order to justify it. If you can’t justify your decision in the face of adversity, then clearly you haven’t thought enough about it. This can even be applied to pay. Imagine if women around the world were able to see what their male counterparts made in comparison to them. Transparency is a powerful tool that can elicit trust, faith, and equality.

3. Radical Participation

If you’re only looking to warm a seat, you don’t belong to be part of what I’m trying to accomplish. That isn’t derogatory to your character, it’s simply a difference in attitude. In my work environment, I pursue inclusion and buy in (just like all other employers). This transfers to my personal life as well. I tend not to hang out with those who prefer to watch me have fun rather than participate in the fun. Considering there is no difference between a personal and professional life, the only difference in this principle is the matter of employment (and employment is not always fun). Inciting participation and participating yourself is vital to being successful in any area of business.

I only skimmed over the tops of these principles. There is much to say about how to go about bringing this kind of change to an organization and how to keep it going. It’s not easy. There are, of course, downsides to using these tools. With that said, there is no way that I will ever personally neglect them because of the benefit they have provided to both me and everyone around me. If you would like to know more about this and how it could benefit your company, send me a message or comment below!

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Get Your Mind Right

I have always thought differently. I remember, in high school, I had a fantastic social studies teacher Mr. Combs. In his class we were learning about political beliefs, what they were, how to define our own, and most importantly why we thought that way. He would separate the room into left or right and allow a brief debate about why each side felt the way they did. I found myself standing alone in many instances. Today, I don’t stand alone. I do stand apart.

Stereotypes and structure are not insurmountable aspects in any way shape or form. In developing a relationship with my girlfriend, I disrupted the preconceived ideas about what a relationship should be early on. If she wanted to be a part of my non-traditional lifestyle, she would have to be part of my non-traditional way of thinking. In having a radically honest conversation about what I was looking for in a relationship we became spiritually intertwined in a way.

Radical honesty is one tool I use to raise questions about what we do and why we do it. In my girlfriend’s situation, I was looking to find out whether she was or is capable of being stronger than me. Simply because society has shaped our thought patterns to think of women as less physically or emotionally sturdy than men doesn’t make it so. Fortunately, she is a stronger person than I could ever dream of becoming. It took raising the question for both of us to realize what the full potential was that lay before us.

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” – Albert Einstein

This principle of questioning the norm can be applied to all kinds of situations (not just relationships). It should have been applied sooner in the slave trade. We don’t challenge enough when it comes to LGBT rights and inherent prejudice build into our public social structure. Companies play follow the leader rather than taking the initiative to lead themselves. In the corporate world, were afraid to stick out like a sore thumb. However, it is usually the outliers who are capable of the greatest growth and reward.

Change is resisted by most. We are, after all, creatures of habit. The only way I am able to learn and grow as a citizen of the world is to undergo change. Understanding for our fellow citizens is not an inherent quality. We need to step out of our comfort zone to be able to empathize with all walks of life. Don’t be afraid to think or act differently. Change, uncertainty and growth is what the human experience is all about.

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Born in China

Born in China Disneynature Pandas Documentary

Walt Disney set the tone of Disneynature films in the late 1940s with True-Life Adventures. Disneynature carries Walt’s fascination and love for the planet’s animals forward through the 21st century. Born in China is a look into the unique lives of four tremendous creatures. It documents a span of seasons and how each life changes and morphs with the changing life circumstances.

Born in China utilizes a story telling technique that is unique to DisneyNature documentaries. The story of the animals is told by narrator John Krasinski, and he has the priveldge of telling these animals unique path through their world. We don’t just see pandas in their natural habitat, but rather we see the pandas Ya Ya and her daughter Mei Mei in their home. The filmmakers took a exceptional approach to giving feeling to these characters.

This movie is shot with landscape photography that will blow your mind. China has an absolutely gorgeous topography that is portrayed in the greatest fashion. Obtaining footage of the snow leopard, Dawa, is not simple by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that the crew was able to reach such isolated areas and obtain such captivating footage is inspiring.

One of the most interesting aspects of the experience with this film was the approach they took with death. Wildlife is full of predatory animals and it would have been difficult to avoid in their story line all together. The approach they took impressed me and delivered a message that resonated well. They emphasized that in the animal kingdom, sometimes they must take life to give life.

From the beginning, I knew I would enjoy this documentary. Seeing it in the opening week contributed to the World Wildlife Fund to benefit pandas and snow leopards. Disney is one of the leading powerhouses when it comes to branding. Each action they take perpetuates their brand identity. They also happen to consistently produce high quality products. This all creates a perfect storm under which I find myself swept away in each experience, and Born in China is no exception.

Photo Credit: Disney Parks, USA Today

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How to Prepare for a Photoshoot

If I didn’t prepare, I could probably skate by. I would simply show up and do my thing, then everything could work out decently. However, decent just doesn’t cut it for me. Prepping is essential for me to perform as well as possible. It is very important to put in enough work before the shoot to be confident that you will take amazing pictures.

Always do at least a minimal amount of research on the internet about your subject. If a Google search is all you can muster, you will be glad you at least did that. Knowing your subject gives you a great starting point for envisioning what kind of photo you will be looking for. The more you know, the better your photo will be. Look for colors, hobbies, and interests as well as other photos that you can draw inspiration from.

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
-Lao Tzu

Never go to your photo shoot empty handed. Gifting is a huge aspect of my life and I always give my subject or my client something. You can get a prop for the photo or you can give a present that won’t show at all. The benefits of this are wide ranging including a happier, more receptive subject and a mutually beneficial relationship.

Know what to bring on your shoot! Think about what the conditions will be as well as what the subject is going to require. If you have to hike to the shoot location, chances are an umbrella and soft box aren’t the best options to bring. Don’t get caught with your pants down without the stuff you need. Prepare your equipment at least the night before.

If you show up unprepared, it will show up in your photos. Getting good images you are proud of requires you know what you are doing. That extends past technical knowledge and into logistics. Think through your entire time behind the camera and about everything that relates to it. Show up ready to bring it each time you have a shoot.

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