Productivity Hacks: Pocket and Feedly


I read quite a bit. Not only books but also articles and blog posts. A way I’ve found to streamline this process is by using Pocket and Feedly.

I first started using Feedly to follow various blogs. You can seperate the blogs you follow by category. For example the categories I have are entrepreneurship, lifestyle, local, misc, photography, politics, style, theology, and wedding. Feedly then lets you see the latest posts from the blogs you follow.

If I find a article I want to read in Feedly I then send it to Pocket. Pocket is another iPhone app which allows you to read articles. I find the way pocket displays most articles far superior to a browser. It also lets you save the article in the Pocket app instead of having tons of browser tabs open.

I currently have tons of articles that I found in Feedly that I still need to read in Pocket. By using this method it has made it far easier for me to find and read various blogs and articles online.   

Productivity Hacks: Gear Placement


Over the years of being a photographer, I’ve realized that it is the non-sexy parts of the job that make the biggest impact. An example of this is where I place my equipment in my bags. By strategically placing what gear goes where it makes shoots and weddings go much smoother. Instead of searching for gear, placing it in the same spot every time makes it easier to access. This also includes where I put the bags in my vehicle as well. By placing them in a way which is easier to access, it makes shoots go much smoother. I occasionally switch up where I put various gear. This depends on the assignment and seeing what worked in past shoots. Currently I have a bag full of lighting gear, a red cart for location shoots, and a large and small camera bag that I switch between depending on assignment.

How I Got The Shots: The Tridge


I primarily photograph portraits and weddings. Every now and then I get hired to do work outside of my traditional wheelhouse. A woman who worked in Midland was moving to a better job in another state. She would get a photograph of a landmark from each of the cities she had lived. Her co-workers commissioned me to photograph the tridge in Midland, Michigan for her.

I parked behind the H Hotel and started scouting out the location. I had photographed portraits and wedding group shots at the tridge before but never and image of just the tridge by itself. I walked around and found some angles that looked pleasing. The tridge is a popular location.  At first I thought I’d have to photoshop out many of the people walking across. Luckily as the sun started to set the people cleared out making the post processing much easier.

I put my Nikon D600 with a wide 18-35mm lens on my Feisol Carbon Fiber tripod and started shooting. There were several reasons I used a tripod. First of all the sun was setting so I needed a longer exposure. Second I wanted detail in the entire scene so I knew I needed a narrower aperture. Lastly because the scene was so high contrast I knew I’d have to create a high dynamic range image. High dynamic range, commonly abbreviated HDR, combines several images of the same scene at different exposures. Using a process called tone mapping it makes it so there are details in the lightest and darkest parts of the photo. Due to the scene being very high contrast, bright sky and dark tridge, I knew a single exposure wouldn’t hold all of the detail I wanted. I shot three images bracketing the shutter speed but keeping the focus, focal length, aperture, and ISO the same. This gave me images with details in every part of the image.

When I got home I imported the images into Lightroom. I did the same basic global adjustments to all three images. Next I chose merge to HDR in Lightroom creating an image with detail in all tonal ranges in the image. After some further tweaking in Lightroom the image was ready to be printed. The clients ordered a 16×24 inch metal print which I got made thru White House Custom Color.

How I Got The Shots: Reception Sparklers


Grand Rapids is one of my favorite towns. Tons of great breweries. Tons of reformed churches. What more could you want?

In 2018 I photographed a wedding in Grand Rapids at a little Missouri Synod Lutheran church just down the road from Calvin College. The getting ready and ceremony went great. Next we went to the golf course where the reception was held. We drove around on golf carts to various locations the bride and groom had picked out. This was the only wedding I had photographed in 2018 that the clients had book me for more than eight hours of wedding coverage. Eight hours ends up being enough for almost everyone. This couple had a very specific photo they wanted at the end of the night. They wanted a shot of them running out of the reception hall with sparklers at the end of their reception. To get this shot I had to use to flash. While shooting dancing photos I used bounce flash. I kept my flash on camera and pointed it towards the ceiling. The light bounces off the ceiling making for a very flattering light. These shots would be outside though. No ceiling to bounce off of. So I had to use direct flash. I set my flash to a lower level so I could shoot quicker. As the bride and groom ran out of the reception hall with there sparklers I was able to grab several shots. They ran to there car and drove off to start there honeymoon. Usually I check with the bride and groom before leaving a wedding reception to make sure there aren’t any other shots they want. This time they had left before I did. I somewhat awkwardly packed up my gear and started my 2.5 hour drive back to Clare.

How I Got The Shots: Bridal Party Lightsaber Battle


When I tell people I am a wedding photographer, I usually get asked what crazy wedding stories I have. Luckily, I have had a lot of great clients and don’t have to many horror stories. One of the best weddings I have went to was way back in 2012 in Mt Pleasant.

I had just graduated high school. I still didn’t have my drivers license and hated driving back then. I had a friend and assistant Brandon drive me to Mt Pleasant for the wedding. It started with a reverent ceremony at a Catholic church in Mt Pleasant. Then we went to one of the couple’s parent’s homes outside Mt Pleasant. We did some conventional group shots. Then the groom came over to me and said “just document what is about to happen.” The bride and groom and rest of the bridal party all wiped out toy lightsabers. The bridal party started attacking the bride and groom with there lightsabers. I ran around with my wide angle lens as the battle continued. It was super fun! Next we headed to the reception near CMU where the bride and groom walked in to the imperial march with the lightsabers held over their heads by the bridal party. Each table was named after locations in various fantasy and sci fi fandoms. My assistant and I were seated at the Shire. It was the nerdiest thing ever and it was awesome. Hands down one of the best weddings I’ve been to.

How I Got The Shots: Amish In the Tree Tunnel


As I’ve grown older, I’ve grown to love my hometown of Clare, Michigan. Of the things which makes this area unique is the high population of Amish. The Amish are a religious sect with their roots in Anabaptist theology dating back to the radical reformation in Europe. The Amish choose to live simple agrarian lifestyles. They have large families, and many abstain from either some or all use of modern technology, including electricity.

When I first took interest in photography I photographed a lot of wildlife and landscape work. As time went on I shifted to portraiture and later weddings. In fall 2016 I decided to get back to my roots and photograph fall colors. I would drive around the various backroads, mostly in Clare county, and photograph the foliage.

On this particular day I ended in “the tree tunnel,” as us locals call it, on Oak Road between Clare and Coleman, Michigan. The tree tunnel always makes for beautiful images especially during the fall. This time an Amish buggy was heading through the tunnel at just the right time to catch him in the middle of the tree tunnel.

Technique wise this image is very simplistic. I pulled off to the side of the road. Got my Nikon D600 and 80-200mm f/2.8 lens out. Yes 80-200mm not 70-200mm. It is cheaper and super sharp. I had my camera in aperture priority set to f/2.8. The shallow depth of field allowed the foreground and background to drift out of focus, bringing more attention to the buggy. I had very little to do in post. I simply added a preset I had made a few years prior, and the image was set.

The reason I love this image is it represents Clare. A place near and dear to me. The fall colors. The amish buggy. The scenic back roads in the woods. This image screams “home.”

5 Recommendations For Those Who Want to Get Started in Photography

I regularly get asked what resources I recommend for those who want to learn about photography. Here are five of my favorites.  

KelbyOne is the Netflix of photography tutorials. Classes range from beginner to professional level. Classes are taught by the best in the industry. Topics range from a variety of genres of photography, retouching, and business. Prices are around $10-$20 a month depending on subscription level. I became a member in early 2019. I have been going to live seminars of theirs since 2011.

The Professional Photographers Of America is a great trade organization. Membership includes a plethora of benefits. These include industry discounts, a subscription to Professional Photographer magazine, tons of how to videos, contracts, access to various insurances, and that is just scratching the surface. Becoming a member costs a little over $33 a month. I have been a member since 2013.

In 2017 I created the Michigan Photography Network Facebook group. This group was created for networking with fellow photographers in Michigan. The group has now grown to over 900 members. We have had several in person meet ups which have now been replaced by a monthly meet up at The Studio Shop in Williamston. Amateur photographers regularly ask photography related questions in the group and are met with responses from professionals around the state. I post at least twice a day in the group to helpful articles, videos, and other industry related news. Industry websites I regularly follow and link to include: fstoppers, petapixel, and strobist. CreativeLive also occasionally offers free classes on photography. For fellow podcast fans the PetaPixel Photography Podcast with Sharky James is great for short concise industry news.

Going to meetups, group shoots, assisting, and second shooting for photographers are ways most people get started in the industry. Since the closing of the Hallmark Institute of Photography and the Brooks Institute both in 2016, few traditional schools exist offering high end photography education. Finding ways to meet and work with working professionals is a great way to learn the craft. Reaching out to local professionals and finding ways to network with them is a great way to get your foot in the door.

One of the best ways to learn about photography is getting out and shooting. Trial and error. Reading photography books, magazines, tutorials, and videos are great but nothing beats actual experience. Get out and shoot.

How did I learn about photography? I started by entering contests on the website worth1000.com. I read every photography magazine and book I could find. I was also constantly out shooting. I got published in several magazines prior to my formal education at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. Things have changed a lot since 2009 though. Worth1000 is defunct. Shutterbug, the first magazine I got published on the cover of, went out of print in 2018. My alma mater the Hallmark Institute of Photography closed in 2016 due to a former president embezzling a large sum of money from the school. Even though the places I learned the craft from may no longer exist, amazing new resources, like KelbyOne, have arisen to offer amazing educational resources for aspiring photographers.

Productivity Hacks: Single Tasking


Over the years of owning my own business I’ve came to learn a lot of valuable things. These have been learn via trial and error, books, podcasts, magazines, and discussions with fellow entrepreneurs. One of the best productivity hacks I’ve learnt is single tasking.

When I first started running my business full time I would try to multitask. I’ve be trying to retouch, answer emails, do website updates, post to social media, and do a variety of busy work all at once. I regularly get confused as to what I was working on and rarely got much done. I’d have some many tabs and software open I regularly have my computer freeze up. Over time I learned that doing one task at a time was far more productive.

Now I try to single task. Single tasking is a very simple process. I simply take one thing I’m working on at a time instead of trying to do multiple things at once. For example today I’m working on blog posts. I’ll write a blog post, proofread it, then schedule it on my blog, and lastly schedule it via Buffer to be sent out to social media. I’m not retouching, accounting, nor writing social media copy. I’m just working on writing blog posts. By taking one task at a time I have become far more efficient and get much more done.

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When To Put The Camera Down



I am constantly reading books. Not because I think I’m smart. For the opposite reason actually. I’m aware there is so much I don’t know and need to learn. I came across this passage recently which got me thinking.

“we need to rethink our memories. What if the point-and-shoot cameras in our phones make us less capable of retaining discrete memories? One psychologist calls this camera-induced amnesia the “photo-taking impairment effect,” and it works like this: by outsourcing the memory of a moment to our camera, we flatten out the event into a 2-D snapshot and proceed to ignore its many other contours—such as context, meaning, smells, touch, and taste… If the cameras in our pockets mute our moments into 2-D memories, perhaps the richest memories in life are better “captured” by our full sensory awareness in the moment—then later written down in a journal. This simple practice has proven to be a rich means of preserving memories for people throughout the centuries. Photography is a blessing, but if we impulsively turn to our camera apps too quickly, our minds can fail to capture the true moments and the rich details of an experience in exchange for visually flattened memories. Point-and-shoot cameras may in fact be costing us our most vivid recollections. But until we are convinced of this, we will continue to impulsively reach for our phones in the event of the extraordinary (or less).” Tony Reinke – 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

When I was in middle and high school I had a camera with me all the time. The camera on me was always the best camera I owned. I would document everything. Hanging out with friends. Family get togethers. Nature scenes and wildlife on the way to and from church, school, or commissioned shoots. Everything. If I didn’t bring my camera with me it seemed like the event was a waste. During college my thinking started to shift. I started only bringing my professional camera with me to professional shoots for school or clients. As I grew older I became less and less obsessed with documenting every mundane detail of life. Instead I choose to live in the moment. This thinking didn’t change overnight. It wasn’t even something I really thought about until I came across the Reinke quote. It was something that gradually happened over time. In December 2013 I bought my first iPhone. The iPhone became the camera I would document ordinary life with instead of a professional camera. I even created a personal series of iPhone images from late 2013-2016. The series saw less and less additions as time went on. In 2017 almost no new images where added. In 2018 I fully removed the gallery from my website. Now in 2019 I rarely take photos with my iPhone. The exception would be images for other business related tasks instead of artistic endeavors. Photos of business cards, location scouting, or of my car so I can find out how to get back to where I parked. I’ve had to many awkward experiences with the former to not be overly cautious now. Get togethers with friends, networking events, and my other ordinary busy work see no photographic documentation from me.

A friend of mine who runs in the same entrepreneurial circles I do shares a similar outlook. He greatly enjoys travel, but doesn’t take photos of his trips. Why? Because he would rather enjoy the moment than worry about getting a good photo.

It is okay to put the camera down. Enjoy the moment. You don’t need to document every minute detail of your life.

“I now find peace in the realization that countless potential masterpieces happen each moment the world over and go unphotographed.” Dan Winters – The Road to Seeing

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Productivity Hacks: Buffer


In 2017 I made a ton of changes to my business. One of the smartest decisions I made was starting to use Buffer. Buffer allows me to schedule social media posts in advance from my computer or phone. I use Buffer to send posts to my business Facebook page, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and the facebook group I manage. Using Buffer saves me a ton of time. I no longer have to interrupt conversations and other tasks to post at the optimum time on social media. I single task. I will write several weeks or months worth of social media copy at a time and schedule it using Buffer. I would highly recommend anyone who uses multiple social media platforms for business check out Buffer.

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