Personal Branding

20150514JDB--2_edit-2-2It is highly likely that you have at some point in your life considered branding. Companies regularly spend thousands of dollars on the development, protection and propagation of their branding. They are known by their branding, for better or worse.

Brands are identities.

I see a lot of branding in my work and I am intrigued at what is behind a companies branding decisions; but I wonder, do we ever think about how our lives might have a branding as well? If branding is the identifier of a product or service, wouldn’t it make sense to have a personal branding? Maybe it is time we started thinking about how we are identified, whether to our friends or professionally. This isn’t just a question for the entrepreneur or freelancer, no, this is a question for everyone.

Recently I got to connect with a friend, working in Denmark’s photography industry, on this topic. He is beginning to meet with clients to discuss their personal branding and the influence it has on the way he photographs them, but also how they live their lives. It seems like this is something that would just make sense, but it is just now beginning to be discussed among a larger audience.

What do you want to be known for?

If you are an entrepreneur you want to be the first name that comes to mind for needs in your particular industry, or maybe it’s just what you’re known for among family and friends. Whatever the reason, you are known for something, you have a brand. Why not take control of it?

It is important to realize that decisions are made based on your branding. I dare say, we all do this. I am currently working on a project that involves a very unique type of video production. Knowing this, I asked a videographer, who I know is very accomplished in this style, to join the production team. I know her skills and I know that she will produce exactly what we need. It is her brand.

Your brand should bring value to those who identify with it. Matt Britton, Founder and CEO of MRY,  says it this way, “Ask yourself, ‘What can I bring my audience every day that they will derive value from? Maybe you have great recipes, maybe you have a knack for home design, or are astute at tracking industry trends. Whatever that offering is, focus on it and get better at it.’” (-via

This isn’t about creating false personas or false realities. No, this is the truth of who you are at your core, false advertising never gets anyone very far.

Personal branding isn’t about you getting ahead in life or growing your status, it is about contributing to society and creating community that enriches and develops. When those around you need something you can do, do they think of you? Why/Why not?

Be yourself, your honest self, and be the best you can at it. It is what you will be known for. It will be your brand.



IMG_0974**Originally written February 22, 2015**

Where are you going?

Sunrise out the windows of Heathrow airport early in the morning is quite a beautiful site. I find myself sitting and asking myself, where am I going?

No, I’m not trying to figure out what plane I’m getting on or where it’s going, that I know; rather, where am I going in life.

I don’t like to think of my life sitting still, or myself for that matter, yet over the last few weeks I have done a lot of sitting still. There have been meetings as our team has worked through process updates, planned our major story pieces for the next several months and done some team building exercises.

This has given me a lot of time to think about where I am going in my life and craft. I have been setting challenges and goals for myself over the last year and as I look ahead to my year and my travels I am looking forward to opportunities to see how I have grown as a photojournalist and what goals I can set for the future.

Not everyone likes to plan ahead or map out goals, there are articles written on both sides of this, reasons to set goals, how goals are killing productivity. I’m not trying to add to the noise one way or the other, maybe goals aren’t for you or your office, they are for me and for the organization I work for.

For me, it is a matter of direction. Without goals I will likely be running around in circles and an unproductive mess. I, therefore, continue to map out where I want to be as a photojournalist over the coming year, what connections I want to have in my city, and overall where I’d like to see myself as a person. All of this is giving me vision and direction for my life and craft.

But for now, its time to catch a plane.


Film rolls through lens of Lubitel

I’ve posted on here before about the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and I cannot say enough how much I love this movie, but that post has been done before.

There is a line in the movie where Mitty’s coworker Hernando, played by Adrian Martinez, references Time photojournalist Sean O’Connell and states that he still shoots on film and that results in a man crush for him. I laugh every time because I totally understand.

Digital photography has revolutionized the world of photojournalism, no denying that, but I think there is something special about film and still utilizing it. Shooting on film forces you to know and understand your craft better. For starters you have to think about all of your settings. You have to know your ISO conditions before you put a roll of film in, you have to think about shutter speeds and apertures without digital histograms or previews to tell you if you got the look you want or not. This refines one as a photographer in ways that are just different than shooting on digital will provide.

Maybe we should all dust off our old 35mm or 120mm cameras and go have some fun. I have a bag in my closet with an old 35mm camera and a load of unexposed film begging for some light. Let’s go shoot something interesting and fun!


Will-Ferrell-–-Stranger-Than-Fiction-One of the things in a film or TV show that either connects us to it or pushes us away is the emotion and intensity. Emotions draw us into the plot in ways the story alone would not. We identify with them (i.e. happy/sad; light/dark; etc.).

As I think about various stories I have come across, I find I am drawn more to intense stories, whereas my wife is much more appreciative of the lighthearted, joyful film. This plays out in what TV shows and movies we prefer to watch. Needless to say, I find myself watching some films solo.

Recently I re-watched a favorite of mine, Stranger than Fiction. I love the storyline in this movie, the way it moves between reality and fiction. It takes an unrealistic idea and brings it into reality. Further still, it is presented in in such a way that to some characters it does not seem abnormal.

One scene always draws me in and reminds me how much I love this movie. Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, is so desperate to figure out and understand the voice he is hearing that he starts tearing apart his room. The scene’s intensity grips me every time. It ends with him looking at himself in the mirror shouting, “Say something!” his desperate plea to try and understand what is going on.

As I think about storytelling, I think of the honesty in the scene and how many people in real life are desperate either for someone to listen to their story or to speak into their life. So many times we are so self-focused or self-aware that we don’t interact with the lives of others. We never know who might be around us that at any moment is screaming, “Say something!” but no one is listening.

Maybe today, go listen to someone’s story or maybe share your story with someone else. Who knows what might come from it.

The Brevity of Life

*I’m taking a short moment to write on something different than my usual creativity and photography*

We take so many things for granted. It is almost as if we wake up each morning and go about our daily routine without ever thinking that something might change and drastically disrupt our lives. But what about when it does?

Today we went to wish a friend Happy Birthday, he was turning 28. We were really looking forward to it as we hadn’t gotten to connect with him since he returned from a recent trip to see family in Uganda. We went by the office where he worked and when we asked to see him we were ushered into a conference room where we found out that our friend had been murdered while he was with family.

It almost seems too surreal to even begin to process. A news article posted online states of how our friend was heading over to his brother’s house when the attack happened. He had no idea about the finality of that moment.

Things like this really make you think about how you are living your life and what you are living your life for. I vividly remember my last conversation with my friend–where we were, what we talked about–it is the last conversation I will ever have with him. Neither of us knew how when we said goodbye that night it was the last time we would.

Life has no guarantees, yet we live like it does. Maybe it is time we stepped back from the things we have placed our hopes and dreams in and truly assessed what is really important.

I Dream in Color

London reflectionI’ll be honest, I don’t dream much while I sleep, but I do dream a lot while I am awake. I’d like to think it is more vision casting for my life than daydreaming. I keep a notebook on Evernote dedicated just to these dreams and thoughts. Some of them see the light of day, while others sit and collect dust.

I often think about those dreams and ideas and sometimes it feels as if I’m not seeing an idea clearly but rather a broken reflection of what I’m really aiming for. Those dreams require a bit of wrestling to clear up. They must be worked out in order for them to come to fruition.

I have followed David duChemin for several years now and he has written volumes on the idea of working out your vision (specifically in the realm of creativity and photography). He states, “Our vision is a reflection of who we are, and since who we are is always growing and changing, our vision is a little bit of a moving target.” He further states, “Art, whatever else it also is, is about questions. It’s about exploration.” (from Exploration & Expression)

duChemin gets it right in so many ways and it shouldn’t come as a surprise as he has devoted so much of his time to working these things out in his own life.

So as I work through these dreams in my own life, I look forward to the adventure that awaits. The beauty of the unknown.

Imagine for a second what might be around the corner. For me, the challenge of growing as a photographer and ever flexing my creative muscles is leading me into new and uncharted territory as a photojournalist. I find my skills and my profession ever developing in an ever changing world.

Having dreams is important and it is even more important to work through them, even to see some of them come to fulfillment.

What are you dreaming about?

(another great read on this topic would be Why Your Life Needs a Mission Statement from fastcompany)

A Good Read

IMG_3714Sometimes all you need is a blanket, a beautiful day, and a good book. I love to sit outside and take in the beauty of God’s creation, although my wife and I tend to disagree as to what might qualify as a beautiful day (the cooler weather is my favorite).

There are magnificent places all around us to go enjoy, we just have to take the time to slow down and set the time aside. Life is too short to be busy all the time, go grab a book, a great cup of coffee and read for the next few hours!