#31 of 50

The Veterans Portrait Project just completed its 31st state, Oklahoma. In just under two weeks, the VPP will visit its 32nd state, Maine! We’re on a roll and we’d like to keep the momentum going. If you see your state listed in orange, and would like to help us check your state off the “To-Do” list, please send an email to Jamie@Bravo748.com.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 5

As a small business owner, your goal is to sell your product. With the tips I’ve provided over this 5-part series, you should be able to create amazing images to do just that! In Part 5, I’ll share images I’ve created for clients and reveal techniques I applied to help best capture each item.
I got a sheet of translucent white Plexi and placed the violin on top. The Plexi reflected the violin, which added a nice touch, but more importantly reflected light into the shadows. My light source was diffused white light place overhead between the violin and me. 
The lamp was pulled 6 feet from the white background. I used a light on the background so it was brighter than my subject. I metered and exposed for the white lamp shade ensuring there would be detail in the white of the shade and no detail in the white of the background.
The black wood absorbed the light while the lightwood reflected it. In order to have both equally exposed, I metered for the knob and used Adobe Lightroom to bring detail out of the blacks.
I have a NIKKOR 105mm F/2.8 lens that allows me to get super-close to my subjects. This micro lens captures amazing detail shots and works well to capture small objects are tiny details on items you’re photographing.
I used a cluster of three Nikon SB speed lights in a softbox for the subject’s face and one unmodified Nikon SB speed light behind the model to create a rim light on her hat, hair and shoulder. My camera was set to Aperture Priority and I used TTL (Through The Lens) technology to simplify my shoot. 
I shot this bent from a variety of angles until I found one that showed the top details and the legs. By moving around the subject and getting high and low, I was able to find the optimal position that best showcased the item. 
I do not use on-camera or pop-up flash. It creates terrible, unpleasant shadows. If you can use a flash off-camera, go for it! If you can’t, then just go with natural light. Be sure to remember your exposure fundamentals – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. 
Flat, front light is not that way to go if you’re trying to show an item’s shape. This silver goblet has fine detail that could only be showcased with angled light. I situated the goblet in front of a piece of black foam board and put a Nikon SB speed light on either side. The shadows from the angled light revealed all the delicate details in the etchings. 
I treat all my animal subjects like I do people. I’ll bring light, perhaps pop a little color, dress the set, choose a nice background and I always focus on the eyes! I photographed this chick with a NIKKOR 85mm portrait lens and a Nikon SB speed light.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 4

For all you small business owners, the tailors, cobblers, innkeepers and bakers this photography education series is for you. In Part 4, I’ll talk about how to edit and use your images in creative ways. 
Your images can be displayed on your business walls, in ad campaigns, on social media or online stores. You can create graphics out of your pictures that can be used in clever layout and designs. You’re only as limited as your imagination. 
The font, or typeface, you choose can make or break your design so choose wisely. Serif fonts like TIMES NEW ROMAN have little bars on top and bottom and are perceived to be more clinical, professional and stately while san serif fonts like ARIAL are slick and clean and thought as more relaxed, hip and cool. For this series, I used a custom san serif font called LEAH GAVIOTA BOLD that I purchased through the graphics licensing company, Envato. 
You can create symbolic images like the one in this example that’s universally recognizable employing the tips I shared in Part 1 and 2. From there, you can convert those notable silhouettes into graphics in a few easy steps. This example logo took under ten minutes in Adobe Photoshop. I set my color swatches to magenta and white, launched the Filters Gallery, applied the Stamp Filter, added type and saved. Something like this could be used on mugs and t’s. 
Editing suites like Adobe Photoshop are very robust and can be intimidating at first. There are several resources online that can walk you through step-by-step so you don’t get overwhelmed. Check out Kelby One and Creative Live for online tutorials (note: these cost money) or you can check out Adobe Photoshop, Terry White, Glyn Dewis and Dave Clayton on YouTube. 
By photographing and isolating an iconic tool of your trade, you can incorporate it into a memorable marking tool. This eyelash curler image is now duo toned and can be printed on Plexiglas, lit from behind and hung on the wall in the salon as a graphic art piece. The eyelash curler can be further isolated and used as a character, aka letter, in a marketing campaign.
Objects often have shapes that mimic letters in the alphabet. In this example marketing campaign, an eyelash curler silhouette takes the place of the ‘Y’ in yes. A simple hand-sketched eyelash is added to give the curler a human appearance and a font that matches the curler is used. 
Self-generated campaigns don’t have to be complicated or involve computer work. Nikon cameras can connect to your smart phone via Bluetooth where you can select and download images using SnapBridge. From there, you can use image-editing applications you’re familiar with like Snapseed. You can use apps like PhotoGrid to ad type and graphics too. It’s so easy and fun! 

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 3

Nikon Z 7 Photo by Stacy Pearsall
Having a lens that allows you to open your Aperture to F/1.4 or F/2.8 is great because it will give your portraits that “dreamy” look. Remember from Part 1, Aperture impacts depth of field and the more open your Aperture is, the blurrier the background appears. I mainly use the NIKKOR 105mm F/1.4 for my portraits. Don’t worry, you can achieve lovely portraits with your 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses too. Just as I explained in Part 2, manipulating light helps improve your pictures too. There is a tool you can use to improve the quality of light for your portraits. Investing $20 in a diffuser/reflector combo will make a big difference. 
Most cameras allow you to have a Manual Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Group Auto Focus or Single Point Auto Focus. I recommend the Single Point Auto Focus feature because you can move the focus point over your subject’s eye and ensure critical focus is where you need it most. When taking portraits, ALWAYS FOCUS ON THE EYE(S). When your subject is angled to the camera, focus on the eye nearest the camera. 
A window is a ready-made light source that’s perfect for run-and-gun portraits. Get your subject as close to the window as possible. Rotate their face until the shadow falls pleasingly on their face. You can also face your subject directly toward the window so there’s no shadow at all.
Find open-shade under an awning or porch. Make sure there’s no direct light or dappled light falling on your subject. The light in open shade is often soft and wraps your subject’s face without creating harsh shadows. You can “kick” more light into the shadows by using a piece of white foam core. I realize your hands will be full of camera, but it can be done with practice. If you’re having trouble, ask your subject to hold the white foam board at chest level and tip it back toward their face. Make sure the board is just out of frame. A dedicated reflector and diffuser is ergonomically friendly and designed for you to be able to hold, manipulate and shoot at the same time. It’s definitely worth the $20!
If you have to shoot in the sun, try rotating your subject so their back is to the sun and their face is in shade. The sun will rim their hair and the shade will be soft, pleasant light. Since the face is most important, expose for the lightest part of the face. As I mentioned in Part 1, Aperture Priority Exposure Mode allows you to set your ISO for the available light, pick an Aperture for desired depth of field, meter for your desired area and the camera chooses the Shutter Speed accordingly. It also lets you use Exposure Compensation to make your picture lighter or darker if you don’t like the outcome.
Posing is the fun part. You can shoot tight with just eyes, nose and mouth, which is a great pose for make-up artists who want to showcase their masterpiece. You can capture a headshot that includes the neck and a portion of the shoulders, which is perfect for jewelry designers who want to show their pieces. Try angling your subject’s face away for a profile. If you’re a hairstyle and want to show the color and style of your subject’s hair, this would be an ideal pose. 
Mid-length and full-length poses are great for those who want to show off clothes, shoes and hats. With both you want to make sure you give your subject head space – don’t crop too tightly above their head. Mid-length means you crop your subject between the hip and knee – don’t crop at the knee, crop above it. Full-length is the entire body – don’t crop off or into the feet. 
I’ll talk more about editing your photos in Part 4 but it’s important to mention in this segment. There are computer software suites like Adobe Photoshop, Nikon Capture NX and One1 that give you the ability to touch up acne, brighten/darken, crop and add a cool toning. If you’re not ready for the computer suites, send your pictures from your camera to your phone and use the apps you’re familiar with like Snapseed and Edit.Lab.

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 2

Light makes the exposure possible and shadow creates dimension. Light has quality, intensity, color and direction – all of which can be manipulated and used to enhance photography. In Part 2, I’ll cover the topic of light and how to use it. 
You can take pro-worthy pictures of your products to post on Etsy, EBay, your website and social media from the comfort of your home. You can use basic baking wax paper as a backdrop and diffuser, or get a pop-up shooting tent you can set up on your dining table. Simply light it with an LED panel or flashlight from your hardware store or camera store. 
You could take pictures in ambient light and they’d be good, but you shouldn’t settle for good enough. Let’s go for great! If you add one, two and even three lights to create drama and dimension in your photo. 
Use colored gels over your light to draw the viewer’s attention to certain areas of your picture. Just remember, colors such as red, orange, yellow and even white suggest warmth and seem to move toward the viewer and appear closer. Colors such as blue, purple and green suggest coolness and seem to recede from a viewer and fall back. 
All light has direction and can be redirected and diffused. In doing so, you can change the quality of the light. LED light can be very intense, so put something translucent between the light source and your subject like white tissue paper or wax paper. The easiest way is the tape it on over the light. (Note: if the light emits heat, don’t cover it or you’ll have a fire. That’s why LED is great because it doesn’t get hot.) If you can’t cover your light, simply bounce the light off a piece of white foam board and use the indirect light.
Light can pick up color by passing through or bouncing off of colored material. This is key in all photography. If you’re in a room that’s painted vibrant orange, your images may have an orange hue. If you’re photographing a church with stained glass windows, your pictures will capture varied colors of light. Use that in your pictures to add pops of color. Cover your light source with colored gels or bounce the light off foam core of various colors. 
When setting up your light, you’re natural instinct would be to put the light directly in front of your subject so it’s fully lit. Get that shot for sure, but then move the light to the side or toward the back so the shadows are on the camera side of your subject. This will give your image the appearance of depth and will showcase the shape of your product. 
Arrange your items thoughtfully and place your light(s) to best enhance the item’s shape then shoot. Don’t forget to set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode, Spot Metering, Single Point of Focus, set the ISO based on available light, choose an F/Stop for desired depth of field, move your focus point over the area of desired focus, meter for the highlight and let the camera choose the Shutter Speed. If the Shutter Speed is too slow, either increase your ISO or open up your Aperture or both. If the image is too bright or dark, use Exposure Compensation to +/- the exposure. Shoot the products from overtop then get at its level and shoot. If something doesn’t look right, change it and start again. 
When you stage a still life, it’s best to start simple. Put one item in at a time and arranging it. Add one light at a time too. It’s like painting, where you start with the background as the foundation and build layers over it. Don’t get stuck at one angle while shooting either. Be sure to try various angles – up, down, side to side. Don’t delete anything in camera; perhaps a happy mistake turns out to be the best image!

DIY Photography for Your Small Business Part 1

My niece recently graduated esthetics school and I wanted to help her build a photographic portfolio while also demonstrating how she could create her own visual content for her online portfolio and social media pages. If you’re an esthetician, cosmetologist, artisan or entrepreneur, visual documentation of your work is an important asset and key to staying relevant and drawing in new clients. In this series, “DIY Photography for Your Small Business,” I am going to share the same photography tips and tricks I taught Sienna, so you can apply them to your work too. I will discuss gear essentials and techniques, how to create a catalog of beautiful images you can use to build a visually dynamic website, stock images you can use to create your own unique social media engagements and down-and-dirty tricks to capturing solid, beautiful portraits of your clients.
Let’s talk gear for a moment. I know youÕve probably been snapping pics using your smart phone, but frankly a smart phoneÕs camera capabilities are limited and the quality is just okay. If you want to do killer portraits and product shots, youÕll have to invest in a proper camera and lens(s) kit. If youÕre anything like Sienna, and every other entrepreneur just striking out, you donÕt have much pocket money. ThatÕs perfectly understandable. You donÕt have to break the bank to get your hands on a starter kit. A Nikon D3500 with two lenses is less than $500, a Nikon D750 with one lens is less than $1,800 and a Nikon Z 6 with FTZ Adapter and one lens is less than $2,750.
You should get familiar with the three elements of photographic exposure – ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. I like to refer to it as your “What I.F.S.” This method is a great way to remember the three critical elements of creating a picture: ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed. What if the room is dark? Answer: increase your ISO. What if I have a distracting background? Answer: use a wide-open aperture. What if I want to capture motion? Answer: slow down your shutter speed. If you don’t know what ISO, F/Stop or Shutter Speed mean, don’t worry – I’ll explain.
ISO was a numeric rating created in film days to denote film’s light sensitivity. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive to light the film was. The lower the ISO the less sensitive. Today’s “digital film” or sensor, aka charged coupled device, is the light sensitive part of your digital camera. Unlike film days, you don’t have to change a roll of film to change your camera’s light sensitivity. All you do is press the ISO button and rotate a dial.
The Aperture controls depth-of-field, which means it determines how much will be in focus in front of and behind the subject you’re focusing on. If you set your Aperture to F/2.8, whatever is in front of and behind your subject will be out of focus. If you switch to F/22, you will have nearly infinite sharpness in front and behind your subject. Again, the lens you have plays a factor too. Remember, some lenses may not be able to “open up” to F/2.8, which means you may not be able to achieve that blur, aka bokeh, you’re looking for. Also, the focal length of the lens impacts depth-of-field. I don’t want to get too technical, but you should know wider lenses like the NIKKOR 14-24mm natively has more depth-of-field no matter the F/Stop you choose. On the other hand, longer lenses like the NIKKOR 70-200mm have inherently less depth-of-field.
Shutter speed refers to the length of time the cameraÕs shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light will be let in. Shutter speeds are durations of time indicated in seconds or fractions of a second. They are displayed on the camera’s menu, or within the viewfinder, as a denominator of the fraction. For example, the display may show 500, which means 1/500th second. If you see what looks like ” you’ve set your Shutter Speed to full second increments. For example, 1″ is one second and 2″ is two second. Unless you’re doing long nighttime exposures or fancy wave pictures, you DO NOT want that. Beware of the camera shake. A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images.
A high shutter speed like 1/1000th of a second will let in very little light, while a lower shutter speed like 1/20th of a second will be letting in more light. The slower shutter speed you have, the more likely you are to have blurry images. Tip: Beware of the camera shake by ensuring your shutter speed is 1/60th of a second or faster. Also, you can help reduce camera shake by using your lenses focal length as a shutter speed guide. Simply make sure your shutter speed is set to be the same or faster than your lens’ focal length. What do I mean. Here’s an example. If you have a lens that 200mm, be sure your shutter speed is 1/200th of a second or faster. If the lens is 400mm, set your shutter speed to 1/400th of a second or faster.
All three elements of the ÒWhat IFSÓ directly impact each other. If the F/Stop changes, the Shutter Speed must be adjusted. There are many combinations of ISO, F/Stop and Shutter Speed that will create the same exposure – this is referred to as equivalent exposures. For instance, if you change your ISO, you’ll have to adjust your F/Stop or Shutter Speed to keep your exposure on-point. Using a full-auto exposure more like Program or semi-automatic exposure mode like Aperture Priority can help reduce exposure slip-ups. Keep it simple. I suggest using Aperture Priority where all you have to do is set the ISO based on available like, choose your F/Stop and let the camera determine the Shutter Speed.

Why I’m an American Legion Member


StacyAfter attending a monthly meeting at Post 166 nearly ten years ago, I joined the American Legion. My new Post was smoke filled and dated, but that didn’t matter. What was most important was their local community endeavors and support they offered fellow veterans. The rest could be addressed in time. I’m a believer that we all have a choice to either sit on the sidelines and complain about what’s wrong or step up and be part of the solution to make it right.

I admit, I’m not as active in the American Legion as I’d like to be. The Veterans Portrait Project has consumed most of my time. That said, I continue to support my Post because their mission is important both locally and nationally.

Veterans issues are always in the forefront of my mind. The majority of my fellow American Legion members feel the same. Every week, members from Post 166 travel to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center to visit with in-patient veterans and deliver clothes and toiletries to those in need. They continue to raise money to help youth sports, provide scholarships, promote youth civics and help veterans in need.

I will concede, there’s an old “Cantina” culture within the Legion I wish would take a backseat. While the cantina is a source of income, it is also a source of trouble. What’s the solution? Trade bartenders for baristas. As a private facility, each post can choose to allow smoking. Why would they? Again, the answer is driven by the “Cantina” culture. By changing from a liquor bar to a coffee bar, the Legion would effectively change the environment and culture. Trade slot machines for public computers with free WiFi where veterans can log on to “My Health e VA” and file for their VA benefits with the help of a trained volunteer American Legion veteran service officers.

Is the American Legion perfect? No. We are only as strong as our weakest link. I saw that firsthand yesterday when a fellow American Legion member posted an offensive, sexist meme they thought was funny. I brought this to the attention of the National Headquarters and they acted swiftly to have the offending post removed. Many of you were as outraged as I. Some of you expressed that behavior as a reason why you have not joined a VSO like the Legion. I implore you to reconsider. We share the same vision and voice. To affect change, we must first stand up and have our voice heard. I cannot do this alone.

Together we can steer the organization from the past to the present while staying relevant and inclusive. Together we can overcome anything. As my brother and sister veterans, you know we are stronger together. Stand with me.

As yesterday demonstrated one individual’s stupidity, which brought shame upon themselves and through them, the entire American Legion. Today, I want to share the MANY stellar American Legion members, who daily demonstrate honor, goodwill, commitment, service before self, loyalty and comradeship.

Girl Scouts Program

This series of Service and Guide Dog PSA’s were created by the young women of the Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina over Labor Day weekend 2018. Nikon USA provided Coolpix W100’s so the girls could learn photo and video documentation from Nikon Ambassador Stacy L. Pearsall. The budding documentarians, community volunteers and future leaders spent a day learning of the importance of Service and Guide Dogs through America’s VetDogs ambassador. Charlie. Then the Girl Scouts used their new photographic skills to story-board, produce, direct and edit these short videos.

Olivia & Olivia


I was invited to speak to a crowd of America’s VetDogs staff, volunteers and donors at their 9th annual Golf Tournament and fundraiser. After brief remarks, Charlie and I were ask to remain at the podium. I had no idea what was happening. Olivia, along with Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind‘s Sunny, came up and talked about Charlie and how special his mission is. I was crying. Olivia was crying. Then, I was told that my FB fundraising efforts had accumulated $4,500+, which is in addition to the direct donations Charlie and I’ve raised through VetDogs.org. I WAS STUNNED! I was then told we now had “naming rights” to a little female black lab puppy. Coincidentally, I’d mentioned to some folks earlier in the day that I’d love to sponsor a service dog puppy and name her Olivia in honor of Charlie’s beloved puppy raiser, Olivia Poff. Well everyone, you helped make this possible through your generous contributions. So, here she is! Please meet our very own puppy-in-training, Olivia! Since I couldn’t have done this without you, I consider her ours and I’ll be sure to provide updates on her progress! Right now, she’s eight weeks old and really cute…. that’s all I know. Olivia, I thank God every day for you and Charlie – you both have changed my life.


10-Year Review by Stacy Pearsall


10-YEAR REVIEW: This week marks the ten-year anniversary of my medical retirement from the United States Air Force and the start of the Veterans Portrait Project. Here’s what I’ve learned over the last decade… Though my body and spirit was broken, I learned to push through adversity and pain. I was told I’d never run again; I ran a marathon. I was told I’d never ride my horse, Sir Prize; I switched to wagon-driving instead. I was told I’d take medications the rest of my life; I now have America’s VetDogs Charlie who’s better than any manmade elixir. I was told my photography career was over; I’ve captured in-excess of 7,500 veterans’ portraits, taught photography classes worldwide and now I’m a Nikon Ambassador.

The secret to my success has been PURPOSE. There’s nothing more powerful than having a reason to live. I don’t mean simply “existing.” I’m talking about waking up with a smile, being motived, reaching bench marks, setting new goals and going to bed feeling fulfilled.

The path I’ve walked has often felt uncertain, overwhelming and scary. Even when I’ve felt alone and listless, there’ve been guiding hands leading me through uncharted territory. I’ve had the love and support of my husband, Andy; my step-kids, Hayley and Tyler; my parents, Susan and Steven; my siblings, Meggen, Tami, Chad and John; my friends Trish and Des’ola… and so many more family and friends too countless to mention in this post.

When I was handed my DD 214, I thought life was over – figuratively and literally. Turns out, it wasn’t the end of my story – simply, the ending of Chapter 1. My time and experience in the military provided the knowledge and insight I needed to begin Chapter 2; the beginning of the Veterans Portrait Project and a new mission in life. Early on, I grappled with self-worth issues. I was weighed down by all the negativity. I felt alone, isolated and pointless. With every veteran I talked to and photographed, I felt validated and vindicated. Turns out, I wasn’t alone in my struggle. Witnessing their resilience and perserverance provided me the motivation I needed to put one foot in front of the other. Often, that’s all we really need to do – one step at a time.

I am human. Naturally I’ve made mistakes, met stumbling blocks, fallen flat on my face, even taken steps back. I’m not perfect. That’s life. These trials and tribulations have provided me perspective. They’ve proved that while I have come a long way, I’ve a long way to go. I am optimistic and hopeful for the future. My future.

Here’s what I know for certain. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do. Rather, FOCUS on what you want to do and GIVE IT YOUR ALL. Your value and worth should be measured in the small successes you achieve in spite of the obstacles before you. For me, the Veterans Portrait Project isn’t just a give-back or photography project. It’s PURPOSE. ❤️ Stacy P.