Black and White and Why? with Melanie Anderson


Black and White and Why? with Melanie Anderson

As I filmed the video for this month’s segment, I asked myself: Why am I photographing these people? Why am I drawn to these subjects? What is the significance of what I am shooting?

And then I was reminded of my purpose statement: “We believe in creating visionary works with a passion for the community while placing family first, developing our craft and educating others.”

I want to take a moment to dissect the difference between a mission statement and a purpose statement. I learned the following secondhand from my daughter Sarah, who learned it from a TED Talk (see Action Plans at the end for the link). A mission statement is “what” you do. A purpose statement is “why” you do what you do. The “why” is crucial to me. On the days I am tired, frustrated, feeling like I can do no more, I am reminded of my purpose statement. The “why” in my purpose statement truly gets me through some rough days, days when I want to give up, days when I don’t want to get out of bed, days when I’m worried I can’t pay the bills. Thankfully, those days are few and far between. But we do work in a feast-or-famine industry, and if we aren’t prepared for the famine season, we can get really discouraged.

Let me break down my studio’s purpose statement for you.

“We believe in creating visionary works”: True, I own and operate a very busy and successful photography studio. We specialize in all photography genres, and video too. So, on a daily basis, we are creating visionary works.

“…with a passion for the community…”: We believe wholeheartedly in giving back. I can’t even tell you how many times our generosity has come back tenfold. We donate tens of thousands of gift certificates yearly for fundraisers to be auctioned off for those in need. We strive to be active in our community by donating our time and talents wherever needed.

“…while placing family first,…”: OK, sort of a no-brainer for my studio, but not always easy. My studio is a blessing, not a burden, though running the business can be a challenge not only as the owner, but boss too. When my staff needs time off due to family situations, it can cause a strain on the business, but allowing my employees this benefit provides a loyalty from them that I cannot buy. Making time for my family is of utmost importance. Ensuring I have quality time with each of them becomes an “intentional” part of my life. I work hard to show them that they are a priority. They do understand there are times when I need to put the studio first, as that is what pays the bills. By being vocal about upcoming obligations and enlisting their help, they get it, and allow me the time I need to complete tasks.

“…developing our craft…”: This is part of my “why” for this article. I pushed my lighting, composition and post-production in a way that I wouldn’t have normally done for a “paying” client. Sometimes we just need to create. We need to put ourselves out there to try new things, to push the boundaries and to #buildyourdamnportfolio, as Sal would say. I truly believe these are the perfect times to experiment. You may be surprised by what you can create when you are creating for you.

“…and educating others.”: This is another reason for my articles, seminars, all my workshops, etc. To open up and share all that I know about photography and business. I make mistakes all the time. If I can open up and be honest about my journey, maybe that will allow you to excel even faster. I want to showcase the value in why we do what we do. By creating a purpose statement that is displayed on my website and in my studio, I am reminded daily of the “why” I do what I do. I encourage you to create your own purpose statement today.

For this article, I chose to photograph people I see often. These are people who frequent the downtown area. They’re not the typical kinds of people who hire me; I truly wanted to capture them, capture their features, capture their personalities and share them with you. I have demonstrated images straight out of camera, in both color and black and white. As you can see, the black-and-white versions truly showcase their character and emotional depth.

Take time to see people around you. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can photograph them. Explain why you’re interested. Maybe it’s to build your portfolio. Maybe it’s for a print competition. Maybe it’s to learn a new technique. Put yourself out there.

If you have been following me and reading my recent Shutter Magazine articles, you know that I am not afraid of failure, not afraid of the word no. If you get a no, ask someone else. I’m putting this in your Action Plans for the month, and I want you to share your creations with me. I am inspired all the time by your work. And what a great way for us to inspire each other.

Equipment for black-and-white images:

Nikon D4

85 1.4





Adobe CS6

Anderson Eye Enhance

Nik Filters

Various textures

Action Plans:

  1. Watch the TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” by Simon Sinek, at
  1. Create a purpose statement.
  2. Photograph five people with distinct character and convert the images to black and white.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the September 2015 magazine.

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