Macro flower

It’s that time of year again: to see where I’ve been and where I’m going. This has become an annual tradition: 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. And now for 2014…


  • Completed a 365 day photo project – I set out to learn more about flash and lighting in photography. To do so, I challenged myself to make one photograph a day that utilized lighting.
  • Related to the first point, I grew my photography gear by purchasing a second speedlight, my first studio light (AlienBees B800) and many light modifiers (color gels, grids, mini-softbox, etc)
  • I learned a bit about pet photography. Wrangling a beagle and a cat, as well as lighting to get a good photo is an interesting challenge
  • Among the many things I learned to photograph this year is glass – Things like vases and glass bottles.
  • Discovered ‘free-lensing‘ – where you reverse your lens to capture macro photos. It’s amazing what daily curiosity and experimenting will produce!
  • Photographed smoke on colored backgrounds, in camera – when previously, I could only produce the same image with lots of Photoshop fakery.
  • Honed the ‘white background’ look. It helps when you have more than one light.
  • Did my first real photo shoot – a newborn/family shoot with friends. All my lighting experience definitely helped make me feel comfortable with using 1 and 2 lights.


  • Paid 2 large debts off while continuing to follow the Dave Ramsey, ‘Debt Snowball’ plan. Since January 2011, we’ve paid off approximately $80,000!
  • I read and applied the principles from the book, Getting Things Done  by David Allen. He puts forth a simple plan for day to day productivity – mostly centered around to-do lists and calendar usage – and a structure for regular review of your projects/lists/calendars. This is the first ‘productivity’ book I’ve read that has actually changed the way I get things done day to day.
  • Decided with my wife to have a baby (New Year’s Eve). She got pregnant 20 days later. Then we met Amelia Rose October 15th, 2014!
  • Continued projects on the house: New fencing, Baby room, installed hard wood stairs, renovated half of basement.
  • Launched a side project – – a project 2 years in the making. The website is the result of years of frustration surrounding the design industry and outsider perception of it.

Web Design

  • Continued to build websites using WordPress and features like custom fields/custom post types. This allows for very custom websites that are very easy to edit for the end client.
  • Continued my education of web technologies/software through

  • Completed projects in these areas: Websites, HTML emails, training, logos, photo licensing, photoshoots
  • Expanded my photography services – including a newborn photo shoot and licensing my Kirksville photos locally.
  • Made my business processes more efficient by utilizing lists, how-to’s and canned messages.
  • 28% increase in sales from 2013
  • Worked with 15 clients: 9 existing clients and 6 new clients
  • Completed my most extensive website project to-date: Also the one I’m most proud of since I started building websites in 2005 – That was the new website for Kirksville Tourism.

What I ‘shipped’ in 2014

Seth Godin talks a lot about ‘shipping’ (or launching/putting out into the public). He is a big proponent of, ‘ship early and ship often.’ Meaning – if you have a project that you’re waiting until it is ‘just right’ to launch – push through and launch (or ship) it now. In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. I think this is a great way to hold my own feet to the fire and assess what I launched/shipped in the last 12 months. Here is what I shipped in 2014:

  • Crushed 2 debts
  • Created 365 photos that utilized studio lighting/flash units.
  • Contributed 113 photos to iStockPhoto
  • Crafted and Launched 19 websites (12 with Creative Improv & 7 with my full-time job)
  • Launched a side project –
  • Crafted 2 HTML emails
  • Designed 1 logo

Flash photo a day - 365 photo project

I did it!

I shot a photograph a day in 2014 that utilized lighting (studio lights or flash units). I wanted to learn how to use lighting to make great photos – so this was my solution. I didn’t cheat either. Each day I shot a new photo (excluding 5 days during a family emergency). To see the whole photo project in a pinterest-style layout, check it out here. You can click on any photo to see it larger. As I wrap up this 365 day photo project, I want to recap what made this project a success – and it far exceeds just learning how to use photography lighting. Here are the many ways this photo project helped me grow and get better at my craft.

Create something I’m proud of every single day.

Something that isn’t directed by a client. Something I have full artistic control over. I’m the client! For so many years – literally since I started college and doing design on a professional level, I’ve never put forth a consistent effort to create for me. It forced me to get better because I couldn’t blame the flaws on ‘the pesky client’. I now see the evidence and benefit of having a side project that I have full control of.

Even if I had a day full of ‘minutia’ – I could look forward to the photo a day.

Even if I spent my day making detailed design or coding revisions and replying to endless emails, I could at least create one thing each day that I was proud of.

Think on my feet.

I was forced to think creatively every day. What would I photograph? How would I light it? How do I shoot a photo, edit it and post it when I have a looming deadline on a freelance project or other obligations? These challenges helped me think on my feet and push to create something I was proud of, whether I had 30 minutes or 3 hours to create something.

It made me a better designer and developer.

The act of creating a photo a day with lighting pushed me to be more agile and learn faster and try new things in other ares of my professional life – like web design and development. I would often think, “If I could figure out that lighting problem last night, why I can’t I solve this coding problem on this website?”

In these fresh stages of creativity, we are not affected by financial worries or job obligations—we are simply playing, expressing ourselves, making our soul grow and returning to the essence of creativity. The realizations that we recognize during these activities should be transferred over to our main craft.

Paul Jun

Practice makes perfect.

By doing something every day and trying something different each time, I learned a whole lot about good and bad light and how to use my equipment. Now, I feel that I’m a much better photographer than this time last year. I’m now thinking about how I can utilize this, ‘do something everyday’ concept to other areas of my life: web design/development, learning guitar and harmonica, photos of my daughter? How could I do something for just me in those area that I would learn a lot from and get a lot better?

It revolutionized my productivity.

I work a full-time job, do freelance work, home improvement projects, prepare for a new baby, AND this flash photo project. When I started this project, I was hesitant as to whether I could get everything done each day. Adding this photo project forced me to utilize my time wisely and get my work done first and procrastinate later (oxymoron, right?). What also helped was reading and applying the concepts in the book Getting Things Done

f4.5 – 1/180 – Speedlight with shoot-through umbrella coming from top left. I used my pentax 85-200mm lens from the 1980’s. It’s a manual focus/aperture lens – so that’s fun!

1/180 – speedlight with mini-softbox coming from top right side. First photo using my new extension tubes. This one is just my 50mm lens with all three extension tubes added. Extension tubes allow for getting a bit closer than normal.

f8.0 – 1/180 – Speedlight with shoot-through umbrella coming from straight above. Small reflector on front right side. White foamcore blocking light to create background gradient. Lighting setup similar to what is explained here.

1/180 – First photo using a Pentax 80-200mm lens from the 80’s. I purchased an adapter to use this lens on my Canon camera. The focus and aperature are all manual – but the results are stunning. I love the background effect I get – the background was the neighbor’s yards.

f8.0 – 1/180 – Speedlight flagged off coming from back left. Mini soft-box as reflector on front right. Second speedlight unmodified aimed at background.