Pencilbox Photography: Inside Process


My regular clients will recognize my shooting boots. I thought these boots had a bit of magic in them that helped me create great images. To keep them looking spiffy, I kept them in a box and only put them on when the shoot got a little wonky or when I knew the day would be challenging.

These boots were truly magical — however, the day came where I realized I had to replace the now worn and scuffed warhorses with something more acceptable. Well, I got lucky again — the new boots also possessed magical powers of framing, focus and exposure. All was right in my world.

Then one day at Disneyland, I saw Cinderella, and her story got me thinking. Was it the glass slippers that made her special to the Prince? No — it was wearing the slippers that transformed Cinderella into the persona that Prince Charming found amazing. Further thought and some Google University Research led me to realize that the shoes were actually a trigger for her to transform into the idealized version of herself.

Her slippers and my boots did the same thing for both of us. The ritual of putting on the boots transforms me into the photographer I need to be for the project ahead. With these boots, I can control all aspects of a shoot.


Turns out that there are actual scientific studies of high performers and the rituals and triggers they use that boost confidence, allowing them to accomplish great things. Well-known personalities and high-achieving athletes all have a ritual or item to create the superhuman you know. Search the story of Michael Jordon wearing his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform as proof.

But this isn’t just something sports legends do. Author Jack Kerouac made sure to touch the ground nine times before sitting down to write. This trigger mentally transformed him into a focused alter ego, allowing him to do things he couldn’t do as an ordinary human.

Huh, who knew? Trigger items. All that research and study about triggers being simply a psychological thing — even though I still carry both pairs of boots with me when I go on a difficult shoot.

Can’t take any chances that the Harvard Social Scientists might be wrong.