Essential Skills for a communications professional – Do you have them?

Dr. Houston Davis, interim president of Kennesaw State University addressed what he hears industry wanting from all college graduates.

I believe his list is applicable to the communications professional.

Dr. Houston Davis’ Essential Skills

1) Critical Thinking

2) Global Engagement

3) Information Discovery – Able to deal with Ambiguity

4) Communication Skills – Written & Oral

5) Ability to have had an internship, apprenticeship or some real world experience in a profession while in school

6) Undergraduate Research

7) Have all this documented so that employers can see the skills you have acquired.

a) Creative

b) Global

c) Documentation

d) Leadership

e) Research

f) Service

Listen to Dr. Houston Davis explain these Essential Skills here:

Do you ask your client the right question? Michael Schwarz tells us his thoughts on this question.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 2500, ƒ/3.5, 1/100

Michael Schwarz said a mouthful in just a couple minutes during our FOCUS panel discussion.

When he was new in the profession he asked clients, “What do you want me to do?” Later he would discover that wasn’t the right question.

Listen to Michael explain this evolution in his career.
“What are you trying to accomplish with this project? or Why are you hiring me?” is the better question. Which often is met with, “I don’t know, let me get back to you with an answer.”

While the client had a shot list the better question helped to focus all the content and also gives Michael ideas on how to pitch some of the solutions he can deliver.

So what question do you ask your client?

Panel Discussion – FOCUS [Fellowship Of Communicators Uniting Socially]

Yesterday I hosted FOCUS [Fellowship Of Communicators Uniting Socially] meeting in Roswell, Georgia.

We had a panel discussion made up of these industry leaders and you can listen to them in the video above. They are discussing the state of the industry and tips they recommend for today’s professional communicator.

Dr. Houston Davis serves as the Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of the University System of Georgia. USG is comprised of Georgia’s 30 public universities and colleges including four research universities, the Institute of Oceanography, State Archives, the Public Library System, and statewide Information Technology Services. USG enrolls approximately 314,000 students and employs approximately 41,000 faculty and staff.

Prior to May 2012, Davis served as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and served as the state’s liaison on the national Complete College America initiative. Prior to 2007, he served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, on faculty and in academic leadership for Austin Peay State University, in fiscal and academic affairs for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and as a regional counselor for the University of Memphis. In addition to his past professional duties, he served in the role of Director for the National Educational Needs Index project, a Lumina funded initiative measuring educational, economic, and population pressures in the 50 states that influence policy and planning at local, regional, and national levels.

He is involved in research projects and writing in higher education governance, economic development, and accountability issues and serves on several national advisory groups on higher education policy, degree completion, academic preparation, and accountability. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University with other degrees from the University of Memphis and Tennessee State University.

In addition to his professional duties, Houston Davis has served as director for the National Educational Needs Index project from 2004-2011, an initiative measuring educational, economic, and population pressures in the 50 states that influence policy and planning at local, regional, and national levels.

Dr. Davis is involved in research projects and writing in the areas of higher education access, governance, economic development, and accountability issues in higher education and serves on several national advisory groups on higher education policy, degree completion, academic preparation, and accountability.

A native of Clarksville, Tennessee, Davis received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs and chief communications officer for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She is known across North America for work in agricultural issues management and crisis communication. She manages strategic communications, issues management, brand and executive reputation management, crisis communication and legislative relations for the college, agricultural experiment stations and Cooperative Extension.

She holds an associates degree in journalism from Middle Georgia College and bachelor and master degrees in journalism and communication from Georgia State University. Before joining the University of Georgia in 1993, she spent more than 10 years as an Atlanta newspaper reporter, public information officer and marketing specialist. She has won numerous regional, national and international awards for writing, editing, media relations, marketing and communication training, and is an often-requested speaker on media relations, crisis communication and other public affairs topics across North America.

She has published research and professional development papers on defining agriculture to urban audiences, effective media relations in urban markets, strategic issues management and working and managing in a telecommuter workplace.

Her current work focuses on what promises to be the greatest social justice issue of the next decade – food security around the world.

Michael A. Schwarz is an independent editorial and corporate photographer/videographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Over a 30-year career Michael has completed more than 6,000 assignments for publications and corporations around the globe. His editorial client list has included USA Today, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, National Geographic Traveler, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Sports Illustrated. His corporate client list has included The Home Depot, UPS, The Coca-Cola Company, Harvard University, Brown University, GE, Synchrony Financial and Porsche.

Michael has a background as a photojournalist and is a 3-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. He has received numerous awards from the Pictures of the Year competition and was a winner of the Dag Hammarskjold Award for Human Rights Advocacy Journalism. Many, many years ago LIFE Magazine featured Michael as one of the best young photographers in America in a special issue of their magazine. In 1998, Michael collaborated with author Ellen Spears on the book “The Newtown Story: One Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice.” Michael is a native of Baltimore and a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Michael has served on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar and the Atlanta Chapter of ASMP. He maintains membership in the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP),and the Atlanta Press Club. In a recent reader’s poll sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, Michael’s collaboration with writer Steve Sternberg, “When AIDS Comes Home,” was voted the favorite Atlanta story of the last 50 years.

In addition to his photographic work, Michael does digital photography consulting and training. His corporate clients have included: Nikon, and Best Buy. He is a featured trainer with Blue Pixel Inc. and has been a lead instructor of Nikon School since 2001 a workshop leader for the Mentor Series.

Greg Thompson is senior director of corporate communications for Chick-fil-A, Inc., one of America’s largest privately held restaurant chains with 2,000 restaurants and annual sales of almost $7 billion.

Prior to joining Chick-fil-A, Greg spent 25 years in worldwide management and executive positions with IBM in Atlanta, Tucson and Tokyo. In his career at IBM and Chick-fil-A, Greg has edited several magazines and web sites, produced numerous events, product rollouts, videos and multi-media packages and has hired countless photographers, videographers, writers and producers – including a number of Pulitzer Prize winners. He also has worked during that time as a writer, producer, photographer and consultant for a number of well-known organizations.

Greg joined IBM after a career as a photographer and journalist for three newspapers and The Associated Press.

He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he studied history, political science and sociology while also working as a reporter and photographer for the then Gannett-owned Nashville Banner.

Greg also is involved as a volunteer and consultant with several faith-based NGOs around the world. He serves on the boards of HOI, which focuses on Honduras and Nicaragua, and SCORE International, which focuses on the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba. Greg accompanied a SCORE medical relief team into Haiti shortly after the 2010 earthquake and worked with CRASH Japan and Samaritan’s Purse in Tohoku, Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He has also done volunteer work in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica and Cambodia.

Greg and his wife, Mary Belle, have been married 32 years and live in Marietta, Georgia.

What makes a successful humanitarian photo coverage

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 32000, ƒ/14, 1/100

All the trips I have done overseas have been for humanitarian work. Humanitarian work is concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.

This past trip to Nicaragua there was a lot of opportunity for taking care of basic healthcare needs. Now the difficult thing sometimes to do as a humanitarian photographer is to capture and compel the audience to act.

In the homes they didn’t have a medicine cabinet with your basic bottles of Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, cough medicine and bandaids. If they needed an aspirin they would go to the city and buy not a bottle but just a few pills. That is all they could afford. I needed to capture the medically trained indigenous volunteers checking blood pressure or giving an IV, because handing a person a small ziplock bag of ibuprofen doesn’t read quickly to the audience medical care.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/100

The gravity of this moment with medical missionary nurse practitioner Traci Warner isn’t as clear to the audience visually as I would have wished. Dominga is the lady in the middle with the IV above her head. Her sister is to the left and had just paused a moment from waving the fan to keep her sister comfortable.

Dominga is dying from cancer. After we visited Dominga would die later that night.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Missionary nurse practitioner Warner has a lot more to offer than her medical skills. During this part of life that we all will go through Warner took the time to read Psalms 23.

Verse 4 really speaks to me:

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

This photo really captured for me why I like working with missionaries. They are caring for the whole person and not just their physical needs, but their spiritual as well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art,  ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

If you are taking photos of humanitarian work you need to keep shooting. Sometimes when you are taking photos and thinking something better will come along is a mistake. You shoot everything you can and then later pick the moments that best capture the work going on and the soul of the story.

Here Warner is checking a skin condition on a lady with the Nicaraguan medical volunteer learning about the fungus condition.

I hope you are realizing at this point of my writing that the words are paramount to understanding what is going on in each of these photos. Take notes and be able to describe what is going on in a photo and why they are doing something.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160

I really like this photo of the young girl here. Now without text it is still a very compelling photograph. In context of the photos above the photo can take on even more meaning, but requires the words to help the audience feel even more impact than the visual can do alone.

This is the young granddaughter of the lady in the very first photo. The lady having her blood pressure taken has high blood pressure that they monitor. Due to the medical team not just giving her some medicine to help lower the blood pressure they helped her through educating her on her diet. Today she is no longer needing the blood pressure medicine, but just needs to monitor it.

By saving the grandmother we saved the care taker of the granddaughter. Now she has someone to watch her and take care of her as her parents are both out working trying to make ends meet for the family.

Many young girls like her are raped and abused due to lack of adult supervision. Who would think that humanitarian aid through medical training and some blood pressure pills would help save this young girls life?

This is why I love traveling the world and helping make people’s lives better. How do I make things better when I am not a nurse practitioner? I help tell these stories and get people like you to give and go to make a difference.

Here are two opportunities this year for you to do the same thing and learn how to do it as well.

First we have two openings left for our Storytellers Abroad workshop in Togo, West Africa.

Next opportunity is traveling with Gary S. Chapman and myself to Honduras, Central America.

Honduras, October 29 – November 5, 2016 – $2,600 

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 450, ƒ/8, 1/100

This is not a classroom class only. When you are done you will have had the opportunity to produce a complete project that will do exactly what you would be doing if you were capturing the story yourself. The difference is you have teachers/coaches to help you navigate all the hurdles of storytelling.

If you want to do coverage like I am doing overseas, then here is your chance. The students we have finish the Storytellers Abroad Workshop have now shown to the missions agency ABWE their skills and also let the organization get to know them. Many are asked to tell more stories of missionaries around the world.

Sign up today and I will see you in either Togo or Honduras very soon.

What takes place in a Storytellers Workshop?

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 640, ƒ/9, 1/100

This is our Storytellers Abroad Nicaragua team from this past week.  This was the third workshop. In previous years we have been to Lisbon, Portugal and Bucharest, Romania.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/100

Bruce Edgar led us one morning for our devotional. This not only helps us get to know the missionaries of the Nicaraguan team, but also helps us focus each day and ask God for guidance. With so much packed into our day with new things to learn and practice we need to a lot of help and rely on God to direct us each day.

Each day we had a different missionary lead us.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/8, 1/100

I wanted to give you some idea of what students are doing on these workshops as well as the Honduras Multimedia workshop I have going on this fall and still have openings.

We take some time the first few days where we spend time in the classroom helping you with that days assignment. Now this is a photo from the classroom we were using in Managua, Nicaragua.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 20000, ƒ/8, 1/100

We first go over all the settings for your camera, microphones and Adobe Premier. We practice recording each other. We spend the Sunday shooting around in some of the churches where many of our subjects attend and then on that Monday we are interviewing like here. The leaders try to get out with everyone at some point during the week to help observe you working and to give you tips.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

While some of the students were jumping right into the shooting up and personal with the subjects we would help those who were more shy and reserved to learn how to take control of the story and get the content they needed to tell the story more effectively.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/100

The class is designed pretty much around starting in the class and then quickly getting you out with your subject shooting for 3 to 5 hours for three days. At the end of your time with the subject you come back and ingest all your cards and make notes. After this you are sitting down with one of the instructors reviewing your work.

We are asking you to identify each of the elements of the storyline in your story. Your outline will look something like this:

  • Subject/Character – A little information about the person you are covering
    • Their family
    • Their work
    • Their volunteer work
  • Conflict/Problem – What is the problem that they cannot solve on their own
  • Guide/Resource – who is helping them and what resources are available or lacking?
  • Assignment – What does the guide/mentor recommend to help solve the problem for the subject?
  • Actions – What actions has the subject taken
  • Outcome – Is it a Tragedy or Comedy?
  • CALL TO ACTION – We add one more step in the story process of basically asking a very direct question to the audience and direction on how to get involved. We are not teaching you to just entertain with a story, but rather to engage the audience until they are taking action and getting involved in some way.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/100
Many of our students have been shooting for many years and been doing videos or photos to help missions or NGOs tell their stories. We spend a lot of time helping them break some of those bad habits and giving them the tools to help them do a better job as a storyteller.

Stages of Learning

There are stages of learning. Here are the six basic stages, listed from the most rudimentary to the highest levels of comprehension:
  1. Knowledge (memorizing, recalling)
  2. Comprehension (expressing ideas in new forms)
  3. Application (transfer of learning to a new situation)
  4. Analysis (breaking a communication down into its parts)
  5. Synthesis (creating something new by putting parts together)
  6. Evaluation (judging value based on standards)
Stages of Learning (from LeRoy Ford’s book “Design for Teaching and Training)

We understand how one learns so the course is designed to move you to the final stage where you are functioning at the highest level of evaluation.

We are training you to identify a story and how to produce this story so that it connects with the audience and elicits a response, which we call the CALL TO ACTION.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100
Here I am giving some examples to the class. We then explain how we use a visual to communicate and direct the audience to understanding.
Each thing you learn you will see an example, then you will also learn why we do it a certain way and then you get to practice those skills yourself. The good thing is each day you are evaluated on how well you performed. If you fell short we send you back for it to be done again. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/100
The past couple of trips we had some storytellers along capturing the story of the workshop. Rob Llewellyn who works also with ESPN came along and also jumped in to help one of the students while we were busy with the other students. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/11, 1/100
The last thing we are doing while in country before taking off for the airport is a screening of all the videos with the subjects and all those who helped us in the process. This helps us realize there is a real deadline to get this project done.
Photo by Rob Llewellyn
Here is photo of Jeff Raymond, Team Leader; James Dockery, teacher; and Stanley Leary, teacher in downtown Managua, Nicaragua.
Please consider joining Stanley Leary and Gary S. Chapman in Honduras for a similar workshop on October 29 – November 5, 2016. Honduras Workshop information
We haven’t chosen location or dates for 2017 Storytellers Abroad workshops, but be sure and bookmark this in your browser and check back every so often to see about our future workshops.

This is a video we made while in Lisbon, Portugal to explain the workshop.

Storytelling for NGOs needs to be decisive

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

When we need to go out and eat as a family I often don’t care where to eat so I ask the family where. Over the years I have learned that it is easier to get a response if I first just pick a place. It is easier for people to say yes or no to that suggestion. They can then offer another suggestion.

However if I just ask where do you want to go can be very frustrating. Too many options and the rest of the family is tired as well. They don’t want to have to think about all the choices.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

This past week I along with James Dockery, editor at ESPN and Jeff Raymond, media missionary with ABWE, we were training 11 workshop participants on Storytelling using multimedia.

We taught them the storyline here:

After the first day we asked them a couple of questions.

  • Who is the Audience?
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
Most everyone struggled because they were not so focused and looking for those answers. They just listened to whatever the subject said to their list of questions. They didn’t understand that the purpose of asking questions during an interview is to gain insight and help clarify the storyline.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100

Direct vs Indirect

  • Direct – (definition) aim (something) in a particular direction or at a particular person.
  • Indirect – (definition) not in a direct course or path; deviating from a straight line; roundabout:
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. 
We were having a real problem getting each of the workshops participants to understand they need to take charge and this is their project. However, by the end of the week they were taking charge. They had to do this or their project was going to fall apart.
Once they were able to answer those basic questions they were able to then review all the content they had gathered and basically eliminate anything that didn’t answer those questions. Then they just continued to cut out good content to keep only the great content.

Call To ACTION!!

The whole point of all the stories last week was to help those we covered to get people to help them. We were not just creating stories that had happened and were entertaining. We were telling a story to help setup a problem that the audience would help in competing the story.
Compare this CALL TO ACTION to the Storyline. You will notice they are very similar. The audience needs to know what you are asking them to do with your story. They need to know what you want them to do and how they can help.
In a nutshell you must not only identify each of the parts you must help connect those dots. If you do this in the story and then at the end of the presentation you should have a CALL TO ACTION that asks the audience will you help?
Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/3200
If you don’t be specific the audience doesn’t know why they see a little baby in the crib and what you are trying to say. With no ask then you just have a piece of entertainment.
In business we call this the closing of the sale. Closing is distinguished from ordinary practices such as explaining a product’s benefits or justifying an expense. It is reserved for more artful means of persuasion.
You are successful as a storyteller for a nonprofit only if you help them by raising funds or getting people to donate of their time.

Enjoying photographing the children of Nicaragua who are changing their family’s lives

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Missionary Traci Warner reads to Dominga Psalms 23 who was in her last hours of living. Dominga would die later during the night.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Dominga’s story started not too long ago with her granddaughter age 14. She was seeking comfort and went to the local church of the missionaries.

In this culture of Nicaragua many people are hooked on alcohol and have major problems. Many of the young girls of age 13 and 14 are married off to middle aged men. They have no moral compass for their lives and so many of the adults are barely functioning due to the lifestyles that they are living.

It is the children who are often the most responsible and come to the churches.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 18000, ƒ/14, 1/100

In this photo the family has gathered around Dominga to provide as much comfort as possible. In the last couple weeks Dominga asked all her seven children to come and let her talk to them. This is when she told them how horrible of a life she had lived and said to them don’t be like me. Turn to God and live a better life.

She had discovered her savior Jesus in her last days here on earth and wanted them to have a better life than she had. She understood that having God was giving her a compass and ability to see her choices much clearer.

It was a privilege to be there and capture what the missionaries fulfilling their calling to leading people of Nicaragua to knowing Jesus Christ and then having some guidance for living their lives here on earth.

Due to not having a relationship with God many are choosing to leave their troubles through alcohol and a very promiscuous lifestyle.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 800, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

I would have never thought before this trip that it would be the children changing Nicaragua.

Matthew 18:2-4
Jesus called a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you, He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.…

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 800, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

Great photos require building relationship

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100

We spent time in the small village of San Benito, Nicaragua helping the students in our Storytelling workshop how to get access to take those photos that help you show how the people in another culture live.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 1000, ƒ/1.8, 1/100

Now we did piggyback with a team that did a puppet show for the children in the village. They had already built relationships with the community. This gave us a huge advantage because all the good relationships that had been done let us say while walking down the dirt streets we were with the puppet team.

We also were able to take photos of the meals that Servants with a Heart had prepared back in Matthews, NC with two little boys holding those meals. Again this was helping us establish we are there to help them.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 110, ƒ/4, 1/100

After pulling up and walking down the street with cameras it didn’t take long for many people to come out to see all the Gringos with cameras walking down their street.

I was showing the students that I started with some small chit-chat with an interpreter and taking portraits of the people and showing them the results on the back of the screen.

I asked the lady how many people she cooks for and if she would show us her kitchen.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 7200, ƒ/4, 1/100

So to get good photos you must do it in stages. You are building a relationship. If you try and jump to the photo you want right away rather than doing it in stages you may shut down the relationship. Take you time and get to know the subject.

Turn your aperture dial to help direct the audience

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800

A shallow depth-of-field like ƒ/1.4 that I used here is a great way to force the audience to look where you want them to see.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/11, 1/100

Now using a deep depth-of-field like ƒ/11 as I did here really helps keep the eye moving all through the frame.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

Don’t fall in love with an ƒ-stop. Use what helps you for that moment. The danger of always shooting ƒ/1.4 for example is that you really are not giving context to your subject.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100

Here I used ƒ/4 which was just enough depth-of-field to show the lady’s kitchen and her cooking.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100

The point here is that you just don’t turn the ƒ-stop/aperture from one end to the other. Use just enough to help you show that which you need the viewer to see. Again the ƒ/4 was adequate enough while shooting with the 24mm to capture the rest of the kitchen.

Great people photos are about building relationships

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/1600

Before you can introduce a subject using your camera to an audience you have had to have introduced yourself.

Here in Managua, Nicaragua we are teaching photographers/videographers how to make your photos work. Yesterday I watched one student shooting with a Nikon 5300 and 28-300mm lens. She was zoomed all the way out so her lens was actually a 450mm. She was so far away from the people and often shooting the sides or even the backs of people’s heads.

I pulled up photos like this above and showed her what I was getting. I helped her to see the importance of being engaged with the subject.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/200

I also realized I needed to show her what to try and then asked her to do the same thing.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 110, ƒ/5, 1/200

I even took photos up right next to a pastor preaching to show the congregation and give a different perspective to help engage the audience.

I asked her to follow me and shoot the same photos. She was getting the difference very quickly.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/1600

Now I can tell you and even show you that there is that one subject that may get a little upset with you like here. It just shows I may have moved too quickly. You do need to smile a lot to a subject if you don’t speak their language as I am doing here in Nicaragua.

If you want your audience to feel like they have been right were you are standing then you have to get close and to do that you have to build relationships with people.