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

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

I believe his list applies 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.
    1. Creative
    2. Global
    3. Documentation
    4. Leadership
    5. Research
    6. 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

During our FOCUS panel discussion, Michael Schwarz said a mouthful in just a couple of minutes.

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 gave Michael ideas on how to pitch some of the solutions he could deliver.

So what question do you ask your client?

Panel Discussion – FOCUS [Fellowship Of Communicators Uniting Socially]

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

We had a panel discussion of these industry leaders; 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 comprises 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 about 41,000 faculty and staff. 

Before May 2012, Davis served as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the state’s liaison on the national Complete College America initiative. Before 2007, he served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, on faculty and 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 as 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 on higher education governance, economic development, and accountability issues. He also serves on several national advisory groups on higher education policy, degree completion, academic preparation, and responsibility. 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 on 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 responsibility. 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 associate’s degree in journalism from Middle Georgia College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and communication from Georgia State University. Before joining the University of Georgia in 1993, she spent more than ten 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. She 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 most significant social justice issue of the next decade – food security worldwide.

Michael A. Schwarz is an independent editorial and corporate photographer/videographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Over a 30-year career, Michael has completed over 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 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 and 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. 

Before 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 websites, produced numerous events, product rollouts, videos, and multi-media packages, and has hired countless photographers, videographers, writers, and producers – including several Pulitzer Prize winners. He has also worked as a writer, producer, photographer, and consultant for several well-known organizations. 

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

He graduated from Vanderbilt University, where he studied history, political science, and sociology while 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. In addition, he has volunteered 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.

During this past trip to Nicaragua, there were a lot of opportunities to take care of primary healthcare needs. Now the tricky 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 essential 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 apparent 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 much 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 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 captures some of the reasons why I like working with missionaries. They care for the whole person and not just their physical needs, but they are also spiritual.

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 pictures and thinking something better will come along is a mistake. Instead, you shoot everything you can and then pick the moments that best capture the work and the story’s soul.

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

Words are paramount to understanding each of these photos. So take notes and describe what is happening in an image 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 like this photo of the young girl here. Now without text, it is still a very compelling photograph. However, in the context of the images above, the picture can take on even more meaning but requires the words to help the audience feel even more impact than the visual can do alone.

The young lady leaning on the post is the granddaughter of the lady in the first photo. The lady having her blood pressure taken has high blood pressure that they monitor. However, the medical team did not just give her some medicine to help lower their blood pressure; they helped her by educating her on her diet. So today, she no longer needs the blood pressure medicine but needs to monitor it.

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

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

Telling people’s stories 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.

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

The next opportunity is to travel with Gary S. Chapman and me 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

The workshop is not a classroom class only. Instead, the workshop allows you to produce a complete project that will do what you would if you captured the story on your own. The difference is you have teachers/coaches to help you navigate all the hurdles of storytelling.

If you want coverage like I am overseas, here is your chance. The students we have finished the Storytellers Abroad Workshop have now shown the missions agency ABWE their skills and let the organization get to know them. As a result, many are asking to tell more stories of missionaries worldwide.

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

The group photo is our Storytellers Abroad Nicaragua team from this past week. Nicaragua was the third workshop. 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. Having devotionals led by the local team 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 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 in these workshops and the Honduras Multimedia workshop I have going on this fall and still have openings.

We take some time during the first few days where we spend time in the classroom to help you with that day’s assignment. Here is a photo from our classroom in Managua, Nicaragua.

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

We first review all the settings for your camera, microphones, and Adobe Premier. Then, we practice recording each other. We spend the Sunday shooting around in some churches where many of our subjects attend, and then we interview like here. On that Monday, leaders try to get out with everyone during the week to help observe you working and give 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 shyer 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

We start in the classroom and quickly get you out with your subject, shooting for 3 to 5 hours for three days. At the end of your time with the issue, you come back, ingest all your cards, and make notes. After this, you sit with one of the instructors to review your work.

We ask you to identify each of the storyline elements 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: asking the audience a straightforward question and directions on how to get involved. Again, we are not teaching you to entertain with a story but rather to engage the audience until they take action and get involved somehow.
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 years and taking videos or photos to help missions or NGOs tell their stories. So we spend a lot of time helping them break bad habits and giving them the tools to help them do a better job as storytellers. 

Stages of Learning

 There are stages of learning. Here are the six primary steps, 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 unique situation)
  4. Analysis (breaking a communication down into its parts)
  5. Synthesis (creating something new by putting pieces 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 it 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 visuals to communicate and direct the audience to understand. You will see an example of each thing you learn, then you will also know why we do it a certain way, and then you get to practice those skills yourself. The good thing is each day, we give you feedback on how well you performed. If you fall short, we will send you back to fix it.  

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

In the past few trips, we had some storytellers capture the workshop’s storyRob Llewellyn, who also works with ESPN, 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

Before we leave the country, we do a screening for the subject, the missionaries, and friends. The screening helps us realize there is an absolute deadline to complete this project. 

Photo by Rob Llewellyn

Here is a photo of Jeff Raymond, Team Leader; James Dockery, teacher; and Stanley Leary, a teacher in downtown Managua, Nicaragua. Please consider joining Stanley Leary and Gary S. Chapman in Honduras for a similar workshop from October 29 – November 5, 2016. Honduras Workshop information.  

We haven’t chosen a location or dates for the 2017 Storytellers Abroad workshops, but be sure to bookmark this in your browser and check back often to see about our future seminars.

We made a video 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 pick a place. After that, it is easier for people to say yes or no to that suggestion. They can then offer other advice.

However, if I ask where you want to go can be very frustrating. Too many options and the rest of the family is also tired. 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 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. Instead, 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 a specific person.
  • Indirect – (definition) not in a direct course or path; deviating from a straight line; roundabout:
You’ll never have it if you don’t go after what you want. 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 workshop participant to understand they need to take charge and that this is their project. However, by the end of the week, they were taking control. They had to do this, or their project would fall apart.
Once they could answer those basic questions, they could review all the content they had gathered and eliminate anything that didn’t answer those questions. Then they just 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 set up a problem that the audience would help in completing the level.
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 but also help connect those dots. If you do this in the story and at the end of the presentation, you should have a CALL TO ACTION that asks the audience if you will help.
Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/3200
If you won’t be specific, the audience doesn’t know why they see a baby in the crib and what you are trying to say. With no ask, then you have a piece of entertainment.
In business, we call this the closing of the sale. Closing differs from standard practices such as explaining a product’s benefits or justifying an expense. Instead, it is a 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 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 living hours. 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 significant problems. In addition, many young girls 13 and 14 are married to middle-aged men. As a result, many Nicaraguans lack a moral compass for their lives. In addition, so many adults are barely functioning due to the lifestyles that they are living.

The children 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 of weeks, Dominga asked all her seven children to come and let her talk to them. When the children came together, she told them how horrible of a life she had lived and told 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 gave her a compass and the ability to see her choices much clearer.

It was a privilege to be there and capture what the missionaries are fulfilling in their calling to lead the people of Nicaragua to know Jesus Christ and have some guidance for living their lives here on earth.

Due to not having a relationship with God, many choose to leave their troubles through alcohol and a promiscuous lifestyle.

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

Before this trip, I would have never thought 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 relationships.

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 on 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. The puppet team gave us a considerable advantage because of all the good relationships that the puppet team had made; let us say while walking down the dirt streets, we were with the puppet team.

We also took photos of the meals Servants with a Heart had prepared back in Matthews, NC, with two little boys holding those meals. Again this helped 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 showed the students that I started with some small chit-chat with an interpreter, 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 image you want right away rather than doing it in stages, you may shut down the connection. Take your 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

Using a deep depth-of-field like ƒ/11 as I did here really helps keep the eye moving 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. Instead, use what helps you for that moment. For example, the danger of always shooting ƒ/1.4 is that you 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 cooking.

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

You don’t turn the ƒ-stop/aperture from one end to the other. Use just enough to help you show what the viewer needs to see. Again the ƒ/4 was adequate 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 introducing a subject using your camera to an audience, you must 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 zooming out, so her lens was 450mm. She was so far away from the people and often shot the sides or even the backs of people’s heads.

I pulled up the photos 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 thanked her for doing the same t

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

I even took photos 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. As I am doing here in Nicaragua, you must smile at a subject if you don’t speak their language. If you want your audience to feel like they have been right were you are standing, you have to get close, and to do that, you have to build relationships with people.

Nikon D5 comparing ISO 800 to 66535

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 800, ƒ/11, 1/200–4 – Alienbees B1600 w/45º reflectors, PocketWizard Plus

I shot this group photo of 400 musicians, and to get the most even light, I ended up bouncing 4–Alienbees B1600 strobes with 45º reflectors bouncing off the ceiling. I also used the ExpoDisc to get a custom white balance.

Here is a pretty heavy crop of the above photo.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 7200, ƒ/5, 1/200

Now, this is a performance shot with available light. If you notice, the light on the orchestra at the bottom wasn’t very even, so I shot with strobes rather than using available light for the group photo.

Now to give you an idea of how good ISO 7200 looks, here is an enlargement of a similar size to the first photo.

Pretty awesome if I say so myself.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 66535, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

I was blown away by the ISO 66535 quality of the french horn player.

Shoot some with other photographers so you can grow

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500

Just the other night, our instructors got on a conference call and talked through our plans for one last time before our trip for the Storytellers Abroad workshop in Managua, Nicaragua.

The chart was the first draft, and all that pink and green is our time shooting our stories. All the light blue is class time and editing time.

One of the best things you can do to improve your photography is to network and shoot some things with other photographers. So plan an outing soon where you can get that immediate feedback from others.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/30

I will be teaching techniques to help steady one’s DSLR as they are shooting video. All these tips and tricks help the students capture the stories of the people in Nicaragua.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

I look forward to helping the students as they shoot by tweaking the settings on their cameras to get a better image.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

Maybe you would like to learn how to tell stories using video/audio/stills and need someone to help you navigate all those settings on the camera and all the possibilities of using software like Adobe Premier.

While the trip next week is sold out, you can join Gary S. Chapman and me in Honduras. Spend a week with us getting to know the people and countryside of Honduras, and having time to show us your work and get some feedback and tips.
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
We wrap the workshop up with a showing of all the videos. We show them what we put together that week on them.
Well, I am off to buy some more bug spray to prepare for mosquitoes in Nicaragua.
Check out how to go with us to Honduras here