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.

Photography Workshop is the best way to learn photography

Fuji X-E2, XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

I am really enjoying teaching here in Hawaii.  So you don’t feel sorry for me soaking up all the beaches and warm weather, we are inside much of the day in class. Here the students are working on their assignment for 1:3 lighting ratio.

If you want to see their assignment here it is in an earlier blog post.

You will need to come back next week where I hope to post some of their photos.

Fuji X-E2, XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/140

No matter how much I told the students it wasn’t until they started shooting did they come to see if they really understood the concepts.

The cool thing is I don’t jump in and help them. I let them work in small groups and teach each other. You see when they teach something they just learned they are now synthesizing the information.

If you just listen to someone you are probably only getting about 5% of the content. If you read about it then 10%, but when you start practicing you are now in the Kinesthetic level of learning and the average recall of the content after 24 hours is 50% or better.

You see based on research you will retain what your learned when you have hands on learning and get to practice. You will retain 75% of the content.

For those students who helped their classmate understand a concept that they just grasped then they will recall 90% of that concept the following day.

Give me a call. I do personal one-on-one workshops or you can have me come and lead your camera club in a hands on workshop.

Tips for contacting professional photographers for help

Ways to connect

You can reach out to photographers in so many ways. First I think it is important for you to know some basic etiquette for connecting.

Introduce yourself

Tell the person who you are and why you want to connect. “hi my name is—after reading about you I noticed we have a few things in common” or “hi my name is—I have been following your blog and really liked your post on …”

Give the person a reason they should want to connect with you!

Tell them about you. When you reach out to someone and tell them very little and they go and click on your profile it needs to help them.

If on Linked-in I highly recommend a professional headshot. This goes a really long way to show you are a real person, rather than a blank avatar. The blank avatar makes you look like a creeper.

You really need your profile to be up to date and helpful to those you are reaching out to for connecting. Make it easy for people to see why they should respond positively to you.

The point of the about me section is to show yourself as an authentic person and a great way for people to want to connect with you. We are not interested in a sales pitch. Things about your hobbies and interests go a long way to help people want to connect. If you were an Eagle Scout this helps others who have this background connect on a different level with you.

The about section is all about you and a great way to introduce yourself to others. Fill this out as best you can or otherwise many of those requests for connecting will be ignored.

@ email

If you choose to email a photographer, be sure you follow a similar protocol.  Keep the letter short and to the point. 

I think three simple questions you need to answer in the email in some way:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you contacting me?
  • What do you want me to do?

Connect the dots for the recipient. Don’t make them have to figure out what you are saying.

Be willing to pay

There are many places to go for someone to critique your work. There are camera clubs, workshops and seminars where photographers will give you some of their time.

The expectation of a private consultation where you are getting career advice is something you should be willing to pay. Free advice is often worth what you pay for it.

It would be great to spend half hour each week having coffee with Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin or Jeffery Gitomer for free. You know this might actually happen for a couple people and most likely they are already good friends with them.

Good mentors are hard to come by and getting good advice that can save you time and money in your career is worth every penny.

Unless the person you are contacting is on staff with a regular salary, they make their living through photographyshooting or consulting.

Good mentors have connections which this alone can change your life forever. A few years ago I had a young college student who was about to graduate ask me for an internship. We talked for a while and the next day she sent me a thank you note for taking the time to talk with her. She also thanked me for some very specific points from our conversation.

Needless to say I was impressed with her character. I was not in a position at the time to pay her and I let her know I would give her time to ask any questions each week. She went with me just about everywhere for about two months.

My client Chick-fil-A was as impressed with her as I was and offered her a job as a writer. 

She paid me for my time by helping me and due to her investment landed an incredible job.

Stanley and Knolan Benfield in Kona Hawaii for workshop on lighting.

Early in my career I went to numerous workshops with NPPA and ASMP. There were two major workshops where I shelled out about $5,000 per week to study with two of the icons in the industry.

I went to the Maine Workshop and studied with Steve McCurry from National Geographic. The total cost of flying, hotel, food and the workshop was just under $5,000.  I learned a great deal from that week and not just from Steve, but from others in the class with me.

A few years later I took another class at the Maine Workshop with Jeff Smith studying location lighting. Again I learned so much from Jeff and the classmates.

I offer personal workshops for people who are interested in this profession. I charge $125 an hour with a two hour minimum for whatever they want to learn from me. I have taught people one-on-one how to organize their images. I have done personal workshops on using hot shoe flash off camera for portraits. I have taught people business practices and/or marketing.

If you know of another professional photographer that you would like to learn from, then approach them and if they don’t offer workshops propose to them they do for you.    

If you are not willing to make an investment in your career, why should anyone else want to either?

Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic

Jay Maisel, Bernie Boston, Hugh Morton and George Tames.  Four famous photographers in my book. I took this at the Southern Short Course in the 1980s.

In 1984 I graduated from East Carolina University and then went to work as a staff photographer for the Hickory Daily Record.  That year I would also go up to Grandfather Mountain for the Camera Clinic hosted by the mountain’s owner Hugh Morton.

Hugh Morton was a photographer who enjoyed hosting this event each year for photographers.

This August 17 – 18, 2013 I am one of the guest speakers at the Camera Clinic.  You can register for the event starting on July 15th.

Here is a link to the event:

I will be talking about the business side of photography.

Camera Clinic Ticket Prices

Working Press/PPA Member Participant (includes admission to the park, admission to all programs, plus Saturday evening meal) NC
Camera Clinic Participant (includes admission to the park, admission to all programs, plus Saturday evening meal) $50
2-day adult guest ticket (includes Sat.-Sun. admission to the park for ages 13+) $30
2-day child guest ticket (includes Sat.-Sun. admission to the park for ages 4 thru 12 – under 4 are free) $14
Guest Saturday night meal $10
Bill Fortney emcees a photo event in the 1980s.

This is where I first met Bill Fortney. Never know who else you might meet at events like this if you don’t attend. If you are able to come I hope to see you there.