Photography Educator

It’s been a busy, busy fall. Which is kind of par for the course when it comes to wedding photography. So while I had every intention to post this a couple of weeks ago, I’m happy to have finally gotten a chance to talk a little bit about my experience as a photography educator speaking at the recent Fearless Conference in Charleston, SC. Even though I make an effort to talk with newer photographers when asked, the role of photography educator is kind of a new one for me.

Fearless Conference and Foundation Workshop

I’ve been a part of the community behind the Fearless Conference and the Foundation Workshop for several years. As a result I’ve made some of my best friends and my career has flourished from the commitment to improvement that is in the DNA of this group. So it was in a sense of gratitude for all I’ve benefited from that I submitted a proposal to speak at this year’s conference.

Photography Educator Joe Appel on stage at the recent Fearless Conference in Charleston, SC

Speaking at the Fearless Conference

It was a thrill when Huy Nguyen accepted my proposal and asked me to speak, but that feeling was quickly followed by a little panic and anxiety. The realization was that I’d be speaking in front of 150 of the most talented and accomplished wedding photographers in the country and really from around the world. GULP! What could I bring to the stage that would be worth hearing? Was there anything that I could I add to the wisdom provided by the other speakers at the conference, an the speakers who came before me that I benefited so much from?

What the Talk Was About

What I finally decided is that my experience in photography, life, and business was unique to me. But as varying as our experiences are, a defining principle in my life is that we’re all more alike than we are different. We can learn from each other no matter our background if we keep an open mind. So I decided to focus my talk on three related points:

  1. Finding Your Voice
  2. Finding Your Tribe
  3. Remaining Teachable

All three are central to how I stay fresh and even grow after a long career as a photographer.

Finding Your Voice

Finding Your Voice describes the process of figuring out what your viewpoint and strengths are and how to develop that into a vision that separates you from all of the other photographers out there. What fun is it if your photos look like everybody else’s? How does that serve your clients? The answer is that it isn’t and it doesn’t.

Finding Your Tribe

Finding Your Tribe is all about building a community that will help you to grow, to support you when times get tough, and who will call you on your BS when it’s necessary. “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” comes to mind. You know, the old African proverb that Al Gore says he made up in an episode of 30 Rock 😀

Joe Appel speaking at a photography conference in front of a photo of Al Gore

Remaining Teachable

Remaining Teachable speaks to an essential element of growth: Recognizing that one doesn’t know all that there is to know, no matter how long your career has been.

It was a wonderful experience. I got to see so many old friends and to make some new ones, too. The level of openness and sharing from the outstanding lineup of speakers as well as the folks attending makes the Fearless Conference unique and a must-go event – I haven’t missed one yet!

Finally, thanks very much to my friends Kate McElwee and Crystal Stokes for the photos. You’ll see what I mean about this conference attracting talented and accomplished photographers when you check out their websites.


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