interview with sam panasyuk.

Sam is an insane photographer. Thanks to the power of social media, we’ve been able to talk over Instagram and he’s grown to be someone I would consider a friend. I love seeing his posts because they inspire me constantly. I asked Sam some questions and am really grateful that he was so down to answer them. You can read his responses below.

Do you serve at Free Chapel or work at Free Chapel?

I’m full-time staff at FC as a Social Media Manager. I also lead our photography teams across all of our campuses. So I’m over all things Photography and Social Media – distributing content, giving advice to staff and volunteers running accounts, building up teams and volunteers, etc.

What does Free Chapel’s photography development process look like?

So our development process has been a huge trial and error, and to be honest, we’re still in the process of learning what works best when it comes to training people up. We’ve had several people come in that have never touched a camera and instantly – it became second nature to them. Doesn’t usually work out that way though, haha.

There are a couple of ways we’ve been able to find volunteers: 

  • Through our NextSteps program. It’s basically Vous Church or Church of the Highlands’ GrowthTrack – where new members come to learn more about the church but ultimately sign up to serve in different areas in the church. We’ve found a good bit of volunteers from there.
  • Doing a post on Instagram about our creative Team Night. 
  • We have a few college students in our Marketing stream that just have that natural eye. We have one camera that’s the church’s – a Mark III – and anybody that joins the team and doesn’t have a camera, we try our best to get them on a rotation.

Once I connect with a photographer and I feel that they are ready to shoot, I typically have them start off at smaller services and events, so we have our our Free Chapel Young Adults service at our Gwinnett campus and we usually have a couple hundred people there. Not as big of a deal but still pretty significant for their first time shooting. From there I’ll look at their improvement, give feedback and sort of gauge when they would be ready to shoot in a main service – which it’s usually 3-4 weeks from then.

One thing that I have found that has worked for us and has helped me find significant improvement from our volunteers is to always give feedback. If that means meeting with the photographer that’s first starting off once a week or taking 15 minutes out of your day and texting them a few things to look out for – I’ve found major improvement in volunteers that I take the time out to give feedback to. If anything’s off – camera settings, the preset they used, shot composition – I’ll always say something, and of course be as nice as possible about it. I’m pretty cool with everybody on the team so they know exactly why I give feedback so often – a lot of times on the spot. Otherwise I feel like they’re wasting time doing the wrong thing over and over again.. I’ve found that this is probably the best way to sort of distinguish people that are truly interested vs. people that just want to take pictures in a main service. 

How do y’all schedule people?

We’re working on this system as well. Looking to use Planning Center in the next few weeks. But for now: I kind of know at this point our photographers’ strengths and weaknesses, so from there I decide who we need on a Sunday and I text him on Friday to see if they are available. Keeping a list of photographers somewhere is probably the best way for me to make sure I keep everybody involved and in rotation.

What is the success rate of people who go through development?

Success rate has been pretty high to be honest with everything I listed in #2. Usually people that know that they aren’t cut out for this type of photography will realize it in the first stages when they’re shooting in Young Adults and feeling it out. I’ll always give them room to grow and ask questions but sometimes they’re like “oh. hey. I don’t think this is for me.” Which has happened 2-3 times recently and it’s always been pretty smooth – no drama. Just because by that point, we’re cool and we’re fine with being honest with each other.

How do you get those people who stick?

Everything I mentioned in number 2. I also think it’s important to carry a person relationship with everybody on the team – always make it a point to ask them how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to lately. Always ask questions that allow them to be transparent about the team, how we could be better, what they think about how we do certain things, etc.

Do you do freelance work? If so, what is your favorite kind?

I do some freelance work, yes. I love couple’s shoots the most just because I feel like it’s the most natural. That’s usually when the smiles are genuine and the adventure is pretty fun.

Thank you so much Sam. Grateful for your work in the creative community. Keep pushing!

Kayla x

Find Sam:

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