"One thing I've noticed about Eric is his photos are breathtaking, very quiet, yet very poignant," said UNC graduate and photojournalist Matt Couch when introducing Draper at the event.
Draper said he primarily studied artistic photography before he discovered photojournalism.
"It was like this kind of golden ticket to the world," he said.
Draper held multiple paid internships throughout college, including positions with The News & Observer and the Los Angeles Times.
After Draper graduated college, he said he had various jobs before going to work at the White House.
"Each job was kind of like a jumping point to expand my experience and knowledge," he said.
Right after he graduated college, he said, he landed a job with The Seattle Times, where he was able to hone his skills.
He said he then worked for various newspaper organizations before working at the Associated Press, which allowed him to travel to countries like Japan, Haiti and Kosovo.
In 2000, he was assigned to cover the Bush campaign by the AP for nearly a year. Right after Bush was elected president, Draper said he personally asked Bush to be his photographer and presented his portfolio.
"If you want something, ask for it," he said.
Draper also discussed his book "Front Row Seat," which encompasses the eight years that he served as chief photographer for Bush.
In this role, he said, he was always on his toes — needing to be ready to capture any and every moment.
"I had the President's private schedules, official schedule, and so I will try to photograph everything that was on the schedule," Draper said.
He also said he not only captured historical and heartbreaking moments such as 9/11 but also intimate moments beyond Bush's work as president — including moments with his family and pets.
Draper said that he wants to advise aspiring photographers to "keep getting that experience and that knowledge and don't take anything for granted."