Business Tips for Photographers Who (Also) Shoot Video

In the blogging world of photography and motion, there is a lot written about gear and how to use it, but precious little written about “the business”.  Chances are, if you are a photographer who has been in business for more than 10 years, then you know that technology has not only changed our tools, it has changed the way we do business.Professional high definition video camera, isolated on white background

For starters, we are doing business in a global economy, and with that comes pluses and minuses. One big plus is that we are able to reach a much wider audience, than ever before. That is, if you have an understanding of how to do that and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.  The minus or downside is, if we don’t adapt our dated business models, in a business that has seen monumental changes, we will not be able to compete.

Commercial photographers are in the visual communications business.  We create imagery that delivers a message or tells a story for a variety of “markets” including; advertising, corporate, architectural and editorial.  Each market has a need for visual content and these days that encompasses both still photography and video.  In the last couple of years, the lines dividing these two mediums have faded away, at least in terms of how content is consumed in our culture.

Here are a couple of tips to help photographers prosper in our “multi-media” world:

  • Decide what your company will offer.  Will you only provide still imagery?  Or will you expand your business and offer both still photography and video? Are you quick to answer: “I don’t want anything to do with video”? The problem with that answer is that most of your clients will probably have a need for video.  Are you going to send them away to your competition?  Or will you keep your clients “in house” and take care of their video needs and hire or outsource your competition? That’s a different way of thinking and has the potential to broaden your revenue stream.
  • Decide what role you will play if your company does offer video?  Will you be the director and work with a camera operator?  Or will you assume the role of a DP (Director of Photography) and direct as well as operate the camera?
  • What will you outsource and what will you keep in house?  Maybe you want to expand your business by offering both still photography and motion, but you’d prefer to just shoot the still photography and outsource the video.  In that case, you could assume the role of producer and oversee or outsource the video production.
  • Reassess your insurance.  Video productions have a lot more variables. They also usually have larger crews.  More than likely, you will need to upgrade your current insurance policy to accommodate and cover that.
  • Change your paperwork.  Make sure that you go through your talent and property releases and modify the language for multi-media.  Change any boilerplate contract language to include video (motion).
  • Licensing.  Regardless, if you decide not to expand into video production, you will have to contend with the fact that your still images won’t always be used in a stand-alone fashion.  Many still images will be commissioned and/or licensed as part of multi-media projects and that has a dramatic effect on licensing. And if you do decide to expand into video production, in your role as a producer, you will be licensing other people’s work.
  • Understand new business models.  Let’s face it, things have changed in the business of photography.  Photography has become ubiquitous and the competition is fierce.  You are not only competing with professional photographers – you’re competing with semi-pros, amateurs AND video production companies.  One thing is certain, it’s never been more important to have an understanding of multiple mediums and to be unique and stand out amongst the noise. There are no templates you should follow.  You have to be authentic and true to yourself.

Check out more tips and information in my ePub, The Craft and Commerce of Video and Motion.

 

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10 Mistakes Photographers Make When Shooting Motion

1.  They forget about the story – it’s not your camera that tells the story – it’s the person using the camera. Pretty visuals, slapped into a motion timeline with music, doesn’t necessarily tell a story.  Video is a story telling medium – don’t forget that.

2.  They think they already know how to shoot – if you think because you are a professional photographer and all you need to do is get a camera with a “video mode” on it, you are mistaken. Shooting in motion is far different than shooting still images. An experienced motion shooter can spot a video shot by a still photographer with little know how, right away.

3.  Thinking audio isn’t important – audio is more important than the visual when producing video.  Hire a sound person to do it right, but don’t discount it.

4.  Thinking the DSLRcamera is all you need for video productions – this is a biggie.  How are you going to go after professional video jobs if this is the only tool in your kit?  Sure you can rent a RED – but make sure you are as proficient with this tool as your competition is before hanging out your “motion” shingle.

5.  Positioning themselves just as DP’s or Directors and thinking you’ll maintain ownership of your work. If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets.  Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.

6.  They don’t learn interview skills – this is what separates the pros from the still shooters who have DSLR cameras and think that’s all they need.  I’d say about  70% of my work includes on camera interviews.  Even though I ask the questions- I’m not on camera, my subject is.   I not only need to know how to ask the right questions and get great audio, but I need to produce a usable interview clip for an editor. That means knowing how to get great soundbites. This is one area I excel in – it’s all about rapport with your subject.

7.  They try to compete in “old business model” markets – Everyone wants to shoot broadcast spots and feature films (or short films) so they think that after shooting motion for only a few months – or even a year – they will be able to compete in the high end business of video production.  First, this market, like the still photography market,  has changed drastically, mostly marginalized by still photographers who are just starting to shoot motion,  shooting jobs for next to nothing because they have no understanding of this “business”.

8.  Learning the “how to’s” in terms of gear – but nothing about the business – this is also a biggie.  There are so many “how to shoot motion” workshops and roadshows out there but no one seems to be teaching the business end of things.  Still photographers think they already know “the business” but quickly realize that they don’t, and they put themselves out of business in this medium – before they’ve barely started.

9.  Teaching “how to” workshops in video with little or no experience – I can’t tell you how many photographers have called me for technical advice about some pretty basic stuff in terms of video,  and four months later they are teaching workshops. Please don’t become part of the problem and send more shooters out into this field without teaching them something about business. And if you are considering taking a workshop – do your homework and take the workshop from someone who is accomplished in this field and has done something.

10. They forget about the story – I know that’s #1 but it needs reinforcing.

 

6 Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

I must admit, I’m not an SEO or Social Media guru.  In fact, on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being extremely interesting), I’d give this topic a 3.  But, after reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” (which I would give a 10), I’ve shifted my thinking entirely.  I also realized why, the topic has had little interest for me – most of the books, articles and blogs I had read were full of formulaic tips  – but none of the advice and tips felt like a good fit who I was and what I had to offer.  And in fact if I had applied some those tips to my blog or my Facebook posts, I would have done myself and my business a disservice by not being “myself” – or authentic.

Some social media marketing mistakes to avoid:

  • Putting the wrong content on a platform – Each platform, (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) has it’s own “native” language or how the community communicates  and interacts with one another.  A good marketer understands that “context” is just as important as content.  Your content must provide the same value to the viewer that is native to that platform. Your content should fit in with what drives people to that platform.
  • Content is not memorable – Your content should be something that people want to share. ooe fb [age Facebook uses edge rank, which determines who and how many people see your posts.  The more shares, comments and likes, the better your edge rank and the more people who see your posts.  Keep your content, informative, entertaining or both and give people the desire to share.
  • Selling too often – You have to “give” more than you “sell” on social media platforms. If every post you make is a pitch for your products, no one will be interested, let alone want to share them.
  • Text is too long – Twitter has a cut off, but Facebook doesn’t.  Keep in mind that more and more people are viewing your posts on mobile devices and simply won’t read lots of information.  Provide more info via links. Make sure your text is provocative and entertaining.
  • No use of imagery – If you don’t have an image in your posts on platforms like Facebook or Tumblr, you won’t attract attention.  People will just move on to something that catches their eye on their news feed.  And, make sure the images you post are good and professional – they’re a reflection of your business. Make sure you overlay your logo on your images.
  • No call to action – Remember you are ultimately selling your products and your services, so don’t forget to give your viewers a call to action.  But don’t confuse them by giving them too many.

Mistakes Professional Still Photographers Make When “Moving” to Video

1.  They forget about the story – it’s not your camera that tells the story – it’s the person using the camera. Pretty visuals, slapped into a motion timeline with music, doesn’t necessarily tell a story.  Video is a story telling medium – don’t forget that.

2.  They think they already know how to shoot – if you think because you are a professional photographer and all you need to do is get a camera with a “video mode” on it, you are mistaken. Shooting in motion is far different than shooting still images. An experienced motion shooter can spot a video shot by a still photographer with little know how, right away.

3.  Thinking audio isn’t important – audio is more important than the visual when producing video.  Hire a sound person to do it right, but don’t discount it.

4.  Thinking the DSLR camera is all you need for video productions – this is a biggie.  How are you going to go after professional video jobs if this is the only tool in your kit?  Sure you can rent a RED – but make sure you are as proficient with this tool as your competition is before hanging out your “motion” shingle.

5.  Positioning themselves just as DP’s or Directors and thinking you’ll maintain ownership of your work. If you assume the role of a camera operator, DP or even a director – you will be in a work for hire position in most markets.  Position yourself as a producer – shoot if you want to – and direct – but realize that you’ll be just one rung on the “content ladder”.

6.  They don’t learn interview skills – this is what separates the pros from the still shooters who have DSLR cameras and think that’s all they need.  I’d say about  70% of my work includes on camera interviews.  Even though I ask the questions- I’m not on camera, my subject is.   I not only need to know how to ask the right questions and get great audio, but I need to produce a usable interview clip for an editor. That means knowing how to get great soundbites. This is one area I excel in – it’s all about rapport with your subject.

7.  They try to compete in “old business model” markets – Everyone wants to shoot broadcast spots and feature films (or short films) so they think that after shooting motion for only a few months – or even a year – they will be able to compete in the high end business of video production.  First, this market, like the still photography market,  has changed drastically, mostly marginalized by still photographers who are just starting to shoot motion,  shooting jobs for next to nothing because they have no understanding of this “business”.

8.  Learning the “how to’s” in terms of gear – but nothing about the business – this is also a biggie.  There are so many “how to shoot motion” workshops and roadshows out there but no one seems to be teaching the business end of things.  Still photographers think they already know “the business” but quickly realize that they don’t, and they put themselves out of business in this medium – before they’ve barely started.

9.  Teaching “how to” workshops in video with little or no experience – I can’t tell you how many photographers have called me for technical advice about some pretty basic stuff in terms of video,  and four months later they are teaching workshops. Please don’t become part of the problem and send more shooters out into this field without teaching them something about business. And if you are considering taking a workshop – do your homework and take the workshop from someone who is accomplished in this field and has done something.

10. They forget about the story – I know that’s #1 but it needs reinforcing.

Top 5 Business Mistakes Photographers Make With Video

In the last couple of years in the photography world, it seems like everyone is scrambling to learn video.  In particular, still photographers are jumping into this “genre” because their hybrid cameras have the capability of shooting motion.

There are hundreds of seminars teaching the gear, but few point out the differences, when it comes to the “business of video”.

Here’s 5 mistakes I see still photographers make when they leap into motion:

  • 1.  They throw in video as part of the deal and don’t charge for it.  I hear about this a lot.  A client and photographer are on a still shoot and the clients sees that the photographer is shooting with a hybrid camera and asks the photographer to shoot some video clips.  The photographer obliges because he/she can and the money is left on the table.  Remember when still photography went digital and photographers became the labs but didn’t charge for the post-production?
  • 2.  They don’t update and upgrade their insurance policies.  Video production shoots are not covered on most still photographer’s policies.  Be prepared for a jump in what you need to spend on insurance to be adequately covered on video production jobs.
  • 3.  They don’t consider the ramifications when they are working with SAG or AFTRA talent and they are asked to also shoot some video of the talent on the job.  This crosses the line as far as the unions are considered.  While it may be OK for SAG/AFTRA talent to work on a “still” set – when you go into video mode – it’s not OK.
  • 4. They think of themselves as just shooters.  This is typical and is fine in the still photographic world, but in the collaborative world of video production, a shooter is a hired gun with no ownership in the intellectual property.  I like to position myself higher up the ladder as a producer and maintain control over the job and the content.
  • 5.  They look at video as a separate genre.  That’s changing radically as video is no longer a separate niche and genre, but part of almost every photography market from editorial to architecture. Even ad agencies are starting to merge their motion and still departments.

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Fear and Isolation

I see it everywhere – people reacting – frozen by their fears. And it seems to be catching.  That’s because fearful people like company.  Somehow they feel that if they can get others to bind with them in spreading their doom, that their own fears and trepidations will be validated.

People are so angry these days because their world is changing and they feel threatened.  I see it in government where the tone these days is angry – full of hatred and fear and more time is spent pointing the finger of blame at others than in coming up with solutions to problems.

I see groups and organizations taking on a “we versus them” insular attitude, thinking that somehow by keeping people out of their exclusive group – they will have more for themselves.

I see relationships where one person may feel threatened or insecure and tries to exclude other people and relationships from their insular lives. They foolishly believe this will make their relationship stronger – the two of them against the world so to speak.

I understand why the fearful act this way.  Somehow they think that if they can convince others to go along with them in their pursuit of eliminating competition or outside influences– they will receive more.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It never has and it never will.  The simple reason is that people who spend their time telling themselves and others what won’t work or focus just on themselves, instead of embracing others and being open to possibilities, become insular and ultimately create their own demise. They are bringing nothing positive into the world – no motivation for growth – only reasons why they should stop themselves.  They predict the future in negative ways and in the process create that reality and then say, “see I told you”.

The group that tries so hard to keep things the same and feels threatened by newcomers ultimately becomes a group of old thinkers who die out.  The person who attempts to gain more attention from their mate by keeping them from their friends and outside interests, soon finds out that doesn’t bring them more attention, but rather resentment because it’s unsustainable.

There have been times in my life that I’ve been sucked into these negative mindsets and I can tell you that not only it didn’t bring anything good into my life – it kept good out.  These days, I have been giving more of myself.  I have been getting out there and meeting people, sharing with people and I’m finding out that in the process, I’ve gotten a lot more in return. But I don’t give with the expectation to receive in return – I give because in the long run, everyone benefits.

We become stronger when we allow others in our lives to give to and to learn from. We should strive to allow people in our lives who want us to succeed, because those people understand that in helping and supporting us in turning our dreams into reality – they are also creating a better environment for themselves.  And when a couple understands that when they love their mate enough to let them and their spirit soar by not manipulating or placing restrictions, their relationship will ultimately get stronger and will stand the test of time.

Think about this today.  What kind of life do you want to live?  Do you want a life of possibilities or one of predictable doom by keeping your “community” narrow and insular? You never know – that person that you decided to exclude, may have been the one who could have changed your life – in a positive way.

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The Power of Sharing and Networking

I’ve always been an independent creature, starting with a year long backpacking odyssey as a 19 year old traveling solo, following the “hippie trail” around the world.  That sojourn led me to pursue a career as a still photographer, using my camera as a tool to gain access to people, their cultures and their stories.

I’ve had a great ride these past 30 years shooting assignments for high profile magazines that have taken me to all parts of the globe.  For the most part, I was a solo act, spending hours, days and weeks observing people, then becoming more intimate as I proceeded to get to know and tell their stories and share them with others.

When I started shooting motion and in particular digital video, eleven years ago I embraced the notion of collaboration.  Video production has a lot more facets to it than just the shoot and I knew that even though I knew how to capture reasonably good sound and edit a respectable rough cut with Final Cut Pro, I also knew that working with professional sound people and editors would raise the bar on the quality of my projects.

This past weekend, the value of collaboration, networking and using social media to get my ideas out to the universe, really hit home.  I had been asked to speak at the Photocine News Expo in Hollywood, CA about my latest documentary that I was working on, Opening Our Eyes. I had gotten to know two of the organizers of the event, Michael Britt and Lou Lesko, through social media. They had taken notice of my blog and my project, which I had decided to shoot with the HDSLR cameras and had written about it in their blog, PhotoCineNews.com.

I was honored and humbled to be speaking at the same event as some pretty heavy players like Vincent LaForet and Shane Hurlbut.  I was a bit intimidated at first, but I knew that I was there to share what I knew and that is how to get a passion project from just an idea – to a reality.  So, after returning from my 99-day journey, with just a couple of weeks to prepare a sample from some of the 145 hours of footage that were shot, I flew out to LA.

Here’s a rough cut of that 10-minute sample:  Opening Our Eyes – Tease

I suppose I can legitimately say that I have had a theatrical showing of my documentary in Hollywood.  True enough – but the real value for me this weekend was in sharing with my peers and making connections with people who I will work with in the future that will help me grow as a filmmaker and storyteller and more importantly who will bring their expertise to my film.

It’s an incredible time that we live in with a realm of possibility.  Literally anything is possible.  When you share and put things out to the universe – you just never know what you’ll get back.  I’ve learned that I share because it makes me feel good – not because I have expectations for an immediate or monetary return.  But each and every time I do share – I get back so much more in return.

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