Changing my mindset from the "loner, creative photographer" to the "team player immersed in creating content". Now there's a leap.

I think it's a quirk of the human mind to always be looking in the rear view mirror at where we've been and what we've done, and how we did it. And, in an anthropological sense it's logical. Learn from the past. You have to take into consideration that for the vast majority of the time we've been wondering around this planet (as a species, camera-less)  the rates of profound changes in process and tradition for most generations of humans were....glacial. So I think we're pretty much hardwired to look for future solutions by mining our past experiences. What that leads to in an age of hyper-change and accelerating process evolution is a never ending set of schism points between people who "get" the lastest change in X and people who just pull up hard and stop in place. No bandwidth to go any further. Shut down and operating on whatever brain operating system version was in place at the moment they hit the wall of progress. 

You see it everywhere. There are some people who don't want to learn how to pump their own gas. Others who've never adapted to using the web. Still others that "don't get Twitter" and millions who aren't sure why their otherwise rational sons and daughters walk around in a haze staring at their phone screens as though some benevolent technology god was just about to impart the "final secret" through that medium. Remember the shock, disappointment and lost sales BMW suffered when they first introduced the "i-drive" to a generation of series 7 car buyers who were baffled by the interface? And why they might need/want it?  Maybe we could chalk that one up to crappy interface design. 

I'm of a generation that loves to talk about how we did it, pre-digital. And really? No one gives a shit. I'm also of the generation of imaging specialists who think they might just skate through their entire professional lives doing just one thing or one process really, really well. And why not? They won't have to expend any additional time learning more. I read a "Pro" forum today. A traditional wedding shooter was bemoaning the story that he had "booked" nineteen weddings last year but only four this year. You could feel his anguish. He went on to say he just couldn't understand why everyone wanted to mess up their images (taken with phones) by dragging them through the filters in Instagram. He just knew that if he could show them the pristinely sharp, perfectly color corrected and (yawn) perfectly posed portraits that he was able to knock out and print onto canvas with his Nikon D3X and such and such lens he felt certain that they'd want his product. A backward look at a product that sold well in the 1980s.

So, where am I going with this? Well, it dawned on me that most businesses do better when they listen to the customers they aspire to serve. I've just come off what I would have described as a schizophrenic week just a few years ago. Schizophrenic in that I got to wear many hats. I bounced back and forth between working as a still photographer, a portrait photographer, a script consultant, a video lighting designer, a director and a DP. The two video interviews I helped create were for businesses who felt ready to up their sell on their websites. One was for a law firm the other for an executive coach. Both mixed together my long term lighting skills with new stuff I keep learning about video in the digital age. We also produced a TV commercial for an entertainment client. When I say, "produced" I mean that I worked with a creative person and my part was to set up the lighting, engineer the sound and then run the camera. My partner created the script, ran the teleprompter and did the edits.

During the same week I shot an ad image, several portraits and did some fun art documentation. In the last few days, when I've dropped by agencies that I've worked with before, either to drop off work, or to drop by some promo, my creative counterparts ask me what I've been up to. When we talk about making video their eyes light up and conversations moves from polite banter to full attention. What just about every creative person and corporate marketing person is looking for is a full on content provider rather than a breadbasket full of disparate cogs that require assembly. 
But this is not the way we used to do it in the rear view mirror.

I spoke with a regular client about an upcoming project next week. He's used my video services for interview recently and has hired me as a photographer many times over the past ten years. We discussed his need for "B-roll" video as well as still images in our upcoming location at a tech manufacturing facility. He wanted to know if I could light my set ups with continuous lights, shoot the still images and then roll some video for inserts. It was a good discussion. He's designing the new website to use only horizontal image content. That means we can go in with a video tripod and fluid head.  We'll lock it down for the stills and we'll move for the video. The budget gets a bump as well. 

This was the lighting package I took to the location ad shoot. 
Big flash and lots of power. But for the rest of the week it was...
....all continuous, continuously.

I dropped off a couple DVDs to another long term client today who asked me, "What's up?" We dove into the video conversation. When I explained to him what I was doing he got excited. "I didn't know you were doing motion." We talked about shooting video with DSLR's and we talked about sound recording and editing. He was excited. He likes the way I direct and light people in stills and was ready to incorporate those looks in video. His company is all interactive. All website design. His take on the market? People are demanding a mix of media now. Static images are not enough. They are required but the are not sufficient to hold viewers' attentions. People want both. I want both.

As part of my continuing education I'm learning the in-depth craziness of Final Cut Pro X, which is a non-linear video editing software product. I knew it was more than I could be able to figure out by brute force so I signed up for a service called, Lynda.com. They specialize in video based instruction for creative people of all stripes. They have modules for just about any imaging software from In Design to Nuke 7 and everything in between. They even have a tutorial for learning how to optimize your YouTube channel.  I've watched the basic, six hour FCPX video editing module twice and my last two edits were better, quicker and more controlled.

The cross platform "money maker." Bright, soft and powerful.

I've got a lot to learn but then I'm expecting to live a long time so I figure I'd better adjust to my ever changing surroundings. One part of me wishes that nothing had ever changed and that everyday I could go into the studio, set up my signature light, drink coffee and yak with my assistants, shoot a corporate exec on a standard background and get paid big bucks. But, on the other hand once you figure something out well enough so that the operation becomes subconscious don't you get incredibly bored and ready to move on to something new? Isn't that the true nature of a creative business?

On one of the video shoots I couldn't use my preferred microphone method which is to put a lavalier microphone on my interview subject's shirt or lapel. We ended up using an inexpensive shotgun mic on a boom instead. I spent a lot of time in the editing process cleaning up the sound. That led to a shopping trip last Sunday which culminated in an upgrade. A new, much better shotgun microphone. You can hear a difference. I hear the sound of less work in post processing. Another part of the learning curve.

Providing more than photographs requires every photographer to look to their native skill sets. If you are a natural leader you might aim at doing more and more directing. If you are an introvert who loves the process of things you might aim to be more involved in editing and special effects. If your alternate talents lie in writing then I see scripts in your future. If you love to light you'll probably figure out how to leverage all the cool stuff you learned lighting photographs into more work as a lighting designer/camera operator. Are you really into music? You could be leveraging your assets into sound design.

There's no question that the market for just still photography, especially from mid-talent people in mid-tier markets is tightening. But it's hardly the end of the world. It's just an ever accelerating marketplace's way of encouraging you to spread those creative wings, open your mind and expand the range of stuff you do.

I like doing all these different things. It's more profitable than just sitting around changing camera systems willy-nilly, hoping the latest system has some sort of magic that will get you business. And even the time I spend learning via the web or editing the work has some benefit:  I get to spend more time with my noble dog. That's a nice, stable part of the process. And yes, I do look for her advice on everything from the moral character of the people who come into the studio to whether or not a cross dissolve would look cheesy for a certain transition. She hasn't let me down yet.  Go out and be prolifically creative. It's all fun.

I'm not saying I'm great at any of this...yet. But I'm committed. I'm enjoying the teamwork of shooting video and making interviews work. I grudgingly admit that editing is not the satanic process I originally thought it might be. It's all fun. And making motion ties right into all my research about continuous light sources over the last four years. Synergy. Growth and Change. Like baking a cake.


Frank Grygier said...

Bravo! Editing grows on you. In the end it the editor who tells the story.

Racecar said...

Love the photo of the dog.

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks. Me too. She follows me everywhere but to the pool. I don't think she likes being wet...

Gregg Mack said...

Very nice, thought-producing post, Kirk. I look forward to seeing many more about your adventures into the world of video.

Kirk Tuck said...

Not just video, Gregg. It's really a synergy. Some still shots go into video and, for the most part I'm trying to find that edge between the two. But thanks.

ODL Designs said...

A few years ago I read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis which talked about the Birth the Death and the Resurrection as a description of the human condition. We start something (learn a language, take up a sport, fall in love) and the birth is magical, the death is the valley we all have to cross, and the resurrection is the true beginning.

Just yesterday I read a very short Seth Godin book called "The Dip" where he basically describes the same thing, with The Dip as the the Death, you have to cross it to get to the true value on the other side (tiny book, maybe 2 coffees long).

My point... well those 6 hour Linda.com training videos, and the time spend wondering what damn thing you missed will all pay off in spades on the other side, Just like a mature relationship, or being able to actually speak the second language.

Thanks for the post, a nice little visual background to go along with the reading!


David Liang said...

I read the title and "team player" and I just KNEW this was a post about video. I love these posts about the changing landscape of the business.

Kirk Tuck said...

Remember the exact day when clients basically capitulated and said, "no more film, I want digital images!" It seemed to happen all at once. As if our culture had hit a tipping point. And, within a year almost every pro made the full transition. I think we're near the same thing with blending in video. Soon it may feel as natural a part of our businesses as going back after a session to post process our still images does now.

DrMickey said...

Excellent! Great kick in the pants article, and it ties in nicely with what I'm reading from the National Press Photographers Association; namely, the days of being only a still photographer are over for many still in the business. Thanks, Kirk.

jason gold said...

Congratulations on the way you going! It seems good for you. It makes money!
Personally I hat commercials so i don't watch videos..now and then on YouTube.
I also hardly watch regular TV. Only PBS, TVO and other NO commercial sites..
i may be an exception but somehow reading on internet, see many young folks,
DO not watch commercials..They by-pass.
It's a world of "ADD".
Why would folks like me stop to LOOK at something for more than a second or two.?

Michael Bulbenko said...

Hey there Kirk,

First, I thoroughly enjoy hearing about your personal/professional transformation. Keep it up. I myself have gone through at least 4 versions of myself in the past 25 years.

An audio tip for you...shotgun mics are really not necessarily the best choice for interiors. You really should get yourself a good cardiod pattern mic (the kind you see singers handholding). Shotguns were designed to reject sound that comes from the sides, hence they're great for isolating what's in front of them...but they also pick up a lot of sound from directly behind them. That means you get reflections from ceilings or walls, and those echoes are impossible to get rid of. Specifically, if you're using a shotgun inside, use the shortest one possible, but cardiod is usually called for.

Michael Matthews said...

Good to see you're enjoying some of the collaborative aspects of video production.

Yes, you can do it all yourself. But when the budget permits working with skilled people who function on the same wavelength they often bring something unexpected and valuable to the final product.

Lee McCurtayne said...

No matter what direction you embark, your dog looks like, she has your full support!.
Cure that by teaching her to fetch camera gear.
Cheers Lee!.

John Flores said...

I'm on a similar path, Kirk, getting more and more into video. It is at once humbling and exhilarating, kind of like when I first started getting into photography...