Gearing up (or down) for more change. Incessant change.

Who moved our photographic cheese and what are we going to do about it?

Isn't it funny how the relentless wheels of progress make the (antiquated, 20th century) idea of buying permanent gear seem quaint and foolish? I'm sitting here in the studio doing clipping paths and thinking about how everything felt four or five years ago. At the time I thought, "if I can just find the right camera and assortment of lenses that really produce great results I can stop buying gear and hold onto it for a long time and be more efficient." But that was several brands ago and many different models within those brands. 

It's a hoary cliché now (and so are the words, "hoary cliché) but progress is changing so rapidly that, if we are to respond to our clients and markets, we feel that we must innovate our gear to keep up. I would never have thought, pre-Canon 5D mk2, that I would require, need and want high res video in any future camera I bought. It just never occurred to me. But once Sony stuck good video into the a99 and then went a few steps further by adding a headphone jack and audio level controls on the front of the camera I can't imagine going back and depending solely on a camera like my Sony a850 or some previous, non-video enabled camera for my business. For art? That's a whole different topic. For the pleasure of the hobby? Again, a different calculus all the way around. But as a creative content creation business the whole idea is to be on the tip of the spear. To innovate faster and better and to hop to something profitable from something dying. We're no longer in a market where one jewel like image carries the day. We're in a market that expects us to do a great still image and then turn around and construct some video to wrap around it. Again, I'm just speaking about requirements only for people who are doing this stuff for a living.

It's no secret that Samsung sent me an NX300 camera to play with this Summer. I like the files from the camera and I've been sneaking it into my regular jobs now just to see how a $699 camera with a kit lens holds up against full frame cameras with esoteric lenses. It's interesting to see just how little air there is between them for a remarkable amount of stuff.  Samsung is about to launch their next big camera. You may have read about it, it's NX (Some Model Name) running Android. It's supposed to be a really cool machine but I don't think anyone has gotten their hands on one yet.

I mention it because in one sense, while I have no fear about changing systems and embracing new cameras, I am slow to embrace new technology that is at a remove from my admittedly 20th century beliefs about what "a good camera is all about..."

I fought the viewfinder-less wars and lately I've worked on trying to leverage the good stuff about working on a rear screen. My other prejudice has always been against the need to add stuff like wi-fi to cameras because I didn't see a need for it in my work (I am Kirk-centric and feel that if I don't need a feature no one does..).  But now I'm trying to figure out how to make dynamic accessibility a feature I can leverage back to  my clients. As they get younger and younger (perception only) I find that there's disconnect between the way they access content and information and the way I traditionally delivered work.

I'm trying to learn more because I'd hate to have my reticence to learn new delivery methods negate my value as a content creator. I see the day coming when I'll be on location, shooting portraits, and my client/art director/creative director/buyer will be in their office and I'll be shooting test shots and streaming them to a shared folder in the cloud for instant approval. Without being tethered. Without a laptop.  We shoot a test shot, click "send" wait for the phone call (oops! I meant "text") that either gives us the big "thumbs up" to shoot more in that style or the phone call (oopski! "text") that says, "what the hell was our model thinking wearing that purple, paisley shirt with the Budweiser logo on the pocket? Can we change that?"

I need to get over my resistance to fast access and fast image sending, for the business. If it's my own work, done for my own enjoyment then I'll get to it when I get to it. If it's for my clients I want to make the whole process as streamlined and transparent as I can.

Perhaps, since we'll be able to add apps to the new generation of cameras coming down the line I'll be able to add a billing application. Imagine, shoot, send, bill and process credit cards all on the same camera body. Insane, scary and kinda fun to understand that this is probably what some version of the future looks like.

So I'm ready to get rid of more stuff. I think the professional shooter of the future will own a small, personal system. A couple of really good bodies and maybe three lenses. Maybe no lights or stands or auxiliary gear. You come to work with one little Pelican case of gear and everything else is rented for the day or the week. Need LED panels? Rental package. Need big Fluorescent panels? Rental Package. Need high speed studio flash? Rental Package. Need a really fast, really good lens? Rental package. You get  the picture.

It just doesn't make sense anymore (as a business) to make the big investments in gear that changes so quickly or in specific gear that can't do a wide variety of day to day stuff well.

I'm currently happy with the 2K video performance I get from my Sony camera but I know that clients whose work ends up on television are already spec'ing 4K video cameras; regularly. And today I read an article about a new 6K camera from Red that movie makers are salivating over. And two years from now it will be all about the 8K cameras....

And no small, single person business has any business actually thinking about investing in that kind of  gear just to have it sit around the office more than it's in production. Only bonafide trust funders can play in that arena.

The idea going forward will be to rent as needed. Own the bare essentials. Own the specialty tools for your niche but the minute you step outside your gear comfort zone you might be smart to rent and charge back the rental fees to the clients. They are, after all, paying for your eye and your expertise. Not an endless inventory of gear.

To that end I'm anticipating another round of downsizing. I'm looking at the video cameras in GEAR's rental department and figuring that I can do home made projects with every successive generation of hybrid cameras like the Sony Alphas and the Samsung Androids but it definitely makes more sense to use a dedicated (rental) video camera for big client projects. Out goes my endless and expensive duplication.

I looked into HMI lights and I've used them for a few projects. I like the smaller ones that you can run off household currents. But I can't justify buying a set of lights at $3K or so per fixture. I can justify renting them (and charging the client) as needed.  A day of rental may run me a $100 a fixture but I don't need to make the capital expenditure for them when I'm still using flashes for some work, fluorescents for other work and even portable flashes. You just can't justify owning everything just because you may have the need to use it from time to time.

I've noticed as I've sold off stuff over the past year that the lighter the inventory gets the more creative and free I feel.

Not owning stuff means you get to cherry pick what you'll use on a project by project basis and, when your business hits a soft spot you don't have capitol tied up in something that only produces ROI emotionally...

I've got another box full of cameras and lenses to put on consignment. And some more big strobes as well. The load is getting lighter and lighter. We are becoming more intelligent about the way we use our capital.

Who would have thought that everything changes? Now, how do I get this wi-fi network to recognize this camera????