Apr 202017
 
Caution sign that reads "Personal Work"

Be careful personal work could kill your career!

Over the last few weeks I’ve hosted a couple discussions in various LinkedIn Groups asking “does personal work matter?” Predictably many of the photographers, who chimed in, answered a resounding YES! We get to show our capabilities without the constraints of a client brief, art buyers love to see personal work, it’s satisfying, ect.

The answers that surprised me though came from the other side of the desk, from art directors, creative professionals, designers and editors from around the world:

I can see how personal projects can become an obstacle. – Creative Director, Serbia

All personal work could seriously affect your commercial success. – Marketing President, USA

I have not hired someone, because of their personal work. – Designer, Netherlands

No personal work to me is an indication of stagnation. – Magazine editor, Germany

Wait, what? I thought personal work was always a good thing. Something that would always benefit your career. “Be careful” warns the US Marketing exec. “If your personal work is too provocative, it may leave the wrong or negative impression in a client’s mind.” Another US branding director echoes this sentiment: “If [the personal work is] very offensive I would reconsider hiring the [artist].”  I hear it again and again: Have two sites.  What about the case that someone has done pro-bono work for a certain cause, that you feel strongly against?

Personal work can make you a killing!

Now to be fair each one of these people who hire us also said that personal work is vital, critically important and that they love seeing it. Just remember that the assumption is you had unlimited time and resources to craft this piece of personal work into the perfect calling card for your brand. “To me [personal work] matters quite a bit. (…) that’s where we most often have the chance to stretch our abilities, research new methods and test them” says a US director of marketing “pet projects may very well become tomorrow’s next big service!”

Your personal work shows me what you’re really passionate about, and how creatively and independently you tackle such a self-chosen project. It tells me how you work conceptually. I also get a good idea about the style you prefer and you feel comfortable with.” says the german magazine editor “Or how versatile you really are.

Personal work is a two edged sword

Personal work is a must for today’s creative. The fastest (and scariest) way to revamp your career is to throw out the images that show what you have shot and only show those images and projects that you would like to shoot. Christina Force a folio consultant wrote a great blog post called 4 reasons to throw out your babies. Personal work is what your passionate about, stand behind it whole heartedly. Personal work must be excellent, award winning, your highest caliber work. Personal work must set you apart from the pack–take risks, be willing to fail. If you don’t go for the impossible, your results will be mediocre and average at best.


This article was first published on the American Society of Media Photographers blog Strictly Business.

Dec 012016
 
Read the fine print

Read the fine print

I recently was hired to create photographs and video for a client. We agreed on number of images and video I was to create in which time for what amount of money, subject to a joint usage agreement. OK. No problem so far. Then I got the agreement and read the fine print.

Here’s what the proposed contract read:

An example of bad fine print

This job was bid out for a specific number of images and videos. This wording in the fine print says I will turn over every photo I take and every frame of footage I capture at the end of the job for future use and on top of that, I will transfer all rights to the client.

Don’t be afraid to say no (in a very nice way)

If you’re in a situation like this, how do you handle this request? Here’s what I did: I went and rewrote the fine print of the agreement, changing the language to grant the client unlimited and exclusive usage to the images a final videos we’re creating for them, which is exactly what they need. I added a line that I may use the material licensed to them for self promotional purposes and that all other usage would need written authorization from the client.

Then I submitted the reworded agreement. I received an email asking for clarification on some other issues, that had nothing to do with the usage, reworked the agreement’s fine print again and received a signed copy today.

Here’s the point I’m trying to make: Just because you’re dealing with a big client, don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms with them. It never hurts to ask. I know many photographers that would have signed the first contract, saying “Oh, well it’s just the way that CLIENT does business and if I want the job, I’ll need to play by their rules.”

Suggest solutions – don’t point out problems

Sure, I could have pointed out why this doesn’t seem fair, but that usually gets you nowhere. Instead submitting a fair change to the agreement, which now reflects what we had talked about in the first conversations gets you much further. Realize that many big companies have boiler plate language in their agreements that may totally not apply to your project. An agreement is a starting point to negotiate from, not the end. And if it is the end remember you always have the right to walk away from the job, before you sign on the dotted line, but never ever neglect to read (and change) the fine print.

Remember:

Please take the time to read the agreements you’re asked to work under and don’t assume that they were crafted specifically for your project.

Have your own terms and conditions (your part of the fine print) in place and send them to the client with the first document describing scope, time or cost. I don’t send out an estimate without attaching mine, with this job it won’t be my terms and conditions, but the agreement that we’ve crafted together.

Look for a win for both parties and stick to your guns.

No, really it’s ok to turn down work (sometimes you actually have to)

Who isn’t excited about a 5 figure job?

I’ve been working on producing a 5 figure job over the past few weeks, that I was referred to by a friend of mine. Everything looked great, every discussion I had with the client was promising. They liked my work. They were happy with the budget. They were in agreement with the conditions for the job, which we had defined in the fine print of our terms and conditions. They had the money for the 50% deposit. Everything was going smoothly, until

Aug 252016
 
CreativeMornings/Miami future

Miami’s future

If you want to be blown away by some young talent in Miami check out the Taste of Design at DASH – the Design and Architecture Senior High School in the Design district. Ranked the #2 high school in Florida (#20 in the nation according to US News) this school crafts young artists into unbelievable creative powerhouses in architecture, fashion design, film, graphic design, and industrial Design.

One of my daughter's artworks she created while studying at DASH.

Ink drawing by Raphaelle Depuhl (DASH class of 2016)

The art these kids put out is nothing less than inspiring and the spirit of collaboration and cooperation is jaw dropping. It’s not the easiest magnet school to get into (you’ll need a killer portfolio) and the admissions process is made up out of a live drawing audition, a review of said portfolio and an interview of the student (…)

(This week I get to take over CreativeMornings/Miami’s tumblr blog. I’ll share some of my favorite places and people, who make Miami an awesome place to live. Check it out. Read the rest of this post on tumblr)

The Blogger Union has partnered with CreativeMornings/Miami for a collaborative storytelling marathon. Tune in to read the story of our city told by local creatives, bloggers and entrepreneurs. Each week, a different member of CreativeMornings will take over to post what inspires them about South Florida. Do yo want to take over the CreativeMornings/Miami blog and share your take on our community? Email Paola at info@thebloggerunion and we’ll get working on it!

Editing, a quick primer: Cut it short!

 Cinematography, Guest Blog Posts  Comments Off on Editing, a quick primer: Cut it short!
Feb 182016
 
Pascal loved editing his letters

Shakespeare must have been thinking about video editing when he penned the words “Brevity is the soul of wit“. There’s a reason it’s called the “cutting room floor” and not the “‘let’s cram some more content into this video’ room floor”. When you’re editing, you’re trimming individual clips, cutting out whole scenes, shortening, condensing and although it seems counterintuitive, the shorter the piece is that you are working on, the longer it’s going to take to edit it. 

Short takes time. Long goes quick.

Blaise Pascal wrote it in 1657 “I have made this (letter) longer than usual, because I have not had time to make it shorter.” If you’re new to editing, you’ll quickly find that cutting together a video will take much more time, than shooting the footage. Our experience in still photography is often quite the opposite. I just finished a 6 day catalog photo shoot and finished editing, i.E. picking the final images by the next morning. A week later I was shooting 3 days of a multi-month motion project and editing that footage will take me much longer than 3 days. 

2 suggestions when you get started editing

Even though editing has a pretty steep learning curve, I strongly recommend that you edit your own work, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better cinematographer. Fast.

On the other hand I strongly recommend that you work with an experienced video editor, especially when you’re just getting into creating video projects. It’s going to make you a better editor. Fast.

Edit your own footage – it’ll make you a better cinematographer

Editing On Wings of Hope made me a better cinematographer. Collaborating with professional editors made me a better editor.

I remember coming back from filming my first corporate documentary film in Afghanistan in 2012. I shoot for 2 and a half weeks and had planned on spending a week to edit the movie. Just for the record, it ended up taking me a longer. Much longer. However editing the footage myself, really helped me understand which shots I had missed or screwed up, where I had to abandon ideas, because of a non-existent camera angles or bad takes I had not retaken in the field. Those realizations are painful, but I won’t be making the same mistakes again. 

Collaborate with professional editors – it’ll make you a better editor

I also send pieces of the short film to friends of mine–experienced film industry pros–and the feedback I got from them was sometimes painful, but I learned a lot in a very short time. 

One email was especially painful. It came from a seasoned Hollywood director friend of mine and begins with the words: “Ok. If you’ll notice the time you may give some thought to how much you’re loved and appreciated. For both expediency and brevity’s sake I’m not going to perfume my words…

Then it goes into 3 pages of non-perfumed words, ripping apart every scene I’d lovingly cut together. Telling me (in no uncertain terms) where there was significant room for improvement. Honestly I did not feel happy when I read that email for the first time. Or the second time. But when I finally re-edited the film following his suggestions, they made the movie a million times better. A printout of his email sits on my desk and I reread it from time to time.

In case you’re still not clear about this: Editing is cutting.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Edit your video. Then cut out half of the footage. Once you’ve done that, congratulate yourself and cut it again by half. Now you’re in the ballpark of how long your motion piece should be. Brevity is the soul of wit, especially when it comes to editing.

Where to go from here

If you’re looking for a great book on editing, check out “In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, by Walter Murch” its basically the Film Editors bible. Brand new to video? Check out Pascals talk at WordCamp Miami How to step up your video” and learn about story, sound, visuals and edit.

[This post was originally published on the American Society of Media Photographers ‘Strictly Business’ blog.]

Dec 302015
 
9 great gadgets for 2016

9 great Gadgets for 2016

There are tools, apps, gadgets that make our life easier, more productive and better organized. Let me share 9 gadgets that are (almost) always on me:

  1. Skeletool – Leatherman’s multi-purpose tool has only a few functions, but this analog tool is a thing of beauty. I’ve rarely seen an instrument that is so well thought out and put together as this one is. The Skeletool gadget is always in my pocket (unless I’m flying). It’s masterful design is a beauty to behold, but it’s very simplicity belies the real usefulness: a solid set of multi function pliers, a strong blade, a set of 4 screwdrivers (you gotta see how the one you’re not using is stored – it’s amazing), a bottle opener / carabiner is worth carrying around 5 oz of steel.
  2. iPhone 6s – Apples phones carry an insane amount of customizable apps on them, that I can almost not imagine working without one today. From shooting photos for scouting and live streaming directly from the phone, to integrating the mobile side of my business, the gadget is truly my virtual assistant.
  3. Lifeproof case – has protected my iPhones since I bought the first iteration of this case for my iPhone 4 years ago. These cases are waterproof, they protect your phone from drops (the physical ones and the ones made from any liquid) and help you ensure that your phone survives the rigors of working in some pretty crazy environments. It’s the analog armor, that keeps my digital life protected. A gadget that protects another gadget, who knew.
  4. 9 gadgets 500LIV watch – in this digital world I love an analog time piece, that’s tough and stylish. Being on time is part of producing excellent work and there are so many other things I need to time (from long exposures of night shots to duration of time lapses) that this beauty keeps me punctual. Actually I feel bad calling this a gadget – it’s more a practical piece of Art (and one of my clients).
  5. Evernote – is my digital memory. It holds electronic copies of my contacts, notes, creative briefs, ideas, … and so much more. It lives on my iPhone, when I’m not in front of the computer and is connected to my digital brain SalesForce, that also lives on my mobile device. Yup, gadgets can be digital as well.
  6. Moleskine notebook – I’m a fan of writing, theres something to be said about putting pen(cil) to paper; actually there are studies out there that say you’ll remember something you wrote, better than something you typed. Drawings, sketches, scribbles, outlines, notes and so much more live in this paper notebook. Much of it is digitized and synced with Evernote. That app keeps on surprising me, especially when it actually can read my handwriting – it’s an old school gadget that’s actually quite brilliant.
  7. GoalZero Switch 8 – power is something we never seem to have enough of and often we need to top off another power hungry gadget, that’s where this little USB chargeable battery comes in. It allows me to carry an extra charge for my phone or GoPro in my pocket.
  8. Swiss Army cable – You gotta be able to get that power into your phone/camera/device though and carrying around a handful of charging cables kind of defeats the purpose. Here’s a cool USB charging cable, that bridges the digital generations: from the old 30 pin connection, via USB micro and the modern lighting adapter, this gadget can charge pretty much anything you throw at it.
  9. BeastGrip – Ok. So this one’s not always on me, but it’s always in my bag. The beastgrip is the best gadget for your iPhone as it let’s you shoot stable video, add accessories like a monitor and an external mic, if you want to get serious. It also has a dedicated depth of field adapter, that let’s you film with your DSLR lenses. You wanna up your mobile video game? Look no farther than Beastgrip. It’s spring loaded clamp lets me use my iPhone inside my lifeproof case – a gadget inside a gadget inside a gadget – almost sounds like inception to me …

Analog and digital gadgets

I love both worlds – the break neck pace of digital, with all the productivity it offers and the old school analog world of notebooks and knives. What are the gadgets you can’t live without?

Aug 272015
 
Story is the most important element of good video

Story trumps everything

Story is the most important part of any video. Great story trumps great visuals, amazing audio or an intricate edit every time. As a photographer you’ve been a visual storyteller for as long as you’ve captured still images, so I’m not gonna waste your time on how to craft visual content that tells a compelling story designed to change the viewers mind.

(If you want to learn more about that kind of story telling check out Alex Buono’s Visual Story Telling Tour that’s running through September 20th – don’t forget yourASMP member discount – or check out the How to Step Up Your Video talk I gave at WordCamp Miami this past May.)

3 ingredients necessary to create a powerful story

I believe the philosophy behind creating a powerful visual story is simple. It consists of three basic steps that, when followed, make your story irresistible. These three ingredients are simple to learn, yet difficult to execute. I discovered them when creating my first documentary in Afghanistan, shared them in my TEDx talk called The Art of Changing Minds and try to incorporate them into all of my video productions:

Step#1: Vision

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others – Jonathan Swift

Without vision you have no story. Without vision you are literally flying blind. How are you going to tell a story, if you don’t know how it ends, where it begins and what twists and turns there will be along the way? By the way, it was Aristotle who wrote that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.

Your vision is imperative to transform your viewer. Without vision it’s the blind leading the blind. True vision can not be manufactured, it has to transform you first.

(As an aside, if all you have is vision – you’re a just dreamer. Someone with a great idea, who’s afraid of going out on a limb with his or her idea. You need the next step to get the driving force to help you get your dream off the ground.)

Step#2: Passion

If you don’t have a passion for what you do, any rational person is going to give up – Steve Jobs

Without passion your story is dull, boring, uninteresting and lame. Without passion your story is a carbon copy of someone else’s at best–a counterfeit clone at worst. How are you going to excite your audience, if you’re not sharing something that you deeply believe in? More importantly, where are you gonna get the strength to deal with the people who will discourage you from telling your story without having that fire in your belly? It’s easy to give up if all you hear is “No!” – unless you have passion driving your vision.

Your passion is vital to inspire your audience. Without passion you’re producing a story that’s gonna put everyone to sleep. True passion can not be faked. Passion has to inspire you first, before it inspires your audience.

(As an aside, if you have passion, without vision – you’re like a bull in a china shop. There’s a lot of noise, but nothing good is gonna come out of it. Shoot first and ask questions later does not work.)

Action

Your aspirations are in heaven, but your brains are in your feet – Afghan proverb

Without action your story is going to die. I don’t care how transforming your vision is and how inspirational your passion is; without taking action, you will fail. It’s as simple as that. Without action your story never gets told and an untold story is worth as much as an unprocessed piece of film.

Your action inspires, or breathes life into, your story. Without action your story remains lifeless and dead. It stays buried inside your head or entombed in some dusty screenplay or faded storyboard, that’s never gonna get shared. Great stories need you to get your head out of the clouds and get going.

The philosophy behind riveting storytelling

  • Be a true visionary and create a transformative story, by staying true to your vision.
  • Become a person of passion, who shares an inspirational story fueled by the burning passion in your gut.
  • Take action! Produce an inspiring story that follows your vision, and combine it with passion to let it rip …