Jan 222016
 

Master your productivity with 11 amazing tools

With every passing year, it seems clients are expecting more and more from their photographers, which means we may need a lesson in productivity. Kat Dalager (@3etheLTAgency) goes even further and foresees the change of the very word photographer in her “Predictions for 2016“:

“The word ‘photographer’ will change. Maybe it will be ‘image maker’ or ‘content maker’ or ‘capturer.’ Whatever it is, it will reflect the expanded capabilities of the role.”

I agree with her and believe that in order to embrace the ever-increasing roles we find ourselves pushed into, we must become exceedingly efficient in our productivity. 2016 will be the year, where I take that productivity to the next level, integrating the technology, cloud based services, apps and automation software I use in my business.

Here are 11 tools that help me, solve my productivity puzzle:

Salesforce & Evernote

The backbone for this virtual productivity is SalesForce – the CRM that’s been running my business for over 7 years now. Every account, contact and job lives in this cloud based service [learn more about SalesForce here: “I got my head in the cloud (along with all my data)“].

This year is the year where this automation will get flushed out. I’m already using the amazing integration between Evernote and SalesForce, which allows me to attach all job related records automatically. Now any creative brief, handwritten note, job estimate, permit, release, receipt, rental agreement, … is tagged with a job number in Evernote and appears in the digital job folder in SalesForce as if by Magic.

Asana, Zapier & IFTTT

Every job, event and task that get entered in SalesForce automatically creates a counterpart in Asana, via Zappier. Asana is my project management software, where I can split up a job in an actionable To Do list. Every contact that’s added on my phone is automatically entered in SalesForce via IFTTT (IfThisThenThat). Zapier and IFTTT are two amazing automation softwares that enable you to use apps and cloud based services to stay productive.

Dec 112015
 
Power your gear

Tips for the power (hungry) traveler

Remote locations means power must be brought inI love traveling into extremely remote areas on assignment. There’s something about filming in the amazon rain forest, photographing a hidden monastery in a desert wadi or shooting video on a snow-covered airstrip in the Himalayan foothills, that recharges my creativity. On the flip side none of these places have electrical power. That can mean packing in extra batteries or figuring out a way of generating power to run all of your digital devices – from laptops to light meters, from cameras to cell phones.

Solar power your gear

Power a GoPro all day (and longer) with a GoalZero Sherpa 50When I go far off the grid, I rely on solar energy to supply all of my power needs in a portable, yet powerful package. The solar panel I travel with folds up to the size of a paper back book and can charge my  GoalZero Yeti 150 solar generator in about 8 hours of sunshine. This package ran a 2 week documentary film shoot in the peruvian jungle, keeping all my gear charged – including my MacBook Pro I used to download and back up my footage.

Backup power

Since that trip I carry the smaller GoalZero’s Sherpa 50 in each one of my bags. These little battery/inverters can power a GoPro (or two) on a multi-day time-lapse, top off my laptop or charge a couple of batteries (or devices) in the field.

Power tips

Here’s a few tips when planning your next off-the-grid production:

  1. Test your setup at home. In Peru I had planned to use a MacBook Air to download my cards, but found out while testing my set up that it’s USB ports did not provide enough power to run my bus powered ioSafe hard drives. Not something you want to discover when you’re 16 hours from the nearest power grid.
  2. Make sure you have all necessary cables to connect to your power source. You’re not gonna find a USB micro charging cable in the mountains. I keep this Swiss Army USB charger in my bags.
  3. Take some time to research. My color meter and one of my microphones require a 9V battery. I can leave the 9V charger at home, by using these 9V USB rechargeable battery. Yup – you can charge these from any USB power port.
  4. Get the biggest battery. Just one BlueShape USA battery can power my complete video rig; camera, viewfinder, monitor and an LED light. Best of all, instead of wrangling the power requirements of these 4 devices separately, I need just one outlet to recharge it.

For more travel tips check out 7 tips to keep your gear working on the road.


This blog post was first published on the American Society of Media Photographer’s Strictly Business blog. 

Oct 272015
 
Embrace No! It's not bad.

Why a “No-can-do attitude” may be the best thing ever

Ahh, the “No-can-do” attitude. It’s your best friend, when it comes to being creative. “Nope, not gonna happen” is music to my ears. “No way! You’re crazy.” I’ll eat up that attitude all day long. “No! That’s a crazy idea.” Love it!

However here’s the rub: No-can-do is great as long as it’s not your attitude, but everybody else’s attitude about your idea. They can say No to your idea as much as they want. It’s you who mustn’t say No, when it comes to your next creative challenge, your next adventure, your next big thing.

Others will say no to what you are trying to do, without giving it a second thought. Want my advice? Ignore them. (More about that in rethink who you listen to.)

You can’t afford to say No

I get it. The unknown is a scary place. Getting ready to do anything for the first time makes all of us nervous. The important thing is not to let that fear immobilize you. (It’s ok for everyone else to be afraid of taking that step, actually it’s beneficial to you, when everyone else is scared of what you’re about to attempt.)

Case in point:

GoPro POV in KretA couple years ago got to film a corporate documentary in Afghanistan. Looking back now, it was one of the most intense and fun adventures I’ve had in a while, but now that the film is finished and has won international awards, been screened a film festivals and was the subject of a TEDx talk, it’s easy to forget than literally everybody I talked with before I went, had said No.
No – I shouldn’t go. No – I was not sane even considering this project. No – I was not going to come back alive. No – they wouldn’t do anything that crazy. No …

No, you don’t have to listen to everybody

You know what?

There were only 6 people, who were willing to listen, willing to give their advice, willing to not dismiss this outright and –in the case of my wife– willing to let me go. Everybody who told me no before the project, now thinks this was one of the best things I’ve done. Funny how their no turned into a yes.

You know what I’ve learned? Almost everybody can give you the wrong advice – that’s easy. Very few people will take the time to listen and think through an opportunity with you and help you ascertain if it’s a risk worth taking.

No was not in their vocabulary

Can you guess why I listed these people the credits of “On Wings of Hope?”

Let me thank my heroes here again: Thank you Jacomina, Judge, John, Hugo, Scott and Jerry. You guys saw the YES, where everyone else saw no.

How to push through the No in your head

That “No” you hear in your head or feel in your gut, is your experience going into self-preservation mode. It’s far less risky to not try something new, but it’ also far more boring and less exciting. Without risk there is no reward. Now there are times that you should listen to that little voice screaming NO! Actually every time the action you’re about to take involves serious risk, you should probably listen, however how much risk you’re comfortable taking, is up to you and in direct proportion to the potential gain.

Don’t use this feeling as an excuse though, live on the edge of your comfort zone – preferably on the outside edge. Push yourself to try something you’ve never done before. Carefully weigh the risk and the potential reward, find some heroes that can are willing to see the past all the naysayers and follow your dream.

 

If you’re looking for some practical advice on how to reduce risk, how to quiet that ‘No!’ in your head, check out the ultimate cheat sheet on taking risk.

[This post was written for ASMP’s Strictly Business blog.]

Sep 252015
 
A team is good

There are hundreds of posts written on the importance of personal work, testing out new techniques and developing new concepts. Stepping out of your comfort zone is probably the most important part of becoming a better photographer, filmmaker or creative person. This week I know that my fellow ASMP photographers will be writing posts, that are brimming with wisdom about the ins and outs of how to set up tests, who owns the rights to the images, what you do if someone doesn’t deliver what they’ve promised, ect.

However before you can do any of that, you need to find people to team up with, you’ll need a few good men (and women). As an aside, if you’re thinking about getting into motion, you’re gonna have to learn to collaborate anyway – even though photographers can go at many assignments solo, it is much more difficult to make even a short film alone. Here’s how to build your team:

Who to look for:

Look for people, who love what they’re doing and who love what you’re doing. Those that want to be part of your team, because they believe in your project or are curious to work out the kinks of a new technique. Work with people who are better than you–much better.

I was editing ‘On Wings of Hope’ a few years ago and showed a sound engineer and composer friend of mine some of the raw footage: “I want to be a part of this project” he tells me, because he believed in the purpose of the movie. He’s the guy that ended up writing the soundtrack for the film [Full disclosure I did pay him for 3 years of exclusive rights to the music, but I paid him a lot less than he would charge on a commercial project.]

Where to look for collaborators:

You know the best place I find people who want to learn new things and improve their skill set? At workshops, seminars and classes. I’ve produced some masterclasses with others, such as Phillip Bloom, Nino Leitner, Sebastian Weingärtner, … I’ve volunteered at seminars with Vincent Laforet, Shane Hurlbut, … I’ve taught workshops on photography, branding, video, ect. on my own.

It doesn’t matter where the location is, who the audience is or how much money they’ve spent; I always find a handful of people who love to do more and have worked with countless participants on tests, personal work or regular gigs.

Another great place to find team members is on set, people you work with on your pursuits, their productions, other people projects. Always work with the best people you can afford on your commercial shoots, who know’s maybe they’ll help you on your next idea.

What to look for in team members:

Be on the look out for people who share

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 …