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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:
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.
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.
I 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.
When 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.
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.
Here’s a few tips when planning your next off-the-grid production:
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.
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.)
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:
A 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 …
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.
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.
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.]
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:
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.]
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.
Be on the look out for people who share
One of the mistakes I’ve made in my career is to rely exclusively on my images to get me booked. That may have worked in the past, but as I get ready to push my business this fall, I know my clients want to see more than just pretty photographs.
I’ve quoted this before, but it’s so valuable I’ll mention it again–Heather Elder* (@heathereldersf) creator of Notes From a Rep’s Journal said “The bottom line is that relying solely on your imagery to speak for you has become dangerous. Adding your voice to that imagery is as dangerous, but for everyone else, not you.” That sounds great, but how on earth do I add my voice to an image?
Clients – at least the ones in the B2B space that I’m working with – are looking for more than just an image: they want a photographer who has a strong Social Media presence, one who understands how small businesses market themselves online, one who is recommended by his/her clients and who takes them behind the scenes of productions he’s worked on. On top of all that they expect award-winning photography and video productions.
With this in mind I’ve started to create integrated marketing campaigns, which focus on a very specific group of people but are executed across a very broad range of media:
The target of your campaign is your website. Everything should bring your client to a homepage that proves to a potential customer one thing only: you are capable of producing the job for them. And how they can contact you (check out how to automate that first customer contact). OK, so that’s two things, but you know what I mean. Does the first image your visitor sees on your site tie into your marketing?
Yes – physical good old-fashioned postcards. With all the emails, Facebook messages, PMs, videos, texts and SMS’s we get today it’s easy to drown in a sea of electronic messages.
How do you compete against this onslaught? Go old school (with a twist): send a hand- written postcard. Clients appreciate knowing that they weren’t part of an automated campaign, filled in with their <FIRST NAME> <LAST NAME> and thanking them for the opportunity to bid on a photography job for <THEIR COMPANY>. A handwritten thanks gets noticed.
So where’s the twist I mentioned earlier? Well on the back of the postcard is a link that goes to a landing page with the same image, a client testimonial video and a contact form that integrates with my CRM along with all the automation that comes with it. This page continues into a blog series about this shoot, that details how I estimated the job, pre-produced and scouted the job and how the job actually got photographed. (For a more detailed explanation of how the physical postcard gets integrated with my cloud based CRM, check out this weeks #MarketingHack #17: Link your postcards to the cloud!
The sky is really the limit on how far you want to take it – social media memes, customer video testimonials, organic Facebook campaigns, winning photo contests, behind the scenes videos, online recommendations on LinkedIn, periscope live broadcasts… All these pieces of content make up the voice you need to promote your small business today. How many more channels can you think of that this image could be integrated into? I’m trying to hit a narrow audience in the broadest possible way.
That’s the $64,000 dollar question, isn’t it? As you can imagine a lot of work goes into creating an integrated marketing campaign. “What’s your ROI?” you might ask. Well, let’s look at one example. In this case, I entered a professional photography contest hosted by the Florida Guild of Professional Photographers because winning an award gives me another reason to showcase my work to my target audience, even if they’ve already seen the image before. Here’s my investment:
The real secret is to cross promote these channels: the postcard leads to the landing page with the video testimonial; the news of the award sparks the curiosity of how the image was created and goes to the “how to” blog series; the periscope live broadcast builds excitement before the photograph is even produced (and lives as evergreen content on the blog); the LinkedIn recommendation causes someone to check out your profile and leads to another visitor to your website… You don’t have to create a linear campaign, where step 2 follows step 1. Someone can enter this integrated marketing campaign at any point and go to almost any other channel to get more info.
As I’m getting ready to come out of the slower summer months and gearing up for a busy fall, a marketing campaign like this can drive the visibility I’m looking for and ensure that new (and repeat) clients are hearing the voice I’m adding to my imagery.
(This post first was written for and published on the American Society of Media Photographer’s strictly business blog.)
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.)
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:
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.)
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.)
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.