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5 questions to answer before building your team

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

How to fire a marketing broadside at your target audience!

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?

Add Your Voice

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.

Integrated Marketing Campaigns

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:

Website

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?

Mailers

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.

Old-school post card connected to the cloud.

How do you compete against this onslaught? Go old school (with a twist): send a handwritten 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 than gets noticed.

 

Online Context

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!

How broad can you go?

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.

 

 … but does it work?

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:

  1. Entry fee to a photo contest: $5.00
  2. 16×20 print for said contest: $26.00
  3. Postcard: ¢10 per card and ¢35 postage
  4. Video of client testimonial: $0.00 – produced by me
  5. BTS video: half day rate of a photo assistant to shoot 4 hours of video

A decent return in the first few weeks:

    1. The client bought more images from the shoot, because of the publicity and awards it was generating
    2. One of the best organic Facebook campaigns I’ve run in a long time
    3. A multi-day photography booking, because of this campaign

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 by the American Society of Media Photographer’s strictly business blog.)

The philosophy behind riveting story telling: ASMP SB Story telling in Motion

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 …

It’s all about sound: listen to this (ASMP strictly business)

The incredible importance of sound in video

Sound is more important than visuals

I just spoke about sound in my “How to step up your video” at WordCamp Miami. “Sound” I said “is more important than visuals“–especially to us photographers. We want to make video look pretty, which means sound often come a distant second. Actually I believe the most important thing in video is story, because without a good story, you’ve got nothing, zip, nada, but I digress.

Listen to this

We often dismiss sound over sight, but sound adds richness to a movie. Do this experiment – watch a movie for 5 minutes on mute and the next 5 minutes with your eyes closed, but the sound playing. Which sense enabled you to follow the story line easier? In general I’d argue hearing. If you’ve been photographing for any length of time, you’ve got the visual part of video down anyway. Sound is important

I love sound guys

Check out the article I wrote on Strictly Business, the blog of the American Society of Media Photographers, on audio for photographers called “Listen to this!” You’ll learn how come I absolutely love sound guys, why you should wash out your ears, why I record everything twice and what the biggest technical problem is when capturing audio with DSLRs.

More about audio for photographers and videographers

Check out this case study on sound with some cool actual audio recordings of doing it right (and not so right), while interviewing pilots in flight above Afghanistan and why the most important piece of equipment for video has nothing to do with video.