BTS on a Budget: 3 Steps for Creating Behind-the-Scenes Content That Sells with Phillip Blume
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I remember standing on my tiptoes staring down in shock and awe at the man squatting in the dirt. I was nine years old, and he was Javier Lopez, star catcher for the Atlanta Braves—and my hero. What is it about celebrity that turns a man playing catch in the dirt into a cultural icon? It comes down to face time. I saw Javier everywhere I looked: on TV, baseball cards, even on my T-shirt and lunchbox.
As photographers and business owners, we need to be celebrities of a sort—potential clients need to know and trust us so they feel confident enough to hire us (and rave about us to others).
It’s time to start creating your fame through behind-the-scenes content. Here’s where to start.
If you mistakenly think of behind-the-scenes content creation as producing a reality show, you’re likely to become overwhelmed. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. Even if the content we create never approaches Hollywood caliber, that’s all right. Our viewers understand that we aren’t operating on a million-dollar budget. In fact, they’re more accustomed than ever to consumer-grade content blended into their professional entertainment and nightly newscast.
So if you’re a perfectionist like I am, loosen up on the “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all” attitude. I’ve taken that mantra too seriously throughout my life, and it just causes me to freeze up. My new mantra—the one that has found me a lot more success—is “Done is better than perfect.” Go get it done.
Where do you start? Pick up your camera. You’re a photographer, so you’re already ahead of the curve. Yes, we’re going to discuss more of my favorite gear for behind-the-scenes (BTS for short) content creation next. But you can start now, with almost any camera you have.
Start with still photos—especially on Instagram, where BTS photos of you at work should make up about 10 percent or more of your posts. But remember, video is king for online content. Video intimidates many of us, but hear me out. My first ever video camera was a Flip HD. Do you remember that camera, with its max 720p resolution, easy one-button recording and built-in USB adapter? No one dared imagine Wi-Fi for such devices back then. Flip was a hot commodity before iPhone showed up and transformed the market.
We apprehensively attempted our first video project in 2011, armed only with my old Flip and a new consumer-grade Nikon video camera. The Nikon D700’s we shot professionally then did not even have video functionality, so you can see our Flip footage interwoven into most of the BTS promo videos on our About page at www.blumephotography.com/about.
Even as we advanced to DSLR filmmaking, video was so much easier to learn than I had feared. Some of you already know the story, how our freshman attempt at video shockingly resulted in a feature-length documentary that toured the U.S. and helped a cause we believe in. That experience alone was enough to inspire me to keep doing video production forever.
But there’s more to the story that few of you know, an unexpected ending that I can only tease you with for now. Later this year, a Hollywood movie is coming to theaters near you inspired by the story we told through video—and even containing our original video footage. The screenwriter honored me with a cameo speaking role, too; but that was probably against the casting director’s better judgment. Don’t worry, closer to the movie’s release date, we’ll share more and give exclusive behind-the-scenes access to all of you who are part of our Blume photography online community.
Get ready for big possibilities when you simply take action and put yourself out there. You don’t have to create a feature film to sell people on the value of your business, or even to change the world. Just pick up your iPhone and go.
Watch my video segment at the end of this article to see how I shoot for the edit with just my phone camera.
Of all the gear I’ve purchased or have received on loan to test, here is what I like best. I’ve compared so many options, and for my workflow, these tools are the most cost-effective, portable and simple to use. And I get killer results. Watch my video segment at the end of this article to see me demonstrate each.
DJI Osmo Mobile.
My phone is my favorite camera for BTS. It’s always handy, it’s easy to use and the results are high quality. The only thing it lacks for video is cinematic motion and stability. That’s where the Osmo comes in. It’s loaded with the best gimbal technology from DJI’s famous drone family. It’s basically a motorized handle or selfie stick that attaches to your phone. For stability, it’s so intuitive that you’ll use it out of the box like a pro. But the features go way beyond that. With Osmo and the DJI app, your phone camera is suddenly able to track your movements, too: Mount it, and the camera follows you and stays focused while you’re in action shooting or pacing. You can create precision motion time-lapses, something I couldn’t do before without investing thousands of dollars in high-end sliders and custom motor tracks.
I prefer the Osmo Mobile over its bigger brothers (Osmo+, OsmoPro), mostly because of the cost difference. It’s just $299 compared to $600 to over $2,000. They’re similar, but Osmo Mobile doesn’t have the small built-in camera; it uses your phone. There are a couple cheap Chinese competitors on the market that I’ve tried, but their less reactive software and cheap plastic build aren’t worth the small savings. Osmo Mobile is made of sturdy aluminum alloy and just works. Because it’s not limited to a DJI camera, my Osmo Mobile is upgraded (not outdated) anytime I upgrade my phone.
If you’re looking for a pocket-size quality audio recorder, I have several for sale. That’s because I’ve purchased quite a few makes and models that were recommended to me. Not that there was anything wrong with their quality, but I found the H1 to be the most compact and intuitive to use, without sacrificing quality. As a perk, it’s also one of the more affordable in its bracket, and its stereo-positioned dual microphones are well protected when I toss it in my backpack. I have two of these, one of which I tape to the side of a mic during wedding toasts as audio backup so I’m not at the mercy of a DJ’s unpredictable soundboard. If you want to hide the recorder and add a mic, be aware it has only a 3.5mm line input and no quarter-inch XLR. But that’s no problem if you use the next item I’m recommending.
Rode smartLav+ (and adapter).
Rode designed this quality lav mic (the kind you clip discreetly to your shirt) to fit the unusual headphone jack on Android and Apple smartphones. Yes, using your phone’s voice memo app is a legitimate option of audio recorder, but not useful if your phone is already tied up as a video camera—the drawback of a multifunction device. At about $79, it’s a good value among lav mics. Also get the $15 SC3 adapter so you can use this lav with your H1 and other recorders, as well as smartphones as backup.
Whatever you do, don’t miss my hack for wireless audio in the video. It might save you $1,000.
There is nothing like a GoPro for all-terrain, wet-and-wild, creative BTS shots. I’m a big fan of the new touchscreen models, but I still don’t own one. I’ve been happy with my old Hero, which must have been out of date when I got it because it came free with a Vimeo subscription. The simpler ice cube-size Hero Session is now just $149. So worth it. With adapters to clip the GoPro to your camera or shoulder strap, you’ve got first-person perspective of your photo shoots in the bag with no effort at all. I love the integrated GoPro adapters Spider Holster is introducing for users of its camera holster systems. (I’ll show you my unexpected solution for a GoPro stabilizer in the video below.)
Mobile phones and accessories.
We’ve already established that your smartphone is a multimedia studio in your pocket. Take advantage of it. But treat it kindly. Invest in a good protective case. If you’re a heavy BTS shooter, keep a good power core nearby for recharging on the fly.
Cell carrier plans are getting more competitive. Verizon now offers us a phone upgrade every 12 months, something I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t happen to walk in last week, ask about it and leave with a free iPhone 7 Plus. I’m loving my free new camera with 4K and stabilization. Check your plan.
Drones are dropping fast—and I don’t just mean GoPro Karma Quadcopters falling from the sky. They’re dropping in size and cost. Drones like DJI’s brand-new Spark are shaking up the industry. It fits in your palm and shoots stabilized HD with hands-free features that track you as you go. That’s good for BTS footage. But battery life is still low, only 16 minutes in-flight for the Spark. Yes, aerial footage is now expected in many videos, but think before you bother with it for BTS. Unless you have just a couple specific shots in mind, the price, starting at $499, may not work for you. But prices for new technology are always coming down.
All your behind-the-scenes still and video footage is only worthwhile if it sells you. The first step to selling yourself is knowing where and how to publish. I live by the “80/20 rule.” Eighty percent of the payback you receive for your marketing efforts (time and money) usually comes from just 20 percent of the marketing channels you use. As you become more strategic, you can focus all your energy on just those channels that work best. Then you’ll experience huge returns, and almost none of your time or money will be wasted.
It helps to know that Instagram, more than any other social media site, is a lifestyle medium. Polls and research tell us users who interact there love BTS photos and stories. It’s why they’re on the platform. In other words, start telling your BTS story on Instagram, and you’ll gain a larger following. Otherwise, you aren’t using it to its fullest potential.
Facebook promotes video content now through its algorithms. Take advantage of that while you can. Ads that contain your BTS video footage actually cost less than photo ads with a similar reach.
Focus first on an “about me” video that makes potential clients feel like they’ve met you, which can do the job of an in-person first meeting. But don’t let that video sit and rot on your About page. Link to it in your email signature. Make it the featured video on your Facebook page.
Maximize your efforts. Don’t be shy if you feel the video isn’t up to snuff. Remember, done is better than perfect, and potential clients know the difference between your pro work and promo work. Done is better than perfect for BTS. In fact, it’s incredibly powerful.