The production value and quality still remains, but at a cheaper cost to my body and my wallet. I used to lose gear all the time on weddings. We would move from place to place so quickly that often times equipment would get left behind. We now rely on the built-in electronic viewfinders of our Panasonic Lumix mirrorless cameras for focus and exposure accuracy outside and for greater stabilization, rather than having to use an external monitor or hood loupe attached to the back of the camera. Today’s technology and improvements to these camera features make this possible. Hood loupes would always fall off and get lost. I don’t even use external mics on my cameras anymore. I simply rely on the built-in camera microphone to capture reference sound and ambient voices.
Video production is a complicated world. Even if you’ve been involved in the world of video for many years as I have, the speedy technological advancements on the production side and the changing conditions on the business side create a state of constant required learning. If you’re not abreast of these changing dynamics and techniques you’re likely going to be losing money. One aspect that probably changes faster than the advancements in technology is the expedient furtherance of visual styles. This is either the bane or passion of any video maker (depending on who you talk to) trying to create a profitable formula with their video work, whether it be weddings, commercial, feature-filmmaking or music videos.
Working with video can seem like traveling to another dimension. Introducing novel techniques works wonders in improving our cognitive abilities. So you’re not only making art, you’re building gray matter. Now get out there and have fun.
Back in 2012, we produced our first promo video after attending a conference and seeing that other “rock star” studios had created them. The immediate results after we released that video on our website and Facebook were astounding. We went from getting inquiries that wanted to know if we had ever shot in a dark reception to inquiries saying they knew we were the wedding photographers for them—and what could they do to book us right away? There are two main components to producing an effective promo video for your photography business. You’ll want to think about story and technique. Both are extremely important on their own, but together they become much more powerful.
In 2011, my wife and I took a big risk. We emptied our savings to fund the film project. We’d just experienced a loss in our lives, and we needed to step back from taking pretty wedding pictures for a while. Instead, we turned our cameras toward kids fighting to survive in one of the world’s most violent slums. The result was our low-budget documentary Lost Boys of Paradise, which raised money for the nonprofit Engadi Ministries, with which we still work. So the risk paid off, right? But not how you might think. Things change. Today, after five years writing for Shutter (now a premier photo industry publication), our tiny 2011 video project has led to something bigger than I could have imagined. Our professional life has come full circle—almost miraculously so. Because now you are part of this story, too.
In May, I started a journey to improve and stabilize my portrait business, and to mark my territory as an industry leader. I told myself if I completed the 90-day checklist and fully gave in to the process, I would reward myself by investing in the production of a branding video. Four key elements were necessary for organizing and shooting a project of this magnitude while keeping our studio operating during the busiest time of the year. I think these four things are necessary in everything we do.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if your dream company hired you for your ideal gig? They love your work, they think you’re the perfect person for the job and they pay you your rate, no questions asked. This does not have to remain a fantasy. One powerful way we have made this happen in our business is by creating spec projects.
We’ve all been there, scrolling aimlessly on our phone, floating in a sea of emojis and LOLs. We may not even realize we’re doing it, but suddenly 10 minutes (or two hours) pass, and we’ve watched 10 two-minute episodes of something called “Parkour Cats From Outer Space” and found ourselves ordering some swag from their website. What is going on here? How does one begin to make an impact in this sea of endless distraction? This is an ever-evolving science, but there are some methods to the madness of keeping people’s attention.
As many of you already know, I am a huge fan of the Panasonic GH series, and have been onboard since the GH3. I love the quality and price point of the video that comes off these cameras. It’s incredible. The recently released GH5 is already a workhorse in our studio.
I love Flex lights. They are easy to use, very powerful, cost-effective, they throw great light and they’re extremely portable. They are not just for video. Read my article on commercial shoots in this issue, where I talk about how we used two of the 1x1 Flex Panels to light some food photography.