Friday, March 30, 2012

Video Stories With Vision & Collaboration

As a group still photographers are creative, independent and stubborn as we’ve relied primarily on ourselves in pulling successful photos from challenging assignments while at the same time embracing the digital information age.  But as we’re being asked to add video to our story telling tool set, we’re being forced to - gasp - learn new skills and - double gasp - collaborate with others.

Four still photographers collaborated in producing a web video promoting Nancy Brown’s photography book “Simply China”. Paul Morris with video, lighting and studio space. Tom Salyer recorded sound and edited. Jonathan Rios as production assistant. Nancy Brown, on camera talent and stills.

On my section of the long tail of photography the four-year economic crisis has reduced my assignment budgets to hiring an assistant to very rare. I’m producing my shoots, setting up my lights and processing my own files. That’s were stubbornness comes in for us, we can do it ourselves doggone it.

I’ve heard wondrous stories of colleagues working on high budget advertising shoots with a producer, hair and makeup, assistants and digital tech. And a lunch budget, oh my! 

OK, I agree, the idea of every photographer being a lone wolf working completely on their own is not completely accurate, at least in the commercial photography field. We all have colleagues we can call for advise and insight with projects, our art directors give us direction, and most still shoots are not overly complicated.

Working either on our own or with a small crew, our independence drives our ability to visualize our images in advance and make them happen. Our “eye” is our strongest asset, and can be transferred to another medium.

By comparison, with motion projects the nuts and bolts of producing technically successful video is very complex and has a steep learning curve. You thought learning about color spaces and layer masks were hard? Try mastering Final Cut Pro, motion graphics and compression codices.

Video requires many jobs: director, producer, director of photography, camera operator, lighting grip, sound recordist, and editor. On simpler shoots a person can handle multiple jobs, but there are to many moving parts for one transitioning still photographer to handle them all. The story line will be jumbled, the picture overexposed, the sound levels low.

NFL St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is interviewed last weekend by Paul Morris, far left, and Orlando Noah, left center, at The Breakers, Palm Beach, FL. Photo by Tom Salyer.

Photographers need to collaborate with the people who already have these skills, and our unique vision is the key to success. We already approach image making with our life time of experience as visual story tellers. We already know how to compose a great image, capture a decisive moment, and creative lighting is a piece of cake.

Clients are beginning to come to still photographers asking to add on motion for web sites and social media because they trust their eye and ability to successfully complete jobs. Don't worry big video production companies, most of us aren't competing with you. Yet.


- Minneapolis based Ryan Siemers has been expanding his architectural photography business by adding motion, interviews and animations.

- Jeffery Salter, a Miami portrait and fine art photographer, collaborated with videographers on stories for Readers Digest: Richard Patterson on former football player Keith Fitzhugh, and with Chuck Fadely on long distance swimmer Diane Nyad.

- Miami commercial photographer Paul Morris has added video to two still photography assignments in the past months: executive interviews for farm equipment trade association American Equipment Manufacturers, and National Football League head coaches for New Era head wear suppler. I was sound recordist on both, and Orlando Noah and Meine Smith of Digital Decaf provided video and digital services on the latter.

Please see example of my Miami multimedia photography portfolio.