A Ray Of Light
A previous coworker of mine, Johnny Thompson, once introduced me to a group as “The Madonna of Technology,” explaining that I had a tendency to seek out new technologies and trends in mar-tech as a means to stay fresh and relevant. This description has stuck with me through the years. It was a hilarious way to introduce me and he nailed the description. I have never been one to sit tight for too long when it comes to my career. I mainly attribute that to me having a short attention span. I didn't end up this way out of some overarching strategy. I just get bored easily.
With that, and keeping with the same theme, I’d like to welcome you all to the “Ray of Light” era of my career. Let me explain.
BY NO MEANS TYPICAL
While shooting photos and videos is a big part of what I do for a living, I am not your typical photographer. I certainly haven't arrived at where I am via the conventional route a photographer would take. I make a substantial percentage of my income from photography and video, but I have never thought of myself as a “pro photographer.” Partly because I have yet to achieve a skill level that I would consider necessary to have earned the moniker and partly because the photography and video I shoot is never the end-product of what I’m creating. Photo and video have always been a means to support other work I do in digital marketing.
With my work in social media, I must compromise between achieving high-quality results while maintaining a small footprint. If I were still shooting for broadcast or print, this would pose a serious dilemma for me. The content I shoot now is targeted to the internet so I've worked hard to find the right products that fit my particular situation where I can carry days' worth of gear with me in a single shoulder bag.
In the past, I owned and maintained several computers and storage systems because I thought the needs of the job required it. I also carried huge bags of camera bodies, lenses and all kinds of accessories and tripods. Add to that list hard-shell cases full of action cameras and a drone, and you’re starting to get the picture of what a photo nerd I was. Now in 2017, I am thrilled that I can do my job, and do it well with the relatively small amount of very specialized gear I use. It has only taken me 20 years to figure it out!
In 2014 I abandoned the Canon 7D's I had used for years for good. I switched to the Panasonic Lumix GH4 mirrorless with Rokinon Prime Cinema lenses as my preferred video camera for a short time. I loved this camera and the lenses but with my quest to reduce the gear I travel with I also abandoned the GH4 and began shooting all my video projects with Fujifilm X-T1 cameras and (gasp!) my iPhones. I love the treatment of the video that is applied to the footage using Fuji's Classic Chrome LUT and I found ways, klunky as they can be sometimes, to color the video from the iPhones to mimic that look.
During the “great switch” of 2014/2015, I also got rid of all my GoPro cameras. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is water-resistant, so I used it in the rain or when the conditions were otherwise hazardous for my iPhones. Once Apple released the iPhone 7 I was able to switch to it and take the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 out of my camera bag for good.
For video podcasting, I started using the iPhone 6S with a ProPrompter and 1st Generation iPad set up. This meant fewer cameras, chargers, and batteries to be packed and carried. The theme of 2015 was “doing more with less is good!”
In 2015 & 2016, I shot much of my still photography with the Fujifilm X-T1. I primarily used two lenses on the X-T1: the Fujifilm 14mm prime & 50-140mm zoom but I also used the Lensbaby Composer Pro II with the Edge 50mm and Edge 80mm optics. The Lensbaby lenses are very specialized, so the Fuji glass was used for 90% of all my X-T1 still photography.
That was in 2016...
THE NEW SOCIAL MEDIA PHOTOGRAPHER’S KIT
I have sent the Fujifilm cameras and associated lenses off to get cleaned and refurbished. When they are returned, they will be put into storage. As of the publishing of this post, I will be shooting 100% of all my still photography and video with the iPhone. I will be using the super wide, wide, tele, and macro lenses from Moment lenses along with the DXO One when appropriate.
The iPhone will be my go-to camera in all situations in 2017 unless otherwise requested by the client and provided for in the project budget. As an experiment, I started using the iPhone as my only video camera in the summer of 2016. All the video I have produced since mid-2016 was shot on either the iPhone 6S, 6SPlus, or 7 so I know what I’m getting into here. I have successfully used Moment Lenses with the iPhones to increase their flexibility. Like with any photo or video setup, I also use sliders, tripods, gimbals and jibs to get the best movement out of the devices.
So, for 2017, all my Canon and Fujifilm cameras and all related lenses will be completely retired for the year and put into storage. 95% of ALL the photography and video I produce in 2017 will be created using iPhones.
What about the other 5%? For drone photography/video, I currently use DJI Phantom quadcopters with DJI stock cameras. My current favorite drone is the DJI Mavic Pro. We're working on a theme here: small footprint, excellent quality. The Mavic fits the bill perfectly for all I need in a flying camera.
I will still have access to several different in-house cameras for various scenarios but I am aggressively moving to small footprint devices by design. This helps me travel light and keep my rates competitive while offering a whole array of media solutions for my clients. If a customer prefers “pro” cameras on a shoot and can’t be convinced to go along with my little plan for the year, other cameras or equipment can easily be rented from rental partners assuming I am compelled to take the project.
Nope. The technology is simply not ready yet when it comes to producing decent quality content on consumer-level 360 video cameras. I've tried them all over the last couple years and they are all universally pretty terrible to work with or they produce pretty terrible video. They'll get better. They're just not "there" yet.
MY PERSONAL BRAND
This adjustment in gear will also come with a change in focus. I am gravitating back to social media & search strategy. My marketing skills have always leaned towards the technical due to my background in .NET programming. I miss that part of myself, so I am going to be focusing on software development again as well.
I’m working on macOS and iOS devices now, so while I am re-teaching myself VB.NET and C# with the help of VMWare Fusion via Windows 10 and Visual Studio, I am also dusting off Xojo and taking the wraps off Xcode for Mac/iOS and Android development. Who knows, I might even start working with Filemaker. I have no idea why, but Filemaker has always seemed appealing to me.
So I will no longer refer to myself as a photographer or videographer. At least for the next few years. Of course I will still shoot and the photography and videography will be a big part of my digital strategy, but I will be much more focused on building apps and developing apps and technical solutions for social media and search engine optimization-related projects. I will no longer take on jobs strictly to shoot and won’t promote myself as a “photographer.” My tagline for “social + search + photo + video” will now be “social + search + software + strategy.”
Of course, I’ll be blogging about it all along the way. As I write this, I realize I am going to have to produce a companion “What’s In My Bag” video for this post so I can get into some of the details explaining how I intend to pull this off. The last ones I shot were from two and four years ago…and a bit has changed since then. You all will love the gear I use now - especially when you see the results I'm getting. So look out for that soon.
This should be fun. Let's see how far I get into this little journey.