Social Media Strategist's Desktop Setup & Gear

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Things change. I last updated my "Social Media Photographer's Gear" series post here in January of this year. And as with all my previous posts, I dramatically changed my setup and workflow in the months between then and now. I had planned on only posting these updates annually, but my daily setup is now so different as compared to just 8 months ago I decided a new update was required.


As marketers, do we really need all the gear and software we think we need? Since the start of my transition off DSLR cameras to iPhones, I now regularly stop and consider if it is me, or the gear that makes my work as good as it can be. While we all can get sucked into the mindless trap of unrelenting consumerism, I have found in the past few years that limiting my access to tech, gear, and software forces me to exercise my creative muscles in ways I wouldn't otherwise.  Having access to the latest and greatest everything all the time is a blessing but it makes you intellectually lazy - plain and simple.


Luckily for me I have realized this and just happen to be at a point in my career where I am naturally embracing it. Sometimes advancing means simplifying. Just adding more "junk" to my laptop, photo bag, iPad or home office is no longer helpful. After being in the digital space for over two decades, I have found the software and hardware tools I need to be productive and now I am focused on eliminating the things I have accumulated over the years that I thought were beneficial, but are not in reality.


This is not easy. I like gear. I like new apps. I like tricking myself into thinking I did something good by adding something to my bag of tricks. But I LOVE simplicity. Minimalism. White space. I'm not there yet - but I'm getting there. The transition I have made from January to today is the biggest I have switch made since moving from mirrorless cameras to iPhones for my professional work. 


My Hardware & Software Setup

This is the current gear I use on a day-to-day basis to deliver award-winning SEO and social media marketing results to my clients. It's all been tested in real-world situations and on real jobs and, as always, everything on this list is highly recommended by me personally. 


I focus on efficiency with my hardware and software budget, which is not the same as being frugal. I will challenge myself but I won't sacrifice the quality of work I produce for the sake of saving a few dollars. However, I don't want to throw money away either. I work hard to get the tools I need versus the ones I just want. How does this manifest itself? One example is that all my content is delivered in 1080p HD. That means I don't need to be worried if my next camera has a 4k option because I won't be needing it. The iPhones I use now do have the capability to record 4K video, but this is just used as an example of my thinking. 
I continue to focus on getting my workflow, hardware and software setup optimized so I can get as much done as possible, as quickly as possible, with the lightest footprint possible, anywhere and everywhere. This means scaling back not only the hardware, but also the number of programs I use.


In this past year I have sold off all my mirrorless cameras and lenses. I am now 100% iPhone for all my photo and video work. I tested using two FujiFilm X100F's and a Fujifilm X-E3 as higher-quality photo/video cameras. Unfortunately, the X100F's were too finicky when working with them for video. The additional steps required to get photos and videos from the cameras into my editing process were their undoing. I don't know exactly why, but the X-E3 just sat on a shelf in my home office and barely got picked up, much less used. I made the final decision to sell it to someone who might actually use it after I took the X-E3 on a week-long trip. Part of the trip included a couple client shoots and the X-E3 sat in the airbnb. I didn't even consider taking it to the client shoots. 


I absolutely LOVE the look of the photos and videos that come out of the Fuji's - but I am looking to achieve balance with overall quality, ease of use, and flexibility. Frankly, especially with the iPhone 8 Plus - I am happy enough - and more importantly, my clients are happy, with the video and photos that the iPhones produce. So that experience sealed the deal for me. I got rid of my last "real camera" and won't look back unless I make the big jump to a medium format system.  

I'm now running leaner than ever before. I carry two iPhones and just an iPad with me everywhere I go. The only reason why I'd take a laptop with me on a trip is if I knew I'd need to do complex video editing for publication during the trip. Even in that kind of situation, I can now carry my entire office with me in a medium sized photo bag. That's a win.


So - what is different now as compared to the previous years.... EVERYTHING. Gone is the Apple Retina 5k, 27-inch iMac (you won't believe what Apple made me do to replace this). Gone is using the iPad Pro 10.5 as my mobile device. Gone is the 4TB Lacie hard drive for Time Machine (thank you iCloud). Gone are all the Fujifilm cameras as I am now back to using iPhones as my sole cameras for all shoots. 

Without further ado, here's the list: 

Computers / Mobile

- Mid 2012 Apple Unibody 15-inch Macbook Pro (1TB SSD, 2TB HD, 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM) with wireless Apple Mouse 2. I used to have a 27" Apple LED Cinema display I used with this setup in the office (see photo above) but in my quest to reduce all the unnecessary elements of my setup, that has gone as well. This computer has replaced the iMac I previously used for a few years. I bought this laptop used on eBay for $550 and upgraded it in every way I could. I added an SSD hard drive for 1TB of super-fast quick OS access and a 2TB HD for additional on-board storage. I upgraded the RAM to the maximum of 16GB and replaced the battery with a brand new, higher capacity one for longer battery life. 


This is the set up I'm using at the moment and I absolutely love it. It is more powerful, has more storage, and more I/O. It also has ports that I actually use in the real world. It is a much better value than a new 2017 Apple MacBook Pro which would cost three times what I paid to get this one up and running. And, I like the keyboard on the mid-2012 Macbook Pro. With the exception of one of  the DAS Keyboards I use, this is my current favorite - and it's built right into the computer. I recently tried to use one of the mid-2018 MacBook Pros with the 3rd generation butterfly keys thank you. 


I leave this computer in my office and just use the iPad for my mobile computer for short and long-term trips. The laptop only leaves the office if I am going on a trip where I will be doing heavy video editing - otherwise, it's the 2nd Generation 12.9" iPad Pro that gets the honor of being my mobile computing platform now.  


- Apple Second Generation 12.9 iPad Pro (512GB, WiFi-Only) is my main mobile machine. You can call it a laptop replacement if that makes you feel better. It's also used as a second screen with my laptop (via Duet) to be more efficient when working on the road in those situations where I have both with me. Since I only use the 15" laptop for everything now, having an extra big screen for reference is a great way to extend the desktop with a minimal footprint. I don't travel too much these days, but when I've needed the second screen on the road, this has been a lifesaver!


- Apple iPhone 8 Plus is used as my daily driver. 


Cameras & Gear

- Apple iPhone 8 Plus (same one as mentioned above) is used as my primary camera when making in-studio vlogs. I need to make a post about my video podcasting set up... it'll open a LOT of peoples' eyes!

- Apple iPhone 7 as a 2nd shot camera in all situations and sometimes as a monitor in conjunction with Filmic Pro Remote in studio.

- Logitech C930e Pro Webcam

- 1st generation Apple iPad with ProPrompter PRO Mobile used as a teleprompter for vlogging in-studio. 

- Drobo 5D 5-Bay direct attached storage for desktop storage & backups

- DJI Spark drone & DJI Osmo 2 Gimbal

- Cinetics Cinemoco & Edelkrone sliders


- Moment Wide, Tele Portrait, Superfish, & Macro Lenses


- Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lenses


- Helium Core iPhone Cinema Rigs

- Domke bags & Pelican cases

- Manfrotto ball heads, tripods, monopods, stands, & lights 

- Rode, Shure, & Sennheiser microphones


- Creative - Camtasia, FCPX, Filmborn, Garage BandJPEGmini, PhotosQuik, ScreenFlowSnapseedTonalty, & VSCO

- Development - CodaFilemaker ProMAMP ProSQL Pro for MySQLVisual Studio for MacXcodeXojo

- Marketing - AHREFsAuthority Spy, Bright LocalBuzzSumo, Google Analytics, Google SheetsMailChimp, Rank Guru SEO, Screaming FrogSEM Rush, Sprout Social, & Spyfu

- Utilities - Clean My MacDash, Disk Warrior, Dropbox, Duet Display, Gemini II, Google Drive, iCloud, Onyx


The Desktop


As a visual reference, here is a diagram of what I use on a daily basis not only to manage my client accounts, but to also create my training videos and vlogs. And boy... this is dramatically different from the setup I had less than a year ago. I continue to work towards having the simplest setup I can that also serves my needs well. This is not about cutting corners, it's about operating fully, as efficiently as possible with a small footprint. I will create a separate post detailing my iPhone/Teleprompter setup that I use for stand-ups when recording in studio videos.