Will video kill the photography star?

It’s just a little radical change.
When I walked into my office this morning my normally ebullient office mate was staring at his computer screen with the gaze of a doped up mental institution inmate. “Why so glum?” I asked. He had his last cigarette on Friday night. Just over forty-eight hours into his cold turkey dismissal of his smoking habit he was having trouble reconciling his old routine with his new routine. The new routine being the old routine sans cigarette. Determined to succeed, he vowed to look at his day in a different way and tried to avoid reacting to the triggers, like a phone call that he would take outside, that would typically send him reaching for his pack of smokes. It is all about habit adjustment and perspective. The photography industry is in the same boat as my office mate. Wholly resistant to change, even though it must change to survive and be healthy.

A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “Will Video Kill the Photography Star” for Digital Photo Pro magazine which, in part, inspired the Collision Conference that you’re sitting in today. I received a lot of emails about the piece, but the one that struck me the most was; “Thank you for writing your article. I thought it very well done, but since I don’t know the first thing about shooting video it freaked me out. I soiled my pants. I’m writing this from the laundromat.”

You Tube and the Ego Boost.
If you are at all hesitant about jumping into video, saunter on over to You Tube and select a random video to watch. If the little voices in your head are saying things like “that video is crap, I can do better than that” then you have taken the first step to a greater plain. Clients are not expecting a production driven by a screenplay. They are expecting a stylized You Tube video that they can run on the web. It’s technically very easy as long as you apply your existing knowledge of lighting, composition and story telling. A moving version of what you already do. If you’re concerned about editing, cop a squat in front of iMovie (the movie application that comes with Mac computer for free) and start playing around. Your inherent talent will take you the rest of the way in less than an hour.

Open on…
Now that you’ve got the confidence to shoot video, what do you shoot? This aspect of our field is wide open. Some clients you work for will have a specific idea in mind of what they want for video, others will want something, they just won’t know what, and still others won’t ask for video at all. For the ones not asking, offer it anyway, you’ll be shocked at how excited clients will be that the option is on the table. And during this nascent phase of growth in our industry, you’ll radically differentiate yourself from the rest of the field. Usually a “behind-the-scenes” piece of the still shoot will get you kudos up and down.

For those clients that do know they want video but don’t know what they want – oh man, go crazy. If you need inspiration, do a Google search for “best short web or you tube films and EPKs (electronic press kits). Behind the scenes features found in the ”extras” section of feature film DVDs can also provide some great ideas as well. Or you can shoot an extension of what your doing with the stills. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to go too deep, otherwise you’ll be overcommitted and won’t able to deliver.

The clients that do know what they want are still going to be looking for creative input. Give it to them. Take what they’re asking for and add a little of your soul to their ideas. But as I mentioned above, be careful about over-committing.

Lets Avoid a Big Mistake.
We must all come together on this today. Everyone please shave their heads, put on a medium gray robe and repeat after me: Shooting video is a creative skill and that’s what we get paid for, so we should charge for it.

Because this is a relatively loose genre addition at this point there may be a proclivity to giving the video services away or including it in the fees of what you are already doing. See the previous paragraph and repeat the mantra. Then enter the video service as a separate line item both in fees and in expenses. My advice, which is open to discussion, is to enter the video fees as separate item in the fees section of your bid. The reason being is that there are no norms established about this yet and if you run into resistance you’ll want to keep the video negotiations separate so it doesn’t alter the amount of your regular shooting fees.

In your below the line section of your bid you can approach video two ways depending how involved the video will be; a catchall “video services fee” for light video work, or, separate equipment, post production, editing etcetera broken out as separate line items. And please don’t charge for an additional camera if you are using the same camera for video and still, just charge more for the one item and make a note that it’s a dual purpose camera.

The reason for all this itemizing and additional description is to keep your clients aware that this is a value added service. If we start this practice now, we won’t have to back peddle next year and we’ll avoid the whole “oh just click the switch over to video and maybe we can use it” requests from our clients.

How Much for How Much.
Because the video is going to be used for the web, the likelihood of that video getting linked to or going viral on some level is pretty high. At Blinkbid we’re going to make an additional usage license addendum for video in our usage license builder that will try to define some parameters for the license of the video, but it will be a broad license that takes into account the nature of the internet. One thing that we will include is that an attribution line be included at the end of the video. If your piece has legs it will be paramount that everyone knows who shot it.

As far as how much money you should be asking for, you’ll have to look at how much time and effort is going to go into the video for shooting and editing. But charging $300.00 to $500.00 a day should be at the low end of the scale for some solid behind-the-scenes stuff or interview type of visuals that will be put on the internet. Editorial (editing and post production) can be billed out 75.00 to 125.00 per hour. Estimating how much time your editing will take should be sorted out by you making a few of your own mini movies and keeping track of long it takes you to produce something that’s ready for the web.

No Country for Old Men.
Inevitably, as with all changes in this industry, there will be those who decry the introduction of video under the photographer masthead as villainous. Ignore them, they’ll be dead soon. Unlike the film versus digital discussions that lingered in the industry for years as digital went though its early evolution, the expectation of clients for video is moving extremely fast. There is no time to debate the merit of the new medium, there is only do or do not. So I beg of you, do not try to make yourself feel better about being a non-adopter by siding with a pissy purist who has a lot of free time to blather all over the internet about the old school.

The definition of photographer is changing before our eyes in an unprecedented history making moment. There’s nothing we can do about it except adapt. We are in a prime position to do so because the advertising industry is looking to us first. If we ignore our unique first-in-line position the industry will look elsewhere. Look over your shoulder, see those videographers and out of work cinematographers behind you, they’re ready and waiting for our industry to slip up. If we do there will be no unseating them.

The undiscovered country.
Video is going to evolve quickly for our industry, and it is going to become more and more a part of each job. Keep up with what is going on. I know the people running this conference. They are passionate pioneers of this stuff and the Image Mechanics Collision Conference is going to be the must attend event of each year as we move forward. Also look to magazines like Digital Photo Pro, the editor has a keen eye towards the horizon. And, to be a shameless shill, visit my blog at loulesko.com.

Please experiment with video and editing. A point and shoot has video capability, start there. The people with the crap videos on You Tube did.

It takes about forty days to feel comfortable with a radical change – today is day one.