Photographers Using Video on the Web
I’m a still photographer. I have spent roughly 25 years studying lighting techniques, obsessing over the best equipment, perfecting my darkroom prowess, and then starting over with Photoshop. Video is a very different animal; one that intimidates and frightens me. Recognizing what I’m good at and leaving the rest alone has gotten me this far; why do I need to consider utilizing video at this stage of the game? Because the web is here to stay and the competition is heating up.
My background in photography and interest in leveraging the latest technology to advance image making, led to my involvement with liveBooks, the industry’s leading provider of professional-level websites. Over the course of the last five years, I have seen an evolution in the way photographers are using the web to market themselves. One substantial change has involved the inclusion of video in some very interesting and resourceful ways.
What I will focus on here is not photographers offering video as a service to their clients, which is certainly happening as well, but more specifically how still photographers are using video on the web to market themselves.
With the availability of affordable, high-quality digital photo equipment steadily increasing over the last several years, the market has been flooded with an unprecedented volume of photographs and emerging photographers. Most searches for images and photographers begin on the web. Yet, this can create confusion on the part of the viewer about which photographer is right for what they need. How do you distinguish yourself from the sea of photographic talent available? You can start by marketing yourself as a professional who brings more to the table than a handful of carefully selected images. You need to develop an effective brand for yourself that communicates the value of your personal vision and experience. Video presents an opportunity to add more dimension to this brand in a number of ways.
Bio videos are the most common use of video I have seen recently. They give the viewer the chance to see and hear the photographer speak about their work or their life. Sometimes these can be very specific to the way they approach a shoot, and sometimes they can be seemingly unrelated to photography in any way. Some examples of photographers who have taken various approaches to this are Jules Bianchi, Chris Rainier, and Chase Jarvis.
The primary purpose of these videos is to break through the static nature of portfolio viewing and create a more human connection. If a prospective client likes your personality or feels they can relate to you in some way, there is a much better chance they will give you preference over someone they feel less of a connection with. This is human nature.
The main challenge with a bio video is to create something that is “on brand”. If you are marketing yourself in a playful way, for example, be sure the video is a bit playful as well. A disconnect in this area can do more to confuse than ingratiate. If you are unsure, consult with an expert.
Video is also regularly being used to highlight various other strengths, including video testimonials, vignettes from an actual shoot, and studio tours, among others. Adding a more dynamic, human touch to these areas brings life to them in a way that can be far more compelling than a page with text. Watching someone gush over how amazing you were to work with can have an emotional impact that makes the difference between someone hiring you or your competitor. This approach can be effective whether you market toward photo buyers, brides, or other types of individuals. In the end, we are all people, and all of us want to work with people we trust and like.
Ok, I’m sold…how do I do it?
Luckily, there are lots of ways to capture and post video clips. Just like still photographs, there are down and dirty methods, as well as more elaborate, polished methods. Using a $200 flip video camera or webcam and posting to your blog could be perfect for your purposes. For many, a more professional approach will be more effective. It all comes down to your intentions and your brand. Do you want to be seen as a seasoned professional who projects quality and panache, or as a more gorilla upstart who provides a dynamic, gritty vision? These are the creative questions that need to be answered in advance, so you know what direction to take technically. If you can produce it yourself or with a friend, so much the better, but, as with any photo shoot, be sure you have all you need to be successful. If you need help, there is plenty available. A video producer should be able to help you sort through these preliminary questions.
Once you have the video shot and edited, you will need to prepare a copy for the web. Depending where you plan to display it, you may choose one of a handful of formats. It is best to contact your web provider for information on what they support. liveBooks is one provider that supports many formats, including Quick Time, Windows Media Player, and Flash Video. All our websites give the user the ability to upload their own video. You can also have us custom design a custom page structure and player in Flash. Some examples of clients who have taken this approach are Justin Francis, Double Plus Good, and Oliver Rduch.
As with still photos, you will want to find the right balance between quality and loading speed. A large, high quality video can look amazing, but take a while to load. Smaller, more compressed files will load quicker, but may not have the desired impact. If you have the ability to upload your own video and preview it on the web, you should certainly do that.
However you are able to do it, do not hold off on leveraging video to your advantage if you feel you can benefit from it. Start experimenting with the resources you have available and become familiar with the technology. If your current website provider doesn’t support video, consider finding one that does. If you are only able to post to your blog for the moment, start with that. Ultimately, creating a better connection between you and your clients could result in more bookings with people you are more likely to relate to. It can also result in clients who are more informed about you and your business before you even speak to them. And who knows, maybe you find you have a knack for it and can offer an extended range of services in the future.
Matt Bailey is a co-founder of liveBooks. You can check out Matt’s photography at his website, mattplastique.com.