Photography: Matthew Fang
When it comes to winning sales, photographers have a huge advantage. Not only do they own one of the most powerful marketing tools a business can use, but they’re also experts at operating it. A camera – and the images the camera creates – is always a great way to engage leads and communicate your talent. But there’s one feature on a digital camera that has a marketing power all of its own, and it’s one that few photographers bother to make the most of. Shoot video as well as stills and the result can be a whole new way of talking to customers, winning trust and telling people what they can expect once they’ve hired you.
The footage you create can be given away as promotional DVDs, uploaded to a blog to give an insight into the way you work that can’t be communicated through a portfolio, and it can include still samples from the shoot to create an additional distribution channel for your portfolio shots. Altogether, shifting the function button from shooting to videoing can give you a whole new way of promoting your work.
Are You a Photographer or a Videographer?
Two photographers who do make use of videography are Lan and Bu Vui, brothers who together run a successful photography business. After finding that they were busy enough to give up their day jobs, they turned professional two years ago, and now offer headshots, wedding photography, commercial images and fashion shoots, dividing the work between them. In addition to their still photography services though, the brothers also offer videography, shooting ads for businesses and creating video-based electronic press kits as well as profile videos, live-streaming event services and Web shows.
“Our photographer friends see us as the video guys and our video and new media friends see us as photographers,” says Lan.
The move into video work began with an interest in video blogging. The Bui brothers were among the founders of the Yahoo! Videoblogging group, and in 2008 produced the The [b] School Blog, a daily educational videoblog for photographers. They were also the official photographers for the Streamys, The International Academy of Web Television awards. As they started shooting and uploading, each clip, they decided, needed to be better than the last. Although they often shoot on equipment no more complex than a point-and-shoot camera on video mode, and occasionally even a mobile phone, they soon found themselves winning commercial work.
Their background as photographers helps. According to Lan, his knowledge of photography has a strong influence on the way he shoots movies, enabling him, for example, to reduce equipment costs. As a natural light photographer, Lan says, he’s usually able to skip the tons of lighting equipment often used by film crews, and can even avoid using a reflector.
Lan and Vu’s knowledge of film-making has given them an additional revenue stream (and they now sell DVDs that teach others how to make DVDs) but it’s also helped them to promote their photography business. By placing behind-the-scenes clips taken at their shoots to their blogs, they’re able to talk directly to potential clients, show how they work and win the trust that leads to sales.
“Our videos really have done a lot for us that I don’t think a blog post or just some photos could ever do,” Lan says. “From a marketing point, I can’t think of a better way we can connect with our potential clients… and that is where we get hired… not from great work… not from a killer sales team… but by connecting with our viewer.”
At just over a minute, the videos are neither long nor outrageously sophisticated. Still images from the shoot are combined with comment aimed at the video camera, background music and questions and answers with the model to create an understanding of how the brothers conduct their photography. They’re entertaining and fun to watch, but they still broadcast a strong marketing message.
A Behind-the-Scenes Movie Should Be Part of the Shoot
Nor does creating the clips have to mean adding a great deal of work on top of the usual workload involved in shooting and processing the still images. According to Lan, a short behind-the-scenes promotional video should be considered as part of the shoot itself. Creating the footage can be as simple as holding up your iPhone and talking to the lens — something that Lan does often in his shoots — and while the clip might demand some editing, post-production work and uploading, photographers need to accept the fact that a clip will never be perfect. In fact, says Lan, a casual approach is actually the best way to go about creating a promotional behind-the-scenes video.
“[T]he most important thing to do is to talk to the camera and be yourself,” he advises. “Too often I see photographers post behind the scenes videos that are just music videos showing them holding a camera to their face… how can a client connect with you through that?”
Or better still, he advises, point the camera at the client and ask him or her to talk to the lens. Hearing you talk about the great pictures you’re going to produce has some marketing power, but hearing a client talk about the great pictures you’ve produced in the past for them makes for a fantastic video testimonial.
Photographers and videographers often have an ambiguous relationship, with each side sometimes seeing the other as a kind of creative rival. One of the responses to Flickr’s decision to allow members to upload files that are “like a photo but it moves” was the establishment of a group called “No Video on Flickr” which now has over 11,000 members. The “We Say Yes to Videos on Flickr” group has just 877 members. But videographers and photographers work together on weddings and the skills needed to do one job overlap with the skills needed to do the other.
Put the two together, add some new skills and you should find that you have more to offer and a better way of offering it.