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Sunday
Jul022017

A video future for photographers

LAST week, I wrote about professions that will become obsolete in the near future. Some professions may not become obsolete but will instead evolve to include a wider spectrum of skills.

Journalism is a good example. Back when I started as a rookie reporter, it was possible for journalists to focus just on writing news reports.

We didn’t have to worry about shooting pictures, much less recording audio or video clips. There was no social media or even news portals at the time. So, we had the luxury of just reporting the news.

That all changed with the emergence of news websites. All of a sudden, we needed to provide more than just words. Websites need multimedia content. Then came social media and multimedia content became all the more important. Today, journalists need to multitask.

But journalists are not alone in this. There was a time when an insurance agent could just focus on selling insurance. Now, they have to sell mutual funds, wills and all kinds of financial products.

MULTI-TASKING PHOTOGRAPHER

Photographers who solely focus on stills will soon find it harder and harder to get work. That’s because these days, there’s an expectation that photographers should also deliver videos for their clients.

There was actually a time not so long ago, when people getting married would hire separate crews to shoot pictures and to record their happy day on video.

That’s because photos and videos were considered different industries and they were handled by different teams. These days, nobody does that anymore. When they hire the photography team, they expect that the team should produce the video as well.

You could probably trace the convergence of stills and videos back to 2008 when both Canon and Nikon came out with DSLR cameras that could shoot videos as well.

Initially the video function was not utilised by stills photographers. But within a few years, that changed dramatically. The rise of social media also saw the rise in demand for video content.

Now, with high speed broadband widely available and social media being a vital aspect of our daily lives, there’s no doubting that video needs to be a part of any photographer’s repertoire. Clients aren’t just asking for video, they are expecting it.

I cite wedding photography as an example where clients would expect the photographer to supply both the stills and the videos. But you could easily imagine this being the same for other types of photography.

If a restaurant hires a photographer to do food shots, they would surely want promotional video clips to post on their website and social media platforms.

If a company hires a photographer for a fashion shoot, again they would want some video clips to post online.

EXPANDING THEIR REPERTOIRE

In this day and age, still photography isn’t enough. You’ve got to offer videography too. Sure, there might be some legendary photographers who refuse to branch into video and would still be in demand because of their strong branding and reputation.

However, those photographers are few and far in between. I doubt Annie Leibovitz will have any problems getting clients without having to resort to offering video services but how many Annie Leibovitzes are there out there?

Many of my friends who do photography for a living have indeed started to offer video services although there are a few holdouts. And the reason for their hesitation to get into videography is their fear of having to learn something new and complex.

But it’s the very complexity of video that acts as a barrier to entry against amateurs who are always more than ready to slash prices.

Have you noticed that wedding photographers can no longer charge as much as they used to? That’s because every Tom, Dick and Harry with some halfway decent photography skills can offer their services at a fraction of the cost and there will be many takers.

It’s a lot harder to do the same with videography where there are many new skills that a photographer will need to pick up.

For sure some skills learnt in photography like lighting and composing a shot would come in handy. But there’s a lot of new things to learn, most notably, how to deal with sound which is an important element of videography.

LEARNING NEW SKILLS

Perhaps the area where there is much to learn lies in post-production. For stills, most photographers use Adobe Photoshop for editing purposes.

For video, there are many types of software to choose from, such as Adobe Premiere, Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and Sony’s Vegas Pro, and the process of editing video is far more complex than editing pictures.

It’s not just about ensuring that the audio and video are clear but also that there’s a good flow and seamless continuity to them.

Videographers also need to know how to carve out strong narratives, something they don’t have to do with still pictures. This is a brand new skill set that’s not easy to acquire and will naturally take a lot of time and effort to learn.

One option is to start collaborating with others who specialise in these things. While stills photography can be done as a one-man show, it’s much harder to do that with video.

A videographer will usually have people helping him with lighting, sound and manning the second camera. After the shoot, the videographer will need a good editor who can transform the raw material into something polished.

“Video is still perceived as something difficult to do and indeed the process is a lot more complex than shooting stills,” says Tom Hayton, a photographer who got into videography several years ago and now offers both services to his clients.

“But that’s why there’s money to be made. It’s a growth market.”

Of course, to be a pro, you’d need to be able to produce content that’s significantly better than what can be produced by an amateur.

So you have to stay ahead of the curve by honing your skills and keeping up to speed with trends and technological advancements, adds Hayton.

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES

All this sounds very complicated but it’s all necessary too.

According to Hayton, who started his photography career in Malaysia but is now based in the

UK, three branches of professional stills photography are likely to disappear in the not-to-distant future.

They are wedding, events and sports photography. And the reason is simply the advances made in camera technology.

“High-end video cameras today can yield excellent stills — taken from video — and it stands to reason that in time this too would be the case with lower-end equipment,” he says.

In other words, in the future a company could just hire a video crew to shoot a particular event and then get an editor to extract stills from the high-quality video shot. This spells trouble for stills-only photographers.

However, in every crisis there’s an opportunity. This actually applies very well to the situation with photography.

Those who welcome the change and incorporate videography into their portfolio will thrive.

Meanwhile, those who stubbornly refuse to do so will soon find it very hard to even survive.

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