Sunday
Jul302017

Warding off dementia

As we age, all kinds of diseases can start to crop up. This isn’t to say young people can’t get afflicted with horrible diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and so on but many of these things do tend to crop up when we grow older.

Dementia is another affliction that’s commonly associated with age. Research tells us that a lot of it has to do with genetics and other factors that are beyond our control. But a recent report by The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care says that at least 35 per cent of dementia cases can be traced to lifestyle factors that we have the power to modify.

This study had brought together 24 international experts to review existing dementia research in order to provide recommendations for treating and preventing dementia.

According to a survey in 2015, there were about 47 million people around the world living with dementia (including Alzheimer’s which is a form of dementia). With better healthcare people are now living longer than ever and as the population ages, that figure will only increase. It’s estimated that the number of people afflicted with dementia will rise to 115 million by 2050.

Besides the huge healthcare costs — the global estimate in 2015 was US$818 billion — there are tremendous social costs incurred by family members of dementia patients. It’s a common enough disease that most of us know someone who has dementia — it could be a parent, a relative, a friend — and we can clearly see how difficult and heart-breaking this situation can be. For sure, we don’t want to be afflicted with dementia ourselves.

While dementia is not entirely preventable and there’s currently no drug treatment to cure it, the good news is that there are behavioural and lifestyle changes that can significantly improve our chances of warding off dementia.

Preventive measures

According to the Lancet report, about one-third of dementia cases can be reduced by taking heed of nine modifiable risk factors through various stages of life that can affect the potential for developing the disease.

These factors are staying in school until over the age of 15; exercising; reducing depression and social isolation later in life; avoiding hearing loss in mid-life, not smoking; and reducing high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.

In short, it’s good to increase education, physical activity and social contact; and minimise (or if possible, eliminate) hearing loss, smoking, depression, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.

It’s worth mentioning that these factors do not carry equal weight. Some are more impactful than others.

For example, one of the most impactful factors is one that researchers had not identified before, which is hearing loss. They now estimate that reducing hearing loss in mid-life would also reduce the number of dementia cases by as much as 9 per cent. You might be wondering what hearing loss has to do with dementia. While there’s no certainty on it yet, the researchers believe that it may have something to do with the social isolation that those with hearing loss go through when they lose their ability to hear well. As such, people should take care not to listen to music too loudly on their headphones. It could haunt us later in life in ways that most of us won’t expect.

The second biggest factor is education. The researchers say that increasing education in early life (defined as studying until over the age of 15) can help reduce dementia by 8 per cent. It’s believed that education and other mentally stimulating tasks help the brain to build up its neural networks (or “cognitive reserve” as the researchers put it) which will be useful for allowing the brain to continue to function well even when it starts to decline due to age.

The third preventable major factor that can help reduce dementia has to do with smoking. We all know smoking is bad for health physically. Now we know it affects negatively mentally as well. Dementia can be reduced by as much as 5 per cent if all people stopped smoking, the researchers believe. Smoking negatively affects heart health and this in returns affects brain health. The healthier your body is, the healthier your brain will be. It’s as simple as that.

It’s important to point out that even if we take heed of all nine factors, it doesn’t mean we can definitely stave off dementia. In fact, some 65 per cent of dementia cases are not preventable no matter what precautions are taken. But we should take heart in the fact that we now have a better understanding of what to do more off and what to reduce or cut out.

For those who think it’s too troublesome to remember all nine factors, let me reduce it to three simple things: stay physically and mentally active and watch what you eat.

Other considerations

Why physical exercise is important is quite straightforward. According to Gary Small, director of UCLA’s Longevity Centre and author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Programme, when your heart is really pumping, more nutrients and oxygen get delivered to your brain. The body also secretes protective chemicals during physical activity, including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is believed to spark the growth of neurons. “Exercise can’t guarantee that you won’t get Alzheimer’s, of course,” he says. “But the hope is to delay the disease long enough so that you never experience symptoms in your lifetime.”

The importance of mental exercise is very obvious too. The more we work out our brain, the fitter it stays. But mental exercise doesn’t have to mean doing puzzles and brain quizzes. It can be as simple as trying out new things such as trying out new routes to get home, according to UCLA’s Small. Generally, anything that gets your brain working is good, he says. Repetitive mental exercises aren’t that helpful though. Once a task becomes repetitive, the brain work involved becomes more rote, which means there’s less neural activity going on.

Food plays a big role in health so it makes sense to eat the right things and avoid too much junk food. What you drink can make a difference too. It’s best to avoid alcohol. Although red wine has some anti-oxidants that can be good for your heart, there’s too much bad that comes with the good. No doctor will recommend consuming alcohol on health grounds as alcohol contributes to dozens of negative medical conditions including various cancers, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis and not to mention depression.

There’s good news if you like coffee and tea though. Both these beverages seem to be good for warding off dementia. A 2009 study done in Finland found that subjects who regularly drank coffee had a 65 per cent lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The researchers for that study followed the drinking habits of 1,400 coffee drinkers for more than two decades and found one group that seemed to benefit the most: those who’d been drinking three to five cups of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s.

More recent research from Singapore has found that drinking black, green or oolong tea can help reduce the risk of dementia in older people by 50 per cent. And for those who were genetically at risk of Alzheimer’s disease (those who carry the gene APOE e4) the risk was reduced even further by 86 per cent. The study involved 957 Chinese seniors aged at least 55 years old who regularly drank tea.

“Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world,” said Feng Lei, the study’s lead author from the National University of Singapore. “The data from our study suggests that a simple and inexpensive lifestyle measure such as daily tea drinking can reduce a person’s risk of developing neurocognitive disorders in late life.”

So, stay active physically and mentally, eat sensible meals and drink your coffee or tea. Such habits will go a long way towards reducing the risk of dementia, a disease that greatly impairs the quality of life not just for those who are afflicted but also their family members and loved ones.

Sunday
Jul232017

Meat without animals

ONE of the consequences of having to produce meat to feed billions of people around the world is the rise of factory farming, where animals are reared in cramped cages, pumped full of antibiotics and fed hormones to make them grow faster. They’re slaughtered the moment they’re big enough to be processed for their meat.

This method of meat production is cost-efficient but inflicts tremendous misery on the animals. If you have any doubt about that just Google “battery farming” or type in those keywords on YouTube and you can see for yourself what it’s like.

It also inflicts enormous damage on the environment. According to the United Nations, meat production accounts for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. To get a sense of how bad that is, that’s a higher figure than what’s attributed to all the world’s transportation vehicles combined!

MEATLESS MEAT

The good news is that advances in technology will soon make it possible for us to have meat without having to rear and kill animals. Actually the technology is already here but it’s just not quite ready for prime time yet. But it will be — very soon.

There are two ways to have meat without animals. The first one, the conventional approach, is to have vegetarian meat made out of plant material. Of course, mock meat has been around for a long time. Go to any Chinese vegetarian restaurant and you can find plenty of fake meat options on the menu.

They even look like real meat but they don’t taste anything like it. Real meat lovers wouldn’t touch mock meat with a 10-foot pole. If you want to have really successful mock meat, it’s got to be similar enough to real meat so much so carnivores will actually want to eat it.

Impossible, you say? Well, a company in the US, aptly called Impossible Foods, has developed a plant-based burger patty that’s said to be indistinguishable from the real thing. In taste tests conducted by the company, which includes offering free burgers to construction workers, it was found that many who tried the burger couldn’t tell that it was not actual beef.

Founded by Patrick Brown, a former biochemistry professor at Stanford University, the company sought to create mock meat that appeals not just to vegetarians but also to the meat-eating mass market. Brown has famously said that his target market are not vegetarians but meat eaters.

To achieve this feat, his team of scientists did research for five years to figure out what made meat taste like it does. The answer is something called “heme”, a compound that contains iron and is found in animal flesh. Apparently, it’s heme that gives red meat its taste and colour. They needed to mimic that.

The heme found in animals is called myoglobin but there’s a plant-based version called leghemoglobin, which can be obtained from soy plants. When added to the mock meat, it makes it smell, taste, and look like real meat.

Impossible Foods is a serious venture that has raised US$182 million (RM780 million) to date. It’s building a factory that can churn out up to four million burger patties per month once the site is fully functional by the end of this year.

If you’re one who prefers seafood over meat, don’t worry. There’s a mock seafood start-up called New Wave Foods that’s looking out for your business too. In line with its slogan, “We disrupt seafood, not oceans”, New Wave is taking a plant-based approach to producing “seafood”.

Its first product is a mock shrimp made from algae oil and pea protein. The company says that it will be ready to launch this product commercially by the end of next year.

ANIMAL-LESS MEAT INDUSTRY

The newer, more radical approach to animal-less meat is one which involves growing actual meat in a lab. This sounds like science fiction but the technology is already a few years old. It was in 2013 when Dr Mark Post, a Holland-based researcher, introduced the world to the first lab-grown hamburger patty.

With the world’s press in attendance, Austrian food scientist Hanni Rutzler was invited to sample the burger. Her assessment: “intense taste” but “not that juicy”.

That single burger cost a whopping US$325,000 to produce. Rapid advances in biotechnology have brought that price down dramatically to the point that a lab-grown meat is on the verge of being commercially viable.

A company called Memphis Meats says it’s able to produce chicken meat, duck meat and beef meatballs from animal cells in a lab. It estimates that its products will be able to go to market by 2021.

Another company called Hampton Creek, which is known for vegan mayonnaise (no eggs are used), says it too is working on lab-made meat. Dr Post, the guy who introduced the lab-grown burger in 2013, also has his own little start up called Mosa Meats which is working on the same concept. With all these rival companies spurring each other on, it looks like we could have a viable animal-less meat industry sooner rather than later.

And just as there’s a seafood counterpart to mock meat, there’s also a seafood counterpart to animal-less meat. Appropriately named Finless Foods, this company is looking to make cultured tuna from fish cells.

Says the company: “Money is being poured into creating efficient aquaculture systems, to grow fish in tanks on land for human consumption. While this is a move in the right direction, if we’re going to make this system as efficient as possible we need to rethink things from the bottom up.”

They add: “Aquaculture is a system of inputs and outputs, why would we have our expensive food inputs create energy for the fish only to have that energy diverted into things we don’t need, like swimming or having a heartbeat? Why can’t we have a system that only puts energy into growing the parts that people want?”

WORLD CHANGING

Why not indeed? How the company plans to do this is by using a combination of established and cutting-edge cell culture techniques. “We’ll then design a cheap and efficient growth media for this cell line that will allow our cells to grow quickly,” the company says. “Once we have this, we will lay the cells out on a structure that’ll shape them to both look and have the texture of real fish meat, because it will be — on a cellular level — real fish meat.”

Whether you’re into mock or animal-less versions of meat and seafood, you’ll soon be able to buy all these remarkable products. Some of the items will be ready as soon as the end of this year and some might take a few years more. But they’re coming.

For sure, in the initial years, the prices of these items will be higher than the real thing. As such there won’t be mass adoption. Early adopters will be those who care about animal welfare and the environment — not those whose main consideration is price. So, it will be a niche market for a while.

Over time though, costs will naturally drop and when it reaches a point where it’s actually cheaper than the real stuff, that’s when you’ll have your tipping point. Only then will a mass consumer market for these products emerge. When this happens — it may take decades but it will be within our lifetime — it will be truly world-changing.

Sunday
Jul162017

Five ways tertiary education will change

BACK when I went to university, there weren’t many choices when it came to tertiary education. If you weren’t able to get into a public university, you’d have to apply to study abroad. The situation has since changed dramatically.

 

Today, there are many private colleges and universities. But the tertiary education process is still largely the same. You select a field of study, you attend classes and make notes, you study and take exams, you graduate and with that paper qualification you apply for a job.

This is a tried and true way to secure gainful employment. But two things are happening that’s changing that dynamic for tertiary education. Firstly, the nature of jobs is changing rapidly and the current system isn’t churning out suitable graduates. Secondly, as it does with other facets of life, technology is causing major disruptions that will alter the way tertiary education is delivered.

Education advocates have been saying for decades that the education system needs to change. And change is finally starting to happen though it’s not the government that will take the lead but market forces.

Here are five predictions on how education will change over the course of the next decade.

1. Many options

It used to be that the educational institutions determine the options available to students. But increasingly, it has become a students’ market and they’re now in a much better position to set their own educational agenda. Online education, in particular, will give students far greater choices than before.

Students will be able to carve out a study programme that allows them to study at their own pace, anywhere they want. Best of all, they’re not limited to one provider. There’s no reason why a student can’t take courses from different online institutions and learn from a diverse range of providers.

Universities used to be all local but today we have several foreign universities with local campuses. That takes a huge amount of investment, though. Those with strong online arms can become global universities without actually having a campus in the countries they offer their courses in.

2. Degrees will be less important

Growing up, we have heard the mantra that “paper qualifications” are necessary to get a good job. While traditional degrees will still be needed for those careers which are strictly regulated like medicine, accountancy and law, for many of today’s jobs, however, an actual university degree may not be necessary. You don’t have to be an English or Journalism major to work as a writer (I don’t have either of those degrees).

Similarly, you don’t have to have a degree in graphic design to work in that field; or a culinary degree to become a successful chef. It’s how good you are that counts. And this will be increasingly true with most jobs.

This doesn’t mean that people don’t have to get trained anymore. It just doesn’t have to be framed in very narrow terms like a Bachelor’s Degree. In fact, for certain professions, it’s better not to go the traditional route to get an education. For example, a person who wants to work in social media marketing would do better to take online courses, which are constantly updated, than a university marketing course that cannot possibly be as up-to-date as the online ones.

These courses may not confer a degree per se but they certainly equip the student with the necessary knowledge to run successful social media campaigns for brands.

3. Continuous learning

A university education used to be just for young people. They’d usually be in their late teens or early 20s. They’re unlikely to be in their 30s and certainly not in their 40s. But why should that be? The reason in the past was that only young people with few obligations could afford to devote four years of their lives to attending classes. But that’s all changing with the advent of online courses. Now, anyone at any age can pick up new skill sets. And this is necessary because of how jobs are evolving.

Old industries are fading away while new ones are starting to boom. An example of the latter is the self-driving car industry. A friend, Kegan Gan, who is a father of three and works as an app developer, is taking a “Nanodegree” course from Udacity (www.udacity.com) that will train him to become a self-driving car engineer.

The course, which deals with topics like machine learning, computer vision, vehicle kinematics, sensor fusion and automotive hardware, was designed in collaboration with some of the most innovative brands in this area including Mercedes-Benz, Uber, BMW and McLaren. You could say he’s going back to school albeit in an online way.

Education should no longer be viewed as a one-time experience that people go through in their youth but a continuous journey of acquiring knowledge and skill sets to keep them relevant and marketable in an ever-changing job landscape.

There are sites like Udacity, which is nominally academic but very industry-focused.

4. Online learning

I’m a big fan of online learning, of which there are many types. Some are very informal and less academic in nature. These include Lynda.com and Udemy which offer practical instruction and whose teachers are usually drawn from the industry. You also have the more academic-oriented types like Khan Academy and Coursera, which focus more on academic topics. Then there are sites like Udacity, which is nominally academic but very industry-focused.

Although for sure there’s something to be said about in-person instruction, in many ways online courses are superior. For one thing, it gives you access to some of the best instructors in the world, something that would be hard — and certainly very expensive — to obtain in person. For example, I subscribe to an online judo instruction site called Superstarjudo.com which delivers video lessons by former world and Olympic champions. I get to learn from the best, watching them demonstrate their techniques in high definition, slow motion and from multiple angles. It’s even better than attending a live seminar where you might miss something because it happened too fast.

5 The hybrid institution

The rise of online education systems won’t render physical institutions obsolete. There’ll always be a need for university campuses for a variety of reasons. Students meeting up to work on projects together is an important part of the university experience. Lab work still needs a physical presence; extra-curricular activities too.

Don’t forget, going to university has never always been about studies only. It’s at university that you get to meet people from all walks of life, from different social, economic and religious backgrounds — far more so than you would when you enter the workforce. And it’s at universities that you form the early beginnings of your future business networks. Some of the people you meet in university could be the ones you work with or do business with in the future.

So, the physical institution is useful and important for a student’s overall development. That’s why going forward, more and more institutions will adopt a hybrid model whereby they offer some instruction through digital and online means but have on-campus components to facilitate for things that cannot be done online.

Revolutionising education is something long-talked about in theoretical terms with very little change taking effect due to the “If ain’t broke, why fix it?” mentality. This kept tertiary education, in particular, stuck in limbo for decades. But the problem is that today, the old way is broke and will clearly not be able to cater for the rapidly changing global economy.

For sure, some institutions will falter and experience the “Kodak moment”. There’ll be some casualties among those which either cannot or refuse to keep pace with the changes. I suspect though that many will rise to the challenge, seize the opportunities that digital transformation of education can offer and thrive in the new environment.

Sunday
Jul092017

The future of shopping malls

SHOPPING isn’t what it used to be. Prior to the Internet age, shopping meant going to the mall and buying stuff there. These days, a lot of people, especially the young, buy what they want online.

It makes sense as there are a lot of benefits to shopping online. The range of products is usually larger, the prices lower and items are delivered to your doorstep (often times the delivery is free). What’s there not to like?

It’s not surprising then that shopping malls are facing tough times. This is a situation that’s happening around the world, not just here. Experts say, one antidote to this problem is to position the mall as more of a social destination than merely a place to buy things.

Young people in particular are attracted to places where they can have a fun experience with their friends. They like to post selfies that can go viral on social media and attract lots of comments. Department stores aren’t exactly fertile ground for viral content. Mall management needs to think in terms of what types of experiences would generate the most social media buzz.

You can’t attract millennials through products alone. You have to tempt them with experiences worth sharing on social media. That means better food, entertainment and recreational options — things that they cannot experience online. Then of course, while they’re in the mall, they may just do some shopping.

Some malls in the US are already going heavily into this concept offering recreational amenities such as ice-skating, playgrounds, extreme sports games, yoga classes, exotic food tasting and various other activities that can only be experienced in person.

DIGITALLY-SAVVY MALL

It’s also crucial to enhance and extend the customer experience through digital means. One mall that’s leading the way on that is Mall of America in Minnesota. It’s the biggest shopping mall in the US in terms of number of retail outlets and floor space.

It has big anchor stores such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. But it also has unique feature attractions such as Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor theme park with several roller coaster rides and miniature golf course with 18-holes.

There’s also Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium where customers can travel through a 90-metre tunnel to view up to 4,500 live sea creatures.

A new attraction is FlyOver America which utilises cutting-edge virtual flight ride technology and involves special effects such as wind, scents, mist and moving seats to give the customer a real sensation of flying.

Mall of America is also the most digitally-savvy mall in the world. In 2013, it launched an initiative called ESP, which stands for Enhanced Service Portal, designed to facilitate smooth communication and engagement with guests through digital means but mainly through social media.

ESP is staffed by eight personnel, three of whom are on duty at all times during retail hours. The unit is located next to the mall’s phone operators and security department so that these departments can exchange information seamlessly.

The mall offers customer service through what it calls a “digital concierge”. It has signages all over the mall encouraging customers to ask questions, give feedback or register complaints digitally through text messaging, webchat and social media.

ESP team members respond to requests for information, reports of faulty facilities, complaints on parking and more.

Nothing seems too trivial for the team to respond to. This includes giving suggestions on where to eat and even making reservations for guests if they request it.

If customers are looking for a specific product, the team will check with the relevant store to see if the item is in stock.

Where possible, they can even ask the store to hold onto the item for the customer.

The team receives about 2,500 digital conversations per month and they try to respond to each message within 90 seconds.

They also operate in a digital command centre with several big-screen monitors on the wall which allows them to monitor all incoming communication as well as every mention of the mall on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

The mall has even geared itself up to know when people are posting stuff even if they don’t mention the mall’s name.

They do this through the use of a programme called Geofeedia, which displays on a map where people are inside the mall when they are on social media. A user’s location-based service on their smartphone has to be on in order for this to work. Shoppers can turn that off if they don’t want the mall to see what they’re posting.

While many big corporations these days closely monitor social media channels to respond to customer questions and complaints, Mall of America takes it a step further by proactively initiating conversations even when none is expected.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

Whenever someone mentions Mall of America, ESP team members will engage them in some way. It could be a text reply or it could be a GIF or meme that’s appropriate.

To make the engagement more personalised rather than generic, team members will even take the trouble to quickly go through the person’s social media profile to gain a better understanding of who that person is so that they

can engage with him in a more meaningful way.

When marketing consultant Frederic Gonzalo travelled to Minneapolis to give a keynote speech at the Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEXinMN), he posted a short video from Mall of America on his Instagram feed and was pleasantly surprised to see that the mall had actually responded to his post on the enormity of the mall.

“5.5 million square feet, this @MallofAmerica is huuuuuuge!” Gonzalo posted. Shortly, afterwards, the mall replied: “We quite agree, Frederic! Did you know that 7 Yankee Stadiums can fit inside the Mall?! We’re happy to have you visit for #TBEXinMN!”

If ESP team members notice some customers posting updates that indicate that they’re confused about something, they’ll jump into the conversation and offer some help.

And if someone tweets that they’re celebrating their birthday or anniversary, team members have the discretion to tweet back and surprise them with a gift voucher, movie pass or some other freebies. It’s an effective way to delight the customer.

ESP is also useful for security purposes. In monitoring social media chatter, the team sometimes notices things that require further investigation as well as celebrity appearances which could require some crowd control.

Minor infractions include posts of people smoking in the bathroom. Sometimes people even post pictures of items they’ve shoplifted, not realising that they’re actually giving themselves away.

A couple of years ago, ESP identified participants in a fight that occurred in one of the mall’s stores by analysing Geofeedia data about YouTube posts. The participants were later arrested.

Geofeedia is also useful for identifying celebrities in the mall, including those who don’t actively announce their presence.

The mall often doesn’t know about such visits until pictures by fans start surfacing on social media. That was how the mall discovered that Charlie Watts, the drummer for the Rolling Stones, was on its premises one summer.

It should be said that Mall of America’s ESP together with its digital concierge concept is the gold standard as far as digital transformation of a mall is concerned.

Not every mall owner will want to invest that much money and resources into setting up a digital nervous system for their mall. But they can certainly borrow some of the ideas from Mall of America and perhaps do a smaller scale version of it.

The basic idea is to make a visit to the mall a more experiential activity that goes beyond just shopping and to enhance the customer experience through social media.

The reality is that social media is a part of our everyday life. People are going to post stuff about their daily experiences, including when they’re about to visit a mall, when they’re in the mall and after they’ve left the mall.

With Mall of America, not only has it decided to be part of that conversation but it’s also turning such engagements into a memorable experience for its customers.

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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