Multimedia Obsession | Marketing

In 2016, I gave up on being fully self employed. Ten years was a good run but the need for stable income and cheaper health insurance outweighed my desire to be free in all my creative choices. Turns out I thrive in a controlled work situation, especially one that lets me slowly push things in directions I want to go.

On one of my first assignments I was already thinking of how to create multimedia for the university. For my personal work, I had been recording audio with a bracket and microphone attached to my camera, so I brought that along while I went with our PR people to cover move in day. They asked questions and I photographed like I normally do. I made a couple of quick vignettes that I thought were interesting and presented these rough versions to see if we wanted to start working on more polished versions in the future.

Here are a couple of my rough sketch ideas:

Although the university didn’t think these quick vignettes were strategically worth pursuing, I got a chance pretty quickly after my first week on the job to attempt multimedia again. This time on their student storytelling project. The project had consisted of sit down interviews with students and portraits of them against a white background. Those two things were combined onto a news page. I asked if the people doing the interviews could mic up the students during the interview, and that I would be allowed to go photograph the student for thirty or so minutes doing something besides being on a white background. They agreed, and I produced a handful of Student Storytelling multimedia pieces with even more tight constraints than I produced my personal pieces, since this was above and beyond my actual job as staff photographer.

I enjoyed making these pieces and students seemed to enjoy being in them. I received a lot of positive feedback on them and was excited to keep making them. Unfortunately they seemed to not fit the marketing direction that the university wanted to pursue.

In hindsight, they were right when you look at the message they wanted to project. Pure honesty and students admitting that the university wasn’t their first choice, or students on campus struggling with addiction, might not be the best way to introduce potential students to the university. The next year we decided to move storytelling to a full video base instead of multimedia and to make the films a bit more upbeat. This year we decided to skip films in general. Not because they were not performing well (both the multimedia and the straight video films were a hit), but because I’m a one man shop at the university and there wasn’t enough time in the day.

It was at this time that the idea of using my films for marketing instead of for personal or documentary storytelling actually sunk in. I had seen it used before for marketing, but never thought my own work would be used that way, even after I started working for a marketing department, even after I had created a series of promo multimedia films for photographers just the year before. I hadn’t even considered those ‘my films’, but instead the films of the clients that I was just editing together. The Student Storytelling project and my staff photographer position reset how I thought about my work.

Multimedia not just a documentary but a viable marketing solution.

Here is an example of a commercial built with just still images and audio (not my work obviously but a great example):

As I mentioned, I had created a series of marketing multimedia videos for photographers in late 2015 and 2016, before student storytelling opened my eyes to the implication of what I had started to do with these films. Here are examples of those films:

I interviewed the photographers and then used their images to put together the films. These photographers used the films on their websites, most under their “about us” page, which in my head raised two main questions.

  1. How do you make films that are easy to share and usable more than once?

  2. How do you make them at a rate that won’t break your bank?

The answer to number 2 is simple when I look at photographers. You make them yourself with simple tools and the images you are already using. All the videos above could have been made by the photographer with just a bit of training.

The answer to number 1 is a bit harder but essentially, you make them shorter and more direct so that they don’t require peoples attention to be held for multiple minutes. When my last two clients asked me to create a big video for them, I sold them on creating a bunch of smaller videos for the same price.

Here is a multimedia piece I created, one in a series of seven. The photographer was then able to keep sharing over a greater length of time on social media than if she would have only had one video to share.

I believe in multimedia as a marketing tool that can be used by photographers to promote themselves, but I also believe that photographers can use it to make films for their clients.

When making website images for a local law firm, I was able to charge a bit more and make them an about us film with only a few extra steps on a day that I was set to be there for hours anyway.

Most recently, my colleague Tyler Wirken has also taken up the idea of making his own multimedia films for commercial clients. His piece he created for a local car dealership really sums up what it feels like to work for and shop at that company.

I mention Tyler’s film because Tyler has been on this multimedia journey with me for many years. He has been one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to it. Seeing him produce a piece on his own with only mentorship from myself makes me proud.

I also mention him because my next and last multimedia obsession post is about our work together at Camp Wirkshop, a camp-based workshop where I help train people about how adding a multimedia aspect to their photography can be beneficial in many ways.


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Four. Next week I’ll talk about my continued obsession with training and how that manifests at Camp Wirkshop.


Speaking of Camp Wirkshop, if you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell better stories for your clients in any field. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!

Multimedia Obsession | Storytelling

In 2012, I received a phone call from an old friend of mine. He had seen some of my video documentary work and wanted to know if I was interested in making a documentary about a man transitioning to be a woman. I was curious about this documentary adventure, so I said “sure, who”, and he said “me”.

I had known him since middle school and although I didn’t object to the news, I had trouble processing it, so I decided I was too close to the subject to make a documentary myself. A few days later, I was talking to Tyler about It and he said he would be interested in taking up the work as a photo essay. After a few sessions with Maddy(formerly Matt), Tyler and I decided to interview her and make a multimedia piece about her. That is how my first successful photo dominant multimedia documentary came to be.

The following film was photographed by Tyler Wirken. I produced and edited the piece, with both of us conducting the interview.

Madelyn’s piece is about wanting to live as your fully realized self. By making the film and forcing myself to listen to my long time friend as Madelyn instead of Matt, I realized that they have always been the same person. Our societal gender norms had forced her to not be honest to herself, which nearly drove her to suicide. It solidified my commitment to creating a safe space around myself and supporting truth and love above all things.

This film also solidified my belief that the still imagery is a very powerful tool. The still image forces you to linger on the subject while listening to their story. It forces you to confront them, and see them more fully than motion does. It also forces the photographer and multimedia artist to understand their intention and be purposeful in all the things they are doing.

Another source of inspiration for me at that time was the New York Times series One in 8 million. It really hammered home my love of stories about everyday people being unique in every way.

It was with the understanding from Maddy and from the One in 8 Million series that my short lived personal project A Kansas City Story was born. I already wrote about my first subject, Keenan. You can read about it and watch the video here. Here is another one from the project: Mikey.

A Kansas City Story had personally set limitations. I called it in my head the 5x5 challenge. Five hours to photograph and five hours to edit. I admit I cheated a bit on some of them but mostly I stuck to that challenge. I loved this project. If time allowed I’d make one every week. The formula is simple. I find someone, anyone, document their lives, do a quick interview and edit it together.

My love for it and how quickly I could put them together made me want to show others how to do it. I felt strongly pulled to teaching. Thus my first multimedia workshop was born. I called it the Untold Multimedia Workshop because we were doing a bit of work under that branding at the time. Here is a film from that workshop by Katrina Hannemann. It ended up being included in my KC story collection.

The struggle that happens within the confines of a workshop puts a spotlight not only on what the student needs to learn, but also highlights what the instructor needs to learn. In the case of this workshop and the workshops I’ve taught since, it has further solidified my belief in celebrating everyone in my work. That celebratory attitude continues, even after I had to get a full time job. Which is the subject of my next post!


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Three. Next week I’ll talk about getting a full time photography job and how that has informed and inspired more multimedia work.


If you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell better stories for your clients in any field. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!

Multimedia Obsession | Weddings

My personal exploration into creating multimedia work started in weddings. In 2008, I began to carry audio recorders with me to all my events. The first one was the Zoom H2, but later I started using a Zoom H1 as well as other Zoom product. It was easy to carry them in my pocket and drop them down in front a PA system, or wire them into a audio board output of a band or DJ. Over time, I even developed a very small cable kit that could support xlr, 3.5, RCA and quarter jacks without having to carry a huge bag.

Zoom Recorders I’ve known and loved.

Zoom Recorders I’ve known and loved.

I used that random audio to create multimedia films for clients.

I’ll be honest, multimedia weddings are hard. The biggest hardship of creating any piece about a wedding beyond photos is the lack of a compelling narrative audio to tie it together. You can capture all the audio you want, but vows and standard speeches won’t make a piece awesome. Pure video can shift your focus from these flaws by keeping your mind distracted with motion. When creating photo dominant multimedia, the lack of a narrative becomes even more obvious. Lackluster imagery can exaggerate that concept and run the risk of becoming just ‘a slideshow with audio’, and not something you can proudly call a multimedia film.

Here is a clip from what I’d call my first successful wedding multimedia film, which closely bordered just a slideshow with images, but the clients loved it, and in the end that is what matters. If the vows would have been less powerful this would most likely have ended up being thirty seconds in the final long film, not 3 minutes. A short wedding film of this could have had these vows as the narrative bed.

Photography by Nicole and Brandon Parigo. Created with Canon cameras and one Zoom h2 in the grass next to the speaker.

Before weddings, my background was in commercial video production. I hadn’t really offered wedding video because I felt that the cameras were not up to capturing weddings like I wanted them to be. They were big bulky things that stood out like sore thumbs and delivered undesirable footage. Then, in 2009, a revolution happened; Canon released the 5d Mark 2. A full framed DSLR camera that captured video that looked pretty dang close to how the still images looked, thanks to the large sensor and control over depth of field. I saw a gap in my market for high quality but small footprint wedding film making, so I switched full time to wedding films instead of photography. I still felt like I needed to work on my multimedia practice, I just wanted someone else to capture the images so I could focus on video, audio and production.

I partnered with Tyler Wirken of Wirken Photography in order to make that vision happen. For most of my work during this time period, Tyler became the prominent photographer and I captured the video and audio elements as well as full control on editing and producing the works. Tyler would step in and capture some video footage at times where two of us would have been awkward (backs of cars late at night, for example).

Here is an example of the multimedia I was producing for weddings at the time:

While this piece stands up really well as a wedding film, it is a rare gem. For every piece I created that flows this well I created a handful more that felt more typical. It was essentially based on how much access the client would give us, and how much care they went into making their wedding personal.

I began to feel burned out on the idea of multimedia at weddings, which I now know is because I was burned out on weddings. That chance of getting something awesome was not frequent enough to support my goals. The wedding industry itself fights against my goals when I cover a wedding. I had to find another way to tell stories using multimedia that made me feel like my work mattered, and could produce something beyond what I was producing for my clients.

Images sometimes lose impact the further down the field of time they travel, and the wedding videos that are most popular seem to be lacking anything other than to make the bride and groom look pretty. I decided to take the multimedia concept into the documentary film world in order to address those issues. I wanted to make films that explained exactly what the wedding day meant, even to people who were not there. I wanted them to feel what it was like and not be hindered by one medium, so I choose multimedia instead of pure video.

Here is Megan and Adams film, it runs nearly 30 minutes. I would call it my first successful long form multimedia documentary film:

Since then, I’ve made numerous long form wedding documentary films, both multimedia and standard video. My short form wedding documentary multimedia work fell by the wayside pretty fast after I switched to doing more long form works. Using post wedding interviews, photos, video and audio from the day seemed to bring everything together in a nice clean way.

Yet, it didn’t satisfy my itch for multimedia. I started looking for alternative expressions of my art and multimedia practice. That is the subject for next week.


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Two. Next week I’ll talk about the development of personal multimedia stories, inspiration for them and the start of my love of teaching.


If you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell stories for your clients better in any single media. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!

Multimedia Obsession | A History

This is the first in a multi part series about my obsession and long history with Multimedia in my work. In this section we will explore the history of multimeda as it relates to how I became obsessed with it.

An internet search on Google.com references multimedia as:

adjective

adjective: multimedia; adjective: multi-media

  1. 1.

    (of art, education, etc.) using more than one medium of expression or communication.

    "a multimedia art form"

    • (of computer applications) incorporating audio and video, especially interactively.

noun

noun: multimedia; noun: multi-media

  1. 1.

    the use of a variety of artistic or communicative media.

Which means that by default this post is a multimedia post, but today we will be talking about the use of Still Photography, Motion Photography and Audio to tell stories. When I say multimedia I am referring to a video that is photo dominant. A video using audio to enhance the photography.

I believe that it is in every ones best interest to understand how still and motion photography intersect with audio, and how that audio can be created and used to further the story. This is double true for people who create fiction, journalists, or even family and wedding media creators. It is by knowing all the tools available that we empower ourselves to own our own narrative, or empower our clients to own theirs.

The first time I remember being aware of this type of work is the film La Jetée, a 1962 French science fiction film by Chris Marker. I watched it in film school, but because I was in motion picture school, I quickly forgot about it as we did no work that even resembled it. Somehow it lodged in my mind and every so often my thoughts would drift back to it. Here is a scene from it.

I know that La Jetée wasn’t the first time I had encountered it’s use. After all in 1990 Ken Burn’s released The Civil War. I remember being riveted to it, but it was only after I started to fall in love with stills + audio format that I realized that it may have started me down the path way before 2002. Here is a large series of films that were 90% still images with voice over and interviews dropped in to tell the story. It was so successful as a multimedia film that the Ken Burns Effect is built into every iMovie version sold. While watching Ken Burn’s The Civil War as an early teen was probably the first time I thought photojournalism as well.

In 2003, I graduated from film school and went to work in the commercial video industry. Let’s just say the commercial video industry did not spark joy for me so on the search went. In 2005, I slowly began to fall in love with the still image. At the time, for me, there was something that felt more intense about still images; something intrinsically more intimate than the commercial video work I had been doing. I’m by instinct not a sales person. In 2007, I was introduced to a company named MediaStorm. At the time, MediaStorm worked with high profile photographers to produce videos that further enhanced their photography by allowing the stories to unfold a bit more than could be explained in just a still, or even a book of photographs. I followed them for years, used them as inspiration, even attended a workshop at their offices in Brooklyn.

An example of their work: a preview for Danny Wilcox Fraziers Driftless.

Go to Mediastorm.com and watch anything pre-2009 and you can get a sense of what inspired my multimedia obsession. All the newer work is great as well, even though it tends to be more video dominant.

There are numerous smaller examples of multimedia that has influenced me over the years but I think that about sums up the most influential. When I think of multimedia the works above still pop into my head, even if they are over shadowed by newer work from time to time.


That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part One. Next week I’ll be posting more about my personal journey down the multimedia road.


If you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell stories for your clients better in any single media. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.

Find out more information here by visiting the Camp Wirkshop website. Watch more films, see the schedule for the week and sign up!

Scavenger Hunt

My wife bought our eldest daughter a photography workbook. Go Photo! produced by the Aperture Foundation is pretty much the best book for kids on photography I have seen. The first few pages of tips and tricks are things that most photographers should internalize immediately, but sadly a lot of us don’t or we forget to keep them in mind.

I thought I’d take a moment to share with you the images from our Dad and Daughter photo scavenger hunt that we did, prompted by the book. We did them in about thirty minutes so they are not the most skilled of images. I was using the Fujifilm XT20 and my daughter was using a Canon Powershot ELPH 360 (in purple of course).

I’m going to post the photos side by side, her’s and mine, but not in any order. Each set is a theme determined by the book. I’m not going to list the theme. Get the book or try to guess what the theme is on your own!

If you have kids I highly recommend this. Seeing how our minds work differently and together was one of the highlights of my January. Watching my daughter use a camera is always amazing. I can’t wait to see if she grows more into it as an art form.

My daughter capturing a hi-five shot with her self timer to celebrate our completion.

My daughter capturing a hi-five shot with her self timer to celebrate our completion.

Fujifilm XT20

I’ve been obsessed for years with having a camera I could carry with me at all times. My normal cameras are too big. For awhile I carried a Canon 6D with a pancake 40mm 2.8 on it, but I kept finding myself leaving it behind because it was still too big. A couple of years ago, I purchased a Fuji X100T and it had the size and image look I wanted, but the controls were dismal. I found myself using my phone instead, because I have my iPhone rigged up for quick and easy control. I sold the Fuji X100T and just adopted my iPhone.

This year I revisited this idea of having an everyday walk around camera. I fussed about it for a while. I wanted a camera that was light enough to would allow me to forget it was on my shoulder. I wanted a camera that could shoot jpgs that were super close to what I wanted from my final images. I wanted a camera that could connect to my phone for easy sharing. I needed it to be able to have a profession application in some capacity. I think YouTube was worn out from all the videos I watched. Every website on the planet served me ads for new cameras. My mind was numb from the search. Then I found the Fuji XT20.

Fuji XT20 as imaged with a iPhone 8 plus

Fuji XT20 as imaged with a iPhone 8 plus

This almost didn’t happen. I’m a Canon user. I have a whole series of digital Canon cameras. The main runner up camera was the Canon EOS M50, until I found a local Best Buy that had all the cameras on display and I found my hands worked the Fuji XT20 better. It had a very Canon-like dial arrangement that wasn’t even present on the EOS M50. That feature alone was worth the price difference.

A selection of Canon DSLR cameras imaged with a FUJI XT20

A selection of Canon DSLR cameras imaged with a FUJI XT20

I’ve carried the Fuji XT20 with me everywhere for about a month now. It excels as a camera to always have near for family documentary work. Here are some images made in the first days of having it. These are either edited in camera or not edited at all, straight jpg from the camera. Mostly likely they were all using the kit lens on the camera, the 16-50mm 3.5to5.6 but I may have used a manual lens as well.

The camera was easy to program and figure out. It had a slight learning curve over the cleaner menu designs of the Canon cameras, but nothing too troubling. The dials on the front and back are programmable, and made it simple to make my mind understand how to use it. My only immediate concern was the low light performance out of the box. I felt hindered by the kit lens and a perception of noise in the images when I went above 1600 ISO. I’m not as concerned about that noise now after using the camera and comparing it the Canon 6D Mk2 that I use for work. While the 6D Mk2 had less noise, the noise it did have was less pleasing. The noise structure of the Fuji reminds me a lot of the noise in the original Canon 5D, which always felt right. Adding something to an image rather than taking it away.

The Fuji XT20 is like a compact professional camera. It has done just about everything I’ve asked it to, one of the first things was to test out using it as a portrait camera. Again I was held back by my limited lens selection but I think it did well on capturing my family over the holidays.

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When I first picked it up I was shooting RAW + JPG and it burned through cards. A raw file is about 50MB, and the JPG another 13 or so. I shoot a lot, so that added up quick. I loved the look of JPGs created using the camera but I want raw flexibility in case I need to do some heavy lifting on the images. Then I stumbled on the in camera raw conversion. Now my workflow is to shoot RAW with the Film Simulation set to what I think I want (I mostly like Black and White). Then I edit in camera only the ones I want to share, export them as JPG, share to my phone and then share to the world. When I backup the card to the computer, I keep them all but the JPGs are right there ready for me to keep close to the heart.

The camera immediately started doing it’s job of giving me opportunity to explore concepts and emotions with images on a daily basis. Images I might not make if I had to set them up, or if my iPhone wouldn’t have been able to render them the way I wanted. Images I might not show except maybe once on instagram, but images like that are needed to build your art and explore your practice. Anything that inspires you to explore is worth it’s weight in gold.

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So far, I have used the camera in light rain, snow and really cold weather and it hasn’t dropped a beat. That’s to be expected for a higher end consumer camera. I don’t plan on dropping it in water or freezing it in the freezer, as the camera isn’t considered weather resistant.

Two of these images were created by Nicole Parigo. The ones with me in them.

Two of these images were created by Nicole Parigo. The ones with me in them.

The Fujifilm XT20 fits everything I wanted from a camera for personal use. I’m still not sure if it is what I need for any professional use (it wasn’t designed for that but it could be a gateway drug to other Fuji cameras). I took it out on a few photography assignments. It performs well on anything slow paced that doesn’t require a larger sensor. I haven’t been able to figure out a flow with it and my mind in order to make high speed stuff work yet. Maybe my hands are too big to focus or adjust the controls quick enough. Maybe I don’t understand why sometimes a menu will pop up and sometimes it won’t. Maybe having to drag my shutter too much to compensate for the horrible f stop on the kit lens is causing me grief. I’ll figure it out soon, and if I can make it work, then I might just debate switching to Fuji more often, or at least investing in more lenses.

These images are from a UMKC basketball game I shot on January 24th 2019.

UMKC ATH Men's Basketball vs UVU-3.jpg

All of the images in this post except for the image of the Fuji XT20 were created with the Fujifilm XT20. The kit lens being a 16-50mm 3.5-5.6. I also used a 7artisans 25mm 1.8 manual lens for a lot of the work you see here. I really like that lens. Just like using the Fuji, the manual lens throws me back to a simpler time. I find it interesting that when using it I don’t seem to care if my focus is slightly off, but when I switch to an autofocus lens I’m hyper critical of that.

Most the images in this post are straight out of the camera, or converted from raw inside the camera. The basketball coverage was edited in Adobe Color within Lightroom to match my other cameras. I haven’t had a chance to run a lot of video on it, but since most my side jobs are video work, you bet that’ll be in the cards soon!

If you are thinking of buying a personal walk around camera that has many of the features of a professional camera, you can’t really go wrong with this little beauty. If you get a smaller lens on it (like the 7artisans 25mm), it’s a knock out!

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