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