Video may have killed the radio star, but it's infused new life into photographers' websites. More and more are using the power of motion to convey their styles, personalities, and mission statement to both current customers and prospective clients. "Video is a powerful medium for photographers to reach beyond showing static images and to provide further context for prospective clients of who they are and what they do," says Matt Bailey, VP of Sales and Design for liveBooks. "People have become more accustomed to dealing with video on the internet; before YouTube, video was around, but it wasn't as ubiquitous as it is now."
liveBooks has taken a few steps to ensure its clients can benefit from the growing popularity of video. All of the company's sites offer the ability to upload video, whether in the form of QuickTime or Windows Media Player files or as files that are similar to video (such as animated slideshows with music). Photographers can also create Flash movies and upload them to their sites.
Toward that end, liveBooks offers a few ways to take advantage of this capability. "We create all sorts of custom video solutions for different needs," says Bailey. "We offer a range of features that are included with a package, but we also offer features that cost a little extra but are personal to an individual."
The company has partnered with a video production company that can produce the video for the photographer if need be. "A photographer may want to really showcase his or her personality or what's unique about them as an individual," says Bailey. "The videographer we've partnered with is excellent at what they do and really brings a lot to the table in making suggestions to steer that project so it's as successful as possible for that photographer."
Luminance is the tag name for liveBooks' partnership with Cinematic Studios, and there are two packages available: The $1,700 package offers an interview-style setup, where the photographer is asked a series of questions or makes his or her own statements, which are then edited together into a video. Then there's the $2,500 on-location version that follows the photographer around and either shows them in a particular environment ("maybe in a coffee shop if they want a folksy, approachable look," says Bailey) or on a shoot where things are happening at a fast, exciting pace, ("if that's how they want to be seen by their market," he adds).
Adding video to your site can have immediate impact. "One of our clients, Emilie Sommer, posts video testimonials, so instead of her in front of the camera, it's her clients giving very convincing testimonials of how amazing she is to work with," explains Bailey. "You can imagine that has a lot of impact when customers are considering a photographer to capture an important time in their life."
Bailey also says that video is a great way to show off their studios or how they work on location. "We also have people who have ongoing video logs and podcasts where they put themselves out there as an expert in the field to produce ongoing video streams on different subjects," he adds.
And for those who might feel they don't have the technical savvy or know-how to get a high-end, polished video live on their site? "You don't have to have an elaborate production--it can be very low--of, guerrilla-style video done with a webcam," says Bailey. "I've seen a lot of cases of very raw, rough videos that have been effective. The nice thing about liveBooks is that you can quickly put a video up and try it out, and ultimately, if you think it's not working, you can take it down. But why not give it a shot and be really creative with it and see what works? Don't let perfectionism get in your way of benefiting from this technology. You can get something up there fast and easily; we and other services out there can help you produce a more polished video down the line."
It would be foolhardy to not at least consider what video can add to your web presence. "If you're the slightest bit uncomfortable with video, that's understandable, since it's a new medium for a lot of us as photographers," says Bailey. "But it's not going anywhere, so you might as well come to terms with it one way or another and start familiarizing yourself with it, whether it means developing a relationship with a videographer or getting comfortable speaking into a camera and developing it on your own. But you should start leveraging the technology to your benefit."
What's unique about liveBooks is that it does incorporate opportunities for photographers to use video in a number of ways. What I found wonderful when I did my site was being able to do a video interview. That three-minute piece is right up front; you can click on it as sort of a mission statement. There's a lot of philosophy and personal passion behind the work I do, and this is a wonderful forum in which to explain not only my photography, but why I do it and my influences. You have to do anything in your power to keep them on your site and not bounce off to the American Idol site or ESPN.com. These video interviews let you get a little traction on the audience and stall them for a few moments..
I also like the ability, since I work in the film medium, to have a few examples that you can click on and play in QuickTime. It gives the audience a bit more depth into the type of work I do in video, which is a combination of still and motion together. Movement and stillness have a point of contact, and I'm fascinated in playing with that point of contact.
The liveBooks site is fast and interactive in the sense that people can go to multiple videos and multiple portfolios. It's clean and well-designed and speaks to multiple kinds of clients I might have. I might have a fine-art gallery come in, I might have a museum come to visit; I might have someone interested in hiring me as an editorial photographer. I try to address all these different slices of the pie.
Video and photography is converging right now: The technology between video and still imagery is becoming the same; still cams are shooting more frames per second and bigger files, and video is doing the same. We're already seeing cameras on the market that are basically digital capture devices; you'll see less and less specifying between still camera and motion cameras. As those two technologies converge, you'll see more photographers using video with the intention of just pulling stills, so liveBooks' flexibility can be really important.
I have a bunch of video on my site, integrated in a bunch of ways. I've got six full-time folks on staff who all have video profiles. I just got back from scouting on location for a campaign, and the producer walked in and said, "I know everyone in here, I've seen all your videos online!" Everyone on staff has their own personalities and are experts at what they do, so it's an opportunity to make clients more comfortable.
I'm also interested in video because I've done a good bit of directing and have a social artist's interest in getting people together in online communities. I've got a director's reel up on the site. There are a lot of folks who want synergy between a still campaign and motion campaign, so I'll get hired to direct the motion. They like to see the photographer's portfolio and also a reel for a director, so we keep that there.
The dashboard is pretty elegant. We've got a pool of images that are on the liveBooks server; every time we want to make them live, we literally just drag and drop them onto the viewable portfolio. I swore when we first started that that wouldn't be something I'd employ, yet increasingly we're dragging and dropping based on who we know is going to be using our site or what art directors will be viewing it or if we're prepping it for a client meeting. It's given me a flexibility I hadn't planned on. It's a nice tool to have in my back pocket.
We've been able to intertwine the blog section of the site (www.chasejarvis.com/blog) seamlessly--people don't know they've left one server and gone to another. The customization makes my brand really unique, but getting something that's more generic lets you get something up there fast and easy. Flexibility in this marketplace is pretty important, from what you're going to show clients on your portfolio to how you want your brand to look. The customization is key.