As a photographer who is always looking to grow and learn, I relish the behind-the-scenes resources produced by those artists and professionals that I admire. There is so much to pick up online, from technical know-how, to creative inspiration, to simply getting to know the personalities behind the cameras and what they bring to their craft.
But when should we, as professionals, consider the value of producing behind-the-scenes content ourselves? Could it build your brand and reach your client base in a new way? Is tweeting an occasional #BTS pic enough? Is there an untapped value in video?
Toronto-based commercial portrait photographer Shayne Gray is one that strikes a balance well. He gives his clients and followers a healthy dose of his personality through stylish behind-the-scenes photos and entertaining video posts. I hope you are as inspired by his work AND his efforts to share the process of his work as I am.
Your style has a uniquely fantastical quality to it… How do YOU describe your style, and what do you bring to your photography sessions that makes your work unique?
Of course I’m going for originality, which is always the challenge. People who come to me sometimes say they didn’t know they wanted what I offer until they saw it. That to me is the greatest compliment… I know I can work comfortably in my own style without worrying they’re not going be happy with the final result. But the biggest secret is this: I LOVE all things ridiculous! I know I have to deliver serious work sometimes, of course, but just about everybody who ends up working with me ends up getting silly with me on some level and I think that influences the whole shoot.
How did you get started in photography, and how did the decision to dive into video work evolve for you?
I’ve been into photography since high school when I started taking formal classes, although I’ve always really been interested in it. I stepped away from it for a while but after coming back, the online community was very encouraging and eventually, I quit my job to jump into photography full-time. Early on I started volunteering on independent film productions around Toronto to learn and network. In my own personal work I don’t consider myself a videographer, although I find it liberating at the same time!
The idea is to produce extra content to support my photography. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself about it, but there have been some big advantages that have come out of it.
One big one is visibility; YouTube has become the 2nd largest search engine in the world and people interact with video content who might otherwise not interact with stills. In fact, I released my Red Dress Twirl, which got good response, but after I released a short video on vimeo, I was asked to write an article on it for Retouching Academy. It’s also worth considering that some bigger publications have started to make behind the scenes content mandatory, so I think all photographers should at least consider creating some extra content.
Have you found that creating these behind-the-scenes pieces adds to the creativity you bring to a session, or impacts your approach to your work?
The first bts video I ever shot was a short time lapse I made with a 2nd camera set up off to the side. It turned out to be a lot of fun because we were all doing silly and ridiculous things we knew would look funny once it was put together. We were still concentrated on getting the best possible still images we could, of course, but it added a really fun element of the shoot. To be honest, it’s been otherwise very last minute planning to add video content until very recently. Now, I see the value in it and the goal is to practice, learn and get better at it, and it turns out you can get started fairly easily!
How has your client base responded to the videos that have resulted from your sessions?
The response has been extremely positive! It shifts the focus from my work to promoting the interesting and amazing people I get to work with, but also has the side benefit of advertising me as a photographer at the same time – win, win. I recently put out a video on the process of resin coating because people are curious when they see it or when I describe it. People always want to know more about it. It’s much easier to show than to tell of course and I got a couple of orders the same day the video was released, so it seems to have some positive effects on someone out there.
Do you plan to continue producing behind-the-scenes videos?
I absolutely plan on continuing – I’m just finishing a video now that will go on my About page. If people can see you in live animation, it gives a much more complete picture of who you are and what a shoot with you might be like.
I would much prefer to make a quick video than to write that dreaded “about” section.
I’ll have to let you know if it fulfills its intended purpose after it’s been on my site for a while, but I’m optimistic in the meantime.
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What might you encourage other photographers to consider as to the value of video in complementing their work and sharing their personality with their audience?
Your clients can’t hire you if they don’t know you exist! The extra visibility is important and the fact that not everyone is doing it means that you have the advantage if you are leveraging extra video content. It turns out that it’s not so scary: it’s easy to start off small and build from there. Get involved with others locally who need extra hands and connect with others online.
Finally… gear. What setup do you find yourself using most, and do you have any surprising or favorite tools?
You can get some surprisingly good jib shots using two legs of a tripod! I have a couple of rubber jar openers that I used in the beginning for a smooth rack focus shot. Use a rubber band to smooth out motion on your tripod head if you don’t have a fluid head for a clean pan shot. A slider is a nice piece of gear to add movement and doesn’t have to break the bank. I have a music background, so I was lucky to have some good mics and audio gear already. Audio doesn’t have to be a part of every production, but when it is, I always record separate audio. Those Zoom recorders are great and very small. There are even decent LAV mics that will record directly into your iPhone, so it’s getting easier all the time. For anything else I need or want to experiment with, I rent.
CREDITS: All photographs by Shayne Gray Photography are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.