We spend an awful lot of time discussing the finer points of photographic equipment and learning how to wield it. But if you’re a hustler that’s really, actually, going for the gusto, you know that mastering the technical side is the start. That’s skill, and skill is cheap. It’s a rather old adage but perhaps never more true than now, and tomorrow.
Digital photography has leveled the learning playing field so you can, if you really want, learn the technical side at breakneck speed. So if we understand this and assume this is general knowledge, then we know other hustlers are out there who are quickly nailing it. So then it’s what you’ve got to say and how you say it that matters most. Creativity is the new currency.
Modern audiences are also more sophisticated and can know creative quality when they see it, and therefore they expect it. This may lead you to think that you have to just offer more and more and more in one go, and that’s understandable, but there’s a lot to be said for specializing, and being able to clearly define a message. What I’m getting at is the truly media-saturated world we live in causes us to dismiss things quickly, as that mental fatigue sets in from the bombardment. Thus, catching attention is possibly more difficult, and when you’ve got it, you may not have it for long, so you’ve got to make it count.
Make no mistake, your job as a photographer is to convey something, or evoke something, and if you want to get noticed, it sort of has to be something that is recognizable quickly. We can learn a lot from Andy Baker, SVP/Group Creative Director at the National Geographic Channels, who shares advice about telling stories in 30 seconds.
Andy is speaking more in reference to commercial spots where they’ve got to tell about a show or something in 10-30 seconds, but a lot of the advice is easily relatable to photography. He speaks about things like not trying to do too much in too short a time, trying to fit in every message into one spot. I see something similar in much photography work, but instead of a spot, it’s a frame, or maybe a series. If you’re vying for attention, you have to capture it first before you exploit it, which generally means having a hook, something you’re known for that comes across quickly. It may not be the only gun you’ve got, but it’s the one worth firing.
You’ve got to know what the differentiator is, what sets you apart, and what is going to be what they haven’t seen. Of course, everything under the sun has been done, essentially, but the core point here is to make sure your message, or the feeling you want to evoke (whether it’s wonder, lust, pain, etcetera), comes across quickly. It doesn’t have to be deep, but should be clear. Frankly, a 10-second video is 10 seconds but you may have 1 or 2 seconds from your viewer for a single frame.