Are Followers Replacing Professional Talent in Advertising?

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 Those who enjoy talking about the Digital Disruption or Digital Divide will encounter a fine material and food for thought is this post. I decided to wait a bit after the original hoopla was already gone, regarding this amazing situation, and here’s a brief description of it all:

Earlier this year, (probably late last year), the well known fashion firm Burberry was getting ready to prepare their Spring worldwide  photographic campaign. Traditionally, the most sought-after shooters are called to send their estimates for such a juicy and interesting project, since the visuals will certainly define trends in both imaging and marketing for the year.

Now, the marketing team in charge of the Burberry account came out with what they think is a genius idea, and basically, the decided to make a move that caused a lot of frustration and anger in the market, as the selection of the photographer bypassed any professional or aesthetical consideration, and the agency decided to put 16 years old Brooklyn Beckham, the son of the ultra famous Victoria and David Beckham, in charge of the campaign. 

The reason for this choice was that the kid has shown some ability taking pictures in his iPhone, specially selfies, and 35 mm DSLR cameras PLUS the huge list of 6.5 million followers he has in Instagram, not to mention the additional “back up” and support of two powerful brands, the parents, and their own followers!

The strategy behind this idea is that Burberry considered that they wanted to knock doors on an already captive 6.5 million kids/consumers who are watching whatever Brooklyn publishes in his Instagram account, and if you take a look, you will find tons of selfies during his vacations, some portraits, little birds, friends, etc, etc, this is, what a 16 years old kid does with his instagram. Simple! If you locate the behind the scenes images at the Burberry Instagram account (@burberry), you may see the kid was handed a medium format camera, and it is sad to notice how he does not even know how to grab such a camera, but that did not matter, as long as someone took some pics of Brooklyn (in his iPhone, of course) “taking some shots for the campaign” with the MF camera….

Needless to say, young Brooklyn has no knowledge whatsoever on lighting, production, has never before done a fashion shooting, etc,etc, but the agency took good care of all this, by providing the best Art Directors, Fashion Stylists, Models, Assistants and Production Crew money can buy, so this kid could come up with what amounts to good photos (what in the industry is called good enough images). As a matter of fact, we have previously seen this situation has happened before, when talent like Steven Meisel and Annie Leibovitz, who don’t know anything about artificial lighting, are always working with the best lighting assistants around, but at the every least, these guys are super talented and brilliant, genius creators, and have actually committed a lifetime to their work as photographers!!

So, the question here is, are we seeing a starting trend where  Instagram followers are going to replace talent for some type of campaigns?? 

Granted, Brooklyn Beckham, there is only one, but there are tons of sons of equally famous celebrities and millionaires and billionaires around, and you can read in the links at the end how photographers did not take this in a good manner. Those of us who are working our asses to build a presence and name in order to arrive to those levels when you are called to shoot some of those amazing clients, feel a good deal of frustration.Once again, granted, the most vocal complainers when the news came out, were shooters with the smaller number of instagram followers, although their portfolios are just the top of the line….

Months have passed, and If you check today Brooklyn’s Instagram account, you will find, again, new, regular selfies and simple images shot by a teenager, and the number of followers just keeps growing. Maybe there are some purchased followers (as most everyone seem to do in this time and era), but much certainly, the advertising and marketing geniuses see more value in those potential consumers than in the image-making creative process, involving true creators,  which could drive both the sales and the brand up.

On a personal note, I think this is but one more attempt from the Advertising market to visualize millennials barely as “top consumers”, and nothing else, using one of them to reinforce the concept.

Thanks!

About the author: Jorge Parra is a Fashion and Advertising Photographer, based in Miami, who, among other things, is looking after getting his first (not purchased) million followers in Instagram.

You can see my work at my website at www.JorgeParra.com, but first and foremost, pls do not forget to start  following  me in my Instagram account, @jorgeparraphotographyjust in case…

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Suggested Links:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/30/sheer-nepotism-brooklyn-beckham-burberry-shoot-angers-photographers

David Beckham’s Son Just Shot a Burberry Campaign, and Photographers Are Pissed

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Success Strategies for Photographers in Linkedin

c8b66-combolinkedinlogo   I had previously posted a whole set of tips and suggestions on how to successfully use Linkedin as a professional networking channel, taking advantage of the fact, that, contrary to FaceBook and other channels, Linkedin gathers a huge percentage of professionals from all areas and fields of human performance. This characteristic makes Linkedin a potentially useful platform to build up new business relationships and strategic alliances, which can help on the profitability of your own business.

Thing is, Success is, from my point of view, more of a process than a goal. It can be easily proven that, once a goal is achieved, in any aspect of our lives, the mind already has yet another new goal to achieve, and on and on, indefinitely,  so it makes sense to focus more on the process to achieve success than in the goals themselves. Improving the process will facilitate achieving new goals.

The well known formula: [Garbage In = Garbage Out] applies wonderfully to Linkedin and every other platform and channel you intend to use for marketing and promotional purposes.

Basically, if you do not commit to provide useful, appealing content, a well groomed profile and stay active on the process of updating all your info on Linkedin, and participate in Groups, you can not expect better results than the ones you have today. Too many Photographers believe that they just need to create a profile, as brief as possible, and sit and wait for a torrential rain of new clients and projects to pour on them. Then the complaints about Linkedin not being useful as an instant cash cow pop out in every forum.

I can not emphasize enough how critical it is to prepare a very effective Profile about yourself in Linkedin. Almost everything is relevant!! From your education to the causes and organizations you donate time and resources to, to the historical career path which has led you to who and how and where you are today, everything counts, if posted properly.

Just recently, the Linkedin Blog published the 10 words people OVERUSE the most in Linkedin in their Profiles, and therefore, have been rendered technically useless for self-promotion, specially if you want to differentiate yourself properly, so your Linkedin Profile should avoid the following:

Ten most overused Profile buzzwords:

• Motivated
• Passionate
• Creative
• Driven
• Extensive experience
• Responsible
• Strategic
• Track record
• Organizational
• Expert

Sounds familiar?? How many of these are right now in your Profile?

To make this brief, consider this: if  by any chance you actually are NOT motivated passionate, creative, responsible, etc,etc, then you are not  a good profesional anyways, and again, if you are all of the above, a cool Pro, make no mistake:  every other Pro who is your actual competition, claims to be exactly the same cool Pro!

So, use your motivation, passion, creativity and experience to build up a better profile, avoiding most of the words above!!!

The matter of connecting with potential clients stays the same: One of the most useful decisions is joining Linkedin Groups, BUT, do not join a dozen of photographer’s groups, since basically none of them will need your services!! Of course, it makes sense to be in touch with the photographer’s community, so being in a couple of those groups is healthy to stay in touch with changes in the industry, etc, so, do not discard all of those, but know in advance those do not offer lots of marketing opportunities. For the same reason, Retouchers, Educators, Assistants, Coaches and Consultants  need to be in photographer’s groups, since they  can become their clients.

Think exactly in the same way, to decide what groups you should consider joining. You have to be in places where your potential clients  also roam. If you are interested in architectural clients, join architect’s groups, same for Corporate, same for Fashion, same for Advertising  etc,etc.

Participation in those groups will streamline the process of connecting with people who might become your future clients or strategic allies. It is also important to note that potential clients, prospects, may not necessarily react instantly to your profile and activity.They may bookmark your profile and will check it out for changes/updates in time, and might consider you for a project later on, when their need for your type of work arises. Months may pass by before this happens. Be patient!!

This is solid proof that success in Linkedin is a process, as you can not measure your success by what you have already achieved, but for what is coming ahead.

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About the Author: Jorge Parra shoots Fashion, Beauty and Portrait Photography for Advertising. 

You can check on Jorge’s Linkedin Profile right here.

Also, you can check some of his visual work on his recently updated website

The Digital (and Conceptual) Crossover in the Visual Arts

ChemoDigital image by Jorge Parra Photography
©Jorge Parra

This discussion comes out of a real aha! moment, after attending the presentation of Howard Herring, President and CEO of the New World Symphony America’s Orchestral Academy , during one of the fantastic Creative Mornings Miami events, under the efficient leadership of Maliks Benjamin

I have previously started a discussion on the impact of digital technologies in the way we do business, and it’s implications in the Visual Arts (see for example http://linkd.in/12i2K0Z), but there is still more to talk: a critical conceptual and relevant element in the discussion was very clearly exposed by Mr Herring in his presentation: the fact that many artists and creators are still having issues embracing digital technologies as the way to create new work.

 Of course, we are the generation dealing with the transition process, and that is already hard and harsh. Many of us learnt our craft the “analog way” and many are reluctant to just switch over to digital technologies.

It was impressive to hear Herring talk about the problems in the music world, all the more so in classical music ( Mr Herring is in charge of developing the right digital tools and strategies to teaching classical music to young musicians, whose interests are mostly elsewhere) and the experience has been quite challenging and yet, successful.

Many other artists, and specially photographers, have had troubles in embracing digital cameras, computers, software, plug-ins etc, etc, after having lived for decades under the analog technologies, shooting in film, chemical processing, chemical printing, manual retouching of both negatives and prints, tons of darkroom techniques to produce “alternative” results, and then, in the scope of less than 10 years, it all changed. Film manufacturing is going to minimum amounts, Kodachrome ceased to produce new film, ( actually, Kodak went out of business!), Polaroid closed doors, and , while still a few artists keep shooting in film ( just the same in the movie industry), most shooters from older generations have had to forcefully adapt, in an attempt to not go down the drain.

It is then when Herring’s presentation brought in a fantastic insight to the state of things, bringing back from the past no other than Marshall McLuhan, a well respected communications visionaire from the 60’s and 70’s. Herring recalls one of the most remembered phrases, “The Medium is the Message”, and even though McLuhan did not even foretold the advent of the internet and the digital revolution, the relevance of his words resonate today more than ever.

Basically, in current terms, we have to understand, absorb and digest the fact that EACH NEW MEDIA IS MEANT FOR AN INTRINSICALLY NEW MESSAGE.

 And here’s a simple train of thoughts I offer to explain this:

Back when the telegram was invented and put to use, communications were brief and to the point ( probably, the first iteration of Twitter). Then comes the Radio, and now the message is not just written word in a few characters on paper, there is now audio, and conversation is “streamed” through the airwaves. Then comes Television, and now the message involves both audio and moving images, generating an altogether new message (or type of messages), that no telegram or radio program could provide. You can, of course interject photography and movies in between.

So here we are, with each new media, a new message was intrinsically created and developed.Then we jump back to current times, with the Internet and all the digital technologies popping out.

We then have to question ourselves: for these new media, which are the new messages?

For the initial years, the term Disruption has been used over and over. Digital is destroying our way of life, or at least the one we have lived through several years/decades. The Digital Crossover is right there, in front of us.

But disruption is the initial stage and things just change and move on. Most everyone was convinced at the onset of the 20th century that Painting was going to die, due to the disruption created by Photography, but then again, Painting just took another, less pictorial, representational road, and thanks to that we have contemporary Painting, well away from Photography.

We then have to deal the realities of living the “disruption era” of digital technologies, the Digital Crossover. As a sad reality, among the visual artists, I see so many photographers still entangled in this recurrent and pointless drama. The fact that so many shooters are just trying to emulate analog photography, while using their digital cameras, is merely a disappointing way to deny the new message that is implicit in digital photography!

The fact that cameras look almost exactly the same may be part of the issue, but when I see so many of my colleagues, for example, longing for grain (and actually, adding noise to digital captures, in order to make them look like grainy film) and so many other complaints about how film photography was soo much better, I only have one solution to their longing: get back to film photography. Use the old media in the context it was developed. Artists and creators can still go a long way creating interesting images in film ( some movie directors, like Tarantino have sworn they will stop shooting movies when they run out of film), but in the meantime, if you are going to embrace digital technologies in your visual art, then get ready and curious to explore a new media, create and produce your own, new/revamped message.

Recently I tried to sit with my teenage daughter, to explain to her the basics of Photoshop, and she flatly refused to go there. She quickly showed me all the editing she does directly on her smart phone, and even challenged me to do it as fast as she does. For her, Photoshop is already old school!

So, for this coming generations, who were born in this digital/technological environment, for them the new media and it’s new message are matter-of-fact. Looks like once again, and more than ever, we have to keep learning from our kids, and stay in touch with the ever-changing technological landscape, as we learn to embrace the new world we are crossing over.

The same applies to so many other careers and professions, from lawyers to architects, to engineers, etc., meaning, we all have to stay in learning and experimenting mode, in order to stay relevant, as the business models also keep changing, sometimes in unexpected and aggressive ways.

My question/challenge to the Visual Artists is: are you willing to explore and craft your new (or revamped) message, as a way to stay relevant in this digital world we are crossing over, full speed ahead?

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About the Author: Jorge Parra is a Photographer who shoots mainly Fashion, Beauty and Portrait  for Advertising, and based in Miami, FL. He is also an Advanced Photography Instructor at the Miami Ad School.  

Jorge’s photographic work can be seen in his spanking new website,  

www.JorgeParra.com.

Specialization through Diversification? Digital Technology is changing the meaning of old tags and categories for Photographers

All Photos ©2014 Jorge Parra.
All Photos ©2014 Jorge Parra.

We are living the interesting yet critical transition period during which most of the analog world is crumbling, and giving up way to an entire paradigm, where digital technologies are replacing the old ways, new rules are redefining many concepts in most industries and markets, changing education, culture, the arts (pls, check our previous posts in this matter).

One interesting case in point is how the definitions of what used to be a “Specialized” Professional Photographer, as opposed to the classic “Generalist” shooter, this guy who used to be the “Jack of all Trades”, have changed in time.

Most photographers who have dealt mostly with Advertising projects have traditionally been more successful when they were truly specialized shooters. Either still Life, or landscape, or architectural, or People/Lifestyle,etc, with a known style have been (and some still are) picked more frequently for large scale productions. “Being in the top of their game” has been a requirement for hiring shooters for national , international and global campaigns.

That is not the case at all times anymore. Photographers who have worked specialized in just one area of expertise are now doing this “cross-over” to often unrelated fields, and success has not left them behind. Add to that that motion works, video and cinematography are now part of the skills required by many demanding jobs, and here you have,  an old concept has totally changed:

Traditionally, the Generalist was the guy who would do (or at least try) to do it all, commercial assignments, weddings on the weekends, family portraits, catalogs, etc,etc, and in most cases, this traditional “Jack of all Trades” was barely capable of producing, mediocre work, and, at best just “good enough” images. Think of it as the TV spot about the couple taking their car to the repair shop, and finding out the mechanic in charge happens to be also their tax accountant… Of course, no one wants that!!

Now, digital technology, in combo with the human curiosity and creativity, opens up a new vision and understanding of what a “Diversified”, Cross-over photographer is and can do, and by all means, is NOT a Generalist no more.

Adding Photoshop and illustration skills (not just retouching), in combo with CGI implementation, (even via team collaboration), the ability to direct people and even inanimate objects in motion sequences, TV commercials, music clips, etc, plus the ability to go from studio to locations, from outdoors to indoors,  from natural to artificial lighting, from people to objects, in a seamless manner, makes them a new type of shooter.

In short, the classic definition of a Generalist is merely a concept of the past. 

The Diversified, Cross-over visual artist is a new kind of creator, full of passion , know-how and sharp as the traditional Specialists, with all the skill sets required for highly demanding jobs, and yet capable to jump from Advertising to Editorial, from Fashion to Landscape, from Portraits to Still Life, and produce outstanding results.

It is important to mention that this is NOT easy to achieve: There is a quite long learning curve for the Diversified shooter, given the demands imposed from the specialty crossover process. New still image processing software, new video/motion equipment in the market, editing software, post-processing understanding and capabilities, plus several production capabilities need to be learned, mastered and performed impeccably in order to be really successful in this new world.

Two relevant examples of the “cross over” photographers, visual artists with with no apparent photographic specialty can be seen in the work of two fantastic shooters:

 Nadav Kander and Platon

Take a look at Nadav Kander’s website. The work is totally different, from portraits, to landscape,etc, there are several styles of work, but all are glued by a vision.

http://www.nadavkander.com/#

Same can be said of internationally renowned Platon, who may jump seamlessly from photojournalism, to Advertising, into Fashion and other fields:

http://www.platonphoto.com

Other successful examples are easy to find online.

One interesting personal observation in this regard, is my personal experience with Advertising Photography: most of the times shooters are called for his/her strong vision on a field, BUT, on some occasions, they are hired (by interesting and challenging creatives or clients) to shoot some project outside their “comfort zone”, and this helps building up a body of work of seemingly unrelated areas, all just unified trough the photographer’s particular vision.

Same thing can happen with editorial work: you can be shooting fashion this week, and next you may be shooting corporate portraits, and next you can be directing a video.

Resolving the production values required to put together such different kind of projects through his/her vision, is what helps the photographer develop the skill sets necessary to perform the cross-over successfully, something the “classical” specialist may not be trained to do.

In conclusion: I feel it is time to say goodbye to the term and related poor reputation of the“Generalist”, and embrace the new, “Diversified Photographer”, the successful Cross-over shooter, one qualified and able to do specialized, high end work in different fields. The changes in meaning and scope may also apply to other creative careers indeed.

About the author: Jorge Parra is an Advertising, Fashion and Fine Art photographer, well known for his ability to work and direct people, and upon the request of clients and creatives, he has diversified his portfolio into other areas, like Architecture/ Interior Design Photography, gaining clients from the Leisure and Luxury markets in the process. All about Jorge can be found in his Visual Hub (www.TheVisualHub.com)

A Photographer’s Guide to use of Linkedin as a Professional Networking tool.Part 01

Dear all.

One of the biggest mistakes made by photographers with regards to LinkedIn is to joining photographer’s groups, since you will be preaching to the choir, and no marketing effort will have any value at all.

The main reason to showcase yourself in LinkedIn is to reach the people who may eventually become your clients, and usually, those do not spend any period of time in photographer’s groups or simply, never join them in the first place.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes and make educated guesses about where would they roam in Linkedin, then join those groups.

For example: My database so far is well over 500 people in LinkedIn, and well over 400 are potential clients: creative directors of advertising agencies, owners of marketing boutiques, editors at nationwide and local magazines, and key people in the luxury markets, in the USA as well as Europe, Japan, South America, etc.

The reason you find so many comments about not getting work from LinkedIn comes from the fact that people are not linking their (best-looking) profile to the right people, in the right groups.

Once you have someone in your network, you have access to his or her email and other contact info, data which LinkedIn allows you to download to your computer to prepare a contact list. By definition, these contacts are opt-in, meaning they are all willing to exchange info with you, so you would not be spamming anyone with your communications or news updates, however, keep in mind that the main goal is to  build new, honest business relationships first.

Because you have this personal info, you’re able to send private, personalized emails, to very focused lists of people, those you REALLY want to work with, and make your best effort to reinforce your relationship with those highly specific people. Just last Saturday I got a request to link with one of the editors of Vogue America. I don’t know yet where will this lead, but no doubt, I will cherish and nurture this relationship with this very relevant contact!

So in essence, this is the least you can do with LinkedIn. There is still much more than this, but this in itself is a great thing, much more useful and powerful than the “personal messaging” on Facebook or any other social network media. I’m not saying FB is not another tool to explore, just that the ROI in time and effort vs. effectiveness, by far favors LinkedIn.

To this end, I consider Linkedin a Professional Networking Media, not a Social Networking Media. The difference is huge, to say the least.

For more details about How-To use Linkedin, check part 2 of this post in Blake Discher’s Blog