Photographers Are Going to Have to Learn Video to Stay Employable

Photographers Are Going to Have to Learn Video to Stay Employable

If you're a professional photographer you need to be seriously looking at the medium of video as a skill that should be in your repertoire. Making the change isn't as hard or scary as you may think.  

Chris Brogan over on his blog makes a fascinating case for why we all should be learning how to shoot and edit video. Did you know over one billion hours of YouTube clips are watched every single day? With sales of print publications in constant decline brands are turning to the online mediums where they can reach the most people and as photographers, we need to be in those places too.   

If you freelance for clients you will have noticed that most are already using video, in addition to still photography. Still and moving image are becoming so intertwined as a profession that it won't be long before most are expecting you can do both. In such a competitive industry who do you think will be hired more? You guessed it, the ones who can take pictures and record video.

It's not all doom and gloom though as I really do think that video is a great medium to express yourself in. I actually find when I experiment with the format that I come back to photography with fresh eyes. Yes, you're going to need to learn some new skills and try a few new pieces of software but a lot of the experience you have as a photographer is transferable. As I mentioned in my last post, being able to see trends in the industry ahead of time will allow you to prepare and adjust for them. Video is one huge elephant in the room and the sooner you uncover your eyes and feed it a peanut the better.

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53 Comments

Garrett Reid's picture

Totally agree!! I resisted for quite a while but I was just turning down money.

Anonymous's picture

Some will...some won't.

Dan Howell's picture

I'm not saying that you are wrong, but it seems to me that there is another wrinkle. I guess I'm coming to it based on my personal experience. I'm hired as a still photographer based on my portfolio and experience. When there has been a video component to one of my projects I have found that it is easier to hire out that component at a far lower cost than my fee. It's certainly easier than trying to do both stills and video on the same shoot. Admittedly several of the video requests have been for bts or smaller components within the larger still job.

For the short term it is more cost effective to concentrate on stills and hire out for the occasional video component. I have people contacting me wanting to be a 'video assistant' frequently.

Paul Adshead's picture

Howdy Dan! I agree with you right now but I think in 10-15 years this will become more of the norm. Just look at how video is getting everywhere, even billboards are now moving!

It's also crazy how fast the technology is accelerating. One very crude example of this is how people are already pulling frames off video footage and using them as still photographs.

Lots of jobs and technologies have already converged. Photography and videography could easily go that way. Personally I hope they don't as I'm not a huge fan of making video!

Thanks for your comment!

Anthony Dalesandro's picture

I have to agree with Dan but in the opposite configuration; I'm a commercial director who is asked to shoot stills for the print/web campaign while on my video shoots. It's too hard to do both. You can't just swap out cameras even if you really try to make the lighting work for both (which you really can't), the scheduling is terrible and directing for motion and stills are somewhat different. I end up building a second set and at that point it's easier to sub the stills out (and fun to give a photographer friend a job). In the Venn diagram of Stills and Video there is a lot of overlap, but they are different skill sets and mind sets.

Paul Adshead's picture

Totally agree with you in 2017 Anthony! I think advancements in technology will make doing both a whole lot easier. Let's see what the future brings.

You are definitely on the right side of the industry...

Ryan Cooper's picture

Ya, I'd agree with Dan, while video is becoming increasingly prominent I think ultimately the industry will look for specialists instead of jacks of all trade. If a client needs video, hire a videographer. (Of course there will be situations where being able to do both is certainly an asset and will get you the job)

For me, video isn't scary so much as I personally have little interest in it. I don't have any interest in recording video and I find editing video mind nauseating. For me, the way I see it, is if a job requires a big video component I simply don't want the job if I can't outsource the video portion. If in some future video is a required pre-requisite that all photographers are expected to offer by all clients then I guess it would be time to look for a new career.

michael andrew's picture

Ok, "outsourcing" is sort of the wrong way to look at it. You Direct, manage, plan and contract a team to complete a clients needs. Almost none of this is different than what a photographer is trained in, solve a problem.

Now the issue becomes: competition at literally pathetic low budgets. Clients dont know the difference, they go with a low number, they have such low and esoteric expectations and you find yourself in 2017.

Paul Adshead's picture

Hey Ryan! I'm not a huge fan of video either although I can do it. I keep myself just enough in the loop to keep ahead of the curve but my heart is for stills.

I think right now the two mediums will exist separately but they could easily merge into one in the next 10 years.

Personally, I see the future more like the old film days where studios didn't use strobe and instead had constant 'hot' lights. LED technology and sensor sensitivity are always improving so we all could make that switch back. This would allow the same lighting setups to be used for both video and still. Once the image quality gets good enough to pull still frames from video footage the photographer will hit record instead of pressing the shutter. But that's just my take on things.

I think in the future the technology will make capturing video so easy that it won't feel like a great change to what you're doing now...

Dallas Dahms's picture

I made a decision at the beginning of this year to wind up my career as a pro photographer. It's not working out for me after 9 years of trying. The problem is that there are too many photographers out there and the downward pressure on pricing in the fields I cover means that it doesn't work for me anymore.

Try video? I thought about this, I really did, but then I decided that it too was just going to be another route to the same end, albeit a slightly more convoluted one.

What will I do? What I actually studied at college for. Marketing management.

Paul Adshead's picture

Well I wish you all the best in your new ventures Dallas! Did you read my article on going part time and having a non-photographic job? I know a lot of people who swear by it...

https://fstoppers.com/business/why-having-regular-day-job-could-improve-...

Dallas Dahms's picture

Thanks Paul. I haven't read it (yet).

One thing I noticed when I first took up this moniker of "pro" in 2008 is that the shine of photography disappeared almost as soon as my money did satisfying GAS.

Truth be told, personal circumstances led me into this line of work rather than it being any underlying desire to make a profit out of the craft.

I think it takes a certain type of person to be a professional photographer and I've been in denial about my own ability to measure up to that marker since 2008. Time to move on.

Paul Adshead's picture

It takes a very astute and honest person to say that. I'm sure you'll have every success in your new career. Your experience in photography will no doubt enhance the field of marketing management. Best of luck!

David Hynes's picture

I'm gonna try and stick with trying to be good at one thing than mediocre at a bunch of things.

Paul Adshead's picture

That's very fair David. It's never a good idea to spread yourself too thin. I keep myself just enough in the loop with video to keep ahead of the curve, but my heart will always be with photography.

I see you shoot fashion. Aren't you seeing a huge hunger for video in that industry? I know I am...

David Hynes's picture

For sure! And I totally understand where your coming from. I guess for me it would be situational - it would be nice to be able to advertise some of my work / bts and incorporate it into video format that suits my target audience. I just feel like it wouldn't hit the right mark if I did it on my own as opposed to someone who has been doing video as a profession for a while. If I were super desperate for video I would most likely outsource if budget permits!

Paul Adshead's picture

I hear you! Let's see what the technology does in the next decade, cameras etc will no doubt get more sophisticated and make life a lot easier. Maybe AI will be doing our editing too?!

David Hynes's picture

Hahaha seriously though :P

Paul Adshead's picture

I just googled it and two companies are already editing with AI!! Just you watch what the future brings!

https://motionarray.com/blog/will-ai-replace-video-editors

David Hynes's picture

Its the beginnings of Skynet - We're doomed!

Paul Adshead's picture

hahaha! best comment on this article!!

Jozef Povazan's picture

How about : Photographers Are Going to Have to Learn how to photograph to Stay Employable :) If you are so good that your work speak for itself why would you try to go to a field which is not yours? I do not agree and feel that people who call themselves photographers because these days all of us have cameras in pockets all day long simply wored down the meaning of a hard working full time photographer who actually knows what he is doing and hundreds or thousands of so call 'photographers' who have no talent, education, consistency in their work line and etiquette simply blame that video killed them :) Really? No, if you do what you love to do and you do it with results your clients love, you will not need to be afraid in future. I have a family with 3 small children and feed them with gods gift of talent, hard work and imagery my clients rave about. There are people who are way more talented and hard working then me so imagine if you get your shi..t together and get up back on your feet what you could achieve :)... just my 50 cents, I love what I do and do not hide behind it, simply keep learning and practicing so I can stay ahead before those thousands of 'photographers' who simply do not! Happy shooting guys :)

Paul Adshead's picture

Hey Jozef, thanks for your comment! : )

I see you shoot weddings and this is an industry I know little about. Video and still may not merge so quickly but in the fashion and commercial world, the lines between the two are already blurring.

You say "...[I] keep learning and practicing so I can stay ahead" why would video not be part of staying ahead?

Really happy you have great clients that love what you do!

Jozef Povazan's picture

Hi Paul, Thank you for your feedback. Yes I understand the tend of video very well, and believe me it is happening in wedding photography as well, yet I agree with some other readers here, why not to hire a skilled cinematographer to have it done instead of splitting your still imagery effort to video part too... nothing more nothing else. An idea to team up with already established cinematographer would be probably a better choice here so you take a part in stills and he does video side of it... if it works out great, you can do it again and again in future and clients will love it :) no hard feelings my points are written in 1 person yet are not personal to you but to all people who underestimate professional services and think anyone can do it :)... at some point yes anyone can grab a shot yet... there is more to it then just to press the trigger :)... enjoy your day... cheers

Paul Adshead's picture

Thanks Jozef! I hope you continue to have success. Maybe the cameras in the future will change how we do video and stills but for now you are right that two heads are better than one!!

ronnie yeoh's picture

I agree as I've been doing it since 2012. All my fashion photo shoots includes a BTS video, which I send to my customers for free. But there are some day long corporate photo events, not weddings, that I can find time shooting a video of while shooting photos at the same time. Clients really appreciate the videos. I can't say it's brought me new customers but it has kept the old customers coming back for more work. They say they love the videos, which I don't charge for. Editing the video only takes a few hours. And since they're shot on the same lens I use for photos, the out of focus backgrounds make them seem much more cinematic. The clients seem to care more for the videos more than the photos as they're shared on FB, etc and has 10X more views than the photos themselves.

Paul Adshead's picture

Fascinating insight Ronnie! You really should be charging for your videos though. It sounds like they have great value...

ronnie yeoh's picture

Thanks, Paul! I have begun charging for just the videos since 8 months ago. It's worked out really well with an equal amount of video clients as photography clients. I read some of the comments above about spreading oneself too thin. I think all of us here are capable of doing both as they're closely related. Video isn't that hard if we're already fairly good photographers who knows lighting, composition and camera angles.

Paul Adshead's picture

I totally agree with that Ronnie! Kinda like cooking and baking... ;)

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

When the Canon 5D Mk II arrived with video, I started messing with capturing clips of my children. I would say over the years I didn't learn much past getting good shots of the family. This time last year I was interviewing for a staff photographer position with The Business Journal. They required photos and video. I checked the boxes, and got the position. I like many in this thread wasn't that excited about the newly added skill set. The learning curve of having 1 hour or less to document with photos and capture video was pretty stressful. When you are doing 3-5 interviews and b-roll a week you learn pretty fast what works and what doesn't. I'm learning a ton and have watched an embarrassingly amount of YouTube videos that has helped tremendously. It has opened a small amount of freelance jobs that has been refreshing/fun to the mix of what I normally shoot and jobs I would have never won without the added video. I'm going to be shooting a pilot for a series in West Virginia at the end of the month. This project has the budget for some serious equipment and a small crew to work with. I'm very excited to see what doors this opens and hopefully the pilot will be picked up by Netflix. I think that the comments in here that want to stick to one medium is a sound opinion. I would just be concerned that with the evolution of our industry you might loose out on some really cool jobs. On a negative note, the pushback from video guys is pretty comical. I get that we are stepping on their turf but this has been going on for a long time. I compare this to when digital arrived and most film shooters started complaining about the flood of new photographers. Same thing happens to the video guys when the 5D arrived.

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