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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Paul Parker is a commercial and fine art photographer. On the rare occasion he's not doing photography he loves being outdoors, people watching, and writing awkward "About Me" statements on websites...

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

Some will...some won't.

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!

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.

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...

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.

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.

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...

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.

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...

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.

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!

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

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...

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!

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?!

Hahaha seriously though :P

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

Its the beginnings of Skynet - We're doomed!

hahaha! best comment on this article!!

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 :)

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!

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

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!!

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Good for you, David! Shooting video and photography has really helped me improve my business, too. Now my new and old clients expect both.

VERY well said David!

I actually started shooting music videos wayyyy before I picked up a stills camera back in the late nineties. Four years later I fell in love with photography and never did moving image again. When I picked up a 5D a few years back I started playing with video and even though I had experience from the past it was literally like starting again.

This was why I wanted to write this piece as video is a skill which takes some time to get to grips with. Those who are in denial about its importance are in for a steep learning curve if they don't even attempt to embrace it.

I do actually think video can enhance our creative process in all areas. At the very least photographers must be able to articulate and know the 'vocabulary' of moving image.

Great to hear you're carving out a place in the creative world David. Thanks for the comment...

I'm actually the opposite. I'm a videographer that takes stills. In my local area, videos aren't that high in demand, as opposed to having people wanting photographs and paying for them. Saying that, I take the time to educate myself and try to be the best at both as I can, taking classes from Nino Batista, attending Shutterfest, doing independent films, etc. I'm booked for a couple of local commercials and such, but taking photos brings in the income faster than doing videos, currently. It's true that the jack of many trades is probably the master of none, but that doesn't mean I can't give it a shot and be very good at both.

It's great to hear from the other side of the industry, thanks William!

Nino Batista is a good guy you're in very good hands there!

Thanks for your insights...

I am sure this is true, but lord do I dislike video. I guess it's because I grew up on text and pictures. And for me, photography wasn't the start point, I started with drawing for years and picked up photography as a different way to express the same thing in my head. The moving image was never a thing I wanted, it's not like I ever wanted to do animation. Maybe I am screwed, but that's nothing new to me. lol.

Hey David! I actually started as a bad painter and then moved into photography. You make a great comparison with animation and how although similar to drawing it's actually very different.

When I travel to a foreign country I always try and pick up a few phrases to help smooth my trip. I don't think we all need to become Steven Spielberg but knowing the basics will probably go a long way. Even if it's just when you're messing on your smartphone...


I started dabbling in video last week with short videos (a couple of minutes or less) for a real estate agent to do tutorials on the homebuying process. I don't know how videographers find time to do what they do. I think photographers should have basic video competence, like knowing the relationship between frame rate and shutter speed and using lav or shotgun mics and setting audio levels...just to know how to shoot a clean video.

But I don't see how one person can do both jobs at a high level during a single activity. You can't be videographer and photographer at the same event without either missing stills you should have captured or vice versa. I'm not talking about positioning a camera somewhere and pressing record, I'm talking about being mobile and shooting video at the same time the photography is being done.

And the editing. Even if there wasn't such a learning curve on how to edit video, it still takes a ton of time after you know what you're doing. I have significantly curtailed what my plans were for video after the little bit of experience I've gotten with editing short videos that have no bells or whistles. I just don't have more hours to put into editing and if I'm going to outsource the editing, I might as well outsource the recording and stay entirely in my lane.

And I almost forgot about the insane hike in storage/backup requirements. And I shot two-minute videos in 1080p.

I just don't see it being probable that a time will come where everybody has to do both. Handymen, master carpenters, master electricians, master plumbers, etc all manage to coexist and make a living. They each get the jobs that are appropriate for their skill set.

Hey Lenzy! "basic video competence" is a great way to put it. That is the very least we all should have in 2017.

Awesome to hear about your ventures into video too. The editing does get a lot easier as you shoot more. I know a lot of wedding photographers who used to shoot 2K shots in a day but with experience, their shot counts went wayyyy down which means less processing etc. The same thing happens with video although editing is still time-consuming!

I agree with you that right now doing video and still at the same time will result in one or both suffering. Fast forward 10 - 15 years though and I believe that the cameras we have then will be so much more advanced that shooting both at the same time will become the norm. The hunger for moving image will only increase in that time as our internet consumption grows and speeds get ever faster.

Time will tell I guess, it will be a lot easier to make the change if you have worked on that 'video competence' along the way rather than trying to catch up in 10 years time.

What you say bout master craftsmen is a little different in our game as plumbers and electricians are very different jobs. Video and still images are a lot closer. I like to think of them like cooking and baking. Both are done in the same place with the same tools, yes they are different but not a million miles away.

All the best in your new video work...

You're right.

I got involved in video three years ago. The main thing I've learned: There is a real reason they award separate Oscars for cinematography, directing, writing, editing, and sound (two Oscars for sound, even). Professional video is not really a one-person task--it takes a team to do video professionally and well beyond simple set-ups.

That's true, but I've seen some amazing things done with small teams. Let's see what the technology does in the next decade, cameras etc will no doubt get more sophisticated and make shooting high-end video a lot easier for people on their own.

If this happens clients will expect you to do it and those who don't won't get hired as much.

Thanks for your input Kirk!

I've been shooting stills and video for about 10 years now, but I still outsource my video processing. I know I need to learn how to process my own videos, but the software is so intimidating. Any advice on where to start?

I always talk about doing some video ..I just never get around to it. I wish it did interest me more.

Dale: When I started shooting video I was overwhelmed. It required a different "mind set" and a different way of thinking. But with practice it became more natural and in some ways just as much fun as shooting stills.

Hey Michael, have you had a play with Adobe Premier? By process, I guess you mean corrections and editing? As most photographers use adobe photoshop using premier won't feel totally alien.

You can get a 30-day free trial if you wanted to experiment...

Thanks, Paul. Yes, a few years ago I played around with Adobe Premier and it reminded me of when I started learning Photoshop many years ago - steep learning curve. I'll just bite the bullet and do what I did back then - learn, study, learn, practice, practice and some more practice.

Sounds like a plan to me Michael! Personally, I don't use many tools in Premiere so once I had them sussed I was away. A bit like photoshop really. Youtube was great for speeding that up.

Basic Editing
Fast Color Corrector
Calculations for black and white conversions

Just those four will go a long way.
Best of luck!

I think in 10-15 years, video-photography will be one. In the sense that technology (I believe it's being done now) will allow very high resolution video that can be "clipped" for super resolution stills. Basically, setting up the video device along with lights (one could fire flashes as well to get that "freeze") and let the video roll. The model can go through all the poses. The videographer can use multiple cameras for multiple angles, or zoom, adjust as needed. Then, individual frames can be extracted from the video and edited as we do now. Great for sports photography as well. Keep a very high res video camera in focus and you can fine tune the actual finished photo you want. Again, possible now with 4k-8k. Much higher resolution in a few years.

Plus all the VR and other technology that will be more popular.

Totally agree with you Dale!

The only issue with what you said is that strobe flashes are currently visible in video footage if both happened at the same time. Saying that as cameras are shooting so fast frame rates these days I'm sure software could easily detect them and remove.
(They'll be the frames which are completely blown out!) ;)

Like you say a lot of these technologies already exist in some form now. Just think how advanced they will be in a few years time.

As well as VR, AI will also shape the future of photoghy/videography...

We are going to have a VR world in due time. Future home theatre's will allow "holograms" of performers performing right in front of you (without special gasses). The tech world is changing so rapidly that it's not a matter of keeping up with stills....but the actual tech itself. Right now, we live in a 'display screen" world. That will change into an immersive world.

I think the article is spot on.

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