This past week some of the WebComm team flew to Chicago to attend this year’s eduWeb conference. While it wasn’t chock-full of photography-related presentations, that’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. In fact, the conference helped me gain a more holistic understanding of the culture and challenges inherent in a workplace like WebComm.
So, instead of going through a series of photos, today I’m focusing on six things I took away from eduWeb that are extremely relevant to photography.
NOTE: There are way more than six things I could write, but for the sake of time and consistency, I’m only using notes I took down from the first keynote speaker, Sree. All the bold quotes you’ll see are from him. For your information, Sreenath “Sree” Sreenivasan is the chief digital officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a technology journalist based in New York City.
1. “In a world where everyone is a writer, the trained writer stands taller.”
In his presentation, Sree touched on the importance of being (and hiring) people who are not just good at what they do, but fantastic at it. In today’s world, where the tools to post blogs and podcasts are accessible to the masses, there will never be a shortage of content. And in this sea of content and content creators that we find ourselves swimming in, it’s becoming more and more difficult to stand out. If you want recognition, whether you’re a university, a blogger or a photographer, the only way you’re going to get that recognition is by “standing taller” than everybody else. “How do you do that?” Grow, keep learning, do your homework, work your butt off. Differentiate yourself from those trying to get the same gig you are. In fact, the very last presenter, Dana Edwards, opened up with a slide that read: “Differentiation is the key to branding.”
This has an obvious significance for photographers. In 2015 alone, there will be roughly 1 trillion photos taken. That’s 1,000,000,000,000 pictures!
Smartphones have made everybody a photographer. But a smartphone in my mom’s hand isn’t the same as a smartphone in my hand. What’s the difference? “The trained writer (or photographer) stands taller.” Sorry, Mom! It’s a simple but essential truth. The cream rises to the top. Or, as Jared Polin says, “Quality content trumps all.” Do quality work, take quality pictures, write professionally (I don’t claim to be a writer), be excellent at what you do. If you want to be seen as the expert, be the expert. Speaking of …
2. “Don’t be shy about your expertise”
This is something that a lot of photographers have trouble with. The fear is that you’ll come off as an egotistic jerk. “I don’t want to tell other people that I’m an expert! That’s just like saying, ‘I’m better than you,’ right?”
Acknowledging that you are, in fact, an experienced, knowledgable professional is not only necessary but crucial. Something that WebComm is very intentional about is what Brandt, in his award-winning presentation, called “Shameless Internal Self Promotion.” We do what we can to promote the experts we have within this department. For instance, our very own Morgan Day and Brandt Smith recently won “Best of Track” in their respective categories at the conference. After winning, Morgan posted on the blog a ton of content that was on her original presentation. Check it out HERE!
We are here to serve OU, and the worst thing that could happen is for our talents to go unused because people simply didn’t know about us. Likewise, if you are a photographer, you have to promote yourself. Don’t be shy about the talents and skills you have. There’s a difference between simply acknowledging your expertise and bragging about how amazing you are.
3. “Don’t think that your work is too scholarly, too boring or too dry. People will care if you deliver it in a great way.”
Sree was talking to writers here; however, as a photographer for my university, my images run a similar risk of feeling old, repetitive, too boring or irrelevant. The key part of that quote was, “… if you deliver it in a great way.” There are a million ways to take a picture of the same object. Our job as photographers is to figure out which of those will “deliver in a great way.” If your images are beginning to feel boring or dry, think of all the things that could possibly factor into the final shot.
- Is there a different angle or perspective you haven’t used yet?
- Can you incorporate new people or objects with the subject?
- How can you change the lighting? If it’s outside, have you shot it a dawn, dusk, midday or night?
- Have you used filters or white balance settings to convey a certain mood?
- Can you frame the subject with anything in the surrounding area?
- Which exposures work best? Perhaps something slightly overexposed will look better than something a bit darker. Or perhaps a darker image might be best when considering what you’ll need to do in post.
- Can you recreate older pictures taken in the same location?
- Could selective coloring (or any of the “on-camera” settings) be of any use?
These are just some of the questions you could ask yourself. Just remember, it’s not so much about the object you’re taking a picture of, but rather how you compose it in your image. Think about the difference between “That would look great in a picture” and “That would be a great picture.”
4. “Don’t be an ‘ask’ on social media.”
Have you ever wanted to connect with somebody on Twitter that was, how do I say … a bigger deal than you? Twitter (or Instagram) is a great way to connect with people you wouldn’t typically have a chance to speak with. Because of this, people like me have been able to speak to people like Colin Trevorrow. In case you don’t know, Colin Trevorrow (or C-Trev as I like to call him), is the director of the super-duper-awesome-mega-smash-hit JURASSIC WORLD. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop what you’re doing, and go see it NOW. Like, right now.
Anyway, for about a year prior to the release of the movie I would occasionally throw C-Trev a shoutout. A few months back, I asked him a question about what his first camera was, and he responded with a picture of it!
Now, when Sree says, “Don’t be an ‘ask’ on social media,” he’s saying, don’t let the first thing you say to somebody be asking for something. Why is that important to photographers? There’s a plethora of unbelievably talented photographers you can learn from online. Most of them have Twitter and Instagram accounts. The ability to engage with these people online is the best thing about social media. So when you do, remember … Don’t be an ask!
5. “Sometimes ‘good enough’ is good enough.”
Right now, I’m in the process of updating the OU Image Library. It’s a fairly large undertaking as there are thousands upon thousands of images that need to be sorted, updated or backed up. One of the priorities in this project is to get an entirely new catalogue of images of every single building on campus. Now, there are quite a few buildings if you haven’t noticed. It’s going to take some time. And in an ideal world, 90 percent of our facility images would be taken during golden hour (opposed to that nasty midday sun). But for the time being, in order to get every building knocked out, I’ll be taking these pictures during the typical workday. While they won’t look bad, they wont have that beautifully warm light that would come from me showing up at 7:30 p.m. to get the shots. Eventually, that will happen. But like every job, especially those kicking out creative content, we are constantly having to balance our work flow. For the creatives, that sometimes means sacrificing a pursuit of perfection. That’s OK. As Sree said, “Sometimes ‘good enough’ is good enough.”
6. Neutral density filters are awesome!
OK, so this isn’t a quote or even something I heard at the conference. But I can’t do a post about our trip to Chicago without including some of the pictures I took. So, to justify the temporary name change, here is No. 6.
See you next week for a more traditional “Friday 5.”