This is the third of a 4-part transcription of the video Making the Web Work for You. Featuring an extended conversation on blogging and social media with three influential leaders in the Photography community: David Nightingale (Chromasia), David Hobby (Strobist), and Seattle’s own Chase Jarvis (Chase Jarvis’ Blog).
Chase Jarvis: So, blog, blog, blog. It’s all the rage these days, right? I didn’t start blogging because blogging was all the rage. I started blogging for a different reason. I was a hardworking, and still am a hardworking commercial photographer. I travel all over place. Because I had no mentor as a photographer I didn’t really look up to other photographers, not because I didn’t appreciate their work, but just because I was inspired by different sources. And I did, on several occasions, reach out to other photographers and try and say, “Hey, what are you doing? How did you do this? How did you do that?”
This was 10 years ago. And I found the response really disappointing. Everyone was very, very protective of what they were doing, very scared. There was this underlying theme of, “This is mine. You’ve got to go learn that on your own.”
It turns out that’s the style in which I learn the best, so it wasn’t the worst for me. I like to take some information, lock myself in my room and figure it out, and then come prepared for class the next day. So, it didn’t hinder me that much. But, I realized that, wow, if it really was a problem and if most other people learned from kind of approaching you and saying, “How did you do this?” Wow, what a handicap if this photography industry is not sharing.
So, my commercial business grew quickly. Five years ago or more I started getting asked to speak on this. It was often about my art and also about being able to inspire photographers. And at some point, I started fielding all these howto questions, and I was like, wait a minute, there is a huge crosssection of population that is experiencing the same thing that I experienced when I was trying to become the photographer that I wanted to be.
I’m a very, very open person. I wanted to replicate that. I started giving away everything. There was no such thing as a trade secret. Except back in that day, the only way I could do it was through speaking gigs. So, I would go up there and give a keynote presentation. I would walk up on stage and say, “This is how I did this. This is how I did that.” Share everything I could possibly share.
I was very shocked at how powerful that was. I quickly was getting hundreds of emails per day and I said, wow, this is really scary. It was good for my brand, although most of the photographers that I was sharing with were not art buyers or ad agencies, so it really didn’t hit the bottom line. But, from a brand perspective, it didn’t hurt. Wow, this is great.
But, when the idea to start a blog kind of hit me over the head like a hammer, it was like, wait a minute, now I can communicate with all kinds of people really quickly. And instead of doing what I call “the black box of photography,” which was what I kind of coined the phrase, which is sharing. Because what goes in here and what goes out here, people know, but nobody knows what goes on in the middle.
I can now share online 24×7 with hundreds of thousands of people. And again, like David said, that was very, very scary. Because the traffic that I had as soon as I started talking about the things I was talking about instead of talking in classroom to 500 people at the Brooks Institute of Photography or at the Apple Store in New York, now it was talking to thousands of people at once.
So, the traffic grew really quickly and I loved it. I was able to give something back. That’s a huge part of my brand, is contributing back to the community. Because I didn’t have that; I had no mentors. And I like to think that it has spawned the Web itself is a great place for sharing. But, photographers being inherently kind of closed, I like to think that what we have done as bloggers and many other blogs out there I know Joe, he’s got a great blog going these days are sharing this information, which years ago wasn’t available.
That was a big motivator for me. So, one of my main goals was to reveal the black box of photography. And instead of having hundreds of emails per day coming in with questions about photography, I was now able to communicate with a large number of people in small period of time in a controlled environment.
I still get a ridiculous amount of mail, but it was really, really helpful. And it created a community. And like David said, why I was able to create a community so quickly was because I was giving something of value and asking nothing in return. I’ve had probably in the thousands and thousands of comments probably 20 dissenting comments. And my response to them is usually, “Your refund check is in the mail.” Because it’s free.
And the power of that, as David has alluded to, is very substantial. So, again, from a brand perspective, it became great.
The other thing that is sort of allowed me to do is, part of what I wanted to share was behind the scenes aspects to shoots. Because people always want that. You want to see how I light, you want to see how I load my camera. I want to see that stuff too. That’s what’s become great.
But, I was able to do it with the blog. So, between my written words and videos that I started doing how many of you, by a show of hands, have seen any videos on my blog? OK. That’s about 30%. That little tool right there was very powerful in expanding my brand on a number of levels. It demonstrated the key elements of my brand and just a second.
I started doing videos like this. This one, the theme behind it and it’s not overt this is kind of just pretty pictures, but they show creatively how I work. And when clients come, they can tell. Here I am getting into helicopters and stuff. They know that I’m a highend photographer. They can tell that I’m traveling all over the world to shoot. And this will start listing off names of people in the crew. So, it’s a way for me to give back to the crew and say thank you. And it’s a way for me to demonstrate creatively all of these things without saying, “Hey, everybody, I’m so wonderful and great. I’m really important and I fly all over the world.” This is a way of sharing or giving back something, and allowing me to benefit at the same time by sharing what I do with potential customers. It answers questions.
So, this video is probably four minutes long. I’m not going to show the whole thing. I’ll cut it off in a second. But, I’ll shut up for a second and let you just get a little flavor.
These are the kind of things that photographers are asking me about in emails. Do you have stylists? How much security do you use? When do you travel? And so, I’m able to just, in the simple course of talking to them, I’m able to share a lot of information in a short period of time.
Chase Jarvis: I got a call from that hiking boot company the next day: “Can we give you as many hiking boots as you want for the rest of your life?” (laughter)
I’m not kidding. And that’s the stuff that happens. David was talking about the momentum that these things carry. It’s so unbelievable now, I’ve got companies begging to send me free stuff if I’ll mention them. I’m not pushing that, and that’s not my goal here, but the momentum, what can happen, when you give something away for free, it comes back to you tenfold. That’s a total cliche, but it’s true. OK, so again, it also allows me to demonstrate some of my creative sides. You may or may not be familiar with this. I gathered a bunch of ninjas together in a warehouse, for some reason, I was in a little kungfu phase, like Chinese movies. And I thought, wow, wouldn’t it be cool, I’ve never seen any still photos. All these beautiful films, but no still photos.
So, I thought let’s rent a huge, decrepit warehouse and have a bunch of ninjas jump around on trampolines with smoke machines. And this thing has been viewed probably 100,000 times 50, 000 times at least on YouTube. You’ve got to think that that helps the brand. It helps people understand that I’m willing to do weird stuff in order to take pictures.
Video: CHASE JARVIS RAW: NINJAS
You’re suddenly able to see behindthescenes stuff. There’s the stylists. Again, showing the collaborative nature. There’s a huge team involved in it. And it goes through to reveal my kind of not-really-uptight personality. And sometimes they love it and also people say they don’t like it and I’m not serious enough. At least, we don’t get paired up and find out after a weeklong shoot.
All right, you get the picture. We’ve been able to show some collaboration, we’ve been able to show some highend stuff. You can also show some creativity. And this shows that I’m technical. There’s all kinds of little wizards and gizzards.
This is more of a tech video.
This is all kinds of little techie nerd stuff that we’ve been talking about. On David’s blog, all this stuff is… It’s probably written on the back of his hand right now.
Again, look at the lowbudget production value here. Superlow budget. I’m not aiming to impress people. I’m aiming to just share. If I was aiming to impress someone I’d have a superfancy camera. This is a handheld. This is the camera that’s recording this right now. It’s like $600. That goes all over the world with me. Yes, we do have some higherend cameras fro shooting client video, but that’s not the goal here. So, after I did this little video, at the end of the blog there was a list of all the equipment that we used. The West Coast sold out of all the equipment.
You start getting manufacturers calling you and saying, “Thanks for mentioning Logan. Can I put something in this hand to make you do that thing again over here?” So that’s a little 30second video about again, that’s exactly what I want.
Again, I mentioned being community oriented. This kind of stuff is really, really important. This is a project that I was able to collaborate with David on.
And in fact, I’ve got another one coming up. Do you think the community would love to have a 30,000 squarefoot warehouse where you can just kind of we had to limit the reservations. It was like a Pearl Jam concert. You say, “We’re going to make this thing,” and in four minutes every single slot was filled. And what am I getting out of this? I spend about $1500. Is this going to come back to me someday? Sure. I’ve been able to collaborate with my good friend David, but it makes photography better. So, again, I’m giving back to the community. I’m blogging as a vehicle for sharing.
OK, so we’ve talked about a bunch of different ways, and this is the last one I’m going to show. I won’t show the whole thing. I’m also directing, I’m directing motion. And this is not out yet. This will be out probably in the next week. We’re working on licensing this music. And this highlights the next feature, between still photography and motion photography.
Video: CHASE JARVIS RAW: KUNG FU
So, you get the picture. This little thing called the Web and this little thing called a blog has allowed me to share with others, to demonstrate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I can build a community and explore new markets. And that’s just the video section. It’s a wonderful creative outlet. And the best part about it is that it has enabled me to meet this man right here. This man right here. This man right here. And every single one of you guys. And if you don’t think that’s powerful, you’ve got your head on crooked. Seriously.
It’s a wonderful tool, and if you’re not using the Web in your photography business, you should start thinking about it as soon as possible.