Think Twice Before You Buy More Camera Gear

 Cinematography, Marketing, News  Comments Off on Think Twice Before You Buy More Camera Gear
Feb 122019

I know you probably didn’t enjoy reading that title. We all enjoy buying and playing with new gear. But before you push that buy button, take a few minutes to consider the points made in this video.

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500px Launches ‘500px for Business,’ a New Global On-Demand Photography Service

 Marketing, News  Comments Off on 500px Launches ‘500px for Business,’ a New Global On-Demand Photography Service
Nov 232016

Earlier in the year, I reported on a photography service that was offering tourists the chance to summon a professional photographer through an app — essentially the photo-equivalent of Uber. Reaction to the concept was mixed, although there’s clearly potential in the idea, as 500px has just taken things up a notch with “500px for Business,” their newly-announced series of photography on-demand services.

So, what differentiates them from other companies offering similar services?

We draw upon billions of data points from social signals on our own site about what images people respond to based on their demographic and psychographic make up… from how Americans versus people from Asia want to see images of Amsterdam, to what kinds of images of coffee women like versus men.

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The Google Phone

 Gear, Marketing  Comments Off on The Google Phone
Oct 062016

The inside story of Google’s bold bet on hardware

box sitting against a stark white background slowly morphs, becoming taller and skinnier. As Redbone croons “Come and get your love,” the lines take shape and the outline of a phone emerges. It is, of course, the Pixel, a new phone “made by Google.” The metaphor damn near hits you in the face: the search box once defined Google, but now Google needs to be something more.

It needs to find what comes after that bare search box and the basic web page results it often returns. Google has been around for 18 years now and someday — perhaps soon — a better paradigm for using the internet is going to supplant the ubiquitous box. At the same time, Google has also decided it needs to become a hardware company, making its own products instead of leaving that work solely to partners.

If you’re Google, would you trust the future of the company to your hardware partners?

The two needs are directly related. If something is going to replace the search box, you can be sure Google wants to create it. And it may have, with the Google Assistant — the company’s take on an AI assistant that’s powered by Google’s massive cloud infrastructure and the huge amount of data it knows about you. But even the best software is pointless without compelling hardware to run it. And if you’re Google, would you trust the future of the company to your hardware partners? No, you’d want to control the entire thing, end to end.

That’s why today Google is unveiling an entire, interconnected hardware ecosystem: two phones, an intelligent speaker, a VR headset, a Wi-Fi router, and a media-streaming dongle. And the most important parts of that ecosystem — the Pixel phone and Google Home speaker — exist to be the ideal vessels for the Google Assistant. The rest of the products fill out Google’s ecosystem, but are also enhanced by Google’s cloud-based intelligence.

In making its own hardware, Google is pitting itself against Apple for the first time, Google phone vs. iPhone. Those are very high stakes, with very little margin for error. So it looks like Google decided to follow a simple dictum:

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

Google has made a lot of hardware in the past, but until now it’s all been tangential to Google’s core mission: search. From the disastrous Nexus Q to the surprisingly successful Chromecast, Google’s products have all been made by different divisions without any real central strategy. That changed in April of this year, when Google hired Motorola veteran Rick Osterloh as head of hardware.

Today, all hardware produced at Google runs through Osterloh’s division — which ensures consistent designs and purpose. Looking at Google’s new hardware, you’ll see more cohesion in its design than ever before. Finally, it feels like all these products came from the same company. The aesthetic isn’t as rarefied as Apple or as aggressively futuristic as Samsung. Instead, it’s approachable and comfortable — almost homey, like what you’d see in a Room and Board catalog.

Google Phone 2
Google Phone 3

Osterloh insists that he’d like Google to be more intentional in what it produces moving forward. “It’s very challenging to work on dozens of products and make them all terrific,” Osterloh says. “We have to have a lot of discipline and a lot of focus.”

That means shuttering the Project Ara modular smartphone just three months after it was announced (Osterloh expects other companies to pick up the modular torch) and leaving the  moonshots to the X division at Alphabet. Google isn’t just experimenting with hardware anymore — it knows exactly what it wants to do.

“Fundamentally, we believe that a lot of the innovation that we want to do now ends up requiring controlling the end-to-end user experience,” Osterloh says. It’s the kind of sentiment you usually hear from Apple, not Google. The company needs to absolutely nail the Google Assistant experience, and doing that meant not ceding an iota of control to partners in the first iteration. “We needed to build a system that actually ran it perfectly,” Osterloh says, referring to Google Home. “Our aim is to give our users the best possible experience.”

That total control is a radical shift for Google. Just look at the Nexus program, which was always designed as a kind of “reference platform” for other hardware manufacturers to learn what’s coming for Android. It showcased new processors, larger screens, and inexpensive designs. Sales to customers was always more of a side hustle than a core business.

“The idea was to show everyone how it should be done,” says Brian Rakowski, VP of product management for Android. “All the partners in the phone manufacturing space took it and built great products on top of it. Meanwhile, Nexus kind of trundled along at the same small scale.” Nexus phones were always built with a hardware partner — and they usually didn’t amount to  much more than refinements and iterations on the hardware that partner was already making.

None of that is necessary anymore. The Nexus program has fulfilled its mission because Android manufacturers don’t need Google to show them the way. Google currently has “no plans” to ever make another Nexus device, according to a spokesperson. Hardcore Android fans may know that HTC is the “Original Device Manufacturer” for the Pixel, but Google says its phone isn’t based on any HTC phone and the “seller of record” for the phone will be Google.

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Leica M Trade-Up Program May Be Best Time To Buy | Trade In Any Camera & Get An Additional $750

 Gear, Marketing, News  Comments Off on Leica M Trade-Up Program May Be Best Time To Buy | Trade In Any Camera & Get An Additional $750
Aug 212016

You’d be hard pressed to find a single photographer who doesn’t have a soft spot for Leica; who doesn’t want a Leica body with a few lenses, even if not for their day-to-day work. The inhibiting factor is, of course, price. The ‘golden’ glove feel of a Leica with all its history behind it doesn’t come cheap, but the Red Dot company is offering a hand to help out in this way at the moment, with their trade-in and M upgrade program.

The M, even amidst the release of the SL, is the quintessential Leica and benchmark rangefinder, and through September 30th, you can trade up from any camera at a Leica Store, boutique, or dealer and receive a $750 cheque after your new M is registered. That means you get your camera’s trade-in value and the $750, with the only exclusions being the Leica M-D (Typ 262) and Leica M (Typ 262).

The process is quite simple, as you bring/send in the camera you’re looking to trade in, it’s appraised and given a valuation which is then put towards the purchase of the new M, and once the new M is registered your cheque is in the mail. You can call any Leica Store for more details and they’ll walk you through the process. It’s extremely rare that Leica offers any kind of financial incentive for their current line-up of cameras, so if you were thinking about Leica ownership, this would seem a great time.

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10 Tips for Self Publishing a Photo Book Through Kickstarter

 Marketing  Comments Off on 10 Tips for Self Publishing a Photo Book Through Kickstarter
Aug 092016


In January 2016 I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to get my first book, Animal Soul, printed. Here I will share ten things I learned that could perhaps be valuable for those wanting to follow this path.

1. Fully Funded is Not the Same as Successful

Success in Kickstarter is not measured by if you are fully funded, for that is only part of the process. In order to host a truly successful campaign, you need to fulfill each of the following.

  1. Your campaign is fully funded
  2. You actually manage to produce the product with the allocated budget.
  3. The product is shipped within your estimated timeframe with minimal delays.
  4. The product quality meets or exceeds expectations.

When your project is fully funded, you have a responsibility to your backers to meet all the claims you made throughout your campaign. If this is your first time publishing a book, I would recommend allotting yourself an extra 2–3 months ahead of your bona fide timeline estimate. There will ALWAYS be unexpected setbacks. As Victor Hugo once wrote, and I paraphrase, “foresee the unforeseen”.

2. Transparency is Everything

Kickstarter is not a shop. Backers know this. They are not buying readymade products. The Kickstarter community exists to support individuals who are going against the grain. Most people hosting a Kickstarter campaign are new to whatever it is they are trying, so trouble will always be over the horizon. Be as clear as you can with your audience about the hurdles you foresee and how you plan to overcome them.

If problems that you hadn’t even considered show up, update your backers and explain your plan to approach the problem. I was very hands-on with Animal Soul, and as a result most of the reviews of the campaign explained how the backers felt as though they were a totally up-to-date and informed part of the project, as opposed to simply being the consumer.

The more honest and transparent you are about the project, the better the project is likely to fare. If you plan to host subsequent crowdfunding campaigns in the future your reviews will be scrutinized. Showing that you made good on your promises goes a long way.

3. Launch in January or February

Host it early in the year. I found some research that concludes that Kickstarter hosts the fewest amount of projects right after the winter holidays. There may be less traffic on the site but there is far less competition. Trust me, this can make all the difference.

4. The Inside Track to Free Press on Major Websites

Getting the buzz going about your crowdfunding campaign is the next step to reaching your funding goal.

When pitching a book project to traditional publishers and literary agents, you are often required to submit a proposal. In the proposal there should be a competitor analysis. Which books that have already been published will you be sharing a market with? Which artists have been producing similar photos to the ones you are doing?

Once you have established who your competition is, find out who wrote about it. For example, there were about 5 books and another 10 artists whom Animal Soul would share a slice of the market with. I had a very simple search strategy, which went as follows:

“(Name of website / publication) + (description of competition) + (keywords like: photographer, coffee table book, etc.)”

Or if I plug in the variables for an example:

“The Guardian Seth Casteel dogs underwater” or “MyModernMet dog portraits” and so on.

The search results will then yield articles published by a particular website about your competition. Go through these pages and find out who wrote the articles. Most of the time there is a credited author to each article.

Next step is to research some company email formats. Try to find out which format the site of your choice uses. This information is generally not public, so I am not able to share my findings for all the major sites, however the following formats are common:

  • firstname.lastname
  • firstinitiallastname
  • firstnamefirstinitiallastname

With the right format in mind, plug in the name of the person who wrote that article and ask if they would be interested in running a story about your work. After all, journalists and reporters make a living off of generating content, so you’re not doing anybody a disservice if you legitimately feel your material is worth writing about.

I got about a 65% response rate from these, which yielded ultimately about a 30% chance in a published article on a big website, per email I sent. Check out where I’ve been published here, to see that this actually works.

Copies of Animal Soul being prepared for shipping in Belgium.
Copies of Animal Soul being prepared for shipping in Belgium.

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A Systematic Approach for Getting New Clients for your Photography or Video Production Business

 Cinematography, Marketing  Comments Off on A Systematic Approach for Getting New Clients for your Photography or Video Production Business
Jan 092016

One key to longevity in filmmaking or photography is to have regular clients that you enjoy working with. What’s even better is when you have enough work coming in from those top clients, so that you can actually pick and choose the projects you take on, and even go as far as to expand your business or pass work off to qualified associates for a modest finders fee. It takes a long time to get there, but being savvy about building a client base can help tremendously.

I get asked all of the time about where someone can go to find work, but honestly that’s an extremely difficult question, without a singular answer. There’s quite simply, no secret formula for finding work. It’s a combination of many things, some of which are out of our hands, as filmmakers, photographers, or any type of independent creative. Outside a few individuals who get lucky early in their career or have projects that go viral, there’s little more to do than work hard and put yourself in a position to make the most of opportunities when they present themselves. So where might those opportunities exist? I recently relocated to Lexington, Kentucky, and I’ve been spending my recent time researching and doing honest work to find new potential clients I can market myself to. Here’s how I approached this process, and where I’ve found some success in finding those elusive opportunities.

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