Friday, August 21, 2009

Your Photographer Might Not Be Awesome

I've been saving this entry from Jeremy Cowart's blog (I respect him and his work a TON). Since then, he's moved his site and this particular entry isn't there, but I think it's a good take on what's going on in photography today. Check it out:


Photo Cliches
by Jeremy Cowart on 12/22/08

This one could stir up some controversy, I don't know.

Have you ever noticed Photography Cliches? Like how every photographer seems to be drawn to train tracks when they first start out? Then they move to the guy with his guitar slung over his shoulder WALKING down the train tracks? What is it about train tracks anyway???

For the last few years I've said that the "Chair (or couch) in the middle of nowhere is the new train tracks". I've seen this concept executed ENDLESSLY for years now.. especially for bands. (And yes I've done it but trust me, it was against my wishes.) It's usually not a purposeful thing but somewhere in our subconscious we just rip off ideas without thinking twice about it.

So the latest trend I've seen is EVERYONE in wedding photography and even outside of wedding photography doing the shot of the couple holding hands, staring straight ahead into camera like a deer in headlights. You know what I'm talking about. The background is always different but the pose is repeated over and over and over.

Why, as creative people who are always supposed to be breaking new ground, do we endlessly rip each other off???

I think this is one of the negative effects of the internet. Everyone has such quick access to everyone else's work so as soon as something new is done, everyone takes it, slightly changes it and then calls it their own.

It just goes to show how ridiculously easy photography is. Anyone can buy a great camera now, learn how to use it, look at a few portfolios online, then go shoot their friends wedding using the same poses they've seen online and all of a sudden another "professional" photographer is born.

Crazy times in photography right?

When people ask "How do I make it as a Photographer?". The answer is BE. AMAZING. If your work is good people will find you. Make yourself stand out from the rest of the repeat photographers. There's a million photographers out there but if you have a good eye, good ideas, good people skills and a good work ethic, you're golden. Work will find YOU.

So sorry for the rant. I'm not usually one to rant but these cliches have just been on my mind lately.


I think a lot of "professional" photographers are doing a disservice to their customers. Just because you WANT to take pictures, doesn't mean you SHOULD. Good photographers, like Jeremy said, are AMAZING, and there is no denying it. I cringe on a daily basis looking at the things clients are getting charged for.

In my opinion, once you move from the camera and Lightroom to Photoshop, you aren't being a photographer, you're being a graphic designer. Lightroom (and other software like it) is great because it's a digital manifestation of what photographers can do in a lab/darkroom with film. Photoshop is graphic manipulation. I'm not saying it's BAD, I'm just saying I think we need some perspective.
So, what are the non-negotiables when it comes to being a professional photographer (in my opinion)? Only two things:
1. Creative Eye / Ideas (you know when you have a good shot)
2. Technical Proficiency (ISO, f-stop, depth of field, shutter speed, etc.)

If you feel offended by this, I'm sorry. But instead of wasting your energy being mad at me, go and BE AWESOME.

Monday, August 3, 2009

ECHO '09 Notes and Thoughts

I didn't go. But two of my favorite online peeps did, and I took notes from their notes. This is a long one, and a lot of you won't care (that's ok). But it's definitely having an impact on how I think about communications at Grace. Here's what's striking me (my thoughts in green):

“Policies are an admission that you have failed to lead.” - Shawn Wood
I totally agree. I think policies can be good, but if you find yourself answering every question with policy and "why it is the way it is" before listening to the heart of the question, that's a major issue.

Phil Cooke:
  • Media is always on. It has become the culture in the world we live in today.
  • Communication does not begin with words; it begins with connection. You need a relationship and trust in order to be heard.
  • Jesus controlled his perception
  • It’s not just who you are, it’s how you are perceived that counts.
  • The Branding Big Four: What’s the point? What makes you, you? What are your skills and talents? What makes you different?
  • We are in the middle of the greatest shift in our culture since the inventing of the printing press.
  • Old media was a one-way conversation; today’s media world has created a two-way conversation. The audience needs a way to talk back.
  • Generation after generation of pastors and Christian leaders get it wrong. They believe our only responsibility is sharing the message. Dialogue is king.
  • The next generation wants a voice and wants to be part of the story. We need to help make this happen. It's going to mean messier, but it's also going to mean authentic life change.
10 Things to Remember:
  1. In a media driven culture, visibility is just as important as ability. Get noticed, get seen.
  2. You can’t brand a lie. Be who you say you are. In a media-driven culture, what you took up a lifetime to build up can be taken down in an instant.
  3. Being different is everything. Be different. Be unique. I don't know if I agree with this.
  4. Stop thinking “mass” and start thinking “niche.” How we communicate with each person needs to be tailored.
  5. Understand the Power of a Name. Names matter because they are the first thing people see, and in a media-driven world, that’s how they will judge you. "Grace Church" vs "Grace Baptist" - speaks volumes, unfortunately.
  6. Speak the language of design. Does your style and media choices reflect the audience you are trying to reach? I hope so.
  7. Lose the Lingo. We’ve created a language no one understands but us.
  8. Culture is more important than vision. Create a culture where vision can happen. This totally blew my mind. I need to think about this for 1,000 years.
  9. Find the over-arching theme for your life and work. What are you all about?
  10. What drives you nuts? The problem that drives you crazy is usually what God is calling you to fix. They're also the most difficult.
Ben Arment (I think this would have been my favorite session. I need to see a video of this.)
  • Great causes are launched in sociological environments.
  • Great moves of God in the past have been moved forward by sociological forces.
  • The Gospel needs GO - it wants to attach itself to movement.
  • Parable of the sower (it's not the seeds): Social movements are good soil: SOW. If we haven’t laid a sociological foundation that can carry our cause, we’re throwing our seeds at the wind.
  • God moved in Acts 2 in the midst of a major social movement. As it had its impact, people traveled back to where they came from and the message of the Gospel advanced.
  • Leverage social conventions and their momentum.
  • George Whitfield was not just a spiritual phenomenon, he was a sociological phenomenon.
  • The thing people don’t tell you about is that oftentimes, momentum works against you.
  • Avoid herd decision-making.
We need to be careful, as the Church, to not innovate for the sake of innovating. What’s the purpose and role of the local church in your community? And how can you innovate with that goal in mind Churches get ahead of themselves when they try to innovate for the sake of innovation. - Carlos Whittaker

When you look at a tech issue, is is going towards the mission of your church or the mission of the machine? Work towards the mission… reaching people for Christ. If the technology facilitates the mission, go for it. If it’s majoring on excellence to please people in the room, don’t. - Conway Edwards
I don't want to do anything "just because." I think sometimes we forget what our goal is when we are chasing down technology because it can be so alluring. Every tech purchase should be linked to a goal that reflects our mission and vision. We can't just be buying stuff because it's cool.

Change typically has to do with the outer things we’d change (music, style, etc) – transition has to do with people’s hearts (how they think, what they feel, what they believe). Churches have a real challenge with change. But if you think about who God is, He’s unchanging, but He’s all about changing us. It’s a journey. We tend to not talk about change and wonder why people are inflexible towards change. God is constantly changing us. We want to be able to continually morph and change and make that culture of change a part of who we are. - Scott Hodge
If everyone's hearts were united under the mission and vision of Grace (because we are making much of Jesus), then switching times, venues, music, etc., should be a joy. We should be thankful to be a changing church, so long as our doctrine is sound, because it means we are trying to fulfill our God-given mission.

The emerging generation are late adopters of technology. - Bobby Gruenewald
This doesn't mean wait. It means use it well, so you're a trustworthy source for when they catch up.

The interaction we need to create in our church services needs to be interaction between the people and God. The connection and interaction needs to lead them towards Christ. - Cynthia Ware
Seems like a "duh" statement, but it gets lost in all the muck.

Dawn Nicole Baldwin / Cynthia Ware
7 Deadly Sins of Social Media (I just want to give a hearty "amen" to all of this.)
  1. Lust: loving your audience is great, but take it slow. Don’t stalk or overwhelm your audience. No one wants to be spammed by their church.
  2. Gluttony: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start slow with a few things instead of trying to do it all at once.
  3. Greed: it’s hard to shake hands while you’re reaching for someone’s wallet. Don’t pressure people to volunteer…don’t stalk people to do things they haven’t asked. Texting is permission based. Treat those relationships like gold.
  4. Sloth: avoid the temptation to “set it and forget it.” We need to be intentional!
  5. Wrath: there are a lot of people out there itching for a punch in the nose, but don’t be the one to give it to them. Be careful what gets posted in any social media channel.
  6. Envy: don’t be dissuaded by other people “doing it better than you.” Stay focused on the mission God has set before you.
  7. Pride: stay humble, rock star.

  • Questions to Consider When Diving into Social Media: What’s the goal? What is the best tool? How much does it cost? How will we create buy-in? When will we evaluate? How will we measure success?
  • It is worth it to experiment. The goal is to use the technology, not the technology using you. It’s a tool for enhanced communication. What works best for you might not work for someone else. I'm thankful that we're all about trying things at Grace. Makes innovation possible (and natural).
  • Your congregation should be moving to paperless. This is probably my #1 goal for the 2009-10 ministry year. To do this, we have to be intentional in communicating with people. One person might want email, and another might want a text. We need to make it happen.
  • Churches should not have “turn your phone off” signs, they should have turn your phone on signs.”
ECHO Debrief (through Joshua’s Brain):
Revelation > vision
Calling > dreams
Niche > mass
Culture > language
Adversity > prosperity
Interaction > broadcast
Leading > policies
Effective > excellence

(Thanks, Joshua and Tim!)