Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jack of all / master of none

Everyone is talking about photographers becoming cinematographers. Art buyers are encouraging it. Vincent Laforet seems to have become a full time teacher, and is on a nonstop tour giving DSLR Video Workshops. And sure, he can run a 5D better than most. But his videos are just ok. His stills are kick ass.

Anyone with a few G's can now own a 5D, and take the plunge into FCP. I recently bid an ad shoot that needed a bunch of stills, and "oh yeah some video for we don't know what, it just might be kind of cool to get." The shoot was going to be a ton of stills for one day, and the video was going to push it over the edge. It was pretty clear that the extra video work was going to detract from the quality of the stills.

I am skeptical about tackling the video project. I feel that to shoot stills really, really well requires a lot of focus and technical skill. Not to mention knowing how to communicate with art directors, photo editors, retouchers, stylists, and assistants, while keeping clear the end goal of a kick ass image. It's a complex dance, that takes lots of practice, concentration, and creative energy. After a still shoot, I am utterly and completely drained.

It's hard to imagine bringing another ingredient into this already complicated recipe without making a mess. Thinking about stills is very different than thinking about video. Shifting gears erratically can lead to expensive mechanical breakdowns.

So the question that has been keeping me up at night, with respect to the whole video thing -- is it better to diversify your skill set, add complexity, and work really hard to be good at a variety of things? Or do you put all your creative eggs in a single basket and work really hard to be great at one thing?

Robert Yeoman has mastered the art of capturing motion. Is he working as a still photographer on the side? I don't think so. Seth Godin had a great post about this with regards to specialization. I love the Chai Wallah comparison.

So, would you rather listen to music from a one man band, or the music of three virtuosos?

I know which one I'd pay to see.


akripke said...

It IS possible to be a "Bo Jackson." You can be an all-star in several areas. It is simply a matter of if the other discipline has a common denominator. If there are in fact major commonalities, principles, tools, systems, audiences, demographics, or abilities; it can make a diversification fast, logical and profitable.

Peter Arno Broer said...

No Jamie, stick to the thing you love doing! It is very tempting to do everything, but it only messes up your creative spark. I've been there, I just got back and never want to go there again.

jimgolden said...

video smideo - we're already photogs AND filming and editing? sheesh...