Category Tools

Protecting your digital content is easy as 3-2-1

rocket man
 Superhero series # 3, ©Brian Fitzgerald

The past three months of constraint and restraint have underscored how important it is to a have a deep content library.  My clients have been unable to commission new shoots due to the pandemic, but for those with a deep image library it isn’t a problem. We’ve gone back over their images and realized that many are still usable and relevant.

That brings up another issue: storage and archiving of your image library and other digital assets. If you had to access images and videos taken months or years ago, would you be able to find them easily….or at all?

I’ve written before about how important it is to archive your images and other digital assets. For most brands, their image and video libraries–compiled through time-consuming and costly shoots, purchases of stock assets, and contributions by staff–represents a huge value and investment in time and money.

Yet, they don’t have a central area where these images are stored. Their assets are spread out over multiple local computers and perhaps online, making them far less useful. If they are in one place, that one place is often a single computer or drive with no backup, no redundancy and no options in case of drive failure.

As certain as the sun rising tomorrow, your computer drives will fail. I recommend all of my clients have at least one extra copy of their digital assets that everyone in their organization has access to.

Several times a year, clients email me with requests to locate images taken in the past—some more than a decade ago—that they’ve misplaced or lost.  No problem, I tell them. I’ve got it.

Our simple policy is the 3-2-1 backup rule evangelized by Peter Krough, digital asset management “DAM” guru to protect against any failure scenario: Store at least three copies of your data using at least two different types of storage media with one of them located ‘offsite’, or off premises.

We store a minimum of 3 copies of all digital files, whether it’s the original, raw, unprocessed images taken with the camera or the final ‘derivative’ versions delivered to our clients and pressed into use. One is stored on local external drives. Another is backed up to external drives located offsite. The third is stored on the cloud (which has its own redundant backup). For the ‘final’ delivered images, I also store these in a fourth location: an online digital archive that I can give clients direct access to as needed. Some of my clients depend on this digital archive as one of their copies.

So if you work with a professional photographer, ask them about their archiving procedures and standards. They should be able to clearly explain what happens to your images, how they are backed up and protected, and if you ever need to retrieve images you’ve lost, they will be able to quickly provide you with copies of the originals.

 

–30–

Useful Stuff for Thinking People, Free (for Now)

Inspiring Message

Everyone likes free stuff.

I thought I’d share a few resources that are being offered by companies for free right now that might make you healthier, wealthier or wiser during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not to be too glib about what we’re all experiencing, but I don’t want to look back on this months and years later and wish I’d somehow taken more advantage of those things I have in abundance now: primarily, time.

So if you’re sick of watching Tiger King on Netflix and you’re done perfecting your Sourdough baking skills like I have, read on and learn some useful stuff (Note: I don’t endorse any of these programs and these are not affiliate links.  Just trying to spread the word.  Did I mention I dig free stuff?):

Nikon School Online classes free for month of April

CreativeLive is offering their streaming Health & Wellness courses, free

Poynter Journalism Courses (these are great!) for free

LinkedIn’s Work Remotely Learning Path (16 courses to help when working from home), free

Scribd’s Learning Resources free for 30 days (no credit card required). Like Audiobooks?  Access Scribd’s huge library for free for a month. 

60 Days of Skillshare Courses —you guessed it, for FREE

Bitdegree is offering a number of different learning paths, free during the Covid-19 pandemic, including:  

Blogging for Business course by Ahrefs Academy (normally $799, now free)

Yoast’s All-Around SEO Course (normally $699, now for free before June 1st).

Limitless Entrepreneur (5 day learning retreat) by Melissa Griffin, free

Edit:  How could I forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic at-home exercise plan?   It’s free, you don’t need weights, and you’re out of excuses. 

–30–

Five Clicks: My Favorite Podcasts

During this time of forced isolation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of bad habits—eating terribly, watching too much tv, not getting exercise.
The daily news is stressful, and consuming too much of the negativity makes it even easier to fall into bad habits and wallow.


I like to balance the negative news with some positive input. While I’m working on editing images or video, I plug in and listen to my favorite podcasts and find that I’m more focused, inspired and hopeful. And given the uncertainties around us, a bit of hope goes a long way.


Here’s a short list of four of my favorite listens (plus one read) that I think you might find useful right now.

Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller
If you’re responsible for letting the world know about your brand, service or products, then this is a great podcast that’ll make you rethink your approach.

Start Today Podcast with Chris Cavallini
A short hit of motivation that reminds you to take personal responsibilty for your life.

The James Altucher Show
James is my guy. I love the way he approaches his interviews and the fact that he’ll ask questions I’ve never even thought about.

The Tim Ferriss Show
Tim is the original proponent of designing your life in optimal ways. There’s always something interesting and actionable here.

Lastly—and this isn’t a ‘listen’ but since you invariably do need to keep up with important and relevant news—let me recommend Dave Pell’s daily news roundup, NextDraft. It’s a smart, witty and short compendium of the news you need to know, with relevant links (“I am the algorithm”, writes Dave, who pores through dozens of sources to provide the content). During the crisis he now publishes seven days a week and you can sign up at the link above.

Have Studio, Will Travel

During my photojournalism career, my ‘office’ was my car, complete with police scanners, reporter’s notebooks, a Domke bag of gear and strobe lights in the trunk.    Now, as a commercial and editorial photographer, I’m based out of a studio in downtown Portland (far nicer than most newspapers I called home and with much more gear). 

I always imagined two types of photographers existed:  studio photographers, usually specializing in portrait or product photography, and location shooters, who travel to clients and whose studio is wherever they happen to be on assignment.  Wedding photographers, photojournalists and editorial shooters and architectural photographers are among those for whom an assignment is everywhere but, obviously, a studio. 

At heart, I’ll always be an editorial photographer—a storyteller— who is flexible enough to adjust to the changing circumstances of a location shoot but who uses flash and strobes fully, where appropriate.   Not a studio photographer, but a photographer with a studio. 

When I moved into my first studio over a decade ago, I figured it was mainly to store my gear outside of the home, where it was gradually taking over the basement.   I thought I’d meet clients there and that’s about it.  But, it turns out that my studio has remained busy because it gives my clients options.   When the weather or a location isn’t working out for us, or if we need absolute control over lighting, we have the studio.   

My studio now has become just one more tool in my bag and helps me to deliver another option to my clients.    I may miss the days when everything I owned could fit in a shoulder bag, but I’d much rather have the flexibility to choose the best approach for my clients—in studio or on location—instead of having my approach dictated by a lack of options.

On location, Old Orchard Beach, ME

 

Portland Maine Studio
Fitzgerald Photo Studio, downtown Portland.

 

Portland Maine Studio
Fitzgerald Photo Studio, downtown Portland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing: Light Matters

Light Matters

 

It’s been a very eventful week for me personally and professionally.  On October 2, I published my first book, Light Matters: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Flash on Location .

Light Matters is more than the realization of a childhood dream to write and publish a book.   It’s my approach to lighting when on assignment, reduced to actionable tips.  Each suggestion is informed by my own experiences and, often, by my missteps and mistakes over 20-odd years as a shooter.

My working title for the book was simple: Move, Light, Shoot.  Purposeful experimentation keeps one from getting stuck and kicks creativity in the behind.   You can’t master flash—or anything else—without taking direct action, assessing the results, and adjusting your approach.

To that end, the guide is full of tips and practice exercises that any serious amateur or natural-light pro would find useful as they stretch their lighting muscles.

I write in the intro that I wish I had a book like  Light Matters in my camera bag when I was coming up.

Most photo book contain endless lighting diagrams, three-point lighting setups and exact recipes allowing readers to duplicate the example photographs.  I’d rather give readers tips that force them to think and tools to help them succeed.  A simple Google search will provide any number of lighting setups.  Few resources give you tips on shaping your shoot, dealing well with your clients and with the many inevitable issues that arise on location.

Above all I hope the guide is useful. That it prompts photographers to think and to stretch themselves. If it saves a photographer just a smidge of the grief that would have otherwise come to them, then I’ll be happy.

I’m so thankful to my group of advance readers–my Dream Team–comprised primarily of photographers I know and trust around the country. Their feedback helped shape the final product and made it shine.

I’m grateful that during its first week of publication, Light Matters reached #1 in two categories in the Kindle store. Mind blown.

As a companion to the book, I’ve created two resources. One is the page on my site, www.lightmattersguide.com, where I’ll be posting additional information about the book, downloadable excerpts and other resources as they come available. The other is a private Facebook group  Light Matters , set up to discuss the exercises and concepts in the book.

Please check out Light Matters on Amazon, and let me know what you think.

Five Clicks: Tools for Keeping on Track

 

Being an independent photography professional or content creator is a great, amazing, beautiful thing.

Except when it isn’t.

When you first start as a photographer or designer, it’s like falling in love with a beautiful/handsome other person. Everything is great, and when you’re with that person, time seems to stand still.  Then you get married, and the relationship matures, and as wonderful as it is to spend time together, you also can’t help but notice that the dishes are piled up, the bills need to be paid and the in-laws are coming to visit, again.

If every day could be spent behind the lens while getting a ride with the Blue Angels or documenting a religious festival in the mountains of Catalonia, it would be like that spouse that never gets old, gets angry or challenges you in any way.  But the reality of marriage and of creative careers is that 80 percent of it is the ‘unsexy’ stuff—in the case of content creation it’s the production work, marketing and other tasks that keep the lights on—that makes the other 20 percent possible.

The problem is, it’s hard to stay focused and on track when the tasks are not so fun.  That’s why I love tools that make my job easier, are useful and help keep my animal brain on track. When my willpower or my resolve falters, I just let these pieces of software guide the way:

Activity Timer (iOS and Mac)
This is a very simple custom timer app that allows you to specify and save time blocks of custom length for various activities, and a custom “success” message. I know by experience that 90 minutes is about the longest I can focus on any given task, so most of my time sprints are anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. I have a stand-up desk and I use this tool to remind me to sit down and stand about every 20 minutes throughout my workday in front of the computer.

Trello (Web, Android, IOS, Mac, PC)
I’ve used Trello for at least 4 years. In that time, I’ve found other project management tools but the ‘kanban’ style visual drag-and-drop interface always brings me back. I use it to set up various ‘workflows’ relating to client work, my sales pipeline, and even for my editorial calendar. It’s great for collaborating between teams, too. Using this tool for my work ensures that I keep track of a lot of moving pieces in a consistent way.

Todoist (Web, Android, IOS, Mac, PC)
This is about the 1,000th ‘to do’ app I’ve tried, but at this point it’s won the award for longevity. It’s very simple to use and can interpret deadlines from text (i.e., ‘in two weeks’, or ‘next January 1’) easily. I use it all the time….and I like the way it gamifies item completion—the more you complete, the more ‘karma’ you earn and the more enlightened you become. One of these days, I’ll be a Grandmaster. But not today.

Routinist (iOS, Android soon)
I’m fascinated by the idea of creating good habits (and getting rid of negative ones) by ritualizing them into a routine that you perform daily until they become deeply ingrained. This little app helps create and define routines based on a sequence of actions and habits that, once triggered, run in sequence until they are complete. I’ve used this app to change the way I approach my morning routine.

Streak CRM (Web, IOS, Android)
This software is a CRM (which stands for “customer relationship management” tool) which is a fancy way of saying that it is used for sales, projects, leads, and anything else related to your clients.  It’s capable of far more.  I use it to do project management, sales and client pipelines in situations where most communications are email conversation-based. First I define the stages of a pipeline and also set up email templates for some of the stages. I then create a box for each new client/story/item/lead and move it through each stage of the pipeline until done. It saves me a lot of time but more importantly, Streak is a powerful way to stay consistent on predefined processes built around email. In fact, it’s designed to be used exclusively with gmail, and it operates inside your email browser.   If you’re a gmail or Google apps user, Streak is worth checking out.  It’s particularly powerful for teams, including editors, journalists and bloggers. It allows you to schedule and track emails as well.

I hope you enjoy these tools—and more importantly, find them useful for keeping your own messy business life on track. Hopefully, that unsexy stuff just got a little more sexy.