Last week the inevitable happened. One of my hard drives died with a screeching whine. I could almost visualize the heads crashing into the disk platters as it went out. I wish I could say this was the first drive failure I’ve experienced, but the sad truth is that I’ve had several of them over the years.
Note: Ironically, as I was writing the above paragraph the first time, my computer crashed as well. Of course I hadn’t saved yet, so I was forced to start over again.
One good thing I’ve learned from these previous drive demises is that backups are critical. Of course, I learned this like most of us do--the hard way. The first time I lost data I had no backup at all.
As our image collections have grown, we’ve progressed from backing up to floppy disks (remember those?), to CDs, DVD, and tape drives. My current system uses multiple hard drives to store my images and data files so that I always have more than one copy should disaster strike. I’m using a RAID system that mirrors each file so that I have an instant backup if a drive fails, like it did last week. Luckily, all I needed to do was add a replacement drive to the array and I was back in business without a single file being lost.
At the end of each day, I back up this primary system to a duplicate RAID so that I have yet another level of safety.
I’ve also begun to consider online storage solutions like those offered by Digital Railroad and Photo Shelter. The beauty of these systems is that even if your office burns down, or all of your equipment is stolen, you have offsite storage of your valuable work.
With the cost of disk space dropping all the time, there is really no reason to not have redundant systems to backup your work. For those of us whose images are our livelihood, losing a drive that contains the only copy of valuable images isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a potential financial disaster!
My previous post (Digital Solutions to the Limitations of Traditional Portfolios) discussed new opportunities to create photo books and web portfolios. Now let’s think about multimedia portfolios.
Multimedia Defined. We’ve all seen multimedia presentations, whether it was a rudimentary slide show synchronized with audio or the unavoidable PowerPoint presentation. But many other possibilities exist.
By definition, a multimedia presentation incorporates more than one media type. So you could mix still photographs with video or combine photographs with audio and animations.
You can even incorporate interactivity. For example, when interior designers shop for prints on ArtSelect.com, they can preview how a selected photograph or print will look when framed against the color of their clients’ walls.
Here are a few examples of multimedia projects you could produce:
- A digital slideshow with animated transitions between images;
- A website that does more than presents images in still form;
- An animation showing clients how much effort is involved in generating special-effects photographs and why it costs more;
- Video footage showing you shooting a wedding mixed in with your portfolio so potential clients can see you in action
- A DVD or CD portfolio to mail to prospective clients
- A multimedia presentation of your work projected on a local building at night to generate attention (and customers)
Risks and Rewards. If done well, a multimedia presentation can leave a lasting impression. You say more in less time than you could possibly express through words and pictures alone.
But multimedia can also be tricky. We’ve all sat through bad PowerPoint presentations created by people who felt empowered (or obligated) to go well beyond their normal areas of expertise. Their lack of training in design, layout, and visual communications can be painfully obvious.
Multimedia has a lot in common with filmmaking because you must consider concepts such as pace, narrative, suspense, surprise and flow. Planning can take the form of a storyboard, although the storyboard may be very different from those used in filmmaking.
Instead of working in scenes, the multimedia storyboard sketches out the flow of your content and the ideas you want to convey. The storyboard defines when certain content will be shown and for how long and outlines how the pieces will fit together and flow. It should give you a sense that you are creating a coherent presentation that will be stronger than the individual images. This is key: A presentation is only as good as its weakest part. Great images can be easily ruined if proper care isn’t taken in the development of a multimedia presentation.
Everything for a Reason. I advise taking a minimalist approach to multimedia. Every element in a presentation should be included for a reason. Don’t use music that adds nothing except a distraction. Don’t use fancy transitions just because you can. Cute animations can add humor and diversion. But use them only where needed, and nowhere else.
So if multimedia can be so dicey, why take a chance? I can think of at least four reasons.
Versatility of Delivery. You can deliver your presentation in person on a notebook computer or with a data projector. You can include it on your website. Or you can package it on a CD or DVD and send it out in bulk to potential new clients or targeted members of the media. You could even run it on a flat-panel display in your studio window. One photographer runs his presentation in the back of his Humvee parked at populated venues.
Sales Tools. You can use multimedia presentations as a direct sales tool. Wedding and portrait photographers have discovered that projecting large images on a screen is an effective way to get clients to order larger prints. Most people want to see an image at the size in which it will be displayed in their homes. Big images can make big impressions, especially when combined with music that amplifies the emotional power of the imagery. (The theory is that if you cry, you’ll buy.)
New Products. A multimedia presentation can be a product you sell. For example, buyers of wedding photography may not only order prints, albums, and photo books, but also a multimedia presentation on a disk.
New Career Paths and Clients. Have you noticed? The same publishers and ad agencies that once hired more photojournalists, commercial, and editorial photographers for print publications are now developing websites that supplement text and photos with videos and animations. Event planners and exhibit designers also need creative professionals who can combine images, graphics, and sound. If you have a gift for visual expression, you can expand your client base if you know how to create effective multimedia presentations.
Some techniques involved in videography are similar to those in photography; others are different. So it’s natural that many photographers have also given video a go. Animation is well within the capability of photographers as well. A sequence of still images can turn into an effective movie. Done tastefully, animating text with accompanying audio can work wonders.
Once you start thinking more about multimedia, you’ll see that the potential is limitless. At some point you will probably need to learn new skills or new software. But the effort and results can be worth it.