Mark Green has been involved in photography since high school. He hoped to be a musician or possibly paint but didn’t feel that he had the talent yet yearned for a creative release. His father’s Olympus Pen F camera is what helped him realize his talent for photography but it was the workshop he did with Ansel Adams that got him hooked. Winning a couple blue ribbons in state competitions during high school is what gave him confidence. Changes in the economy are what taught him to pivot. Starting to work with video is what helped him to learn to say “just say yes”.
Early Pivot Points
As a high school student, Green studied fine art photographers like Ansel Adams, Albert Stieglitz, Edward Weston and Paul Strand. Following graduation, he got serious enough about fine art photography to take a workshop in Yosemite with Ansel Adams. The portrait he took of Adams during this workshop was to become a signature image in his early portfolio. It was also during this workshop that an instructor suggested that he was most suited to color photography. “I was crestfallen” said Green. He had envisioned himself as a black & white fine art photographer. It turned out to be prophetic in that strong color photography became his signature offering representing an early pivot point. Later he began doing corporate and industrial photography for the booming oil and gas industry in Houston in the early 80’s. In 1986 there was a severe downturn in that industry necessitating his next pivot to annual report photography. “The late 80’s through early 2000’s was what I call the golden age of annual report photography and I had developed a nice niche. It was a spectacular time in my career” says Green.
Pivot to Video
While on vacation with family friends in 2001, he got his hands on a digital video camera for the first time and fell in love with the possibilities. “Digital video cameras were ahead of digital still cameras at the time, and the things we’ve come to expect from digital, such as low light capabilities, and ease of editing, were readily apparent” says Green. He purchased a Canon Optura and started shooting and editing in iMovie on his iMac. He produced videos for his church as a safe environment to experiment. He also began making himself available to assist established video shooters. These experiences allowed him to hone his craft until he felt confident enough adding a video component to his still photography business. He was an early example of a “hybrid” shooter offering both still and video to existing clients and giving him an avenue to approach new business. When annual report photography started to wane, video content was taking off. At one point in his career, video production work represented 75% of his business. He had as many as five full time people working for his studio and many collaborators. This approach made it possible for him to leverage multiple income streams.
Video vs. Still Photography
In Green’s experience, one of the biggest differences between still photography and video photography is the level of teamwork. With still photography, one person is likely to do the lighting, shooting, AND editing. “With video, you are often bringing together specialists in lighting, editing, audio, writing, etc., to collaborate on a project. “I quickly realized that clients really need someone to help them solve problems as opposed to just making pretty pictures or videos. With video production, it wasn’t as important that I was the guy behind the camera as long as I could figure out how to deliver the finished product that met their needs” says Green. This again opened up new revenue possibilities. He was able to send out crews with producers as opposed to being on every set himself.
Green often uses the words “collaborator” and “competitor” when referring to the same person. Being a competitor didn’t make things awkward, for him, it was collegial. “Working in video taught me that a director might hire me to shoot a project one day and I might hire him to shoot for one of my clients on another” says Green. He started applying this philosophy to his still photography business too. Instead of saying he wasn’t available to take a project if he was already booked, he subcontracted it to one of his ‘collaborators’. In some cases, he was more like an agent. This made it likely that a client would call him first. “This is when I developed the ‘Just Say Yes’ mentality. In almost any case, I say ‘yes’ to requests that involve anything multimedia, and plug in collaborators to help execute. Once we got a request from an existing client asking if we knew anyone who did telephone answering on-hold messages. Of course, I said ‘We do that!’” says Green. In this case he already had a relationship with an agency that did voice over work and had a collaborative arrangement with an audio studio so he was able to execute the assignment and realize that revenue.
- Listen to the market and maximize your opportunities by adding services to your business. You can add projects with your existing clients.
- Develop relationships with different kinds of people so reciprocal work can happen.
- Demonstrate that you have a trusted group of collaborators and you will be able to do multiple jobs on the same day.
- Never say “We don’t do that”. Just say YES!
- Pivot as new technologies emerge to try and exploit the possibilities of new markets.
- Develop your reputation as a credible problem solver.
- Don’t put yourself out there in a situation where you can’t deliver. Your reputation is on the line.
Green can be found at MGP2. Images ©Mark Green Photography