There is more to the story than just capturing the image.

Here is a picture that has being shared around social outlets, especially among my broadcast journalist colleagues. When I look at this funny little caricature, I am amused by the technological indicator of where we are as consumers, and how we have become a part of reporting the story.

If you look at the picture…ten years ago, you could flip flop this image. The paid photojournalists were on the right and the lay person was on the left wondering what is going on. Now, even our grandmother’s have access to smartphones that capture and record high quality images and video. They even have access to technology like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, and a host of other technologies that have larger audiences than a television stations DMA.

It is funny how times are shifting and we as storytellers are having to learn to compete in a space flooded with “that” proliferation of information. It is a new paradigm and it is hard not to get scared of this digital media industry. We as practitioners are trying to find ways to bring value to the craft of photojournalism, digital communication, and documentary storytelling…and separate ourselves in this competitive world of “media.”

I was sharing this photo with a close friend and he asked, “Does this photo make you wonder if there is a timeframe to your industry?” I actually feel it strengthens my mission and my business. There is a distinction between the technology that captures and shares images and the craft of using media to tell stories. It is a difference between the practitioner and the technician.

I am excited to let the community act as the technician with their iPhones and Droids and using their 4G LTE service to share those images. Why? Because I can allow them to share the information and let me tell the story behind the information.

The craft behind storytelling allows “us” to use media(s) to capture, craft, construct, and share a story with an audience…inspiring them to create change. Let’s take the Tsunami in Japan, so many individuals captured this story in real time with their smartphones and share online. The storytellers were the individuals that found the people directly impacted by that wall of water…crafted stories that share the human element of this story. Those are the stories that still grip us and bring context to those images.

Both communities (practitioners and technicians) co-exist and leverage each other’s digital access…the consumer shares the action and the storytellers craft the human element of the reaction.

* Image by Gary Varvel 

Storytelling…it is all about getting the moments.

Sometimes you never know when a good story is going to present itself…so we have to be prepared. Years and years of training and it never fails, when the lights are just perfect, the shot is just beautiful…that perfect moment in time happens off camera.

I have always been one who likes to debate the technical expertise versus the storytelling techniques of listening. I have worked with some of the best technical photojournalist, creating some of the best images, capturing some of the most amazing interviews. But the best storytellers, best photojournalists are the ones that are willing to break away from that perfect setting and capture that one shot that tells the whole story.

It was just the other day, I was in the middle of a shoot with a family who was going to share their experience with a physician. Perfectly crafted shots, perfectly scripted, perfectly composed…but the real shot was when the little boy ran out of the shot to get a sucker from the nurse. Perfect moment in time, captured because I pulled away and followed the boy. The shot was not perfectly framed…it included lots of the lighting equipment in the background…but it captured that moment in time shared between a little boy and a provider.

I live by a mantra, work by a mantra, tell stories using a mantra…one that I learned many years ago:

Two Shots Ahead
Three Shots Behind
Get The Moment

That simple. I am always telling stories with my cameras thinking about the next two shots I want to capture, the previous three shots I just captured…and most importantly to always capture the moment.

No Such Thing as a FREE LUNCH – Social Conspiracy Theory!

You see this…yes, this is being passed around online. All over Facebook, people are sharing this…FAST. I think this one image has been shared over 187K times, and we are eating it up and sharing it faster than some funny YouTube video. The viral effect of social conspiracy theory has invaded our online space like funny looking martians…and the idea we are being watched by big brother is ALL AROUND.

Guess what…it is not a conspiracy.

Here is another one of my favorites that people are sharing on Facebook:

“PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE”

People are copying and pasting this into their status’s faster than their internet connection will allow them. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.

This is what I know:
1 – Big brother is watching us –> Google Maps
2 – Facebook is FREE
3 – Facebook is monetizing our data
4 – Twitter is FREE
5 – Twitter is monetizing our data
6 – Google is FREE
7 – Google is monetizing our data
8 – Elvis is STILL ALIVE…maybe?
9 – I just used Google to search “Is Elvis still alive?”

OK…back to the important discussion…

Who the heck are we to use something like Facebook, Twitter, Google and sit back an expect them not to monetize it. When we sign-up, we knowingly accept the fact that we are uploading content, pictures, impressions, etc. and it is going to be used/leveraged to generate their income.

Are we that naive or has Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other online media outlets leveraged the fact that we want more for nothing, while they make it harder for us to opt-out of leveraging our information.

How many people do you know upload all their pictures to Facebook as a primary storage device. Specifically they use Facebook as their photo album. Each picture takes space, it takes bandwidth, it has an ecological impact on our local environments…the data centers that support this information. We as consumers pay NOTHING for this…NOTHING. We are getting so much for NOTHING and yet we expect the businesses who spend billions to support these infrastructures not leverage that information to generate revenue.

When is the last time you gave away all your intellectual power and knowledge for free. Yes, you probably donate your time and energy to certain causes, non-profits, churches, initiatives, etc. But could you do that full time…NO. You have to pay the mortgage, gas, electricity, etc. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The social documentary is alive and well in the social space(s). So let’s look at the statistics of usage in this free market of online spaces:

Twitter (Stats by
By September 2011, we were tweeting 33 billion tweets per day and 11 Twitter accounts are created every second with 1 million accounts added every day. Guess what…$259 million dollars in projected ad revenue for 2012.

Facebook (Stats by
Let’s look at Facebook…250 million photos uploaded daily with 845 million active users that have led to 100 billion connections. Facebook users average 2.7 billions “Likes” each day, 37 million “Pages” with 10 or more “Likes”, and 20 minutes spent per visit. In 2011, Facebook make $1 Billion dollars with Zynga games accounting for 12% of that total revenue.

Google (Information from and Larry Page’s Blog)
How about Google…last year there were 1.7 Trillion searches with an average of 4.7 billions searches per day. YouTube has over 800 million monthly users uploading over an hour of video per second. Chrome has over 200 million. There are over 350 million people using Gmail and over 5,000 new businesses and educational establishments now sign up every day.

Each day we add to the social conspiracy, we use these outlets to share at the expense of them driving their revenue dollars. Our content, our time and their infrastructure, their revenue. We pay for this service with our content, that is our investment. As an investor, we should openly, knowingly understand how they use our data and use these networks appropriately.

The conspiracy theory is true…they are using our time, energy, content, and effort to generate billions. Just quit freaking out about it and know what you are paying for…each second and each time you use these outlets.

Craft vs. Service –> technician or an artisan of your craft?

Craft versus Service has been a debate and conversation internally I have been exploring during the growth of my business. This is a big distinction in my mind as I think forward. In the service industry, we find ourselves trapped in a scaling cycle of trading time for money…how much work can we (ourselves and our organizations) spend working for billable hours. There are just only so much time in a day, week, month, and year.

So what is the distinction between a “craft” or “service” and how can we find distinction in our businesses. When I think of a service, I think of billable hours. Providing a service that brings value to another organization that warrants billing for that time. I love this definition on

“A service is the seeking and receipt of a specific outcome of a customer across a range of interactions and touchpoints over time.”

This article and definition above is exploring the pathways of services when it relates to the customer and the touchpoints/interactions along the way. I look at those toughpoints/interactions as billable time that the customer and the service provider share in an agreement.

So I think through ways to create greater revenue opportunities for service organizations:

1) Increase the billable rate for the touchpoint/interaction
2) Increase the different touchpoints/interactions
3) Increase the size of the organization

This is a time vs. money equation. This is where we can only spend our constrained time trying to squeeze in more hours to churn out more work. So, does this increased work load for small/entrepreneurial service organizations properly provide a service to our customers that is exceptional.

So let’s look at the craft concept.

A craft is a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work.

I see “craft” as the happy place between “practitioner” of a skill and and the execution of a “technician. These individuals have mastered a skill as technician, can interpret the skill as a practitioner, and have created a crafted approach to delivering a service. This craft, this “art” has only tangible, marketable value via expertise, credibility, and valued results. These practitioners of a “craft” are artisans and have experienced an apprenticeship model perfecting their craft over time.

The craft approach to communication is one that has the ability to create culture and shift thinking. They are leaders in their discipline and take leadership roles in the projects they create. Their craft is not one of billable hours but of final product. Their business model is one of intellectual equity…one that brings expertise to the table.

So where do you find yourself or your organization in this intersection of the “craft” vs. “service” equation?