Online Tools to Stay Competitive in the Digital Age

I saw an interesting snippet in the news last month that total ad revenue across print media had actually declined; it was reported as a “first.” Whether a first or not, it’s significant. It explains why newspapers are working so frantically to expand their Web sites — and why they are asking photographers to expand their skill sets. The good news is that the Internet gives news gatherers some exciting new options for presenting stories with multimedia and video.

The San Jose Mercury News, led by photojournalists Richard Koci Hernandez and Dai Sugano, has made great strides in the development of multimedia versions of news stories. Many times I have found myself shooting alongside Dai — the difference being that he was recording audio as well as catching frames.

Dai originally used the M-Audio Micro-Track recorder, a product that had its quirks, like a built-in rechargeable battery that caused plenty of problems. He has since moved on to more sophisticated equipment. Together, Richard and Dai have helped drive the acceptance of multimedia visual presentations of day-to-day news stories.

Exploring Your Multimedia Options

A growing number of photojournalists have embraced video and multimedia as additional — not alternative — forms of story delivery.

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Leeson of the Dallas Morning News routinely used a video camera while embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq in 2003. His blended delivery of video and stills was a groundbreaking departure from the usual photo essays. Since picking up the video camera in 2000, David has created more than 70 short features and seven documentaries — and has won numerous awards for his video work, including an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow award.

Now, more and more photojournalists are to exploring their multimedia options — either out of curiosity, or because their employer has slapped a video camera in their hands and told them to start shooting.

To bring together photographs and audio quickly into a multimedia slideshow, many of us have used Soundslides. Those looking for something a little more sophisticated might choose a tool such as Fotomagico. And those with video production experience might prefer Apple’s Final Cut Pro — but for many multimedia projects, this is the equivalent of using a bazooka when a BB gun will do.

Once you’ve produced your presentation, depending on who it’s for and how you plan to use it, you may need an online hosting service of some sort. YouTube is popular, but the video playback quality is appalling. Recently I hosted some slideshows and videos on the VII Visionaires site on Ning. This allowed me to embed code in my Web site and blog that played back the videos. And the quality is pretty good.

VUVOX Does It All

Recently, though, a better, free alternative has come along in the form of VUVOX (which was recently acquired by eBay). All online, a VUVOX account allows you to upload images, audio and video, and assemble these media components into a number of different delivery formats.

Check out my blog for one example of how you can present your photographs in a refreshing and interactive format.

Protecting Your Work

Of course, the Internet not only brings us alternatives for the delivery of our work; it also brings an increased risk that our work will be stolen. Anyone who has been following the progression of the Orphan Works legislation must be feeling somewhat nervous about the potential outcome. Professional photographers need all the help they can get to protect the copyright on their work, especially online.

Fortunately, there is a new tool, called TinEye, to help us track the use (permitted or otherwise) of our images, together with the ability to spot manipulation of our images. Check out this demo to see an excellent illustration of how this technology works. And sign up for an “invitation” to try out the current beta version. Yes, there are other photo tracking technologies out there, but TinEye is particularly innovative and, apart from anything else, the people there are really nice.

Keeping track of new technologies released on the Internet is a great way to secure those competitive advantages that will keep you one step ahead in your photography career. More and more of these technologies are available at no cost, while the polish and performance of these applications is always improving.

[tags]photography tips[/tags]

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