Rediscovering fire. The future of merging still photography, motion shooting & film editing

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As many of you already know, I’ve had parallel careers the past fifteen plus years of being both a photographer and film editor. In the beginning, I made the decision to keep them separate. While they were both visual artistic expressions, for the most part they seemed to be different entities to me.

I enjoy them both from a creative standpoint. They are both genres of storytelling. They scratch different itches. But for a time I felt them to be distinctly different disciplines.

In the past few years however, I find them to be merging in very unexpected and rewarding ways. More often now, I find myself reaching into these previously different artistic tool boxes and combining them almost without thinking in my creative work.

As a photographer these days, I’m shooting almost as much motion work as still work. As a film editor at The Colonie, I’m incorporating my still photography catalog archives when looking for distinctive images to help tell our stories. Additionally I’m shooting motion photography even when I’ve been hired as a film editor, finding that supplementing the footage I’ve been given to edit, needs a few additional scenes that were not shot. Whatever it takes to tell the story.

The lines are blurring. No longer are my projects specifically a photography project or a film editing project. They have become much broader in scope and I find myself happily surprised that these two seemingly disparate skill sets that have in the past been passing like ships in the night, are not only complimentary, but necessary to my clients, be they my photography clients or my film editing clients.

I find myself in an incredibly fortunate and unique position to be able to use both at the same time. It’s almost like I’ve been independently training to be both a figure skater and a poet and then discovering that the International Olympic Committee has just created a new event called Poetic Figure Skate Reading.

It’s a very exciting time.

This creative mash-up has certainly been challenging from an organizational standpoint and I find myself having to rethink how I approach each creative project. Time and project management has become the largest challenge. I’ve been very close to missing a few deadlines because of the expanding workflow. And with schedules becoming more compressed in recent years it’s become a formidable task to keep everything humming along in an efficient manner.

The critical nature of careful planning before each creative project has only become more vital than it already was. Inventing new workflows sometimes on a project by project basis has become a normal part of the process.

Earlier this month, I found myself inventing a new way to combine Adobe Lightroom with Apple’s Final Cut Pro in my editing suite to manage, prepare and export tens of thousands of photos that had to be organized for a 30 second commercial. Combining my own photographic catalog with thousands of images from another photographer to tell the story. The traditional workflow was simply not up to the task. Sometimes you have to be good and clever.

On the heels of that project, I received footage for my next TV commercial edit, missing a few elements from the shoot because of the overpacked production schedule. This weekend I’m shooting those missing pieces myself to add to the edit as the project proceeds. Again, whatever it takes.

A month ago, one of my best advertising photography clients was putting a new business pitch together. He asked if he could incorporate one of my motion videos I shot last summer to help present the agency’s vision to their prospective client. He saw the video on my photography website. He sent me the product logo artwork and I edited it into my existing footage and in a few days he had a video to add to their successful presentation.

Today I use the same camera to shoot my still work and my motion work. A year ago I didn’t even know it would be possible to do this. My Canon 5D Mark II allows me to use the same lighting, lenses and look that I have developed over many years to create my still photography work – and now suddenly put it all in motion. One minute I’m shooting stills and the next minute I’m shooting HD video with my same signature look. No words can properly express what a turning point that has been in how I approach each project I’m involved with.

Some days I feel like I’ve discovered fire. It’s not an exaggeration.

Over the December holidays, I directed, photographed and edited a music video for Jillian Ann’s first single from her new solo work. I’ve been photographing stills of Jillian for almost ten years and she knew I know what angles and lighting to use to make her look her best. Once again, making the transition to motion was effortless. A month to the day after the first day of principal photography, the video was on it’s way to Cannes, France for the international MIDEM music conference.

I should have the official go ahead to release Jillian’s “Confess” video into the internet wild next month. It actually was posted online for about twelve hours in mid January before her management requested we remove it until the music contracts could be worked out and the roll out of the music single could be synchronized. But in those brief hours of temporary unleashing, the response I received was incredibly overwhelming and gratifying.

Even with that brief glimpse, I’ve gotten more inquires about future directing and editing work than I can take on at the moment. As I often like to say, it’s a bit of an embarrassment of riches.

UPDATE: I just received the go ahead to officially release the “Confess” video. You can view it on my website here, or on Vimeo here.

There are many ways to follow this evolving adventure of mine if you wish:

You can get my Billy Sheahan Photography iPhone App and keep a sample of my photography, editing and directing work in your pocket

Follow me on Twitter

View my Still, Motion photography and Film Editing portfolios on the Billy Sheahan Photography website

Read my Adventures of a Chicago Photographer blog

Stay up to date on my past and future Photography Exhibitions

And soon, the new Billy Sheahan Photography Store will be unveiled if you’d like to own a more tactile and permanent bit of my photography for your very own.

Thanks for all the continued support!

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