A lot of gear comes through the Untold office, and it’s honestly one of my favorite aspects of working here. The unboxing of a new piece of tech or testing out a new cinema camera just makes the day a little sweeter. With each major breakthrough, it amazes me how much easier my job becomes. Yet, instead of adapting to the new luxury, new challenges come up that provide opportunities to push work further. I recently had the pleasure of using a new Profoto system for a location shoot that provided one of these opportunities. I’ll give a small review of these lights in a bit, but first, a quick explanation of location lighting.
Commercial photographers (just as any creative professional) have always grappled with the delicate balance between speed and quality. Traditional studio lights are expensive, complicated to use and require AC power. On the other end of the spectrum are Speedlights, those large flashes you see on top of press cameras and wedding photographer rigs. These lights are simple to use, automagically set their output and are battery powered. What’s the trade off? Their light quality just isn’t studio grade and that’s why most photographers have a small army of assistants following them around on set. In order to meet client demands for quality, they are forced to go with the heavier studio strobes, which puts more boots on the ground and eats up valuable time.
But Profoto, a leader in photographic lighting, has faced this problem head on, and the results are fantastic! The Profoto B1 is a battery powered E-TTL strobe. This means that there are no tangled cords, no searching for outlets, and no setting the output for each light (E-TTL is a fancy way of saying the light talks with the camera about lighting conditions and sets the lamps output accordingly). Best of all, each shot has extraordinarily consistent light with beautifully crisp tones and honest exposures. It is truly the merging of speedlights and strobes. But this brings up some intriguing questions about the creative workflow. Do I still need them same level of support in the field now that my lights set themselves? Is the space for collaboration growing smaller as technology manages to do more heavy lifting? And perhaps most profoundly, can technology replace creatives?
Let’s get real, it absolutely cannot.
While this example is specific to photography, in a world where everything is scripted, streamlined and automated, the basic truth that machines do a lot of our grunt work can be extrapolated out to almost any creative professional. Instead of allowing this to intimidate your work ethic, embrace the advantages and seek new insights for improvements. Here’s a few pointers for showcasing your human attributes in the face of technology.
Creativity is contagious. Inspiration is a funny thing, it doesn’t rear its head on command. Rarely in my life has a piece of gear inspired me to try something new. While the technology certainly sets the limits of what can physically be accomplished, it’s the people that surround me that inspire me to push the limits. Talking with my peers about the power of a new piece of equipment is really the fuel for a new concept, not the equipment itself. Surround yourself with amazing idea makers and be sure to contribute to their goals as well. The best work comes from those who put their heads together, which brings me to my second point.
Technology can’t collaborate, but it can make collaboration easier. Utilize every form of communication available to reach out to the creative counterparts in your life. Maybe you’re the type that has sparks of genius at 4 in the morning. Share it with someone, right then and there, even if it’s just a quick email! I get a barrage of messages every night from friends and coworkers, and some of my best ideas spawn from their willingness to share during these early hours. Additionally, you can bet that when I’m up late brainstorming, I pay the favor right back and shoot my ideas over to them. Make technology work for you by taking advantage of the connected world we live in.
Computer vision is not the same as human vision. While computers can be trained to recognize faces and calculate ideal light exposure, they will never (at least in a pre-singularity world) be able to come up with the big idea. Make yourself valuable to others by being an idea guy. This is always easier said than done, and I’m certainly guilty of letting my introverted side stand in the way. Putting yourself out there can take courage and requires a transparent and open environment. Getting over that roadblock is extremely important, as wise creators will greatly value outside perspective. Let the technology do your boring work quicker so that you have more time to spend injecting ideas and coming up with new approaches.
To bring it full circle, remember that shoot I was talking about earlier, the one with the fancy automatic lights? Well, it turns out that when your crew spends less time setting up gear and dialing in lights, they become valuable creative assets. We were able to crush our shot list, while having time to try new setups that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. Instead of worrying about exposure values, we could think critically about a shots motivation and experiment with the composition. Not only did the technology not replace my cohort of creatives, it became an incredible aid for all of us, opening up doors to better shots. Thank you technology for freeing up some of the teams brainpower!