6.6 Visual: Photos and Videos

Sooner or later—though more quickly in the developed world—almost everyone will be walking around with a camera capable of recording both still photos and video—the one in his or her mobile phone. It’s already getting difficult to buy a phone that doesn’t at least take photos, and video recording capabilities are becoming more common, too. Meanwhile, digital still and video cameras continue to sell by the millions, and their capabilities improve at the steady pace we’ve come to expect from modern digital technology.

What kind of equipment should you use? I tend to agree with Chase Jarvis, who says “the best camera is the one that’s with you”—he’s written a book and iPhone app, and created an online community, to reinforce this point. Without the camera, there’s no picture or video.

If you take lots of pictures, you may well want to share some or all of them with others, not just keep them on your own computer. If so, look at online services such as Flickr, a Yahoo! operation that takes in some 750 photos every second. If you’re going to be a heavy user of Flickr and other such services, you’ll need to consider signing up for a paid account that gives you more storage and upload capacity.

If it’s 10 times harder to create an excellent audio report than a piece of text, it may be another 10 times harder, or at least more time-consuming, to create an excellent video. But even here, the ease of production is rapidly improving, and younger people who have grown up with video as part of their routine media toolkits are showing older folks (like me) new tricks.

A video doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, though. I tend to create videos for two main purposes: interviews and scene-setting. Neither is a full-blown production. Interviews are simple: Just set up a camera (and an external microphone, if you have one), and have at it. By scene-setting I mean using the video as a window into your subject. Suppose you’re interviewing a businessperson for a blog posting. You can shoot a quick video of his or her office, so your own audience can easily visualize the place you visited. This takes no special shooting or editing skills, but still has real value.

What should you do with the videos? Most people store them on someone else’s site, commonly YouTube. There are good reasons to do this: notably, the ease of uploading and the willingness of Google, which owns YouTube, to cover the considerable costs of making these files available on the Internet. (Do keep a backup copy of everything you create, though!) YouTube is so popular that as of November 2010 people were uploading 35 hours of video per minute.

Of course, as with social networks and other tools, the most popular sites are not the only ones around. I don’t necessarily recommend YouTube for videos, because it still hasn’t given users an easy way to make videos available under the Creative Commons copyright license, which encourages wider sharing of digital material. I do recommend Blip.TV for that purpose; the service specifically creates a default setting for Creative Commons licensing. (Flickr also has a Creative Commons option, one reason I still recommend it.)

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