Posted by: Liz Massey | December 6, 2007

Tools of the Trade

Civilservant over at If This Be Method… showcased a few really nice snapshots last week that were taken with a disposable camera during a recent trip to Oakland, California. The inspiration for the photos was a photographer who had taken some excellent photos with a cheesy little cel phone camera. The photographer’s point was that if you respected the limitations of your particular camera, you could still get some really good shots.

I tend to land on this end of the tools vs. technique spectrum. Years ago, I produced industrial safety videos at an aluminum extrusion plant and cut my editing teeth on professional-level (ok, prosumer, but pretty nice for 1998) software. Ever since then, it’s been fairly easy for me to produce acceptable results on video projects using “toy” software aimed at the home-movie-making consumer. Learning how to script productions and set up a reasonable editing workflow was more important than having a program that allowed me 99 audio tracks or scores of eye-popping special effects.

When it comes to idea capture, I advocate using any tool that’s handy (and appropriate). Sketch on that napkin, capture the composition for your photo with that cheesy little cel phone camera, and call in your column ideas to your own voice mail. Better to hatch your masterpiece’s idea using humble means than to never give it life at all.

However, if I were to try to add those low-end video productions to a professional portfolio, it’s possible that my audience might see only the limitations of the equipment, rather than my skill in producing, writing or editing. Creating with the right tools can matter when the evaluation of your output by others is important to you.

At what point, either in your career or in a particular project, does having the right tools matter to you? How do you translate projects executed with amateur-level tools into something aimed at a more professional level of appreciation or consumption?

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