Still Respecting Those Photographers

Two years ago today I wrote one of my favorite blog posts in the history of Don’t Blink. I explained how social media really turned upside down the photographer profession. The men and women behind the lens who actually spend years of training perfecting their skill started to see their work devalued, stolen, and depersonalized thanks to services out there called Facebook and Instagram (to just name a couple).

A big part of what made my post 730 days ago so memorable was that I drew from the experiences of a former colleague of mine. Todd Goodrich, the superb photographer at the University of Montana, was candid with me about his initial hesitations regarding the social media boom. It took him a little longer than overnight to come to terms that a lot of his work would be demanded of him practically on the spot just so clueless people with no appreciation for good photography could “like” his images on an iPhone screen.

At the time I talked to Todd two years ago I understood his point of view. I also had an amazing sense of appreciation for how collaborative he was with me and, even though it was tough for him to initially do, had fully accepted and thrived in the new age of photography.

Two years before our talk in 2013 I didn’t completely understand good photography. Of course I knew the difference between a grainy phone image and one of Todd’s high res masterpieces but I didn’t see the distinction as clearly between an amateur with a really nice camera and a professional who had worked behind a lens for years. Seeing more photos, building relationships with photographers, and just maturing in general made me truly able to respect Todd for the incredible talent he possesses.

Now here in the present, my admiration for photographers has heightened even more. As social media continues to dominate society, everyday users are becoming more and more savvy. Our society consumes content at an alarming rate each and every day. With more “stuff” thrown at them now than ever before, people know very well the difference between quality and amateur hour.

You see, two years ago I don’t think the majority of social media users completely understood the difference between professional and non-professional work. Because we wanted to give our audience the best experience possible even if they didn’t know it, I tried to include as much of Todd’s photography as I could. However, that ignorance simply doesn’t exist as much anymore. With social media still growing every single day and the competition absolutely fierce between rival colleges/businesses/etc., good photography is as crucial to a social media program as good creativity and good graphics. Whereas in the past some might have thought someone with a phone in their hand could substitute for a photographer, the average social media user is now starting to reject that display of amateurism. Users notice a difference when they visit the social media page of Brand A and see vibrant, colorful, detailed photos and then visit Brand B and see regular, dulled images.

When students and other people who are looking to break into social media ask me for tips, I always tell them to become good friends with the photographer. They are such an important part of a social media program’s success and it pays to be on great terms with him or her. Some photographers, like Todd, get it. Others might not fully understand the importance of their work being utilized for social media. It is crucial to let your photographer know how much you value them and then show them how their work is received on your social media outlets.

Of course most of us social media professionals won’t have the luxury of securing our institution’s photographer at every event we cover. While a fair amount of events overlap that are covered by both social media personnel and the photographer, you will also have many others that don’t. My general rule is to use images from the photographer whenever they are available but to take the most quality and clear images you can when he/she is not.

Two years later, I still love my photographers! Without them, the social media channels that I have presided over wouldn’t look very good. For all those working in social media, make sure to show your appreciation. Don’t Blink.

To Everyone at Grizzly Athletics: THANK YOU

Earlier today I walked out of the Adams Center for the final time, ending an almost five year ride with Grizzly Athletics. I like to think I left a small part of me behind. With the long hours I worked and the contributions I made I hope I left the department better than when I arrived. But this blog post is not about me (By the way, for all I know my employers could have thrown a celebration party after my car drove out of the parking lot). Rather, this post is to say thank you to the people who supported me, helped me, and listened to me. It is to show gratitude to those individuals who believed in me and let me grow. It is to recognize my co-workers and bosses who helped make me look good and who always took my best interests to heart.

First and foremost I want to thank Christie Anderson. She hired me, she believed in me, she mentored me. Without Christie I would not be where I am at today. I learned everything I know about marketing in intercollegiate athletics from her. For over a year before we got more suitable offices I sat behind Christie and observed everything she did. What an awesome learning experience! I have so many memories with Christie whether it be going on trips, working games, or doing things totally unrelated to work such as going to concerts or bowling.

Next up I want to thank Jim O’Day. My first role model in the college athletics world he treated me with so much respect and kindness. He knew about the power of social media long before many other college administrators even knew what the phrase meant and he gave me the green light to take Grizzly Athletics full throttle down the new media avenue. Two years ago on that terrible day when he had the rug pulled out from underneath him I will never forget the address he gave us at the hastily called all-staff meeting. He epitomized class and humility in a very dark moment and that will always stay with me.

I owe so much gratitude to Brynn Molloy. She came into the Marketing Director position and just kicked butt. Definitely one of the most positive people I know I had a wonderful ten months working for her. We had such a solid working relationship based on collaboration and respect. She was there for me and I was there for her. She allowed me to continue to do my thing and always took the time to tell me good job. We came in each morning on fire for Grizzly Athletics and it made for a great work environment. It is no secret why everyone loves Brynn.

I don’t think I had a bigger supporter when it came to getting me to where I wanted to be than Greg Sundberg. Besides being the best leader I know, no one took the time to help me reach my goals more than Greg. He cares so much about his employees and brings the same positivity to the office each day in the same way Brynn does. I said Jim was my first role model in college athletics; after Greg started overseeing all external communications a couple years ago he became my second. “Sunny” played a big role in getting me to where I am now.

Then there is Kent Haslam…the third person I identify as a role model of mine in intercollegiate athletics. I was so happy and relieved when he got hired as our athletic director. You would be hard pressed to find someone with greater integrity than Kent. Over the past couple years he has been a great supporter of mine. Always sending recognition my way and 100% supportive of my decision to go to Coastal Carolina I feel very fortunate that our AD cared so much about me. Grizzly Athletics is in great hands.

Thank you to our sports information staff! I had the opportunity to work very closely with our legendary SID, Dave Guffey. I earned Dave’s respect and he treated me like a son. I will miss him a lot. I also feel like I got a lot from Joel Carlson (Assistant SID). No one writes better than Joel and I had the pleasure of reading award winning material from his desk on a daily basis. I know by paying attention to his techniques and style that it made me a better writer myself. Rounding out the staff is Renee Valley who never ceased to lend a helping hand when it came to making a few more credentials or helping me find something in the archive room.

I owe big thank yous to the people who generated much of the great content that I was able to use on our new media outlets to give our fan base a great experience. Nate Michael (Griz Vision producer) is an extremely talented individual and one of the best guys I know. Todd Goodrich (University of Montana photographer) works magic with the lens and pours a lot of his time into covering athletics. Jerek Wolcott (videographer, now at Idaho State) really started the video tradition at Grizzly Athletics and was a great friend of mine.

Thank you to our genius I.T. man, Aaron Heiner. This guy gave me a new perspective on what it is like to work under pressure. He also bailed me out of numerous situations involving technology on game days. Speaking of smart people, I couldn’t have succeeded at my job without the help of Chuck Maes. That man has a computer for a brain with incredible knowledge on how every device and piece of equipment under the name of Grizzly Athletics works. . Just like with Aaron, Chuck has helped me out many times when I needed quick assistance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my office mate, Paul Hengel. Paul became a great friend of mine and provided me an example each day of what hard work is all about. No one works harder in the department or has more demanded of him than Mr. Paul. We got along great and our office arrangement couldn’t have worked out any better.

Much appreciation to Heather Alexander (business manager) who showed great patience towards me when I asked stupid questions or accidentally went away from protocol when completing a business transaction. I also am very thankful for how much she has made my transition between jobs easier. Heather, you better make good on your plans to visit Myrtle Beach during the summer of 2015!

Then there are just the people who have supported me so much during my time with Grizzly Athletics. I am talking about people like Janie Haight, Sue DeMers, Cyndi Steigers, and Celine Fisher. They have acted as moms to me and supported me since I have stepped foot in the Adams Center. I was overjoyed when my “Montana Moms” got to meet my real mom at my going-away party late last week.

I don’t want to forget about the coaches. I learned a lot about the crazy lives they live full of pressure, stress, and travel. Take it from me right here: Our “Big Three” head coaches (Robin Selvig, Wayne Tinkle, and Mick Delaney) are absolutely class acts. They are passionate for the Griz and are incredibly kind. Each one of those men took time to congratulate me when I announced that I was moving on. Special shout out to Griz softball coach Jamie Pinkerton who became a good friend of mine. I am sad that I will miss the first pitch in 2015. Also thank you to soccer head coach Mark Plakorus who always took time to talk to me and even attended my going-away party.

Finally, thank you to all the students I had the privilege of working with over the years. From our student-athletes to our Spirit Squad to our team of interns to our mascots I felt so fortunate working a job where I got to interact with young and motivated individuals on a daily basis. In the end my ultimate mission was to serve them and I felt so lucky that I was able to do just that.

The chapter is closed. I now move onto the next stage of my life at Coastal Carolina. However, I will always be indebted to the wonderful people at Grizzly Athletics who gave me my start. Please know I hold all of you in very high regard. THANK YOU. Don’t Blink.

Photography and Social Media

Today while out at South Campus Stadium on an absolute gorgeous evening watching our Griz soccer team thoroughly defeat Utah Valley, 3-1, I had the opportunity to participate in an interesting conversation. While standing on one of the sidelines snapping pictures, I talked with our university photographer, Todd Goodrich. With 22 years under his belt as the main photo man at the University of Montana, Todd is a gold mine of information and cool stories. He is one of those people who you really want to spend some time picking his brain.

University of Montana photographer Todd Goodrich at today's Griz soccer game.

University of Montana photographer Todd Goodrich at today’s Griz soccer game.

We got to talking about his career. In addition to his 22 years at the University of Montana, Todd has also worked for two newspapers in the state of Montana, including a stint at the Missoulian. We talked about how photography has evolved so much over the years and the challenges that have presented themselves throughout the journey. We pointed out the dramatic upgrades in technology and the complete acceleration in turnaround time for the final product as major characteristics in the ever changing business. But while these changes would have any veteran photographer on his toes and his head spinning to keep up, Todd said they never rattled him much. Technology and decreased turnaround times are givens, he said, and he just takes them in stride.

However, he said there was a change inside the world of photography that did take him some getting used to. A change that he was initially weary of and to some degree even fought. A change that pretty much overhauled his industry and that made him look differently at how he valued his work. Todd, what is this major change you are talking about?…

Social Media.

I listened with wide open ears and great interest as Todd explained that my passion was his Achilles’ heel for a short period during his career. The culture changing phenomenon that swept through life as we know it and continues to shape our daily experience today was not warmly embraced by Todd and the photographer industry. Listening to him speak about the detriments that social media had (and continues to have) on the work that photographers do made complete sense.

Todd explained to me that photographers deeply value their work. The photos they capture are essentially their personal stamps, their glory, their labor. When social media entered the picture it made the photographer anonymous and took the beautiful images that he/she produced and made them available for the masses to see but not truly for the masses to appreciate. People could now easily see a cool photo but they didn’t know the back story of that image, they didn’t know the photographer who was behind the lens. Instead of the picture finding a home in a glossy publication or on the crisp pages of newsprint, people could now instantly see it on a computer screen or on their phone. For photographers, it seemed to cheapen their work.

It took Todd time to accept this new (and unfair) direction photography was taking. As someone who directly capitalizes off of the new way we use photography I felt bad. I use Todd’s amazing work all the time through our social media channels to advance the brand of Grizzly Athletics. In an attempt to justify what I do and to see if he really was warming up to how social media has transformed the role of photography I asked Todd if he finds any satisfaction in seeing a photo that he took receive wide viral appreciation and acclaim. For example, just last week I shared a breathtaking skydiver picture that he captured at our first football game that garnered 2,052 likes, 300 shares, and 50 comments. Todd answered yes.

Todd captured this amazing skydiving picture that was an instant viral hit.

Todd captured this amazing skydiving picture that was an instant viral hit.

While Todd has learned to accept the way that social media feeds off of photography, others in his business have not. I honestly can say that I don’t blame those photographers one bit. Likewise, I have an immense amount of respect for Todd that he has come to terms with the very non-reciprocal relationship that exists.

If you ever see a picture on social media that touches you or captures your attention, contact the administrator of that particular social outlet and ask who the photographer is and then send a note of appreciation to that person. If you are in my position and use the work of talented photographers, make sure you let those people know how much you appreciate them. They are just as much a part of your success as whatever you are doing to market/supplement your social outlets. While the photography business gets more and more thankless, it also gets more and more important. Myself and Griz Nation would be lost without people like Todd Goodrich. Make sure to thank a photographer this week. Don’t Blink.