For those of you in the social media know, Instagram is nothing new. When Facebook added a new feature to the photo sharing app, they called on Workbook contributor JonPaul Douglass, who served as Director and DP on the video (below). We spoke with JonPaul on his latest motion work for Facebook, unveiling Instagram Direct, and his thoughts on social media and the professional photographer.
Introducing Instagram Direct from Instagram on Vimeo.
How did you get approached for the Instagram Direct Video?
I have been lucky enough to work on a few projects with Facebook prior to this one. They contact me from time to time if they have a project where I might be good fit. They have a tremendously talented team over there, and I’m very happy I can occasionally be a part of what they are building.
This motion project would become the introductory look at a new software feature. How well versed did you become on the Instagram Direct Video feature before you had to capture it on film?
We had quite a few meetings simply talking about how the Instagram community might use the software. It was tricky at times because we didn’t want to show people “Direct Sharing” something that they might normally “Share to all.” So the challenge was trying come up with realistic situations where someone would share to a few or one other person. Personally, I use the feature to share inside jokes with close friends, but we couldn’t exactly show inside jokes to such a broad audience. We filmed many more situations that did not make the cut, but I like where we landed in the end.
One nuance of this film that makes the software seem less menacing is the organic approach to filming. As the Director and DP, what was the quality you wanted to capture most?
One of the things that really makes this video organic is the fact that the three community members we followed are all very close friends. It wasn’t like we were telling actors to pretend to laugh; these were real relationships we were filming, and it really shows. A few days into our journey, we all became very close: it was never us and them, it was always us. We all still keep in touch, and of course, follow each other on Instagram.
This video spans many mini stories in multiple locations. Can you elaborate on the filming timeline and dealing with the multiple locations and story lines?
We started with a very loose timeline and schedule. We made it that way because we knew there would be some surprises along the way, and there were surprises. We did have a list of possible moments that we would reference, but much of the trip was reactive to where we were and what everyone was actually doing. The scenes that are not from the road trip were filmed afterwards, and we chose what to shoot after we picked which situations we wanted to use. The most daunting task was going through and reviewing the massive amount of footage we obtained. In many ways it was like we were shooting a documentary and filling in the blanks later.
What is your take on the advent of social media and the professional photographer? Do you see applications like Instagram as a detriment or help to the working photographer?
I was late in joining Instagram because I didn’t take it seriously at first. I already had a Flickr and a Tumblr for sharing my personal photography. As time went by I noticed that every person I knew was on Instagram and using it heavily. I then realized it was much more than just an app that let you use filters, it was thriving photography-based social network. I knew I had to get involved or continue to feel left behind.
I’ve seen professional photographers curate their Instagram feeds in different ways. Many use them as personal windows into their working world by posting behind-the-scenes photos or snippets of their commercials. I didn’t want to go that route; that stuff isn’t that interesting to me. I decided to use my feed as a separate creative outlet for my personal work. I like that Instagram levels the playing field for everyone by sticking to the unsaid rule of only using your phone. I feel like you can get a great sense of someone’s creativity by looking at an Instagram feed. That said, I think it’s still crucial for a working photographer to have a portfolio site linked from an Instagram account.
A good example of how social media can be used by a professional photographer would be releasing photos from a series as it’s created. It keeps the series in everyone’s minds, instead of posting all at once. A few months ago, I started running around LA and putting pizzas in different locations and photographing them. I created a hashtag for it, and people really seemed to look forward to my #pizzainthewild
posts. The creative director for the Instagram Direct promo actually snuck a couple of my pizza photos into the spot. If you look closely at some of the phone screens you will see them. The whole pizza series is so much fun for me, and I was very happy to see them in the final cut.
To find out more about JonPaul, click here.