Which camera is best for making your story?

I have been working professionally with film and digital camera equipment now since the days of Beta and DV tape. The limitations we would experience in those days as visual storytellers were very humbling and very real. The task was always to create a concept for your visual and then walk it back based on the limitations of the equipment/budget, etc. It has been an incredible and somewhat dizzying process to watch the technology evolve as much and as fast as it has for the past 15 plus years that I have been a cinematographer.

We now live in a world where the largest limitations of visual storytelling is one’s own imagination. The affordability of motion control rigs, filmmaking drones, and tiny digital cameras with internal image stabilization have made it such that the sky is no longer even the limit to what we can capture and share with the world. So the real question becomes, where do we go from here? Is the future in 6K, 8K, 3D, smell-o-vision cameras? Arri has dominated over the last few years with their series of Alexa cameras. Will that remain the case over the next 5 years? How do we improve as visual storytellers to make the best, most compelling content? The answer as far as I can tell goes back to telling meaningful, compelling stories with our visuals.

The true power behind and visual that is captured is the story that is being told. Stories told with emotion have the ability to influence our decisions and behavior. There is truth behind the old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This is why competitive, forward-thinking brands leverage storytelling to connect with their customers. A compelling example of this was highlighted in a Forbes article from a few years ago about Starbucks. One might think that a brand like Starbucks has no need to create a compelling, episodic story series featuring real-life people. They are a well-known coffee company after all, right? Well, the fact of the matter is that Starbucks and many other brands recognize the power and influence of storytelling.

As much as we think that we often choose logic when it comes to decision making, the fact is we are inherently influenced by our emotions. Good storytelling makes us feel something. Because of that, a story can influence our decision making.

Your story is what makes your brand different. Most everyone involved in business understands that, right? Let’s say I am buying a backpack. There are a lot of quality options out there at similar price points. Many have strong name recognition, credibility, and quality standards. Personally I may choose Patagonia because of their storytelling around environmental impact and overall company philosophy. I feel like I’m paying to contribute to their mission, not just buy a backpack.

Patagonia’s products are their “what,” but their manufacturing principles and sustainability efforts are their “why”. They don’t JUST make excellent products, they make products that don’t damage the environment and empower you, the consumer to enjoy them.

The same thing could be said about all the camera equipment out there. Why are we using a certain camera or a certain technique? Without the purpose-driven story behind it, the camera makes no difference. I never worry as much about what camera I have in my hands as I do about the lighting (because that is crucial), but more importantly, the story being told. It’s easy enough to let consumers know your “what”, but most of us need more than that. Authentic storytelling is the perfect opportunity for a brand to let people know your “why.”