Great stories need great pictures – Fuji X and corporate influencing
People love stories, but stories need good photos – at least when it comes to corporate stories. I work in product management for Siemens’ industrial division in Nuremberg, Germany, and for some time now I have also been acting as an “evangelist” and “corporate influencer” for technology topics in social media. And this is where Fujifilm comes in – but first things first.
The Beginning: A Kodak Retina
Photography has been my companion for over 30 years. When I was 15, my father lent me his old Kodak Retina Ib for the first time, and after a few weeks, I had already photographed my first newspaper story: the student ski race in my hometown.
Apparently, the photos weren’t bad, so I quickly became a freelancer for the local press, in the end with over 500 publications. I learnt to be fast and to deliver reliably – or as a newspaper editor once told me: “I can’t fill a page with your excuses”. But becoming a professional press photographer seemed too hard a journey to me if you wanted to make it to the top.
Visual Story Telling
Today, as a corporate influencer, I regularly create articles for various media, from trade journals and the Siemens blog to LinkedIn and Twitter. Corporate influencing means that my posts and blogs are not official Siemens’ statements, but are authentically written by experts for experts.
But you can’t compare this to YouTube or Instagram influencers; in the B2B area, several thousand followers are already a lot. In addition to the copy, be it shorter or longer, I also go about getting suitable photos. This is where noisy mobile phone photos are long out of fashion because the (visual) competition on social media platforms is enormous. It’s still the good photo that grabs users’ attention.
The topics that I translate into suitable images for this visual storytelling idea are quite diverse: congresses, trade fairs, our products in context, customer testimonials and reference projects, and portraits of interview partners and employees. But I know my limits: For larger projects, we work as a team with agencies, professional photographers and video filmmakers.
As a visual language, our communication experts prefer a documentary style with natural light, interesting perspectives, an overall bright appearance, but without drawing too much attention to itself. With my roots in press photography, that suits me just fine.
My approach to an actual assignment is different, depending on the channel and task. For a social media post, it usually only takes a single photo, but it has to function as an “eye-catcher” – just like the lead picture in a newspaper in the past. Sometimes that just takes a couple of minutes, but a video for LinkedIn can take a whole day.
For portraits, these days I usually take a picture as a “quote card” as well, namely in landscape format with lots of space on the left or right-hand side to insert copy on a transparent layer. In general, it’s worthwhile not to select a detail that’s too cramped so that the layout artists can later drag different formats from one image.
For larger stories, I develop a list in advance with possible motifs so I don’t forget anything when on location. Overview about what it’s all about, medium shots, details, our products in use, people at work, and portraits of people quoted – that’s the usual scope for such an industry report. Even if you’ve prepared well, you have to remain flexible in order to react to any eventualities on site.
What’s in my bag?
I’ve been using Fujifilm cameras and lenses for about two years, following Nikon DSLRs (D300), Olympus/Panasonic and the Sony A7. My requirements may perhaps be a bit complicated, but Fuji can answer them: I need professional image quality (24 MP) and 4K video; I want the camera to be as compact as possible so I can take it with me on my travels without it being a burden; and the lenses need to offer a consistent, harmonious imaging performance as a system.
What’s more, that I’m a fan of fast prime lenses! After some time with the X-Pro1, I switched to the X-Pro2, and finally to the X-H1 for its video capabilities. I have tried the X-T3 as well, which feels perfect in every little detail. But IBIS is too compelling to be left out, because it helps a lot to keep the noise level down when I can’t work with a tripod.
The lenses I am mainly using: the 14 mm f2.8 for industrial surroundings and events; the 23 mm f1.4 for portraits in context and a reporter-style look; the 35 mm f1.4 as my “Swiss army knife”; and the 56 mm f1.2 for a condensed perspective with nice soft-focus effects and of course for portraits. For a while, I took the Zeiss 32 mm f1.8 for its great corner-to-corner sharpness with me, but its colour reproduction is not identical to Fuji.
This isn’t a problem with photos but is apparent and annoying with videos. In addition, a Sirui carbon tripod, a polarising filter including adapter and batteries/memory cards – that’s all that’s needed. For video, I use a Sachtler tripod, a wireless Lavalier microphone set from Sennheiser and – extremely important – a white balance card.
I’m a big fan of Adobe Lightroom for post-processing. In my analogue days I never really got to grips with darkroom techniques – somehow it always seemed to me like uncontrollable alchemy. In Lightroom, I can directly control, repeat, and undo all the processing, which is what you need in order to make a great image.
That’s why I exclusively take pictures in RAW and then process the files in Lightroom or LR mobile (for instance for social media, when things have to be done quickly). I also find this a great relief on site because I don’t have to worry about perfect exposure or white balance. From my point of view, Fuji files are very easy to post-edit, much easier than with the Olympus PEN-F, for instance.
Usually, film simulation (usually Classic Chrome or Provia), some colour dynamics, curve adjustment and geometry is enough, then I’m all done in most cases. In some cases, some local exposure adjustments are applied in addition.
A private companion too
I also like to take a Fuji camera with me privately, especially when I’m travelling. Then I sometimes work for a whole hour on a single motif and am happy if I’ve got a small handful of “keepers” in the evening. Today, the X100F is my travel buddy of choice, sometimes with the WCL adapter, but more often it’s just the camera. But that’s a whole other story!
Markus is a 48-years-old marketing professional from Nuremberg / Germany. He started his photographic career as a part-time & freelance photojournalist and is now shooting corporate topics for social media, trade magazines, and other publications – as a part of his job as corporate influencer/technology evangelist. In his main job, he is heading a team of product managers at Siemens Digital Industries. Markus studied computer science and business management. Photo: Siemens