If An Adventure Photographer Takes A Photo Without Doing A Behind The Scenes Video, Did it Really Happen?
BTS videos are quickly becoming the Meth-flavored La Croix of the adventure photography world. BTS stands for BEHIND THE SCENES. The 5-10 minute films have become ubiquitous on social media and online. They usually involve shampoo-commercial style footage of a photographer, dramatic music overlay, lots of slow motion, and some sort of run down on a photo shoot. They often spend some time highlighting how badass the life of the photographer is compared to your own.
Landing a BTS video is the true milestone of a master. It’s the next boy scout badge up from being able to show a top-down photo of $80,000 of photo gear in neat rows on Instagram.
Behind The Scenes.
It even sounds intriguing and exotic. Simply working hard to create cool photos isn’t enough. No young Ansel. Nowadays, you need to SHOW the world that you are worth paying attention to by having a documentary crew follow you around and capture you periodically side glancing into the middle distance while gently grasping a fancy camera like the buttocks of a lover.
What better way to accelerate your career then by having a group of other people that also have expensive cameras to use them to document you in the process of taking photos of someone else doing something cool. It’s a fascinating, Inception-like way to generate publicity when the old hard work and relationship-building method is just taking too long. Who wants to put in 20 years of ups and downs into gradual networking and methodically pursuing the craft when they can become an internet
*whispers* Fame. *whispers* Power. *whispers* Riches.
An accomplished photographer friend once told me that, “The real money in photography isn’t in photography, but the things surrounding photography.” Like workshops, products, services, etc. For the record, money is definitely why I got into outdoor photography. One day I just got tired of my grocery store gig and decided I wanted to stack up cash instead of apples. So I got into photography and I’ve been up to my moobs in the stuff ever since. No more crisp lettuce and rutabagas, just crisp bills and hugabagas…of..money. A BTS, that beautiful, invaluable cocaine-laden cash cow, surely falls into that lucrative “surrounding photography” category.
*whispers* Status. *whispers* Followers. *whispers* Hashtags.
BTS is also a way for companies to promote products and showcase an individual while still looking trendy and uncorporate. Also, especially for stills, it’s easy to swipe through sometimes without thinking about the amount of work that went into an image. Nevermind that that is exactly what I think is nice about stills. That if they don’t engage you right away, they don’t waste your time.
Authors don’t have BTS videos showing them taking cigarette breaks and slow-mo typing in a coffee shop to prove they are hardworking, motivated creatives. As an author, you just work hard sans fanfare, make something, push it out for a long time, and sometimes it takes. The work speaks for itself. And sometimes the gatekeepers say no repeatedly and you end your life.
Coming down from my high tower for second, I realize for some, BTS videos are just a fun way to apply some more value to that gap between stills and motion, allowing viewers to get to know a photographer. Which is fair. But it just seems a little too easy to start off with good intentions then slide into a hypey-hipster montage. This ends up sort of shifting the focus away from the person’s work and attempts to inject celebrization into yet another corner of our culture.
Overanalyzing? Probably! But just a little subtlety back in the mix would be nice. Maybe switch up the formula. And some mystery would be neat. I liked it better before seeing a BTS video of a photographer I’ve admired for many years and after watching the film finding out they had a much higher voice than I would have imagined. Truly devastating. That’s really what this is all about. A shattered photography idol bromance.
Not everyone that has done a BTS video about their work is an unbearable dildopants. Most are probably genuinely awesome and had little say over how their BTS video was even shot.
Really, I’m just mostly worried that if I did a BTS the world would suddenly find out that I’m a fraud and that my voice is much higher on video.