Tenba Technique: Imaging Technology Consultant Eduardo Angel
By Aimee Baldridge
/ Published by TenbaThe consultant, educator, and visual artist talks about the technical challenges image makers face today, his collaborative approach to tackling projects, and how creative workers can thrive in the quickly evolving global marketplace.
All photographs © Eduardo Angel.
Aimee Baldridge: How did you get your start?
After working in architecture for several years, I woke up one day and realized that I wasn’t an architect who liked photography, but a photographer who loved architecture. I realized I’d been saving all the money I made to go somewhere and take pictures, and I said, “Why don’t I just do that instead?” So I switched to photography in 1999.
I got an MFA in photography from SCAD, and then moved to Chicago in 2001. I took a job as a rental associate at a well-known photography retail chain and very quickly got a promotion to manager. That was during the time when photographers were transitioning from film to digital, so I gave myself the assignment of learning digital photography to help my clients. Every weekend I took something new home with me to learn how to use it. Eventually, I got an offer to move to New York to be the high-end digital tech for the East Coast. I built my network, got into studios as the guy who had the answers, and when I felt I had built a reputation and was confident in my knowledge, I started my own company. That was in 2009.
AB: What is the focus of your business now, and whom do you collaborate with?
My main work is consulting. My company works with both individuals and large corporations. Our consulting services range from helping clients manage digital files to teaching photographers how to shoot video to more complex projects like testing and reviewing new software and hardware solutions. Essentially, we help customers complete their projects more affordably, effectively, and conveniently. Whatever that means in terms of digital solutions, that’s what we do.
There are six of us who work together most of the time, but sometimes we require a certain expertise that we don’t have or we need to do a certain task very efficiently, so our team grows based on the project we’re dealing with. Our core team works together all the time, and we fill very specific roles.
I also put a lot of time and effort into education, because I love it and I think it’s the right thing to do to give back. I’ve been teaching since I was an architect, so that’s always been important for me. I continue to do shooting assignments as well, especially architectural and travel work.
AB: Do you think creative people working together in a flexible group like yours is the wave of the future?
Yes, because I think what we bring to a client is that we can put together the best team for each project. Small clients aren’t paying a huge overhead, and big clients don’t have to go with the same solution we have for small clients just because we’re not huge. We can customize the solutions for each client.
That’s how independent films work. You find the best director, producer, DP, gaffers, technical people, and talent, and you get it done. When you finish the project, the team breaks apart. Most of them work together on several different projects, but they don’t work under the same roof together all day long for 15 years. They work on other projects and sometimes go with other people. That’s where I draw my inspiration, from the film world and how efficiently it works. There’s no fat. We have very clear goals and know what the end result should be, but we all perform a very specific task.
AB: Are there things you’ve changed about how you work over the years?
Perhaps the biggest lesson you can learn as a small business owner, and the hardest, is to delegate. As a creative person, you’re used to having control of your ideas. You do a project and know exactly how you want it to look at the end.
That’s great for small things, but when you’re dealing with larger projects that last six months or a year, and you’re working with multiple clients on multiple projects, it’s impossible. The key is to hire people who are smarter and better than you. Find people who can do better what you can’t, who complement your weaknesses. Once you learn to let them do their thing, it’s the best experience ever, because you suddenly realize that you have more than 24 hours per day.
AB: What are the biggest technological challenges for your clients these days?
The biggest thing right now is clients asking photographers to shoot video. It’s not really optional anymore. If you want to stay in business, you have to at least know the basics. Learning to follow motion, work with sound, and deal with content in post present the biggest learning curve for photographers. People don’t realize how long it takes to shoot video, how camera movement adds another layer of storytelling, how sound is so incredibly important, and just what to do with the video they shoot. In a couple of hours, it’s easy to shoot 50 or 60 GB. The asset management and postproduction work involved with that presents a massive learning curve.
AB: Where have you been teaching recently?
This year I’ve been to Oman, the United Arab Emirates, South America, and Hawaii. I’ll be visiting Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Atlanta, and Miami in the next two months. I’m also on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography in New York.
AB: What kinds of bags do you travel with?
When I’m traveling by myself, I’ve been using the Roadie video backpack
, which I actually helped to develop. It’s the right size, it has the right pockets in the right position, and it’s very comfortable as a backpack. Most photo backpacks can protect the gear but aren’t comfortable to wear. This one protects expensive gear, but at the same time it’s comfortable to carry. I can walk for a whole day with it fully loaded and it feels great. Everything is easy to reach, and the materials, as always with Tenba, are the best in the industry. When shooting on location, I use a couple of the large Roadies
because they’re indestructible.
For all of my client meetings, I’ve been using the Executive Backpack
. It looks professional, so I feel good taking it to a client meeting. It’s hard to show up for the first time to meet a client with any other backpack, because it will look too sporty or informal. This one looks serious, but since it’s a backpack, you can carry everything you need for the day in it.
AB: What do you think visual artists need to know about the global market?
With today’s technologies, everything you do has the potential to reach a global market. You can post something on Youtube or a social network, and immediately millions of people can watch it. But at the end of the day, people hire people they like and trust, so the human element is important. I would argue it’s even more important than before, because there’s a lot of noise. Everybody has a website and a Twitter account and a Facebook account. A human connection is really important. You’re competing in a global market, but connecting to people only happens on a human scale.
AB: Are there network-building skills you’ve learned from going to new places where you didn’t know anyone?
Very early on I understood that the global currency is a smile. Forget dollars and euros. It’s about just being human and looking somebody in the eyes and asking for help or water or advice, and developing a gut sense of who to trust and where to go. Just be real. Be yourself.
Read about the culture when you’re going somewhere so that you have something to talk to people about. When you talk to someone and you know about their history and political system, you can have an informed conversation. Then doors open immediately, because you respect them and therefore they respect you. It’s that simple.
In business it’s exactly the same. When you’re meeting with a client, it’s your job to do research, to find out what they need and how they can improve. Once they know that you know a lot about them, trust is built. That’s when they know that you respect them, and they respect you.
AB: What have been the hardest and the best things for you in developing your own business?
The hardest thing has been to go against the flow, but sometimes the road less traveled turns out to be the fastest way to get somewhere. It’s hard when everybody goes to the left and your gut says you should go to the right.
The most satisfying thing for me is to look back and consider the things we’ve had the good fortune to accomplish. At the end of a workshop or a consulting project or a shooting assignment, to feel proud of the final product and to feel that the client is very happy with it—that to me is priceless.
AB: What advice do you have for creative people working in today’s market?
There’s a quote by Paul Graham: “It’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi happy.” I think that’s huge. Go for a select group of clients and do mind-blowing projects for them. Don’t try to please everybody. Just try to make a small group of people extremely happy.
The world changes extremely fast, and it will keep changing even faster. So my advice is that it’s not a good idea to have fixed plans in this industry. If you do your homework, network, and build trusting relationships, if you’re always educating yourself and working really hard, opportunity will keep knocking on your door.
Visit Eduardo Angel's website to see more of his work and learn more about his consulting services and workshops.
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