Engaging Sourcing

Visual Storytelling and the Future of Photos: Kaptur Magazine Founder Paul Melcher’s Take

Photos and videos are exploding online. Every day, new innovative content is capturing our attention. Marketers are taking advantage of the trend and investing in visual content. The majority of senior marketers say visual content is crucial to their business, and its importance will continue to rise in the future.

But what exactly does that future look like? How will user-generated content affect how brands communicate? Will we all be experiencing new destinations through VR headsets? How can marketing teams track their content and its performance? How will we manage all of this content, and can we avoid the content apocalypse?

These questions are exactly what we want to talk about at our upcoming event, Visual Storytelling and the Future of Photos, hosted with Startup Socials NYC on November 2 at our office in NYC. To get the conversation started, we’ve asked the panelists to answer a number of questions, and we’ll be sharing their answers here on the Libris blog over the next few weeks.

First up is Paul Melcher, who has been named one of the “100 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. Paul works with visual tech startups through his consultancy MelcherSystem, and founded Kaptur Magazine. We asked Paul to share what drives him, which trends have his attention, and where he thinks the visual web is headed.

Q & A on the Future of Photos with Paul Melcher

Can you tell us about Kaptur and how it relates to the visual web/visual storytelling?

Paul: Kaptur was born out of frustration and the need to fill a void. While working at a company called Stipple, which offered in-image interactive layers, I was constantly having conversations with marketers and publishers who were clueless about how to take advantage of the explosion of photography online. So I decided to write about it.

Kaptur has three sections, one for “breaking” news, one for stats and facts, and one for commentary, analysis and interviews. In the last 2 years, we have showcased many new startups, interviewed researchers from Google and Yahoo, as well as investors, professors and marketers.

We want to bridge the gap between those who create the next generation of the visual web and those who could most benefit from them.

What is your take on the visual web and how it’s changed over the last 5-10 years?

Paul: The web has always been primarily visual, at least since the launch of Netscape/Mosaic. What has changed is the understanding of the potential of visual content.

Before we had massive numbers of engagement around photography – as illustrated by Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest – it was seen as a secondary tool. Now, there is not one publisher, advertiser, blogger, brand marketing or e-commerce specialist that can or would ignore the power of visuals online. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Snapchat have whole departments whose sole role is to think about visuals, how they are consumed and what can be done with them.

The last 5 to 10 years have seen the visual web step out of its infancy and become a young turbulent teenager.

How has the prevalence of UGC and changes in visual storytelling affected photography?

Paul: The number one change is that we suddenly discovered that there is a lot of non professionals that are very talented. More than anyone ever thought. The presumption was that everyone that was good was a professional. Well, apparently not. This has allowed for the control of the messaging from professional to amateurs. No longer do pro photographers, art directors or photo editors have control of the visual grammar. It’s primarily in the hands of the crowd. It doesn’t stop anyone to have a strong style, but it has changed how the narrative is told.

For example, we are more and more edging towards telling a story in one frame. What a lot people call “authenticity.” In fact, what authenticity really means is that the one frame contains a beginning, a middle and an end, all wrapped in a believable context.

What are the biggest challenges that photographers face on the visual web?

Paul: Photographers face two challenges: monetization and attribution. While there is an explosion of photography online, there is, in a parallel, a rapid depression of compensation. Fees are dropping almost as fast as the usage of photography is growing.

As well, respect for authors is deteriorating, as if caught in a stampede. Images are being published, shared, reposted, without any attribution, forever breaking the umbilical cord between the image and its creator. In turn, it annihilates the chance for the photographer to ever see any compensation.

What’s one trend in visual storytelling that you see taking off? What about a trend that you see flopping?

Paul: For the trend I see flopping, I would say mutlimedia. While it was an exciting proposition to mix video, photos and sound, it required a too complex creation process for the author and too much time dedication from the viewers.

The trend I see taking off is the format. The antiquated rectangular (or square) flat 2 dimension image that was the only format during the print era is being challenged by new, boundless alternatives: Gif, cinemagraphs, 360, immersive, circular are just a few of the new available containers for photography. They offer a much wider, richer way to create and consume images. We are no longer restrained by a rigid frame, nor are we confined in static fraction of a second. The possibilities for visual storytelling are suddenly exponentially increased. The future of visual storytelling belongs to those who will master those formats.

Read More on Visual Storytelling and the Future of Photos

Be sure to join us for Visual Storytelling and the Future of Photos on November 2 for more on the future of the visual web.

In the meantime, brush up on visual storytelling and photography tips and trends with these posts:

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