If you’re a media creator, the key to having a collection that lasts for years is to create work that can survive long after fleeting trends or technologies die. Whenever I’m planning a shoot, my goal is for the work to have at least a five-to-seven-year shelf life. I’ve been fortunate to have produced images that continue to sell even ten years after their inception by asking myself the most important question of all: How can I keep this shoot from being dated?
It’s always tempting to be the first producer to prop a shoot with the latest gadgets and groom your talent with the latest hair styles and trendiest fashions — but it’s crucial to take a step back, review your shot list and determine which of your scenes portrays an established trend rather than a passing fad.
Human behavior rarely changes, but the technologies and devices we choose for business, entertainment, and travel are constantly being updated. We now rely on apps like Uber and Lyft to get around, yet we still hail taxis. Mobile transactions are taking over our payments, but retail businesses still predominantly use the cash register. Find a happy medium that you can straddle between the traditional business and its contemporary counterpart. In other words, don’t disregard the conventional for something new. On the other hand, while setting up and shooting a scene with an actor inserting a CD or DVD into a player would likely not lead to many sales today, it would have when those technologies were more prevalent.
It’s always tempting to sacrifice shelf life to drape your cast with the coolest fashion trends. Instead, try to find a niche just below the latest trends. Doing your research to decide what your talent will wear is extremely important, and worth the effort to ensure longevity for your content. It’s far too simple and lazy to lean on stock clichés, such as fitting your talent with bright primary colors, or with clothing that’s drained of any personality.
A delicate balance exists between styles that will resonate for years and those that will instantly date your work. If you don’t possess the knack or fashion sensibilities to dress talent yourself, I would suggest hiring a stylist who can assist you in finding the right combination of outfits. When casting your talent, also be conscious of their hairstyles and facial hair. A radical hair style can dramatically reduce the life of your clips in the market.
Unlike landscapes, which are usually future proof, the same can’t be said for cityscapes. Major urban centers are constantly in flux. If you shot a wide establisher of New York City last year, chances are that the shot is dated by now. Make sure to cover the landmarks and general urban scenes, but avoid taxis, cars, and any other clues that can draw the attention of the viewer to when the content was shot.
1080 may still be the most popular format today, but it’s good business to capture your video assets on the highest resolution available. By doing this, you’ll ensure that all the work you did to create longevity within the frame can live for years to come in the context of contemporary media.
VHS Video Tape from the 1980s by IronStrike
Of course, none of this is to say there’s anything wrong with creating media that reflects current trends. In fact, it can lead to a big boost in near-term sales. However, by future-proofing at least some of your work, you can help ensure that you’ll have an evergreen source of revenue, in addition to what you earn from more moment-based media.
Top image: Still from Film Cans on a Library Shelf clip by ceentv.