A photo of one of Giovanni's setups, featuring our Helium Core professional iPhone rig
Giovanni Gallucci is an award-winning digital marketer who helps his clients create high quality visual content to keep up with their customers' insatiable appetite. He went from all-Canon DSLR to Fuji mirrorless to an all iPhone setup, and he shares with us why and how he made the switch.
Hi Giovanni, can you please tell me a bit about yourself and the type of work you do?
I’m a social media/content creation/SEO marketer - effectively a jack of all trades who helps clients with their digital marketing needs. I started my career over 20 years ago as a web developer working on websites. Halfway through my career, I was introduced to SEO and saw its usefulness. I then made the transition to a digital marketer, and because of my background, I’m more technical than your typical marketer. I do things like content creation, metadata injection and visual SEO for clients who can benefit from those services. In short, I make money while pursuing my passions.
How do video and photography fit into the overall picture of what you do for clients?
With contemporary SEO and audience building, video and photography have become key. Six to eight years ago, the marketing world screamed out that content is king, but they were referring to text based content. Today, you can build a great brand using primarily video and photography, with little text content.
What’s the value proposition that visual content provides for your clients?
You literally cannot build a brand without some sort of visual element. To some extent it was always true - but the pendulum has swung vastly - now you can build a brand with just visuals. You can do this without giving up SEO if you know how to inject relevant text and metadata - descriptions, hashtags, tags, location-based data, etc. You also cannot understate the importance of using original visual content - customers learn to identify you by your visuals. Because of that, you can’t use stock visuals these days - people know it and don’t respond well to it.
Can you tell me about your experience as a filmmaker or videographer working on brand videos? How did you get your start?
I always loved photography and dreamt of being a photographer, but there was never a point in my career where I felt comfortable saying “I’m a photographer” because I don’t think of myself as an artsy photographer. I was thirteen or fourteen when I started shooting with a Canon AE1, and though I’ve got lots of experience, it was mostly an amateur thing. When I moved into marketing, there came a point when I stagnated creatively, so I decided to trick the world into thinking I’m a photographer.
There was a 1.5 year transition period where I told people that I was a filmmaker and photographer and I made the move into production. I ended up doing documentary and TV content in Dallas for 5 years. However, it’s much more difficult to make a living as a photographer and filmmaker compared to as a marketer and technologist, and Dallas is an amazing market for technology. I took that 5 years of experience and combined it with my skills as a marketer and technologist to make myself more effective and allow me to serve clients better. Now, I don’t take jobs that don’t involve photos or videos, because that aspect of what I do is what sustains my soul.
I want to caution folks that during that transition to photographer and filmmaker, I worked for free in the first year. I kept my marketing clients, but worked on TV jobs for free. After that first year, I told them I was leaving unless I was paid what I deserved, and thankfully that led to a five year career in production. I say that because I feel that you shouldn’t make that kind of jump unless your life circumstance allows it.
Tell me about your shooting style - how you went from DSLRs to iPhones. Why make the switch?
My current workflow is still a work in process. There are definitely challenges shooting with iPhones compared to DSLRs. For me, things got to the point where the Canon cameras I was using were so good that the images lost their soul. I could get 50% of the images I shot to look awesome, which is a big percentage. I wasn’t challenged or having fun anymore because there wasn’t anything left to learn. I decided to do something to shake things up. I went through Flickr and sorted the shots I’d favorited, by camera type. Leica came first, then Fuji. Without thinking much about it, I sold all my Canon gear on eBay, took that money and bought two XT-1s and five lenses. Keep in mind, I had never used a Fuji camera before that! I even had money left over after selling my used gear! Stuff out of the Fuji cameras was beautiful, and had heart and grit, which endeared me to them.
Part of my marketing job is to cover events. My workflow back when I shot with my Canon and Fuji gear was “shoot for 12 hours, go back to hotel room, spend another 1.5 hours downloading, selecting and editing, then pushing out”. The phones really started coming into my workflow when I realized that 1/3 of the usable video content I was generating was shot with phones. When I realized that, I shot all video content for a year with just phones without telling my clients. They had no idea, and still loved what I was creating. I then spent another 6 months shooting both stills and video with my iPhones. Again, no pushback or negative feedback from clients. I even went as far as putting my phone on the hot shoe of my camera without turning the camera on, then shooting interviews with the phone. My clients had no idea, and still loved the work!
I then decided to make the switch 100% and went from carrying a roller bag and huge backpack with 3 camera bodies, 7 lenses, Macbook Pro and all the relevant accessories to a single Domke bag with 5 iPhones, an iPad, external batteries, rigs and accessories. Everything I shoot now goes directly to iCloud when I get back to the hotel room and hook up to wifi, and I can access it on my iPad or my 5K iMac when I’m back in the office. I haven’t used a laptop computer on the road in 2 years.
How difficult is it to shoot commercial work with iPhones?
The biggest challenge I face is not having super high quality telephoto lenses, but that’s only an issue with sports and concerts. For concerts, my style has evolved so that I don’t shoot in the photo pit anymore because I don’t like that viewpoint, so that’s less of an issue. I shot an Eric Church concert that my clients loved because I was getting backstage and getting the story behind the concert itself - it wasn’t your typical concert shots, and the iPhone performed beautifully. If I was shooting sideline sports like football or soccer, there’s no way I can use phones at the moment, because they don’t have enough reach.
The other big issue I have is the rolling shutter when I do quick movements. I’ve changed the way I shoot to accommodate that limitation. I also use a gimbal, and I advise turning image stabilization on the iPhone off when you’re using a gimbal so they’re not fighting each other.
Event video for Topo Chico shot using iPhones
Do you believe that smartphones have a future in marketing technology? Do you see a future where we don’t even need a full-sized computer to do marketing?
The future is already here! I don’t need a computer to do the things that I need to do. There are more than enough photo and video editing apps that I can replace my 5K iMac for that work. Cloud based marketing apps let me do the other stuff I need to do on my iPad easily. The only reason why I haven’t gone 100% mobile is because of ergonomics and the fact that I love my big 5K iMac screen and my Cinema Display.
Do you believe that the evolution in your gear use is a reflection of your evolution as a marketer? Can you share more about that with us?
Absolutely! The jobs that I do for clients made me make the decisions that I’ve made. The ability to do live events and upload edited content quickly has pushed me in this direction. I can stand in the field, edit and publish directly to FB and Instagram in 15-20 minutes. When I did the same with DSLRs and a laptop, it wore me down physically because of all the weight I had to carry about. I’m a one man band, with no help or a runner to get cards to an editing location, so it took me 1.5 hours to do the same thing. I had to stop shooting, find a place to plug in, pull card out, ingest, edit, then publish.
My decision to embrace an iPhone-only workflow came when I answered the question “Can I move to smartphones and make my clients happy?” with a “YES!”.
All images and videos copyrighted to, and courtesy of Giovanni Gallucci.