When it comes to telling your story, people generally place more trust in what others say about you than what you say about yourself. That's what makes testimonials so compelling.
Since 2011 I've been photographing the Hearts at Home national conference in Normal, Illinois, a gathering of 5,000 - 7,000 moms from across the country. This year, armed with mirrorless camera equipment that easily allows both still and motion capture, I proposed we shoot video footage of the day that included chatting with conference attendees. The Hearts team was intrigued so we created the video shown above (also linked here).
For the past conferences, I'd shot only still photos. Shooting both still and motion this time, however, meant I'd need to rethink my strategy. I decided to spend the morning capturing both still and motion clips from the main sessions and workshops, get the testimonials during the middle of the day, and then return to still and motion clips for the afternoon. This approach worked well--but didn't go exactly as I'd hoped...
Plan A: The Ideal Method
To record the testimonial clips, I'd wanted to set up a "video booth" in an isolated area away from crowd traffic. Why? This would enable me to set up my camera, lights, and audio gear in a controlled environment. Well-lit subjects and clean, crisp audio make for a great finished product.
As we neared midday, however, it became clear that there would be no place available for us to set up a booth. On to Plan B.
Plan B: Run & Gun
In the absence of a controlled space, we opted for a more guerrilla approach, commonly called "run & gun" in the industry.
I configured my Panasonic GH3 camera with a Rode Video Mic Pro microphone in the hot shoe, mounted the Lumix 12-25mm f/2.8 lens, and put the rig on top of a Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 monopod. Though not ideal, this setup would let me get fairly close to the subjects (essential for good quality audio in a noisy conference hall) without being too intimidating. It was also mobile so we could easily record and move quickly to the next location or subject.
I wandered through the conference hall, then, with one of the Hearts staffers, Jennifer, as an assistant. We approached the conference attendees and asked if we could chat with them. Jennifer asked each mom how long she'd been attending the conferences, what they liked about them, and what they'd tell other moms who hadn't attended. Since Jennifer was interviewing the subjects, that left me free to operate the gear (and also took the subject's mind off me, which made them feel more comfortable).
Editing the Video
After the conference, I put together a rough edit in Final Cut Pro X and uploaded it as an "unlisted" video on YouTube. An unlisted video can be viewed only with the link and can't be found with public search, so this is a good way to get feedback on projects that need to be shared remotely.
The first edit ran about five minutes, and Melissa, the Hearts marketing director, wanted it closer to three. I offered Melissa new revisions, removing and changing some clips, adding graphics (created by Leslie, the Hearts team designer), and including a soundtrack from PremiumBeat.com. Besides showing B-roll clips of conference goings-on (including several moments with main speakers Hearts at Home CEO Jill Savage, Dr. Kathy Koch, and Dr. Julie Slattery), the final video testimonials centered on four questions:
- How long have you attended the Hearts at Home conference?
- Why do you attend?
- What's your favorite thing about the conference?
- What would you tell a mom who hasn't attended the conference?
As you can tell, the moms we spoke with are invested in their families, enjoy attending the conference, and take home a lot of encouragement and valuable teaching. While the photographs have great value in themselves, the video adds a rich new dimension to telling the Hearts at Home story.