“Put up the set lighting! Check aperture, check exposure setting. All good? Okay let me take that photo.”
These are the words of Jeremy Mark as he goes about his business during a photo shoot production at a 3-bedroom stylised apartment property at Lae’s central business district. Lopoki Inc. tagged along to see how Jeremy went about the thought process, techniques and workflow for a production shoot and hoped to learn some tricks of the trade off him. Jeremy runs LAKE Media, a small business operating out of his own home.
Why LAKE media?
“Well LAKE is an acronyms taken from my childrens’ names,” Jeremy explained when I queried the origin of the business name. LAKE Media specializes in video production and other creative content. Since he started the business in 2019, he has been slowly building a portfolio of video and photography engagements with PNG organizations and even international companies. Today, LAKE Media was engaged by a real estate firm to photograph their refurbished apartments so that they could use the photos for their promotion and advertising purposes.
As I helped him carry the camera equipment and set up lighting, I could see a bit of the work that went into creating the appropriate images needed. It takes patience, dedication and most importantly a highly technical knowledge of how the camera works, lighting and other important principles too such as rule of thirds, depth of field, contrast, emphasis, proportion, etc. We went into the property around 12pm led by the real estate team who explained the different sections of the house. Then Jeremy explained to the real estate team the general outline of photos he would take around the property. He pointed out that in the afternoon when the sun gave a nice golden look, usually around 5pm, he would take the drone photos. Jeremy then started taking photos.
He started taking photographs outside. We started on the front, moved to the edges of the unit complex, then to the back of the house. He took mostly landscape photos of the area and building and also some portrait shots too. After that we moved into one of the units where the real estate team had already set up the house with white and brown goods. We set up the lighting set and then he meticulously took photos of the living room, kitchen, laundry, master bedroom and other rooms. The house was a two-storey building so we moved the photography equipment around a bit.
The tools of the trade
Jeremy used a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera with a 16-35mm lens on a tripod, with a lighting kit of four 24W LED lights providing plenty of lighting. He shot everything on a tripod, using slow shutter speeds of 1 to 5 seconds at high apertures (f6 to f8) for sharpness. We moved furniture and carpets to maximize the room and its features in the photographs. It took us around 2 hours to shoot photos of the exterior and interior of the house. After that, we left the property and would come back later in the afternoon to shoot the aerials with a DJI Mavic 2 drone.
While technical knowledge is important, good equipment is the lifeblood of a multimedia production business. I could see that Jeremy had invested in cameras, lenses, a drone, a softbox lighting kit, batteries, media storage devices, cleaning equipment and portable storage bags for all these items. He got a BSP loan of K47,000 to acquire these assets in 2020. While this seems a large amount of money for someone to do this as a microbusiness, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Jeremy had been able to pay back the loan through mostly video production jobs. When I asked him about how he has been getting jobs, he said, “Word of mouth!”
What he meant by ‘word of mouth’ is what we know as word of mouth marketing or referrals. He explained that early on in his business career, he used social media to advertise LAKE Media services. He used social media to advertise his services around 90% of the time and 10% of the jobs received were through his contacts. When he acquired the first three or four engagements, he worked really hard on them making sure the quality stood out. His quality of his work began to draw in clients outside of his regular circles. His clients appreciated the LAKE Media products and services and this began to build an extensive portfolio that now has provided for over 30 clients. While most of these clients are corporate entities, he has ventured into the tourism, events, health and development work too.
When queried about some of his ongoing jobs, he pointed out that LAKE Media currently provides video production support too. This includes an ongoing video time-lapse of the Nadzab Airport Redevelopment Project which will end in April 2023 when the new terminal is opened. Since he runs a one person operation, he explained that LAKE Media also engages other photographers and videographers too. For example, in Lae, when there is a high demand for video or photo production for events especially corporate functions and weddings, he gives these jobs to other media partners too.
Values in the business
Lopoki Inc. asked Jeremy what he attributed his success to. He said a lot of things including support from his family and having discipline but the one thing that anchors his business and personal life is a phrase he once heard spoken by one of his role models, Fr Jan Czuba, “Be a person of value, rather than a person of success.” He elaborated: “My day is about adding value in everything I do whether at work or home. I don’t concern myself with successes because it gets to your head and makes you too comfortable. Instead I focus on value. What is it that I can do to make a product or service better, or add to a conversation to find solutions?”
What are his challenges? When COVID-19 came, the jobs diminished as travel was restricted, LAKE media couldn’t get jobs as other businesses stopped giving out jobs so as to save money. Even gaining jobs required going though the process of testing and isolation which was not business effective. Today, business is picking up slowly but other pressing matters still occupy the forefront of running a small business. There is also the issue where jobs can be intermittent so one has to be develop other streams of income too. One positive is that Jeremy has a permanent and formal job working in Lae city for the last 10 years so he does LAKE Media on the weekends and during his breaks.
When he cannot attend jobs during week days, he has a pool of talented creatives he sends to do the jobs. “That’s why I focus a lot of my time on training the young guys that work with me. Some run their own businesses so we’re always collaborating to find the right chemistry and people with great work ethic to deliver jobs that can be demanding. “Sometimes, I knock back job requests because no one is around to do them as the guys are always doing something every other week. We find a good work life balance most days so it’s a matter of planning for the best and worst so to speak.” he said.
A message to others
Does he have any words of advice to others who are contemplating their business ideas or starting out in their small business endeavors? “Well, my message to the young guns starting out in a photography or video making business, or any other field, is put your head down and get the work done. Stop stressing over likes and views and chasing clout. Strategize and distribute your content on your socials if you must on a regularly basis however market your skills face to face too. This is because networking with businesses and individuals in person is still the gold standard. Stop appealing for followers online rather focus on getting skilled up, show up, get the work done and then go home. Do that for one year straight and you’ll wake up one day and find your inbox is full of job requests.”
Lopoki Inc. supports the work of small business such as LAKE Media not only because it tells the story of being disciplined in growing your business through a good values system but also about being able to produce quality content that add value to organisations operating in PNG.