BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front):
Never “phone it in” thinking you’ll get a chance to create something better “tomorrow,” because tomorrow never comes, and now you’re stuck with subpar work floating around out there with your name on it.
I Phoned It In:
I screwed up. I was doing an evidentiary photography job for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA, formerly JPAC). All my photographer buddies who have done work for these guys told me this command has a really conservative public affairs posture (by that I mean, “they don’t release anything.”) Well, the command recently went through some big structural changes, so I figured I’d holler at the PAO and propose some products. The PAO was really receptive, so I decided to create some PA products in addition to my primary evidence photography duties.
Instead of diving in head first, I decided to test the waters. I wanted to test command’s releasing posture, so I banged out a quick package of products in the first week of the mission. I turned in a multimedia piece, a print story, and seven photos. The products weren’t horrible, but they weren’t intended to be the last word on our recovery mission in Vietnam.
Why did I turn in stuff I wasn’t totally stoked on? Honestly, I was lazy, and I didn’t want to put a lot of work into a product package that wasn’t going to get released. I figured if the stuff got released, I would have time to create a second, more refined package of products. Well, things didn’t work out that way. The weather really hampered our mission. We couldn’t get to the mission site most of the time we were in country.
So, my quickie, throw-together products were the only things I was left with to represent this mission. I thought about reworking the products, but the release process with this customer is pretty lengthy, so that wasn’t really an option.
… The Last Thing You Shot:
Photographers (videographers especially) can be pricks (especially me). “You’re only as good as the last thing you shot” is a saying that’s been around forever. Of course, it’s a totally untrue and unreasonable standard. A shooter, writer, producer’s talent level is, of course, the sum of his/her body of work. However, I use the saying to motivate myself, and I believe it helps me push myself to always produce at my highest level. Resting on your laurels is the kiss of death in our career field. Every time I start thinking, “I’ve got this MC thing locked down,” I meet some junior MC who is 10 years younger than me but only 10 months behind me skill wise. And that young guy/gal doesn’t care what I did “back in the day.” He wants to know what I’ve done lately, and that keeps me hungry to be proud of my latest work.
In Conclusion …
I phoned a product in, and now “the last thing I shot” isn’t something I’m completely happy about. The moral of the story is: Give it everything you’ve got today, because tomorrow isn’t promised.