Podcast Episodes

How To Tell Better Visual Stories – with John DeMato

Today’s guest expert is John DeMato from New York City.
John helps authors, consultants, and other experts stop the scroll and inspire those they serve. How? By telling better visual stories.
John is a photographer who can show you how to make your stories more revealing, relatable, and inspiring.
Specifically, this means:
– Show them what your day-to-day life looks like
– Show them how the sausage is made
– Show them at the height of your superpowers
– Show them why you’re the solution to their problems
You can learn more about John at BookOfExperts.com or at: https://www.johndemato.com/

Tobin Slaven 0:00

This is Book of Experts TV and I'm your host Tobin Slaven. We're back today to talk about, you know, it's pretty hard to get a word in edgewise. These days. You know how noisy it is out there social media on the web on the interwebs. As they say, the cool kids say, right. It's hard to get a word in, in edgewise. It's hard to stop the scroll and to get people's attention. Why? Because there's so many competing interests everyone's trying to get in front of you get your attention get gets you to buy something, ultimately, right? Well, we also know that a picture is worth 1000 words. So today we're going to talk about how to tell a better visual story and more important what's actually happening in those pictures. What can you do visually to tell a better story to engage the hearts of the people you want to do business with? So they are drawn into your personal story and into your business? like to welcome our guest, john d'amato Welcome to book of experts TV. I'm excited, joining us from New York City.

John DeMato 1:00

Yes, yes. Thanks for having me on Tobin. Good to see you in in a screen. This is cool.

Tobin Slaven 1:05

Yes. Yeah, these days, it's mostly we've been doing screens. But I think the world is a little bit by a little bit starting to open back up. I've had a couple of those experiences where I've had a chance to meet people that I've met virtually first, and then actually shake their hands, give them a big hug and feels pretty good. Life is coming back offline. Yeah,

John DeMato 1:25

yeah, I had that a couple of days ago, it was. It's kind of like, acquiescing yourself back to what it always was and now all of a sudden, we got to reintroduce ourselves into doing having conversations in a normal way. Again, it's really weird.

Tobin Slaven 1:42

But um, John, John, let's start there, because I think this is really pertinent to your story. You are a photographer, you're a branding expert, who helps people capture those visuals. What has the last year been? It's been hard on everybody. But what's it been like you are in one of those industries that had to really reinvent itself?

John DeMato 2:02

Yeah, yeah, it was a real party. And having gotten COVID, the first month, that locked down happen here in New York City, it was, it was it was tough. It was tough emotionally. And it was also tough on my business, because I watched the entire year just go by, by and didn't matter of days. But what ended up happening was I kind of stumbled on a new opportunity, which was follow where my people go, my experts, the speakers, and the facilitators and the consultants, they went to virtual and so did I. And that's kind of what got me through the whole pandemic.

Tobin Slaven 2:44

So I think that's one thing I want to underline this, obviously, is the community of Book Experts, as well. So speakers, authors, coaches, consultants, agency owners, thought leaders, these are folks that make their way they make their business with their ability to brand themselves, oftentimes, their name.com is one of the key ways. And a big part of that, when you really see this difference, I think this is a for me has become one of the signals in the industry is that when you're when you're looking at a high quality, producer, thought leader, at that level, they often have the imagery, the branding assets, you can feel the difference visually of what's coming from them. Boy, there's going to be a lot to unpack, because I want to know how they're able to do that at the highest levels. But how are you doing that? When they went online went virtual to continue their businesses? How were you able to assist them because photography we normally think of, you're in the same room, you're setting people up, you're getting the environmental shots, how are you able to do that?

John DeMato 3:50

Well, essentially, what it boils down to is this laptop, their zoom link or whatever teleconferencing program that they were using, they sent me a link. And basically what I did was open up their events on my screen, put this laptop on my folding table and essentially shot them in various rooms of my apartment from a variety of different angles with an eye towards exactly the way that I capture live events as well as their portraits, really focusing on their emotion focusing on the way that they present, what other elements you know, whether it's a digital whiteboard or slides and just capture all of that capture the audience. Essentially what my job is, as a virtual photographer, is to capture the experience for what their audiences would feel if they were attending that meeting attending that webinar attending that masterclass or Keynote and show them exactly what it is. So it helps them visualize themselves in that room with that expert. You You know, imparting all of their expertise on them. And that's pretty much what I did. And when when it came to the way that the photos were shot, the reason why they were in various rooms, is because it gave that sense of home, that sense of where these people would actually consume this content. And that's why it was important to, you know, incorporate instead of shooting it, say against like a white wall, or like a studio environment, it felt more natural, and it felt like more of an honest representation of what that experience would look like.

Tobin Slaven 5:33

I think one of the most interesting things about this, John, is that, you know, traditionally when we've seen influencers and their and their imagery that they tend to use on websites and their marketing materials, it does convey that. Here's a, you know, the the sage on the stage, look, you know, someone's speaking in front of a, there's a big room of people, you're seeing a lot of heads, and, you know, this one person spotlighted it has that, that kind of environmental feel. And yet in the last year, we've spent so much time in between this rectangle here, right. And so I, I almost feel like maybe it was a secret advantage for you that you were shooting through the rectangle, you were seeing them on the flat screen that way. And so maybe you had a feel for what it would be like when people when they were they were going to be experienced through zoom or stream yard we're using right now for our broadcast any of these different digital tools, because you were shooting natively like that you were seeing it as a creative director that way that maybe you had some insights into what the experience would be for the receiver of these visual, the visual communication?

John DeMato 6:42

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I had to learn how to use zoom. For the first time, I didn't even know now. Now granted, zoom has been used for over a decade prior to the pandemic, this is nothing new. But it became the thing because it was the only game in town. But to your point, understanding the differences between the screens, and how you can consume this, whether you just want to see the speaker, or you want to see the faces and all of that, as I was kind of learning the ins and outs of this because you know, the first couple were just I don't know what I'm doing. I've never done this before. And I've never seen it before. So kind of making it up as I go. And eventually what ended up happening is yes, you pick up on those subtleties of what makes a professional speaker or author or whatever kind of facilitator doing their thing, you kind of get the sense of how it is that they disseminate their their expertise, their framework, all the things that they're imparting on their audience. And what that ends up doing is necessitating the need for me to kind of have that intuition and sense of when they're going from one thing to the next thing, what is the best way to capture that moment, so that when someone sees it, they get that that FOMO they get that sense of I want that too. And that came along as I as I shot more and more clients I probably did in the past year and a half about 190 different events. So you see a wide variety of how people put together their particular presentations, virtually and each of them have their own little unique wrinkles to them.

Tobin Slaven 8:24

What does it What does the future the next 18 months look like? How much of this what you've been doing virtually Will you carry forward as the as the world does come back, I keep saying offline, but in real life basically.

John DeMato 8:38

Well, this is going to be a part of my suite of offers moving forward. Because while people are going back, and that's amazing. And nothing beats the real thing as as grateful as I am. And I'm sure my clients and other people who needed to see faces during this really crazy time. You know, it was a very important thing. And I'm glad that we had this opportunity, nothing beats the real thing. But then being on virtual will not go away. Because these people still have masterminds, they still do virtual presentations, some hybrid, whatever the case may be. So I have it as part of my stuff moving forward, and we'd be more than happy to help people out with their virtual needs.

Tobin Slaven 9:22

John, can you walk us through help help us build the brain of a photographer who is like what are you thinking about when you start working with a client, they've come to you because they want to level up their branding and their identity online. They they see the difference themselves? of the high performers, and the folks who are just, you know, new and showing up in the space? What are you thinking about on their behalf? What are you asking them and what should they be thinking about? Well, the

John DeMato 9:51

first step is before any, any moment the camera comes out and we start snapping away. There is a very a healthy dose of strategy. I'm on the phone with these people asking them like 30 questions. And essentially what I'm trying to unearth is who they are, who they serve, what problems they solve, how they solve them, and why they do what they do. And I have a variety of questions, which within each of those very high level pieces, and what ends up happening is, we kind of figure out the way that they share their expertise, whether it's through a book, or through the screen, or in person, or through workshops, or whatever. And we then figure out what their processes are, how is the sausage made? And how can we show how the sausage is made? So we figure out what brainstorming looks like? What does working with a client look like? Is it a group? Is it one person and how does that look. And then we kind of then round out that important information by also illustrating aspects of the day to day life. And then we kind of put together a shot sheet that has all of these different activities and different ways they do their thing and create opportunities to capture all of those photos. Because at the end of the day, we want a balance between showing them as the superhero solving problems looking like a badass on the stage or on a screen or wherever the hero shots, those are amazing, we need those. But they also need to be relatable. And they also need to show that they have vulnerability. And we want to show what they look like throughout the emotional spectrum, we want to see vulnerable to victorious and everything in between. Because ultimately, these photos are meant to visually position them as the authority in their space, but also visually punctuate the story, the sentiment of every single story that they tell, because when you share any content, whether it's on your website, or in a social post, or on a blog, or any kind of trade website that's related to their industry, there's always the written copy the story, but what is the visual, and that's where I come in, we figure out a way to make that seamlessly each piece complement each other very well. And that's what we're figuring out before we shoot.

Tobin Slaven 12:18

Yeah, so I love this building the inventory of these didn't you call it the shot sheet of all these different images that you're going to capture? JOHN, I have so many questions. I'm excited about this topic. What? What should a expert just use as sort of general label here for all our folks in our community? What should an expert? How would they assess themselves? For what their needs are? Like? What should they be thinking about to assess their current level of visual communication? The story that they're telling now, to identify the gap of where they could be?

John DeMato 12:58

Well, the first place to start is I mean, if they were just doing a self audit of their image content, which is something that I do with them when I work with them, but if they were to do it on their own, the things I would look for are right, on the top level, do I recognize the person that's in these photos? Number one, are these photos from 10 years ago? Do you look the same? And And that's not just a physical thing? It's also a mental thing, meaning, when I look at these photos, does it take me back to a place where I was in a completely different space with my business? And when I look at them, I don't they don't resonate as well? Because if the answer is no, then those photos are outdated, as well as the ones if you just don't look like who you are. You can't really post those because it affects trust. But beyond that, the next thing I would say for someone to self audit their photos would be are you actually representing the way that you disseminate your expertise? Like if you work virtually, do you have the virtual photos? If you have a book? Do you have photos beyond those digital wireframe illustrator, you know, vector images that have no soul whatsoever? Because it's a two dimensional image? Or do you have photos of your actual book and the poll quotes and the illustrations? You know, are you giving your audience the opportunity to feel the book in their hands through their eyes? And then the next step would be if they are presenting a fuller range of their personality? Are you showing people you know what your life looks like? Are you giving them an entry point into your life so that it inspires them, inspires their audiences to engage because once there's engagement that creates conversation, so once you have conversations that creates the rapport and from rapport ultimately across a certain amount of time, you can nurture them into To them trusting you. And that's when they'll be ready to be in a buying decision.

Tobin Slaven 15:04

John, you had me when you when you said conversation, you have my heart. So I also love your reference from from vulnerable to victorious, I thought that was a great way of sort of describing the arc, the story arc of the principal person that you know, the business owner, the founder, the CEO, that story arc that allows us as viewers, to travel with them in and maybe even step into the picture, how do you help a viewer project to becoming the hero of their own story? Is it what are your thoughts on that?

John DeMato 15:41

Well, there's a couple of different ways. I mean, number one, the biggest thing is to put the client in a position to feel natural and honest in front of the camera, and that involves a whole bunch of psychology stuff, because, you know, a lot of people are apprehensive about being in front of the camera, you know, my left eye is weird, or I could lose 10 pounds, or can you get rid of the smile lines in my eyes and just photoshopped them away. And it's and and what I do with people is, make sure that they understand that you need to be the person that you are in your photos as you are in real life, because you're going to meet these people in real life. And the moment that you don't look like the way you look, that affects trust. And again, that takes away from building that rapport, and you don't want that. So what I tend to do is try to talk them off the ledge about what bothers them, and be honest about it, you know, we can work around certain things and other things, they just have to own who they are. And then once we get there, the guard is dropped. And then they feel more natural. And then those, it's that opportunity, once they feel natural is when you're really going to get that real range across the emotional spectrum, because they'll be more willing to play and feel comfortable doing it.

Tobin Slaven 17:06

I think this is to me, you know, so I know you have a resource you're going to share with us that is a do it yourself kind of resource. That was one of the things that we talked about before we went live. I think this is one of the defining differences between that I'll grab my camera, technically, yes, I can get a high quality image out of my iPhone, to take my own, you know, images that I could use. But what you're describing is the interaction between individuals that open someone up and lets that that light shine, so to speak, so that the feeling around the images is coming from a completely different place. It is it is coming from a different place. And but having said that, the thing about the smartphone self portraits

John DeMato 17:55

and the lifestyle portraits, live event, all of that stuff that involves a professional is that it's not one or the other, it's actually both because the reality is moments in your life happen at all hours of the day. And you do not have a Papa Razzi photographer following you around 24, seven, like you're the president of the United States, right. So it is important to empower yourself to be able to capture a high quality image that can play very nicely along your feeds with the professional photos as a complement visually to that, as well as giving you the visual ammunition that you need to visually punctuate the sentiment of whatever that story happens to be. So in that way, you'll have that again, well rounded scope, and that well rounded view into who you are as a person and how you do business.

Tobin Slaven 18:51

John, I want to bring our interview back around where we started. This is a noisy, busy, information overloaded world where everyone is screaming for attention. What does it mean to you visually speaking to stop the scroll? What are you trying to do? What are examples that have worked really well in that with that goal and intention in mind?

John DeMato 19:13

Well, the types of photos that inspire people to stop the scroll are ones that have some visual pop to them, they have some heat, some energy, there's there's an opportunity for someone to stop to give them that inclination of Ooh, that looks interesting. Let me take a look at it. And essentially, those types of photos are vast, you know, and involves the person doing a thing in front of the camera in a way that with a unique expression that feels very real and not just a flattering photo. There's this misconception amongst a lot of people in the expert communities that you know, I just need to look good in these pictures and I'm good to go. And what they fail to realize is that flattery is very important because if Try flowering photo, you're not going to use it, let's be honest, right? But what we're really looking for are photos that are revealing, inspiring and relatable to people. And that has a lot more depth to it. So it's a combination to stop the scroll, we're talking about that. We want images that have a high level of artistry, and they're well composed. And there's a lot of emotional sentiment in these images, whatever that sentiment happens to be. But it conveys a certain sense of emotion that is related to whatever that story is. And then what's also mixed in is the personality and just giving people an opportunity to read something cool. That's what we're going for.

Tobin Slaven 20:45

I what I'm going to walk away with that, john, on that what I'm going to remember is, you know, it's not just about looking good, but that unique expression can be the thing that stops people stops the scroll to them pier in a little bit and try to gather a little bit more information, what's going on here? They're making that not weird face, but just a unique face. Well, what's going on here? Yeah, that question opens the door to more conversation.

John DeMato 21:09

Yes, it does. And it also really gives people an opportunity to qualify you. Because, you know, if someone's looking for help in a specific area, and they find out about you through a generic search, or maybe a referral of some sort, you should go check this person out for whatever it is that you need help with, you know, what really seals the deal is the fact that when they look at you, they think to themselves, you know what, I think I might like that person, let me find out more. Because the goal with your image content is never, it's not going to inspire someone to sign on the dotted line. That is not the intent and purpose of these photos. But it will inspire the person to at least pick up the pen. And that's what we want that initial interest.

Tobin Slaven 21:55

John would walk us through I know you've got a couple resources that you offer generously to share with our community here. I know they'll be interested to see this. What was the first one that you wanted to share? And I'll make sure we get this into the comments.

John DeMato 22:08

Well, the first one is the compelling visual story guide for experts. And essentially, it's a video that breaks down all of the different types of photos that belong in an expert's image content portfolio. Because again, it's not just about the pretty photos, it's about all of these other things. And in that video, I break down about eight different types of images that are essential to help position yourself as that authority in your space. And then

Tobin Slaven 22:39

I love I love this idea, because this is how my brain works like I want. Okay, I've got to create the inventory of images here, what am I actually going to do with it. So to be able to see the list, I think this is a great resource, tell us about the second one that you've got.

John DeMato 22:53

And the second one is shoot it yourself, how to create a professional headshot with your phone. And essentially, what that is also a video and it's a step by step where I teach people how to create a photo with nothing more than your smartphone and some sunlight and your ability to kind of find a background that makes a lot of sense. And that one's gotten some interesting feedback. I've seen some really interesting photos from people and but it's awesome though, because at the end of the day, the quality of your smartphone camera will never be the same as a professional camera. I mean realistically, however, if leveraged in a way with optimum light, and you're and you're going with a solid composition, you're going to be able to get something that you can use for a while or as a stop gap between where you are and eventually hiring a professional But either way, you'll walk away with image content that you'll be able to implement immediately. And that's and that's really important for people who are really busy trying to run a business

Tobin Slaven 24:07

John these sound like two great resources. I've got them both in the comments I'm excited to dig into those myself. First of all, thank you for taking the time to join us for bringing valuable resources to the table that folks can walk away and do themselves and also get to know you a little bit we've got john d'amato dot com on the screen so folks can find and stay connected with you there or through book of experts. Any last thoughts as we start to wrap up?

John DeMato 24:35

I think one of the big things that I like to impart on people is that you, you help people, you know, the people that I serve, help other people and it is your responsibility to get yourself in front of those people who need you. So don't take this lightly. You know, be purposeful in your attempt to put out content that offers value right off the bat. That gives them a chance to know who you are, and give them the opportunity to engage you. So you can start that conversation and get that rapport and start building that trust.

Tobin Slaven 25:10

100% agree you can't hide, you have to put yourself out there because that is what people want. When you're an expert. They want to connect with you. Yeah, they want to make that that real heart to heart connection. It's not just somebody they want you and you may be the answer to their prayers. So what's helped make that happen by putting yourself out there and in the right places, and with the right images to tell a stronger, better visual story. This has been great, john, thank you for coming on with book and experts TV again, we've hit your URLs, we've hit your resources, so appreciate you taking the time today.

John DeMato 25:42

Thanks for having me on Tobin. It was great by now.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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