Life as a Visual Storyteller

All content © Roger Overall unless specified


A slack handful of us were clustered around a small table at Filter earlier this week. We were all creatives, each with different strengths. We all acknowledged gaps in our capabilities too.

The conversation reminded me of this cartoon.


Sort of ties in with the previous post as well. What are your well-developed muscles? Where are you puny?

For me, the answers are photography and video post-production respectively. I’m spending as much time as I can in the editing gym.

More and Better (#MoreBetter)


This week, Chris Brogan‘s newsletter was about taking inspiration from people who always look to improve themselves. People who want to learn more skills and deepen the ones they have. He started the #MoreBetter hashtag.

It think that’s important for us as creatives.

I was once exclusively a professional photographer. It was hard to make ends meet, but I loved it. Then, around the time that I felt I was set to become successful in the business, the industry changed. What was once a powerful string in my bow was reduced to a slack piece of twine. Making a living wage from photography became difficult. For me, it became almost impossible.

So I pivoted a couple of times. Not very successfully.  With one exception. I learned  how to make videos – and there is business to be had. Those are the skills I’m working to improve most now. Philip Bloom, Vincent Laforet, Andrew Reid – these are the people I learn from. And from the suite of video courses available at

Skills are merely a tool

Here’s the thing, though: skills are only tools. Like a hammer or a screwdriver.

It used to be the case that owning the tool was enough. Photography used to be a daunting undertaking involving chemicals and darkrooms and cameras that didn’t show you the photograph the instant you took it. The tool itself was hard. Getting an in-focus, correctly exposed picture was difficult. Just being able to do that was enough to get paid.

Now, the technical side of photography is much easier. It has become like buying a hammer. We can all buy the same high-quality hammer. Put another way: everyone is a photographer.

By the way, I think that’s a good thing. Lots of people are telling wonderful visual stories now.

What are you going to do with the tool?

David Hobby wrote something great recently – actually, he writes a lot of great things, but this stuck in my mind. His Strobist website will teach you all you need to know about lighting your photographs. It will give you a voice. David asks, now that you have your voice, what are you going to say?

This is where I think we can survive and thrive as creatives. Yes, we need to master our tools (photography, video, animation, audio, music… you name it… cartooning). That’s important. But even more important is that we use those tools to express our unique vision.

Photography used to be the thing that I put on a pedestal. It was the thing that set me apart and paid the bills.

That time has passed.

What sets me and you apart now is our creativity. Commercial photographer and entrepreneur Chase Jarvis thinks that creativity is the new literacy. I agree. We need to dig deeper than just owning the tools. We have to use them to build things nobody else can. We have to let our imaginations run wild and then use the tools we have to bring what we see in our minds to life.

Two people I’ve recently strayed across are Ru and Max of Tiny Inventions. They have a very deep toolbox and they use it to do this kind of amazing stuff:

Between Times -Trailer from Tiny Inventions on Vimeo.
Ru and Max have mastered their tools. They are a great inspiration to me to learn more tools myself so that I can do more with my creativity. My Lynda playlist just got a whole lot longer.


Here’s a video that gives a behind the scenes look at how Ru and Max work:

Between Two Worlds, The Hybrid Animation of Tiny Inventions from on Vimeo.

Mobile Storytelling Workshop with Documentally

Christian Payne AKA Documentally – a freelance mobile media maker who also specialises in social technology and connected platforms

Christian Payne AKA Documentally – a freelance mobile media maker who also specialises in social technology and connected platforms

Let me introduce you to Christian Payne. Online, he goes by the name “Documentally”. He is one of the most remarkable people I know.

Christian is a bundle of energy, generosity, courage and curiosity. I sometimes think that if he had a family motto, it would be “Genuine Stories Genuinely Matter”. He seeks them out and he gives them air. Along the way, he is creating a life well lived — one full of remarkable encounters and eye-opening experiences. And he shows no signs of letting up.

His capacity to connect with people and their stories is inspiring. His ability to tell those stories is even more so. Not only is he a gifted communicator, he knows how to wrangle mobile technology and social media platforms to get stories to where they will do some good, reach their audience, affect change, draw attention — be useful.

He’s not shy about sharing how he does it.

Which brings us to the point of this post.

Christian is coming to town

If you want to learn from a genuine practitioner about how to tell your story using social technology, put Monday 22nd September in your diary. That is when Christian will be at the Tyndall Institute in Cork to teach 20 people how to use their smartphones to tell effective stories.

Want to be one of the 20? Click here to find out more: Mobile Storytelling with Documentally.

Want to know more about Documentally first?

He’s easy to find online and on a great many platforms (you wouldn’t expect less). This is a good place to start: Documentally’s blog.

Alternatively, below is an episode of the Behind the Pixels podcast with Christian as the guest.

My role in this

My role isn’t that significant. I’m not teaching the workshop, merely facilitating it. I’ll be there on the day as Christian’s runner and go-fer guy. I’m your first contact here if you want to find out more about the workshop.

In the evening, Christian will be the headline guest at a Smarter Egg event. You’ll be able to find out more about that by engaging with the smartest of eggs, Aodan Enright.

Using Instagram to Market Your Videos

You can do more on Instagram than posting selfies and pictures of the beverage/kid/sunset you happen to have in front of you. It’s a serious marketing tool — especially for visual creatives. It’s a great place to post samples of your work.

I’m not suggesting that you treat your feed exclusively as a portfolio. That would take the social out of the platform. But I do think the occasional placement of new work is a good idea.

If you’re a videographer, why not put 15-second snippets of your latest film on Instagram? You can add a url in the accompanying comment so that your followers can find the full video. Your Instagram post becomes a trailer. (Though the fact that Instagram won’t make the link clickable is a big fail at the moment). Continue reading

Multi-Disciplinary Soup

Disjointed Business Model

© 2014 Roger Overall

Note: There is too much me in this post. Just saying that upfront. You’re better off going straight here: Chris Brogan.

If you’re a creative, you can probably turn your hand to more than one thing. Seems to me, anyway. I’ve yet to meet a creative who couldn’t. You may have one thing you excel at, maybe even two. You probably wouldn’t embarrass yourself in a couple of other arenas either. That’s good thing. It’s also a tricky thing to manage. Continue reading

The Best Coffee Shop in Ireland*

I’m torn.

Should I tell you about this superb coffee place or not?

If I do, you’ll know about my favourite den. You’ll go there. You’ll love it. You’ll sit on my favourite stool and I’ll never be able to get rid of you.

At the same time, I want the wonderful people who run it to succeed. I want the place to do healthy business so that I can go there for many more years. So I shouldn’t keep it to myself. That wouldn’t do them (and by association, me) any good. Continue reading

The Creative Ghost Within


One of the most powerful tools we have as creatives is the ghost that lives inside us. Everyone has one. It’s the part of us that spews out answers to problems at the unlikeliest of moments. Under the shower, while walking the dog… typically when you don’t have a pen handy, in my experience. Continue reading

Put a Time Limit on Your Proposals


Here’s a scenario you’ll recognise.

You’ve put in a proposal (or an estimate or a quote — call it what you will) and you’re waiting to hear back from the client. You wait and you wait and you wait. Silence. Not even an acknowledgement that the proposal has been received. You wait some more. Finally, you’re worn into submission. You contact the client. What happens next varies. The business may happen or it may not. Either way, you’ve had a frustrating wait.

What can we do to avoid this? In fact, let’s go one step further. How can we turn the time between submitting a proposal and receiving (or chasing) an answer to our advantage? Continue reading

Looking Back and Changing Your Story

Emily and Doggy in the Window

Little Girl and Doggy in the Window © 2009 Roger Overall

If I am ever sent to a desert island, I hope there will be WiFi. If there isn’t, I’ll include it in one of the three things that I’m allowed to bring with me. Thinking this through, I’ll need a tablet for surfing the web, as well as taking, processing and uploading images. I’ll need a source of power too. That’s my entire list of three things immediately taken care of. No room for chocolate or coffee. Still, it does keep me taking pictures and it opens up a window to the world to see what everyone else is doing in my absence*. Specifically, I could still get my daily fix of The Online Photographer. If I couldn’t, I’m not sure I could survive**.

TOP, as the site is affectionately known among its community, is a gem of a blog. Mike Johnston’s writing is witty, clear, illuminating and wonderful. His personality oozes from its pixels and he has built a loyal and mutually respectful community around his personal brand of photography commentary. His stance is grown-up, considered and thoughtful. His grammar is perfect. He doesn’t use exclamation marks at the end of every third sentence and knows how a semi-colon operates. Most importantly for me, he talks about the kind of photography I like.

I write for TOP every now and then. This is from last week: The Danger of Revisiting Your Work.***

* I think this makes me not a very good candidate for a desert island sojourn.
** Re: the first note: That pretty much clinches it, doesn’t it?
*** I rewrote this paragraph several weeks after it first appeared. I realised that the first iteration was awful “humblebrag” – a phrase I picked up on TOP. Here’s what I published before: “I’m lucky that Mike lets me write for TOP every now and then. It’s a buzz when a submission gets through. He’s an excellent editor and guards against substandard material. I learn a lot when he rejects a piece. Last week, though, he let one through: The Danger of Revisiting Your Work.”

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