Ep. 47: John DeMato on The Power Of Visual Storytelling
In this episode, David sits down with John DeMato, Photographer and Visual Story Expert, to discuss the power of visual storytelling.
Buy David’s NEW Book: https://www.trustedleaderbook.com/
John DeMato is a photographer and visual story expert who collaborates with speakers, trainers, consultants and other expert business owners to create image content that captures their audience’s attention through artistry and emotion. John isn’t simply a photographer – he thinks like a marketer. He sets clients up for success beyond the photo sessions by educating them on how to leverage their portraits, book images, virtual and live event photos across their online presence.
Compelling Visual Story Guide For Experts: https://www.johndemato.com/personal-brand
John’s Blog: https://www.johndemato.com/blog
1. “The whole goal of these images is to build relationships with the people that they serve.”
2. “You can’t build trust if you’re faking it.”
3. “The story and the visual always need to work in concert with each other.”
4. “I know I’m not for everyone, and that’s cool.”
5. “What’s the teachable moment?”
6. “If you run away from your feelings, it’s a race you’re never going to win.”
7. “Learning never ends.”
Links Mentioned In The Episode:
John’s photos of David’s book Trusted Leader: https://www.johndemato.com/david-horsager-book-photos
John’s Blog: https://www.johndemato.com/blog
John’s Portfolio: https://www.johndemato.com/personal-brand-photography-gallery
Buy David’s NEW book Trusted Leader: https://www.trustedleaderbook.com/
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/36AXtp9
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David Horsager: Welcome to the trusted leader show it’s David Horsager i’ve got a special guest he started out at HBO and a production assistant with HBO sports then.
David Horsager: i’d almost a decade at NBC universal media and now he runs his own.
David Horsager: Company and it’s all about this digital storytelling he’s an amazing photographer i’ve seen his work he’s actually produced amazing photography on my last book trusted leader, please, welcome to the show John DeMato thanks for being here john.
John A. DeMato: thanks for having me David appreciate it.
David Horsager: So i’m talking to you today from your place in New York City and it’s a it’s a treat we’ve just were at a conference not too long ago together but.
David Horsager: You know, maybe, give us just a taste of john I know you write it to 13 blogs, a month you spend a lot of your day writing, even though you’re also a photo going, you know.
David Horsager: Taking it’s not just taking pictures really visual storytelling of of celebrities and others but give us a give us a little two minute insight on john d’amato.
John A. DeMato: Two minute insight on john d’amato well once upon a time, I thought I was going to be shooting sports documentaries for a living, then I thought I was going to work in sketch comedy and the next thing you know I and.
John A. DeMato: photographing people like yourself working with experts who serve other people in one way, shape or form and the whole objective of what I do is to make sure that I present.
John A. DeMato: The people that I photograph in a way that creates a connection with those that they serve in order to bring them into their world so that they can learn how this person can help get them from here to here that’s pretty much it.
David Horsager: yeah you know you become kind of a celebrity in our industry overnight, it seems like to me where you’re you’re.
David Horsager: Taking video are taking pictures of and photographing.
David Horsager: Some of the greatest thought leaders in the world and it’s because I mean you’re you’re incredibly good I don’t even sometimes know the difference of why this is better than this, but it does tell the story differently, it shows differently, what what does it mean.
David Horsager: How do you differentiate yourself kind of from all the other photographers out there.
John A. DeMato: Well, I stopped paying attention to what other photographers do a long time ago and that’s what helped me actually zone in on how you know I can bring out what I bring to the table.
John A. DeMato: But really the thing that I focus on.
John A. DeMato: is getting that connection and rapport with the person that’s in front of the cameras so that they’re able to.
John A. DeMato: drop their guard and truly be themselves so that when they’re revealing these expressions this body language during whatever activities that were photographing them doing.
John A. DeMato: It feels very genuine and honest to them, because at the end of the day, the whole.
John A. DeMato: goal of these images is to build relationships with the people that they serve, and if they’re you know, posing and faking it and you know standing in front of a private jet that they don’t own or in front of.
John A. DeMato: a fleet of cars that they’re renting and it’s not really there is and it’s a bunch of crap.
John A. DeMato: that’s not the type of message that you’re you want to portray.
John A. DeMato: Because there’s no trust there you can’t build trust if you’re faking it so my whole thing is to be able to get on a granular level with these people in a way that I truly understand who they are.
John A. DeMato: Who they serve what problems they solve how they solve them and why they do what they do.
David Horsager: So you pre work like unlike a lot of you know a lot of people just have these photo shoots and have people come in, you do a lot of pre work to.
David Horsager: get to know them I know some of the things you, you said is here’s what I want you to do show them what your day to day looks like show them how the sausage is made.
David Horsager: Show them.
David Horsager: At your best show them, you know why you’re the solution to their problem what benefits, you know you showing your best, but the real you there’s a whole lot of what you talk about and it’s.
David Horsager: it’s you know all around authenticity, which, in our world builds trust tell us about how you how you do that.
John A. DeMato: Well, the idea is to kind of figure out.
John A. DeMato: What their face their facial expression or body language looks like across the emotional spectrum we don’t want to just show off what we look like when we’re celebrating wins that’s great and that’s a part of the story, we also want to show flattering images.
John A. DeMato: Because if they’re not flattering person is not going to use them, but what we also need to take into account is the fact.
John A. DeMato: that we need to see them across the emotional spectrum, including their vulnerabilities because that’s what creates connection with people.
John A. DeMato: And by asking a lot of questions you know it’s the TV producer in me, you can take me off the show, but I can’t take my head out of the way that I created a process.
John A. DeMato: So what i’m doing is really understanding what people’s motivations are and how they react to certain things in their life, and those are those nuggets during our conversation, the strategy call beforehand.
John A. DeMato: That really clues me into what they not only what they’re doing in front of the camera but where we’re photographing the shots what they’re wearing the expressions the activities, all of these different things come into focus, once this conversation.
John A. DeMato: is going on and i’m taking a ton of notes and creating the shot sheet and really understanding, who i’m working with and how to communicate with them effectively in order to get all of that stuff out of them because.
John A. DeMato: I don’t know if you know this, but a lot of people don’t like being in front of the camera.
John A. DeMato: So there’s that piece to you know so there’s a lot of trust that has to be built during that strategy call between myself and the client before we even get into the whole work piece so there’s a lot going on.
David Horsager: So just so everybody knows in the show notes trusted leader show.com we’re going to put several of john’s images.
David Horsager: If we’ll get we’ll get some of my friends that have been photographed and just show you the difference of john’s images and we’re all going to also going to put in.
David Horsager: The the some photos photographs of my newest book trusted leader, which is cool inside and tool color and people don’t often see that you notice that you made it come alive in a certain way, and many people commented on the way you photograph that but.
John A. DeMato: Your book is so beautiful and it has so many cool visual elements, the tabs the layout the way you have the title on the bottom of the page and just in the red and the wide and.
John A. DeMato: I mean it was it was fun and the reason why I even came across it was the fact that you know you and I have several colleagues in common and i’m like who is this guy first of all I liked him number one.
John A. DeMato: Because of the videos that you were posting and talking about the book and i’m like i’m just going to buy the damn book and i’m going to photograph and I don’t care because it just looks so cool and.
John A. DeMato: I felt just a genuine like skies pretty cool, let me see what’s going on that’s how it started.
David Horsager: Well, I think this is really interesting, and this is kind of we talked about transfer trust where.
David Horsager: It came back full circle where basically at first, you gave us a gift now we’ve been thinking about Okay, who we’re going to have photograph.
David Horsager: me or our work next and it comes back to well john, so I think that it’s really interesting you you reach out to people you connect with them authentically just like your work.
David Horsager: talks about and i’ve heard of other people getting to know you in this exact way what else would you say about you know for people out that are listening.
David Horsager: And they want to build trust with their their audience they don’t want to be just this marketing so for.
David Horsager: Maybe they are thought leaders, maybe they’re experts, maybe they’re CEOs but they want to connect with their audience more authentically What would you say even as far as using images or otherwise.
John A. DeMato: Well, when we’re talking about connecting with an audience it’s never just about the visual the story and the visual always need to work in concert with each other.
John A. DeMato: And one of the ways that you can create that connection is by simply sharing your life beyond the work it’s not just about the work, because at the end of the day.
John A. DeMato: When you’re building relationships with people they’re not just hiring you for your brain, for your ability to make them a better person.
John A. DeMato: they’re hiring you because they can actually stomach being in a room with you for four hours and going through all that it’s heavy work and heavy lifting.
John A. DeMato: And that’s really what it’s all about and when it comes to the people that I serve.
John A. DeMato: You know i’m very cognizant of the fact that I put my personality in every piece of content that I post, because I know i’m not for everyone and that’s cool.
John A. DeMato: I want to give them the opportunity to know who I am and what the process and the dynamics of working with me is like and you do that by sharing aspects of your life within your own voice, and that is what.
John A. DeMato: You know drives people away, but it also brings the people that resonate with that style and approach and expertise and artistry and then they come on in and they’re not just my clients that my friends and that’s the really awesome part.
David Horsager: That is tremendous there’s there’s a lot to this ability to say no, knowing who you say yes to and who you say no to how do you how have you thought about that, like you know who do you say no to.
John A. DeMato: Well, when I first started I said yes to everybody, because I needed to keep the lights on.
John A. DeMato: But as we’ve gone along in time.
John A. DeMato: I remember once I was on a call with a potential speaker consultant type person, and it was a zoom meeting with three of her assistance.
John A. DeMato: And the moment that this person came on the expert came on and started be rating the people that were on the screen that I had never met those other people and I never met her and I met one of her assistant and the other two.
John A. DeMato: And just the way she was talking to him i’m like this is a no and I never called them back, I went through the meeting I was respectful, but that was it.
David Horsager: You know it’s interesting how you treat, so I think of a couple of ways people lose their audience even since we talked about experts here.
David Horsager: How a speaker treats anybody from the audience is how they all feel I once a magic show big show and the.
David Horsager: Some assistant, you know magic assistant forgot to put something on stage for the this magician big name, by the way, everybody would know it.
David Horsager: And he was upset i’m sure it’s a big deal because you know the magic isn’t going to look magical you know, without whatever prop was forgotten.
David Horsager: But the way he said something to that assistant from that moment on, he lost the audience right, then how we treat kind of how we treat the least of these right how you treat.
David Horsager: Your own people how you treat others I also kind of going off here, but I thought about this editor at a big event I was keynote and another.
David Horsager: Just bigger name speaker was was keynote in and they gave him a standing ovation and I watched him afterwards as he be rated the sound team.
David Horsager: And I had you I used to look up to this person and it it it it affected me so much this idea of being the same onstage and offstage right and so.
David Horsager: Anyway, that’s interesting that you say that even in calls it’s a it’s a hard know hey it’s not just about the money it’s got to be a fit here, and if we’re going to treat people like that that’s not a fit in and work with john.
David Horsager: you’re a writer, too, I mean you know you go back to your production days, certainly, but I mean you have an amazing I behind the camera.
David Horsager: You have this way of getting to the core of humans to tell a story, but you’re also a storyteller by giving so much to your writing tell us about your you know what you’re doing writing wise 13 blogs, a month and more and just the process.
John A. DeMato: Well, originally.
John A. DeMato: I hired a consultant for years ago and up until that time I was writing a blog a month, and it was very you know five steps to do this before your photo session, and this, and that a lot of you know seo out kind of key word kind of thing and.
John A. DeMato: When I talked to him, like Why is nobody reading anything and he’s like well there’s no you in this you’re not teaching a lesson through storytelling you’re basically parroting what everybody else is doing and that really woke me up he’s like.
John A. DeMato: You have all of these stories all of these experiences and what you need to do is translate that into content that’s actually going to speak to people.
John A. DeMato: And over the years it’s mature into an opportunity for me to kind of have a catharsis you know I don’t just see writing as a these are.
John A. DeMato: Perfect final pieces, you know they’re all money in the bank and they’re all wonderful what it really is is akin to a stand up comedian doing a 15 minutes set to warm up for their special you know, there are 60 minute our special that they’re going to record.
John A. DeMato: I treat it as a workspace I treated as a place to be an extension of my art I share my feelings, you know I talked about a lot of vulnerable things on there, because at the end of the day.
John A. DeMato: You know it’s a lot more than just trying to get clicks it’s really about.
John A. DeMato: giving an education to the people that are in my ecosphere about who I am and who I serve and what problems do I solve and why do I do what I do, because if i’m here.
John A. DeMato: waxing poetic to all of these expert speakers who are ultra successful and need these photos and i’m telling them, you have to create these relationships with your audience well if i’m not doing the same thing.
John A. DeMato: Then where’s my authenticity where’s my you know where’s the trust there, there is no trust there because i’m just telling people to do stuff and not walking my talk so that’s how I treat my writing.
David Horsager: You know there’s a big piece of research, I I so appreciate that that shows the more the 90% of people would would this is from our trust outlook global study.
David Horsager: Center people would trust a leader more they’re more transparent about their mistakes and that’s not just how great they are but.
David Horsager: But they’re they’re tough they’re their mistakes they’re these kind of things you’re dealing with a lot of high profile people high egos certainly and yet you are very authentic you know i’ve noticed even social media wise, the last.
David Horsager: little bit here you lost your dad you’ve been very open about that what’s that process been like sharing with all these kind of you know leaders, some of them are very protected and yet you’re willing to share your life and this this just.
David Horsager: kind of deep sadness and challenge of it, what what tell us about that as much as you’d like to.
David Horsager: We talked about your at a.
David Horsager: Time pre talked about this, so you can cut anything else you say here out in production, but I know you’ve been willing to share your life.
John A. DeMato: yeah and I do it intentionally the posts that I write also when my mother passed away in 2013 I did the same thing.
John A. DeMato: I write though those posts are ultimately you know I want to offer an opportunity for people to really know who I am and i’m open about it because.
John A. DeMato: Really those posts are for me those posts are for me to kind of make sense of what’s going on in my head because there’s a lot of stuff going on right now and for me to be able to kind of.
John A. DeMato: You know, get grounded and kind of get back moving forward, I write about these things, but then.
John A. DeMato: The back of my mind is what’s the teachable moment what’s the teachable moment, and then I find something and actually for the post that I wrote about my dad recently I had a couple of versions and.
John A. DeMato: At one point, I wrote So why am I even telling you all of this hold on give me 100 words and i’ll figure it out and then ultimately the moment I wrote that.
John A. DeMato: As I oh I got the idea and the idea of the lesson was if you run away from it, if you run away from your feelings it’s a ratio never going to win.
John A. DeMato: And, and that that’s ultimately what I came up with that, but the point being is that, ultimately, I write those things just to kind of.
John A. DeMato: kind of get past the feelings in myself really.
David Horsager: right to learn there’s the one of the great books in college that I read was right to learn how we learn so much by writing right yeah when we write it it just like for me as an auditory learner.
David Horsager: When I speak it I got to speak it out with my friends or my colleagues this idea or thought the same thing can happen with writing it, you can learn so much.
David Horsager: Just by writing it out and solidify or site Oh, I see that on paper that’s terrible that’s not where we should go, you know when we’re talking about strategic type of things.
David Horsager: Speaking of that, what do you learn in these days, what do you learn about storytelling what are you learning in your space we keep learning what do you, what do you learn in these days.
John A. DeMato: Learning that the learning never ends and that’s.
John A. DeMato: You know, we just when you think that you’ve kind of figured it out, you quite haven’t because at the end of the day, everybody is so unique and so diverse and and I think.
John A. DeMato: That is always the constant education it’s because the moment that I have a new client come into the come in and start to work with me I realized, you know.
John A. DeMato: There are commonalities amongst many speakers, you know, there are, but there are also these unique wrinkles and nuances in people’s personalities, the way to communicate the way to get that effective connection, so that we can get what we need, and.
John A. DeMato: And, and that education never stops and that part is the challenge, but also the joy because this way do I love it I love it so much and it’s just really entertaining really interesting challenging and fun and.
John A. DeMato: Ultimately, helping these people get in front of those that need them the most that’s what it’s about.
David Horsager: love it we talked about you know leaders great leaders often lead themselves well and even though we’re all imperfect and honest a journey, it seems like you you’ve you stay fit you, you have a discipline of writing.
David Horsager: Every day, what are your disciplines or routines that help you stay for the long haul and i’m getting better.
John A. DeMato: While I do some free writing that has nothing to do with anything blog related that helps I do exercise several days I just got off my exercise bike in the apartment because I was too lazy to go to the gym.
John A. DeMato: You know I really try to be mindful of that but, overall, one of the things that helps me keep focused is minimize decision fatigue as much as humanly possible that’s why I own 30 black T shirts seven of them have this yeah absolutely my hashtag on it, but the rest of them are blank.
John A. DeMato: eat I eat a minimal diet, I fat intermittent fast as much as I can I stay away from certain things.
John A. DeMato: Like added sugar and dairy and gluten and things like that, and it just keeps me kind of like I said minimizing all the extra stuff so that I can focus on this on the things that are most important to me.
David Horsager: What are your inputs for learning like you have a lot of outputs you’re rolling out words, both you know, especially in writing and you’re you’re you’re helping capture stories of people, what do you put in, are you reading are you listening to podcasts what what’s your what’s your input.
John A. DeMato: I have a library of books that I photographed Unfortunately I work with a lot of really smart successful people, so a lot of it is conversations with them reading their stuff following them online.
John A. DeMato: podcasts a lot of what I do with podcasts is that’s kind of where my entertainment is I listened to a lot of silly comedy podcasts just to kind of turn it off, but in terms of the education it’s really i’m really grateful.
John A. DeMato: for working with people that really specialize in all of these areas, so I don’t really have to go far to really learn some things.
David Horsager: what’s your what’s your biggest hope for for what’s ahead, what do you hope for the next few years, as far as your work.
John A. DeMato: You know there’s this.
John A. DeMato: Thought in my mind that what I would really want is to be able to extend this conversation of creating this emotional connection and be able to.
John A. DeMato: You know, be genuine and honest as an expert to present themselves honestly in front of their audience to build those relationships and trust and.
John A. DeMato: What I would really love to do is have that conversation go on a much grander scale within the speaker expert Community so that it becomes the prevailing wisdom in terms of how they do their job and how they get out there and how they bring people into their ecosystem.
David Horsager: Do you see people that don’t just don’t seem authentic.
John A. DeMato: Every day.
David Horsager: yeah i’m a new yorker man.
David Horsager: What do you watch them because I see I see people like both in our world like they’re different onstage and they are off stage.
David Horsager: So they.
David Horsager: spoke on success and then they’re drunk at the bar afterwards I mean they talk about relationships and you find out they’re divorced five times and you wonder, you know.
David Horsager: I mean it’s just there’s an authenticity someplace but, but also some people get in this kind of upfront look, but they kind of seem like they always have it like What do you do with that, as far as you know, trying to tell a story that has any authenticity to it.
John A. DeMato: Well, if they’re not willing to be genuine and honest I can help them I can’t you know you can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, the only thing that you can hope for is that they have that moment in their mind where they realized that i’m full of crap.
John A. DeMato: Everything doesn’t feel right i’m misaligned everywhere in my life I need to get the track the train on the tracks and and move forward.
John A. DeMato: And that’s all you can hope for, because at the end of the day, you know you can only hold someone tam for so long, until they actually start to realize it for themselves and that’s really it that’s yeah.
David Horsager: So just a couple more thoughts, while I have you one is anything you would recommend you know, some people don’t like the word.
David Horsager: Marketing any more than they like selling but, in essence, this is what this is it, but we just want to do it authentically we want to build trust and connection with people, but we do.
David Horsager: If you, you know care about like in our case you deeply passionately care about this trust work.
David Horsager: And I really had to have an Epiphany like we kind of need this sell it we kind of have to market if we want it to go around the world if we feel called to it, which we do.
David Horsager: Then we have to get better at, in essence, for a long time, you know we’re very fortunate with word of mouth and all these things but but we we care about it too much we need people to know about it.
David Horsager: What would you any recommendation for how do you get a message you care about it authentically out to the world in the right way, whether selling marketing or you know messaging any any tips or takeaways in.
David Horsager: Our guard, because I think we’re aligned on wanting to do it authentically and with value right.
David Horsager: So absolutely you know.
David Horsager: Not.
David Horsager: Easy not hey by you know here’s for 995 better that you know.
John A. DeMato: Just know what I what I would say to people is that there’s two parts to this it’s the expertise piece it’s the value piece it’s the I am the authority in my space, whatever that spaces, you need to show people.
John A. DeMato: What the experience of working with you looks like you need to show them what your life looks like you need to show them what why you’re doing all this stuff what your hobbies look like for family life, you know things things.
John A. DeMato: Things that people can grab on to but then you also have to show that you’re a relatable revealing inspiring human being.
John A. DeMato: So you have to you know the superstar aspect so you’re on stage you’re doing the workshops you’re doing the virtual talks all these people that’s great.
John A. DeMato: But then we also need to see the vulnerability of you, you know living your life, and if you can.
John A. DeMato: bridge that gap between those two and have that more well rounded scope of who you are as a human being and what drives you to show up in the world every day, the way you do.
John A. DeMato: that’s what’s going to connect with people it’ll connect deeply with some it’ll push the others away but it hyper focus is you, and it cuts through the noise that’s on social and on the Internet in general right now.
David Horsager: wow Thank you john we got one last question before we get to it, where can people find out about you, your visual storytelling and photography as well as what we should be reading that john’s writing.
John A. DeMato: Well, the easiest place to go, is this really complicated URL john tomato.com and.
John A. DeMato: From there you can learn a little bit more about the visual storytelling process all the different types of elements that go into the type of photography that experts need, and if you want to join.
John A. DeMato: sign up for the newsletter and get some information save you the trip over to the website, you can sign up on the website as well.
David Horsager: Perfect john tomato.com we’re going to in the show notes check out some of his photography Of course you can do that right on his site, but you got to take a look at how he.
David Horsager: captured the trusted leader book trusted leader book, I should say, not the scrap the just like scrubbed on Facebook right so.
David Horsager: check that out check out the show notes check out john’s site, it has been a treat to have you on john it’s the trusted leader show who’s the Leader you trust and why.
John A. DeMato: hmm.
John A. DeMato: i’ll throw out a name that we both know phil Jones.
John A. DeMato: One of the brightest most generous human beings, I know, and every word that comes out I wish I had a pen and a pad writing it down every time you spoke.
David Horsager: love it, you know phil and I are on a very small I guess people call it a mastermind group or something like that, together, so we meet commonly amazing guy so.
David Horsager: yeah phil Jones what what a what a good one i’m gonna let him know by text, right after that you just said that.
John A. DeMato: cool.
David Horsager: Of all the people in the world.
David Horsager: hey it has been a treat to be with you john, thank you for sharing this with world, thank you for becoming a friend and with that that’s the trusted leader show until next time stay trusted.