Shooting video for stills photographers (Part two)
This is the second part of a two part series on shooting video for stills photographers. You can read part one here.
Lighting for video is much the same as it is for photography. The only difference is that a flash is not going to be very useful for video. So, you have a couple of options. You can either shoot using natural light, or you could invest in a continuous lighting system.
Perhaps start with a small LED light that can be mounted to your camera, then you could add more lights to your kit as required. For interviews, I generally use a 3-point lighting setup and LED light panels are a great affordable and portable option. This setup consists of 2 lights on either side of your subject at 45-degree angles.
One is a ‘key light’, set higher and brighter, and the other is a ‘fill light’ that is used to remove some of the shadows but is set not so bright as to flatten the image. Finally, the third light is often called a ‘hair light’ and is set behind the subject to outline their form and give more depth.
2. Camera Support
Depending on the type of video that you are creating, you may need some additional camera support. A tripod is very handy for interviews, presentations and for smooth panning and tilting.
You may find that your photo tripod is not quite up to the task of smooth movement, so you may need to invest in a video specific tripod head, alternatively, avoid camera movement whilst on a tripod.
The Lumix series that I use has amazing IBIS (in body image stabilisation) which makes handheld shooting incredibly smooth, and in many cases, removes the need for a tripod.
If your camera has in built stabilisation, give it a try, you may be surprised by the results. There are other options for camera support like gimbals, sliders and shoulder rigs.
I use a gimbal when I want extremely smooth motion, like when I want to follow someone walking. However, the disadvantage is that they can be time consuming to setup and use.
This is an area where I have witnessed a lot of photographers miss the mark when shooting video. Sometimes basic composition is thrown out the window, especially when it comes to the headroom space left above a subject.
I know there is a lot more to think about when shooting video but don’t forget everything you already know about composition, such as the rule or thirds, direction and always pay attention to your background and how it may be affecting your overall composition.
When making a camera movement like a pan, keep it simple. Have a premeditated start and finish point. Endlessly scanning of the horizon back and forth is off-putting and unnecessary. What are you trying to say with the shot? Are you showing the vast reach of the landscape or are you revealing your subject in their environment?
Overlay (also known as B-roll) is the footage you shoot to accompany your narration, to put over an interview, or to be used as a sequence with a musical score. When recording overlay, it is a good idea to think in sequences. For example, if a man talks about making a cup of tea in an interview, shoot an entire sequence of the man making his tea in a wide shot.
Then, you can move in closer to capture a selection of tighter shots. Ie. pouring water into a cup. Always get an establishing shot of each location and any footage that supports your narrative. Jotting down a shot list before a shoot can be very helpful and save headaches in the edit.
Editing is an essential part of video production. It is where you get to construct your story using all the elements you collected in the field. I personally love the creative flexibility in post-production. There is always more than one way to tell a story.
If you are an Adobe user like me, you could add Premiere Pro to your existing subscription. It is an extremely powerful program, but it is also quite easy to learn. There are many other options available, some of which are free. If you are wanting to dip your toe in the water, then perhaps Davinci Resolve, iMovie or Windows Movie Maker could be a good starting point.
It’s a really good idea to keep your editing simple. I start by building a narrative around an interview or multiple interviews. I select the relevant grabs and order them on the timeline in a way that will tell the story. I then add relevant overlay on top of the interviews, before adding any music or titles.
The overuse of video effects is the first indicator of an amateur editor. A straight cut or dissolve is often the only transition that is needed - just because you can ‘star wipe’, doesn’t mean you should ‘star wipe’!
Once you have finished your video it’s time to share it. When I started out in video production my usual delivery format for clients was a VHS or Betacam copy.
We have come a long way since then and even physical delivery seems like a distant memory. These days, delivery is almost exclusively digital.
When you export your video from your editing software you will be given many options. The most compatible format is going to be MP4. It can be played on a Mac or PC, is generally great quality but is also quite compressed which keeps the file size down.
Programs like Adobe Premiere will give you the option to export your file for a specific platform, such as YouTube or Vimeo. This will optimise the image and playback for its intended destination. For archive or broadcast, you may choose to export in a format like ‘Quicktime Prores’. This is the format that I use to deliver ‘Snap Happy’ to Channel Ten.
As a photographer, you have the technology in your hot little hands to create some great video content, and it’s never been easier. Yes, there is a learning curve but trust me, it’s a fun one, and besides, you are halfway there. To help you on your journey, there are many great online resources and you are sure to find some tutorials based around your specific camera system too. Good luck, all the best and happy shooting!
Now, get out there and shoot!
About the author: Tim Robinson is the creator of the TV program 'Snap Happy, the photography show’. He has been shooting professional video for over 2 decades, with a focus on telling people’s stories through documentary. He is a keen wildlife and nature photographer and loves the opportunity to combine his passion of film making with photography.