Keep It Simple: Shoot Great Video Simply and Effectively
If you’re curious about learning how to shoot video with your DSLR, or wanting to improve the video you shoot, this might be right up your alley. New York fashion and portrait photographers and videographers, Lindsay Adler and Jeff Rojas, are about to kick off a 3 day workshop called ‘Keep It Simple – Video for Photographers’ on Creative Live focused on helping photographers make the jump into shooting great video simply and efficiently.
As someone who has come back to focus more on my stills photography to improve the quality of my video work, I know there are also plenty of photographers out there who are focused on stills but want to learn how to translate this into being able to shoot video with their DSLRs. Lindsay and Jeff are looking to provide simple and accessible stepping stones to give everyone the necessary foundation and skills to shoot great video with the gear they have.
For those of have read my other articles, you know I’m passionate about the transferable skill set that we as photographers can apply to our video work (or vice versa). The core principles that we think about as photographers; the use of light, what we include or exclude form the frame, composition, visual narrative and so on, provide a great foundation to begin shooting great video.
Lindsay and Jeff are both visual image makers – they travel between the worlds of stills and motion work frequently in their fashion and commercial work.
I spoke to Lindsay recently and asked her a few questions about the idea behind the KISS Video for Photographers program she and Jeff are delivering. She provided some great exclusive answers that I’ve summarized as the ‘top 5’ learning points she had picked up over the years that she wished she knew before she got into DSLR video.
Read on to find out what these were and how you can learn from her experiences…
Can you tell us how you got started with video?
Although I refer to myself a fashion photographer, fundamentally I am an image-maker. That’s my job, to create visual communications for my clients, and this has always been through creating still images. For years I stared at the little “movie button” on my camera, tempted to try something new. After several client requests and my own creative curiosities pushed me, I eventually decided to experiment with the video feature on my DSLR.
You mentioned there were key things you wished you knew at the outset that you ended up picking up as you went along. Can you provide some detail on what these were?
You don’t need a lot of new gear – I’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of girl. I like to throw myself headfirst into things I am interested in or passionate about. So, when I first got into video I started by spending a ton of money on equipment. Looking back now, I wish I had realized that you don’t need a lot of specialized gear to produce great video. In fact, most of the time I am using the same gear that I had when I was a photographer with a few small upgrades!
Yes, there are dozens of pieces of gear to help you with more advanced camera movements, but when you are getting started these just complicate things plus they empty your bank account! Keep it simple and get to know and master the basics first. Trust me, these will be your go-to tools most of the time anyway.
There are right and wrong camera settings for video. There are actually ideal settings for frame rate, shutter speed, and ISO… so you can’t just select whatever settings appear correct in your camera LCD. You will want your camera in manual so you have complete control over the settings and quality of your video.
Here is a quick ‘cheat sheet’ reference guide to get you started on the right path to the best camera settings. These are the numbers and settings I wish I knew when I started. Stick to these general settings and ensure better quality video.
The biggest misunderstanding I had about camera settings for video was shutter speed. You can’t use it to help control your exposure the way you’d expect by modifying shutter speed! Your shutter speed is based on your frame rate. Your shutter speed should be 1/double your frame rate. In other words, at 24 frames per second, shoot with a constant shutter speed of 1/50 second. At 30 frames per second, shoot with a constant shutter speed of 1/60 second. Keep to these shutter speeds helps give you that more fluid and high-end look.
This is often the unknown frontier to us photographers. For those of us transitioning, or adding video to our capabilities, the moving image is often just an extension of what we already know. But when it comes to audio, most of us have no idea where to start. With audio I used to seek out the ‘one size fits all’ solution to make it easy, but really no such easy solution exists. Determine your needs to help determine your gear. I now have a variety of audio tools to help me in any situation I encounter but these are the pieces of gear I personally utilize most often.
Invest in a viewfinder. The purchase I am most pleased with this year, was a high-end viewfinder. Adding a viewfinder makes capturing video exponentially easier. One of the scariest parts of video is getting the focus right, and it is even more stressful if you can’t correctly see the video you are capturing.
A viewfinder helps to block out ambient light, so you can more accurately see exposure, focus and detail. Furthermore, most viewfinders magnify your screen. This becomes extremely important when racking focus or changing focus mid-shot. Purchasing a viewfinder will put less strain on your eyes and allow more accurate focus, especially if you like shooting wide apertures like I often do.
My final point is that capturing video is only half the battle. Editing video is an art in itself, so when you get booked for a video job, be sure to have an editing solution in mind, even if that means outsourcing. As a photographer you’re likely familiar with Photoshop as a platform, but you may not be aware that Photoshop CS6 and CC have a lot of features for editing video. If you don’t want to learn or invest in new software, this may be a great place to start. Certainly Photoshop has its limitations, but it does the job for a lot of beginning projects for photographers first embracing video.
If you want a great deal of editing capabilities and are a photographer not familiar with video editing, Adobe Premiere will likely be the easiest transition because it is made by Adobe and maintains a similar interface. If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud membership it is included in that price. Photoshop and Premiere are two tools that will allow you to do everything from basic video compilations to advanced editing and creative effects.
Any final tips?
Don’t forget that shooting video is more like shooting jpg than RAW, so you’ll want to get your exposure and white balance right in camera because its not easy to change in post processing.
Finally, don’t forget everything you know as a photographer. Visual impact through composition, color, lighting, texture and more will all remain relevant even when capturing the moving image!
“Keep It Simple: Video for Photographers” will be on Creative Live October 17th – 20th.