Dixie Dixon Explains How and Why You Should Be Filming Video On Every Photoshoot

Dixie Dixon has been a good friend of Fstoppers over the years, and she even came down to the Bahamas with us for the first Fstoppers Workshop. Lee and I have been preaching since the start of FS that photographers need to film behind the scenes videos their own photoshoots. I was absolutely thrilled to see that Dixie has produced this short video outlining exactly how you should incorporate video into your own business. 

For some reason photographers like to complain about shooting video, and some even go as far as saying their DSLRs shouldn't include video capabilities at all. It absolutely drives me crazy to hear this narrow minded train of thought. It is no secret that the entire reason Fstoppers even began in the first place was because Lee and I got our hands on the Nikon D90, and immediately saw the endless possibilities this camera offered. Being able to shoot video through your professional DSLR lenses is incredibly powerful. Never before has it been so easy for still photographers to expand their commercial offerings than it is today with DSLR video, and I would even make the argument that video is one of the most underrated selling points of the modern DSLR today. 

In Dixie's video above, she makes a strong argument for shooting video on your own photoshoots. Regardless if you have film the clips yourself, or if you hire someone to document the entire photoshoot, having a video channel full of behind the scenes videos of you working is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can have for your brand. In many cases, larger clients will actually demand a behind the scenes video as part of the overall photo production. If you have never considered adding video to your list of services, now might be a great time to start expanding your skills.

Capture Great Shots

Dixie outlines pretty much every single thing to consider when producing  your own video, and having produced a ton of BTS videos myself I have to agree with everything she says. Make sure your videos contain both behind the scenes shots of the overall production as well as tight "moving portraits" of the team players involved in the shoot. If you are strictly a photographer who is starting to dabble in video production, it might surprise you to find that the most important thing with video is stabilization. Nothing looks worse for video than shaky video caused by a rolling shutter. Even if you have to lock down a camera on a tripod for extended periods of time, that footage will look much better than shaky handheld video 9 times out of 10 (lens stabilization can save you here too). The key to a good short video edit is lots of short clips that show a variety of exciting moments. As photographers we already thinking in terms of story so capturing a bunch of short video clips should be something that you find pretty natural. 

Make Yourself the Star

Another thing to consider with a successful BTS video is to give a proper interview somewhere in the video. I know a lot of photographers are apprehensive about being in front of the camera but this is a fear you have to tackle now if you want to be more successful as a photographer. I personally always mic myself during a shoot so that I have candid sound bites to use later (we highly recommend this wireless lav mic), and I would recommend setting aside five minutes on set to give a quick interview about the overall concept. Having an interview of yourself while on location not only makes the story line flow better, but it makes you look super confident and personable. If you do not have time to cover everything you want to talk about on location, take Dixie's advice and either record voiceover later or setup a completely separate interview session to mix into the BTS footage.

Pick the Right Music

Music can make or break your videos so make sure you pick a song that isn't distracting and fits the overall mood of your shoot. Some of our favorite companies that license affordable music are Premium Beat and Triple Scoop Music so check them out if you want to find unique music for each shoot, or if you simply want to find that one perfect song to represent your entire brand. As mentioned above, you really need to include some sort of interview or voiceover for a compelling BTS video. Do not fall into the trap of producing what I call a "music video" where all your footage is just edited against a trendy song. Those types of videos aren't very educational and people tend to lose interest without a narrative story element to your video. Remember, you are trying to sell yourself, not that you are a cool photographer on a photoshoot.

Show Your Final Images

Nothing drives me more crazy than watching a kickass behind the scenes video only to have to go searching the internet to view the final images. Remember these videos are created to gain exposure through websites like Fstoppers and social media, and also to showcase your ability to produce a complex photoshoot to potential clients. The absolute pinnacle moment of these behind the scenes videos should be your final images, so do not fail to put them into the video itself. Dixie suggests placing your images towards the end which can give the final video an exciting apex. If you have a bunch of different scenes, I would suggest showing each final image right before you transition into the next location.

Have Fun

It is always important to remember that people hire you not necessarily because you are the best photographer for the job but because they fell in love with you as a person. No one wants to work with someone who is awkward, unusually shy, stubborn, mean, or demanding. The overall energy and vibe you show during your shoots will go a long way in making an initial impression, perhaps even before you ever talk to a potential client. Remember, with video editing you are in complete control of the overall image and energy you release to the public (unless TMZ captures you on a rough day). There is nothing wrong with playing to the camera and displaying not just your photoshoot, but also your own personality that will make directors and agents want to reach out to you for their next big project. No one does this better than our good friend Monte Isom (check out his BTS videos on Fstoppers), and having fun on set is something everyone enjoys watching universally.

I hope this video inspires you not only from a photography perspective but also from a marketing stand point. It is pretty exciting to see someone like Dixie Dixon continue to climb the commercial ladder, and I think she will be the first to admit that a lot of it comes from her and her team's ability to produce both video and photo content for her clients. The photography industry is an ever changing market and if you use these tips to promote your own business, you will have a better chance not getting lost in a competitive market. 

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Chris Cheek's picture

So True..

Alan Klughammer's picture

Video is another art form entirely from photography. I am not sure if I agree that a good photographer is a good videographer. Just like a good photographer may not be great at photoshop. If you have the skills and talent to shoot video, do it, If you do not, it is not necessarily a loss...

Pat Black's picture

Alan you have a valid point, I think Dixie is trying to say that if you don't have a video person that you are still able to do some things yourself

Patrick Hall's picture

I think I disagree with this. Shooting good video is very similar to framing up a good still image. Unless you are doing some crazy chase scene, most times video follows the same rules of stills: solid composition, good exposure, great use of natural or artificial lighting, etc.

I feel like for most videos, the magic happens with the edit and the actual visual you are filmkng (like a naturally beautiful scene or say an actor's performance). Add awesome music to the mix and I think it is far easier to produce an entertaining video than an equally entertaining still photo from a technical stand point.

In some cases I think you could say the photographer has MORE talent than the videographer because unlike video that relies on an edit with tons of cuts and an actual story, the photograph has to say so much more in a single image that can be examined for minutes instead of seconds.

It's okay to disagree with me but I've always thought photographers have the advantage moving to video compared to videographers trying to come over to the stills side. And to be fair, I'm taking about well versed photographers like Dixie who can build a full set with lighting, not just a natural light family portrait shooter or someone less versed.

Chris Cavallari's picture

wow. That's awfully arrogant. I've been a videographer for 20 years. But ok, you're more talented than me because you can frame a shot?

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm not trying to be arrogant and I'm sorry if my comment came across that way. I've just met tons of videographers who have struggled going to the still world. It seems to be tougher because video crews are so used to working as a team with directors, Directors of photography, assistants, grip, gaffers, etc that any one person might not be as strong in one aspect but a pro in another. It might be shocking but so many directors know nothing about the technical side of the camera or a lighting tech might not know anything about the post production side.

Photographers pretty much start off doing everything from playing director, dp, lighting, digital tech, post producer, etc. In fairness, photographers might have a harder time working in a team atmosphere compared to someone used to the dynamic in video.

Another thing I've noticed is that photographers are much more particular about lighting than video guys generally. I think this is because a still image has to be perfect where in video it's more about the mood and actor's performance. You won't see a lot of beauty dishes or grids on a video set because more brash lighting might work well enough because video has movement and action to help support the overall aesthetic.

Another thing I've seen videographers struggle with when they transition to stills is the idea of fast autofocus. Photographers live and die by fast AF where most video guys are used to framing up a specific shot and nailing it over and over with a manual focus lens or focus puller. Obviously if you shoot weddings or sports you tend to work more as a journalist than someone who does commercials and movies but it's still a very different skill set that needs to be fine tuned.

Again I'm not trying to say one group is better than another, they are just different. I'm sure a videographer could come up with a lot of skill sets a photographer would struggle with but as a general rule, photographers understand the lighting side really well and that skill can be tough if you've either relied on a team for lighting or you have gotten away with a simple led panel for lighting.

Alan Klughammer's picture

Painting and photography are very similar, they both capture a still image. composition, form, "lighting" are all important.
Some people can transition from photography to painting or from painting to photography, but some cannot, as the skill sets are different.
Same as video, some photographers can learn video, some cannot.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

One of the things I have learned is that on my jobs as a photographer is I am looking for the two or three killer shots to be the hero(s) to run on the cover or a double page. When I do motion I need to get good shots that are assembled to make a good story which in the end could be hundreds of shots, shots which need to relate to each other and to the story.
Comparing them is hard as they are very different mediums with slight similarities.

Aran Y's picture

Doing it all the time these days with my photog buds! Have a look?... :D https://instagram.com/insomniakmedia/

Spy Black's picture

I think it all depands on what you're shooting and how you're contracted to do so. Some clients aren't going to want to be a part of that, and some commercial photography is simply quite boring rent-paying crap. ;-)

Alan Klughammer's picture

And for that matter, for some jobs, it would not be appropriate to have someone wandering about, possibly getting in the way.
I also wonder if a client would be concerned of the extra expense they are paying for the BTS video...

Austin Rogers's picture

Not at all related to the video (and not at all important) — I've never understood why / how people hold their camera like that when shooting vertically. Whenever I try it it's super uncomfortable. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Spy Black's picture

Hmm, good point. Maybe she's leftie, and that works better? Dunno.

Patrick Hall's picture

Ha I never noticed that, I saw her today and should have asked her. Hopefully Dixie will be making an FS appearance soon so I'll be sure to ask. I'm a fan of the vertical grips just for this reason

Anonymous's picture

she needs to fix her website so it doesn't hijack and reset my browser, thats like being invited into someone's home then SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF YOUR VOICE. Its rude and impolite.
otherwise great work.

Emilia Venegas's picture

I love the idea of bts videos, but I wonder if this would work as a portrait photographer, I mainly shoot couples, families and weddings.
And Dixie is an amazing photographer, this shoot was beautiful

Pat Black's picture

This totally works for that too, but you don't have to produce a video for every shoot, but it does help your clients get a feel of who you are from that

Patrick Hall's picture

Yeah I think it is especially important for photographers in smaller markets. You might not film every shoot for an individual BTS but it would be in your interest to film maybe 4-6 of your best clients (most photogenic) and mix all the footage into a sales reel that you can put on the front of your website.

Titus Apfot's picture

Let the video photographers work for free! ;)

Alan Klughammer's picture

One point that stuck out was her suggestion to use royalty free music. I wonder how she feels about royalty free photography....

Patrick Hall's picture

Royalty free music is music produced by the artist for a straight up fee. We use it all the time. If you value your music and don't want to sell it for $40 a use, then don't create music for the stock sites. After hearing some of the atrocious pay rates for big music stars on the streaming apps, I bet some of these royalty free artists are making a decent living.

Alan Klughammer's picture

Royalty free photography is created by the artist for a straight up fee. It is used all the time by people who do not want to pay full rate for photography.
As an industry it is lowering the price (and arguably quality) of stock photography, making it tougher to make a decent living...

Grant Watkins's picture

If you do a BTS video, don't shoot it using nikon. seriously.

Patrick Hall's picture

Ha why not? Our entire channel and website have been built behind the Nikon video platform.

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

Hey Grant, How about a cellphone? :)

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

I gotta be honest here, this article made me a little upset at first. I can see BTS being a great branding opportunity for photographers in a certain field. As a traveling photographer I don't think I can make these without hiring someone at each location i go to. That is just not economically viable. I went to school to make films so I know what is needed to make a video look phenomenal. Trades are fine if it's a mutually beneficial photo session but otherwise it has historically been a bad idea. I want to work and create photos, not make short films. My sessions are not large scale. They are events and I cover them. Seems silly to have someone covering me while I cover the event.

Great video otherwise, I know it will be helpful to someone :)

Patrick Hall's picture

I can see the extra issues you would have as a landscape photographer since I was just in your shoes recently (well filming a travel photographer).

Do you travel with 2 tripods and two cameras? Even if you you just have 1 tripod, you can always frame a stagnant shot up with one camera on the tripod and then simply film a single clip of you with your second camera in hand as you walk into the frame or act like you are shooting. The trick is to shoot a variety of wide and tight frames with varying angles to make each shot look unique. Some travel photographers even just frame up the exact same shot and then do the super fast time warp effect so they appear to be motionless while the background locations breeze by. While it might be a little harder for you, the opportunities you will have are much greater than most photographers who do not travel.

You probably always capture images with your tripod but at least this way you can capture something of yourself standing in exotic locations even if it's just a 20 second clip you can edit later.

Working with Elia Locardi on his landscape tutorial made him realize that even a few short clips from his travels would have come in handy when editing his promo videos and some of the humanitarian promos we filmed for some of his out reach programs. With travel you only need a few short clips that show the epicness of the locations you visit and in time you could easily have a 10-20 clip montage that would make your work look very impressive.

Again, I think this is the sort of stuff that will help distinguish your brand from the countless others who are doing the same thing you are doing and years down the road you might regret not having something to reflect back on or edit into something fun. If you don't have a second camera (which everyone should have), even a cell phone would work too as long as you can mount it to a tripod.

Patrick Hall's picture

Aaaaand I misread your profession as a travel photographer instead of a traveling photographer shooting events.

In your case you can just shoot fun video clips of people partying and make a promo video that features the environment instead of you shooting the environment. For event photography I agree you prob don't need a ton of BTS videos but a single 3 min video would still be very valuable even if you had to pay someone to shoot you working in a few local markets.

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

No worries. I was a little confused at first with your response but I appreciate the effort and message. :)

I will be doing these in the future as soon as I can find a unique angle.

Stevie Chris's picture

Great article Patrick! I need to be better at this myself all the while yelling at friends to do the same haha. Time go hit the gym. The best cinematographers for the most part started out as photographers. I think the main point here is the content and self marketing opposed to being the next Kubrick for a bts video. :)