PSA: How To Avoid Deer In The Headlights Syndrome

The Canon 5D Mark II opened a lot of doors to aspiring video shooters like myself. Suddenly filmmakers had access to amazing video quality inside a small DSLR body. Although the compact size of DSLRs is a huge strength it can also be the camera’s biggest obstacle. Often times while shooting with a DSLR, I’ll come across what I lovingly call “Deer In The Headlight Syndrome”. Essentially, DITHS occurs when an unknowing victim spots your camera and poses for a picture. After about 7 seconds of awkward video footage, the subject will usually burst into embarrassed laughter and realize their mistake.

This video is, hands down, the best example of “Deer In The Headlights Syndrome” that I’ve ever seen. Filmmaker Chris Pavey recently shot a promo video for the Nottingham Trent Students Union. Chris describes what happened:

“So I do a lot of filming in nightclubs and one thing I've noticed is that a lot of people think I'm taking stills. You'd think that the massive rig, microphone and LED light would give it away, but apparently not.”


Although the resulting blooper video is amazing,  these situations can be a giant headache for videographers. It’s impossible to completely avoid “Deer In The Headlights Syndrome”, but here’s a simple way  I've taught my friends what to expect. I encourage you to spread it among your friends before they find themselves looking like a fool in front of the internet.

fstoppers-deer-in-the-headlights3-guide copy

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haha, what's most hilarious part is everyone in the background still dancing. It's almost like one of those time lapse videos where the subject stands still with cars and people moving in the background.

I usually shoot with a shoulder rig and big microphone (Rode Videomic) on the camera, which saves a ton of these awkward moments. But still there are dumb people that try to pose for a picture when I'm shooting them on video. It's gotten me hours worth of funny video. Last month I shot 2 festival with an FS700 and STILL people had the DITHS :D

Of course for the practical joker in all of us some choose to induce DITHS, called "The Long Akward Pose" :D You basically go up to people while already shooting video and pretend you're going to take a photo, then tell them you're struggling with the camera and see how long they try and hold the pose ;-)

It's very hard to watch this.

hahahaha props to those last guys for holding that pose for so ridiculously long

evryon in vid look so dum

Ben .'s picture

Easiest thing I've seen yet is the guy wore a short and simply wrote on a piece of paper and stuck it to himself "Don't just stand there I'm filming you"

Seemed to work fine

What mic/light are you using?

Say "Meeeee" If you were scared of the two dudes who were sticking their tongues out lol