Keep It Simple: Shoot Great Video Simply and Effectively

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?

Gear

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.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_dslrvideo_creativelive_video_videography_learning_tutorial_photo_video_What you already own

Camera Settings

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.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_dslrvideo_creativelive_video_videography_learning_tutorial_photo_video_CheatSheet

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.

Audio

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.

Tascam DR-D60  (preamp and recorder)

Senneheiser Lavalier (2)

Rode Shotgun Mic NTG3

Viewfinders

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.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_dslrvideo_creativelive_video_videography_learning_tutorial_photo_video_viewfinder

Editing

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.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_dslrvideo_creativelive_video_videography_learning_tutorial_photo_video_photoshop

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.

Image/Video Copyright: [Lindsay Adler / Jeff Rojas]

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14 Comments

Agreed. If someone's paying for Creative Cloud, they can and should use Premiere to cut their footage.

Regarding ISO - that's for Canon cameras (at least 5d). Picture style, just make a custom with sharpness at the bottom, and contrast close to the bottom. Even if you do post or not.

Some good for those without a background in video, although I don't agree with using Photoshop to edit video. It's like writing a script in Word. Just because you can doesn't mean that it's the right tool for the job.

In the UK unless you really are expecting to deliver at 24fps then 25 makes worlds more sense, you dont have to worry as much about getting flicker free lights etc. Oh if the camera will do it the standard shutter speed for 24 fps is 1/48.

The lights thing is quite big as flicker free lighting is expensive, so unless you are using natural light then you will either need flicker free lights or to shoot at frame rates that match your souces frequency (depending on location this is usually 50Hz or 60Hz) at Frame rates that are either matching or half the leccy frequency any shutter speed is fine and can be used to change the feel of the shot (either more blurred or more choppy, both have their place) but outside that and only some are safe and you lose that control.

On ISO Try to find the native ISO of the sensor, and use lights or NDs to modify exposure, you'll likely get more out of the camera that way.

mirza indigo's picture

this is more helpful then whole article above

Thats possibly a bit strong, though I like to think it compliments most of the article well.

David Geffin's picture

it certainly does Pete, thanks for your additional hints and tips and good point about the UK standard (as someone originally from there, now in the US, 24fps has become my default over here too).

Great article overall, but consider that you can get the same audio results with much less expensive wired lavaliere microphones in place of the recommended Senheisser wireless packs above. I recommend the Sony ECM-44B in their place, for a savings of almost $900.

I've been told there's a heat issue with DSLRs that limits the amount of video you can shoot. My DSLR will only shoot video for 10 minutes at a time, What are your suggestions for taking longer videos?

Well that depends on what you are trying to shoot. Unless its events or wildlife then there are ways to get around it. In an interview you can cut it down to a couple of questions a take and then use relevant cutaways to cover it cuts (or even just nodding or reaction shots of your interviewer).

In many other things like drama pieces even 10 minutes would be an increadible length for a single take.

If you really want the length there are a few DSLRs that will allow longer takes but your really at the point where moving into dedicated video cameras makes sense. There are a number out there which will take DSLR lenses (canon EF or MFT in particular), that you may be advised to move onto.

Things like the BMD cameras or the cannon C100, C300 begin to make sense if you are looking that way, though the 5Dmk3 holds up reasonably if you are primerially stills.

The advantages of the C100/BMD style is that in many ways they share a lot with DSLRs in the functions and the way you access them, though the terms are slighlty different.

Thanks so much for the reply, Pete. I have a Nikon D3100 and recently ran into problems during a classical chamber music concert, where one of the pieces was over the 10-minutes, and was wondering if there were other options, using my camera, for some of these exception circumstances.. Your editing suggestions are very helpful, and since I can't invest in anything more right now, I will probably bring something that shoots strictly video for backup in these situations. Either that, or stay away from long musical selections ;)

Well for that I'd suggest if you had something else possibly setting it up for a wide shot (always useful) in general when cutting between two shots of the same thing its best to keep a fair angle between the two shots otherwise they jar visually(genrally leads to what is known as a jump cut).

Some canon cameras have been hacked to remove some limitations on video but i dont recall Nikon having been (and nikon not making dedicated video cameras has little to gain by limiting such features).

mirza indigo's picture

or, if U dont have another camera, U can use sound recorder, that will record long scene.. then when U need to stop video, in edit U can insert some shots of public, or slowmotion shots, or something while sound goes on... :))

What DSLR are you using? My 6D can record up to 30 minutes (29:59) at a time, and the 5D2 can record up to 12 minutes. We shoot weddings with both of these cameras and we can get away with restarting recording one clip after the other without running into heating issues (usual ceremony lasts between 1 and 1.5 hrs).