6 Tips for Still Photographers Learning to Shoot Video
Our appetite for video is at an all-time high. YouTube alone is logging one billion hours of video watched per day, and 400 hours of video are being uploaded every minute. Video consumption is projected to rise even higher – accounting for 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021.
All of this increased demand for video is putting more pressure than ever before on video content creators and marketers alike, and creating a lucrative opportunity for stock video contributors.
If you’re a photographer looking to venture into the world of stock video, there’s no better time than now. Transitioning from stills to motion may seem daunting at first, but chances are if you’re looking at a DSLR, your camera is completely capable of high quality videos. Here are some pointers to help ease the transition.
1. Understand frame rates
In the simplest terms, video is just multiple exposures per second. The greater the number of exposures you record per second, the more fluid the footage looks. This number is called the frame rate or fps (frames per second). Common frame rates are 24 fps (often called 23.98), 25 fps, 30 fps, and 60 fps.
Different frame rates produce different looks and feels. For example, 24 and 25 fps imitate the frame rate of motion picture film and gives you that popular “cinematic” quality, while 60 and 50 fps looks fluid and is similar to human vision. This is ideal for shooting fast-moving subjects that you may want to play back in slow motion.
Standard frame rates may differ depending on where you live, (North America, western South America, Japan, and Korea use 24, 30, and 60 fps, whereas Europe, Australia, most of Asia, and parts of South America use 25 and 50), but ultimately, it’s up to your creative discretion to choose which frame rate is best for the subject you’re shooting and the aesthetic you’re striving to achieve.
2. Set your shutter to match your frame rate
When shooting video, the shutter speed cannot be used to adjust exposure the same way it can in still photography. Because video is a series of exposures one after the other, there needs to be a certain amount of motion blur to allow each image to blend seamlessly into the next. Fast shutter speeds will freeze moving subjects the same way they do in still photos. When images like this are put together in sequence, the motion will look very choppy, like a flip book.
A good rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to double your frame rate. For example, if you are shooting 30 fps, set your shutter to 1/60. If shooting 24 fps, you will want to set your shutter to 1/48, and so on. If your camera doesn’t have the exact setting you need, go for the nearest shutter speed.
3. Shoot in manual mode
Because a video clip lasts for several seconds, any changes in exposure will be visible to the viewer. These changes can be distracting and may render the shot unusable. For beginners, it is best to manually set your focus, ISO, aperture, and shutter before you start recording. Then let the action take place.
One of the great things about shooting video with DSLR or mirrorless cameras is that their large sensors allow for a shallow, or “cinematic,” depth of field. The beauty of this can be enhanced by allowing subjects to go in and out of focus as they move. In many cases there is no need to struggle to keep moving subjects in focus all the time. That doesn’t mean that you should shoot your video out of focus. There will be times when you will need to regularly adjust the focus within the shot, but getting accustomed to subjects moving in and out of the plane of focus will help you shoot better footage as you advance.
4. Keep the camera still
It may be tempting to get a nice gimbal, slider, or other stabilizer and start doing all sorts of fancy movements. While camera movement can add a lot to the quality of your shots, it takes time to master. Even simple pans (left/right movements) and tilts (up/down movements) need to be motivated, not to mention smooth. Good video has plenty of movement in the frame. Learn the basics before getting fancy — focus on the motion happening in front of the camera first before you decide to move the camera itself.
5. Use a video tripod
Shooting video handheld is a skill that takes time and practice to master. The best way for beginners to shoot video is by setting up the camera on a tripod and letting it record untouched for at least 10 seconds every time you take a shot.
Video tripods are a little different than photo tripods. Video tripods have what is called a fluid head. This is a head that allows you to pan and tilt the camera with greater symmetry and control. Some even have a bubble level to help you set the camera straight. Remember, video is not meant to be cropped and straightened later on like still images. You want your framing to be correct all the time.
6. Keep shooting
Like all other creative fields, video is about trial and error, and learning from your mistakes. Whenever you take out your camera to take a photo, challenge yourself to also shoot video so you can learn to adapt your skillset. Slow motion, drones, time lapses — the creative possibilities with video are endless.