HDSLR Video Essentials for Photographers
by Jeff Rojas and Lindsay Adler
February 20, 2013 —
Because HD video has become such a prevalent feature in today’s DSLR cameras, at the switch of a button, you can now turn your standard DSLR into a movie-making machine. Many photographers are beginning to expand their portfolios to include video, but if you haven’t transitioned yet, doing so doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Learning how to shoot HD video is a great way to expand your business by offering clients additional services without investing in additional equipment. Many photographers differentiate themselves through video capabilities while others use it as a new outlet for creativity.
you likely understand composition and light, and can probably use your
DSLR on manual mode (a must for video). That’s a great start! Video and
stills, however, have a few key differences that you should be aware of
when making your first video pieces. Here, we’ll cover a few suggestions
for shooting video, from camera settings to shooting techniques to
equipment that will help you yield professional results.
In order to shoot DSLR video, you must understand two key terms: resolution and frame rate; these settings play a vital role in the “feel” of the video you’re recording. You can achieve looks varying from cinematic to slow motion depending on these settings. Once you’ve grasped these terms and how they influence your results, you can start concentrating on movement, camera shake, angles and story-telling to create better results.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels that your camera is recording, for example: 1920 x 1080 pixels means that you are filming 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 pixels vertically. Resolution also determines the fineness of detail of a video; you want to set your camera to 1920 x 1080 to provide the best resolution for shooting video.
Frame rate is generally listed
as fps, or frames per second. It’s the rate at which your camera records
video in consecutive images. Your selected frame rate will have a
visual impact on the human eye. The human eye will perceive anything
above 24 fps as motion, and you have a few options for what setting you
30 fps is a little more fluid—common for web video.
fps is generally reserved for slow motion material. You are recording
double the amount of frames you would normally, and when played back at
half speed, it will playback in slow motion.
keep your shutter speed set at twice the value of your fps; i.e. if
you’re shooting at 30 fps, your shutter speed should be set at 60.
Lowering your value from double the fps will show slightly blurred
frames, while shooting a higher shutter than your ideal mark will
produce really crisp frames that are “choppy” when played back. A quick
30 fps - Shutter Speed set to 60
your ISO as low as possible. Stick to using ISOs that are optimized to
give you the best quality image with the lowest amount of noise. These
include ISO 160, 320, 640, 1250 and 2500. Remember, the lower the ISO,
the less noise!
understand how to set your camera to shoot HD video, it’s time to start
making “movie magic.” There are certainly new considerations once you
start shooting video, such as: What should you do about camera shake?
and How do you “pan” your camera fluidly? Don’t let those things
overwhelm you. Learning to shoot HD video feels like the first time you
held your first (D)SLR camera—it takes time, patience and dedication.
Movement makes shots more dynamic, whether your subjects move, or you pan your camera around them. It all adds higher production value. You’re probably comfortable posing your subjects while they’re still, but if you try this same static approach to video, the result is boring.
The solution? Add motion, action and interaction to your video. Remember to always record movement longer than you think you need (even once the motion has been completed) to make editing easier.
the camera as well; pans (lateral movement of camera) can be achieved by
using a slider or tripod/monopod equipped with a fluid head. We
currently use a Cinevate Atlas 200 with a fluid head, a Manfrotto Fluid
Monopod, and, when building restrictions don’t allow for a tripod or
monopod, Jeff uses a Vulture Equipment Works A2T that acts as a reverse
If you want a steady shot, don’t attempt to hand-hold your camera—it’s that simple. Even the steadiest of hands are too shaky for video. A tripod or monopod is a must.
Monopods give you additional
mobility while still helping to stabilize your video clips. Whenever
you’re using a larger lens, mount the lens to the tripod instead of the
camera for additional stability.
Try to capture all different angles for variety. The more footage and angles you have, the easier it will be to edit it into a final piece. Shoot more than you think you need.
Consider your favorite
movie scene: it probably starts with a wide shot, introducing the scene.
Then perhaps the camera moves in to introduce the characters. This
medium shot is then followed by headshots, and then close-ups on some
details in the scene. Instead of zooming the camera in on the scene, you
should use different lenses and film a variety of angles to engage the
audience. Don’t keep your feet planted.
should anyone care? One of the most important elements of video is
keeping viewer interest throughout the piece, so tell a visual story.
Don’t film a random string of visuals—the audience will lose interest.
Remember that stories have a beginning, middle and an end. This story
doesn’t exactly have to be a narrative, but try to include some end
visual goal or punchline.
If you’re trying to tell a story and you’re not recording an event (such as a wedding), keep it short. In general, a shorter edit is a better edit. Keep your audience engaged by editing your piece to between two and five minutes; any longer and you’ll bore your them, unless you have an amazing narrative.
Don’t worry! In that small time span,
you can include many clips. Use quick cuts so that each clip is only
played for a matter of seconds. Quick clips are visually stimulating and
help keep the viewer interested and engaged.
Don’t forget everything you’ve learned as a photographer; adding motion doesn’t pardon you from forgetting basic lighting techniques. Truly beautiful visual pieces are a combination of storytelling, beautiful composition, stunning lighting and engaging camera/subject movement. Keep your backgrounds clean and simple, and use aperture to your advantage.Don’t forget, there’s a learning curve to shooting video. You won’t master it your first time or your second—it’s just like photography... “Your first 10,000 frames are your worst.”
Lindsay Adler is a fashion photographer and director in New York City. An author of three education books and several DVDs, her work has appeared in dozens of prestigious magazines internationally. As an award-winning photographer, her teaching career and photography have already received much acclaim, and she is a respected name in the industry. Adler will present her WPPI 2013 Platform Class, “Shooting in Evil Light,” Sunday March 10, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Jeff Rojas is a fashion photographer in New York City who spent the early part of his 20s studying photography while working full-time in a corporate office. Eventually he ditched the suit and tie to pursue photography full time.
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