With DSLR filmmaking becoming easier and more affordable, every day more photographers are taking the plunge into moving images. Good still shooters can make great video shooters, but only if they understand the key differences between the two media. Here’s a list of the most common mistakes I see still photographers make while shooting video.
1) Sound is forgotten. Most DSLR cameras have sub-par sound recording, and wind and handling noise make this even worse. If you want to hear your location audio, use an audio recorder like the Zoom H4n and a microphone. Remember, audio is 50% of video. At a minimum you want your audience to be able to hear and understand what’s happening. For a simple audio option for home movies, consider using a Rode VideoMic or VideoMic Pro connected directly to your camera.
2) Shutter speeds work differently. For motion to look normal, your shutter speed should be about half the duration of your framerate (this is called a 180-degree shutter). Shutter at 1/8000th makes crisp stills but in video this looks “stroby” and unnatural.
Almost all video cameras have ND filters built in, but when we shoot with DSLRs we need to add our own. I always keep an ND 1.2 in my bag to help keep my shutter speed slow when shooting outside, and usually have a polarizer on, too.
3) Camera support matters. Most photography tripods are not great for video, and most video tripods aren’t ready for photography, either. A good video tripod lets you pan and tilt smoothly, is made of metal, and holds the camera without wiggling. If you want a still shot, The center post of a photo tripod usually has too much wiggle if you mount a video camera on it.
Going handheld is always an option, but you’ll want to stay wide. I usually suggest 28mm or wider on a full-frame camera. Image stabilization or vibration reduction will be a big help, too.
4) Zoom addiction. Shooting with a lens like Canon’s 24-105mm F/4L gives you lots of options, and it’s a great “walking around lens.” But when you’re shooting an event or performance, the zoom can distract from the content of the video. Stick with a wide shot until you know how the space is being used, then zoom in to show detail, but don’t spend the whole night going back and forth. You’ll be glad you did when you’re playing everything back.
5) You still have to edit it. Getting the video recorded is the easy part! Getting it off the camera, into a video editing system, and back out without any hiccups is something that only comes with experience. I suggest recording in just one setting whenever possible, checking and double-checking your project settings when you start, and asking Google before trying any advanced tricks like conforming or aspect ratio conversion. 90% of the video I shoot on my DSLRs is 1080p24, and I almost always use the same editing program, codec, and output settings to save time and avoid headaches. Once you find what works, take a note, save your settings, and stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.
Whatever kind of video you make, remember these 5 points, keep your photographic eye, and have fun!