Stunning Videos Using Your DSLR
The video revolution has smitten the world when amateur and professional photographers have utilised their DSLR more and more to create moving images. Different photographers have professed that shooting videos with their DSLR pose a challenge but it is something they have completely embraced and incorporated into their businesses. There really is no secret to catching fantastic videos – just some perseverance, an unquenchable desire to learn and hone a newly-discovered skill, and an open mind to exciting new possibilities.
Here’s what you can learn from three professional photographers on how they have found significant rewards in taking stunning videos using their DSLR.
As a photographer in Brisbane and at www.youcantbeserious.com.au, Hailey Bartholomew’s field of expertise aside from commercial work is shooting portraiture. Her five years of professional shooting became even more exciting when she started to make short films just for fun and as a way to narrate her own stories inspired by her stills work. Capturing on video of her client portrait sessions proved to be good for her business because people came to book her for her photography. She is looking forward to getting calls for her video work. But there are already other photographers who have commissioned her for her video work in order to promote their own businesses.
“I think I actually find stills harder in some ways – so short a moment and just one image to tell a story!” she said.
She worked on the TV commercials for Movieworld and Subway last year, and soon after, her previous commercial stills clients wanted her to do video work for them as well. Even renowned portrait photographer Sue Bryce hired her to be the director and photographer for the “The light that shines” documentary.
Nowadays, video work comprises 90 per cent of her professional projects. But she still makes room for filming her own personal projects. “From finding love-heart rocks on the beach to interviewing older couples on love, film is my favourite medium to tell a story,” Bartholomew says.
It is not the transition from stills to video that was difficult but it was more on the technical and editing aspects. One great lesson she acquired from experts is the importance of planning even before you start taking the video shot. “Things probably won’t always go exactly as you’d planned, but knowing what you need in your edit means you know what you need to film,” she says. For her, it is important to look carefully into the details, the angle, and how to edit different parts altogether. Afterwards, clicking the record button is as free-flowing as can be.
Though she has an extensive kit, she wouldn’t advise anyone to get the same stuff. Whatever they’ve got already is enough to create stunning videos. Of course, a DSLR with video capabilities is a must as well as 35mm wide lens, which would be perfect for hand-held shots. Throw in a comfortable strap and some large-capacity memory cards and you can start rolling those videos.
“I think this skill translates very well into video,” she says. “And to be honest, I think I actually find stills harder in some ways – so short a moment and just one image to tell a story!” That is what she thinks about being totally “connected” with her clients and using that as an advantage in taking stunning videos.
As a photographer in Sydney and at www.brettdanton.com, Brett Danton already had more than 20 years of professional experience in shooting stills. He got himself into video projects using the DSLR about 10 years ago when some director friends of his asked him to be the director of photography to one of their projects. He immediately fell in love with it.
Existing advertising clients eventually asked for his video works as well as stills. It became apparent how he quickly threw himself into this new passion. One challenge he had to overcome is how to tell the best story possible through a specific shot coverage. Another thing that he focused into honing is the ability to move the camera seamlessly and not just making the video shots from static locations.
“I think that most stills photographers shoot motion like a moving still,” he says.
As for workflow and lighting, it is relatively easy for him since he uses HMI (constant lights), just like what he does for his stills work. He also recognizes the importance of having the right directing skills because it involves moving subjects, especially people.
Danton’s signature video style is methodical. Since he is trying to tell a story using the video mode of his DSLR, he is very keen about getting all the camera positions and camera movements perfect to achieve a dynamic video shot.
As for the gear, Danton only approves the one which can provide the highest video resolution possible – the Canon EOS 1D-C, which unlike a full HD can deliver amazing video shots in 4k.
He said that if you really want to dip your toes into video works, then just “get out there and start shooting. “If you love what you shoot, you will love shooting it in motion,” he says.
“Use what you have available and really think through what you’re trying to achieve and the story you’re trying to tell,” he added.
For him, you always have to keep your eyes wide open for everything around you so you can find the best light, use the most effective camera movements for a more dynamic shot, and then consider how various shots will be incorporated together in the editing process.
“Video isn’t complex,” says Danton. “If you think about what you’re doing, start simply, and do it all yourself, you’ll learn. Don’t be put off if it’s not right the first time. Look at why it didn’t work, then go and shoot and edit it again.”
For three and a half years, Andy Hatton is still a relatively newcomer in the field of photography. But in his website www.andyhatton.com, it is clear that he doesn’t want to be restricted into one particular genre.
Rather, it showcases shots from sports, fashion, advertising campaigns, documentaries, products, editorials, live music and events. He would rely on his personal style which he can incorporate in these different scenarios.
“I believe it’s good to be as versatile as possible which is why working in both stills and video opens up a range of different opportunities,” Hatton says.
His involvement with fashion promo video clip a few years ago made him attracted in doing video works. “I saw things happen with the way light moved and changed on video that you just don’t see in a still. Suffice to say, it excited me.”
During the L’Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival in 2010, Hatton became its video photographer for the behind-the-scenes clip. “I had no experience of video at this stage, but I bluffed my way through it and learned as I went,” Hatton admits. “They were happy with the clip and it opened up my mind to a completely new way of working.”
Hatton recommends for those who want to delve into video to never think that enough is enough. Actually, having an excess of footage is better than limited footage so as not to limit your editing capacities.
“When the options are limited you don’t have fluidity in your footage and it’s hard to tell the full story in the best possible way,” he says.
“Keeping the editing seamless helps keep the viewer engaged.” He said this to put emphasis on the importance of having different scenes and clips that can be in harmony into one amazing piece.
He is not one to spend a year’s worth of pay check on gear. Instead, he just rents the specialist equipment he needs for a particular video work. A worthwhile investment though, is a constant lighting kit. Kino Flow light panel, tungsten lights or redheads and a variable Neutral Density filter are just some of the stuff you might want to get your hands into.
For Hatton, these are essential pieces especially if you’re shooting at high noon and needing a cinematic look. Just by using wide open apertures, this can be perfectly achieved. One thing you also need, according to him, is a solid video rig. It must have a ‘follow focus’ option to give you greater control over your focusing that will render a smoother footage.
Hatton believes the power of camera movement to enhance the mood of a particular video shot. Even if you cannot afford to hire famous slider rigs, just a little improvisation will do.
“You’ll be amazed at how much it can elevate the production value of your footage,” he says. “And this is all due to camera movements. I think it is one thing photographers jumping into DSLR video don’t necessarily always think about.”
As for shooting overseas, travelling light is still achievable. Just practice holding your camera flat on your right hand. Your left hand must hold the focus ring on the lens. You’ll encounter less camera shake if you are more lithe and flexible with your movements.
Hatton handles his video storytelling like he handles his stills shots. “When I’m just documenting, I try to begin with an establishing or wide shot, then maybe introduce a character or something, then focus on some details, try and evoke some sort of mood or movement, ending with a good strong image or scene to leave the viewer wanting to see more,” he says. “I always think it’s about what you don’t show rather than what you do.”
For those who just recently ventured in this field, build up your own portfolio by shooting and editing as much video works as you can. Doing your own editing gives you the insights on which elements should be always present and how you can do without with others.
“Preparation and planning before actually shooting any footage is also crucial,” he added. Plus, “the value in story boarding your whole clip, drawing it freehand like in a comic strip, can’t be understated.”
Capturing the details is also a must when doing the actual video shot. “They all build up the overall story. It’s better to have too much than too little when it comes to video. The more variety you have when you come to edit, the better your decision-making can be when it comes to piecing your clip together.” Hatton said.