Let’s be honest, there are times when a photo just doesn’t do the moment justice. As wonderful as photos are for freezing an instant in time, seeing those pictures in motion is what really brings memories to life.
Today, most cameras and phones have a movie mode, and there’s plenty of opportunities to share your videos as well! So, if you’re ready to flip the switch, here are a few tips to capturing amazing video.
The first thing most people do when they pick up a camera is wave it around–up, down, left, right, zoom in, zoom out. Fun, huh? Cool. Once you get that out of your system, never do this again. 😛 For starters, just like you take a picture, try holding the camera still. Frame your shot and hold the camera in place for 10 seconds. It may seem like forever, but you can do it! This will help you “get the shot” while still having some wiggle room for any camera shakes. It will also give you flexibility when it comes time to edit the footage.
Next, capture the action! What makes video stand out from photographs is seeing movement! Let’s see things move! Find the action! Film bikers biking, chefs chopping, artists drawing—you get the idea! Watching things in motion is so much more interesting than seeing stuff sit still (might as well be a photo).
For starters, film repetitive actions, look for things that happen again and again—baristas making cups of coffee, musicians strumming their guitars, or cars driving through an intersection.
Sometimes, finding the action takes some planning and thought, but with practice, you will learn how to anticipate the action before it even happens! Imagine you’re filming a summer family barbeque. You start at the grill, filming burgers sizzling on the rack. Then, when the master griller flips the meat over, BOOM! You have action. Picture yourself on a boat filming a snorkeling trip in Hawaii. You start by filming the ocean moments before your friend jumps into frame and makes a splash! Viola! Action! Just like you can anticipate the sun rising and setting everyday, you will soon begin to notice patterns in life and start to anticipate the action—so you can capture it all on film!
Once you find the action–Get close! Really close. Don’t stand in the back of the room and zoom in. Instead, move your feet close to the action. Say you’re in Texas and have a unique opportunity to watch a bootmaker craft a pair of leather boots. Stick your camera right up into the action, and film the hammer as it hits the nail, letting it fill the whole screen. Not only will you capture great shots by being up close, you will also get great sound (which we will talk about more in a minute).
Next, collect a variety of shots. Wide shots. Medium shots. Close Up shots. Get so far away, people look like tiny ants. Get so close, so you can see intricate texture and detail. Shoot the hands as a seamstress stiches a shirt. Shoot the feet as a surfer runs through the sand. Shoot your subject’s point of view. Let’s see what the skiiers see before they jump off the cliff! Shoot over the shoulder. Let’s watch what the web designer is creating on the computer screen. Shoot reactions. Let’s look at the crowd as they “ooh” and “aah” during the firework show. Getting a mix of shots is essential in video. It will not only make your videos more interesting to watch, it will give you lots of material to work with in the edit.
Be creative. Don’t shoot everything at your eye-level. Hold the camera high above your head to get a birds eye view. Lay on the ground to get a low angle shot. Don’t be lazy! Move around. Don’t stand in the same place for very long! Shooting is a sport.
One of the biggest differences between photos and video is audio. Audio can really help tell a story through narration and dialogue, and it helps viewers feel completely immersed in the experience. However, one of the most common mistakes when recording video, is having bad audio. It’s easy to do. Unfortunately, if the audio is bad, people will turn your video off. For example, if someone is talking to the camera, and all we hear is the sound of wind rustling against the mircrophone as we watch their lips moving—FAIL!
Stop for a moment and listen. Do you hear pop music playing overhead in the restaurant? Do you hear cars accelerating down the road while standing on the street corner? Do you hear the wind howling as you reach the summit of a mountain? Do you hear the air conditioning unit blowing? Airplanes? Trains? Motorcycles? These are wonderful sounds to capture to connect with the essence of a place…but if you want to hear someone talking to the camera—this noise could be a killer. Chances are, if you can hear it, your camera will hear those things too, which makes it hard to understand your subject. The best thing to do is to simply move to a quiet place, and place your subject close to the camera to get the best sound.
As you become a more serious about video, invest in a microphone. It will improve quality of sound ten-fold. Rode makes some amazing little microphones that plug directly into your iPhone! You can also buy an external microphone that can attach to certain cameras as well. While most cameras won’t have more the advanced audio features that allow you to control your audio levels manually or plug in headphones to listen while you record, just know that more professional camera models and video cameras will offer up these important features.
As you dive into the world of video, remember that you don’t have to shoot everything. It’s easy to feel like there’s so much going on, you don’t want to miss out on anything. But, if you film everything, the more footage you have, the more time it takes to go through it later, the more disk space you consume, the more that ends up on the cutting room floor. Yikes! The best strategy is this: identify your story ahead of time. Take time to observe the situation and make a plan before you hit the big red record button. Be picky. It’s okay if things change on the fly, but having an idea of what your story is and which elements you need to capture to tell that story will make shooting a whole lot easier—and more fun!
Whether you’re out to capture your next trip, birthday party, or special event, enjoy looking through the lens of your camera with a whole new focus in mind: video!
With a camera in hand and pen behind her ear, Juliana Broste, is a freelance travel video journalist, always ready to capture the moment. Her filmmaking adventures have taken her across the globe. Come along for the adventure and follow “TravelingJules” on: