I have always been fascinated by cinematography. More than compelling plots or moving performances, I find myself drawn to the way that a well placed light can invoke certain emotions or how the camera’s position can change the whole perspective of a scene. In that sense, it has a lot in common with photography.
In spite of this, I, and I imagine many other photographers, tend to view videography as something other people do. Often times, we tend to look at our chosen genre of photography; be it portraits, street, landscapes, etc. as the only space we’re allowed to practice in, and everything else not in that bubble is seen as outside the realm of possibility. As I’m finding out, making the jump over isn’t as impossible as it may seem.
Coming from the world of photography, there are several self-imposed hurdles along the road to learning videography. First and foremost is simply, “I don’t know how to shoot video”. The good news is, if you can compose a photograph, then half the battle is already won. The same principles of lighting, model placement, camera position and lens choice apply to both mediums. If you can use these tools to create depth in your still images, the same will carry over into video.
What sets photos and videos apart is movement. While this may seem overwhelming at first, it’s actually what makes videography more forgiving than photography in my opinion. As any professional photographer knows, of the hundreds of photos we may shoot daily, only a handful are ever deemed to be “keepers”. We’re constantly in search of that perfect moment that exists within a fraction of a second when everything aligns properly to convey an intended message or feeling. Everything else around that can be discarded.
With video, the window of time on these perfect moments becomes much wider. A subtly changing facial expression from your subject or the swell of music in the background can easily create that emotional impact we try so desperately to fit into a single photo.
The Startup Cost
The next mental hurdle to overcome is, “I don’t want to invest thousands of dollars in video equipment”. This is entirely understandable. After spending an already uncomfortable amount of money on your DSLR or mirrorless body and numerous lenses, starting fresh with video seems like a fast track to bankruptcy. Thankfully, most modern camera bodies are perfectly capable of shooting high-quality 4K video. Sure, specialized video cameras still exist, but the past few years has seen an unprecedented boom of filmmakers using smaller, consumer-friendly camera bodies for their work.
For most photographers, the only purchase needed to get up and running with video work immediately is sound equipment. When it comes to videos, less than stellar image quality is excusable, but subpar audio will distract and annoy your viewers more than anything else. While most cameras have built-in microphones, they tend to sound hollow and pick up too much ambient noise.
For interviews and scenes with a single subject, a discrete lavalier setup like the Rode Wireless Go is perfect. The receiver, which weighs next to nothing, can attach to your camera’s hot shoe mount, while the transmitter is hidden away on your subject. In case you don’t have an additional microphone or simply don’t want to use one, the transmitter itself also has a built-in mic that will sound much better than the one in your camera. With your existing camera gear, this microphone setup, and naturally available light, you can start creating professional looking videos.
The Learning Curve
The third most common obstacle facing photographers transitioning to videography is the seemingly insurmountable learning curve involved with understanding video editing. To be fair, I can sympathize with this one. There is a LOT under the hood of most video editing programs. Start playing with knobs and sliders and before you know it, your footage becomes an oversaturated mess playing at 5X speed without you ever knowing why.
When it comes to mastering these programs, the internet, in particular YouTube, is your best friend. Think back to when you first started using Photoshop. In my case, I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old at the time. I’m now thirty-two. The internet back then was not what it is now, and YouTube tutorials certainly did not exist. Despite all this, we older photographers still managed to learn the software at least well enough to do our job.
Fast forward to today and you have the entire collective human knowledge at your fingertips. There are no shortage of video tutorials, e-books, blog posts, etc. detailing exactly what you need to do. Sure, you’ll struggle at first, but with time and practice, you can do it.
Get Out There and Shoot
As times change and businesses and people’s media demands evolve, we as photographers need to evolve with it. Talented photographers will certainly always have their place in the market, but expanding your service offering can only help you in the long run. So take a chance, push that previously untouched record button, and start creating.