As a photographer, you’re likely used to using to capture several shots.  You capture them to have options… bracketing to cover the exposure range, or shoting safety shots to ensure focus.  With video, you have even more reasons to get additional coverage… the narrative demands it.

Shooting video is much more than capturing the action in one long shot.  Sure, you might see this approach if you went to a play… the audiences point of view.  But for film, television, and even web video… a collection of shorter shots are usuall edited together.  These shots are intercut, and typically switch every few seconds.

But why?  Well there are several reasons:

  • Visual interest. Most viewers have come to expect faster editing paces. Don’t believe me? Watch a film by Hitchcock, Spielberg, and Kathryn Bigelow.  Remember though, one wide shot just won’t work for most viewers.
  • Genre demands. The speed at which you switch angles and composition during an edit may be dictated by genre.  Music videos tend to chew through footage, while documentaries take a much slower pace.
  • Technical necessity. You may need to hide something in the scene with an edit.  Perhaps its cutting to a reaction instead of showing a car crash.  Maybe it’s an exposure change as you go from indoors to outdoors. Or perhaps you need to minimize a continuity error, such as your subject doing an on-camera demonstration slightly differently the second time through.
  • Emotional impact. Changing angles and composition can impact how the viewer feels.  Using close-ups and reaction shots is a learned skill, but one that is essential to building an exciting video that’s enjoyable

If you want to study this topic more, I suggest that you check out The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media by Bruce Block.


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Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. I think the advice on changing angles and composition is good advice, but what about avoiding jump cuts and “crossing the line” when filming to avoid continuity issues? I know this is a simple post and “crossing the line” can be a complicated topic for some to grasp, but it is important and noticeable when it’s not done correctly.

  2. a good way to tell a story, cool. :-)


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


Cinematography, Shooting, VideoLC


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