This is article #3 in the DSLR Video Weekly series.  If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.

If you’ve been shooting photos, you’ve probably developed many of the skills that are used to tell visual stories.  Composition skills help you frame the shot, and exposure skills ensure that the details of the image are clear.  You may be a great photographer or just getting started, but if you want to shoot great video, you’ll need a bit of retraining and rethinking.

With photography, you can walk away with one great shot and it’s a successful shoot.  With video, you’ll need many great shots that match in exposure and style. What becomes important is how several shots will come together to tell a story. 

The Sequencing of Motion

For many people starting to shoot video, they focus intensely on just the shot.  This produces beautiful images but not necessarily a story.  As a beginner, you may be perfectly content to string a bunch of shots together with a music track. Sure, a montage is fun to shoot and share, but it’s much harder to hold the viewers’ attention, let alone communicate a message.

For this scene, I used six shots to tell the story.  The first shot establishes the location at a space museum and then moves on to a close-up of the exhibit my son was playing with. The next shot establishes my son and his interest in the exhibit. A two-shot sequence builds up the drama as he pumps the handles to prime the rocket launch.  The scene resolves with the rocket launch.

The biggest change for photographers and new shooters moving into video is thinking of video as a series of interconnected shots.  Your goal is to not just gather a bunch of pretty pictures. Instead, you need to think about how one shot leads to the next.  In some instances, your subject may move through a space, linking one shot to the next.

You also may need to figure out how to condense a long event into a shorter video (unless you like putting an audience to sleep). This can be done in two ways by strategically using multiple shots to convey a sequence.  Some do this by carefully repeating action and changing their shot composition and position each time.  Others solve the problem by shooting with multiple cameras at the same time.

Make sure you think about your shot length before you record. It will make your shots more usable when it comes time to edit.

Timing the Scene

Another challenge you’ll face is time, specifically, determining how long each shot in your scene should be.  There are lots of details to think about when you are trying to establish shot length.  You’ll should have some idea of how long a shot should be before you start recording because it will affect camera movement and framing.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when timing your shots:

  • Do you need to cover a specific amount of time?  If you’re using narration or an interview talking about a topic, you’ll want to cover it with footage.  If you’ve already written your story or interviewed your subject, review it and determine the durations you need.
  • How many angles do you want? One of the most common approaches to add visual interest to a video is to cut from one angle of a shot to another.  Try to think about how you can break a scene into multiple shots.
  • Be safe and repeat. If you’re not sure about your footage (and even if you think you are), try recording the scene a few times.  Just as you might take a few photos “for safety” try recording each video shot a few times.  This will protect you from issues like soft focus and give you more choices when you start to edit your video together.
  • Leave handles. When shooting, be sure to to leave five seconds of useable padding on each side of a shot (the start and end). This means roll a little before you start your pan or tell your subject to start moving (and don’t press Stop as soon as the shot ends). This extra footage is often needed for transitions or minor timing adjustments.  It’s also a good idea to let the camera roll for a second so you have a stable shot that is free from the vibration of the start and stop of the Record button.

Join us each Saturday for the next installment of this weekly series.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.