This is article #11 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.

Why Does Video Look Different than a Photo?

When you look at the video your camera records, it may not look as clear or rich as the photos you’ve taken with the same camera. The reason for this quality loss is due to many factors that you need to understand.


The left image was shot as a photo.  The center image is an uncorrected video file, and the right image is a color corrected video clip.  The still photo looks better because it was shot in a format that captured much more image data and color information.  It also used a slower shutter speed to let in more light.
  • First, the total resolution of video file is much lower than a still photo.  This means that the more you enlarge the image, the lower its visual quality. Video files are about 2 megapixels in size—well below the quality taken by a still camera (and even a cell phone).
  • Second, the video recorded by the camera has a great deal of video compression. This is used to lower the data rate and therefore the size of a file. The goal is to make the file size small while maintaining acceptable visual and auditory quality. Without compression, most video cameras wouldn’t be able to record video formats.  Because the video is written to memory cards, it must be made smaller than the original file.

If you think about the file size difference between a raw photo and a JPEG file, compression starts to make sense.  A raw file can easily be ten times larger than a JPEG file for each photo. If you then multiply that larger size by 24–30 frames per second, it becomes very evident why compression is used.

Third, the amount of information used to represent color is much less in a video file.  Most raw photos are captured with 16-bits per channel color.  Video, on the other hand, is typically recorded in only 8-bits per channel. Additionally, most of the color data is discarded when the video file is compressed.

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.