Making your Shots Matter

I think we can all admit that no one is born with awesome camera skills. Most of my wisdom comes from times where I’ve failed horribly. I made a list for my team and would like to share it with all of you who are into production. Hope you can apply this knowledge to make every shot you film matter.

First things first –

Exposure – Before you take off and start shooting, you will need to pay attention to your exposure on your camera. You will notice there are two names, this is because the DSLR and Pro cameras use different terms. You will have to learn how to adjust your exposure to give you the right exposure to archive a shot that can be seen and also allow you to control the look and feel you want.

Iso / Gain – This will add noise to your footage but also will allow more light into your camera. I avoid high iso and high gain. If you are aren’t careful it can make your footage look like mud.

Aperture / Iris – You can control the look of your shots with a low aperture number. This also allows more light.  On a pro camera a low iris will make your shots really dark, so you will have to adjust your other settings to accommodate a low Iris number. For those who are new, a low aperture number will make the background blurry. Avoid changing your aperture while filming.
-a low aperture affects the focus, if you are filming with a DSLR and having trouble focusing, bring up that aperture and adjust your settings.

Shutter Speed – I adjust my shutter speed the most when it comes to getting my exposure. The goal is to keep this number 30, to give you a smooth film look but sometimes in order to get the exposure you want, you have to use a higher number. A shutter speed of 30 brings in a lot of light.

ND filter – A pro camera will have this on the side by the lens. You can turn this on when you are outside. You can buy a filter to put on a DSLR camera. This is like putting on sunglasses for your camera. One thing to remember, when filming inside make sure this is OFF!

White Balance – Your footage should never look blue or orange. It should look like what you are filming. You can leave the stylish tone to your editor to pick. Once you have your exposure correct, white balance on something white. Check your filming often to make sure the white balance doesn’t look strange. On the DLSR, it gives you presets of white balance, you can pick the best one that looks right for that moment. Sometimes putting on the sun preset looks better than a cloudy day preset even if its cloudy. Use your good judgement.

Remember, your exposure affects the amount of light that is going into the camera.

Exterior shooting – It took me years to finally realize how to film with the sun as my light source. I seemed to always return with footage I hated.

Lighting with the Sun – Look for a nice shaded away. Place the sun behind you, and in front of the subject. Avoid filming at noon because of harsh sunlight. You will find it will create shadows on the face, and even leave your talent making ugly faces trying to avoid the sun.

Sunrise or Sunset – Place it behind your subject to capture a glow on their shoulders.

Avoid a background that blows out your image. You don’t want the background to compete with the subject.

Interior shooting – If you don’t have a light on your camera, then you will be at the mercy of your camera settings to allow light into your shot.
– No ND filter
– low shutter speed
– low aperture
– high iso / gain (avoid gain due to lots of noise but sometimes you gotta use it)
– correct white balance

Movement – Adding movement to your shots is not only camera movement but also what is happening inside the frame.

Stabilizer – Always try to use a tripod, a monopod, or slider for your shots. If you are going handheld, you must know how to stand correct to avoid shaky shots. Make your body a human tripod. Place your feet apart form each other, bend your knees a little and tuck your shooting arm close to your body.

Point A to B – Start your shooting at one item then move to another. This will require knowing what you are going. If I am filming a kid playing pool, I would make point A the pool and point B the person playing.

Panning shot – Take a deep breath, point your foot to the direction you are headed towards.

Location – If you are filming a shot and it’s just not working, move your location to find a new perspective and angel.

Hold – If you are out shooting and find a beautiful shot, hold the shot for 30 seconds. This will give the editor time to pick which moment to pick from and how long we wants it on screen. Let the shot come alive, give it time for the subject to smile, laugh, think, wonder, move, embrace another person. etc.

Camera person – Don’t get nervous if the person you are filming looks at you, just hold your position. If you are allowed to be there, then don’t worry about being seen.

Interacting – Saying hi to people you are filming can help them feel more comfortable with being filmed. Interaction shots are great, having them smile or wave at the camera, if they are having fun ask them to do it again for the camera.

Avoid tunnel vision – Avoid moving your camera looking for what to capture, stick your head out instead and move to what is interesting. Your camera movement to one item to another can be called a reset. Those reset shots can be used.

Pull focus – Attempt to find layers of action to film, focus on one item then move it to another thats in the distance. Attempt this three times to give the editor the best pull focus shot.

Tilt zooms – Give your editor an option to add some fun energetic shots of tilt zooms.

What to look for – It all depends what you are shooting and who you are shooting for. For an event I look for people having fun, smiles, laughing, talking with friends, anything of action, people engaging in the event, people listening if its a church event, the main speakers, avoid shots of too many babies or kids if its not a children’s event. Also avoid capturing people bending down. I don’t know why but it seems to happen a lot. haha.
If you are filming an interview always make sure to get some cutaways to cover up those jump cuts.

Terms
– Wide shots – head to toe
– Medium wide – knees and waist
– Medium shots – waist up
– Close ups – Chest up
– extreme close up – cutting off parts of the face

Questions to Answer when shooting –
Who – Shots of the person or people
Where – Shots of the location
What is happening – What action is taking place

Always review your footage and see what you can do better next time. If you took the time to read this, your footage the next time you shoot is going to look so good! 🙂 Feel free to add to the list.

Author: Moniemuse

Video Editor & Media Department Director

1 thought on “Making your Shots Matter”

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