How My Photography Knowledge Transferred to Video (and How it Didn't!)
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How My Photography Knowledge Transferred to Video (and How it Didn't!)

Like many of my photographic peers, I have taken the plunge into making videos. Videography is such a flexible medium and, when done correctly, can be far more impactful than still images. Before I began shooting video, I was deterred by its technical aspects and didn’t really know where to start; video was just overwhelming. I soon realized that, as a proficient photographer, I was not starting from ground zero.

As I began learning video, I found that a lot of my photography knowledge transferred.

For all of you photographers out there who are interested in learning video, here are some ways my photography knowledge transferred to video, and how it didn’t.

Lenses Are Essentially The Same for Photography & Videography

Lenses offer the same effects in video as they do with still images. Here are a few examples:

  • Using a telephoto to compress your scene.
  • Bringing out emotion by shooting close up with a wide lens.

Composition is Just as Important for Photography & Videography

Intentionally or unintentionally, as you select your lenses for video, you consider the angles you wish to shoot, and the framing of your shots. As a photographer, you’ve learned to do this naturally. Your photography composition skills will directly contribute to your video composition capabilities, helping you thoughtfully compose your shot with the understanding that moving the camera even just a few feet can result in a drastic point of view shift. Having experience behind any camera teaches you to anticipate how a shot will look when you move the camera. Although you should still check your work and loop back to preview the product, this skill is valuable as a videographer.

Light & Exposure is the Same for Photography & Videography

Basic photographic knowledge, such as understanding exposure and lighting, directly translate to video. The same rules of light apply to video as they do to photography; for example, the inverse-square law. Whether you are lighting a static interview shot or a dynamic moving scene, you know (as a photographer) that light is one of the most critical components of your shot. If you have bad lighting, the whole production will look low budget. Conversely, if you have an overly complicated lighting scheme, your production will slow to a halt. Knowing how to work with light is a vital part of both photography and videography.

Editing is VERY Different for Photography & Videography

Compared to editing still shots, editing video is a whole different beast. With stills, editing is usually limited to color correction and choosing the right photo preset. These same factors apply to video, but at a much larger level. Video involves hundreds of frames that have to be edited and matched up to sound and music in a way that flows throughout the piece.

I found that the editing process sounded more intimidating than it actually is. If you use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for photography, Adobe Premiere works similarly and will feel intuitive. The best way to learn is to spend time using the product; experiment with it in the same way you did when you learned to use Photoshop.

Unlike Photography, Framerate is a Thing in Videography

Framerates were something that seemed impossible to comprehend before I was immersed in the video world. What the hell is the difference between 24 frames per second (fps) and 30 fps? And why is it actually 23.976 fps vs. 29.97 fps? The math behind framerates is tricky (don’t worry, I won’t go into it), what it really comes down to is how a framerate makes you feel. I now know that I can't stand to watch a video at 30 fps. It's too "real" (if that makes any sense). Once you decide on the framerate you want to use, you'll have to be sure your footage easily translates to that framerate. There is something about video in 24 fps that retains the magical feel of a movie. Generally speaking, most people don't like to watch a video that looks like real life (I believe that's also why 35mm film cameras are making a resurgence in the photography world).

As you determine your preferred framerate, keep in mind how your slow-motion shots will translate. Learning how and when to use slow motion is something that takes time. Implemented artistically, slow-motion accentuates and brings power to important scenes, improper implementation can make a scene boring or confusing to the viewer.

Shot and Shoot Length and Transitions are Different for Videography from Photography

With still photography, you have to have everything dialed in for 1/100 of a second to get a good shot. In video, your length of capture is much longer. Using a tripod or a camera stabilizer to lock down a shot is imperative if you aren't going the for the handheld “shaky-cam” effect. Unstabilized shots have their place, but can easily look very unclean. Stabilizers can be burdensome and expensive, but are usually worth the hassle. It’s important to note that stabilizers are also becoming increasingly more affordable, with the release of smaller versions that are now on the market. Like any tool, it takes time to become proficient in using a stabilizer.

One element of video that I learned on the job is the importance of simply holding the shot. I knew, from taking still shots, that it’s bad form to jerk your camera before or after a shot. In video, I learned this rule is even more important. When editing, I’ve found that holding the shot an extra 3-5 seconds gives me a perfect cut. Holding the shot well after you've "got what you need" can save your bacon later in the editing room, and can give you flexibility where you may not realize you’ll need it.

Lastly, transitions were something I never thought about until I needed to compose them in video. Now, I can hardly contain my excitement when I see one done well on film. Transitions are such a subtle aspect of video, but they glue everything together, keeping the viewer engrossed without breaking the moment. Planning transitions out ahead of time can be challenging, so becoming good at storyboarding shots is critical. Transitions take some time to master and apply without masking, but the end result can be fantastic.

Who You Work With Matters in Photography & Videography

In any creative field, surrounding yourself with reliable cast and crew is wildly beneficial. Through videography, I learned the importance of creating and distributing a master call sheet, a document that contains all the information for the day of production. This is a lesson I wish I had learned as a photographer. Providing the entire cast and crew with an official document (that lists everyone’s name and role) instills a sense of accountability. A master call sheet reminds the cast and crew of the role they’re expected to play, increases preparedness, and reduces no-shows.

As it is in the photo world, developing and maintaining relationships with industry peers and colleagues is very helpful. Whether you need someone to fill-in last minute or your relationship with an agency garners you top talent, having good relationships with the right people is always valuable. Sometimes you may simply need a gaggle of people for extras in a scene; being able to call on people who you can rely on to show up at the right time and be professional can make or break your success. Remember, building good relationships involves showing appreciation; always feed and pay your people.

While there was a lot to learn about video, I can confidently say that my proficiency in photography gave me an advantage and helped me a lot in my transition. I hope my experience helps you also feel empowered to take the leap.

Lights, camera, ACTION!

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