Photo Tips Series – Pt III, Video Basics

As promised, the third article in the Photo Tips series! This one will look at some basics of video.

Whether it’s with a smartphone a compact digital camera or a full size DSLR, pretty much everyone has video capabilities at their fingertips today. And a lot of people are taking advantage of that to record moving images of their families, their vacations and many other things.

This article isn’t going to be overly long, just as none of these Photo Tips articles will be, but what we’ll look at today are just a few things that should help make your videos a bit better and more visually compelling. You’ll also get to meet my dogs today. I used them because they’re somewhat cooperative, work for free and I don’t need a model release. :-) Let’s move on to the tips.

1. You don’t need to record EVERYTHING. A lot of people are afraid that if they don’t keep recording they’ll miss something important. Chances are that you won’t. Most people record family or friends or other things they’re familiar with. That familiarity means you likely know when something good is going to happen and you can be ready for it. Starting and stopping recording at different times also provides for natural breaks in the video and those breaks make for a more visually interesting viewing experience. The three clips below are examples. In the first, I kept recording the entire time. In the next two, I stopped recording at the point where I repositioned the camera for the next pan.

The first clip shows another reason why not recording everything is a good approach. You see that it takes the camera a second or two to adjust to the different lighting. In the third clip, I waited until the camera had adjusted to the light before hitting the record button. Doing this eliminates unnecessary and uninteresting footage from being included in your videos. Could you edit that out afterward? Sure. But if you do it at the time you’re recording, you’re reducing the time you spend at the computer editing.

These panning clips illustrate another tip to keep in mind. When you’re panning, move the camera slowly. Fast, herky-jerky panning is very difficult to watch.  Keep your arms in as tight to your body as you can for stability and rotate your torso, don’t just pan with your arm (note, I didn’t do those things in the case of these clips and you see they are a bit uneven as a result).




2. Avoid the urge to zoom while recording. The zoom feature is very popular. And while it can be useful in some situations, for the most part it’s overused. Zooming in and out constantly can almost make some people feel a bit seasick watching video. Not a good feeling. If you want to reposition and have your subject be larger in the frame, stop recording, zoom to the new framing then start recording again. As with the panning example above, this also provides natural breaks in the video that make it more visually appealing. Better than using the zoom function, move closer to your subject if you can.

3. Try not to walk when recording. Unless you’re using a tool for stabilizing the camera, walking while you’re recording can make for some pretty jumpy video which isn’t nice to watch. The ‘Blair Witch’ look isn’t enjoyed by many people. Try to stand in place, record the clip you want, stop recording then move position. You’ll note in this clip how camera shy one of my dogs is. The black one is like her owner and doesn’t enjoy being on camera. When the white one realized I wasn’t holding food she became very disinterested.  As you can see in the background, I’d had breakfast on the deck this morning. :-)



In this next clip, I stopped recording, walked closer to the dogs then started recording again.  This avoided zooming while recording and provided a natural break point.


Take note of the overexposure on the white dog.  We discussed this in the last article on compact cameras.  They were in shade but because the camera was concentrated on the black dog and getting the exposure on her right, the coat of the white dog ends up being overexposed because the range of brightness from the white to black is just too much for the tiny pixels in the sensor to capture.

When it comes to compiling your clips, most cameras come with some basic video editing software these days.  This will allow you to combine your clips and output them as a single video.

There you have a few tips that will hopefully help make your travel and vacation videos a little better.  What tips do you have to share for making better video?



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