FAQ's: Shooting for Better Videos
Shoot for Better Videos
The heart of every video is the imagery that flashes across the screen. Whether you’re shooting a soccer game, a family reunion, a son or daughter’s first debate championship, or just experimenting with your camera in the local dog park, there are certain tools and shots that can help you create a great looking video that you’ll be proud to share with anyone.
So what are the keys to good shooting? They’re simple, really. Learning just a handful of shots will improve your videos dramatically. And how about learning a few camera moves, tools, and tricks to help you shoot images that don’t shake, rattle and roll as you wander around with your camera? Let’s take a look!
Framing Your Shots: A Basic Vocabulary
If a movie is like a novel, shots are like words: small units of meaning you put together to eventually form a whole story. With a basic vocabulary in mind as you start looking at the world through your viewfinder, and a good sense of the story you want to tell, you can build a great looking story.
Let’s take a minute to think about some images that start to tell a story. For instance:
- A wide shot of your daughter’s soccer team coming off the field after a loss might suggest defeat.
- A close-up of a quivering lip, or the cleat of a frustrated player making one final, angry stab at the ball shows the emotion and drama wrapped up in the game.
- A low-angle shot looking up at the coach of the opposing team can indicate a feeling of trepidation against long odds.
The truth is that being aware of how you frame a shot is a key difference between so-so shooting and really great looking video. Remember: You can't control the action in front of you, but you CAN control how you frame it. The following list can help you start building a repertoire of shots that can take your shooting to the next level:
- Wide-angle shots show a lot of information, often from a distance, and give a sense of place and context for your story. Use wide angles to capture the “big picture.”
- Medium shots and close-up shots lose some or all of the background but give a sense of emotion, reflection, and/or detail. Close-ups are typically used in interview situations.
- Low angle shots position the subject above the camera to convey the sense that the subject is powerful. (Take care not to shoot up your subject’s nose, though.)
- High angle shots position the subject below the camera and convey a sense of the subject’s powerlessness or smallness.
To Edit or Not to Edit?
Whether or not you plan to edit your video will determine how you shoot it.
For example, if you plan to edit your video after you shoot, think about mixing up your shots. Try to get a mix of wide-angle shots, medium range and close-ups. You can also shoot “cutaways” that are useful in editing. For example, shoot what the character does with her hands, family photos of people she tells stories about, a favorite cat or dog. Cutaways help you illustrate your story and give you plenty of editing options. When you edit, you have plenty of options to string these images together in a way that tell a compelling story.
If you don’t plan to edit your video, make some shooting choices at the outset and stick to them. Why? If you’ve ever watched a home video that zooms in and out, you’ll know that it’s a pretty tiring experience. Try to avoid making frequent changes with zoom. If you don’t plan to edit, your best choice for videos of action scenes (soccer games, family gatherings, plays) is probably a wide-angle shot, with occasional pans and tilts to follow the action. (We’ll discuss camera moves in a minute!) Your best choice for an interview would be a close up.