As a growing photographer with a newer DSLR camera, you don’t need video cameras to capture those priceless moments that last longer than one still shot or create your own movie. However, there is a learning curve for most people before they are ready to grab a camera tripod and start shooting watchable footage, let alone something you can make into a movie. Follow these five tips to take good DSLR camera video.
1. Figure out exposure and frame rates
As with still photography, the light’s the issue. You are constrained by a fixed shutter speed that you should manually set to “double” your frame rate. Check your manual for your DSLR’s frame rate and then double that. So for a frame rate of 50 FPS, shoot at 1/50.
Experiment with aperture and ISO settings once you have the shutter speed set. Exterior settings with natural light are typically too bright, so start by decreasing the ISO and observe sample footage to check for distortion. Then tune it with aperture, unless you have specific depth of field needs, in which case you may have to reverse the process or get creative with your camera positioning.
2. White balance
You can typically ignore white balance with casual still photography and let the camera handle it automatically. But with motion pictures the effects of slightly miss-calibrated white balance lead to uncomfortable footage. Learn to use your camera’s manual white balance tool and carry a true white card with you. Every time you change to a new type of light, such as moving indoors or outdoors, recalibrate.
3. Find stability
Handheld video cameras are bad enough, but at least they are designed to be used for video and to minimize camera shake. Your DSLR camera is not built to be held steady for several minutes in a row. Plan for that and find ways to create stability, because shaky footage makes people seasick. Camera tripods are obviously the best option, but propping your arms against your chest will do in a pinch. Also try leaning against walls and tables to make your body more stable. As an added bonus, eliminating actual camera shake reserves it as an artistic tool to use in certain scenes when you want to disorient the viewer.
4. Move slower
Novice videographers go crazy with movement, panning, tilting, trucking, and zooming in and out all over the place. It’s disorienting and distracting. The subject of your shot should stay the subject, and you should use all movement for a very specific purpose, such as following a moving subject, maintaining framing, and essential dramatic effect. An easy way to enforce this is to do everything more slowly. It will limit unnecessary camera movement and make those movements more subtle and enjoyable so you don’t waste time and footage.
5. Learn good framing
Framing is essential for any visual art. Many of the same rules apply to ideography as to still photography. One of the easiest is to apply the rule of thirds. Keep your main subject on a primary third axis with lead room in front of them, meaning if a person is walking or facing to the right of the frame, they should be on the left third line with more space in front of them than behind. This also helps with shooting people as they move.
If you don’t have access to video cameras, your DSLR camera can take amazing video. Follow these tips to ensure the footage is watchable so you don’t have to waste hours in post editing it together to work around your mistakes.