If you choose to become a stills photographer, and decide that the challenge of making a great photo is what you enjoy most, you will still almost certainly turn your hand to video sooner or later. Magazine budgets keep getting cut and as online newspapers and magazines expand digitally, video often has to be delivered as well and a dilemma can ensue as you are just one person and which do you prioritise?
Corporations often require video as well as stills. Although they need some photos for brochures and websites as well as for advertising campaigns, they have progressively gone down the video road, showing video clips on their websites and to investors. In some cases when an interview is required or it is for a film they may still hire a company that offers a package with crew and editing all included but often the photographer now wears two hats.
A few years ago, a photographer would go and take still photos and a camera crew would go and film. There would be a camera man, sound man and a producer and reporter or writer. For large productions this no doubt still exists but very often it will be one person who does it all. The main reason for this is that most cameras can produce high quality HDR video that is perfectly adequate at least for online usage. Camcorders are also cheaper and better than ever before. The raw video clips can be sent to an editor who will work directly with the PR department and produce a perfectly decent video.
There is however a little bit more to it than that. Personally, I took a video course in Paris at the prestigious Ecole des Gobelins. Like everything, you can teach yourself to a point but it is better to be taught properly some basic rules and apply them under supervision. I took this course some years ago when I saw the writing on the wall. I see that the courses today are different, longer and more explicit. They often include post production with Adobe Premier Pro, the simplest and most popular editing tool on the market. This indicates that we are on our way to doing everything including the final editing which in my opinion is none the less a very specialised job and an experienced editor is worth his weight in gold.
So, now that we have established that the photographer is also a videographer what equipment does that photographer choose? At the high end of the DSLR’s there are Canon and Nikon, both offering excellent HDR quality with of course a massive choice of lenses to produce dynamic footage. Bridge cameras and mirror less cameras can also produce some pretty decent video. It is all going so fast that I am not going to name any particular cameras. The smaller cameras and camcorders offer autofocus which for both amateurs and beginners in video is a bonus, but it will not produce the same as manual focus although the quality can be amazingly good.
In order to take decent video with a DSLR camera a number of accessories are necessary and expensive. For a start, an optical viewfinder is a must, without it you will not be able to focus. Zacuto, is the famous brand name but there are cheaper ones available. This turns the back of your camera into a viewfinder and thus makes focusing easier. Adding a follow focus to this is an even greater help. See this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c94mtEaLD8A
A decent tripod with a good pan head is also vital. I recently bought a monopod for added flexibility. It is especially made for video with 3 little feet so that it can stand up on its own, although you will need to hold on to it whilst filming. Then if you plan to walk around and move whilst filming with a DSLR you will need a shoulder support rig to steady the camera or the footage will be all over the place. There are various models at different prices. I have always rented one as owning everything just becomes too onerous. Not all models are good and I have had lots of problems with shoulder harness rigs that have been either heavy, uncomfortable or just simply impractical.
A camera monitor screen is a really good idea too, as the viewfinder at the back of the camera is pretty small and covered by the viewfinder so it is difficult to see what you are actually shooting and much harder to focus. The cheaper models show poor colour rendition and are once again are more for focusing and framing purposes. I do not own one, so this would go on a budget for rental gear which is the norm when shooting video professionally. The drawback of a camcorder is that the screen is pretty small but at least there is one.
I travel a lot and there is the question of weight to consider. I don’t like putting any delicate equipment in the hold of the plane unless I can really help it. Twice, I have had suitcases with camera equipment stolen and I will not do it again. I will put the tripod, chargers, cables, even a flash if I have one and that’s about it. I am used to endless arguments at the airport and travel business class whenever anyone will pay for it for that very reason. I do not take charter planes for work.
The question really is how much equipment you buy yourself and how much you hire. Someone doing a lot of video may find that buying everything over time and hiring it out to your clients is a way to go. It saves time and you will always use the same gear which is very helpful. On the other hand, demands are different, technology progressing so what is the point?
I have never had anyone on my photography workshops or tours enquire much about video but I am certainly willing to discuss and help anyone film as a pose to photograph, as sadly I think it will overtake stills photography in the years to come if it hasn’t already done so.