How to Demystify Shooting Video With Your dSLR

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It’s almost impossible these days to get a camera that doesn’t have a video mode yet I’m going to guess that you have either never pushed the record button, or you have and you weren’t happy with the results so never pushed it again. Or maybe you’ve avoided pushing the button simply because you don’t want to deal with editing the video. It becomes one of those things that’s easier to avoid than it is to try and possibly fail at mastering immediately. And while it’s true that the record button is red, you shouldn’t let that stop you shooting video.

shotting video - red button

If you are one of those photographers, let’s demystify some of the ins and outs of shooting video with your DSLR and open up a new string to your bow. The biggest tip? Just to get out there and shoot some video. Not all the footage will be amazing, but the more you do it the more you’re going to learn and the more comfortable you’ll get with it. Dare I say, you may actually have some fun learning something new as well.

Why bother?

But why would you want to add the shooting video to your arsenal in the first place? Let’s be honest, even if you aren’t making money from your photography, if you’re like most of us, you really like getting attention online and engaging with others. Video is a great way to get attention on social media and begin a dialogue. A fake survey that I am about to make up said that people are 800,000% more likely to stop and look a post if it includes a video.

On a serious note though, video can help improve your storytelling and it’s fun to learn new things. Perhaps if you find yourself in a bit of a rut, it could be just the thing to help get your creative juices flowing.

Smiling shooting video

Storytelling and video editing

Video, just like photography, is about telling a story.

The first thing to think about with video is that you will most likely have to edit it, not much, but at least just a bit. It’s important to have at least some idea of what your edit is going to look like before you shoot video. I’ve been working in the film industry for almost 20 years and even I have times where I get back to the editing suite and realize that I’ve forgotten to get a shot that would really help. The more you shoot, the more you’ll realize how many different angles and shots you actually need to tell the story.

Interview shooting video

A good tip is to always get wide and tight shots. Your close-up and medium detail shots are most likely going to be your beauty shots, artsy-fartsy if you like. Then the wide shots will help you establish your scene and let your audience know where your story is taking place, which is absolutely vital. Once you have those shots, just have fun and be creative. Take more shots and angles than you think you’ll need. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!

Camera settings for shooting video

When it comes to the settings on your camera, you can go really deep but don’t let it stop you from starting! There are some basics to start with:

1. Select a frame rate

If you’re in North America or Japan, select 30 frames per second and if you’re anywhere else select 25 frames per second. There are a few other options and reasons for all of them, but this is a good place to start.

Frame rates are normally found in the “movie settings”, which is at the bottom of the “Shooting Menu” on Nikon.

With Canon, you may have to turn on Live View mode before the movie options will appear in the menu.

2. Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed

These work exactly the same in video as they do when taking still photos, so that’s easy.

But shutter speed is slightly different. As a general rule, set your shutter speed to double the frame rate. This is so that movement in your video will look natural. If you set your shutter speed low – in video mode, most cameras won’t let you go under 1/20th – then any movement will be blurry. If you set your shutter speed higher than 1/60th or so, then things moving in your video may appear too sharp. Yes, too sharp can be bad in video – try it and see for yourself.

Here is a short video to help you with video settings:

3. Audio

Lastly but probably most importantly, think about your audio. Without realizing it, you’ll find it makes all the difference in your video. The built-in microphones on most cameras are not great, so a good way to get round that is… don’t use it.

So what DO you use? Well, microphones are a bit like cameras, the best one is the one you have with you. So just use music over your whole video to cover anything until you can get a better audio source.

Gear

What about gear, you ask? Don’t you need loads of different equipment than what you use for photography? What about external monitors, tripods, and video lights? Do you need a fancy rig? Sure, you can get a whole lot of new gear but you don’t NEED anything to get started. It’s too easy to let a lack of gear stop you but if you have a camera with a record button, you have everything you need to start.

record button shooting video

shooting video gear shooting video fancy rig

Conclusion

You just need to get out there and shoot – anything. Just press the red button, because this is one situation where red means go. Go shoot some video and have some fun like this!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Lee Herbet was born in the Middle East, grew up in Africa, lived in Europe, New Zealand and now calls Australia home. Lee is an educator, filmmaker, and photographer. He worked in the Apple world for 10 years as a trainer, which was a great place to feed his creative spark. He now has his own company creating corporate videos and delivering workshops around the world on photography and video production.

  • Abhimanyu Khanna

    Can you talk a little about the focus modes as well.
    Thanks

  • Hi, most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are not great for autofocus in video mode.

    A lot of them don’t even have autofocus in video mode and those that do, the focus can be slow and not very accurate.

    Having said that things are getting better with autofocus, but most folks that I know use manual focus when shooting video.

    I use manual focus almost all the time.

  • pwy

    What about lenses? Can zoom telephotos used for photography also be used for video? I read the comments below about focus, and that is helpful, so thanks! What are the best lenses to use?

  • Hi,

    You can use any still lens for video. You can also you telephoto lenses, but something to keep in mind is that is you are moving the camera whilst you are shooting video, the more you zoom in the harder it can be to keep the footage stable.

    You can get specific lenses for video which are called Cinema Lenses and they do have some advantages for shooting video over stills lenses. If you think there is enough interest I could possibly right a whole article on that topic. 🙂

  • pwy

    I think you should, indeed, write an article about it as the lenses are ultimately what produce the images captured. As well, lighting. I shoot a Canon 5D MkIII and I primarily use it for underwater photography. As your article pointed out, I am like most and don’t want to touch the record button, especially underwater. The u/w lighting requirements for video would be quite different unless one did a custom white balance underwater. Thanks very much for the answer, and I certainly understand the ramifications of zooming and movement.

  • Roger Burfitt

    I use my Iphone to shot video bu I am unclear on what software I could use to do simple edit such as linking to videos, cutting out unwanted frames etc. Is there any free-ware that will run on a PC or even the iphone itself?

  • Hi Roger,

    There are tons of options for quick editing of video on your iPhone. For the simple stuff I would suggest having a look at iMovie. I think it’s free now – https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/imovie/id377298193?mt=8

  • I tip my hat to you for doing underwater photography. I have some friends who do it and it involves a lot of extra gear and work. But one can get some amazing images.

    As you say, video underwater would be a whole different kettle of fish. I haven’t done any of it, so am not very familiar with what’s involved. I’d imagine you would need pretty strong lights for that?

  • Roger Burfitt

    Thanks Lee, I will give that a go.

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