Art’s Top Ten Video Tips

April 7, 2010


Capturing video is a bit different than capturing stills. Although some of the same rules apply there are some key differences and some key techniques you can employ to make a compelling film.

As more and more folks are entering the world of video with the new video capable DSLRs I thought I would share with you my top ten tips.


Wide Medium Tight. Think about it, you need a shot for every 7 seconds of your story, roughly. You want it to move, flow, excite. You do this by creative framing; keeping your eye and the camera moving. Not literally moving, because too much movement can get you in trouble. I mean get a wide shot, move, get a medium shot, move, and get a tight shot. You can’t get too wide or too tight. Take the viewer places. You, if you edit, will thank yourself – and so will your viewer.


Seems odd to say, but the thing that directs my eye the most is the microphone. The mic alerts me to the action and reactions I need to capture. Powerful images are strongly married to strong sounds. Our goal is strong images, but big sound can carry weak pictures. Think of your ipod… tiny picture with big sound. If you switch those and had a big picture with bad sound, you would leave the thing at home. Remember this when you shoot.


Nothing is ‘stranger’ to me than to have an infinite number of angles to choose from and only select the one at eye level. Look around you. How does the world look from ground level or 20 feet up? Don’t lock yourself into the easy. Our job is to take people to places they can’t or don’t want to go. Move away from eye level.


If you are going to use your time and effort to shoot a subject, get enough footage to edit. A frame is great for stills and the decisive moment, but video needs time. Let moments happen. Follow the action to see emotions and subjects evolve. The only way to do this is to roll. Don’t be afraid to waste those digital ones and zeros to capture moments. Just capture at least 15 seconds each time so you have the footage to edit.

sequences (action/reaction) are key to video

sequences (action/reaction) are key to video

sequences (action/reaction) are key to video

sequences (action/reaction) are key to video


One of my favorite video tips is to shoot where things are going to be, not where they are. It provides a moment of surprise and makes for good transitions. It also makes you pay close attention to your subject’s movement. Anticipating can be hard, but when it works, it makes your work better.


I’ve said it before. I will say it again. This time I will paraphrase the great photojournalist, Robert Capra – if your work is not saying enough or speaking loudly enough, then you need to be tighter, closer.


Like the Karate Kid with ‘wax on, wax off’… I know I show my age, but panning off and on, or tilting off and on a subject is a great transition method. This will help you in edit jams and provide movement to things that do not move. If you zoom, which I am not a big fan of, do a zoom in and out for the same reason.


Being in focus is a must for good video but don’t be afraid to use the focus as a tool. Intentionally moving in and out of focus is a good transition and draws attention to the subject.


Pay attention to the movement of your subjects. Create a flow that is easy on the viewer. Be it right to left or side-to-side, keep people moving in a logical direction. Learn how to use positive action. i.e. subjects coming into frame to start story lines or segments, and visa versa with exits. There is a reason riding off into the sunset works for Hollywood. It can work for you as well.

Positive Action

Negative Action


Editing software has made “I will fix in post” a more than common phrase. If you do the right things in the field with white balance, framing and audio levels, then you can spend your edit time creating instead of fixing. Video creations are a process. Know your gear, keep the process simple in the field, know when you have made a mistake and correct it in the field before it becomes garbage and an editing nightmare.

Happy shooting.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 7 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

For 30 years, two time Emmy award winning photographer and producer Art Howard has helped viewers experience life through images from both poles, 49 states and 30 countries. Taking the viewer to places like the Gulf war in Kuwait, -30 degree conditions in the Arctic, or the ocean floor 3000 feet below the surface he pushes constantly for new ways to tell the story.

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5 Responses to “Art’s Top Ten Video Tips”

  1. Eddie Tapp Says:

    great tips… thanks


  2. Robert Green Photography Says:

    Some great tips. Video is very similar to stills, but so alien at the same time. I’m struggling to get to grips with great video production. I like your W M T tip. Thanks


  3. Rick Sammon Says:

    Fantastic. Just what I needed!!!



  4. Dennis Says:

    Being a still photographer,your tips are worth a thousand images! Video is so much fun and excites me at every turn. Thanks for sharing your expertise! Loved your interview on 16:9.


  5. Tom Skelton Says:

    great tips and tricks, always good to remember the basics :D


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