tips for taking

better shots

while the story is important, amazing shots can take a video and turn it into a work of art. there are simple things that you can do to take your footage to the next level.

tip one: say goodbye to automatic


Don’t let your camera be smarter than you! I’ve seen it a hundred times, someone buys a brand-new camera (the guy at Best Buy told him it was the best camera on the market), and never learns how to use it.


 It’s time to take off those training wheels! One of the best things that you can do to your footage is learn how to shoot in Manual Mode! This can be terrifying for new photographers and videographers, but once you learn how to use Manual, you will never want to go to back to Automatic, I promise!! For this class, I am not requiring you to film in Manual; if you feel more comfortable filming with Automatic, that’s okay. But for those of you who are wanting to take their shots up a notch, switch the A to M on the top of your camera! 

This will require a lot of practice. Just start taking pictures and filming things in your house, see what looks good, and what doesn’t. By playing with these settings, you will start to become more familiar with your camera.


Also note that every camera is different, so there is a slight learning curve when you’re going from camera to camera. The switches and buttons on a Canon probably won’t be in the same place as a Panasonic, and Panasonic will have a different layout from Sony. The best thing that you can do to learn your camera is to go over the Owners Manual. You can likely find it online.


manual mode must-knows


Imagine that your eye is a camera lens. The aperture would be like the pupil. When it is dark, your pupil grows, and the opposite happens as it gets lighter. The exact same thing happens when you change your aperture. The other thing that aperture controls is your Focal Length. This is how you get that “bokeh” effect that you see in portraits.

shutter speed

You know that clicking sound you hear when you take a picture? That is your shutter. The shutter decides how much light can enter your camera, the faster the shutter speed, the darker the photo or video will be. The slower your shutter speed, the lighter it will be. Shutter Speed also can add that motion blur effect that I’m sure you’ve seen on waterfalls. 


ISO is digital light sensitivity. You will usually see it between 100 and several thousand. ISO is typically changed to a higher number as it starts to get darker and you begin to lose light. It’s very useful when it gets dark and difficult to see. There is a drawback to changing the ISO, and that is the higher the number, the lower the image quality. High ISOs result in grainy footage.

tip two: Golden hour


I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with a client who has said this:

“I want to get the best shots, let’s go at noon because we know it will be sunny.”

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let me be the one to tell you that noon is literally one of the worst times to film or photograph. Here’s why. At noon (and around noon), the sun is very bright, you’ll notice that there is a lot of contrast in colors, and incredibly harsh shadows. 

Another problem is that since there is such a high contrast, there will likely be some parts of your footage that will be over-exposed. The problem with footage being over-exposed is that they are incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to correct in Post Production.

The best time to shoot is about half an hour before and after sunrise/sunset. We call this “Golden Hour” or “Magic Hour” because the shots basically are perfect. Before the sun sets (or after it rises), the colors are bright, and have a golden/pinkish hew, and after the sun sets (or before it rises) there are very few noticeable shadows. 

Another film blessing is when it’s a little overcast outside. Similarly to right after sunset, there aren’t any harsh shadows, which are ideal when filming or photographing people.


tip three: rule of thirds


To all my art majors, this is something that you would be familiar with. The Rule of Thirds is something that you learn in essentially every art class that ever was. What it means is that You don’t put your subject right in the middle of the image or video. Here’s a video to help you understand it better, and you can start doing it on your own!