Beyond the frame: from stills to motion

Check out Jessica Dimmock and Stephanie Sinclair’s Too Young to Wed: Destaye, a short film that examines a young girl’s journey as a child bride in Ethiopia. Dimmock is an example of how a photographer can  successfully transition into video. 

The reality for most photojournalists is that a majority of their work is video or multimedia. If you’re a still photographer just moving to video, we have a list of tips from pros Ed Kashi, Ron Haviv and Jessica Dimmock, to help ease the transition.

If you don’t shoot both, you’re missing out on work.

Ed Kashi, a photojournalist with VII Photo Agency, thinks it’s vital for photographers to expand their skills.

“If you can capture video, if you can capture audio, you’re ahead of the game,” he says. “ It’s not enough to [just] take photos anymore.”

You’re already a natural.

Photographers offer a different eye than the traditional filmmaker. You learn to frame a shot, understand light, depth of field and create  intimacy when you start out making stills. Now, you just have to translate that to moving images.

Don’t overwhelm yourself by shooting video and stills at the same time.

As a photographer, you’re looking to capture moments. Ron Haviv, a photojournalist whose work focuses on human rights awareness, says his mindset changes when he shoots video. “I was always shooting with the idea of video being the lead-up to the moment. But looking back at the video, I realized that this wouldn’t work because it’s missing the moments, which are all in still photography.” Haviv realized that, for his own work, his photos and video suffered when he tried to shoot both at the same time. “I started to dedicate myself to only shooting video and not switching to stills,” he says.

Learn to see action differently.

Photographer and filmmaker Jessica Dimmock says learning to shoot video is about seeing the way moments flow instead of freeze. “What happens in still photography is it’s about these four corners, then compression. A still photograph is about condensing information. It could be emotional, nuanced. When I started doing video, I noticed I was turning on the video function when I saw that there was no lead-up to the moment,” she says.  For Dimmock, “Video starts at a point of imperfection leading up to a perfect moment.”

Watch out for some common newbie mistakes.

Still photographers often  suffer from what the more-experienced videographers call “sprain”: shooting everything, following every motion. Letting things come in and out of the frame and keeping your camera still will give you footage that is much more edit-friendly. Quality over quantity!

Consider working with a partner.

When producing video, having two people can make a big difference. It also allows you to get and give feedback when you’re storyboarding and developing your story arc.

Don’t underestimate post-production.

Often, organizations and photographers don’t understand how much time goes into editing a video after you shoot. You need time to transcribe and log your footage, and that often takes longer than you think.

In the end, audio is  the most important element.

You can always cover a bad shot, but you’ll lose your audience if you don’t have an excellent audio recording.

Quotes and tips recorded at the event “Beyond the Frame: Expanding the Language of Journalism Through Motion,” hosted by Abel Cine in New York City on October 22, 2013.

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