The NON Convergence of Still Photography and Video

Many people, myself included have written about the convergence of stills and video. In fact ever since Vincent LaFloret paved the way, shooting video in a cinematic way with the Canon Eos 5D Mark II, it seems like every still  photographer wants to shoot video with a DSLR . At the same time, high end “video cameras” – not still cameras that also shoot video – but a high end camera like the RED is capable of capturing stunning stills from frame grabs and they aren’t just good enough – they’re great.

I suppose in this sense one could argue that there is not only a convergence of our tools – meaning a camera that is capable of shooting high quality video and still images – but that it also may mean – the end of still photography. I don’t have a crystal ball but if one defines a still image as a “moment in time” then still photography will never go away. If you have a camera that shoots hi res video and can pick and choose the exact frame that fits your still image needs – then we need to realize that this is a convergence of our “tools”  not the the end of creating still imagery.

I love to point out the differences of still photography and video because for me, and many others who shoot both still photographs and video, we think differently when shooting these mediums.

  • A still image is a moment in time.
  • Video is time in motion
  • A still image is one that is meant to linger on – where one can take pause
  • Motion imagery is made up of  a variety of shots and sequences
  • Video provides more information – there’s sound and  movement
  • Still images leave more for viewer interpretation
  • Still images deliver a message visually
  • Video delivers a message utilizing sight and sound

Everyone of these differences requires us to put our minds in a different place. When shooting video, I need to think about what shot will come before and what shot will come after the shot I’m about to shoot. I have to think that way or I won’t have the goods to cut with in the editing room. The message or story gets crafted further in post production with music and interviews and each element plays its part in the feel and arc of the story.

When I’m shooting still images, I must tell the story in that one frame and timing is everything – it’s the “decisive moment”. So, one must ask is it the same – is it even fair – to grab that “moment in time” from a video clip where the camera operator didn’t make a conscious decision when shooting that decisive moment ?

The point is with everyone talking about “convergence” and taking that to mean the demise of still photography – I have to wonder. Is it the end of still photography? Personally, I don’t think so. I think that it merely means a convergence of the tools – not what we create with those tools.

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3 Replies to “The NON Convergence of Still Photography and Video”

  1. Great post. I agree that the mindset of the photographer, and everyone on set as a matter of fact, particularly the talent if it involves people, is very different for a still shot vs. capturing a still frame from a video.

    In my mind the convergence is really in the market in the fact that many platforms we shoot for now feature motion and still side by side, that consumers expect both still and motion everywhere, that brands define themselves equally through still and motion, and that the creative teams are able to deliver both – albeit not necessarily at the same time.

    But the process remains very different. And while there is some cross-over in the tools, I think it’s more that we’re cross-leveraging and challenging existing tools based of the strengths of the opposite set, rather than moving towards a single tool set that will do both all the time.

  2. I was just thinking about this a couple of nights ago. I agree that the thought processes for both are VERY different. As a still shooter, I, at times, have positioned myself in a spot that I anticipate an image will happen and wait for the moment to unfold. For example, if I’m shooting a speaker and I take a position on the side of the stage to align various storytelling elements in the frame and wait for him/her to turn in my direction with a gesture, I can then freeze that moment with all of the storytelling elements in place.

    Although my example is a very basic scenario, shooting video is a much different thought process than that. As you said, when shooting video, you are shooting a series of unfolding scenes that play together to tell the story. When shooting stills, you are trying to combine all of those elements into one frame. So, a 2 minute video series might equal a single ‘moment’ frame with a still.

  3. i appreciate your comments on still photography and video and i totally agree with your comments. I have been challenged by my media house to come up with a workable convergence of still photography and video. Any help?

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