Trigger Finger

One tip I give to still photographers who segway into video is “don’t shoot like a still photographer”. By that I mean don’t fall into the trap of turning off the camera too soon – let it run. Still photgraphers shoot moments in time – video shooters shoot time in motion.

I had a still photographic assignment a few years back to shoot a story on the LL Bean’s workshops. LL Bean gives skeet shooting lessons and fly fishing lessons etc. I set out to cover a group who would be learning the basic techniques of how to shoot skeet targets with a shotgun. I got to the location early and had some time to kill – no pun intended. The instructor asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Now I’m a person who had never even seen a gun up close, let alone shot one – so I declined. But after about 10 minutes of gentle coaxing, I said yes.

The instructor gave me safety tips on handling a firearm and then I was ready to try my hand at shooting the clay targets. He pulled – I aimed – and shot the target dead on. We both laughed and he said – beginners luck. He told me to give it another try. He pulled – I aimed and I shot it dead on again. After the third try with the same results – he looked at me and said that he thought I had been kidding him when I told him that I had never picked up a gun before. Then it occurred to me that I’ve been aiming and shooting “targets” my entire career as a still photographer. It had become a natural instinct.

So when I teach still photographers how NOT to shoot video like a still photographer, my biggest challenge is to help them overcome this learned instinct of shooting “moments”. It’s a tough instinct to break but stop yourself and let the camera roll on.


Colliding Worlds of Print and Video

The cover of Esquire Magazine’s June issue was shot with video! Now that’s convergence. Granted it was shot with THE RED camera, a high end HD video camera that shoots at 4K, but nevertheless it’s a sign of what’s to come.

When Canon and Nikon came out with their first generation of hybrid cameras the divide between stills and motion became much narrower. They still have a way to go to please filmmakers and high end video shooters but it sent a signal to where the camera manufacturers are heading. Some complaints from the Indie filmmakers have been that the camera shoots in 30p instead of the standard 24fps that filmmakers use. More importantly they don’t like the fact that you can’t shoot video in manual mode – only in auto mode. And audio is extremely limiting – but filmmakers capture their audio independently so that is only an issue for someone who shoots documentaries or a news shooter.

But back to THE RED. This is a high end HD camera that can be modified to meet many needs because of it’s an a la carte building process. But for around $25,000 you have a camera that shoots 4K and just 5 years ago, you couldn’t touch a camera like that for under $100,000. Because it’s a camera that you can build on – you can trick it out and easily spend that kind of money, but you don’t have to.

This has certainly changed how commercials are shot as well as some major TV shows. I’ve heard some art directors have taken frame grabs to satisfy their print needs. It’s not just “good enough” anymore – it’s just as good or better than an image from a still 35mm camera. Art directors are now scrolling through mov files to find just the right “moment”.

I remember years ago, 1982 to be exact when Lenny Skutnik dove into the frozen Potomac River to rescue people from the Air Florida crash. The news crews captured the moment on video and that moment won a Pulitzer prize in the still photography category. People questioned whether taking a “moment” from a running video camera was fair play to receive a Pulitzer for a “still image”. At the time, the quality was poor but nevertheless – it captured “the” moment.

And now magazine covers shot with video cameras – wow – what’s next?

%d bloggers like this: