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How to Operate a Video Camera Easily

If you want to make videos as easily as possible, here are some pro tips on how best to use a video camera for easy, simple filmmaking.

video camera lens

Basic Video Camera Operating Techniques

Lots of simple video production techniques can help you have an easier time capturing quality video without going to a lot of time and hassle.  Here are some techniques I learned as a videographer for TV news and B2B corporate video production for decades.

Use the Wide Angle Lens

One of my favorite tactics for easy video making is to use your camera set on the wide angle lens as much as possible.  In other words, shoot with your camera zoomed all the way out.

Shooting wide helps you do lots of things.  First, your shots will look steadier if you are on a wide angle shot.  You can often eliminate the need for a tripod if you are on a wide angle shot because camera shake is simply less noticeable.  It is still there, but due to the laws of optics, any camera shake will disappear on a wide shot yet stick out like a sore thumb on a tight shot that’s zoomed all the way in.

Try a little experiment next time you have a camera with a zoom lens in your hands.  Zoom all the way in just to see how much that magnifies the camera shake.  This is why a tripod is 100% necessary if you are shooting from far away and have to rely on the zoom lens for closeups.

video camera operator

 

Handheld videography definitely benefits from being zoomed out, which is why a TV news photographer needs to be physically close to the action.

The wide angle setting is also easier to focus.  You will not have hardly any focus issue if you are on a wide shot because wide angle lenses have a large depth of field.   This means almost all of your picture is in focus automatically.

Especially when the action is happening rapidly in front of you, not having to sweat precise focusing is a huge help in getting quality video.

For those two reasons, using a video camera zoomed all the way out makes shooting quality video easier.

Keep the sun at camera’s back…

The second tip is to keep the sun, or any bright light source, at the back of the camera operator.   To get a nicely lit shot, you want the light falling on the subject of your picture.  If the sun is behind your subject, you will get a silhouette.  Although they can be pretty, most of the time a silhouette is not appropriate.  This shot of my daughter swimming at sunset is a perfect example of how backlight creates a silhouette.

Video Camera Operating Techniques

 

Easy video production often means using natural light.  The trick to doing that successfully is to learn how best to position the camera relative to the light.  Most of the time, you don’t want a silhouette, so remember to keep the light at your back.  That way, it falls on the subject.  Not having to set up lights is a huge timesaver and if you do it right, your video will still look professional.

Repeat That Please!

When shooting video, it’s standard practice to take a variety of angles of the same action.  You can do this by using multiple cameras or by repeating the action and placing the camera in a different spot each time.  If things are happening fast, or you do not have enough control over the situation to have the action repeated, get in the habit of moving quickly and placing the camera in a variety of locations while the action is happening.  Also get in the habit of taking cutaways and closeups to disguise jump cuts.

If you can, have the subject on camera repeat the action, in the exact same way, as you shoot from different angles.

In addition to getting different angles, get different scopes.  (Scope is a term for how close the camera appears to the subject.)  Is it a wide-shot,  a medium-shot or a close-up?  Getting a variety of scopes helps make the final edited video much more visually interesting.  The viewer can see detail in a close-up that would go unnoticed in a wide shot.

If you are videotaping groups of people, do your best to get faces and not backs.  Faces are much more interesting.   That seems obvious, but many novices end up getting lots of backs because that is often easier.  For example, if you are videotaping a seminar, you might feel obligated to set up in the very back of the room in order to stay out of the way.  I’m all for setting up in an unobtrusive spot, but crowd shots of people’s backs are not very appealing.  A better spot to setup is where you can see the speaker well but you can also see faces in the crowd too.

I hope this helps you use your video camera better!

landscape photographyIf you’re looking for more photography tips for beginners, that link goes to an awesome guide for taking spectacular landscape photos, one of my favorite kinds!

Lorraine Grula

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Lorraine Grula


Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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