The art of videography is all about capturing magical and mundane moments in action. In the past, the cost of getting started with this medium was sky-high. Beginner videographers had to commit a great deal of time and money between cameras and classes just to get started.
Over the years, cameras have grown smaller and less expensive. Today, most cell phones are equipped with better cameras than beginners could have hoped to buy a decade ago. Meanwhile, online videography courses and information has made it possible for anyone to produce captivating videos.
This article covers everything you need to know to get started with videography. You’ll learn about essential equipment, basic techniques, and a few tips and tricks. Finally, you’ll find out where you can learn more to take your videography skill to the next level.
Types of Videography
Videography can be as simple as making home videos to capture your most precious memories to relive again and again. At its core, this type of videography requires nothing more than a cell phone camera and a scene you want to shoot.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is cinematography, the complex art of dramatic filmmaking, as in major motion pictures and independent films. This type of videography takes years of artistic dedication, skill, and something of a reputation.
Between those two ends of the spectrum, there’s a nearly limitless variety of videography types and skills to explore. What differentiates one type of videography from another primarily comes down to the subject and the equipment used.
Getting started with videography doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Until you’re more familiar with basic film techniques, do your best to use what you have on hand. The only things you really need are a camera and a tripod.
While videography used to require an expensive video camera just to get started, you probably have all the camera you need in your pocket right now. Most cell phones released in the last two to three years have a better camera than today’s cinematographers even had available to them.
If you’d prefer to shoot with a standalone camera, you still don’t have to invest a ton of money to get started. While some photographers may turn up their nose at a point-and-shoot camera, they’re super inexpensive, and today’s models take great video these days. Plus, they’ll save you from losing the moment you’re trying to capture because you were fiddling with your settings.
At the more expensive end of the spectrum, you’ll find that all of today’s professional-quality still cameras have excellent video capabilities as well. If you’re currently taking stills with a modern DSLR or something similar, you can use that same camera to start filming gorgeous videos.
A tripod can be the difference between a crisp, professional-looking shot and a shaky, amateurish one. It doesn’t have to be anything outlandish or fancy. Anything with three adjustable legs will do. If you’re shooting on a cell phone, make sure the tripod you’re getting has a cell phone mount, or buy one separately.
Additional features that are worth looking into include a bubble level to make sure your shot is straight, tilt adjustment for more creative angles, and a quick-release plate so you can go from tripod to handheld without fussing with your tripod settings.
All of these features are easy to find, even on low-end tripod models. Any tripod is better than none, so if you only buy one piece of equipment to get started, let it be this.
Even the most expert videographers struggle to capture the perfect shot in one take. A key element of videography is editing your videos to make them more straightforward and more compelling. While plenty of editing software is available on the market, you can get started using free (and freely available) software.
If you have a Mac computer, iMovie comes pre-installed for free. If you have a Windows PC, you can use LightStudio, a free editing program. If you don’t have access to a computer, check out your local library. Many have high-end editing software available for use on their computers.
If you’re a total novice with a camera, resist the temptation to dive into a bunch of heavy-duty techniques. As a new videographer, your number one goal should be to play and explore what you and your camera are capable of. Here are a couple of pointers to get you started.
Play with Different Shots
As with any art form, experimentation is vital. You’ll get familiar with your camera’s features and capabilities, your environment, and your artistic vision just by playing with different types of shots for each scene.
Wide vs. Tight
Wide shots capture a massive space at once, such as an aerial view of a city or an eye-level view of a vast landscape. With closer and tighter shots, you reveal and highlight new information and perspectives. Changing the width of your shot can alter the whole vibe of the video.
High vs. Low Angle
Filming from different perspectives can alter how the viewer perceives your subject. Try filming the same subject at eye level, above, and below to see how slight adjustments can change the emotional impact of your shot.
Shoot Now, Edit Later
In photography, the more shots you take, the more likely you are to get the perfect one. Although things get a little more complicated with the (literal) moving parts, the same goes with videography. Still, you can increase your odds of getting a great video by filming everything.
In videography, “B-roll” refers to the extra film of things other than your primary subject. For example, if you’re interviewing someone, you may film shots of the interview room, details of their clothing, or other clips from the meeting that weren’t necessarily part of the interview.
Having lots of B-roll gives you more flexibility when it’s time to edit. Remember, you can always cut or leave out things that you don’t like, but you can never go back and re-film that exact moment. Film everything that catches your attention and worry about whether it’s relevant later.
Consider taking an online videography course when you’re ready to take your videography skills to the next level. With more complex techniques and experience in photography, film, and editing, you’ll find your unique artistic voice.