Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tips For Picking a Great Stock Footage Clip

There are more stock footage video clips than ever before but that doesn’t mean there is consistent quality with each stock footage clip you search for. There is a vast array of options and choices when hunting for the perfect stock footage clip to use in a video, advertising or PowerPoint presentation project. Searching for a stock footage clip that fits the bill in terms of subject matter and quality of execution can often times be tedious and frustrating. Below is a list of ten tips for picking a great stock footage clip for your next project.

1. Composition

Every great stock footage video clip starts with eye-catching composition. Composition includes the way in which the visual subject is constructed and placed within the frame. More standard composition places the subject in the center of the frame and uses symmetry and balance to compose the picture. A more photographic and stylized approach is to “weight” the frame and place the subject near one of the edges of the frame, which gives the stock footage clip an edgier and more modern look. Visually engaging composition is one of the primary elements of a great stock footage clip so pay close attention to this when choosing a clip.

2. Motion

Motion is another important element to carefully look at when reviewing and selecting stock footage clips for your projects. Motion can include both camera movement as well as movement of subject. Typically the most dynamic and enticing motion happens when the camera is moving in some way. A moving camera during a shot adds drama, power and impact creating a high level of cinematic production quality. There are a variety of camera movement techniques including using a dolly, jib arm, crane, tripod or many other specialty equipment devices that can create beautifully crafted movement during a shot. Look for stock footage clips that have distinct movement to give your project an added level of craft and production value.

3. Performance

If you’re searching for a stock footage clip that includes talent, then it’s key that the performance of the talent is believable in the clip. Stock footage clips that include talent have received a reputation over the years of looking “staged” and less than real. Another key element to selecting a great stock footage clip is the believability of the performance of talent within a clip. There is a lot of stock footage in the marketplace that features bad performances and over acting of talent. Be selective when choosing a stock footage clip and weed out talent and performances that look staged.

4. Lighting

Good lighting can greatly enhance the overall quality of a stock footage clip. What defines good lighting you ask? Good lighting is the balance, ratio, look and level of the overall light within a scene or shot. The lighting can come from a natural light source, be generated artificially or be a combination of both. Premium and pro stock footage clips are shot by seasoned directors of photography who are experts at creating shots with commercial-grade lighting. They have an arsenal of techniques, equipment and tricks for making a stock footage clip look stylish and professional with lighting. Use a critical eye to look for those stock footage clips with the best use of lighting.

5. Focal Length

Focal length describes the length of the lens used on the film or video camera for a particular shot. A short focal length will give the image a wider field of view whereas a longer focal length will compress the image and bring the field of view tighter and closer. The longer the focal length typically the more out of focus the background is from the subject. Different focal lengths give different emotional feelings to a shot and can have a profound effect on the look and quality of the stock footage clip you’re using in your project.

6. Art Direction

When researching and selecting stock footage clips, quality of art direction will be another important element to consider. Art direction primarily refers to the scenery, decoration and props within a scene. Like any other art form, the quality of execution when it comes to art direction can vary from one stock footage clip to another. Pay careful attention to these details because art direction that is well thought out and implemented can have a big impact on the stock footage clip.

7. Locations

The location or locations featured in a stock footage clip has a big influence on the quality of the clip. A visual and relevant location has as much impact on the shot as composition, camera movement and lighting. A good location influences the overall emotional tenor of a shot as well as providing context for the subject matter, whether it is a high concept clip or a more realistic one. Locations during shooting are enhanced with good art direction, props, lighting, composition, talent and camera operation; however the foundation for a quality stock shot starts with a solid location.

8. Authenticity

The overall authenticity of the stock footage clip you’re selecting for your project is another key criterion when researching clips. Authenticity is all about the truthfulness, realism and naturalness of the overall qualities of the stock footage clip. This includes many of the elements discussed above but especially includes the performance of the talent (if any) as well as the props, wardrobe and art direction for the scene. All of these elements must “ring true” for you and your audience or the clip will scream out that it’s a stock footage clip. The believability of the stock footage clip or clips you choose will determine how well it integrates into your final video, commercial, TV show or PowerPoint presentation.

9. Resolution

With so many camera acquisition formats on the market today, there are a countless number of delivery resolutions and formats for stock footage clips (i.e., 1080i, 1080p, HD, 720p, SD, PAL, etc…). It can be overwhelming for sure. Be sure you research and understand what the final resolution of your project is before final delivery of your project. Talking to your video editor and technical team upfront before researching and searching for stock footage is a key step not to be overlooked.

10. Compression & Delivery

Compression is an important consideration when ordering and/or downloading the stock footage clip(s) that you choose for your project. Different companies offer a variety of compression codecs when delivering files and masters to you after you’ve ordered. If choosing to have digital files delivered to you be sure you understand the type of codec and compression that will be used within the stock clip you’ve ordered. Some companies deliver stock footage clips without any compression and others deliver clips with a considerable amount of compression. Knowing the codec and compression of your clips before ordering is an important consideration to remember to be sure you’re getting the quality you need for your project.

Tips for Aerial Video Production

The Aerial Video shot is a new trend emerging for creating low-altitude imagery through the use of lightweight, remote-controlled helicopter drones. This technology allows for stunning aerial shots that can be used for various kinds of videos including real estate videos, construction videos, action-sports and films. There are many more uses for aerial filming, but these industries are early adopters of this new trend. Transparency Market Research finds that the aerial photography market is expected to reach $1993.3 million by 2019, with most of the income coming from the U.S. market. Most of the demand will arrive from the real estate, construction and the natural resource management sectors. Increased demand is also expected from urban planning and insurance fields.

There are many factors to consider when choosing to perform aerial filming. Here are some tips for successful aerial video production:

Weather

The most important factor is the weather. It is advisable to film on a day when the winds are less than 10 mph and usually the optimum conditions are in the morning. I’ve watched a lot of aerial videos and in almost all of them there are some shaky shots. I think it’s the nature of this type of videography since sometimes the drone can encounter a sudden gust of wind.

Type of Drone to Use

The next most important factor is the type of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or drone to use. The least expensive ones are quadcopters which are small and lightweight but suffer from lack of stabilization controls like a gimbal. A gimbal is a support system that can control the camera on the roll and pitch axes. It also compensates for the movement of the drone the better gimbals can also pan and tilt the camera. A properly adjust gimbal can stabilize the camera well enough to yield “movie” quality shots. A hexacopter with a steady gimbal is the best choice for a flawless video shoot and. The extra propeller and weight of the hexacopter provide a much more stable experience than with a quadcopter.

Type of Camera to Use

You should also choose the lightest camera possible for your desired results. Most hexacopters can only fly 8-10 minutes with a DSLR due to the limitations of the batteries. If you fly a Go-Pro then expect 20-25 minutes. Your choice of camera depends on your final use, if you want high quality, beautiful shots then I suggest using a lightweight DSLR like the GH-3, or a Canon 5D series. Go-Pros can look great, but they just don’t have the image quality of a DSLR. It’s advisable to have several extra battery packs on hand, especially if you intend to be filming all day.

Have a Monitor System.

You have to see what the drone is filming in order to get the best shots, so a good wireless monitor system is a requirement. The terminology in the UAS world is FPV which stands for First Person View. Our aerial video system has two monitors, one for each remote control. The ideal filming situation is to have 2 drone operators. One just pilot’s the drone, and the other operator uses the second remote-control to adjust the camera tilt and pan.

Safety

Lastly, you must take safety into consideration. You can’t fly within 5 miles of airports and nor can you fly above a crowded place. Also, you have to stay under 400 feet and within a line of sight to the UAS. Currently, the legislation covering small drones is murky. The are legally classified as “Model Aircraft” and subject to the laws governing model or hobby aircraft. Recently a FAA court case was settled in favor of the defendant when a judge dismissed all charges against a drone pilot who had been aerial filming over a college campus last year. This led drone enthusiasts to celebrate but the FAA quickly appealed the decision. According to Inman news, the FAA is currently drafting a rule for small drones expected to be released in late 2014.

Have Fun!

Flying helicopter drones is a lot of fun and the cinematic beauty of the footage is very rewarding. I’m sure the government will come to their senses and realize this is a profitable and needed resource which needs to be regulated fairly. In the meantime keep getting amazing aerial footage and have fun practicing and experimenting with different maneuvers. Surely engineers will keep inventing smaller and more stable drones and lighter video cameras. I can’t wait to see what new advancements will arrive this year!

Tips Your Wedding Photographer

Getting married soon? Congratulations! As wedding season approaches, us wedding photographers have one eye at all times on the weather – and another on the constantly shifting requirements of our clients. It’s with this in mind that I thought that this week, I’d put together some hints and tips for how to plan your perfect photography on the wedding day.

1. Be realistic about the photography which is achievable at your venue.

To start with a bit of a dampener – take a good hard look at your venue, your surrounding location and your timings. If you’ve been browsing wedding photographer websites, particularly those set in the beautiful South West locations of Somerset and Devon, you’ll no doubt have been beguiled by gorgeous shots of couples drifting through stunning yellow rapeseed fields, looking out to sea over dramatic cliffs, or dappled in sunshine with evening sunbeams drifting through woods. All these shots, and more, are undeniably beautiful. However, let’s face it, unless you’re getting married next to a wood, a cliff or a rapeseed field, you’re not going to have the time on your wedding day to go out and get these shots – or, indeed, wait until the evening sun is just right and abandon your guests halfway through the wedding breakfast to take advantage of ‘golden hour’.

Realistically, the vast majority of these type of shots are not taken on the wedding day, but on post-wedding ‘love the dress’ shoots, where you have all the time in the world to travel to the perfect location, wait for the light to be just right, and relax without worrying about your guests or holding up the wedding breakfast. Most couples on their wedding day have around half an hour for their ‘couples shots’, if not less – so bear this in mind and work with your photographer to find the right backdrops at your venue where you can get gorgeous wedding day shots without putting undue pressure on your timings. If you do want the stormy clifftop scenes or woodland idylls, however, just ask – most wedding photographers will offer post-wedding shoots, and even better, you get to wear your dress all over again!

2. Lineups, lineups – love them or hate them, how to do them.

Nearly all of my wedding photography work is carried out in reportage, or candid style; it suits my client’s needs and wishes and provides a more truthful, honest record of the wedding day, allowing me to work much more unobtrusively. However, nearly every client of mine specifies that they also need some lineup shots – generally for the mums and dads, who want these for the mantelpiece. If not managed properly, lineups can take far too long and keep your guests away from the celebrations – something which neither the photographer nor the guests want! So, here’s a few tips on how to keep your lineups quick, effective and relatively painless.

– Make a list of the lineups you want before the day and talk these through with your photographer. You might find that you actually don’t need as many as you think, and an organised approach will save time on the day.

– Make sure your Master of Ceremonies, best man or other key wedding party member has a copy of the lineups and helps with getting the right people into shot. Many hands make light work! – Look at potential locations for your lineups prior to the wedding day, taking into account the size of the groups and where the light will be at the time you’ll be doing this on the day. Always have a ‘Plan B’ in the eventuality of bad weather.

– Remember that it’s easiest to get these lineups done whilst you’ve got all your guests together – so do the large groups first, allowing people who aren’t required for smaller, immediate family & wedding party shots to return to the party and not be left hanging around.

3. Trends quickly turn into gimmicks – so beware

No doubt you’ll book your wedding photographer based, at least in part, on the style of the photography you’ve seen on their website. As with most things, photography (and in particular, wedding photography) can go through trends – in composition, in style and in processing. As a wedding photographer, I spent a lot of time discussing the look and feel of my client’s photographs prior to the wedding day, with the ultimate aim being to reflect the couple’s own style and personality.

However, one of the things I always advise clients is not to plump for any photographic or processing style which is too quirky. For example, retro styling and processing is great – but let’s do it with a feather touch, not an iron fist. You’ll be looking at your photographs for many years to come, and the last thing you want is to fall out of love with the shots you loved so much at the time, just because the processing style is no longer in vogue.

So, if you have a defined ‘look’ which you’d like for your photography, think carefully about how it might look in five years’ time – and if in doubt, err towards a more classic look, or a photographic or processing style which has been around for a long time. For example, cinematic style processing which replicates the look of some of the great slide and 35mm film brands STILL looks great, many decades after it was first used on the big screen.

Beginner Photography Tips

With that in mind, I’d strongly advise you to read through the whole article, even if you’re an average amateur, just to freshen up on the mental aspect of photography. I’ve never written an article on my way of thinking when taking pictures, but I think it’s cool because it’s not like your everyday photography. “Potrait photrography tips”

Learn To See Creatively

The best way to learn to see creatively is to take more photos. The reason being is because the more pictures you take and the more time you spend on your about photography , the more you will begin to see things you would normally never see. The eyes of a true photographer, or artist, sees shapes, patterns, light and color when walking down an ally or across a street. For example, let’s imagine I took a photo of a railroad track at night in a big city:

I saw a good photo because of the 1) light reflecting off the metal 2) the contrasts in color between the wood and metal 3) the strong diagonal lines of the track leading from edge-to-edge. Before I learned how to see creatively, I’ve probably walked over that railroad track a million times and not once have I seen it the way I do now. All these things added together create a great picture for the eye. That’s good and all, but, the photo is missing a strong message. It doesn’t emit a strong enough feeling/emotion when one views the photo. To get that, you gotta:

Feel The Moment

If the following makes any sense what-so-ever, it’s that I believe everyone has the ability to see creatively in their own personal way. To see creatively is, in my opinion, to set your mind free and get in-tune with your feelings. These feelings are what drive powerful photographs. And if you can get your brain, eyes and camera to link with your feelings then you’ve just opened up a door that has the potential for you to become a great photographer.

You want people to feel your photos; To get a strong emotional reaction because it’s all about the feeling, the impact and the structural composition of a photo. There are just a few key steps to improve the feel and impact of your photos, making them into memorable masterpieces. It’s certainly not as easy as you’d think and definitely not something you can learn in a few hours or a few days. It may take weeks, months and sometimes years. It’s all up to you and how much time and devotion you spend taking photos and learning photography. When you are out shooting and see something you want to take a picture of, stop and ask yourself these three questions:

  • Why do I want to take this photo?
  • What is the main message of the photo?
  • How am I going to take the picture effectively?

Keep asking yourself these three questions before you press the shutter and, I promise you, there will be an improvement in your photos. Let me explain the questions in more detail:

The question “why do I want to take this photo” forces you to explain your feelings. You did after all stop to take the photo because you “felt” it could be a good photo. But why? Was it because the light was good? Was there something extraordinary happening? The more you ask yourself why and the more you answer why, the more you’ll start to feel the moment and start seeing creatively. Remember, it’s all about feeling and communicating that feeling to the viewer.

So now that you know why you want to take the photo, you have to ask yourself, “what is the main message of the photo?” This question will better refine the first question, helping you define the actual subject whether it be exquisite shapes and colors or a person whose face tells a story of a life-long struggling journey. Whatever it is, it prepares you for the next question:

“How am I going to take the picture effectively?” Well, you can start by thinking of the first two questions and what their answers were. Imagine this as an example:

Say you’re sitting in a car at a red light and see a man starting to cross the street. You feel it can make a good photo, so you ask yourself “why” and answer “because the sky is blazing red and the timing just right.” So you quickly ask yourself the next question, “what is the main message of the photo” and answer “to get the feeling and mood of an urban sunset.” Next you swiftly take out the camera (shame on you not having it out already) and ask yourself the final question; “How am I going to take the picture effectively?” You struggle at first, then you realize that timing is everything. So you quickly compose the shot, frantically making sure the buildings are lined up roughly using the rule of thirds and wait until the man crossing the street is right in the middle of the blinding sun, creating an awesome editorial like silhouette.

These three questions will become second-nature to you and soon you will find yourself asking and answering these questions sub-consciously. Just remember once again, that communicating your feelings through your photographs by using your creative eye and brain, all linked together will make for amazing, memorable photos.

Study Amazing Photos And Books

Granted, I’m not an amazing photographer by any sorts, just an average amateur, but I believe that if you want to take good photos, you can, and you can do so without going to school. I am self taught in pretty much everything I do, photography being my main passion. A big influence for me are amazing photos. You can learn a lot by studying them and figuring out what makes it an awesome photo just by asking yourself the same three “why”, “what” and “how” questions mentioned above. I sometimes spend hours just analyzing photos, both to enjoy and also to figure out the ingredients of making it a memorable photo. Go to sites like Flickr, Photo.net, 500px and 1X because not only do they have photos, they have amazing photos. Especially 1X. Look at the photos that interest you and ask yourself why they interest you. Just start studying them, and read the peoples reactions to the photos. Learn everything there is to know.

If you like to learn through books and want something good to read, I’d suggest picking up at least 3 out of the 5 books mentioned here because all 5 of these books have made a significant impact on my photography:

  • The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman
  • Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson
  • Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 by Scott Kelby
  • The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes by Joe McNally
  • The Camera (Ansel Adams Photography, Book 1) by Ansel Adams and Robert Baker

Did you notice that I picked 5 books on 5 completely different subjects? That’s because with these 5 books you can learn everything from off-camera lighting and composition, to Photoshop and exposure. These books combined together are just awesome to read and study, and because they’re written by very well known photographers, you know there’s good info to gather inside.

Get Constructive Criticism

Improving your photography and taking good photos means you have to get advice from the pros, because they’ve been where you’re at and know the good and bad, and the right and wrong in photography. I personally have never talked to a real “professional” photographer face-to-face. I’ve only chatted with pros through the use of web forums and email. I’d suggest, if you can, to meet a few pros and join them in a few gigs or whatnot, which is actually something on my to-do list because working with an actual pro will give you hands-on experience and get real feedback, real constructive criticism, unlike the kind your family and friends give you.

I’d suggest you sign up to one or all of these critique websites because they, too, can give you honest but sometimes blunt, constructive criticism. Google the following to find the sites:

  • photocritique
  • flickr
  • digital-photography-school
  • And last but not least my favorite and by far the best of them all, 1X. You have to sign up to see and use their critique system, but it’s totally worth it, and free.

What you do is you sign up to one or all of the critique websites, and post a photo that you want to receive some feedback one. Most of the time these sites require you to give feedback on at least one photo before posting your own. This makes the community balanced, so everyone doesn’t just keep posting pictures for critique and never give out any critiques themselves.

In addition to critique websites, there are a few photography blogs that I love, also. The first being the well-known blog authored by David Hobby called Strobist. His blog is mainly about off-camera lighting, or hence the name, strobes. I have to mention him just for the sake of mentioning him, Ken Rockwell. He’s pretty much a Nikon fanatic that talks jokes a lot about a wealth of different subjects. He also has a lot of great information on Nikon camera gear. Joshua Hoffine is probably one of my favorite photographers because he sets up his shots as if they’re movies. He also has a great blog so I would recommend that you follow him just so you can see his latest amazing work and how he creates them.

And now for the no brainer…

Keep Pressing That Shutter!

Practice makes perfect and taking photos is no exception. If you want to become the next best photographer in town, or in the world (hey it’s possible!) you have to get out and start shooting more. And for those who log in 60 plus hours of work a week and still strive to be a great photographer, you have to find time to get out and shoot. It’s tough, I know. I only work around 50 hours a week at my retail job here in Berkley, Michgan and know first-hand how hard it is finding time to take photos.

If you want to get better, you have to dedicate time to shoot pictures. When I first got into photography I didn’t spend more than a few hours a month with my camera. And it showed; My photos looked the same as they did when I first started. Something needed to be done so I got into the habit of spending a few hours every week working on my technique. That eventually developed into a few hours every other day learning how to take photos. Soon I’d find myself spending hours upon hours every single day taking photos and learning, that I think my head literally got a few centimeters bigger from all the information I had gathered!

Final Words

If there’s one thing that I’ve found out over the last year while trying to become a better photographer, it’s that attitude has everything to do with photos. Most of this article has nothing to do with an actual photography “technique” if you will, because I feel that if you’re told to take photos a certain way you’re constricted within a set silly rules, and you will never be able to explore photography with your own feelings. Anyways, I hope I brought up some good points, ones that you will take into action soon because if you do, I know you’ll soon discover that there is a great photographer within you. You just gotta have the motivation to continue and have the right attitude.