Lens Choices for Videography


Use Your Photography Skills to Master Videography


Lesson Info

Lens Choices for Videography

I am really kind of, you know, very much a minimalist when it comes to lenses. I like to have a kit that has two or three things, and then just kind of leave it alone. I use all prime lenses for two reasons, One is, and by prime lenses, we mean lenses that don't have any zoom or kind of telephoto aspects to them. It means that they're a fixed focal length, a 50, a 35, here I've got a 24, I've got a 50. Sometimes I use an 85. Part of the reason is that they're very, very, very sharp. They have, you know, if you take a zoom out of a lens, it's just going to be a bit sharper than something that has a little bit of zoom in there. But also, these are much faster lenses, and by faster, it means that we can open them up and allow even more light to come through, by many, many stops. So a zoom is often in the 2.8, f-stop of 2.8, or even 4 or even 5.6 category, where this lens here has an f-stop of 1.2, so 1.2 to 1.8, 2 to 2.8, I mean that's like, four or five stops difference of light that I c...

an get by using a fixed lens. It means, like, I try not to shoot wide, wide open at a 1. because that is such shallow depth of field that my eye might not even be able to tell in the moment whether or not it's in focus, but I will certainly be able to tell when I play it back on my laptop that it's not. But 1.6, 1.8, I shoot at those kind of openings all the time and a very fast lens allows me to do that. This is a 1.4, which... Is that true? Yes, this is a 1.4, which is also very fast, and I try to just kind of stick to a couple of lenses and then move my body. You know, I try to stay away from zoom lenses because I find that it makes me a little bit lazy. If I know that I can just stay here and kind of get there with changing my lens as opposed to changing my position, I might not go out, push myself, and explore in quite the same way. In photography, I kind of hate long lenses. I think long lenses in stills are really kind of ugly and everything looks compressed and flat and horrible. For some reason, in video, I think that this kind of compression of space can be very nice. And by compression, we mean basically that like, if there's a situation that we shoot with a wider lens and we really kind of see the space between things, the space between you guys here in the audience and the back wall, when we use a longer lens, an 85, a 100, a 135, all of a sudden, these kind of planes that we see get smashed right up against each other, and it's like things live on top of one another. And at times, that can be a very nice way of kind of playing with space and establishing a space by... Instead of taking a big, kind of landscape, kind of backing up away from something, and using a longer lens to kind of create a little bit of distortion. So I'm gonna show you some samples from what a kind of normal, or even slightly wide lens looks like, and a longer lens. So, I'm gonna play a couple of samples that are just a variety of kind of landscape and establishing shots. The first bunch are shot with wide angle lenses, so something in you know, standard, normal, or slightly wide lenses, something in the 35 range. And then I'll stop it and show you some things with longer lenses where we're seeing this compression. (peaceful electronic music) So this shot here, this is with a longer lens. There's, you know, and these are subtle differences, but there's this sense that like, these trees kind of in the foreground, and then I'll let it play, and this ship in the background, which are quite far apart, there's the sense that they're all kind of smashed up against each another. And it can create this kind of nice mood, where like, these people on the left that are dancing, it's like you're kind of peering into a little shoebox, where all of these things are inside, and there is kind of a nice, different look that that can add. (peaceful electronic music) I'm gonna pause here also. When long lenses really kind of work, is when you have the opportunity to show a little something in the foreground, or have a bunch of layers. So this shot here, I should move this out of the way, this shot here, where we have mountains in the distance, the long lens kind of uses these tree leaves in the foreground to kind of compress space. If it's just going to be a landscape, and you're just farther away, it's not quite as much bang for the buck, but it's really where we can see multiple things happening in a plane. Some trees in the foreground, some people dancing in a building in the background, a ship, even behind them, and they're all kind of smashed into one space. (peaceful electronic music) So I threw this one back in here, just as a, like a comparison. It's from earlier on, this is a wider thing, you can kind of see everything, and it feels like things are very far away. [Jessica] So, just wanted to like, show a little bit of the two looks and styles. (peaceful electronic music) So, we have a question from Bahar, who says, "It's becoming very trendy, "especially in photojournalism, "to shoot in extreme wide angle ranges, like 17 to 24, "which causes distortion, particularly on the edges. "Do you have an opinion about that?" I do have an opinion about it. I don't love a super wide look in general. I think that it's probably dictated by the fact that, like, I'm just an intimate type of shooter, I like getting right up into people's space, I like getting right inside of things, I like to kind of feel like we're in the middle, so I never like the sense that things are too far away. I kind of, if anything, wanna kind of compress things and bring them closer. But, you know, in the hands of another photographer, videographer, who can handle it well, and can kind of handle it with some craft, it can be really beautiful. It's just not particularly my thing. I understand the benefit in, I'm a Cannon shooter as well, and so pulling double-duty, being able to use your lenses for your still photography, and then swap it over and use it for cinema. Is there any strong advantage or any extra advantages to using cinema lenses, to renting cinema lenses versus using, you know, what amount to still lenses? So, great question. So Cannon makes a line of these beautiful cinema lenses, and there are a couple of benefits, although I will say, I don't... for me, those benefits haven't kind of outweighed the price difference. These cinema lenses are gorgeous and they're made specifically for cinema. One of the great things is that when you change your aperture, it's on kind of a smooth dial, so that thing that I was saying yesterday about don't change your exposure in the middle of a shot, is different if you're not clicking through exposure. If you're just kind of gradually getting lighter, and gradually getting darker, that means that you could be in a situation where you're like, "Oh, God, I realize I'm underexposed, "but I don't wanna wreck this shot." And you don't have to make that compromise. You can kind of slowly... and it will just, like, gradually get lighter. It won't ever kind of click through. And they also have built-in gears where they're like, made for a follow focus, and the gear is just right on there. For my purposes, they're a bit heavier, and I do a lot of shoulder stuff, and they're also just large, so I find that, like, even if I could afford them, and they are pricey, although all of this stuff also, is always rentable, like, we don't have to think about these things only as buying and owning, you can experiment with these things, if you've got something where you know that that would really be beneficial for a day, or two, or even a week long shoot, you can rent them. I do find that they're large, and I really, you know, I kind of shoot with like, a couple of fanny packs around my waist, where I can just kind of shove things in and out. A little lens like this is not necessarily a problem. Once it gets to be about this size, all of a sudden I'm like, "Where do I put this thing?" if I wanna swap out a lens. So, I haven't necessarily been using them, but it doesn't mean I don't want to.

Class Description

Just because you’re a photographer doesn’t mean you can’t shoot compelling video. If you have a digital SLR, you have the equipment. If you’re a photographer who loves to tell captivating visual stories, you have the passion and the necessary skills. It doesn’t matter whether you want to create powerful short films about global issues or take videos of your friends on vacation: all it takes to start being a successful videographer is strong photography skills.

Join VII Agency photojournalist Jessica Dimmock for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to storyboard to create a strong narrative
  • How to properly capture sound and voiceover while on a shoot
  • How to shoot for an editor and to think with the edit in mind
Jessica has traveled the world in the pursuit of powerful stories. Her work has been published in publications like the New Yorker and Time, and has been exhibited in galleries around the globe. Her skill with a camera allowed her to pivot into videography, where she created music videos, short projects and feature films. Becoming a filmmaker as well as a photographer opened up a new form of media for her stories - and doubled her day rate. Draw in new clientele and start expressing your creativity in new ways!  


a Creativelive Student

I have been waiting for a course like this. Purchasing it was a no-brainer. Taught by an accomplished professional in the field, with a strong track record of high level work, Jessica Dimmock, I feel, is exactly the type of instructor Creative Live should be giving air time to. I have watched other Videography classes on Creative Live, and this was the first one that I felt was worth purchasing due to how much info was being shared, in a very methodical, easy to follow (but not dumb downed) fashion.

a Creativelive Student

This class has left me feeling very encouraged and inspired about getting into videography. Jessica has made some great work, in her short career with video, and was able to share what she learned through those experiences. She started out as a photographer and has now incorporated video into her skill set and it seems to have expanded the diversity her opportunities and has enriched what she produces and shares with the world. I look forward to doing the same thing in my own way. Thanks CL for another wonderful class.


Simultaneously broad and deep, the information Jessica covers and the way she delivers it really give you the feeling you can jump into video right away. Professionalism in every area, from prep steps to workflow in the field to clean organization and processing, inspires confidence in the value of her methods. She clearly learned most of this in the field over years of work, which means the rest of us now have a huge leg up on our first projects. Thank you so much!