Use Your Photography Skills to Master Videography

Lesson 36/37 - Transition Photography Skills to Videography


Use Your Photography Skills to Master Videography


Lesson Info

Transition Photography Skills to Videography

We're gonna talk a little bit about what we're all bad at, just a kind of recap. And hopefully, at this point, you're not bad at these things anymore. But this is kind of... as you step out into the world, as you start doing this stuff, this is some of the things you have to kind of keep in your head and remember that you're probably not great at. Photographers are bad at movement. It's not natural for us to kind of move our cameras around in a way that feels floating and right and not overly heavy handed. It's just not part of what we have to do as photographers. When you've incorporated video into what you do, you have to think about your movement. What does that movement feel like? Is it quick and jerky? Does it kind of float and have a nice ease to it? Is it completely lacking in movement, which we know we don't wanna do, we don't wanna kind of bring our cameras off and just press record when we're set up and ready for the shot? Our work needs movement that's careful and deliberate...

, and also that's kind of sloppy and quick. And so, that's not necessarily something that we're automatically good at but we can learn at, and we can get over that very quickly. Also, we have to just think about stabilizing the camera. As photographers, as long as I'm not blurry at a 60th... well, for me, my photography is very blurry. So I don't mind like a 15th of a second, an 8th of a second. I don't care about a little blur, but stabilizing my camera is not something I ever thought about as photographer. I don't own a tripod as a photographer. In video, I have to think differently about that. Changing focus smoothly. In photography, I don't care if my kind of lens is searching in and out, as long as I can eventually land there, it doesn't matter for the image. However I got to that focus, it doesn't matter at all. In video, we have to think about not only landing that focus but getting there in a way that's not gonna be disruptive. It's not gonna move our camera around, it's not going to kind of really mess up our shot, things like this. We are not great at transitions in part because in photography, those transitions are boring. Unless it was something really relevant and really important to the story, I would never photograph someone like just coming in to a doorway or walking down a hallway or doing something kind of mundane and boring. If it was important to the story, I would do it. But I wouldn't do it otherwise, and in video, you have to be doing it no matter what. Now, we talked about you don't have to do it in a boring way, and that's kind of one of the things that we'll bring to the table to talk about. But these transitions, these kind of in-between moments that get us from here to here really matter. And it took us a long time in the making of our film to kind of get at that. I mean, I went back for the fourth year to this conference that we had been shooting at year after year. I went four times; it's a week long each time. In the fourth year I went, we were already in the edit, and I went with this list of things that my editor needed, because it's also about like setting up the location. We're not great at that. I went with this list of shots that she needed, 'cause I didn't do them. Still, I've gone four times, and she was like, "I just need a shot of a hallway. "Just bring this to me. "I need a shot of an outside of a door. "I need to see some cars "pulling into a parking lot, please." Year after year, I'd done it, because visually as a videographer, I'm like that's boring, that's ugly. Why would I shoot that? Well, she needed it. And so we're not clearly... We're not great at always collecting that stuff, but it's very valuable, and you'll, you know, you have to have it. And the stuff that I did shoot from those three previous years, of any of that stuff, she used all of it. I mean, all of it is used. So, it's very valuable. We're not always great at recognizing how important sound is. We're so visually driven, we care so much about that that we're like, "Ah, we'll deal with that later." But it really matters. Thinking about narrative arc, not always great at kind of plotting out. Okay, where does the story start? Then what happens? Where do we go? Holding the shot for as long as it needed. You know, in photography, you don't hold it for very long. 60th of a second might be the trick; 30 seconds minimum. Getting in and out of scenes is hard. Once we start getting a little bit better at this stuff, we're like, "Oh, I understand how to even cover a scene." You know, that coverage thing. I think we'll come to a lot of you pretty quickly, 'cause it's really fun. It's hard to not just kind of get the thing you want and then get out of there. It's like, "Oh, the thing I was waiting for "in the scene just happened. "I'm done, right?" Well, how is your editor gonna get out of this thing? Something great just happened to the room. As soon as it happens, scene's over? Cut? Next thing? You have to kinda ease into these things, but you also have to have a way out. Ideally, you have at least... Ideally, you have both. But at very least, think about how do I get in here or how do I get out of here, but really be thinking about, "Where does this go? "How does this conclude?" We're not great at shutting up, and not just kind of making our subjects comfortable by filling up the silence and helping them along and making them feel comfortable. Video can be a little bit more of an awkward sport than photography, which is amazing, 'cause photography is super awkward anyway. But you have to kinda remember that there's a greater kind of goal with the not filling up the silence, which is that you need some of this quietness to exist in your footage. And we're not always great at incorporating these little details, these little things, especially when they seem kind of obvious. In photography, we take detail shots, but sometimes, when they're really obvious, we're like, well, that's just a given, or that's kind of obvious and not necessary. It's not nuanced enough. I encourage you all to be very nuanced with everything that you shoot. But a detail here and there that might be kind of obvious can be helpful. It can also just be something to cut away to, so it might not be that this shot is so important, but it's covering a mistake of something else. And that can be incredibly important. Okay, now, what are we good at? Great at? We're so good at composition already, and this is huge. When we're watching the screen, it's still a screen. It's still within four corners of a frame. It's still something that has to have a strong sense of composition, and we come in here and we like dominate in this regard. This stuff, we are great at that, beautiful compositions, kind of strange compositions, things that are unusual and beautiful to look at. We're great at seeing available light and working with that, so we're not necessarily slowed down by not having everything perfect or set up for exactly the way it would need to be. We can say, "Oh well, there's a small crack in that curtain. "I can work with that over there. "There's a laptop here; I can work with that." Someone's smoking and using a lighter and the flare of the lighter lights up their face, great. And we'll just go with that stuff. As photographers, we've never been, most of us at least, we've never been out in the field with anyone else, so we're really great at kind of doing everything producing our own shoots. We're great producers and we don't even know it. I'm a producer on my film, and it's not because I went into that film saying, "I'm gonna be a producer on it." Instead, it turns out for my photography background, I already know how to produce; I just didn't know that. Photographers are really good at kinda taking on all tasks, running a bunch of different things at the same time, because we're always alone. And so, the fact that I've thrown onto your plates learning video but also learning some sound and also learning some of this, and also learning some of that, you guys are already kinda set up to do that. You're already probably good at that. I encourage you to bring in other people, but you're gonna be able to kind of hold a bunch of different things in your lap at the same time, and that's great. We always do our research. We're very good at kind of really knowing the story and gaining access, working with people in a way access is huge. Access, getting into a situation. I mean, you don't have any footage or any story or any situation if you can't figure out how to get in there and get people to trust you. Photographers are fantastic at this. And so, you're able to kind of go ahead and start working on your projects because you're able to get the access to the stories you wanna do. You're great at working with people and talking to people and listening. Maybe not the shut up part, but all these other parts. Our skills that photographers are very skilled at already. Knowing good stories when we see them. I cannot emphasize this enough. I mean, we just kind of... If you're coming from a photography background and you've been thinking a story, you might not be thinking narrative arc necessarily, but you can think about stories and how to do them in a visual way for a long time. And so, that's like a very kind of exercise muscle. You already have it and you know it, and you know it when you see it. And just kind of working in this visual language, you know. What does peering through a crack in the door mean to my audience versus being right inside the room versus being up close? I mean, you're already very skilled at a visual language, and that doesn't matter if it's video or photography. You know kind of how to communicate visually, and that's huge. Not everyone knows how to do that. You know how to be evocative and emotional. We know how to be incredibly intimate, because our cameras are so small that we just go right in there and get right on top of things. And just how to be really light on our feet. You know, not be like encumbered by all these equipment, and not be able to just follow things. We are very run and gun just by the nature of photography. Photography involves small cameras, not a lot of gear, and so when it comes to video, we just kinda pick up right where we left off and we just use that same approach. Are there any questions, now that we're kind of wrapping up? Are there any kind of lingering questions that had come in from the audience? Yes? Actually, going back to yesterday a little bit, but sort of a lingering question I had, can you give us some thoughts or tips on finding good partners, but especially good editing partners in specific? Sure. I'd say, in general, the tip about good partners across the board, and I forgot who was just saying this recently. A lot of people say this. A partner that you think about working with should always kind of pass the like, "would I go out for a beer with this person" test. If you feel, because you're gonna spend a lot of time together, whether it's an editor or someone you're co-shooting with or producer or what have you, you're gonna spend a lot of time with one another, and you better find out now whether or not you even like each other, in part 'cause your sensibilities might come too ahead if you don't, but also just because you'll go crazy if you don't get along. In terms of editing partners, you know, the that we found our editor, we didn't know her personally, we know her very personally now we've spend tons of time together, but it's that we were watching films and we look at things that we liked and more inspired by and we were moved by, and we saw a film that we really liked and we reached out to her directly, Fiona Otway. It's her name, and she had done Hell and Back Again and Iraq in Fragments. Both of which are incredible films. And so, we found her that way. The other way is really very much word of mouth. So I don't thing I've ever just randomly found an editor or by like going on LinkedIn or Facebook or something like that. I'm either contacting people I've seen their work and I like working with, or I'm asking people with similar sensibilities or whose work I like. You know, who do you like working with? Who would you recommend for this project? You'll start to kind of develop again so much more collaborative than photography like ever could be. You'll start to kind of develop this network of information and allies and people who will trade names and advice and tips and secrets and all types of things, so that you're all kind of swapping information and sharing your resources. Not getting back to the phantom but getting to slow motion, 'cause I love slow motion. If I wanted to incorporate slow motion in video, say it's a small sequence, should the entire filming be at a higher frame rate, or can you mix frame rates? How does that work? You can totally mix them. I've just done a project... In other words, like, if you know that you want some of your footage to be in slow motion, do you have to shoot all of it, or can you have just some scenes? So you can totally mix it up. So I'm working on a short film right now where I thought some scenes would be really great in slow motion. There's kind of this everyone arriving at dinner type of moment that's kind of it's in this environment. It's cold and windy and kind of gray and wet, and I thought it would great to just kinda do the slow motion thing of people arriving in the parking lot. The rest of the stuff is shot as normal, so I knew this scene, set my camera up for that, shot those scenes in slow motion, and let everything else kind of go at the usual frame rate. If you're kind of on the fence about it, it's better to shoot it in slow motion, try to speed it up, which you can do if you're kind of on the fence than to shoot it at regular speed and try to slow it down, which won't work. If you're shooting at... If you shoot in slow motion with the idea of speeding it up later, which you can do, you're problem might be in audio, which is that most cameras, once you go in the slow motion setting, won't allow you to take audio, or you're audio will be very distorted or something along those lines. So, you still should be thinking about it and kind of plotting it out, but hopefully, after leaving this two days, you will start to kinda story board. You'll say to yourself, "Okay, this is where "I wanna go with this film. "This is what I wanna do with this story." And you'll come to it with some plotting and some kind of ideals already fleshed out, so that you can say, "This is where I think "slow motion would be really helpful, "and this is where I think it should be "in regular speed because I wanna hear something, "or I wanna kind of switch up the pacing." Yeah? A question from online. This is from Bow who says, "How do you solicit feedback from photographers, videographers, maybe even editors that you admire, whose styles you're sort of most inspired by? And I guess I would add to that, like, how do you seek out feedback? Yeah, that's great. It's really important, I think in all of creative endeavors and all of creative processes but especially in this, because it's just much more slow down type of timeline. It takes a really long time to edit. It takes a really long time to get your edit in good shape. By the time, you're like even ready to have this out in the world, you've probably watched something. I mean, when we were making our film, towards the end of the edit, the last few weeks, let's say, and we edited for a year, and the last few weeks, as we're really trying to tighten it up, we watched our film every day, 94-minute long film, we watched everyday for like several weeks at the time. I can't understand my own film at that point anymore. I can't see what is happening, so it's very important that you start to kinda test it with other people, friends of yours that will be honest with you and really give you honest, harsh, raw feedback. Also it's good to kind of test it with some strangers. Ask a friend. You don't have to put an ad out on Craigslist and have somebody you have no idea who they are show up. But maybe ask a friend. You know, I'd love to show you this film. Could you come to a screening of it at my house? I'll give you some beer, pizza. We'll have whatever. But, like, maybe could you bring a friend? 'Cause chances are, if you've been working on in an even a short film for a month, let's say, you're probably excited and you've been talking about it. And the problem there is that you might like told your friends some things about it, and so they're coming in with some ideas. It's great to see if those ideas are holding up and working, but sometimes it's great to have completely fresh eyes and someone totally ignorant. You should also like really try to mix up the ages. I think that was something really hard for us. Stuff like, we would kind of do these testing screenings and everyone would be in their mid 30s, 'cause that's how old (laughs) I'm a little older than my 30s, but that's kinda the general age range of me and my friends, so everyone in the room would be 35, 37 years old. But then you have to realize your audience won't all be this like two-year thin line through the population of the United States. Your audience is gonna be hopefully from mixed backgrounds, mixed ages. And the ideas that a 37-year-old will bring to a certain subject matter might be very different from a 65-year-old or an 18-year-old. So ask your Aunt Mary to look at this cut. Ask your friend's teenage son to look at the cut. Ask people you don't know. Ask people of different races, different economic backgrounds, because you have to kind of make sure that these ideas that you've been watching over and over and over again that seems so obvious to you, they might not be obvious to everyone. You should also, when you kind of test your stories out in a similar way that I was saying in an interview, ask open-ended questions, ask open-ended questions of your audience. Maybe even in the form of a questionnaire. So don't say, like, "Was it obvious "that the mayor was angry at his assistant?" You know, someone's like, "Oh, yeah. "I totally, yeah. I got that, you know." You're putting that idea in their head, but you're like, "How did the mayor feel "about his assistant? "What was the relationship "between the assistant and the mayor?" Then someone has to kind of... Or was their tension anywhere in the story at all? Yeah, it was here with the mayor and the assistant, not with the mother and daughter. So try to really not plop the answer into people's hands and into their laps, but instead, ask kind of open-ended questions. In a couple of sentences, what would you say the short film is about? You know, you think it's gonna be obvious, but when you read through, even just just five friends come over and watch it, just plop them down with a piece of paper and see what they come up with. It might be really terrifying to see that they didn't get it, that you had some idea, they might be seeing something much more nuance and complex than you anticipated, and you might be able to take that and kind of develop it further. So it's a great opportunity and a very valuable thing to kind of be testing these ideas. Yeah? Alright. Perhaps one final question for you, Jessica. Imagine that you are one of us sitting here now. We've completed your course, and we have all these ideas running through our heads. Maybe it's different, little bits of stories that we might wanna tell or dive into. How do you recommend that we use all these content that we've learned to sort of decide where to start or what kind of story we should attempt to tell? Should we start of like, "Oh, I'm gonna tell a 30 second story," or what are your recommendations for it, going forward and actually putting this into action as a new videographer? So I would say, for anyone that's kind of gone through this course, now they're sitting there, I think that the next step would be pick up something. If you've sat for two days of this, chances are, there's some little kernel of something inked deep in your belly that you wanna do and that you're kinda like, you know, "I'm just waiting for the day two to end, "and then I'll start." And like, there's something in you that's making you sit through all this material. It's not just a general interest in videography in general. It's that you wanna go and do it. And so, you might have an idea, might even be a small idea that you just wanna test out, but there's probably some idea. So I'd say, step one is just take a moment to think about that idea, like what could you do? What could it be? Could it be a two minute long film? Could it be maybe just a music video and you don't have to think about audio right this very second? That's fine. Could it be something that you could partner up on? Could it be something that you shoot in a certain kind of stylized way? Just think about it for a little bit. And then, stop thinking about it and like go out and try it. Try, come up with a little bit of a game plan for yourself, come up with a little bit of strategy and some steps, and then go do it, and mostly do it just to see if you can do it, you know? You don't have to necessarily think about what the end result is there, the end goal. It's like, I do the thing to learn how to do the thing. I make the thing to learn how to make the thing. And so I encourage people to just kind of go out and roll their sleeves up and get their hands dirty. And then, as you come up against obstacles, take a step back, think about it some more, tackle them, and just keep moving forward. Final, final thoughts. How can we get ahold of you or how can we follow you, see what you're up to as time goes on? Sure. You can follow me in a couple ways. If you wanna follow the film, 'cause I've shown you a lot of it, we have a Facebook page for the film. The film is called The Pearl, and if you go to like The Pearl film on Facebook or the website, the, that took me a second, you can follow us there. Personally, if you just wanna see what I'm up to and what I'm doing visually, you can follow my Instagram, which is @jessicadimmock. Just all one word. And if questions ever come up for students, they can always just email me, which is my full name

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!