How to Use a DSLR to Shoot High Quality Videos

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If you are like many professional photographers, you may be finding that more and more clients are asking if you can also do video for them when you’re on-site doing a photo shoot. Video can be a “strange new world” and you may be passing up some good opportunities. Most modern DSLRs are quite competent in shooting video, and you can use them to create industrial and commercial productions that are ideally suited for use at corporate functions, in sales presentations, as training aids, and as promotional spots on YouTube…so there is a great opportunity to expand your service offering by including video.

Without a doubt, shooting video with a DSLR can be more complicated than shooting stills, but you can achieve beautiful, creative results by following a few, simple guidelines. And, while you may add more video-related gear over time, you can make some initial, fairly modest investments and get into video production without having to break the bank. If you are a consumer reading this article and you are considering buying a DSLR thinking you can replace your camcorder to shoot family events, don’t bother – a camcorder is much better suited for “family memories” type videos. While I concentrate on shooting video with a Nikon DSLR (since I shoot Nikon), the below article applies to shooting video with any brand DSLR.

Nikon D800 Video Setup

My D800 rigged up with Rode VideoMic Pro and iDC System Zero follow focus. The 327RC2 Manfrotto pistol grip is attached to a Cinevate FLT camera slider.

1) Is your DSLR the right tool for the proposed video assignment?

This is the very first question that you need to ask yourself before accepting any video assignment. Generally speaking any assignment where you would be shooting people moving around in a scene (like a wedding for example), especially if autofocus needs to be maintained on specific individuals as they move towards or away from the camera, it is not well suited for DSLR use, and would be best shot with a professional video camera. This is because the auto focus on most DSLRs is slow, somewhat jerky, often hunts a lot, and is noisy. The audible noise from the focusing motor in your camera body and/or lens will transmit readily onto your footage…and it can be a pain to try and filter out. Also, the lenses used on DSLRs do not have power zoom functions so they are cumbersome to use if a lot of in/out zooms are required in the footage. Any assignment that requires the recording of long (30+ minutes), uninterrupted video clips is not suited to DSLR use as your camera is often limited to less than 30 minutes of single clip recording time.

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Best Focal Length to Get Into Wildlife Photography

What’s the BEST Lens for Wildlife Photography? If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question, I could retire. It’s a very common and extremely valid question to ask. And to cut right to the chase, there is no one or right answer to this question. And that’s for many reasons from you, the photographer to the subject and most importantly, to the story you want to tell with your photograph. But there is a focal length that gets used over and over again and I feel is the best one to start with.

Allen's Hummingbird

400mm, you simply can’t go wrong with this focal length however you get to it. It’s the focal length I started with and depended on for the first years of my career. It’s the lessons I learned from that lens and some of the images it created that got me to this point. You can get to this focal length in many ways, 300mm f/4 with a converter, 80-400mm, 200-400mm or a 400mm prime. No matter how you get there or which lens you have, you have the same angle of view and that’s key.

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Library Module Overview: Image Review and Toolbar

With Library Module holding such a large collection of tools, tabs and panels, there is no other way to write a proper, thorough overview article but to split it into several parts. In the first article, I did my best to talk about the left-side panel (or the Navigation Panel, if you like) and all its capabilities in detail. In this article, we will focus on the center section of the Library Module – mainly the Image Grid/Loupe View, and the Toolbar.

Library Module Overview Image Review and Toolbar

The center section of the Library Module shows the images that you’ve navigated to using the left-side panel, and provides the main way to review image files. There are a lot of things you can do using just this one section, so please bear with me while I try to explain it all. We start with the Image Grid, which basically dominates the center section of the Library Module.

1) Image Grid/Loupe View

This part of the Library Module is used to review the images, but its capabilities extend far beyond simple image display. One of the better things about it is the choice of Grid View and Loupe View modes. Loupe View is also present in Develop Module and basically shows a large preview of a selected image, but the Grid mode allows you to see several images at once and you can change the size of thumbnails to fit more images for quicker browsing, or less images to see them better. We will get to that a bit later. What matters now is that it basically makes the Film Strip redundant in Library Module as the Grid View is so much more practical to use.
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Lightroom Loupe View Options

In the previous Mastering Lightroom series article, “Lightroom Grid View Options”, we learned how to set-up Cells in Grid View so that they display the information of your choice. Grid View options are only available in Library Module, but that is not the only view mode available in Lightroom. In this article for beginners we are going to learn how to set-up Loupe View, which is available in Library Module and is also the default and only view mode in Develop Module.

Lightroom Loupe View Options

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Lightroom Grid View Options

In Lightroom, image information, such as Metadata, can be overlaid on a photograph in some Modules. It helps you find out information you might need at a glance, such as aperture and shutter speed at which that particular photograph was taken. Such information can be overlaid in Grid and Loupe View modes in Library Module, and Loupe View mode in Develop Module. In this article, I will discuss the Grid View options, which are available in Library Module only. Loupe View mode, which is available in Library and Develop Modules, will be discussed in detail in a follow-up article.

Lightroom Grid View Options

Lightroom Grid View Information Overlay

In Grid View mode, the additional information display modes are called Grid Extras. The Grid Extras are further split into Cell Extras, as there are two types of Cells – Compact Cells and Expanded Cells. You can set different information for both types of Cells and toggle between them by hitting “J” key while in Grid View mode. Doing so will toggle between bare Cells that show no Grid Extras at all except for Color Label; Compact Cells that show Flags, Star Ratings, Quick Collection Markers, Thumbnail Badges that show whether that particular file was edited, and an additional piece of information of your choosing; and, finally, Expanded Cells that show more additional information that you can specify, such as file dimensions, date the photograph was taken on and so on.

A side note: a Cell is the area that surrounds and contains image thumbnail along with additional information in Grid View mode, but is not the thumbnail itself.

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Popular Lens Combinations for Wedding Photography

When asked what gear I use most for my work, I will first of all give tribute to the classic fifty and talk about how useful and versatile it is for my style of shooting. And yet I would never willingly rely on that lens alone, no matter how much I liked it. Nor should someone else, really. In this follow-up article I will describe the two most popular lens combinations used among professional wedding photographers. Both of these lens combinations are enough to cover the biggest part of the wedding and, in that context, can be called workhorse lenses. One of the duos is used primarily by fixed focal length lens shooters, the other is very successfully used by photographers who largely prefer zoom lenses. Each of the combinations has their advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other, but whether one is better than the other remains very subjective. Please note that lens choices presented below are a result of a mini-research, where we asked a number of wedding photographers what two lenses were their favorite / most used.

Nikkor AF-D 85mm f1.4 Sample Image 1

While talking about these lens combinations, I will also try to objectively highlight their biggest strengths and weaknesses when compared to each other.

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Lightroom Interface Customization Tips

I remember describing Photoshop’s versatility and sophistication as both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it is a very powerful piece of software with so many different and versatile tools, its capability is only limited by the user’s skill. On the other hand, such complexity can also be overwhelming and detract one’s attention, slow down simple tasks. This trait, to an extent, is also shared by Photoshop’s little sibling, photography-centered Lightroom. Although it is that much more specialized, there’s still a plethora of tools, panels and tabs which can, at times, make the post-processing experience somewhat… messy.

Lightroom Interface Customization Tips

Thankfully, it would seem the team of developers behind Adobe Photoshop Lightroom are trying to do their best to make Lightroom as simple and fast as possible. Thus a certain amount of customization is available. You won’t be able to completely redesign the software, but getting rid of some things you find unnecessary is very much possible. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to purify your workflow and hide some of the functionality that you might find yourself rarely using, so as to not get detracted from the things you use most.

A side note: read our “Lightroom Loupe View Options” and “Lightroom Grid View Options” articles to learn how to toggle and customize information overlays, which help you learn the most important information about a specific image at a glance.

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How to Email Photographs in Lightroom

As I’ve said time and time again, Lightroom is all about speed. And that’s the beauty of it. You can do so many things without actually needing to save the images as JPEG files on your computer, you hardly ever need to Export them at all. In this article, I will show you how to use Lightroom’s Email Photo function so that you can send any image in your Library by email without ever leaving Lightroom environment. It is quick, simple and very easy to set up, so if you’ve never used the feature but tend to send image files by email frequently, you should definitely try it out.

How to Email Photographs in Lightroom

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Lightroom Library Module Overview: the Navigation Panel

On our way to mastering Lightroom, we have already learned how to successfully Import images into your Catalog, work with Filename Template Editor and even understand how Lens Corrections work, among other things. Yet someone new to Lightroom will notice that we’ve missed several vital steps in our attempts to explain the software from start to finish, and so it is time to get back to those steps. In this article we will talk about one of the two most used Modules in Lightroom – Library. More specifically, we will overview the functionality of the left-side panel, the rest of the Module will be covered in two upcoming articles shortly afterwards.

Library Module Overview Left-Side Panel

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When to Use Flash

Some photographers oppose the idea of using flash or light modifiers. Sometimes because it does not suit their style, sometimes because they do not feel comfortable using flash in first place. While we as photographers often love the feel of soft, natural light, knowing how to utilize artificial light can be of tremendous value in low-light environments. Not to mention that such knowledge and being ready to overcome challenging tasks in pretty much any environment can boost confidence and give peace of mind when working in the field. In this article, I would like to go over situations when flash should be used and how it can work to our advantage. I divided this article into indoor and outdoor photography to make it easy for everyone to follow. Please feel free to add your use cases in the comments section below. Please note that I am not going over the basics of flash photography here – the article assumes that you understand the relationship of flash with ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.

When to use flash (13)

1) Indoors

1.1) Lighting Ballrooms, Churches, Wedding / Corporate Reception Areas

As a working professional, one should have at least the basic lighting plan to be able to capture the day with ease. High-end DSLRs may be flexible enough to capture images in poorly lit environments, but it is a game of compromises. If light levels are too low, you will have to deal with blurry images due to motion blur / camera shake, or you will have to increase ISO level too high, which obviously increases noise, messes up colors and greatly reduces dynamic range. In short, you are leaving very few options for post-processing. In order to avoid that and potentially reduce your post-processing time and other headaches, why not use flash instead? You can start out with a simple configuration, with flash mounted on your camera, or you could get more creative and use flash in an off-camera setup to make images appear more dramatic and well-balanced.

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