Videography Is the New Photography By Todd Hatakeyama

Videography Is the New Photography

By Todd Hatakeyama

If “orange is the new black,” then videography is the new photography, at least for this cameraman. With the technology of visual entertainment zooming headlong into the digital realm, where YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat videos on the internet are rapidly supplanting the still photos of print media, I find that videography now offers me better exposure and more interesting creative challenges than shooting photos.

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Not that I won’t always love photography. I shot weddings and portraits as a pro for years, then switched to landscapes and travel photos just for fun when my main business became selling photo and video lighting and accessories, like the Street Strap and Micro Lens Pouches, on Amazon.com. In the process, I strived to learn everything I could about photography, taking workshops from some famous National Geographic photographers and world class street photographers. I traveled the world and made some great photos along the way. But as visual and online media have evolved, my focus has shifted in order to challenge myself and stay relevant in this fast-changing art form.

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Of course, making movies has long been a dream of mine. Back in college, I attempted to write a screenplay with a friend, and I would have loved to go to film school. But breaking into Hollywood has always been extremely difficult, and shooting a celluloid independent movie at the time was prohibitively expensive. The pressure to earn a living grew as I aged, so I got a boring corporate job and my dreams of filmmaking faded.

As the video capability of cameras and smartphones has increased in recent years, more and more people have begun to dabble in video production, with many enterprising amateurs achieving widespread fame and financial success. With the advent of HD quality and digital desktop computer editing, anyone with a DLSR, or even a good point and shoot or smartphone can now become an armchair Spielberg. A relatively modest investment in camera and audio equipment and software can enable you to make a professional-looking video.

Furthermore, the internet offers videographers multiple distribution channels and access to a potential audience of millions of people. No longer must aspiring filmmakers hustle their way into film fests like Sundance and Telluride just to get their work seen; now they can simply upload their work and share it with the world. The shift from watching traditional television to viewing content on mobile devices will only increase the prominence of do-it-yourself videographers. I particularly enjoy Casey Niestat’s YouTube channel, which I watch daily; his editing is outstanding and he comes up with some entertaining content. Indeed, lately I’ve been watching more YouTube than TV, mostly by travel vloggers like Mark Weins, Kara and Nate, and Kyle Le. Seeing them travel to exotic countries and eat amazing food helped motivate me to make the switch from photography to videography.

I’d often been tempted to try videography in the past, but I found the process intimidating. I’d shot some video before, but never really knew how to create a polished production. Video editing always scared me because it seemed so much more complicated than editing photos. Although I watched countless tutorials on how to use Final Cut Pro X, how to shoot footage, how to make documentaries, and so on, I was still not confident with editing. Then I took a four-day videography and editing workshop given by Aron Ranen, and a light went on in my head. I finally understood how to get the footage I needed and how Final Cut Pro X could let me put it together into a coherent visual experience. I couldn’t wait to get home and start making videos.

My knowledge of lighting and composition from photography has helped, but there’s so much more to think about in videography: B-roll, motion, sound, and soundtrack music are all new to me. Since my main camera was the Sony A7rII, I figured I could just start shooting, but quickly learned that good video requires a lot more gear. Some videographers say that sound is even more important than visuals in video footage, so I now own several microphones and sound recorders and am still trying to perfect how to capture quality sound.

Camera movement also has a huge impact on a video’s overall impression. Many videos online are virtually unwatchable because of their shaky footage. That’s why I initially favored the Sony HDR-CX675 camcorder with a floating lens with 5 axis stabilization. Last week, however, I made the decision to sell the Sony A7rII and Sony HDR-CX675, and switch to the Canon XC15 4K Professional Camcorder, which should pair well with my Canon C100 Cinema camera. The new XC15 is much lighter and more compact than the C100, has 5 axis stabilization in 1080p, and adds 4K. I’m hoping it will give a more professional and cinematic look to my videos than the Sony camcorder. I also like using the Evo Pro Gimbal with the GoPro, which is very smooth for pans and general motion.

One of the most difficult transitions I’ve had to make in terms of technique is to slow down while shooting. With photography, I would take a few shots and move on. In videography, though, I need to hold my shots for at least 10 to 20 seconds so I have a few good seconds of usable footage for each scene when editing. I’ve also learned the hard way the importance of shooting more B-roll footage—the varied assortment of shots that video makers use to cover edits and serve as cutaways during the main continuity video of interviews, performances, and so on. When it comes time to sit down and edit, I never seem to have enough B-roll material, so, again, I have to remind myself during shooting to slow down and take time during a scene to think about what other shots I need to get. The more shot variety you have, the better: close ups, medium shots, and wide-angle shots all help you to transition smoothly so your edits don’t look like jump cuts.

It’s only been three months since I started my venture into videography, and I hope the videos have been getting better as I’ve progressed. I’ve gotten good tips from some experienced editors, and that’s helped me become more comfortable and confident in polishing the final product. Oddly enough, my biggest challenge so far has been appearing and speaking in my own videos. Though I love being behind the camera, I’ve never felt comfortable in front of it, but I’m working on being more telegenic!

With my photography, I shot for years before I took a photo I thought was really good. Every photographer goes through a similar progression: your friends and family like your work, then other photographers, then (hopefully) great photographers. I expect a similar learning curve with videography, so I figure it’s going to take a while for me to find my style and create some really top-notch videos.

I am up for the challenge. Videography has given me new motivation to get out and shoot. So far, I’ve taken ten trips in the past three months, and have scheduled upcoming trips to Tokyo, New Orleans, South East Asia, and Iceland, among other places. I’m even considering visiting all 59 National Parks next year. In addition, I’m picking up some corporate video work and wedding shoots as a side business. I don’t really want to pursue videography as a career, but its nice way to pay for my new gear. Overall, it’s been a fun process that reminds me of my days as a fledgling photographer, where every shot I took was a new and exciting experience.

Now, I’m ready to roll with videography. Lights…camera….ACTION!

P.S. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for new videos!

17 Comments

  1. Videos seem more in accordance to our times, but photography is an independent medium. It’s really a very different thing.
    Good effort to achieve your goal in any case.

  2. I am not involved in video or cinematography but I, and pretty much anyone who does this for a living, can vouch for every significant point you made. For instance, not a lot of people realise that audio quality is arguably more important than image quality. Even if you just learn a few basic about audio, you’re going to improve your product immensely.

    The photos you’ve shown here are great, especially the one of the wind turbines. I haven’t watched the video yet, although I would love to see all 59 national parks. That would be a heck of a trip.

    I don’t like the word ‘videography’ but I am not sure how else you can distinguish this from cinematography, which is a different thing.

    Also, those GoPro cameras are stupid and I’ll never use one. Yes, they are used in big productions but they shouldn’t be.

    You may have heard that Vine is going to shut down soon. It’s my favourite playground and I’ll be sorry to see it go. It makes Instagram look clunky by comparison. But why am I bringing it up? Because Vine videos are, for the most part 6 seconds long. You have 6 seconds to make your point. In fact, Instagram videos cannot go for longer than 60 seconds, which is a good thing.

    There are few things more unappealing than the thought of watching some boring non-stop YouTube video of someone riding a mountain bike with an action camera stuck to their helmet. No, thanks. The things on YouTube that interest me can have good production values, but not always.The content is usually philosophical and one of my favourite vloggers uses a rather crappy web cam. But she’s not trying to win an Oscar.

    Some vloggers use animation, which I would argue is more interesting, at least where philosophy goes (which would include society, politics, religion, science etc.). There’s no need to worry about cameras, lighting, or anything like that. I’d say an understanding of basic graphics are more valuable than shooting 8K on a RED (which I admit are awesome cameras!).

    A final thought, which actually is the more important one for me: eventually there will be no real difference between video and photo cameras. The Sony RX100 V is almost there. The RED cameras are there today, but they’re a bit big for someone used to shooting mirrorless bodies and rangefinders.

    But soon enough, someone, maybe RED themselves, though I think Sony will be the first, will release a camera that is a comfortable size for photographers that shoots 24fps or more in RAW, in complete silence. Once that happens, DSLRs, or what’s left of them, will be dead. Because a DSLR cannot shoot in silence and they cannot pre-record.

    BlackMagic almost has a camera like this, in the BMPCC. It’s only HD, but is the size of something like an A6000. It has a Micro 4/3 mount and shoots 24fps in RAW or ProRes. Not good enough for photography. But it’s a taste of what is to come.

    And that was my 2 cents. YMMV. And thank you for the thought-provoking article. 🙂

    • Thanks Karim, I was surprised that Vine was ending. Maybe something with 20 seconds would be better? That’s about how long my attention span is usually. I wish the RX100 V had an audio output, I would have gotten that for a lightweight vlogging camera. So far the Canon XC15 has some nice features, but is lacking in low light capability, but I’ll just have to start using lighting more often, even though I sell lighting for a living, I rarely use it.

  3. Great article. I agree that providing video as a transition from shooting stills can enliven one’s career and billable opportunities. Clients are increasingly interested in movement of any kind, especially on their web sites’ to promote their product or service. It’s a slow transition for me, learning as I go. The biggest challenge a number of my peers seem to be facing is the client that really doesn’t want to pay a commensurate amount for the additional expertise that’s required to produce a meaningful video. They book you for a still assignment and “oh by the way, let’s throw in some video using your dslr”. Yikes!

    • Chris, it is challenging to find clients to pay a descent amount for video. I think it will be similar to photography where everyone wants their friend with a dslr to do it for free, end up with horrible results, then eventually pay someone to do it right.

  4. Video replacing still photography (I don’t think so)

    I don’t know how many videos I have started watching and simply turned off from boredom at least with a photo you can look and if no interest go to the next by the same photography and usually 1 or 2 will take your interest. (You mess up the first 2 minutes you turn off and don’t go back to that person again)

    Don’t get me wrong watching Axl Rose front up with AC/DC at Madison Square Gardens on you tube is great but photographers posting videos, not for me.

    • Ian, for me it’s replacing photography, probably not for most others. As I said in the article, I’m just starting out, so there’s so much to learn. I get bored very quickly too, so I’m trying to find interesting content that I would want to watch, it’s not easy, but it’s a learning process as with everything.

  5. Excellent!
    Some subjects, like water, always look disappointing in stills but come alive in movies.
    I use Leica SL and Røde stereo x microphone.
    My goal has been to achieve image quality in video that matches what I was achieving with my Hassy after sixty years in photography.
    I use Final Cut Pro X, which is very much faster and easier to use that its competitors. It does everything I need, apart from colour correction. That has been solved with the excellent Color Finale plugin. I have discovered that managing colour is easier in making films than in making photographic prints. Why? Because the film industry has put more effort into colour management. It has standards, and tools that use them, from camera through to cinema projector.
    And, yes, 4K does make a difference when viewing on a 2K screen. Nyquist and all that. Have a look at my “Messing about on boats” at Vimeo.com/Goff/boats.
    Migrating from photography to videography is a challenge. Making films involves a much wider range of skills than still photography. But it is very rewarding.
    Goff

  6. Excellent!
    Some subjects, like water, always look disappointing in stills but come alive in movies.
    I use Leica SL and Røde stereo x microphone.
    My goal has been to achieve image quality in video that matches what I was achieving with my Hassy after sixty years in photography.
    I use Final Cut Pro X, which is very faster and easier to use that its competitors. It does everything I need, apart from colour correction. That has been solved with the excellent Color Finale plugin. I have discovered that managing colour is easier in making films than in making photographic prints. Why? Because the film industry has put more effort into colour management. It has standards, and tools that use them, from camera through to cinema projector.
    And, yes, 4K does make a difference when viewing on a 2K screen. Nyquist and all that. Have a look at my “Messing about on boats” at Vimeo.com/Goff/boats.
    Migrating from photography to videography is a challenge. Making films involves a much wider range of skills than still photography. But it is very rewarding.
    Goff

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