- Set up your gear and compose your shot.
- Switch your lens to manual focus.
- Turn the focus ring to focus on your subject, checking your framing and composition as you do so on your camera's LCD.
- Then, use the LCD to zoom in on your focal point to ensure everything is sharp.
- Start recording.
- A single, long shot is boring.
- A DSLR or mirrorless camera doesn't have the battery life to take a long, continuous shot.
- Many cameras will overheat if they record video too long.
- It's virtually impossible to get a "perfect" take in one shot.
One of the great features of today's DSLR cameras is that they aren't just for shooting still photos anymore.
When I started in photography, video wasn't an option on my camera, but it seems today that even very basic entry-level camera bodies have some video functionality.
Higher-end cameras have full HD or 4K video capabilities, making it easier than ever for photographers to foray into the world of videography.
Of course, just like it takes practice, patience, and know-how to create a great photo, it takes the same to create a great video.
In looking at your first attempts at shooting video with your DSLR, you might notice that the results aren't that good.
After all, you have to do much more than just press the record button or have the right gear to get a high-quality video.
This article is all about helping you achieve video greatness, or, at least, get better videos than you have in the past.
Here's a quick list of things you need to know if creating better videos with your DSLR is in your future.
Learn How to Manually Focus the Lens
The beauty of lenses today is that they have automatic focusing that, more often than not, works just fine for still images.
When shooting video, the opposite is often true - autofocus just doesn't hack it.
For starters, autofocus can have trouble acquiring a moving target. Autofocus can also be very loud depending on the lens - loud enough that it's picked up by the microphone.
Needless to say, that can be distracting.
To get the best results, you'll need to learn how to manually focus the lens. See the benefits of doing so (and learn a couple of other ways to use focus when shooting video) in the video below by First Man Photography:
Doing so gives you much more creative control over how your videos look and feel.
If you're not familiar with using manual focus, here's what to do:
The above steps work great for stationary subjects, but what about when the subject is moving?
In that case, the key is to practice tracking the subject - and practice a lot.
Perhaps the easiest movement to practice recording is when the subject is parallel to the camera. That means you can acquire focus and leave it as you move alongside the subject at a fixed distance.
Once you have that mastered, then move on to tracking subjects that are moving closer to you or further away.
Audio Makes the Video
Far too many beginning videographers forget that video isn't all about video.
Sound is an essential component too.
No matter how beautiful the video footage, if the sound isn't just as beautiful, you might as well not bother sharing your final product.
That means not relying on your camera's built-in microphone and outfitting yourself with a high-quality microphone that will get you the audio results you need to match your gorgeous video.
For me, there is no better microphone for DSLR video than Sound Shark, which is pictured above.
Sound shark microphones give you excellent sound quality both close-up and far away.
From six feet away, Sound Shark gets you results that sound like your subject is using a lapel microphone. That means you don't have to shove your microphone in your subject's face, but can instead be a comfortable distance away without losing sound quality. In fact, you get better quality from further away than a shotgun mic.
Speaking of shooting hand held, Sound Shark might be ultra powerful, but it's also extremely lightweight. That gives you even more flexibility to maneuver around to get the sequences you want without having a ton of gear in tow. Learn more about Sound Shark in the video below:
Just attach Sound Shark to your camera's hot-shoe mount, and you're ready to get the audio that your video deserves with minimal background noise and reduced wind noise.
I have a few videos from back in the day that from a footage standpoint aren't that bad. But man, the audio ruins it!
Had I had a Sound Shark back then, those videos might see the light of day today.
No matter if you simply want to create videos of family gatherings, start a YouTube channel, or use your video skills to supplement your photography income, don't neglect the audio like I did - get a high-quality external microphone so you can create the awesome videos you envision.
Break Your Recordings Into Sequences
When I've shot video with my DSLR and mirrorless bodies, I've found that I try to get the whole thing in one take.
I suppose that's admirable, but in terms of a good video-shooting workflow, that's just not the best way to go about it.
The problem with trying to get a single take is fourfold:
Rather than putting undue pressure on yourself, your subject, and your gear, try breaking your video into smaller sequences.
That will help you avoid all of the four issues listed above.
Most importantly, with multiple sequences, you can vary the distance from you to the subject, the perspective from which you shoot, and the duration of the sequences.
Doing so will make for a much more interesting video to watch (and a more manageable one to create). Then your video becomes more of a story that results from all the individual components, rather than being an ultra long single take that bores people to death.
In the end, creating top-notch DSLR videos is a lot like creating top-notch photos - it takes time, practice, and know-how.
Combined with taking control of focus yourself and pairing your DSLR with an excellent microphone, you've got the know-how for creating better videos with your DSLR. Now it's just time to get out there and practice!