ikan Photography Articles

2019 Best Lights for Photographers

2019 best lights for photographers

Since photography is all about good light, one of the most important things you can have in your camera bag is a top-notch light.

Now, I know what you’re thinking - using artificial lights is expensive and time-consuming and difficult to learn.

And maybe that was true back in the day when you had to invest in big, heavy lighting gear to get the job done.

But these days, there are all kinds of small, portable, and affordable lights for photographers that make it far simpler to get just the right light for your photos.

That being the case, let’s check out the best lights for photographers that we’ve tested in 2019.

Hakutatz Pocket Size RGB+AW LED Light

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As its name indicates, this little light fits in your pocket, but don’t let its small size fool you…

With amber, white, and RGB LEDs, you can come up with virtually any kind of light you need for your photos.

Add visual interest and drama with any color of the spectrum using the RGB lights or get the perfect white balance using the amber or white lights.

Editor's Note: The Hakutatz Kickstarter campaign was a huge success! Their Amazon store will be open and ready for orders in early December.

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Whatever the case, you can fine-tune the settings using the companion app. That means that with a simple touch or swipe of your finger, you can adjust the RGB color, the color temperature, special effects, and even control multiple lights at the same time. 

You can adjust saturation and brightness, too, so you don’t need to invest in other lighting gear like diffusers or softboxes. All you need is in this one little portable light!

Learn more about the Hakutatz Pocket Size RGB+AW LED Light

PilotFly AtomCube RX1 RGBCW LED Video Light

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When considering what lights made this list of the best lights of 2019, one of the first to come to mind is the little guy shown above.

The AtomCube RX1 from PilotFly is another excellent example of how far lighting for photography and videography has come in the last few years.

Not only is this a key light in your pocket, but it’s also packed with features that will help you achieve your creative vision.

For example, it has nine common lighting scenarios built right in, that way you can quickly and easily implement a lighting scheme. Likewise, it offers tons of adjustments, from the color temperature to the brightness to the color saturation.

This light is also fully dimmable from 0-100 percent, so you can truly get the precise level of light you need for the shot or video sequence you’re working on.

For example, it has nine common lighting scenarios built right in, that way you can quickly and easily implement a lighting scheme. Likewise, it offers tons of adjustments, from the color temperature to the brightness to the color saturation.

This light is also fully dimmable from 0-100 percent, so you can truly get the precise level of light you need for the shot or video sequence you’re working on.

If you need to create a more elaborate lighting setup, PilotFly has you covered because you can link up to 255 AtomCubes together via Bluetooth. And don’t worry about the light not being consistent - these lights are calibrated so you get color tone and brightness that looks the same across multiple lights, especially when they’re mounted together using Magic Cubes.

You can then control all those lights using the AtomCube smartphone app. Literally with just a few taps of your phone, you can adjust brightness, change the color temperature, and create an unlimited number of groups of lights, all in real-time. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that when you’re multitasking at a photo shoot!

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The high-strength, all-aluminum frame makes this light super lightweight, yet incredibly durable, so it’ll be a solid companion and workhorse for you for years to come.

Add in a three-hour battery life on full power, a CRI of 95+, a TLCI of 97, and a variety of lighting accessories to expand your creative possibilities even further, and you begin to see just what a high-quality, reliable light this thing is!

Learn more about the AtomCube RX1 RGBCW LED Video Light 

Litra Studio

Weighing in at just 33.5 ounces and measuring 5.5" x 3.9" x 2.9", this light is ultra-compact for easy transport, yet is capable of producing up to 3,000 lumens of continuous light and up to 6,00 lumens of flash. Nice!

Better still, the light is fully dimmable, tunable, and offers CCT, HSI, RGBWW, gel presets, flash modes, and effects as well.

It CCT mode, the light gives you 2,000-10,000K adjustable bi-color lighting with a green and magenta color shift control to allow for tunable blue and green screen optimization.

 It also offers flicker-free lighting at all shutter angles and features a 97 CRI and TLCI color accuracy.

With a rugged, waterproof design, efficient passive thermal management, and up to 20 hours of battery life on the lowest setting, this light is one of the best lights for photographers this year, hands down. 

Learn more about the Litra Studio

Andycine Boling P1 RGB Pocket LED Light

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Designed for video use, the Andycine Boling P1 is pocket-sized for easy transport and has a 360-degree mount to make manipulating the direction of light a quick and simple task.

In RGB mode, the light gives you 360 unique colors so you can get just the right light for each situation.

Color temperature is adjustable - from 2500-8500K - giving you the ability to match any ambient light sources. There are also nine built-in special effects, including candles, car lights, and lightning.

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The rechargeable battery will give you over two hours of continuous use and has a built-in feature that prevents overheating.

This light is fully dimmable, has a CRI of 96 and a TLCI of 97, and has a ¼-20” shoe mount for easy mounting.

Learn more about the Andycine Boling P1 RGB Pocket LED Light

iLED 144 Bi-Color Flood Light

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Another option for an affordable light for your photography work is the iLED 144 Bi-Color Flood Light.

This unit is just over 5 x 3 inches in size, so it offers excellent portability while also offering high-quality LED lighting.

Its solid construction means you get a light that's durable and reliable, and that will offer professional-grade performance for the long-term.

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It utilizes energy-efficient bi-color LEDs and a 60-degree angle that gives you the reliable, consistent lighting you need to elevate the quality of your photos.

You can quickly and easily adjust the dimmer as well as the color temperature (from 3200-5600K) so you can dial in just the right lighting too!

This stackable on-camera light is also an affordable option that won't break the bank. What's not to like about that?!

Learn more about the iLED 144 Bi-Color Flood Light

Litra Torch LitraPro

As I noted in my LitraPro review, this little light is one of the smallest you can buy at just 6 ounces and measuring 2.75 x 2 x 1.2 inches. 

But Litra has packed 60 LEDs into this light, which gets you 1200 lumens of light for your photos.

The light is flicker-free, crisp, even, and very clean, which is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to getting high-quality light for your photos and videos!

The LitraPro offers bi-color light and has an adjustable color temperature of 3,000-6,000K so you can customize the lighting for each specific shot. 

It has a 70-degree beam angle, is waterproof up to 90 feet, and has a 10-hour battery life on low output. 

Add to that MIL-SPEC 810 durability, a bright OLED display, and Bluetooth control, and you have the makings of one of the best small photography lights you can get your hands on!

Learn more about the Litra Torch LitraPro

Aputure 120D II

If it’s a powerful studio light that you’re after, the Aputure 120d II performed very well in our review.

With a 1000-watt tungsten equivalent, fully dimmable light, and a CRI & TLCI of 97+, this light gives you beautifully clean output.

It comes with many different built-in lighting effects that enable you to create a more custom and interesting look in your images.

It has an integrated power and control box, which helps minimize clutter in your studio, and with an 18dB quiet fan, you won’t have to listen to a loud fan as you try to work with your clients.

I had the original 120d and while it was an excellent light, this one takes its spot on this list of the best lights for photographers because it’s 25 percent brighter than the original. It’s color temperature is also slightly warmer (5500K rather than 6000K) which I particularly like. 

Add in a wireless remote, DMX controls, and good portability, and you have a light that ticks all the boxes for a quality addition to your studio.

Learn more about the Aputure 120d II

LitraTorch 2.0 

This is yet another light I’ve reviewed this year that left me really impressed.

Not to be outdone in the smallness department, the LitraTorch 2.0 is by far the smallest light on this list, measuring 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.65 inches and weighing just 3.17 ounces. 

In terms of portability, that’s hard to beat!

This light has 16 LEDs that offer 100, 450, or 800 lumens depending on what you need for the shot.

Regardless of the lumen output, you’ll get clean, crisp, flicker-free light with a 70-degree beam angle. As you’d expect from one of the best lights for photographers in 2019, this one offers a CRI of 90+ and a TLCI of 92.

You can use the light on its low setting for up to four hours or get about 35 minutes of output on the maximum brightness.

It’s also waterproof to 60 feet in case you need to do a little scuba diving, has a magnet for easily attaching to metal surfaces, and two ¼-20 mounts too.

Like the other lights on this list, the LitraTorch 2.0 is simply a versatile, do-anything light!

Learn more about the LitraTorch 2.0

Aputure Amaran AL-M9

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Rounding out my list of the best lights for photographers in 2019 is this little guy, the Aputure Amaran AL-M9.

This daylight-balanced LED light offers surprising brightness for such a small fixture.

It has a color temperature of 5500K and comes with a removable diffuser, CTO, and CTB filter. There are 9 steps of dimming as well.

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The integrated battery gives you about two hours of runtime on full brightness when fully charged, and it can be charged quickly using the optional USB charger.

There are multiple mounting options as well, including as a cold shoe accessory or on a ¼-20 mounting point.

And at $45.00, it’s the cheapest light on this list!

Learn more about the Aputure Amaran AL-M9

 



We Recommend


4 Must-Have Accessories for Shooting Video

4 Must Have Accessories for Shooting Video

Photo by Chris Murray on Unsplash

I’ve been building my camera equipment stockpile for well over a decade now, and I never feel like I have enough equipment for videography. 

Not only is there constantly something new and interesting I want to buy, but I always have new clients that want really specific, niche videos.  

But over the years, I’ve perfected my basic videography equipment set. Here are the things I think a videographer can’t live without. 

Table of Contents:

A Solid, Yet Portable Video Tripod

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Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

Tripods are incredibly important to a film shoot. They lend stability to your shots, allow you to pan and tilt your camera with ease, and prevent you from getting so wrapped up in your camera that you can’t direct the shoot. 

But, as we all know, all tripods are not alike.

I prefer my tripods to be on the lighter end of things, which allows me to save weight for more important equipment like my lenses. 

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You’ll also want to look out for a tripod with a fluid head that connects to a bowl (as shown above), which allows for your tripod to bear more weight while keeping your shot level on uneven ground. 

Rubber feet are the most typical feet you’ll see on a tripod, since they allow for a good grip on a variety of surfaces, but if you’re constantly shooting out of doors you may want to purchase spiked feet to keep in your bag too. 

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Ikan’s EK630 Tripod comes with all these features and more for just $170. It’s adjustable from 29” to 65”, comes with a carrying bag, and can support up to 8.8 pounds of equipment. 

It’s the perfect addition to my camera bag, along with my Canon EOS R and my growing collection of RF lenses.

With a small mirrorless system, I don’t need a big, bulky, heavy tripod to support my gear. Instead, the lightweight design with a mid-level spreader to add stability is just what the doctor ordered!

 

Recommended Videography Reading:

 

A Quality Variable ND Filter to Control Exposure 

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When it’s a bright, sunny day outside and you need to get some footage, you usually have to close the aperture way down to control the exposure of your video.

There’s a problem with this strategy, though - the smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field.

This isn’t a huge crisis, but depending on the type of video you’re shooting, you might want a nice, blurry background that helps separate the subject in the footage.

To keep the aperture nice and wide, and thereby minimize depth of field, you need a variable ND filter.

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The Kenko PL-Fader is an excellent option because it’s inexpensive, yet durably built to last you for years and years of shooting video.

It has two high-transparency polarizing film layers that give you control over how much light passes through the filter and into the lens.

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This is advantageous for controlling aperture, as mentioned above, but it’s also helpful for controlling the shutter speed. Specifically, if you want to slow down the shutter speed, the PL-Fader will help you do that. 

The easy adjustment knob makes changes to the filter’s light-stopping power a breeze, too, so you can concentrate on capturing the best-quality footage and not worry about complicated changes to your filter!

 

Editor's Tip: Get Kenko’s latest updates and access to promos for discounted gear. Click here to sign up.

 

A Durable, Bright Light

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 photo by goir via iStock 

I have this way of ending up in situations either without my lighting, or with a dead light. So, when you’re shopping for your lighting, make sure to choose one that has a long battery life.

You’ll also want to choose a light that you can throw around a bit. I’ve never dropped a camera, but pretty much everything else in my bag I’m really clumsy with. The problem is that most portable lighting feels really cheap. They’re made out of plastic and they break easily.

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To combat this, use a light from an established company, like Litra. They’re a go to for many videographers for a reason.

When you’re shopping around for your lighting, some other helpful features are waterproofing, different types of camera mounts, and warranties. 

I use the Litra Torch LitraPro, which I purchased off of Adorama for $220.

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I use this light, and specifically this company, for its 1-year warranty. Plus, the light is waterproof at up to 90 feet, it creates bright light across an entire room, and it lasts for up to 10 hours on one charge. 

Add to that full spectrum bi-color, Bluetooth compatibility, adjustable color temperature, and the ability to fully dim, and you have the makings of a top-quality light for video work!  

Learn More:

A Cinema Backpack to Carry It All

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There’s no reason for you to buy all of this gear if you don’t have a way to carry it around. I’ve extensively covered different videography bags over the years on PhotographyTalk, and found that, for the price, the Hex Glacier Cinema Backpack is my absolute favorite.  

Importantly, it’s large enough to fit all of my equipment, which is an asset I’ve struggled to find in the past.

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And no matter how much equipment I’m carrying, the backpack is comfortable because of its thick, padded straps that refuse to dig into my shoulders. 

It’s water resistant, has an abundance of pockets and other organization methods, and is completely customizable to your body type, too.

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This bag is beautifully built, impeccably designed, and offers easy access to all your gear for quick lens changes, swapping out batteries, and so forth.

I can tell that this backpack was created by a fellow videographer, and for $240 I wouldn’t recommend anything else.

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


5 Gadgets to Upgrade Your Mirrorless Camera

5 gadgets to upgrade your mirrorless camera

Photo by Michael Soledad on Unsplash

Your mirrorless camera is an incredible photography and videography tool. The capabilities of many of the current mirrorless cameras seem virtually boundless. In reality, though, they can’t do it all, not by themselves anyways. Adding some basic accessories can unlock more or your new camera’s potential. 

There are several formats of mirrorless cameras: MFT, such as cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, and Blackmagic. APS-C, with cameras from Fujifilm, Nikon, Sony, Canon, and others. Full-Frame, including Panasonic, Leica, Nikon, Sony, Canon, and Sigma. And several medium format sizes from Fujifilm, Hasselblad, and others. 

These accessories will fit and function on most of the mirrorless cameras. They will also fit, function, and enhance your DSLRs, too. Here are my top five picks for gadgets to upgrade your mirrorless camera. 

Table of Contents:

A Small But Mighty Filter Set

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The Haida M7 Filter Holder and Drop-In CPL filter is first on the list.

The Haida M7 filter system is an excellent way to have high-quality filters of several types to use on all of your different lenses regardless of the filter diameter of each lens. 

A kit would include the holder itself, whatever filters you choose such as a circular polarizer (CPL) and neutral density (ND) or graduated neutral density (GND), and the lens adapters for each size needed.

Instead of buying separate screw-in filters of each type for each lens size, you can get just one each of these high-quality filters and use them on each lens.

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A circular polarizer is one of the most useful items in our gear for improving our photos. Polarizers remove reflections from water, glass, plant leaves, and water vapor and dust in the sky. This results in darker skies with good contrast between sky and clouds, and it gives great color saturation and detail in landscape scenes with lots of foliage or water in the view. 

There are many reasons for using Haida ND and GND filters, too. Anytime you need to reduce the exposure value of a scene or balance the light and dark areas of a scene with a huge dynamic range, a neutral density filter will come in very handy. 

Learn More:

A Top-Shelf Gimbal for Video Work

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Ikan EC1 Beholder 3-Axis Gimbal is our next item. Our new mirrorless camera likely has a superb video mode, the only thing holding us back from truly outstanding video is probably our technique. 

High up on our technique concerns is camera stability. When shooting video, unnecessary camera movement during scenes can lower the appeal of our finished video. There’s not much you can do to fix that after shooting either, getting in right while filming is the best procedure.

While you likely already have a good video tripod, it’s when trying to film handheld that the issue is of greatest concern. One of the best options available for filmmakers is a gimbal stabilizer.

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Ikan’s EC1 is a powered 3-axis gyro stabilizer that can hold a camera rig weighing up to 4.5 pounds. Much better than the friction type inexpensive stabilizers, the next step up from this gimbal is a SteadyCam type of stabilizer which costs more than my wife’s car.  

The difference in using this gimbal than not is apparent right from the very start. Your videos will be so much smoother than simply holding it by hand could ever be. The cost is a bit more than you might have expected for a good-quality video tripod, but the payback is huge in terms of freedom of movement capturing usable footage.

 

Recommended Videography Reading:

 

A Next-Generation Camera Cover 

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Camera Canopy for mirrorless cameras is such a fantastic idea, I wonder why I didn’t invent it myself! Traditional rain covers can be a little bit fiddly to work with. What makes this rain cover so good is that it isn’t a big plastic bag you stuff the camera in. It’s more like an umbrella for your camera. 

Since your camera is not stuffed in a bag, you actually have clear access to all the regular controls, even a clear view of the viewscreen. My camera is water resistant, for the most part, but I’m still not comfortable with holding it under a running faucet, which is what rainstorms around here can be like. 

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But for a typical downpour type of rain, this canopy works great!

A Durable (and Budget-Friendly) Camera Strap

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The Holdfast HF Classic Strapis one pretty strap. It comes in two widths - a wide width that distributes the weight better and a slim width that some find more fashionable. 

One of the nice features of these straps is a leather shroud that fits over the stainless steel clasp.  This keeps the metal away from your camera body while also adding an extra layer of security concerning the quick release.

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Holdfast also makes a sling strap and a series of classic style camera bags. Most of their bags and straps are made from full-grain leather, some are made from synthetic material, depending on intended usage and style choices.

Whatever accessories you choose to buy from Holdfast, you’ll get a premium product that was hand-made in the U.S.A. And when you shoot with a small mirrorless camera, one of their hand-made HF Classic Straps is a must!

A Pocket-Sized LED Light

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The LitraTorch 2.0is a compact, battery-powered continuous LED light that is necessary for video recording since the built-in flash on your camera is not useful for video, only for still imaging.

The charge can last up to 7 hours in low power mode, about a couple of hours on high. It recharges via a USB cable. LED lights are the choice for most videographers needing portable lighting. They operate much cooler than quartz or incandescent bulbs and have a steady color balance.

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The LitraTorch is also very compact. If needed, you could mount this on the camera itself by means of the accessory/hot shoe. A small bracket is another option that videographers can use to hold the light in line with the camera. Since it runs cool, you could hold the light yourself in a pinch. 

As an added bonus, you can also pair this tiny light with a GoPro style action cam on a multi mount or a grip. I guess the GoPro counts as mirrorless, doesn’t it?!

Mirrorless Camera Upgrades Equal Upgraded Use

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Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash 

The primary reason to implement any of these upgrades is to better your ability to gather excellent video and superb still images. 

Many mirrorless cameras have superior video capabilities compared to the DSLRs of the same brand. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using your mirrorless camera, improvement is always available. Same thing applies to our still photography. 

Some of these gadgets are a virtual necessity for certain styles of videography and photography. Others make using an existing capability easier to accomplish. Try them out!

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


5 Landscape Photography Accessories You Can’t Live Without

5 Landscape Photography Accessories You Cant Live Without

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

There’s nothing like a crisp, cool morning, a cup of coffee and hours of shooting landscapes. I’m lucky enough to have travelled all over the world shooting landscapes for my clients, and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way.  

Namely, the landscape photography accessories you bring on any trip can make or break it. But, since there are thousands of landscape photography accessories, it can be difficult to choose which ones are important enough to drag all the way to Bolivia, or on an 8-hour hike through Glacier National Park.

This is an overview of the accessories for landscape photography that I always bring with me. 

Table of Contents

A Good Polarizing Filter

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photo by Алексей Филатов via iStock 

I write so much about polarizing filters on PhotographyTalk because they’re important in an age of Photoshop and Lightroom. 

Though I process my images as much as the next guy, nothing can replace the effect a polarizer can have on your images.  

Polarizing filters make the sky a deeper blue, reduce glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces, and they reduce atmospheric haze.

And there’s a reason you can now purchase a polarizing filter for your iPhone camera.

Now, it’s also important to remember that not all polarizing filters work the same…

a good polarizing filter

I always recommend Kenko when I’m discussing polarizing filters. The Kenko Nyumon Slim Circular Polarizer is cheap for its quality at $45. This polarizer is multi-coated to protect itself from the environment, think harsh wind that throws sand at it or inadvertent finger prints. 

It also features a mounting ring that never gets snagged, which is a godsend considering what working with cheaper polarizers means (spending 30 seconds screwing and unscrewing the filter onto your lens). 

This is a great example of “you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot.” A great polarizer is something everyone needs, and at this price point, you can afford it!

 

Editor's Tip: Get Kenko’s latest updates and access to promos for discounted gear. Click here to sign up.

 

Protection from the Elements 

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photo by Sandra Dombrovsky via iStock 

When you think about landscape photography accessories, chances are you’re thinking about how to prevent yourself from getting soaked and thinking less about how to prevent your equipment from getting soaked.

After all, everyone just uses that big plastic bag to prevent their cameras from getting rained on and you’re going to be miserable all day if you’re wet in near freezing conditions.

But, there are better options to protect your camera from the rain. 

protection from the elements

I bought a Camera Canopy a few years ago and never looked back. 

Camera Canopy is a technology that prevents both your DSLR and your mirrorless camera from getting rained on, snowed on or sleeted on. It’s made of two retractable shields, meaning you can adjust the length of protection as easily as you adjust your lens. 

It easily fastens onto your camera’s hot shoe and it gives you a complete free range of motion that plastic bags will never accommodate. 

Plus, Camera Canopy is a relatively cheap investment into your landscape photography at just $88 for your DSLR or $60 for your mirrorless. 

Learn More:

A Sturdy Tripod 

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Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash 

Have you ever had your tripod fall over with your camera attached? Sadly, I have and I’m now on a personal mission to make sure it never happens to another photographer. 

When you’re on top of a mountain, facing 40mph wind, just about anything can happen and I’m going to be more concerned for my own safety than the safety of my camera if it comes down to it. 

While I’m of course not advocating for shooting in dangerous weather conditions, sometimes these conditions produce the best photos, and for these times you need a heavy duty tripod in your landscape photography gear. 

a sturdy tripod

Ikan’s 2 Stage Aluminum Tripod is by far the best tripod for landscape photography I’ve ever found. 

First of all, it’s solid and structurally sound. It has multiple leg stages with individual leg locks at each. 

It also features incredible anti-slip pads/spike covers on each leg that can be removed when they aren’t needed.  

At $170, this tripod will last you a lifetime and do so without breaking the bank. 

A Bright, Compact Light

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Photo by 2 Bro’s Media on Unsplash 

While golden hour is the hotspot for landscape photographers, sometimes you just need to keep shooting. 

After all, there’s no sense in traveling as much as you do if you aren’t going to take complete advantage of it. 

While I use my LED light to fill the foreground for beautiful twilight shots, I also use LED lights to be a little more creative with light painting.

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Photo by Sean Pierce on Unsplash 

Light painting is the art of lighting up specific portions of your landscape at night, usually with an array of different colors, while capturing the night sky in the background.

It’s beautiful and a very specific niche in landscape photography that I think everyone should try at least once.

But, in order to do so you first need the light.

a bright compact light

Litra sort of rules the compact lighting game. Their Torch LitraPro is no different. It’s the LED light I have and it’s the one I recommend to all of my friends.

Firstly, you can control the light from an app on your phone, which is one of the first qualities I look for in a compact light. I want the equipment to do as much work as possible so I can focus on the photography.  

It’s only 5” long, so I can throw it in my camera bag, and it’s bi-color. It’s also a fully dimmable light.

Plus, Litra understands remote shooting better than most companies, so this light can last for up to 10 hours on one battery charge on low, or up to 1 hour on high. 

Finally, it’s waterproof. What’s not to love?  

Learn More:

A Weather-Resistant Camera Bag 

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While your canvas camera bag might work in the city, it’s not going to work in the snowy mountains of Colorado, and if you’re planning to do landscape photography for a long time then it may be time to upgrade. 

Out of all of these must-have landscape photography accessories, you’re not going to get very far without a weather-resistant camera bag. Think about it… there’s no point in protecting your camera while you’re shooting if you’re not protecting it while you’re traveling to and from your shoot site.

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Holdfast’s Sightseer Backpack is made out of waxed canvas and comes with waterproof zippers, so it keeps the rain out while still protecting your gear with fleece lining. 

This backpack is also the only camera bag in the world that comes with an integrated camera slider which allows you to have access to your camera at all times.  

While any Holdfast purchases are an investment, this Sightseer backpack, which is sold for $800, comes with a lifetime warranty. If you ask me, it’s a much better idea than buying a $100 bag every year for the rest of your life. 

Bonus: A Fun Way to Display Your Favorite Photos

Don't get me wrong...I love a nice, big print of a landscape photo.

But sometimes you need to switch things up a little bit and have ways to show off your best shots in a unique way. For me, that means using Snaptiles.

Just a couple of months ago, I talked about why Snaptiles won me over on my Best of 2019 list. In short, Snaptiles photo tiles offer an innovative way to display multiple photos without damaging your wall.

Here's how they work...

You attach an anchor piece to the wall using four adhesive strips. Then, you can add up to 12 Snaptiles photo tiles to the anchor image using the rare earth magnets in the tiles. In other words, you can have a complete photo display with zero holes in the wall to show for it. Nice!

If you want to create a much larger display of photo tiles, you can simply use the four thumbtacks you get with your Snaptiles to add more support. And those four thumbtacks enable you to display up to 30 images. That's not bad at all!

What's more, since the Snaptiles photo tiles are connected with magnets, you can create all kinds of shapes in your photo display. You can also change the way the photos are displayed as often as you like.

So, with a traditional large format print, you're "stuck" looking at the same image each day, which isn't a bad thing! But having the ability to look at up to 30 of your favorite landscape photos and having the ability to change how that display looks in a matter of minutes is an awfully attractive proposition, don't you think?

Get all the details on Snaptiles and see why these photo tiles are a must for displaying your landscape photos.

Learn More:

  



We Recommend


Awesome Camera Accessories for On-the-Go Photographers

Awesome Camera Accessories for On the Go Photographers

  photo bybortnikau via iStock

Whether you’re on the road because you love to travel or you’re doing it out of necessity for work, you want to have camera accessories that can come along with you without being a burden.

Fortunately, recent years have seen awesome camera accessories made available that are small and portable, yet still pack a mighty punch. 

Below, I’ve outlined a few of my favorite on-the-go camera accessories that will make your photography trips much easier.

Table of Contents

The LitraTorch 2.0 is a Must-Have for Travel Photographers 

If you’ve spent any amount of time learning about photography, you know that good light is the key to getting a good photograph.

And while it’s perfectly fine to label oneself as a “natural light photographer,” there are times when natural light just won’t cut it.

But if you need to be highly mobile, the last thing you want to do is carry around light stands, softboxes, diffusers, and all sorts of lighting gear. 

Instead, stay mobile and use the LitraTorch 2.0, an absolutely incredible light that will shock you with its power and quality of illumination.

 

I have this little guy (that’s it in the photo above, just above the lens) and it has been a Godsend as I get more and more into on-location work. 

It has 16 LEDs that put out 800 lumens of light. Considering it’s just 1.5 inches square, that’s an incredible amount of light!

Since it weighs just three ounces, it’s not like you’ll be bogged down with heavy gear, either.

In fact, you can pick up a handful of these things, throw them in your camera bag, and not notice a difference in the weight you’re carrying.

Better still, the LitraTorch 2.0 is adjustable, so you can set it at 100 lumens, 450 lumens, or 800 lumens to suit the situation. 

No matter the light output, this thing has beautiful, crisp, flicker-free light at a color temperature of 5700K. 

With a CRI of 90+ and TLCI of 92, you begin to get a picture of just how superb this little light really is!

Add in durable construction, waterproofness to 60 feet, a magnet for mounting it to metallic surfaces, and two ¼-20 mounts, and you have the makings of the perfect little light.

Learn more about the LitraTorch 2.0

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Save Space With the E-Image MA600 Monopod 

 e image monopod

A means of stabilizing the camera is a must for every photographer, but what you don’t want is a big, bulky, heavy tripod that you have to carry around from one shoot location to the next. 

The E-Image MA600 Monopod is a great solution for on-the-go photographers that simply don’t have room for a traditional tripod.

At just 3.1 pounds, this monopod is lightweight, and with just a single leg, it’s form factor is much smaller than a tripod, thereby giving you more room in your camera bag for other gear.

This monopod can support an astonishing 44 pounds of gear, so whether you have a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or a large video camera, you’ll get all the support you need.

Made of aluminum, the MA600 monopod is strong and durable, yet more budget-friendly than carbon fiber options. 

The flip-lock design of the leg locks makes setup a breeze and quick adjustments easy as well.

There’s a soft foam grip and a strap at the top of the monopod to give you multiple points of securing it while shooting. 

It can extend to nearly 75-inches yet folds down to little more than 25-inches for easy transport. And with a base that spreads 16-inches, this monopod offers superb stability, even if you’re panning to track a subject.

Learn more about the E-Image MA600 Monopod

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Step Up Your Photography Game With a Haida NanoPro Circular Polarizing Filter

When you’re on the move, it’s important to shed weight when you can. 

One of the ways I’ve done that as of late is to ditch my giant filter kit and roll with just one filter - my Haida NanoPro Circular Polarizer. 

Of all my filters, this one is the most invaluable simply because of the many benefits I gain from using it.

travel photography accessories

 photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock 

As all polarizers do, this thing boosts contrast in the sky, minimizes glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces, and reduces atmospheric haze.

In all these cases, my landscape photos benefit from stronger colors, improved clarity, and gorgeous contrast. 

But not all polarizers are made alike, so it’s important to invest in one that offers the highest-quality results. Haida does just that.

The NanoPro coating on this filter offers a number of benefits, including making cleaning an easier task. That’s because dust, dirt, smudges, and moisture are repelled thanks to ten (yes...ten!) layers of coatings.

What’s more, the NanoPro coating has anti-reflective properties to ensure your photos are as clean and crisp as possible.

With high-quality optical glass, a lightweight 5mm aluminum mount, and side knurling that allows for easier and more precise adjustments, this polarizer is definitely a camera accessory that takes up very little space in your bag, but is worth its weight in gold.

Learn more about the Haida NanoPro Circular Polarizing Filter

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Carry Tons of Gear Without Feeling Weighed Down With the HEX Ranger Sling Bag

ranger 1

When you’re ready to head to points unknown, you need a camera bag that can fit loads of gear, but that isn’t big and bulky and difficult to carry.

Enter the HEX Ranger DSLR Sling Bag…

I have to say that I was completely blown away by this bag the first time I laid eyes on it when I met the folks behind HEX at their Los Angeles offices.

I’ve been a Peak Design guy for a long time, and if you know Peak Design, you know the quality that they put out.

But, man, HEX has taken it to another level! 

ranger 2

For starters, it’s a compact bag at just 1.3 pounds and 14.5"L x 7.25"W x 4.75"H, yet I can fit everything from my 10 liter Peak Design Sling Bag into this 8 liter Ranger bag.

Why?

It’s simple - HEX has eliminated all the unused space from this bag, which gives you tons of carrying capacity without the bulk.

But don’t think that because it’s slim and trim that it isn’t loaded with features.

ranger 3 

This bag has collapsible interior dividers that allows you to customize what gear you carry. The dividers can fold up or be removed completely, which allows the bag to lay completely flat. That’ll come in handy on your travels, for sure!

There are pockets galore, too, including a front-access organizer for the small things you need, a faux fur-lined sleeve for your tablet, and tons of velcro stash pockets. There’s even side adjustable load straps and an adjustable bottom carry strap to bring along more gear when you need it!

ranger 4

Perhaps the best thing about this bag is how it fits.

It’s snug to your body, so it doesn’t knock around as you walk, nor does it pose a threat to slide off and hit someone as you pass by.

It’s super easy to adjust and grab your gear thanks to the YKK zippers with metal pulls. The genuine Cordura material is great looking and durable too.

HEX simply impressed the heck out of me with this bag, which is why it’s my go-to travel bag now!

Learn more about the Hex Ranger DSLR Sling Bag

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Save Time Editing With Exposure X5

young asian freelancer woman finishing up with work picture id994011230photo by lechatnoir via iStock

I enjoy editing my photos as much as the next guy, but when I'm on the go, I don't want to be in the hotel room slumped over my computer editing photos for hours on end. Instead, I want to be out exploring and shooting!

Exposure X5 lets me do that thanks to its ability to streamline my workflow when it comes to organizing and editing my photos.

In particular, there are three features (there are many, many more features, by the way) I especially like that make this some of my favorite photography software...

First, I appreciate the fact that Exposure includes hundreds of presets (like the one shown below). This enables me to add looks to my photos with just one click. In many situations, the presets are just what the doctor ordered, but if I need to tweak them, I can do so quickly and easily.

I can also save the presets that I customize and reuse them again in the future. How cool is that?!

exposure portrait preset

Second, Exposure is just dead-easy to use with an intuitive layout that makes editing images a breeze.

If need be, you can customize the workspace to better suit your needs, too. On top of that Photoshop and Lightroom plug-in support is included so you can more seamlessly migrate your images into Exposure.

The third feature I really love about Exposure X5 is that it allows you to quickly transition from editing images to organizing images without having to switch modules.

Speaking of organizing, you can create smart collections of images based on criteria you specify and use keywords for further organization. You can even choose to retain or remove keywords during image export and import keyword sets directly from Lightroom.

In other words, Exposure X5 is simply a well-designed, beautifully thought-out photo editor and management system all bundled into one easy-to-use workspace.

When you're on the go and time is of the essence, you can't ask for more from your imaging software!

Get a free 30-day trial of Exposure X5 to see just how awesome it is.



We Recommend


Beginner Videography Terms You Need to Know

beginner videography terms you need to knowPhoto by EvgeniyShkolenko via iStock

While making videos is certainly a creative process like photography, it also has a very technical side (just like photography!).

That means that when you're just starting out and exploring the possibilities of video, there are some essential videography terms with which you'll need to be familiar.

Below, I've outlined some of the most basic videography terms that you'll encounter as you explore filmmaking.

Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio refers to the relationship between the width and height of a video, and is expressed in a ratio.

Common aspect ratios for shooting videos with a DSLR or mirrorless camera include 4:3 and 16:9. Common aspect ratios for feature films include 1.85:1 and 2.39:1.

In these ratios, the first number refers to the width and the second number refers to the height.

See the difference between these and other aspect ratios in the video above by Camber Motion.

common videography terms

When shooting video, having a monitor that conforms to the selected aspect ratio can help you ensure that the footage is framed in the safe zone - or the area within which action and titles need to be contained for viewing on a screen.

Models like the Ikan Delta D7C shown above have this and many other features that are helpful for video production.

For example, you can toggle between mono colors (gray, red, green, and blue) and use color peaking for adjusting focus.

Additionally, frame markers allow you to superimpose a center crosshair as well as different frame lines over the image so you can perfect the composition of the shot.

B-Roll

B-Roll is supplemental footage you shoot that adds more details to the story. B-Roll also helps transition from one scene to the next such that it makes visual sense.

For example, if you're shooting an interview, and the interviewee is talking about a record-breaking fish they recently caught, B-Roll might include sequences of that person fishing that display while the voiceover of the interview is played.

BitRate

Bitrate refers to the amount of data that is used per second in the video. Bitrates are measured in megabits per second (mbps). The higher the bitrate, the better the quality of video.

Kellen Reck explains more about bitrates in the video above.

Close-Up

basic videography termsPhoto by mokuden-photos via iStock

Close-ups refer to footage that is shot with very tight framing of the subject.

These types of shots are used to provide richer detail to the video and bring a greater level of intimacy with the subject than medium and wide-angle sequences.

Color Temperature

Color temperature refers to the tones of the color of the visible light in video footage.

Color temperature is measured in Kelvin, where a lower value indicates warmer tones - oranges and yellows - while a higher value indicates cooler tones - blues and purples.

Crop Factor

Crop factor refers to the ratio of a camera's sensor size to a 35mm sensor.

Since 35mm sensors are full frame, they have a crop factor of 1:1. But many cameras have a crop sensor that might have a crop factor of anywhere from 1.3x to 2x.

For example, Nikon cameras that have a crop sensor have a crop factor of 1.5.

It's important to know the crop factor of your camera because it influences the effective focal length of the lenses you use.

So, if you have a 35mm lens, but you shoot with a camera with a 1.5x crop factor, that 35mm lens will have an effective focal length of around 53mm.

In the images above, you can see the view a 35mm lens might offer on a full frame camera (top) and what it might look like on a crop sensor camera (bottom).

Depth of Field

video termsPhoto by borchee via iStock

The depth of field refers to how much of the frame is in focus.

If you want the viewer to see everything in the shot in sharp focus, you need a large depth of field, as shown above.

depth of fieldPhoto by fotostorm via iStock

On the other hand, if you want to bring attention to a specific element in the shot, minimizing the depth of field to maintain focus on the subject while throwing the rest of the shot out of focus is the way to go.

Manipulating the aperture of the lens is one factor that influences depth of field - the larger the aperture opening, the shallower the depth of field will be.

Exposure

exposurePhoto by gradyreese via iStock

Exposure refers to the amount of time that the camera's sensor is exposed to light. The longer the exposure time, the more light that hits the sensor and the brighter the footage will be.

The exposure settings for video are the same as for photography - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, which form the exposure triangle.

Checking the exposure on your camera's LCD can be tricky because they are both small and inaccurate in terms of displaying the exposure levels.

ikan delta kit

Instead, using an external monitor kit like the Ikan Delta D7C-DK gives you the ability to examine the exposure levels on a large, clear, and bright screen.

What's more, external monitors like this have false color and zebra bars for easy exposure reference as well as a histogram for making precise evaluations of the exposure.

For example, the histogram is a graphical display that shows you the number of pixels that are shadows, midtones, and highlights. If the graph is skewed to the left, there are many dark pixels, indicating that the footage is underexposed. If the graph is skewed to the right, there are many bright pixels and the footage is overexposed.

Get more details on how to use a histogram.

False Color

False color is a setting on video monitors that displays luminance values as different colors.

This tool is handy for seeing the exposure levels of each part of the image, say, to determine if any clipping (i.e., blown-out highlights) is occurring.

Learn more about false color and the benefits of using it in the video above by Ikan International.

Frame Rate

Frame rate refers to the speed with which the shutter opens and closes in a one-second period.

Common frame rates include 24, 25, 30, 50, 60, and 120. These frame rates are denoted in frames per second (fps).

The higher the frame rate, the smoother the footage will be. So, a frame rate of 16fps will look choppy, but 30fps will appear very smooth. At 120fps, footage has a slow-motion look to it.

Medium Shot

common video termsPhoto by zmanL via iStock

A medium shot, also known as a waist shot, frames the subject's upper body.

This type of shot is intended to direct the viewers toward the subject or subjects while still showing some of the environment around them.

Pan

Panning refers to the act of moving the camera from left to right (or right to left) from a fixed position.

Think of panning like turning your head from one side to the other while keeping your body fixed in position.

Picture Profiles

Picture profiles offer different parameters that change a video's characteristics, such as the color, saturation, contrast, sharpness, and gradation (or how bright or dark the video appears to be).

These picture profiles are selected from a menu on the camera and allow you to customize the look and feel of the footage that's recorded.

For example, if you're filming a horror scene, you might manipulate the gradation to make the footage very dark and creepy.

Video profiles vary from one camera manufacturer to the next. Sony, for example, offers an S-Log profile while Canon offers a C-Log profile.

Many videographers use Look Up Tables, or LUTs, in conjunction with picture profiles to create specific looks.

LUTs are applied in post-processing and are a quick way to customize how the video footage appears.

Check out the video above by Peter McKinnon for more details about picture profiles.

Resolution

One of the most basic videography terms you need to know is resolution.

Resolution refers to the number of pixels contained in a video. This number refers to horizontal and vertical pixels, such as 640x480 (standard definition) or 1920x1080 (high definition).

In some situations, resolution is expressed as a single number, or the number of vertical pixels. In that case, the resolution would be expressed as 480p or 1080p.

Kingston Technology offers a quick and easy-to-understand tutorial on modern video resolutions in the video above.

Shot List

A shot list is simply a list of the types of shots you want to include in your video. By making a list of the desired footage and sequences, you ensure that you get everything you need before wrapping up shooting.

Storyboard

video editing termsPhoto by smolaw11 via iStock

Storyboarding involves mapping out the specific scenes in the video.

In other words, many filmmakers will draw out the scenes and organize them in sequence, that way they can see how the film will unfold before a single frame of video is shot.

Making shot lists and storyboards helps define the direction of the video and will help you create a cohesive production.

Tilt

Tilts involve moving the camera up and down from a fixed position. Think of a tilt as moving your head up and down without changing the positioning of your neck or the rest of your body.

Wide Shot

video production termsPhoto by stockstudioX via iStock

Also known as full shots or long shots, these types of sequences show the subject in its entirety as well as its surroundings.

These types of shots are meant to introduce the audience to a subject by showing how it relates to the environment, people, and actions going on around it.

Typically, videos have a mixture of wide shots, medium shots, and close-up shots to enhance the visual interest of the video.

 



We Recommend


Beginner’s Advice for Using a Gimbal

Beginners Advice for Using a Gimbal

 photo bykrblokhin via iStock

If you’re inspired by your favorite YouTubers to produce better video content of your own, one of the best investments you can make is a gimbal. 

Gimbals can assist you in getting beautifully smooth, cinematic footage, but they aren’t foolproof. They have their limitations, and as with everything, they require a good deal of practice before you start to reap the benefits of using one. 

In this beginner’s guide for using a gimbal, you’ll learn a few quick tidbits for getting the most out of your gimbal. 

You Don’t Need a Gimbal for EVERY Shot

how to use a gimbal 1

 photo bykrblokhinvia iStock

One of the most basic pieces of advice for filmmakers is to avoid panning and zooming too much.

The same can be said for using a gimbal…

Just because you have a gimbal doesn’t mean you need to use it for filming every single sequence. Sometimes, a still shot from a tripod is exactly what you need!

For example, if you’re interviewing someone for a film, don’t do it while you hold a gimbal in your hand. An interview doesn’t need smooth footage of you circling around the interviewee - that’s just distracting. 

So, one of your first tasks as a gimbal user is to understand when and when not to use it.

Learn More:

Make Sure Using the Gimbal Adds to the Story

how to use a gimbal 2

 photo byVershinin via iStock

Adding on to the previous point, not only do you need to be aware of when and when not to use a gimbal, but you also need to be aware when using one does and does not add to the story. 

If, for example, you need to shoot a point of view sequence that gives the audience a view of what a dog might see as it runs through a park, a gimbal might be a great choice.

You can invert the gimbal, get it at a dog’s height, and get smooth footage as you run with the camera. Doing so will help the audience to put themselves in the perspective of the dog, which obviously adds to the depth of the story.

But, if you’re doing an instructional video on how to build a table, it might be distracting (to you and the audience) to circle around the carpenter as they work at their woodworking table. 

Much like the interview example above, sometimes the footage you need calls for a simple fixed camera setup on a tripod. In this case, keeping the video sequence simple allows the story of how to build to table take center stage.

Invest in a Quality Gimbal

advice for using a gimbal 1

photo bymolchanovdmitry via iStock

You often hear photographers talk about how you should prioritize your budget for lenses rather than a camera body. 

In videography, the same principle applies - some accessories are simply more important than others.

I’m not saying that a gimbal is the most important videography accessory for every shooter, but for me, having a quality gimbal has made all the difference in the world.

how to use a gimbal 3

 photo by ozgurdonmaz via iStock

There are some accessories you can skimp on and get away with it. But if you’re going to go all-in on using a gimbal, why not get one that has the features to help you get the shots you need while giving you long-lasting and durable performance in the long-term?

For my money, it doesn’t get much better than the E-Image Horizon One Gimbal.

horizon one 1

This three-axis gimbal can handle up to eight pounds of gear, so even if you use a full frame DSLR with a light, a mic, and other accessories, this gimbal can take the load.

It has brushless motors to give you precise stabilization while the five built-in operational modes give you quick access to creative video sequences like 360-degree spin on the roll axis for a dream-like shot.

horizon one 2 

It has a 12-hour runtime, too, so you can shoot for hours on end without worry that the gimbal is going to run out of juice.

This thing is just a well-built, functional, and versatile gimbal that will help you get the job done!

Learn More:

Plan Your Shots in Advance 

beginners guide for using a gimbal

photo byVicheslav via iStock

When you see footage that’s filmed while using a gimbal, it looks so seamless and effortless. But that doesn’t mean that it’s effortless to use a gimbal. 

By the time you add your camera, a lens, a microphone, lights, and other accessories, you’ll have several pounds of gear on the gimbal. And that might not sound like much, but after hours of shooting, it can start to feel like a lot!

That’s why it’s so important to plan your shots in advance. Doing so allows you to prioritize getting the sequences you need with the gimbal first, and then you can shoot other sequences later on.

By saving your energy for the gimbal shots, you’ll keep fatigue at bay and be able to maximize the gimbal’s positive effects on your video. 

Planning never hurt anyone when taking photos or making videos, anyway! 

Get a few more tips for using a gimbal in the video above by Ikan International.

 



We Recommend


Best Cameras for Vlogging

Best Cameras for Vlogging 2

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Vlogging is more than it used to be. Gone are the days where vloggers were teenagers sitting in darkly lit bedrooms complaining about their history teacher. In are the days where vloggers are technical experts in their field. 

Vlogging is, in many ways, pertinent for photographers that want to grow their businesses nowadays, but if you’re going to begin vlogging, you’ll want to ensure you don’t look like a teenager in a badly lit bedroom. You’ll need the proper equipment, and that starts with a solid camera. 

Here is our list of the best cameras for vlogging in 2019.

Sony a6400

best cameras for vlogging

The Sony a6400 features 4K video, a front-facing screen (which is so incredibly useful, once you have a front-facing screen you’ll never go back), and and an eye-AF autofocus system to keep things nice and sharp. All of which makes it one of the best cameras for vlogging. 

Huge shout out to DSI Pictures for the video above that puts the Sony a6400 through its paces.  

vlogging cameras

Pros of Sony a6400:

  • Insane image resolution and quality
  • 4K video 
  • Crazy good AF system

Cons of Sony a6400:

  • Not very aesthetically pleasing
  • Can’t see all of the flip-up screen if you have accessories mounted to the hot-shoe

 You can purchase the Sony a6400 for $900 on Adorama. 

ikan delta monitor

Quick Tip: Get around the flip-up screen issue with the Sony a6400 by using a field monitor. 

Having a larger, brighter, more resolute screen like the Ikan Delta DH7-V2gives you a crisp view of what the camera sees, and with the 178-degree viewing angle, you get off-axis viewing for multiple people without color shifts. 

You can attach the monitor to a cage, an arm, and various other attachments to put the screen right in your field of vision for an unimpeded view.

ikan delta kit

Monitors like this allow you to load 3D luts and custom cube files while also providing a huge set of tools for video making, including a histogram, clip guides, false color, peaking, and more. This monitor is also available in a kit, which adds two batteries, a dual battery charger, a power adapter, a D-Tap power cable, two HDMI cables, a ball head with shoe mount, and a soft case to carry it all!

Panasonic GH5

vlogging cameras for 2019

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is one of my favorite vlogging cameras because it pairs in-body stabilization with 4K video at 60/50p and a 20.3MP sensor. 

What I’m saying is, this is definitely the vlogging camera for the adventurer that needs a small body with a killer stabilization system.

The Panasonic GH5, as showcased by Colin Ross above, should definitely be considered a professional-level vlogging camera. It’s not for the faint of heart, but once you get familiar with this camera, the quality of video you can create is off the charts.

best vlogging cameras

Pros of the Panasonic GH5:

  • Crazy video specs with 4K compatibility
  • Amazing stabilization system
  • Is compatible with tons of lenses

Cons of the Panasonic GH5:

  • Ergonomics aren’t the best
  • Isn’t great at shooting with low light 
  • 2x crop factor

You can purchase the Panasonic GH5 for $1,300 at Adorama.

Learn More:

Canon EOS 90D 

canon vlogging cameras 

The Canon EOS 90D also features 4K video at 30p, with an incredible screen that faces forward. It also features mic input for that all-important shotgun mic you need to get high-quality audio. 

There isn’t anything to hate about the uncropped 4K video of the Canon EOS 90D, either, and Dan Watsonproves it with this video test. 

Besides, the 90D is compatible with dozens and dozens of EF and EF-S lenses, so there’s virtually untapped creative potential with wide-angle, standard, macro, and telephoto lenses.

nikon vlogging cameras 

Pros of Canon EOS 90D:

  • Fully articulated screen
  • Uncropped 4K/30p video capabilities
  • Incredible sensor

Cons of Canon EOS 90D:

  • Doesn’t feature image stabilization 

You can purchase the Canon EOS 90D for $1,200 at Adorama.

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Best Microphones of 2020

the best microphones of 2020

I've been producing video content for a while now, and in that time, I've used and tested a good number of microphones.

As with anything else, some of the mics I've used have been absolutely stellar. Others have been pretty bad. But most occupy the "perfectly fine" middle ground.

In this buyer's guide, I want to highlight some of the best microphones of 2020.

top microphones for video production

I've used each of these mics, I've tested them in various environments, and they have proven to be the cream of the crop for my audio recording needs.

You'll find microphones on this list at varying price points, the least expensive of which is barely more than $50! That means there are mics listed below for any and every budget.

Let's get to it!

Ikan Comica CVM-V30 PRO

ikan comica

I have to say that of all the microphones on this list, this one surprised me the most.

At just $53.99 (at the time of this writing), it is by far the least expensive mic listed here. But don't let the price fool you...this thing hits way above its weight class.

I've tested inexpensive mics before, and by and large, it has not been a good experience. That's why I typically avoid recommending microphones at this price point.

But the Ikan Comica CVM-V30 PRO is different...

ikan comica 1

When you're filming in an environment with a lot of noise, you can put the mic in low-cut mode and adjust the sensitivity adjustment to minimize all the ancillary noise.

When you're filming on the go, as I often do, the shock-resistant structural design helps keep the noise from vibrations in check.

The super-cardioid polar pattern of this shotgun mic gives you superb off-axis rejection of unwanted sounds and allows the viewer to hear the subject with greater clarity.

ikan comica 2

Truly, the audio quality I've gotten from this mic has surpassed many other microphones that cost double or triple the price - or more. In fact, the quality is excellent up to about 5-6 feet away. Not many budget mics like this can make that claim.

I create a lot of YouTube content, so high-quality audio is a must. This microphone delivers! With excellent build quality, technical specs you'd expect in a much more expensive mic, and extras like an excellent filter and travel case, you have the makings of the ideal budget-friendly mic.

Learn more about the Ikan Comica CVM V-30 PRO

Learn More:

RODE VideoMic NTG

rode videomic ntg

I began testing a pre-release version of the RODE VideoMic NTG about six weeks ago. I use the RODE NTG 4 for a lot of my studio work, and I was interested to see if this smaller, more portable mic could stand shoulder to shoulder with its bigger brother.

Needless to say, this mic has impressed!

rode videomic ntg 1

Like the larger NTG 4 studio mic, the VideoMic NTG captures gorgeous, natural sound. There are various controls to assist you in doing so, including an infinitely variable gain control, a digital switch for controlling high-frequency boost and the high-pass filter, and it has a headphone output for monitoring audio.

Additionally, there is a peak decibel warning light so you can avoid distortion.

rode videomic ntg 2

The best feature of this mic, though, is its sliding rail.

I've used RODE mics forever, and they are excellent. But my one complaint about them is that they protruded so far out from the camera that they can easily hit you in the face.

Well, the sliding rail system on the VideoMic NTG solves that problem, so if I'm shooting in selfie mode, I can slide the rail back and keep the microphone from hitting my face.

On top of all that, it has a battery that will last more than 30 hours on a single charge, it can be plugged into a USB port for recording on your computer, and it's price isn't bad at all, if you ask me - it's on sale for $249.00 at the time of this writing.

Learn more about the RODE VideoMic NTG

Deity D3 Pro

deity d3

Yet another fine option for your audio recording needs is the Deity D3 Pro.

This super-cardioid directional condenser shotgun mic gives you a sensitivity range of -50dB to 28dB. It uses an on-board microprocessor that talks to the audio input it's connected with, which means it can work with your DSLR, mirrorless camera, smartphone, tablet...you name it! Basically, it's compatible with anything with a 3.5mm microphone jack. That's excellent versatility!

deity d3 pro 1

This mic has one of the best batteries in the business, too. You get up to 51 hours of runtime on a full charge. As an added bonus, it takes less than two hours to charge up!

The Deity D3 Pro has a stepless analog gain adjustment dial. It also has an on-board low-cut filter and a Rycote shock mount.

deity d3 pro 2

What all this means is that you get excellent audio (broadcast quality, in fact), that enables you to elevate the quality of your video productions.

It's priced at $199.00 at the time of this writing, so it's an excellent mid-range option.

Learn more about the Deity V3 Pro

Learn More:

SHURE Lenshopper VP83F

shure lenshopper

One of the neatest features of this microphone is that is has integrated flash recording.

Just add a MicroSDHC card, and you can record and play back audio while the mic is mounted to your camera.

It has an electric condenser cartridge with a super-cardioid/lobar polar pattern for optimal audio quality and an integrated shock mounting system the helps isolate the mic from unwanted noise.

shure vp82f 1

As you'd expect from Shure, this mic is well built, rugged, and offers an intuitive and easy-to-use design.

Speaking of the design, this is a small and compact shotgun mic that doesn't take up too much space or get in your way.

The high-definition audio has excellent low-end response while the single-button recording option allows you to initiate recording quickly and easily.

shure vp83f 2

I appreciate that Shure integrated a headphone audio output, which makes it easier to monitor recording.

I also like how natural the audio sounds, which is thanks to its high sensitivity, low self-noise, and wide frequency range. 

At $299.000 (at the time of this writing), this is one of the pricier mics on this list. However, the audio quality and features you get make it well worth the price tag.

Learn more about the Shure Lenshopper VP83F

RODE VideoMic Pro+

rode proplus

I've had the RODE VideoMic Pro+ in my kit for quite some time, and I have enjoyed using it with a variety of cameras in a variety of situations.

This true shotgun-style mic records super clean, broadcast-quality audio. That's thanks in part to digital switching that includes a two-stage high-pass filter that reduces low frequencies and a three-stage gain control with a +20dB functionality, which improves audio quality on DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

There is also a safety channel to ensure the signal doesn't clip with spikes occur, and a high-frequency boost to enhance the detail and clarity in the recording.

rode videomic pro 1

Like other mics on this list, the VideoMic Pro+ has a Rycote Lyre shock system that buffers the microphone capsule and electronics and the microphone mount.

In turn, the result is fewer vibrations of the mic that helps improve the quality of the audio recording that much more.

rode videomic pro 2

This mic has easy-to-use controls, intuitive operation, and excellent sound. It's simply a hard-working, lightweight mic!

Normally, all that performance would set you back about $400.00, but at the time of this writing, this microphone is on sale for just $249.00. That's not a bad deal at all!

Learn more about the RODE VideoMic Pro+

 

 



We Recommend


Best Teleprompters of 2019

Best Teleprompters of 2019

photo byLordHenriVoton via iStock

No matter how much of an expert you are on a topic, if you’re making a video, a teleprompter will help you deliver your message much more effectively.

Teleprompters put the word-for-word message you want to get out right in front of your eyes. It’s like hand-delivering a precisely worded letter to your audience. 

Is using a teleprompter a guarantee that you won’t mess up? No. But the likelihood of you delivering a well-worded and passionate message is greatly increased when using one. 

You don’t have to have a giant teleprompter like what’s used on the evening news, either. In fact, there are many small, portable, and affordable options for vloggers and videographers today.

Let’s take a look at some of the best teleprompters on the market.

Best Teleprompters of 2019: mPrompter

mprompter 1

Even though this teleprompter by mPrompter isn’t going to be available until early in 2020, it still makes this list of the best teleprompters of 2019. Why?

That’s easy…

I’ve had my hands on a prototype model the last couple of months and have found that it’s highly portable for shooting video on the go and it’s extremely durable, so it can stand up to use and abuse while on-location or in the studio.

mprompter 2 best teleprompters of 2019

This rig has a stainless steel body and frame with a textured black coating to minimize reflections and glare.

It has a 3mm glass mirror with a 70/30% reflective coating, and the mirror is permanently attached and free floated in a protective stainless steel bezel.

mPrompter is compact and ideally suited for use with a smartphone, but it is adjustable to any kind of camera, so you can use it with your small mirrorless camera or your big DSLR too.

mprompter 3

This teleprompter was developed with bloggers in mind: it’s small, easy to set up (it takes less than a minute!), and comes with aluminum adapter rings to ensure it’ll work with your existing smartphone or camera.

On top of all that, mPrompter is affordable! It really is the best of all worlds - portable, easy to set up, durable, and easy on your pocketbook!

Learn more about the mPrompter teleprompter

Best Teleprompters of 2019: iKan PT-Elite-Pro

ikan elite pt pro 1 

Ikan’s PT-Elite-Pro teleprompter is specifically designed for larger tablets like the Apple iPad Pro, Microsoft Surface, and Samsung Galaxy tablets as well as any tablet from 6 x 9 inches to 9 x 12.

But even though it’s designed for larger tablets, it’s still an easy and quick setup to save you time. 

It features an adjustable, foldable glass frame, a quick-release base plate, and a much lighter design that makes it more portable than its predecessors.

ikan elite pt pro 2

In fact, the solid CNC machined aluminum construction makes it super lightweight so you can take it from the studio to locations in the field with ease. The custom foam hard case for carrying the teleprompter enhances its portability.

This unit has a 15mm rod base for versatility and ease of use, and includes an elite remote as well. 

The scientific-grade 70/30 teleprompter glass ensures high clarity and sharpness for an easy reading experience while the adjustability to various types of camera sizes makes it an excellent option whether you shoot with a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or a video camera.

Learn more about the Ikan PT-Elite-Pro teleprompter

Best Teleprompters of 2019: Little Prompter

Another one of our favorite teleprompters of 2019 is the Little Prompter. 

As its name indicates, it's a compact teleprompter that you can use to deliver polished talking points to the camera no matter where you’re recording.

It’s a versatile setup that’s also easy to use, so you can use it with a wide range of cameras without having a long setup time.

This unit can be used with your smartphone, and when paired with a teleprompter app, the Little Prompter can operate with your computer’s built-in camera and microphone.

Little prompter can also easily pair with a mirrorless camera or DSLR, a webcam, or even a handycam.

The lightweight body measures just 6 x 6 x 6 inches and is made of durable expanded PVC. It has an adjustable tripod attachment support bar, spacers, and screws to give you versatile setup options. All these components are manufactured using 6061 aluminum for durability.

The teleprompter glass is made of high-quality 70/30 BeamSplitter glass that gives you beautiful sharpness and excellent transparency as well. 

This is just a smartly designed and well-made teleprompter that might just be the ideal fit for your teleprompter needs. 

Learn more about the Little Prompter teleprompter

Best Teleprompters of 2019: Padcaster Parrot

padcaster parrot 1

Next on our list of the best teleprompters of 2019 is the Padcaster Parrot, another multi-functional, affordable teleprompter. 

This teleprompter fully sets up in just a few minutes’ time, which makes it a solid choice for videographers that need to run and gun.

Just attach any camera system to the unit, insert your phone, and read the text that shows on the teleprompter. The companion Parrot app makes it super easy to set up.

padcaster parrot 2

Like the other teleprompters on this list, the Parrot uses 70/30 BeamSplitter glass for the highest-quality view of your script.

This unit also comes with 13 mounting rings so you can easily attach it to almost any type of camera lens.

There is a Bluetooth remote to improve ease of use via the Parrot app and there's a glass cleaning kit included in the bundle as well.

Learn more about the Padcaster Parrot teleprompter

Best Teleprompters of 2019: Datavideo TP-300B

datavideo 1

Last but not least, the Datavideo TP-300B is a great teleprompter option for videographers that use an iPad or Android tablet for reading scripts.

The scripts or cue sheets that you create can be quickly and easily transferred into the DV prompter application software and scrolled at a set automatic rate. Additionally, it can be controlled via an optional remote if a set rate is not desired. 

The prompter software gives you plenty of options for customizing the text size, colors, and fonts so you can make the script as easily readable as possible from a variety of distances.

datavideo 2

The unit has a versatile mounting system that enables you quickly and easily mount many different-sized tablets to it.

The strong prompter frame affixes to any standard tripod and gives you the option of using it as a standalone, in front of the camera, or below the lens. Whatever the positioning, you’ll appreciate the 60/40 glass that allows you to see the script clearly. 

Learn more about the Datavideo TP-300B teleprompter

 



We Recommend


Best Tripods Under $200

Best Tripods Under 200

photo by0804Creative via iStock

Whether you’re into real estate photography, vlogging, or photography as a hobby, you need a tripod.

Tripods don’t just provide stability for your camera.

Instead, they enable you to take creative shots, like long exposures. 

Having a tripod also helps you slow things down as you set them up - even just a few seconds to survey the scene as you get the tripod ready might help you notice better compositions.

Plus, the best tripods are light and easy to carry with you all day. 

But, I’d much rather spend my hard earned money on new camera bodies and lenses, which is why I created this best tripods under $200 list. 

E-Image EK610

ek610 1 

The E-Image EK610 is probably the easiest to use of all best budget tripods thanks to its easy leg locking mechanism. The E-Image EK610 uses dual-stage aluminum legs to allow you to shoot at the exact height you want to, but the legs also deploy quickly and efficiently.

So, if you’re a wildlife photographer or a portrait photographer this may be one of the top tripods you should be looking at.

You can use this tripod with plenty of gear, too - the included head can accommodate up to 6.5 lbs of camera gear. 

ek610 2

This is all thanks to the 65mm half-ball fluid head which provides stability to your equipment through the counterbalance system. 

This is one of our best tripods under $200 for another reason: it is incredibly stable.

ek610 3

It’s stable even at its highest height because of the integrated mid-level spreader that works to keep your equipment balanced at all times.

My favorite quality about this tripod, though, is its rubber feet paired with metal spikes which ensures it stays put, even if your shooting on uneven or slippery terrain.

The E-Image EK610 is available at Ikan for $129.99.

Learn More:

Manfrotto Befree

manfrotto 1 

The Manfrotto Befree is one of the best budget tripods for travellers because it is incredibly compact.

This tripod is built from aluminum, so its light enough to fit in your carry on at just over 3 lbs. But, you aren’t trading weight for stability with the Befree because it’s built for your mirrorless or otherwise lighter camera setup. It can hold up to 8.8 lbs of gear.

manfrotto 2

It features a maximum height of 56.6 inches, a two-way locking mechanism on the ball head to keep your camera in place, and it can break down into less than 16 inches when you’re on the move. That’s a huge bonus for you travel photographers out there!

The Manfrotto Befree Travel Tripod is available on Adorama for $190. 

MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic

mefoto 1

You cannot create a list of the top tripods and not include something by MeFOTO, but out of all of MeFOTO’s tripods, the Roadtrip Classic is, indeed, a classic. 

This tripod weighs in at just over 3.5 lbs and features a maximum height of 61.1 inches. However, none of this is the most impressive part of the Roadtrip Classic because it actually doubles as both a tripod and a monopod. 

mefoto 2 

MeFOTO is quickly making a name for itself in the camera gear world because of innovative products like this one.  

Much like the Manfrotto Befree, this tripod is made out of aluminum (with customizable colors). While it is in use it stands at over 60 inches, but can fold down to around 15 inches for travel.  

You can also carry a whopping 17.6 pounds on the MeFOTO, which is more than most of the best tripods under $200. You usually need to be in the $300-$400 range to fit these specs. 

mefoto 3

The transition from tripod to monopod is also quite simple as you remove one of the legs and screw it into place on the base. 

The MeFOTO Roadtrip Classic tripod/monopod is available on Amazon for $160.

With that, you have a quick list of three of the best tripods under $200. As you can see, you don’t have to sacrifice quality or features when you shop for a less expensive tripod!

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Budget-Friendly Real Estate Photography Gear

Budget Friendly Real Estate Photography Gear

Photo by AVANTECTURE on Unsplash

Whether you’re new to the real estate photography game or have been at it for years, we all know one thing: real estate photography gear is not cheap.

In fact, real estate photography is one of the most expensive photography niches to start out in, strictly because of the amount of additional gear you need. 

However, if you know where to find inexpensive real estate photography gear, then you will already have a leg up on your competition. 

Table of Contents

Powerful Post-Processing Software on a Budget

real estate photography gear 2

 photo bydiego_cervo via iStock

One of the biggest challenges for real estate photographers is dealing with dynamic range that’s simply too much for their cameras.

This is a particular problem when photographing dark interior spaces with bright windows.

Some real estate photographers rely on the bracketing technique discussed here, which is a great way to create well-exposed images that have nice details in the highlights, midtones, and shadows of interior rooms.

But you have to merge these images together to get the final composite. This process can be streamlined if you utilize software like Photomatix Pro. See what I mean in the video above.

You get over 70 HDR settings and 40 HDR presets along with six HDR styles to fine-tune your photos.

What’s more, you can batch process images, use the presets and tools specifically for real estate photography, and utilize features like advanced ghost removal and automatic alignment of handheld photos.

Time is money in the real estate photography business, and with Photomatix Pro, you can save time so you can make more money!

Recommended Real Estate Photography Books:

Learn Business Skills on the Cheap 

real estate photography gear 1

Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash 

I’ve spent my fair share of both money and time on conferences and conventions. I was told it was the best way to learn real estate photography tips and to network at the same time, and while I have met some people through these expensive means, it never seems to quite be worth it. 

I mean, I meet more people in local photography groups that are free anyways!

real estate photographer pro

And, I learn all of my new real estate photography skills through Real Estate Photographer Pro’s online courses. 

Real Estate Photographer Pro was founded by a real estate photographer who realized there were absolutely not enough online resources for real estate photographers when he first entered the business.

The courses here are budget-friendly. They’re totally online so you can get to them when you get to them (I’m a late night learner myself). Plus, they build the exact same type of community that a traditional convention does through a members Facebook group and a weekly Q & A. 

Additionally, whereas real estate photography courses on YouTube only give you just enough to try and attempt a new skill, the videos on Real Estate Photographer Pro come with downloads like templates, raw photos and presets to truly walk you through every step. 

Inexpensive Photography Insurance

inexpensive photography gear

Photo by sturti via iStock

One of the essentials of owning a photography business is having the proper insurance to cover you in times of need.

Equipment insurance certainly comes to mind given that you likely have multiple cameras, lenses, a drone, and other very expensive photography gear that travels with you from one property to the next.

And covering all that gear doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive....

fullframe

At Full Frame Insurance, for example, you can get coverage day or night on their website, and do so quickly and easily.

Plus, with equipment coverage that starts at just $55 a year, you can get the coverage you need without breaking the bank.

Whether the properties you need to photograph are right next door to one another or in locations around the world, your policy is designed to respond to equipment insurance claims during transit and while you're on and off premises.

Full Frame also has general liability insurance that starts at just $99 per year.

The policy covers all sorts of eventualities, from medical expenses to property damage, personal injury, and even advertising injury.

When the scope of your work is to enter people's homes to take photos, it's critical that you have the proper insurance coverage. And Full Frame Insurance makes getting the right coverages a painless and inexpensive process!

Budget-Friendly Camera and Lens

real estate photography 3

Photo by Tim Graf on Unsplash 

We all know that your camera and lens are the most expensive real estate photography gear you need.  

But, if you’ve read the site for very long, you know all of the editors on PhotographyTalk love buying these expensive items used to save the cash.  

Usually, when photographers think about buying used cameras they think about the process of going through a shady website like Craigslist to try and do so. But, it’s 2020. There are better options for inexpensive real estate photography gear.

gearfocus website

One of our favorites, Gear Focus, is a used gear community built by photographers, for photographers.

Buyer and seller safety is paramount, so you can rest assured that you get the best deals on gear, and that if something goes awry, Gear Focus will work hard to rectify the situation.

Additionally, if you have gear to sell, Gear Focus gives you unlimited free listings, and when an item sells, their seller fees are just 3.5 percent - among the lowest in the business.

Gear Focus is all about building a community for creatives where buying and selling gear is fair and safe. If you need a budget-friendly camera body, an additional lens, or other kinds of gear, Gear Focus is the place to look.

Learn More:

A Fully-Featured (Yet Inexpensive) Tripod

real estate photography gear

Photo by ISO Republic on Unsplash 

Another incredibly expensive real estate photography piece is the tripod. You can find tripods into the thousands of dollars range, and frankly I’d rather buy myself a well-deserved vacation.

I’ve been a fan of Ikan for years because they have top-shelf products that won’t break the bank. That includes high-quality, sturdy tripods you can use for real estate photography. 

tripod 1 

I’m a particular fan of Ikan’s professional camera video tripod which is under $200, can hold up to 8.8 lbs of equipment, and provides an ease of use you normally can’t find in a tripod under $500. 

This tripod comes with separate locking mechanisms for panning and tilting, can stand anywhere from 30 inches to nearly 66 inches (which is more than enough height for real estate photography), and comes with a carrying bag I can sling under my normal camera bag. 

tripod 2

What’s more, the fluid head has a fixed counterbalance that helps balance out heavy loads, and the middle spreader gives the tripod additional stability.

The last thing you want when you’re taking photos or videos of a property is have your tripod fail you.

I’ve used Ikan tripods for years, and can attest to their build quality and features. The best part is the budget-friendly price!

Low-Cost Gimbal

budget friendly real estate photography gear 4

  photo by Gustavo Muñoz Soriano via iStock

While a tripod helps you to shoot videos of properties with your camera, sometimes you need a hand-held option for your smartphone and that’s when a gimbal comes in handy. 

But, again, gimbals can be incredibly expensive for those just starting out in the real estate photography game, and I’d rather spend that money on other parts of my business. 

gimbal

Again, I think Ikan is one of the best manufacturers for gimbals for real estate photography on the market today.  

Ikan’s FLY-X3-PLUS 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal is just $75, features 3-axis stabilization, and supports a wide range of smartphones and GoPros. 

Plus, it comes with an extra battery!

This rig is simple to set up and operate so you can start shooting straight away. And with its 3 axes of active stabilization, your videos will have a smooth, cinematic feel that entices buyers to want to learn more about the property.

inexpensive real estate photography gear 5

 photo by scyther5 via iStock 

And that’s what this is all about...equipping yourself so you can tell each property’s story to get it sold.

But creating those stories doesn’t have to be expensive!

As you’ve seen here, there are many inexpensive photography accessories you can buy that will help you achieve better-looking photos without busting your budget.

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Camera Gear Upgrades With a Lot of Bang for the Buck

Camera Gear Upgrades With a Lot of Bang for the Buck

Photo by Pedro Sandrini from Pexels

While you’re sitting at home with nothing better to do, why not start researching for your next camera gear upgrades? 

Online shopping quickly passes the time, and there are so many camera gear upgrades available for under $100, so you don’t need to totally break the bank.

While the camera gear upgrades on this list are going to be a little more expensive, they’re going to save you a ton of money in the long run because once you make these camera gear upgrades, you’ll never need to make them again.  

An Upgraded Camera Strap

camera gear upgrades

The Holdfast Classic Strap is the perfect example of how camera gear upgrades don’t need to break the bank. 

This camera strap is made of high-quality leather in a variety of colors to make you look like a professional while remaining comfortable during long shoots.

You can tell that the Holdfast Classic Strap was made by a photographer from the details. All of the rings are made of stainless steel so they will never rust, and your camera is protected from the steel by an additional strip of leather to keep it protected. 

My favorite part about this camera strap is that it is fully customizable. You can choose the color, the width of the leather and the length of your strap so your camera falls precisely where you want it to.

The Holdfast Classic Strap is available for just $95, which I’ll consider inexpensive camera gear because you’ll only ever need to buy it once. Holdfast features a lifetime guarantee on all of their products. 

 

Recommended Photography Reading

 

A Tripod Built Like a Tank 

camera gear upgrades 2 

When you start to think about camera gear upgrades, you’re probably thinking about buying new lenses, new filters or additional batteries. Tripods never get any love.

But, once you try Ikan’s E-Image EK50AAM Tripod, you’ll wish you had purchased it years ago. 

camera gear upgrades 3

This tripod can carry up to 13.2 lbs of equipment while remaining fluid. It features 360-degree panning and can tilt 90-degrees down and 75-degrees up.

It has a working range of 31” to 64”, folds down to 32” and comes with foot spikes so you’ll never need to purchase them separately.

For $180, the Ikan E-Image Tripod is definitely one of the best camera upgrades you can make in 2020.  

Learn More:

A Nifty Fifty Lens

Is it time for you to upgrade from your kit lens? If I had to guess, I’d say yes.  

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

photography gear 4

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens is one of the most lightweight nifty fifty lenses on the market at just 5.5 oz.  

It features an impressively low minimum focusing distance of just over 13”, and will ensure your photos are bright and sharp, with beautiful bokeh-filled backgrounds.

photography gear 5

Plus, you can use this lens for still portraits or video because it is optimized for both. 

For $125,this lens will pay for itself in no time. Besides, what’s the point in making camera gear upgrades without ensuring you have the basics. 

Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S Lens

nifty fifty lens 6

If you prefer Nikons to Canons, we have the perfect nifty fifty lens for you as well.

The Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens is definitely not beginner camera gear, but it is a lens you will keep for a lifetime.

It features an incredibly quiet stepping motor, to ensure your autofocus is unwavering, and a 9-blade rounded diaphragm to create incredible bokeh. This lens will also work just as well for video as it does for stills and works best when paired with Nikon cameras that are optimized for low-light shooting.

nifty fifty lens 7

The Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens also features a fluorine coat which repels dust, water droplets and grease and will help you maintain the quality of the lens for decades to come. 

At $600, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens isn’t inexpensive camera gear, but it is a wise investment in your future. 

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Common Videography Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Common Videography Mistakes You Need to Avoid

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

I have made my fair share of filmmaking mistakes, and I’m not going to pretend like I’ll never make any more video mistakes in the future.

Videography is a journey, and it’d be a pretty boring one if you didn’t need to learn anything the whole time.

But, a bunch of these are common videography mistakes that you don’t need to make because people already have and those people can save you. So, you can read this article like a personal journal of videography mistakes I’ve made so you don’t need to! 

Using Poor Sound Quality

common videography mistakes 1

Photo by Denisse Leon on Unsplash

Poor audio quality in videography is almost as bad as poor audio quality in podcasts. Of course, it’s something you’re willing to live with if your favorite podcaster gets way better audio quality and they don’t post enough episodes so you have to go back and start the podcast from the beginning.

But, poor audio quality turns off so many viewers (or listeners) and it’s totally preventable.

DSLRGuide gives a few easy-to-follow tips for fixing poor audio quality that you can try this week.  

Not Investing in High-Quality Lighting

ikan onyx 1

Lighting is essential for video as much as it is for still photography. If you want to create videos that have lasting, positive impact, invest in quality lighting gear! 

Using an on-camera light will do wonders for eliminating unwanted shadows and brightening up the scene. Lights like the Ikan Onyx shown above and below provide bi-color light that’s adjustable from 3200K to 5600K so you can customize the color temperature to your needs.

ikan onyx 3 light setup

What’s more, these lights have a CRI of 95 and TLCI of 96 in both Tungsten and Daylight, so you know the quality of the light is top-notch. 

Simple lighting setups with one light are available, but you can expand your lighting capabilities with a two-light setup or even a three-light setup if need be. 

Don’t let poorly lit scenes ruin your video production. Invest in good lighting, and you’ll be one step closer to realizing your creative vision!

Not Focusing on Your Shot Composition

common videography mistakes 2

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash 

I don’t know why people get in the habit of only focusing on shot composition when they’re shooting pictures because shot composition is so important in video as well.

The use of dead space, or wasted space as you should start to think of it, is one of many common videography mistakes I see, which is so sad since you can fix this problem just by remembering your rule of thirds.

Another issue with videography shot composition is flat video. Stop filming yourself against walls and in corners. It makes your video look boring. Create depth in your videos by placing your subject in the context of a scene with interesting elements in the foreground, midground and background.

ikan saga 

Quick Tip: Compose better shot sequences with the aid of an on-camera monitor like the Ikan Saga shown above. This unit features tons of tools that help you capture better footage, including a histogram, false color, peaking, clip guides, audio meters, guides, crosshairs, and grids. The bright, detailed, seven-inch screen offers a much more robust view of the scene than your camera’s LCD as well!

Lingering

video mistakes 1

Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash 

I’m going to make an educated guess and say 90% of your shots that include people walking should have been edited out of your final project. 

Lingering, or improper editing, is when you are showing uninteresting shots. These shots could be shots where no action is taking place. These shots could also be shots that you think you need for spatial consistency, which is where the long shots of people walking around comes from.

Give your viewers some credit. If your script could plausibly lead the viewer to understand where you’re headed next, you probably don’t need shots of the actors walking to that place.

Learn More:

Bad Quality Scripts

video mistakes 2

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash 

I understand the old saying, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” However, sometimes it really is what you say.

Have you ever opened up a YouTube video and the vlogger is either talking in the most disinterested monotonous voice, or is talking themselves in circles?

How long did you stay on that video? Statistics say that most viewers give a video 10 seconds to decide whether they want to continue watching that video.

Plus, this number is only getting shorter with younger generations who barely have the patience to wait out a 5 second ad before receiving their content. 

As such, make sure you spend as much time on your script as you do on your editing. Also, think about taking a college class on script writing if you’ve never worked in the writing medium before. The tools and skills you gain from a little bit of script-writing education can make all the difference in the quality of your final product.

Boring Music

filmmaking mistakes 1

 Photo by Alphacolor on Unsplash

In the same way as I won’t watch your video if the script sucks, I also won’t watch your video if you have awful fair use jazz music blaring. 

We are almost in 2020, which means we are entering an era where there is so much free music you can use on the web. You just need to know where to find it. 

Think Media gives three incredible resources for fun music in the video above. Save your viewers, and use music that doesn’t contradict the theme you are trying to convey in your video. 

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Composition Tips for Shooting Video

Composition Tips for Shooting Video

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

I was a still photographer for years before transitioning to videography, so I never figured I’d need to learn how to shoot video. I suspected it would come naturally. In some respects I was correct. In others, I was incorrect. 

Sure, some tried-and-true photography tips apply to video just as well. But I didn’t realize how different some composition tips for video are from composition tips for still photography and it made me grow an entirely new respect for the niche.

Here are five composition tips for video I think are most important for beginners to hear. 

Composition Tips for Video: Rule of Thirds

composition tips for video 1

Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash 

The rule of thirds applies to film in much the same way as still photos. Most DSLRs have guided settings that will split your screen into nine sections to help you learn to shoot video with the rule of thirds. 

Basically, you want to make sure you are filling up all nine sections of the screen with some action to help you balance your shots.

Learn Online Video gives a great breakdown of the rule of thirds in videography and they also pull scenes from some of the biggest box office hits to show you how it works in practice.  

ikan saga s7p

Quick Tip: Using a field monitor can help you compose better video sequences and expands your creative possibilities at the same time. Rigs like the Ikan Saga S7P shown above offer a super-bright 7-inch screen for framing up your shots while also giving you the ability to preview LUTs in real time, inspect a histogram, and review clip guides. This unit also has waveform, RGB parade, vectorscope, false color, peaking, and audiometer capabilities, just to name a few. It 1:1 pixel mapping feature lets you move through the entire image and see each section of the shot at up to 4K quality. If you want to elevate the quality of your videos, using a monitor like this is an excellent step!

Composition Tips for Video: Create Proper Headroom

how to shoot video 1

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash 

Okay, before you start quoting different movie scenes that are incredibly famous and don’t follow this rule, the headspace rule can be broken creatively on purpose, but generally should be followed.

Headspace is just the amount of room an actor has over their head in the shot. It’s especially important for documentary makers to focus on headspace, because otherwise the shot looks cramped and uncomfortable. 

Lights Film School walks you through how to properly use headspace in this video, as well as how to remember to focus on it while trying to focus on other rules as well.

Learn More:

Composition Tips for Video: Keep the 180 Degree Line in Mind 

You never want to cross the 180 degree line in a video, because if you do then the continuity of the shot will be ruined because the actors will suddenly be facing the incorrect way.

This can be difficult to understand, so I’ll let Studio Binder show you what the 180 degree line is and how disorienting it can be for the viewer if it gets crossed by a videographer.  

e image ES50 slider 

Quick Tip: One of the most useful tools in a videographer’s toolkit for creating interesting video compositions is a camera slider. Sliders like the E-Image ES50 shown above offer the capability of getting smooth tracking sequences that add visual interest to your final video. This slider has 29 inches of range, which is perfect for videographers that want to incorporate tracking motion without lugging around a big, heavy slider. The 16-layer carbon fiber frame and CNC machined components cut down weight without sacrificing durability, so this is a slider that will work for you for years and years to come. It can accommodate up to 22 pounds of gear, too, so as your videography kit grows, this slider can grow with you!

Composition Tips for Video: The Foreground and Background are Important Too

how to shoot video 2

Photo by Ole Witt on Unsplash 

In much the same way as with still photography, there are simple composition tips for video that will make your shot immensely more interesting immediately.

One of these rules is paying attention to the entire shot, which includes the objects in front of the actor and the background they’re acting in front of.

Jonathan Hughes has an incredible archive of filmmaking tips, but his video on depth of field is especially insightful. 

Composition Tips for Video: Break the Rules

simple composition tips for video 1

Photo by Jack Sloop on Unsplash 

My favorite part of photography is learning how to break the rules. Life is incredibly boring if you follow all of the rules all of the time and the same can be said of videography.

In fact, I would argue the directors behind most movies that win awards and are generally considered some of humanity’s best work broke many rules in those movies.

CineFix pretty much proves my point in this video. You need to learn how to find a balance in rule breaking, because if you break too many rules your film will feel chaotic and disorganized, but if you don’t break any, your film could feel like a low-budget film.

Learn More:

Bonus Tip: Get Equipped With Proper Lighting

You can compose beautiful scenes all you want, but without the proper lighting, your video won't have the impact and visual appeal it should.

One of my favorite lights is the PilotFly AtomCube RX1 because it's small enough to fit in your pocket, but powerful enough and feature-rich to help you get that high-quality video you strive for.

It’s hard to believe how far photography lighting has come, even in just the last few years. Yet, here we are with lights like this one that slide into your pocket, yet provide you with studio-quality lighting on the fly.

You can use this as a key light for portraits, as a video light for capturing video footage, as an accent light in the background of your photos and videos, and more. With a CRI of 95+ and a TLCI of 97, you know you’re getting excellent quality lighting for your projects.

PilotFly has incorporated 12 common lighting options into the light. This gives you quick and easy access to lighting schemes and plenty of adjustments to get the lighting just right. With a three-hour battery life, you can tackle photoshoot after photoshoot, too.

This light is completely dimmable and you can adjust the color saturation, color temperature, and brightness, too. Wrapped in an all-aluminum frame, these lights are supremely light but incredibly durable for years and years of use.

pilotfly atomcube 6

But the most innovative feature of the PilotFly AtomCube is its ability to work with other lights.

Using Bluetooth, you can connect up to 255 of these lights together. With that many lights - which are calibrated for consistent results from one light to the next - there is virtually no end to what you can do lighting-wise.

You can also mount multiple lights together using Magic Cubes and control everything in real-time via the AtomCube smartphone app. That’s a huge bonus for when you’re multitasking during a photo or video shoot.

It really doesn’t get much easier to get high-quality lighting for your photography and video projects. With products like the AtomCube, photography and videography definitely got a little easier in 2019!

Learn more about the AtomCube RX1 RGBCW LED Video Light

 



We Recommend


Essential Camera Accessories for Vlogging

Essential Camera Accessories for Vlogging

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

When I first started foraying into vlogging, I was overwhelmed with the amount of camera accessories for vlogging there is on the market. 

How was I supposed to know which products worked and worked well on a budget? 

Thankfully, I had mentors in the industry to walk me through all of these vlogging accessories (and mentors willing to tell me when I was going overboard on a project). As it turned out, I was going way overboard. 

In an effort to prevent you from spending incredible amounts of money on vlogging accessories you really don’t need, I’m going to break down the bare minimum equipment you can get away with as a beginner vlogger. 

Lighting

camera accessories for vlogging

photo by AzmanL via iStock 

People ask me, “what do you need for vlogging,” all the time and my answer is the same across the board: lighting. If you aren’t worrying about your lighting, you’re probably doing it wrong. 

But, here’s the thing, you don’t need fancy lighting you just need good lighting that will properly frame you or your subject as the center of attention. I do not recommend relying on natural lighting for one reason: weather and humans are unpredictable. 

The chances that it’s going to be overcast when you need to shoot an episode are high, as are the chances that your schedule could get thrown off and you may need to shoot at night. 

So, one of the best accessories for vlogging are natural-looking light kits that are inexpensive.

lighting 2 

That’s where the Oryon 18” Bi-Color Ring Light shown above comes in…

This light offers the perfect amount of illumination for your vlog (and creates a beautiful catch light, too!).

It has a large opening in the middle to accommodate a range of camera sizes while the rear control knobs give you quick access to change the brightness and color of the light.

lighting 3

There are multiple mounts on the light for customized positioning, while the soft diffused LEDs emit bright, clean light that envelops you as you film.

And since this is a kit, it comes with multiple goodies, like a heavy-duty, yet compact light stand, two batteries, a dual battery charger, and a carrying case.

If you need fewer accessories, you can get a smaller kit with the light, a smartphone adapter, and a remote, and save a little money too!

Just like with photography, videography depends on good lighting. And when you’re vlogging, a ring light is a great option for getting that high-quality light you need.

Tripod

vlogging accessories

photo by RapidEye via iStock 

If you’ve ever piled your camera on top of a stack of books ever so precariously, then you’re suffering from needing to buy a tripod syndrome. 

I know. I’ve been there, but tripods allow you to fully express your creativity through your vlogging. They also keep your camera steady and out of the reach of any nuisances (like animals or kids). 

You’ll need to purchase different tripods depending upon what type of vlogging you’re planning on doing. For instance, if you’re a travel vlogger, you might want a tripod that folds up and is light, or if you’re only planning on vlogging out of your home or studio, you might want a mini-tripod that you can stick on your desk and forget about. 

Gimbal

best accessories for vlogging

photo by Mumemories via iStock 

Your vlogging accessories kit also isn’t complete without a gimbal. Gimbals allow you to rotate your camera on multiple axes. They basically allow you to get the same shot from 360 degrees and are used frequently in travel vlogging. 

While you don’t necessarily need an expensive gimbal if you’re just starting your vlogging journey, I purchased my favorite gimbal about a year into my vlogging journey and I’ll never go back. 

gimbal

The E-Image Horizon One gimbal is incredible because it features a universal quick release plate, it allows you to shoot full 360 degree shots on 3 different axes, and it carries up to 8 lbs (which is more than enough for almost any vlogger). 

In the video above by Ikan International, you can see how valuable a good, solid gimbal can be for vlogging and other videography pursuits.

You can purchase the E-Image Horizon on B&H for $400.

Learn More:

Camera Cage 

what do you need for vlogging

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash 

As you get more and more into vlogging and have more and more of the needed accessories for upping the production value of your videos, you’ll find that having a camera cage is a Godsend.

A camera cage is exactly what it sounds like - it’s a metal cage that surrounds the camera body and gives you multiple points of attachment for accessories like microphones, lights, monitors, and so forth.

camera cage 2

The Ikan Stratus Cage for the Sony a6500, 6400, a6300, and a6000 shown above also gives you a top handle, rods, a base frame, and a cable clamp to keep all the accessory cables out of your way.

Cages like this are form-fitted to your camera, so you have to be sure to select a cage that was designed for your specific camera body. With cutouts for the battery door and memory card slot, a perfect fit is a must! 

Once you have your camera mounted to the cage, you can go about adding the accessories you need to create vlogs with high production value. 

Cages aren’t necessarily cheap. However, they are definitely worth the investment because they expand the capabilities of video production so much.

Microphone

best accessories for vlogging 2

 photo by lapandr via iStock 

This is the section of vlogging accessories where I feel tons of people get ripped off because there are so many types of microphones, beginner vloggers think you need one of each.

I think there are four main types of microphones people should consider adding to their vlogging accessories kit: the lavalier microphone, the shotgun microphone, the USB microphone, and the portable audio recorder.

microphone 2

The lavalier microphone, also recognized as the broadcast journalism microphone, allows you to easily interview people without needing to take a ton of time to check your audio levels because the lavalier gets strapped directly on their chest.

If you’re going to be interviewing anyone in your vlogging journey, definitely invest in a lavalier microphone (especially since you can get the one pictured above on B&H for a whopping $15). 

vlogging accessories 2

 photo by undefined undefined via iStock 

The next type of microphone, the shotgun microphone, can either be placed a few feet above you or it can be placed directly on your camera. Shotgun microphones are great at only picking up audio from the area where they are pointed at. 

The third microphone type, the USB microphone, is perfect for voice-over work for transitions in your vlogs. Just sit one on your desk in your studio and get to work!

Finally, the portable audio recorder allows you to replace the audio from your camera. It does this by separately recording your audio. You can then sync this audio with your video with your editing software. The ability to record audio separately from your camera can come in handy in many situations, including when your camera is a good distance away from the subject.

Editing Software 

what do you need for vlogging 2

Photo by Wahid Khene on Unsplash 

You’re not going to get very far in your vlogging career if you don’t own editing software, but figuring out which editing software to purchase can be difficult.  

Adobe’s line-up of products is universally recognized as among the best editing software, so if you can afford to splurge on Adobe Premiere Pro, you should.

But, if you don’t want to spend money on a monthly subscription for any of Adobe’s lineup, there are still options for you. 

camera accessories for vlogging 2

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Take a look at this article on the top 10 Adobe Premiere alternatives for ideas in case Adobe’s products aren’t in your price range. 

When it comes down to it, there are just a few must-haves for vlogging if you want to create the best content (and who doesn’t want to do that?!).

If you invest smartly in the accessories outlined here, you’ll have a great setup for producing engaging videos that look good, sound good, and engage viewers!

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Gimbals 101

Gimbals 101

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

If I’m being honest, gimbals were the last tools I learned how to use for my photography business, primarily because I put buying one off for so long since I didn’t think I needed one. 

But, once I bought one and learned how to use it, gimbals were my best friend. Now I use my gimbal on a daily basis.

In this Gimbals 101 article, I’m going to explain the science behind gimbals, how to use one properly, and give you some of my favorite gimbals for every budget. 

What is a Gimbal?

how to use a gimbal 1

Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

A gimbal is a type of stabilizer. It pivots to allow you to rotate your camera and do so independently from you.

Gimbals are used to stabilize your camera when it moves left or right, up and down, or pretty much any other direction you can think of, which is why videographers love them. 

The traditional 3-axis gimbal, which is the type of gimbal I’m covering here, has the pitch axis (up and down movement), the yaw axis (left and right movement) and the roll axis (unleveled movements).

Techquickie explains all of the technology behind how a gimbal works in the video above.

Give it a watch, and you’ll come away with a much better understanding of the technology that makes gimbals so valuable.

 

Recommended Videography Books:

 

How to Use a Gimbal 

how to use a gimbal 2

photo by molchanovdmitry via iStock 

The first thing you need to do before trying out your gimbal for the first time is balance your gimbal.

First, you will attach your camera to your gimbal. Then allow your camera to fall as it will in the gimbal. Does it fall forward? Does it fall backward? 

Chances are it will fall forward because your lens is where most of your camera’s weight is. In order to adjust the tilt, move the tilt bracket up or down until your camera feels balanced.

Then, just to double check, point your camera straight up to see if it is truly balanced.

Learn More:

Tips for Shooting With a Gimbal

Aputure’s video on shooting with a gimbal is pretty awesome because they quickly cover every move you will need to know to get started.  

But, you’ll also need to keep traditional rules of photography in mind while playing around with your gimbal.

For instance, keep objects in the foreground of your shots. Doing so will allow you to put emphasis on the way the camera is moving. It makes the scene much more dynamic! 

Get Close to Your Subject

gimbals for video 3

 photo by Alessandro Biascioli via iStock 

When you’re closer to your subject it’s also easier for you to show off the way your camera moves.  

Plus, you can track subjects easier with this type of stabilization so you can follow a character from behind. 

Another way to both keep something in the foreground and get close to your subject is to get close to the ground and track the subject from behind. This low-angle tracking view can be extremely visually interesting. 

Plan Shots 

gimbals for video 4

Photo by Warren Berchie on Unsplash 

Planning your shots when using a gimbal is even more important than planning your shots with your typical equipment. 

One way to do so is to shoot all of your gimbal shots together so you don’t waste time balancing your gimbal more times than you need to. 

Plus, while you’re going through the process of planning your shots you can make sure that you’ve used the tips we’ve already mentioned like keeping objects in the foreground of your shots and getting close to your subjects. 

Best Gimbals for All Budgets

how to use a gimbal for video 5

 photo by Mumemories via iStock 

You can have all the gimbal tips in the world, but if you don’t own one then there’s not much you can do.  

Thankfully, like most camera technology, gimbals are being produced at cheaper and cheaper prices. So, I’ll start with the cheapest option and head on to the more expensive versions. 

Zhiyun-Tech Smooth-4 Smartphone Gimbal (Best Smartphone Gimbal)

best gimbal for smartphones

The Zhiyun-Tech Smooth-4 Smartphone Gimbal is just $100 and it works with every single smartphone.  

This gimbal has a battery life of 12 hours, and if your phone doesn’t quite have a battery life that long (I’m looking at you, Apple lovers), your gimbal can charge your phone directly during shooting, which is the most fun quality about this gimbal.

best gimbal for smartphones 2

This gimbal has a 300-degree pan angle, and a 240-degree tilt and roll angle, and weighs just over 1 lb at 19 oz.  

It can hold a phone up to 7.4 oz, and since most smartphones weigh under 5 oz. there’s an incredibly good chance it will work perfectly for you. 

Ikan MS-Pro Beholder (Best Mid-Range Gimbal)

best mid range gimbal

The Ikan MS-Pro Beholder is more expensive at $360, however for specs this great, the price is worth it. 

The Ikan MS-Pro Beholder has a load capacity of 1.98 lbs, so it will work best with light DSLRs or mirrorless set ups, as well as smartphones and GoPros. It features a 360 degree pan angle, and a 355 tilt and roll angle. 

The battery lasts anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of continuous shooting and it weighs just 2 lbs.

Think Media did a review of Ikan’s MS-Pro Beholder that shows you all of the features in action. 

DJI Ronin-S (Best Expensive Gimbal)

best expensive gimbal 

The DJI Ronin-S is not for the faint of heart given its price tag of $750, but if you need a gimbal that provides the most flexibility, this is it.

It features 360-degree pan, tilt and roll angles, can carry up to 8 pounds of equipment and lasts for 12 hours of continuous shooting. 

best expensive gimbal 2 

It weighs just over 4 lbs itself, and can act as a stabilized remote head when mounted to a jib. Plus, it can mount to an RC buggy to grab really low-angle shots.

So, no matter what your budget might be, there is a gimbal out there ready to help you get beautifully smooth video footage.

Check out the sample gimbals I’ve listed above, do some more research, and get the gimbal that best suits your needs.

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Here's What You Missed From WPPI

wppi

Just a couple of weeks ago I caught a flight over to Las Vegas to spend the day at WPPI.

I caught up with a ton of friends in the industry, and had a chance to check out a bunch of vendor booths as well.

There are a lot of great companies at WPPI that have fun, interesting, innovative, and helpful products and services for photographers.

While I was there, I put together a short list of companies that really impressed me.

Unfortunately, I came down with the flu soon after WPPI, so I'm a little late getting this out. Better late than never, though!

Sew Trendy Fashion & Accessories

sew trendy

As you can see in the photo above, the folks at Sew Trendy had a busy expo with a non-stop flow of people checking out their product line.

I met the Founder and CEO of Sew Trendy, Valerie Best, a year or so ago, and I have to say that the way she's grown the company and her commitment to providing photographers with the highest quality products is really impressive. It's not surprising that Sew Trendy has been so successful and that their products are so in demand because Valerie is one of the hardest working people in our industry.

I managed to elbow my way through the crowd to scope out some of Sew Trendy's newest products, and they certainly didn't disappoint.

Their J'Adore Velvet Collection of maternity gowns really impressed with Sew Trendy's signature beautiful lines, impeccable construction, and, of course, that awesome stretch velvet material!

newborn mesh wrap blush belly beautiful web res studio 2018 favorite sew trendyBelly Beautiful Photography

Sew Trendy has some new newborn photography offerings as well, including the Newborn Mesh Wrap shown in the image above.

This wrap is made of a stretchy knit that's not only soft, but is extremely easy to work with, so you can snuggle the baby up and get beautiful shots.

But the most impressive product I saw at Sew Trendy's WPPI booth was the Charity Rainbow Skirt.

The skirt is crafted of gorgeous, bright rainbow colors that give an expecting mom a light, airy aura in her photos.

These handcrafted skirts not only look great, but 20% of the proceeds of each skirt (and all of Sew Trendy's Rainbow Baby items, for that matter) are donated to Primary Children's Hospital to help families offset the costs of pediatric ailments.

Learn more about Sew Trendy

Sirui

sirui

A lot of people recognize the name Sirui, and associate it most often with tripods.

I have a long history with Sirui. They're one of my favorite companies. In fact, I have a W-Series tripod from these guys that I wouldn't trade for the world.

It's waterproof and dustproof, which is awesome since I take a lot of shots at the beach. Additionally, my W-2004 model has a built-in monopod that comes in handy when I want to travel fast and light.

And while Sirui makes some really, really good tripods, they certainly have more to offer than that.

sirui ep 224s

Sirui offers a complete line of photo and video monopods, like the EP-224S monopod shown above.

Like their tripods, Sirui monopods are well-built, easy to use, and have handy flip leg locks that make setup and breakdown a breeze.

These things are incredibly sturdy, too, and give you smooth panning rotation and swiveling.

But my favorite Sirui item I saw at WPPI is their new Three Lens Mobile Phone Kit.

The kit has you covered with an 18mm wide-angle lens, a 60mm portrait lens, and a fisheye lens to capture creative, mind-bending shots.

Each lens has multi-layer anti-reflection coating so you get high light transmission and precise colors with 4K image quality.

And with minimal vignetting and distortion, these things will help you snag some awesome photos with your phone!

Learn more about Sirui

Holdfast

holdfast

I've gushed about Holdfast many times in the past...

Every time I run into Matt Swaggart, founder of Holdfast, I feel like I'm running into an old friend. That's because Matt's developed a company that focuses on the relationships with its customers as much as it focuses on creating incredible products.

And even though I own some of their gear, I'm always surprised how taken aback I am when I see their stuff at expos like WPPI. It's simply some of the most beautiful photography gear I've ever seen.

You can see the sheer volume of selection in their MoneyMaker line in the image above. But that's not Holdfast's only claim to fame...

Roam Gallery Landscape 4 1024x683

If you've never experienced the joy of seeing and feeling (or using!) one of Holdfast's Roamographer bags, man, are you missing out!

Like the MoneyMaker (and everything else Holdfast makes), the Roamographer bag is gorgeously designed and beautifully made.

Not only is it an eye-catching bag, but it's incredibly durable, made of Great American Bison leather that only looks better and better with time.

Add in a removable camera insert that cradles your gear, carrier straps to carry your tripod, and a shearling-lined shoulder strap for comfortable carrying, and you have the makings of a piece of gear that will quickly become your new best friend!

Learn more about Holdfast

Ikan

nisi

One of my favorite booths to visit at any expo is Ikan because they have a mountain of gear available and I love checking out the latest, greatest stuff that will help me take better photos.

At WPPI this year, Ikan had a huge display of NiSi filters, which I've been using for about three months now.

Let's just say that I'm really glad that I picked up a NiSi V5 Pro Filter Kit, as it has not disappointed thus far!

Not only are these filters made of cinema-quality glass that gives you clear, sharp results with spot-on colors and minimal aberrations, but the V5 kit also comes with a filter holder, adaptor rings a carrying case, and cleaning supplies.

Add to that a soft-edge grad, a reverse grad, and a 3-stop, 6-stop, and 10-stop ND filters, and you have the makings of a complete filter pack for landscape photography.

I've only had a chance to use my new NiSi filters a couple of times, but I can tell you this - they are among the best filters I've ever used, and they will be part of my kit for a very, very long time.

On top of that, the new faces I met at the Ikan booth at WPPI impressed the heck out of me. This company is in good hands, that's for sure!

Learn more about Ikan

Skylum

skylum

If I were to describe the people at Skylum using just one word, that word would be fun.

Don't get me wrong - they aren't just a great group of people to hang out with. They also take their work very seriously.

I'm a huge fan of Lightroom, if for no other reason than it helps me keep my photos nicely organized. For someone that isn't the most organized sometimes, that's a godsend.

But I have to say that when it comes to editing my photos - most of which are landscapes - I turn to Skylum for their superb Aurora HDR 2018 and Luminar 2018 software packages.

There's plenty of reasons why Skylum's software is my go-to these days.

But chief among those reasons is that it's simple and effective.

I can literally cut my editing time in half by using Luminar because it comes preloaded with presets that make editing my photos a breeze.

There's over 40 non-destructive filers, LUTs that offer one-click options for simulating color grades and film stocks, and the ability to make your own custom presets, too.

It's a truly innovative program from a truly innovative company. If you want to boost your productivity in post-processing, give Skylum a Look!

Learn more about Skylum

Calotype

calotype

The fine folks pictured above are from Calotype, one of the most innovative photography companies around today.

If you've never heard of Calotype, get ready to be impressed...

I first met these guys at Photo Plus in 2017, and I have to say that I admire their dedication and hard work as much as I admire their product.

Speaking of which...Calotype is a web-based suite of tools for professional photographers that improves your management of day-to-day tasks that helps you streamline how you spend your precious work day.

In particular, Calotype is geared towards photographers that work in high-volume areas like sports photography or school photography. Why? Because Calotype tracks all that client data for you - names, dates, photo packages - you name it!

Calotype even helps you organize images, create encrypted image galleries for your clients to view, customize pricing lists, manage email marketing, and so much more.

In short, it's like having an office manager without having to pay one!

Learn more about Calotype

Spider Holster

spider holster

I've known Spider Holster's CEO for the better part of eight years now, and the dude is an absolute machine.

He's always on the forefront of innovation, coming up with new and exciting products that the photography industry needs. He's a bit of a mad scientist in that regard...

It's hard to capture the essence of Spider Holster's gear in a simple photo like the one above.

That's because their stuff is something you really need to see and use to believe just how good it is.

Their Spider Pro dual camera holster is a feat of engineering and design that makes shooting a much simpler, streamlined task.

SpiderPro DCS heavy SKU120

With your cameras on your hips, you not only have easy access to your camera to take quick shots, but they're also out of your way. No more worrying about stupid shoulder straps getting in the way!

What's really impressive about the Spider Pro is that it moves with you. In other words, you don't feel bogged down by your gear, nor do you feel restricted in how you move around.

Even with a long lens attached to your camera, you have excellent freedom of movement to get the shots you want with the confidence that your Spider Holster has your gear safely secured.

If you're a wedding photographer, I can't think of a better piece of kit to have. It's that good!

Learn more about Spider Holster

Iris Works

iris works

I've known the CEO of Iris Works for a few years, now, and I can say that her winning attribute is the laser focus she brings to the photography industry.

You can see that laser focus in Iris Works - it's a software package that is specifically designed to help you get a handle on everything you need to do.

Iris Works has tools that address every part of your business. It's got a calendar, billing and invoicing programs, and automated messaging so you can keep track of your appointments, invoices, and communications with clients.

Not only that, Iris Works gives you the ability to create contracts, galleries for individual clients, and maps with your favorite shoot locations.

You even get a daily snapshot of what's going on in your business, so you can see on a single screen each task you need to complete for the day.

Not bad, right?

Learn more about Iris Works



We Recommend


How to Edit Videos Like a Pro

How to Edit Videos Like a Pro

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Your awesome new camera has an amazing video mode and you’ve been shooting footage for a while. But you want your finished video to look as good as your still photography does. You had to learn post-processing for still imaging, now you should take some time to learn how to edit videos. 

Just like we had to adjust our thinking when we started shooting video after mastering our still photography, a similar change in how we approach editing has to happen. These video editing tips will help you get started or will help you improve your video editing skills.

Start Out with Good Footage

how to edit videos 1

Photo by Skycraft Studios on Unsplash 

You know you can save a still image by heavy post-processing, but you can take a good RAW image and enhance it to perfection. Same thing with video. For professional results, start out with the best video files you can produce is one of the most important tips for editing videos. 

Besides your high quality cameras and lenses, there are some accessories regularly used by cinematographers and videographers that allow you to control your video production results while shooting.

Lighting is essential, so is using filters. In fact, many of the lighting, filter, and matte box techniques you already know were originally conceived by cinematographers. Interestingly, if you ever saw a feature film being made, the cinematographer was responsible for lighting effects and configuration. Someone else was employed as the camera operator.

We are usually handling all of our own production, lighting, camera operation, directing, and editing. 

Shake-free camera support is also vital. In addition to a high quality video tripod, a gimbal for stabilizing handheld footage goes a long way to making your editing easier. You don’t have to break the bank to have the right tools, either. Companies like Ikan have a huge array of equipment at various price points.

Learn More:

Use an Advanced Video Editing Program

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Photo by Matthew Kwong on Unsplash 

I’m not trying to take your money, I promise! But as an established photographer and videographer, you know that in order to accomplish certain things, you need the right stuff. Pro and prosumer-level gear and software may cost a little more than entry-level, but it’s worth the added expense. 

The basic video editing software that came with your camera is pretty good, but in order to get the most out of your high quality footage, a professional level program is required. On Adobe’s Creative Cloud platform, you can either purchase or subscribe to one of the ultimate editors for video, Adobe Premiere Pro

As an optional video editing tip, I’ve found that the prosumer level of video editors are fantastic programs and often all we may need for our own video projects. Adobe Premiere Elements, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Vegas have advanced features and controls for creating pro quality videos.

Sound Is an Essential Video Element

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Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash 

In addition to motion, audio is an essential element of videography. Our camera may have an okay built in mic, but a high-quality external microphone will let us take full advantage of our camera’s audio capabilities. 

When you start editing audio, you’ll be glad you chose a fully capable video editing program. An important tip for editing video along with audio is to use secondary audio. This could be either a second live feed during recording or adding audio files during the editing process.

Be careful about balancing sound. Background noise can add realism, but it can also be distracting. Using all the features of your A/V editor gives you complete control over sound.  

Audio editing is where you add in a musical score, too, if that’s part of your finished product goal. Many free sources of audio and music are available online, or you can purchase licensing permissions for specific needs. If you plan to put your finished video online, make sure you have properly licensed audio for anything that is not your own property.

Make Clean Transitions

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 photo byokugawa via iStock

Nothing takes a viewer out of a video quicker than uncomfortable cuts or gimmicky editing. You want to have your own personal style, or brand, of videography. But some types of cuts or certain techniques can easily be overused.

This is true in the visual part of your video and in audio. Unless you’re trying to create a certain feel, smooth seems to work very well. 

There are a wide variety of editing techniques to use. Play around with them, get used to them.This where we drop this video editing tip: watch other people’s videos!

Search online, perhaps on YouTube, or take a favorite film of yours, and watch it with the mindset of trying to figure how they made the scene effective. Before long, you’ll be annoying your friends and significant others by doing this all the time! Seriously, though, it’s a great way to open up your own creativity.

Learn More:

Take a Course

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  photo by pixelfit via iStock

In our online world, you can find out virtually anything with a focused search. Online video editing instruction can be found at low cost and even for free.

This is one of the best video editing tips I ever got. Try as we might, some things just elude our grasp without adequate assistance. Many introductory video classes are as short as 20 minutes, yet are packed full of helpful tips.

Longer courses on videography, lighting, editing, and storytelling are available from established professionals and from accredited universities. You could even get a degree in one or more aspects of filmmaking. How far you want to go is up to you.

Tell Your Story

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 Photo by Chris Murray on Unsplash

Film your video footage, edit it, add sound, make it interesting. Just tell your story. Your story may be guided by what a client needs at that time or it may be a personal project. The main thing is, by developing good editing skills, you are in complete control.

 

 



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How to Get Top-Quality Audio With a Shotgun Mic

How to Get Top Quality Audio With a Shotgun Mic

Photo by Roman Koval from Pexels

An on-camera shotgun mic is one of the best ways to supplement the tiny built-in microphone on your digital camera. Especially so if you are filming handheld video. Another method for how to use a shotgun mic is as a boom mic, either with a handheld pole or some other type of mount. 

The reason for using an external microphone in the first place is to be able to record better audio for your A/V projects. So some audio tips concerning external mics is a good subject to consider for beginners or more advanced videographers. 

Why You Should Use a Shotgun Mic

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Photo by Clam Lo from Pexels

External mics are an essential part of your DSLR or mirrorless camera gear if you want high-quality audio to go along with the superb video quality that your camera records. 

A built-in mic is prone to capturing camera noise such as focusing noise from the lens or just general handling of the camera. An external mic mounted on the camera or elsewhere will eliminate or at least reduce these problems.

Another reason for using a shotgun mic is that they have better specs than built-in mics. Three major areas where they are significantly better are frequency response, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio. 

All of this means you capture better audio. As with the image quality of your files, if you capture better audio in the first place, you will be better able to edit and enhance it with your editing program.

 

Recommended Videography Reading:

 

Choose a High Quality Shotgun Mic 

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You are basically looking for an upgrade so it makes sense to get the best upgrade you can. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean breaking your budget. Very high-quality shotgun mics can be picked up for pricing similar to that of video lighting kits. In other words, more than a low-end Android smartphone but less than an iPhone. 

Our friends at Ikan have an excellent shotgun mic, the E-Image PM-527, that will do everything you were hoping for and probably more.

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It’s a longer mic than you may have seen when shopping budget mics. It comes with a windscreen and can be mounted on the camera, on a camera stabilizer grip, on a boom pole, or on a portable camera and accessory mount. 

The windscreen that comes with the shotgun mic is a vital accessory. Since we are using the mic for better audio, we don’t want wind noise to interfere. Wind noise can sound extremely loud in the audio recording, even if it's not much wind. 

Learn More: 

Watch Where You Point That Thing!

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Photo by Vanilla Bear Films on Unsplash 

Part of the characteristics common among shotgun mics is a narrow pickup pattern. This means you will be required to point the microphone carefully in order to have the sound source within the mic’s pickup pattern. 

Mounted on the camera or on a camera grip, your shotgun mic will be pointing directly at whatever you are filming. Using a boom pole or an accessory mount like the OctoPad, you should line up the mic to point at the source of audio. Which brings up the next of my amazing shotgun mic tips.

Monitor Your Audio

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photo by eclipse_images via iStock 

Mounted on-camera, you can be pretty sure that your shotgun mic is capturing the sound from the subject in view. When using the mic on a boom pole or a small mount, using headphones to monitor the audio as it comes in allows you to optimize mic placement.  

It’s a good idea to monitor your audio anyways. We get instant review of the visual aspect of our videos, so hearing the audio feed can enable us to maximize the use of our new shotgun mic. 

When using the shotgun mic off-camera, it’s good practice to get as close as possible to the subject with the mic. Of course, you don’t want it to show in your finished video, so watch out for those goofs! 

Take Control of Your Audio

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photo by Rakesh Gohil via Pexel

Our cameras can be set to adjust exposure, focus, and audio automatically, but taking control of these settings manually allows us to create the best finished video we can. High quality video will get us more views, more subscriptions to our YouTube channels, and more paying gigs if that’s our intent.

A decent shotgun mic and the knowledge of how to use it properly is one part of that situation that we can easily master. 

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How to Master the Use of a Teleprompter

How to Master the Use of a Teleprompter

 photo byDavid-Prado via iStock

Whether you’re giving a big presentation at work or trying to shoot YouTube videos, a teleprompter can help you give your best performance but only if you know how to use one.

A teleprompter works by reflecting the words in a monitor to allow you to simultaneously read them while allowing a camera to film you through the screen.  

When used effectively, teleprompters allow you to remember long speeches, but there are some teleprompter tips you need to be aware of. 

Teleprompter Tips for Beginners

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Photo by William Moreland on Unsplash

Write Everything Out

It’s pretty simple to begin relying so heavily on your teleprompter that you are focusing more on your delivery of the words than on the words themselves. 

This is great so long as you are a good copy editor. But, if for example, you use roman numerals or numbers in place of phrases, you can accidentally confuse your audience.  

You can also catch any potential errors with your teleprompter text by running through it once or twice (or more) before recording.

The old saying that “practice makes perfect” definitely applies here...the more you practice, the more natural you will sound.

Believe What You’re Saying

There’s no better way to immediately confuse your audience than by preaching something you don’t believe in. Teleprompters are already unnatural enough, so by only writing things you completely stand behind you can make your delivery more realistic. 

 

Recommended Videography Books:

 

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

It’s easy to think you’re going to look natural on screen, but there’s no way for you to become familiar with your text if you don’t practice beforehand. As I said before, practice makes perfect!

Focus on your Presentation

The words are not as important as your energy or your body language. Practice eye contact and natural hand movements. 

Also, practice including inflections and emphasis into your teleprompter text. For example, underline words you want to emphasize and include an ellipsis where you need to dramatically pause. 

Don’t Let Your Teleprompter Set Your Pace

A teleprompter operator’s job is to follow you. If you get into the habit of following your teleprompter, you’re going to be speaking unnaturally fast. 

If you’re nervous, you’ll probably already be speaking too quickly, so take a breath and remember that you’re in control.  

For some more helpful tips on teleprompter use, check out the video above by Justin Brown-Primal Video.

Things to Keep in Mind About Your Teleprompter Performance

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 photo by RichLegg via iStock 

There are two things to keep in mind while using a teleprompter: your audience and the information you’re trying to convey. 

If you’re using a teleprompter for your vlog, are you sure your audience doesn’t want a more natural delivery? You could break your video down into a few segments and piece them all together if that’s the case.

If you’re using a teleprompter for a speech, make sure your audience is large enough and the space you’re in is spacious enough to make the use of a teleprompter more natural. 

Also, make sure to use a teleprompter during long speeches or videos, or speeches and videos that require the use of statistics.  

If the information you’re conveying is more formal, that’s an appropriate time for a teleprompter. It will help you deliver the information more accurately and you’ll be less prone to conflating numbers and data in your head.

Learn More:

What to Look for When Buying a Teleprompter

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The most important thing I look for when I’m purchasing a teleprompter is what devices the teleprompter is compatible with. 

In the case of my favorite teleprompter, Ikan’s PT Elite LS, it supports Apple, Android, and Windows tablets between 7.5 x 5 inches and 10.5 x 8 inches (which is essentially every tablet all three of these manufacturers have released in the past 5 years).

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You’ll also want to ensure that your teleprompter is light enough to travel with you. This particular model has a lightweight design so it won’t weigh you down when you hit the road. Other features include an adjustable glass frame and a quick-release base plate for fast setup and takedown. 

Another useful feature that the PT Elite LS has is it can be mounted on light stands, which is hugely convenient for those of you that already have light stands in your kit.

You can purchase Ikan’s PT Elite LS Teleprompter on their website for $430. 

Learn More:

 



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How to Shoot Quality Video Footage

How to Shoot Quality Video Footagephoto by izusek via iStock

Sure, you can stand in front of a scene, put your camera in video mode, and record stuff pretty easily.

But if you want to shoot high-quality footage that’s visually appealing, compelling, and tells a unique story, then you have to put in more time and effort than that.

But shooting quality video footage doesn’t have to be difficult. Instead, if you follow these essential videography tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating top-notch videos.

Beginner Videography Tip: Take It Easy With Zooming

beginner videography tipphoto by DigitalSoul via iStock

Watch any feature film and you’ll notice that zooming from a wide shot to a close-up is quite gentle. What’s more, there isn’t a ton of zooming to be found in professionally-produced videos.

That’s because too much zooming and zooming in and out too quickly can be incredibly distracting to the viewer.

Not only that, but sequence after sequence of zooming in and out can make people sick to their stomachs, even if the zooms don’t light up the radar gun. Get a quick tutorial on how to pan, tilt, zoom, and more in the video below by Shutterstock Tutorials.

When you think zooming is necessary, consider how to best incorporate it into the video sequence. Also consider if you’d be better served by creating a sequence of footage in which you have a wide shot and then a separate sequence with a close-up with no zoom in between.

As is the case with many things, simpler is often better, so take the time to think about whether you need to zoom, and if you don’t, you might just end up with a better-looking sequence.

e image tripod

The same advice goes for panning shots. Moving the camera too much or too quickly from left to right or right to left can feel overdone, chaotic, and unnecessary.

To get beautiful smooth panning shots, you need a tripod with a fluid head like the E-Image GA752 shown above.

This tripod kit includes a GH06 fluid head that features three drag settings that enable you to adjust the fluid head to fit the needs of the shot and your particular shooting style.

What’s more, tripods like this hold a lot of weight (13 pounds, in this case) and have a wide height range (32.5-72.5 inches) to vary the eye level of the footage you shoot.

With the support of a solid tripod like this and the functionality of a smooth fluid head, you’ll be able to create gorgeous panning shots that add production value to your videos.

Invest in a Good Microphone

invest in a good microphonePhoto by Maddy Baker on Unsplash

One of the keys to producing excellent video content is excellent audio, and you can’t get excellent audio with the built-in microphone on your phone, DSLR, or mirrorless camera.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend an arm and a leg on a professional mic and a boom and other audio accessories, either. Just get started with a quality mic you can attach to your camera.

A great option is the Comica CVM-V30-Pro-R Shotgun Mic.

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This professional supercardioid mic is ideal for filming in noisy environments in which you need to eliminate background noise and noise coming from the sides of the shot. This enables you to get crisper, cleaner audio from your subjects.

It is compatible with any camera with a 3.5mm audio jack, and can easily mount to the camera's hot-shoe.

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With a low-cut filter, 10 dB sensitivity adjustment, and a shock-absorbing design that reduces vibration noise, this is an excellent choice for beginner videographers. The price of less than $55.00 isn’t bad either!

No matter how beautiful the video footage you capture might be, if you pair it with subpar audio, the video will fall flat.

By investing in gear that helps you improve the production value - as a shotgun microphone will certainly do - you set yourself up for greater success as a videographer.

Learn More:

Vary the Types of Shots

shooting quality video footagephoto by gradyreese via iStock

If you’re wondering how to shoot high-quality video, varying the types of shots you record.

While there are more than a dozen basic cinematography techniques, from bird’s eye shots to close-ups to tilt and pan shots, there are three primary types of footage you absolutely need to learn: wide shots, medium shots, and close-ups.

Wide Shots

videography tipsphoto by Jacob Ammentorp Lund via iStock

Commonly known as full or long shots, wide shots serve the purpose of showing the subject in the context of their surroundings.

The wide shot gives the audience a feel for what’s going on in the scene and how various actors relate to one another in space. But these shots are far enough away that the actors’ emotions and feelings are not necessarily evident.

Wide shots are framed up with the subject’s entire body in view. Doing so makes the audience feel almost like a fly on the wall, able to take in the totality of the scene from a point of view that makes you feel as though you’re right there with the actors.

Wide shots are often used as an introductory sequence, again, to give the audience a lay of the land. From there, medium shots often follow to provide deeper details with close-ups coming after that for sequences in which the actor’s emotions or feelings need to be on full display.

See what I mean in the video above by StudioBinder.

Medium Shots

medium shots videophoto by SolStock via iStock

The purpose of a medium shot is to create a more intimate look at your subject that a wide shot just can’t produce.

Medium shots usually highlight a person from the waist up and are typically used in an informative manner, such as showing scenes in which there’s a group of people or when two or more people are engaged in dialogue. Many interviews are also shot at medium length.

Medium shots help viewers focus more on the subject or dialogue at hand, but in a way that still shows some of the surroundings. Doing so helps viewers gain a better understanding of the relationship between the subject and their surroundings.

See how medium shots look (and learn how to implement them) by checking out the video above by StudioBinder.

Close-Ups

essential videography tipsphoto by gawrav via iStock

Close-up shots get the audience right into the action. When framing the shot on an actor, you often see nothing but their face, though sometimes their neck shows too.

The purpose of a close-up shot is to help viewers feel more engaged in the video. Likewise, close-ups permit you to see the emotions expressed by the actor in a way that isn’t quite as intense as in a medium shot, and especially a wide shot.

Since close-ups show virtually nothing but the actor’s face, their facial expressions become most important. This is what helps convey the feelings and emotions of the moment.

In the video above, StudioBinder offers their take on how to create the perfect close-up.

With that, you have some essential videography tips that will help you create more impactful videos.

Give each of these tips a try, incorporate them into your workflow, and reap the rewards of creating videos that have an improved look and feel.



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How to Stabilize a Camera for Vlogging

How to Stabilize a Camera for Vlogging

 photo byozgurdonmaz via iStock

Part of the process of creating a vlog that’s engaging and that draws viewers is having footage that doesn't make viewers seasick.

That means you need a means of stabilizing your camera as you shoot.

Fortunately, there are a variety of methods you can use to capture ultra-smooth video for your blogs, from tripods to dollies to gimbals.

Let’s get to it so you can learn how to stabilize a camera for vlogging.

Use a Tripod to Stabilize Your Camera

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Chances are you already have a tripod of some sort, so it might be the best and easiest option for you.

Tripods like the E-Image EG01A2 shown above give you the stability you need for the camera while offering a host of features that make getting better footage a reality.

For example, this tripod has a payload of up to 11 pounds, so you can add an on-camera light, a shotgun microphone, and other camera accessories for capturing better-quality video.

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The included pan/tilt fluid head enables you to get nice, fluid B-roll with a range of 360-degrees for panning and 135-degrees for tilting. The quick-release baseplate system makes for easy work of attaching and removing your camera from the head.

Tripods like this also give you a range of heights (in this case, 31.5-inches up to 63.25-inches) so you can vary the eye level of your video sequences to create more visual interest. 

This tripod in particular has an integrated mid-level spreader that aids in keeping the legs stable, and with removable anti-slip pads and metal spikes on the feet, you don’t have to worry about the tripod sliding around as you film.

Obviously, a tripod for vlogging is a great option if you’re filming in a home studio or out in the field when you aren’t moving around. But what other options are there for more mobile support? 

Learn More

Try a Dolly for Vlogging

Dollies and camera sliders have been used forever by filmmakers to get smooth tracking shots.

And while this might not be a traditional type of shot for vlogging, there’s no reason why you can’t jazz things up a bit and use a dolly to incorporate beautifully stabilized video sequences into your vlog. 

As this awesome tutorial discusses, there are a plethora of options when it comes to sliders and dollies, including building your own budget-friendly dolly system.

In the video above by Premium Beat, you can see that it’s really not that difficult to put a DIY dolly together, and you can do it for only $50!

how to stabilize a camera

 photo by cyano66 via iStock

The advantage of using a dolly or a slider (as shown in the photo above) is the unique tracking shots I mentioned earlier. This can certainly add a layer of polish to your vlogs while also giving viewers a little more visual interest than simply watching handheld or tripod-based videos.

The problem with a slider or dolly is that it’s a lot to carry around and set up, at least when compared to using a simple tripod or gimbal. Nevertheless, if it’s stable video footage you’re after, a dolly is a slam dunk!

Smooth Out Handheld Video by Using a Gimbal

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Of course, the most popular option for shooting nicely stabilized vlogging footage is using a gimbal.

Gimbals like the E-Image Horizon One shown above use brushless motors combined with steady computing technology to ensure your video footage is beautifully smooth.

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Gimbals can’t hold as much gear as a tripod, but some, like this one, have a payload up to 8 pounds. That means you can use a wide range of cameras, lenses, and other accessories without exceeding the maximum payload.

This particular gimbal featured three-axis image stabilization and multiple operational modes, including pan follow, free follow, all locked, sport follow, and dream follow.

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With that kind of versatility, you can vary the look and feel of your video footage for a higher-quality final product.

And with 12-hour runtime, a companion smartphone app for easy control, a universal quick-release plate for rapid gear changes, and full 360-degree movements on all three axes, this is certainly a gimbal for vlogging that can help you improve the production value of your vlogs.

Additionally, you can pair a gimbal with a monopod to create shots that look like they were taken on a dolly or slider. 

The video above by Ikan International is a great example of how you can “fake” a shooting style by using nothing more than a gimbal. While this video features a product that is at the end of its product life, the point is that you can utilize these methods with any gimbal to get improved results.

And, really, that’s all we’re after here - improved results. 

While simply holding your camera in your hand as you move around or setting it on top of a solid surface to get your shots works fine when you’re just starting out, creating engaging content requires that you have the means to vary the types of shots you get.

With a tripod, a dolly or slider, and a gimbal, you can do just that!

Learn More

 



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How to Use a Follow Focus System

How to Use a Follow Focus System

 photo bySilvrshootr via iStock

Granted, you don’t need a follow focus system for every shot!

Let’s say you are capturing some unplanned moments with your DSLR or shooting a documentary with a handheld camera, where autofocus works just fine.

But what if you’ve carefully planned every shot? Imagine how much time and money you’ll save, simply by nailing focus every time.

Also, a follow focus system can save your life when the lens has a thin focus ring and/or an extremely short focus throw.

But wait! If you know zilch about a follow focus system, don’t worry! Here’s the complete low-down on what a follow focus system is, its various components, and how you should use it. 

What is a Follow Focus System?

follow focus system 1

 photo bybjones27via iStock

 As the term suggests, a follow focus system is a set of mechanisms that enable the focus to move smoothly with the action. The act of pulling focus to follow the action is known as racking, and the person in charge of it is called a focus puller. Typically, the First Assistant Cameraman does the focus-pulling on a production set, but some camera operators prefer doing in on their own.

Using a follow focus system allows you to devote more attention to the creative aspect of video production. You no longer have to worry about unnecessary sound or vibration, just as the video above by creativecowofficial shows.

Parts of a Follow Focus System

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photo bymady70 via iStock

In order to use a follow focus system, you first need to attach it to the teeth of your camera’s focus ring. Now all you need is to turn the knob on your focus controller device, and it will spin the teeth.

This may sound very simple but a lot of parts work together to make the follow focus system work. So, here’s a rundown on the parts of a follow focus system.

The rod clamp or mount: The base of a camera rig is formed of two rods, to which a rod clamp/mount is attached. To set it up, you need a base plate in addition to these two rods. These can either be 15mm rods, with a spacing of 60mm (the standard spacing for the cheapest variety) or 100mm, or 19mm rods placed 104mm apart.

The arm: This part attaches to the rod clamp, and you can either make it rigid or flexible, depending on the types of lenses you will need to work with. Experts recommend keeping it as flexible as possible, or at least one that can move laterally. If it pivots, even better, since it will allow you to accommodate the size of the lens. 

The gear: This is arguably the most important component of the whole mechanism. It is connected to the arm, and is rotated with the help of teeth that link to the focus knob. Usually, 1-to-1 gears allow rotation to the same degree as the focus knob (known as ‘throw’). A focus puller may need different kinds of throws with their gears. A larger throw refers to getting a larger focus ring turn even with a small turn of the focus knob. However, when the focus marks have very fine spacing, to get a higher degree of focus smoothness, a smaller throw is more useful.

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photo byFatanfilm via iStock

The lens gear ring: The gear attaches to this part of the rig, wrapping tightly around the lens where the focus ring is. A lens gear ring is necessary when the focus ring doesn’t have teeth. Those working with many different kinds of lenses require as many types of lens gear rings.

Focus knob: This is what you turn to focus with a follow focus system. Normally, when you don’t have a focus knob, you turn the lens’ focus ring using your arm bent at 90 degrees with respect to the camera. However, this is very inconvenient and can cause vibration in video. This is where the focus knob comes into the picture, since it allows you to avoid straining your arm. It also lets the focus puller stay clear of the way of the camera operator while racking focus.

White disc: This is another crucial component of a focus follow system. A good quality white disc allows you to write and erase focus marks on it as many times as you want. These days, glow-in-the-dark marking discs (pictured below) like the one that comes with the PDMovie Live Pro Three-Channel Focus/Iris Zoom Control System, are all the rage, thanks to their functionality in darker environments.

White Disk

In addition to the components discussed above, you can use a few accessories to bring greater functionality to your focus follow system. For instance, you can attach a speed crank to the focus knob when need to turn focus very fast.

Learn More:

How to Use a Follow Focus System

The first step is to find the Greek letter phi (Φ) on your camera. Now, a DSLR won’t have it, since these cameras either use autofocus or manual focus with live view.

The next step is to carefully measure the distance between the point of focus and the phi mark. You will need to do it using a good measuring device. For distances up to 25 feet, you can use a sturdy measuring tape that comes with a locking mechanism. For tapes under 15 feet, a half-an-inch width will do. You will need a tape that is 1” wide if the tape is over 15 feet.

For distances up to 300 feet, you will need a fiberglass tape. Carry a 50-foot and a 300-foot roll but use the latter only when required. In case of even greater distances, it is necessary to use a laser rangefinder with a range of around 100 feet. But remember to never point the laser at another human being or the camera.

The above video by Felicia Smith talks about using a laser rangefinder when shooting at night, especially in situations where you cannot get closer to the action.

parts of a follow focus system 4

 photo by AlexLMX via iStock 

Now that you know the basics of a follow focus system, you may want to know what follow focus system you should choose. Of course, it depends on your needs. Ideally, you should look for one that….

  • Comes with a highly functional geared mechanism for better focus throw
  • Has no loose joints, so you can expect less vibration
  • Allows the focus puller to stay out of the camera operator’s way while racking focus
  • Comes with a clear white disc that allows you to write and erase markings easily

Another important thing to consider is your budget. Brands like PDMovie, for instance, offer a number of options to suit almost every budget.

For those looking for a budget option, the PDMOVIE Live Air Compact Wireless Lens Control System could be a great option. It is easy to set up and allows you to adjust focus from up to 33 feet away. All you have to do is to attach the mini motor to your camera’s focus ring and then adjust focus remotely with the wireless Bluetooth focus controller. You can attach the controller to a tripod or monopod or Glidecam.

PDMOVIE Remote Air 4 Single Motor Wireless Lens Control Kit

If, however, you often need to adjust focus far away from the action, it would be a good idea to spend a little. You can find high-quality focus control systems in a mid-range budget. For instance, the PDMOVIE Remote Air 4 Single Motor Wireless Lens Control Kit comes with an additional handwheel for Wi-Fi. With that, you can adjust focus from up to 328 feet away.

If you wouldn’t mind paying for a high-end system, go for the PDMOVIE Live Pro Three-Channel Focus/Iris/Zoom Control System. It comes with three motors, so you can adjust not just the focus but also the zoom and the iris.

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Mirrorless Camera Accessories You Need Right Now

Mirrorless Camera Accessories You Need Right Now

Photo by Jeff David King on Unsplash

I don’t want to say that the days of the DSLR are done, but I can’t help but wonder how many more years that the likes of Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other major companies will continue to make them.

With so many mirrorless cameras now available, and with Canon and Nikon jumping into the mirrorless deep end as of late, more and more photographers are bound to make the switch to mirrorless. 

The question is, once you go mirrorless, what accessories do you need to complete your kit? 

Here’s a few recommendations that I’ve enjoyed using with my Nikon Z7, Panasonic GH5, and Sony a6400 as of late.

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: Haida 77mm NanoPro Multi-coated Circular Polarizer Filter

mirrorless camera accessories haida 1 

I picked up a Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 lens a few months ago for my Sony a6400, and I enjoy using that combination of camera and lens for shooting landscapes.

On the a6400, which is a crop sensor camera, this lens has an effective focal length of 27mm, which isn’t as wide as I’d like for some landscapes, yet it still provides a pleasing view of the subject matter. 

More to the point, this lens is ludicrously sharp, so elements from near to far are rendered in gorgeous detail.

mirrorelss camera accessories haida 2 

Helping matters is my Haida 77mm NanoPro circular polarizing filter.

At just $80, it won’t break the bank, which is a good thing since that Zeiss lens isn’t exactly cheap.

But just because it’s an affordable filter doesn’t mean that it skimps on performance…

Like any quality circular polarizer, this filter helps reduce reflections and glare off of water and non-metallic surfaces while also minimizing atmospheric haze.

On top of that, the filter boosts the contrast in the sky, making the white clouds brighter and the blue atmosphere deeper and more saturated.

mirrorless camera accessories haida 3

And since this filter is made of optical glass, I get excellent clarity, contrast, and color fidelity.

Additionally, Haida has incorporated 10 layers of multi-coatings to minimize reflections, protect the filter, and reduce the need for cleaning because oils and water bead off the surface of the filter.

I appreciate the thin mount on this filter, too - just 5mm thick, it doesn’t cause vignetting when used with a wide-angle lens.

This is just a well constructed and well-designed filter that will help you achieve improved photos with your mirrorless camera. 

Learn more about the Haida 77mm NanoPro circular polarizing filter

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: E-Image EK650 Professional Video Tripod

e image ek 650 1 

When I’m out shooting videos with my Panasonic GH5, I need a good, solid tripod to support the camera, and for that, the E-Image EK650 is a great choice.

Not only does this tripod support up to 11 pounds of gear, but it also offers a nice height range of 30.5-66” so I can vary the eye level of the footage I’m shooting.

The fluid head that comes with the tripod has a 75mm bowl and a fixed counterbalance that allows it to support the weight of your gear. There are also independent pan and tilt locks, a quick-release plate, and a removable right-sided pan bar.

e image ek650 2

The tripod has twist leg locks that make for easy setup and help prevent accidental disengagement of the lock, as sometimes occurs with flip-lock mechanisms.

To give the tripod more support, there’s a removable mid-level spreader that improves stability as well as removable rubber feet with spikes underneath, which are perfect for uneven or slippery terrain. 

e image ek650 3

At around nine pounds, this tripod is lightweight enough to easily carry from one location to the next, too.

This tripod has been a durable, reliable rig addition to my kit and has proven its worth whether I’m filming in the studio, in the city, in the country, and points in between. And at $200, it’s well-priced!

Learn more about the E-Image EK650 Professional Video Tripod

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: HEX Ranger Sling Bag

hex brand 1 

Okay, okay, the HEX Ranger Sling Bag is marketed as a DSLR bag, but this thing is so versatile and so well put together that it can certainly be used to carry mirrorless gear like my Nikon Z7. 

What makes this a great mirrorless bag is that it is designed with the utmost attention to detail and use of space.

Where other sling bags are on the bulky side and often don’t fit you all that well, the HEX Ranger fits snugly (but not too snugly!) and stays in place on your bag as you maneuver around.

mirrorless camera accessores hex ranger 2

Shooting with a mirrorless camera is all about taking advantage of its small form factor and light weight, and this bag mirrors that.

It weighs just 1.3 pounds and measures 14.5"L x 7.25"W x 4.75"H. As you can see above, it hugs your body and is totally unobtrusive, yet easily accessible to get your gear.

Speaking of access, this bag has a large top opening to access your gear and tons of pockets for storing your phone, glasses, keys, tablet, memory cards and other items.

hex ranger sling 3

This bag is made of premium, water-resistant Cordura and has genuine YKK zippers with custom metal pulls that offer superior durability and performance.

Inside, the fold-out bottom panel allows the bag to be folded flat for packing while the fleece-lined main compartment offers configurable and removable partitions to keep your gear safe and sound.

HEX simply thought of everything when they designed this bag. And since it can hold eight liters of gear, you can bring your mirrorless camera, a couple of lenses, a tablet, and other accessories, no problem! 

Learn more about the HEX Ranger Sling Bag

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: Camera Canopy

camera canopy 1

Try as you might to predict the weather and rely on the weather forecast, at some point you’re going to be out shooting and find yourself in a rain storm that wasn’t expected. 

More to the point, there are many occasions when you might want to go out shooting, only to find that the weather is rainy and dreary. That shouldn’t stop you from going out to take photos, though.

A while back, I picked up a Camera Canopy for my Nikon Z7, and it has been a great addition to my kit for those days when the rain just won’t go away.

camera canopy 2

What’s so clever about the Camera Canopy is that it attaches to the hot-shoe mount of the camera and covers both the camera body and lens from above.

That means that you have unencumbered access to the camera’s buttons and LCD, which is certainly not the case when you use a typical bag-like rain cover. 

What’s more, since the Camera Canopy extends beyond the end of the lens, it protects the lens glass from moisture so you can shoot during a downpour without worrying that water droplets are going to interfere with the shot.

If you’re a landscape photographer with a mirrorless camera, Camera Canopy is a must-have for your kit!

Learn more about the Camera Canopy for Mirrorless Cameras

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: Litra Torch LitraPro 

litrapro 1

No matter if you’re taking still photos, videos, working in the studio, or working in the field, having a solid light source is a must. 

But what you don’t want is to lug around big, heavy lighting gear, which is why the Litra Torch LitraPro is my go-to light.

Measuring just 2.8 x 2 x 1.2" and weighing 6 ounces, this little light is ultra-portable and won’t take up hardly any space in your camera bag (that’s it on top of my Sony a6400 below).

But don’t think that because it fits in the palm of your hand that it doesn’t pack a mighty punch…

With 60 LEDs that can pump out 1200 lumens of brightness, this little light punches above its weight class.

Not only that, but the LitraPro is a full-spectrum bi-color light so you can adjust the color temperature (from 3000-6000K) to suit the specific shooting situation.

It puts out good quality light, too, with a CRI of 95.

On top of all that, this light has a 10-hour rechargeable battery, multiple mounting points, Bluetooth, and is waterproof up to 90 feet. 

In other words, it’s a go-anywhere, do-anything light!

Learn more about the Litra Torch LitraPro

Top Mirrorless Camera Accessories: Batteries and Battery Chargers

sony a6400 charger 

Mirrorless cameras don’t offer the same battery performance as their DSLR cousins, so it’s important to have extra juice on your outings. 

For all three of my mirrorless cameras, I have three spare batteries, all of which are fully charged the night before a shoot. 

Likewise, a dual battery charger enables faster charging, that way they’re ready to roll for the next day.

Though batteries and chargers aren’t as sexy as the items outlined earlier, they’re still a necessity!

 



We Recommend


Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5 Content Creators

must have accessories for panasonic gh5

I picked up a Panasonic GH5 a few months ago, and as I explain in my Panasonic GH5 review, though this camera is a couple of years old, it's still one of the very best filmmaking cameras on the market today.

Combined with a host of lenses for the GH5 that work beautifully for both stills and videos, the GH5 has quickly become one of my favorite cameras. I'm saying that even though I've always been a Nikon shooter!

In fact, even though the GH5 is a couple of years old, I think it's still a solid buy in 2019. Find out why in my video below:

But no matter how good the GH5 does with video, you still need a few accessories to get the most out of this incredible camera.

Below, I've listed a few must-have accessories for Panasonic GH5 content creators.

Table of Contents

First Things First: Panasonic GH5 Video Specs

If you aren't familiar with the GH5's video specs, let me enlighten you...

For starters, you can record in 4K at up to 60p and full HD at up to 180 fps to create incredible slow-motion videos.

This camera has no video crop, so you get the full sensor readout (which is oversampled from 5.1K, so your video footage is uber sharp). What's more, there's no time limit for video clips, either, though you're obviously bound by the size of your memory card and battery life.

The GH5 also has internal 8-bit 4:2:0 IPB encoding, which only improves if you use an external recorder.

At a lower frame rate, this camera will handle 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording. Nice!

Learn how to set up a Panasonic GH5 for videomaking in the video at the start of this section by Griffin Hammond.

Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5: Ikan Stratus Cage

cage

Having a cage for your camera for video work is an absolute must, given all the accessories you need to produce high-quality videos.

I like the Ikan Stratus Cage because it's specially designed for use with the GH5. That means it fits like a glove and feels like an extension of the camera rather than a big, bulky one-size-fits-all cage that just gets in the way.

It's got an Arca-Swiss bottom plate for easy on and off, a NATO top handle to make carrying your gear that much easier (the handle also accepts bicycle grips), and there's cutouts so you can easily access the battery, SD card, and I/O doors.

must have accessories cage 2

Ikan even includes a built-in lens adapter support and throws in a cable clamp, too.

And with connection points that include multiple 1/4"-20 and 3/8"-16 threaded holes, a shot mount, and an ARRI rosette, there's all sorts of gear you can attach to this thing for your video production purposes.

Learn more about the Ikan Stratus Cage for Panasonic GH5

Top Accessories for the Panasonic GH5: Rode VideoMic Pro

In photography, we always talk about how it's the lens that's the key to a great shot, not the camera.

Well, in video, the key to creating the highest-quality content is having excellent audio to match your clean, crisp video.

So, you can shoot video with a GH5 all you want, but without superb audio quality to go with that 4K video footage, your film isn't going to have the impact you want.

For that reason, I bought a RODE VideoMic Pro.

This little shotgun-style mic has a 1/2-inch condenser capsule, which results in ultra-clean audio that's broadcast quality. We're talking about a self-noise level of just 14db!

It has a super-cardioid polar pattern that reduces background noise while ensuring that it captures crisp audio of the source you want to record.

And, unlike lesser microphones, the RODE VideoMic Pro has a Rycote Lyre shock system that creates a buffer between the microphone capsule and electronics and the microphone mount. This, in turn, minimizes the vibrations of the mic and improves the quality of the audio even more.

Add in fantastic sound, easy-to-reach controls, and intuitive operation, and you have the makings of the ideal microphone for filmmaking with the Panasonic GH5.

Learn more about the RODE VideoMic Pro 

Acratech GP Ball Head

gp ball head

To say that I'm a fan of Acratech is the understatement of the century...

I've used their GP ball head for years and years, and it's never disappointed.

The build quality of this thing is crazy good. It's built like a tank and gives you ultra-precise and smooth adjustments for fine-tuning the framing of your footage (and for smooth panning motion, too). 

This rig has a quick-release clamp or a double speed rubber knob or locking lever. There's a large bullseye level to keep your videos nice and straight, and with a weight load of 25 pounds, it'll support the GH5 and all your accessories just fine!

Learn more about the Acratech GP Ball Head

Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5: Ikan Delta 5-Inch Field Monitor

ikan field monitor

While the Panasonic GH5 has a cool swivel LCD screen that you can use to see yourself as you record, it's nice to have a larger monitor when recording video.

For that purpose, I use the Ikan Delta 5-inch field monitor (shown above, in front of the ball head).

This thing is big and beautiful and aids me in getting the exposure and focus just right.

Though it's got a gorgeous and large 5-inch screen, the overall unit is still small and lightweight, making it easy to add to my camera bag. It doesn't bog you down when filming handheld either.

ikan monitor

Ikan has stuffed it full of awesome features, too, like audio meters, guides, a histogram, zooming capabilities, false color, and peaking.

There's HDMI inputs and outputs, 4K UHD support, and a USB port for loading 3D LUTs.

If that doesn't scream "awesome field monitor," I don't know what does!

Learn more about the Ikan Delta 5-Inch Field Monitor

Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5: Manfrotto 143 Magic Arm

manfrotto magic arm

With so many needed accessories to produce videos, it's helpful to have another hand (or arm, is it were) to mount your accessories to.

For that, I use the Manfrotto Magic Arm, which has three pivot points, but just one lock to lock everything in place.

You can mount a light, a camera, or any other bit of gear to it at precisely the angle you need.

There's 5/8" male studs on the ball joints at either end with 3/8" and 1/4-20" female threads.

I use mine to hold my H5 Zoom (more on that later).

Learn more about the Manfrotto 143 Magic Arm

Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5: Unitech USB Cable

usb

You need a good cable to connect your field monitor to your camera.

In my case, I use a simple 5-foot cable from Amazon. It works great, gives me room to move around, and it set me back less than $12.

Learn more about the Unitech 5-foot USB cable

Must-Have Accessories for Panasonic GH5: ProMediaGear TR424L Tripod

To support all the weight of your video gear, you need a sturdy as hell tripod, and there's no better than the ProMediaGear TR424L.

This is hands-down the best tripod I've ever owned. It's built like a tank and can hold a whopping 125 pounds of gear.

At 6.4 pounds and 26.3-inches when it's folded, this isn't exactly a travel tripod, but for studio work, holy smokes...this thing is awesome.

The 4-section carbon fiber legs are easy to deploy and lock into place. The 3-position angle locks and quarter-turn twist locks make sure of that.

This rig also has big rubber feet to aid in stability. 

Up to, the aluminum alloy head has a safety lock, a bubble level, and a tripod plate with a 3/8"-16 mount.

I also like the fact that it extends up to 77 inches to accommodate my videos whether I'm standing or sitting down.

No matter if you have it at its height maxed out, at its lowest height, or somewhere in between, this tripod offers rock-solid performance.

Learn more about the ProMediaGear TR424L Tripod

Bonus Accessory: Zoom H5 Recorder

zoom h5

The Zoom H5 recorder might not be a must-have, when you hear the audio that comes from this, you'll consider a nice-to-have accessory for sure!

When I'm in my studio, I have my RODE NTG-4 plugged into the Zoom H5 virtually all the time.

When I'm out shooting B roll, the Zoom H5 performs masterfully for recording nature sounds and other ambient noise.

But it's the quality of the audio that's so astounding.

You can cover a huge area, yet still get beautifully crisp sound in the center with supreme clarity and sound definition.

Like I said before, great videos demand great audio, and you definitely get that with the Zoom H5!

Learn more about the Zoom H5 Recorder



We Recommend


Must-Have Gear for New Videographers

must have gear for new videographersPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

So, you're ready to make the leap from photography to videography...

The question is, what gear do you need to get started?

Thankfully, many DSLR and mirrorless cameras have excellent video capabilities, so a new camera might not be on your list of things to purchase.

But what about other important items for video work?

Here's a few suggestions for building a functional videography kit.

Editor's Tip: Though music isn't technically gear, it's something you definitely need to make the best videos. Adding sound effects and songs to your videos enables you to create a much richer viewing experience that reaches out and grabs people. For the best deals on audio for your videos, check out Epidemic Sound. With a huge library, they have everything you might need to take your videos to the next level with awesome audio.

Don't Neglect Your Video Editor

video editorPhoto by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Before I dive into things like cameras and lenses for video, I wanted to address the video editor you use to make your creations.

You obviously want something powerful that offers you a lot of features for making professional-looking videos.

But you likely don't want to spend an arm and a leg that some video editors cost either.

I know plenty of photographers that rely on free software for their videos, but let's be honest - free software generally lacks the tools you need to make truly epic videos.

You don't have to spend a ton of money for a professional video editor though.

I started using Kizoa a few months ago, and I'm never turning back.

It's the ideal combination of power, performance, functionality, and ease of use.

Xmas 9 1

Kizoa is loaded with tons of pre-made templates (including for holidays!), so you can get a head start on making your videos straight away.

What's more, you can add music, transitions, texts, and other effects to give your videos a polished look.

Christmas 2 

From an ease of use standpoint, Kizoa has a free iOS app, so I can create and edit videos right then and there after I record the footage.

On top of that, Kizoa has made it easy to share the videos I create - I can email them, burn them to a DVD, or upload them to social media in a matter of moments.

Pricing

Kizoa truly is the best of both worlds - it's powerful and affordable, with premium plans starting at just $30.00 per month.

If you're ready to take your videography to the next level, give Kizoa a try!

Learn More:

What Camera is Best for Video?

what camera is best for videoPhoto by Stephen Kennedy on Unsplash

Maybe you already have a camera that shoots video.

But if you don't, or if you want to upgrade, what camera is best for video?

The answer, of course, depends on who you ask.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Sony cameras for video work - like the Sony a7 III, which has 4K shooting capabilities at both 24fps and 30fps.

sony a7r iii

This camera is small, lightweight, easy to maneuver, and has improved battery life over previous Sony models.

What's more, there's a wide range of lenses you can use with this camera to get different types of shots and effects for your videos.

 

EDITOR'S TIP: NEED A NEW CAMERA BAG FOR ALL YOUR VIDEO GEAR? SHOP FOR GREAT DEALS ON TOP BRANDS.

 

The key here isn't brand - I like Sony, but if you like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, or some other brand, that's okay! Just be sure you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, and preferably, 4K video capabilities.

insta360onex 1

I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shoutout to my new favorite camera for video, the Insta360 One X.

I've only had it for a week, but I can already tell you that I have had more fun shooting video with this thing than I have with any other camera in a long time.

Obviously, the video you get from a 360-degree camera is much different than what you get from a traditional camera, and that's part of the appeal of this tiny, handheld rig.

insta260onex 2

You can hold it in your hand, put it on a tripod or grip, strap it to your dog...you name it. The possibilities for angles of view and different vantage points are endless!

This camera weighs just .25 pounds and is super easy to operate via the companion smartphone app, so there's really no excuse for not always having it with you. Better still, you can do all kinds of killer things with it like HDR, time-lapse, and Bullet Time sequences (like from The Matrix) that results in mind-bending footage.

insta360onex 3

Helping matters is the Insta360 One X's FlowState image stabilization system.

It's a six-axis (yes, six!) gyroscopic system that does an incredible job of minimizing movement for ultra-smooth video.

Add to that a bevy of accessories you can buy for it, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and built-in shooting modes, and you have the makings of a fun and functional camera.

Seriously, give the Insta360 One X a try - you might find like I did that it becomes your favorite new toy!

Learn More:

A Field Monitor is a Must

ikan saga 1

If you want to step up your videography game, stop relying on your camera's puny LCD and invest in a high-quality field monitor like the Ikan Saga S7H-V2.

Using a field monitor like this 7-inch rig gives you a big, bright view of what you're shooting so you can perfect the composition, framing, and focus of your video sequences.

This particular model has HDMI and 3G-SDI inputs and outputs and Ultra HD video as well as DCI 4K video.

ikan saga 2 

Don't let its large screen size fool you into thinking that this monitor is cumbersome, either.

It's slim and lightweight at just half a pound.

It has a gorgeous high-resolution (1920x1200), color-accurate screen with 1200 NITS of brightness, so it's a perfect companion for outdoor video work.

With software features like 3D LUT support, a histogram, audio meters, DSLR scaling, and more, you have the makings of a must-have item for your videography gear bag!

Top Video Lenses

recommended videography gearPhoto by Courtney Clayton on Unsplash

Again, the question of what lens is best for video depends on a lot of different factors.

If you're already invested in the Canon ecosystem, then buying a Canon-fit lens is obviously advisable.

What's more, if you already have a 24mm lens, there's no sense in buying a 28mm lens, as the difference in focal length isn't worth the added expense.

When it comes to zooms or primes, both have their merits for video.

canon 24 70mm

A good video kit would include both, actually, perhaps a 24-70mm zoom and a 50mm prime.

What's important to keep in mind is that lenses are the most important gear investment for videography (and for photography, for that matter).

Unlike your camera, which you'll eventually have to replace, you might have your lenses for decades. So, while good lenses (like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8) can be spendy, they will more than pay for themselves over the long-haul.

Things to Consider When Buying a Video Lens

top video lensesPhoto by Jakob Owens on Unsplash 

  • Is it designed for crop sensor or full frame cameras? Is it compatible with your camera type?
  • What type of video do you intend to shoot? Shorter focal lengths - like 35mm - are better-suited for travel videos while longer focal lengths - like 135mm - are best for wildlife videos.
  • What is the widest aperture of the lens? If you intend to shoot in low-light situations, getting a lens with a large aperture is best.
  • How much does the lens weigh? What is its form factor? Big, bulky lenses aren't ideal for things like travel videos.

Editor's Tip: Not sure what lens to get to make awesome videos? Consult the experts and get the right lens for you.

Video Work Requires a Legit Memory Card

memory card for dslr camera picture id892104564Image Credit: djedzura via iStock

Given the amount of storage required to save all that 4K video footage you'll be taking, you can't pull any punches with your memory cards.

Like with lenses, it's important to invest in quality here. Resist the urge to save a few bucks on off-brand cards and go for the well-established brands like Lexar or SanDisk.

Additionally, it's important to take factors like storage space, read/write speed, and the class of the memory card into account.

If you're not sure what any of that means, give this detailed discussion of memory cards a quick read before dropping money on a card. Doing your due diligence will help save you heartache down the road by avoiding sub-par memory cards.

Learn More:

Final Thoughts

Buying new gear is a very personal experience. That is, what you need for your video work might not be what I need for mine.

Having said that, there's common items every videographer needs - an interchangeable lens camera, a good set of lenses, and high-quality memory cards among them.

For more insights into the best gear for videographers, have a look at the video above by Matti Haapoja.

He's an experienced videographer that gives some great general tips on filling out your videography kit.



We Recommend


My Ideal Landscape Photography Kit

My Ideal Landscape Photography Kit

photo byMaridav via iStock

Over the years, I’ve tested all kinds of landscape photography gear. I’ve owned all kinds of landscape photography gear too…

But I keep coming back to the same gear as being part of my ideal landscape photography kit. There are tried-and-true items that I’ve found to be what works best for me, and there’s also relatively new items that I’ve only begun using recently that have quickly earned a spot in my kit.

Below, I’ve outlined some of my favorite landscape photography gear in the hopes that it sheds a little light on what gear might work for you as well.

Remember...these are just a few items that I personally use and that work great for me and my workflow. Some might work great for you but others might not. You’ll still need to do some research and experimentation with gear, but this should at least give you a compass for what direction to go!

Table of Contents

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Camera: Nikon Z7

I’ve had the Nikon Z7 for about a year at the time of this writing, so it’s a relatively new addition to my kit. Before it, I had a Nikon D850, which I absolutely loved. In fact, I wrote this article about how it was the best landscape photography camera.

The only problem with the D850 is that it is big and heavy - two qualities you might not want if your focus is on landscape photography.

The Z7, however, is nearly a pound lighter and has a much smaller form factor than its D850 cousin. Those features alone make it a more useful camera for me when I’m out exploring landscapes because it’s easier to carry and easier to handle, too.

And don’t think that because it’s a smaller mirrorless camera that the grip is tiny and that your fingers will be dangling off the bottom…

The Z7 has a nice, chunky grip that feels good in the hand and is comfortable for all-day shooting of beautiful landscapes. 

One of my other favorite features of the Z7 for landscape photography is its live view autofocus.

This system is the best Nikon has ever had - it’s fast, accurate, and honestly rivals the results I get when I manually focus. It’s that good!

It helps that the Z7 has a 3.2-inch LCD that has a 3:2 aspect ratio, so the LCD seems even larger and easier to see.

That’s just a few reasons why the Z7 is such a valued addition to my landscape photography kit. You can get all the details of the Z7’s landscape photography features here

Be sure to check out my real world review of the Z7 in the video above too!

 

 

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Lens: Nikon Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4 S 

I personally love this lens because it gives me those frame-filling wide-angle views that really envelop the viewer in the scene.

I especially appreciate that Nikon extended the zoom range to 30mm rather than stopping at the more typical 24mm - that extra focal range is nice for framing up slightly narrower images. 

It’s also a tiny lens - roughly the same size as the 24-70mm f/4 S kit lens and it weighs just over a pound. When you need to shed weight so your backpack isn’t full of 50 pounds of gear, having a small, versatile lens like this is a major bonus.

Of course, that weight savings is the result of lots of plastic parts, which are good-quality plastic, but still, that fact will scare some of you away from using this lens in a rough-and-tumble setting. 

I’ve had no issues with the build quality of the lens thus far, so it’s performed like a champ whenever I have pressed it into service - even in extreme temperatures in Death Valley and Norway. 

I like this lens’s autofocus accuracy, which is very quick and virtually silent, too.

LF Banner Buy

I will say that this lens suffers from a crazy level of distortion. However, Nikon and Adobe alike have built-in lens profiles that corrects this issue. 

But where this lens shines is in the sharpness department…

It’s a little soft at 14mm (as you’d expect), but dialing it back to 16mm improves things greatly. I’ve found it to be crazy sharp throughout its focal range.

And that’s just what you want in a landscape lens - beautiful sharpness, quick and accurate autofocus, and lightweight design.

Learn more about this lens in my Nikon 14-30mm f/4 S landscape review.

 

 

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Tripod: E-Image EK650 Tripod 

ikan ek650 

I often use my ProMediaGear Pro-Sticks 34 Series tripod when I’m out for short jaunts to get landscape photos, but at $900, it’s not exactly cheap… 

So to add a budget-friendly component to this list, I recommend the E-Image EK650 tripod shown above and below. 

It weighs about the same as the ProMediaGear tripod and is close in collapsed size as well. 

But it’s $700 cheaper, which is clearly a significant savings!

ikan ek650 2

This isn’t a cheap tripod from a build quality standpoint, though… 

The aluminum construction makes it durable yet lightweight, and the 11-pound load capacity is more than enough to securely support my Z7 and 14-30mm lens with other goodies attached, if need be.

ikan ek650 3

The leg locking mechanisms make for quick set up and take down, while the mid-level spreader gives you that added degree of stability.

Speaking of stability, this tripod also has big anti-slip rubber feet and removable metal foot spikes for terrain that’s uneven or slippery. 

The included fluid head with fixed pan drag, variable tilt drag, and continuous adjustable tilt drag is a nice bonus too!

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Filter: Kenko Puro Circular Polarizing Filter

kenko puro best landscape photography filter

I’m not sure I can remember how many different filter brands that I’ve tested over the years. 

Like any kind of photography gear, there have been some really good filters along the way. But few have offered the level of performance and the budget-friendly price as the Kenko filters I’ve been using as of late.

Any landscape photographer needs a good circular polarizer, and Kenko’s Puro circular polarizing filter certainly fits the bill.

kenko puro 2

These filters are crafted from high-quality Asahi optical glass and feature 16 layers of multi coating that help repel water and dust while also making the filters extremely easy to clean. 

The slim, low-profile ring is a nice touch as it helps minimize vignetting on the 14-30mm lens. The filter housing also has a black anti-reflective mounting ring that helps reduce reflections and flare from the housing.

It’s touches like that that you don’t often see in budget-friendly filters!

Editor's Tip: Get Kenko’s latest updates and access to promos for discounted gear. Click here to sign up.

I’ve also been using Kenko’s Variable NDX filter, and have been supremely pleased with the results.

Besides, it’s nice carrying around a single variable ND filter rather than an entire ND filter set! 

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Light: Litra Torch LitraPro

I don’t do a ton of light painting, but I’ve found the small-yet-powerful Litra Torch LitraPro to be an ideal companion for light painting landscape scenes.

For starters, this thing is just 2.75 x 2 x 1.2 inches in size and weighs a whopping 6 ounces, so it’s a perfect, lightweight addition to my landscape kit. 

And it puts out an incredible amount of light thanks to its 60 LEDs that are good for 1200 lumens.

 

The light is bi-color, clean and crisp, and you won’t find any flicker here, either. 

It’s adjustable from 3000-6000K so you can dial in just the right color temperature for light painting your landscape subjects. It’s even waterproof for those messy spring and winter shoots in the rain and snow and offers 10 hours of battery life!

Sure, I use this light more in my studio and for portraiture, but, hey, who doesn’t like camera gear that’s super versatile?!

Get more details about this awesome little light in my LitraPro Review.

My Pick for the Best Landscape Photography Bag: Holdfast Sightseer Backpack

best landscape photography backpack

Photo by Brandon Burk 

Of course, you need something to carry all your gear in, and one of my all-time favorite bags for landscape photography is the Holdfast Sightseer Backpack.

There’s several levels of awesomeness that this bag brings to the table…

First, the construction is off-the-charts with an attention to detail you just don’t find in many bags.

The waxed canvas and leather exterior is weather resistant, so rain, snow, and other elements won’t penetrate the bag and soak your gear. The zippers are even waterproof!

Inside, you’ll find a beautiful Aztec flannel lining that cradles your gear in the ultimate softness while also preventing scratches as you put your gear in and take it out.

Photo byBrandon Burk

The organization possibilities with this bag are also worth mentioning. 

As you can see above, the flap unzips from top to bottom, allowing you to open it completely for a look inside. There, you’ll find multiple cubbies for your camera body, lenses, and other accessories.

You can customize the arrangement of these cubbies, too, so depending on your needs now and in the future, this bag can accommodate your gear.

Photo by Brandon Burk 

I also appreciate the little things that Holdfast has integrated into this bag.

It has a breathable mesh back to help keep your back cool as you hike around finding those ultimate landscape shots.

The metal fixtures on the bag are stainless steel - not plastic made to look like stainless steel - so you get the benefit of something highly durable that won’t rust.

Of course, all those leather loops on the back of the bag are prime real estate for adding lens pouches and a cell phone pouch. With the ability to expand the carrying capacity of the bag, you have the makings of a modular system that you can customize to your specific needs.

What’s not to like about that?!

 



We Recommend


Plan a Solid Video Shoot With These Pre-Production Tips

Plan a Solid Video Shoot With These Pre Production Tips

 photo by izusek via iStock

As with photography, planning and preparation for shooting video is essential. 

With a concrete plan in place that includes things like developing an introduction sequence and a signoff sequence, storyboarding the video, and identifying your target audience, you’ll be able to create a cohesive video that is engaging, organized, and meets your specific goals.

Let’s take a look at these and a few other pre-production tasks with which you need to be familiar.

Table of Contents

Clearly Define the Target Audience

basic videography tips 

 photo by Ildo Frazao via iStock

Your first task in planning a video shoot is to identify your target audience. After all, a video directed towards suburban middle-aged dads is going to have a much different look and feel (and much different content) than one aimed at elementary-aged school children. 

But more than identifying a general audience based on broad criteria like age, gender, or location, you also need to evaluate higher-level characteristics like: 

  • Personality type
  • Motivations
  • Goals and aspirations
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Needs and wants 

Taking these characteristics into account will help you identify a more specific audience to which you can develop and target your video for better engagement.

That’s because using these higher-level characteristics allows you to create a story in your video that is not only more authentic but also more relatable. This will make your video speak to members of the target audience, rather than missing the mark by creating something that tries to please everyone, yet engages no one.

In the video above, learn some tricks for identifying your target audience from Tyson Zahner.

Create a Script and a Storyboard

simple videography tips 1

 photo by Extreme Media via iStock

Though some people think they can wing it and make a video on the fly, most of us just don’t have the wherewithal to pull it off, at least not well…

Having a script gives you a blueprint for how to accomplish the goals for the video. Piecing it together can be a long process, but it’s one that should be undertaken if you want to create something that compels people to watch it. 

Be careful not to just write something out and accept it at first take. Instead, critically review the script, revise it, and seek input from others to ensure you have a complete guideline for how the story unfolds.

simple videography tips 2

 photo by smolaw11 via iStock

Once you have your script nailed down, you need to take planning a step further and storyboard the entire video. 

A storyboard is a must-have tool for videographers because it allows you to visually sequence the story and identify the different shots you need to get to make the story come to life.

In other words, the storyboarding process enables you to bring the script to life by sequencing what happens and when. It’s a process during which you can determine if what you have in the script will be possible from a videography standpoint, and if not, allows you to revise the script into something that works.

Storyboarding is also important for identifying where you want to shoot each video sequence, positioning of people in the frame, where you’ll place lights, and so forth.

ikan lens control system 

You can also identify the tools you need to make the video look as you’ve envisioned it. 

For example, you can use a lens control system like the Ikan PDL-AF shown above to plan for precise focusing within shots on your storyboard.

This completely wireless follow focus system brings control of your lens’ focus to your fingertips and automatically calibrates to the mapping of your lens.

With simple, single-button system settings control, a compact size, and no external power source required, it’s just the videography tool you need to plan each shot’s focus to perfection. 

See just how valuable a tool like this can be in the video above by Ikan International.

Of course, you might need other tools like tripods, lenses, sliders, lights, light stands, mics, booms, and so forth, so identifying these and other tools you need during the storyboarding process will save you time and headaches later on.

Additionally, procuring all these tools (whether you rent or buy them) will influence your budget and how far you can stretch your dollar, so planning for these things now, rather than later, will help you create your video in a timely fashion and without busting your budget.

Develop an Introduction and Signoff

how to plan a video shoot

photo by SrdjanPav via iStock 

Check any popular YouTube channel and you’ll find that just about everyone has an introductory and signoff sequence.

Having these brief sequences are important for very different reasons.

In the case of an introduction, it helps set the stage for the video while also giving consistency to your videos across your channel. Likewise, with a consistent introduction, you can help people identify the type of content they can expect in the videos you produce.

Signoff sequences are equally as important because they tie up loose ends in the video. If your goal is to sell something or get people to sign up for something, the signoff is a great time to include calls to action to do so.

Again, it helps to have some consistency here from one video to the next, simply because it softens the request to take action - so the video seems less salesy or pushy - but still gets your point across and compels people to act.

Practice the Script

beginner videography tips 1

photo by RoosterHDvia iStock 

Practicing what you’re going to say in your video is also of paramount importance. 

By practicing the script, you’re not only getting comfortable with the wording and sequencing of the script, but you’re also able to identify areas in which you need to change the pacing or intonation, add dramatic pauses, and so forth.

One of the best ways to do this is to load the script in a teleprompter and practice reading the script in a way that’s as natural as possible.

A teleprompter like the Ikan Elite Pro is ideal for videos in which you’re talking directly to the camera.

ikan elite pro

Having a teleprompter aids in much better flow of the script while also helping you keep on track with what information needs to be conveyed (and when).

Teleprompters like the one pictured above support all kinds of tablets, like the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro, just to name two. 

What’s more, these teleprompters offer a flexible design that has an adjustable and foldable glass frame and a quick-release camera platform that enables quick setup and takedown.

videography tips

photo by vm via iStock 

Another advantage of having a teleprompter is that it actually allows you to be more authentic. This might seem strange - that reading the script is more authentic - but you’ll find that as you work more and more with the script and reading from a teleprompter, it can help you be more comfortable, relaxed, and more natural in front of the camera, and all of that will lead to a more authentic presence in your video.

There are many other beginner videography tips you can utilize to improve the quality of your videos, but implementing these tips will certainly give you a leg up!

 



We Recommend


Simple Tips for Vlogging: How to Create Better Content

simple tips for vloggingPhoto by martin-dm via iStock

The old adage "practice makes perfect" applies to a lot of things, including vlogging.

But when so many people are doing so many things with vlogs, the competition for an audience is definitely stiff.

That means that rather than going the trial-and-error route, you should set yourself up for success by following some tried-and-true tips for vlogging.

Below, check out our quick list of some simple vlogging tips to help you get started on the right foot!

How to Vlog: Learn How to Edit Videos

Let's work backwards and start at the end-product.

The vlogs you post on YouTube or whatever platform you use need to be polished and engaging, and that means understanding how to edit your videos.

Editing isn't just slapping different video clips together and adding a transition between them.

You need to use the editing process to make your videos engaging and dynamic. This means adding an intro sequence, an outro sequence, interesting transitions, weaving in B-roll, and adding music and on-screen effects like titles, to name a few.

Not sure where to get started? Check out the video above by Chris Hau.

Tips for Vlogging: Get the Right Gear

tips for vloggingPhoto by martin-dm via iStock

Getting geared up for making high-quality videos doesn't mean you need a $10,000 cinema camera and mic booms and all sorts of professional gear.

In fact, many vloggers use little more than their smartphone, a tripod, a light, and an external microphone to create really compelling videos.

If there's one piece of gear advice I bestow on you, though, it's this - get a gimbal.

You've probably seen your fair share of videos where the person in the video is sitting at home or standing outside or otherwise not moving around.

And while there is certainly value in these kinds of setups, your video will have an added layer of interest if you get mobile, and a gimbal will help you do just that.

horizon one gimbal

Gimbals are much more than a handheld stabilizer for your camera, too.

For example, the E-Image Horizon One gimbal shown above gives you full 360-degree movements on all three axes.

With advanced steady computing systems, it offers ultra-precise stabilization so you get super smooth footage that your viewers will appreciate.

You can record for 12 hours on the included batteries, so there's no lack of potential for getting incredible footage either!

Add to that a maximum payload of eight pounds and an accompanying smartphone app that allows you to modify the gimbal's settings to your precise specifications, and you have a rig that can greatly expand the creative possibilities for your videos.

See the Horizon One gimbal in action in the video above by Ikan International.

Vlogging Tips: Create a Compelling Story

vlogging tips 1Photo by martin-dm via iStock

Don't just talk at the camera in your vlogs. Instead, come up with a story that will engage viewers and compel them to watch your video from start to finish.

Creating a storyboard with a narrative for the video is a great way to come up with something of interest for your viewers.

The narrative should have three components: the setup, the conflict, and the resolution.

When setting up a video, explain to the viewers what the video is about - what's going on, who's there, what will you be doing, and so forth.

vlogging tipsPhoto by jacoblund via iStock

The conflict you present is any simple problem that you'll be addressing, whether it's a "how-to" vlog that teaches people how to do something, you talking about an important issue in the world today, or something in between.

Lastly, you want to bring resolution to the problem. Present ideas, solutions, and so forth. Explain to viewers how you've addressed the issue and what happened as a result.

Granted, each video you make isn't going to be about some earth-shattering problem that you've solved, but this notion of creating a narrative for viewers to follow is a great tool to use to create videos that keep people watching. That's just what you want!

How to Create a Good Vlog: Be Consistent

If your videos have consistency from one video to the next, you'll have a much greater chance of building a solid following with your vlogs.

That consistency needs to appear on multiple levels:

  • The type of content you discuss
  • The intro and outro sequences
  • The amount of videos you publish each week.

Along with that, aim to have a theme for your vlogs. That is, don't upload a vlog and title it "Vlog Day 1," as this tells the audience absolutely nothing about the content of the video.

Likewise, create interesting thumbnails that go along with your theme, again, in the hopes that it will engage viewers and compel them to click on the video to watch it.

Putting  in that extra effort to be consistent and have a theme will help you take your vlogging to another level!

Get more tips about how to vlog in the video above by famous vlogger Casey Neistat.

 



We Recommend


Teleprompter Buyers Guide for Beginner Videographers

Teleprompters Buyers Guide for Beginner Videographers

 photo byfiladendron via iStock

Whether you’re starting a YouTube channel or are an old vlogging pro, chances are you may find yourself looking for a quality teleprompter buyers guide. 

Using a teleprompter for YouTube videos makes you look more professional and puts you a step above your competition. The problem is there are a ton of teleprompter features that most people don’t need and it can be hard to figure out which teleprompters for beginners are actually worth the price. 

Our teleprompter buyers guide will walk you through how teleprompters work, a variety of teleprompter features, and the best tablet teleprompters for every price range. 

How Do Teleprompters Work?

If you’re looking for a full rundown of how teleprompters work, you can watch the above video by Nate Woodbury.

But, essentially, every teleprompter consists of a piece of reflective glass and a monitor that displays the text. The reflective glass is put above the monitor on an angle so you can read the reflection of your text, but your audience can’t.  

The problem with most teleprompters is that they are bulky, which is why purchasing a tablet teleprompter may be the most efficient use of your space. For more info on teleprompter sizing, keep reading.

 

Recommended Videography Reading:

 

Teleprompter Features: Choosing the Right Sizing

teleprompter buyers guide 1

photo by David-Prado via iStock 

I think the most important part of a teleprompter buyers guide is discussing teleprompter sizing because it varies wildly.

For instance, national news stations use prompters that are large enough to be read from a great distance to enable as many shots of the anchors as possible. These teleprompters can be as large as a few feet across.

But, chances are you’re looking for teleprompters for beginners that you could use either in your home or small studio and for this there are two different options: a smartphone teleprompter and a tablet teleprompter.

Honestly, I don’t recommend smartphone teleprompters because they’re much smaller and unless you have perfect vision and can set your camera within a few feet of your face, it’s going to be difficult to read.

Teleprompter Features 2 

If you opt for a tablet teleprompter, like Ikan’s Elite Universal Tablet Teleprompter, you can shoot within 3-6 feet of your camera with ease. Keep in mind that your font size will probably be somewhere between 48-72 points at this distance and so you will only be able to fit around 4-6 words per line. 

Teleprompter Features 3

The Elite Universal Tablet Teleprompter works with any tablet from 7.5” x 5” up to 10.5” x 8” and is large enough to allow even people with less-than-perfect vision to read comfortably at a distance. 

The Elite Universal Tablet Teleprompter is also one of my favorite teleprompters for beginners because it’s only $430. 

Learn More:

Teleprompter Features: Choosing the Right Mount

teleprompter for youtube 4

photo by vm via iStock 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a teleprompter buyers guide without information about teleprompter mounts.

Some teleprompters attach to a tripod that allows the camera to then attach to the back of the teleprompter while others attach to the front of a camera rig. 

teleprompter for youtube 5

Ikan’s PT Elite UGK teleprompter, for example, is compatible with DSLRs and all small to mid-sized cameras because the cameras simply attach to the back of the teleprompter. 

There’s another teleprompter mount that allows you to put your teleprompter on a tripod and your camera on a separate tripod, but this method takes up a lot more room and is thus not great for beginners or anyone working in a small space. 

Teleprompter Features: What is it Compatible With?

best tablet teleprompters 6

Lastly, I’ve been discussing this throughout, but if you’re looking at teleprompter features then you need to know what it is compatible with. For instance, does it work with your smartphone or a tablet? How big does your smartphone or tablet need to be?

teleprompters for beginners

High-quality teleprompters will support a variety of smartphones or tablets. Ikan’s PT Elite Pro, for example, works with iPads, Androids, and Windows tablets. It also supports any tablet between 6” x 9” and 9” x 12”. 

Buying a tablet teleprompter that ends up not fitting your tablet is the worst feeling in the world - apart from buying a teleprompter that ends up not fitting your needs.

If you’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars on vlogging equipment, you may as well go with a company you know you can trust. For me, that company is Ikan!

Learn More:

 



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The Best of 2019

best of 2019Photo by Lyndon Stratford via iStock

As we near the end of 2019 (and the decade!), it's a prime time to look back on the year in photography.

It's been a crazy year with so many incredible innovations happening. I say that every year, but every year it's the truth!

When I think about the best photography gear, gadgets, products, and services, I think about things that are functional, easy to use, and innovative.

The list I've compiled below is full of products that tick these boxes...

Each item I've included on my Best of 2019 list is something that I have at the very least thoroughly tested or that I own.

With that said, here's a few items that blew me away in 2019.

Argraph Marumi M100 Filter System

marumi m100 holder

One of the hallmarks of the companies featured on this list is that they have all innovated the photography industry in some way.

For Marumi, their claim to fame isn’t just crafting some of the best filter systems available today, but creating filter systems that streamline your workflow in the field.

Marumi’s Magnetic M100 Filter Holder and their line of magnetic filters are just what the doctor ordered for photographers that are sick of sliding filters in and out of their holders.

The M100 filter holder sports a slim 10mm design with strong magnetic attachments that hold the filter in place. The foam gaskets on the filter holder ensure that there are no light leaks to ruin your photos.

marumi circular polarizer

If using a circular polarizer, it rotates independently in the filter holder and features water and oil-repellent coatings on both sides that minimizes clean up.

The filter also has anti-static-anti-scratch, and anti-reflection properties that ensure you have the ideal shooting experience.

marumi soft ND

The other magnetic filters in Marumi’s lineup have the same features, including their graduated ND filters and solid ND Filters.

The graduated ND filters include hard-edge, soft-edge (as shown above), and reverse grads for photographing landscapes with a definite horizon, a variable horizon, and at sunrise and sunset, respectively.

marumi solid nd

Of course, there are also many different solid ND filters available from 2-stops all the way up to 15-stops.

Like the other Marumi filters mentioned above, these ND filters are made of durable Schott 5270 glass that offers high-definition results.

When photographing landscapes, the quality of light can change from one second to the next. That’s why this magnetic system is so compelling - by reducing the time spent swapping out filters, you can spend more time photographing the beauty before you! 

Ikan E-Image Horizon One 3-Axis Gimbal

best photography products 2019

One of the most pleasant surprises for me this year was just how good the Ikan E-Image Horizon One 3-Axis Gimbal really is.

I use this rig with my Nikon Z7, and it absolutely rocks it in terms of helping me get ultra-smooth, cinematic-looking video.

This gimbal is extremely well built and feels solid and supremely sturdy in your hand.

Granted, my setup doesn't come close to meeting this gimbal's eight-pound load capacity, but I'm sure it could perform just as well if I used a heavier camera and lens package.

top photography products of 2019

The Horizon One has brushless motors that give you ultra-precise stabilization, and with the 12-hour runtime, you can shoot all day long without stopping to recharge the gimbal.

Built into the unit are five operational modes, including my personal favorite, "Dream Follow," which gives you 360-degree spin on the roll axis.

I can't even tell you how many gimbals I've tested and owned over the years - maybe more than a dozen!

And this rig is by far one of the very best.

It's impeccably built, full of features, and easy to use. If that doesn't say "Best of 2019," I don't know what does.

Ikan Onyx Digital Color LED Panel Light 

ikan onyx 1

I know what you're thinking...

How can a light be part of the Best of 2019?

Well, as you know, photography is all about great light, and the Ikan Onyx Digital Color Light definitely delivers on that front.

What I've found so impressive with this light is that it has RGB, white, and amber LEDs. And with five color modes, you can use this thing for just about any kind of photo shoot or video shoot.

In fact, in RGB mode, this light gives you independent control over the red, green, and blue LEDs, which means you can literally create millions of different colors to suit your needs and tastes.

Meanwhile, the amber and white LEDs give photographers the option of recreating daylight or tungsten light with incredible accuracy.

This light even has a CCT mode that offers an adjustable color temperature from 2800K up to 10,000K. You simply don't find that kind of range in most lights!

On top of that, the Onyx has a Hue Shift feature of green and magenta lights, giving you yet another option for exerting pinpoint control over the kind of light you have available to you.

ikan onyx 2

Ikan also stuffed the Onyx with eight special effects - like police lights and candle flames - as well as 33 different gels to give you even further light customization possibilities.

Heck, there's even a built-in 1/2-stop diffuser!

This is one of the best lights I've used this year, and the data backs it up - it has a CRI-TLCI rating of 95, so you know that the light it emits is clean and beautiful.

In my opinion, you just won't find a better light, which is why I've included it in my Best of 2019 list.

Exposure Software

I've been a fan of Exposure Software for a long time, and it just keeps getting better and better with more and more tools available that make editing photos a simpler, more streamlined process.

The latest version of Exposure - Exposure X5 - is brimming with innovative and easy-to-use features.

There's a huge collection of "Looks," which give you the power to change the appearance of the image with a simple click.

You can make selective presets too, that way the edits you want to apply only apply to specific areas of the image.

Exposure has all the basic editing tools you could want as well, including nondestructive layers, linear and radial gradients, a brush tool, overlays, creative focus, and more.

In addition to all that, Exposure is also a complete photo manager.

You can apply camera profiles and presets, migrate collections over from Lightroom, use keywords to manage and organize your images, and review images side-by-side for easy comparison.

Exposure also enables you to create smart collections of photos - just add specific criteria you want for the collection (i.e., rating, color label, flag, camera data, f-stop, and so forth) and Exposure will populate the collection for you.

Nice, right?!

 

One of my favorite features, though, is the 3D color masking tool in Exposure.

Basically, this tool gives you precise control over where an adjustment is applied in the shot. This is thanks to the range of definitions that Exposure uses to define adjustment areas, such as saturation, hue, and luminance.

Because you can target colors of a specific hue, for example, you can apply adjustments to specific areas of the shot, like the sky or to skin tones. You can do all this with just a few clicks, too!

From the intuitive user interface to the powerful editing tools to the suite of support features that help make your workflow smoother, Exposure has everything you need to create your best images. They even offer a free trial to give it a test drive!

Syrp

It's been a great year for Syrp...

They unveiled the Syrp Genie Mini II Linear this time last year to much fanfare.

If you're unfamiliar with this thing, the Genie Mini II Linear is incredibly portable and gives you the option to add motion control to your timelapse and films without lugging around a big, heavy piece of kit.

It can attach to any slider on the market and even cable cam systems up to 328’ in length, so you can quickly and easily upgrade your ability to capture gorgeous timelapses and real-time video.

Additionally, the Genie II Linear is loaded up with features for key-framing, shooting interviews, b-roll and timelapse with future available features including live view, and camera control for ramping exposure, just to name a few. It’s wirelessly controllable as well, via an iOS or Android device.

At the same time, Syrp introduced the Genie II Pan Tilt, which gives you an ultra-portable camera motion control that you can carry in your backpack. 

You can use it with a tripod for ultra-precise pan and tilt motion control, or if you want three-axis, use it in conjunction with the Genie II Linear for the most powerful 3-axis device on the market.

Like the Genie II Linear, the Pan Tilt offers tons of functionality, including timelapse and real-time video capabilities, key-framing, and much more. With multi-row Panoramas, you can capture high resolution ‘gigapixel’ images and shoot Panoramas all controlled from the app itself.

It also has a built-in screen so you don’t have to use the app if you don’t need it and you want to pack light, not to mention a built-in joystick for quick setup and re-positioning from the device itself. Not bad, right?!

After that, Syrp brought us the Tilt Platform, which allows you to get perfectly level, vertical footage.

It couldn't be easier to use, either...

It requires no tools, has angle markings to help you dial in accurate adjustments, and it has a 3/8-16" - 1/4-20" UNC thread adapter in the base to expand its mounting options.

Just use the easy-adjustable knob to change the lever tension to secure your camera, and away you go!

You can position the Tilt Platform up to 180-degrees, it can be used with motion control or manual sliders, and it'll hold up to 13.2 pounds of gear.

syrp

And as if all that isn't enough, Syrp just released a new app feature available through the Syrp Genie II app - stop motion.

This mode allows you to create stop motion videos more precisely (and faster) than ever.

You can set up any desired movement using the app's keyframe editor, and you have complete control over the video's frame rate.

Once you have the motion set up, all you have to do is move the motion controller to each frame and trigger the camera's shutter.

Stop motion videos have never been so easy to make!

Excire 

excire header excire search 1024x576

Excire is an innovative product that I became familiar with last year, and I just have to continue singing its praises. 

For me, there isn’t much that I hate doing more than manually tagging my photos in Lightroom. That’s why there are thousands and thousands of images in my Lightroom catalogs that aren’t tagged at all. 

Until now… 

excire header product en

What’s so great about Excire’s products - Excire Search and Excire Search Pro - is that they utilize artificial intelligence to tag your Lightroom photos for you. 

Yeah...we’re living in the future, my friends! 

Excire Search has 125 common keywords that can be used for tagging your images, so every shot you have of a mountain or a bike or a dog will be organized and easily identified. 

Excire Search can obviously be used to search your images as well. Just use the plugin to find the images in your catalog that meet your criteria!

excire header contact en

Even better, Excire Search Pro offers over 500 keywords for tagging, so you have even more capability to organize and search your photos.

It includes a keyword transfer function, too, which means you can use Excire Search Pro on your existing catalogs. That means no more hunting around for the images you need, even if you have an enormous Lightroom catalog of tens of thousands of images.

In other words, Excire transfers the keywords it extracts to your Lightroom catalog, and then those keywords can be used in Lightroom as if you had manually entered them.

excire header home en

Needless to say, Excire Search is a fantastic tool for beginner and hobbyist photographers, and Excire Search Pro is a great option for serious photographers and professionals.

It's this kind of innovation I looked for when considering my Best of 2019 list!

PolarPro Summit Filters

summit

PolarPro has built a reputation over the years of developing well-built, high-performance products, and their newest filters are no exception.

The Summit filter system was specifically developed for the rough-and-tumble world of landscape photography.

These filters are built to withstand the rigors of shooting outdoors in harsh conditions while at the same time having a design that makes them incredibly easy to use.

polarpro summit 1

On the one hand, the ND and graduated ND filters have aluminum frames that both protect the filter and help minimize fingerprints getting on the filter glass.

So, not only do you get filters that are more durable, but you also won't spend as much time cleaning the filters to get rid of fingerprints. It's a win-win!

On the other hand, the filters and filter housing feature materials that ratchet up the build quality.

polarpro summit 2

For example, the filters are made of fused Quartz glass with 16 layers of coatings that improve color fidelity and clarity while reducing glare.

As another example, the filter frames are made of lightweight aluminum that helps cut weight in your pack while providing you strong durability for years to come.

Add in a user-friendly design, light-sealed slots, filter locks to lock down the filter position, and the ability to rotate the filter system 360 degrees, and you have the makings of the ideal landscape photography filter kit - one of the best of 2019, in fact!!

Wolverine Data F2D Titan

wolverine data 1

What’s so great about the Wolverine Data F2D Titan is that it’s an 8-in-1 rig. 

In addition to working with slides, 8mm movies, and Super 8 movies, the F2D Titan also works with 35mm, 110, 126, 127, and APS film.

It has a 20-megapixel sensor that turns your analog memories into high-definition digital files at up to 5472 x 3648 pixels.

The F2D Titan makes quick work of scanning, too. In just three seconds, the scan is complete thanks to its speed-load adapters that are perfectly sized to each format of slide or negative that you’re scanning.

wolverine data 2 

You can view the results of the scan on the onboard 4.3-inch color LCD. You can even fine-tune the brightness and color balance settings. If you prefer to see your newly digitized photos on a larger screen, simply connect the F2D Titan to a computer or a TV.

Saving the digitized images is a breeze, too. Just use its internal memory or add your own SD/SDHC memory card.

Better still, you don’t need a computer or external monitor or software of any kind, so this unit is totally self-contained. Just have a power source (via an AC outlet or USB) and you can digitize slides, film, and old movies anywhere you like.

If you’ve got a lot of old memories to digitize, there’s isn’t a better or faster way to do so than with this bad boy! It's simply the easiest, most functional film to digital scanner I've ever tested.

RODE Video Mics

top gifts for photographers under 100 rode videomicro

I have several RODE mics, including the tiny shotgun microphone shown above.

The RODE VideoMicro is compact and lightweight, which makes it a perfect pairing for my GoPro.

But don't think that because it's a tiny mic that audio quality is sacrificed. In fact, it has a high-quality cardioid condenser mic capsule so you can get clear, crisp audio.

It's shocking just how good this little guy performs!

Since it's a directional mic, it minimizes sounds from the periphery so your video has focused audio from the subject.

Add to that a thermoplastic suspension structure for minimizing vibrations as you adventure around with your GoPro, and you have the ideal audio companion for the best adventure camera on the market!

For more heavy-duty action, I have a RODE VideoMic Pro.

This shotgun-style mic has a 1/2-inch condenser capsule, which results in ultra-clean audio that's broadcast quality. We're talking about a self-noise level of just 14db!

It has a super-cardioid polar pattern that reduces background noise while ensuring that it captures crisp audio of the source you want to record.

And, unlike lesser microphones, the RODE VideoMic Pro has a Rycote Lyre shock system that creates a buffer between the microphone capsule and electronics and the microphone mount. This, in turn, minimizes the vibrations of the mic and improves the quality of the audio even more.

Add in fantastic sound, easy-to-reach controls, and intuitive operation, and you have the makings of the ideal microphone for filmmaking! 

Camera Canopy

camera canopy 1

I first learned about Camera Canopy last year, and I have to say that over the course of 2019 I've grown to appreciate this unique camera accessory more and more.

Photographers that spend any time outdoors understand that when it rains, it can really put a damper on their ability to get the photos they want. That’s because even weather-sealed gear isn’t completely water-tight.

And trying to manipulate camera controls with a traditional bag-like rain cover for a camera is a huge pain in the rear. That’s why Camera Canopy is a much better alternative.

Camera canopy attaches to a camera via its hot-shoe mount, and then acts like a roof to protect the camera and lens from rain. It even protects the from glass of the lens so there’s no water droplets messing up the shot.

Better still, it’s adjustable for lenses up to 500mm in length.

camera canopy 2

Camera Canopy also has a mirrorless camera version, so now that I've gone totally mirrorless, I can still enjoy the benefits of having my camera and lens protected by a Camera Canopy.

Just like its big brother, this mirrorless version is extremely easy to mount to your camera, simple to adjust for different lens lengths, and still provides you unfettered access to your camera's controls.

It's simply the best wet-weather camera accessory money can buy!

Hex Brand Ranger Sling Bag

hex ranger sling 1

I had an opportunity to head up to Los Angeles a while back and meet the masterminds behind HEX.

It was a fun time looking behind the curtain at their operation, plus I got to bring one of their Ranger Sling bags home to test out.

First impressions are good, to say the least! And that's coming from an admitted bag snob.

hex ranger sling 2

For instance, I check the stitching inside and out to see how well put together it is, and with this bag, it’s very well put together.

It’s part of thoughtful construction and design processes that make this bag one of the very best I've used this year.

One of the things I like most about the bag is the collapsible interior dividers - including the bottom divider. This gives you a bag that can not only be customized to your gear for each photoshoot, but you can also fold up or remove the dividers to allow the bag to be packed totally flat for travel inside another bag. 

Speaking of customizations, this bag has side adjustable load straps and adjustable bottom carry straps so you can carry even more gear when needed.

This bag is also packed full of pockets to help you keep track of your stuff. There’s a front access organizer for small items, a faux fur lined pocket on the front for your phone or a pair of shades, a faux fur lined pocket for your table, and multiple hidden velcro stash pockets. And the bag sits very well when worn. It’s comfortable and easy to access your gear and really hugs your body.

hex ranger sling 3

With genuine Cordura material and YKK zippers with metal pulls, this bag will stand up to use and abuse, too. And since it’s so compact (just 1.3 pounds and 14.5"L x 7.25"W x 4.75"H), you can rock it in the urban jungle without worrying that it’ll be knocking into people as you move from shot to shot.

Something that really stood out to me was that, although the bag is listed at 8 liters, there is no wasted or negative space. In fact, I easily transferred all the gear I would normally carry in my Peak Design 10L Sling into the HEX Ranger Sling. I have to say that I am a big fan of the efficient use of space in this bag and the collapsible potential of the HEX bag certainly gives it a leg up.

With eight liters of storage space, a streamlined design, and looks that don’t quit, this is definitely one of the best products I tested this year! 

TravelSchool.Info

best photography giftsPhoto by anyaberkut via iStock

This entry on my Best of 2019 list is a little different from the rest...

Rather than a camera accessory or some kind of service you use to take better photos, TravelSchool.Info makes it on this list because of its innovative approach to education and furthering your ability to make money.

TravelSchool.Info enables you to learn how to harness the power of affiliate marketing all the while traveling the world. Sounds nice, right?

By teaching you how to create multiple revenue streams from affiliate marketing, TravelSchool enables you to earn active and passive income that frees up your time to pursue things that are more fun than working!

Travel School is a comprehensive training program for starting an independent affiliate marketing business. It will take you step-by-step through the process of building a business that is not only wildly successful in the short-term, but can sustain steady growth for the long-term too.

travel school

Travel School founder Emilian travels the world with his furry friend, Divak, and is eager to share his knowledge and experience with you and help you build a successful affiliate marketing business that will allow you to quit your traditional job and travel the world like you want!

But Travel School isn’t just a step-by-step training program. Instead, it will change your outlook on what it means to work, and at the same time will be a transformational experience that will change their entire life for the better.

With specific, actionable steps, you will learn how to connect with established brands, develop core marketing skills, and activate multiple income streams to realize their dream of living a life full of travel and freedom.

Not only does Travel School aid in leveraging the credibility of amazing companies, but they will also offer weekly private webinars to keep your loved one motivated and on track toward accomplishing their goals.

Additionally, all training sessions are recorded and available at any time, that way if questions come up down the road or a little extra motivation is needed, the lessons can be easily accessed. There are opportunities to learn and collaborate with other students too!

It’s not often that you have the opportunity to learn how to live a life with more freedom, but in this case, Travel School is does just that!

Octopus.Camera OctoPad

octopad 1

I’m a gear head and I buy and test all kinds of stuff - cameras, lenses, tripods, lights...you name it!

But one of the most pleasant surprises I had this year was the Octopus.Camera OctoPad.

I know what you’re thinking...how can a little weighted support system be all that innovative? Trust me when I say that OctoPad certainly is!

octopad

For starters, OctoPad is a much better alternative than suction cup mounts or even mini tripods because it actually stays put.

The weighted anti-slip mat keeps the OctoPad right where you want it, even if it’s on a smooth or uneven surface.

Additionally, OctoPad has a built-in 1/4-20 threaded male bolt for attaching any number of accessories like a microphone or a light. The included ball head also has a 1/4-20 threaded male bolt for accessory attachment.

octopad 3

That means that this little guy is a great option for supporting a compact camera or a smartphone, a GoPro, a microphone, or a light. Plus, it can be used for photo or video work, giving you even more versatility.

It’s easy to use and transport too - there’s a built-in grommet for attaching a lanyard and a cable strap to tuck cables out of the way of your shots.

This is just a well designed product that offers a ton of benefits for photographers and videographers alike. And the best part? It’s priced at just $26.95!

Snaptiles

snap tiles 1

One of the most innovative products I encountered this year is Snaptiles.

These ingenious patented magnetic photo tile system takes all the fuss and muss out of displaying your photos.

If you want to create a mixed tile array, you can do so in a matter of seconds thanks to the easy mounting system that Snaptiles employs.

All you do is attach the mounting bracket to the wall using four adhesive strips. Make sure to press down firmly for 10 seconds so that it holds tight to the wall. You can snap up to 12 photo tiles onto the first anchor tile. If you really want to have some fun push in the 4 included thumbtacks for additional support. You can then snap up to 30 Snaptiles to the anchor! Not a bad tradeoff for 4 small pin holes if you ask me.

snaptiles how they work

Next, you mount the anchor tile to the wall mount by snapping it into place.

Then, you can add any number of additional photo tiles, which connect together using rare earth magnets. And that’s it!

Now instead of having to put nails in the wall to hang additional photos, you can simply order 4 photo tiles from Snaptiles, add them to your array of mixed tiles, and enjoy your favorite photo (along with all your other favorites in the display).

snaptiles how theyre made

These tiles are super lightweight so if they fall they won’t break. They are printed onto a premium SBS Acid-Free paperboard using the same printing technology as high-quality photo books. Likewise, the UV protective lamination ensures that the images don’t lose their color over time.

Snaptiles has a unique ability to let you display your photos in a creative and ever-changing way. When it comes to hanging art and your favorite images, being able to swap them out quickly and easily is a huge bonus.

Best of all, four tiles are just $59 with Free Shipping, so you can enjoy four of your favorite images without breaking the bank.

What’s not to like about that?!

Westcott Rapid Box Octa

westcott top 12 last minute 1

As photographers, we all know the value of good light for creating compelling photos. And when it comes to modifying light to get the precise look you want, Westcott should be your source.

After all, Westcott has been in this business since 1899, so they know exactly what they’re doing.

In fact, Wescott holds 12 patents and has a product line of more than 600 products, so they’re much more than umbrellas and lights - they’re the go-to for all manner of durable, high-end lighting gear.

westcott best of 2019 module 2

It would be impossible to expound upon Westcott’s vast array of products, so I’ll illustrate why they’re included on my list of the Best of 2019 by using their Rapid Box Octas as examples.

I know you’re probably thinking, “Aren’t all softboxes the same?” Well, no, my friend, they aren’t!

Westcott’s Rapid Box Octa, which come in small (26-inch), medium (36-inch), and large (48-inch) versions, are the ideal softbox for modifying speedlites.

westcott best of 2019 module 3

For starters, these things are supremely easy to set up - you can have them ready to go in a matter of seconds, so there’s no long, drawn-out procedure for getting your gear ready for the shoot.

They’re easy to transport as well, given that they are completely collapsible and super lightweight.

But don’t think that because they’re collapsible and easy to set up that they’re somehow not durable. Far from it.

The solid metal framework ensures that these softboxes retain their shape over the course of years and years of repeated use, and the built-in mounting hardware means there’s a snug fit with your speedlite whether it’s a Yonguo, Nikon, or something in between.

In other words, Westcott makes this list of the Best of 2019 not just because they create superb lighting gear, but because they also have a proven track record of innovation when it comes to lighting gear.

Their products are durable and easy to use and show a demonstrated effort by Westcott to think purposefully about design and functionality so you and I have a better user experience.

But don’t take my word for it...see the Rapid Box Octa in action in the video above!



We Recommend


The True Value of a Good Tripod

The True Value of a Good Tripod

Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

Sooner or later, a beginner photographer is going to ask the question, “Should I use a tripod?” The inevitable answer to that question then leads to the next question, “What is a good tripod for me to buy?” And finally, “How do I use this tripod?”

Among the top tripods of 2019 and early 2020 is a tripod or two that will work for you. When looking for the best tripods for current cameras, there will be some things in common for DSLR users and for mirrorless users, and there will be some different considerations as well.

Likewise for the various types of photographers. A nature photographer may have different criteria than a portrait photographer, but there is also a whole lot of overlap.

Use a Tripod for Image Sharpness

good tripod

Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

A good tripod, used properly, will improve the final results for photographers in many situations.  

One of the biggest reasons for using a tripod is image sharpness. Anything from slow shutter speeds to heavy lenses can negatively affect image sharpness due to movement. Using a good tripod eliminates camera movement, one of the more common reasons for unsharp images.

Use a Tripod for Special Techniques and Effects

best tripods

 photo byozgurdonmaz via iStock

Other reasons for using a tripod are related to some of the special effects available from modern digital cameras. HDR and panoramic photography both rely on tripods for the best results. 

Portraits are another excellent reason to use a tripod. For instance, if you are attempting to employ classic lighting techniques such as Rembrandt lighting or butterfly lighting, having your camera on a tripod makes it easier to set up and makes your results more repeatable. 

You may be selling on Etsy, eBay, Amazon, or Facebook Marketplace. The tripod comes in handy here, too. It helps simplify the lighting and arranging the shots, plus ensures excellent image sharpness. 

Learn More:

Don’t Forget Video!

dont forget video 

I’ll say this as gently as possible: Shaky cam does not make for good video. Even though we could possibly develop a very good technique for holding our camera steady for still images, shooting video makes all movement stand out. 

YouTube vloggers can benefit from using a budget-friendly tripod such as the E-Image EK610 (shown above) during their video shoots. Vlog viewers will appreciate smooth, shake free videos that are easy to view, which will lead to more views and subscriptions for your vlog.

What’s the Best Tripod to Purchase?

top tripods of 2019

 photo byMomolelouch via iStock

It will come as no surprise that there is not going to be one answer to this question. The needs of any two photographers could be wildly different from each other.  

For instance, the best tripods for DSLRs may need to be sturdier than the best tripods for mirrorless cameras. Primarily due to size and weight. 

A small MFT mirrorless camera with a kit lens may weigh less than my last value meal, so a small and lightweight tripod may be good enough. 

DSLRs, including entry level APS-C format cameras, tend to be larger and heavier than their mirrorless cousins, so a more substantial tripod would deliver better results, and will give you peace of mind concerning stability and the safety of your equipment.

Going back to vloggers and other videographers, a tripod such as the E-Image GA752 and a versatile tripod head provides superb stability for larger cameras with heavier lenses.

best tripod to purchase

Other larger camera rigs may include professional and prosumer level full frame format DLSRs or fast super telephoto lenses which can be quite heavy. You don’t want to put a large and pricey rig like that on a small, lightweight tripod. 

Learn More:

Types of Tripods

There are several types of tripods that are used in photography, one or more will be the best tripod for your needs. 

  • General purpose tripods
  • Travel tripods
  • Table top tripods
  • Video tripods
  • Monopods

Many times, you can use a tripod for more than one purpose. As an example, you could use a general purpose tripod for both your still photography and for shooting videos. And vice versa. A good tripod for video can be used for most other types of photography.

The best tripods for travel often collapse to a very small size, making suitable for using as a table top tripod. 

types of tripods

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash

Some of the best tripods for general use are convertible tripods. They have a removable center column that can be used as a monopod.

Many of the better tripods for DSLRs have interchangeable tripod heads. This way, you don’t have to spend double on a video tripod along with a general purpose tripod. Just buy one or the other and then add a different tripod head to round out your capabilities.

How To Use a Tripod

how to use a tripod

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

The most important thing about properly using a tripod is simply to be in the mindset of using one. In other words, get out your tripod and prepare to put it into action.

You will want to make sure your camera is properly mounted and secured to the tripod. A common feature of many of the best tripods is the quick release system. You mount a plate to your camera or lens, and then that plate is attached to the tripod head.

Whether using a quick release system or not, be sure to screw in the stud for a nice tight fit. Snug it up with finger pressure, but avoid over tightening. 

Watch your balance. Spread out the legs and try to get the head of the tripod leveled out. This will guard against having the center of gravity too far in one direction so as not to accidentally tip over the entire rig. You can easily level by extending the leg sections, then adjust the tripod head for fine tuning the leveling.

Tripods Are Basic Tools for Good Photography

tripods are basic tools

Photo by RichLegg via iStock

One of the best next purchases for beginning photographers is a decent tripod. The best tripods allow you to get the sharpest images possible, employ special techniques such as panoramic photography, and do so without being difficult to use.

Once you get used to a good tripod, you’ll wonder why you waited to get one!

  



We Recommend


These Vlogging Accessories Will Help Take Your Videos to the Next Level

These Vlogging Accessories Will Help Take Your Videos to the Next Level

 photo by miodrag ignjatovic via iStock

I may have a propensity for picking up vlogging accessories I don’t need, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’ll see something shiny and feel like I absolutely need it and it inevitably ends up breaking a few weeks down the line.  

If you, like me, love vlogging accessories but know you need a basic set-up, then keep reading for vlogging accessories that’ll last you a lifetime. 

You Don’t Need Accessories Without a Vlogging Persona

vlogging accessories 1

 photo by Youngoldman via iStock

Okay, so before I start listing the types of vlogging accessories you absolutely must have, let’s ensure that you are actually serious about your vlog.

You need to be passionate about whatever your vlog is going to be about. People can tell if you’re setting up a vlog just to try and get famous or make money. 

You also need to fully understand how you want to present yourself to your audience. This is known as your “vlog persona.” Essentially, you need to figure out whether you want to be humorous or informative or eccentric and so forth. 

Before you start your vlog, write down some qualities you want to portray. 

 

Recommended Videography Reading:

 

You Also Don’t Need Accessories Without an Incredible Camera 

video accessories 2

 photo by adamkaz via iStock

I also see people purchasing vlogging accessories without having a good vlogging camera, which hurts my heart because you can’t do anything without a quality camera. 

So, what qualities should you look for in a vlogging camera? 

Firstly, you’ll want to ensure your camera can film 4K video, which will put you ahead of the curve since this is where all cameras are moving. This way you won’t need to upgrade in a few months.

Cameras for vlogging should also have built-in Wi-Fi (to help you upload things on the go) and a “selfie screen” that flips up or out so you can see yourself in the frame.

Vlogging Camera

The Canon EOS Ris a good option for those who can spend a little more (it’s got a price tag of $1,800). It has all of the aforementioned features, plus a powerful processor, incredible low-light shooting for travel vlogging, and it’s compatible with a large range of Canon lenses.

Vlogging Camera 2

If you can’t spend quite that much, then the Panasonic GH5 mirrorless camera is a good option at $1,400. It features all of the qualities cameras for vlogging should have, but it also is built for people who live in ridiculous climates (it’s freeze-proof down to -10 degrees and is splash and dust proof). 

Vlogging Camera 3

And, finally, if you are looking for something cheaper still, then the Sony Alpha a6400 is just $900and still features all the basic qualities you’ll want for your vlog. 

Learn More:

Finally, Pick Up These Vlogging Accessories

accessories for video 3

 photo by filadendron via iStock

So, now that you have your camera, or if you’re like me, cameras for vlogging, then you’ll need to start picking out your vlogging accessories. Here are my top picks. 

E-Image EK610 Professional Compact Tripod

tripods for vlogging

A good tripod is an absolute must for any type of vlog. It keeps your video stable and allows you to have more control over your framing. But, there are so many tripods for vlogging available that it can be hard to choose. 

The E-Image EK610 is a great option for those who want a tripod that will last them a long time, but who aren’t looking to spend hundreds of dollars.  

It is made of aluminum, so it’s lightweight for travel. It has a load capacity of 6.6 lbs (which will work with any of the previously mentioned mirrorless cameras with lenses attached for vlogging). Plus, you can adjust the height of this tripod quickly and without hassle.  

The E-Image EK610 is available for $130, which is a steal considering you’ll never need to buy a tripod again!

Comica Shotgun Microphone

microphones for vlogging

This is another category of vlogging accessories that I see people arguing over all the time.  

Personally, I don’t think you need a handful of microphones for vlogging if you purchase one really good one. 

Ikan’s Comica Shotgun Microphone fits the bill. It comes with a low-cut filter function, so you can shoot in crowded places without all of the noise of a crowded place. It’s also shock-resistant so you won’t get awful vibration noise if you’re filming on a train or from a car. 

This shotgun microphone also comes with a bonus: a built-in wind muffler to prevent ambient noise.  

Ikan’s Comica Shotgun Microphone is available for $55 on their website.  

Horizon Pro 3-Axis Angled Gimbal Stabilizer

gimbals for vlogging

My most important video accessories have always been gimbals. It’s the one thing I’ll spend good money on, and if you’ve ever shot with a crappy gimbal then you know exactly why.

Ikan’s 3-Axis Angled Gimbal Stabilizer is something I’ve been obsessed with lately. It features 360-degree shooting, an angled roll motor, and a quick release mechanism.

You can purchase the 3-Axis Angled Gimbal for $400, which I understand sounds pricey, but it’s completely worth it if you travel for your vlog or if you forget to charge your accessories (like I do) because it lasts for 16 hours on a single charge. 

Onyx Bi-Color On-Camera LED Light

lights for vlogging

Lights for vlogging are also incredibly important. While you ideally want to shoot with sunlight, this isn’t always possible and a good LED light that you can attach to your camera makes a world of difference for your viewers.

The Onyx Bi-Color On-Camera LED Light is dimmable from 10%-99%, weighs just a half of a pound, and can light up a room from up to 9-feet away. 

You can pick up the Onyx Bi-Color On-Camera LED Light for $110. 

So, with that you have a better idea of some essential accessories you need to get your vlog going. Now all that’s left to do is work on your vlogging persona, storyboard some video ideas, and start shooting! 

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


This Handy Gadget Will Speed Up Your Post-Processing Workflow

This Handy Gadget Will Speed Up Your Post Processing Workflow

 photo bygorodenkoff via iStock

The days of scrunching over your laptop for hours on end, working tirelessly to edit your photos precisely are over. 

Ikan’s recently-released Tourbox Photo and Video Editing Controller is the editing tool you’ve always needed but never realized. 

The controller simplifies the use of Photoshop, Lightroom and whatever other photo editing software your heart desires by working hand-in-hand with a mouse or graphic tablet to allow you to subtly adjust your photos. 

As you can see in the video above, this controller has 11 completely customizable buttons which allow you to adjust the temperature, exposure, and contrast of your photos, to switch between editing tools quickly, and to zoom in and out of your photos with ease.  

But, my favorite quality of the controller is that it lets photographers do what photographers do best: focus on their creativity.

You will never again need to be interrupted by complicated procedures or distractions. The Tourbox Photo and Video Editing Controller essentially functions as an extension of your hand, and after using it, you’ll wonder how you ever worked without it before.  

 

 

Learn More:

Let’s give a huge thank you to Daniel Marchione for doing an unboxing and review of the controller. A few important things to note that Marchione points out are that the controller features rubber grips underneath it, so it’s never going to slide around on you while you’re working.

Additionally, whereas other photo and video editing tools are a lot larger than the Tourbox, you can use this controller with just one hand and you don’t even need to move your hand. Every single button is accessible from one resting position because the entire controller measures 4” by 4.5”.  

Plus, Ikan really thought of everything while they were creating this controller. Since the Tourbox plugs into your USB port on your laptop, they installed an additional USB port on the top of the controller to ensure you still have one when you need it.  

And, as Marchione points out, there’s no point in having a video and editing tool that is customizable if you can’t play around with how you want your controller to act. Every button can be adjusted with one click of your mouse on the preset list until you understand the exact way you want your controller to function.

photo editing gear 1

As I previously mentioned, the Tourbox comes with two layout presets, one for Photoshop and one for Lightroom, but if you need presets for other software, like Final Cut or Premiere, you can download them on the Ikan website. 

So, let’s talk specs.

post processing tips 2

 

 

The Tourbox Photo and Video Editing Controller is compatible with both Windows and macOS. Each button is completely customizable so you can create your own personal presets, just how you like them.  

I also wouldn’t be as stoked about this editing controller if it didn’t work with any software, because while Lightroom and Photoshop will always have my heart, I would hate to buy an editing controller that wouldn’t work with a cool new editing software in the future.

post processing gear 3

Importantly, it’s also designed ergonomically. There’s no reason to spend $60 on a mouse built with ergonomics in mind to turn around and buy an editing controller that isn’t. It’s slightly larger than your palm to ensure ease of use. Each button is incredibly pronounced. Essentially, it’s built like a modern video game controller. 

It weighs 386g or just under 1 lb, so it's definitely not a burden to travel with. 

post processing workflow 4

It’s also built to last, which means you can throw it in your backpack, carry it around with you all day, and expect it to function as well as the day you purchased it. 

You can pick up your Tourbox Photo and Video Editing Controller from Ikan for just $170 today. 

Learn More:

 



We Recommend


Tips for Better DSLR Video

Tips for Better DSLR Video

 photo bywelcomia via iStock

One of the best features of modern DSLRs is their video recording capabilities.

And while some DSLRs offer better video specs than others, with these tips, you can improve the quality of the videos you produce in short order.

From getting the right accessories to learning how to shoot in manual mode, the following tips will enable you to fulfill your creative vision.

Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

How to Shoot Professional Video With a DSLR: Stabilize the Camera

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Having a solid, stable base is important for getting clear, sharp still photos. But it’s even more important when shooting video. 

After all, you’re recording a moving picture, so if the camera isn’t steady, the footage will give viewers a seasick feeling because the video is bouncing around all over the place.

The simplest means of stabilizing the camera during video recording is to use a tripod.

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You can pick up a good video tripod, like the E-Image EK650 shown above, for under $200.

This particular tripod is specifically designed for video shooters and features a fluid head with a 75mm bowl and a fixed counterbalance that enables the head to support up to 11 pounds of gear. 

To increase stability, the EK650 has a mid-level spreader and quick leg locks for easy and secure setup.

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Tripods like this one offer fixed pan drag, variable tilt drag, and continuous adjustable tilt drag for more precise adjustments to the camera positioning.

It also comes with a GP1 plate that is compatible with various E-Image and Manfrotto heads.

The aluminum legs are strong and sturdy, yet lightweight, so the tripod is easily transportable. There’s even anti-slip pads on the feet to increase stability even further. 

It’s virtually impossible to get the highest-quality footage unless you stabilize the camera, so investing in a high-quality tripod like the E-Image EK650 is one of the best tips for better DSLR video.

Editor's Tip: Every great DSLR video needs an awesome soundtrack that adds interest, depth, and helps you tell a better story. One of my favorite places to get audio is Epidemic Sound. They have an incredible selection of tracks, albums, and sound effects that will bring your videos to life. Hop over to Google and search "Epidemic Sound" and see what deals they have going on right now! 

How to Shoot Professional Video With a DSLR: Learn Manual Mode

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 photo by arisara1978 via iStock 

Shooting in manual mode when creating videos is a slightly different exercise than when shooting in manual mode for still photos.

First, the shutter speed needs to be double the frame rate. So, if you’re shooting at 24 frames per second (fps), the shutter speed needs to be at least 1/50 seconds.

Of course, this means that if you’re shooting at 30 fps, a shutter of at least 1/60 seconds is needed, and if you’re shooting at 60 fps, the shutter speed needs to jump to 1/125 seconds.

If you don’t follow this guideline, the video footage you take will end up looking choppy, rather than the smooth continuous video footage you want.

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 photo by Arndt_Vladimir via iStock 

On the aperture front, it’s used just the same in video as it is in still photography.

If you want to reduce the depth of field, maintaining the subject in nice, sharp detail but having a blurred background, open the aperture. If you want the entire scene sharp, close down the aperture.

Naturally, if you use a large aperture to blur the background there will be lots of light coming into the lens. Conversely, if you close the aperture down to increase the depth of field, there will be much less light.

To help even out the exposure, you’ll need to manipulate the ISO.

As in still photography, you want to keep the ISO as low as possible to avoid digital noise. This isn’t an issue when shooting with a large aperture, because there’s plenty of light. As such, you can keep the ISO to a minimum.

However, when you close down the aperture, the ISO will need to be increased. A good rule of thumb is to do test footage at various ISO levels so you can determine the absolute lowest ISO setting you can use to get a good exposure with minimal noise.

Get more details on manipulating aperture, shutter speed, and ISO for shooting video in the video above by DSLR Video Shooter.

Learn More:

How to Shoot Professional Video With a DSLR: Ditch Autofocus 

I’ll be the first to admit that DSLR autofocus systems are better than they’ve ever been for shooting still photos. 

But in most cases, autofocus for shooting video results in the camera hunting for the right focus point if you’re using continuous autofocus.

A better option is to use manual focus so you have total control over what’s in focus and what isn’t. 

Manual focus might sound scary, but as this tutorial explains, it’s really not as hard as some people think! If you need to know how to shoot video with a DSLR, learning manual focusing should be one of the first steps you take.

For additional tips on manual focusing for video, check out the video at the beginning of this section by ZY Productions

How to Shoot Professional Video With a DSLR: Invest in Good Glass 

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One of the best DSLR video accessories you can get is the best lens you can afford. 

After all, the lenses you use for shooting video have more impact on the quality of the footage than anything else - even your camera!

Many experienced DSLR videographers will tell you that the best lenses for shooting video are primes with a large aperture like the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 HSM Art Lens.

The 24mm focal length is ideal for wide shots while the huge f/1.4 aperture enables you to control the depth of field and shoot in low-light situations with relative ease.

The problem, of course, is that this particular lens is spendy at $850.00

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You can shoot excellent quality video with a longer prime lens, say, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2. 

Again, you get an ideal focal length and an even larger aperture than the Sigma lens, but it comes at a price of $1,500.00.

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You can use a zoom lens for videography as well, but be sure you invest in a good zoom lens (so, not the kit lens that came with your camera).

A good normal zoom lens for shooting video is the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art, which is a cool $1,100.00.

The 24-70mm focal length is extremely versatile and the f/2.8 aperture is large, albeit not as large as the previous two lenses that are mentioned.

Nevertheless, you can expect good image quality throughout its focal range and the optical image 

stabilization is a nice bonus.

 lensfinder

Of course, not everyone can afford to spend so much money on a good video lens.

For DSLR video accessories like great lenses that cost less, I recommend Lensfinder.

Lensfinder is a marketplace where photographers can buy and sell lenses with the peace of mind that there are fraud protections in place.

What’s more, you can communicate with sellers directly, that way you can ask questions before your purchase.

After the purchase, you can leave feedback so other community members know how good the seller is. There’s even a mediation service in case things go awry!

It’s simply the most secure and easiest way to get your hands on great lenses while saving a buck.

How to shoot professional video with a dslr 4

 photo by basketman23 via iStock 

Ultimately, how to shoot video with a DSLR comes down to many factors, but the ones outlined here are among the most important.

Do yourself a favor and get geared up with a good lens and solid tripod, learn how to shoot in manual mode, master manual focusing, and you’ll be in good shape for fulfilling your creative vision with your videos.

 



We Recommend


Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000 - 2019 Edition

Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under 1000

 photo bykrystiannawrocki via iStock

The holidays are getting ever closer. That means we all need to get on our game and start making shopping lists for our loved ones.

But if you ask me, photographers are one of the toughest groups of people to satisfy. Many of us are picky and if you aren’t a photographer yourself, you might not know what the best gifts for photographers might be.

So before all the Black Friday sales begin to crop up, consult our list of the top gifts for photographers so you know what to keep your eye out for when holiday shopping really begins to get underway.

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: CanvasHQ Prints

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If you’re like me, sometimes finding the perfect gift for certain loved ones is a long, drawn-out process that causes tons of stress, and often you still don’t get something that totally blows them away.

I think a lot of photographers fall into this category. We have specific likes, and many of us already have most of what we want or need gear-wise, and what we don’t have is usually too expensive to put on a Christmas wish-list anyway.

But for all those hard-to-shop-for photographers on your 2019 holiday shopping list, I have the perfect solution - a canvas print.

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Think about it… 

A canvas print is a gift that keeps on giving.

Not only can you immortalize one of your favorite images from your favorite photographer, but you also give them a means to showcase their work in a format that’s drop-dead gorgeous.

I have tons of canvases in my home, the vast majority of which are from CanvasHQ.

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Now, I know what you’re thinking - canvas is old school.

Sure, maybe it is, but I’m telling you that these canvas prints from CanvasHQ are mind-bogglingly beautiful. In fact, they go head-to-head with any metal or acrylic print I have in my home.

The attention to detail is just amazing, and the materials they use are top-of-the-line. We’re talking archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks that are water and UV resistant, and kiln-dried pine frames to keep everything straight and true.

I love the personality that the canvas texture gives my images. That’s true whether it’s a portrait of my son or a landscape photo.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the customer service you get with CanvasHQ.

These guys are committed to getting it right, so if something doesn’t go as planned, you won’t be hung out to dry.

If you have questions, they’ll answer them. If you have a problem, they’ll fix it. If you need assistance with uploading your photo or even picking the best finishes for your canvas, they’ve got your back.

In the video above, I explain why I highly recommend a CanvasHQ canvas print as the ideal gift for the photographer on your holiday shopping list.

Start shopping for your favorite photographer today on CanvasHQ!

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Holdfast Roamographer 

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With a $1,000 holiday budget, you can give the photographer on your list a gift that is impeccably designed, highly functional, and way under budget, too. 

The Holdfast Roamographer bag is one of the finest leather camera bags on the market. It offers gorgeous aesthetics with an American Bison leather exterior that’s beautiful and rugged at the same time.

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Not only will this leather stand up to the elements and age with grace, but it’s also weather resistant so you can be sure the contents of the bag remain safe and dry.

It’s a big bag and can carry lots of gear, but carrying it is a breeze with an adjustable shoulder strap with a shearling-lined shoulder pad for comfort.

Or, if you prefer, you can carry the Roamographer using the Holdfast MoneyMaker for even more functionality and comfort, as seen above.

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The inside of the bag must be mentioned as well. 

The removable camera insert means that no matter how much or how little gear your favorite photographer needs to carry, the Roamographer will help them keep it organized.

The padded insert has cubbies specifically for cameras, lenses, flashes, and other accessories, while there’s interior and exterior pockets for other goodies like a phone, car keys, and a tablet.

The insert is removable, too, so on weekends when they’re not on the job, the photographer on your list can use this as a weekend bag, too. 

That makes the Holdfast Roamographer a beautiful, functional, and multi-purpose bag!

Learn more about the Holdfast Roamographer

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: iMovR Lander Lite Desk 

lander lite top gifts for photographers 

One of the worst parts of the job as a photographer are the long hours spent sitting at your desk, culling and editing images.

But the photographer on your holiday shopping list needn’t sit in discomfort all day long!

The iMovR Lander Lite Desk is the ideal solution, offering both sit and stand options for workers.

I have the Lander Desk in my office, and I can tell you first-hand that it is one of the best investments I’ve ever made for my work life - it’s that good!

The Lander Lite Desk has all the same crazy-good technology as the Lander Desk, but with “lighter” features and a smaller price tag.

For example, this little beauty has a height control paddle with built-in health coach, just like it’s big brother, the Lander Desk. The paddle syncs with your smartphone so you can even move the desk up and down remotely. 

Likewise, you can choose from hundreds of size and color combinations so the photographer in your life gets the precise desk they need.

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The Lander Lite incorporates whisper-quiet motors, too, with 225 pounds of lifting capacity.

And if you think that standing desks aren’t stable, you’re wrong! The Lander Lite offers the ultimate stable work surface. And since it’s 3-D laminated, the desktop is virtually indestructible.

Best of all, the Lander Lite Desk arrives nearly pre-assembled, so you won’t have to spend your afternoon putting the darn thing together.

Plus, it’s made in the USA, so you know the quality is top-notch!

Learn more about the Lander Lite Desk

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Pre-Owned Sony Alpha a6300 and Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

sony a6300

A great holiday gift idea for the photographer on your list is a Sony camera/lens setup.

By opting for a pre-owned camera and lens, you can save a ton of money while still giving an awesome gift this holiday season.

The Sony a6300 offers tons of features, including a 24.2-megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor, a BIONZ X image processor, 4K video at 30p, HD video at 1080p/120, and continuous shooting at 11fps.

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Add to that a spectacular 425-point autofocus system with tracking AF, excellent image quality, and a small, lightweight body, and the a6300 is a perfect gift for a photographer that needs a capable yet highly portable camera.

Pair that with the Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens, and you've got quite the package!

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This lens has an effective focal length of 27-202.5mm to give photographers incredible versatility from wide-angle to telephoto.

It also sports Optical SteadyShot technology, which minimizes camera shake so you can get sharper images when holding the camera in your hand.

With quick and accurate autofocus performance and quiet operation that's ideal for shooting video, this lens is a great choice for still photographers and videographers alike.

All told, this camera and lens combination is under $1,000, so you can give two gifts for the price of one!

Learn more about the Sony a6300 and the Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Ikan Onyx Digital Color LED Panel Light 

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Photography requires great light, and while there are many different lighting options out there, few match the creative possibilities that the Ikan Onyx Digital Color Light provides.

It has a RGBWA LED panel that offers five color modes to suit just about any kind of photo shoot.

When in RGBWA mode, the light gives photographers complete control over red, green, and blue LEDs independently. That being the case, the photographer on your list can literally create millions of different colors!

Meanwhile, the amber and white LEDs give photographers the option of recreating daylight or tungsten light with incredible accuracy.

There’s also a CCT Mode that is adjustable from 2800K up to 10,000K. Again, this gives the photographer on your list infinite possibilities for customizing the light for their photos.

Add to that a Hue Shift feature of magenta and green lights, and you’ve got a lighting option that offers supreme matching control when using this light with other LEDs.

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On top of all that, the Onyx Digital Color light has eight built-in special effects (a candle flame and police car lights among them), 33 different gels to choose from, and a built-in ½-stop diffuser.

With a CRI/TLCI rating of 95, this light produces gorgeous, clean light that is sure to knock the socks off the photographer on your holiday shopping list. 

Learn more about the Ikan Onyx Digital Color LED Light Panel 

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Synology DiskStation DS 1019+ 

It's crucial for all photographers to have a solid backup system, that way if catastrophe strikes - a flood or fire, a break-in, a hard drive failure, and so forth - their precious photos and other files will be safe and sound.

For that task, it's tough to beat the Synology DiskStation DS1019+...

I have this exact model on my desk, and it has proven to be the reliable backup I need to ensure my files are duplicated and safe.

It's small enough that it doesn't take up a ton of room on my desk while also being packed with features that make it an easy-to-use and powerful storage option. Read my complete Synology DiskStation DS1019+ review to learn more.

There are five hot-swappable bays, each of which can accommodate a 2.5-inch or a 3.5-inch drive. If the photographer on your list has TONS of files, they can easily expand that capacity to 10 bays with the Synology DX517.

Aside from the expansion capabilities, the DS1019+ is easy to operate thanks to the intuitive Synology operating system. Even if you've never setup or used a network attached storage device before, this one will be a breeze to use.

In fact, I set it up in just a few minutes with no problems or issues at all.

This unit is power-packed with an Intel Celeron J3455 1.5GHz quad-core processor that’s capable of burst speed of 2.3Ghz.

Add to that 8GB of RAM, built-in applications for video transcoding, read/write speeds up to 225MB per second, tool-free installation for 3.5-inch drives, and the Synology reputation for reliability, and you have the makings of a perfect - and practical - holiday gift idea for the photographer in your life!

Learn more about the Synology DiskStation DS1019+

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Syrp Genie II Linear

syrp genie gifts for photographers

If the photographer you’re shopping for is into shooting time-lapse videos (or real-time videos, for that matter), then a perfect gift idea is the Syrp Genie II Linear. 

What’s so great about this product is its size and weight - at little more than 5.5 x 5.5 x 6.33 inches and two pounds, this little guy can be easily added to any photography bag for on-the-go motion control.

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What’s more, the Genie II Linear can attach to any slider on the market, giving your favorite photographer incredible versatility in how they craft their time-lapse setup. It can also attach to cable cam systems up to 328-feet in length.

This thing is also loaded for bear with features that will enable the photographer on your list to create professional-looking videos.

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From key-framing to time-lapse video, shooting B-roll to recording interviews, the Genie II Linear can get the job done!  

Throw in live view, camera control for ramping exposures, wireless control via a smartphone, and many other intelligent features, this is simply one of the best motion control devices you can get this holiday season!

Learn more about the Syrp Genie II Linear

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Aputure 120d II

Over the years, Aputure has established itself as one of the top lighting choices of photographers worldwide. That’s because of the incredible features and build quality of products like the 120d II.

I use this light in my home studio (you can read my review of it here), and it is far and away one of the best lights I’ve ever owned.

The light it produces is beautifully clean and bright (25 percent brighter than the 120d). Additionally, it has a pleasing color temperature of 5500K.

You can control the 120d II using a wireless remote from up to 328 feet away, giving photographers the ultimate in flexibility regarding the positioning related to the subject. 

Speaking of flexibility, this light is dimmable from 100 percent down to just 1 percent, so the photographer on your list can dial in the precise level of lighting they need to get the shot. 

Aputure has built in all kinds of lighting effects for further creative lighting. What’s more, the redesigned handbrake offers a super secure lock to prevent the light from moving.

That means that when the light is dialed in and positioned, you don’t have to worry about whether or not it will stay in place. That’s the kind of peace of mind photographers want from their gear!

The integrated power and control box make for easy transport while the 18 dB quiet fan won’t distract photographers while on-location. Add in a CRI and TLCI of 97+, and you have a recipe for one heck of a light for the photographer on your list!

Learn more about the Aputure 120d II

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens

Earlier this year, I took the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 for a test drive with my Sony a6400, and I was blown away by the quality of the images I was able to get.

For me, the best feature of this lens is that it is incredibly sharp. A close second would be its extremely fast and accurate focusing.

As you can see in the sample image below, this lens also produces nice bokeh that’s great for portraits.

Additionally, this lens is super lightweight, so you don’t feel like you’re lugging around a huge kit while you take photos. The photographer on your shopping list will surely appreciate that!

The look of the lens is something else, too - it’s sleek design reminds me of the Zeiss Otus lenses from back in the day. 

And while some would argue that the streamlined design means it’s not comfortable to use, I disagree. 

The big rubber ring offers tons of grip, and the lens feels great in the hand, due in large part to the lightweight design I mentioned above.

zeiss batis 85mm

The angle of view of 29 degrees is perfect for portraits, and the maximum f/1.8 aperture allows for flexibility in low-light shooting situations.

The floating element design of the lens minimizes aberrations, and since it’s dust and weather-sealed, it can be taken out for shoots in adverse weather without worry that it will be damaged.

In other words, if the photographer on your holiday list is after a fantastic portrait lens, this is it!

Learn more about the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: f-stop Sukha Backpack Master Bundle 

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A top-of-the-line camera backpack is sure to score you some brownie points with the photographer on your holiday shopping list…

I have an f-stop Sukha, and to say that this thing can hold a lot of gear is a huge understatement… 

In fact, it can accommodate 70 liters of gear, so if your favorite photographer has a ton of stuff or they’ll be hitting the road for a while, this is the bag that they need.

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And I know what you’re thinking...big bags like this make a mess of organizing gear. With all that space, everything gets jumbled up and is hard to find, right? 

Wrong!

The Master Bundle comes with a wide range of ICUs (Internal Camera Units) that maximize the space in the bag while keeping the gear inside safe, secure, and organized. 

From the ultra-small Micro Nano ICU to the big, beefy Pro X-Large ICU, there are six ICU options for a highly customizable interior space.

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The f-stop Sukha Master Bundle also features goodies like a hydration sleeve, a large rain cover, and a packing cell kit that will keep your clothing nice and organized.

There are three accessory pouches, a Mano pouch, and an ICU gate as well. 

And even with all that gear inside the bag, it’s still ultimately comfortable to carry. That’s thanks to the large, cushy should straps that help distribute the weight of the bag over a larger area. The padded waistbelt is a nice touch as well. 

Learn more about the f-stop Sukha Master Bundle

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: Pre-Owned Canon EOS 7D Mark II 

If the photographer you’re shopping for is ready to upgrade their APS-C camera to a higher-end model, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a great option.

This professional-grade camera is not only budget-friendly, but it offers some great specs, too: 

  • 20.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors
  • 10 fps burst shooting
  • ISO to 16,000 (expandable to 51,200)
  • 1080/60p video
  • Weather-sealed body

canon 7d mark ii 

On top of that, Canon implemented its Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system into this camera, which is a big deal because the Dual Pixel system is usually reserved for Canon’s more expensive cameras. 

The autofocus system offers 65 AF points, all of which are cross-type. The camera has six customizable modes for focusing as well, which gives you tracking sensitivity options that improve its performance.

This thing feels like a top-shelf camera too. There's no body flex, the buttons, dials, and switches feel beefy and crisp, and the weather sealing means you can shoot in less-than-ideal conditions without worrying that your camera will be soaked to the core.

In other words, if you want to help your photography loved one step up their game, this camera is an excellent option!

Learn more about the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. 

Gifts for Photographers Under $1,000: ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 34 Series Tripod

 

When it comes to the very best tripods money can buy, one has to look to ProMediaGear.

The Pro-Stix 34 Series tripod is my everyday rig, and has been for about the last year or so. To say that it’s the best tripod I’ve ever owned is a massive understatement.

It’s really no contest, either.

Granted, when I first started in photography, I “bargain-basemented” my way through various cheap tripods that didn’t last more than a few months.

But as I got more experienced and had more money to devote to gear, I began utilizing more well-known brands and highly reviewed tripods.

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It wasn’t until I started using ProMediaGear tripods that I reached the pinnacle of what a tripod can do, though.

For starters, this tripod can accommodate up to 60 pounds of gear. That might seem like overkill for a photographer, but as I move more and more into videography and have more and more gear to put on the tripod, having an abundance of support is definitely a good thing (and since the apex has a 1/4-20 threaded adapter port, I can easily add more gear when I need to).

Despite having a huge load capacity, this tripod is still easily transportable - it’s just over four pounds and folds down to less than 23 inches.

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The beefy 34mm legs are made of 10-layer carbon fiber, so they are about as rock-solid as you can get.

The legs have three locking leg angle positions, tension-adjustable leg mechanisms, large molded rubber feet, and integrated stainless steel spikes to boot. In other words, this sucker is rugged and will give you durability for years and years to come.

But beyond the awesome specs and incredible reliability, I appreciate that ProMediaGear makes this and their other tripods right here in the U.S. (in Tinley Park, Illinois, to be exact). Not only that, the folks at ProMediaGear are experienced photographers, and their expertise was crucial in designing this tripod.

From a functionality standpoint, a versatility standpoint, a build-quality standpoint, and so forth, the ProMedia Gear Pro-Stix 34 series is simply the cream of the crop when it comes to the best tripods of 2019. 

Learn more about the ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 34 Series tripod

 



We Recommend


Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under $50 - 2019 Edition

Top 10 Gifts for Photographers Under 50

photo byevgenyatamanenko via iStock

Sure, it’s only August, but before you know it, it’ll be December 24th, and you’ll have zero gifts for your favorite photographer.

Why not get a head start this year and scope out a few items that photographers will love?

This list runs the gamut of photography gadgets and accessories, all of which are under the $50 threshold. 

See what you can find to impress the photographer on your holiday shopping list!

Gifts for Photographers Under $50: CanvasHQ Print

canvashq 2019 gift guide 1

If you’re like me, sometimes finding the perfect gift for certain loved ones is a long, drawn-out process that causes tons of stress, and often you still don’t get something that totally blows them away.

I think a lot of photographers fall into this category. We have specific likes, and many of us already have most of what we want or need gear-wise, and what we don’t have is usually too expensive to put on a Christmas wish-list anyway.

But for all those hard-to-shop-for photographers on your 2019 holiday shopping list, I have the perfect solution - a canvas print.

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Think about it… 

A canvas print is a gift that keeps on giving.

Not only can you immortalize one of your favorite images from your favorite photographer, but you also give them a means to showcase their work in a format that’s drop-dead gorgeous.

I have tons of canvases in my home, the vast majority of which are from CanvasHQ.

canvashq gift guide 2019 2

Now, I know what you’re thinking - canvas is old school.

Sure, maybe it is, but I’m telling you that these canvas prints from CanvasHQ are mind-bogglingly beautiful. In fact, they go head-to-head with any metal or acrylic print I have in my home.

The attention to detail is just amazing, and the materials they use are top-of-the-line. We’re talking archival-grade canvas, commercial-grade inks that are water and UV resistant, and kiln-dried pine frames to keep everything straight and true.

I love the personality that the canvas texture gives my images. That’s true whether it’s a portrait of my son or a landscape photo.

canvashq gift guide 2019 4

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the customer service you get with CanvasHQ.

These guys are committed to getting it right, so if something doesn’t go as planned, you won’t be hung out to dry.

If you have questions, they’ll answer them. If you have a problem, they’ll fix it. If you need assistance with uploading your photo or even picking the best finishes for your canvas, they’ve got your back.

In the video above, I explain why I highly recommend a CanvasHQ canvas print as the ideal gift for the photographer on your holiday shopping list.

Start shopping for your favorite photographer today on CanvasHQ!

Gifts for Photographers Under $50: Holdfast Camera Leash Leather Wrist Strap

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Not every photographer wants or needs a neck strap or camera harness, so why not give them the gift of a tough, useful, and gorgeous leather wrist strap? 

The Camera Leash by Holdfast is impeccably made and comes in a variety of materials, including bridle leather, water buffalo leather, American bison leather, and python skin. There are also several colors available to suit your favorite photographer’s specific tastes.

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This strap is multi-functional, too.

Use it to carry your keys and attach them to a belt loop. Secure a water bottle to your backpack. Use two of them together to carry a third camera on the Holdfast MoneyMaker harness. There’s few products under $50 with that much functionality!

Plus, these things look absolutely incredible with fine details that scream, “I’m handcrafted!”

It’s a photography gift that your favorite photographer is sure to love. 

Learn more about the Holdfast Camera Leash

Gifts for Photographers Under $50: Excire Search

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Give a gift this year that will make your favorite photographer’s life much, much easier by giving them Excire Search. 

This software for Lightroom Classic CC has an AI-powered search engine that supercharges one’s ability to search Lightroom catalogs for photos.

In fact, it allows photographers to search for images by keyword (i.e., “dog,” or one of the other 124 keywords available) or by example, (i.e., by selecting a sample reference image of a boat from Excire’s library so it will find boat photos in the Lightroom catalog).

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Additionally, Excire recognizes faces, so photographers can search for images of one, two, or multiple faces, for women or men, children or adults, and so forth.

In other words, Excire Search is the ultimate way to organize and search Lightroom catalogs. That means less time searching for the desired photos and more time actually editing them or taking new photos. What photographer wouldn’t like that?!

Learn more about Excire Search

Gifts for Photographers Under $50: Kenko Nyumon Slim Circular Polarizing Filter

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If the photographer on your list primarily takes landscape photos, an ideal gift for them is a high-quality circular polarizing filter.

The great thing about polarizing filters is that they can impact a photograph in many ways:

  • They reduce glare off of water and other non-metallic surfaces like wet rocks or plants
  • They minimize atmospheric haze so far-off features of the landscape appear more clear and crisp
  • They boost the contrast of the sky with a deeper blue atmosphere and whiter clouds

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