Tips for Good Camera Technique

Tips for Good Camera Technique

It can be a challenge to get professional looking results on a budget but it doesn’t have to be impossible and can be done with a lot of practice to improve your technique.  You will be impressed with the quality you can achieve by being careful with how you prepare and setup your camera.  Planning the shot and blocking a scene is beneficial.  Having a shot that is bouncing around will not only make your audience sick but looks very unprofessional.  If your budget doesn’t allow for any kind of steadying device then you really need to practice your technique to get the best shot.  Keep things smooth and fluid, pretend that the camera is an extension of yourself and you should be able to see a dramatic improvement.  Some other possibilities you might consider is simply putting the camera down on a flat surface.  So without further ado, let’s get to it and learn how to achieve a better camera technique!

 

Using a tripod

Using a tripod is the easiest and cheapest way to get smoother pan and tilt shots and won’t break the bank.  You should be able to get a decent tripod for $50 or so.  Of course, a $600 tripod with a fluid head can achieve a superior level of professional visual but it’s not really necessary.  And we can’t forget the lowly monopod, a very useful tool that you should always have at your disposal.  The advantage of a monopod is that it can fit in areas that a tripod can’t due to the small footprint and it’s also a great additional place to hold your camera.  Many monopods have handles and grips already built-in due to the fact that a monopod has to be held…or else it will fall over (duh).  You can even find some tutorials on the internet on how to make a homemade steadycam using a monopod as a base.

 

Blocking a scene

If you can imagine a director using his fingers to imagine what a shot is going to look like before he actually shoots any video, then practice moving the camera if it’s not going to be static you have the complete vision of what blocking a scene is.

In order to get the best shot possible you have to have some kind of idea what you want the shot to look like, so blocking a scene, or practicing the camera movements you are going to do, will be very beneficial for any shot and especially for complex shots.  Referring to storyboards at this stage can also be a big help.  It gives you a place to start and helps you stay true to the original vision of the creative talent that got the production this far.

One thing I don’t recommend trying is blocking a scene with the LCD on the video camera.  It’s too small and it doesn’t give a true representation of what the shot will look like.  If you have a larger monitor you can use then that would be a better solution if you want to see it on a screen.

 

To sum up, you should do several takes of a complex scene until you get a set of shots that can be used.  It’s much cheaper and just makes more sense to shoot extra footage while everything is setup and going than to set up the scene again.  Most budgets don’t allow for that and productions usually have to work around the lack of proper or coherent footage.