Top 7 Best Camera Settings for Shooting Stock Footage

July 17, 2019

Best Settings to Use for Shooting Stock Footage

If you are just getting started selling stock footage, you may want to take a quick moment to make sure that you are filming in a way that will maximize your video sales.

You want be sure that your clips are optimized in a way that they can be used by as many potential buyers out there as possible. It is important to get these settings correct from the start, because many of them you cannot alter in post production.

I shoot with a Canon DSLR camera (in case you’re curious you can check out my gear here), so this guide will reflect many of the settings that I personally use. However, most of them are still applicable if you are shooting with a mirrorless system as well.

1 | Frame Rate

What is the best frame rate for shooting stock footage?

The most common options for frame rates are 24 fps, 30fps, or 60 fps.

To quickly explain, fps stands for frames per seconds, and it is a measurement for exactly how many frames will fit into a single second of time.

Obviously, each setting is going to give a different look or feel to your footage.

For real-time footage, I always prefer to use 24 fps. This gives footage the most film-like quality to it. Much of my content is lifestyle based, so I want it to look and feel authentic. 24 fps is the perfect fit for me.

For slow-motion footage, you will need to shoot in 60 fps or even higher if your camera has the capability. I shoot in 120 fps on my camera.

When you shoot in 60 fps (or higher), you are giving yourself the ability to slow your footage down in post production. To explain, you now have 60 frames per second in your footage (2x the typical 24 or 30fps), so when you get ready to slow your footage down to real time, you have twice the amount of information to fill in the gaps of time.

2 | White Balance

Without getting too terribly technical, I will briefly explain what white balance is and why it’s important to get these settings correct.

Have you ever taken a photo that turned out looking way more blue than in real life? Or way more orange?

That is because the white balance was set incorrectly on the camera.

Your camera isn’t as sophisticated as the human eye (this still amazes me). Your eye automatically adjusts for color temperature, so that what you see is always perfectly white balanced. However, the camera is a technical instrument. It calculates white balance based simply on the color temperature that we tell it to.

To help you understand, different light sources have different color temperatures. The sun has a different color temperature (5600k) than an incandescent light bulb in your house (2500k).

Without adjusting the settings on your camera, a picture outside will appear very blue, while a picture in your house will appear very orange.

When you tell the camera what temperature to adjust to, it will know how to set the whites to be truly white. This in turn will correct the entire picture (or footage) to capture the world as your eye sees it. Hence, the term white balance.

examples of white balance

Take a look at a few quick photos I took of my keyboard. Take note that these were shot inside with a color temperature somewhere around 3,000. From left to right you’ll see how funky they look when white balance is set incorrectly, the middle is correct.

how+to+set+white+balance

Your camera may operate a little differently than mine, so you need to do a little research to find out exactly how to adjust the settings on your camera.

Once I hit the ‘WB’ function, you can see that I am able to scroll left to right through the different options to see what best fits my scene.

Honestly, my camera does a pretty good job with auto white balance, so I often leave it there.

Outside: When I am outside, it usually needs some help, so I typically bump it to the shade or sunlight setting (between 5,000-6000k), lastly you can always adjust it manually.

If none of my preset settings look correct, then I will go to this last function and set it manually.

Too Orange: As a rule of thumb, if things are looking too orange then you need to make that WB number lower.

Too Blue: If things are looking too blue, bump that number higher.

This takes a little practice, but you will quickly get the hang of it. You do have some control over this when you are editing, but I would strongly advise you to get these settings correct from the start.

It’s always better to have it right from the start than to get yourself into a pickle trying to fix it later. You will thank yourself when you’re binging on Netflix while your footage uploads, instead of manually fixing those colors one by one.


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3 | Aperture

Your aperture settings for stock footage will depend entirely upon your subject matter and the look you want to achieve.

The wider your aperture (f1.8-f4), the less depth of field you will have.

This simply means that your subject will be in focus while the background will be blurry.

Great examples where you would want a wide aperture would be portraits, close ups of plants or wildlife, or anything else that you may be trying to isolate in the frame.

Another great example would be if you are trying to leave some negative space in the frame where copy (or text) might go for an advertiser. These are things to keep in mind specifically when adapting your shots for stock.

A wide aperture is also useful in low light situations. Opening the aperture as wide as possible will allow all the available light to come in to your camera, which may be necessary in certain situations (shooting at night or in a dark room).

On the other hand, if you keep your aperture small (f13-f22), this will widen your depth of field. This could be useful for landscape shots, where you want everything in the frame to be visible and in focus.

4 | Shutter Speed

I have done a lot of research on setting shutter speed for stock footage and here are some general guidelines to follow when deciding what shutter speed to shoot for standard DSLR video.

There is something known as the 180-degree rule which gets into the mechanics of original shutter angles that used to be rotary shutters. Go ahead and google that if you want the nitty-gritty details, but for our purposes, we’ll keep this short and simple.

Make sure that your shutter speed is always double the frames per second that you are shooting. Remember this first setting that we talked about?

If you are shooting in 24 fps, your shutter speed should be 1/50 or 1/60 sec.

If you are shooting at 60 fps, you want your shutter speed to be around 1/120 sec.

There is some wiggle room in these numbers, but in general you want to stay close to that area.

Play around with it as an experiment to see what happens - too slow and your footage will have a good amount of motion blur, which may or may not be desired. Too fast and it will have an artificially technical look to it - think old school 1980’s camcorders.

5 | ISO

This variable will greatly depend on the camera you are using.

As a rule of thumb, you should always keep your ISO settings as low as possible.

When there is plenty of light, ISO is a non-issue, as you can just keep it around 100-300 and not even think about it. However, there will be times when you don’t have enough light for that luxury and you’ll have to increase your ISO.

If your aperture is set as wide as it will go and your shutter speed is a slow as recommended and the exposure is still too dark, then you will have to adjust your ISO.

Here’s where it depends on your camera - some high-end cameras are good enough that you can bump ISO up to 1200-1500 without noticing too much noise, however with most cameras you really should try to stay under 800-1000 max with your ISO.

This is especially important when submitting footage to stock video sites. Your clip will quickly be rejected if there is even the slightest bit of noise. It’s happened to me many, many times.

6 | Picture Profiles

Picture profiles are those built-in settings on your camera that you can change for certain scenarios like landscapes, portraits, sports, etc.

Let’s set one up that is specific for stock footage. This is important because as a stock contributor, you want to give your buyer the most freedom to edit or adapt your footage for their own projects.

In order to achieve this, you want to make sure that you are shooting in a raw or flat style (or as close to it as possible).

Shooting in this style allows your footage to capture as much available exposure information as possible (your footage will have all the blacks, whites, and in-between shadow ranges). This is referred to as dynamic range.

The more dynamic range you can achieve, the better and more cinematic your footage will look in post production. Once you get to the point of editing your footage, you can make a few tweaks here and there to set it up perfectly for exports. More on this later.

For many Canon users, this type of picture profile is referred to as C-LOG. Not all cameras have this capability, in fact even among Canon, some of the entry level cameras do not. If this isn’t a possibility on your equipment, you can still set your camera up to shoot in a flat picture profile, which will be as close as possible to a LOG setting.

Let’s walk through how to set this up.

Go into picture styles on your particular camera, scroll to the bottom to set up a User Defined Profile.

You can save this setting to use for all of your stock footage in the future.

Lower the saturation, lower the contrast, and lower the sharpness to areas where you prefer.

Play around here until you find a setting that you like. Here’s how I currently have mine set:

canon-picture-style

Play with a variety of these settings on different shots and then bring them into your editing program.

It will take some trial and error to decide exactly what fits your style best. For me, I like to go pretty flat (all the way with sharpness and contrast) and then leave a little in there for saturation.

7 | Resolution

Lastly, let’s talk about resolution.

Again, you may be limited by the model of camera that you own.

If your camera can shoot 4k, I would say this is what you should be aiming for. You will not only earn more money per clip with 4k, but I believe you will prolong the shelf life of your footage by shooting in the highest resolution possible.

As I’m sure you are aware, video technology is only becoming more and more sophisticated. As resolutions continue to improve, HD footage will only begin to look increasingly more dated.

It’s not critical yet, as most of my highest selling clips were shot in HD on my Canon 7D. However, it is prudent to keep this in mind if you are shopping for a new camera or have this option to set on your current camera.

I hope these guidelines have given you some helpful ideas on how to get your camera ready to shoot some stock footage. Let me know where you have questions. How do you set your camera up?

Hi, I'm Beth.

I started Handcraft Films to give other filmmakers and photographers the gift of documenting their own stories for years to come. I hope you'll learn something new and share your creativity here.
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