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What is a Pancake Lens?

A pancake lens is simply a small lens that's appropriately named for its 'squished' or 'slim' stature on the camera body.

My first introduction into pancake lenses began during a short obsession with a popular technique called free-lensing.

If you have no clue what I'm talking about, free-lensing is when you literally take the lens off the camera body, but still hold it very close to the camera while recording.

It's a cheap way to make a tilt-shift lens and also allows for some really cool light leaks and film effects on your footage.

But in order to do it easily, you need a very small and light lens that's easy to manipulate in one hand.

The pancake lens was the perfect solution!

Over the years, I no longer do much free lensing BUT I still absolutely love my pancake lens.

It's truly surprised me, this handy little lens, and here's how.

Taken with my Canon 40mm pancake lens while traveling.

Why I Love My Pancake Lens

First, it's very inexpensive relative to the world of other lenses out there.

Second, it's so lightweight and slim on my camera body (which is already big in itself) that it makes it the perfect everyday, on the go lens.

Last, I sort of expected the sharpness and speed to be lacking (because of the price), but that's where it's surprised me. The image and footage quality is actually very good.

Taken with my Canon 40mm pancake while hiking.

It's my go to travel lens, especially when I know I'm just shooting things for me - for the fun of it.

Another example with my 40mm, shooting in various lighting.

Now that we've established how great pancake lenses are, let's compare the two most common focal lengths: the 24mm and the 40mm.

Ultimate Comparison: the 24mm pancake or the 40mm pancake?

There is one major difference between these two lenses and (hint) it's not the focal length.

But before we get to that, let's take a look at what BOTH of these lenses are great at.

Canon EF-S 24MM 1.2.8 STM
  • EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
Sale
Canon Cameras US 6310B002 EF 40mm f/2.8 STM Lens - Fixed Black
  • 40mm focal length, Lens not zoom able, 64mm equivalent focal length on Canon APS-C Cameras
  • Minimum focus distance at 0.30m/11.81 inch, F2.8 maximum aperture, F22 minimum
  • Stepper type AF motor with full time manual focusing
  • 52mm Filters, Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 12 Groups
  • Focal Length and Maximum Aperture: 100mm 1:2.8

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Now let's break down the major difference between the 24mm and the 40mm pancake lenses to help you determine which will be better for you.

The Major Difference Between the 24mm and the 40mm Pancake Lenses

Upon first glance, you may immediately assume that the main difference between these two lenses is the focal length.

In fact that's exactly what I did as well. I even went so far as to order the 24mm lens to begin with.

Much to my dismay, it arrived and did NOT fit onto my Canon 1DX Mark ii.

What I learned is that the main difference isn't the focal length between these two cameras, it's that one is an EF lens and the other is an EF-S lens.

If your camera is a full frame sensor body (see examples below), then the 24mm EF-S Pancake lens will not fit your camera and you need to go with the 40mm EF lens.

In fact, this is the very reason that Canon came out with the two different focal lengths for this pancake lens.

Let me explain.

Taken with my 40mm Canon Pancake Lens

The reason these lenses actually end up being about the same focal length is because of the crop factor.

With EF-S lenses, there is a crop factor of about 1.6x. This means that when you place the 24mm EF-S lens on a cropped sensor (APS-C camera bodies), the image more truly reflects a 38.4mm lens (24mm x 1.6).

Therefore, the 24mm EF-S lens is very similar in focal length to the 40mm.

On a full-frame camera body, there is no change in the focal length of the lens, so the 40mm remains a 40mm.

It's essentially the same lens, made two ways to accommodate the two types of camera bodies.

Taken with my Canon 40mm Pancake

Which Lens Will Fit Your Camera Body: EF or EF-S?

So really, the question isn't between the 24mm or the 40mm - it's which lens will actually fit your camera body, the EF or EF-S?

One quick indicator is to take a look at the inside ring on the front of your camera - is it red or white?

If the indicator dot on the front of your camera is red, then you need the 40mm EF lens (full-frame sensor).

If the indicator dot on the front of your camera is white, then you need the 24mm EF-S lens (APS-C camera bodies).

If you have two indicators (both red and white), then either lens can fit on your camera. Keep reading for the difference in that scenario.

There's one more line of Canon cameras that's recently come on the market as well: the mirrorless camera line.

If you know your camera is a Canon mirrorless camera, then you need to actually go with the EF-M version of this pancake lens.

If you still aren't sure which camera and lens combo you need, here's a chart that should help you figure it out.

A few exceptions to the rule:

Any of the Canon APS-C bodies (for example, the Canon Rebel series) will fit both the EF or the EF-S lens series, so either of these lenses can work if you have a rebel camera.

However, keep in mind that the 40mm will crop by a factor of 1.6x. So the 40mm lens on this camera will more accurately reflect a 64mm lens.

In this case, the question does become which focal length is more preferred: 40mm or 64mm?

If you ask me, I'd much rather shoot with the 40mm focal range for this type of lens. If the purpose is to capture everyday moments, either around the house or while traveling, more than likely the 24mm EF-S lens will capture these moments better.

A 64mm lens is much tighter on your subject and will be difficult to shoot anything within close range. More than likely you'll need to be separated a good distance from your subject in order to capture it in focus.

However, if this is your goal then by all means, the 64mm (or 40mm EF lens) will be the best option for you.

In my opinion, wedding filmmakers are some of the most talented of all filmmakers. The reason is because when done right, they make it look easy.

The truth is, it isn't easy. I know firsthand because I've shot a number of weddings myself.

Not only are you catching spontaneous, unplanned moments on the fly, you're also floating between such a variety of lighting situations and settings that you are constantly switching gear to make sure you don't miss a single thing.

After awhile, you begin to develop a system that makes the process smoother, but you're still constantly changing gear to fit the situation.

Add one more challenge - you have to do it quickly and quietly. Like a ninja.

The first thing many people think about when it comes to wedding video gear is the camera. But honestly, I believe the best lens choices are far more important even than the camera.

Camera gear on table top

Lenses are a lifetime investment.

The technology behind cameras changes drastically every 3-5 years. As such, you'll likely be buying a new one as you can afford them every 3-5 years.

But lenses are different.

I've cycled through 3-4 nice video cameras but I've kept every single lens I've acquired over the past 15 years of my career.

If you invest in a good quality lens, the technology hardly changes. Sure there are some upgrades every 10 years or so, but they aren't usually life changing.

Your set of lenses (likely Canon if you're reading this article) can grow with you and your variety of cameras as you upgrade them.

I started shooting on a Canon 7D, upgraded to a few 5D renditions, and now I shoot primarily on the 1DX Mark ii. All with the same set of Canon lenses.

For this reason, I also highly recommend that you stick with the L-series Canon lenses if you can afford to do so. They are more expensive, but they are worth it.

What is an L-series Canon Lens?

L-series lenses carry the very specific red ring around the lens body itself, so you'll know by looking. It's an elite series of lenses made by Canon that are marked by their superior professional quality. They will be faster, more durable (often weather sealed), and sharper than any other set of lenses.

In this article, we'll cover the best overall Canon lens for shooting wedding videos, as well as specialized lenses for different settings throughout a wedding video.

Be sure to check out our other related posts for wedding filmmakers: best music for wedding films and best microphones for filming weddings.


This post does contain Amazon product recommendations. As an Amazon associate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases, however any commission that I earn comes at no cost to you.

1. Most Versatile // Best Overall Canon Lens for Wedding Videos

If you have to choose just one lens, this is going to be the one.

You could shoot an entire wedding with just this lens. It's that versatile and that good of quality.

In fact, it's the lens I use most overall with most of my filmmaking.

So if you are asking which lens to start with, or if you can just afford one for the moment, here it is.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens
  • 24 70 millimetre focal length, 38.4 112 millimetre equivalent focal length on Canon APS C cameras
  • F2.8 constant maximum aperture; F22 minimum, ring type ultrasonic type AF motor with full time manual focusing
  • 82 millimetre filters, closest focusing distance: 0.38 meter/1.25 feet
  • Image Stabilization : No. Focus adjustment: Inner focusing with USM. Diagonal angle of view: 84° - 34°. Weight 1.7 pound
  • Purchase this product between May 1, 2016 and July 30, 2016 and get 13 months of free damage protection from Canon. The product must be registered within 30 days of the purchase date to be eligible

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What I like the most about the Canon 24-70mm lens:

This lens is perfect for:

Any disadvantages to this lens?

Which Canon cameras is this lens compatible with?

This is an EF-mount Canon lens. That means it's compatible with DSLR Canon video cameras.

If you are purchasing through amazon, be sure to enter your camera model into the amazon confirmed fit box to be sure it's compatible with your camera.

This will the be the case with all the lenses on this list. They are all EF specific for Canon DSLR cameras.

2. Best Portrait & Detail Lens for Wedding Films

When I think of great wedding films, I think dreamy, cinematic, romantic. This is the lens to make that happen.

I purchased this lens early on this year and I can tell you - it's amazing.

And it surprised me.

I knew it would be great for close ups and buttery soft bokeh in the background. But I also thought it may be a lens that I only used a portion of the time I shoot.

Beautiful wedding ring close up on flowers
Shooting at f/1.2 creates this creamy, soft style with close ups.

What I found is that I ended up using this lens almost more than my 24-70mm lens. Even though it's a prime (there is no zooming in or out), I just loved the look so much that it ended up staying glued to my camera most of the time.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
  • Weather-resistant standard lens
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture-50mm F/1.2, Closest Focusing Distance - 1.48 ft. / 0.45m
  • AF with full-time manual focus, 72mm filter size
  • Ultrasonic Motor (USM), Lens not zoomable
  • Purchase this product between May 1, 2016 and July 30, 2016 and get 13 months of free damage protection from Canon. The product must be registered within 30 days of the purchase date to be eligible.

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What I like the most about the Canon 50mm f/1.2 lens:

Beautiful, soft and airy wedding portrait of bride and groom.

This lens is perfect for:

Any disadvantages with this lens?

3. Best Lens for Scenery and Outdoor Shots

Another important series of shots that every wedding filmmaker will need to capture are great establishing shots of the venue and ceremony.

With each scene in the video, you'll likely be capturing a handful of wide shots of the surroundings. And to do so, you need at least one medium to wide lens.

With a bit of a zoom on this lens, you have the flexibility needed to capture a variety of angles from wide to medium. I find the range of 16-35mm to be perfect for capturing wide spaces without distorting the image at all.

At 35mm you are capturing the closest representation of what our eyes see, which is always a great way to approach your videos. It will feel the most 'documentary' and like your viewer is 'in the moment' with you.

But with a wider option, all the way up to 16mm, you still have some ability to zoom out if needed - perfect for smaller spaces where you want to capture the whole scene or for very large outdoor settings where you want to capture the entire setting.

Here's my recommendation for the best all around medium-wide lens.

Sale
Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens, Black (0573C002)
  • High performance L-series ultra-wide-angle zoom lens with constant f/2.8 maximum aperture.
  • All-new optical design for significant improvements in outer and corner sharpness.
  • Sub wave length Coating (SWC) and Air Sphere Coating (ASC) help to significantly reduce flare and ghosting.
  • Highly resistant to dust and water intrusion, enabling shooting even in harsh conditions.
  • Circular aperture (9 blades) helps deliver beautiful, soft backgrounds. Not an Extender Compatiblity. Magnification with Extension Tube EF12 II- 0.65 at Tele (Not compatible at Wide). Magnification with Extension Tube EF25 II- 1.14 at Tele (Not compatible at Wide).Lens Construction:16 elements in 12 groups.Filter Size: 82 millimeter, P=0.75 millimeter: 1 filter

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What I like the most about the Canon 16-35 mm lens:

This lens is perfect for:

4. Best Zoom Lens for Ceremony Shots

As a wedding filmmaker, you know the importance of staying out of sight as much as possible. Nothing is more annoying to the audience than a crew of filmmakers and photographers huddled in the front row blocking everyone's view.

There are also venues that simply won't allow you to get too close to the alter.

For this reason, every wedding filmmaker needs a good zoom lens. But there are a lot of options out there. Which is the best and why?

Here is my favorite, the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L and there are a few reasons why which we'll cover in a second.

Sale
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras, White - 3044C002
  • Constant f 2.8 Maximum Aperture throughout Entire Zoom Range.
  • Canon’s Air Sphere Coating (ASC) Minimizes Ghosting and Flare.
  • Optical Image Stabilization at up to 3.5 Stops of Shake Correction.
  • Fluorine Coating on Front and Rear Elements to Help Reduce Smears and Fingerprints.
  • Highly Resistant to Dust and Water, and Improved Durability Even in Harsh Conditions. Inner Focusing System with Ring Ultrasonic Motor. Full-time Manual Focus. One Fluorite Element and Five UD Elements for High Image Quality. Minimum Focusing Distance of 3.9 feet, 1.2 meter. Diagonal Angle of View: 34° - 12°

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What I like the most about the Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8L lens:

This lens is perfect for:

Any disadvantages to this lens?

5. Best Low Light Lens for Wedding Reception Shots

It's the end of the day and your wedding party has moved to the reception. The photographer has a flash light set up to assist with low lights, but what can you do with video?

A lot of the ability to handle low light comes down not only to the camera you'll be using, but especially to your lenses.

The key here is to use a lens with a very wide aperture.

I have a few recommendations for great lens choices here. They are very similar, but of varying focal lengths depending on what you already have and what you'd prefer to shoot with.

The first is one that I have used and loved for years. It's a prime lens, so you'll have to use your feet to zoom in and out, but I love it for receptions especially because it's a 35mm.

This means all my shots are going to feel very 'in the moment' since 35mm imitates the length that the naked eye sees.

Shooting with a 35mm lens gives the feeling that you are there.

It's also an f/1.4, which means it can open very wide to handle low light situations.

Sale
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens, Lens Only
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture: 35mm f/1.4
  • Subwavelength Coating (SWC) helps significantly reduce lens ghosting and flare.Lens Construction: 14 elements in 11 groups
  • Diagonal Angle of View: 63°
  • Focus Adjustment: AF with full-time manual
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.92 ft./0.28m. Increased maximum magnification (0.21x) help expand the range of expression, especially when capturing close-up subjects

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

I also own the 50mm f/1.2 and the 85mm f/1.4. They are also excellent choices in this category and will give you a little bit more zoom if that's what you're after.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens for Canon Digital SLR Cameras - Fixed
  • Weather-resistant standard lens
  • Focal Length & Maximum Aperture-50mm F/1.2, Closest Focusing Distance - 1.48 ft. / 0.45m
  • AF with full-time manual focus, 72mm filter size
  • Ultrasonic Motor (USM), Lens not zoomable
  • Purchase this product between May 1, 2016 and July 30, 2016 and get 13 months of free damage protection from Canon. The product must be registered within 30 days of the purchase date to be eligible.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM - DSLR Lens with IS Capability, Black - 2271C002
  • Canon’s First 85mm L-series Lens with IS Capability.
  • Large, Bright f/1.4 Aperture.
  • Image Stabilization at up to 4* Stops of Shake Correction.
  • GMo Aspherical Lens with Air Sphere Coating Technology.
  • Lens Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you go with the 80mm, just remember you'll likely need to have it on either a tripod or a monopod to add some extra stabilization to your shots.

6. Best Canon Lenses for Wedding Videos on a Budget

It's taken years to grow my lens collection to where it is today.

I mentioned before that each lens is an investment. I understand completely how expensive each and every lens on this list is and therefore am no stranger to the fact that it just isn't possible to start with some of these lenses right off the bat.

I still highly recommend saving and doing what you can to invest in the best lenses that will grow with you throughout the years. This means sticking with L-series lenses (the ones with the little red ring on the front).

However, I wanted to include a few great alternatives for those first few years where you simply may not be able to drop a few grand on a new lens.

Here are a variety of excellent choices without breaking the bank too much. I've included the same variation of focal lengths so you can compare their advantages to the list above for specific scenarios throughout the wedding day.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon EF + Sigma USB Dock with Altura Photo Advanced Accessory and Travel Bundle
  • INCLUDES: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens + Sigma USB Dock + AirBag Packable Bag and Camera Insert + SanDisk 64GB C10 Ultra UHS-I SDXC Memory Card + Altura Photo Mini Tripod with Pistol Grip + Altura Photo Rapid Fire Wrist Strap + Altura Photo Hard-Shell Case + Altura Photo Cleaning Kit + 3 Sizes MagicFiber Microfiber Lens Pouch
  • HIGH PRECISION LENS: The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens covers a useful wide-angle to portrait-length range of focal lengths to suit shooting in a variety of environments. As part of the esteemed Art series of lenses, a sophisticated optical design is used that incorporates three SLD elements and four aspherical elements to reduce chromatic and spherical aberrations.
  • COMPATIBLE with all Canon DSLR Cameras, including EOS 7D Mark II, 70D, 77D, 80D, 90D, Rebel T3, T3i, T4i, T5, T5i, T6, T6i, T6s, T7, T7i, T8i, SL1, SL2, SL3 APS-C Cameras, and EOS 5D Mark III, 5D Mark IV, 6D Mark II, 5DS, 5DS R, 1Dx Mark II Full Frame DSLR Cameras.
  • SIGMA accessories included: Sigma LCF-82 III 82mm Lens Cap + Rear Cap LCR II + LH876-04 Lens Hood + Soft Padded Lens Case
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard and Medium Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, Fixed
  • Standard focal length 50 millimeter lens is effective in a multitude of shooting situations and ideal for day-to-day shooting
  • Elements/Groups: 7/6, Diaphragm: Blades 8, Filter Thread: Font 58 millimeter. Minimum focusing distance: 17.8 inch
  • An f/1.4 maximum aperture provides clear imaging in low light situations and shallow depth of field
  • Ultrasonic autofocus motor (USM) operation is fast, smooth and virtually silent
  • 2 high-refraction lens elements and new Gaussian optics eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference
Sale
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Wide Angle Lens - Fixed
  • Focal length and maximum aperture: 24mm 1:2.8
  • Lens construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
  • Diagonal angle of view: 84 Degree
  • Rear focusing system with USM focus adjustment
  • Closest focusing distance: 0.25m/0.82 ft.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens Bundle for Canon SLR Digital Cameras Intl Model - Starter
  • This 6AVE Bundle includes Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Lens (2578A002) + All Standard Manufacturer Included Accessories, 67mm Ultraviolet UV Filter, 5 piece Lens Cleaning Kit, Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
  • Product Specifications: EF-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format| Aperture Range f/4 to f/32| One Fluorite Element and Two UD Elements
  • Super Spectra Coating| Ring-Type Ultrasonic Motor AF System| Internal Focus, Focus Range Limiter
  • Weather-Sealed Construction| Rounded 8-Blade Diaphragm

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

7. Lens Accessories You May Need for Wedding Videos

I wanted to also add a few notes about accessories you may need along with your lens kit.

As a wedding filmmaker, you have to be quick and efficient and the only way to achieve that is with extreme organization and ease of equipment use.

Here are a few tools I've found helpful during wedding shoots that I thought may help you as well.

Extra Lens Caps - Anyone else constantly losing these? I love this universal design so you can slide them on just about any sized lens and forget about it. I also love that they have a bit of extra cushion to them, adding a bit of extra security against bangs and bruises.

KUVRD - Universal Lens Cap, Version 1 - Fits 99% DSLR Lenses, Element Proof, Lifetime Coverage, Single
  • ELEMENT PROOF - Get dirty; your lens won't; The Original Universal Lens Cap prevents water, mud, and the finest dust and sand from mucking up your lens; With a lifetime warranty, your Universal Lens Cap is KUVRD (covered)
  • FITS 99% OF LENSES - It stretches from 60mm to 120mm and can be used as both a front and rear lens cap for ultimate insurance; Stack multiple caps on top of each other for extra protection; Withstands years of heavy use
  • SHOCK ABSORBENT - Smacking, bumping or banging your lens is no longer a concern; The ULC absorbs most blunt-force trauma that could occur to both the front and exterior sides of the lens
  • COMPRESSIBLE - The Original ULC can be conveniently compressed to fit in pockets, wallets, socks, underneath armpits, you name it
  • MAX SECURITY - Once it's on, it stays on. You have to intentionally pull the Universal Lens Cap off to remove it; No more worries of losing lens caps; Single includes 1 Universal Lens Cap

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Lens Cleaning Kit - I prefer this cleaning liquid and a simple cleaning cloth to clean any smudges or dust throughout the day. I clean them before I begin shooting, every few hours, and then again as I'm cleaning up my equipment for the night.

Zeiss Lens Care Pack - 2 - 8 Ounce Bottles of Lens Cleaner, 2 Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
  • Includes: two 8 oz (240 ml) bottles of lens cleaner, two microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Safely and quickly cleans all lenses
  • Use on eyeglasses, cell phones, laptop screens, cameras, and more
  • Safe to clean eyewear with No Glare coating
  • Keep bottles out of reach of children

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

UV / Polarizing Filters - I have a UV filter on every single lens and the reason is twofold. First, it's added protection against scratches or cracks on the lens itself, plus an added layer of protection against dust and humid air that can seep into the lens over time. Second, it blocks out UV haze from the sun and makes your images and video sharper and more vibrant.

You can find them for very cheap on amazon, but I actually recommend spending just a bit more for a quality brand. This is my favorite brand and you'll be guaranteed a perfect fit, plus crystal clear protection to your lens. You've spent so much on a lens, you definitely want to make sure it's well protected.

I've had two separate occasions where I've dropped a lens. In both cases the UV filter cracked, but saved the lens.

Make sure to select the correct size for the lens you'll be using the filter with:

B + W 77mm UV Protection Filter (010) for Camera Lens – Standard Mount (F-PRO), MRC, 16 Layers Multi-Resistant Coating, Photography Filter, 77 mm, Clear Protector
  • PROTECT YOUR EXPENSIVE CAMERA LENSES - The B + W77 mm UV haze clear camera filter is here to add 16 multi-resistant layers of protection against accidental drops, dust, flying, fingerprints, dirt, scratches sand or seawater spray. Enjoy outdoor photography without worrying about your precious lenses anymore.
  • TAKE BLUE CAST OUT OF THE PICTURE - Literally. Whether you are a professional photographer or a beginner, the invisible Ultra-Violet component of light from the sky is a common issue. Our UV-blocking haze protector filter for 77mm lenses will eliminate blue cast and help you snap clearer images.
  • F-PRO MOUNT - Thanks to precise precision manufacturing, B+W sockets fit absolutely accurately and are easy to install. The robust F-PRO filter with 77mm ensures easy handling, is suitable for wide-angle applications, and has a large selection of diameters as well as filter types. The internal thread means that a conventional lens hood can also be fitted.
  • CHOOSE YOUR SIZE – To select the appropriate filter size, check your lens. On all lenses from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji and other manufacturers there is a printed diameter symbol that determines the filter size.
  • MADE IN GERMANY - Schneider Kreuznach (B + W) – We are proudly your precision mechanics specialists for filters, photography, optics and precision, with more than 100 years of German experience. Schneider products have already been used in NASA's Apollo missions. Thanks to our multi-resistant nano coating lens filter, we are helping photographers everywhere take clearer, crisper images.

Last update on 2022-01-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Concluding Thoughts

That's it! Probably all you'll ever need to be fully equipped for your wedding videos. I know it will take time to build up, but make a budget and set goals. Purchase a new lens each year with some of that hard-earned money and you'll be where you need to be in no time.

Let me know what lens stays on your camera the most in the comment section below.

Happy shooting!

-Beth

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You could spend a fortune buying expensive camera and filmmaking gear, quite literally.

And I will admit that there are some items you simply shouldn't skimp on. (Ahem, lenses.)

However, there are other accessories that saving a little cash on isn't necessarily a bad thing. Especially if you can replicate the results with household items already on hand.

So, whether you're a college student, a beginner filmmaker, or just trying to save all the extra cash for that next big lens or camera purchase, this post is for you.

Today we'll cover 17 great filmmaking hacks to save you money without sacrificing the cool effects.

Be sure to check out our top filmmaking techniques that every filmmaker should know as well.


This post does contain Amazon product recommendations. As an Amazon associate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases, however any commission that I earn comes at no cost to you.

1 | Shoebox Light

For this first hack, you'll be making a simple key light to be used in interview setups or simply to add extra ambient light to your shots.

Here's what you'll need:

Homemade Shoebox Light

A word of caution: whenever working with lights, especially DIY lighting set ups, it's important to pay attention to how hot your light source is. Make sure it isn't touching paper or cardboard as it can easily catch on fire.

I recommend something like these inexpensive puck lights that require no extra cords and don't heat up like incandescent bulbs will.

  1. With your shoebox, you'll want to cut out a hole that's exactly the size of your light source.

2. Next line the shoebox with aluminum foil that will work as our reflector.

DIY light filmmaking hack

3. Now place your light source through the hole so that the bulb is inside the shoebox.

Filmmaking Hacks: Homemade Light

4. Finally, attach the white printer on the outside of the shoebox to act as a diffuser for the light.

Filmmaking Hack : DIY lightbox

2 | How to Fake a Gimbal

Here's an even simpler filmmaking hack that only requires one household item - a belt.

Take the end of your belt where the buckle is and attach it as tightly as you can around your camera. Now with the your camera as the weight at the bottom, hold the top of the belt at the top, like a swing.

Very gently, slowly and carefully, you can move around wile holding the top of the belt with the camera filming.

This makes for super, smooth steady cam motions without all the expense.

Just be extra careful not to go slow and don't dump your camera in the process!

3 | Desk Chair Slider

Next we'll cover a few simple tools around the house that you can use as a slider for your various shots.

Sliders can be costly and while they look the most professional, may not always be necessary for simple shots you want to grab around the house.

The first method is the desk chair slider. Simply sit on a rolling desk chair with your camera in hand. Now push off in your desired direction, moving slowly and smoothly.

You can also let the camera sit in the seat of the chair to give you more control of where you move the chair.

This will allow you to capture nice, smooth moving shots for no extra cost.

4 | Kitchen Towel Slider

The next filmmaking hack is the best for any sliding shots that you'd like to capture at desk height. All you need here is either a piece of cardboard or a kitchen towel.

With your camera resting on the cardboard or the towel, grab the other end of the towel or cardboard and simply drag it slowly across the desk or countertop.

DIY Camera Slider

Focus on making the movement uniform, slow, and steady.

DIY Camera Slider Motion

Pro tip: with all of these shots, because you camera will be moving without you being able to change it's settings, you'll need to make sure that you aren't losing sharp focus on your subject in the process.

If you don't have autofocus on your camera, here are two ways to ensure that you are able to keep focus while moving.

Option 1 - stop down on your aperture setting. This means using a higher f-stop (about f/8 or higher). This will ensure that there is a larger range of objects within your field of focus.

Option 2 - make sure that you are moving along the same plane as your subject. If your subject is two feet away, make sure that as you move you maintain that exact same distance at all times.

5 | Skateboard Slider

Lastly on our list of slider hacks, there's the skateboard slider. You've probably all seen this one already, but it's a classic, so it's worth mentioning.

All you need is a skateboard, any kind will do. It just needs 4 wheels 🙂

Skateboard Slider Hack

If you know how to ride the skateboard, obviously you can ride while holding the camera.

For lower shots or to use on another surface like a tabletop or countertop, simply place the camera on top of the skateboard and use it to roll the camera around for smoother shots.

If you do have a small budget for a great slider and want something a bit more stable and versatile, definitely check out the Newer 3-Wheels Camera Remote Control Dolly for DSLR cameras and iPhones. It's affordable and very cool.

Check Current Price on Amazon

6 | DIY Light Diffuser

The pitfall of many DIY filmmaking lights is the lack of diffusion. For beautiful filmmaking, you need complete control over your light sources. Part of this control comes from being able to diffuse or soften harsh light.

For a cheap household item to use for diffusion, a $4 white shower curtain works wonders. Here's cheap, but sturdy clamp to secure the shower curtain in front of your light.

If you're looking for a light source, you can use household LED light bulbs, an open laptop, or if you are looking for something a bit more versatile but still affordable, check out the Neewer Dimmable LED lights over on amazon.

7 | DIY Sound Panels

When it comes to capturing great audio, you want to eliminate as much echo as possible. A standard room can sound amateur if there is too much natural echo, even with a high quality mic.

To eliminate this problem, simply drape as many moving blankets as you can around the room. If you don't have moving blankets, ordinary blankets will work as well.

Without allowing them to show in the shot (obviously), simply hang or drape them as closely as possible around your audio source using chairs or other furniture. Here are some cheap, but sturdy clamps to help you hang them.

8 | Lens Flares

lens flare example

For a little extra style, you can use a small handheld flashlight or even the light on your iPhone to create unique lens flares in your shots.

Use the light source to shine the light at various angles, close to your lens for this unique, film-like effect. Play around with the angles and distance of the light until you achieve the desired effect.

9 | Unique Reflections

cool lens reflection

Using all kinds of household items, you can create unique reflections and lens diffusers for your shots.

Here are a few examples that you can experiment with to achieve creative effects: various necklaces (hang directly in front of your lens), CDs or DVDs, pocket knife, loofa, plastic bag, scotch tape, fishing line (this will bend the light, creating anamorphic lens flare effect).

Filmmaking Hacks about Lens Flares

To use these items, simply shoot straight through them or hold them at a 90 degree angle directly underneath or to the side of your lens.

You should begin to see various lights, shadows, and colors creating hologram like effects on your footage.

10 | Make Your Own Macro Lens

I can't believe how easy this hack is.

Using an old toilet paper roll, detach your lens and place the toilet paper roll in between the camera and your lens.

DIY Macro Lens Filmmaking Hack

This will work to extend the length of the lens and give you that desired macro effect.

You can also find inexpensive lens extenders on amazon if you prefer to have a way to permanently attach your lens (to free your hands from holding so much).

11 | Paperclip Hangers For Cords and Small Items

How to Organize Tangled Cords

Nothing is more annoying than loose cords, tangled together and making a mess. The simple solution is likely right under your nose. Or in your kitchen junk drawer - a few paperclips!

Easy Paperclip Filmmaking Hack

Simply open up the paper clips to rewire them to create hangers from which you can hang those loose cords to get them organized and out of the way.

Paperclip Cord Filmmaking Hack

12 | Memory Card Case

Here's another quick and easy idea for staying organized. This one is especially helpful for organizing SD or other sized memory cards.

You need a small tin case, like the ones that Altoids mints come in.

Homemade Memory Card Case
Photo Credit: Elsa Olofsson

Now, depending on the size of your cards, you can either simply use this as your case - or - using some sturdy cardboard you can cut two strips to the exact lengths of the box, one wide and one narrow.

Cut a slot in one of the strips of cardboard so you can overlap the two strips, making what looks like a plus sign. Now you have four sections within the tin can to hold your memory cards and keep them from sliding around.

13 | DIY Overhead Camera Rig for Top Down Videos

Find a chair with open slots in the back of it. Configure your tripod sideways at 90 degrees in such a way that the legs of the tripod fit into the open slots of the chair and work as a counterweight to the camera.

Be very careful to be sure that the tripod is good and secure before attaching the weight of your camera to it. You may even consider adding additional counter weight to the other side of it to make sure it doesn't tip itself and the chair over with it.

14 | DIY Overhead Camera Rig for Top Down Videos v2

Here's a more advanced method for creating your own overhead camera rig.

This method is much more sturdy and safe than the first method, which will allow you to capture a greater variety of shots. However, it does require some extra parts from the hardware store, along with a little grunt work.

Follow this video for complete instructions.

15 | LED lights for camera bag

Ok, admittedly this isn't a hack that you can make from home, but I wanted to include it on this list because it is so inexpensive and handy for us filmmakers.

Many times we are shooting at dim-lit venues where it isn't always easy to see all of the essential gear stuffed deep inside our gear bags that you need to grab quickly.

For this reason, attaching a line of LED lights along the upper lining of your camera bag is not only super useful, it will also make you look pretty cool 🙂

Here are some inexpensive ones that I found on amazon that you may want to try out as well.

That sums up our list of do it yourself filmmaking hacks. I hope you've found a few of these items helpful. Let me know in the comments below if you have a great filmmaking hacks that I missed.

Happy Shooting!

Beth

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Whether you're a film student, a film enthusiast, or just curious to learn more for your own craft, knowing the basic building blocks that make up great films is essential to being a good filmmaker.

There are many filmmaking techniques involved in producing great films. Each of them has a purpose and will affect the way that the film's story is told.

Most techniques used by filmmakers are executed quite purposefully in order to evoke certain emotions from the audience or to communicate a certain message about the film or a character in the film.

In today's post, we'll walk through some of the most common filmmaking techniques and how the use of these techniques work to enhance a film.

1 | Storytelling Techniques

Storytelling Techniques in Film

We often think of filmmaking techniques as camera movements, but there is so much more to it than that. Beyond camera operation (which we will get to in a minute), there are many other important techniques that filmmakers use. One of the most important is storytelling.

It doesn't matter how skilled you are at every other technique on this list, if you can't tell a story with your films that connects to your audience in a meaningful way, your films will never be great.

With every project that you produce as a filmmaker, the story should be at the forefront of your mind. If you have this part right, the rest of the techniques on this list can only make it that much better.

What do I mean when I say story? Not every film lends itself to telling a story in the traditional sense.

Of course it's easy to imagine with a fictional film that the story is critical, but as you know, there are short commercials and promo videos, cooking videos, YouTube videos, as well as just videos we make at home for fun.

How do you craft a story with these types of videos?

Every Film Has a Story To Tell

Let me propose that even with all these various genres of filmmaking, each has a story to tell.

If you begin with a powerful story and execute it through whichever form of filmmaking makes sense for your project, it will far exceed the quality of a film that exists only of beautiful footage without any true thought behind it.

It's the reason that Apple's marketing has been so effective over the years. Instead of just telling you about how cool the iPhone (and every other Apple product) is, Apple used very specific branding to convey an emotional message to you.

In fact, very rarely does Apple air a commercial that says anything at all about the technical performance of the phone itself. Rather it cuts to the heart and desires of the audience. They promote the experience of owning an iPhone, not just the product itself.

Through storytelling, they connect with you, the audience, and make you feel that their product is the absolute best. Not only that but that it's the one brand of phone we should all own. And guess what. Most of us now do.

So yes, while filmmakers utilize both our technical and artistic skills in order to create great videos, we have to dig even deeper than just those skills. Consider these questions.

Why You Are Creating This Film?

You should always being thinking about the purpose of the film. This is the deep why question that will give your film substance. It's the meat of the story that transforms pure fluff of pretty images and video into a more meaningful message that connects with your audience.

Even if your why is to sell a product or service, try to dig even deeper.

An Example: Promo Video for a Local Realtor

Perhaps you're creating a promo video for a local real estate agent. Sure the most obvious why might be to make more people aware of the realtor's name and ultimately for more people to use this realtor for selling or purchasing their own home.

Real estate film promo

However, if we dig a little deeper, we might find an even more powerful why.

Why do most people need a new realtor? They may be moving to a new town - there's some uncertainty there. Or they might be expanding their family and need a bigger home - perhaps some urgency there. They may need to for financial reasons - urgency and fear there. The underlying tone here is uncertainty, fear, and urgency.

So now our core why becomes more meaningful. We are creating this video to convey to our audience not only that they should hire our realtor, but the reason why is because he (or she) is the most trustworthy, knowledgeable, reliable, hard working, etc.

Instead of purely introducing the realtor via interview or animated text, we craft a story that's main purpose is to convey to potential homeowners that the character of our realtor is sound and they he or she will take care of these fears that every homeowner inevitably deals with.

How to film a real estate promo video

Maybe instead of placing your realtor in a traditional sitting interview, talking about qualities they can bring to the homeowners, you think in terms of a story that can show those qualities about the realtor in real life.

Now your promo video becomes more like a short documentary or day in the life of the realtor. Follow them around for a day. Capture their natural interactions with other homeowners. Emphasize how relatable and competent they are at their job.

Edit in sound bites from the families in the film talking about the qualities they enjoy about the realtor. Include funny moments with the realtor being a 'real person' that's likable and relatable. Show a moment of conflict or confusion and then how the realtor resolves the situation.

In this way, we've connected with our audience on a deeper level and answered why this film was created. We've created a character (the realtor) and shown our audience why they would want to work with this person in a real life scenario.

The audience will be much more engaged watching an entertaining 3 minute documentary like this over a typical talking head promo video.

More details about specific storytelling techniques to keep the audience engaged in a moment.

Who Is Your Audience?

In order to sufficiently answer that why question, we have to consider our audience. Just like we discussed in the example above, oftentimes the answer to our why comes from analyzing our audience.

Think about the following:

These are just a few core questions about your audience that will often motivate them to take action or that will allow you to connect with them on a deeper emotional level through your film.

Once you've thought these questions through for your audience, you'll have a more targeted approach to creating your film in a way that will truly resonate with your viewers - no matter the genre.

And the Plot Thickens

Finally, we get to the meat of our story: the plot. The plot is simply how our story will take shape.

Once you've analyzed your audience and the overall purpose of your film, you can begin to craft how the story should best be told.

The ideas are endless and it's a chance to think outside of the box. That's the beauty of filmmaking.

If you're interested in reading further about crafting a story and more examples on how to do so, be sure to check out this post all about it.

Common Storytelling Techniques

Storytelling Techniques for Film

Now that we've covered the basic building blocks to how to tell a story with film, let's look at some of the storytelling techniques often used by filmmakers.

Foreshadowing

The use of foreshadowing draws your audience into your film by giving them just a taste of what's to come without giving away too much just yet. It's almost like playing hard to get. You give them just enough to be intrigued, but don't give it all away just yet.

Some ways filmmakers express foreshadowing is through a series of close up shots where you don't see the character's face or perhaps you don't see the entire action play out. Maybe that unfolds later in the film.

Another technique filmmakers use to foreshadow is by beginning the scene with a flashback. You see the final result and it may be confusing because you don't yet know how the character got to this position yet.

A Relatable Character

Whether it's a hero or a villain, great filmmakers can connect well with their audience by portraying characters that are complex. These characters are often empathetic, have both good qualities and bad, and seem very much like us, the viewer.

This is done for a purpose: to draw you in and make you feel as though you are part of the story. This makes you more invested, more engaged in the outcome of the story.

Transformation is Inspiration

I'm sure you've seen it time and time again. The story rises in conflict that doesn't seem like it could ever be resolved. You stick around because you need to know how they 'get out of this mess'. You're hooked and next comes the transformation.

Perhaps it's a documentary or inspirational story about weight loss, drug abuse, or something similar. You watch the character struggle and struggle until a transformation is made.

Because the filmmaker (if they are a good one) also portrayed the main character in a way that's relatable (or at least empathetic) to you, by the end of the transformation you'll also feel inspired to make a change in your own life.

The key technique here is to create an obstacle for the main character to overcome. What is the mountain that they need to climb or the vice that they need to defeat?

Create Suspense and Surprise

While it's great and sometimes more fitting to tell a straight-forward beginning to end story, there's nothing that holds an audience's attention more than a bit of mystery.

This means we aren't giving away all the answers with each shot. Very similar to foreshadowing, but can be developed a bit more throughout the film.

2 | Camera Settings Matter

Camera Setting Techniques

Know Your Gear

Once you've brainstormed your story and are ready to set it in motion, it's time to shoot the footage.

Before any filmmaker can truly execute purposeful filmmaking techniques he or she needs to have a firm knowledge of how to operate their equipment.

Your equipment should become an extension of your brain. When you're familiar enough with how it works, you won't have to think twice about how achieve the shots that are in your head.

Remember that your equipment is a tool to execute what's in your mind, not the other way around.

What's some of the most important equipment to master?

First, your camera. In case you're curious, here's the camera I recommend to any filmmaker just starting out.

Second, at least one or two lenses. My recommendation is to start with a prime lens in the 24-35mm range. You don't want to begin with a zoom lens for video because it will be much more difficult to eliminate hand shake.

Third, a stabilizer. This could be in the form of a simple tripod, a gimbal, or a monopod (if you need something very slim). It's simply any tool that will eliminate hand shake and make your shots smoother.

Third, lights. These aren't a necessity if you're on a tight budget or just starting out. You can get just about all the shots you'll need using available window light or sunlight outside. However, if you do decide to invest in some versatile lights for video interviews or YouTube shoots, here are some I would recommend.

Know Your Settings

Camera Settings for Filmmaking

Now that we've covered exactly what type of equipment you need to start filmmaking, let's talk about mastering manual mode.

When I bought my first dslr many years ago, I remember the disappointment I felt with those first few shoots. Here I'd spent all this money on a nice camera and it wasn't producing shots like I'd expected.

What did I do wrong? Did I pick the wrong camera?

Definitely not. I simply didn't know how to operate that camera to its full capacity. Those first few shoots while I was still learning the basics of camera operation, I was shooting in automatic mode or some version of it.

I wanted the background to be blurry and my subject in focus, but instead my subject was blurry. What was I doing wrong?

Now that I know a thing or two I could tell you that my aperture was too narrow and I didn't have enough available light.

But before I learned the basics of camera operation, I was at the mercy of my camera knowing what to do.

Mastering Manual Mode

As smart as cameras have become, they can't read your mind.

Once I learned exactly how to operate my camera and moved into shooting in manual mode, my photos and videos improved DRAMATICALLY.

Instead of fumbling around all the buttons and trying to figure out how to make each shot better, I am so in tune with my camera and with the fundamentals that I can instantly change my settings how I need them at all times.

And contrary to what you may think, it's really not hard to master. It simply takes a few hours of concentration to understand how cameras operate and work with light, plus some time getting out and practicing with your camera in hand.

If you're not there yet, but you want to be, check out this post all about mastering manual mode. It will explain it all in great detail.

Here are a few filmmaking techniques that are achieved specifically by using certain camera settings.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed setting on your camera can dramatically change the look and feel of your film.

For example, if you are shooting lots of quick motion, high action scenes, you'll need to shoot in a high shutter speed. This will give your film a glitchy, high adrenaline feel. Something around 1/120 or higher.

However, if you want your film to look like real life, with the slightest bit of natural motion blur, you'll want your shutter speed to stay in the range of 1/60 per second.

Aperture

Aperture is simply how wide your lens is opening up to let light in. The wider your aperture, the less depth of field your frame will have.

With a shallow depth of field, you'll be able to isolate your subject more clearly by keeping them in focus while the background is blurry.

On the contrary, with a narrower depth of field you can keep all objects in your frame in focus.

Several of the cinematography techniques, including rack focus, that we are about to cover rely on having a certain depth of field.

Without a firm knowledge of aperture and how to set your camera settings, you can't execute these filmmaking techniques.

If you still feel that you need a refresher on camera settings and mastering manual mode, be sure to read up on this article first.

3 | Cinematography Techniques

Now we get the more juicy filmmaking techniques involved in production and direction. These include examples of how we can set up shots, capture motion and action, as well as direct our talent.

Furthermore, by using certain filmmaking techniques, you can evoke very specific feelings from your audience that will draw them in and make your story more powerful.

Here are several examples of filmmaking techniques that will facilitate in telling your overall story by conveying a certain emotion to your audience.

Blocking

What is blocking?

Blocking is the very intentional method in which a filmmaker places objects of interest in a scene to direct the audience's attention in a certain way.

The various styles in which the filmmaker utilizes blocking will result in very different feelings for the audience.

I bet you haven't even noticed many of these, but pay attention next time you watch a great film and you're sure to spot a few of these brilliant filmmaking techniques in action.

Here are the main ways in which a filmmaker often uses blocking.

Shapes:

Circles are harmonious and give the audience a feeling of peace and completion. When characters are placed in a circle, the film feels more relaxed and in balance.

Squares are often used in framing subjects in a way that makes the audience feel as though they are trapped or boxed in. This can also be a technique that filmmakers achieve by framing with doorways, hallways, and other common surroundings.

Triangles connote conflict and climax, with a clear apex at the top. You'll often spot triangles in scenes of great suspense.

Space:

Pay attention to the space the filmmaker places between two objects or subjects in a scene. How far apart are they? This can communicate to the audience either intimacy or isolation. Does the spacing change throughout the scene?

Is one character closer to the camera or further away? This can be used to give one character power over the other or to make one character more relatable and 'transparent' than the other.

Lines:

Lines can be used to draw the audience's eye in a certain direction. We call these leading lines. They can be created by walls or other natural surroundings and work to tell the audience literally where to look.

Establishing Shots

With any film, you need to 'set the stage' for your audience. You may simply set the stage right off the bat with an exterior shot of a building or house before moving inside with the next shot. This is an establishing shot. It tells your audience exactly where they are in the film.

However, if you intend for your film to build in anticipation, you may choose an establishing shot that is a bit less clear from the start, but that includes clues as to your films location as the film progresses.

Framing and Composition

Framing and Composition

In general, most filmmakers follow the rule of thirds. With this rule of thumb, the subject of interest is placed on a leading line within the segments of thirds. Shots that follow this rule will feel natural and harmonious to the eye.

However, rules are made to be broken. This is the case with famous filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson, where they often place their subject directly in the middle of the frame.

This technique places extra emphasis on the subject in the middle of the scene and often feels somewhat quirky. It can also give the character a feeling of isolation or special interest.

Use of Objects in Foreground

By allowing other objects to be in the frame, but out of focus, within your shot can convey a sense of depth to the shot. It can also add context about your character's surroundings.

Rack Focus

Rack focus is a camera technique that involves shifting the focus from one object to another. This is often done during an exchange between two people, from one person's face to another.

However, it can also act powerfully in film to reveal a certain message to the audience. Perhaps to clue them in to some fact in the film, like an object on a table or to reveal some information that a character didn't see.

Importance of Camera Framing

Depending on the camera lens and proximity to the subject in the frame, the framing of each shot can have a dramatic affect on the emotions a film conveys to it's audience.

Unique filmmaking framing
Think about how the unique framing of this dog makes you feel. Framing should be intentional by the filmmaker to evoke certain feelings from the audience.

Here are some of the most coming types of camera framing and what types of feelings they often communicate to the audience.

Wide Shot: As it sounds, this is a shot that includes a wide frame of view. Wide shots are perfect for including a lot of information about the setting and for that reason they are often used as great establishing shots.

A wide shot of a character that appears small in the screen can evoke the feeling of loneliness or isolation.

Medium Shot: Closer than a wide shot, but not yet a close up. A medium shot could be described as the most comparable to what your naked eye sees.

For this reason, a medium shot is often used in documentaries where you want your audience to feel like they are there with you. Because medium shots are so similar to what we see with our own two eyes, it conveys a feelings of being present with the reality of the scene.

Close Up Shot: A close up shot is typically from the chest or neck of a person to the top of their head. The feeling conveyed is one of intimacy with the character in the scene. If the shot is of an object, a close up communicates important details about the object.

In many films, you'll notice a series where the shots may begin wide and then progressively move closer and closer to a subject in the frame. This often happens during conversation or dialogue, when the director wants you to feel more and more connected to the subject in the scene.

When a character's face takes up the entire screen, it can also evoke a feeling of power or strength from that character.

Significance of Camera Angles

Tilted Camera Angle: A tilted camera angle will give the impression of uncertainty and unease to the audience. This can be used to create suspense in a scene.

Camera Angle Low to the Ground: When the camera is place on or low to the ground, it gives the subject a feeling of grandeur or strength. It's also an interesting perspective for objects in motion, such as footsteps or a car driving by.

Because not much is included in the frame other than a small portion, this type of shot also builds anticipation at what's to come.

Footsteps on the ground

Overhead or Bird's Eye View: This gives the audience a feeling of omnipotence or of superior knowledge about what's about to happen in the film. It can also work as a great establishing or transitional shot to the next scene.

Use of Camera Motion

The many ways in which a filmmaker creates movement in the scene, either from the subject itself or from the camera, can be a powerful filmmaking technique.

Let's dissect a few commonly used camera movements and how they translate to the audience.

Camera Shake: The most obvious example of this movement is from the film, the Blair Witch Project. Remember that one? It brilliantly evoked feelings of unease and fear, while simultaneously making you feel like you were there with the characters.

It's often used as a filmmaking technique to pull the audience into the action and include you in the scene. It's mainly used in high action, suspenseful themes.

Following a Character: You most often see this filmmaking technique in documentaries and vlogging type videos. It's simply the camera literally following a character while walking, driving, working, etc. It gives the feeling that you are there in the scene with the character, thus making them more relatable and you as the audience, more invested.

Concluding Thoughts

Remember, these common filmmaking techniques mean nothing if they aren't paired with intention from the filmmaker.

I hope studying these techniques has motivated you not only to discover more of them as you watch great films, but also to get out and use them in your own films as well.

I'd love to see what you come up with. Please share with us in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to the newsletter for more articles all about filmmaking.

Happy Shooting

-Beth


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Top Filmmaking Techniques

Best Microphones for Streaming

In today’s post I’ll be sharing with you my top ten best microphones for streaming audio.

Whether you’re hosting a podcast, a youtube video, or some other form of online video or streaming service, capturing high quality audio is the hidden secret to translating a more effective message to your audience.

It doesn’t matter what you’re saying, how important it is, or how well-spoken you are, if the audio quality stinks, it won’t be nearly as impactful to your listening audience.

The reason I say it’s the hidden secret is because your audience will not always notice how good the audio sounds, but they will definitely notice when it sounds bad. We want to avoid that impression at all costs. For that reason, have a high quality mic is crucial.

I’ve included factors like price, quality, and functionality to help you distinguish among them so that you can decide which microphone will be best for you.

For all you audio gear junkies, you may also be interested my favorite mics for weddings or the top 4 best lav mics for filmmaking.


This post does contain Amazon product recommendations. As an Amazon associate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases, however any commission that I earn comes at no cost to you.


HIGHEST QUALITY PRO MICROPHONES FOR STREAMING: $400-800

Firstly, there is such a broad range when it comes to price and quality of microphones for streaming. This list will begin with the highest quality microphones, but I thought it was important to also include some great options for those of you who are beginners.

Secondly, you may be looking for a more budget friendly microphone as well and can therefore find those options toward the bottom of this post.

1 | Shure KSM32 Mic

Shure KSM32 Streaming Microphone

Overview:

Above all, this is an absolute powerhouse for any and all types of audio streaming. It’s perfect for dialogue and spoken word, as well as vocals. Furthermore, it has a smooth and airy top end with absolutely no sibilance (hissing sound). This makes it easy and satisfying to listen to for long periods of time. For that reason, it's also often characterized by its clean, warm, full bodied sound.

Price:

This microphone is top of the line when it comes to quality, but how does it fare budget-wise?

I think the price is fair for the quality you’ll receive. Currently it is about $500 (but be sure to check amazon for the most up to date price). In my opinion, it’s a very reasonable price for serious hobbyists/professionals and you will therefore get what you pay for here.

Features:

2 | Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

Overview:

This is an incredibly natural sounding microphone, perfect for podcasts and spoken word recordings. It has the ability to adjust the tone of the microphone with the switches on the back of it. Furthermore, it’s very forgiving if you speak to an angle of the microphone. This is beneficial for broadcasting and podcasting situations. Secondly, it handles external ambient noise quite well. For those reasons, it's an all around wonderful workhorse of a microphone and perfect for streaming audio.

Price:

I’ve seen this mic selling anywhere from $400-500 on amazon, however be sure to check the current pricing.

Features:

3 | AKG Pro Audio C214

AKG Pro Audio C214 Streaming Microphone

Overview:

This microphone has an amazing build quality and comes with a great carrying case and shock mount. However, it does have a few flaws. While it has a nice full body on the lower end sounds, it can be a ‘brighter’ sounding microphone and has some issues with sibilance (hissing sound) on the upper end.

In conclusion, if you prefer a brighter sound, this is a great option and coming in under $500 it’s a very affordable choice.

Price:

Currently the price is between $350-400 on amazon, but be sure to check the current price online for the most accurate number.

Features:

4| Rode Broadcaster Mic

Rode Condenser Mic

Overview:

Next, this mic is great for podcasting purposes. Full body in the low end and plenty of clarity in the top end which makes for a very nice broadcast tone, just as the name implies.

However, this mic is not the best when handling plosives. For that reason, it's not recommended for recording musical instruments. However, it’s excellent for spoken word and one of the microphones for streaming. For that reason be sure to include a pop screen to help with those plosives.

Price:

This mic comes in at $400. Be sure to check amazon for the most current pricing.

Features:

5 | Warm Audio WA-47

Warm Audio WA-47 Streaming Mic

Overview:

At the top end of our professional microphones for streaming comes the Warm Audio WA-47. It’s known for its rich, warm, vintage sound. The classic '47 became extremely popular in the 1960's and is now considered one of the greatest microphones ever made.

Furthermore, the classic '47 is still widely used today in professional recording studios but has become extremely rare and expensive to acquire. For that reason, this microphone will not only serve you well for audio streaming of spoken word and dialogue but can also be used beautifully for vocals and instrumental recordings.

Price:

This mic comes in at the top end of $800-900, but will give you that timeless, rich and warm vintage sound that’s been sought after for decades. For that reason, some might argue that price isn't so bad.

Features:


BEST MID RANGE OPTIONS: $150-300 MICROPHONES FOR STREAMING


6 | Stellar X2 Condenser Microphone

Stellar X2 Condenser Microphone

Overview:

Overall, this microphone is surprisingly smooth, especially for its price point. It controls sibilance (hissing) very well and comes with a great case. Similarly, it has a good amount of detail and clarity to it, which makes it a great option for spoken word audio recordings.

Price:

This mic comes in around $200, however be sure to check amazon for the most current pricing.

Features:

7 | CAD Audio Equitek M179

CAD Audio Equitek M179 Microphone for Streaming

Overview:

The build quality on this mic is impressive. It’s a selectable pattern microphone, which adds some nice flexibility. Furthermore, this mic is known for its extended low-frequency response and generally flat response curve, and is somewhat remarkable for offering continuously-variable pattern selection at this price point.

Most importantly, this is not a “color” mic. It aspires to a reproducing a neutral tone, which is a great option for podcasts and spoken word recordings. For that reason, it is definitely a top runner on this list and one of the best microphones for streaming.

Price:

This mic comes in around $185, but be sure to check amazon for the most current pricing.

Features:

8 | Warm Audio WA-47JR

Warm Audio WA-47JR Streaming Microphone

Overview:

Similarly to the WA-47 mentioned at the top of this master list, this JR version is made to be alike in build quality and sound, but at a more accessible price point.

To explain, it has 3 polar patterns and is designed for pro studio, home studio, live, and broadcast applications. Moreover, the WA-47jr sounds great on vocals, acoustic/electric guitars, acoustic/electric bass, drums, piano, strings, brass/woodwind instruments, and an array of other sources. It's definitely one of the best microphones for streaming audio.

Price:

This mic comes in around $300, but be sure to check amazon for the most current pricing.

Features:


MOST BUDGET FRIENDLY:

UNDER $100 MICROPHONES FOR STREAMING


9 | Samson C01U Pro

Samson C01U Pro Budget friendly microphone

Overview:

In addition, I wanted to include a few options for those of you that are looking for great mics at a lower price point. Unlike the mic previously mentioned, this microphone can connect directly into your computer via USB, making it extremely user-friendly for beginners. Furthermore, you don’t need to buy any excess gear to get this microphone up and running.

Price:

Coming in under $100, this is an excellent microphone for anyone that is looking for a budget-friendly, but still high-quality option. Remember, this is a starter microphone option. For more professional sounding audio, you’ll need to consider some of the first few options on our list.

Features:

10 | Audio Technica AT2020

Audio Technica AT2020 Popular Streaming Microphone

Overview:

As the most affordable microphone on our list, this is also one of the most popular microphones out there for the serious hobbyist. Above all, it's low-mass diaphragm is custom-engineered for extended frequency response and superior transient response.

With rugged construction for durable performance, the microphone offers a wide dynamic range and handles high SPLs with ease. To conclude, the AT2020: a new standard for affordable side-address studio condensers.

Price:

Coming in around $70, this is an excellent microphone for anyone that is looking for a budget-friendly, but overall still high-quality option.

Features:


SOME ACCESSORIES YOU MAY NEED FOR YOUR MICROPHONE

In addition, please note that many of these microphones do not plug directly into your computer for simple recording. It’s not complicated, but you will need a few extra accessories to set these up for optimal recording quality. Unless you see that the mic has a direct USB plug (only the Samson C01U Pro on this list) here’s exactly what you’ll need to set up most of the mics via XLR:

1 | Audio Interface Preamp:

Audio Interface Preamp

This device is where you’ll plug your microphone in one end and you’ll plug this device directly into your computer via USB. Like I said, it’s not complicated, but you’ll need this to connect your microphone to the computer.

Overall, this will also allow you to increase your gain on the microphone enough to get a good sound on your recording.

2 | XLR Cable:

This cable will allow you to plug your microphone into the audio interface. Here’s one that I’d recommend.

3 | Pop Screen:

Some microphones come with their own pop screen, but if they don’t you’ll want to invest in one of these universal pop screens to place in front of your microphone to avoid any plosives on your audio recording. If you decide on a condenser mic, you will absolutely need a pop screen.

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best mics for streaming audio

Premiere Pro Tutorials: How to Export Videos

So you’ve finished editing your video and you’re ready to send it out into the world. But what do all those different settings mean?

It isn’t hard to export a video in Premiere Pro, but there sure are a lot of options to choose from. Which settings are important and which should be ignored?

In today’s tutorial we’ll be diving into the best video settings for exporting your films, as well as a step by step for exactly how to export your videos in Premiere Pro.

If you haven’t yet grabbed a free demo of Premiere Pro, go ahead and do that now so you can follow along. Just follow the link below for a 7 day free trial.

If you’d prefer to follow along with a short video tutorial, you can find that below.

1 | Set IN and OUT Points

If you don’t designate any in and out points, your entire timeline will be exported. This is totally fine if you want the entire timeline to be exported.

However, if you only want a portion of your timeline to be exported then you need to tell Premiere where to start and end the export.

Set your blue cursor where you want your final video to start and hit ‘I’ on your keyboard to set an in point. Toggle your cursor to where you want the video to end and hit ‘o’ on your keyboard. You can always reset these points by hitting the keyboard shortcuts once again in different spots.

set in and out points premiere pro

2 | Open the Export Window

With your in and out points selected you are now ready to send your video into the export window.

To do this click File —> Export —> Media

The keyboard shortcut to open this window is ‘Command M’. I use this one often.

Note: Be sure that you have your desired sequence selected for export in your project panel, otherwise the Media option will be grayed out.

export menu premiere pro.jpg

3 | Select the Desired Video Format

In most cases you will want to choose H.264. This will be the right option for just about any online video like youtube, vimeo, blogs, etc. It will export your video as a .mp4 extension.

There will be more presets to choose from in just a moment to make your selection even more specific.

I do from time to time use the ‘Quicktime’ option. This is a great option if you want very high quality clips in the Apple ProRes format. If you do choose this option, remember that your file size will be quite large, but again, it will be great quality. This is the setting I use for exporting my stock footage clips.

Premiere Pro Video Format List

4 | Choose the Desired Video Preset

Premiere Pro gives a great number of presets to choose from that will automatically give you the best settings for all these common scenarios. I recommend finding the closest option to what you’ll be using your video for.

If your footage is shot in 4K, you can simply choose the Youtube or Vimeo 4K settings. If your footage is shot in HD, you can choose the Youtube or Vimeo HD settings. Pretty straightforward here.

Video preset options premiere pro

5 | How to Use Match Source

If you continue to scroll down, you’ll find the Basic Video Settings. If you’ve selected a preset, these options will already be selected for you and you can leave them as is.

If ever these settings get changed or you want to reset them, simply click the ‘Match Source’ button and this will reset your Width and Height to match the size of your sequence.

Also be sure to always check ‘Render at Maximum Depth’. This will take longer to export your file, but the quality will be better. The only time you wouldn’t check this box is if you’re in a hurry or not concerned about the look of the video as much (quick rough drafts).

match source and render at maximum depth

6 | Bitrate Settings: VBR, 2 Pass Explained

Skip on down to the section for Bitrate Settings.

Here you’ll want to choose the option for VBR, 2 pass. This again will take longer, but your video will look better and I’ll explain why.

If you’re interested here are the three options explained in more detail and why I always choose VBR, 2 Pass.

What do CBR and VBR Stand For and Why You Should Use VBR, 2 Pass:

CBR stands for Constant Bit Rate and VBR stands for Variable Bit Rate.

With CBR, the computer encodes your entire video with one pass at a constant bit rate. This can cause issues if you have scenes that are more complex than others. While your simple scenes will look fine, the scenes that have the most data (color and detail) will not look as good as they could.

With VBR 2 pass, the first encoding pass will scan through your video once to find out how much data is happening in each frame of your video. Some areas have more data than others. For the second pass, the computer goes through and encodes the video. It spends more time encoding the complex, detailed portions of your video (making them look great) and saves time on the more simple portions (they will still look fine, they just don’t need as much attention).

Though it takes more time, VBR 2 Pass is the best option if you want to maximize the highest quality render of your video.

Bitrate settings premiere pro

You can also adjust the range of your bitrate settings. You may want to play with these numbers if you’re trying to keep your overall file size within a certain range. The estimated file size is found at the bottom of the export menu.

target and maximum bitrate settings for premiere pro

7 | Queue or Export Your Video

Once you are happy with all your settings, simply click queue or export to get your video going.

If you are exporting one video and that’s it, simply click Export.

If you plan to export multiple videos, it may make more sense to click Queue. This will automatically open up Adobe Media Encoder where you can set up an export of multiple exports back to back.

This is extremely helpful when I am exporting multiple stock clips all at once and instead of having to export each individually, I can set up my queue and come back later with all of it done for me.

8 | Save Your Export Settings as a Custom Preset

You’ll save yourself lots of time by saving your settings that you use most often. And it’s so easy to do.

Click the little icon with a down arrow that’s right next to the Preset dropdown menu.

save export preset in premiere pro

You will then have the option to rename your custom preset however you wish and click ok.

how to create custom export presets premiere

Next time you open up your export window, you’ll see your custom presets pop up in the dropdown window so you don’t have to manually enter your desired export settings each and every time you export a new video.

custom 4k preset export in premiere pro

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know in the comments below what other topics you’d like to learn about.

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how to export videos in premiere pro

As a video editor and photographer by trade, dealing with large amounts of photos and videos is something I’ve been forced to master over the years.

One valuable lesson I’ve learned is just how important it is to have everything backed up, twice or more if you can.

It’s not a matter of if your laptop, phone, ipad will fail you, but when. You want to make sure you’ve got everything valuable stored in a separate location for when that day comes. I am speaking from experience here.

That’s where an external hard drive comes into play.

What is an external hard drive?

An external hard drive is a little device that you can plug into your computer in order to copy and store photos, videos, and other files. It’s like a storage closet for your digital files.

Other primary uses for external hard drives aside from just storage might include the ability to travel and be mobile with your photos/videos. You can offload your camera or drone while out an about directly to a hard drive. They are also helpful for sharing data or information between employees if you have a shared work project that is often used by multiple workers and perhaps too large to store via dropbox.

In today’s article we’ll be going beyond just a simple external hard drive and covering the best SSD external hard drives of 2020.

We’ll explore the best brands for the price and quality, as well as why you may decide to purchase an SSD hard drive instead of just an external hard drive.

What is an SSD external hard drive?

SSD stands for Solid State Drive, meaning there are no (fragile and slow) moving parts inside them, unlike traditional hard drives (see image below). While they tend to be much more expensive than portable hard drives, they have many benefits to make it worth the extra cost.

Pictured: the insides of a traditional external hard drive. It looks cool, but how easy would it be to damage these fine, moving parts?
Pictured: the insides of a traditional external hard drive. It looks cool, but how easy would it be to damage these fine, moving parts?

Great for travel (more durable)

Portable SSDs are much more rugged and durable since they have less tiny spinning parts inside than traditional hard drives which are made up of spinning glass or metal platters. This makes them the perfect travel companion and gives much more peace of mind that any of those small parts will fail you and your valuable data.

Faster and more efficient (perfect for video editors)

Not only that, but SSDs are much faster at reading and writing lots of data, so they are perfect for video editors, photographers, or others that need to access large amounts of data quickly or in real time.


This post does contain Amazon product recommendations. As an Amazon associate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases, however any commission that I earn comes at no cost to you.

The Top SSD External Hard Drives of 2020

To put together this list, we analyzed the top brands that offered the best quality without breaking the bank, so that you can have the best of both worlds.

1 | Sabrent Rocket Nano (available in 512GB, 1TB, 2TB)

Main benefit: Best all around price and quality.

I received one of these as a gift last year and I was blown away with the size, speed, and quality of this little device. Here are some of my favorite features about the Sabrent Rocket Nano SSD

2 | Samsung Portable SSD (available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB)

Main benefit: most affordable.

This next handy drive meets all the same requirements: it’s fast, durable, well designed, and affordable. Here are some key pros to this particular drive.

3 | Samsung T7 Touch Portable SSD (available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB)

Main benefit: fingerprint security.

With added fingerprint and password security, this drive is made for those that want to keep their information extra safe. Without sacrifice to any of the typical SSD benefits, this drive includes all that and more.

4 | Sandisk Extreme PRO Portable External SSD (available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB)

Main benefit: most durable.

This next drive is built extra tough for the content creator on the go, the adventurer, the enthusiast. It’s made to withstand extreme temperatures, as well as harder bumps and bruises, while also being water and dust resistant.

5 | Samsung X5 Portable SSD (available in 500GB, 1TB, 2TB)

Main benefit: ultra fast speeds.

While you may pay extra for this next drive, what you’ll receive in return are reading and writing speeds much faster than even the best SSDs on this list. That makes this drive the perfect choice for gamers and video editors.


How to organize your hard drive?

Believe me, I know how daunting it can be to try and keep everything organized, but it’s so important. In fact, I wrote an entire post about exactly how I organize my folders and structure them for various purposes. I encourage you to check that out here.

I hope you’ve found this list helpful in narrowing down your hunt for the perfect SSD drive. Let me know your thoughts below.

Thanks!

-Beth

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top SSD Drives of 2020.jpg

Capturing great audio is one of those details that is way too often overlooked. And in fact, it’s one of the most important details when it comes to making your film more cinematic.

This includes capturing ambient sounds, crisp and clear narration, as well as just natural voices that will pull your viewer into a film like nothing else can. Your viewers will automatically feel more connected and therefore more emotionally invested in your film without ever realizing why.

It’s also one of those things that becomes glaringly obvious when you’ve done it wrong. So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.

With the variety of scenarios you’ll encounter during a wedding day, you need small, durable, and adaptable microphones that don’t sacrifice quality, yet are still affordable. And notice I said microphones. You’ll need a few, so I’m emphasizing the affordable here.

In today’s post I’ll be sharing with you my absolute favorite microphones for capturing great audio during weddings, as well as a few tips for using these mics on the wedding day.


This post does contain Amazon product recommendations. As an Amazon associate, I receive compensation for qualifying purchases, however any commission that I earn comes at no cost to you.

1 | Most Versatile & Affordable Overall Wedding Mic

If you can only afford to purchase one microphone, this is the one that I’d recommend: The Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Mic. They are so handy and very affordable, so definitely check the price on amazon as I frequently see them on sale.

I have two of these, one for each camera. You can see in this image how it attaches to my SmallRig cage, but you don’t need a cage for this mic.

compact rode microphone on camera

It’s very light, so it will attach to any small camera via the shoe adapter on top of the camera. It plugs into the camera right on the side there and depending on your camera should automatically start recording audio through the mic.

The primary purpose of this mic is to capture background noise, ambient sounds (laughter, applause, people chatting), as well as spontaneous conversation that happens when you don’t have someone connected to a Lavalier microphone.

I leave these on my cameras, running at all times. Not only do you not want to miss all those spontaneous moments, it also gives me peace of mind that I do have a backup mic running in case one of my other mics fails me.

2 | Perfect Mic for Bride, Groom, and Officiant Audio During Wedding Ceremony

You will definitely want to plan to have at least one, if not two lavalier (also known as lapel) mics handy to use for voiceovers and interviews throughout the wedding day.

Examples of when you’ll use a lapel mic would be if your bride and groom are writing letters to one another. What a great opportunity to have them read these letters aloud so you can use that narration to help tell their story. It will add so much depth and emotion. You can’t skip it.

You can also use this mic on the officiant during the ceremony to capture the message. If you have multiple mics you may opt to go ahead and mic the bride and groom as well, especially if they are saying their own vows.

My recommendation is the Tascam DR-10L lav mic. These mics are so light and handy. If you can only afford one, start with that, but if you can afford two or three then you’ll be all set.

tascam lav mic.jpg

The microphone connects directly to the receiver that will easily fit in a suit jacket (or inside a bride’s dress). They even make a version in white to make it easier to hide on the bride. Hit record and you’re good to go.

The audio records directly to a microSD card inside the device. You need to buy this separately, but they are not expensive and will hold hours of continuous recording. Here’s one I recommend or you can often find it bundled for no additional cost on amazon.

3 | Perfect Mic for Wedding Speeches

These handy little clip on mics are the BEST. They are perfect for quickly clipping on the inside of a suit jacket when someone is about to give a speech. You can also discreetly tape or velcro it around a handheld microphone during the reception and just let it run for all the speeches. It’s a great backup idea if you are running a recorder through the house audio as well.

4 | Best Audio Recorder to Connect to House Audio

If you’re not familiar, this little device is simply an audio recorder.

You can plug it directly into an audio source (if the venue has a DJ or audio person, for example) and that way you can have a copy of the audio feeding through the mics that they have already set up for musicians, music, the officiant, or speeches.

Again, this is always a great option to have as a backup audio source, even if you plan to use all of your own mics as well.

Are you picking up on the fact that it’s always a good idea to have TWO sources of audio recording at all times? I’ve been burned by bad audio a few too many times, so I’m very careful about having backups at all times.

This option is not the cheapest one on the market, but it is the best quality. I personally do not recommend the Tascam version of this based off negative reviews. I have the ZOOM H4 version and it’s lasted me years upon years of constant use.

5 | Accessories

You won’t need many additional accessories, but you may need a few. Here are some of my favorites.

Rycote Overcover Stickies- These are great little stickies that you can use to hide underneath shirts, collars, dresses, or jackets. In case you want to completely hide the mic from view. I always have these on hand.

Cables: I always carry a variety of cable connections to make sure that my audio device can connect to whatever audio system is available at the venue.

XLR to XLR Cable - You may need this cable to connect your recording device to the venue’s audio system.

1/4 to Dual RCA Stereo Cable - Again good to always have on hand in case you need it.

1/4 to 1/4 Cable - Another connection option.

Final thoughts.

I hope you find this list helpful and easy to navigate. I remember feeling so overwhelmed at the options out there for wedding videography. At the end of the day, you really just need a few solid mics and the knowledge of when and how to set them up and you’ll be good to go.

It’s an investment that you may have to make at the beginning of your journey, but with one or two weddings under you’ll belt it will more than pay for itself and be far worth it in the end.

As always, send me your thoughts and questions in the comments below and share with me the films you’re working on!

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top 3 mics for wedding films

Creating videos is easy. Anyone and everyone can make a quick video with their smartphone.

But creating great videos takes creativity, practice, and a little knowledge about filmmaking basics.

If you want to have fun creating videos that inspire others and communicate a visual message that people will pay attention to, you need to put some effort into improving your skillset.

Here are my top ten tips for improving your filmmaking skills so that your videos will truly stand out.

1 | Master Your Camera

I put this tip first, because it truly is the most important place to start.

Your camera is the tool you will be using to tell your story, but it’s just that - a tool. Your camera is simply an extension of the creative ideas in your mind.

If you don’t know how to translate those stories from your head to your camera, then how will you ever capture videos the way you want to?

I’m telling you, your videos will be absolutely revolutionized once you begin to understand the functions of your camera and how to actually take control of the proper settings for each and every situation.

Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO come together to make the perfect balance in each and every shot. Do you know what each of these mean? Do you know what happens when you alter one versus the other? If you answered no to these questions, then this is the perfect place for you to start.

Here’s another example of a real life scenario where this decision matters.

Want to shoot your subject with a super soft, blurry background with the subject in sharp focus in the foreground? This is only achieved by having your aperture setting on your camera set as wide as it can go.

But if you don’t know anything about aperture or how to change it, how can you achieve that desired effect?

Or maybe you are having trouble keeping a moving subject in focus with your videos as they move through the frame? Did you know that stopping down on your aperture can help keep a wider zone of your frame in focus?

This step can take years or it can take just a few weeks, depending on how committed you are.

The techy camera terms can feel overwhelming at first, but I’m telling you, it’s not that complicated once you give it some practice.

I recommend mastering the following concepts before moving on in your filmmaking endeavors.

manual mode for filmmakers

In case you want to study up on these concepts a little more, here’s an in depth article discussing each one in great detail, specifically for filmmakers.

2 | Shoot What You Love

My second piece of advice for beginner filmmakers is to care about the work you choose to shoot. If it doesn’t bring you joy, don’t shoot it.

Side note: I mean this for those who are hobbyist filmmakers looking to improve their craft. If you are a professional filmmaker, I completely understand that not every working gig is going to bring you joy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. I’m specifically speaking to those who are simply practicing to improve their skillset.

If you love music - shoot concerts and music videos. If you love skateboarding, shoot your friends at the skatepark. If you love traveling, document all the amazing trips you go on. If you love lifestyle, shoot your kids or friends in real life.

You get the idea.

You are going to spend a lot of time and energy learning and growing in your craft, so you may as well be having fun while you do it. Plus, the last thing you want is to burn yourself out doing something that feels like work.

The passion you have to capture the things you love simply cannon be faked. Your work will shine the most when you’re having fun and all the practice you’re putting into it will be effortless.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, how can you expect anyone else to?

shoot what you love

3 | Think Like an Editor

I heard this phrase early on in my filmmaking career and it’s stuck with me.

Many times as a hobbyist filmmaker you are the producer, director, cinematographer, and editor all in one.

What I mean is - the final video is your idea and you execute every part of it. But traditionally, there were different people for each of those roles, sometimes a handful for each.

Even in my own career, it was often a different person shooting the footage and then handing it off to an editor for post production.

If you’ve ever edited a video in this fashion, you know how frustrating it can be to sort through the footage you’ve been handed and not find all that you need to put the story together.

The shooter didn’t give you an opening shot. The shooter didn’t give you enough angles to cut a seamless scene together. The shooter didn’t give you a transition shot to move naturally from one location to another. The list goes on.

This phrase is meant to emphasize that to be a great shooter, you need to be thinking like an editor.

Make a list of all the shots you think an editor might need and how they would use them. This will get your mind thinking on set so that you will never again miss the shots you’ll need in post production.

Here are a few specific examples:

4 | Set Monthly Challenges

Not only do you need to be shooting what you love, you also need to guard against boredom or falling into a creative rut.

A great way to continually improve your skillset is to practice, practice, practice. But you don’t want to burn out or feel like your hobby has become a job.

But how do you keep things interesting and fun?

I suggest finding a few friends to join you in a monthly creative challenge. Your friends don’t even necessarily have to be filmmakers - they can be photographers, graphic artists, writers, anything creative really.

Grab a calendar and come up with 12 topics to revolve your challenges around. Here are some ideas to get you started, but really you should make them whatever sounds the most appealing to you.

At the beginning of each month, make it your goal to create one project revolving around the designated theme for the month. You can be as abstract or as literal as you choose. The point is to have fun and to flex your creative muscles.

This can be done completely solo on your own, but I find it more fun to share the journey with friends.

Did you know that we have a private facebook group of other filmmakers doing this together? We’d love to have you, so come check it out and start participating in our monthly creative challenges.

5 | Get Creative with Camera Angles

When I look at the work of artists that I admire, I notice that they are constantly pushing creative boundaries with their camera angles. This is one of the easiest ways to instantly make your videos stand out.

Put a little thought into it. Take ten extra seconds to move your body around and see what angle looks the best.

Here are a few quick ideas to get you started.

Shoot from Above

Hold your arms up or stand up on a stool or chair to shoot directly above your subject. This is a great establishing shot idea because it gives your viewer a lot of context for what’s happening in the scene.

shoot from straight above

Shoot from Way Down Low

Another very easy yet creative technique to add variation to your films is to get down on the ground and shoot from very low down. Literally, lay down on your stomach, put your camera on the ground and see what things looks like. You’ll be amazed at how this changes the feeling of your shot. It is great for making your subject or scene look and feel epic. It can also give the impression that you are going on a journey as the viewer’s eyes have nowhere else to look but up and ahead.

shoot from down low

Use Leading Lines

Pay attention to other elements within your frame. Stairs, walls, columns, and bookshelves are common everyday objects that you can easily use to frame your shot. Identify where the lines and edges of these objects are falling within your frame and direct your shot so that these ‘lines’ point toward your desired subject. These lines ‘lead’ your viewer’s eye to the intended point of interest.

use leading lines

Shoot Through Another Object

It could be through the leaves of a tree, railing on stairs, etc. It gives you bokeh and out of focus elements that add extra perspective and depth to your photo.

shoot through something

6 | Maximize Natural Lighting

Aside from learning how to operate your camera, this is arguable the most important factor in improving the quality of your videos.

So many people are intimidated by lighting for video, but there’s no need to be. It takes practice and observation, just like anything.

The beauty is that once you start to understand it, you’ll be invincible. I used to be nervous about this too. I’d scout out my locations ahead of time just to get a look at the lighting and angles to make sure they’d work.

Now that I’ve been shooting for a while, I have developed the confidence to know exactly how the light is going to look through my camera before I even turn it on. This isn’t a crazy skill - you can easily develop the same ability. It just takes some attention to detail and enough practice.

Here are a few tips for making the most of natural lighting in your films.

natural window lighting

7 | Let Others Inspire You

If you can carve out 10 minutes a day to watch a video or two from a filmmaker that you admire, your work will automatically improve without you putting in much more effort than that.

You’ll start to see new ideas and naturally formulate more creative ways to tell stories, just from seeing how others have done it.

You’ll brainstorm better ways to grab shots and push the boundaries.

You’ll be inspired to be better in your own work just by watching what is possible.

Go a step further and start jotting down specific techniques that you see these other artists doing. Then, go and research those specific techniques so that you can practice them as well.

Step by step your own work will improve by leaps and bounds.

8 | Share Your Work

When your work is on display, you will naturally improve.

It’s human nature.

Without even thinking about it, we want to impress others with our craft. You don’t have to feel bad about it. Of course, it shouldn’t dominate your creative decisions, but you can harness this impulse for good if it becomes a reason to continually improve your skills.

Secondly, if you share your work with likeminded creative people, more than likely you will become part of a community that will build you up and help you improve your filmmaking skills with their feedback.

Sharing your work is a great way to stay accountable to yourself and others.

If you share on social media, it’s a great way to document your progress. How amazing to look back a year later and see how much you’ve improved.

Did you know that we have a private group of filmmakers on facebook where we share monthly creative challenges, our latest work, and more behind the scenes information? I’d love to connect with you along with the rest of our crew of filmmakers on the blog.

You can check out the group here.

9 | Take a Filmmaking Class or Course

One of the best things I ever did for my own work was to take a few online photography and filmmaking courses. Not only will you feel committed (since you’ve likely invested some hard earning money), you’ll have the steps outlined for you so there’s no guesswork involved. You’ll know exactly where to start, how to proceed, and what outcome you’ll have in the end.

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed at the amount of knowledge that you want to learn, but just didn’t even know where to start, a course may be the perfect choice for you.

In my case, I had a few specific photographers that I really admired that I saw had some online courses. Because I’d followed these artists and really wanted to learn how to do what they were doing, I was interested in some of their materials.

My work and style grew 100 fold the year I decided to participate in those classes. Not only that, but because I’d developed more confidence in the work I was able to produce, I became much more confident directing during shoots.

It can be so helpful to learn from other professionals, so be sure to scout out the filmmakers and artists that you admire and invest in a course or two.

If you’re curious, here’s my favorite place for online photography classes.

For you beginner filmmakers, I’d love to have you join my in my online course. Production is still in the works, but you can go ahead and sign up for more information about the course once it’s released.

10 | Don’t Stop Making Stuff

You’ve made it to the end of this list, which tells me that you’re serious about becoming a better filmmaker.

Now that I’ve gone on and on telling you about all the things you can do to continue learning and growing, I’m going to tell you something a little contrary to all of that advice.

Don’t worry about all the knowledge. Don’t worry about doing anything wrong. Have fun and don’t stop making stuff.

I repeat. Don’t stop making stuff.

A few years ago, I transitioned from working full time at a production studio where I was making 5-10 short videos every few weeks to moving to a new state, starting a family, and creating my own business. Life was busy and so was I.

I didn’t stop taking videos altogether, but I did slow down. A lot.

Even though my knowledge didn’t go away, I was out of practice. I stopped experimenting. I stopped creating like I had in the past and honestly it hurt my work.

So my final advice is - above all the knowledge, all the facts about cameras and techniques and things to learn, don’t forget to get out there and practice it yourself. Shoot and film and edit and put something together. Even if you’re busy, set realistic goals for yourself and get out there and do it.

Your turn.

I’d love to know your thoughts about becoming a better filmmaker. What tips do you have for the rest of us? Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know what you think.

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Happy shooting!

-Beth

A common rule of thumb known as the ‘rule of thirds’ is often used to improve your composition (the way things are arranged within the frame) for both photography and filmmaking.

In today’s post, we’ll talk about why this rule exists, how it works, as well as when and why you should use it… most of the time.

Not just for beginners.

I used to think that composition was one of those basic concepts that you master as a beginner and then move on to more complex and interesting ideas. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The more I learn and grow as an artist, the more I realize how much there is to improve in my own work. One of those areas is composition.

When I look at the work of photographers and filmmakers that I admire, one thing I quickly notice is how interesting and creative their composition is. It’s something that often goes ignored, but it absolutely shouldn’t be.

Let’s dive into the basics and beyond to discover how this fundamental rule can improve both our photography and filmmaking.

What is the rule of thirds?

Originating from the Renaissance age, early painters realized that framing their main subject along the outer thirds of the frame was a more interesting and balanced way to compose a masterpiece.

There is something about groups of threes that feels more balanced to the human eye. It just so happens to also be a rule of thumb in interior design that you balance off to the sides in groups of threes or fives.

Here’s how the rule of thirds works: for any given frame, draw two lines horizontally and two lines vertically, each equally spaced, creating three long sections in both directions with nine equally sized zones.

rule of thirds example 1.jpg

By placing the most interesting and relevant visual elements along these lines, the composition starts to feel more interesting and balanced. Typically areas of interest are placed either along one of the lines or at the intersection of two lines or both.

Note: not everything has to match the lines or intersecting points perfectly. Just position them close to the guide points or lines according to what feels natural for each photo.

See it in action.

There are so many ways the rule of third can be used to grab attention and hold it. Let’s take a look at a few more great examples to see different methods for how this rule is affective.

rule of thirds example 11.jpg

HORIZON LINE

The rule of thirds is often used in landscape photography. It’s great for outdoor sunsets, fields, and highways like the one pictured here to draw your eye upward as you follow the road.

Notice how its much more balanced to place the horizon line on the upper or lower third zone than it is right in the middle.

By placing the road or horizon on the lower third, it gives a feeling that you are moving forward as your eye travels upward, much like you are going on a journey.

rule of thirds example 2.jpg
rule of thirds example 8.jpg

USING OBJECTS IN FOREGROUND

Here are a couple of great examples using objects that are closer to the camera to add interest and depth to the photo. Notice how these blurred objects in the foreground are placed in accordance with the rule of thirds.

rule of thirds example 10.jpg

PORTRAITS

Speaking of how humans are naturally drawn to threes and the balance found within the rule of third, it’s amazing how perfectly the human face fits in line with the rule of thirds. When possible, it’s best to place your subject’s eyes directly along one of the lines.

Here are some other examples of how to find great balance using portraits and the rule of thirds.

rule of thirds example 12.jpg
rule of thirds example 4.jpg
rule of thirds example 5.jpg

Notice that each of these examples places the subjects eyes along a different lines of thirds. There’s creative freedom there to decide what makes the most sense for your own film.

How to implement the rule of thirds.

START TO MODIFY HOW YOU VISUALIZE YOUR SHOTS

As you become more and more familiar with the rule of thirds, you should start to try and frame your shots with it in mind. Here are a few practical ways to modify your shots on the fly with this rule in mind.

Practice visualizing the rule of thirds in everyday life. When you see an image you love, dissect the composition - what is it about the image that drew your eye?

The more you think about how this rule applies throughout daily life, the more familiar you will become with it. Soon you’ll be framing your work this way without even thinking about it.

USE THE GRIDS ON YOUR IPHONE AND CAMERA

rule of thirds grid for iphone

You can easily turn on the grid setting within your iPhone camera settings so that you can see the rule of thirds in your composition in real time.

To do this, simply open Settings -> Camera -> Grid On

Most DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras also offer this handy feature.

Here is how to turn it on for Canon cameras:

  1. Press the Menu button. (The previously used menu appears.)
  2. Use the Multi-controller or Quick Control dial to navigate to the Live View Shooting Settings 1 tab.
  3. Use the Multi-controller or the Quick Control dial to highlight Grid Display and then press the Set button.
  4. Use the Multi-controller or the Quick Control dial to highlight the desired grid. The first grid, with nine squares, is the rule of thirds setting.
  5. Press Set.

USE GRIDS IN YOUR EDITING SOFTWARE

Very often in the heat of the moment, you may not nail your composition. However, all is not lost. You can often crop your final photo or video in post production so that the composition still falls within the rule of thirds. Here are a few ways to turn on the grids for some commonly used editing programs.

PHOTOSHOP

crop tool in photoshop
rule of thirds grid photoshop
  1. Click on the CROP tool on the toolbar.
  2. At the top, click on the grid icon to make sure the rule of thirds grid is checked, as well as the always show overlay.
  3. Starting at the top left corner of your image, drag the mouse all the way over your entire image. You should now see an overlay of the rule of thirds grid.
  4. You can adjust your photo accordingly to improve the overall composition.
using grid in photoshop.jpg

LIGHTROOM

Enabling the rule of thirds guide in Lightroom is very easy.

  1. Make sure you are in the ‘Develop’ tab (upper left menu).
  2. Hit ‘R’ on your keyboard and the grid will appear.
  3. By default, the rule of thirds appears first, but you can also hit ‘O’ to toggle through the different grid options.
lightroom rule of thirds.jpg

AFTER EFFECTS

Turning on the grid in After Effects is not hard, but it’s not nearly as intuitive. Here’s exactly what you need to do:

  1. Turn on the Proportional Grid
proportional grid after effects
after effects proportional grid.jpg

2. Now you need to adjust how many lines are displayed on the grid. To do this, navigate to Preferences -> Grids & Guides.

adjusting grid in after effects

3. Now adjust the Proportional Grid to be 3 Horizontal and 3 Vertical lines. You can also adjust the color and style of the lines as you wish.

custom grids in after effects

That’s it! Now you’ll have your own custom rule of thirds grid for your next After Effects project. To quickly toggle the grid on and off, you can hit ALT ‘ as a shortcut for the rule of thirds grid.

rule of thirds after effects.jpg

PREMIERE PRO

Implementing the rule of thirds grid on Premiere Pro is certainly not the easiest, but not to fear. I’ve laid out exactly how you can turn it on in less than a minute or two. Here we go.

  1. Right click in your Project Panel and add a New Item -> Transparent Video
create transparent video

2. The transparent video settings menu will pop open. You can just click ‘OK’ to leave the settings as is. They should match your current timeline settings.

transparent video settings

3. Drag the transparent video to sit directly above your current clips in the timeline.

transparent video premiere pro

4. Double click on the transparent video layer to select it. Now navigate up to the effects window and open Video Effects -> Generate -> Grid

add grid effect

5. Follow the exact settings I have mapped out below to overlay a rule of thirds grid on your footage:

settings for rule of thirds premiere pro
rule of thirds grid for premiere pro.jpg

6. You can toggle the transparency video layer on and off whenever you want the grid to disappear or of course once you are ready to export your video. Simply hit the little eyeball icon on the far left corner of your timeline panel.

Some rules were made for breaking.

Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of the rule, let’s talk about some more advanced composition techniques. As you become more comfortable framing your subjects, you’ll start to expand your filmmaking skills by thinking outside the box a bit. This sometimes means breaking the ‘rules’.

There are many scenarios where this idea applies: here are a few examples.

Sometimes placing something smack dab in the middle of the frame just works, especially to add some extra emphasis.

using negative space

CREATIVE USE OF NEGATIVE SPACE

Sometimes the use of negative space acts makes for an interesting composition as well. In the above example, technically the rule of thirds is broken. The rooftops of the houses is framed way too far beneath where the proper rule of thirds line exists. However, in this case it makes the photo even more interesting as you realize the rule has been broken. There is so much emptiness or ‘negative space’ in the sky that it emphasizes the symmetry, pattern, and color of the houses below.

breaking the rule of thirds

CAPTURING SYMMETRY

Another great example of when you may break the rule is when you want to emphasize symmetry in an image. If you’re shooting an image to highlight balance and symmetry, go ahead and do what feels right and don’t worry about the rules.

How does the rule of thirds apply to filmmaking?

So far we’ve touched very much on the fundamentals of this rule, which apply universally across just about any form of design: photography, videography, painting, graphic art, etc.

Is there anything specific about this rule that changes when we apply it to filmmaking?

Honestly, not really.

Other than the fact that our subjects are often in motion or we ourselves are in motion. There are a few ways to handle this.

You can keep your subject in the same zone as they and you move -or- you can have them start within the rule of thirds and move out of it. You could also have your subject start out of frame and move into the correct positioning of the rule of thirds as the shot continues for a more interesting perspective.

In general though, the rules still apply either way. Just like every other visual art, filmmaking falls into the category of thirds.

Your Turn.

Now it’s your turn to get out there and start making something creative. I’d love to see what you come up with so leave me a comment below and let me see what you’re working on!

Happy Shooting!

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