The Beginner’s Guide to Lifestyle Filmmaking

An Online Guide for Beginner Filmmakers : Lesson One

Going from photo mode to video mode.

Most cameras (and all phones) have a little switch on the back that holds the power to quickly change from photo to video mode.

Have you switched over and dabbled in the video mode, maybe capturing a bit of your own footage but never really knew what to do with it after the fact?

Perhaps you have hundreds of clips on your iPhone but they just sit there for years, never again seeing the light of day.

Many lifestyle photographers are tapping into the emerging market of lifestyle videography by adding family films to their photo packages. With interest in video being so high and the easy access to gear that can capture it, there is an amazing opportunity for photographers interested in adding this niche to their skillset.

I do believe it will be the next wave within the family and newborn photography world. Not to mention, it’s just fun to do. So what exactly is it?

Lifestyle videography is a style of filmmaking that aims to capture people in the most natural and authentic way, often using creative techniques to tell a story through video.

Interested in learning how to start making your own videos?

In this quick introduction, we will cover the following topics:

1 | What is a lifestyle video?

2 | What do you need to get started?

3 | Steps you need to take to begin making your own lifestyle films.

This post is designed to help any number of you looking to improve your skills either as a photographer, videographer, or hobbyist. Throughout this series, you will learn not only how to craft a compelling story, but also exactly how to shoot video using a DSLR camera.

While this guide is mostly geared toward DLSR camera shooters, it does not mean that you have to have one to follow along. As you’ll see in just a bit, these principals can be applied across any medium of shooting video – even if it’s simply a cell phone or GoPro to start with. First let’s chat about what it even means to shoot in the lifestyle genre.

1 | What is a lifestyle video?

This style can apply to a number of different video genres, not just family or personal films.

Businesses are using this type of video marketing to evoke a certain feeling of connection to their consumers all the time.

Nike is a master at this technique. Take this video for example. Notice that it is not a direct advertisement to go out and buy Nike shoes. Rather it tells a story. It has a narrative and a plot that draws you in. Don’t you feel connected to the main character?

Nike has an entire campaign of videos just like this one, highlighting individual athletes and their journeys.

This style is also often referred to as content marketing. Rather than highlighting a specific product for you to go and buy, they are giving you something interesting to watch, all while heightening your awareness of their name and credibility.

Lifestyle Family Films

Where do you think Nike got this approach from? The real thing. And why? Because it’s so effective. Real videos about real everyday moments and the people in them. No gimmicks or ulterior motives, just capturing the memories. That is what we aim to capture with lifestyle family films. Take this one from a recent family trip to Bozeman, Montana for example.

This is a short montage version, but you’ll get the idea (you can catch the extended version here).

It’s a collection of short clips set to some nice music that takes me straight back to our family trip last fall. I will always remember the sound of my little girl’s voice when she was two years old. And how in love she was with the two barn cats living under the loft where we stayed. And even the length of her hair just six months ago (it is already so much longer!).

These are the little things.

This is the power of video.

Journaling through film.

My daughter’s films are the stories I’ll tell her throughout her life – the sound of her very first cry, the look on her daddy’s face as they laid her on my chest, the extra time we spent in the NICU. It was difficult and unexpected, but it’s part of our story. it bonded the three of us in a way I never could have imagined and I wouldn’t trade it.

Being able to literally watch her birth, and first few days, weeks, months of life brings me a kind of joy I can’t really put into words. There is something powerful about film. It takes you back in a way nothing else can – to the sounds, the movements, and the feelings.

That is the point I am trying to get at: lifestyle videos as a whole are about capturing real and candid moments in a beautiful way so you can go back to those memories time and time again. This might be something you do simply for yourself, or you may be filming videos for your clients – either way your motives are generally the same.

Capture moments big and small.

So far I have shared a few big moment examples. But what about the simple moments? Is there a way to capture the ‘everyday’ stuff in an interesting way as well?

Here is a short and fun little series that I made to capture our little one’s first taste of food. Set it to a little upbeat music and there you go, another simple way to enjoy and share for years to come.

The sky is the limit for ideas like this – it could be a morning routine with little ones, bath time or meal time fun, baking cupcakes, playing at their favorite park, you name it. As long as it’s personal, you can make it work.

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.

2 | What do you need to get started?

Making your own family films doesn’t have to be hard or overly complicated. You don’t need a fancy camera, lights, or microphones. I have one camera that stays with me all the time, two lenses (one big and one small) and that’s really about it. For paid gigs I may carry a few extra small things, but we can get into those details later.

For everyday life, you just need a camera of some kind. The rest will come as you begin to grow your skills as a filmmaker. If you are interested though, I made a post on my favorite cameras for shooting lifestyle videos that you can check out.

Have you seen the new apple commercials made using only an iPhone? Our phones are such a powerful tool that most of us already have.

The point is, not everything has to be perfectly lit or color corrected. Above all else, it is most important to tell a clear and compelling story.

If you have an iphone, a DSLR, or any other type of video recording device, then you can craft a story.

If you’re willing to stick with me for a bit, I would love to walk you through my own process of planning and producing family films from start to finish. We’ll start with the basics of storytelling and move on to technicals a bit later.

3 | Making your own video : Crafting a Story

It’s all about the story.

This is going to be our mantra for a bit in case you hadn’t already noticed. Even with the fanciest of cameras, if you can’t use it to tell a compelling story then all you have are a few fancy images amounting to pure fluff. We have all seen an example or two, am I right?

In our next lesson we’ll get into the basic building blocks of how to tell a story through video. I’ll break down for you my exact process from start to finish of how I plan all my family films. Here are just a few things we’ll take a look at in our next lesson.

Coming up in the next lesson: How to tell a story with video

  • Narrating a story through visuals
  • How to introduce and develop characters
  • Building anticipation with camera angles
  • Utilizing video techniques to enhance your storytellingWrap Up

That was a lot of information to start with. We have a lot of ground to cover, so don’t worry if you feel a little out of step at this point.

We will dive into a lot more detail in the next few lessons. I’ll show you step-by-step how to use your DLSR to shoot video and tell great stories.

I hope this introduction guide has given you a good understanding of exactly what a lifestyle film is and whether it may be something you’re ready to add to your bag of tricks.

In the next few posts, I will walk you through each and every step of the process in thorough detail. By the end you will be well on your way toward making your own incredible films.

What’s next?

I want to make these lessons actionable for you. I don’t want you to just skim the words and go on with your day. I want the information to sink in, but in order for that to happen, you have to take the steps yourself. You have to pick up your phone or your camera and practice. Don’t be afraid to try, even if you have no idea what you are doing at first.

Your homework for this lesson is to think about what videos you dream of making. Maybe make a list of exactly what you want to accomplish with your films. Who is your audience, who are your characters, what is the main subject? Maybe it’s simply your family in everyday life. That’s perfect! Or perhaps you would like to shoot professionally in some way. Make some goals for yourself and jot them down.

If you have any questions about what we have discussed here, go ahead and leave it in the comments below. Your feedback is critical to helping me know when things are making sense. Go ahead and let me know if there are specific topics you would like to learn about in the future as well.

Thanks as always for your support and happy shooting!


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