Today’s consumer cameras can take very good pictures. Even smart phones are able to produce better looking images then cameras from only a few short years ago that might have cost thousands of dollars. But all consumer cameras are lacking one key feature that separates them from more professional cameras. Easy access to controls. You will take better pictures when you get on a first name basis with your equipment.
Professional cameras have lots of buttons, switches, dials and readouts. They all have a purpose. Mostly a single dedicated purpose. Newer professional cameras have buttons whose function can be assigned to different uses, but most of the buttons are dedicated to a specific function. Some of these buttons include white balance, gain, audio level, manual/automatic iris, servo/manual zoom control, and more. This gives the professional videographer quick and easy access to the features he/she needs to adjust to specific and changing parameters of the shoot. And in many cases the manufacturers have put some of the key buttons and switches in the same place, so a professional can still find what he/she needs even when using a different camera.
Consumer cameras have many of these same controls, but they are often buried deep into a menu system, that is neither quick nor easy. You may not get the same amount of control as a professional videographer would, but you can still make adjustments that will improve the quality of your video. Be careful though, these same adjustments when used incorrectly can ruin your video. Use a light touch when applying these adjustments until you get familiar with how they affect your video. Once an effect is created by the camera it can be very difficult and time consuming to undo these adjustments in editing. It is also possible to get many of the same effects in editing, and when editing you can usually go back to the original if you make a mistake so you can start again.
So how do you know what adjustments to make? You need to get to know your camera. Get to know it very well. Get to know it so that when you want to make an adjustment you know where to find it quickly, and how much you want to change it. The best way to do this is with practice shoots. Yes even in video production practice makes perfect. Get out there and use your camera. Have fun with it. See what happens if you change the color balance by a little, then by as much as possible. Just remember the original setting so you can put it back when you are done playing with changing the settings. You might want to write down all the original settings and put that list in your camera bag, just in case. There should also be a way to reset to the factory default if you get in real trouble. Check your owner’s manual before you make any changes.
When you do your practice shoots remember that the different settings might have a different effect depending on the shooting situation. You’ll find quickly there is no need to increase your gain if you are outdoors on a sunny day, but you might want some gain indoors in a room with low lighting. And shooting a fast paced sporting event might require different settings than when interviewing a person sitting still.
So get out there and practice shooting like a pro. Please post some comments about what you found. And if you want a professional videographer in the Tampa Bay area, or anywhere in Florida you can always find me here.