Stills to Video

In still photography, you’re always thinking about composition and framing, light and moment that will make your photo look great as a double-page spread in National Geographic. Fast-forward to the Web and the truth is that double-page spread looks even better and bigger on your full screen monitor.


I was always looking and shooting for the killer “double truck,” and I hardly ever shot details because I knew they’d never run a close up as a two-page spread. (above is a story about China’s Three Gorges Dam I did for the magazine)

Capturing video is all about deconstructing that big picture into the component parts. A dramatic way to reconstruct the big picture is to shoot that great wide shot, then shoot a bunch of close ups inside the same shot. When an edit can move from a close up to your killer wide shot, that variety of shots makes it more interesting for the viewer.

Here’s an example of a scene I shot for Blue Chalk Media, who was working on the Living City Series for the New York Times. We headed up to the Tappen Zee Bridge with historian Joan Marans Dim and her co-author, artist Antonio Masi When we arrived at the location that associate producer Gabriela Arp had scouted it was very foggy. But in the spirit of deconstruction, I’ve included frame grabs of what I shot in the order I shot them to build a scene.










Editor Rob Finch used the repetition of a flying bird to unify the scene when he cut this together. You can see it around 38 seconds here.

The series was produced for Blue Chalk by Greg Moyer and Melanie Burford.

So one of the biggest lessons I learned on moving from still photography to video (or motion, as people like to call it) was the need to shoot a LOT of close-ups and super close-ups and move around a lot more to capture the world from all angles.
If you’d like to learn some more tricks about moving from still photography to effective video, come join me for a workshop. I’m teaching 2 this summer, one in Santa Fe and one in New York City. Both workshops assume you’ve never shot video before. Funnily enough, by the time you leave, you’ll be shooting better stills too.

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