NYTimes VJ shares lighting, basic shooting tips

As promised, here’s a bit more from VJ Patrick Farrell on how to tell strong, visual stories.  Farrell says the best storytelling starts with a hunt for information.

“Do as much research as possible about what visuals are available,” Farrell said.  He routinely goes online and makes multiple phone calls before shooting the first frame of video.

Farrell also encourages shooters to spend more time thinking about the shots they need, going so far as to make a shot list before heading out the door.  That list should include ideas about the types of shots you will be looking for:

  • Wide/establishing shot – Farrell describes this as a shot to “situate the viewer” to show us where you are.
  • Medium shots – these take you “closer to the action” and draw you into the story.
  • Close ups/extreme close ups – these shots provide the “telling details” of a story.  Farrell says, “You don’t have to say someone is old if you can show his gnarled hand.”  He also says close ups will “save you in the edit” as they help you transition between sound bites and other elements. 

Farrell also points out that “audio is 70% of video,” meaning it’s critical to telling a visual story.  He suggests you ought to outline the audio you want to get too, and not just interviews.

“Natural sound is what adds texture to the scenes you shoot,” Farrell said.

He encourages visual storytellers not to think about “getting b-roll,” rather they should be thinking about creating sequences.

“What is the arc of the story – beginning, middle, end – and what are the visuals or interviews that show those points in the story?” Farrell asks.

He recommends beginning shooters pick up a copy of the book, “Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video.”  Farrell recently demonstrated the book’s three-point lighting technique to a group of Ole Miss journalism students.


For Farrell, the research, the visuals and the audio are all equally important. 

“You’re gathering string, taking pieces of the story and weaving it all together.”