Seven steps to using your SLR camera for video stories

As the saying goes, sometimes the best camera for the story is the one in your hand. Yet, when it comes to shooting video, some still photographers seem to avoid using their digital SLR cameras.

Jeff Achen is an interactive media strategist for  He recently wrote a column for Quill magazine on using still cams for video storytelling.

1.  Use a tripod.  Ah, a piece of advice near and dear to our hearts.  Achen says handheld video should be a last resort. 

2.  Shoot in sequences.  Achen says that, “Just as in still photography, good video is a series of snapshots and details.”  He suggests going for wide, medium and close shots and holding each for 10-15 seconds while shooting.

3.  Use your ears.  This may be the most challenging task for a still photogrpaher who’s usually not focused on the sound at a scene.  Achen says it’s important to “get close”  to the source of the sound.

4.  Use depth of field.  Here’s where the DLSRs offer an advantage over Flip cams and other low-end video cameras. 

One of the reasons you’re seeing professional filmmakers and videographers pick up the new video-enabled DSLRs is the versatility that Canon, Nikon and other pro lenses allow in depth of field.  As in photography, the manipulation of depth of field is a trademark of a true pro in the video realm.  Use your fastest lenses to get stunningly shallow depth-of-field shots of details and close ups.  Don’t be afraid to use shallow depth of field on interviews, too.

5.  Lock exposure.  Achens warn that DSLRs can be “tricky when it comes to exposure.  They may be set to automatically adjust, which results in distracting flickers in your video as the exposure adjusts in response to the slightest change in your field of view. ”  He suggests setting your shot and then using the AE lock.

6.  Let the action be the action.  This is standard, but solid advice — Achen advises against overuse of pans, zooms or camera motion.

7.  Learn to conduct interviews.  Ok, so this isn’t really a video shooting tip, but Achen also suggests that still photographers need to practice asking questions of the people they’re covering, so they’re able to tell better video stories.