From Photographer to Filmmaker with Mark Wood
by Dave Mobbs – August 25th, 2016
In this latest blog, we asked Professional Photographer, Educator, and X-Rite Coloratti, Mark Wood to describe his recent journey from photographer to filmmaker. Over 30% of photographers are also making this transition into video and we thought we’d share Mark’s experiences for those of you that are making this journey too.
How easy is the transition from stills to video shooting?
The ease of transition depends on a few things. If you’ve never ventured beyond aperture priority and auto-focusing in stills shooting then new skills are required rather than just transposing your knowledge to video. Exposure settings for aperture, shutter-speed, frame-rate, ISO, and white balance need to be mastered. Understanding hyper-focal focusing is essential too. For me it was a matter of translating these techniques from my stills experience to DSLR. The camera settings and shooting mode weren’t too challenging; I struggled philosophically.
Can you expand on that?
The philosophy: at first I shot video with the same mindset I use when shoot reportage stills. On a stills shoot I collect images, so when photographing an event I photograph the people, the place, and the context. I think about my shots, but unlike film, I’m free to take hundreds of shots to ensure I capture the story.
Using that approach to video meant I’d have hours of footage to review. Even skimming through the footage would take hours to find the sequences I’d want to use. And even then, building a narrative might be impossible because I didn’t have all the right shots. The philosophical challenge was the adoption of a script.
For me developing storyboard and scripting skills have been essential. Knowing what I need to capture and labeling each shot and take, means I can assemble a story quicker in post-production. I know I’m not reinventing the wheel here; it’s how things are done in Hollywood. I’ve only modest ambitions, but there’s wisdom in film methodology and plenty of books on the subject.
Don’t try shooting solo. This video ‘From Stills Shooter To Videographer’ is a solo effort, and having at least one extra person on the shoot would have helped. I’ll continue to shoot solo but it helps to split the task across a team however small. This may seem too obvious but I’m one of many stills photographers that work alone, I want to try the same for video. But at least one pair of extra hands makes life easier.
What would you use a second person for?
As a stand-in. Getting my focus points right is hard, especially when doing to camera pieces. For to camera shots I placed the ColorChecker focusing target on a tripod; focused on that then marked the floor where I needed to stand, if I rocked back or forth the focus would be lost. Also with two camera pieces I can’t frame my shots properly.
What about sound?
Extra help there would be good. Monitoring audio levels and listening for background noise whilst shooting is hard to do when concentrating on the visuals. I record audio separately from the camera. I replace camera-captured audio with sound recorded on shotgun or LAV mics. That way you don’t hear the camera being focused.
You mentioned color management, is it very different to stills shooting.
No, with the right products, getting reliable color from your cameras and monitors is very straight forward. The underpinning principles are the same. The video output from my DSLR is not raw, or LOG, so measuring and setting custom camera white balance is very important.
What about color management in post-production?
I want to be able to measure the effect the ambient light is having on my footage, on the shoot that means using a white balance target. I also capture the color swatch panel of my ColorChecker which gets me to a great neutral starting point. Particularly in video, color is more subjective as people aim for their own creative ‘look’ that suits the mood of their video, but getting good neutral color balance in the shooting stage is key.
I then use the swatches in post-production to balance out the color rendering differences between different cameras, in varying lighting conditions. I want to ensure my footage is consistent and accurate.
Will you make more films?
Oh yes! I’ve learnt so much and I want to put those skills into good use. There is always more to discover, and I love to learn. Something I need to address though is getting my pricing right. It’s an age old problem. In stills work, newcomers, and talented amateurs can undercut the market.
About Mark Wood
Mark is based in North Staffordshire, UK and works as a general commercial photographer. Clients include interior designers, product designers, arts and health organisations, and newspapers. Location work includes reportage, architecture and landscapes. Studio work includes products and portraits.
Mark works on personal projects, as well as working as a commercial photographer. His portfolio covers several disciplines including photography, writing and educational workshops. Mark uses X-Rite professional solutions to manage color in his workflow.
Teaching is very important to Mark. He delivers one-to-one training, group workshops, and classes at authorized training centers covering a wide range of topics. Visit Mark’s Tuition page to learn more.