26 / 01 / 23

How to improve your videographer skills

The rise in online streaming services means videography has become a vital skill in marketing your business, and those with videographer experience are now in high demand. From social media platforms that offer video hosting, like Instagram and Facebook, to platforms such as YouTube and TikTok that let users build and develop their own online channels, it’s clear the future of marketing is film-based content.

Developing your videographer skills

Keen to get in on the lights, camera, action? If you want to create eye-catching (perhaps even viral!) videos that capture your audience’s attention and help spread the word about your business, the first step is developing your basic videographer skills.

But with all this technology at your fingertips, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are the main, best-practice videographer skills to ‘focus’ on while honing your technique. Step aside, Spielberg, there’s a new hot-shot in town!

Basic camera functions

Getting familiar with your camera's functions and developing an understanding of how they all work is the first step towards improving your skills as a videographer.


First stop: aperture.

The Aperture on a camera is basically a hole in the lens that allows light to travel through it. The aperture/f-stop function controls the amount of light that enters the camera through this hole. The lower the f-number (f-1, for example), the wider the aperture. This means more light is allowed to pass into the camera and onto the camera’s sensor. The higher the f-number (f-11, f-16, f-22) the smaller the aperture, allowing less light to reach the sensor. The f-stop range will depend on the make and model of camera you’re using.

Getting to grips with the aperture/ f-stop function on your camera will help you master depths of field. This is the amount of visual information your camera can capture in a single shot.

A small f-number will result in footage with a narrow depth of field. This means only subjects that are close to the camera’s lens will be in focus and the background will appear blurry. A videographer might use this technique for filming things like interviews, when they want to draw attention to the subject of the video while downplaying any distractions in the background.

A higher f-number allows you to film a wider depth of field. This setting is ideal for capturing sweeping vistas and open landscapes. If you have designs on shooting videos to rival Plant Earth, this is the setting for you!

Shutter speed

The shutter speed on your video camera determines how long the sensor is exposed for. Like the aperture, it controls how much light is allowed onto the camera’s sensor. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of second. Standard shutter speed on a video camera is usually 1/60 or one 60th of a second. A slower shutter speed (1/4) will allow more light into the camera while a faster shutter speed (1/250) will let less light in.

Changing the shutter speed on your video camera affects how light or dark your footage looks and the degree of motion blur captured. Choosing the right shutter speed for your subject and the conditions you’re shooting in is essential for capturing smooth, natural-looking footage that isn’t under or overexposed.
image shows cars travelling fast and illustrates motion blur
Shooting fast-paced action, like motor racing, requires a higher shutter speed to ensure the cars stay in focus and aren’t subject to too much motion blur. A setting of 1/500 or above is good for this; slower shutter speeds (1/100-1/500) are useful for more sedate activities, like shooting slow-moving people.
Remember: your choice of shutter speed should strike an ideal balance between how light/dark your footage is and the degree of natural motion blur captured. A good rule of thumb is: shutter speed = double your frame rate.
Image shows bell peppers being dropped into water and demonstrates capturing motion with correct shutter speed
As a side note, you can create some really cool videography effects by playing with shutter speed. While selecting the ‘right’ shutter speed for what you’re shooting will yield natural-looking results, deliberately using the ‘wrong’ shutter speed can produce surreal-looking footage. Slow-motion dream sequences, for example, are the result of the videographer using a much slower shutter speed than is required for the frame rate; using a faster shutter speed than required will create unnerving, jittery footage.

Auto focus vs manual focus

There are various pros and cons to using auto or manual focus on your video camera. Only by experimenting and experience will you find which one’s right for any given situation. As a general rule, autofocus excels in controlled environments, when shooting conditions remain constant and your subject is relatively still. Manual focus is useful when shooting outdoors, for example, and the videographer is capturing a subject or landscape that’s likely to move or change mid-shoot.

Auto focus pros:
• Allows you to set the focus in your chosen image.
• Saves a lot of time and work in nailing the shot, ensuring it’s precise and sharp.
• Allows you to use tracking on a subject, to track it through frame by frame.
• Works particularly well on portraits.
• Higher-spec cameras offer an auto eye focus that automatically detects and focuses on the subject’s eyes.

Auto focus cons:
• Can fail in certain situations when filming, rendering footage useless.
• Needs clear light to be able to function correctly (there are updated versions available on some cameras).
• Can lag behind when trying to track a subject.
• Selects its own focal point, which may not be the one you want.
Manual focus pros:
• Lets you determine the focal point of the shot.
• Allows for more reliable tracking.
• Ideal for capturing close-up shots of animals, for example.
Manual focus cons:
• Requires more work when finding the focal point of your shot.
• Slower performance when shooting action scenes.
• Requires greater precision when selecting your subject mid-shoot.

From videographer to auteur

Once you've got to grips with your camera equipment and are comfortable with all its different functions, you can start developing your videographer skills a little further...

As with any artistic composition, the rule of thirds applies to shooting video footage, too. If you’re unfamiliar with this rule, it’s basically a formula for making your subject(s) the star of the show while creating a visually appealing shot or image.

The rule of thirds works by dividing an image into nine equal parts using two vertical lines and two horizonal ones. The aim is to ensure your subject and any points of interest within the shot fall on these gridlines or their intersections.

Videography skills - an image of a bird sitting on a log illustrates the rule of thirds

The framing tool on your video camera helps you frame your shot by superimposing a rule of thirds grid over the image in your viewfinder. A videographer can then use this grid to line up their subject and any points of interest, ensuring the shot complies with the magical rule of thirds. Artists have used this technique for centuries to create drama, tension, and intrigue in their work, so believe me when I say it’s worth spending time practising your framing technique!

Picture profile

Designed to help you tweak your visuals, the picture profile tool is a way of altering the parameters of an image while shooting it, instead of making the adjustments in post-production. This can be used to create certain effects or a specific style of image while the videographer is still shooting.

Each picture profile comprises a set of predetermined configurations, and when applied, has a similar affect to applying a filter to an image.

Parameters include those for altering contrast and tone, adjusting gradation (light and dark), colour, and emphasising image edges.

Picture profiles can be used to highlight certain textures of a shot, bring out specific colour palates, or evoke a particular mood.

So, have a play and get creative! Who knows where your newfound camera skills will take you and your business…

For further help with video marketing, filming and editing, get in touch with Formation Media's professional videography team.

Written by Formation Formation