The ocean holds its own magic.
It’s incredible how most people feel good when they’re by or in the ocean. The smiles, the playfulness, the natural and organic interactions I strive to capture – they all come naturally in the water.
I want my clients to feel those things during their sessions, and to leave with a smile on their face, and so I began routinely incorporating the ocean into my client work.
Shooting stills at the beach and in the ocean produces amazing results, but a few years ago I decided I was going to learn video and start incorporating it into my business. I was already doing birth films but the pace of birth is very different than that of a family playing by the ocean.
I started filming my clients without telling them I was doing so, as a way to practice my skills.
Whenever I caught some good footage, I’d edit it into a short film and gift the family. If I didn’t get clips I loved, I could just scrap the whole thing and no one would have any expectations on the receiving end.
Here are a few tips I’ve collected through the years on how to shoot both photos and video at the same beach session.
Become familiar with your camera’s video settings.
Know where your video button is and start pushing it to become familiar with the placement. Know the number of seconds it takes to make the switch and start recording, and keep practicing so you can make the switch as quickly as possible..
Having to switch from placing your eye on the viewfinder for stills to looking at the LCD screen for video is also a big change so try to get comfortable with that perspective shift. You want the transition from photo to video to be seamless and quick.
Practice on your kids or clients first.
Start small by taking short clips here and there of moments that you feel are strong as a stand alone scene.
Even if you don’t make a full film out of your clips, social media outlets like Instagram are pretty powerful in terms of letting us post single clips that will move the viewer. I love posting single clips or 2-3 clips together to make a super short film, because let’s be real – most people won’t watch a film as long as one minute on Instagram.
Film it like you shoot it.
When taking photos, I love capturing wide environmental shots as well as tight, intimate shots and I try to do the same with my video clips. I use my Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L lens for my most intimate photographs. I’ll also use it if I want that gorgeous bokeh in the background.
After grabbing the still images I want, I quickly switch to video and film the moment in the same way I photographed it. Your clips don’t need to be more than a few seconds long. I typically count in my head from 0-5 or 0-8 if there’s not much movement going on.
For wider shots, I typically shoot with either my Canon EF 14mm f/2.8 or my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8. When I switch to video with a wide lens I try to stay as still as possible because of the distortion on the edges of the frame and just film the moment that is happening.
To make your video clips more dynamic, you can move while you film. You’ll want to take some time to practice movement while holding the camera. Look into renting a monopod or even use a camera strap that you can hold tight to stabilize your movement. I handhold my camera since I don’t like having extra things on me while I’m shooting, but explore your options and find out what works for you!
You can also incorporate your subject’s movement which comes more naturally. Film a child splashing water, dad tossing kids into the air, the wind blowing on mom’s hair, or even the moment they jump into the water.
Don’t be scared to ask your clients to do it again!
I learned fairly quickly that if something happened spontaneously while I was shooting stills and I knew that the same moment would look great in a video clip, I could ask my clients to do it again. This can feel a lot like intruding in their moment for those of us who prefer a more lifestyle or documentary approach but I knew my clients would treasure the moment in their video if they hired me to create a video.
I will often ask parents to lean in and kiss their children, snuggle, or toss and twirl them so I can film. And I’ll always ask kids to splash water at me! Like I mentioned above, I rarely film a clip longer than 5-8 seconds so the moment starts and ends pretty fast and often, very naturally.
Start getting technical.
Learn the frame rates available on your camera model and what formats of film you prefer. Like shooting stills, you’ll have to explore to find your own style of shooting video.
If I know I’ll want to slow down a clip in post production, I’ll switch my frame rate to 60 fps to allow for smooth slo-mo movement. Otherwise, I just stay at 24 or 30 fps.
Remember there’s no Photoshopping things out of video.
Unless you’re a Hollywood pro, you probably won’t be able to remove unwanted things like people or skin blemishes from your clips. This was one of the biggest learning curves for me.
Learn to shoot in a way that will favor your clients and your environment so that you’re not discarding great clips later because of those unwanted elements.
Incorporating the ocean (or any kind of body of water) into your work can be very scary at first. After all, water and expensive electronics don’t go well together! Get comfortable taking your gear to the beach and shooting by the shore first.
If you feel like you need to invest in a housing system, there are pretty affordable options out there if you just want to go knee deep in water but are scared to have your camera exposed.
Words & photos by Sophia Costa, member of the Click Canon 12