A conversation with a colleague recently made me think about this topic. Over the years I’ve met many photographers who will say to me during the course of a conversation, “I really need to learn video…”. When I dig deeper, more often than not I find out that it’s because their clients are asking if they can provide that service along with their photography.
And I think that is the crux of the problem for most of them. They approach it with a “I have to learn this” mentality, instead of it being something they are really internally excited and curious about – in other words, “I NEED to learn this”.
The photographers I have come across who have made it to the stage of buying equipment and shooting a few videos give up after a short time (1-2 years). Maybe it’s because they’re not great immediately and it’s not up to par with their level of photography, or maybe it’s realizing that it’ll take years and years of continual learning and practice to build skills. Whatever it is, something stops them.
Don’t get me wrong – there are definitely exceptions of people who do end up loving it, practice hours and hours and hours and get really good and who can call themselves legit photographers AND film directors. I’m not dismissing that. But from my anecdotal experience, those are not how most people I’ve known turn out.
If you’re a photographer who feels like you need to catch up and learn video for a business need more than to satisfy some internal need to create, you may want to do some soul searching on the topic.
The way I learned to be a cinematographer was through sheer practice and curiosity. What kept me going was wondering about the mystical ability of a camera to interpret real life and record it into a nice image. It still astonishes me today how a camera interprets life. At some points of my life recording a moving image was most of what I thought about, even when I wasn’t doing it full time.
For the first couple of years I started, I took a little dslr with me everywhere. Outings, vacations, holidays, heck – even to lunch with coworkers. I had my camera with me wherever I could take it. I would film as much as I could. Most of it wasn’t notable, but it was so fun. I would then take the footage home and edit it, splice it up to try to make it interesting, and so on. I would post it on YouTube and Vimeo, not even caring what the views would be. I just wanted to share my interest with others. Then people started seeing my work and I got hired for small jobs. Small jobs became slightly bigger jobs, and after a few years I started working on large campaigns for well known companies.
If I have anything to say to people coming from photography who ‘have to learn video’, it’s to ask yourself why you love photography. Some part of you is doing it for more than money, I would guess. Some internal driver that makes you just get up and shoot photos, even if you’re not being paid for it. Can you say the same for the moving image?
My advice would be – set the bar low, film stuff that might seem inconsequential, and just have fun. Repeat. Then repeat some more. Learn from each thing you shoot. Then at some point you may be able to translate those skills to client work.