Techniques of Professional Shooters

Plan Your Work. Work Your Plan.

Think about the subject of your story and how you will get the shots you need to tell the story. You don’t have to shoot it in the order it occurs so focus on those shots that may only be available for a short time. Get them “in the can” before they become unavailable. Prepare your equipment in advance. Charge batteries, check memory cards or tape. Clean and test your gear early. Do you need to bring photo releases? Do you have a gear checklist? What is the proper attire for this shoot?

The Three C’s: Composition, Coverage and Continuity.


Thoughtfully composed shots can make your footage stand out from the crowd.

Rule Of Thirds

Use the Rule of Thirds. Divide the frame into three vertical sections and three horizontal sections. The most important element of your shot should be at one of the intersections. If the shot still needs help, try adjusting it so you are shooting more up or down. This can give the shot a more dramatic effect. What is the focus of the shot? Where will the viewer look? Use the rule of thirds to direct the viewer.


Always think of the editor. Give your editor a wide variety of shots including a wide shot to set the stage, a medium shot to provide context, and a close-up for the details and emotion. Always give the editor cutaway shots and insert shots. Without these, editing become difficult and restricted.


Editors strive to make one scene flow easily into the next. To do that, it helps to match the details of one shot with the next. When the details don’t match, the viewer can lose his way. Consider a woman smoking a cigarette in one shot, and in the next shot that cigarette is half the length. This is a continuity error, although a small one. (excerpted from The Art of Film and Video Editing Part 2)

Pay attention to details of props, people, clothing, light and everything else that in your frame. Make sure these details match subsequent shots in order to keep the audience believing.

Use a Tripod or Monopod On Every Shot.

The results speak for themselves and make you and your work more professional.

Don’t Zoom During A Shot.

Save zooms for adjusting the focal length when you are not shooting. Zooming calls attention to itself. Your job is to bring the attention to the subject and story.

Avoid Shots That Are Too Short

Every shot should be at least 5 seconds long. Don’t move or talk during the shot.

Beware of Auto

While auto may be right for some situations, the best results are from manually setting focus, iris, shutter, white balance and audio levels.

Choose The Light

All light, whether from your own lights or available light, modify the look, mood and feeling of a subject. If you’re working with available light, you can modify it by moving the camera, moving the subject, blocking or modifying the light. A simple reflector can make a big difference. Shoot in the day’s first and last light for beautiful results.

Audio Is Just As Important as Video

When you want good audio, you will need to use a separate mic placed as close to the person speaking as possible. Wear headphones when you shoot so you will know when there’s an audio problem. Discovering audio problems in the editing room is too late.


The more you work on these basic strategies, the better you become at it. There are no shortcuts for practice. So shoot a lot and edit what you shoot.

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