Basics to Capturing Media

Most modern Marketing requires a fluent understanding of multimedia. That includes being at least modestly savvy with photo, video, and audio formats. I hope to compile a crash course of concepts so if you ever have the opportunity to create a piece of media, you at least have a grip on the fundamentals. I’ve taken years of experience and dozens of hours of my own research on YouTube along with blog and magazine articles to come to my level of understanding. I’ve always wanted there to be a concise collection of information that would speed up the learning process. So I’m going to attempt to do that with this 10x guide post. 

In this article, I will be going over photography, video, and audio. The photography will be understanding how to create a good image and acquire a desired effect. This will take up the bulk of the guide because it applies heavily into the video section as well. In the video I’ll go over simple techniques that highlight what’s important in creating a video. And with audio, talk about how to capture clear audio and when to implement it.

 

Photography – Understanding and using Manual settings

It is such a waste when people have expensive cameras and only use the auto mode. Auto setting on your camera can take some great pictures but it’s only tapping into a small fraction of its potential. 

Benefits 

  • Control of Light 
    • Whether it’s really bright or dark you can still get results
  • Control of Focus
    • Do you want the whole image to be sharp like a landscape or action shot? Or do you want to have sharp eyes and a blurry background for a portrait?

Manual Components and Explanations 

  • Aperture
    • The size of the “eye” of the lens that controls how much light hits the camera sensor
    • The numbering is counter intuitive, f/1.8 is wide open and f/22 is tiny
    • Wide Aperture – 
      • Lets in a ton of light
      • Creates a shallow “depth of field”
        • One point of the image is sharp and the rest is blurry 
        • Bokeh – is the level of blurriness 
    • Pros
      • Helps capture in low light
      • Dramatic close ups
      • Great when you want to focus on a specific subject
      • You can lower your ISO
      • You can Speed up your shutter speed
    • Cons
      • Over exposing pictures making them too bright
      • Shallow depth of field can cause you to miss the subject 
  • Shutter speed
    • Controls how fast the shutter remains open allowing light to enter the senor
    • Faster the shutter the darker the image
      • Example: 1/60 is the open for 1/60 of a second
    • Usually ranges from 20 seconds to 1/2000 of a second
    • Fast shutter – allows less light to enter which makes a darker image
      • Freezes the image
      • If your hands are shaky, the image will still be crisp
      • Great for bright, action scenes
    • Slow shutter – allow more light to enter making images brighter
      • Great for low light photos
      • Movement becomes smudged
      • Use a tripod
    • Use this in tandem with Aperture
  • ISO – digitally increasing the exposure of an image
    • Ranges from 100 to 2000
    • Usually you want to keep this as low as possible at 100
    • The higher the ISO the grainier the image will be
    • Pros
      • Compensates when High shutter speed and High Aperture make images darker
      • If you’re shooting action shots in low light, this is when ISO will come in handy
      • Example: Concerts, parties
    • Cons
      • Most cameras get pretty grainy above 1000 ISO

Putting it all together – How Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO work together

Each of these settings you can control independently and each of them feed into the other one to balance a good image. I will give some scenarios on which combinations you should use. But for the most part you want to keep ISO as low as possible which makes things easy. And these numbers are just ballpark estimates and not exact. You’ll have to assess each scene and make small adjustments to get the light just right. As you will soon find out, it becomes a little complicated but I guarantee the results will be better than if you use auto mode.

Group of People Outside

  • Aperture f/3.5
  • Shutter Speed 1/800
  • ISO 100

Explanation: If it is outdoors, it is most likely a very bright scene. So you don’t want your shutter speed or aperture too low because your image will become too bright.  Aperture of 3.5 opens up and allows for a little bit of bokeh in the background but still gets all the faces of the subjects sharp. If it was any lower some faces might be out of focus and only one face would be sharp. You want the people’s faces to be the main attention of the image. The fast shutter speed of 1/800 compensates for the brightness brought in by the low aperture by making it darker. Not only does it make the image darker, but also is fast enough to freeze any motion from the  individual people if they can’t hold still. 

One Person

  • Aperture f/1.8
  • Shutter Speed 1/1200
  • ISO 100

Explanation: As the only focus of the image, you want the lowest aperture in order to produce the sharpest focus on the eyes. Because a picture is so low you’ll have to darken the image somehow. The higher shutter speed prevents the picture from becoming too bright.

Stars

  • Aperture f/12
  • Shutter Speed 10”
  • ISO 100

Explanation: Stars are very dim and very far away. The aperture of 12 allows us to make sure everything is in focus. On the downside the image will be darker, so we have to brighten the image some other way. By slowing down the shutter speed to 10 seconds, the shuttle will be open for 10 seconds letting light hit the sensor for the whole time. You could also increase the ISO but with a black sky, the graininess of the digital enhancement will be more apparent. 

Football Player

  • Aperture f/8
  • Shutter Speed 1/2000
  • ISO 400

Explanation: In order to capture a fast-moving athlete, you have to move your camera around quickly. That means it’ll be difficult to lock in the focus while tracking the subject. The aperture I used of 8 will increase the chances of the subject being in focus while still absorbing as much light as possible. If it were at 10, the image might be too dark to work with and if it was too low like 3 it would be hard to keep the subject in focus while they were running around. The high shutter speed of 1/2000 will make the image darker but it will properly freeze the athlete in motion. Assuming this image is outdoors in bright sunlight, it would be acceptable to increase your ISO slightly to compensate for the darkness provided by the high aperture and high shutter speed. 

Lenses – Focal Lengths range from 8 mm to 500 mm

  • Image compression
    • The longer the focal length the closer the background will appear 
  • Distortion 
    • Anything smaller than 35 mm is not flattering for portraits
  • 8-10 mm – fisheye lense
    • Extremely wide angle 
    • Good for landscape to capture vastness
    • Good for capturing a wider field of view in smaller spaces
    • POV and immersion 
    • Cons
      • Bad for flattering people due to high distortion 
      • Background becomes smaller or stretched along the edges
  • 15-20 mm
    • Wide enough for landscapes and documentary styles without too much distortion
  • 35 mm
    • You can still be close to the subject and get a flattering image
  • 55 mm >
    • This is where compression becomes a factor
      • Your subject can fill the same amount of the frame while the background appears larger or closer

    • Increase the depth of field
      • Example: If you had an aperture of f/2.8 and focal length of 300mm the background would be super blurry

Editing and Basic Color correction

First ask yourself: does the color to be improved or are you adjusting just because you can? A lot of times I see beginner photographers over edit their pictures. Just because you can boost the saturation and contrast doesn’t mean you should. What I’m going to describe is very basic and only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of color corrections are subjective but there still are some guidelines if you simply want to get by. The goal is to have the image look natural but enhanced. 

  • Add depth
    • Blacken black so they’re crispy and sharp
    • Contrast
  • Detail – 
    • Expose for highlights
      • Too bright and you can’t recover detail
    • Raise Shadows to show hidden detail
  • Color
    • Make the whites match natural white
    • Match warmth with mood
    • Lean toward teal for shadow
    • Lean toward towards orange or yellow for skin

Video

When getting a good image on video shares a lot of similarities as photography. A key difference is frame rate. If you want a natural frame rate 30 fps is the standard play back for most movies. The only reason you would want to record at 60 fps or more is for slow motion editing or fast pace recording like sports. If you’re just starting off, have your camera set to 30 fps. 

Now video is much more dynamic than just photography. That means the lighting situation could possibly be always changing. To keep up with these changing settings there are automated features on your camera that will assist. 

Controlling the image

  • Stationary Subject
    • Fixed ISO
    • Fixed focus
    • If ISO and focus are set to automatic, they can have a tendency to flux and change with the slightest movement. If your subject is stationary, set the focus on them and keep the ISO text as well to prevent the image I’m trying to correct for nothing. 
    • In a marketing situation, you usually have full control over the environment. So you should be able to have the focus dialed in exactly where your subjects should be and be able to predict where they will be next and have the focus set to them manually. 
  • Moving Subject
    • Keep the aperture open (example: f/7) so that the focus tracking in the camera does not have to work as hard 
    • Automatic ISO –  this should help when the moving subject switches from bright light to shadows 
  • Mount the Camera
    • Shaky hands are very distracting to a video
    • As a beginner, using a simply tripod will help with 90% of your production

Editing

  • One simple tip is to keep scenes short
    • People absorb more information and detail than you would realize
    • You don’t want to bore the person watching
    • In the era of instant gratification, people want you to get to the point

Audio

People don’t notice when audio is good, they only notice it when it’s bad. So it’s really important to have good audio to help with immersion and reduce distractions. So spend at least $30 on an external microphone if you want to substantially increase the quality of your videos. 

  • Types of microphones 
    • Lapel – clips onto your collar, great for recording on the go, isolates the voice and greatly reduces ambient sounds
      • Noises like traffic, crunching gravel
    • Shotgun – focuses sound from one direction so noise behind and to the side of you are not recorded
    • USB – plugs into your computer and a million times better than using the built in microphones
    • Handheld Recorder – very versatile and portable, great for interviews and travel 
  • Remove background noise 
    • Windscreen flash or pop filter 
      • Pop filter reduces the harsh thumping sound when you use a hard “P” sound
    • Turn off AC or fans – reducing any outside noise while recording makes it easier to edit later
    • Minimize Echo – if you can record in a closet with clothes or under a blanket to reduce echo
  • Editing
    • Cut out “umm” and other weird mouth noises you made while recording
    • Basic video editing software has filters that remove humming and buzzing. 
  • Recording
    • When recording in a controlled environment, I get the best results when I turn off all humming sounds coming from my apartment. I also have a blanket over myself and the microphone to remove any echo. 
    • Syncing with video – Clapping your hands before recording creates a visual spike in the frequency data, so you can visually see where the recording started with accuracy

 

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