One of the big differences between photography and filmmaking is that with photography one tries to tell the story with just one picture (or sometimes a series of pictures). This picture has to tell the full story you want to convey. Of course, this needs some planning and thoughts in advance. What story do I want to tell, what settings do I need for that, what composition… But after that one picture you’re done and can focus on another picture. With filmmaking however, you need to have different shots that work together and tell a story together. This really needs some planning. You not only have to think about the same things as with photography, but you also need to consider different shots. Do you need close ups, wide angle shots, or maybe both? What different angles do you need? Most of the time it’s not really exciting to watch one shot for a minute or longer, so you need to break it up in different shots, with different angles or perspectives. If you watch a BBC-documentary you’ll have to search long before you find a shot that last more as 10 seconds! So you have to break it into different shorter shots. For me that’s often quite complicated, as my polar movies are often shot from a ship, so I can’t really move to the other side of the subject. I often forget to take a shot of the surrounding landscape. Like in the movie below, I focus on the bears, show their action. However, in the whole night I had the time to shoot the movie, I never thought of changing to a wide angle lens to get an overview of the scene. If you have the opportunity to plan a shoot in advance, it’s really nice to make a story board. Write down what scenes you need for the movie. What animals you need to have, what do you want to use as the opening shot, what as the closing shot. Thinking of all these things in advance allows you to use the time in the field as efficient as possible and make sure you don’t forget important shots that you’ll miss while editing the movie in the end.

Polar Bear family in Heleysundet

If you’re the more opportunistic type (or a special occasion just shows up, like in the movie below), you don’t have the possibility to make a storyboard. The story of the movie below just happened and I was happy enough to be able to record it. With more experience, I would now probably have thought to include some other shots, like the wide-angle shot of the surrounding scenery I mentioned above. Another thing that is easy to forget is to get a nice sound recording of the background sounds. Just some birds flying by screaming, the sound of the water, things like that. It sounds silly, but it does make a connection between the different shots in the movie.

All in all, making a good movie is a lot more difficult as making a good photo. More equipment is needed and especially more planning (or more things to think about). But if you manage to make one, it’s a really nice addition to still photography. Most of our cameras now have the possibility to shoot high quality HD-movies, why not use them? I hope these three posts can help you a little to make better movies. Any questions about movie making? Please write them in the comments, I might make another blog post out of them! But for now, this will be the last post on movies. How to make a time-lapse will be next…

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s