Should you add video to your stills photography skillset?

Photojournalists Magnus Wennman and Ilvy Njiokiktjien discuss how they got started in video and why the medium is so valuable for photographers today.
Three young Afghan boys deep in discussion sit on a wall in front of a large body of water. One of the boys is holding a bright pink sandal.

Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman took this image while travelling in Afghanistan. He no longer sees himself as purely a newspaper photographer and his work now includes video and sound. "The internet has made the possibilities of telling stories infinite," he says. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 59mm, 1/3200 sec, f/2 and ISO125. © Magnus Wennman

Do you really need to add video to your professional stills photography business? Many photographers have asked themselves if diversifying to include a video offering is necessary to remain relevant, or if it makes more sense to specialise in the one area of stills photography they are passionate about.

We asked photojournalists and Canon Ambassadors Magnus Wennman and Ilvy Njiokiktjien to give us their views on how important video shooting skills have become for professional photographers.

Photojournalist Magnus Wennman now has more followers on Instagram than the first newspaper he worked on had readers, which indicates how much the media landscape has changed in the past few decades. He was quick to spot the shift in demand, realising early on the benefits that sound and video could bring to his storytelling.

"Before it was possible to shoot video on a stills camera, I started creating slideshows to tell news stories, with recorded dialogue and backing music," he explains. "The response was fantastic. Being able to do that by myself was a real eye-opener – a wow moment. That laid the foundation for how I work with video today.

A black-and-white headshot of Magnus Wennman wearing a baseball cap.

Magnus Wennman

Magnus is a staff photographer on Sweden's largest newspaper, Aftonbladet. Alongside his award-winning photojournalism, he is now gaining a reputation as a filmmaker, and his short film Fatima's Drawings (below) won the award for the Best Digital News Story at Visa pour l'Image in 2016.

"I feel my work is all about finding the best possible way to tell a story. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II [now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV] changed everything. For the first time I could shoot stills and video with one camera. The transition to video came very naturally to me. Suddenly I could create content that I simply couldn't make with still images alone. And it was fun to learn something new. As photographers, we often don't have people to teach us, so it comes down to experimenting – to trial and error. We learn through our mistakes, but that's no bad thing. It was an inspiring and exciting time."

Alongside his work for Aftonbladet, Magnus has also covered stories for worldwide media such as National Geographic, TIME Magazine and international newspapers. "To work for companies like these nowadays, as a photographer, it's absolutely necessary to learn to shoot video – otherwise you'll never get a job," he says. "It's just become a natural part of being a photographer. Today, everything is online, and we need to produce video to compete with other media. It doesn't have to be complicated. As long as you remain curious and want to learn, I don't think it's a problem. I see it as a positive thing, that there are so many more options for telling a story nowadays. The important thing is to always think about what format works best to tell the story. Some stories don't really work with video, others don't work with stills."

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Magnus now shoots with a Canon EOS R5 which, along with the EOS R6, is as well-suited for shooting video as it is for taking stills. The Canon EOS R System is designed with hybrid shooters in mind, from the impressive array of RF lenses to the advanced autofocus and image stabilisation systems for video as well as stills.

"Something I find hugely important when I'm shooting video is that I can decide exactly how I want to tell a story," says Magnus. "The EOS R5 is a fantastic camera. It's been a revelation to me. It's the only camera I use right now, both for stills and video. The quality is so good that you don't even need to think twice. The camera's versatility is amazing. I like to carry as little gear as possible because I find that carrying too much stuff can be really limiting when I'm chasing a story. I usually just take the Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM and RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lenses, and that covers everything."

Ilvy Njiokiktjien: photojournalist and storyteller

Ilvy Njiokiktjien was already a highly successful stills photojournalist when she made her first video. "I was shooting stills with a colleague at an extreme right-wing camp, for a long-term project called Afrikaner Blood. The leader of the camp was saying some absolutely horrible things, and I realised that if we didn't capture what he was saying on video, nobody would believe it," she explains. "We asked him if we could interview him, and he was fine with that, but we didn't tell him we didn't know how to work the camera for shooting video. We literally printed out the camera manual from the internet, looked up a few 'how to' tutorials online and just took it from there. We must have looked like such amateurs to the people at the camp, and we ended up with so much footage we could have drowned in it. But we edited it all together and ended up winning first prize at the World Press Photo Multimedia Contest.

Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien with her Canon camera.

Ilvy Njiokiktjien

A prize-winning Dutch documentary photographer, Ilvy has worked all over the world, shooting stills and videos for The New York Times, TIME Magazine, Newsweek, National Geographic and The Guardian. She also works with NGOs, including UNICEF. Ilvy bought her first camera in 2002 and won her first photographic award just four years later.

"Sometimes it can feel embarrassing when you don't know what you're doing, but I'm a firm believer in putting the story first and doing whatever it takes to tell that story. Learning something new is always cool anyway. Sometimes it even helps to come to something new without any preconceptions and to just do what comes naturally. It's interesting how much and how quickly we learn as we go along.

An Afrikaan teenage boy with a bloodied face stands dejectedly, one hand pressed to his head, in a field of long grass.

A passion for people and the opportunity to tell interesting stories led Ilvy to photograph the extreme right-wing Kommandokorps organisation in South Africa for her award-winning project Afrikaner Blood. Despite not sharing their beliefs, she was determined to portray the people in a fair way and still considers it the hardest story she's ever told. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) at 40mm, 1/4000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO800. © Ilvy Njiokiktjien

Hear more essential insights from photo industry pros in this episode of Canon's Shutter Stories podcast:

"Many photographers are shooting video anyway because that's how the world works nowadays," Ilvy continues. "Coming to it from being a photographer already, I felt the steps from stills to video, and then from video to storytelling, were big, but not that big. There's a lot to learn but, as photographers, we're already used to thinking visually, and that's a big help.

"But that's not to diminish the importance of sound. I feel there's a lot to win with good audio, but even more to lose with bad audio. If you have beautiful visuals in a video, people won't stick around to see them if they've been turned off by the sound quality."

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II being attached to a drone.

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Perseverance is key, as far as Ilvy is concerned. "I think that if a story is important to you, then you should just run with it. Editors might tell you it's a boring story, or that they don't have the budget to publish it, and often won't even get back to you at all. But if you feel in your heart that a story needs to be told, stick at it. For my Afrikaner Blood project, I got told 'no' so many times, but if you believe in something, you have to keep going. Never give up."

Like Magnus, Ilvy now shoots with a Canon EOS R5. "This camera has literally changed my day-to-day job as a photographer. Thanks to the EOS R5, I've truly become a better storyteller. It makes everything so easy, intuitive and instant. I can react much more quickly, and because the R5 focuses so crazy fast, I can put my time and energy into really connecting with people, instead of being busy with and distracted by the need to adjust camera settings. It's the most amazing extension of all the great lenses and other gear that I've already been working with."

Matthew Richards

A multimedia photojournalist's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their stills and video

Canon Ambassador Ilvy Njiokiktjien's kitbag containing Canon cameras, lenses and accessories.


Canon EOS R5

This mirrorless camera's uncompromising performance will revolutionise your photography and filmmaking. "The Canon EOS R5 has made my life so much easier, it's a fantastic camera," says Magnus.


Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM

Give your full-frame mirrorless photography an edge with a 24-70mm zoom built to exceed expectations. Superb optical engineering, a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and 5-stop image stabilisation helps you stay creative in all conditions.

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