As video continues to rise in popularity, photographers are increasingly being asked to deliver video footage alongside their stills. It can seem daunting – how much new kit will you need? What new skills will you have to learn? But professional fashion photographer and Canon Ambassador Javier Cortés, who has made the move, says it's easier than you might think.
"I used to think you needed a lot of things to start making videos," he says. "After all these years, I understand that all you need is a camera and ideas.
"There are three things I've learnt that I wish I'd known when I was starting out," he adds. "The first is: never stop learning. Whether it's lighting, storytelling or using a gimbal, if you press on with this outlook, you will develop a lot of skills.
"The second thing is to focus on the essentials. The third is to trust in yourself. These things are my base for work, and for life."
Javier's first foray into photography came as a young child playing with his father's analogue camera, and he later started developing black and white images himself. He began photography seriously when he was 17, moving into commercial work as well as personal editorial projects, and has built a career covering high fashion for leading brands and magazines. Over the past few years, he has shot video on almost every project.
"On social media, people now spend more time looking at video than at stills photography" he says. "Almost every brand in the world now is looking for video. The photo was a revolution, but now the revolution is video. It's a new way to learn something amazing."
To show how you can learn videography skills, here Javier busts five common myths about moving from photography to filmmaking. He shares his advice to help you to upskill without fear.
While for some projects Javier uses Cinema EOS cameras, such as the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, he emphasises that you can begin shooting video with the same DSLR you use for stills. "You can get professional-quality video with a DSLR," he points out. "I shoot with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which is great for both videos and stills."
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV supports 4K video recording at up to 30 frames per second (fps), along with Full HD filming at 60fps. It also offers high frame rates of up to 120fps in HD to capture even the fastest subjects, or for creative effects. "You can be creative with your frame rates," says Javier, who shoots primarily at 50fps in Full HD, giving the option of slow-motion playback, alternating with 25fps in 4K.
Modern DSLRs include features to make the transition to video easier, such as in-built autofocus. "When you're starting out making videos, you have lots of things to think about," says Javier. "Using autofocus, you have one less thing to think about. It follows the subject's movement and works really well."
With Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV enables smooth and precise pull focus transitions in any resolution from 4K to Full HD. You only need to tap the points you want to transition the focus to and from on the LCD touchscreen, and the camera does the rest.
"I use the same lenses to make stills and video," says Javier. He favours primes over zooms and very wide-angle lenses. "The lenses I use most are the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, and Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM. These L-series primes are so versatile and you can work with them with an open aperture, letting in lots of light.
"For me, the lenses are always the most important things in both photo and video. A good lens changes everything.
"If I were to recommend a lens to invest in, it would be the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. For me, it's 'the one'. It's like a normal view of the world, but more beautiful. The angle and the lines are perfect. With a 50mm lens you represent people how they are – you're not changing them, or making them bigger or smaller. If you use the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, it will be on-point and sharp in an instant.
"I use different lenses for different videos, though," Javier adds. "You notice the characteristics of each lens, or the colours."
As your filmmaking evolves, you can choose lenses according to your own needs and personal preferences. The advantage is that your investment grows with you because you can use the entire range of Canon EF-mount primes, EF zooms and wide-angle lenses with any EF-mount Canon Cinema EOS camera, DSLR camera, or an EOS R System camera (using a Mount Adapter EF-EOS R). You can even use EF-mount Canon Cine lenses, specially designed for video, with your DSLR. Canon DSLRs are frequently used as B-cameras on professional productions, due to the compatibility of footage with the output of the Canon Cinema EOS line.
"One of the biggest problems I had at the beginning was thinking that I needed to learn a lot of video techniques, or learn how to use a gimbal, before I started," admits Javier. He found, however, that he could learn many videography skills by doing them.
"You don't need a lot of things to tell a story, and you just have to start by doing something. To start shooting video, all you need is a camera, something in front of it, and a light – and the cheapest and most beautiful light in the world is natural light.
"You should keep it simple at the beginning," Javier advises. "Don't forget to focus on what you want to show." There are new considerations to get your head around, such as picking a colour profile and colour grading, but Javier recommends learning these things as you go.
"There is a safe, traditional way to expose that teachers will tell you to do. But maybe you have a personal taste in lighting and colour gradient, so don't follow the rules. I usually underexpose almost all my shots, because I don't like highlights. Follow your personal taste and you will find your colour, your light. It doesn't matter if it's a cinema camera or a DSLR – if you expose well, you will find the perfect image.
"Picking a colour profile is a personal taste. I often use Canon Log," which can be added as an upgrade to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, "because it's a great tool that helps you a lot with colour grading. It increases the dynamic range a lot and is designed for easy colour grading. I recommend starting to try basic grading and you will evolve while you are shooting. With each video you can try something new; maybe adding some layers, trying some colours on the highlights or different filters or grains."
"Some years ago, people used to think there were photographers and there were filmmakers," says Javier. "But now, I think we should start thinking about a new job: filmmaker-photographer. Brands are looking for that. Sometimes clients tell you that you can't do both at once, and it can be crazy to be directing the models for video and also shooting pictures on your camera. But now people respect the fact that photographers can do video well.
"For me, video and photography are close, and can live together. I combine them in each shoot. It's easy to do it."
Working across both mediums can also open up creative possibilities on projects. "If you do both, you will have the freedom to develop the idea without compromise," says Javier. "You can tell a lot of stories in a photo. But sometimes, you want to develop a whole concept that needs sequence, editing, sound and lighting. Sometimes I've been in a box with photography. With video, you can tell a story from beginning to end."
On the other hand, Javier points out that working collaboratively when shooting video can also have benefits. "Photographers are used to working alone – they are often also the retoucher, they do lighting and maybe just have an assistant to move equipment. In video you can start working alone, but you can also have a team. If you have a friend who can help with lighting, or maybe focus pulling, you can improve things. I find my perfect team for each piece of work, and that's how I find my style."
"In photography, sometimes you have one money shot. In video, you can also have one money shot, but you have to continue telling something. And sequence is your friend to tell it," Javier explains.
"One teacher told me, 'You are responsible for every frame you take.' So, it's like you are a photographer with each frame. But sometimes photographers do videos just like a picture, with no narrative or connection between the shots. When you shoot video, you have to think in terms of narrative – something more than just simple shots. You have to guide the viewers through different scenes to tell the whole story."
There are many similarities between stills storytelling and the moving picture. You still need to have hero shots, plus additional shots to move the story along.
"I always have a shot list that helps me to tell a story and continue the narrative, as well as having some time for improvising. It's important to have a master shot, with which you can tell the whole story. After that, you should cover some other angles."
The aesthetics of stills move with you to video, and just take on additional elements. "It's more about how you move the camera, and whether the light is good for every shot you want to do. It's so similar to stills, but at the same time has to work in different angles. You have to think about frame rate, about whether you want to see it in slow motion or normal speed, and about how people move, not just one pose. You can also start thinking about beautiful movements from one shot to another."
Find out more about Canon filmmaking kit, and how it can help you to shoot video, by visiting the Canon stand at IBC 2019.