When shooting a video, you don’t always know how it will be edited, especially when shooting a documentary. Sometimes, the action happens only once, and you don’t have too much time to think. And when you need to cover an action or a scene, it can happen that your mind can simply go blank. Does it sound familiar? Sareesh Sudhakaran from Wolfcrow shares ten go-to shots he can always rely on when his mind goes blank while shooting. These won’t only help you get the shots you need, but also help you get focused and get back on track.
The first five techniques rely on the BBC’s 5-Shot Rule, originally suggested by Michael Rosenblum. It’s based on the rule that you need to get at least five different shots. For example, if your subject is doing something, like threading, you can get these five shots:
- Mid-shot or a long shot of the entire body and action, so it can be seen clearly.
- Move to a close-up of the face. To do this, you don’t even need to change your position much. Try capturing moments of concentration, reflection or emotion.
- Move in to capture the close-up of the hands. How close you’ll get depends on the type of the action, but you will automatically have multiple choices here. For example, if someone’s playing an instrument, there are several close-ups available.
- Get an over-the-shoulder shot. It may not be possible every time, but try to get it from behind or at an angle, to show the subject’s point of view. This requires you to move and get more involved which helps you with the next shot:
- Try getting a completely different angle. By this time you’ve warmed up and got involved, and you’ll get some ideas how to get some creative shots.
If you have more time to shoot, move to the next five techniques:
- Shoot inserts – look for the important details (clothes, location, the objects… whatever catches your eye)
- Get some environmental shots. Subjects and even events are rarely isolated from their environment, so why not capture that environment, too? Ask your subject to go into it, out of it, or interact with it in a natural way. Sareesh points out that he usually gets these shots after the main coverage and/or the interviews are over.
- When your mind “freezes,” you tend to shoot everything at the eye level or from your tripod. Remind yourself that you can change perspective, get to the ground and make some low-angle shots.
- Recent additions to the technique are timelapse and drone shots (or both). Sareesh reminds you that you don’t need to get the perfect shots. For timelapses, he just aims to shoot the cloud movement, the traffic, sunrise or sunset. He sets up the camera and lets it run until he’s bored.
- The last point is not really a shooting technique, but more of a habit you need to create. It’s the “Five-second rule:” let the camera run at least five seconds before the action and five seconds after you’re done with the shot. 10 seconds is even better, but as Sareesh says, in real-time, that time seems like an eternity. Anyway, this technique helps with pacing in editing, and if you need handles for cross-dissolve or fade.
Of course, when shooting, you should be as creative as possible. But as you know, time or circumstances won’t always be on your side. So, if it happens that your mind goes blank while shooting, remember these techniques, take a deep breath, and shoot away.