Here are five bad filmmaking habits you definitely want to avoid

Feb 12, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Here are five bad filmmaking habits you definitely want to avoid

Feb 12, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Whenever you’re learning something, or even when doing it every day as your profession, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s just a fact of life. What’s important is how we deal with those mistakes and what we learn from them.

Jordy over at Cinecom has almost certainly made his fair share of mistakes over the years and in this video, he’s going to help you benefit from them. Here he shares five of the biggest mistakes he’s made so that you don’t have to.

1. Don’t ignore camera height

One of the biggest mistakes that a lot of filmmakers make is not using an appropriate camera height. I know I’ve certainly done this. If we’re filming an interview or a spoken piece to camera, instead of having the camera around the subject’s eye level, we have it at our own eye level so that we can watch easily from behind the camera.

If your subject is seated or significantly taller or shorter than you, that’s not going to produce a great look. This doesn’t mean you can’t go higher or lower than your subject, but if you’re going to do it, do it enough that it looks like it was done on purpose and wasn’t a mistake.

2. Don’t ignore the background

This is one that location portrait shooters will know well, but many newer filmmakers won’t even think about it. Keep an eye on your backgrounds. Again, if you’re filming a person, make sure there’s nothing sticking through their heads or growing out the top of it.

Brightness, colour and contrast is also something to keep in mind. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest part of a scene. If you’ve got lights in the background that are brighter than your subject, they’re probably going to be distracting to the viewer. As are moving subjects in the background.

3. Don’t ignore lighting

When you’re starting out with limited gear, you’re likely working with whatever light is already available in the location you’re shooting. But try to use it effectively. If the light is producing a broad flat light on your subject’s face, try turning them more to the side so it offers some direction.

Small lights, like those horrible ceiling-mounted halogens, can also cause horrible hotspots on your subject, so try to position them outside of their beam angle, or use foamcore or cardboard to block that light completely.

4. Don’t lock yourself in

This is a difficult one sometimes, but try not to lock yourself into a specific position to get a shot. This one’s more for the run & gun or documentary style shooters than anything else, but it can happen with planned and scripted stuff, too. If your subject’s doing an action and you’ve got yourself into an awkward position to be able to film it, it’s going to be difficult to react quickly if your subject does something interesting immediately after and you’ll miss the moment.

There are many ways to hold the camera in a given position. So, find the one that still allows you some fluidity of movement, so that you can keep following your subject or react to something once the action you’d planned to record is over. And stick with a consistent shooting style throughout your production.

5. Don’t ignore your video and audio monitoring

This is a big one, particularly for audio. A lot of people, especially beginners or those shooting solo, they’ll not really monitor what they’re doing completely and then get a nasty surprise when they get back home to find their composition is a little off angle, or the audio’s clipping, or the microphone wasn’t even turned on at all. And even level meters aren’t foolproof, you need to actually hear it.

For audio, it’s simple, get a pair of headphones. For the video side of things, you’ll want an external monitor. This allows you to see whether your horizon’s level and get a better overall view of the scene much more easily than the little LCD on the back of your camera. You also get assist modes with many monitors, such as focus peaking, highlight warnings and other features.

What are the biggest photography or filmmaking mistakes you’ve made?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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