Dec 1, 2011   //   by adelia   //   Tutorials  //  No Comments

Recently, while teaching some professional photographers (at Up To Speed Journalism) how to use their still cameras to record video I realised that even very experienced people can benefit from, and genuinely enjoy a ‘basics’ refresher…

So whether you are starting out, shoot magazine front covers, or even work for the local television news, I hope that the following will be of use..


Measurement of distance from object to camera sensor in metres/feet


Measurement of light falling on the camera sensor in f-stops (iris/aperture), fractions of a second (shutter speed) and decibels/iso (sensor sensivity)


Colour compensation for the different colour cast between natural light and artificial light


Measurement of volume level in decibels



On a zoom lens you can zoom in on the object and adjust the focus until it is at its sharpest – on a video camera when you zoom out everything will remain sharp.  Zooming magnifies the difference between blurry and in focus.  You can usually read the distance measure off the markings on the lens or in the viewfinder.


Three different manual settings interplay to adjust the amount of light falling on the sensor:

IRIS: Adjust the iris f-stop number using the exposure ring on the lens or via a menu – smaller numbers = brighter!

SHUTTER SPEED: For video a default shutter speed of 1/50 will give you good results

GAIN: Measured in decibels – only use gain in low light and only as necessary as it makes your images grainy


Set using a piece of white paper held in front of the camera and by pressing the white balance button on the side of the camera.  This should give you a reading in the viewfinder of somewhere around 3200K for artifical light or 5400K for natural light.

Getting the white balance wrong will leave your interviewees looking ‘smurfed’ or ‘tangoed’!


You should always wear headphones to monitor the sound and be looking to get levels averaging in the middle of the scale in the viewfinder.  If they are too high you will hear distortion in your headphones – too low and you will hear hiss and background noise.


I’ve a friend who is an inspirational speaker who always talks about his ‘golden nuggets’!  Luckily he’s talking about the most important and concise information that he wants you to take away.  So here goes with mine:

If you can’t get a good shot with the above – move

Once you start shooting – don’t move!

So move / don’t move – however, remember all rules are set to be broken.  They are meant to be a guide.

When you start using manual settings you cannot necessarily work out what is wrong with the settings, but whatever you do it all looks wrong in the viewfinder – it is then that you should move!  Once you start shooting if you move about all over the place you will need to adjust your manual settings on the fly to compensate – sometimes this is best left to the experts.

As most amateurs zoom, pan, tilt and generally run about far too much with the camera this ‘not moving’ is a good rule to bear in mind when you start using manual settings.  Remember if you feel you need to move the camera during a shot, it is because you are shooting something that is largely static – you should film action – people and stuff moving!  Your viewer will be far more engaged if the action happens within the frame…

Finally, I suppose I should explain the title of this article.  At every lecture, to get people thinking, my first question is: ‘What creates the difference between the perceived quality of shots on You’ve Been Framed and those on the Six O’clock News.”  The answers cover a huge range which tend to include:

  • the camera electronics
  • use of tripod
  • shakey shots
  • lighting
  • steadycam
  • lenses etc.

While they all contribute I rarely get what I consider to be the top answer straight away – the camera operator.  ‘You’ve Been Framed’ clips have an amateur using automatic settings behind the camera and the ‘Six O’clock News’ employs professionals using manual settings.  Although all the other points make a difference it’s the person using the camera that now has the most impact on the quality of the outcome.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial – feel free to critique using the comments box below – I am constantly learning new things from my students and I hope that you will be no different!

I’m hoping to do separate more in depth posts for each of the manual settings above so pop back from time to time if you have found this ‘basics’ post useful.

Leave a comment

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

+ six = 7



Are you just starting out?

Or maybe, wanting to jog your memory on a few key points?

Well here in Tutorials we'll walk you through how to consistently capture professional quality video whatever camera you are holding.

Start at the top - these posts are sorted for you to work through from top to bottom...