5 Tips For Journalists Starting To Shoot

The great thing about shooting your own pictures, as a reporter, is that you have total creative freedom. You can spend longer with your subject at a time to suit them. You can get to them quicker and you are less intimidating with a small camera.

Here are 5 crucial tips when starting out:
1) Check the kit
Check it at home or in the office before you get to the story! If there is a part of the kit you don’t understand then ask for help.

  • Put a fresh battery on.
  • Put the media in and format it.
  • Plug in headphones and check you can hear the onboard mic.
  • If using a radio mic replace the batteries, turn on and check.
  • Put the camera on the tripod and check it can be panned and tilted smoothly.
  • Check you have the other kit you need and raincover if outside.
  • Finally turn the camera off and pack everything neatly.

2) Know your Camera
Know what your camera can do and more importantly what it can’t do. This will help you look professional – we all want to look confident in front of our subjects and want to come back with useable rushes. If you are using a different tripod,for example, practice using it several times BEFORE arriving at the shoot.

3) Plan
Always have a plan. You can adapt and evolve it but if you fail to plan you plan to fail.
whats the story? – is it a riot? Am I going in a boat? What’s the weather going to be? Where can I park? etc etc
Get the key shots, interviews first as you will run out of time. Leave the more risky, creative shots until you have the key shots.
What is the footage being used for? A 20s Ulay, an extended interview? etc Make sure you have long enough and pace your time.

4) Shoot for the edit
The story can improve in the edit if you start with a good selection of shots. The editor needs choice. Imagine the package you are creating is a cake. You don’t have a definitive recipe but you want to produce one that is tasty! So you will buy more ingredients and a greater range of ingredients than you will use to have choice and be able to experiment.
The biggest gripe for editors is that the shots have not been held long enough. Once the shot has finished stay in record and hold the camera still for 5 seconds. Don’t just squirt the camera round and hope you can cut it in the edit.

5) Listen
Be listening for sound clips as well. Sound can often tell the story better than the pictures. For example – the tweet of birds when doing a country life story; the sound of a dentists drill when doing a package about children’s fear of the dentist. Let the stories and locations speak for themselves rather than over scripting them.

Keep learning and stay creative

5 Tips For Shooting Interviews

1) The sixty second recce.
When you arrive at the location put your kit down then stop,look and listen. Shut your eyes and listen for background noise. Walk around – look at the location from a variety of angles and think about where best to set-up the camera and position the interviewee.
Go into different rooms and do the same thing. Rememeber you may not have the perfect location (when does that ever happen!) but you can minimise the problems.

2) Move furniture.
Position your interviewee to make the best of the location. Don’t just let them sit on the settee up against the wall. Try and get depth behind them to minimise any distractions. But remember that the back of the shot will be a very small part of the room. Ask them if they mind you moving furniture and ornaments. They are unlikely to object as this is TV! The famous 1950’s Hollywood photographer Arnold Newman, when complemented on his work, would say my job is 1% inspiration and 99% moving furniture.

3) Don’t put them on a swivel chair!

4) Use a check list.
Be methodical in going through the steps when setting up the camera. Once you have decided on the position for the camera use the check list-

Level – the tripod – with the camera at their head height.
White balance – paper in front of their face. Make sure you expose the paper before doing the white balance.
Focus –  zoom into their eyes to focus.
Compose – frame the shot, remember looking room and head room.
Expose – with zebras at 70% you should see a tickle of them on the highlights of the face, if caucasian.
Sound – Clip the mic on them and do a sound check

5) The eyes have it.
Once the camera is set-up and you start the interview keep eye contact with the subject. If you lose that you lose the relationship. If you wish to shoot on two shot sizes start on an MCU (top of head to breast pocket) and then stop the interview to go into a CU for the more personal questions.

Keep learning and stay creative

5 Tips For Shooting Sequences (Plus One For Free)

Whether you are able to direct your contributors or have to film then without interuption the end goal is the same. To create visually interesting pictures that tell the story and can be easily edited together. An editor’s job is to cut out the boring bits of any event and give us a complete idea of what has happened (unless you wish to create dramatic tension!)

1) Think for the viewer.
You are the viewer at this event so give the viewer at home what they would wish to see. If a child is being told off by his mother then show us the child’s reaction; if a dentist is talking about a new drill then we need to see it. It sounds obvious but in the heat of the moment, in a busy location, it is easy to miss essential shots.

2) Move the camera.
As a general rule every time you have finished a shot move the camera to get the next shot. This creates 3D pictures on a 2D camera by giving us the third dimension in the location. It also makes it easier to edit the shots together by limiting continuity errors. Make sure you move the camera at least 45’ to help with this. Get the camera in unusual positions to create more drama. High angle looking down, on the floor looking up for example.

3) Get a 3-shot sequence.
If filming someone doing something start with a 3-shot sequence and then get the more creative shots.

  • Get a wide-shot of the person and what they are doing.
  • Get a close-up of them doing the action making sure to exclude their hands (the action) in the shot.
  • Get a close-up of the action they are doing avoiding the face.

4) Remember cut-aways.
Cut-aways are shots that are not directly relevent to the action. They give the viewer more information and enable the editor to pace the action. Get plenty of them but make sure they are relevant to the story. A parade needs people watching and cheering. A young teacher, nervously leading their first assembly need kids listening and the headmaster looking on worried!

5) Remember the line but don’t panic.
The shots you create will be edited together into a coherent sequence. By understanding what the line is you will avoid crossing it and not give the editor a headache. The line is between two people talking together or the direction of travel of a car or footballer running with the ball.

6) If you make mistakes.
(and we all do) admit them and learn from them. This is how you improve in life as well as in filming. Neurologists have found that humans learn quicker from trying new things and failing than from always staying in the comfort zone. Even the most experienced filmmakers are always learning and it keeps them fresh and keeps them creative.

Keep learning and stay creative

Tips From An Experienced Self-Shooter

We have asked the ITV News correspondent Keith Wilkinson , a pioneering camera enabled reporter, to share some tips from his experiences:

I was one of the very first self-shooters in the ITV regional newsrooms  – in the days when it was very much the exception and not the norm.

For example, I filmed myself in a kind of video diary as I spent six months training for a triathlon in a series called the Human Guinea Pig, some of which was filmed on top of the Austrian Alps. I filmed myself driving across Europe in a convoy of classic cars, sending edited items back each day on my laptop. With a self-shooting colleague, I filmed a week-long journey in a canoe along the River Severn. I self-shot on board a steam locomotive on the main line at 70 miles an hour. And still today (as an over-60) I am self-shooting most of my items.

How different it is now when compared to the days when I started at Central News in 1984. Back then you went out on a news story as part of a minimum crew of four people: reporter, cameraman, soundman and electrician.

Technological improvements have made the equipment much smaller and lighter and more light sensitive. Advancements in phone camera technology and in the development of miniature cameras have turned virtually every citizen of the world into a potential journalist self-shooter.

This is, on the one hand, brilliant news. It means that major breaking stories are often filmed from a multitude of different angles by people with phones and good connectivity. However, developments in technology should not be seen as an excuse for poorer standards, particularly at the professional level. In fact, it should be just the opposite. Technology is allowing us to do far more things and at a far higher standard – and that should be the aim of everyone in the broadcasting business.

For that reason, it is essential to have good training – to bring out the very best of what is available. It is also necessary for health and safety reasons, as self shooting can be a pretty dangerous business for those unaware of the pitfalls.

Even though our cameras now, compared to those of 30 years ago, can do much of the “thinking” for us, they can still produce appalling results in the wrong hands. Spending £6,000 (or more) on a camera and then using auto-focus, is like checking into a five star hotel and sleeping in the corridor. Similarly, using the auto-iris on a camera will be absolutely fine in many shooting situations but it can also be a disaster when the subject is back-lit, or when a big white van passes by…

And there is still something our very clever cameras cannot do (yet). And that is compose our pictures – choose what goes into the image. This is probably the most critical part of the whole business of using a camera. How should it be framed? How should it be lit? Where should the interviewee be looking?

HD has dramatically improved the quality of our images. But it has also meant we need to be much more careful to bring out the best in HD. An out-of-focus interviewee in HD will look just as bad as it ever did on 3rd generation VHS. You can have a lens worth £100,000 but if you don’t know what you are doing the images you get with it will look like they have been taken through the bottom of a jam jar.

It would be impossible in a short blog (or even a very long one) to tell a trainee how to get brilliant shots and be a great success with a camera. It takes a lot of practice in the field and even those who’ve been doing it for a lifetime sometimes admit to a few shortcomings.

But here some tips that may help.


1. Have a look at the work of top stills photographers in books. They know better than anyone what makes a powerful image. It’s often simple, to the point, relevant.

2. Try to avoid what I call clutter in the background – a highly distracting bright yellow bin, an irrelevant shop sign, a plant pot growing out of someone’s head.

3. Unless it’s for stylistic reasons (like everything is on the move and hand held to give a person’s POV) always use a tripod for landscapes, buildings, railways, house interiors…)

4. Keep your lens clean at all times. Cover your lens when it’s not in use. A dirty lens is a game changer. A wide angle shot of beautifully lit valley in the Lake District will be ruined forever if there is a little piece of muck on the lens.

5. Although correcting things in the edit is a possibility, never go out with that attitude. Try to get things right first time in the camera. The best software in the world can only go so far towards correcting an out-of-focus shot.

6. Give a lot of thought to recording sound. Use headphones whenever possible. There’s an old joke among camera crews about recording sound: “You just point the mic at where the sound is coming from and keep the needle out of the red bit”. Although, it’s more complicated than that, they are the two most important things – and I have seen frequent cases where both these simple instructions have been ignored. Sound can make or break a news item. Remember this short sentence: Sound is just as important as pictures. Repeat this a few times: Sound is just as important as pictures.

There are times when there is nothing better than having a talented camera operator with you and working as a team. I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best in the business – and I have picked up a lot of things from them over the years.

Self-shooting should not become a phrase that means second-rate. In fact some of the very best camera operators are now themselves self-shooters, in other words going out on their own and doing a first class job.

Self-shooting is now commonplace – with newspapers, news agencies and the like sending out their journalists with cameras. This, in some cases, has given self-shooting a bad name due to inadequate equipment and a lack of training, and a lack of time with so many other things to do. It’s up to all of us to try to raise the standards. One thing ITV did very well when it rolled out its self-shooting camera scheme was to provide top-notch kits and a high standard of training for its journalists.