In the first of a brand new series Amateur Photographer, in association with London Camera Exchange, brings you an in-depth guide to shooting video. In the series we will arm you with all the information and knowledge needed to become a confident and competent video shooter. Along with explaining camera settings, we’ll demystify all the videography jargon, plus walk you through all the steps to get you recording your first movie…

Part 1: How to set up your camera to shoot a movie

So, you’re ready to test the waters and try shooting some movies using your camera… and why not?

Capturing footage can be great fun, enabling you to unleash your creative talents to capture precious family moments, enhance your commercial offerings or simply have some fun.

These days photographers are spoilt for choice when it comes to video-enabled cameras.

This is because most of them offer impressive movie-related specifications, whether that be the ability to shoot high-quality 4K footage, or they offer ports for audio accessories so you that can capture decent sound.

In fact, you’ll struggle to buy a camera today that doesn’t serve up some tasty video features.

However, a camera having the ability to shoot great video is only the start of the journey as you, the aspiring videographer, need to get to grips with how to set up your camera to shoot movies.

While this thought may be initially daunting, the good news is that it’s actually pretty simple to ready your camera and, even better, this series of features will arm you with all the information and knowledge you’ll need to become a confident and competent video shooter.

The truth is there’s never been a better time to broaden your skills and get into shooting video.

Quality gear is more affordable, cameras are easier to set up and even editing your footage in post-production is now a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to huge advancements in software.

So, what are you waiting for?

Let’s get started on module one and learn how to set up your camera to shoot video…

Step 1 – Lock off the camera on a tripod

First of all, lock off your camera on a tripod to keep it steady

First of all, lock off your camera on a tripod to keep it steady

Handholding a camera when shooting video will lead to shaky footage.

If you’re new to videography you’re unlikely to have access to a gimbal, but simply having the camera on a tripod will keep footage steady.

If your lens has IS, turn it off when the camera is on a tripod as this can actually introduce blur.

Step 2 – Switch to Manual mode

Switch to manual mode to keep control over your video settings

Switch to manual mode to keep control over your video settings

Some cameras have dedicated Movie modes, but if your camera doesn’t, then don’t worry – simply turn the mode dial to select Manual (M).

The full Manual mode will allow you to take control of major shooting settings such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO to balance the exposure.

Step 3 – Select your frame rate and shutter speed

Set your frame rates and shutter speeds. As a rule of thumb the fractional shutter speed should be 'double' the frame rate

Set your frame rates and shutter speeds. As a rule of thumb the fractional shutter speed should be ‘double’ the frame rate

Go to your camera’s video menu and choose your frame rate – for example 50 frames per second (fps).

Next, set a shutter speed that’s double your frame rate. For example, if you’re using 50fps, select 1/100sec as this will give a smoother look to the footage.

Step 4 – Balance the exposure

You'll need to balance the exposure via ISO and aperture settings

You’ll need to balance the exposure via ISO and aperture settings

Next, balance the exposure using the aperture and ISO.

Use the Exposure Level Indicator bar to do this (the bar will sit in the middle of the scale when correctly exposed).

If you wish to set a certain aperture, you’ll have to adjust the ISO and if this overexposes the frame, you may need to reduce the amount of light passing through the lens with a ND filter.

Step 5 – Compose and record

When you're happy with your settings compose the scene and record

When you’re happy with your settings compose the scene and record

Use the camera’s LCD screen to compose your scene and then you can press the record button to start and stop recording your footage.

Remember, if your camera has dual card slots, some cameras will allow you to record the video to both cards at once, which will make an instant backup.

Step 6 – Review your footage

Always remember to review your footage in case you need to reshoot a scene

Always remember to review your footage in case you need to reshoot a scene

Always remember at the end of every take to hit the Playback button and watch your footage through to make sure it’s okay.

This is especially important if you are capturing audio with your video too, because you’ll need to make sure it’s at the right volumes and that there’s no ruffles on mics from the wind or clothing.

FAQs: frame rates

Throughout this online series we’ll help to explain the key jargon and terminology that surrounds shooting video and filmmaking. First up, we’re focusing on frame rates…

What are frame rates?

Frame rates are simply the number of frames per second that any camera shooting video records at.

In the specifications of most modern cameras you’ll see numbers like 24 frames per second (fps), 30fps, 60fps and 120fps.

What the video modes of cameras are actually doing is recording a series of stills at different frame rates.

These still frames are then played at the speeds they’re shot in (or edited to), in sequence, to give the impression of continuous motion within a scene.

Can frame rates be too slow?

Yes, because at frame rates below 18fps the human eye tends not to see the sequence as continuous.

However, on the plus side, most modern cameras shoot at rates of at least 24fps, so this is not a major issue.

Why do frame rates matter?

The choice of frame rates is important for various reasons.

You have to consider what you are shooting and where it will be shown – online, in a cinema or for a TV broadcast.

For example, whilst 24fps is the worldwide standard frame rate for movie projections it is too ‘slow’ to record action.

That’s why a live TV broadcast of something like Champions League football will most likely be recorded at 60fps or faster in order to avoid the risk of capturing any blur in the footage.

Which frame rates should be used for different subjects?

Frame rates can be used creatively for filmmaking.

For example, frame rates of one per minute might work best for a time-lapse sequence.

Here’s a quick guide as to what the most common frame rates on cameras can be used for:

  • 24fps – usually used for movies as it’s the standard for cinema projectors
  • 25fps – this is the standard frame rate for European PAL TV broadcasts
  • 30fps – this is the standard frame rate for NTSC TV productions (notably in the US and Japan)
  • 48fps – this is a higher frame rate, with more information, which is sometimes used by filmmakers who want more detail than at 24fps
  • 60fps – a faster frame rate that’s better for capturing sports action, such as skateboarding, as it helps to deliver smooth-looking, crisp footage
  • 120fps – it’s a faster frame rate, but it’s often used to slow down footage in post-production for slow-motion effects

What should you consider when choosing a frame rate?

You should consider how realistic you want your video to look.

If you use too high a frame rate your footage can have too much detail and will look unnatural unless, of course, that’s the look you’re after.

If you choose too low a rate for your needs, the footage will not look seamless and may be difficult to view.

The other major thing to think about is where the final footage will be shown.

As mentioned, 24fps is usually best for making films, 25fps or 30fps is usually best for TV productions (depending on the country of broadcast), whilst 60fps is usually best for shooting sport.

What is the relationship between shutter speeds and frame rates?

When shooting video footage you also must always be aware of the relationship between shutter speeds and frame rates, which are two entirely different things…

For example, if you shoot with a shutter speed of 1/60sec using a frame rate of 120fps your camera will actually only capture 60 images per second and you’ll end up with duplicated images on frames.

This is because the shutter speed is the amount of time that any one frame is exposed for and determines the number of frames captured in any one second.

To avoid any confusion, you should always keep the shutter speed ‘faster’ than the frame rates.

As a best rule of thumb, you should always make the shutter speed a fractional ‘double’ of the frame rate… for example, footage shot at 60fps should be captured with a shutter speed of at least 1/120sec.

Using this rule will mean you never get any duplicated or missing frames.

Do frame rates affect post-production?

Yes. The higher frame rate you use will mean more information, and more data, will be captured in each second of your footage.

This extra information will mean you are working with bigger video files and therefore will have longer export and rendering times.

If you plan to upload and stream your videos online you won’t need to shoot at very high rates (not beyond 24fps anyhow).

If you did shoot with higher frame rates this runs the risk of creating large video files that may be prone to excessive buffering when posted online.

If you do have plans to edit your video for higher spec use than online, deploying higher frame rates will give you more leeway in the editing suite, simply because you’ll have more image information/data to work from.

Which frame rates should I choose?

There is no definitive ‘best frame rate’ to choose, but you should always aim to keep your footage looking realistic.

Keep in kind two factors – firstly, the speed of what you want to capture and, secondly, the output (for online, TV or cinema use). If you keep those in mind, you won’t go too far wrong.

What camera should I choose for frame rates?

Thankfully, most modern still and video cameras offer a wide range of frame rates.

The best advice is to always consider cameras that will offer you a frame rate range of between 24fps and 120fps.

This sort of range will give you pretty much all the creative options you need to shoot videos with impact.

Related articles:

Top 17 Essential accessories for video

The best lenses for video

How to use lens aperture when shooting video

How to use ISO sensitivity when shooting video

How shutter speeds work when shooting video