How to Stop Panning and Zooming with Your Video Camera

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Stop Panning and Zooming!

Yes, right, so you want me to tell you how.  Just about every book or reference guide on how to use a video camera will give you this wonderful piece of advice.  It is exactly right, but knowing ‘what to shoot instead’ is very difficult if there is not a lot of follow-up advice.

So, do you have a problem knowing what to shoot when you can’t Pan and Zoom?

Welcome to the tribe. Just about everybody who starts using a video camera or wants to shoot moving pictures of any sort, will most probably have this problem at the beginning. That included me [for me it was 34 years ago].

Good news! Much of what you need to learn does not even require a camera.

Learn How We Actually See Things

We need to start to see what we see. Read that last line again. We need to start to see what we see. What I am saying is you need to start to understand how you see things and how your brain interprets those images.  One of the reasons that people just continually pan and zoom when they don’t know how to shoot properly, is because they think that this is how we see things with our eyes.

This is wrong.  As an exercise, try slowly panning your eyes across a scene. This could be in the room where you are now, or you could go to the window and look outside. Try to pan your eyes slowly across the scene. You will notice that you cannot do this smoothly; it is jerky and even trying to do it takes a lot of concentration.

This is because this is not how you see things.  You do not actually pan your eyes like a camera.

Instead, when you are seeing or experiencing things, your eyes are seeing many, many single images that your brain is then putting together in your mind and creating a full visual story for you to understand.

You need to become aware of these single images. These are the still images that you can use to tell your stories when you are using our camera. You need to train yourself to start to see these images.

So How Does This Help Us to Shoot Better

It is not hard to start doing this now that you understand what you are trying to do. Look around wherever you are and take notice of where your eyes stop and what you are seeing. These images could be of a dripping tap, a bottle of medicine on the shelf, a family portrait, a box of tissues, a set of car keys.

You will notice it is as if you focus your eyes or zoom your eyes into the details of all the things that you are experiencing. However, when you are shooting these images you don’t want to actually zoom into them while you are recording. You need to see which of these close-ups or details are telling part of your story so you can capture them. You should always try to become aware of these storytelling images whenever you are getting ready to shoot any story. You can learn to do this in your minds eye when you are thinking about your shoot. The other great thing about becoming aware of all these shots is you can also better see how other people break their stories up into individual shots.

I have developed a great exercise in Why You Don't Know what Shots to Take and you can practice this skill anywhere, anytime. You don’t even need a camera. Check it out.

If you would like to fast track your learning check out The Video Camera Course.

Remember Learn it. Shoot it. Love it.

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