ARTICLE

Opinion: Should stills photographers add video to their skillset?

From Roger Turesson's North Korea photojournalism series, commuters on the Pyongyang Metro in North Korea ride the long escalator from the 'Prosperity' station. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 65mm, 1/250 sec, f/2.8 and ISO6400. © Roger Turesson

Do you really need to add video to your professional stills photography business? Many photographers have asked themselves if diversifying to include a video offering is necessary to remain relevant, or if it makes more sense to specialise in the one area of stills photography they are passionate about.

Here, we've talked to picture editor Espen Rasmussen, photojournalist Roger Turesson and documentary and commercial photographer Alvaro Ybarra Zavala. All of them shoot video and stills, so we've asked them to give us their honest views on whether video skills give you the edge as a stills photographer.

The newsroom photographer

Canon photographer and videographer Roger Turesson holds a Canon DSLR.

About Roger Turesson

Roger is a staff photographer at Swedish daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. He has worked for various daily papers as a staff photographer and a freelancer, and was a founder of Moment Agency.

Editorial photographer Roger Turesson says: "I started shooting video when the Canon EOS 5D Mark II came out. It was the first 5D series camera with video capabilities, and that really opened up the possibility of us doing video in the photography department at Dagens Nyheter. We had video cameras prior to that, but I think most stills photographers prefer the 5D series cameras because you can get a more cinematic look and it's more similar to the way we work as stills photographers. A lot of TV videographers zoom and pan a lot, but I prefer finding a good composition and letting the story happen in the frame.

"I use the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV now and I mainly use fixed lenses. If I use a 24-70mm lens, I don't zoom much. That approach and the shallow depth of field you can get makes it feel like you're communicating in the same way as when you shoot stills.

"We have a couple of straight-up video guys at work, but all the stills photographers need to be able to do video as part of their job. I'd say about 20-25% of my assignments include video. It's mainly when I travel that I have time to shoot video – it can be hard to manage on a quick news assignment. We used to try to shoot both video and stills on more occasions, but it just doesn't work very well. So on regular news jobs, we send one photographer to cover video and one to shoot stills.

"There's a higher demand for video now, so it's conceivable that it will be required from stills photographers in more cases, just like we're starting to see more VR, which I think is a growing trend."

A teenage boy looks up and uses his phone to film a shark swimming overhead in an aquarium. Photo by Roger Turesson on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
A visitor films in the aquarium in Songdowon International Children’s Camp – a camp in Wonsan, North Korea, for children who have the highest grades. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 28mm, 1/400 sec, f/2.8 and ISO6400. © Roger Turesson
Canon Professional Services

Do you own Canon kit?

Register your kit to access free expert advice, equipment servicing, inspirational events and exclusive special offers with Canon Professional Services

"We used to do a lot of short video clips to show online alongside longer articles, for example 'three questions for a politician', but I don't think they add much to the storytelling. I think short documentaries will become more prevalent.

"One thing we do quite often is shoot shorter clips that are used as advertisements for the story on Facebook and Instagram, overlaid with text. The great thing about the 5D series cameras is that you always have a video camera with you, so even if it's not planned by the news desk, you can make a decision on location to film something if you think the story would benefit from a video clip.

"I don't know if our picture editors deliberately pick freelancers with interchangeable video and stills skills, but us staff photographers all have to do both. It's part of the job. If an aspiring photographer asked me if they ought to add video to their portfolio I'd say yes, definitely, if you'd like to work for a media house."

The picture editor

A portrait of Canon photographer and videographer Espen Rasmussen.

About Espen Rasmussen

Espen is picture editor of Norway's biggest newspaper, VG. He also shoots documentary projects including short videos and has won several major awards at World Press Photo and beyond.

Picture editor Espen Rasmussen says: "VG got a video department a number of years ago, but for photographers, I'd say things really started to change about a year ago. Our department started adding short videos into articles and mixing stills and video more. I would say that around 40-50% of our assignments now include some sort of video as well as stills. Do video skills help you get a job as a freelancer for VG? Yes, I'd say so.

"We don't hire full-time staffers any more, but when we hire people over the summer for holiday cover, video skills is one of the things we ask for. You also have to be able to live stream and do live broadcasts, in case you get sent at the last minute to cover a story for the news site. When we hire someone, video is a requirement – along with being able to tell a good story.

"I personally started shooting video seriously when Canon got the first 5D series camera that had video capabilities – the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Before that I had a camcorder, but it was too much hassle. I mainly shot video on my own initiative in the beginning – the demand for video content wasn't very high at VG at that time, because of bandwidth limitations. People viewing content on their phones didn't have 4G. But that's all changed.

"Often, we just do a 10-second clip that works almost as a still. In those cases, when I brief the photographer, it's not that different from a stills assignment. I tell them to use a tripod and grab 10 seconds, and shoot stills separately of the same subject – we don't tend to grab stills from video.

"Recently, I commissioned a photographer to go to Northern Norway and photograph a woman fishing from a boat, so I told her to get a landscape shot of the subject and the scene, just like she would with stills, but in video format. So it's almost like a still landscape shot, but you see the waves coming in or the clouds moving. We do this with portraits for the magazine, too."

A pair of glasses rest on a golden surface. A video play icon is over the image.

Shooting videos for social media

Quentin Caffier reveals what you need to know

"My requirement when I commission video is to shoot in full HD, which you can get on the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Occasionally, our photographers will use their phones but they need a very high resolution as videos on phones are shot vertically and there's a crop to take into account. It's a hassle using two different pieces of kit, and I think most photographers prefer using just one.

"I find that video is a particularly useful tool for photographers wanting to do documentary work. For documentary stories we often feature a 5-10 minute video. That requires more video skills, knowledge of how to tell the story and an understanding of editing.

"It's more and more common that young photographers know how to shoot video, but I find the majority concentrate on stills. These days you have a lot of young photographers grouping together to form agencies where they take on both documentary and commercial work, and those agencies are taking on more and more video assignments. I think being in an agency like that makes it easier to do video because it's easier to get the return on investment. It's a lot of work for a single photographer to go out and shoot both video and stills, and it's hard to make it worthwhile financially. But the agencies can pool together their resources and make it cheaper to do."

The freelancer

Canon Ambassador and photographer and videographer Alvaro Ybarra Zavala holds a Canon DSLR in woodland.

About Alvaro Ybarra Zavala

Canon Ambassador Alvaro started his career as a stills photographer in the newsroom at CNN, and is now a freelance photographer shooting documentary, commercial, editorial and personal work.

Freelancer Alvaro Ybarra Zavala says: "I don't think being a photographer has to come with a label of 'stills' attached to it, especially not these days. We used to only have magazines and newspapers, but now there are all the online platforms and so many more ways to reach audiences with images, sound and video.

"I started as an intern at CNN, working in the newsroom as a stills photographer. That meant that I got to learn about video editing and video narratives.

"Currently, I'm working on a personal project on Venezuela where I'm adding video in a way that complements the intentions of the project – video of characters who have been photographed, road trip footage and other videos that give you a sense of the atmosphere of the place, for example."

A black and white photo shows men walking by industrial train tracks surrounded by factory smoke. Photo by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala.
Employees of a coke plant in Ukraine during a working day, photographed in atmospheric fashion by Alvaro Ybarra Zavala. © Alvaro Ybarra Zavala

"For personal projects, video can add a feeling that I can't express with photography. It's the same with audio. Soon I'll be launching my project on silence, which has always been an interesting concept for me, especially as a documentary photographer. I've taken a very sensual approach, expressing what I felt when photographing other things in the past

"As a photographer, I'm grateful to have worked at CNN, TV5 and at small production companies learning about documentary filmmaking. It's given me tools that are useful for me when I tell a story. I never thought I'd find it useful to learn about colour correction for video, for example, but I do use that knowledge now. Telling a story with video is different to telling it with stills, and it's useful for me to have that understanding.

"I shoot video as part of my commercial work, too. It's fun to be a DOP and storyboard your videos – it makes you grow as a photographer. You're asked to bring an idea and a narrative, and you decide how to shoot and light it. It's a good challenge.

"Because I generally focus on documentary work, when I started pitching to shoot commercial, it was hard. I think the fact that I have a background in TV has helped – I know the chain you need to know, so it's been easier than if I had started from scratch. But it can be difficult. It's a tough industry with a lot of pressure and it's hard to find your space in it, but sometimes I see students forget the most important thing about photography: the joy it gives you. When you put all your soul into it, that's when you tell a good story."

Yazar Kathrine Anker


A stills-to-video kitbag

The key kit for shooting stills and videos

A camera bag is open, revealing two Canon DSLRs, lenses and accessories.

Camera

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Made for those who demand the very highest standards in image quality, the EOS 5D Mark IV’s 30.4-megapixel sensor delivers images that are packed with detail, even in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows.

Lenses

Related articles

View All

Get the newsletter

Click here to get inspiring stories and exciting news from Canon Europe Pro

Sign up now