Try these simple tips and tricks from twelve pro videographers on capturing authentic stock footage of people having fun.
“Positive emotions are always in demand, which means they sell well,” Shutterstock Contributor Artem Basok of VisualBricks tells us. It’s true; technologies come and go, but genuine videos of people having fun will never go out of style. Brands love tapping into feelings of wellbeing, friendship, and joy, and one of the most effective ways to do that is through great footage.
We asked twelve talented videographers to tell us their behind-the-scenes tricks for capturing authentic moments. As the footage industry continues to reach new heights, these pros agreed to share their creative approach to every step of the process, from casting to location scouting to directing the final scene. Read on to learn more.
1. “Create a fun atmosphere. It’s easier to act like you’re having fun if you actually are.”
Benjikat (Ben Jacobson):
Casting, casting, casting. By far the most important part is casting the right actors. We always try to meet and audition every actor. For a fun shoot, you’ll always find it easier with actors who are naturally smiley and fun-loving.
Plan ahead. You’ll get the best out of your actors when they are the focus of your attention, so make sure your ideas, angles, props, equipment, etc. are all properly prepared in advance so you can do that.
Create a fun atmosphere. It’s easier to act like you’re having fun if you actually are. Make sure your actors are treated well, feed them, etc., and then try to actually give them fun things to do.
Remove the mechanics of videography. In other words, try to avoid shouting “action” and “cut” so much. Set your actors up in a space doing an activity that you want to capture and then film around them, changing angles, lenses et cetera quickly without them dropping out of character.
Direct live. When filming stock video, you have a relatively unique opportunity to speak while the camera is rolling. It takes some actors a little bit of time to get used to continuing to act whilst being spoken to, but, it most cases, you can get more and better material by doing so.
2. “Captured emotions always look more dramatic when slowed down.”
Always try to capture real emotions. When you work with models who are not professional actors, feigned excitement can be quite apparent. The best workaround is for the models to already know each other and feel comfortable being together. If it’s their first time meeting, allow them enough time to talk, relax, and break the ice. Create a pleasant atmosphere on set… and make sure there’s pizza!
Don’t force strictly preplanned shots. Give your actors freedom to interact, and, in the process of shooting, they might even forget about the camera. From there on, your role is to just point them in the right direction.
If you have the opportunity, always shoot in slow motion. Captured emotions always look more dramatic when slowed down. That will also give you more material to work with in post, allowing for more diverse results.
Location, location, location! Always make sure you pick a setting that allows for experimentation. You don’t need to cram into a living room. Choose an open space where you can experiment with wider shots, high angles, or even drone shots. As a result, your shots will stand out more and be more original.
Break the mold. Find your source of inspiration. It could be a favorite movie, song, novel, or a video creator. Try to be different and risk experimenting with looks and themes that you haven’t seen in the stock world. Video demand is constantly evolving, and your originality might reward you sooner than you think.
3. “Create a setting that looks believable, and try to imagine what real people would do in certain situations.”
ReeldealHD (Erwin De Boer):
Make sure you cast the right people. Some models or actors might look great in their model images but in reality can’t act or don’t look at all like their pictures. With photography, you can retouch things, but with film, it’s a lot more complicated, so consider asking them for a true selfie in advance.
Create a setting that looks believable, and try to imagine what real people would do in certain situations. It can also help to cast people who already know each other to get genuine emotions. For example, if you do a family-themed shoot, try to get a real family. This will make things a lot easier, especially if children are involved:
You also have to find locations that enhance the story and make it look believable. For example, if you are shooting young adult friends watching a football match, it should take place in a house that looks more like a student home than a family home or penthouse:
4. “Use different compositions throughout your shoots for variety; that way, buyers can purchase several videos to suit their needs.”
Building a great stock portfolio doesn’t necessarily require large cash investments. For beginning videographers, a good way to start is with the help of friends. They aren’t expensive, and they are likely to give you genuine emotions.
Making an image that captures real emotions is difficult, so provide your models with an actual object or prop that inspires joy. For example, you can shoot topics like people listening to music, talking to their pets, making videos with friends, and so on. In this case, for example, I brought confetti poppers to the shoot (all the logos were pasted over with colorful patterned paper, of course):
Use different compositions throughout your shoots for variety; that way, buyers can purchase several videos to suit their needs. Also, pay particular attention to the color correction of your videos. The image should look attractive, but, at the same time, the buyer should be able to make additional color corrections if they want. Remember to calibrate the color of your monitors.
5. “Talent-released footage sells better and is usually more unique.”
Stock Footage Inc
John Farr, President of Stock Footage Inc:
There is a good reason why professional talent gets paid. The right actor with the right smile who knows how to present themselves to the camera is invaluable during the shooting process. On the other hand, using professional talent can be expensive and tricky, so I use friends and family to help out whenever possible.
Talent-released footage sells better and is usually more unique. It is a challenge to get release forms signed, but I think it is necessary. To create a more genuine look, sometimes I like to capture footage when the talent isn’t aware the camera is recording. Many times, that is when I get my best stuff.
My current plans for shooting new stock include looking at social media platforms such as Instagram, picking a subject, and searching through the hashtags to come up with ideas for shoots. This will allow us to learn what the popular styles are these days, not only for professional videographers and photographers but also for the average person with a camera. In turn, this might help us connect better with a younger generation, as they are the ones in need of stock footage in the future.
6. “When we work, we always have a laid back, courteous, and friendly atmosphere.”
dualstock (Dualstock Videos)
Authenticity is a hallmark of our productions; we show real people in normal, everyday situations. We work with both professional and amateur models, and we find them through modeling agencies or the internet. Sometimes they are friends and relatives, and sometimes even ourselves!
If we’re working in a shop, factory, or lab, we always ask a real professional or the owner of the facility to be there with us to show the models what they have to do to make it seem real and avoid major mistakes. One example would be our guitar shop shoot:
When we work, we always have a laid back, courteous, and friendly atmosphere. We want our crew and models to leave happy; getting the job done is obviously fundamental, but, at the end of the day, it’s also important that we all have smiles on our faces.
7. “Give your cast and crew time to cool off occasionally. That way, your shoot will be more natural, authentic, and convincing.”
It may seem obvious, but the starting point for any session is the casting. You need to scout actors who are relaxed and charismatic, especially if they are portraying a group of friends or family. The right casting will go a long way in fostering a certain level of intimacy within the group, and it will also help push aside any awkwardness or shyness.
The location is also hugely important, and it must fit the theme of your storyboard. If you’re shooting a happy family, for example, you might select a location with good light and warm colors.
And lastly, there is the role of the director. The actors and the location, even if they have been perfectly selected, won’t stand a chance unless the director and every member of the staff fosters a sense of confidence. The team, as a whole, needs to have chemistry.
Stay fully focused on your goals, but, at the same time, maintain a relaxed atmosphere. Give your cast and crew time to cool off occasionally. That way, your shoot will be more natural, authentic, and convincing.
8. “When it comes to working with families or kids, it’s best to pick real families instead of strangers so that the kids don’t feel shy.”
In order to get emotions that are as genuine as possible, you need to set up comfortable conditions for your actors. You’ll need to pick the cast thoughtfully since you want your actors to feel relaxed around each other. Recreate fun, real-life situations for the camera; that way, your actors won’t have to expend too much energy, and you’ll get authentic videos. When it comes to working with families or kids, it’s best to pick real families instead of strangers so that the kids don’t feel shy.
9. “Do not forget that you want to tell a story, and the location is crucial in conveying it.”
Real, genuine emotions will always have commercial value. Your first consideration should be the models. It’s great when a model has acting skills, so try to find professional actors, student actors, or even people who are just gifted at acting out different roles.
When I work with a model who is not a professional, I always try to explain in detail what I need. I literally go through everything the models need to do: how to stand, how to move, where to look, at what moment to smile or frown, and so on. Always be clear with your model about what you want.
If you see that a model can’t do something, be encouraging and supportive, and abstain from harsh criticism, as it can easily take models out of the moment and ruin the success of your shoot. In other words, never blame the models. Concentrate on what they do well and delve into that topic. In the end, if it doesn’t work, it’s not the model’s fault but yours. If anything, just remember to choose your model more carefully next time.
Do not forget that you want to tell a story, and the location is crucial in conveying it. A dark and gloomy room, for instance, makes no sense for shooting a cheerful and life-affirming story. If you can’t get into the studio, remember that most urban infrastructure can always serve as the perfect background location for a huge number of themes.
Close-up shots are a universal way of framing your videos, and using the right lighting will always help you to express the emotions of your model more clearly.
10. “I mostly like to shoot somewhere outdoors with beautiful nature in the background.”
If you work with professional models or actors, it’s not very difficult to capture genuine positive emotions. But if you are working with non-professional models, it’s no use asking them to pretend to be happy and have fun. Instead, they need to be truly having fun! At least, this is the approach I always use.
When we arrive at our location, I first try to create an easy, fun, and relaxed atmosphere for everyone. Any trick will do; give compliments, tell a funny story or anecdote, give a description of the great showreel you’ll create, enjoy a cup of coffee, tea, a glass of beer, etc.
Of course, the location itself matters too. I mostly like to shoot somewhere outdoors with beautiful nature in the background. This always adds to the positive mood and atmosphere of the shoot. Weather and lighting are of great importance as well. Almost all photographers and videographers adore the so-called golden hour, and I am no exception.
Generally, though it may sound a bit New Age-y, I believe that clips created with pleasure and inspiration and filled with positive energy will always sell better.
11. “Giving the actors this kind of freedom can often provoke genuine emotional or humorous results that bring a sense of realism to the situation.”
Stock Market Films
Stock Market Films:
In order to get the best out of our models on a shoot, we like to create a friendly and informal atmosphere where everyone feels happy, relaxed, and at ease. We find that encouraging the models to treat the camera like an old friend, rather than a piece of equipment, is the best way to capture those genuine and candid shots.
We like our models to have fun at our shoots and to feel comfortable in bringing out different aspects of their own personalities. We will let them know what themes or emotions we want to portray and then give them free rein to put that message across. Giving the actors this kind of freedom can often provoke genuine emotional or humorous results that bring a sense of realism to the situation.
Most often, our ideas come through brainstorming sessions over a pie and beer. Each team member comes up with a theme, and we all work to make it happen. The bottom line for us is to have lots of fun whilst filming. We also keep an eye on what sells and chose a theme which we know is lacking, at the same time making sure we follow the current trends. We find that business and lifestyle shoots sell very well for us, and so those are the main subjects we focus on when putting shoots together.
On the day of filming, although we know exactly what shots we want, we try to go with the flow. Some of the most genuine emotions can cannot be directed or orchestrated, and more often than not, the clips that are captured at a spur of the moment sell really well.
12. “The people in your video actually have to be having fun.”
d13 (Danil Rudenko)
D13 (Danil Rudenko):
The people in your video actually have to be having fun. If you just tell the models, “Hey, have fun!” they will pretend, which will most often look unnatural (there are, however, exceptions).
You’ll need to come up with something to help the actors. It could even be some kind of absurd prop. If, for instance, an old shoe with water pouring from it or a pink jackhammer suddenly appears in the hands of your actor, it will help them to relax and have fun.
Also, it’s always easier for actors to work when they have a specific goal, so direct them and give them something to do.
Top video by Andrei Porzhezhinskii.
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