The classic "my dog ate my homework" excuse that people love to use as a cop-out for carelessness is easy to poke fun at, but many excuses are just that: coverups for not being prepared, not being alert or not being savvy enough to know what you're getting into.
Technology can interfere with nearly every aspect of video production, but your skills as a producer and talents as a visual artist can usually bail you out of most of situations. However, many people make excuses for things they could have prevented:
1. Poor Lighting: Sun in My Eyes.
You hear this often during sporting events, it's a poor excuse for videographers because you (usually) have options.
If the sun is behind the subject, think like a pro and move the camera, move the subject, or move the sun. That's right, move the sun. By blocking the sun with diffusion and using a bounce card to fill in light from the side, you create a more balanced shot.
2. Shaky Video: Forgot the Tripod.
Not every pro uses a tripod or stabilizer every time, but that's still not an excuse for extremely shaky video.
If you're handheld shooting, think of yourself as a human tripod and plant your feet shoulder-width apart, tuck your elbows in, and brace the camera with both hands.
Lean against a building or pole, and practice a few of the handholding techniques we feature.
When shooting a moving handheld shot, progressively put your weight on one foot then move to the other foot for balance.
Don't zoom in! Zooming in intensifies shake. Either get closer to your subject or prop the camera on a rock, table, or a small beanbag.
3. No Audio: I Forgot to Set the Mix.
There's no excuse for not having the audio ON and it's too easy to lose audio and not even know it.
So what do you do, watch the meters? No! The meters are just guides, you should always wear headphones.
Know your camera's audio settings. If your camera allows you to manually set levels then make it a habit to always check the levels when you shoot.
If your camera only works with Automatic Gain Control, check our site for some great tips to get around AGC.
If you are using just the on-camera mic, get closer to your subject. The farther the camera is from the subject the more background noise you'll gather.
4. Bad Composition: I was Looking at the Subject, Not the Background.
Remind yourself - we aren't merely manipulating some electronic device, we are visual artists ... and our mission is to make lovely images, even in dreary places. Nothing ruins a beautiful scene better than garbage cans in the background or a telephone pole growing out of your subject's head.
Don't look at the subject like the bull's-eye of a target, check the foreground, background and edges of the frame for things that can lower the value of your shot.
Practice good composition. It's not just about framing. Follow the Divine Proportion guides of the master artists using the golden rule of composition .
Practice the Rule of Thirds - an image is much more interesting when your main focus isn't always in the center of the frame.
Learn what lead room is, and why you can break this rule, too.
Think like an artist with a blank canvas: who lovingly paints background, foreground and subject with equal contemplation. Every element in your frame should have purpose.
5. Lost Opportunity: My Tape/Card was Full or My Battery was Dead.
Really. Bad. Excuse. We visual artists have a love-hate relationship with technology because we work in a right-brain left-brain field. With it we can hone our craft, master our skills, and create the amazing visions we see - and it can fail us at a moment's notice.
If you are shooting tapeless, take the images off your card as soon as your shooting day is done and wipe it clean before the next shoot.
If you're shooting to tape, always have a spare on hand; in the trunk, glove box, tackle box, or any place you can stash one for those "just in case" moments - and learn to properly archive your media!
NEVER go out without a fully charged battery, and if your trusty big brick isn't holding a long charge anymore, invest in another. Losing a shot to a dead battery or not having recording media happens to us all and it's the most painful of excuses because it's the one that you cannot remedy with smoke and mirror tricks.
Plan, compose, deliver!
Be prepared might be the Boy Scout motto, but we should all take note of that simple phrase. Always have a backup plan, be prepare for the worst, and always figure out an exit strategy when technology fails you. These are simple mistakes that can easily be remedied by knowing what you're doing. (Tech demons raising their ugly heads are different beasts altogether.)
Jennifer O'Rourke is an Emmy award-winning photographer & editor and Videomaker's Managing Editor.