7 Bad Shooting Habits & How to Break Them

It’s hard to get over bad habits. Even when you know what they are. Learn how to push through these common ruts.

1. Looking at things the same way. I have five or six interview spots that I always default to. Part of it is me thinking that I’m saving time by always knowing where I’m going to take someone, but another part of it is simple myopia. I’m not being consistently clever, or I’m —

2. Not allowing enough time. When people balk at a project, I always tell them “I’m really fast! I can be set up in 15 minutes! I can break down in five! You’ll be done in half an hour!” And while that’s true, I often cheat myself out of really excellent work because I’m trying to accommodate short schedules. One of the toughest parts of this job is knowing how uncomfortable it’s ok to make someone. And that doesn’t always mean — although it sometimes does — making them stand in a freezing lake while you get The Shot; it means knowing how long you can push it when they want to do something else instead. Remind your subjects and remind yourself, “I’m taking the time now because I want it to be right later.” That said, don’t waste anyone’s time. Which leads me to the problem of —

One of the toughest parts of this job is knowing how uncomfortable it’s ok to make someone.

3. Not taking notes. Take notes beforehand and be meticulous about where you keep them. Keep a notebook. Big projects may require their own private notebook. Make lists of equipment you need, shots you have to get, cross things off as you finish them. Make sure your notebook fits in your camera bag, and make sure there’s always a pen in there.

4. Thinking you can fix a problem by buying more gear. People have shot feature films on iPhones. Don’t keep buying new stuff thinking that it’s going to solve your problems. You just end up with a closet full of stuff you don’t use. Instead, try and think of creative solutions for the gear that you have.

5. Not giving yourself enough room to edit. When you start a shot, count to ten. When you think the action is over, count to ten again before you stop. You’ll probably rarely need all ten extra seconds, but having a few extra seconds is far preferable to having the action start when you’re still moving the camera.

6. Not getting enough coverage. One of the most frustrating things in moviemaking is getting into the editing room and realizing that you don’t have enough coverage — this means not just getting enough takes and angles, but also getting b-roll that you can use to cover mistakes or unsightly cuts. Do you have an extra camera you don’t really use? Why not set it up on a tripod to get a wide shot of everything? It might be 10 minutes of wasted setup and takedown, but it might also save you. (Read about my coverage disaster and last minute save here: https://www.videomaker.com/article/c10/18074-how-to-get-the-coverage-you-need)

Image of statues in a courtyard with a characteristic fisheye distortion.
A great fisheye shot can add something special to your project, but making it your only option just isn’t smart. Get a shot with your fisheye lens, then get another with a more neutral look — just in case.

7. Over or under thinking. Be creative with your angles, but always have a backup plan. Shooting everything from eye level is boring — but it’s also safe. Be sure to get alternate angles, but also don’t force it. Try and get bland coverage of everything that you try in an unusual way. That fisheye might rock your project, or you may get back to the editing room and realize that you have something that just doesn’t fit. Check out some tips on creative camera angles here: https://www.videomaker.com/videonews/2014/03/4-quick-tips-for-creative-camera-positions

We all have bad habits, and the first part of breaking them is realizing what they are. Do you have bad habits you’d like to shake? Tell us about them in the Videomaker forums.

Kyle Cassidy lives in Philadelphia and writes frequently about technology and imagery. 

Kyle Cassidy
Kyle Cassidyhttp://www.kylecassidy.com
Kyle Cassidy is a professional filmmaker, photographer and writer.

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