Taking care of your metadata is the most critical thing you can do. It is the difference between a buyer discovering and purchasing your content vs. your item appearing on the 10th page. If you feel unsure about the best practices around metadata, check out our Master Your Metadata post.
Add seasonal tags to your work to take advantage of periodic trends. These tags will help surface your relevant content in front of the right buyers. To find inspiration and to think about keywords, see our guide on Keywords and Concepts to find the right ones for your work.
Types of events to consider
Seasonal events – A seasonal event is a recurring event that takes place at approximately the same time. Examples include Halloween, 4th of July, Juneteenth, National Cherry Blossom Festival, Superbowl, Met Ball, Oscars, World Cup, or recurring customs, such as Back to School.
Examples of tags you can use related to kids playing on a playground: kindergarten, preschool, school, summer break, back to school, scholars, pupils, classmates, free time, leisure, family time, education, virtual classroom, distance learning, start of school, start of term, semester, etc.
Current Events – Current events live for a certain period and are highly searched because people talk about them for example, Coronavirus, the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, etc.
Examples of tags you can use for healthcare related content: COVID, Covid-19, COVID19, Coronavirus, pandemics, Respirators, FFP2, social distancing,…
On the News Events – These events are trending on the news currently, such as economics, cryptocurrencies, and political topics.
Examples of tags you can use for news related content: Midterms, Politics, Elections, The Congress, Go Vote, but also concrete keywords and special keywords from us, from social media, etc. Midterms2022, US Midterms, USElections2022, Primaries 2022 etc.
Extra Pro Tip: Always remember to update the year for recurring events like EURO, Midterm elections, Presidential elections, Olympics, etc. Midterms 2018 > Midterms 2022
Location, date, and event are essential, especially when editing editorial footage. While editing the description, titles, and keywords, don’t forget these details.
Title: Vote Center, Indiana, May 3, 2022 – People In Queue, Voting, Primaries, Midterms
Description: Acton UMC Vote Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA (May 3, 2022), A queue of people holding ballots in front of the local polling station.
Keywords:Midterms, Midterms 2022, US Primaries, May Primaries, Primaries Indiana, Midterms Indiana, Indianapolis, People, Crowd, Ballot, Queue, Elections, Voting, US Congress, Senate, House of Representatives, Go Vote, Politics, Politicians, Democrats, Republicans, Polling, Polling Station, Precinct, etc.
The ideal timing for adding new tags is essential. Our buyers plan their campaigns months in advance, so you should plan at least two months before the event, holiday, or season. For example, if you have a video of people playing football, add the relevant keywords referring to the finals three months ahead of the event. Also, think of different keywords for different countries – both football and soccer should be there!
Example: A generic close up video of a football player may have different tags throughout the whole year:
The first set of keywords might refer to a local league – Premier League, United Kingdom, Uk Premier League Soccer Association, The Football Association, The FA Another set of keywords may refer to an upcoming World Cup – 2022 World Cup, FIFA 2022, FIFA Qatar, Now is All, 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification, etc. You can consider specific keywords for UEFA EURO, Champion League, etc.
The way you look at your work isn’t always the way your potential buyer sees it. Always think of both sides of the story and prepare your metadata for everyone!
Example: If you have a shot of roasted bacon, you can use words like crispy, yummy, delicious, BBQ, burger, etc., but also unhealthy, fat, junk food, obesity, civilization disease, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.
How To Add Keywords?
Follow the steps below or visit Your Pond5 Guide to Keywords for a more in-depth guide. Add as many descriptive keywords as possible up to a limit of 50 for each upload.
Navigate to your My Uploads section by clicking on your avatar and selecting Uploads from the dropdown menu.
Search for the file you want to edit. For a better understanding of your dashboard, check out this guide.
Click on the number on the right in the “TAGS” column.
Add your tags, and once you are finished, click on “Submit”.
Reload the page – you should be able to see the new number of tags.
And that’s it! See? You can always enhance your previously uploaded batches of content so use the advantage of adding new tags and start increasing the sale potential of your existing uploads.
Our intelligent search algorithm works just like the search engine you’re used to when shopping for a specific item or researching a particular topic. In the same way that keywords promote pages on Google, relevant keywords help buyers find your work on Pond5.
The unique Keyword Codes (also called “tags”) in our Shoot Briefs, Music Briefs, and Buyer Requests are a great example. In this case, we assign a specific Keyword to each topic. When you include this keyword with your upload, it is “tagged” as that particular theme, allowing us to find and promote it to buyers searching for that type of content. Read on to learn expert get-my-work-noticed tips!
Picking The Right Keywords
Choosing effective keywords can feel daunting, but it’s easier than you think. Find inspiration from work that’s already performing well by using our top-selling content to your advantage! Search for your subject on Pond5 and sort the results by ‘popular’.
Then click on any thumbnail and scroll down to see Related Searches and Related Categories. These popular headings are also relevant ideas for your keywords!
Additionally, check out the Data and Trends section for Trending Searches and our 20 top searched keywords. We update the content every month for each media type!
Stay Up To Date
Keywords are most helpful when they’re current, so remember to prioritize re-tagging your work according to topical events.
For example, if your page has a generic shot of a hospital, you may want to add “Covid-19” as a keyword. Because the pandemic is such a trending topic, it’s likely that people will search for it by name—and voila! Your work would be served to them.
Similarly, if you had a shot of uniform-clad school pupils, you could re-tag your clips with Back To School at the end of July. On that note, read on for more tips on how to say the right thing at the right time.
Think Like a Buyer and Plan Ahead
Try to plan your productions so that your work is ready when buyers need it. Marketers and production companies plan their campaigns months ahead of the actual event, so it’s important to plan even earlier than that!
For example, if you are an After Effects artist looking to upload work for November’s Midterms 2022 elections, aim to upload your content by the end of April. Campaign managers will be looking for suitable assets as early as May, make yours the first work they see!
Tell Both Sides of the Story
It’s all about perspective so be sure to describe your subject in diverse ways. Buyers will use your content for varying purposes, and search terms should reflect that.
For example, if you shoot a closeup of bacon rotating on a plate, you could use crispy, yummy, roasted, salty, burger, BBQ, etc. However, you can also use unhealthy, fatty, junk food, health risk, high cholesterol, etc.
As you can see, keyword planning is an exercise in creativity and strategy. Thankfully, updating them is simple.
How to Add Keywords:
Keywords can be added or edited in a few different ways:
We’ve partnered with RedShark editor Simon Wyndham (also known as FiveElement on Pond5) to walk you through customizing and optimizing your artist Storefront! In the video above, join Simon as he takes us from shoot to upload. See for yourself how easy it is to use these features, then read on for some key takeaways.
Even before you shoot, start thinking about potential customers. In the video, Simon explains how he leveraged his surfing lifestyle shoot to include landscape scenes, expanding his audience. Like him, you’ll want to consider the following aspects before your shoot:
Remember, the weather can be unpredictable. If you’re shooting outside, it’s a great idea to plan your contingency shots!
Customize Your Storefront
Use your Pond5 Storefront to showcase your brand identity and work. See how Simon:
Simon says…take home 90% of your sales. He’s referring to the Pond5 Referral Program—giving you commission for every new buyer you bring to Pond5! Here’s how: Click ‘Refer and Earn’ on your Storefront or visit your My Referrals page. Share your unique link with friends or on social media. Your referrals get 20% off their purchase, and you get 20% too! When your referrals purchase your work, you get an additional 10% on each referred purchase. For more info, check out our Referral Best Practices guide.
You can find the specific reason in your return note from the curator.
Below you’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to edit your metadata, send your media to our team of curators, and start earning on Pond5.
How do I know which items need edits?
Navigate to your My Uploads section by clicking on your avatar and selecting Uploads from the dropdown menu.
In the Status dropdown menu, select Needs Edits or Returned.
In the Type dropdown menu, change the media type to All.
Voilà—Here’s the list of your items that need edits!
PRO TIP: Navigate to your Tech Data tab and click Date Uploaded to filter your results from oldest to newest.
Let’s add metadata to your items!
The more thorough your description, the better your chances of appearing on customers’ screens! All metadata should be in English. Avoid keyword stuffing (adding irrelevant keywords or an excess of keywords), and remember not to add any special characters or symbols.
Title – Nothing fancy. Should convey exactly what is depicted in your work. Character limit: 80.
Description – Be as informative as possible. Wherever you can, include the date, time, and location, event name, and overview of the scene. Character limit: 2000.
Suggested format: PLACE, CITY, COUNTRY, (MONTH, DAY, YEAR)
Use English names for months, use words in place of numbers
Example: Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom (August 15, 1985)
Keywords – These are words that are used as identifiers or labels for your media files.
Please note that you should always include 40-50 keywords for each item. Ask yourself, “What will a buyer have to search to find my clip?” Relevant keywords play the most important role in our search algorithm.
You can add all of this information on the Item Detail Page for each of your items. Shortcut: You can click Save and Submit for Review at the bottom of each Edit Item page and skip the steps below.
PRO TIP: Do you have a lot of items in Needs Edits or Returned status?
If you have a lot of items in Needs Edits or Returned status, it may be easier for you to bulk add metadata using a CSV file with multiple items rather than adding the information for one item at a time. To do this:
Navigate to Uploads>Apply CSV>Video (or other media type)
Click Download CSV. This will download a CSV file with your entire portfolio. It will contain columns for both mandatory and optional information. Mandatory fields are Originalfilename, Title, and Keywords. All other fields are optional. Any information you previously added will be displayed.
Add or modify metadata for the items in the CSV that you want to change.
The status of your selected uploads will change to Pending for Review.
When will my work be online?
Our curation team is one of the fastest in the industry. Your items will generally be reviewed within 1 to 10 days depending on volume.
When our curators review your items, they will be marked (1) Online, (2) Rejected, or (3) Returned.
If you’ve opted into email notifications, you’ll receive an email letting you know when your item changes status.
Online: This status indicates that your files have already been reviewed and approved by a curator. Congratulations! It may take up to a few hours, and in some cases up to a week, for them to appear online while the site indexes.
Rejected: If your files are rejected by our curation team for any reason, they’ll include a note in their email to you explaining why. They’ll often ask you to re-upload the file due to glitches, unsupported formats or codecs, etc. (See our spec requirements here).
Returned: Your files may be returned by the curation team again if there is something missing.
Preparing your photos for submission to a stock library can seem daunting, but fear not! All it takes is a systematic approach to make this process easier.
Here are nine quick ideas to streamline your editing like a pro. For more, read Shotkit’s article here.
1. Get organized before you import
Be efficient with well-organized folders and a logical naming system to save time, and energy, down the line! Not sure where to start? Try using the date (Y/M/D) followed by a brief description — think location or activity. Additionally, Digital Asset Managers (DAM) like Lightroom and ACDSee provide templates that automate renaming during import. Remember, a photo will never get rejected because the filename is too long, so if detail helps, go for it!
2. Not too bright, not too dark — use your histogram
Dark images are common among submissions because we often crank our monitors to their brightest setting, and then edit with them. These images consequently appear too dark on other devices. Prevent this with your histogram, a graph showing the image levels of blacks, shadows, mid-tones, highlights, and whites from left to right. If yours is stacked against the left, the image is probably too dark. When right-skewed, it’s likely to be too bright. A centered graph is not always possible, but understanding how your histogram relates to your image helps avoid mistakes.
3. Even out your exposure
A digital camera captures light well, but it is no human eye. Thus you might need to choose between exposing for dark or bright areas when shooting high contrast. Fortunately, shadow and highlight sliders help make up the difference. If you have exposed for highlights and much of the image is dark, try dragging the shadows slider up to lift darker areas.
Conversely, bringing down the highlights slider brings back blown-out sections. Unfortunately, this tends not to be as effective as using the shadows slider! For this reason, we recommended exposing for highlights when shooting. Note that both sliders can produce extreme results, so avoid pushing either of them too far.
4. Keep colors natural
While it can be tempting to crank up color saturation for impact, natural colors allow buyers to add intensity when and if they want it. Attention to saturation is crucial for skin tone, as models who appear green or orange diminish the potential of a photo. Take regular breaks from looking at the screen to come back with fresh eyes!
Remember that every light source, whether midday sun or candle, has a color temperature that affects all colors. Use your white balance to ensure images have neutral light. Ideally, shoot with a grey card to calculate the perfect white balance, but if that’s not possible, try using the white balance eyedropper tool on a neutral grey or white area when editing.
Scenes with various light sources at different color temperatures can make finding the right balance tricky, as is the case with low light. In these situations, try desaturating your images slightly.
5. Clean up your images
Are strange artifacts appearing when you view an image at 100%? These can result from shooting in low light with a higher ISO level. Use editing software to help control excessive noise, without losing too much detail. Additionally, you should check images for dirt on your sensor. This dirt often shows up as small, dark patches, usually seen against sections of the sky or bright and blank areas of the image.
The heal/clone tool tidies up these spots, and some software provides overlays to help you find them. Have a series of photographs with identical sensor dirt in the same position? Save time by copying the cloning work from one image file onto all of the others.
6. Remove distractions
Stock images do better when conveying a clear idea, so check for elements that take attention away from the main subject. The clone/heal tool can help remove unnecessary components. You can also try desaturating competing colors.
7. Compose with the crop tool
Creating a strong composition through careful use of the crop tool can make a photo stand out. Just stick to the original aspect ratio and avoid making the final file too small! Some photographers deliberately shoot wider for flexibility to find the perfect composition during editing. That said, submitting versions of an image with negative space is often useful for designers to add graphics or create balance in a layout. This can also help emphasize the subject matter.
8. Don’t overedit
Remember that the vast majority of stock images have a natural look and feel to them, giving buyers flexibility for their use. A good rule of thumb for editing is that if the first thing a viewer notices when looking at your photograph is the editing, you went too far. Stock photos should be a long way from this!
9. Manage your metadata
Adding keywords to your images can be one of the most time-consuming steps when uploading to stock libraries, but they are critical for helping prospective buyers find your work. Check the stock library requirements and try to be systematic when adding keywords. It’s much quicker to synchronize a batch of keywords across several similar images, and organizing photos into different collections can help speed up this process. Quality editing directly influences the sales potential of an image. It just takes some planning and practice to ensure your fantastic captures truly stand out.
We are visual creatures. Whether we’re attracted to a movie poster, a novel’s dust jacket, or an album or magazine cover, it’s the image that draws us in. Your content may be rich, but if your clips aren’t represented in the way your collection deserves, you won’t be able to attract all of the buyers seeking them out.
It takes just 13 milliseconds for your brain to see an image. When buyers are searching for clips, they’re exposed to a rapid fire deluge of shapes and concepts, shifting their gaze at an average of three times per second. That’s super fast. So how do you capture a frame and make your clips stand out among the millions of images they’re competing with? The process of choosing a hero frame (aka thumbnail) to represent your clip can be quick, but crucial.
Choosing the Right Hero Frame
Often, we come across search results that exhibit uninspired thumbnails with little relevance to the clip’s theme or subject. (See the example below.) You spend quite a bit of time adding descriptions and keywords to your clips to help get your work noticed, so it’s important not to undermine that effort by overlooking this very important detail.
It’s imperative that you select a frame that best represents your clip. The example below demonstrates the hero frames that one filmmaker diligently selected before his work went live.
Pulling a strong frame that resonates with buyers is just as important as applying accurate keywords to your clips. The frame you choose should stand on its own, much like a well-composed photograph. If you haven’t done this before, we highly encourage you to revisit your collection and follow these simple instructions.
How to Select a Thumbnail on Pond5
You can complete this process in just a few simple steps. After logging in to your Pond5 account, upload your clip, or find the previously uploaded clip you want to modify.
On the Edit Item page, you will see 16 frames below the “Thumbnail” header. Choose a frame by clicking on it, and try out different possibilities until you find the find that works best. The ability to capture both the spirit and the mood of a clip in one static image depends on you.
When you’ve found the thumbnail that best represents your clip, simply save it and move on to the next one. Please note that by editing your thumbnail you‘re modifying our database so it might take up to 24 hours to reindex your data – don‘t worry, that‘s a standard process.
Remember that buyers will be drawn to your collection if you can visually articulate the value of your work by choosing the right frames to represent it.
When people are inundated with thousands of choices, there’s no better way to communicate a theme that supports and illustrates your clips than a powerful thumbnail.
If you’re creating media for sale or licensing, regardless of how beautiful your work is, it only matters if people actually see it. Unique keywords added to your content can translate to more traffic and make the difference between 25 searches and 1,000 searches of your collection.
More often than not, customers will dial in a keyword well before narrowing their search to a specific theme or category — so even before you take your first shot, you should be thinking of conceptual ideas you can weave in to what may appear to be a simple shoot.
Give your work a unique voice
Individual shots with the most targeted concepts will undoubtedly be the bestsellers in your collection, as long as your aim is true. Conceptual keywords have the power to reveal a more complex meaning to the viewer, so take the time to analyze the image beyond the general idea and think about the mood that best represents the theme.
The more targeted ideas you can pepper into a shot, the better your odds are for increasing your revenue when people are searching for related visuals. Your best shots will be those that convey a simple message while capturing layers of complexity developing beneath the scenes’s overall theme.
When you’re in the initial phase of pre-production, you should always create a shoot brief including conceptual keywords for each scene. This will help you minimize your shot list by only focusing on the scenes with the strongest concepts — which will save you endless amounts of time editing through dailies and potentially save you money in the long run. Plus, the more strong concepts that you can seamlessly roll into a single scene, the higher the chances for visibility will be.
If you’re focused primarily on the positive side of identifying concepts, it’s possible you may miss out on projects with narratives that represent the other side of things. For instance, a clip featuring a dense rainforest could be used to represent nature or adventure, but it could also represent a diminishing resource caused by deforestation, climate change, or other natural or man-made threats.
For a close-up of bacon strips sizzling on the grill, the filmmaker has beautifully captured the meat’s texture and savoriness, making this perfect for a piece on cooking or eating. On the other hand, keywords like “unhealthy,” “heart attack,” “processed,” and “cancer” can also resonate with a client building a healthcare spot. As long as the keyword is within reason and the theme is executed well, covering all angles increases your chances of the image living within an editor’s final cut.
Often, clients will become familiar with your work after using it once or twice, which will drive their search directly to your collection when starting a new project. Be aware, however, that if you lead a customer down a path littered with false or exaggerated keywords, you may never get another chance to showcase your work and thread it into their next story. So, while using varied keywords that cover different angles and concepts is always good, make sure to keep things accurate. Misleading keywords may get you more views, but chances are they won’t lead to sales and will ultimately backfire.
Be aware of the ever-changing demographics, trends, and terms that define a technology, an event, an occupation, a community, a culture, or an individual. You can bet that terms such as “Millennial”, “LGBTQ+” or “Diversity” are weaved into the themes and stories that are developed by today’s editors and producers. As media makers, it’s our job to clearly represent these themes and to provide those looking for ways to illustrate them with the quickest route to the freshest and most relative media.
That‘s why we keep bringing you the freshest ideas for your next production in our Buyer Requests straight from the real clients, Shoot Briefs to cover current visual trends, as well as Music Briefs, a hand-picked collection of monthly requests, created by our Director of Audio Collections, Mike Pace.
Pre-production is essential in the filmmaking process because without proper planning, your production could run over time, the film could go over budget, or you could find yourself in the editing room with missing content. Some even say, “Production is pre-production.” Whether it’s storyboarding, location scouting, or budgeting, each of the steps below plays a crucial role in the success of your project.
This is where you develop your story, its structure, and plot points. Ideas often are drawn from personal experiences or ripped from the headlines. Maybe it’s a story you were told as a child or a product of your own wild imagination. At its most basic level, a concept should be able to be communicated in three sentences — the beginning, the middle, and the end, translating to acts I, II, and III. Your second act should always be the meat of the film, with the first and third generally bookends, setting up and resolving the main plot.
Your treatment is an extended summary of your film, typically 1-3 pages in length, depending on the scope of the project. It covers the whole story from beginning to end.
Most writers will outline the story using index cards so that they can easily arrange and rearrange scenes. Once completed, give the scenes in your outline letters and numbers to stay organized. These will remain with the scenes all the way through production and post-production, so be consistent and logical about your system. You’ll likely end up adding scenes later on, so set aside unique alpha-numeric combinations for those pickups.
When writing the screenplay, keep referencing your outline so that you never lose track of your story structure. Take advantage of great screenwriting software and tools, like Final Draft or Celtx, which will speed up the writing process. Once you’re finished, go back and rewrite it. Similar to the saying about pre-production, “writing is rewriting.” The average script goes through ten drafts before even being shopped, and many more if it’s optioned or bought. Once you think your script is as good as you can make it, share it with someone whose opinion you trust, and start getting notes. It’ll never be perfect, but you have to decide when the time is right to lock it and move on to the next phase.
The script breakdown is the process in which every single item needed for the movie’s shoot is identified. This includes locations, props, effects — absolutely everything. It’s incredibly important to pore over every detail in this process in order to estimate a budget and schedule.
This is your shot-by-shot breakdown of each scene, with a description of the framing and other details, such as focal length, camera movement, and location.
A visual representation of each scene in your film, your storyboards can illustrate character placement, blocking, lighting positions, focal length, and other notes. If you don’t have the budget to hire a storyboard artist, you’ll need to rely on your own skills, or maybe have your production designer pull double duty.
Filmmaking is an expensive business. The producer needs to secure funding to pay for the entire pre-production, production, and post-production process, in addition to marketing and distribution once the film is complete. Getting your film funded can sometimes take years. Therefore, some filmmakers move forward without funding and pay for their film out-of-pocket; then they sell or license the rights to it after it’s complete. The funding can come at any stage in the game.
When location scouting for each scene, physically go to the location if possible. Observe things like the ambient light and sound. Bring the shot list to visualize each shot in the scene. If the location is outdoors, think about visiting it at different times of the day to see how the light and sound change. Check the weather. If you have a large crew or a lot of gear, think about access both for your crew members and production vehicles. Bring a camera to snap some photos of your locations — this will be helpful for the production designer when choosing a location. Think about what permits or property releases you might need at each location.
Having locked all locations and produced the shot list, the director, cinematographer, production designer, line producer, and 1st AD go on the tech scout. The purpose of the tech scout is for the director to visit each and every location with the heads of each department and explain precisely what each shot will entail: where the camera will be, details of camera movement, what the actors will be doing, and what the look of the scene will be. Again, bring a camera to snap some photos. The cinematographer can use this opportunity to replicate each shot with a still camera.
After the tech scout, the 1st AD uses the director’s shot list to draw up a schedule for each day of the shoot.
Casting is taken care of by Casting Directors, who are very good at finding actors that match the director’s specifications. Obviously, the director makes the final choices, but the preliminary selection – which is the most time-consuming and tedious part – is done by the casting directors, who are, frankly, worth every penny they charge.
After the scout, the production designer designs and oversees the production of set pieces, and arranges the procurement of anything that needs to be purchased, such as plants, furniture, and props. The costume designer does the same.
So there you have it. Now that you’ve gotten educated on the pre-production process, it’s time to move on to the actual production — which will go much more smoothly with all this proper work done up front!
Before you can start creating amazing photos and videos, you need to have the right equipment. Building the right kit is essential for ensuring the quality of the content you’re going to produce, as well as the efficiency with which you produce it. These tips will help you maximize your budget while also making sure you have everything you need to capture your vision.
DSLR cameras remain cheap alternatives to cinema cameras, while still providing fabulous resolution and great ergonomics. Before buying your camera, you should know that almost all of them function in a similar fashion, even when it comes to the menu navigation. The best DSLR cameras are manufactured by commonly known brands like Canon, Panasonic, Sony, and Pentax, and almost all of them are in a similar price range.
When choosing a camera, think of it as both your work buddy and your tool of trade. Ask yourself questions like: Do I need 4k resolution? Do I need slow motion/high frame rate? Do I need a high ISO for filming in low light conditions? Do I plan on taking high resolution photos? After you answer these questions, you should be able to narrow your search down to a few different cameras according to their specifications.
These cameras are currently the leaders in the DSLR world, outperforming many of their competitors in almost every category.
Canon EOS R5
Sony A7S III
Sony Alpha 1
Panasonic Lumix S1H
Panasonic Lumix GH5 II
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K
They all have great image quality, extreme low-light capabilities and high dynamic range, allowing more control for color grading. Here are some visual references from each one:
Also called “glass” among professionals, lenses are what the camera uses to see the world. Their characteristics and light-transmitting speed are what makes them unique pieces of gear that affect the look of your video. We highly advise that you don’t spend your entire budget on your camera, so that you have enough funds left over to purchase a high-quality lens. Remember, your lens is just as important as the camera; top-notch cameras will often deliver a bad image if paired with a low-quality lens, so don’t skimp on the glass!
If you plan on shooting in low-light conditions, you’ll need a lens with a low aperture, like f/2.8 or lower. The faster the lens, the more range you have with your exposure and depth-of-field.
Note: f-stop measures how fast light transfers through the glass onto your sensor. The lower the f-stop, the faster the lens is, thus allowing you to film in darker environments.
These are the four main types of lenses:
Prime Wide Angle: Wide-angle lenses have a focal length of 25mm or less. They’re good for establishing shots, editorial filming, and landscapes.
Prime Standard: A standard lens has a focal length between 25mm and 75mm. These are good for run-and-gun style shooting, portraits, interviews, and editorial filming.
Prime Telephoto/Super Telephoto: A telephoto lens has a focal length between 75mm and 800+. These are good for shooting sports and wildlife.
Zoom Lenses: Different from the prime lenses listed above, a zoom lens offers variable focal lengths that can go from wide to standard, or from standard to telephoto. A 24-70mm f/2.8 is a great lens to have in your kit. It’s good for editorial filming, portraits, landscapes, and travel videography.
Note: Just because you have a zoom doesn’t mean you don’t have to move! Zoom lenses can often make beginner videographers lazy. Why would you want to get closer to a subject, when you can just zoom in? Bad idea! It’s important to always move around with the camera, “working” your subject and experimenting with different angles. Getting closer to your subject improves composition, giving you a better-looking image. Only utilize the zoom when you can’t get close enough.
Tripods are an absolutely essential part of your video kit. They help you film steady shots, as well as achieve smooth camera movements, like tilts, pans, and zooms.
Tripod benefits include:
Sharper and clearer images when filming in low-light conditions
Fluid camera movements (tilts, pans, and zooms)
Holding extra gear, such as sound recorders and light panels
Being essential when filming extreme closeups and macro shots
Removing unwanted camera shake, making your images look more professional
When choosing your tripod, make sure to consider the weight factor. The tripod’s weight should always be more than the weight of your camera and lens combined, guaranteeing a solid base for your camera.
Additionally, you should consider investing in a tripod with a “quick release” plate, which allows you to quickly remove the camera from the tripod to go handheld. This is helpful when shooting editorial events.
Lastly, invest in a “fluid head” tripod. The head is what attaches the camera to the tripod; a fluid head is designed to smooth out any sudden movements when panning or tilting.
Choosing the right memory card for your digital camera, camcorder, or drone isn‘t as complicated as it may seem to many at first.
Memory cards can be divided according to several criteria:
Data write speed
Card types and their capacity
By far the most widespread platform is Secure Digital cards, i.e. abbreviated as SD cards. Usually you will find the names SDHC, SDXC and also microSDHC or microSDXC. Let’s explain the individual differences.
SD – The format originally came from MMC cards. All cards with a capacity of up to 2 GB were marked with SD.
SDHC – This type of cards has allowed manufacturers to use higher capacities, up to 32 GB. Older SD card readers can’t handle these cards, but all devices that now read SDHC cards are able to read back and write to SD cards.
SDXC – this label boasts cards with the highest capacity from 64 GB up to 1 TB. However, this standard theoretically allows the production of cards up to 2 TB, but such a card would now cost a fortune. Devices that can read this type of card also support SD and SDHC formats.
microSD – mainly used by manufacturers of mobile phones, action cameras, drones, various cameras, etc. As with “large” SD cards, this designation was used for cards with a capacity of up to 2 GB
microSDHC – same size as the previous type, only increasing the capacity to a maximum of 32 GB
microSDXC – same size as the previous type, only increasing the capacity to 64 GB to 512 GB
Data write speed (card speed class)
Cards are usually marked with a number in a circle that indicates the data transfer speed / write speed, up to number 10. Higher speeds are already marked with the UHS-I symbol. Unfortunately, the same class mark doesn’t mean the same speed. For example, you might encounter a class 10 card with a maximum speed of 10 MB/s, and also a class 10 card with a maximum speed of 90 MB/s.
UHS-I – Ultra High Speed, which brings a customer a higher speed guaranteed by the manufacturer. Card speeds range from 10 MB/s to 170 MB/s.
UHS-II – even faster class of the UHS cards, this class of card is equipped with extended contacts for communication with the camera. The maximum read and write speed is 300 MB/s.
For example, for video on the Panasonic DMC-GH5, the card is important for maximum output, as the camera supports 4K video streaming up to 400 Mbps, so either an external recording device or a very fast card is required.
When it comes to storage capacity, it’s important to choose a card that has enough space for your whole shoot, plus more. Keep in mind that the higher the resolution/frame rate you record at, the larger the video file sizes will be. A 64GB card can record about an hour of 1080HD video or about 35 minutes of 4k video. It’s wise to purchase a backup card, as well.
Due to high bitrate, memory cards with a capacity of at least 128 or 256 GB are often used for video recording today.
SD cards and CF cards are what the camera uses to store your captured data. Their speed class and capacity are the main factors to look at while building your video kit. Speed class is how fast the card manages to record data. For example, a speed class 2 card won’t be able to continuously record HD video for more than 30 seconds. For 4k recording, we recommend class 10 or ultra-high-speed class 1 and 3.
Here are speed logos representing speed classes from slowest to fastest:
Lens filters are essential for enhancing your desired look or for overcoming extra light/shine obstacles. There are 3 main types of filters that should be part of a basic video kit:
UV Filters: For protecting the front part of the lens from dust, dirt, moisture, and potential scratches. They have almost no effect on the look of the image, but keep your glass safe and sound.
Polarizing Filters: These help to dramatically reduce reflections, while enhancing colors and increasing contrast. This kind of filter can be used for any type of videography to cut down on the shine of objects.
ND Filters: These help to reduce extreme light entering the lens. They’re ideal for capturing the sunny sky without losing the texture and color of it. Also handy when shooting timelapses.
Besides the key essentials above, here are some additional accessories to include your basic gear kit:
An extra battery or two for your camera. They run out pretty quick.
Camera and lens cleaning kit. A must-have to keep your gear clean and increase the life cycle of the lens and camera sensor.
A case or backpack to carry all your equipment around.
If you plan on recording audio, a small shotgun mic will provide much better sound than your on-camera mic.
If shooting in darker environments, a small LED light with a shoe mount will come in handy.
There you have it. Now it’s your turn to build and customize your kit for your own projects. Happy filming!
Gimbals are amazing. They’re exciting to use, relatively easy to figure out, and they expand your filmmaking style and the types of shots you can acquire to a countless degrees. You can add tons of production value at relatively little cost to your gear kit, all by just adding a gimbal.
Immediately, your shots will reveal more life, more exploration, and more creativity.
There are definitely many nuances and subtleties that need to be taken into account before and as you’re shooting with a gimbal, though, along with the overall concepts you’ll need to get the best footage possible. And even though it’s a fun tool, it’s certainly not a toy, and doesn’t work for every application — so read on to become a gimbal ninja (gimja? ninbal?). Actually, there’s already a Gimbal Ninja.
*Note: these are mostly for larger handheld gimbals (Mövi, Ronin, etc), but many principles work for smaller gimbals as well — just not smaller drone gimbals.
Balance It Out
The most important first step to shooting with a gimbal is to get it balanced correctly. Smaller gimbals, like the DJI Osmoor the GoPro Karma Grip don’t require you to balance them beforehand, but for larger gimbals like the Mövi or the Ronin, you’ll need to get them dialed in perfectly for optimal results. Typically, this is the order of how you should balance your gimbal:
Front/Back Camera Balance (rough)
Tilt Axis Balance
Roll Axis Balance
Front/Back Camera Balance (fine)
Pan Axis Balance
Tweak each clamp or bracket mechanism and check the balance. Make any adjustments so that everything is perfectly level and doesn’t move after you put the camera in the position you want.
There are a few ways to carry most gimbals. While holding handles at chest height, the camera can either be upright and below the handles, or inverted and above the handles. You can also grab the center handle and go lower to the ground, and in the case of the Ronin, you can grab one of the side handles and turn it upright into “briefcase mode.”
Most of the time, your shots will be in the standard setup. It offers a ton of versatility and can accomplish almost every shot this way. When you flip it over and invert the camera (thus inverting your image), you can raise it higher above your head, so it’s good for overhead shots or higher perspectives, and can actually give the camera operator a bit of a break from the strain of standard usage. You just need to invert the footage in post.
You’ll want to use the center handle for anything where you want the gimbal to be on just one side of your body, and usually near the ground, or at least below your waist, such as following someone’s feet or rising up from the ground. “Briefcase mode” (handles pointing up and down) is also for low-angle shots but has the added benefit of being more narrow since the handle is now up and down. New handles and rings and all sorts of ways to carry these gimbals are also being built constantly (see Mövi Pro).
Controlling the Camera with the Gimbal
This is the most fundamental part of using the gimbal. You need to be aware of how you want it to act with your movements. Normally, when you pan or tilt, the gimbal pans or tilts the camera. Some gimbals have connecting thumb controls, giving you the ability to control the camera independently of where you’re facing, and most gimbals will actually let you adjust and refine the smoothness within the controls or an app, but more on that later.
It takes a decent amount of time working with gimbals to understand how much you prefer to have to “force” the camera into moving, and how easy it is for you to move it around comfortably, so I recommend practicing not just in general, but specifically on shots that you’re envisioning for your project.
Camera Movement Options
Since you now have all the creative benefits of your new tool, you can really experiment with all kinds of different shots and movements. Here are some of the various shots you can get:
Instead of the traditional way that usually calls for rails or a metal track and a wheeled cart (a “dolly”), you simply walk, run, bike, or ride in an office chair for your motion while holding your camera.
Usually, you would have to construct the jib, then move the thing around. It can be quite cumbersome, especially if you don’t have a lot of room. The beauty of the gimbal is that you can get these rising/lowering shots much more easily by either just bending over or squatting. You’re limited to your body’s reach, however. Here’s a clip using the Ronin in a jib/crane style:
This is when the camera moves through a very tight space, like a window or a hole, and keeps recording, all in one move. The gimbal eliminates many of the roadblocks that would come with traditional Steadycams or shoulder rigs and allows you to fit into spaces that are smaller. (Although, if you’re the aforementioned Gimbal Ninja, you can pretty much do anything.)
Lockdown Takeoff Tradeoff Shot
We don’t know exactly what the official name of this shot is (or if it’s actually an official shot), so we made up that name. Since gimbals are so versatile, relatively compact, and (relatively) lightweight, they can be transferred between people, between stands, or even between moving objects. You are able to do a move to follow the action, rest the camera on a stand while the action pauses, then start the next move as the action picks back up, all without having to stop recording. Similarly, you could hand off the camera rig to another operator mid-shot and keep things fresh.
Using a Rig
You can take away most of the strain on your body by using a rig. Most of them run between $2,000 and $8,000, depending on the options, so they’re not cheap, but they are well worth it. After using a rig just one time ourselves, we realized we should never shoot without it. In addition to saving your body, you can shoot longer, and depending on the rig, you can do more moves with a greater range of motion because of the lack of body strain.
The main thing to take away about using a gimbal rig is that you need to have it sized and adjusted as best as possible so that it performs ideally. Once you learn your limitations, your balance, and your range of motion, you’ll start getting the best shots.
Avoiding the “Swimming” Motion
One of the things to be on the lookout for while you’re operating the gimbal is a vertical “bobbing” or “swimming” motion that occurs in the footage when the camera operator is walking. This is most common when walking at a normal pace, but not as much when moving very quickly or very slowly. This happens because the gimbal doesn’t control the vertical movement of the camera, so when your arms move up and down too much, it’s visible.
The low-cost/higher-strain solution to this problem is to bend your knees, walk with very even, deliberate footsteps (“rolling” from heel to toe), and hold the camera out further away from your body. You may not be able to eliminate it, but you can definitely tone it way down.
The high-cost/low-strain solution is to buy a rig, and then possibly even buy an arm or adapter that adjusts for these movements and eliminates them completely. The Easyrig’s Serene Arm is the arm of choice for many operators, but it’s an additional $3,000 on top of the cost of the rig. (Shooting in high speed/slow motion also reduces the visible shakiness, so keep that in mind, as well.)
Working with Apps and Accessories
A lot of the different gimbals’ accompanying apps can help out in many ways, too. You can calibrate the gimbal, set how sensitive the gimbal is to your movements and how much padding you want when you stop moving, and you can turn on or off the movement feature altogether.
There are also tons of accessories, and since there are ports located on most gimbals, you can plug them in directly. Things like basic thumb controls for movement, control boxes that change all your camera settings, follow-focus rings, and wireless monitor transmitters are all common accessories to add to make your shots easier to obtain and duplicate/replicate. (Also, more money, of course).
And don’t forget about the simple things, like tools and wrenches you may need to set up the gimbal (usually included), or extra batteries, or even a C-stand to use for holding the gimbal between shots.
Another way to make it easier for yourself is to have someone else controlling the camera while you just focus on the movements of the gimbal through space. This “dual operator” mode is quite common for most gimbals and a wireless remote or controller is simply an add-on, or may even come with the gimbal itself. You can actually use the remote yourself if you have the gimbal on a stand to perform nice pans and tilts, eliminating the need to bring along a tripod.
This brings me to my final few points: Some people, when talking about gimbals, may say or write something like, “Even though it’s versatile, it can’t replace your dolly track, slider, tripod, etc,” but I think that’s not exactly 100% true. You can make dolly-esque moves with the gimbal and something as simple as a skateboard or office chair, instead of bringing along a bunch of metal tracks to your shoot. You can do subtle front-to-back or side-to-side moves like a camera slider track would do, and, as I said in the previous paragraph, you can put the gimbal on a stand and do pans, tilts, and rotations with a remote. This has the potential to save you not only money but also the time and energy it takes to carry all that extra stuff around.
Of course, you don’t really want to use a gimbal when going handheld for something like a timelapse (although we’re sure someone has done it successfully), nor would you want to use a gimbal on a stand for an action scene — but for the most part, pretty much every type of shot is possible. You just have to be good and work at it, and that’s where practice makes perfect.