The Transition from Photography to Filmmaking

By June 1, 2015#Film

I’m a purist. I love the snapshot, the image captured in a fraction of a second that tells an enduring story. I’m that weirdo who never minded when my friends’ moms showed me photo albums of trips I hadn’t taken and people I didn’t know, because I did know them.

I have been to the Grand Canyon several times in my imagination, though still not in real life. I know Aunt Maude and Crazy Grandma Loraine like I know my own relatives. I’ve written narratives for them in my head.

A faded picture of three people in lawn chairs with horn-rimmed glasses in the nineteen-fifties is fascinating to me whether or not I know them. My mind creates their story.

Even more fun for me is to capture a story playing out before me. Showing a family in their element, and bride on her wedding day, or a baby just learning to sit up- these are all things that are magical to me.

I’ve used my magic wand (alright, fine it’s just a camera) and frozen them in time. That dress, those smiles, that bit of drool from a teething baby- they’re all stories summed up in one shot. Okay, let’s be real. This is me I’m talking about, so it’s not just one shot, but a series of shots because I can’t seem to help myself. Digital, not having to pay for film, has created a carefree monster in me (until I hit the end of the memory card and then curse my earlier cavalier attitude). I have an itchy trigger finger. In other words, I have a problem of the “clickety-click” sort.

I know some professional photographers are of the opinion that you should only need one shot if you know what you’re doing and pose the couple just right in perfect lighting. True. True true true true true true- right right right right riiiiiight… However, I seriously cannot help myself. Sometimes I like the expression that comes just after the first click, or as the couple is laughing when they break the pose. –Forget the excuses, it’s just a personality defect.

Wow. Enough about that. I sort of sunk right in to photography and couldn’t get myself out. Asking me about photography is sort of like asking a junior high girl about the guy she likes. No. End. In. Sight.

Now that I’ve made clear- to an embarrassing degree- my passion for photography – a love I started in childhood, this is a great time to address video.

On a trip to Europe with Matt and his family (lucky lucky lucky us! It was so fun!), he kept focusing on video while I did my thing photographing the guts out of the place.

​It’s impossible to put the camera away when every cobblestone I trip over or every doorway to a now-gelato shop is somehow historic.

​I have to admit I didn’t really understand his fascination with filming. It was so much more beautiful and artistic to capture our trip in stills than in home-video mode.

​Then I helped put our Christmas DVD together and my opinion changed. He’d done what I couldn’t. He’d made a film -moving and nostalgic, and capturing so much more than my photos had done.  He’d put together clips that captured that story of our trip beautifully, concisely, and with the same organization and creativity I use in photography.

​I went from doubt to awe. And then that awe became crippling. Photography was my thing, but film was his. I would give my creative opinion or idea on how he should edit something or show something, but I felt video was so far beyond my abilities. After all, I simply had to capture one shot. He had to capture multiple fluid shots that must then flow and tell a story.  My story began and ended in the same instant.

​For a few years I stood on the sidelines, watching him do his video-maestro stuff. I felt in some small ways that I even contributed, I taught him a lot about photography, but never bothered to ask him to teach me video in exchange. I was, to my disbelief, creatively intimidated.

​I’d never really been creatively frightened before, because I’ve always loved most-things creative (I’d say all, but honestly some of it I just don’t get). Try painting? Sure! Pottery? Yes! Culinary arts? Couldn’t keep me away!

​Video?… Cue crickets.

​I knew I had an eye for shots, based off of my photography experience, and so I was a backseat videographer to Matt. “Did you get a shot from that angle with the background blurred?” I’d give more examples but that would go on and on.

​Then he started having me help him. Isn’t it fun and a little shaming when someone has more faith in your abilities and potential than you have in yourself?

​So I plunged in. By plunged I mean waded. And I did it perfectly!!!

​Just kidding. I forgot all the basics I knew from photography, like keeping an eye on the exposure. My first B-roll for Matt was hardly salvageable. Luckily he went into it with no pressure on me to get gripping footage. We didn’t cover a major event. Instead we made a video of our boys at the top of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. It was a project with great meaning for us as we captured that day with them, and as we stepped out onto the top of that building and out into the world of video as something we truly wanted to pursue.

A lot of my shots were a blow-out, and not the cool kind like those ladies who want volume in their hair get. I mean, it was white and sunny, even in rooms with no sun. My focus was… lacking. In those times I’d actually remembered to adjust for the lighting, I pushed the levels too far and the footage was grainy.  I felt like, of the ten tips he gave me, I could only remember one at a time.

​Why would I ever do it again? Because it was fun. Because once I tried it I saw something so elemental it’s almost too stupid to repeat…

I had discovered that video was just like photography, only moving.

​To clarify, it was capturing moments, and beauty, and using my creativity. And the shots I got that actually worked, really worked. The more I practiced (and by practiced that means working B-roll for Matt), the less I was B-roll. There have been times in which a video we’ve made is a majority of my shots, self-directed rather than following the leader –though still Matt’s mighty editing skills, for the most part, but I get to tell stories just like I always have… only not like I always have.

​I’m glad I was brave enough to step out and try something uncomfortable, something that stretches me, and something that I prefer doing more than photography- sometimes.

​I’m still a purist. I still love that snapshot. That one moment that freezes time forever, that freezes that precious and magical moment. But I love capturing the magic of a scene- of a memory and history- that moves, just like life moves.

Author Jill

Wife, Mom, Nurse // Super big fan of Christ. Amateur house renovator, Professional lover of food.

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