Will Shooting Video Replace Still Photographs?

By Beacon Staff

My opinion on the question, Will video replace still photography?, changes based on the mood I’m in. Admittedly I become a curmudgeon when faced with change in the industry. I know this and over the past few years I have worked to approach change with an open mind. I am excited about the ways technology and the Internet have opened opportunities in the way we tell stories. I firmly believe that all these advances are tools for us to use – the tools don’t use us – and in the end it’s the quality of storytelling that’s important.

So what about the idea of going to an assignment, shooting a chunk of video and then pulling stills for publication in print or online?

I started thinking about this again today after following a link from one of my favorite blogs, Mastering Multimedia (here), which has a short post (here) that linked to a fantastic video by photojournalist David Stephenson (here) that was all shot with the Cannon 5D Mark II. See the video (here).

(How’s that for link love.)

Stephenson’s video is great – the technical quality of the film as well, as the storytelling. I shot him an e-mail asking if they were going to be pulling any stills for publication. His response was:

Tomorrow I’ll be looking for some frame grabs to pull out of the clips as we’ll be publishing the story on Monday.
If they don’t look great… I have some other stills I shot of the kid from a few weeks back with my 1st Gen. 5D. I might have to use those for the paper.

The time when journalists have one camera that shoots video and stills is here, and there is nothing wrong with using the tools that are provided to us. (My most-used analogy is that camera gear is like pots and pans: You can spend a lot of money on pots and pans, but it doesn’t mean you can cook. But if you know the fundamentals of cooking, they sure can help.) I believe thee are only two digital SLRs so far that shoot high quality video: Nikon’s D90 and the Cannon 5D Mark II.

I still feel, though, that pulling stills from video should never replace the still photographer. In my experience, there are fundamental differences between how you approach a subject from behind a video lens and a camera lens. One is about the composition of moments; the other is the composition of movement.

But there’s no reason not to try these things out. Explore and push the boundaries of the tools we are given.

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