How to Operate a Video Camera

If you’re lucky enough to get a new video camera for Christmas, here are some basic tips on how best to use it.

video camera operation

Video Camera Operating Techniques

One of my favorite tips to share with people is to use your camera set on the wide angle lens as much as possible.  In other words, shoot zoomed all the way out.

Shooting wide helps you do lots of things.  First, your shots will look steadier if you are on a wide angle shot.  You can often eliminate the need for a tripod if you are on a wide angle shot because camera shake is simply less noticeable.

The wide angle setting is also easier to focus.  You will not have hardly any focus issue if you are on a wide shot because wide angle lenses have a large depth of field.   This means almost all of your picture is in focus automatically.

For those two reasons, using a video camera zoomed all the way out makes shooting quality video easier.

Keep the sun at camera’s back…

The second tip is to keep the sun, or any bright light source, at the back of the camera operator.   To get a nicely lit shot, you want the light falling on the subject of your picture.  If the sun is behind your subject, you will get a silhouette.  Although they can be pretty, most of the time a silhouette is not appropriate.

Video Camera Operating Techniques

When shooting video, it’s standard practice to take a variety of angles of the same action.  You can do this by using multiple cameras or by repeating the action and placing the camera in a different spot each time.  If things are happening fast, or you do not have enough control over the situation to have the action repeated, get in the habit of moving quickly and placing the camera in a variety of locations while the action is happening.

In addition to getting different angles, get different scopes.  Scope is a term for how close the camera appears to the subject.  Is it a wide-shot,  a medium-shot or a close-up?  Getting a variety of scopes helps make the final edited video much more visually interesting.  The viewer can see detail in a close-up that would go unnoticed in a wide shot.

If you are videotaping groups of people, do your best to get faces and not backs.  Faces are much more interesting.   That seems obvious, but many novices end up getting lots of backs because that is often easier.  For example, if you are videotaping a seminar, you might feel obligated to set up in the very back of the room in order to stay out of the way.  I’m all for setting up in an unobtrusive spot, but crowd shots of people’s backs are not very appealing.

I hope this helps you use your video camera better!

Lorraine Grula


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