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Shooting video with a DSLR

Andrea Allen
December 16, 2010 by Andrea Allen PRO

Step 5: Camera Settings and Shooting Techniques

You get the most control over your video when you shoot in Manual mode, usually indicated by the letter M on your top settings dial. The Manual setting gives you control over the aperture and shutter speed. Shooting this way takes a little bit of work, but it’s worth it, and after you experiment a bit, you’ll start to get a good feel for the settings!

Here are some important things to keep in mind.

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is how long the sensor in your camera is exposed to light. To maintain the film look of shooting videos with your DSLR, you want to make sure your shutter speed in synchronous to your framerate. If you are shooting in 24p or 25p you will want to set your shutter speed to 50 (1/50th of a second). Shooting in 30p, set your shutter speed to 60 or 1/60th. 50p or 60p, shoot at 100 and 120 respectively. These setting will give you the best looking video.

*E***For extra credit:** Check out Tyler Ginter’s super useful and detailed blog post about understanding shutter speed.

ISO is a camera setting that changes how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor will be, which allows you to shoot better images in low light conditions. It’s a good idea to keep your ISO as low as possible for the best looking image. Sometimes, you’ll need to bump it up a bit if there isn’t a lot of light.

Good ISOs: 160, 320, 640, 1250, and 2500
Avoid using: 125, 250, 500, and 1000. These ISO settings create noise and make your footage look grainy.

White balance is the process of capturing the correct colors for the type of available light. Think of it as making sure the color white is always white, and doesn’t have blue or red tints. Many cameras come with an easily understandable white balance menu, as well as an auto white balance feature.

Use the presets for whatever condition you’re shooting in.

Depth of Field (DOF) refers to the part of your image that is in focus. A deep DOF will show nearly everything in the shot sharply in focus. If you have a shallow DOF, a narrow range with in your video image will be in focus. A shallow depth of field allows for greater emphasis to be placed on your main subject.

Using slow, and controlled movements while your camera is attached to a tripod will give you the best shots. A good technique to try when you pan from side to side is to hold your shot for about ten seconds, then start your slow pan, and then hold your shot another ten seconds before cutting. This gives you three different shots to work with when it comes time to edit!

*E***For extra credit:** Go outside and shoot some footage with your white balance at different settings. What happens when you put your white balance to tungsten if it’s sunny outside? Experiment!

Ready for a challenge?

So do you feel confident enough to go out and shoot something? Philip has a great starting challenge for you called “An Object.” Find an object and film it so that it’s interesting! Use all the techniques you learned, keeping in mind your white balance, ISO settings, and frame rate. Keep your video under two minutes and really push your boundaries with framing and DOF. Watch Phil’s example video here.

Accept this challenge
  1. 1.
    Accessories are important as you start shooting. Learn about what you definitely need and things that you'll want for awesome looking videos.
  2. 2.
    If you're new to shooting with a DSLR, here are some things you'll need to know about lenses.
  3. 3.
    New to shooting with a DSLR? Maybe you're thinking about getting one? We'll teach you the differences between DSLR cameras and help you decide which one's best for you!
  4. 4.
    Shooting at night with your DSLR? This lesson will give you the tips for making your low light shots awesome.
  5. 5.
    Recording high quality sound for your DSLR can be tricky business. Here are a few ways to help you record.
  6. 6.
    This lesson covers a few simple changes you can make to your camera settings in order to get the best looking footage for your DSLR!
  7. Keys to understanding your camera settings and how to start shooting great video with your DSLR.
  8. 8.
    Learn how to make a basic timelapse video with your DSLR.


Tonya Faye Dickie

Hooooow do you change the depth of field when shooting video...?

Cody Graham

Depth of field is based on four variables:
1) Iris (aka aperture) – a more open iris of f1.8 is more shallow than f16
2) Focal Length – Telephoto is going to be much more shallow than wide
3) Distance from subject you want in focus – are you 50ft away or 5 feet?
4) Format (this usually isn't a consideration since most of us use DSLRs)

Tonya Faye Dickie

Yes. I know that. I found the answer I was looking for, if anyone else was wondering. It's the large scroll wheel that changes it.

Two Headed Snake Productions

Hi Andrea, this tutorial was great. One thing I'm still confused about though is why 1250 is still a 'good' ISO when it is also a multiple of 125?

Paul Vernon

Why do ISO settings 125 250 500 1000 create more noise than the other settings suggested ?

Kazz Goa

I've just seen this video and I have the same doubt like barandcross.

goon seob lee

My camera sony A57 has only 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 ,300 ...
In my case. What is good setting for shooting. thx for good lesson Phil.

Simon Dræby Carstens Plus

Thanks for this :) You guys are great!

have a question - have i misunderstood something: I have the canon 60D and while in the M-mode the camera wont alow me to press the record button.. How do you shoot video in manual mode? Is it because i can´t or is it because i should adjust my settings in M-mode and then switch to video - mode?

Please help me wonderfull people..

Simon, from Denmark

Alberto Mazza

about what you say about ISO in footage:
"Good ISOs: 160, 320, 640, 1250, and 2500
Avoid using: 125, 250, 500, and 1000. These ISO settings create noise and make your footage look grainy."

I can't understand why, because I used to know that noise is directly proportional to the ISO amount...

Samuel Barnes

It is because the camera digitally changes the brightness of the image to achieve more ISO settings.


Does anyone know by testing if these ISO's (125, 250, etc.) are still to be avoided in the newer DSLR's such as the Canon 80D?

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