Some D300s Quick Video Tips

Tough Guy 2011 - D300s Video Tips
The Tough Guy Challenge with Men’s Fitness. All shot handheld on the D300s. Whilst also shooting stills, of course….

I bought a D300s about a year ago, primarily to replace my D80 as a 2nd body whose layout and functionality were closer to my D700, but also because I knew that I needed to start fiddling with video. Like pretty much every professional photographer out there with a brain, I’ve realised that the ability to shoot and deliver video to clients is already influencing our business, and that influence is only going to increase.

After mucking about with it for much of last year I have just recently started to get paid for shooting video alongside shooting stills on jobs. Thus far I just hand over raw footage to my clients, all of whom have people who can edit stuff together to produce a finished video. I lack both the skillset and the software to edit video myself so far, but I don’t think it’ll be long before I acquire both of those, at least at a basic level.

Anyway, the reason for this post is to pass on a couple of things I’ve found whilst shooting video with the D300s. It’s capable of producing very high quality footage, and since it’ll take an external stereo microphone, recording good quality sound too. However, the manual is extremely scant on details of how to actually shoot video, and control camera settings whilst shooting. I’ve recently learnt how to do three crucial things, which have been very handy indeed:

  • Fixing the Aperture. I couldn’t fathom why I was changing the aperture during shooting, and nothing seemed to be changing. There’s a very simple reason for this – the aperture you set before you hit “Lv” to start viewing/shooting with, is the aperture the camera will be filming at. Simple as that. If you’re after a nice shallow depth of field, set it first, don’t try and change it mid-shot.
  • Fixing the Exposure. In a similar vein, I was puzzled why adjusting any other control (shutter speed, exposure compensation etc) seemed to have no effect during shooting. The reason is the same as problem 1 – it all needs to be set before you hit “Lv”. If you know you’ll need +2/3 stop compensation, dial it in before hitting “Lv”, otherwise it’ll have no effect.
  • Keeping Exposure constant throughout a camera move. This one really puzzled me, as someone who shoots in manual mode 95% of the time. I’d frame a shot, get the exposure right, and as I panned round the camera would automatically compensate for the exposure, often giving me a result I didn’t want. Thanks to a chat with my good friend at Nikon, I now know how to lock this off. First you need to go into the menu, Custom setting menu, controls. Scroll down to f7, then choose “AE-L/AF-L button press”, scroll down until you come to “AE Lock (Hold)” and hit OK. Now, make all the exposure settings you need before you start shooting (see 1, and 2 above), and hit “Lv”. Tap the “AE-L/AF-L” button, and it will lock the exposure. It’ll stay locked once you start filming, and better yet, you can lock it again by tapping it again.

To an old fashioned “manual” guy like me, this is the stuff I’ve been looking for, and I wish it was in the D300s camera manual. Ah well, I know now, and so do you for that matter. Enjoy.

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