The Hybrid Photographer

Cotton Carrier Camera Vest

Japan is one of the most picturesque countries on earth. When I first traveled there 20 years ago, it was with a still camera shooting film. Now I have the ability to record what I see and experience in both high-quality digital stills and HD video with one camera. The hybrid revolution has made this possible.

In the professional arena, there’s an exponentially growing call for multimedia production from a single source, and even if you don’t make your living this way, you can add an extra dimension to your travel photography by including video in the mix. And though the latest HDSLRs make it convenient to capture both still and video, don’t expect to get great videos right out of the box. For the best-quality video, you’re going to want some additional tools to improve both picture and sound quality.

Kessler Pocket Dolly

I picked up some valuable tips on shooting HDSLRs during a three-day EOS Moving Image Workshop put on by Createasphere, a company dedicated to presenting the state-of-the-art tools and people in the digital production and postproduction realm. The workshop, led by notable cinematographers, focused on ways to make the new breed of hybrid cameras cinema-friendly, and included a comprehensive overview of hybrid camera production and post workflow.

Glidecam X-10

To demonstrate the capabilities of HDSLRs, we were shown a montage of work created primarily with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 7D, including a grandiose wedding shot in India, Christopher Morris’ black-and-white, selective-focus documentary on President Obama, a dramatic piece by Philip Bloom in Europe with stunning night shots, magnificent footage by Bruce Dorn of horses running through snow and a Saturday Night Live opening sequence.

Analyzing these impressive works, it becomes obvious that some video techniques are counterintuitive to our still photo sensibilities, such as not moving the camera and letting action go out of frame. Motion in the video world is often done by edit, not by moving the camera.


Get familiar with your camera and its video options. Experiment with different settings to see how they affect the look of the video beforehand, so you’ll be familiar with the controls and will know what to expect.

Zacuto Z-Finder DSLR Optical Viewfinder Pro 3X

As an example, suggested camera settings for the 5D Mark II and 7D are 24 fps for the "film look" and sticking to Canon’s native ISOs of 160, 320, 640 and 1250. Picture Style should be set to Neutral rather than Standard, with the idea of adding more punch to the footage in post. When working with wide-angle lenses, it’s important to turn on Canon’s Peripheral Illumination Correction setting to eliminate vignetting.

For white balance, avoid automatic because it will make color matching and correcting in post a nightmare. The best way to match color between shots is to set the camera to an appropriate Kelvin temperature rather than camera settings such as daylight, tungsten and cloudy.

Here are some of the tools of the trade to turn hybrid cameras into powerful moviemakers and myself into a self-contained hybrid travel photographer.

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