Let’s start with the obvious question. Can a still photographer produce a video? Yes they can and many of them have started doing more of it. Do most of them do it well? No.
Notice I wrote “most” in there. That’s quite intentional. I’m sure there are still photographers out there who do a fine job of producing videos, but in my opinion they tend to be the exception. There’s a good reason for that and I’ll get to it in just a minute.
Don’t worry, I won’t let videographers off the hook because it goes the other way as well. Can a video producer shoot still photographs? Yes they can and many of them have started doing more of it. Do most of them do it well? No.
How did we get here… photographers shooting video?
There’s a good reason why many photographers are now producing videos and vice versa. It’s all because of the DSLR camera. The DSLR is the type of camera you see photographers using all the time. What’s changed over the last five to ten years is that camera manufacturers started adding video as a capability… and those cameras shoot fantastic video.
I won’t get too technical here, but DSLR cameras have big image sensors inside that allow them to shoot with a tremendous depth of field. The effect you get is a sharp focus on your subject matter and an extremely blurred-out background. It makes for beautiful video and photos.
DSLRs are also, in many ways, more affordable that a traditional video camera. Those two facts led videogrpahers to buy those cameras in large numbers, and along the way they started offering their clients packages to shoot stills as well as produce their videos. At the same time, still photographers who already owned those cameras started offering video as one of their services.
And the whole thing stinks.
Double-dipping doesn’t work
I appreciate both ends of this… particularly from the business side of things. All of a sudden both groups had new services they could offer their clients. It provides a chance for new business as well as an up-sell opportunity.
Bundling services with one person shooting both stills and video may even mean a lower cost to the customer. The issue I have is with the quality of the work. I’m not going to single anyone out here, so I’ll use myself as an example.
I occasionally get asked by clients if I shoot stills and I always turn down that work… and for good reason.
Can I shoot stills? Sure, but I am not a professional still photographer. If I took that work, I could probably stumble through it and do it well-enough that the client would be happy. But I know deep down that if they hired a real still photography pro, they’d get an even better product in the end.
Which is why I refer those jobs to the appropriate people.
Why can’t everyone do both? There are a couple of good reasons why both groups have problems with the others’ discipline.
- It’s not their passion. There’s a reason I picked-up a video camera 20+ years ago instead of a still camera. I love pairing motion images with words. I love storytelling. A still photographer is a storyteller in his or her own right, but it’s not the same as what I do for a living. I followed my passion and they followed theirs.
- Experience. A still photographer might have some experience as a video storyteller, but it’s likely limited in comparison to the experience they have shooting stills. It only stands to reason that they’re not going to be able to produce a video as well as someone who has dedicated their life to it. It’s the same reason a videographer’s stills won’t rival theirs.
As time goes on and more and more young photographer/videographers come of age doing both, this line may begin to blur quite a bit. But for now… there really is a line. Photographers shoot stills better than videographers and videographers produce better videos than photographers.
There are a ton of great still photographers out there and there are a ton of great video producers. Hire the right one for the job. If you need a video produced, hire the person who has a passion and experience to deliver an awesome video. And that goes the opposite direction as well.