How to document life with video - 10 tips

Ahhh, video.  It's one of my favorite subjects.  It's deep in my soul.  My Grandfather taught my Mother to be passionate about not only taking video, but doing things with the videos; like making movies and centering family gatherings around watching home videos.  Several years ago I made it a priority to put together short movies of the adventures we take.  It has helped each of us retain our memories in an even more powerful way than a photograph can.  I keep them stored for easy viewing on Vimeo (some private and some public videos - nice to have the choice).  Our children are often found on the Vimeo app reliving our moments in time.  I shared a quick minute of our last adventure via Instagram and it inspired me to give my video tips here to hopefully encourage others to document life with video.  

Before you view this video I have a disclaimer: this video is intended for documentation purpose only - it was simply made with my iphone and imovie on the way home from our trip and little creative thought went into it.  If I waited until we were home and had the time to use my desktop I would have put more care into the sound transitions and overall editing and music etc, but this was purely for retaining memories.  If I didn't do on our way home I believe life would have got in the way and I would have put the video documenting aside.  

Never the less, here's my favorite tips:

1. keep it short.  Once you have collected your video open up the video app you'd like to use and start adding your favorite clips to the app.  Then start deleting any part of the video that doesn't move you or is in abundance.  I'm not saying to permanently delete any video, keep those separately in your storage of course but for movie viewing sake eliminate where you can. If you want to keep your video entertaining you'll need to keep the scenes moving.  Our brains quickly absorb what's in front of us and we love staying entertained with lots of visuals.  Many of the clips in my video below are only 1 second long.  Seriously, count it, one-one-thousand.  It's plenty of time to give the feelings and show details of your story.  Think of your video as a highlight reel!

2. Include details.  The details help tell your story.  For example, I like to use feet walking, what the sky looked like that day, my girl's long hair blowing in the wind.  These fill the pages and can add some creativity making it more interesting to watch.  On the way home from our last ski trip I realized I was short on telling our story with the video I had so I included photos to make up for the lack of detail here:

3. Let the natural moments happen.  I know, I know - this can be hard for a photographer to not alter the subjects to better lighting or create a better story.  It's important to me to keep an authentic life and document as a storyteller.  Because I simply don't always have a camera in hand I have been know to ask my children "do that again" when I see something that I wish I could have caught on video.  It authentically did happen at least and they always happily do it again. Children do, however get frustrated when their play is interrupted to pose for an image... and of course the moment then has much less life in it than it would have if I didn't interrupt their time.  I like to save the posed moments for portraits.  If you watch the video below you'll see a beach scene that I took a portrait of my 4 children together and hubby was filming... I told you this can be hard for a photographer, but this time it was for a photo, not video. ;)

4. music.  This can set or change the mood so choose wisely.  I enjoy instrumental the most because words can be hard to fit with the mood of your video.  It's been said that films are 50% visual and 50% sound - sounds about right in my mind.

5. Increase the video speed or decrease it.  This can add such an interesting aspect to you video. I love the feel of speeding things up (mostly by just one step) and the nostalgic feel similar to the old movie projectors.  Another way to add interest is to slow it down when someone's showing expression or things are moving fast.  In my past movies I've used slow motion for someone riding a bike past me or a child swimming under water.  

6. Use imovie.  I've used the phone app and the full desktop version of imovie.  Both are great, but the app is very user friendly giving you all the simple tools you'd need to put a movie together.  Most of my videos are done via phone app because I often make the movies on the way home from our trips and I like to keep things simple where possible.  The full version of course has more options and the main option I miss on my phone app is being able to adjust the exposure and color.  

7. Keep it simple with the iphone.  Most of my videos (including all videos on the movie below) I have captured with my iphone.  Oh how I wish I had my DSLR camera on me to capture all our moments with some additional depth of field and focus; but the connivence and user friendly iphone wins this battle most of the time.  Unless I'm at home, I prefer the simplicity of the iphone.  This also has to do with my children's ages; my baby still lets me cary him around and I'm savoring this over carrying my DSLR.  

8. Let in some life sounds.  In the video below you'll notice the sounds come in a couple times so we can hear my baby's giggling and the sounds of the ocean and us singing to my brother.  A few special sounds to bring us back to those sounds of life.

9. Use repetition.  We naturally appreciate pattern and repetition.  I try find a fun way to add this to my video; below it was the repeated time lapse of the road traveled.

10. Zoom in and zoom out.  Remember to capture the entire picture.  The landscape around you and the other people in the room.  Also zoom in on those precious faces and the details of cookies being made... those are the little moments that make up the big story of our lives.

The patch at night

Every year we wait until the sun goes down to pick our pumpkins.  It's become their thing; searching for the perfect carving pumpkin and testing their strength on who can pick up the largest pumpkin.  Something I decided a few years ago is this is just a once a year special tradition that my kids would prefer not be interrupted with posed photos.  So I only capture the memory in motion of willing subjects.  It's how we will always remember our traditions of the patch at night.

Lantern Fest Magic

This night can't be described or photographed to explain the experience... it can only be experienced.  It was magical and unforgettable.  

my baby turning 3

Self portraits of my baby and I.  Seeing these images encourages me to do this more often.  And I want to encourage you also to get in the frame with your loved ones.  Do it for you.  Do it for your children and their memories.  Then print a little book or a favorite image and place bedside for your children.  



If you stand together for a photo I will give you eggs to crack on each other's heads...

Birthday Portraits

I'm not great about getting portraits of my children but their Birthdays are a good reminder to make sure I capture their faces... This is about as "portrait" as I get.  Bennett loves to pose and surrounding him with some of his favorite things made this easy and quick.  Notice who got kicked out of the passenger seat for someone else but who won in the end.

celebrating five at the farm

And that is how we celebrated Bennett's birthday as a family at the farm.  We made sweet memories on this simple day and the the following day we made the sweetest strawberry cake and sang again to the boy who brings so much life and joy to each of our lives.