Why Choose Photo or Video?

Recently I shared a post—How to Choose Between Photo or Video…in the Field— in which I mentioned a few ways to choose between photo or video while in the field. In response, I was asked: “Why choose? Why not both?” Assuming I am using a professional DSLR that shoots both photos and video, I make a choice because the settings are going to be different and I don’t want to be constantly changing those settings while trying to get the shot.

Photo Settings: 1/125 Shutter Speed

I am a manual shooter. If I am taking stills and want them to sharp, my optimal shutter speed is going to be at least 1/100 depending upon the speed of motion. I have found good results with 1/125 or 1/150. The faster the action, the greater the shutter speed must be to freeze the action.

Video Settings: 1/50 Shutter Speed

If I am shooting 24 frames per second, the optimal shutter speed is going to be the closest shutter speed to 1/48 (1 / frame rate * 2). I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III, so the shutter speed is 1/50.

These settings are different enough that switching between them, managing aperture, and dialing in ISO make for a nightmare scenario. I’m going to miss something.

Solution #1: Custom Settings

Most professional DSLRs will allow you to setup custom functions and settings. If I setup C1 to be my preferred video settings and C2 to be my optimal photo settings, I’m starting out in a good place.

Solution #2: Two Cameras

If you are unable to have custom settings, I would suggest a two camera setup. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. Limit one of the cameras, so that you don’t have to think too much about two separate mediums.

I went to Haiti in 2012 and worked with the two camera approach. My DVX100B video camera allowed me the opportunity to zoom in and out, change shutter speeds, and get a variety of footage easily. I also carried a Nikon D70s with a 50mm lens, which helped me to get great stills, but not obsess about details that the video was going to address or waste time swapping lenses.

Solution #3: Still Frames from Video

As video resolution increases, getting a high-resolution still frame is possible. A 1080p video will result in an image that is 1920 x 1080 pixels or 6.4″ x 3.6″ (assuming 300 pixels per inch). However, with a shutter speed of 1/50, your stills may not be as crisp as shooting stills at 1/125 or greater. There will be motion blur on the subject at 1/50.

Why choose photo or video? You don’t have to choose. But by keeping the technical considerations in mind, you will be better equipped for successfully navigating the diverse worlds of photography and video production.