Documentary shooting

Flickr photo credit: 2 dogs

Documentary… I am a massive fan of this genre of video production, it’s almost like reading a book but you are immersed in the visual and audio aspects that can put you right in the location. Documentaries I enjoy so much involve sharing cultures, peoples stories, history, travel, adventure and exploration of topics and destinations. When you are the viewer it’s like a cheap instantaneous flight to another country or an opportunity to meet someone that can share a unique experience. When you are the one shooting a documentary you are discovering deeper into a subject, through interviews, events and the locations you visit and then you are sharing that captured experience for others to see and discover.

Gear & story balance


Documentaries can come in many forms and everyone has the opportunity to create them. [more…] I get so interested in gear, lenses, different camera bodies, audio, that it can be easy to forget that you are aiming to capture an experience, a story to share this information to the viewer. You could film a documentary entirely on an Iphone if you like, it doesn’t matter if you just want to capture things as they happen and share it. It’s easy to get excited when you see high end documentaries made and you think, if only I had that camera, or that piece of gear. Gear does help communicate your ideas, no doubt. For example you want to show the intensity of boxer in a ring in the corner with sweat dripping down his face, depending on how close you can get you might need a very telephoto lens and some form of stabilization to get a good tight shot. If you are doing a very “fly on the wall” style documentary then you won’t want to have big rigs, lights and camera setup, so you might want to compensate by shooting on a smaller more discrete camera, with good low light performance and invest in some fast lenses to let the most amount of light in possible into the camera.


There is more power in the content than your gear


As cool as gear is, if the content you are capturing has nothing to it, then your out of luck. Interesting content or a story that takes people on a journey is what captivates people to watch documentaries and discover something new. One documentary I thoroughly enjoyed was called The last train home, It shows and tells a story as it happens about the effects of China modernization on traditional rural life. It focus on the challenges of a family living in this time and the way it was captured had me engaged in from beginning to end. At times I was almost thinking, “is this a film or a documentary?” the way it was filmed was very stand back and watch it unfold, which made you feel like you got to know the people. An absolutely captivating documentary and very impressively told. This is an example where the story provides that unique experience for the viewers and reminds you that you don’t need to have the latest gear to create something inspirational.


What are your thoughts about documentary video production? What inspires you?

About the Author:

As a award achieving video business creative, I have created Video Upskill to help others grow their video skills and support their journey to achieve their creative and business goals.