You don’t always have the luxury of contemplative cinematography when you’re shooting documentaries. You have to return with good, usable shots for editing.
In this video I show you ten shots I rely on when my mind goes blank. This will help you get adequate coverage, and it has saved my skin many times:
Exclusive Bonus: Download my free cheatsheet (with examples) of tried and tested ways to cover a scene or action that will save your skin when your mind goes blank (PDF file optimized for mobiles and tablets).
Here are the 10 shots (actually 9 + 1 tip):
Shot #1 to #5: The BBC 5-Shot Rule
Credit for this goes to Michael Rosenblum who taught photojournalism students with this technique decades ago. It is extremely practical and you should know it.
Shot#1: The long shot or mid shot
Get the person and the action/activity together in the best possible light and composition.
Shot #2: The close up of the face
This is a logical step from Shot #1. Just zoom in or move in closer and get the face. Don’t break the 180o rule [li. Try to get reactions, emotions, etc.
Shot #3: The close up of the action or activity
This is also logical and flows from Shot #2. Get creative closeups, hopefully from different angles (see below) of the activity itself.
By this time you have warmed up and you know you have some footage in the can.
Shot #4: Over the shoulder shot
Ask the subject to continue doing what they are doing and get another angle from behind or over the shoulder. If that is not practical get a side shot but in this case keep in mind whether it will cut well with the other shots. The OTS will most likely cut well.
Also, when you physically move around and circle → continue…