Here are ten different ways you can film a location for selling stock footage—or for your own client videos!
When it comes to filming a location, time is money. You probably have a limited timeline for filming—either for stock footage or for a client project—so you need to get the most out of your coverage. The best way to do that is by getting a variety of shots. In terms of stock footage, this gives buyers more options, since one shot of a location probably won’t fit the mood of every project.
When you’re filming, it also helps to “shoot like an editor,” as they say. Essentially, film a variety of shots that editors are usually looking for. This also increases the probability that your stock footage will sell, because it fills that need! The rarity of a shot, and other specialty shot types, can make your footage stand out. We’ll explore more on that throughout the article.
Let’s dive into ten unique ways to get coverage of a location!
1. Time of Day
Filming at different times of the day is probably the easiest way to add more variety. You’re already looking at four different moods for a location by filming at sunrise, afternoon, dusk, and night. And, that isn’t even taking into consideration the different weather issues that may change how a location looks. Even broader than time of day would be the season of year. All of the different shot possibilities start to multiply quickly, even for just a single location.
Shoot throughout the day to capture various moods. Image via hans engbers.
Imagine you’re filming exterior shots of a large warehouse for stock footage. One client might need a shot for a dramatic project, and they need a moody shot with a warehouse on an overcast day, maybe with some snow. Another client might be a logistics company, and they need a shot for a promotional video, so they’ll likely want one of a warehouse on a bright, sunny day. This opens the door for you to create a lot of footage options, without requiring extra gear!
2. Identifying and Non-Identifying Properties
When you’re filming for stock footage, you’ll want to film some shots that showcase location identifying properties, and others that don’t. This is because some clients will be looking for location specific footage—and others won’t. Identifying properties are things like specific signage, town names, or easily identifiable landmarks.
Film both identifiable and non-identifiable properties. Image via View Apart.
A classic example would be if you’re filming some small town footage and you can see a water tower in the background that shows the name of the town. Get some shots with the water tower in frame, and others without it. Some clients may be looking for specific footage of that town, and others may just want a more generic, small town shot. This allows you to easily meet the footage needs of both clients.
Walkthrough shots of a location will likely require more gear to accomplish, but they can really immerse the viewer into the location and give a better sense of scale. You’ll probably need a three-axis gimbal, or a camera with phenomenal in-camera stabilization (if you have both, that works even better!). I’ve had good success selling walkthrough-style video clips, and you can also add variety by doing walkthroughs at different speeds. For example, film one while walking and another moving quicker, or even running through a location.
4. Establishing Shot
Establishing shots are going to be the most common types of stock footage when it comes to locations. They’re easy to do, and they’re in-demand for most client projects. These are usually shots that have the camera locked down on a tripod, showcasing a location.
Film the location at different distances. Image via GavranBoris.
The most common type would probably be filming the location at a distance, so you can encompass all of the most interesting features into the shot. However, you can add variety to establishing shots by experimenting with different lens focal lengths and camera placement. Check out the tutorial Determining the Best Lens for Your Project on PremiumBeat.
5. Drone Aerials
Drone aerials are definitely my favorite when it comes to filming a location. They can give you smooth movement combined with a wide field of view, and they give the viewer a whole new perspective.
Change the perspective and send in the drone. Image via marcin jucha.
Drone aerials work in a similar manner to traditional establishing shots, but they typically can add even more production value. And, since drone aerials aren’t as common, they’re highly requested by clients, and sought after when it comes to stock footage. Drones can also be used as an alternative to three-axis gimbals for smooth location walkthrough shots. Check out our Shutterstock tutorial on Seven Ways to Enhance Drone Shots in Post.
6. Macro Textures
Filming the textures of a location is another way to create some interesting looks. This can easily be done with macro or even zoom lenses. Alternatively, if you have a lens with a deep or shallow depth of field, you can use that to focus in on key elements at a location. These types of shots work nicely as accents and B-roll for broader establishing shots.
Get creative by filming the textures of a location. Image via YRABOTA.
7. Film the Niches
A “niche” is often defined as something specialized. Whenever you’re at a location getting footage, be sure to film the niches of that location. In other words, things that make that particular location unique. For example, let’s say you’re filming stock footage of a construction site. Don’t just focus on the broad construction site itself. Key in and get footage of specific features—equipment, stacks of lumber, bricks, or mounds of gravel. This allows you to create numerous clips of different elements all from one location. It also broadens the appeal of all of your clips and can serve the needs of more clients.
Film the uniqueness of a location. Image via NanoStock.
8. Slow Motion
Filming in slow motion is another way to get a unique perspective of a location. Experiment with different frame rates to get different looks. You can combine this with any of the other previous shot types mentioned to mix things up even more. Alternatively, you could also increase the frame rate to something like 60fps for clients who might be looking for higher frame rate content.
Change the perspective by shooting in slow motion. Image via irabel8.
9. Effects and Specialty Lens Filters
Utilizing camera effects and specialty lens filters is another way you can differentiate your footage. One of my favorite effects is lowering the shutter speed below the frame rate. This creates an exaggerated motion blur on the footage (often associated with a panicked look). Another thing to try is using specialty filters, such as anamorphic lens flare filters or split diopters. These can open the door to a lot of creative possibilities at a location.
Mix it up by shooting with specialty filters. Image via New Africa.
10. 360 Video
Finally, you can experiment with specialty cameras, such as a 360-degree video camera, to create some over-the-top location footage. One of my favorite things to create using a 360 camera is the tiny planet effect. Alternatively, you can also use a 360 camera to capture equirectangular photos of a location to use for visual effects and HDRI lighting in 3D software.
Create the tiny planet effect with the 360 camera. Image via RodClementPhotography.
There are two things I want to reiterate to ensure you have the most success with your location footage. The first is “rarity sells.” Meaning that, more unique location footage will stand out and sell more. This makes sense because if your footage looks just like everyone else’s, odds are clients are going to pass right over it. The second tip is “hold on your shots for longer than normal.” I typically prefer my stock clips to be anywhere from :15 to :30 seconds long. While this may seem like an eternity in some cases, you never know how long a client needs a stock clip to be. And, quite often, a client may find the perfect clip, only for it to be a few seconds too short, so they have to select a different clip.
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Cover image via Zakirov Aleksey.
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