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Tips for Filming Outdoors with Camcorders

by Paul Sanders

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Woman filming with her camcorder in a park

Nature photographers face different challenges than those working in the tightly controlled conditions of a studio. If you plan on filming outdoors, there are a few things you can do to make sure your camcorder picks up the best picture possible. Here are a few tips for using a digital video camera outdoors.

Outdoor Filming with Camcorders:

  1. Film while you have the light. The best light for shooting with your camcorder will be near dawn or dusk. Midday lighting is harsh and indirect. When the sun is overhead, your digital camcorder will pick up dark shadows under people's eyes, and they will most likely be squinting.

  2. Watch out for shadows across your subjects. When using camcorders outdoors, you'll likely encounter shadows from trees, buildings and other objects. While camcorders can often automatically adjust to different lighting conditions, you can make it easier to get the right focus and brightness by avoiding a large contrast by not having a large contrast between light and shadow in your frame.

  3. Use a tripod to eliminate shaking. A moving camera frame distracts from the subject you're filming. This can be a real problem when filming sports action or other motion. Camcorders steadied by tripods give much smoother movement that won't distract from the real action.

  4. Be conscious of your camcorder focal points. Many camcorders have different shooting modes for close-up filming and normal filming. If your camcorder is too close to the subject and you don't adjust the lens focal point, you'll get a blurry image. Play around with the focal points on your camcorder to get a feel for how to use them.

  5. Make use of filters. There are plenty of filters that will help prevent unwanted reflections and glare while filming with camcorders. A UV lens filter will help reduce glare, and a polarizing filter will prevent camcorders from picking up reflections from water, glass and other surfaces. Colored filters can help your camcorder add warmth or bring subtle colors into focus.

  6. Manually adjust your focus. Most camcorders have autofocus features, but they can often backfire when you're filming outdoors because there are other objects that can interfere with the autofocus. Practice manual focus on your camcorder for more control over what comes into sharp focus while you're filming.

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