Family Photography: how to shoot video and stills... with Nikon Ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith

Taking pictures of your family is a great way to capture special memories but video adds an extra dimension when recording treasured moments. We spoke to Nikon Ambassador Kate Hopewell-Smith about shooting both stills and video for her clients and asked for her top tips and techniques.

Light should be the thing that leads everything on the shoot – location and mood – so take your time to make sure you have picked the best possible lighting situation. Indoors this might mean having to move furniture or manipulate the light. In Venice I was looking for moody side light and this led to me clearing the dresser of glassware and closing all the shutters in the room except one to create a pool of beautiful natural light.

It is very important that a team shooting stills and D-SLR film understand how to work with different lighting conditions and how to meter and expose for them – the work needs to have the same look and feel. We also edit and tone/grade the stills and footage in a consistent style.

Also when you are producing both stills and film it helps to shoot on the same lenses at similar apertures. Because I like to shoot at quite wide apertures it is essential to have 10 stop variable filters for the film work to maintain the same apertures.

At the beginning of the shoot I use the parents of siblings to encourage natural expression – people react instantly and naturally to those that they know and love. You can see how the girls are responding to those around them and to each other in the video – the behind the scenes footage really does show a shoot in action and the stills are just moments captured amongst this.

Try to capture everything from big environmental shots that tell the story of location through to beautiful close up portraits – variety is key.

Generally D-SLR film and stills require the same lighting scenarios. The only time that film suffers a little is when shooting contre jour – into the light because I use subtle fill flash with stills. You can still get beautiful silhouettes but not perfectly lit portraits.

It is also very important to have a confidence with directing families and children – like anything you get better with time and practice. But you definitely get back what you give.

​Nikon School - Quick Tips

When shooting video of the family you will want to keep the camera as steady as possible. It makes for a difficult watch when a video has lots of hand shake! In the movies, steady cam rigs are used to steady the shot but these are bulky and expensive. To reduce the amount of unwanted camera shake at home for little or no money at all, put the cameras strap around your neck and push the camera away from you gently until the strap is no longer loose. In this postition you can hold the D-SLR out and shoot some great steady videos!

If you're interested in learning more about filmmaking with your D-SLR, head to the Nikon School website to find out about our workshop 'Getting Started with D-SLR Filmmaking'>