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Stills or Video? You Can Do Both!

by Joe McDonald | April 26, 2020

© Joe McDonald

Virtually every D SLR today has the capability of shooting video but many who have shot some video often stopped after just a few attempts. Why? Because they did nothing with the video afterwards.

This does not have to be. Editing, provided you don’t get too fancy, can be relatively easy and fast, once you know how. And, you can often extract usable stills from a video clip. That’s what I’d like to address here. In Photoshop, you can select a specific frame to extract as a still image and work on that frame much as you would do with any image. I’ve done this several times when, by only shooting video, I’ve missed a still shot. You can’t do stills and video simultaneously.

Getting a high-quality image from a video clip depends upon the format that you captured the video with, and to some extent, how large a file you’ll want for the still image. For best results, 4K videos will give you the largest file size, typically around 4096 x 2160, which is about 4/5th the file size of some RAW formats. Provided the subject is still, you can make a good quality image from an extracted frame. And here’s the rub.

You should shoot a 4K video at either 1/48th sec or 1/60th sec These recommended shutter speeds are twice the frame rate of the video capture, and that’s either 24fps or 30fps (frames per second), depending upon the video setting you are using. However, neither speed is conducive for capturing motion. You can shoot 4K video at higher shutter speeds to freeze motion, but the resulting video will look choppy or jerky.

Some cameras offer high speed or slow motion video, at 120fps, and although the best shutter speed might be twice that, approximately 1/250th sec, you can go faster and the slow motion video will still look good. Sound isn’t recorded at that frame rate, and the file size may be only about 1/4th the size of a 4K capture. You can extract a frame for small images, appropriate for the web or for small prints, but the quality doesn’t compare with 4K or even a normal jpg image captured in camera. To increase sharpness with these smaller files I use Topaz Sharpen AI.

But the beauty of video is, truly, its story-telling capabilities. Recently I photographed and videoed a Spring Peeper calling, and while I would have been happy with the stills, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I really didn’t convey what I really saw and heard, but the video clips sure did.

Editing can seem intimidating, but a good video is a great reward for the effort. I’d been frustrated in trying to decipher books on video editing, and felt there was a real need for an easy-to-follow guide that would take anyone through the important steps. So I wrote one, and you can get it on my website: 25 Key Essential Steps to Making a Great Video with Adobe Premiere CC.

Spring Peeper © Joe McDonald

Spring Peeper © Joe McDonald

1. Spring Peeper –A and Spring Peeper – B

One image is a still shot and the other a still lifted from a video clip taken a few seconds later. Can you tell which one is from the video still?

Spring Peeper © Joe McDonald

Spring Peeper © Joe McDonald

2. Same question, different pose. Which one is the video capture?

Brazilian Tapir © Joe McDonald

3. Brazilian Tapir. This video capture was from a 4K video clip.

Jaguar Charge © Joe McDonald

4. Jaguar charge. This video capture was from a slow motion video capture and sharpened with Topaz AI Sharpen.

Jaguar Charge to Caiman © Joe McDonald

5. Jaguar charge to caiman. This video capture was from a slow motion video capture and sharpened with Topaz AI Sharpen. Shutter speed was not recorded, but I’m guessing about 1/2000th sec.

Answers to Questions

1 Spring Peeper – A is the video capture. Although shot at 1/48th sec., the aperture was f16, so there is a lot of depth of field. The still was shot at f6.3.

2 Spring Peeper – A is the video capture. Both the still and the video capture were shot at the same aperture, f16.

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About the Author

Joe McDonald has been photographing wildlife and nature for over forty years, and has been a full-time professional since 1983. He has been published in every major North American nature publication and is represented by several stock agencies. With his wife Mary Ann, Joe teaches photography and digital workshops from his home in central Pennsylvania. Additionally, he and his wife spend at least 50% of an average year traveling, leading photo tours and safaris for photographers. Joe is a master of electronic flash, and regularly incorporates flash into his high-speed action work. That, and capturing defining moments, such as action or a telling portrait, is his photography specialty. His favorite location for photography is the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, and Joe has had seven BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners from this region. In 2009 this duo completed their 50th mountain gorilla trek in Rwanda. Visit his website at: www.hoothollow.com.

One thought on “Stills or Video? You Can Do Both!

  1. Thanks for this great content. I just went through a similar thought process and decide to start filming birds more. I thought I would need to get used to missing some would-be-perfect images, but have actually been quite happy so far. With the right shutter speed, the quality of exported frame from video can be very high.

    I am filming 120fps slow motion bird video a lot these days, but somehow have not tried the 1/250 shutter speed yet. Thanks for the helpful tips and look forward to your new Youtube Channel!

    Best,
    Busey Photography

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