There’s nothing quite like video for storytelling and memory keeping. The ability to fully capture moments and sound in a way that transports us to another time and place is magical. That said, I’m a photographer at heart. I enjoy the treasure hunt of bringing together light, composition and moment in a single frame. Enter: video fusion.

Video fusion is so perfect for photographers. You get the impact of still photos with the magic of video clips blended together in one keepsake slideshow. This totally solves my problem of regretting missed photographs while shooting video. As Brian Tausend pointed out during his video workshop with Me Ra Koh during Click Away last year, one amazing photograph stands on its own — its value inherent unto itself — but even the most amazing video footage can easily land on the cutting room floor if it fails to fit into the film’s overall narrative. But shooting still photos alongside my short video clips allows me to have the best of both.

The personal fusion videos I have made over the years are among my favorite possessions, and I know they will only become more valuable as the years pass. I’m going to share my top five tips — photographer to photographer — to help you get started with creating your own video fusion. 

Birds in the sky in a black and white photo
Kids on a bench in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session

1. Prioritize either videos or photos.

You can only shoot one medium at a time. Decide on the vision for your video ahead of time and whether video or stills are more important. This way, when you are confronted with the dilemma of how to capture a particular moment — in photographs or video — your decision is already made for you. You will not hesitate and are less likely to regret missing a shot.

Having prioritized your medium, you’ll also be able to prepare a shot list for the secondary medium. If stills are your priority, then decide ahead of time what video you will need that will best enhance your photos. For example, at a child’s birthday party, you might want to include video clips of the child close up, the child talking or dancing, partygoers singing “Happy Birthday” and the child blowing out candles. By planning ahead, you are now empowered to be fully engaged in your priority medium without fearing you are missing something.

A boy holding a fishing pole in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session

2. Shoot with two cameras or use custom video settings.

Shooting fusion videos will be easier if you can use two cameras — one for stills and one for video — but if you only have one, use custom settings to quickly switch from stills to video.

Settings for video are very different from stills, particularly your shutter speed. Switching back and forth regularly can result in botched settings. If you have two cameras, or even a camera and a smartphone, consider designating one as your stills camera and the other as your video camera.

If you only have one camera, set custom settings for video. This way, you can switch back and forth with the click of a dial. Each camera is slightly different, but most DSLR and mirrorless cameras will allow you to do this. Thankfully, camera manufacturers seem to be making it simpler to switch between video and stills on the newest models.

A girl fishing in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session
A girl fishing in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session
Hands on a fishing rod in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session

3. Record audio separately.

One of the major benefits of video is audio. The ability to include the sounds of a moment — be it a child laughing, a conversation, or the overall ambient noises — is impossible in a photograph and so vital to preserving a moment or memory. Consider using a microphone or your phone’s recorder to capture important audio, both while filming and in addition to it. Added audio can be laid over your video during editing.

Pro Tip:

If you are in business and want to shoot fusion video at family sessions, think of adding audio such as a child answering interview questions, a family singing together or a parent reading a letter written to a child. Be creative! Audio is actually pretty easy to create and less heartbreaking to cut than video if it doesn’t work for your video.

A dog on a boat in a still black and white photo during a video fusion photo session
Black and white photo of people cleaning fish during a family photo session

4. Stabilize your camera.

Shaky video is the worst, so make sure your camera is stabilized. You can do this several ways, the easiest way being with your neck strap. Simply pull your camera out in front of you until the neck strap is taut and hold it, keeping your elbows in close. Consider putting your shoulder strap under one shoulder so that you keep the camera a bit closer and cinch the strap between your ribs and inner arm. You can also prop your elbows on your body, a table, chair, or the floor.

Other methods include using a tripod or monopod, resting the camera on a stable surface, or using a gimbal. Most often, I try to keep my shooting simple and hold the camera still while shooting, allowing the action of the moment to bring movement to the footage. This minimizes camera shake and jerky footage.

Kids sleeping in the back of a mini van after a photo session

Can’t-miss shots:

  1. Capture the setting. Shoot establishing shots of the location with a wide-angle lens.
  2. Record the action highlights. Watch for the highlights of the event, like a child blowing out birthday candles, children running down the stairs on Christmas morning or a student walking across the stage at graduation. If you’re adding video to a family photo session, record clips of family members walking, answering questions or telling stories.
  3. Don’t forget the details. Shoot close-up photos of each person, including any details of their appearance that might hold significance at that moment in time (clothing, accessories, eyelashes, hands). Capture environmental details that contribute to the feelings of the moment (leaves blowing on trees at a park, waves lapping on the beach, etc.).

5. Keep it simple.

Fusion video is all about keeping things simple, so keep your video clips short and sweet. You don’t want to have to go through long clips just to find the second or two that you want to use. Pull out only the best moments that fit your story and supplement or enhance the stills from the day.

Select music that also enhances the mood and focus on feeling and memory over technical perfection.

When editing, I constantly remind myself that done is better than perfect. Keep it simple and work in iMovie. If you find iMovie limiting, you can always upgrade to Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro CC, but the simpler you keep your process, the more likely you’ll keep creating video fusions!

Ideas for documenting your family with video fusion:

  1. Events: Any event can benefit from the inclusion of video, including birthdays, baptisms and family reunions.
  2. Birthday interviews: Create a fusion video on each child’s birthday to highlight the past year. Include video clips of you interviewing the child.
  3. Grandparent videos: Combine photographs and video of grandparents sharing stories from their past to create family archives.
  4. Travel: Document family vacations and visits to new places.
  5. Family photo sessions: Whether for your own family or clients, you can add video fusion to enhance the memories. Include footage of each family member and of the family as a whole doing something together.

Hand off your camera.

Hand off the the video camera to someone else. Kids are great at interviewing each other and capturing family antics. Keep in mind that these clips can become very long, so give them a time limit if they are old enough to understand. And while they’re holding the camera, go ahead and get in the frame yourself while you’re documenting your family. You were there, too!

Fusion videos are amazing for just about any kind of photo session — from a personal family event to a paid client family session. You’re already making photographs, so all you need to do is take the time to capture some video clips that expand upon the story of your still photos, preferably in a way that the photographs cannot. With fusion video, you can fill in the gaps — with sound, movement and action — to capture the full experience of the moment. 

Photos and video by Rebecca Wyatt