Minimalist Filming or How To Improve Your Filming Quickly

When learning to film – size does matter. I used to have a canon xl1, then a canon xh-a1, and now I have canon DSLR’s. (p.s. i’m no Canon fan boy, it just worked out this way). My filming took off when I got my first DSLR several years ago. Not because of the quality it put out but because of the size of those suckers (ok the quality was insane as well). 

Any smaller and they would fit into my pocket. As a matter of fact, the only hesitation I had when buying one was that clients, who know nothing about cameras, may not take me seriously.


Now that we have these small cameras that put out quality which can rival with some of the best work being created, there is still one thing that plagues many people in my opinion. They attach these small beauties to shoulder rigs, follow focuses, monitors, matte boxes and the list goes on.

Now i’m not saying there isn’t a place for all the above pieces of gear, in fact they are down right necessities in many cases. But if your goal is to improve your filming, and since practice makes perfect, the biggest blessing is to have your camera attached to you by the hip and ready to whip out whenever you see ANYTHING interesting.

I would have my 7d with my 50mm (small lens) on me like a third hand. It was only a matter of time that I started picking up the tiniest nuances in framing and using natural light to my advantage.



Most of us have heard of the 10,000 hour rule. I’m not saying in order to be awesome with a camera (or anything else) you need that many hours, but it’s clear that the more you use your camera the better you will be.

You have an amazing opportunity. Take your tiny camera. Strip it of all accessories. At most you can take a monopod (A $20 chinese, bought off ebay, monopod). Even that I wouldn’t take most of the time because that one extra stick in your hand could deter you from walking out the door with your camera in hand.


You do not need to have any reason for taking your camera. You do not need to have any expectations to shoot anything. JUST TAKE IT WITH YOU! Come back to me after 30 days and I’ll bet you’ll have a few awesome shots that even you didn’t think you were capable of.

You need to be like a ninja – have that sucker slung around your arm as your going through your day and the minute you see the slightest thing that you think could be cool (hint – most things can be made to look cool at the right angle and light) hit the record button.




Don’t even put your camera in a small bag. Even the slightest effort it takes to unzip your bag, get the camera, close your bag, turn on the camera and look for your shot is enough to make you say “eh, forget it.” If you don’t have it in a bag, the minute you see something (a leaf on a bench can be interesting!) you point your camera – expose, focus and frame – and you got it.

All you need is space on your card and an extra battery and your ready to roll.

So go ahead – take your camera with you for 30 days and watch your filming improve!

  • You have re-inspired me to begin again, thanks so much!

  • coachaviv

    Christopher, that is the best possible outcome I could have hoped for! Post a frame grab of something you capture on your new Minimalist filming adventure.

  • What do you suggest in placement of carrying around an 8 pound monopod to avoid micro-shakes – how can i stay steady or at least smooth with just my camera and a lense?

    • coachaviv

      Great question Mordy. First off remember the goal here: to improve your filming. While camera movement is a big part of filming the two MOST important aspects are lighting and framing. If you free yourself the way I suggest, you will have tons of opportunities to focus on those two factors. Here is the beauty – you won’t even know you are focusing on those two factors, it will just happen automatically as you try to find the best possible shot for your particular scenario. In time you will get very quick at figuring out how to frame and how to find just the right angle so that you are best utilizing the natural light. As far as avoiding shakes (when using a DSLR and going handheld) I would focus on not doing too much camera movement and learning to use your elbows to stabilize your hands along with leaning your body on something. Obviously this would not be what you would ideal do for a paid job, but the idea here is to get you out and train yourself on many other aspects that are critical.

      On paid jobs, often you will be in a time crunch and will not have the opportunity to even grab your monopod – and gues what, you will be full trained :-). Also, when you are using a wider lens (say 24mm and below) “shakes” are quite unnoticeable if you keep it semi steady. On a 50mm and more then it becomes obvious.

      The amount you will gain from strapping the cam to you and getting out there will be insane.

      • If you have a lens with good Image Stabilization, you can shoot handheld and still be smooth. Ever since I’ve discovered how good the stabilization is on my Canon 24-105 f/4L, I pretty much always shoot handheld when shooting basic b-roll and the time I save by not having to readjust a tripod or even a monopod enables me to get shots I would have missed otherwise.

        • coachaviv

          Very good points Moshe. I use many Nikkon manual primes with no image stabilization, but the IS on many of these lenses today are ridiculously good.

    • Tommy


      I know you said “just my camera and lens” but i need to suggest an after effects CS6/premiere pro cs6 plugin tool that has saved me on many occasions.
      The Warp Stabilizer.
      This extremely easy to use plugin uses certain algorithms to smooth out your footage and virtually eliminates most minor to medium shakes in your footage.

      Although i wouldn’t get lazy with the camera and rely on it completely, this tool can be great if you get home and realize your favorite piece of footage you wanted to use has some irritating shakes in it that you didn’t notice out on the field.
      Definitely worth looking into if you want to save some time re shooting if you bring home botched footage.

  • I could not agree with you more.

    There are a lot of times when having gear will help the situation, but I have seen time and time again with my photography students that adding an addition lens to your arsenal can just be camera suicide.

    It’s only when you know your equipment intimately is it time to start adding to your bag. And even then, depending on the situation changing lenses, etc… it all takes up mental space.

    I know the 50mm is cheap, but I always say a 35mm on a full frame is the way to start. its super versatile focal length, and forces you to move instead of just quickly adjusting your zoom ring.

    Great article.

  • coachaviv

    “I have seen time and time again with my photography students that adding an addition lens to your arsenal can just be camera suicide.” Exactly Yirmiyahu. The key is to get out there and get out there a lot – and more lenses slow you down.

  • Nice post. I am heading out on holiday and wanted to be lazy but this has inspired me to take my 60D and just keep shooting…

    • coachaviv

      Can’t wait to hear a follow up on some of what you capture!

  • Pingback: Film, Light and Edit for the Viewer’s Experience – Interview with Ian Wittenber()

  • Pingback: 10 Mistakes Aspiring Cinematographers Make | Big League Film School()