Upskilling to video: 5 myths busted

What you do – and don't – need to know when making the move from stills to video photography.
A videographer makes adjustments to a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on a film set.

"All you need to make videos is a camera and ideas," says Canon Ambassador Javier Cortés, who has added filmmaking to his fashion stills photography business. © Coque Camara

As video continues to rise in popularity, photographers are increasingly being asked to deliver video footage alongside their stills. It can seem daunting – how much new kit will you need? What new skills will you have to learn? But professional fashion photographer and Canon Ambassador Javier Cortés, who has made the move, says it's easier than you might think.

"I used to think you needed a lot of things to start making videos," he says. "After all these years, I understand that all you need is a camera and ideas.

"There are three things I've learnt that I wish I'd known when I was starting out," he adds. "The first is: never stop learning. Whether it's lighting, storytelling or using a gimbal, if you press on with this outlook, you will develop a lot of skills.

"The second thing is to focus on the essentials. The third is to trust in yourself. These things are my base for work, and for life."

Javier Cortés stands with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on a film set.

Javier says that you don't need to study loads of videography techniques – or even to buy dedicated kit – before you start to shoot video. Instead, you can learn many skills as you work, and improve each one through practice and experimentation. © Coque Camara

Javier's first foray into photography came as a young child playing with his father's analogue camera, and he later started developing black and white images himself. He began photography seriously when he was 17, moving into commercial work as well as personal editorial projects, and has built a career covering high fashion for leading brands and magazines. In recent years, he has shot video on almost every project.

"On social media, people now spend more time looking at video than at stills photography," he says. "Almost every brand in the world now is looking for video. The photo was a revolution, but now the revolution is video. It's a new way to learn something amazing."

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Here, Javier busts five common myths about moving from photography to filmmaking, to help you upskill without fear.

Myth 1: You need a cinema camera

While for some projects Javier uses Cinema EOS cameras, such as the Canon EOS C200 or EOS C300 Mark II, he emphasises that you can begin shooting video with the same DSLR or mirrorless camera you use for stills. "I shoot with the Canon EOS R5 and you can create incredible videos that no one would imagine you can do with such a small camera," he says.

The EOS R5 supports 8K 12-bit RAW or 4K 10-bit at up to 120p to capture even the fastest subjects, or for creative effects. "You can be creative with your frame rates," says Javier, who shoots primarily at 50fps in Full HD, giving the option of slow-motion playback, alternating with 25fps in 4K and occasionally 8K (for shots requiring a bolder digital zoom or stabilisation in post-production).

Modern DSLRs and mirrorless bodies include features to make the transition to video easier, such as in-built autofocus. "When you're starting out making videos, you have lots of things to think about," says Javier. "Using autofocus, you have one less thing to think about. It follows the subject's movement and works really well."

With Dual Pixel CMOS AF II, the Canon EOS R5 features deep-learning AI to track subjects across 4,500 points in video and 5,940 in stills – giving virtually 100% sensor coverage for the first time. This technology ensures subjects stay sharp and can be easily tracked and selected using the rear screen – even in light levels as low as -6EV.

Javier Cortés kneels on one leg while filming a ballet dancer as she leaps across the floor of an ornately decorated room.

Javier often uses the Canon EOS R6 to shoot stills and videos on his fashion projects. "Video is so similar to stills, but at the same time has to work in different angles," he says.

Myth 2: You need many lenses, and cine lenses

"I use the same lenses to make stills and video," explains Javier, who favours primes over zooms and very wide-angle lenses, as it forces him to think about movement and getting closer to the action. "For me, the lenses are always the most important things in both photo and video – a good lens changes everything."

Javier has long been a proponent of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, previously describing it as the one 'holy grail' lens for videographers to invest in – but RF developments have won him over. "The Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM has surprised me a lot. I was in love with the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, but this is a giant leap," he explains. "Its focusing capabilities are amazing. It's pretty too, and the new control ring where I can tweak the diaphragm or ISO is fantastic.

"I use different lenses for different videos, though," he continues. "You notice the characteristics of each lens, or the colours."

Javier also works with the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM, as well as the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, and Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS USM via the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R. "These L-series primes are so versatile and you can work with them with an open aperture, letting in lots of light."

As your filmmaking evolves, you can choose lenses according to your own needs and preferences. The advantage is that your investment grows with you because of the wide inter-compatibility of Canon lens mounts, especially via adapters. The Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R allows EF and EF-S lenses to be used on RF mount cameras such as the EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6, while the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R 0.71x allows a wide range of EF and Cine Prime lenses to be used on the Canon EOS C70.

A person wearing a black jacket, a ruffled cream shirt and a black hat leans back against an elaborately painted wall, one hand up to their face with fingers resting on their chin.

Mastering the move to motion with Javier Cortés

"Every brand is now looking for video," says Javier Cortés. See how he shoots high-end fashion films and stills with the Canon EOS R6.

Myth 3: You need to learn videography before you start

"One of the biggest problems I had at the beginning was thinking that I needed to learn a lot of video techniques, or learn how to use a gimbal, before I started," admits Javier.

"You don't need a lot of things to tell a story, and you just have to start by doing something. To start shooting video, all you need is a camera, something in front of it, and a light – and the cheapest and most beautiful light in the world is natural light.

"You should keep it simple at the beginning," Javier advises. "Don't forget to focus on what you want to show." There are new considerations to get your head around, such as picking a colour profile and colour grading, but Javier recommends learning these things as you go.

"There is a safe, traditional way to expose that teachers will tell you to do. But maybe you have a personal taste in lighting and colour gradient, so don't follow the rules. I usually underexpose almost all my shots, because I don't like highlights. Follow your personal taste and you will find your colour, your light. It doesn't matter if it's a cinema camera or a DSLR – if you expose well, you will find the perfect image.

"Picking a colour profile is a personal taste, says Javier, who used to stick to Canon Log, but now prefers C-Log 3 – which is available in the Canon EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6. "I recommend starting to try basic grading and you will evolve while you are shooting. With each video you can try something new; maybe adding some layers, trying some colours on the highlights or different filters or grains."

The back of a Canon EOS R5 showing the C-Log 3 screen.

For Javier, one of the biggest developments with EOS R System cameras is the inclusion of C-Log 3. "With C-Log 3, the native ISO is 800, which creates no noise on the EOS R System cameras," he says.

Myth 4: You can only be expert in one: photography or filmmaking

"Some years ago, people used to think there were photographers and there were filmmakers," says Javier. "But now, I think we should start thinking about a new job: filmmaker-photographer. Brands are looking for that. Sometimes clients tell you that you can't do both at once, and it can be crazy to be directing the models for video and also shooting pictures on your camera. But now people respect the fact that photographers can do video well.

"For me, video and photography are close, and can live together. I combine them in each shoot. It's easy to do it."

Canon's range of hybrid EOS R System cameras, such as the EOS R5 C, the EOS R5 and the EOS R6, make it easier than ever to switch seamlessly between shooting stills and video. Working across both mediums can also open up creative possibilities on projects. "If you do both, you will have the freedom to develop the idea without compromise," says Javier. "You can tell a lot of stories in a photo. But sometimes, you want to develop a whole concept that needs sequence, editing, sound and lighting. Sometimes I've been in a box with photography. With video, you can tell a story from beginning to end."

On the other hand, Javier points out that working collaboratively when shooting video can also have benefits. "Photographers are used to working alone – they are often also the retoucher, they do lighting and maybe just have an assistant to move equipment. In video you can start working alone, but you can also have a team. If you have a friend who can help with lighting, or maybe focus pulling, you can improve things. I find my perfect team for each piece of work, and that's how I find my style."

Myth 5: Storytelling in stills doesn't translate to the moving image

"In photography, sometimes you have one money shot. In video, you can also have one money shot, but you have to continue telling something. And sequence is your friend to tell it," Javier explains.

"One teacher told me, 'You are responsible for every frame you take.' So, it's like you are a photographer with each frame. But sometimes photographers do videos just like a picture, with no narrative or connection between the shots. When you shoot video, you have to think in terms of narrative – something more than just simple shots. You have to guide the viewers through different scenes to tell the whole story."

There are many similarities between stills storytelling and the moving picture. You still need to have hero shots, plus additional shots to move the story along.

"I always have a shot list that helps me to tell a story and continue the narrative, as well as having some time for improvising. It's important to have a master shot, with which you can tell the whole story. After that, you should cover some other angles."

The aesthetics of stills move with you to video, and just take on additional elements. "It's more about how you move the camera, and whether the light is good for every shot you want to do. It's so similar to stills, but at the same time has to work in different angles. You have to think about frame rate, about whether you want to see it in slow motion or normal speed, and about how people move, not just one pose. You can also start thinking about beautiful movements from one shot to another."

Lucy Fulford & Jack Fittes

Javier Cortés's kitbag

Key kit for fashion photography and videography

Javier Cortés's kitbag containing cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS R5

Re-think what you know about mirrorless cameras. The uncompromising performance of the EOS R5 will revolutionise your photography and filmmaking. "You can create incredible videos that no one would imagine you could do with such a small camera," says Javier.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Made for those who demand the very highest standards in image quality, the EOS 5D Mark IV's 30.4MP sensor delivers images that are packed with detail, even in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows. "You can shoot professional-quality video with a DSLR," says Javier. "The 5D Mark IV is great for both video and stills."


Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The RF lens that sets new standards, delivering supreme sharpness, extra creative control and a low-light performance that's simply remarkable. "The RF 50mm F1.2L USM has surprised me a lot. I was in love with the EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, but this is a giant leap," says Javier.

Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

A super-fast and bright 28-70mm f/2 L-series lens, which gives stunning results even in low light. "I'm a prime lens fan, but I need a workhorse for fashion/advertising shoots and this is a great one," says Javier.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Professional L-series, f/1.2 aperture USM lens for low light and extreme depth of field control. "It's like a normal view of the world, but more beautiful," says Javier. "The angle and the lines are perfect."


Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

The Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R offers the same lens mount conversion as the Mount Adapter EF-EOS R, but also adds a Lens Control Ring.

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