6 photography exercises that will make you a better video shooter

In a nutshell

  • Many fundamental skills in photography can transfer over to videography.
  • Mastering fundamental principles such as composition, lighting and storytelling through photography exercises will enhance your videography skills.
  • Understanding and exploring elements like natural light, high and low-key lighting, symmetry and patterns is critical to improving your videography skills.

Though distinct art forms, photography and videography share fundamental principles of composition, lighting and storytelling. In this article, we embark on an exploration of six dynamic photography exercises that have the power to elevate your videography game. Whether you’re an experienced videographer seeking fresh inspiration or a budding enthusiast eager to refine your craft, these exercises will empower you to create visually captivating and emotionally engaging photos and videos.

These exercises are designed to help you translate your photography skills to help you be a better videographer. Let’s start with the basics: mastering your camera’s controls.

Exercise 1: Mastering manual controls

For the first of our six photography exercises, we have mastering your camera’s manual controls. At the core of every skilled photographer lies a deep understanding of manual control settings. If you’ve been relying on the safety of your camera’s auto mode, it’s time to break free and delve into the world of manual controls. Familiarize yourself with the three key elements: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Starting with the aperture, experiment with wide and narrow settings to observe how it influences depth of field. Next, play with shutter speed to capture mesmerizing motion blur or freeze fast-moving subjects. Lastly, adjust your camera’s ISO to grasp its effect on image noise in challenging low-light conditions.

By taking a series of photographs, altering one setting at a time, you’ll see the direct effect each setting has on your final image. In turn, this will help you understand how these settings could affect your video as well. For instance, you’ll learn that the higher your ISO is, the more light your camera lets in, leading to a brighter image. However, that also introduces gain when climbing into the higher ISO ranges.


  1. Get to know your camera: Spend some time exploring your camera’s manual controls. Find the settings for aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
  2. Experiment with aperture: Set your camera to a wide aperture —like f/2.8 — and take a photo. Then switch to a narrow aperture —like f/16 — and compare the differences to notice how the aperture affects the depth of field.
  3. Play with shutter speed: Try a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur, then increase the speed to freeze fast-moving subjects. Observe how changing the shutter speed affects the image.
  4. Adjust ISO: Experiment with low ISO settings in well-lit conditions. Increase the ISO in low-light scenarios to see how it affects image noise.
  5. Analyze your photos: Take a look at the photos you’ve taken, focusing on how each setting alters the image.
  6. Apply to video: Use what you’ve learned about aperture, shutter speed and ISO to add effects and improve your videos.

Exercise 2: Experimenting with the rule of thirds

In all art forms, composition is a powerful tool to evoke emotions and visual interest. The rule of thirds is a simple yet effective technique that transcends mediums. For this photography exercise, start by enabling the grid overlay in your camera viewfinder or envisioning the lines dividing your frame into thirds vertically and horizontally.

With the rule of thirds as your guide, arrange your subjects along these lines or at their intersections. Take a series of photographs to witness how this compositional rule creates balance and intrigue in your shots. Shoot the same subject with different compositions and see which methods speak to you and the vision you want to get across. Bring these same compositional strategies to your video work.


  1. Enable grid overlay: Turn on the grid overlay in your camera viewfinder or visualize the lines dividing your frame into thirds, both vertically and horizontally.
  2. Understand the rule: Recognize that the rule of thirds involves aligning subjects along these lines or at their intersections.
  3. Arrange your subjects: Position your subjects along these lines or intersections to create a visually appealing composition.
  4. Take a series of photographs: Experiment with different arrangements and take multiple shots to see how this rule affects the balance and visual interest in your photos.
  5. Compare different compositions: Shoot the same subject with various compositions to find out which techniques resonate with your vision.
  6. Analyze the results: Look at your photos to understand how the rule of thirds adds intrigue to your shots.
  7. Apply to video: Utilize these compositional strategies in your video work to enhance visual appeal.

Exercise 3: Working with natural light

Next on our list of photography exercises, we have working with natural light. The beauty of natural light lies in its ever-changing qualities, offering abundant opportunities for captivating photography and videography. To harness the magic of natural light, photograph the same scene at different times of the day. Observe how light direction and intensity alter your images.

Capture the gentle glow of early morning, the vibrant tones of midday, the warm hues of late afternoon and the mystical ambiance of dusk. Embrace the challenges of shooting into the light — backlit subjects — and facing the light, noting how each approach transforms the mood and appearance of your photos. Also, think about how lighting will affect your videos in the same way.

Lighting plays a massive role in the overall mood of your scenes. An often underutilized tool among photographers and videographers is custom white balance. Learn how to adjust the color temperature by adjusting your camera’s kelvins (K). You can shift a bright, sunny scene into a moody, deep scene simply by altering the color temperature from warm to cool.


  1. Choose a scene: Select a scene and photograph it at various times throughout the day. Later, observe the changes in natural light.
  2. Photograph early morning: Capture the gentle glow of the early morning, noting how the soft light affects your image.
  3. Capture midday light: Photograph the same scene at midday to observe the vibrant tones and intensity of light.
  4. Shoot in late afternoon: Take pictures during the late afternoon to explore the warm hues and changing angles of light.
  5. Experience dusk: Photograph the scene at dusk and see how the diminishing light alters the mood of the image.
  6. Face the light: Try facing the light when shooting and note the differences in appearance and mood.
  7. Adjust custom white balance: Learn to change the color temperature by adjusting your camera’s white balance, shifting from warm to cool to alter the scene’s mood.
  8. Analyze the images: Look over the photos taken at different times and under different lighting conditions to understand how light direction and intensity affect the images.
  9. Apply to video: Consider how the lighting techniques you’ve explored can affect your videos in similar ways.

Exercise 4: Focusing on close-up photography

Both photographers and videographers often use close-up and macro shots in their work. For this exercise, we ask you to choose a captivating subject with rich textures and details, like a flower or jewelry, and shoot as close to the object as you can, while still staying in focus. If you have a macro lens, use it. If not, physically move yourself closer to the subject. Experiment with depth of field by adjusting your aperture and noticing how it can isolate your subject or bring the entire scene into focus.


  1. Choose your subjects: Select objects with rich textures and details like flowers, jewelry or textured surfaces.
  2. Prepare your equipment: If you have a macro lens, attach it to your camera. If not, set your camera to its closest focusing distance.
  3. Set up your scene: Position your chosen subject in a way that highlights its unique details and features.
  4. Adjust aperture for depth of field: Experiment with different aperture settings to isolate your subject or bring the entire scene into focus.
  5. Focus carefully: Ensure that the focus is precisely where you want it to emphasize the intricate details of the subject.
  6. Take several shots: Experiment with various angles, distances and settings to capture different perspectives of your chosen subject.
  7. Analyze the results: Look at the images you’ve captured, observing how depth of field and perspective affect the outcome.
  8. Apply to videography: Consider how you can include detailed close-up shots in your videos for unique perspectives.

Exercise 5: Understanding high and low-key photography

Next, we have an exercise to help you understand high and low-key lighting. Start by setting up a scene with abundant light and minimal shadows for high-key images. Use light backgrounds and subjects, slightly overexposing to achieve a bright, low-contrast look that exudes a clean dream-like look.

For low-key images, underexpose slightly to emphasize shadows, creating a dark, high-contrast look. This style is excellent for scenes of suspense and drama or evoking a sense of awe in your photography and videography.


  1. Choose your style: Decide whether to create a high-key or low-key image, depending on the mood you want to convey.
  2. Set up lighting: For high-key, use abundant light and minimal shadows; for low-key, use minimal lighting to emphasize shadows.
  3. Select backgrounds and subjects: Choose light-colored subjects for high-key and darker settings for low-key.
  4. Adjust exposure: Slightly overexpose for high-key and underexpose for low-key to achieve the desired contrast.
  5. Capture the scene: Take photos or videos using the chosen technique, focusing on the emotional impact you want to create.
  6. Analyze and adjust: Review the images or footage, and make any necessary adjustments to master the chosen look.
  7. Incorporate into video: Experiment with using both high and low-key techniques in your videos to enhance visual storytelling.

Exercise 6: Using symmetry and patterns

Symmetry and patterns are captivating elements that can add a sense of harmony and rhythm to your videos. While you are outside, keep an eye out for scenes with noticeable symmetrical elements or captivating repeating patterns, such as architectural features, reflections or natural landscapes. When you see such scenes, try taking a photo of them. Later review what you’ve shot. The more you keep your eyes out for patterns in your environment, the stronger your photography and videography will be. Why is that? Because it adds an extra hint of balance and visual interest to your shots.


  1. Seek out symmetry and patterns: As you explore with your camera, look for scenes with noticeable symmetrical elements or captivating repeating patterns in architecture, reflections or landscapes.
  2. Frame the scene: Carefully frame the scene to highlight the symmetrical or patterned elements.
  3. Incorporate into videography: Use these symmetrical or patterned elements in your videos.
  4. Experiment with breaking the pattern: Introduce an unexpected element to break the symmetry or pattern, creating an intriguing visual contrast.
  5. Analyze your work: Review your footage to see how symmetry and patterns enhance your visuals and make adjustments as needed.
  6. Continue to experiment: Keep seeking out and experimenting with symmetry and patterns, as they can add a unique touch to your videography.

Use your knowledge and be yourself

By practicing these six photography exercises, you’ll refine your grasp of the fundamental principles of composition. In turn, these photography exercises will not only help you improve your photography skills but also your video skills. If you’d like more exercises to improve your video skills beyond photography, check out our six exercises to become a better videographer.

Greyson Collins is a colorist, photographer and editor. He currently works as imaging and plant manager at Paradise Pictures, LLC, where he develops and manages systems for proprietary color imaging workflows.