What It Means to Be a Sony Hybrid Shooter
By Claudio Chock
I returned to the craft of visual storytelling as an advertising-cum-public relations creative by trade and a video trainer with Sony Digital Workshop after a four-year hiatus. It is my desire to steer the creative process of visual feats that prompted this return.
As the lead content producer for arts and culture guide The A List, hybrid shooting is part and parcel of my workflow. Capturing both still imagery and videos of the local arts and culture scene such as the Singapore Night Festival and Singapore Bicentennial Experience has allowed me to create engaging visual content that immerses visitors in art.
Shot on Alpha 7R III + FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | Zhiyun Weebill-S
Many often ask how I simultaneously manage both photography and videography within a tight time frame. To give a bit of context, media previews for large-scale events are usually conducted for up to three hours. The previews kick off with a guided tour that usually lasts an hour, after which the remaining time is utilized for your shooting.
Alpha 9 | FE 12-24mm F4 G | 24 mm | 1/40 sec | F4 | ISO 1250
I take the first hour to understand the context of various artworks and installations, and mentally frame the photos as well as the video storyboard. Next, I will revisit the key locations and shoot with whatever time is left prior to the preview’s closure.
It sounds pretty intense, I know. But one must always thrive to step out of the comfort zone and learn from those experiences to improve their craft.
Here are five personal tips if you are looking to step in the world of hybrid shooting.
Alpha 9 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 16 mm | 1/30 sec | F2.8 | ISO 1000
1. Know your gear well
If you are planning to shoot both photo and video at the same time, understanding your gear thoroughly is fundamental to getting the shots right. Sony’s mirrorless ecosystem of cameras, especially its third generation (Alpha 7 III, Alpha 7R III, Alpha 9), has been a godsend to hybrid shooters like myself.
With great IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation), fast autofocus and long battery life, the Alpha cameras have been great companions when shooting both photos and videos. Knowing how to use functions such as S&Q (Slow & Quick), Clear Image Zoom, and Interval Timer amongst many, will amp up your shooting and content creation game.
If you have never dabbled in videography, Sony’s Alpha cameras and its range of lenses are probably the best ecosystem available for hybrid shooting, given its best-in-class technology for both photography and videography.
Alpha 9 | FE 12-24mm F4 G | 12 mm | 1/13 sec | F4 | ISO 600
2. Shoot with purpose
There is a certain amount of stress when shooting during media previews. For starters, you have to mentally plan your shots under tight time constraints. My shots usually include the subject’s interaction with the artwork or installation, hence framing and thinking on the spot are essential to keeping passers-by and other elements of distraction out of frame.
Alpha 9 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 16 mm | 1/30 sec | F2.8 | ISO 800
When you attend massive arts and culture festivals, don’t rush to record or snap freely. Always spend some time exploring and soaking in the atmosphere. Use this time to frame your shots and do a rough mental storyboard in your mind. With a plan in mind, shooting becomes easier and more enjoyable.
Let me emphasise again: Instead of just hitting record, shoot with purpose. As it’s not about shooting to create, but about creating with what you shoot.
Shot on Alpha 7R III + FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | Zhiyun Weebill Lab | DJI Mavic 2 Pro
3. Get familiar with a dual-camera setup
While it’s definitely possible to shoot with just one camera and switch between stills and video modes, having a dual-camera set-up is often ideal when you are shooting against time. In instances when you do not have the opportunity for a second take, having two cameras on hand definitely helps.
The preview of the Singapore Bicentennial Experience was one such example, where we only had one run. Hence, thinking on the spot and constantly switching between the two cameras set for different purposes saved me from the hassle of changing modes and missing out key moments to capture.
Alpha 9 | FE 12-24mm F4 GM | 16 mm | 1/400 sec | F4 | ISO 6400
After going through a few different combinations, my current favourite dual camera-lens set-up are the Alpha 7R III + FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM for video, and the Alpha 9 + FE 12-24mm F4 G for photos. Using a wide-angle lens for events and festivals is especially useful as it allows me to go closer to what I am shooting, and still capture its vastness and entirety despite the limited space.
Depending on my research prior to the actual shoot, I would usually pack in the versatile lightweight prime duo of the FE 55mm F1.8 ZA and FE 85mm F1.8 for that extra reach and framing versatility.
Alpha 9 | Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA | 55 mm | 1/30 sec | F1.8 | ISO 800
4. Leverage on versatility and flexibility
Having a mid-range zoom or the prime duo gives me versatility in showcasing the talent’s interactions with the artwork in different ways.
Shooting with the FE 55mm F1.8 ZA allows me to bring across the element of intimacy between model and installation, while the FE 12-24mm F4 G offers its ultra-wide-angle to showcase the expanse of an artwork. Best of all, the amazing IBIS within the Alpha bodies provides the added bonus of being able to shoot pretty sharp photos handheld.
Alpha 9 | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 20 mm | 1/30 sec | F5 | ISO 1600
5. Be fast yet patient
While I am often working against the elements of time, space and crowds, one thing I have learnt over the years is to act quickly, without rushing.
For instance, shooting on a pedestrian-free Helix Bridge requires some patience in waiting for the right moment. Likewise, I did not rush the shot of my talent standing in front of the light-projected National Museum of Singapore. Instead, I mentally planned the shot after observing the first full run of the light projection. I proceeded to nail the shot during the projection’s second run.
If there’s one thing to take away from my sharing, it would be to step out of your comfort zone and experiment fearlessly. With frequent shooting and knowing your gear well, you will improve your craft.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.