Mistakes Beginner Filmmakers (and Photographers) Make...#5 Importance of Editing

by Sara Aulds 28 days ago in editing

Dos and Don'ts during a project

Mistakes Beginner Filmmakers (and Photographers) Make...#5 Importance of Editing
Photo by Mark Cruz on Unsplash

Once you’ve got your pieces, now it’s time to put the puzzle together. Whether it’s editing clips into a longer video, restructuring a photo, create a panorama, or simply touching up a some acne on your subjects you have now entered the fun stage (or at least I think it’s fun) of the photography and videography world.

Editing is probably the biggest part of the whole project. You can create the best footage in the world and then mess up the whole thing if it's not editing together well. Even sometimes happy accidents happen; but I wouldn't rely on that starting out.

This task can be very strenuous and tedious but in the end you could have a masterpiece; the time taken to make the project look its best is completely worth it. I am the type of person who will edit for hours and think it's great, but I have to tell myself to step away for a couple hours or sleep on it and then take a look later. Your mind will be refreshed and you'll be able to see little things to fix that you wouldn't have caught when you were so focused and screen addicted. Leave the house (or wherever you're editing) and go get a coffee or food or go see a movie - get your mind completely off the subject.

There have been a couple projects where I wish I had done this more strictly with. I got so excited about it that I was ready for the world to see it. When I watch them now I see tweaks I could have made and/or I would have edited it differently. However, this is also the same project of mine I am referring to when I say "happy accidents do happen" above. I have gotten quite a few people who say that it is one of my best videos. It is definitely a unique video. As you've probably already know, I do video and photography work with Quinn Dorian; this music video was produced after having a long day of assisting with audio for a friend's project and doing a "I want to do this, but let's wing it" music video.

The music video above was released in December 2018, filmed with my Nikon D3100 and my iPad Pro. The original idea for this project was to do a continuous circle, one take, while she sang... Once on-site we quickly realized that the space we were shooting in with the stationary lights wasn't going to be big enough for a smooth one take moving shot. It was also dark outside so I needed to also see where I was going too, and there obviously wasn't enough wiggle room.

For those who would comment on this an ask "why didn't you do location scouting?" well, good question. 1) because Quinn wanted to do this the night she told me about it. 2)I've been to this location multiple times and roughly knew what I was going to be working with. 3)Like I stated above, this was very much a "let's wing it" kind of idea what we (or I) didn't really think was going to turn out that well with the current idea - which I ended up being right, and we made some creative decisions. The original idea didn't turn out as planned because my creative mind came up with the idea for editing and the "best" shots while in the shooting space.

The first tip I want to share is: make sure you're thinking about editing while you're shooting your scenes. You want to have a rough idea of transitions and timing of cuts while shooting so you can get the best possible shot in camera without having to do much post production editing that could potentially mess up the whole vibe. I wouldn't rely solely on the computer to be able to make the adjustments you want because different software updates may mess up pre-loaded functions that don't work the way you want them to with your footage.

The one thing I wish I had done was shot the whole thing with just my Nikon. My iPad captured too much of the light. The Nikon caught just enough to make it look like night shooting without being completely in the dark, but the iPad made it looks like spotlights.

So before you ask, I didn't have any of my video lights with me because I was bouncing from project to project that day and the only equipment I had was my camera and lenses. So I used the headlights of my truck which gave me the right amount of light for my Nikon, but too much light for the iPad. The next mistake I made that I wish I had done better to not capture was my shadow.

If you watch some of the shots of Quinn sitting down with the string lights around her, you can see my shadow pass in front of her. At the time we both didn't really think much about it and I guess we decided it was an aesthetic, but now that I look back at it I wish I had paid more attention. Since then, I’ve learned to be more picky about in camera shots because my mind is focused on the work I’m going to need to do later, and most of the time my goal is to get the best in camera shot so post production editing is more transitional and less tweaking to the actual footage.

I mean, if you’re shooting something like light sabers then you’re GOING to have hours of editing ahead of you; but the main point, which I have said multiple times, is keep editing in mind while you’re filming.

This 8-second video took me three hours of editing. THREE HOURS! ^^ Just to give you an idea if you decide to make a film with light sabers. But I digress.

Editing gives you the freedom to add more visual interest to your footage. The audio, transitions, color balance, frame rate, all play into effect of how your audience experiences your piece of visual art. Someday your work may be known for its editing technique, like Star Wars is known for its cheesy wiping transitions. If you hadn’t noticed it, go back and watch them and look for those wipes. If you don’t have time to watch all of them, I found this video to make it easier. Now you won’t be able to get this out of your head.

It may also be the case the editing isn't your strong suit; and that's OKAY! It's okay to not be good at editing so don't let it stop you from achieving what you want. Asking someone you know who is better at editing won't hurt you and your project as long as you give that person the credit their due. Editing isn't easy so giving them a spot in your credit roll ensures you're not stealing their technique and claiming it as your own.

The case may be the opposite where you're great at editing, but filming good footage isn't your strong suit; and that's OKAY! Reach out to people you may know who are great with cameras. Pitch your idea and see if they will be willing to help. Now, I will tell you, videographers will try to help tweak your ideas based on what is possible for the camera. They may even give you some better ideas that you didn't think of because you didn't think it was possible to achieve those heights. So word of advice, if you ask for help, don't be stubborn and make everything have to be done perfectly your way. It will not work out as you have it planned. People whose professions are what you're asking them to do may have more experience than you and can help improve your project. Even if it's just a "for fun" project.

There is so much more than can be said about the importance of editing. It's the glue that holds videos together and makes them smoothly flow between cuts. Editing audio to fit with the footage is probably one of the funniest, but also one of the hardest things especially when you're limited to what audio to use for your projects.

During college, I could only use royalty free audio because of copyrights and whatnot, so I was really limited to what I was able to pick from Google. This is where compromises happen. You may have a specific background audio you want for a scene, but it costs an arm and a leg to buy. What do you do? Instead of giving up on the project I would highly suggest putting some time into searching for an alternative audio to use. In my book, as long as it give the same feeling during the scene then you’re good. You don’t want to lose your audience in the middle of a fight scene because the background music is classical music; unless that’s the aesthetic you’re going for. It could be a comic relief point... but not recommended if there’s not reason behind the placement.

In concluding this post my last word of advice would be, if you’re the one editing this project, make sure you know what you want and how to do it. There’s nothing like the feeling of defeat and frustration when you have this perfect idea and the footage for it and you can’t figure out how to make the edit. If you need to gather some test footage to practice the edit, that’s totally fine! Sure you’re putting in extra work, but that means you care about what the final project is going to look like.

If you would like to help support me and photography and videography hobby please leave a tip! It would be much appreciated:) The more tips, the more projects I can film and the more writing tips I’ll be able to make!

Thank you all so much in advance!

Sara Aulds
Sara Aulds
Read next: 4 Ways To Find Inspiration As A Beginner Photographer
Sara Aulds

I am a photographer and videographer from Cincinnati, Ohio. I write as a hobby and capture reality as a profession.

See all posts by Sara Aulds