How to Use

This is an introductory unit on camera settings, designed for photography, filmmaking or video production courses with “real cameras,” not the cameras of mobile devices. It consists of four lessons (located in the slider at the bottom). Each lesson features content, activities, exercises and online samples. Each unit includes a culminating project, with “specs” that outline what the project should be, and “reflection questions” to guide student discussions and learning.

Unit Overview

As camera technology improves, the “automatic” settings of a camera do a better and better job of recording great footage. Nothing scares me for my livelihood more than the term “point-and-shoot camera.” It implies the horrifying technical feature of “point your camera at something, and its automatic features will do all the rest to get a great shot.” Don’t get me wrong, this technology is awesome, and means that as a society we’re going to get so many more great photos and video, with artists freed to focus just on the composition of shots. You don’t need to worry about the aperture or shutter speed of your iPhone camera, for example.

However, I also think “auto” features undermines a student’s design mindset of figuring out exactly how a tool works, and how they can manipulate it to deliver exactly the footage they want. This unit is designed to teach students how cameras work, and how their settings work together to create many different types of shots. A basic understanding of how a camera works goes a long way toward getting exponentially better footage than the auto features can. For now.

This unit is recommended for students in grades eight and up.

Unit Project: B-Roll Scavenger Hunt

Any shot can be cinematic, especially if one’s camera settings are set up correctly, and movement is incorporated into shots.

This unit’s project is to create a brief, artistic capture of your school’s campus, incorporating multiple styles of movement, to ensure a student has developed mastery of camera settings.

Project Specs
  • Video Length: 45 to 60 seconds (with a 15-second buffer on each end)
  • Content: Shots of a school’s campus
    • Some potential samples (and please, get creative and assign points): exterior shot of the school, classroom of students engaged in a discussion, dolly shot of books/media in a library, pan of a school gym, slider shot of students walking down a hallway between classes
  • Each shot should be five seconds long in the final edit
  • Include various types of movement (depending on potential camera accessories you have), some good ones include tilts, pans, focus pulls, dollies, etc.
Reflection Questions
  1. Select one of your shots. How could you adjust your camera settings to change the style of the shot?
  2. Select one of your shots. How does it incorporate meaningful movement?
  3. Select a shot with a narrow area of focus. How would a wider area of focus change the feel of the shot?
  4. What is your favorite shot of the video? How did you set it up? Why is it your favorite?

Lesson 1 – Exposure Triangle

Start Lesson

Lesson 2 – Depth of Field

Start Lesson

Lesson 3 – Shutter Speed, Frame Rate

Start Lesson

Lesson 4 – The Art of B-Roll

Start Lesson