Photographers and videographers have a special talent for sifting through hours worth of RAW footage and pulling together a cinematic (and significantly shorter) final product. It’s a learned skill — something that you develop over time through trial and error.
From a client’s perspective, you might make the entire process look easy. For all they know, you prepare for the shoot, capture all of the footage, and make final edits without running into any issues.
But, as you know, a lot happens behind-the-scenes of a shoot. Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned professional, this guide will outline some of the best practices and go-to steps for creating a great quality highlight video.
Think of a highlight video as a video montage: This type of content showcases all of the most important moments from a shoot in the span of a few minutes.
Since highlight videos tend to be brief, they’re convenient to share (and watch) on social media. This means that — whether you’re working in wedding photography, product photography, sports photography, etc. — your videos can reach hundreds of people in seconds and boost your reputation as a photographer.
So, even though your main objective is to create a cinematic final product, you can also seize the opportunity to show off your editing skills, build up your photography portfolio, and attract even more clients.
Let’s take a look at what should happen before, during, and after a shoot when creating a highlight video.
Pre-production is that pivotal stage when you plan out everything that needs to happen once you arrive on location for a shoot. If you don’t prepare, you take the risk of not capturing an important moment on camera and excluding it from the highlight video.
To set yourself up for a successful shoot, there are two key things you need to do:
It’s important to know what to expect before going into any shoot, so take some time to learn about the filming conditions you’ll be working with.
For context, “filming conditions” refers to everything you know about the shoot prior to the shoot — the expected weather conditions, the time of day, the ambient lighting, and the type of shoot (i.e., a product shoot, wedding shoot, etc.).
If you’ve been hired to make a highlight video of a NBA championship, then you’ll be surrounded by fans, relying on arena lighting, and filming without the option for a retake. But if you’re shooting a product advertisement in a small, quiet studio, the filming conditions will be much different.
By anticipating the conditions, you’ll be able to think through your production process ahead of time and make sure you’re as prepared as possible.
Maybe you need a telephoto lens to capture footage from a distance in a bustling stadium. Maybe you need a drone for an overhead shot of your wedding clients at their outdoor venue.
Once you understand the filming conditions, the next step is to figure out what types of equipment you need for the shoot.
If you need to move around a lot during a shoot, it might be best to downsize your gear and use lightweight equipment. If harsh sunlight could be an issue, you might choose to use a prime lens, lens filter, and/or diffuser.
Whatever the filming conditions might be, your gear can impact the quality of your footage and the types of shots you can include in your highlight video. To get the best end result, know the difference between equipment you need and equipment you don’t.
From there, you’ll be able to make a shot list that outlines all the specific shots you want to capture for the highlight video.
No matter how many days, weeks, or even months you spend preparing for a shoot, things can go wrong at the drop of a hat once production starts. The weather could change unexpectedly, your gear could malfunction, or your second shooter could call in sick.
Preparation in pre-production is key, but flukes are still bound to happen every now and then. To get the footage you need for post-production, make sure that you’re ready to adapt if things don’t go as planned.
This might mean taking a backup kit with extra batteries, bounce boards, color gels, and more with you to every shoot. That way, you can grab what you need and solve the issue sooner than later.
The first two stages of production are undeniably important, but post-production is really where a highlight video comes together. At this point, you have all of the footage you need to make the video, so there are three final steps to take:
This part of the process can be extremely time-consuming, especially if you’re condensing a day’s worth of footage into a three-minute video. Not every piece of footage can stay, so it’s up to you to decide what makes the cut.
If you’re working with clients, they can help inform this process for you during pre-production. That way, all you have to do is follow through with the initial plan during post-production — you’ll most likely get some feedback, but planning ahead can help you minimize the amount of edits you’ll get later on.
For example, if a wedding client asks you to include footage of a specific family member, then you’ll want to make sure that it’s featured in the highlight video. It’s better to plan to get that footage than to scour through everything and hope you had a shot or two of that person.
Aside from client requests, however, it’s really up to you to make creative decisions about what footage stays in the video.
As you edit the video together, the next step is to find and add music to your video editing timeline. This is important because music can make the experience of watching a highlight video more immersive and enjoyable for viewers.
If you’re trying to convey a certain mood, you can enhance that feeling with background music. So, for a sports highlight video, you might include music with high energy and a fast tempo. For a wedding highlight video, you might want music that is slow paced and acoustic.
A great way to find easy-to-license music for your highlight videos is to go through a stock media company like Soundstripe. With a subscription plan, you can license any song from the company’s music library and not worry about Content ID strikes or DMCA claims when your video is shared publicly.
That’s also an added value for your client, since they’ll be able to share the video and never have to deal with a copyright claim.
Once you edit together the video clips and find the right music, the last remaining step is to make sure that all of the different video and audio elements are working together on-screen. The last thing you want is to create a disruptive viewing experience.
At this stage, you can correct any sound or lighting issues, create smoother transitions between shots, and put other finishing touches on the video. It’s the part of post-production that is basically the textbook definition, adding polish and personality to the project.
Highlight videos may require a little extra work for photographers, but the benefits should be obvious: When all is said and done, you add new content to your photography portfolio and your client walks away with a stellar highlight video.