Photography and Video: Interview with Embry Rucker
In recent years digital SLRs have added yet another feature to their growing list of functions–HD video. This more accessible tool has professional and amateur photographers alike in a creative frenzy. I myself have been dabbling in the world of video but like so many others I find myself in awe and overwhelmed all at the same time. What do I need to know? What new software should I be learning? Am I wasting my time trying to learn something completely new or is video a viable extension of my photography?
I decided to stop spinning my wheels and ask someone who knows, Embry Rucker. Embry is a professional photographer whose style and composition have caught the attention of large companies such as Nike, Target and Canon, to name a few. Recently, he has not only photographed for these companies but also created video bringing his same style and vision to the projects. He seemed like a perfect person to ask about his transition to video.
How do you categorize your commercial photography?
That’s a tough one… I guess I don’t usually. Little bits & pieces of lifestyle, portraits, travel, documentary, etc… For example, if I’m shooting ads & catalog images for a sportswear client on location, I have a hard time calling it ‘fashion’. Even if the end result is ‘commercial fashion’ – [Buy This Bikini!] the road I go down feels more like documenting a model or telling a story, through environmental portraiture and lifestyle imagery, while capturing the environment as if it were a travel piece.
When did you first start playing with video?
My very first experience with video was way back in 2002 shooting a video piece for Gravis. I filmed DJ Z-Trip in two separate concerts in NYC Bowery Ballroom & Central Park… the camera was borrowed and tiny and the quality was appalling…
Since then, I’ve tried to have video along on my shoots – I have a great DP (Director of Photography) who also works as an assistant so even if video wasn’t in the budget we could capture something on both still and motion. Some of the earlier Oneill Surf Girls stuff came out of that. We were in amazing locations with beautiful athletes & plenty of down time for an assistant – it made perfect sense to have him capturing motion alongside me.
What camera do you use to shoot most of your video?
Right now its the Canon HD SLRs whenever possible. I have used the RED as well as Sony and Panasonic video systems but the Canon is by far my favorite for ease of use, portability and quality.
Of all your videos that are on Vimeo, which one is your favorite?
Probably the Nike Women’s training one…
Do you do take all your own video or do you have assistants that capture the video while you are photographing? How do you juggle photography and video?
Eighty percent of my commercial video work is captured by a DP. I usually don’t flip back and forth between stills and video on the same camera during a set up. I’ll ‘take over’ the motion camera from time to time or have the subject take another run at something if I think a different video angle will be cool. I tend to shoot and move really fast so it’s really important for me to have a fast and mobile video set up and a DP that can pick up and move. There are more elaborate shots that involve dollies or cranes or whatever that tend to take forever, so I’ll usually shoot stills exclusively while those are being set up.
Do your clients use the video that you take during your photo shoots? Are they asking you now just to shoot video?
Video is seen as an added bonus usually – the photography comes first. Clients come to me for stills and then we work out a way to create a motion component that works with the whole campaign. Sometimes the client won’t know exactly how they will use the video or how it should be edited – they just know they want to ‘cover’ everything with B-Roll. Obviously, it’s ideal to have a storyboard or treatment to follow, but, on a lot of my looser lifestyle shoots we let the shoot kind of evolve and allow the talent or environment to dictate the arc of the story.
Handling all the footage and editing was the hardest part initially – just dealing with new filing systems, backups and software. Fortunately I have good editors with lots of experience in that world.
What skills that you have a as a photographer have been the most helpful during your transition to video?
For me, everything I have learned is helpful. Running a shoot either as a photographer or a director I am, in large part, Problem Solver.
What video editing software do you use?
Final Cut Pro & iMovie for little quick ditties.
What pieces of equipment/general items do you find to be essential when you are shooting video?
Great quality lenses are always a good place to start. Additionally, I like the Zacuto eye piece and the follow focus by Red Rock Micro – a good fluid tripod head too.
Do you see yourself moving more towards video in the future or do you think you’ll always be a photographer first and a videographer second?
I might actually start devolving and go back to pencil sketches or interpretive dance as a way to tell a story.
Who knows really, video is on fire right now, but the power of great still photography really appeals to me. Even as a consumer of imagery I prefer stills.
Yeah sure, there are tons of very experienced cinematographers and directors and DP’s out there that have volumes and blogs full of what you should and shouldn’t do… but, what I don’t think people, especially people that are learning and still developing their skills and experiences, hear often enough is ‘Have Fun With It’. Don’t take everything so seriously, don’t get caught up in all the gear and techniques – if you are telling a story… the STORY is the only thing that matters. If you are shooting a person or a place – worry about them first, don’t try and shoehorn some trendy effect or technique in where it doesn’t belong… all that jazz comes after the basics are dialed.
To see more of Embry Rucker’s work take a look at these sites: