Camera Operators – How to be Discreet

2 min

Whether you are filming a documentary or you’re a news cameraman, you don’t always want your camera out front and center for the whole world to see. Knowing how to be discreet can mean the difference between getting the perfect shot that you want and having nature, or a person, act differently because you are there.

Let’s face it, people act differently when they are in front of a camera. When someone has something to hide, then they certainly act differently; they put on ‘airs’ to try and be impressive, or to give the impression that they are better than the person they are when the cameras are not rolling. If you want to be effective as a cameraman when you have to capture people in their natural environment, being the people that they truly are all day long, then you need some camera tips for shooting when you don’t want to be noticed.

Tip 1: Don’t advertise yourself

It may sound too obvious, but you shouldn’t advertise yourself or your camera. If you are making your documentary film by yourself, then you are going to have a challenge trying to be discreet. Holding a microphone and camera at the same time is cumbersome to say the least.

Have an interviewer, if it isn’t going to be you, or hire a full-time cameraman if you plan on being the one asking questions. When you have someone doing the questioning, then you, as the cameraman, can duck back, or to the side of the person you are interviewing. As long as the camera is not right in front of them, or in their face, they will gradually not even notice it being there in the first place.

Tip 2: Find some cover

If you are conducting your interview or shoot outside, find cars, fences, or other locations where you can hide yourself behind. The camera is the only thing that needs to be visible; you don’t. The more cover you have, the less conspicuous you will be.

Tip 3: Dress appropriately

Do not choose loud, obnoxious colors when you dress to be a cameraman. Grays and blacks are ideal for most filming situations. You are not the focus of attention; the person whom you are trying to capture on film is.

Tip 4: Don’t carry a big stick

The bigger and more impressive a camera looks, the more intimidating it can be. Avoid carrying around the best camera you have if it is also the largest one in your arsenal. If a small camcorder will give you enough quality for the shoot, then use that. People will tend to dismiss small cameras more easily than a big one. Small means inconsequential. Big means important. Keep it simple and small and you won’t frighten away the ‘wildlife’.

Tip 5: Use a tripod

If you really don’t want to be noticed when you’re filming, and you can achieve a great vantage point for the shot from a safe distance, then put your camera on a tripod and film from there. You won’t get the fluid, mobile effect that you would using a different technique, but what are you more interested in? The killer interview or visual creativity?

There are many methods that you can use to be discreet. These are only a few. When you are creative, you will come up with more ideas in the future.


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Rick Davis


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