Life in Motion: September - 10 Tips for Filming "A Day in the Life" | Long Island & NYC Family Films

Well September went by quickly! Here we are again - another edition of the "Life in Motion" video blog circle!

I've have been experimenting lately with using vintage lenses on my camera for video, so this month's film was shot entirely on my Nikon d750 with an old Nikon manual 50mm AIS lens. I love the bokeh and dreaminess it produces! I also wanted to start playing with video in low light, so you'll quite a few scenes in darker environments... I'm still working on getting my white balance correct while filming indoors at night with artificial light - let's just say that's a work in progress!

This month I decided that I wanted to film "A Day in the Life" of our family. I like to document a full day in our lives, either in photographs or video, every few months. These little windows into our everyday lives are such treasures to look back on. My kids LOVE watching them!

If you have ever thought about filming an entire day in your family's life, here are a few tips!

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10 TIPS FOR FILMING "A DAY IN THE LIFE":

1. Charge your batteries the night before and load up your camera with empty memory cards.

This seems like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I have gone to bed, intending to do an "A Day in the Life" shoot the following day, and then forgotten all about it when I wake up. Keep your camera next to your bed as a reminder, and also so you can shoot some clips of what you first see when you wake.

2. Always keep how you will open the film and close the film in the back of your mind throughout the day. 

This is the story of your day, so make sure you have a strong opening, and a strong resolution to the story. Continually think about crafting "the story" - it can definitely be a loose sense that you really figure out specifically during your edit, but having a beginning and an end is a must!

3. Make a little list ahead of time of a few important details you want to include.

What are the little details in your life that really define your family and your life at present? Is your child just starting to count or learn letters? Are they continually singing a favorite song? Is your garden blooming? Are the leaves changing? Pick a few important details about this moment in time and jot them down. Try to incorporate those into your film. 

4. Don't feel like you need to film every. single. moment.

Take breaks. Don't film everyone's every move. Pick the highlights. For the film below I shot 308 clips. I did not use all of them - I used maybe 250 clips. That was over a span of about 15 hours. So that's about 16 clips an hour. The raw clips were maybe 5 seconds at most, many were much shorter. And this is a 4 minute film - you can make a 2 minute film with half as many clips. What I'm saying is - put the camera down sometimes. Take an hour off. If nothing interesting is happening, take a break.

5. Choose a day to film that is interesting, but not too busy.

Think about what you really want documented. Maybe it is an ordinary day at home. Maybe it's a day that includes an outing. I would not put the pressure on yourself to try and film a day when you have a lot of time sensitive activities on the agenda (especially if you have kids!). Do you want to film a weekday or a weekend? That is up to you, but filming "A Day in the Life" is quite the marathon, so I would advise not adding the extra stress to a day that you already know *might* be stressful (hire me to come and film that day for you instead! hahaha - shameless plug!)

6. Vary your shots. Include both details, and the environment.

I am a huge lover of the wide angle when I shoot stills, but for video I actually love filming best with a 50mm lens. I LOVE details in video. Be sure to include both! And vary your angles - film from above, film from below. Move. Stand Still. Change your focus. Approach a scene from all sides. How can you best tell this story for your viewer? Make sure all your choices are motivated appropriately. 

7. Don't forget about audio!

Hearing my kids' voices in my films, is one of my favorite things about them. How they pronounce certain words may change by the time I film my next "A Day in the Life" - having these little sounds captured is truly valuable! Your camera's microphone does a pretty good job, but if you are going to be outdoors you might want to invest in a microphone with a windscreen, or think about recording audio separately on your phone or another recorder. Most importantly though - be aware of when YOU are talking! There is nothing that irritates me more (particularly when making a client film) than when I get home and watch the footage back and hear myself yapping over all the clips - haha! Just make sure that you are aware of your voice, and if you include it, that you do so appropriately (like chatting with your kids).

8. Beware of the late day slump!

Filming an entire day is a marathon! (let's get real: even when you are not filming, a day with kids is a marathon!) - so pace yourself. It's very easy to run out of steam around dinner time, but remember that ending. You have to have an ending! Don't let your film just fizzle out. Make sure to film that resolution to the day.

9. Film the way your day FEELS. And edit that way too!

Is it a lazy day at home? Then maybe your shots are longer and more fluid. Maybe some slow motion for an added dreamy feel.  Is it a crazy, manic day? Then maybe your clips are shorter and more fast paced. Maybe your filming has a rougher handheld feel to it rather than steady and still. Think about how your day feels, and how you can translate that feeling to your audience. Remember that when making both your shooting and editing choices.

10. Pick an appropriate soundtrack.

Music is so, so, so important for setting the tone and feel for your film! It can be a long, tedious process to find the right song - or sometimes you get lucky and a song jumps right out at you as THE ONE. Whatever the case, make sure your music supports your story. Don't pick a fast-paced pop song if it was a slow day. And don't pick a dramatic, cinematic piece if your day was light and funny. And if you pick a song with lyrics - firstly, make sure those lyrics are appropriate and aid in telling your story - and secondly, make sure they don't overpower any audio you want to keep from your footage. It is a delicate balance!

Some of my favorite places to license music are Music Bed, Song Freedom, Jamendo and the Vimeo Music Store

That's it! Then upload, share and enjoy!

I hope you find these tips helpful! I just love having these little films to look back on. I filmed my last "A Day in the Life" in March, and my first way back in December of 2012! For a peek at all of my past "A Day in the Life" films - I have them all in a collection here on Vimeo.

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"A DAY IN THE LIFE" Sessions

If you'd rather sit back and enjoy your day, I also offer "A Day in the Life" sessions for families. These are my very favorite type of session! I love getting the opportunity to fully tell the story of a family throughout this longer period of time. You can choose between a half day (4-5 hours), which is perfect for an outing or event,  or a full day (8-10 hours), which really is an awesome way to document the story of a whole day in the life of your family at present. All the details are here - please let me know if you are interested or have any questions! My most recent client "Day in the Life" session can be seen here. "A Day in the Life" sessions include a full gallery of high resolution still images as well as a film, and a 12x12 coffee table book documenting the day.

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And with that, here is my "A Day in the Life" film. Filmed on September, 17, 2016. Eric was working all day so I chose to focus on the story of my kids' day. I hope you enjoy!

Be sure to follow the Life in Motion blog circle around to see what all the other talented filmmakers were up to this month, starting with Angie!


Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see some of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family's story in photos or a film, please contact her for a session!