We’ve all seen it—that cheesy, posed stock video. It’s that shot where the smile never meets the eyes, or where everything is just a little too perfect. It’s cliched and completely inauthentic. But the industry—and the world—is changing, and these days, more and more people are looking for videos that are diverse, relatable, and natural. As one of our top contributors of authentic lifestyle footage, we spoke to Ruslan Mykhalets of MStockAgency to get his top tips and tricks for ditching the cheesy look and producing high-quality, realistic stock videos.
Storyblocks: Filming people can be uncomfortable, do you have any tips for easing the anxiety, for both the videographer and the model?
Ruslan: It’s true that not everyone feels comfortable in front of the camera, especially if a model isn’t familiar with the film crew. We find that hiring professional talent and fostering relationships with the same actors over time helps make everyone more familiar and comfortable. In any case, professional communication is key to a good working relationship.
Storyblocks: How long into the shoot does it usually take for your models to become comfortable?
Ruslan: It will definitely depend on the person, but it usually takes 3 or 4 filming sessions.
Storyblocks: How do you plan your shots? Do you provide specific direction or actions for your models to perform, or do you set the scene and let them do what feels natural?
Ruslan: We usually prepare a thematic scenario for the shoot in advance, but we do count on our actors to improvise within the shooting frame. We like to give them some freedom in acting.
Storyblocks: What do you find to be the biggest detractor that diminishes the “authenticity” of a shot?
Ruslan: Stiffness and discomfort of a model in front of the camera—if they aren’t experienced at modeling, they might express an unpleasant emotion or facial expressions in a frame as a result of lack of professional skills, so we try to shoot models who we know are reliable or were previously trained by us.
Storyblocks: What are some tips from evoking natural emotions from your models?
Ruslan: First of all, the mood of the shoot must be positive and kindly adapted to both the work and the model—and of course, it really makes the process easier if everyone is already familiar with each other.
Storyblocks: Where do you think people feel the most natural?
Ruslan: People feel the most natural when they are acting out the roles and situations they encounter frequently in their own lives. Business, athletic, and lifestyle scenes are usually the most comfortable for the actors.
Storyblocks: Do you style your models or do you ask them to dress themselves?
Ruslan: We always have various outfits ready in advance, but we usually ask the actors if they have interesting items that will work for the scene. If they have it, we’ll use it—but we’re prepared either way.
Storyblocks: Is there a magic number of people to film? For example, do you find it easier to film a group of 4 people or a group of 3? Or is it easier to film people individually?
Ruslan: Actually, there’s no such thing as a magic number. Sometimes it is easier to shoot one person, and when there is a bigger group, it can be hard for actors to focus on their job due to the constant communication. Other times, shooting 3-4 people might actually energize the actors. It’s very individual and it’s important to consider the personalities of the actors in advance to make sure that the shoot goes smoothly and you get the best possible result.
Storyblocks: How do you go about finding talent? Do you ever have trouble finding models who will sign a release?
Ruslan: We look for models among our friends and through social networks. We’ll check out groups for photographers and other relevant social communities. Regarding the release, it’s usually signed by everyone, but it’s important to make sure that they were previously informed of what the document is and how will their work will be used.
Storyblocks: What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who just started shooting or is looking to improve their lifestyle content?
Ruslan: It may sound cliche, but it’s important to love your work. If you want to be successful in filming stock video, you need to enjoy not only the shoot but also the inescapable analysis, planning, and organization involved. Your videos are only as good as the details—think about the layout of the locations, the models/actors involved, the stylistics, the lighting, and the quality of your gear to get the most out of the shoot itself.
And there you have it! In today’s changing stock media landscape, it’s never been more important to stay with the times. Work these tips and tricks into your workflow for incredible, natural-looking lifestyle footage every time—and make sure to check out MStockAgency for inspiration!
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