The Business Of Motion
Motion has always been present in Gilman’s high-energy stills, but lately, he has branched out into actual motion pictures, as well. It’s creatively fulfilling, and it’s good for business.
"It’s like a stock portfolio," Gilman says, "where you have high-tech stocks and biotech stocks and mutual funds, and everything in between. Video is that extra component which gives you the diversity to be able to be more well rounded, to have a larger client base. You’ve basically just doubled your business. I know there’s the old mantra "jack-of-all-trades, master of none," but I feel like stills and video can marry well and can be very beneficial. A really small-footprint production company can go in and produce really high-quality content at a fraction of the price of old-school methods because, as photographers, we’re used to working light and fast. We don’t necessarily have all the gear, but there’s now smaller and lighter gear that we can use to increase the production value—smaller sliders, smaller booms, octocopters for aerial footage—all these things we can do.
"Basically, you went from selling doughnuts," he says, "to selling doughnuts and coffee. You now have two products you can deliver. I do them both, but I don’t do them at the exact same time. Unless it’s some big waterfall drop, I shoot stills in the morning and video in the afternoon, or vice versa. They take two different brains, and it’s really hard to do both well. As a still photographer, we’re always working for that decisive moment, so we’re trained to be studying the nuances of every scene so that we have good framing and we’re waiting for those moments, and I think that really translates well into video. I think that we, as still photographers, think a lot more about framing. Where still photographers fall down on the video side is shooting B-roll and storytelling. That’s where we have to learn a lot.
"I’m shooting a surfing story in Iceland," Gilman explains, "and I need B-roll. A shot of the guy’s booty in his wet suit splashing through the water might be a beautiful slow-motion shot with the water streaming off, but as a still shot, people would be like, what’s that, there’s no context! What makes a good still shot and what makes a good video clip are completely different. Anybody who’s looking to go from shooting stills to dabbling in video, you have to go out and learn how video works. You can’t just all of a sudden be a director. There are a lot of things involved in video that you don’t think of in stills. You have to learn the craft. You have to learn the difference between 24p and 30p and 60 frames and all the settings on the camera that give it the different looks because that’s integral to the shots, as well as learning how to shoot B-roll. The action shots are pretty much a given, right? But it’s all those in-between moments that really make a film sing."
Establish A Recognizable Style, Regardless Of The Medium
Whether stills or video, Gilman’s visual style comes through on every assignment. He calls it "little person, big landscape," explaining, "I shoot from the background first, so every image that I compose I start with the background. I’m picking my landscape, hopefully it’s beautiful, and then I’m finding out where is the peak moment in that landscape for whatever the sport is I’m shooting—surfing, kayaking, backcountry skiing—and then moving myself to where the subject is going to line up in a spot in the landscape that’s going to add something to the image. It’s just the same way I shoot portraits: pick a background, get an exposure for the background, add model, add light. An action shot is almost like a large portrait. The waterfall only goes to one spot, the skier goes off of one specific cliff. By doing that, I’m able to make the image much more dynamic or interesting."
Success Starts With The Simplest Planning
"I try to
put myself in the best possible position to make the best possible images," he says. "I’m going out at the optimal time of day; I’m not shooting at noon. I’m shooting before sunrise and after sunset to get that beautiful alpenglow and evening light. And then I try to shoot things in the middle of the day in open shade or something like that to be able to maximize the day. If you have people doing interesting things with interesting light, that’s going to give you so much more of an advantage than somebody doing something at high noon when the light isn’t interesting."