4 Core Lessons I Learnt From Creating A Showreel – By Jason Row


To photographers, a portfolio is an extremely important tool. It’s our way of showing the world what we are capable of, where we specialise and how our creative thought processes work. 

A showreel works on the same principle but for motion not stills. With so many photographers crossing between the two mediums on a daily basis, today I am going to share with you my experiences in creating a showreel to showcase my stock video footage.

Photo by Andre Hunter

1. The Basics – What Do You Want To Say?

Despite having a reasonable amount of experience in editing, I had never put together a showreel. The first stop was a little Internet research to find out the absolute basics. Perhaps the most important thing I learnt in my initial research was not to make the showreel too long. 

I also learnt that despite being a showcase of your very best work, it should still feel like you are telling a story, that is the video has a clear opening, middle and ending. 

Like in a photographic portfolio, you should choose footage that shows off your abilities. As a recently qualified CAA drone pilot, this meant showcasing plenty of aerial footage but also footage captured both on a gimbal and a static tripod. 

As a travel stock photographer and videographer, my showreel needed to highlight that my work was intended for stock agencies rather than for specific clients. It needs to make potential video buyers want to check out more of my work at stock agencies. 

Photo by João Silas

2. Choose Your Clips Carefully

Before I even opened up my editing software, I spent the best part of a day selecting potential clips. As I had in mind telling a visual story from before dawn through to night, I created folders for  Twilight, Dawn, Day, Sunset and Evening and moved suitable clips there. 

In editing, you need a lot more footage than you intend to use, so I selected everything that I felt would work within the brief I had set myself. In reality, this was a couple of hundred clips of varying lengths but all were suitable for inclusion. 

Spend Plenty Of Time Narrowing Down Your Clip Choice

3. Find A Soundtrack

This was perhaps the hardest part of the entire process. In my mind, I wanted a cinematic soundtrack that started slow, had a sudden increase in pace and then slowed down for the finale. It needed to have some nice chords running through, with which to transition the visuals.

As the project was not a paying gig per se, I tried first looking for Creative Commons based music. This is music that has been released as free to use on sites such as Youtube. Indeed Youtube has a well-curated collection of free music for you to use in your projects. However after two days of searching, test editing with various free tracks, nothing was working well for what I had in mind. 

I spent another half day searching various music stock agencies before stumbling across a track at Pond5 that I knew was right. As with most stock agencies, you can download a preview version that has a voice-over watermark. This allowed me to edit the video and be 100% sure that the track was right before paying for the license.  

Finding A Suitable Soundtrack Was The Hardest Part

4. Edit, Edit Then Edit Some More

With the soundtrack in place, it was time to bring all of the media together for editing. My editing suite of choice was Final Cut Pro X although there are many options. If you are on a tight budget yet want a fully professional level video editing suite, check out DaVinci Resolve 15 from Blackmagic. Its free and extremely powerful. Apart from FCPX, one of the best-paid options is Adobe Premier.

The editing was perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the entire process. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly the preselection of clips and audio had narrowed my focus to exactly what I wanted. This eliminated the frustrating aspect of going back to search for other clips that might work better. Secondly, I had no time restrictions. Having editing for clients with deadlines, I know that working under pressure can sometimes stifle your creativity. In this case, by having no restrictions on myself I could take my time and get it right.

Overall the edit took around five days. I would spend a couple of hours editing, preview it on a 4K TV, make notes on the issues then step away for a few hours.

That stepping away is an important aspect of creating a showreel. It’s very easy to get so involved in the project that you do not see its flaws. By breaking from it for a few hours, you can come back and see it in a new light. 

It’s also important to see the film away from the editing suite. I would put mine on a USB and preview it on my TV screen, it gives you a much better understanding of how the visuals and audio are working with each other. 

Step away from the edit, then return

Overall the editing took around 5 days, working several hours a day. I would do an edit, preview it, correct issues, experiment with different clips. Eventually, I was happy with the end result and published to Youtube and Vimeo. I also added it to the video work page on my own photographic website. 

Overall I have enjoyed my experience in creating my first showreel. It has been a relaxing yet educational journey. If you are contemplating making a showreel and have questions, I am happy to answer them in the comments below, although I would not consider myself an expert just yet. 

And here is the end result – thanks for viewing!

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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