250th of a Second vs. 30 Frames Per Second?

I teach Photography and Media Arts (Video Production). In both of these courses we discuss and practice strategies for storytelling; how to reach an audience with compelling images that convey emotion, conflict and an aesthetic. Which medium is more effective for this purpose? The vast majority of young people will immediately respond that video is far superior because it is comprised of thousands of still images AND sound, but when presented with an image that is perfectly composed, that 250th of a second in time can freeze a person. One still image taken by a professional at the height of his craft has the power to evoke change. I have found that the still image forces the viewer to pause, to think, and to reflect, where as the the video flying by at 30 frames per second seems less important some how. The unfortunate reality is that the media is over saturated with still images taken on the fly that have very little intrinsic value, thus watering down the impact of the really great images.

Clearly a video camera in the hands of a craftsman can produce amazing, poignant, and compelling stories, but in this Youtube world I have found that those stories are hard to find. SO, what medium is better for storytelling, still photography or video? Give it some thought, I think you will find the answer is not so easy.


7 thoughts on “250th of a Second vs. 30 Frames Per Second?

  1. Barry, I think it depends on what you want to do. A picture or series of pictures allow the viewer to fill in the visual blanks to the story using their imagination. A video is better if you want to be sure that all viewers have the same experience or take away the same things. At least that’s what I think – granted, I’m no expert in this area.

    • Interesting. With the still image the viewer fills in the blanks because they can take the time to study all aspects of composition and relationships within the frame. With video the creator can manipulate perspective and convey their own bias through editing.

    • I wonder if the context of image isn’t almost as critical as the image itself. I agree with Barry about the power of a still image. I will never forget when I first saw what has apparently become the most well-known National Geographic picture of all time (the picture of the Afghan girl, Sharbut Gula), and yet I also have scenes from video burned in my memory. Can the artist always control the context of the image? I agree, this might be more easily accomplished through video, but if the context for a still photo comes from the life of the viewer, while likely to differ greatly among viewers, I think it is also likely to be much more profound.

      • Wow! That picture is so telling!

        A little off topic, but I thought that you would be the perfect person to ask. My husband is looking to get into photography. He had taken a course or two back in high school and really enjoyed it and wanted to do it again. He was looking into getting a digital SLR camera. Can you recommend one for a beginner?

      • Any of the entry level DSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon, or Sony are worth looking into. Check out the pixel rate and LCD screen size to determine the one for you.


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