"Right now, all fashion brands need video": Javier Cortés discusses moving to motion

Fashion photographer and filmmaker Javier Cortés talks about his transition to video using Canon's EOS R System and shares five considerations for those keen to follow in his footsteps.
A person wearing a black jacket, a ruffled cream shirt and a black hat leans back against an elaborately painted wall, one hand up to their face with fingers resting on their chin.

Fashion photographer Javier Cortés has added videography to his toolbox of photography skills, predominantly using a Canon EOS R6 and EOS R5 to shoot both stills and motion. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 35mm, 1/100 sec, f/3.2 and ISO1600. © Javier Cortés

"Almost every brand in the world is now looking for video," says Spanish fashion photographer, filmmaker and Canon Ambassador Javier Cortés. "If you're a fashion photographer, you'll be asked to make videos."

The trend is being felt across the professional photography industry, but is being embraced with particular fervour by fashion because video gives clothing a natural movement and drama. "The popularity of video in fashion is increasing all the time," Javier says – and it's not something that photographers should be daunted by.

With a style he describes as being led by "light and colour", Javier has created a name for himself in the fashion industry. His striking visual work has a deeper narrative base that lends itself to film – but Javier was originally a stills-only fashion photographer. It was the demand in his industry that drew him to fashion videography, and he now balances the two on almost all of his projects for high-end brands and magazines including Vogue, HOFF, Harper's Bazaar and Glamour. He may work as a director of photography (DoP) shooting a fashion film one day, and as a photographer shooting the stills campaign the next. "In the beginning, film was for fun, but now I cannot separate video and photography," he says. "I think they live and work together."

Javier started shooting video after assisting a DoP three years into his photography career. Starting out, Javier used the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Canon EOS R for his editorial work, occasionally opting for the Canon EOS C200 for longer-form content. To complement the Canon EOS C200, he now uses the Canon EOS R6 and EOS R5, which he favours for their intelligent AF system and low-light capabilities.

Javier put the Canon EOS R6 through rigorous low-light testing on a video shoot following two ballet dancers through Sicily, and it's now a permanent fixture in his kitbag alongside his EOS R5, which he uses when he needs to record in 8K to CFexpress cards.

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Before picking up a camera, Javier was a classical painter. Looking at his recent body of work, it is easy to see how his love of art has become a cornerstone of his style. In both the HOFF campaign and Vogue España's Christmas video, Javier used traditional settings and compositions juxtaposed with sharp, pacy cuts and a playful hip-hop energy. The Canon EOS R5 thrives in these environments. As a lightweight mirrorless body weighing just 738g, with up to 8-stops of image stabilisation when used with a compatible lens, this is a camera that can match Javier's movement and the energy of his editorial output.

A young model in elegant evening wear basks in the glow of the evening sun, standing outside a modest LA house.

A still from the fashion short Your Christmas is Unique, commissioned by Vogue España and shot in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, USA. "For me, fashion has to be real, or at least look as real as it can," says Javier. "If you expose natural light well, it doesn't matter if it's a DSLR or a cinema camera, you can have something amazing." © Javier Cortés

A woman with long dark hair and wearing a white lacy dress with ruffles stands against a green and gold wall.

Javier's background as a classical painter helps inform both his photographic and filmmaking styles. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/1.4 and ISO100. © Javier Cortés

Transitioning from photography to filmmaking: five considerations

Over the years, Javier has found that combining both video and stills offers him more creative freedom to share the stories he wants to tell. "Sometimes, when I shoot just stills photography, I miss something," he says. "It's like you want to tell something more. With video, you can tell a story from beginning to end."

Here, he shares his tips for those looking to embrace fashion's move to motion and start their own story.

1. Kitbag

The high-performance hybrid capabilities of Canon's EOS R System mean you no longer need a large kitbag or stabilising equipment to achieve pro video results. Javier almost always shoots handheld, and suggests that pro stills shooters transitioning to video should do the same and trust in the 8-stops of image stabilisation available with EOS R System cameras and lenses.

"It's a good way to be able to record more shots in less time and, above all, to learn to find more angles and movements than you would if you were using a stabiliser," he says. "At the beginning it is better to have more material and less complication."

A woman in 1970's-style clothes looks up from a crowd in a shot from Javier Cortés's fashion film, Beauty is Subjective.

Building a fashion story

Fashion photographer and videographer Javier Cortés explains how he created his film, Beauty is Subjective.

It's also worth exploring the autofocus capabilities, the frame rates available in 8K, 4K and 1080p, the bit-rate (the higher the bit-rate, the better the quality and larger the file size) and the option to shoot in Canon Log 3, all of which are available in the Canon EOS R3, EOS R5 and EOS R6.

"For me, it has been a very big leap with these cameras. It was very important that C-Log 3 was available for smaller cameras," says Javier. "I always use it on film cameras for colour grading – with this colour and file format I can go further with the final finish."

2. Workflow

The data wrangling required when shooting video is a step up from stills photography. You need to consider the speed and size of memory cards, drives and computer RAM, along with your choice of editing software.

For Javier, the key is to make use of the file format flexibility available in EOS R System cameras such as the EOS R5 and EOS R6 , making decisions based on the platform or situation at hand. "I don't think it's necessary to record every project in 4K or 8K. I usually record in 4K – but that's because there are many social formats where I need to have a Full HD in 9:16," says Javier. "I wouldn't recommend shooting in 8K unless you have to do big digital zooms or stabilise a lot. I think that a photographer who makes the leap to video does not need so many Ks."

3. Sequencing

As photographers, it's easy to identify and capture a "money shot". However, successful videos focus on stories rather than singular scenes. You'll need to create short sequences that will guide your viewer into a moment – this visual explanation of how a subject gets from point A to point B creates a more compelling story.

4. Movement

As a photographer, you predominantly stay still – but in filmmaking, movement plays an important creative role. Too much will make your viewer feel disorientated or dizzy, but get it right and you can transport your viewer seamlessly into a scene. Make sure that you include a five-second static shot at the start and end of your cut to help in the editing process.

Movement is a big part of Javier's work. "I am a cinematographer who needs to be able to move the camera easily. I get overwhelmed quickly if I have a long time on a stabiliser, crane or tripod," he says.

His advice is to keep an open mind, get creative, and work within your means – "I have even used a skateboard," he adds.

5. Aperture

Much of the time, videographers must focus in on a scene manually while a subject is in motion, making working with wide apertures incredibly difficult. Although it's tempting to blur out distracting details in a still photograph, keep in mind that you may not be able to successfully replicate the same effect while shooting video.

The Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 feature the updated Dual Pixel CMOS AF II system, which enables smooth and precise pull focus transitions in all recording modes and features Body, Face and Eye detection. People can be tracked even when they're wearing sunglasses, which may come in handy, if, like Javier, you want to follow a career in fashion filmmaking.

Lucy Fulford & Jack Fittes

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