Creating a polished, professional-looking video doesn’t have to mean spending on expensive videography equipment and filmmaking workshops. You can become a good videographer by paying attention to a few key details that may not be obvious at first and practising your craft. These video filming basics will prove to be very useful, whether you’re shooting a more high-end production or simply creating a vlog that your viewers will love watching.
Video quality is about content. If you’re showing viewers something valuable or exciting, they’ll come back for more.
But it’s not all about the content. You still need your video to look good. If your content has low production quality that interferes with the viewer enjoying the video, you’re going to lose viewers whether your content deserves their attention or not. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Whether you’re putting together a porch swing or building a bookshelf, one of the first things you’ll find printed on the assembly instructions is a list of the tools needed for the job. If your toolbox contains the right tools, you’re good to go; without them, you won’t get far. The same is true for your camera bag. With a small collection of essential production tools, you’ll be equipped to tackle every obstacle on any shoot. Here is a list of the top means a serious shooter shouldn’t leave home without.
Tools Every Videographer Needs to Shoot Great Video
Shooting steady shots and making smooth camera moves are essential for professional production, and the best way is to work from a tripod. Remember, all tripods are not created equal. Make sure yours is designed for shooting video, not still photos. This typically means the tripod has an actual fluid pan/tilt head, panhandles and adjustable drags.
No matter how good your camera’s stabilization is, you need a tripod. Even small shakes can be visible in a video—especially if you’re using a DSLR with a zoom lens. A tripod turns even a primary camera into a much better video production tool. A tripod will seriously improve the video quality of any camera. You might be surprised at the price of tripods when you start looking; there seems to be no upper limit to the cost.
Stepping up to higher-end equipment will get you smoother panning, lighter weight, and increased portability.No matter how still you think you can hold a camera, you need a tripod. It doesn’t need to be the best one out there. But it’s indispensable.
While your camcorder’s built-in microphone typically has a decent quality Omni-directional pickup element, its fixed position on the front of your camera keeps you from getting great sound unless you press your lens right up against your subject. The best way to record clean, clear audio is to get your mic close to the topic. This means getting it off your camera. Microphones come in many shapes and sizes to do a variety of jobs. The most commonly used and versatile are the handheld “stick” mics and clip-on lavalieres.
While video cameras have better audio pickups than DSLRs or phones, they still leave much desired. And if you’re using something smaller, the audio will likely be terrible. These devices aren’t designed to capture high-quality sound.
External microphones significantly improve the quality of your audio. This is especially important when you’re filming video lessons, courses, interviews, or anything else containing speech. Fortunately, you can get a solid external mic without breaking the bank.
It’s essential to think about the type of mic you need. Omni-directional microphones capture sound from every direction, while shotgun and directional mics focus sound capture in a specific order. The best choice for you depends on exactly what you’re recording.
Invest in a pair of good quality over-the-ear headphones that block outside noise and let you hear what your mic is recording. What’s the biggest trick to getting great results from headphones? You have to plug them in and put them on. They may look cool, hanging around your neck, but they aren’t effective unless they are actually on your ears. Because you will be wearing them for the duration of your shoot, choose a pair that not only sounds good but fits comfortably. Starting to think about hiring a wedding photographer? Check out our range of Mornington Peninsula wedding photography here.
Reflectors and bounce cards will help you light right while you run and gun. An adequately positioned glass lets you create a polished lighting look from a single source, whether it’s the sun, an incandescent bulb, or a Fresnel.
Professional photo/video reflectors are often flexible, circular and shiny, with silver or gold surfaces. They tend to bounce hard, intense light and are susceptible to “wiggle” when used in the wind. White foam core cards are a popular alternative that many pros prefer.
In addition to being inexpensive and easily accessible, they are rigid and cast a soft, diffused light appealing to talent. You can also use them for setting white balance and for blocking your mics from buffering breezes.
A big ol’ roll of good gaff tape is one of the most valuable tools for the resourceful shooter. Gaffer’s tape is not the same as duct tape, electrical tape or masking tape. It is a specially formulated cloth tape with glue that holds firm without making a mess.
Although gaffer’s tape can be a little pricey, this is not the place to cut corners on cost. Use it for taping down power cords, taping on microphones or taping up a loose tripod leg. If MacGyver made a video, gaff tape would be his favourite tool.
As advanced as our cameras have become, they still rely on battery power. If those pint-sized power packs decide to die and you are unprepared, you’re done. So, always bring a backup battery and your charger. While one battery is powering your camera, keep another on the charger and plugged in. It’s also a good idea to carry a collection of 9-volts and AAs to use with your mics, so you are never without.
Don’t forget to pack your camera itself! Batteries, microphones, tape and reflectors aren’t much good on their own. When you fill your camera, be sure to put on your lens cap and make sure the camera is held snugly in place so it doesn’t jostle around. Even hefty-feeling cameras are vulnerable to damage if they bounce around loosely in the bag.
If you’re making a video, you need a good camera. And if you’ve done any reading about video production tools or video marketing, you know that there are many opinions out there. We’ll start with the basics. You can use a DSLR for filming. It won’t get you the same level of quality as a professional-level video camera. But it’s a lot cheaper, and the video quality improves all the time.
Many people who sell videos online use DSLRs, and the quality is excellent. Almost all DSLRs can record in 1080p, the standard for online high-definition video. And many are capable of recording in 4K as well. If you go with a DSLR, it’s essential to get a tripod and an external mic.
For even better quality and more in-camera features, you’ll want to invest in a high-end video camera. What will you get with a video camera? Better image stabilization, better focus during zooms, and improved sound pickup for a start. But if you’re thinking seriously about making money with your videos, a video camera is a must-have video production tool. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.
Portable Secondary camera
If you have a DSLR or video camera, why do you need another camera? Because you never know when inspiration or opportunity will strike. Video from your smartphone or a compact camera can be great for marketing, documentation, and many other things.
If you’re all-in on video, you should be able to capture it at any time. And having a phone or small camera with solid video-recording capabilities lets you capture, edit, and upload your video in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, most phones can already take pretty good video. You might get better results from a compact camera, though.
Editing is where a phone will serve you better than a compact camera; there are plenty of apps that let you perform basic edits before uploading your videos to improve the viewing experience. This won’t be a high-priority item for everyone. But if you want to be able to capture video at any time, it’s a must.
Good lighting makes a huge difference in the final quality of your video. If you’ve ever seen a video where an interviewee is poorly well, you know that it’s distracting. Unfortunately, getting your lighting right is complex. You need to consider different types of light, foreground and background lighting, shadows, and equipment. And that equipment can get expensive. If you’re just getting started, you can use a reflector to take advantage of ambient light. It’s just a matter of getting it set up to reflect the light properly. (You’ll also need someone to hold it unless you get a reflector holder as well.)
An entry-level reflector is an affordable way to start lighting your videos better. You can get a 5-in-1 reflector with translucent, white, black, gold, and silver surfaces.
If you want to step up to a more versatile and powerful lighting solution, you can use a softbox. These are large cloth boxes that cover bright bulbs to give you a soft fill light.
They take up a lot of room, but there’s a reason why the pros use them all the time: they provide the best light. You can get started with less than USD100, but you’ll get better performance and longevity out of a more expensive set. No matter how you choose to light your video, make sure that, the lighting doesn’t create harsh shadows or bright glares. It makes a huge difference.
A gimbal is like a stabilizer for your camera. There are many different types and sizes; you can find gimbals for cameras as small as your iPhone and as big as a professional-level video camera.
Using pivots and weights, a gimbal stabilizes your shot, which is especially important when you’re moving. When your camera is still, a tripod will work. If you’re moving around, you’ll need a gimbal. There are lots of different models, and they vary in features and price.
The more expensive the gimbal, the lighter and more stable it will be. How much you should spend depends on how often you plan on moving your camera while shooting video. If the vast majority of your shots will be stationary, you don’t need to worry too much about it. If you plan on making a lot of moving videos, it’s worth spending the money. The increase in quality will be notable.
Also, make sure to get a gimbal that will work with your camera. There are multiple attachment mechanisms, and most of them are pretty universal. But you should always double-check. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?
We’ve talked in detail about beginner video editing software in the past. Suffice to say here that it’s necessary. With some basic editing skills, your video quality will go way up.
You don’t even need to get into advanced techniques like colour correcting or complicated cuts. Just editing out your vocal pauses and inserting some text is enough to take your video from amateurish to pro-quality.
Mastering editing and production software is a long process. But you can get started with just a few basic tutorials, and you’ll see an improvement in your video quality right away. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to do it. Expensive software like Adobe Premiere Pro is great, but you can also use Shotcut, macOS’s Photos, or VideoPad.
Will your videos include people talking? Then you’re going to want a lavalier mic. This is a small microphone that clips to a collar or lapel and provides high-quality sound pickup. It eliminates background noise and records clear voices.
If your videos aren’t going to include many people talking, you can add this to your “someday” list. Most people who will be creating a video regularly will want to have at least a couple of lavalier mics in their gear bag. If you’re filming with a DSLR, a wireless lavalier mic that plugs into your camera is a great choice.
Video editing hardware
You can edit videos on almost any device. Most smartphones can download capable video-editing apps, and just about every computer can run one as well.
But if you’re going to be doing a lot of video editing, you may want to consider upgrading your hardware. Many top videographers use Apple hardware for their video editing, but Windows PCs have caught up in graphics processing power, too. The main thing to pay attention to is that your computer has enough graphics power to let you edit at full speed. Lower-end graphics cards and laptops may have difficulty making changes to huge files. And that slows down your computer. For most people, editing on your current device will be fine. If you notice that the process is slow and you think you might benefit from something faster, it’s time to consider making a change.
Adding text to your video is a great way to increase engagement, no matter where you’re going to be posting it. Videos on social media are often watched without sound, so you’ll lose many viewers if you don’t have subtitles.
Even if you’re not posting on social media, you’ll still want to have captions available for viewers with hearing difficulties (and those who like to read along as they watch).
The problem is that if you’re creating a lot of videos, transcription takes a lot of time. That’s why using a transcription service is a good idea. They’ll get you the text of your video back faster than you could do it yourself. You’ll have to pay for it, but once you’ve transcribed a few of your videos, you’ll see why it’s worth the cost.
You may also want to use your transcript (or part of it) as a content upgrade or to supplement the video on the page. It’s an excellent way to add value to your viewers/readers and give your site a bit of an SEO boost as well.
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Videography Tips for Beginners
Many of these tips and techniques are timeless, which means you can still refer to these as your guide when deciding to pursue a videography career and become a cinematographer. Try them out and learn them by heart. Along the way, not only would these help you produce more professional-looking videos that will impress your audience, but they will also help you realize your potential and own creative filmmaking style.
Gather Your Equipment
Fortunately for beginners, we live in a time where high-quality digital cameras are made to be affordable for personal and recreational use. You can practice videography with gadgets that you may already have, like your smartphone, as long as you keep these simple things in mind:
- Use the back camera for better quality footage.
- Shoot in landscape mode (horizontally instead of vertically)
- Turn on the overlay grid on your screen; if you have it, you have a guide for keeping your phone level.
- If you have the budget for it, we recommend purchasing a gimbal stabilizer for your camera for steadier handheld shots, an external microphone for better audio, and a reliable video tripod.
Plan Your Shoot
If you’re going to shoot a music video, commercial, or short film, you’ll have much more freedom to plan it from start to finish. To do it like the pros, create your storyboard with illustrations of your scenes in sequence. This will help you pre-visualize your final footage and outline your desired shots. It will serve as your guide during shooting and editing, plus it can help you determine the perfect time of day for shooting, your chosen venues, and the suitable cameras to be used (in case you have several options) before filming.
On the other hand, if you’re covering an event, you’re going to want to be as ready as you possibly can. For instance, in wedding videography, the wedding videographer should have a good idea about when and how to take videos of the bride, groom, and the wedding party.
A few helpful wedding videography tips to remember:
- Ensure that you know the timeline for the entire wedding day, like the back of your hand — from the ceremony to the reception program.
- Have a shot list prepared. This list should include the first kiss, the cake cutting, and other critical moments that the couple would want to be immortalized.
- Just as there are wedding photography styles, there are also certain shooting styles for wedding videography. Stick to a specific type. Be consistent and use the right one that fits the couple and their event for the perfect cinematic wedding video.
Have Good Lighting
One of the biggest secrets to achieving professional-looking videos is to use lighting for your storytelling. During conceptualization, try to be intentional about your lighting. Determine the types of lights you need and where you will place them to achieve your desired effect. Or, if you’re on a budget and are working with existing lights (like lamps and the sun), think of how you can make it work for your particular scene.
For example, if you want a dramatic-looking scene, you’ll wish to shadows in the right places. On the contrary, having plenty of light can add cheer and create an ethereal feel, depending on your light placement.
Keep the Background Simple
Don’t just film anywhere. Make an effort to use a simple background or improve it by removing as much clutter as you can. Many use solid-coloured experiences — be it a wall, a bedsheet, or backdrop paper — and place themselves (or their subjects) a few feet away from it to avoid casting a shadow.
The key is to minimize elements that will make the scene look cluttered and take attention away from your subject. Although some themes and storylines benefit from having a chaotic scene, you may want to focus on improving your videography with the basics and then level up and experiment from there.
Improve Your Composition
A true pro may be able to spot an amateur’s work during the first few seconds of a video project, even if high-end camera equipment was used. So what gives them away? It’s their lack of proper framing and composition.
Many beginners don’t realize that good videography (especially cinematography) involves more than just aiming your camera at your scene or subject. It involves arranging and allowing visual elements to tell your story and changing your camera’s framing to make the scene look aesthetically pleasing.
Among the most crucial cinematic videography tips and compositional rules is the Rule of Thirds. You place your subject’s head a little higher (not at the centre) of the frame and give them visual breathing or walking space when facing the sides. Another is to remain on the same side of two people talking when taking over-the-shoulder shots and having a foreground and a background to create depth within a scene.
Observe Proper Camera Placement
A common mistake that beginners make is not minding how the lens’ focal length and the camera’s relative distance from the subject affect the scene’s look. For close-up shots, never place your camera close to your topic, as this can create unattractive facial distortions and make it more challenging for you to crop out the edges of the scene. It’s much easier to place your camera a couple of feet away and carefully zoom in with your camera lens.
But before you go and zoom with your camera, know that you should do this optically (with the lens) instead of digitally (by pinch-zooming your screen) as the latter will degrade the quality of your video clips and possibly make them look pixelated.
Use Manual Focus
While the autofocus feature on your camera can be convenient, it can ruin your recording when it goes in and out of focus while trying to locate your subject in dimly lit scenes. The key is to use the exposure/focus lock on your smartphone or switch to manual focus on your standalone camera, so you can use your own eyes and set the direction yourself.
Setting the focus also allows you to add cool effects to your video, such as using the rack focus technique, where you can focus on different objects successively (with the help of a shallow depth of field blurring everything else out) to direct your viewer’s attention. When used correctly, it can be a potent tool for storytelling.
Set Your White Balance
A real challenge that many professionals go through is temperature and colour correction. If you’re using more than one camera to record the same scene, the cameras can have different default colour temperatures. Can you imagine how distracting it would be to see alternating bluish and warm yellow clips? Set the white balance on all cameras before recording to produce more consistent, professional-looking clips. This will help speed up the editing process and reduce post-production costs in the future.
Bonus Tip: The “correct” white balance is subjective and can depend on your desired output. For example, you could intentionally set it to look even colder to give the scene a more chilly or scary vibe. Use it to work for your story, as long as you practice consistency in each unique location.
Evenly Expose Scenes
Another problem that you may encounter when using multiple video cameras to film a scene is ending up with clips that don’t look the same in terms of exposure. The exact location can look darker in one camera and brighter on the other if you don’t set the same exposure settings, like your frame rate, ISO levels, and aperture. This is why dedicated cine lenses have t-stopped, which stand for exact aperture values, instead of the more theoretical f-stop value on regular photography lenses.
For beginners, it may be easier to shoot in controlled settings where you can have the same lighting no matter the time of day and use the same camera with the exposure locked. It may take longer to record, but at least it will save you the headache of correcting your exposure during post-production.
Bonus Tip: If you have to shoot outdoors, do it quickly and on a clear day, so the sun doesn’t end up setting on you and the clouds don’t get in the way of your lighting.
Apply Cinematic Techniques
A truly professional-looking video project incorporates a mix of basic camera movements that will not only enhance the storytelling but will also keep your viewers interested. If you want to bring your videography to the next level and impress your audiences, you may want to apply a few cinematography techniques.
The techniques you choose to use will significantly depend on your level of creativity and how you want to present the scenes, but it’s always ideal to choose just the essential few that will best tell your story. You don’t want to overdo them and end up overwhelming your viewers with the visuals rather than with your account.
Avoid Shaky Shots
Whether you’re planning, doing a crane shot, or dollying from side to side, you don’t want your photos to look shaky. Aside from possibly making your footage look like home videos, it could make your viewers feel seasick. Keeping your camera on a tripod or any steady surface is critical.
Once your camera is set up, try not to move your camera unless you have to. When you have to start panning or zooming, treat your camera as a full cup of coffee — keep your speed consistent and don’t make sudden stops.
Time Your Shots
Here are a few tips from professional cinematographers that you may not find in many how-to articles: keep your shots longer than 5 seconds but not longer than 10 seconds to effectively hold your viewers’ attention. At the same time, remember to keep your photos steady for at least 10 seconds, which means no panning or zooming before then. Many beginners find these to be extremely helpful in minimizing camera movements, reducing recording time, and keeping their sequences simple during post-production.
Shoot to Edit
This particular “pro-tip” simply means that you should think like an editor when filming. When recording a scene, you’ll want to capture several angles and a few “safety shots” so you’ll have choices for later. This will save you the time and effort you might otherwise spend on refilming and prevent you from settling for subpar shots that will make your work look unprofessional.
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And when you edit, use a simple video editing software that you can get used to before moving on to more complicated programs. You can learn from our video editing tips, including professional yet straightforward techniques aside from the simple cutting, clipping, and correction of video clips and audio levels.