19 Videography Tips for More Professional-Looking Videos – 42West
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 just by paying attention to a few key details that may not be obvious at first, and practicing your craft. These videography tips 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.
Many of these videography tips and techniques are timeless. That means you can still refer to this as your complete guide when you decide to pursue a career in videography and become a cinematographer or filmmaker. Try them out and learn them by heart. Along the way, not only would these videography tips 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.
19 Videography Tips to Take Your Videos to the Next Level
First and foremost, do your research. The more you know about the subject, the better you can tell that particular story. Whether it’s an interview you are conducting or a conversation you are constructing, you need to know what it is you are talking about if you want to transmit important information to your audience.
2. 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. Consider your iPhone or Android 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, when shooting video. This gives you a handy guide for keeping your phone level
If you have the budget for it, we definitely recommend purchasing a gimbal stabilizer for your camera for steadier handheld shots, an external microphone for better audio, and a reliable video tripod.
3. Plan Your Shoot
If you’re going to shoot a music video, commercial, or short film, you’ll have much more freedom to plan your full video production from start to finish. To really do it like the pros, create your own 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 desired venues, and the right cameras to be used (in case you have several options) prior to 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 know how to capture all of the most important moments, and create fantastic videos of the bride, groom, and the wedding party.
A few helpful wedding videography tips to remember:
- Make sure that you know the timeline for the entire wedding day like the back of your hand — from the ceremony to reception program.
- Have a wedding shot list prepared. This list should include the first kiss, the cake cutting, and other key 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 style. Be consistent and use the right one that fits the couple and their event for the perfect cinematic wedding video.
4. Tell a Story
One of the main reasons viewers lose interest in a video is a lack of storytelling. A single image or a short video clip can make a profound statement, relay a witty anecdote, or make a poignant observation on the human condition. Change your focus from one subject to another or build drama with interesting light, the choices are up you.
Build emotion into the story and keep the attention of the viewer. Choose a premise that people can relate to. Add a bit of conflict, and finally conclude with some kind of resolution. These are all basis elements of story telling, but it’s up to you to decide how to present it within the setting of you own unique vision. You must also consider your audience demographic. Who are you making the video for? For example, are you making a commercial for a fast-food chain or is for a clothing brand?
5. Show, Don’t Tell
Video storytelling is, by definition, a visual medium. To use it to its full capacity, you must immerse the viewer into the world as if they are the ones witnessing the action. Let them find their conclusion and form their own opinion. That way, there is a greater sense of satisfaction if they discover it on their own.
So now that you’re showing instead of telling, you can use the classic “Wide, Medium, Tight,” which has been part of the language of cinema more or less since its conception. It can be used to establish your location, show the most minute detail, and everything else in between. What you show is as important as how you show it, which refers to motivation. Why are you using a wide-angle lens? Why have the need to move the camera, or go into a slow-motion shot? Every tool in your cinematic arsenal needs a reason or motivation for being used.
6. 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 that you need and where you will place them to achieve the effect that you want. 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 want 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.
For more videography tips, learn about cinematic lighting techniques with this tutorial.
7. 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-colored backgrounds — 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 there are themes and storylines that benefit from having a cluttered scene, you may want to focus on improving your videography with the basics and then level up and experiment from there.
8. Improve Your Composition
A professional filmmaker or someone from the motion picture industry may be able to spot the work of an amateur during the first few seconds of a video project. That’s still true even if high-end camera equipment was used. So what gives them away? It’s their lack of proper framing and composition.
What many beginners don’t realize is 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. It also means changing your camera’s framing in order to make the scene look aesthetically pleasing.
Among the most important cinematic videography tips and compositional rules is the Rule of Thirds. This is where you place your subject’s head a little higher (not at the center) 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. Also, having a foreground and a background to create depth within a scene is crucial.
Some of these are similar to basic photography compositional techniques, so you may want to read up on those and practice with related tutorials.
9. Experiment with Angles
The angles you use to capture your content have a huge influence on mood and perspective. The major angles used by filmmakers are low, high, bird’s eye, and over the shoulder. The low angle perspective is achieved by placing the camera below the level of eyeline and looking up at the subject. This is also know as the “heroic” angle because the subject appears to tower over everything and seems larger than life.
A high angle sees the subject from slightly above. It is often used to provide a sense of the surroundings. However, when used properly, it also allows the subject to appear more vulnerable. Bird’s eye view is often taken from vary high above, and often captured with a drone. It allows the viewer to get a larger view of the surroundings than a high angle perspective allows. The over the shoulder view is often used when characters are talking to one another or to show something one character sees but the other one doesn’t.
10. Select Your Talent
It is crucial to choose the right talent for your video. Interview several candidates before deciding. It’s also prudent to choose someone with experience performing in situations similar to the content you’re creating. For example, if you’re making an instructional video, you’ll want someone who’s made similar content in the past. A person only experienced in making commercials about energy drinks may not be the right talent for that particular job.
Remember that good talent will cost money, so be sure to budget for it. You’ll want someone who can portray a range of emotions from excitement to sadness and everything in between. A talent’s speaking and intonation prowess are also important factors to consider. Make sure the talent can speak in a manner fitting your product or content. The talent should also be able to speak with various intonations. Avoid the monotone talker at all costs!
11. 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 are affecting the look of the scene. For close-up shots, never place your camera close to your subject 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 pixellated.
12. Use Manual Focus
While the autofocus feature on your camera can be very handy, 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 focus yourself.
Setting the focus also allows you to add cool effects to your video, such as with the use of 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 properly, it can be a very powerful tool for storytelling.
13. Set Your White Balance
A real challenge that many professionals go through is temperature and color correction. If you’re using more than one camera to record the same scene, it’s possible for the cameras to have different default color temperatures. This is an issue when using cameras of different brands like Sony and Canon. It can also be a problem when using cameras by the same brand. 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 scene.
14. 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 same scene can look darker in one camera and brighter on the other. This is true 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-stops. These 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. You can have the same lighting no matter the time of day and use the same camera with the exposure locked. Yes, may take longer to record. However, it will save you the headache of correcting your exposure during post-production.
Bonus Videography Tips: 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.
15. 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 really impress your audiences, you may want to apply a few cinematography techniques.
The techniques you choose to use will greatly 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 story.
16. Avoid Shaky Shots
Whether you’re panning, doing a crane shot, or dollying from side to side, you don’t want your shots 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 key.
Once your camera is set up, try not to move your camera unless you have to. When you do 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.
17. Time Your Shots
Here are a few videography tips from professional cinematographers that you may not find in many how-to articles. Keep your shots longer than five seconds but not longer than 10 seconds to effectively hold your viewers’ attention. At the same time, remember to keep your shots steady for at least 10 seconds — 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.
18. Plan for Audio
Have you ever seen a YouTube video with bad audio? Of course you have! It’s unbearable to watch, right? In many ways, one can argue that audio is more important than video for a variety of content. For best content, plan on using dedicated audio rather than the mic built into your camera. You’ll want to consider the direction of audio you want to capture.
Do you want to capture the voice of just the person in front of the camera or some of the surrounding ambient noise as well? Is there just one person talking or is it an interview? Does it matter if the mic is visible? You’ll also want to monitor the audio with dedicated headphones to make sure the levels are adequate but not clipped. Will you be recording content directly to the camera or to an external device? Finally, consider recording using at least two methods, especially for very important content that you may not be able to re-record.
19. 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”. This means you’ll have choices later when creating your final cut. This will save you time and effort that you might otherwise spend on refilming. Plus, it will prevent you from settling for subpar shots that will make your work look unprofessional.
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, which includes simple yet professional techniques aside from the simple cutting, clipping, and correction of video clips and audio levels.
Lastly, Best Cameras for Shooting Videos
Aspiring filmmakers often worry that they need a hefty budget for creating quality video. There are so many camera types out there, but ultimately, the best camera for a new videographer is the camera you know how to use. While you may dream of a cinema camera that costs tens of thousands of dollars, the market is filled with great DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that will work beautifully for creating high-quality video.
If you already own a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can start working on video production right away. Look for tutorials for your specific camera’s video functions, and learn the ideal settings for recording video. For example, search online for “Sony a7III best video settings.”
How do I get started in videography?
The best way to get started in videography is to watch several videos and really analyze the content and methods used to capture the footage. Pay attention to details such as angle, creative use of depth of filed, and transitions. There are also quality YouTube tutorial and blogs such as this one available to get you started. You don’t have to go out and get the best equipment. Chances are, you can make some amazing content simply with your smartphone. The content is way more important than the equipment used to capture it. Remember the importance of good audio, something many beginners seem to forget.
What skills do you need to be a videographer?
The most important skill is perseverance to learn something new. To be a good videographer you’ll first need to learn about the technical aspects such as composition, lighting, audio, and angles, as outlined above. Then, you’ll have to master the basics such as achieving proper exposure and keeping the video steady. However, the most crucial skill is learning to be a good storyteller. Storytelling is important no matter what type of content you’re creating, from a simple commercial to a full-length movie. How you choose to convey your story is wrapped in the technical aspects, but the story itself is uniquely your vision.