How to Shoot a YouTube Video
by Jayed Miah
Want to shoot a video for YouTube but not confident in your camera and production skills? Don’t stress, you’ve come to the right place. With our tips and tricks below, we’ll get you up to speed on all of the essential practices used by YouTubers to create great-looking videos for the platform.
Before we get started on creating video, it’s important to understand why creating high-quality videos for YouTube is so necessary for success on the platform.
- Competition is Fierce
- Why You Need High-Quality Video to Succeed on YouTube
- Let's Get Started Shooting Great Videos
Making videos is the first step to putting yourself out into the world and getting the attention you and your ideas deserve! Sharing your videos on YouTube is a great way to become part of a global movement, share ideas, promote your business, express your creativity, and even make some money.
With over a billion hours of video watched each day and more than 2 billion registered users visiting each month, it’s easy to say that YouTube is the place viewers go to discover new videos from unknown creators.
But to find success on YouTube, you have to be seen, and to put it bluntly, the competition is rather fierce.
To put this all into perspective, there are five hundred hours of video content is uploaded every minute. That’s 720,000 hours of video uploaded every day!
We told you - YouTube is the place to be for anyone wanting to make themselves known! And there are a lot of people competing to be seen!
The days of shaky, dark, grainy, or out-of-focus videos are over. Today’s audiences have evolved to expect crisp, high-definition video in everything they watch and they’ll skip right over any content that doesn’t meet these basic requirements.
A high-quality, visually-striking video is essential to succeeding on YouTube. The quality of your image is the first impression your content will make on its audience. It draws in your viewers, eliminates distractions, and makes their entire viewing experience focused on your content. Remember, your audience not only recognizes high-quality video, they expect it.
With major advancements in affordable production gear like cameras, lights, and microphones, more creators than ever have access to some pretty incredible technology. With the sheer volume of content on the platform, the competition for attention, and the availability of HD video technology, the bar for video quality has been raised.
But it’s not just the gear that makes great looking videos. Successful creators are dedicated to learning the fundamentals of video production. With the combination of the right equipment and knowing these guidelines, you too can create awesome videos and start capturing an audience on YouTube!
To consistently shoot great videos you should:
- Start with the Basics
- Know Your Camera
- Master Your Set-Up
- Build Your YouTube Production Process
1. Start with the Basics
Before you can start filming, you are going to need to know what you’re going to shoot, right? It’s a great idea to plan out your shoot so you can focus on your video looking good!
Start by putting together an outline or a script for your video. Don’t worry about being overly descriptive or working out every single detail, just make sure to include the basic action of the scenes and what will be said.
Based on your script you should know what you are going to need for your video. This could be props, specific clothing or locations, a cast as well as video and audio equipment. The process of getting all the elements together to shoot a video is called pre-production. We recommend creating a checklist with everything you will need on it. This will help ensure you don’t forget anything and free you up to focus on the details of your shoot.
2. Know Your Camera
All videos have one thing in common. A camera.
You don’t need a high-end professional camera to create amazing YouTube videos. Whether you’re shooting on your smartphone or a DSLR, there are key factors to keep in mind for making high-quality videos.
When choosing a camera the first thing to consider is video resolution. Resolution tells you how much detail is captured in each frame of a recorded video. This data is captured in pixels. Generally speaking, the more pixels that are captured in each frame of video, the higher the definition.
You’re probably familiar with HD or High-Definition video as this has been a standard for cameras and TVs for years. There are two different levels of HD – HD, and UHD or Ultra High Definition. HD is usually considered 720 and 1080 pixels wide and UHD is 4K and 8K pixels wide – as these are the most common resolutions displayed on modern screens and captured by cameras.
While it might seem like you’d want the highest resolution possible, this isn’t necessarily the case. With higher resolution, comes a higher amount of data requiring more storage space and a computer or device fast enough to process it. This ultimately results in a longer and more expensive production process.
Additionally, YouTube will only playback a maximum of 2160 UHD. We recommend shooting on a camera with at least 1080 HD resolution and nothing over 4K to get the perfect balance of image resolution and data size.
Lens, Zoom, and Focus
After your resolution, the next most important factor in capturing quality video with your camera is your lens.
Knowing your lens helps you to know how close you need to be to your subject. Some lenses shoot very wide and show a large field of view and some lenses shoot tight with a very limited view. Additionally, some lenses allow you to zoom between wide and tight. These are known as Zoom Lenses. Lenses that do not zoom are called Prime or Fixed Lenses. Fixed lenses are the most common lens of smartphones.
An example of a prime or fixed lens:
An example of a zoom lens:
Now you might be thinking, “hold on second, my smartphone has a zoom.” It certainly does but just because a camera lets you zoom in or out doesn’t mean you are using a zoom lens. There are two kinds of zooms. An optical zoom, created by a lens and a digital zoom, created by magnifying and cropping an image within the camera.
It is important to be aware of what kind of zoom you are using. A digital zoom will result in a loss of quality of your video. If you’re using a prime lens and would like the subject in your video to appear bigger, we advise moving the camera closer to your subject before using digital zoom. This will help ensure your video has a consistent amount of detail and quality from beginning to end.
We can’t stress this next part enough – always have your shot in focus! To do this, you have to know how your focus works. If you have manual focus, you will adjust the focus ring on your lens to keep your subject sharp. With auto-focus, a sensor in your camera will automatically adjust your lens to stay focused on your subject.
We’ve broken down the key differences below.
- Gives you full control over your focus
- Has to be adjusted each time a subject moves
- Will adjust the focus automatically when your subject moves
- Can sometimes pick the wrong subject to focus on
Regardless of what kind of focus you have, just make sure you know which one is operating on your camera. Although autofocus might be a better choice for a beginner, it is usually a good idea to turn off autofocus if your subject will be staying in one spot!
3. Master Your Setup
Now that you know the important parts of your camera, it’s time to set up your shoot. When you create a video, it’s important to remember that the entire frame the viewer sees can have some sort of meaning or message behind it. What you choose to put in the frame, how it is lit, how the camera moves (or doesn’t!), and where the camera is in relation to the subject and it’s framing is known as the Mise-en-scène.
If you are thinking, “the mise in what?” Don’t worry this isn’t turning into a French class. Mise-en-scène simply means “the action of putting onto the stage." In video creation, the stage is the screen we watch so you can think of it as “what you put on the screen.” The general concept of mise-en-scène is very simple but it’s also the subject of very deep and elaborate artistic study.
But for getting started with your YouTube videos, this basic understanding will get you in the right direction! If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out this video for more in-depth ideas on how to create great mise-en-scène in your videos.
In movies, the purpose of frame composition is to combine elements of the shot, such as its content, lighting, and actions to advance the story in a way that conveys emotion. Like they say a “picture is worth a thousand words”, how you position elements in your frame is a huge part of telling your story!
There are three main types of frames and shots used in YouTube videos:
- Wide-angle shots are great for giving context to the viewer and highlighting the setting of the video.
- Medium shots are useful for telling viewers what they can expect next from your video and connecting different parts of your clip.
- Close-up shots are ideal for engagement and highlighting specific elements you want to talk about or feature with music. Close-ups eliminate background distractions and allow you to drive home the point you want to make.
The video below demonstrates how you can use these and other types of shots to influence a video's mood.
To film these shots effectively, expert filmmakers suggest the following tips:
- Use the “rule of thirds” This means dividing your frame into thirds both vertically and horizontally and putting your subject on one of the intersections. This helps balance your image for an interesting composition.
- Create depth by setting the focus of the shot off-center and away from the background. Using varied lens focusing and placing objects at different distances from the camera makes the scene look bigger and more interesting.
- Pay attention to the environment and location This ensures your shot is aesthetically pleasing to the viewer, or at least consistent with the video's message itself. Don’t have anything that can be distracting or doesn’t lend itself to your story!
Physically filming a shot can be tricky if you’re holding the camera. Your arms get tired, you move, the camera bumps… all of these are a no-go. If your videos come out shaky and unfocused, your video quality will drop dramatically. While there are a lot of ways to get smooth shots, we suggest you always have your camera stabilized on either a tripod if your camera is stationary or gimbal if you’re moving.
You have the choice to use natural and direct or artificial light. Natural light is self-explanatory! Anything within the shot lit by the sky, sun, or the moon is considered natural lighting. It is often used in videos set outdoors but can be optimized by reflectors and diffusers. In contrast, direct light comes from an artificial source of lighting. It is often used to emphasize the features of a particular object in a shot.
You’ll need to find the lighting that best suits your YouTube video. To choose the right lighting for your project, look at the benefits of each, and consider the potential cons, too.
The tables below highlight the potential pros and cons of each type of lighting:
|There’s loads of it!||You can’t control it|
|It’s free!||There are time constraints|
|You’re in control||It can be expensive|
|You can replicate natural light||You’ll need to carry around more stuff|
As a natural source of light, sunlight can help give the impression of happiness. It emphasizes vibrance in color, lifting the mood and the message of that particular shot. The lighting you choose to feature in your video is vital to what you want to get across to your audience. The type of lighting selected is entirely up to you as the YouTube video creator. Go with whatever links to your identity as an artist and help you convey your message successfully.
4. Build Your YouTube Production Process
Once you’ve considered your gear and how to set up, the next part is finding the right combination of settings and setups that work best for you. Every production is different and the unique combination of these factors that you put together is what defines your style.
Test, Refine, Then Repeat
While there is no right or wrong way to shoot, shooting good video is a practice that will give you better results when you create a process. It’s important to experiment with your setup and check your results and find what works for you. A lot of famous YouTubers got started with one production process that evolved before they settled into the perfect setup.
What you’ll notice consistently among successful YouTubers is that they have a defined aesthetic that they have refined over many different shoots. Keep experimenting until you find the perfect combination of these tips and once you do, stick to it! Your video quality will stay consistently great and your unique style will stand out in the crowd on YouTube!