There are a lot of hurdles to jump through when first creating videos. Getting past the fear of the camera in the first place is a big step.
But once you’ve moved past that, and are well on your way to showing up online in a different way (through video!), there are quite a few little things to consider in order to go from amateur video-maker to a true pro.
And the good news, none of them require fancy (expensive) equipment or a studio setup.
1. Improve the Image Quality
What camera to use?
Looking more pro with your video starts with the quality of the image itself.
You’ll want to make sure you’re using the best camera you have at your disposal, which surprisingly, isn’t always the first one people grab.
If you’re using a built-in webcam on your computer, instead of your smartphone for example, you should consider switching.
Most recent smartphones shoot higher quality videos than a webcam.
Sure, it might be a little extra working filming on your phone or camera and then needing to upload to your computer instead of having it all happen at once with a webcam, the quality difference is worth the extra effort.
If you have an older smartphone, and a webcam you purchased separate from your computer, your webcam might be better.
Check the specs of the different options you have and make sure you’re using the best!
Now, if you have a normal camera with video functionality definitely use that. The quality and ability to control the image of modern cameras will almost-always outperform a smartphone or webcam.
So, now that you have your device pointing at you, there are a few things to remember to get the best results and make sure you look as pro as possible with your self-made videos:
- Make sure the room is not too dark. Shoot in your most well-lit room (even if it’s not your favorite) or grab a lighting kit from amazon as your next investment. It can be tempting to shoot in the evening if that’s the only time you have available. But if possible, schedule your shooting for the best-lit time of day and in the room with the most natural light.
- Make sure the sunlight is not too bright behind you if you shoot by a window. You want to light coming from behind the camera and towards you.
Using the best tool you have and having the right quantity of light is the first step in making your videos stand out from the average.
2. Improve the quality of the sound
Being a musician, this is understandably my favorite way to make the biggest jump from amatuer-looking to pro videos.
It’s likely that you’re shooting videos sitting face to the camera rather than dancing or action shots, so your message is the most important part. Having your voice be clear and understandable (without distractions) should be a top priority.
There are a few of easy fixes to make a big difference in sound:
- Make sure you shoot in a noise-free environment: turn off loud devices like an air conditioner or the dishwasher, and close your windows if cars could potentially drive by. Microphones pick up way more than you hear in your normal environment and it’s often after you get your video uploaded and edited that you hear the extra noise– too late to find the motivation to re-record.
- Make sure your room is not to echo-y. This is a sure-fire way to kill the quality of your video and often something we don’t hear until playback. Test it with a short video. If your room produces too much echo, try shooting in a smaller room, hang blankets around you to form a makeshift “booth” that can absorb the sound. Alternatively…
- Use a proximity microphone, or a “tie” mic to improve the quality of the sound big time. There’s a reason all those TV people use them. They are cheap, discreet, and easy to use (just plug it to your camera or phone). Bonus tip: If you have an iPhone, the “earbuds” include a mic in the volume buttons : just attach this part of the cable close to your chest and you’ll get a more defined sound with less echo.
3. Improve the setting of the video
Ever watch a video of someone with so much going on in the background you realize half-way through you weren’t listening at all to what they said?
There’s all those books and you’re curious if you’ve read them before. There’s 3 different mugs on the coffee table and you’re wondering if they ever do the dishes. Then the paintings- those are fun, I should get some frames like that.
Decoration is good– but too much is a distraction.
Remember- if you’re shooting a video of you talking, you want people to focus on what you’re saying.
A TV on mute, a screen saver or a ceiling fan spinning can catch the attention of your audience and weaken your message.
Either your background is very “rich” (like a library) and you need to make it blurry (and focus on you) or you choose a plain background like an empty wall or backdrop wallpaper to avoid any distraction.
Put some effort into composing your background and where you are placed in it. Be mindful of the objects you have around you. A plant or tall lamp right behind you can look like it’s coming right out of your head.
Think about it just like a picture. You need to compose with the main character (you), the background, and the placement of those elements in the frame. Try using the rule of thirds: where you split the frame into 3 parts you put yourself between 2 and 3.
4. Improve edits and cuts
The best way to get perfect cuts in your video is to not have any to make at all!
I’m not saying you have to memorize your scripts to shoot the “perfect” video, you should just put a little preparation in up front.
By knowing in advance what you’re going to say in front of the camera, you save yourself a lot of trouble in post-production.
To be best prepared, do a run-through of what you want to say and take notes of the moments that tend to make you stumble. If you can’t deliver your message continuously, try to find a “checkpoint” in your text that would allow you to cut efficiently.
The best place for these are between section titles. For example, if you’re doing a video that has a list (“4 tricks to improve your website”), allow yourself to pause between each trick. This will make it easier to make cuts in those places and hide them with transitions.
By doing a little bit of preparation like this, there’ll be less work for you to do in post-production and a more natural feel for your viewers.
Cuts are usually necessary no matter what. Sure, you want to minimize them, but don’t forget to at least cut out any extra time at the beginning and the end of the video where you aren’t speaking or in the shot. Ya know what I mean, when you see the person walking up to their camera to hit record 🙂
When you do need to cut and create a transition, make it as short and as smooth as possible. Avoid using goofy effects that come with your editing software of choice.
It seems obvious but goofy effect = goofy video. And we’re not going for goofy amateur here, we’re going for more pro. Sure, you can have fun with it, but only if you’re a goofy brand.
Try to remain simple and “clean”, using fades of black, white or transparent. If your cut is between two topics, the effect can last longer than if you’re trying to cut between two words.
5. Have titles, intro, outro and music
The final and almost instant way to go from amateur-looking to professional with your videos is to add pro-like features, like an intro, an outro, music and titles.
Although extra work, these features can really make a big difference in the way you are perceived by your audience, reinforcing your brand, your message and making the video even more enjoyable to watch.
Titles, like the ones you see on the news are a good way to give simple information, make your message even more clear and give the overall impression that you actually took some time to produce your videos.
It could be the title of your topic appearing when you start your script , or information like your URL, name, list titles, etc.
The biggest thing not to forget for titles and extra slides is to stay “on-brand”.
Be sure to use the font and colors you use in your website or your logo. There is nothing more amateur than using completely different branding in your videos that looks slapped together when you have an otherwise beautiful and succinct brand.
Similar to the transitions in editing, try to stay simple and efficient, avoiding goofy/useless effects.
Music is a 50/50 call. Sometimes, a little background music can fill the video with a little extra touch that makes the whole experience more enjoyable for the viewer. Othertimes it can just distract from your message.
If you decide on adding music, use something “on-brand” and make sure that it’s not overpowering your voice. It’s called background music for a reason. Don’t use techno when you’re a mindfulness coach. (Extreme example, but hopefully shows my point and will help you be more intentional about your choice)
Intros and outros
The extra touch of an intro and outro is what will really make you stand out.
Videos with intros & outros give your viewers an instant impression that what you’re saying is meaningful and important because you took the time to make it a “real” video.
The flipside is a quick video someone throws up on Facebook. Those can be great and serve a purpose for your audience. But they aren’t taken as seriously as the ones you have with intros and outros.
Intros and outros should include your logo or name, your tagline, your url and the title of the video series if applicable. Adding these elements is the fastest way to get people to actually check you out after seeing your video.
How many times did you watch a video on youtube with no intro or outro and just skip along to something else. Make it clear who you are and where people can find you if they liked what they watched.
Avoid a long intro (5-8 seconds is plenty), as there is nothing worse than binge watching your favorite person on Youtube and having to sit through a long intro each time.
Not only do you look more pro when adding intros & outros, but it gives you a chance to reinforce your brand. Using the same colors, fonts and style of your website and marketing material means that people will start to recognize you wherever you show up online- including Youtube or their Facebook newsfeed.
I have just covered a lot of different ways you can create better videos, but changing even one will make a big difference.
Don’t get overwhelmed and stop making videos altogether. Choose one thing to take action on with your next video then move on to the next. Pretty soon you’ll be the next GaryVee.