How to Shoot Great Videos

With the proliferation of smart phones and consumer video recorders, it’s easier than ever to detail your travels, capture those special life moments, and express your opinions. Here are a few tips that will make your images and your messages stand apart.

  • Remember, less is more, especially when you are doing a “stand-up” – that’s you on camera talking directly to your audience. Do not drone on and on about a topic, even if it is your favorite one.  Give your audience one or two walk-away ideas … not five to six. And keep in mind, who is your audience and what are you trying to say?  Are you sharing a dining experience, packing tips, or showing them how to wrap a scarf?  Be clear and concise.  
  • Pan and zoom slower than you think is possible.  Adding movement to your video is great but too much fast, shaky movement can end up making your viewers nauseous.  If you don’t like the first shot, simply try another one.  Also try to pan from one establishing scene all the way through to an end scene.  Do not pan from “nowhere” to “nowhere.”  Start with a well-framed shot and then give your audience an additional visual treat at the end of the pan.  Also pause for a beat or two at the beginning and end of each shot. AND, remember to keep the “nat” sound, ie. don’t talk through the shot.
These gals are running under a 6-minute pace.  I “panned” with them to capture the action; the background figures are soft focus
  • If your subject is moving, pan with it/them and let the camera lead the subject, ie. there should be some space in front of the subject. This will lead the eye in the right direction and make the subject the center of attention.
  • Another way to get movement is to simply “lock off” the camera and let the action happen within the frame.  Picture this: you are perched on a 2nd floor balcony in Pamplona, Spain and the running of the bulls starts.  Keep your camera in one place and let the bulls run through your shot.
  • Be aware of lighting.  Do not do stand-ups in front of a bright window.  You will end up being in the shadow and/or your background will be totally blown out.  Ditto if you are outside and your background is much brighter than your foreground. 
  • Do not put your subjects too close to the background.  For example: if you’d like to get a good shot of your kids standing in front of a church waving, make sure they are 10-20 feet in front of it, not right in front of it.  They will end up being in the foreground and clear; and the church will be in the background and softer focus.  You do not want to have trees or gargoyles growing out of your kids’ heads.
Examples of how using foreground adds depth and interest to a standard shot.
  • Another way to add depth and dimension to your photos and video is by having/placing something in the foreground of your picture.  In these shots of the Taj Mahal, I’ve framed it first with trees in front of my camera; then with another building framing the Taj.  Both make the standard photo of the Taj look just a bit different and memorable.

Top photo: Bigstock
All other photos, Paula M. Levine

About Paula M. Levine (25 Articles)
Paula is an award-winning writer, producer, and storyteller who has spent over twenty years producing news, feature stories, documentaries, and web content. Since 2014, she has also taught Writing and Media Relations at NYU in their Masters Program in PR and Corporate Communication. In her "copious spare time", she runs, bikes, and swims; and has completed 7 NYC Marathons.