Tips For Starting Vloggers

Vlogging is a wonderful creative outlet and people get into it for a number of reasons. Whatever the reason you have for wanting to start vlogging, there are some tips that you’ll need to keep in mind. I wish someone had told me these when I started, it would have saved me a lot of headaches over the years!

Carry multiple cameras

My main vlogging camera

I first started vlogging six years ago, using a Blackberry Pearl 8130 (the pink one). It was the first smartphone I had ever had and its video recording was awful. I stopped vlogging for a while but started again in the middle of last year and I still record footage on my phone today. It’s not my main camera any more, but it’s really, really useful to have it around for those times when using a larger camera just won’t be possible.

Carrying more than one camera with you is essential for good vlogging. These days I take three with me:

  • a Canon EOS 700D with a stereo microphone, wind guar, and Gorillapod tripod (bending it keeps my arm out of shot, avoiding “selfie arm” in each shot);
  • a Panasonic HX-A1 action camera on a tiny bendable tripod; and
  • my iPhone 6S Plus smartphone

Each camera has its own “personality”; the lenses give shots from each a different look, the colour range is different and the sound is different. By using shots from each of the cameras, my vlogs have a more varied, more interesting look and feel to them.

Plus the smaller cameras can get shots the larger one can’t, and vice versa. That’s a big plus.

Film as much as you can

When I first started vlogging I had a lot of trouble putting daily videos together because I didn’t have enough footage. I would set up a shot, film just enough to get the gist of what was going on, and then move on. I wasn’t sure what I should film and what I shouldn’t; which made putting a video together really tough. In several episodes, I actually resorted to re-using footage (sometimes reversed, sometimes not) just to get the video right.

That’s not a good thing.

There’s also the problem that when I came to edit the vlog, I would kick myself for having not recorded certain parts of the day. Sometimes there would be a conversation that I really want to put into the video but which I didn’t film (because “who wants to film themselves chatting with a friend?” I would think at the time), or maybe there was an establishing shot of where I had been going that day. If I haven’t filmed it, I can’t set the scene. I ended up in many videos just having to film an extra piece-to-camera where I explained what was going on and what I had been doing. That’s telling, not showing. Never do that.

So now I film all sorts of things. If I’m going somewhere, I set the HX-A1 up on the dashboard of the car, or point it out of the window of a train, bus, etc. I get footage just walking around town. I film going into and out of buildings. I film long pieces of people wandering around the street. It’s all useful footage for when you come to edit the vlog together because it helps you establish the story of the video you’re making.

You won’t use all the footage you are recording but if you don’t record it, you can’t use it – and that’s far worse.

Besides, storage space on cameras is incredibly cheap these days and I find that I’m only recording about 10Gb of HD footage on the average day; which easily fits on most SD cards. It’s not like I’m having to ration the space.

Keep all your footage (yes, even the bad stuff)

You know how I mentioned that you wouldn’t use all the footage you filmed? I was only talking about when you make that particular video you’re filming it for. Who knows what you’ll use that stuff for in the future. Even the stuff you think is “bad” now might come in useful later. For one thing, you can look back and compare the quality of your shots when you were starting out with the video you’re filming now. It’s all useful.

If you keep your footage, you can use it again later. You can rework it in ways you can’t imagine yet. You can refer back to previous events by pulling it into future videos; or make new videos that take a different point of view. By keeping your footage, even the stuff you didn’t use before, you keep your options open.

This was a really difficult lesson for me to learn. I’ve only got raw footage spanning back to around October 2016 in my archive but I’ve been vlogging on and off since 2011 and on a daily basis since August 2016. If I want to refer back to anything before my archive starts, I have to hope against hope that the shot I want was included in a previous vlog because if it wasn’t, I’m screwed. That has hampered more video production than I care to think about and I’ve been mentally kicking myself for deleting footage after I made a video ever since I started keeping everything.

So keep it all. Storage space isn’t all that expensive now. A 1 Terabyte hard drive can be picked up for about £30 these days and it will store months worth of footage, so if you’re serious about vlogging, you really have no excuse not to store the stuff you film.

Framing isn’t everything

I love this little guy but the lack of screen can be frustrating.

Perfect shots are rare. Things aren’t always in the centre of the frame (especially not if you’re using a HX-A1 action camera). Sometimes you’ll find shots are out of focus, or at least the part of the video you want to use is out of focus. Sometimes you’ll find that even though you thought you’d set your tripod up perfectly, the shot is at an angle. It’s frustrating, sure, but it’s okay.

Framing isn’t everything. Perfection isn’t necessary. Use the shots you have.

The greatest vlogger I have watched is Casey Neistat and during many of his vlogs there are shots that aren’t angled in a traditional manner. There are shots where he’s talking to someone and they aren’t even on screen. There are shots that aren’t in focus. None of it matters. Take a look at this video and count the number of non-traditional shots in it.

Did those shots detract from the story he was telling? Not at all. If anything, they added to it; they made it feel more real.

If you’re putting together a coherent story, the viewer will fill in the blanks. As long as you’re not doing the entire vlog in weird angles, out of focus and without anyone on screen you’ll be fine (and let’s face it, if you do make a video that’s entirely like that and you manage to do it well, people will still watch it).

So yeah, frame things well when you can but don’t try to make everything perfect because you’ll lose the spontaneity and when you do that, you lose a lot of what is essential to good vlogging.

Editing takes a lot of time

I run by the rule of thumb that for every minute of film I shoot, I’ll need three minutes to edit it. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, sometimes it takes less time to put something together and sometimes it takes oh so much more. My record is 8 1/2 hours to put together a 15 minute video from only 25 minutes of footage but that was a video that included a lot of special effects, some frame-by-frame animation and stuff like that. For an average vlog with about 10-20 minutes of footage, I can expect to put in an hour’s worth of editing time just to get the story composed the way I want it. Any additional tweaking (and there will be tweaking) is extra time.

Putting a vlog together is quite time consuming, never kid yourself about it. You’re going to need to be aware of when to film, what to film and how to put it together. You’re going to have to factor in the time it takes to pull the footage off your camera(s) and into your editing suite. You’re going to need to factor in the time it takes to render the video once you’ve edited it. On top of that is the actual editing time (which I already covered). It’s not a quick job but if you’re a creative person and you’re serious about wanting to vlog, it’s time well spent.

Okay, that’s five tips that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I hope some of these are useful to you and if you do decide to give vlogging a try, leave a comment so I can find your work. I’m always looking for new vloggers to watch; it’s one of the most interesting genres of filmmaking around.

Good luck with your vlog!