Tips For Shooting Better Video

by John on March 5, 2013

Today HD video is everywhere and it’s easier to record than ever before.  If you don’t have a camera built in to your smart phone, your laptop, or your tablet,  there are a number of stand-alone HD video cameras that you can purchase for under $100.  While the video on these cameras may not look as good as video from a higher-end camera, there are a number of simple techniques you can use to make your video look more professional and ensure that you’re getting the most out of your camera.



Digital cameras, especially cheaper ones, perform best in well-lit, bright locations.  You’ll notice if you shoot something at night or in a dark room, your image will be very grainy and pixelly, and probably not at all what you envisioned beautiful HD video to look like.  This is because cheaper cameras, even though they are recording at the same resolution as a higher-end camera,  generally have very small sensors, which makes them perform poorly in low-light situations.  (See here for a more detailed discussion of this).

Knowing that, try to plan your shots so that they can be as well-lit as possible.  Shoot during the day when you can, and try to arrange your subject so that a light source will hit their face.  If you are shooting indoors for instance, place your camera in front of a window and have your subject face the window so that their face is illuminated by the natural light coming in.  If you are shooting at night, place a lamp near your subject and try to get as much light on their face as possible.

If you’re shooting outdoors, be aware of where the sun is in relation to your subject.  Have your subject face towards the sun or at a slight angle if that looks too harsh.  You generally want to avoid having the sunlight directly behind your subject unless you are going for a silhouette effect.


Be aware of everything in your frame including your subject placement, foreground, and background.  Rather than placing your subject in the dead center of your frame, consider aligning it according to the rule of thirds.  This is a photography concept that is used to create a well-balanced shot that feels natural to our eyes.  The strongest points in a frame are at the intersections of each third of the frame (see photo).  Keep this in mind when framing up your subject.

When selecting a background for your shot, choose something interesting that gives your shot a good sense of depth.  The trick is to find something that will be visually appealing, but not too distracting so that the viewer can still focus on what your subject is saying.


Cheap cameras generally have pretty awful microphones built in to them, and as much time as you spend making your picture look nice, it won’t make a difference if your video is ruined by terrible audio.  In my last post I recommended getting an external microphone if you are considering buying a camera.  If you already have a camera without an external microphone input, this may not be an option.  But by being aware of the limited recording capabilities of your camera, you can take some steps to record better audio.

The most important thing is to be selective about where you shoot.  Shooting on the beach may seem like a great idea, but microphones are a lot less effective than the human ear at filtering out the noise of the waves and the wind, and most of your dialogue will be probably be inaudible.  If you know you have a cheap microphone, try to shoot indoors as much as possible, and be especially aware of unwanted background noises.

If you are shooting outdoors, keep the camera as close to your subject as possible.  Try to find areas that are sheltered from the wind, and try not to record in the middle of a big gust.  You can also attempt to create a make-shift windscreen for your camera, which I have not tried myself, but seems like a great idea.


One accessory that is extremely important for creating more professional-looking videos is a tripod or monopod.  This will not only allow you to stabilize your shots, but also to execute smooth pans and tilts.  Tripods are great for shooting outdoors and for holding the camera if you’re filming yourself, and monopods are a great option if you do a lot of filming on-the-go or in crowded areas.   There are a number of affordable and very portable options that are available for pretty much any camera (or you could just try building your own).