10 Tips For Shooting Better Digital Videos

You know, shooting digital videos may appear simple, but it's not easy to master. Anyone can shoot a simple movie, but to make sure the shoot is of a professional quality - that takes some experience and know-how.

If you're just starting out in digital video and video production, you should learn some basic shooting techniques.

When I started out shooting videos, I was zooming in and out of my scenes like crazy, until some pros told me to stop doing that - it gives the audience a headache!

In this article, I'd like to help you understand some video shooting tips and tricks you can apply so that your videos turn out better.

Shoot better videos with these tips

1. Tripod

Ok, the my first tip for shooting better video is this - get a tripod. Just like digital photographers, digital videographers have a problem with shaky video.

Sure, many digital camcorders these days boast that they have image stabilization features - but I find it's not enough. You absolutely must have a tripod in hand if you're upping your game in videography.

A tripod does three things. First, it stabilizes your shots, obviously. Second, it gives you freedom to plan out or adjust specific elements in your scene before shooting begins. Third, in low-light videography, a tripod is a must to reduce camera shake. My advice is to invest in a good tripod model and carry it around with you to use.

2. When To Pan / Zoom

The next tip I have for shooting videos is this - know when you should pan and zoom into your videos. Don't ever do too much of this in your shooting.

For example, panning a video or zooming in and out too much will certainly give your audience a headache and leave then very disorientated. Plan your scenes carefully. If you need to pan and zoom, do it slowly and deliberately, not in a jumpy, adhoc manner.

3. Hold It Steady

Somewhat related to my first tip is the need to stablize your hands when you're shooting video. Shooting video requires even more stable hands than in digital photography. In photography, you press the shutter button and snap, that's it - the photo is done. In videos, however, you need to keep the camera rolling.

So stability is a must. If you can, use a tripod as mentioned earlier. If you can't, then try to hold the camera with both hands or steady your arm against a table or a wall.

Pocket camcorders, especially, tend to be very shaky and usually require strong, steady hands.

4. Take Short Clips

The next tip I have is for you to take short video clips. Just like in YouTube, audiences don't usually like to watch more than 5 to 8 minutes of video for a particular scene.

If a scene is too long, you will need to cut if off in post-production, which is extra work. And don't worry about having too many short clips - you can always combine or pick your favorites after your shooting is done.

5. Change Your Perspective

Ok, another important thing for budding videographers to note is to change your perspective. You see, we're all used to shooting video from the vantage point of an adult.

Change your perspective for more interesting videos

If you're shooting videos of children, I find it better to go down to their point-of-view. Your videos will look much more interesting. If you're shooting a group of people, it may be advisable to shoot from the top by going onto a chair.

In fact, professionals sometimes use two or three cameras to shoot a particular scene in movies. Recall those explosions you saw in Hollywood movies? They are usually shot from three or more perspectives to bring out the effect.

6. The Audio Is Important

Many newbie videographers forget that audio is an important part of a video. No use having an excellent video of an interview when you can't hear your interviewee.

Make sure you invest in a clip-on mic if you're doing video interviews. If you're shooting movies, a zoom or shotgun microphone is also useful for isolating audio from your subjects.

These help to reduce ambient noise which can really affect the flow and quality of your final video production.

7. Frame Your Shots

Now, just like in photography, the Rule of Thirds is important for video composition. In case you've not heard of it, the Rule of Thirds divides up every video frame into nine segments.

You will want to make sure your subject is one of the intersection points of the nine segments to improve composition quality. If you have a horizon, place it along the bottom line of the grid in the Rule of Thirds.

In fact, the rule says that placing a subject right in the centre of a video frame is not a good idea.

8. Use Wide Shots Sparingly

Remember that wide angle shots can be boring. If I'm shooting a video of Paris - and I keep using wide-angle shots - the scene becomes boring very fast. If a scene is too expansive, people get bored.

Go into details instead (e.g. people's faces, what people are doing) - and do it quickly after you've established a scene using a wide-angle shot.

9. Important Monuments

One trick I learnt early on when doing videos was to take note of important monuments in the scene.

If you're in Paris, get a shot of the Eiffel Tower so it characterizes that segment of your video production. If you're in New York, a shot of the Statue of Liberty brings out the flavor of the subsequent scenes in your footage.

Monuments help to set the stage in your video

Even a signboard is useful. Before I enter a museum, for example, I usually shoot a video clip of my wife and children standing before the signboard to establish where we are.

10. Don't Overuse Special Effects

And the final tip I have for shooting videos is this - don't overuse special effects. I know - the camcorder salesman told you the camcorder can do apply all sorts of effects (e.g. sepia, old movie) while you're shooting the video.

My take on these effects is that you can use them - sparingly and only if they make sense. Too many special effects while you're shooting a video destroys video quality. For me, I prefer to shoot clean and raw, then introduce video effects post-production when I'm meddling with video editing software.

Wrapping Up ...

I hope the above has helped you understand a bit more about how to shoot better videos. Shooting video is more of an art than a science and after you've shot many movies, you'll appreciate what works and what doesn't.

The above set of tips will help you get started, so learn to apply them the next time you're out shooting creating your video production. Until next time, have great fun shooting your videos!