Videography for Beginners

There was a time when only trained professionals and dedicated hobbyists made videos for audiences outside their immediate families. But then the internet was invented. And then a few decades later, smart phones appeared. Now we are all more fully connected than ever before, and creating video has become the preferred way for millions of people who communicate within it.

Today, everyone should know what it takes to create your own videos for viewing on the web. No matter what your current career or how choose to spend your time, the ability to create engaging, professional-looking videos will help you find new work opportunities, build an audience for your creative work, or connect with others who share the same passions.

Improved technologies have made videography a more accessible craft than ever before ( image source )

Improved technologies have made videography a more accessible craft than ever before (image source)

Thanks to improved and ever-present camera technologies, powerful (and often free!) editing software, and other recent advances, it’s easier than ever to become  proficient at making high-quality videos for audiences of all sizes. . But where does a video novice begin? We’ve prepared an overview of everything you need to know to start making better videos today. We’ll take a look at popular types of video production, potential careers, and essential gear, and offer some tips on crucial skills that will get you moving in the right direction. So read on — your future in videography awaits!

What Do Videographers Do?

Videographers plan, shoot, and edit footage to create high-quality videos of all kinds, from ones used in commercials to legal depositions and sporting events. (Those who practice videography define the term in many different ways.) They often define the “jack of all trades” concept, handling every aspect of video production themselves (see “Tips on Essential Skills” below), or they lead a small crew of assistants who help with lighting, sound recording, and other important  tasks. What follows is a sampling of the types of video production (and videographer jobs) most prevalent today.

Personal Creations

Personal videos encompass anything you feel passionate about. Do it for fun, to get exposure, or to draw attention to a favorite cause. Learn by making work and then build your reputation by posting it to social media or YouTube. Create a music video to help a local band, profile an interesting friend, or start a vlog (video blog) to document your life. Post your best stuff on the web, and you may soon attract clients to pay you to make videos for them, too.  .

Freelance videographers specialize in all kinds of projects - from wedding videos to commercial shoots ( image source )

Freelance videographers specialize in all kinds of projects - from wedding videos to commercial shoots (image source)

Freelance Videos

Freelance videographers work create videos for clients e, on either a project-by-project or a contract basis. If you are a freelance videographer, you may pursue wedding videography, make real estate videos, or create advertising campaigns. By following your interests, you’ll develop specialties and build subject-specific skills, learn how to market yourself to new clients, and reap the benefits of referrals as you build your client network. Ready to go freelance? Just keep in mind that your  willingness to self-promote will be crucial in ensuring your long-term success.

Corporate Filmmaking

Corporate videographers generally work for a company an in-house employee. They make training and promotional videos, document meetings and conferences, or even enable video-conferencing between employees in different locations. “Going corporate” is often a more traditional,  secure route to making a living as a videographer, but may offer less creative freedom than going freelance can.

Essential Gear

When considering the gear you need,, it’s helpful to imagine what types of videos you expect to make. Are you preparing to shoot your first class as a Skillshare instructor? Will you be documenting extreme sports for a YouTube channel? Over time, your subject matter will likely lead you to preferred methods and specific types of gear. But if you aren’t sure about the kinds of work you want to do yet, don’t worry. We’ve rounded up a brief guide to essential video gear for beginners — the kind of equipment that is designed to perform well in a variety of settings, whatever kinds of videos you end up wanting to make.

TYPES OF CAMERAS

Practice framing shots with your smart phone before you invest in more expensive camera equipment ( image source )

Practice framing shots with your smart phone before you invest in more expensive camera equipment (image source)

Smart Phones

The first thing you’ll need to get started is a video-capable camera. But don’t worry about making a big investment up front. You may be able to get your feet wet using a piece of gear you’ve already got on hand: your smartphone. If your iPhone or Android  is no more than a couple of years old, it is likely all you’ll need to begin to shoot very high-quality video — and, perhaps more importantly, thinking like the videographer you want to become. Make sure your smartphone camera shoots 1080p video, the standard for high definition images. That’s all the quality you’ll need for creating  great-looking videos that present well on the web.

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

The small digital cameras many of us carried around before smartphones are still with us (and much improved!) today.Often called “point-and-shoots,” these small, lightweight cameras are often optimized for shooting high-quality video as well as taking photos. As a bonus, these  cameras tend to be rugged, and highly functional examples can be found for well under $500. Before you invest in one, keep in mind that you’ll be making are a few trade-offs in image quality and flexibility of use. Point-and-shoots lack the interchangeable lenses of DSLRs (see below) and other, more expensive options. Still interested? The Wire Realm recently published a handy guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras for video that might help you with your research.

DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

DSLR stand for “Digital Single Lens Reflex,” and they may sound familiar: they are the same high-quality cameras favored by serious still photographers. Today, DSLRs also serve as the camera of choice for many professional videographers. They have large sensors and can offer extremely high image-quality, control, flexibility, and are endlessly expandable via interchangeable lenses. Prices begin around $500 and increase rapidly for full-featured examples. If you want specific recommendations, TechRadar has just published its guide to the “Best DSLRs for Beginners 2019.” Mirrorless cameras generally offer modest upgrades from DSLRs, and are often lauded for superior autofocus capabilities.

Action Cameras

Any time you see footage of people attempting crazy stunts on the web, it’s a safe bet the footage has been captured with an action or sports camera. These small units (GoPro is the most well known) typically incorporate a wide-angle lens and image stabilization to help audiences feel immersed in the action. Action cameras are great at what they do but you wouldn’t want to use this specialized gear as your main camera — they  lack viewfinders, high quality audio, and other features essential to less active shoots.

Action cameras are lightweight and durable, making them ideal for action shoots ( image source )

Action cameras are lightweight and durable, making them ideal for action shoots (image source)

ACCESSORIES

If you invest in just one accessory for your first serious video shoot, make it a tripod — it’s the easiest way to keep your footage steady and professional looking.  A camera light can fill in shadows on your subjects’ faces, or spring for a three-point lighting kit (See “Lighting and Sound” below). Consider shotgun and Lavalier Microphones and a good pair of headphones. There’s no high-quality video without high-quality sound. And don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards to help you shoot as long as you need.

Video editing is a major part of the filmmaking process - especially for novice videographers ( image source )

Video editing is a major part of the filmmaking process - especially for novice videographers (image source)

EDITING SOFTWARE

Ask any seasoned filmmaker where movies are made and you’ll almost certainly hear about life in the editing room. However polished your footage may be, it won’t be have much appeal for viewers without benefit of editing software running on your computer.

Fortunately for beginners, there are a number of powerful editing applications available for free. Apple’s iMovie comes pre-installed on every Mac computer and remains a favorite among videographers. Lightworks and Da Vinci Resolve are extremely powerful, professional-grade editors even in their free, somewhat scaled-down versions available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Other popular, low-cost editors include Adobe Premier Elements (Windows and Mac) and KineMaster (Android and iOS), and if you only want to do simple edits, Corel VideoStudio and Pinnacle Studio 22 are good resources as well. Want more information? Creative Bloq offers a complete 2019 guide to the best editing software, both paid and free.

It’s easy to get carried away by the power and relative low cost of today’s video gear — and then  to be overwhelmed by what may seem like endless choices. As a general rule, limit your early gear investments. It’s best to jump into your first shoot with whatever basic tools you may have (or can borrow from friends) and then to acquire specific items as you better understand  and prioritize your needs later on.

Tips and Tricks

Camera Shots and Movements

The three basic types of shots are wide, medium, and close-up, and you may be surprised to discover how many film and video sequences use them in just that order to establish flow. Be sure to experiment with different types of shots — low and high angles, varied perspectives, even drone videography (the technology has improved in recent years by leaps and bounds). Practicing camera movements is essential, too; spend too much time on your tripod and you may wind up with something that looks like surveillance footage. Bring a shot list and shoot everything you may need while you can. Every beginner should adopt a “shoot now, edit later” mentality until they understand their craft.

Practice your camera shots and movements to give your videos a more professional look ( image source )

Practice your camera shots and movements to give your videos a more professional look (image source)

Shot Composition and Framing

Composition refers to the way people and objects are arranged in a frame to look aesthetically pleasing while helping you tell your story. This single most important concept is the “rule of thirds” (which applies equally to photographer and videographer.) Imagine two evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines across your frame. Objects should be place at the intersection of these lines for maximum interest and impact. Unlike still photography, choose your camera settings before you start and stay there — consistency is crucial. In a close-up, focus your attention on your subject’s eyes because your audience will surely do the same. The best way to learn about framing? It’s an age-old technique that is also the most fun — watch classic films and learn from the masters.

Lighting and Sound

Use as much natural lighting as possible when first starting out — the goal for most shots is a bright but non-artificial  look. For darker and indoor settings, experiment with cheap work lamps and shades before you spend money on video lighting kits. If you want to look more professional though, Three-point lighting is the standard for high-end video. It consists of key, fill, and back lighting, and offers a world of options when used in combination. Good sound is also crucial to every video, so investing in a few different microphones is key. Shotgun mics pick up sound wherever you point them, and some can be attached to your camera. USB mics are great for voice overs, and clip-on lavalier mics are essential for interviews. Always find or create a quiet environment and monitor your sound on set — you may be surprised at the ambient noise that can be  picked up even by modest mics.

No matter what your gear or level of expertise, the crucial thing is to dive into making videos and see where the experience leads you. Any reasonable videography definition encompasses a wide range of creative and professional possibilities. So put that smart phone (or fancy DSLR) to good use and get started!


Want to learn more? Skillshare offers dozens of classes that will help you develop the skills you need to start making better videos today.