5 Tips for Successful Video Shoots
After shooting hundreds of videos, failing more times than I can count, and navigating the wide world of video, I want to share my best lessons for shooting awesome videos for your business, yourself, and your clients.
By no means is this an exhaustive list. I wanted to pin down the best lessons I’ve learned in the last few years that have helped me grow as a business, as a videographer, and as a person. These aren’t new tricks, but they are tried and tested and proven – so here goes. If you’re planning to shoot your very first corporate video, you’re just getting into vlogging, or you’re even just wanting to capture some family moments, these tricks should come in handy.
Never plan to just jump in front of a camera and go. It won’t work. In every shoot I’ve had successes on, there’s been a lot of planning, both on my end, and on the client’s end. Schedule yourself for the proper amount of time, make sure there’s a script, or at least a few ideas you need to hit. Then, plan out where you’re going to put your subject, the look you want, the length of video you want to make.
Planning shouldn’t stop on the content side. It should carry over to things like planning what to bring, what to wear to look the part, what you’re going to do to hype up the subject, what you’re going to plug the lights into. Thinking through every part of the shoot before you actually get there will make sure you’re not only feeling confident on shoot day, but the footage, the audio, the look, the exposure…everything is what you expect it to be.
Where I have failed you can learn: assuming you’ve planned out everything you need to isn’t enough. When in doubt, overstress, overplan, and come over-prepared for every shoot so that you’re ready when things aren’t going to plan. Yes, you may end up hauling an extra few pounds of gear around, but at least you’re ready when a battery dies unexpectedly, or a memory card craps out.
Four: Know Your Gear
Piggybacking on the ‘overprepared’ idea, knowing your gear, and what you can accomplish with it will be a useful tool. So, to begin with, I would highly encourage anyone who is not entirely comfortable with how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO as well as fps, white balance, and pulling focus work, to continue practicing, and get familiar with all of those things.
Having technical knowledge in my back pocket has always been helpful. It allows me to confidently achieve results when an exposure problem comes up – like when I can’t add continuous lights to a scenario. Knowing your gear also means knowing your limitations – so when clients start asking “can you do this and this, and make it look like this and this” I can confidently tell them how that is done, and that I can indeed do that, or that it’s just not feasible.
Also know what gear is out there. Knowing what you have is just as helpful as knowing what you can have. It gives me something to work towards – that next pillar of achievement. If you’re at all interested in shooting video, keeping up to speed with the technology that’s out there will overwhelm and intrigue you to create in a different way.
Three: Be Flexible
This tip is a reminder to me, and should serve as reminder to anyone who shoots video. You need to be flexible, adaptive, and willing to ‘make it work’, make sacrifices, and make adjustments. I have learned that the more flexible you can become, the more likely there’s a chance that you’ll learn more and/or you’ll capture something great. Again, piggybacking on knowing your gear…being flexible is about adapting with what you have at your disposal – whether it be technical knowledge, physical gear, or simply the willingness to adjust.
On a broader outlook, being flexible in your business, and in your comfort zone is where interesting things begin to happen – and I find the more I say yes to things, the more I force myself to be flexible, and the more I learn. My business has always grown from me being flexible – from the first time I said yes to shooting a video, to the first time saying yes to try corporate video, the list goes on.
Finally, be flexible with your subject. They may want to change the look at the last minute, move the schedule last minute, move the location last minute….and this happens – even with awesome planning. Again, this tip comes from my occasional lack of flexibility and how it sometimes can frustrate me. If only I could take my own advice sometimes!
Two: Shoot smart
If you’re in the world of video, or you’re just entering it, you’ll know that editing plays a large part in video creation. Being smart when you shoot simply means to shoot with intent and to be mindful of things that will make your life easier in post. Whether that means practical effects, like getting the lighting perfect on set, or moving the microphone a bit to get a bit better audio, look out for yourself.
There have been times where I forgot simple things, like a clap to mark the audio, or not minding the histogram or frame rate and ended up having to make do after the fact. Being smart about what’s going to make your life easier later is not just a tip in making your shoot go smoothly, but it’s about removing unnecessary stress in an already complex and complicated process.
One: Enjoy It.
My last entry was about building something you’re proud of, and sitting in moments that are cool. (please read it here 😊). Part of shooting video should be a sense of enjoyment. Have a bit of fun. Crack a few jokes. Your subject will feel more comfortable, the shoot will feel less draining, and you build rapport with everyone on set.
This isn’t about joking around, or being a fool on set, but instead, enjoying the process. Sensing that pride and excitement when watching the playback with the subject. Being aware of those who aren’t enjoying it and actively working to bring them up.
Shooting video shouldn’t be a task – although it is work. The best videos are always the ones where you can tell everyone involved is feeling comfortable and enjoying the experience.