A video camera being used to film a conference.

Everyone is an amateur filmmaker nowadays with the ability to use the same device you use to browse the internet and play the new viral video game to produce high-end images and videos (even in some cases being in 4K). It is getting harder and harder to get that unique look for your content.

So if you’ve just bought a new DSLR and wondering how you can separate yourself from the crowd, here are some tips and tricks to boost the value of your shots without breaking the bank.

1. Keep it smooth and clean when moving the camera

There is a lot said about shaky cam on the web. Now there is no denying it can look great, I mean just look at The Bourne film series for example. This is however, very hard to achieve and if done wrong often makes your shots look cheap and difficult to follow. If you are starting out with a DSLR and no other equipment but still want to follow someone with a shot it, is not ideal but it can be achieved.

First, line you’re shot up then pull the camera close into your body or eye ensuring you have 3 points of contact allowing for the most amount of stabilisation possible when filming on the move with no kit.

If you can spend a little bit of money though I would advise going for a strong budget shoulder mount to allow you to get smooth movement when filming. It will also allow you to get a diverse range of shots.

2. Don’t rush

One of the most common issues said by amateur filmmakers is feeling under pressure from the talent or others watching while filming. This may be because they are waiting for you to set up a shot or adjust your settings. It can be quite daunting having people you may have never met before starring at you while you are sorting out your white balance or adjusting your depth of field.

Firstly remember it is better to take a little longer and get the shot right rather than talent losing confidence in you if you forget to do something simply because you were rushing. The best solution you can have for this is going to practice with some friends, get relaxed with them waiting and get a system sorted for setting yourself up while you don’t have to worry rather than winging it on the day.

3. Lighting

Lighting is key to a successful scene. When you get it right it can add so much-needed depth to a character and develop a story and makes your shots look much more appealing to the eye. However, when it is done badly it can bring the audience out of the scene and be very jarring.

Firstly make sure if you are shooting in ‘manual’ and that your white balance is set correctly, so the lighting has the right effect. If you are looking to shoot outside the rule of thumb is to film during the sunrise and sunset, often referred to as the “Golden Hour” to get the best lighting possible. It allows for the video to really pop out and gives it more of a professional feel when viewing.

On the other hand, when filming inside you have a lot more control. Personally, I have used Studio Softboxes in the past for my filming and they are amazing at adding light to a video especially when it is needed when trying to keep your f-stop high and ISO low. However, if you cannot afford this you can use windows where available to help light your shot. By positioning your talent correctly to this it can create some fantastic effects.

Also if available, blinds and curtains can be used as a cheap way to limit the amount of light coming in. However, the most important piece of advice I can give is don’t shoot using the camera’s built in flashlight as natural light or even ceiling light will look better. You can buy a ring LED light that can slot into your hot shoe that will do a much better job.

4. Tweaking and editing

By running your footage through an editing software it can allow you to improve the video even further especially if it is trying to achieve something you cannot do at the photo shoot. The best thing to do here is to play around with the video when starting out trying to improve your content.

This can be done through iMovie or Adobe Premiere Pro, however these can have a steep learning curve. If you are looking to do it on the cheap then consider using Windows Movie Maker as it often comes free with most Windows packages. I would always if you are struggling to get silky smooth footage use the image stabiliser as it is ideal for sorting out little jitters in camera movements.

5. Don’t forget the B-roll

B-roll is the film that isn’t always of the focus point but is usually the footage you really get to have a play around experimenting and pushing the boundaries of your abilities. It can help establish the mood of a scene by showing, for instance, a close-up of someone clenching their fist to show how a conversation is not going the way they want it to.

A video looks much more professional if it can cut away from the main focus to some b-roll helping to outline the situation. It is amazing how many people miss this in there filming process and when it comes to the editing process end up with a boring video.

If you start to use these simple tips and tricks you will hopefully see an improvement in your video quality. This is something you will need to build up over time adding skills and techniques to your roster until you will know exactly how to approach a film shoot with what works and what doesn’t.

Written by: Dan



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