Fake it till you make it! How to shoot and edit amateur vlogs that look pro

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Post-production

how to shoot edit your own video blogs vlogs young female vlogger editing her vlog on computer
ammentorp/123RF
ammentorp/123RF

If you’re new to video editing, don’t spend money on software. Even DaVinci Resolve, a professional editing application, has an excellent free version. And if you happen to already have an Adobe Creative Cloud membership, then don’t forget that you have access to Premiere Pro. But seriously, even iMovie works when in a pinch. There is software that takes your footage, analyzes it, and creates quick movies — such as GoPro’s Quik — but this isn’t the type of editing software you should use for the purpose of this article.

At least in theory, a vlog presents a fairly low-maintenance editing job that any piece of dedicated software should be able to handle with ease. You may want to go crazy down the road, but start with the basics and don’t spend more than you need to.

Whatever application you end up going with, one specific piece of advice we will offer is to learn the hotkeys. The less you touch the mouse, the more efficient you will be. You’ probably need to complete a few project before you figure it all out, but once you’re navigating, selecting, and trimming clips entirely with keystrokes, you’ll save yourself valuable time. You’ll also feel like a pro.

When it comes to editing, keep it simple. Avoid unnecessary dissolves, wipes, and other transitions or effects. These can be tempting, especially for new editors, but they are often distracting. And no, nobody will be impressed by your fireworks transition. Almost always, a hard cut between two shots will look more professional than any type of animated transition.

However, simple doesn’t mean boring. Depending on the topic of your video, a slower or faster pace may be appropriate, but know that people will likely grow bored quickly if they’re just watching a talking head drone on for more than a few seconds. If you have an engrossing personality and powerful stage presence, then more power to you. The rest of us, however, should be ready with a variety of B-roll shots to use liberally, which you hopefully planned for during the pre-production stage.

Finally, shorter is usually better. Hopefully you took care of this in the script, but don’t be afraid to make cuts while editing. There are times for exceptions, like if you’re doing a product review and it requires a bit more detail. Even in this case, however, you don’t want the video to go on for too long.

Again, if you have a friend or family member nearby, ask them to preview your rough cut and give feedback. If they even so much as think about yawning at any point, then consider cutting out that section of video. We tend to grow attached to our projects, so throwing away any part of them can be difficult, but the tough decisions are what will make your videos better.

Recap:

  • Keep it simple; avoid unnecessary transitions and effects.
  • Don’t spend money on software if you don’t need to — free editing programs will often do just fine.
  • Don’t be afraid to make cuts. Shorter is usually better.

Pro tip:

  • Sometimes, the best way to learn to swim is to dive right in. By that, we mean just upload a video to YouTube and see what kind of response you get. While commenters can be harsh, others are supportive. Use the constructive criticism to improve your next video, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the creatives whose videos you enjoy watching. After all, their videos may look polished now, but we bet their first attempts weren’t as pretty.

Camera settings to pick

  • Modern cameras have a ton of framerate options. For a more cinematic look, 24 (or 23.98) frames per second will mimic the look of motion picture film, while 30 fps is the standard for television and video. Many cameras offer a 60 fps option, which is now supported by YouTube, but won’t aid your video much unless you need to accurately reproduce fast motion.
  • When in manual mode, the general rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to twice the framerate (e.g., 1/50 for 24 fps, 1/60 for 30 fps, or 1/120 for 60 fps). You can play around with shutter speed for creative effect, but for the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll keep to the basics. Note: When outdoors, you may have to use a higher shutter speed just to get a correct exposure. Neutral Density (ND) filters will help with this by cutting out light, allowing for a slower shutter speed, but don’t worry about this until you have some experience under you belt.
  • As for resolution, you should be totally fine with Full HD (1,920 x 1,080). If your camera supports 4K, however, you can certainly use it, which has some benefits as we mentioned above. Just know that when it comes to editing, 4K is going to require a more powerful computer and will eat up more space on your hard drive.
  • ISO sensitivity should be set low (100-200) if there’s plenty of bright light. You can raise it if you’re dealing with ambient light, however, like an indoor lamp. Unless your camera has very good ISO performance, we wouldn’t go higher than 800, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Do you want a blurry background, or to keep everything sharp? This is up to you, but the aperture setting is what controls this. Pick a wide (smallest number) aperture if you want it very blurry, or the narrowest (largest number) if you want everything to be in focus. The aperture values are dependent on the lens, but a nice balance is around f/5.6-f/8. This is a key benefit of using a camera with an interchangable lens compared to a smartphone or point and shoot.

Conclusion

The aforementioned guidelines are simply that: First steps to get you moving in the right direction. The most important thing is the content of your video; if you have a good idea to communicate, that’s more than half the battle. Good lightning, clear audio, and effective editing can only help your presentation — they can’t do anything to improve the actual content.

Remember, we’re talking about vlogs and home movies here, not professional productions with large budgets and experienced crews. Your video doesn’t need to be perfect, and it’s not worth agonizing over every detail until 3 a.m. for multiple nights in a row. You will undoubtedly improve and become more efficient over time, so don’t sweat the small stuff now. Get your ideas out there, keep learning, and most of all, never stop having fun.

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