5 tips that will have you shooting great video in no time

1 Aug 2016

Whether you’re starting off on a new directing career, or you just want to film some professional-standard video clips, these handy tips will give you what you need to get started.

In the space of a few decades, shooting high-quality video has gone from a professional endeavour to one done each and every day by millions of people using their smartphones.

While shooting video on a small device like an iPhone might give you what you want in terms of content, it won’t hold up to footage shot with professional finesse.

One place where there is an ever-increasing demand for high-quality video clips is YouTube, which has progressed from being a platform where viral videos are shared to one where people’s media careers now solely exist.

Online, your smartphone camera is unlikely to attract the viewers that another, more professional camera might do. With this in mind, we’ve sourced the best video-shooting tips from those in the know – specifically, Siliconrepublic.com’s own AV team – to help beginners get started on what could be a future career.

Framing your shot

Before you consider pressing the record button on your video, it’s important to make sure that your subject – even yourself, in some cases – is sitting where you want them to sit.

Whether it’s a sitcom or an interview, anyone being filmed on camera rarely looks directly at the camera. What this means as a filmmaker is that placing a camera directly in front of the subject is not a good idea. Rather, it’s best to leave enough room on the side a person is looking at, otherwise known as ‘looking room’.

When you’ve got your looking room sorted, it’s then a matter of making sure to leave some headroom at the top of your shot so that the person’s head is completely visible, rather than being cut off at the top or bottom.


Lighting is absolutely crucial to having a well-made end product, as you don’t want to find our that a shoot you thought went really well was actually ruined because of a misplaced camera.

The first thing to make note of is that windows are not a camera’s friend. You shouldn’t shoot footage in front of a window in order to avoid any silhouettes forming on the subject. However, if you’re certain that you have sufficient lighting to brighten the subject as well, then a window backdrop is possible.

In the end, artificial lighting is the key to achieving the perfectly lit scene. A three-point lighting system – whereby three lights are placed around the subject – is ideal.

Also, remember to check the view your camera before you shoot to make sure.

Three-point lighting

Three-point lighting diagram. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Staying focused

Focus is obviously a very important part of shooting a video but, for a beginner, it might be a bit harder to determine when you have it right.

The easiest way to get the right shot is by zooming in to the eyes of the subject until they are perfectly in focus. Once that is done, you can then zoom out knowing that their face will be comfortably in shot.

Also, it’s ideal that the camera mode is not set to auto-focus. Auto-focus is fine for shooting video on a phone, but on a more advanced camera it might do something that you don’t want but can’t control. For example, a cloud shadowing you overhead might cause your lens to automatically change focus and, possibly, ruin the shot.

Camera lens

Camera lens image via Shutterstock

Shooting like a pro

With estimates putting the ideal length for YouTube video at just two minutes, it’s important to get your audience quickly engaged with what you’re shooting. One way to ruin your chances is to shoot one static shot with no variety.

If you plan on shooting a short film, for example, you should vary up your angles. Even if it’s a vlog, shooting a number of cutaways is far more interesting for your viewers. You could even include simultaneous shots from a higher or lower position if you have more than one camera to hand.

Another way to vary it up is by using a green screen to add in special effects afterwards, if you’re up for it, and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. For a budget green screen, a large sheet of green or blue fabric can be pinned up as a backdrop. Just make sure that the subject is not wearing a green or blue top as it will blend in with the backdrop and effectively disappear!

It’s also important that the screen is evenly lit and has no creases whatsoever, so have the subject roughly 6ft in front of of your backdrop and give it its own light source.

Keep your camera in good working order

You spent a day filming with everything set up nicely, but when you look back through the footage you notice that there is a big mark on your lens that you never spotted.

This is a common issue as many fail to check their lenses before filming, so it’s advised that you keep a lens cloth handy at all times. Aside from obscuring your subject, any dust or rain on the lens could break the illusion of your shot.

Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic