Tips for Making Great Looking Videos
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Tips for Making Great Looking Videos

Technology has allowed all of us the ability to shoot video but not all videos are created equal.  While you may think you need fancy cameras and microphones and a full studio to make a great video, the truth is that most of us hold the technology to make videos in the palm of our hand.  The difference can be as simple as a few tips to making your video look like it was professionally shot.

  1. Topic/Length

  2. Lighting

  3. Framing/Composition/Zooming

  4. Audio

  5. Editing


We all have short attention spans so I will get right to the point and you should too when it comes to your video message.

  • Less is more – Try to keep your total video under 90 seconds.  

  • Single Topic – Stick to a single topic or message for each video.

  • Script – Yes, we all are movie stars but even like a good actor, write something out and practice a few times to make sure you can stay on topic, get your message across and stick to the timeframe.  


No matter what camera you have, lighting can make the biggest difference on whether your video is going to look great or if it is going to look like a low-budget “C” movie.

  • Lots of Light – Use as much available light as possible and if you can, add any off camera lights to help if the area or subject is dark.  There are lots of inexpensive light kits available online (Amazon) but you can easily take existing portable lights to help you add additional lighting for your shoot.  Even a trip to a hardware store can help generate a decent DIY lighting setup for less than $100.

  • Positioning of light and/or subject – #1 mistake when lighting is putting your subject in front of a bright background such as a window which will create a high contrast and will make your subject appear too dark.

  • Lock Focus and/or Exposure – While you are shooting on a mobile device, most cell phone cameras allow you to touch the area of the screen you wish to focus on and this will also give you the option to adjust and/or lock the exposure or iris.  Some smartphone cameras are great at facial or object tracking, plus will have the technology to auto-adjust for the best lighting between your subject (foreground) and the background.  We all know how distracting it is when the focus or lighting changes during a video and these can be prevented by knowing and practicing with your device.


Yes this sounds fancy and we have all seen a want-to-be director, use their hands to “frame” a shot but don’t laugh too hard because this can be helpful as you plan your video.

  • Vertical vs. Horizontal – While different platforms have different requirements, it is always best to shoot your video with your phone in the horizontal position which would display normally on a widescreen tv.  Shooting with the phone in a vertical position will leave unused space to the left and right of the video.  Whatever you do, avoid switching between horizontal and vertical during the same video.

  • Background – Determine what your camera will see in the frame, so you can make sure you are only showing what you want.  Position your subject closer to the background to keep it and the subject in focus, which means the camera will be close to the subject and zoomed out (wide).  The reverse is true if you want to have a sharp focus on your subject and create the blurred or soft background look.  For this look, you will want the subject further away from the background and the camera to be further away from the subject which will require the camera to be zoomed in (tight).

  • Angle – Some of the angle will be determined by what you want to show in the background, however when it comes to your subject being a person it is best to position the camera just above eye-level.  If possible, use a tripod but if not, consider these few things to help steady the shot and angle:

    • Keep the phone as close to your body as possible when shooting.

    • Use a nearby object to steady your body and/or rest your elbows on an object.  

    • Use a grip-sack, sandbag or other soft pliable item on top of harder surfaces to position your phone to get the perfect angle and steady the shot.

  • Zooming – Yes, zooming is a cool thing when it comes to virtual or remote gatherings but in the world of video and shooting with a mobile device, don’t use the zoom feature during a shot.  

    • If you are going to “zoom” in or out during a live or recorded shot, do it with your feet!  

    • Live shots – It is understandable, acceptable and looks better to take a few steps closer or away from a subject during a live event compared to trying to use a digital zoom on the device which can be jerky and will cause the device to shake as you touch it.

    • Recorded shots – Zooming with your feet will allow you to shoot a wide, medium and tight of the subject and avoid the digital zoom which can lead to low quality pixelation and unnecessary movement.

    • Panning – Keep the same thought process as zooming when attempting to show things to the left, right or behind the camera. Avoid a long pan as these use up precious time, look unprofessional and make it hard to edit.  If you need to show something behind the camera then stop recording, turn the camera around and then shoot what you want to show.  Same would be true when showing something way to the left or right of the camera.  When it comes to “live” think about your positioning and how best to position the subject and what you want to pan toward to avoid turning in circles.


While the video is very important, keep in mind the audio is just as important if you are having a subject speak on camera.  Things to consider to help you get good quality audio:

  • If you can, use a microphone.  There are several options (budget-friendly options on Amazon) for most brands of mobile devices.

  • If you don’t have a microphone handy and are recording your video to edit and share later, here is a trick you can use.

  • Example:  Use one iPhone to record the video from the angle and composition you want. Simultaneously  with a second iphone and the voice memo feature, position the second iphone as close to the subject as possible and preferably outside of the frame and just above the subject's head to record the audio.  

    • BONUS Pro-Tip: Clap once at the beginning of each take to create a reference point for syncing the video recording with the sound from the voice memo recording.


The overall idea is to shoot your short videos without having to edit which will allow you to turn these around quickly.  For some of your videos, these will be “live” on Facebook, which will leave little room for editing.  But for those who are looking to edit videos and possibly do more complex or longer videos, then here are a few tips:

  • Hardware – While there are some apps available for iPhone and Android devices, nothing beats editing on a computer. 

  • Editing Software – Depending on your device there are numerous editing options available and most a cost associated with them.  While it is not ideal, you can edit videos on an iPhone with iMovie which is available on the iOS device.

  • Transferring files to your editing computer – Consider how and where you are going to store your files, since these video files can be large and take up valuable hard drive space on your computer. 

  • Music – Adding some background music is always a great option, however make sure you are not using music which you do not own or have the proper copyright to use.  This can include background music playing in the center during your shoot.  If you are looking for some background music to add to your video, it is a good idea to check out the YouTube Audio Library (free account required) which has a good music selection.

  • B-Roll – Always make sure you own the footage you are using as cover video (b-roll) in your videos.  Avoid searching the web and just using footage you find online which might be subject to copyright laws.  When shooting a short video, think about shooting footage of things the subject may be talking about.  Showing what is being talked about is always better than seeing someone on camera talking.

  • Exporting Video – MP4 and MOV files tend to be handled easily by most websites, social channels and YouTube, so consider this when exporting your final video and when choosing editing software.

  • Posting – Research the best file type for where you are posting the video.  Avoid sharing a link to a YouTube video on Facebook.  Instead it is a suggested best practice to post the video directly to Facebook and YouTube individually for the best results.

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