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Shooting Video for your Vlog, Tips, Tricks and Things to Avoid.

January 20, 202210 min read

G'day, it's Bear.

It my last write-up I went over starting the basics a vlog.

Slight trajectory change, I was going to write about SEO (AKA Google Juice) on this post, and after careful consideration and some amazing feedback, that will be a bit into the future.

This post will be about actually shooting a video and what you should be considering. As always, shooting with your phone is 100% fine for a vlog.

And for you fellow tech-heads, if you want to get a camera that does it all and looks amazing, once again, I recommend the Osmo Pocket 2 Combo edition.  

As you open a can of worms, like something as big as shooting video for a vlog, oftentimes you are left with more questions than answers.

So, I want to go over some basics of shooting videos, some common terms you should know, and a few things that I pray you don’t do unless you are doing them intentionally for artistic purposes.

First things first, keep it simple.

Did you know that going to film school is really, really, really, expensive? So, I don’t want you thinking you have to be the next Spielberg in order to get noticed.

Quite the opposite, actually.

You just need to be genuine.

That’s you, talking to your phone or camera, looking into the lens thinking you’re looking into someone’s eyes, and just having a one-way conversation.

Some of us are really good at that.

Other’s need practice.

Then there are people that think it must be 1,000,000% perfect for it to count as a good video.

To all these people I am going to tell you the same thing…

Go live.

Go live on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, anywhere you want really until you get it that people don’t care about perfection, they just care about your content.

This is just like riding a bike... scratch that. In truth, I think it’s more of the equivalent of jumping with a parachute. The initial thrill of going live might give you a lump in your throat, I suggest that you embrace it and just start talking.

So, step 1 is to keep it simple, and you can’t get any more simple than going live.

Once you feel comfortable in front of the camera, then it’s time to start thinking about “shots”.

The number 1 thing you have to think of when shooting video?

Eye movement.

Not your eye movement. You’re looking at the camera lens 90% of the time.

Your audiences.

You have to think about what they are looking at, and why.

We want to keep their eyes in the frame at all times.

So, if they are not looking at our eyes, where are they looking?

What leads them back to you when you shoot?

What would lead them off the video screen?

If you look at my super amazing art skills on the next two images, you will see an arrow on each shot.

arrow rightarrow left

The arrow is in the exact same place on each frame.

The only thing I did is change where it was pointing.

If you didn’t think about it and didn’t know what the images were, there is a really good chance that the image pointing to the edge of the frame would have to lead your eyes off the frame.

And the arrow facing inward would have made you look in the screen towards the dot.

You have to keep this in mind when you’re framing a shot.

Who Framed Roger Ra....

I'm not a fan of that movie, so let’s talk about framing.

Keeping it centered.

As you can see from my amazing and wonderful artwork below, keeping it centered means that you stay in the center of the frame.

Keeping it centered

Benefits: The audience feels comfortable looking at your eyes in this position. They don’t have to "hunt" for you. This is by far the most common shot you will see vloggers do, and it works perfectly for all intents and purposes.

Disadvantage: This is considered a “blah” shot in videography for a basic interview. Now, if a director knows what they are doing, they will have other things in the frame centered with the subject. Great movies have kept this theme up the entire time and won awards, so don't think you have to go crazy.

Just do it with intention.

For a vlog, it doesn’t matter as much. This basic shot has made many people popular online, so my advice, start here at step two and just go with it.

Let’s go halvesies

Breaking the frame up with you on one half of the frame is a great way to be creative. For real estate agents who like to video in their community and still want to be in the frame, this is the shot that’s pure gold. People get to see you, and they get to see the background.

Let’s go halvesies

Also, when you go halves, you have the opportunity to throw some words, contact info, logos, etc., on the other side of the screen.

Think about eye movement though, if the audience has to hunt for items on the screen, or if the verbiage leads them off the video and onto another youtube thumbnail, you could lose that person’s attention.

I try to always be aware of this and sometimes I “close” the vacant half with a frame of some sort, like the edge of a house, or let a tree frame the shot so there is no reason to stop watching my epic beard flow in the air like a unicorns shiny mane.

Benefits: Allows your audience to see the background, and allows you to be in the frame at the same time. Gives you a place to put words, logos, etc. on the screen.

Disadvantages: If you’re taking a “selfie” video with your phone, this may be hard to do unless you have the dreaded “selfie stick” – which to be honest, I think are cool. But I think a lot of weird stuff is cool, so you can ignore me if you chose. They are a necessary tool for our ages. 

Threes a crowd, or really lonely

The rule of thirds, as it’s called, is the ability to break the frame up into 3 distinct parts. If you want to break out a really artistic term, think “golden rectangle”. We don’t know why our brains are wired this way, but we are naturally attracted to frames that follow the golden rectangle rule. When you break the frame up into 3 distinct portions you are naturally breaking it up for the audience of where they should look... and for some reason, it just works.

Threes a crowd

Obviously, you have a lot of space to fill IF YOU CHOSE.

For the brave, if you leave it blank, it’s like throwing a glass of Merlot in your hand because "baby, you just got sophisticated".

Benefits: When done correctly, this is an amazing shot to keep in mind when you’re framing anything in a shot.

Disadvantages: You have to really keep an eye on what’s in the other 2/3’s of the shot.

Basic shots everyone knows but doesn’t think about unless you know them, and then you look for them because that's what you get paid to do.

Okay, so we have some framed shots of you figured out, after you comb your hair and practice, let’s talk about other shots that we want to do when we are filming at a location.

For the purposes of this write-up, I am going to just say that you have a favorite coffee shop that you want to display in a vlog.

I like coffee, 98% of the population likes coffee…

Now I want coffee...

Be right back.



Okay, that was great. Where was I?

Oh yeah, the coffee shop.

Establish your audience

If you’re a fan of any sitcom, you know about the “establishing” shot, even if you’ve never thought about it.

An establishing shot is just a shot of a building.

My favorite example of this is Seinfeld, when they are in the diner, you KNOW they are in the diner because they showed a 3-second clip of the building’s exterior.

So, make sure that’s what you're doing too, start with an establishing shot of the outside before any other shot goes into the building.

In fact, I would suggest that you ONLY show the outside of the building first, even before we see your smiling face.

An establishing shot allows the audience to get grounded on where you are at.

Someone once said that we all hate being lost, and the power we have when we shoot any type of video is that we can have the audience join us, or leave us because they feel uncomfortable or lost.

When they can establish where they are, they feel amazing about themselves.

Humans are weird.

B-Roll is almost as good as the Swiss Roll

B-Roll is what makes a video really good.

It allows the attention to be off of you for a second (even if we hear your voice) and we can enjoy what you’re enjoying.

B-Roll is just 3 to 5 second clips without sound (or we can ignore the audio and delete it while we edit).

I am a B-Roll (and swiss roll) fanatic. There is never enough B-roll!

So, after I interview the owner of the coffee shop, or I tell the audience about the coffee shop, I will simply ask if I can take a video inside their business for a promotional video I am doing for my Vlog.

To this day I have never ever ever been rejected.

In fact, I get VIP treatment and get to go behind the counter sometimes.

I take video of coffee being poured into a cup. I take it from far away, I take it close up, I get under the expresso machine and get the lovely foam dripping into the cup. I get the steam rolling off the coffee cup. I get the sweets in the glass display from far away, to as close as I can get without getting my hand slapped. I get the really cool light fixture on the ceiling, I get the OPEN sign.

I'm out of coffee, be right back.

If you put me in a coffee shop, I can easily shoot 45 min of B-Roll and hand my card out to 3 people before I leave.

Chances are I will only use 3 min worth, but as I said before – never enough B-Roll.

Want to UP your B-Roll game?

Now, if you decide to go the route of B-Roll, you’ll want a computer to edit on. It’s pretty hard to do with a phone.

And one last super duper important tip I want to give you for B-Roll… shoot it in super-slow-mo on your phone.

Super slow-mo and B-Roll are like the chocolate cake and white cream filling in the swiss rolls, it just works so well that people will LOVE looking at your videos.

If you’re shooting with your phone, super slow-motion will allow you to have some grace with holding the camera steady as you shoot too.

So, now you know about some important shots.

We know about eye movement.

We know about lovely, wonderful, amazing B-Roll…

Next we will dive into some basic lighting – or things you should at least be aware of when you shoot if you don’t have lights to shoot with.

And to make you rethink everything I just wrote about in this blog… none of this matters without content.

So, keep working on that list from my previous post, because if you have no content planned, this article is just putting the cart in front of the horse that is wearing roller blades on ice. You’re not going to make any movement on your Vlog.

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