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There was a time when videography was limited to trained professionals with the most advanced equipment. But with the introduction of the internet and smartphones, creating videos has become accessible for nearly anyone—even if you have little to no experience. If you’re interested in video production for beginners, we’ll show you where to start. Below, you’ll find a complete guide to videography for beginners, including types of videography, essential equipment, and beginner videography how-tos. So read on—your future in videography awaits!
What Do Videographers Do?
Videographers plan, shoot, and edit footage to create high-quality videos of all kinds. Some videographers act as a jack of all trades, individually handling every aspect of video production. Others may lead a small crew of assistants who help with lighting, sound recording, and other important video elements. If you’re just starting to explore beginner videography, you’ll likely want to learn about every element, so you can create videos on your own until you can expand your production capabilities.
Today, video is one of the most common and popular types of content, whether it’s used in commercials, on a company website, or for personal use. As part of your primer on video production for beginners, here is a rundown of the common types of videography you can create.
Personal videos may capture anything you feel passionate about. You might create a video for fun, to get exposure for your side hustle, or to draw attention to a favorite cause. You could also create a music video to help a local band, profile an interesting friend, or start a vlog (video blog) to document your life.
This is the perfect way for beginners to practice their videography skills. Learn as you go, and then post your best videos to social media or YouTube. You’ll build your reputation, and you may soon attract paying clients who want you to make videos for them, too.
Corporate videographers generally work for a company as in-house employees. They typically make training and promotional videos and document meetings and conferences. Going the corporate route is often a more traditional, secure route to making a living as a videographer, but it may offer less creative freedom than working as a freelance videographer.
What You Need for Videography: Videographer Gear and Tools
When considering the gear you need for beginner videography, it’s helpful to have a solid idea of the types of videos you expect to make. Are you preparing to shoot a vlog of your daily life? Will you document extreme sports for a YouTube channel? Your subject matter will likely lead you to preferred methods and specific types of gear. But if you aren’t sure about the kinds of work you want to do yet, don’t worry. We’ve rounded up a brief guide to essential video gear for beginners—the kind of equipment that is designed to perform well in a variety of settings.
Freelance videographers create videos for clients on either a project-by-project or contract basis. As a freelance videographer, you might, for example, pursue wedding videography, make real estate videos, or create advertising campaigns. By honing in on the category of videos that interests you most, you’ll naturally build subject-specific skills and establish your niche, which will help you market yourself to new clients and reap the benefits of referrals as you build your client network.
Types of Cameras
The first thing you’ll need is, of course, a camera. Whether you shoot solely on a smartphone or decide to invest in a more sophisticated camera, you have plenty of options that can help you create impressive films.
Videography for beginners can be intimidating—largely because of the investment required. However, you may be able to get your feet wet using a piece of gear you already have on hand: your smartphone. If your iPhone or Android is no more than a couple of years old, it is likely all you’ll need to begin to shoot high-quality video—and, perhaps more importantly, thinking like the videographer you want to become. Make sure your smartphone camera shoots 1080p video, the standard for high definition images. That’s all the quality you’ll need for creating great-looking videos that present well on the web.
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The small digital cameras many of us carried around before smartphones are still available (and much improved!) today. Often called “point-and-shoots,” these small, lightweight cameras are now typically optimized for shooting high-quality video as well as taking photos. As a bonus, these cameras tend to be small and lightweight, so they’re perfect for traveling and taking video on the go. And, you can find many models for well under $500.
Before you invest in a point-and-shoot, however, keep in mind that you will make some sacrifices in terms of image quality and flexibility of use. Point-and-shoots lack the interchangeable lenses of DSLRs (see below) and other, more expensive camera options.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are the high-quality cameras favored by serious still photographers—but they’re also the camera of choice for many professional videographers. They have large sensors and can offer extremely high image quality, control, and flexibility, and they are endlessly customizable via interchangeable lenses.
Prices for DSLRs begin around $500 and increase rapidly for full-featured models. Mirrorless cameras generally offer modest upgrades from DSLRs, and are often lauded for superior autofocus capabilities.
Any time you see footage of people attempting crazy stunts on the web, it’s a safe bet the footage has been captured with an action or sports camera, like the well-known GoPro. These small units typically incorporate a wide-angle lens and image stabilization to help audiences feel immersed in the action. Action cameras are great at what they do, but you probably won’t want to use this specialized gear as your main camera, as they lack viewfinders, high quality audio, and other features essential to less active shoots.
If you’re embarking on beginner videography, you probably don’t want to immediately buy a surplus of gear. However, if you invest in just one accessory for your first serious video shoot, make it a tripod—this is the easiest way to keep your footage steady and professional looking. You may also choose to purchase:
- Camera light: This light can fill in shadows on your subjects’ faces.
- Three-point lighting kit: This is the standard for high-end video, consisting of key, fill, and back lighting.
- Shotgun or lavalier microphones: These can help you capture quality sound, whether your subject is seated or moving around while speaking.
- Extra batteries and memory cards: These can extend the performance of your equipment to allow you to shoot as long as you need.
Then, once you’re done shooting your footage, you’ll move onto the editing process.
Ask any seasoned filmmaker where movies are made, and you’ll almost certainly hear about life in the editing room. However polished your footage may be, it won’t have much appeal for viewers without the benefit of editing software.
Fortunately, video production for beginners is easy with a number of powerful (and free) editing applications. Apple’s iMovie comes pre-installed on every Mac computer and remains a favorite among videographers. Lightworks and Da Vinci Resolve are powerful, professional-grade editors even in their free, somewhat scaled-down versions available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Other popular, low-cost editors include Adobe Premier Elements (Windows and Mac) and KineMaster (Android and iOS). If you only want to do simple edits, Corel VideoStudio and Pinnacle Studio 22 are good resources as well.
It’s easy to get carried away by the power and relative low cost of today’s video gear—and then to be overwhelmed by what may seem like endless choices. As a general rule, limit your early gear investments. It’s best to jump into your first shoot with whatever basic tools you may have (or can borrow from friends) and then to acquire specific items as you better understand and prioritize your needs later on.
As you enter the world of videography for beginners, you’ll need some basic equipment—but you’ll also need to know how to use it to capture the footage you envision. Below, we detail some of common videography how-tos for beginners.
Camera Shots and Movements
The three basic types of camera shots are wide, medium, and close-up, and you may be surprised to discover how many film and video sequences use them in that exact order to establish flow. Be sure to experiment with different types of shots—low and high angles, varied perspectives, even drone videography.
Practicing camera movements is essential, too; spend too much time on your tripod and you may wind up with something that looks like surveillance footage. Bring a shot list and shoot everything you may need while you can. Every beginner should adopt a “shoot now, edit later” mentality until they understand their craft.
Shot Composition and Framing
Composition refers to the way people and objects are arranged in a frame to look aesthetically pleasing while helping you tell your story. This single most important concept is the “rule of thirds” (which applies equally to photographers and videographers). Imagine two evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines across your frame. Objects should be placed at the intersection of these lines for maximum interest and impact.
Unlike still photography, choose your camera settings before you start and stay there—consistency is crucial. In a close-up, focus your attention on your subject’s eyes because your audience will surely do the same.
The best way to learn about framing? It’s an age-old technique that is also the most fun: Watch classic films and learn from the masters.
Lighting and Sound
Use as much natural lighting as possible when first starting out—the goal for most shots is a bright but non-artificial look. For darker and indoor settings, experiment with cheap work lamps and shades before you spend too much money on video lighting kits. If you want a more professional look, three-point lighting is the standard for high-end video. It consists of key, fill, and back lighting, and offers a world of options when used in combination.
Good sound is also crucial to every video, so investing in a few different microphones is key. Shotgun mics pick up sound wherever you point them, and some can be attached to your camera. USB mics are great for voice overs, and clip-on lavalier mics are essential for interviews. Always find or create a quiet environment and monitor your sound on set—you may be surprised at the ambient noise that can be picked up even by modest mics.
In beginner videography, the most useful tip is to dive into making videos and see where the experience leads you. Create videos around subjects that interest you, and start posting your work for the world to see. With all the tools and technology available to you, you progress to more advanced videography in no time. So put that smart phone (or DSLR) to good use and get started!
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