This is what my YouTube filming area looks like now, but it used to look like this, and this, and this, and this…
I’ve tried filming in my basement, in my home office, in the entryway in my house, in the flex room, which is not really a dining room but it’s not really a formal living room, so I just turned it into my home office.
Now, I film in the extra room above my garage, and here in the South, we call that the ‘Frog’ – the family room over garage. Yeah, I didn’t make that up; it’s really a thing.
The point is, it doesn’t really matter where you film; it just matters what is behind you on camera. But there are three very important things that you need to make sure you use and do in order to make your videos look good.
If you have an educational channel and you are making YouTube videos in order to grow your brand and grow your business and bring in new customers and clients, then let’s get to this, ’cause I’m here to help you make your studio look amazing.
Step one is to pick your filming area.
If you can make this a dedicated spot where you will film all of your videos, it will make your life so much easier because that way you don’t have to set up the camera and then take it down, and then set it up, and then take it down. If you can put it up and leave it up all the time, it definitely makes it much easier, and you’ll never have an excuse not to make a video simply because everything is always set up and ready to go.
Pick a part of your house, even if it’s just a corner in your dining room, and decide to make that your dedicated filming area.
Step number two is to determine your background and what will be behind you on camera.
When we moved into this house, the walls were beige, and I absolutely hated it because it was like the ickiest beige from 1999 that you could possibly imagine. And when I stood in this beige room, man, I looked so washed out. It was like there was no color in the set or in my face at all.
I knew I wanted to paint the walls; I just didn’t know what color I wanted it to be.
I did a whole bunch of research, which is another way of saying I watched YouTube videos for hours on end every day, but hey, it was research; this is my job.
I watched a ton of YouTube videos from all different genres, all different types of creators, on all different kind of topics. I was not watching so that I could learn how to cook and how to apply winged eyeliner; I was watching because I wanted to see what their background looks like.
Every time I saw somebody that had an amazing looking set, I took a screenshot and I saved it in a folder on my computer. Then, after we moved into the house and I was ready to paint this room, I went to the folder and I looked at all the screenshots I had taken, and they all had a very similar common theme, and that was dark walls.
I seemed to really be drawn to people that had black, dark gray, dark blue walls behind them. Not only did I just like that color scheme, but I knew that I would stand out against that kind of a background because of my hair color and my skin color.
Now, if you have dark hair or darker skin, you might look better with a light background. We want you to pop against the background so that the people are looking at you and listening to what you’re saying. They’re not like, ‘Ooh, what’s that on your bookshelf behind you? That looks really cool.’
Truthfully, I think it makes more sense to just make an aesthetically pleasing background that you like, that you think looks good on camera. If you have the option of changing the wall color behind you, try to do something that is a contrast to your coloring so that you pop right off the screen.
What if you can’t paint your walls? Could you do stick-on wallpaper? Could you hang a giant piece of art on the wall behind you?
Heck, I even know somebody who goes to the craft store and buys those giant rolls of craft paper in red, green, yellow, blue, and he will just rip off a piece that’s 6 ft long and stick it up on the wall with a bunch of thumbtacks, and then when he films, that’s what’s behind him on the wall.
But he’s not changing his wall color every time he makes a video.
There are so many different things that you can do.
Don’t overcomplicate it.
Just make sure it looks good on screen. You don’t have to move to a new house, unless you really want to move to a new house, in which case, okay, you can do it. That’s what I did.
Now, this next part is really important.
You don’t want to be right up against the wall.
I see so many people that are filming flat up against the wall. When you’re right against the wall, you look like you’re in a lineup at the police station. It does not look good. You want to get away from the wall and have some space behind you.
Here’s an example:
Right now, this is the area where I typically do my filming, and there’s about 8 ft between the back of my head and that back wall, versus this other one where I’m standing right up against the wall. Which one looks better to you? When I do most of my filming, I am sitting at my desk, so I purposely have my desk floating in the middle of the room.
If you were to walk in, it looks really weird because my desk is just in the middle of the room; it’s not up against a wall. But I did that on purpose because I am facing a window, and I wanted to have all of this space behind me so that if I want to make the camera slightly blurry and out of focus on what’s behind me, I can absolutely do that.
If you’re filming with an iPhone, you can put it in cinematic mode. If you’re filming with a camera that has a lens, you just choose a lens that will let you do the blurred-out-of-focus background.
So, play around with your options.
You may just want to rearrange your office furniture.
I was doing a consultation with somebody yesterday, and where she had her desk with her camera was a very just like, ‘eh,’ nothing exciting about it.
But I said, ‘Show me what the rest of your room looks like.’ And lo and behold, she has an accent wall that happens to face a window.
So I said, ‘What if you stand with that accent wall behind you, with about 6 ft of space behind you, not right up against that wall, and you’re facing the window, so we have natural light coming in on you?’. It looked a million times better than what she was doing.
She didn’t have to rearrange her furniture; she just had to put the camera somewhere else.
One thing you definitely want to think of, though, is what is behind you, not just your wall color, but your decor.
If you’ve got a bookshelf, and it is stuffed with books, and they’re falling out of the case, it’s going to look cluttered, and it’s going to distract you. If I can see your printer and all of your office equipment, it’s going to distract people. If you’re going to have a bookcase behind you, be mindful about what is on those shelves, and do it intentionally.
If you have something that reinforces your brand, it’s your color scheme, maybe it’s an award that you have won, if there’s a little subliminal box that says ‘subscribe’ back there, these are all good things.
They were intentionally put on that bookshelf; it’s not clutter, it’s part of your set design.
Step number three is actually the least important of all of these things, and that’s deciding what you’re going to film with.
What will your camera of choice be?
Seriously, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s your smartphone or a GoPro or a camera or a webcam, as long as it shoots in high resolution and it looks clear. It doesn’t look grainy; it’s going to be just fine.
So, if all you have is your iPhone 13 Pro, you are in luck. Use your iPhone 13 Pro.
Now, if you have a 5-year-old MacBook that shoots in 720p with the FaceTime app, that’s not going to be good because the resolution is too low. But if you have a newer computer, and the webcam films in 1080P, that will be just fine. Let’s do another side-by-side comparison.
On one side, I am filming with a camera with a lens, and on the other side, I am filming with my FaceTime camera, that is the webcam on my actual computer. Yes, there is a difference. We can see that there is a difference.
Is it a big enough difference to make you go justify buying a $1,000 camera? I don’t think so. And does the viewer actually know what you’re filming with? No. If you didn’t do a side-by-side comparison, they would have no idea what you’re actually recording with.
So, don’t overthink it.
Start with what you have; you can always upgrade over time.
I watch a ton of curly hair tutorials on YouTube, and the majority of them are filming with a phone on a tripod with a ring light in their bathroom.
This is not high-quality cinematography here, and I watch them, and I never stop to critique the quality of the filming experience.
I don’t watch it and be like, ‘Wow, this is a really great tutorial, if only she was using a camera that shot in 4k and she had a 50 mm lens.’ No, that does not occur to the vast majority of people that are watching your videos.
Now, if you have a photography channel or a cinematography channel, yes, you need to make sure that your film quality is top-notch because that’s what your channel is about, and that’s what you are demonstrating.
Again, if you’re filming with your phone, just make sure you clean the camera lens before you hit record, and it will be perfectly fine.
Earlier, I said there were three things that you absolutely have to have dialed in in order for your videos to look good.
One is audio.
I firmly believe that you need an external microphone, whether you are filming with your phone or a webcam or an actual camera.
If it’s more than a couple feet away from your face, you don’t want to be shouting across the room to be heard, and when you do that, it gives this echoey sound like you’re in a gymnasium, and you know how it echoes, sounds terrible.
My husband decided that this would be a really good time to go drive down the driveway with the leaf blower and blow all of the leaves off of the driveway, so excuse me while I tap dance for a minute and wait for him to leave. You need to have an external microphone.
The only thing you need to be worried about is, is it compatible with your camera device of choice?
So, for example, if I’m filming with my webcam, and I’m sitting at my computer, I can use a shotgun microphone like this one. But if I’m filming with my smartphone, I need to make sure that I am filming with a microphone that is compatible with my smartphone.
Before you buy anything, just Google whether or not it is compatible with whatever you’re filming with. A lavalier microphone is the one that clips on right here. It can have a big long cord and plug into your phone, or it can be wireless, it can be Bluetooth.
You can get a podcasting microphone if you’re sitting at your computer. It can be a shotgun microphone. There’s a million different types of microphones, and I’ve used a zillion of them in the past myself, so I will link a couple of my favorites down below. They’re not overly expensive; they’re not crazy difficult to use.
Just pick something that is compatible with what you will be using as the camera.
The second thing that you need to make sure you have set up correctly is lighting.
If you don’t have good lights, your film is going to look very grainy and blurry. It doesn’t look good at all. Natural light is amazing, so if you’re facing a window in your filming area, that might be plenty.
If not, you can get a couple of studio lights that are not all that expensive. You can put one directly in front of you and one off to the side. You can put one here and one here.
Play around with the lighting and see how they look.
You could get a big ring light, and when it’s a ring light, you put your camera or phone right in the center. The ring goes all the way around it.
The downside with ring lights is that if you wear glasses, we always see that big ring reflected in your glasses. So then you got to play around with the position of the light.
Is it going to go slightly off to the side? Is it going to be higher, and it’s pointing down at you? Because if it’s pointing directly at your face, we’re going to see the big rings reflected in your glasses.
Yesterday, somebody in my private community posted a picture of her sunroom, and she said, ‘I really want to film in this room because it has amazing light. It’s all windows,’ which it absolutely did.
The problem was that she sat with her back to the windows. So what happens? All the light comes in from behind you, and your face goes dark, and we can’t see you. That’s no good.
Instead, we said, ‘Turn around so that the windows are in front of you. The light is coming in, shining on your face.’
Just be mindful of what’s behind you, all of the tips that I gave you at the beginning of this video. And not only did she have amazing lighting, but it looked fantastic. It did not look amateurish. It looked like she’d really given a lot of thought to what was behind her in her set.
But the third thing that you need to do to make sure that your videos look good is more about what not to do.
I have learned so much in the seven years that I’ve been on YouTube about what works and what doesn’t work, and in this video, I talked about all of the things that I wish I would have known when I first started my YouTube channel.
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