Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your YouTube Videos

In today's competitive marketplace, successful photographers are finding themselves creating more and more content that isn't strictly photo based. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are reaching more and more people with video content. In today's article, I outline 10 simple tips you can use to polish your video content.

This video and article were sponsored by Wondershare's Filmora 9 video-editing software. If you have never used video editing software and want to start producing video content of your own or if you are simply looking for an alternative to other, more expensive software, Filmora 9 might be something you should check out. Their screen-capturing software, Filmora SCRN, is also really handy if you simply need to record your monitor easily without hassle. Regardless of what software you use to edit your videos, I hope these ten tips will help you produce even better content for your social media platforms.

Improve Your Lighting

Without being too dramatic, good lighting is everything. Very rarely will you find a high-quality video where the lighting isn't on point. Good lighting doesn't have to be complicated or unbelievably epic, but it should at least be crisp and clean. If you are a photographer transitioning over to video, the good news is you are probably already a pro at crafting great looking light. The same techniques that apply to photography also apply to video.

If you have a room with great natural light, you can use that to your advantage to create soft, open lighting that will be pleasing to your viewers. If you are like us and often have to shoot in rooms that do not have beautiful natural light, investing in a few constant lights will help to turn a dull room into a professional-looking set. One of our favorite constant lights for video is the Fiilex P360 LED light, because it not only dims and color shifts, but it also perfectly fits Profoto light modifiers that we already use in our own studio. If you are looking for an even cheaper option, don't worry, as there are hundreds of other great LED light panels available to help turn your lighting into something much more pleasing to your viewers. 

Record Clean Audio

If you are anything like me, nothing makes you skip over a YouTube video faster than horrible audio. To improve your audio, make sure you have a good broadcasting mic like the Blue Yeti or a set of Sennheiser G4 lav microphones. Wind screens can help reduce harsh popping sounds, and the closer you can get your microphone to your mouth, the cleaner and more dynamic your audio will sound. If you have a big, empty room, add curtains and rugs to help dampen the reverb; otherwise, your audio might be hard to understand. Keep an eye out for one of our future Fstoppers videos on damping reverb, because we are currently dealing with this issue in our new studio.

Perfect Your Script Beforehand

Nothing is worse than finding a YouTube video only to watch the presenter stumble over their words or get side-tracked and ramble on forever. Time is valuable to your viewers, so make sure your videos are as concise as possible and you are well prepared. Some presenters use teleprompters, while others simply speak off the cuff. Keep in mind editing is your friend. If you teach yourself to slow down, even if you mess up, you can usually edit your video in a nearly seamless way so that no one will notice your multiple takes.

Shoot in 4K 

Shooting video in 4K allows you to not only have higher video resolution, but it also allows you to punch into your footage and make less obvious hard cuts when you inevitably stumble over your words. Most viewers won't notice the slight loss in quality, and shooting in 4K, even if you export to 1080, can give you a lot of editing options. When it comes to editing, 4K footage also lets you reframe your scene and add side-to-side panning effects, as well as the slow “Ken Burns” zoom moves that are often used in documentaries. Sure, shooting in 4K takes up a lot more space on your memory card and hard drives, but it has so many advantages that it's worth the extra hassle. 

Add a Second Camera Angle

Shooting in 4K makes it possible to give the appearance of using multiple cameras by digitally punching in, but if you have the means to add a second camera, it will make your production look much more professional. If you are doing a simple talking head style video, having two cameras will give you a lot more flexibility when editing, and it also has the added advantage of making your footage more interesting to watch. If you are shooting at an interesting location or if you are doing a two-person interview, having a third camera angle can really turn a somewhat boring interview into a much more cinematic experience. 

Always Export to 4K

Even if you aren't shooting in 4K or if you are digitally cropping into your 4K footage, you still want to export your final videos in 4K even if the final file isn't 3,840x2,160. Many people do not know this but YouTube actually has a separate algorithm for 4K uploads. When you upload a 4K file, the encoder allows for far less compression and will ultimately make your final video look sharper with much less quality loss. Most of your viewers aren't able to even watch full 4K footage at its native resolution, so any digital cropping you do to your footage won't really be noticed. This is especially true for content viewed on mobile devices or videos embedded on websites. I've done tests where I've exported native 1080 footage to 4K and uploaded both files to YouTube, and the upsampled footage still looked better when viewed at 1080.

Don't Just Use Screen Capture Software 

If you are creating a tutorial, using high-quality screen capture software is important, but don't make your video only a capture of your screen. What makes viewers come back time and time again is you and your personality. Give yourself some face time by adding a camera that films you while you work on your computer and make that personal connection to your viewers. If you have helpful post-processing tips to share, people are more likely to come back to your channel again and again if they feel connected to you as opposed to just hearing a voice on top of a screen record. It also makes for a much more aesthetically pleasing video.

Make Strong Titles and Thumbnails 

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to make your YouTube videos stand out is making sure you give them strong titles and eye-catching thumbnails. I always try to straddle between an informative title and something that makes people want to click on my video. You don't want to flat-out trick a viewer into watching your video that has absolutely nothing to do with the title, but at the same time, you have to remember you are competing against dozens if not hundreds of other videos with similar topics. Also, videos with polished and easy to read featured images typically get way more views than boring or cluttered thumbnails. Your view count can really skyrocket if you take the extra time creating a catchy or well-designed thumbnail.

Ask for Subscriptions and Likes 

I'm not a huge fan of asking viewers to "smash that like button" or "subscribe, subscribe, subscribe," but if you look at some of the fastest growing YouTube channels, this technique definitely seems to work. Typically, it's best to ask for these rewards at the end of your video so your viewers don't get too discouraged before you even get to the content they came to watch.

If you have a store, other resources, or want to engage your audience, the end of your video is another great place to give them a call to action. Regardless of if you want to be more obnoxious with your call to action or take a more subtle route, asking people to subscribe to your channel or thumbs-up your video is definitely a tried and true technique for gaining more views and traffic to your content.

Have Fun and Be Yourself 

If there is one tip for making your YouTube videos more popular, having fun and being yourself is by far the most important tip I could give you. Viewers are going to watch your YouTube videos for two reasons. First, they are lazy and don't want to read a bunch of text to get to an answer, and two, they trust you and/or are entertained by your presentation. If you aren't having fun with your channel and aren't being yourself, people aren't going to listen to what you have to say for long. They will simply go somewhere else for similar entertainment or information. One of the beautiful things about photography and videography is the creativity each person can put on display, so make sure you remain true to yourself and give the world something that is truly, uniquely you.

Even though it's a ton of work, creating YouTube content can be a lot of fun, extremely fulfilling, and at times, it can even be rewarding financially. If you have never created a video before or have a fairly new channel, don't feel discouraged if your content doesn't take off at first. Even today, I have no idea what videos will resonate with my viewers and which ones will be flops. Everyone has to start somewhere and navigate through their own experiences and creative passions before finding what really works well for their own purposes.

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6 Comments

Joe Black's picture

Great article. Thank you for sharing.

imagei _'s picture

Tip #1: get right to the bloody point and keep on topic.

Chances are watching your video is not the most important point of my day so please respect my time and don't ramble on about nothing in particular for minutes.

Great article
I like the part that's talking about adding a second camera angle, actually a lot of youtubers are missing these points
I also recommend to pickup one of these video ranking softwares
http://bit.ly/2HBhfa8

Jen Photographs's picture

Great article.

Product? Skeptical. They're not fully transparent. I can't figure out how long the free trial is for. The product page doesn't depict what the limitations or features are offered in the freebie. Had to dig into helpfiles to see that much.

For anyone else curious: any content made with the freebie trial has a watermark. I'm assuming the screen recorder does the same. As noted, it's unclear how long the trial is good for.

These are great tips for improving production quality and this is something I've thought a lot about because I watch a lot of photography videos on YT (including F-Stoppers of course). I've noticed that production quality is often emphasized as the best way to stand out and that assumption makes sense on the surface. I find that it's not always true. Good production quality is important, but doing something unique is a much more critical differentiator.

For example, Camera Conspiracies (search for him on YT) has terrible production quality, admittedly, but his videos are really entertaining and his subscriber base is growing quickly. He's doing something different and because of that he stands out among the other photography channels doing gear reviews and how-to content.

Production quality matters a lot, but it seems like that bar can only be raised so high before you need something more to make your videos unique.

Patrick Hall's picture

This is very true too. Sometimes things are more viral or interesting because they look more "real" and not perfectly executed.