If you have ever wanted to start a YouTube channel, here is my experience of setting up a new channel and giving it a real go for 30 days.
YouTube is something that I have wanted to have a play with for many years. I spend more time on YouTube than any other platform. In the 2000s, I learned photography from the site, as there was a wealth of useful information on there. Sadly, it is now pretty diluted with a million and one hacks offering poor advice that is now taken as gospel, but I still think with enough digging and a good research background that you can find almost any photography information out there on YouTube. I have had a YouTube account for ages, but I didn’t ever really upload anything bar a few BTS time-lapses with original file names and no tags. So, I quickly found some useful videos on how to build and grow a channel, and I got cracking.
The first thing to work out was the name of the channel and the perspective that the channel would take. Obviously, it had to be a photography channel, but I needed more than that. So, I decided to go from the perspective of a working commercial photographer. This allowed me to cover advanced license fees as well as some introductory information for those looking to pursue a career in photography. I chose to use the name of my studio over my working and website name so as to not dilute my professional work with a YouTube channel. With this in mind, I set up the channel Tin House Studio.
How Hard Is It?
It turns out that filming yourself is incredibly hard from a photographer's standpoint. My first video had lousy audio, I managed to mess up the exposure even though I have been a professional photographer for over a decade, and my delivery was pretty poor. However, thanks to Fstoppers and a few other big websites sharing my video, it managed to get 15,000 hits, which I was very impressed with.
So, I set about making some more videos. Firstly, you have to have the idea, and this is certainly the most time-consuming aspect of my videos. It is also the reason that I haven’t been posting original content to Fstoppers for a month. It turns out that I only have a finite amount of ideas that I can produce before my brain gives up. And one a day certainly hit that limit.
I am vain. We all are to a certain extent. I really didn’t want to have to hear people saying rude things about me. Reading the comments about how I look homeless (“he looks like you might find him sleeping rough outside a bank”), that people can’t understand the language I speak (I am from the very center of England), and that I don’t know what I am talking about were all present on forums and YouTube. The thing is, I actually found it funny, especially finding that people had to turn subtitles on so that they could understand what I was saying. I had previously had elocution lessons when younger to try and correct my slightly ghetto lingo, and it seems to have made me even less comprehensible. Finding that my biggest fear coming true didn't bother me at all was a massive boost. Once I had this out of the way, I really started to find my groove.
There seems to be slightly different trolls on every platform. The comments I get here differ from when my works is shared on other photography sites, and then the types of trolls on different social media platforms change as well. On YouTube, it was predominantly people quoting other articles that they say are correct against what you are suggesting, even when in many cases the article and my video had very little in common and certainly weren’t looking at the same issues, or accounts generally saying you sound mental, stupid, no idea what you are talking about and the like. The other thing I noted was that a minority expect to have a video tailored to exactly what they want, and if it doesn’t meet this, then they will be pretty rude.
My main lesson from this is that every troll that I have encountered so far on any platform doesn’t really have anything to show for themselves. They are either blank profiles or photographers who are angry that they didn’t manage to adapt to the profession. If these trolls are putting you off from doing something, just remember that no one of merit is ever a troll. I just let them get on with it and I don’t engage.
What Went Well?
In a short period of time, I managed to build a really nice community on YouTube. The people who were watching my daily videos were highly engaged and really pleasant to talk to. I was shocked at how appreciative people were.
The speed at which my account built up was also very interesting. It took me a month to create a bigger and more engaged audience than what I built in my first two years on Instagram. I have also managed to rank a few videos on Google, which will hopefully help my name somewhat over the years.
What Went Wrong?
Daily uploads are hard. Although I stuck to the block working schedule, inevitably, by the end of the month, shoot commitments, personal stuff, and writing started to back up, and I had to accept that I would fail my video a day challenge, although this was pretty liberating realizing that it really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. So, starting Monday I will be doing two to three videos a week and looking to record several months of content on a slow week before scheduling them. This is certainly the best way to go. It really wasn’t worth filming one video in a day due to setup and pack-down time, but doing eight in a day was pretty viable.
How Did It Go?
It went a lot better than I expected. I think 10 of my videos were posted here, and after that, a few were shared via other photography sites and social media pages. In the month, I managed to get the 4,000 hours of view time and over 1,000 subscribers that mean you can monetize your channel. I think that I am sitting around 1,600 subscribers without around 1,000-2,000 views per day, which for someone who doesn’t do video, presenting, or video editing is pretty respectable. Without monetizing my channel, from content surrounding it and affiliate links, I made about $500 for the month, which isn't bad for a bit of fun.
Tips for Fellow Newbies
If you are thinking about starting a YouTube channel, just do it. Get a camera, a phone, whatever you have, and start making videos. Don’t worry about the production value at this stage. Your inability to present, tag, format, and generally work out the YouTube algorithm will far surpass any equipment inadequacies. I ended up using an old full frame DSLR with no AF in video mode and a cheap mic that I purchased from a friend and a couple of light bulbs inside some paper lanterns for lighting. It seemed to do a good enough job for what most people were looking for.
Have you thought about starting a YouTube channel? If so, what is holding you back?