12 Simple Tips for Making Your Videos Look More Professional
Want to create a polished, professional video that impresses your audience? It’s easier than you might think.
Achieving a professional look is more about your technique than your tools, so you don’t need to drop a fortune on expensive equipment – chances are good that you can make great videos with whatever you’ve got right now, just by paying attention to a few key details.
These 12 tips will help you improve the quality of your videos right away.
Lighting makes a huge difference in the quality of a finished professional video, so make it one of your top priorities during filming. If you don’t use enough properly-placed light, your video will probably look amateurish, even if it’s great in every other way.
The sun is one of the best light sources for video. If you’re filming in natural light, do your best to get your footage in the morning or evening, when the light is softer. Midday light coming from straight overhead can cast harsh shadows on your subjects, while morning and evening light is more flattering. If you do have to film in the middle of the day, try to do so on a cloudy day, or find a shady area for softer light.
Do your best to get your footage in the morning or evening, when the light is softer.
If you’re filming indoors, you will need to be more intentional about the types of lights you use and where you place them. One thing to avoid is overhead lighting – it can cast unflattering shadows on your subjects’ faces. Windows are a good natural light source. You can also use a large lamp or two to cast the type of light you want.
Before you set up your light sources, consider the effect you want to create in your finished video. Do you want your subject’s face entirely lit up (“soft” or “flat” light), or do you want some shadows (“hard” light)?
Using lots of shadow looks dramatic, and it can be distracting in professional videos where drama isn’t the intended effect. Using little or no shadow creates a more open and straightforward vibe, which is usually better for business and marketing videos.
If you want to use flat light in your video, balance two light sources on either side of the camera. You can place them either behind the camera or just in front of it. Here’s one example from Wistia of how you can achieve this setup.
Wistia’s filming setup. The two symmetrically-placed light sources create a balanced effect with no shadows. Source: Wistia
If you want your subject to have a bit more shadow and depth, you can try using the “lighting triangle” to achieve it.
Using a single light source creates more shadows in your video. Source
Be deliberate about the background you use for filming. Nothing looks less professional than a messy or distracting background.
One easy way to get a professional look for your video is to use a solid-colored background. A wall, a bedsheet, or a large sheet of backdrop paper are all good options. Make sure your subject stands several feet away from the backdrop to avoid casting shadows on it.
It’s also a good idea to shoot a video in a “professional” environment: the place where you actually work or spend time. For instance, Amy Landino, makes her professional videos in her home office. Make sure to check out this video for both a great example of a filming set and some great tips on how to actually set up a home office.
Be careful not to film with a window or another reflective surface in the background of your shot. You could inadvertently catch the camera in the reflection. Besides that, having a light source like a window behind your subject can make the subject look dark and shadowy.
Your audio quality is actually more important than your professional video quality. Most people are willing to watch a video that’s not shot in HD or that’s even a little grainy, as long as everything else about it is good. But fuzzy, indistinct audio is usually enough to make anybody hit the “back” button within a few seconds of starting to play a video.
Because audio matters so much, a good microphone is the first piece of equipment you should invest in. Get the best one you can afford. For $100 to $200, you can get a microphone that performs well and will last a long time. There are also some decent options under $100 if you’re on a tight budget. Even a lav mic will do!
Capture clear audio by putting your microphone as close to the subject as possible. You might want to use a pop filter to eliminate blips and crackles on the finished recording. Be aware of any background noise that your microphone might be picking up, too.
It’s easy to tune out things like traffic, birds, and even the noise of the wind, but all of these sounds will be very obvious on your recording.
Shaky footage will make any professional video look like a home movie (and it can make your viewers feel seasick, to boot). It’s hard to hold a camera completely steady, so try not to hold your camera at all if you can help it. Instead, use a tripod, or set your camera on a sturdy surface.
Once you’ve got your camera set up, try not to move it unless you have to. Panning around constantly detracts from the professional look of a video. Rather than moving the camera if you have to change perspective, it’s better to cut from one shot to another.
If your footage turns out shaky despite your best efforts, video stabilization software can help to fix it afterwards. Some cameras also have built-in stabilization that you can use while you’re filming. Slowing down your footage can also help to make shakiness less obvious.
The rule of thirds is one of the most basic principles of film composition.
Imagine that there’s a 3-by-3 grid laid over the field you’re filming. Instead of placing your subject right in the middle of the shot, you should place your subject along one of the lines of the grid. The points where the lines intersect are particularly strong areas of focus, so situate important elements of the video there, if you can.
Visualizing a 3-by-3 grid over a shot. Source
You don’t have to follow the rule of thirds all the time, but while you’re still learning, it’s a good idea to adhere to it as often as possible. As you gain experience, you’ll get a better instinct for when to stick with the rule and when to break it.
No DSLR camera? No problem. You can use your phone to capture professional video footage – the quality is just fine for most purposes. But there are a few things in mind if you’re going to use your phone for video creation.
- Use the camera on the back of your phone. The front camera’s quality is not as good on most phones.
- Record in landscape mode (that is, horizontally instead of vertically). This will give you footage that looks good on larger devices, not just phone screens.
- If your phone has a feature that allows you to overlay a grid on your screen, use it. This will help you keep your phone level and avoid tilted footage.
If you have an iPhone, you can turn on the grid by going to Settings > Photos & Camera > Grid.
If you appear in your professional videos, the way you carry yourself on camera has an enormous impact on how professional your content looks. Appearing nervous, fidgety, or uncomfortable on camera will distract viewers from your message.
Fortunately, this is something you can improve with practice. If you weren’t born with great camera presence, here are a few of the main things to focus on when you film yourself.
- Use calm, open body language. Stand up straight – poor posture is immediately obvious on camera. Keep your shoulders back and your muscles relaxed. Take deep breaths. Don’t cross your arms, since this makes you look closed-off.
- Smile, especially at the beginning of your video. It makes a huge difference in how friendly you seem.
- Slow down slightly when you talk, and make an effort to enunciate clearly. Speak from your diaphragm rather than your throat.
- If you feel jittery, try using props to keep your hands occupied. Writing on a whiteboard, for instance, can give you something to focus on besides the camera.
- Practice, practice, practice. Watch footage of yourself and identify the areas where you could improve. Then make a conscious effort to work on those things.
Cutting from one angle to another is a good (and simple) way to add visual interest to your professional videos. This is an especially useful technique if you’re making a how-to video, a product demo, or another type of video that shows you doing something rather than just talking.
Shoot plenty of B-roll footage for each video so you have the option of using it later if you want to.
Pro tip: when you change perspectives, shift by at least 45 degrees. Smaller shifts in perspective don’t really create the intended effect – they just look jarring to the viewer.
Good video editing software can help you turn your raw footage into something great. There are some simpler tools like Wave.video, Camtasia or iMovie. More professional options include Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier Pro.
MAKE GREAT VIDEOS WITH WAVE.VIDEOAn easy-to-use tool to make videos in-house
Trying out different effects can be fun during the video editing process, but don’t go too crazy. A simple, clean editing style generally looks most professional.
A few things you should be sure to do during the editing stage include:
- Using noise cancelling to clean up any background noise.
- Adjusting the lighting a little if you need to.
- Cutting out awkward pauses and silences.
- Adding background music and transitions.
Another editing tip: If you cut from one scene to another in your professional video, make the jump when there’s motion in both segments. This is smoother and more natural than jumping from one scene where nothing is happening to another.
Poor technique isn’t the only thing that can make a video look unprofessional. A lack of planning can also leave viewers underwhelmed with your finished product. By taking the time to plan your video thoroughly before you start production, you can ensure that the quality of your actual content is just as good as the quality of your footage.
Every time you make a video, start by defining its purpose. Ask yourself what you want to achieve or communicate by making this video. In addition, define your target audience. How will you make your video speak to these viewers in particular?
Once you’ve defined your video’s goals, write a script and create a storyboard. Then revise them until they’re as good as you can make them. Don’t be afraid to rearrange, rewrite, and delete sections that don’t work. Rambling videos bore viewers, so keep your videos as brief and tight as possible.
Creating your videos is only half the battle. The other half is getting people to watch them. If you want to present yourself as a serious and professional video creator, you’ve got to promote your videos and grow your following.
It’s okay not to have a lot of views or audience interaction when you start out. Everybody has to start somewhere, and some channels naturally have more mass appeal than others, which gives them an advantage in picking up new viewers. But as you create and publish more videos, your viewership should grow over time. Having lots of videos, but almost no views, can make your channel seem amateurish to the viewers who do come along.
So how can you promote your videos effectively as a beginner? Here are a few strategies to start with.
- Put your videos in the appropriate formats for social media. If you’re using Wave.video, you can easily resize your video for any major social media platform.
- Upload your videos to the channels your target audience uses. Don’t waste too much energy promoting your videos on platforms that aren’t popular with your audience.
- Learn the basics of video SEO. Writing good descriptions, using keywords, and tagging your videos correctly can help you get more views.
- Publish new videos regularly. Fresh content tells viewers that your channel is active and growing. This makes them more likely to come back.
- Interact with your audience as much as possible. Respond to comments, answer questions, and thank viewers for taking the time to watch your videos.
The more professional your videos look, the more your brand will benefit from them. And, while making professional-looking videos does take some practice and know-how, it isn’t magic or something you need to study for years. You can step up the quality of your next video dramatically just by applying the basic techniques listed in this article.
Over to you! Which of these tips are you going to try first? Do you have any additional thoughts on how to make your videos look great? Tell us in the comments below!