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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.