Videography Tips: 10 Ways To Take Better Home Videos

Learn from the 10 tips below on how to take better home videos. You'll be a pro in no time!
By Hillary Grigonis, Last updated on: 3/21/2015

Finally choose that new camcorder, but feel a little dismal after watching the first footage? While choosing the right camcorder is the first step to good home videos, you shouldn't just stop there. Adapting a few basic tips from the pros can help even the most novice shooters drastically improve their videos. Here are ten videography tips to help you get the most out of your new camcorder.

Image by Rol H.

Keep it Steady.

Nothing quite destroys a home movie like footage that's so shaky, it induces nausea. Whenever you can, use a tripod. While image stabilization systems are steadily improving, a tripod is still the best way to capture smooth footage. Tripods are especially important when shooting for an extended period of time—the longer you shoot, the more tired your hand is, and the more tired you are, the shakier your footage will be.

On the same note, keep zooming and panning to a minimum. The motion of zooming is often distracting, and too much can make a viewer feel nauseous even if you are using a tripod. Next time you watch your favorite movie, count how many times the camera zooms in—chances are, it's not very often. Zoom if you must, just think before hitting that button twenty times in one clip.

Shoot more than you have to (but only if you edit).

If you own video editing software, shoot a little longer than you think you need. Sometimes, that extra footage can make a big difference in your final video. For example, don't stop shooting after the last goal is scored, record the reactions on the teams' faces too.

But, if you don't have editing software or don't plan to put the time into making edits, avoid overshooting. Imagine watching your wedding video ten years down the road and having to sit through the photographer posing the family for photos. Shoot the important moments—keep in mind you're probably not going to watch an eight hour video of one event.

Know your camcorder.

Having a good camcorder doesn't do you much good if you don't know how to use all the features, or even what features you have. Even basic camcorders will often have options that may help improve the quality of your videos. Locate the zoom toggle and the button to take still pictures. Search through the menu for the options for image stabilization, resolution, backlighting and any other features your camcorder may have.

Spend some time shooting video with the different features you find in the menu so you become familiar with what they do and how they work. Have your camcorder's user manual handy if you can—look through it to find more features or to troubleshoot. Then when you are shooting video that really matters, you'll know just what features will help and how to use them on your particular video camera.

Pay attention to lighting.

Just like in photography, light can play a big role in videography. First, make sure the lighting is sufficient, if possible. Camcorders perform best in well-lit scenes. While it's not always possible, if you can, move to an area with better lighting or use a video light.

Second, pay attention to the quality and angle of the light. The lighting an hour before sunset, for example, is a nice soft light with an orange glow, where the sunshine at noon is harsh and harder to work with. Watch where the light is in relation to what you are shooting too—if the light is behind the subject, you'll end up with a silhouette. Lighting that is coming in from the side often works well.

Learn composition from the photographers.

Lighting isn't the only trick you can borrow from photography. The composition techniques used in still images work well for video too. Instead of centering the subject, use the rule of thirds—imagine the frame is divided into three sections and place the subject instead on one of those dividing lines. If your subject is moving, leave extra space in the direction they are headed in.

Don't forget sound.

Sound is a big part of videography—don't become so focused on the picture that you forget about the audio. While it can be difficult to capture good sound from a basic video camera, there are a few things you can do. First, keep the subject close to the camera. Mics on basic camcorders pick up sound that is close the best, so when sound is essential to the shot, move closer instead of using the zoom.

If you still aren't picking up good sound, an external mic can help. Just be sure your camcorder has the proper ports to use a mic with.

Avoid digital zoom.

Zoom can make a big difference in your shots—but digital zoom will instead degrade your shots. Optical zoom is great, but digital zoom just crops the footage, resulting in a closer shot but also a lower quality. Most cameras allow you to turn digital zoom off in the menu, so that you only use your camera's optical zoom.

Change your perspective.

When you shoot, you probably just keep the camera at eye level, right? A change in perspective can make a big difference. If you are capturing video of young kids, for example, kneel so you are at their eye level. The change in perspective offers a more personal feel than looking down on them.

Use both wide and close shots.

Vary your composition—both wide and close shots have their advantages. Wide shots will show more of the background, while close-ups deliver more detail. Combine these different compositions using a video editor, however, because zooming in and out frequently leads to shaky footage.

While a good camcorder makes a big difference in home videos, so can the right know-how. Learning a few basic videography tips will help make those memories much more vivid.

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