It seems like everyone is shooting videos for YouTube this days. About their kids, trips, cats, even more cats, makeup, hair and all other sort of tutorials and of course, cats again. Some people make a very decent living out of it, in fact. EvanTubeHD - a 7 year old kid reviewing toys and video games is said to earn around $134,000-$1.32 million (and why there was no YouTube back in the days when I was 7?!).

Anyways, I probably won’t follow the new American dream of quitting your job to become famous on YouTube... but I recently realized making cool-looking videos isn’t as easy as it seems and it’s pretty time-consuming as well.

Whether you need video material for your business website, personal project or just to impress your friends with cool footage from your last epic trip, here are some simple, yet effective tips to get started.

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1. Don’t assume you’ll shoot a great video at the first attempt. Just don’t. You probably would mess up. If you have a deadline for it tomorrow (your Mom and Pop’s anniversary), start working on the video at least a few days in advance.

2. Don’t overplay with zoom. It will make your videos look even more amateurish and might make someone dizzy if they watch it till the end. If you don’t have a really cool camera, you should probably avoid digital zooming in the first place as it might give you a close-up of dancing pixels.

3. Frame your shots well, meaning your goal isn’t just to place your subject straight in the frame, but find a more interesting and visually appealing angle. Try using the rule of thirds: imagine there are two vertical and two horizontal lines dividing your viewfinder into thirds. (Think of a slightly elongated tic-tac-toe board). This rule suggests that the main subject you shoot should fall on one of the points where these imaginary lines intersect. The resulting image would look way more appealing and professional, rather than just placing the person at the crossroads of those lines.

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Also, when shooting people, eyes should be the main focal point. The person’s eyes should fall on one of the uppermost imaginary intersections.

4. Write a short script. Scripts are often overlooked, but believe me it would save you a lot of time once you start filming. No need to stop and start thinking about what else did you plan to shoot and what’s still missing.

5. Backlighting is a huge no-no. Unless you are a pro with a cool camera, you won’t be able to shoot it the right way and would get a picture with dark, unrecognizable faces.

6. Audio issues.

  • If you want crispy-clean sound, you’ll need to get a tie clip microphone. (under $20 on Amazon) as your camera/smartphone/laptop microphones would pick up a lot of background noise.
  • If you don’t plan on talking in the video, you can mute down the background noise, grab some bgm music from a royalty free music library.

7. Shoot close-ups. The less visual distractions there are in the frame, the better it would look.

8. Try using cutaway shots. You’ve seen that in movies a dozen of times. A cutaway is when the camera suddenly switches to something else as a form of interruption of a continuously filmed action. You can view it in action here. Just make sure, the action you cut in is relevant to what you’ve been filming prior to that.

9. Keep it short. Seriously, no one wants to watch you climbing that cliff for 7 minutes. Keep your videos short and sweet.

If you are shooting a video with the sole purpose of posting it on Instagram, keep it just to 20-30 sec. That could be done by speeding it up x2(4) times.

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10. That’s when you’ll actually need time to edit your videos. Lifehacker has a great list of video editors (free and paid). And here are some great apps with all sort of filter effects to edit mobile videos.

11. Not fully satisfied? Think your video still sucks? Just add a cat! A cat in the frame will fix everything. Ask folks from cats.kinja.com to rent you one.