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A few days ago, someone posted a video on my Facebook wall, titled, “This Is Amazing.” The opening still was clearly of a large body of water, taken by someone in a boat. The other instruction was, “Wait for it.” I knew what that meant. I was in for some long footage of a boring water scene until finally, the “amazing” thing would occur.

The video was almost four minutes long, so I had to decide if I wanted to wait such a long time to be amazed, and the answer was “no.”

I’ll never know what the amazing thing was, but I’m not losing sleep over it. If this has been your experience, and you don’t ever want to be responsible for posting three or four minutes of nothing, then you will want to know how to shoot cool videos that everyone will want to watch.


Vacation Videos

We all want to capture our vacations — for ourselves and for our friends and family, and all people you know on Facebook. Unfortunately, if you decide to post or email videos that have endless water, two minutes of a mountain range, four minutes of your teenage son water-skiing, and another two to three minutes of walking through a jungle path showing the trees and other foliage, the final product is meaningless to your viewers and will be even more meaningless to you in years to come.

Who wants to sit through that? So here are some tips for shooting very cool footage while you are vacationing.


Record People — Not Scenery, Buildings, Churches, and Such

The Washington Monument is certainly a part of our nation’s heritage. But, everyone has already seen it — by way of professional photography, in movies they have watched, and in news broadcasts. So, take a very short shot of your kids walking up to it, stop, take a short shot getting into the elevator, stop, take another short shot of everyone at the top on the observation deck. Done and done. Scenery without people is really boring, no matter how beautiful you think it might be. Scenery as the background for family members commenting on it is not boring, but make it short, please!


Shoot Only Short, Little Episodes

Start the video when the action starts, stop the video if the action is prolonged and pretty much the same thing, and stop the video again when the action ends. For example, your teenage son Tim is going to water ski and he’s pretty good — even on just one ski. So, record Tim getting up, getting outside of the wake and dropping one of his skis. You don’t need 10 minutes of Tim skiing.


Do Some Interviewing

Of course, you can interview your family members regarding what they are thinking about or something they are seeing or doing. But how about also interviewing a fellow traveler? How about interviewing the shopkeeper where you purchased that handcrafted souvenir? If you are in a foreign country and have a local guide, how about a minute interviewing him or her?


Turn Your Vacation Into a Story

You’re going on an adventure; maybe to Paris (everyone is going to Paris these days, no?). Start with a shot of your airline tickets and passports. Take another shot boarding the plane; take another quick shoot of arriving at the Paris airport; shoot each other at all the places you visit; strike silly poses in front of the Eiffel Tower; find a mime on the street and shoot a family member mimicking him.


Make the entire vacation a great tale that everyone will enjoy watching, as if you were filming a movie on location. If you really just want a picture of Arc de Triumph or the Eiffel Tower, maybe at sunset, take a still shot that you can print out after you get home. My bet is you’ll look at the video far more often than you will pull up that photo album.

Be Discriminating

Think about the amount of video you might shoot on a 10-day vacation. At just two minutes a day, that is 20 minutes, and you know you will shoot more than two minutes a day! Film only those things that will be most meaningful and memorable years from now. Remember, you will be emailing this or posting it on Facebook. That’s a lot of sitting and watching for people who have other things to do.


Post and Email in Small Chunks

What a great way to keep everyone informed on a daily basis. Take two to three minutes of each day and post it that night. Your friend and family will so appreciate this. They can watch a small amount each day and still get the full “picture” of what you are seeing and doing by the end of the trip.


Edit When You Get Home

Download everything to your PC and use an editing tool — they are so easy these days. Polish your video up before you have grandma over to view it. She’ll appreciate the shortened version too!


Non-Vacation Videos

There are lots of other times for videos — personally and professionally, and on many occasions, you will just have you iPhone to do this. Not a problem. You can get great videos with this little device, if your follow some simple tips.


Don’t Shoot Your Video Vertically

Shoot it horizontally so that you can get a much wider view. (Unless, of course, there a tall and skinny subjects that you need to film). But especially don’t switch back and forth between vertical and horizontal; it looks bad and some sites will only post videos horizontally, no matter which direction you shot it in.


Get a Tripod

Let’s say you are trying to film a single scene. Maybe you want a video of your office team at work on a project to post on your site, on social media, or to include in a blog post. You understand the inevitable “wobbliness” that is sure to happen, but you really can’t afford to hire a professional. Can you afford $20? You can get a tripod for that amount — no more shakiness. (Someone had a great idea with this iPhone tripod).


Don’t Use the Zoom Feature on Your iPhone

The more you zoom, the fuzzier and grainier your video gets. Move in closer, even if you have to “scan” rather than get everyone. The idea is to get footage that is as clear as possible.


If you really want wider shots of everyone, you can get a clip-on lens adapter. They’re not that expensive, and, if you plan to take a lot of video for business purposes (and you should), it’s a great little investment.

Get Extra Mics

Especially if you will be recording someone for a long time, or someone who is moving around. And make sure to get them close to any subjects who will be talking. Interviewing subjects as they are busy doing something adds a lot of human interest to your video.


Use Your iPhone’s Slow Motion Feature Sparingly

If you are filming a kid at a basketball game and you want to get a very cool video of him or her taking a swing, turn the slow motion on as he or she is starting to swing. Moving between regular speed and slow motion at athletic events can provide just a great effect.


Always Edit Your Video on Your Computer

Download the footage, and use a free editing tool such as iMovie. It’s easy to use, and your editing will look really professional.


Great video is a matter of the subjects you choose to film and the techniques and tools that are available today to create truly clear, entertaining, and professional looking footage. Isn’t technology wonderful?

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