Beginners' guide to shooting good videos: from 0 to proficient

If you are a beginner or someone who has used a camera for a while but wants to master the skill quickly, this is for you.

You have probably seen other videos so some of the content might be repeated but, what makes thiscontent different is that everything will fit together so that it makes sense. 


Once it makes sense, you will remember.

Shooting good videos is like chess:

  • It is quite easy to learn the rules, and then, you can learn to ignore these rules in order to be creative. 


Why not start by ignoring rules? 

  • Your pictures or video will not look good and you will not know what to do about it.  Learning the rules helps you fix things.

1st step:

  • use any camera, if you use a phone, use pro mode.

  • Get to grips with the different modes:

    • Program (the camera does the work for you, like a phone would)

    • Aperture Priority (where the camera will select a shutter speed for you),

    • Shutter Priority (where the camera will select an aperture for you),

    • Manual (where you select both the aperture and shutter speed).

2nd step: 

  • Find out the speed at which you are shooting your video.

    • Choose anything between 23 and 30 fps. 

    • If you are a gamer you will go for 60 fps or above, don't. 

      • Stay at 30 fps or below (It is all to do with how movement looks on film.  Stick with me for now).

3rd step:

  • Time to set the speed at which each frame is shot.   This is important as it decides the look of your video by setting the amount of blur for movements.

    • If you shoot at 24 frames per second, double it to a speed of 48th of a second.  It will be 50th of a second for most cameras. 

    • Shooting 30 frames per second?  Your speed needs to be 60th of a second.  60?  Stay below 30 for now.

4th step: 

  • Now you can decide where to focus.

    • You do that by adjusting the aperture of your camera (the size of the hole that lets in light in your lens).  

    • The aperture decides how much light you want in. 

      • If you go for a large aperture (a small number like 1.2,2.8) your focus  (or depth of field) will be very narrow, only on the thing you focus on. 

      • If you use a small aperture (a large number like 16),  then everything is in focus. 

Apertures ( also called f stops) are fractions. 16 means 1/16. so 16 in this case is smaller than 2 (as 1/16 is smaller than 1/2).

Now we are cooking:

  • Once you master the first 4 steps, you will find limitations with your aperture.

  • Once you have the film rate and speed sorted, there is only one aperture that works properly. 

  • If you want to change this aperture, you need to make the camera more sensitive to light. 


Time to get to grips with ISO. 

  • Most cameras shoot at 100 or 200 ISO. 

  • Boost the ISO and suddenly your camera is more sensitive to light so you can start to mess with the aperture more.  

  • Is there a catch? 

    • Yes. 

      • The higher your ISO, the lower the quality of the video.  It becomes more grainy. 

      • Above ISO 600, different cameras behave very differently.  

      • Experiment.

      • Lowest possible ISO is always best

      • Experiment

Now let's build our shot:

If you have a zoom, you can start to think about your shot,  First, concentrate on getting crisp static shots (use a tripod if your shots are blurry).   Introduce movement if you want but keep the movement slight.  Better shoot static.  You will be able to introduce slight movement when you edit after...

5th step:

Now is the time to shoot, repeat, check and shoot again.

6th step:

Once you get used to manipulating the depth of field and the ISO, let's talk about your white balance.  Your camera will automatically recognise the white colour and other colours will be built from there (kind of).  But different lightning scenes affect the white balance.  Find the white balance setting and play with it.  Once you understand it, white balance is actually the first thing you should worry about when shooting a video.

7th step:

Now is time to shoot, repeat and shoot again.

8th step:

Forget about composition, learn to shoot crisp videos first.  When you can do that... it is time to compose.

If your videos are not crisp, forget composition for now.

Time to practise and repeat until your shots are crisp.

9th step:

Now is the time to learn to compose. 

  • When you face a scene, you will be attracted by different components. 

  • Composition is about including all these components into one shot.

10th step:

Now is time to shoot and practice everything.  By now you will start to develop your style and you might be hampered by your camera.  Is it time to buy new kit?  It is always nice to buy a new camera but quality is about lenses.  If you want a shallow depth of field, you will need a f1.2 or f1.8 lens.  Buty an amazing camera with a f4 lens and you are still in for a kicking for close up with a nice blurry background (Bokeh, but this is another course...) like Hollywood movies.  So either upgrade your lens or upgrade to a new camera with a new lens...  This will have an impact on the cost.

PS: There is a work around for bokeh with a lens that does not do f1.8 or similar...Shoot from a distance with a zoom!

If you are keen on sports or animals, you will want efficient autofocus...

Unless budget is not a problem, cover the first ten steps with your first camera so that you learn what is the best camera and lens for yourself.   You can do these steps very quickly!  Just learn from others' mistakes and do them all one by one!

Not all cameras are the same and none do everything well.  It is all about compromise and your genius will be able to manage this compromise.

One more note, if you are really growing, simplify your life by buying a prime lens (not a zoom lens) as pound for pound they deliver better results than zoom lenses.  Make sure it is a fast lens (f1.8 or thereabout) and use your feet if you need to get closer.  Do not use either extreme of the f stops and your shots will be crisper and of better quality.

Now is the time to go out, practice, repeat and repeat and repeat!  Get your work out on Instagram and get feedback.

Listen to feedback but, more importantly, try to shoot what you set out to shoot.  If you shoot what you meant and others do not like it, do not worry.  You are on a pathway, just follow it and do not compare your initial steps with people who have crafted their work over years... on a different pathway!