Five Free Ways to Instantly Improve Your Videos

You know you need to tweak your video strategy....

...but creating videos is stressful.

There's editing, aspect ratio, music, image quality, graphics, timing...and don't forget the dreaded moment when you need to step in front of the camera....your hair doesn't always look that flat, right?

But never fear, because I'm outlining five low-effort ways you can instantly improve your videos.

These are tricks of the trade I've picked up in my career as a freelance video editor, and are among the most common recommendations I make if my clients are providing me with footage.

So sit back, take a breath, and get ready to feel a whole lot better.

1 - Lighting

Simply put, all cameras need adequate light to capture a crisp image. Whether you're shooting with your iPhone or a fancy full-frame, you need light.

People & objects generally look best when shot in bright, natural-looking light from a 45° angle.

Try shooting by a large window, either facing toward or beside it. Even if the interior light looks like it will be enough to the naked eye, it is almost always too dim. Avoid lighting yourself from behind and including the window in the frame as it may blow out your image.

No window available?

Two other options include going into the bathroom (yes, really) or outside.

Bathrooms are often the best-lit areas indoors. The plain white walls, reflective surfaces and mirror lights will usually provide a good substitute to natural light. Just be sure not to include the toilet in your shot 😉

While shooting outside can present some problems in regards to audio, it may sometimes be your only option. Depending on your brand, shooting in a natural setting our outside a building may even provide aesthetic appeal.

Be sure when you're shooting outside to choose a cloudy day or stay in the shade. There is no quicker way to look like the Wicked Witch of the West than harsh overhead lighting.

2 - Audio

While quite a bit of online video is watched without audio, one of the easiest ways to frustrate your audience is for them to click that 'sound on' button and be greeted with a garbled voice-over.

Before hitting record think through these things:

Room tone - take a moment to listen to the room you're recording in. Is there traffic noise, HVAC hum or people conversing in the other room? You'll be surprised at how easily these things are picked up by a microphone.

Echo - now, start talking. Does the room make your voice sound harsh or is there an echo? If so try to move to a place with carpeting, or even throw down some pillows/blankets. Hard surfaces that are parallel to each other produce the greatest echo.

Microphone proximity - how close is the mic to your mouth? The closer the mic, the less extraneous noise it will pick up. Just moving the mic a foot closer can make or break your audio. As a rule, try to have the mic as close as the shot allows, and ensure it's pointing toward your mouth and not your belly (where that afternoon coffee is rumbling in your gut).

Pop screen - you've taken care of everything else, but now the microphone is so close that you're popping your Ps. You can make a simple pop screen by stretching old pantyhose over a coat hanger and placing it between your mouth and the mic.

No microphone?

The good news is an iPhone is a great recording device all by itself.

This is the app I've been using for years to get voice-overs and field audio:

Just download the app and hit record. You can upload the files to a google doc, email them, or share them a million different ways.

3 - Background

Everything is great: your eyes are poppin' in the 45° light and the audio is crisp & clean. You're about ready to post....and notice your coworker in the background of your shot, definitely knocking out some early Christmas shopping during company time.

Not the most professional look for your viewers.

A lot of people don't think about the background of their shot before hitting 'record'. The result? Usually something embarrassing.

Before shooting, take a look into your frame. What does the scene behind your subject say about you & your organization? Does it line up with your company ethos?

If all else fails, try shooting in front of a wall (and please, unless you can get it to look great, don't shoot in front of a draped sheet).

After checking the scene itself, try to ensure the horizon lines (where the ceiling meets the wall, etc) are straight.

Here's an example from an engagement photo shoot I did for one of my BFFs to show the importance of horizon lines:

Literally the only thing different between these two photos is the horizon line. Notice how the bottom one just feels messier?

And to help with keeping horizon lines straight....

4 - Don't Shoot Handheld

There are a couple exceptions to this rule. If you are shooting a more casual 'slice-of-life' video for social, handheld may be great...

...but if you are trying to make video that comes across as cleaner & more professional, try to prop your phone against some books or invest in a tripod.

(if you're on a really tight budget or are practicing 'reuse, reduce, recycle' in your company, jump on FB marketplace or hit up your local goodwill)

Using a tripod will reduce motion blur, keep what you want in frame, and will keep your viewers from getting seasick.

5 - Think About Your Aspect Ratio

This is among the most frustrating aspects (see what I did there? 😉) to video, but is extremely important.

Imagine spending hours shooting the best square video for IGTV...only to remember when you go to upload that it only accepts 9:16 or 16:9....

Before filming, think through where this video will be posted and research best practices. You may even want to shoot multiple versions for different social channels.

A good rule of thumb is to keep the subject of the video within the center third of your frame. That way, even if you need to convert to a different ratio the action will be captured and you can fill the rest of the frame with a color matte that corresponds to your brand.

🌿 and one last thing....

Nobody is perfect when it comes to video, and the worst thing you can do for your brand is to not post anything because you're learning.

So even if the first couple videos are a mess, keep recording and posting. You will find your audience becoming more engaged...

...and you will get the hang of things and eventually feel like a pro.

Need help with something else?

Check out my article on my favorite music platforms for video creatives.

Connect with me professionally on LinkedIn to ask about your videos.

Learn how to develop a relationship with your next freelance hire.

Emma Parker

I'm a full-time video freelancer based in Central Michigan who loves sippin' coffee and watering my plants.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on:

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