Video Tips | 4 Things To Check BEFORE You Hit Record

If you want to quickly improve your videos, be sure you check these 4 things BEFORE you hit record!

f you ‘re thinking about adding video to your content marketing strategy, you’re thinking smart. Video isn’t only the future, it’s the present! Anyone looking to expand their reach, encourage engagement or establish themselves as an authority should be using video. If you plan to your video content online, you’re on the right track, just take a look at these statistics:

  • By 2021, 82% of all consumer Internet traffic will be coming from videos. (Cisco)
  • 54% of consumers say that they want to see videos from brands they support. (Hubspot)
  • Youtube has over one billion users, which is almost one-third of the internet (Youtube)
  • One-third of online activity is spent watching video. (wordstream)

But, creating consistent video content is hard. It’s even more difficult when you’re starting from scratch, learning as you go and doing everything yourself!  In my experience as a videographer, there are a few tell-tell signs of a beginner. If you want to improve your videos quickly and easily, I’ve got a few video tips to share. These are all things that you need to do before you hit record. If you do these things you will see a vast improvement!

video tips, youtube tips, content creators

1 | Look For Your Light

If you’ve been here for awhile, I may sound like a broken record right now but i’m going to say it again! Photography and videography is the art of capturing light. If you do not have adequate light, you are starting off on a shaky foundation. Before you even take your camera out of the bag,  consider where you are filming and what the light situation is.

For most standard interview style videos, you’ll want to have even light across your face. If you’re just starting out you likely wont have video lights, no problem!  The next best thing is to film in front of a window. As long as you don’t have direct sunlight coming in, this should work out just fine!

PRO TIP: A common misconception is that if it’s cloudy outside there wont be enough light, but the truth is a cloudy day is perfect. The clouds act as your own diffuser to the sun, making the sunlight softer and perfect for filming!

If you get direct sunlight through your window this probably will not work. The sun will cast harsh shadows onto your face. In this case,  you can try making your own makeshift diffuser by hanging up a white sheet. Who doesn’t love a little  DIY?

Video tip number one and easily the first thing you should do before hitting record, is evaluate the lighting situation.

2 | Check Your Frame Rate/Shutter Speed

Once you have your set worked out, the next most important things are your camera settings. What you tell your camera to do will greatly affect the quality of your final product! So you’ll want to make sure that your frame rate and shutter speed are in agreement with each other.

RELATED: DSLR Video For Beginners (video)

I explain in detail the relationship between frame rate and shutter speed in this video, but for a quick overview here is the definition of frame rate and shutter speed:

Frame Rate: The frequency at which frames are displayed

Shutter Speed: The length of time your shutter is open

The general rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should be roughly double your frame rate. So if you are filming at 24fps you’ll want your shutter speed to be 50. If you choose 30fps you’ll want your shutter to be 60 and so on. Making sure these are set correctly is crucial to your video. If you set the shutter to high, any motion in the video is going to look choppy and unnatural. Set the shutter to low, and it will look fuzzy and unnatural. The “Goldilocks zone” of roughly double your frame rate is just right to give a nice, natural looking video.

Before you hit record, check to make sure your frame rate and shutter speed are happy!

3 | Check Your Aperture and ISO

Just like your shutter and frame rate, your aperture and ISO work together. I give a thorough explanation in this video, but for reference here are some brief definitions:

Aperture- A space in which light passes through a lens

ISO-Industry scale to measure sensitivity to light

In other words, aperture tells your camera how much light to let through the lens. ISO determines how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to that incoming light. Because they work together, your goal is to find a balance between them. This is where evaluating your lighting situation from video tip 1 really comes in handy.

The rule of thumb here, is to set your aperture and ISO as low as possible without making the image under exposed. You’ll need to play around with the settings and look at the image to determine what is best. A lot of beginners will set both fairly high to compensate for a low-lit setting, but doing this can make your final image suffer.

If you set your aperture low (making the image brighter) you are loosing depth of field. Depth of field refers to how much is “in focus” within your frame (more on focus in step 4).  Ideally, you want to have as much of the frame in focus as possible. The higher your aperture, the better.

PRO TIP: An aperture of 4.0 to 5.6 is a good place to start to make sure most of your frame is in focus.

If you raise your ISO too high, you are introducing distortion or “noise” into the image. The camera can’t create light that isn’t there. If the setting is lacking adequate light, and you raise your ISO to compensate for that, your video is going to have a grainy look to it that most of us find undesirable.

PRO TIP: You generally do not want to set your ISO higher than 2000 if you can help it. 

4 | Check Your Focus

Make sure your subject is in focus! Most DSLR cameras have a “digital zoom” button which will allow you to digitally zoom in to check your focus. I highly suggest using this feature, trying to do it otherwise is almost impossible.

PRO TIP: If you have time, take a couple seconds of video and check it on your computer.

Having your aperture set properly will really help you here. A lot of beginners rely on autofocus, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you are filming yourself this could create a small problem. A lot of cameras take a few seconds to adapt to a moving target, that inevitably means that there will be at least a few seconds of blurry footage before the camera gets itself together. If you’re moving around a lot, that could be a problem. My suggestion? Try not to move around a lot. Or, if you are doing a demonstration try to hold things as close to your body as possible, the part of the frame that’s already in focus. The tendency is to hold things close to the camera (I’ve seen a ton of youtubers do this) but then your camera has to adjust.

Either way, before you hit record, check your focus!

5 | Check Your White Balance

White balance is often forgotten about by beginners and it’s a crucial mistake. White balance tells your camera what is “white” within the frame so that it can adjust the other colors accordingly. It gives you a nice even colored image that makes sense. If your white balance is not set properly, your footage will look more “blue” or more “orange” then it’s supposed to. There are some things you can do to correct this in editing but not much. It’s always best to record the footage as close to correct as possible before you get to the editing stage.

Most people rely on custom white balance, and there isn’t anything wrong with that but in some circumstances it can fail you. I personally like to use the “kelvin” setting on my Canon 5d Mark III. That way I can dial in the exact number that looks best to me. Most DSLR cameras have this setting, but not all. If your camera has this setting, you will see a K icon in your white balance settings. When you select it a number will come up and you can then change it by moving the dial.

If you do not have kelvin settings on your camera, the next thing I would suggest is doing a custom white balance. This is where you take a white flat object, preferably a white poster board or something similar, and set your camera to that. The camera will prompt you to take a photo of it and then ask you if that’s what you want to set your white balance to, you will click yes and voila!

Don’t forget to set your white balance before you hit record! It will save you a lot of heartache during your editing stage.

Make Your Videos Shine

I hope you found value in this post as you work to build your video content! Now I want to turn it over to you.

What do you always check before you hit record? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in adding video to your content marketing strategy but are in need of guidance, drop me a line I’d be happy to consult with you.

Olivia J

Olivia J is a video producer, writer, and director specializing in corporate video, events, documentaries and film. To see some of her work visit