A while ago, wrote about my opinions on the DJI Osmo Action camera. In that article, I mentioned that I had bought the camera in order to vlog about my photography trips. The Osmo Action’s compact size and simplicity seemed to me to be the perfect combination for someone just getting onto vlogging.
I am sure there are quite a few of you that have YouTube channels and who have considered doing some vlog-style videos. However perhaps, like me, you are a little daunted and don’t know where to start. So today I am going to share my experiences creating my first vlog style videos.
The Equipment You Need
Any decent camera will do, indeed there are many professional YouTubers that vlog using DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. However, as a beginner there are many potential issues with this, the man one being the camera weight to arm strength ratio. Holding a heavy camera in front of you for several minutes can be hard work. It can also detract your mind from what you want to say.
I went for the DJI Osmo Action for this reason, but was it a good choice?
Action Cams For Vlogging?
Most action cameras are well suited to vlogging but with a couple of caveats.
- Firstly, they are super wide-angle. This is good in that it means you do not have to move your arm out at full extension. However if you are of more “portly”dimensions, you may not be too happy with the way you look on camera. A slightly less wide lens and a slightly longer arm extension might be a better option.
- The other caveat is action cameras are not so great for capturing B-Roll. B-Roll is the background shots that give a sense of location to your vlogs. Ideally you should have a mixture of wide, medium and close shots. These should combine to tell the visual story to the subject you are talking about. The fixed focal length lens and small sensor can make your B-Roll look a bit samey.
The Issue With Sound Recording
The other big thing that I learned is that the internal microphone of the DJI Osmo Action, whilst good enough for a quiet indoor environment, is pretty poor outside. There is a definite need to invest in a decent shotgun mike. That however also requires the addition of both an external adapter and a cage on which to attach the microphone, both additional expenses.
I found the sound quality outdoors to be very variable and this made editing a difficult process, getting the voice and music levels to a similar level. I would go as far as to say, I failed in this respect in my first vlogs.
Being A Vlogger
Vlogging is about putting down your thoughts and experiences to video. In between your camera pieces you have your aforementioned B-Roll, all underscored with a suitable soundtrack.
The hardest part is the camera shots. Many of us photographers are a little camera shy by nature. The key to talking to the camera is simply to imagine you are talking to a friend or peer about your photography.
Have a rough idea of what you want to say before you shoot, and mentally rehearse it a couple of times. When you come to shoot, don’t worry about pauses, or stopping to think. Try to capture everything you want to say in one take. If you are not happy with the first take, go back and re-do it. If you continually stop and start, you will find yourself getting frustrated and tongue twisted. Remember, no one is going to be Casey Neistat on their first vlog. Just be yourself, like in photography, your style will follow your experience!
The other visual component is the B-Roll. In a vlog about photography, this could include shots of you setting up the camera on the tripod and setting the exposure and focus. You also need some establishing shots of the scene you are shooting, mixed with some medium and closer shots. Try to shoot these from different angles if you can. If you have a decent microphone, you can also capture the sounds and allow them to bleed through in the edit. This creates a sense of place.
Telling The Story – The Edit
The final part of the vlogging jigsaw is the edit. Here you will put together all your camera shots, B-Roll, and mix them with a suitable soundtrack. I start my vlogs with a little montage of B-Roll set to music. I try to edit my vlogs in a chronological way, with the first footage I shot at the beginning of the video. If you use B-Roll taken at different times of the day, make sure that the footage matches. It can be quite jarring to go from a dull overcast morning shot to a bright sunny afternoon clip on one cut.
With the establishing montage completed, you can now drop in your camera vlog footage. You don’t have to keep the video on your face. For example, if you are talking about camera settings, you can cut away to a shot of you adjusting those settings, all the while with your voice underneath. This is done simply in the editing suite by placing the B-Roll clip above the main vlogging clip.
The music is also very important. Try to choose music that suits the story and location you are shooting. Be aware that you cannot use commercial music, this will be flagged for copyright. YouTube has a semi-decent music library if you are just starting out. However, I am using a stock music library, Epidemic Sounds. This costs around $10 a month and gives access to a much larger, better-curated selection of music, all of which is cleared for YouTube.
So what have I learned from my first experiences in vlogging? First, and foremost, have a good idea of what I want to say and what the vlog is about. My first vlogs are a little too mixed message, being about both the travel location and the photography I was shooting. I feel they should have contained a lot more photography.
Secondly, the quality of your voice recordings is vital. Again I have a lot to learn here, and probably some further equipment purchases, such as a shotgun mic. Third, despite a steep learning curve and a lot of rookie mistakes, I have really enjoyed vlogging. That learning curve is still very steep but with each vlog I make, I feel I am improving a little.
Vlogging can be strangely cathartic. I found it actually helped me think more about my photography despite the extra workload involved. Of course, vlogging does not have to be just about a specific photographic shoot, you can give your opinion on hot photography subjects, review camera equipment, or even just wax lyrical about your favorite photographer’s work. There is a world of vlogging subjects out there for us photographers. If you are a little reticent about shooting a vlog, I hope that this article has gone some way to put your mind at rest.