Hey, look – filming yourself is weird.
A year into starting my own channel and over 30,000 subscribers later, it’s still weird.
Sitting in your spare bedroom (garage/office/kitchen/garden – delete as appropriate) and talking to a camera lens feels very unnatural. You’ll find yourself becoming someone else. You’ll fumble for words. The meticulous planning you put into your script will be rendered pointless.
Trust me – those first few ‘to-camera’ pieces are damn hard. But stick with it, and your a-roll (as we’ll now refer to it) will be the one element that drives people to your channel and keeps them coming back for more.
These are my five simple steps for filming yourself on YouTube.
Step 1: Learn your gear
You can’t film yourself without the right gear – or knowing how to get the most out of it. So, let’s start here and refer to a couple of guides I’ve created which I think you’ll find useful:
- 3 Things You Need to Start a YouTube Channel
- 3 Simple Camera Settings That’ll Make Every YouTuber’s Life Easier
- How to Manually Focus a Vlog
Have a good read through the above advice and then head back here. This will ensure you have the gear you need (or, at least, a plan for obtaining it), and some basic knowledge of camera settings to make your life easier.
Step 2: Plan ahead
The YouTubers you love and whose videos you can’t wait to watch every time they’re uploaded don’t rely on happy accidents to make their content great.
They plan. Meticulously.
You’ll need to do the same. That means keeping a big roster of content ideas but, more importantly, planning what you’ll be saying for each one.
Some people like to work from scripts, while others prefer to have bullet points from which to draw inspiration for their a-roll. I sit in the latter camp. For each video, I simply bullet point the key things I want to talk about and divide them into logical chapters which tell a great story.
Never sit down to film your a-roll without a plan.
Step 3: Relax and be yourself
Your favourite YouTuber might be Peter McKinnon.
But you’re not Peter.
You’re you. So, be you.
In an odd way, this feels unnatural, too. When sat in front of that camera you’ll feel like you need to become someone else in order to be interesting. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time on YouTube so far, it’s that people will warm to aspects of your personality or presentation style that you didn’t even know existed.
Differentiation is a vital part of running a successful YouTube channel, and one of the best ways to find yours is to be yourself.
Because there’s no one like you.
Step 4: Pause for the edit
The magic happens in the edit. It’s where the real story is told.
This is great news because it means the pressure is off during your a-roll shoot. Your only job during that part of the process is to ensure you cover all the points you planned in step 2.
This means you can go over sections as many times as you need to, scrap stuff entirely, add bits in, and pause whenever it feels right to do so (or if you can’t remember what you need to say next).
Watch any of my videos, and you’ll spot numerous jump cuts during my a-roll (often accented by the frame zooming in or out slightly). This is to add some pace, but also removes the “umms”, “errs”, and instances where I’ve had to pause to think about what I need to say next.
It takes time, but as you shoot more videos, you’ll learn to pause for the edit, collect your thoughts and continue, because you’ll know that the uncomfortable silence will never be seen by anyone but you.
Step 5: Watch yourself
Hands-up: I watch my own YouTube videos.
Not all of them, admittedly, but I do try to rewatch my latest upload a few days after it has been published.
You’d be amazed by how quickly you forget what was in the video and the little editing techniques you used. This makes it a heap of fun to rewatch.
This has nothing to do with vanity, either (although, if you start to admire what you’re creating, please bask in the glory of that feeling). It’s all about iterating your approach to a-roll.
Make notes about how you come across. Which parts of the video feel uncomfortable? Where have you nailed ‘being yourself’? What didn’t you say that should have been said?
The more you watch yourself, the more you’ll improve.
I hope this helps you get past the initial fear of sitting in front of a camera.
I totally get it. I didn’t enjoy shooting my first few batches of a-roll. In fact, it made me wonder if I was doing the right thing; was I really cut out for this?
I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because something is clearly working. And it’ll work for you, too. Just follow the five steps above and remember to watch yourself as often as possible.
Soon, that lens will vanish and it’ll feel like the most natural thing in the world. Eventually.
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