How to Shoot Video and Avoid the Most Common Mistakes

cameraoperator_cartoon_klmckeeAre you thinking about making a video but are afraid of looking like an amateur? I get a lot of questions about shooting video, but most often about what equipment to buy. My response usually is that the equipment is not as important as knowing how to shoot and edit the film properly. If you make amateurish mistakes while filming or editing, it doesn’t matter if you used a $500 or a $5,000 camera. I know, because I’ve made a lot of those beginner mistakes.

When we adopt a new technique or purchase new equipment, we quickly discover that knowledge of what NOT to do is as important as learning what to do. When I worked for a government science agency, I wrote many SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) that were supposed to be followed by members of my research group. However, I found that in addition to writing a step-by-step description of how to conduct a procedure, I also needed to include a list of actions that should be avoided. The latter were typically things that an expert would have picked up through trial and error but that often were not mentioned in the standard instruction manual. I even discovered that I needed to write an SOP on how to use an SOP (those of you in government service will appreciate the irony in that).

I’ve previously posted some of the most common mistakes that beginners make in creating their first video, but they bear repeating. Below is my list of mistakes to avoid when making a video, with emphasis on the scientist as videographer. Below the list is an embeddable slideshow with additional information about each one.

1. Ignore Your Audience.

2. Have No Plan

3. Don’t Tell a Story

4. Use Bad Camera Moves

5. Overuse Zooming/Panning

6. Backlight Your Subject

7. Fail to Compose Your Shots Properly

8. Shoot Too Wide

9. Tell But Don’t Show

10. Drag It Out

11. Feature Talking Heads

12. Don’t Worry About The Audio

13. Have Speakers Introduce Themselves

14. Go Crazy With Special Effects

15. Make It Longer Than Necessary

16. Use Copyrighted Material Without Permission

And another embeddable slideshow in Prezi: