Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2017. It was rewritten and expanded in 2020 to reflect current best practices, buyer behavior, and technology.
Have you ever been watching a video, in desperate need of the information it promises to give you, but just can’t get over how badly it was produced?
I know I can’t be the only one who’s stopped watching a video because of distractingly bad audio or the poorly lit people, I couldn’t even see.
There have actually been times where I could only find one video on the exact thing I needed, and I couldn’t get through it. I just decided not to know the thing.
That’s why you need to take these steps to make sure your videos are the best quality they can be, especially if you’re still learning video production.
Why does video production quality matter?
Verizon Digital Media services did a survey and found that more than 85% of people expect TV-like quality experience for every video they see on the internet. Furthermore, “Some 25% of respondents said that they have left a video due to poor quality at least 50% of the times in the past month.”
As we get more accustomed to video being omnipresent, we expect it to all have the same level of production quality everywhere.
If you don’t meet expectations, you won’t be viewed as credible or worth listening to.
Your video production; the sound, editing, and film quality are like the user interface (UI) of your website. They need to aid your message and create a positive user (or viewer) experience in order to truly be listened to. If they don’t, people will just leave or stop watching, and you’ll lose out of a possible conversion.
Here are my favorite tips for making your videos look as professional as possible.
Tips for more professional video content
Pre-production, which is anything you do before you shoot, is the most underrated part of the process. Making sure you’re prepared before the camera rolls will ensure the smoothest possible shoot with the least amount of correcting for errors afterward.
1. Write a script
You might be the most comfortable on camera, but it’s a good idea to have a script, especially if you need to run the content past another department.
There have been situations where we shoot a whole video only to discover it’s not quite what was needed in terms of messaging. Writing and getting the script approved by the right people beforehand will not only eliminate the need for reshoots but also ensure your videos are well-prepared.
2. Schedule ample time for your shoot
You need to schedule every shoot in advance. Especially if you have talent that is in high-demand, you want to make sure you have enough time to get through what you need to, and then some.
You should also schedule a time when you know your location will be quiet, and you can shoot uninterrupted.
3. Storyboard your shoot
Storyboarding is either writing out or more commonly drawing thumbnails of what each set up will look like, in the sequence you want them to appear.
You don’t necessarily need to do this if you’re just shooting a talking head video, for example. but if you have special graphics, b-roll, a moving camera, or multiple setups, I’d recommend it.
Storyboards allow you to plan out your visuals, and all on-screen elements, even graphics.
So make sure you account for everything, especially if they need to be on screen next to the person (like they’re meant to be pointing at something). You don’t want the framing to prevent what you planned and then come off as unprofessional.
4. Know your audience
Know the platform you’re shooting for and make sure everything you do or say aligns with it. For example. – don’t say to like and subscribe if it’s just going on a landing page.
Know why you’re shooting the video and who it’s for so you can make it the best possible. This links back into the scripting tip. You want your videos to have everything the viewer needs to understand the topic. Nothing more or less.
5. Shoot stable footage
Stable footage (footage shot on something like a tripod, or very steady hands) is a big one for me. It can be super distracting if you can’t focus on the person or the object on screen because it feels like a chase scene from The Hunger Games.
If you don’t have a tripod, try to keep your arms close to your body. But honestly, it’s worth it to invest in a tripod, even a cheap one.
6. Make sure your subject is well-lit
If you’re just starting out and have no budget, you can find pretty bright lights at a home improvement store that have clamps to attach to any kind of stand. Just bounce the light off the white ceiling to illuminate the room evenly and softly.
But if you have a budget, invest in a light kit like this.
Light your subjects using a three-point setup:
This lighting setup is the basic industry standard. You’re able to light the front of your subject evenly with the key light and the fill light while separating them from the background with the backlight. This gives your subject dimension and makes them look the best they can.
Just set a light on your subject from the front and one from the back. If you only have two lights, favor the front.
7. Utilize depth of field
Depth of field is when some things in your video are blurry, normally, the background. This adds a more refined look to your finished product as it’s often seen in big-budget movies and TV.
For example, this photo of my dog, Scully, has a shallow depth of field:
You can see how the background is blurry, making the shot look more professional.
This, on the other hand, has no depth to it, and looks amateurish:
You can do this on an iPhone by tapping and holding while it locks autofocus, but you can also do this on a higher-end camera by adjusting the focus and large aperture.
8. Invest in separate audio equipment
Decent audio is a must to get professional quality videos. Your visuals are important of course, but if your audience can’t clearly hear what you’re saying, the video is useless.
If you have a loud air conditioner, or phones ringing in the background, it can distract from the information you’re providing.
If you’re using your phone, start with a mic attached to your phone and place the phone close to you.
If you’re working on a DSLR, you can get a mic that plugs right into your camera, or you can have an external device (which is what I would recommend). External sound recording is the industry standard in video production as they capture the purest, most high-quality audio.
9. Reduce background noise
Nothing is more distracting in real life than when a phone goes off in the middle of a presentation, right? It’s the same with video. You want to reduce the amount of background noise in your video to keep your audience’s attention on the content.
There are easy ways to ensure your audio is as clean as possible. For one, silence all phones on set, so you’re sure you won’t be hearing any ringing. Even if you catch it and reshoot that section, it’s still time wasted.
Furthermore, ask people in the area to quiet down for a while, or choose a less populated area or time to shoot.
Something you might also want to consider is outside noises. Wait for ambulances and other sirens or airplanes. It might not seem that important, but it can make your videos seem mediocre if you hear external noises like that.
10. Get comfortable on camera
If you’re nervous or clearly uncomfortable on camera, people are less likely to take you seriously or trust you to give them the right information.
You can rehearse what you’ll say, prepare a script for a teleprompter, and dress to impress, just to name a few. Check out this video or read the article for some more tips.
Don’t aim to “fix in post” as the saying goes. Okay, I may have a bias as an editor of not wanting to be saddled with unfixable things, but it’s more than that.
You can’t be sure that you can actually fix everything in post-production. So if it is a two-minute job on set, it’s worth it. Be sure that you pay as much attention to the other phases of production.
That being said, not everything is perfect right out of the camera.
11. Correct your colors
You’ll want to make sure you color correct any shots that weren’t perfect. You want things to appear as natural as possible so they aren’t distracting or hard on the eyes.
For example, make sure white looks white, so you don’t have someone looking jaundiced.
This is too blue and makes the scene look cold:
But this is too yellow and makes it look too warm:
See how that can be a bit distracting?
You’ll also want to look out for exposure, or how bright the image is, along with saturation, or how colorful it is.
12. Add graphics
Graphics can do a wide range of things to make your videos look more professional.
For one, in general, they show that you’ve taken time and care to organize your video. Anyone can slap together a video on their phone, but it takes some attention to detail to add in graphics in an editing software.
Adding graphics on screen also help reinforce what you’re saying while an opening and closing logo graphic so people remember your brand.
13. Edit your audio
You took the time to record high-quality sound, now perfect it!
An easy one to do is to get rid of “ums” and “ahs.” Tongue clicks are a pet peeve of mine as well, and can be distracting to viewers.
Adding music to help carry the video can also be a great idea. It can add to the piece tonally. Especially if there’s an element of emotion in your video, music can really tie it together and make it a more inspirational experience. At the very least, it will add some spice to a talking head video, and make it easier to get through.
There are loads of websites you can pull from, but these are the ones I’d recommend.
Now, not everything will go perfectly every time you film and that’s okay. Learn by trial and error, and just do your best.
At the end of the day, it’s all about professionalism, just like any other aspect of your business. You always want to be putting your best foot forward. This counts double when you’re showing your representatives to the world. If they look and sound the best they can, you’ve taken a huge step towards advancing your relationship with your viewer.
In the end, your audience is coming for your content, not a Hollywood level movie. Be clear and concise with your content and you’ll kill the content game! But, if you need some more help, you can check out this course on The Visual Sale, or this course on Creating Sales and Marketing Videos.