Filmmaking Tips for Beginners
It is simple to make videos. Anyone and everyone with a smartphone can make a quick film anytime and anyplace.
But, creating great videos, on the other hand, necessitates creativity, practice, and a basic understanding of filmmaking.
If you want to have fun making videos that inspire others and communicate a visual message that people will notice, you must work on improving your skillset.
Here are my top ten filmmaking tips for improving your filmmaking abilities so that your videos stand out.
Top 10 Best Filmmaking Tips for Beginners
Understand Your Camera
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – This is the first filmmaking tip I’m going to give you because it’s the most important place to start.
Your camera will be the tool you use to tell your story, but it is only that. Your camera is simply an extension of your creative ideas.
How will you ever capture videos the way you want to if you don’t know how to translate those stories from your head to your camera?
I’m telling you, your videos will be completely transformed once you learn how to use your camera’s functions and how to control the proper settings for each and every situation.
Do you want to film your subject against a super soft, blurry background, with the subject in sharp focus in the foreground? This is only possible if your camera’s aperture setting is set as wide as it can go.
But how can you achieve that desired effect if you don’t know anything about aperture or how to change it?
Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all work together to achieve the perfect balance in every shot. Do you understand what each of these means? What happens when you change one versus the other? If you answered no to these questions, this is a great place to start.
Here’s another real-life scenario in which this decision is critical.
Or perhaps you’re having trouble keeping a moving subject in focus as it moves across the frame in your videos? Did you know that closing your aperture can help you keep a larger portion of your frame in focus?
Depending on how committed you are, this step could take years or just a few weeks.
The technical camera terms can be intimidating at first, but trust me when I say it’s not that difficult once you get some practice.
Before moving on in your filmmaking endeavors, I recommend that you master the following concepts.
- Shutter Speed
- White Balance
- Frame Rates
Shoot What You Enjoy
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – My second piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers is to take pride in the work they produce. Don’t shoot it if it doesn’t make you happy.
Aside: This is intended for aspiring filmmakers who want to hone their craft. I completely understand that not every job will bring you joy if you are a professional filmmaker. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ahead with it. I’m referring specifically to those who are simply practicing to improve their skill set.
Shoot concerts and music videos if you enjoy music. Shoot your friends at the skatepark if you enjoy skateboarding. If you enjoy traveling, keep track of all the amazing trips you take. Shoot your kids or friends in real life if you enjoy lifestyle photography.
You get the picture.
You’re going to spend a lot of time and energy learning and growing in your craft, so why not have fun while you’re at it? Furthermore, the last thing you want to do is exhaust yourself by doing something that feels like work.
The drive you have to capture the things you care about cannot be faked. When you’re having fun, your work will shine the brightest, and all of your practice will come naturally.
How can you expect anyone else to love what you’re doing if you don’t?
Consider Yourself as an Editor
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – This is a phrase I heard early in my filmmaking career that has stuck with me.
As a hobbyist filmmaker, you are frequently the producer, director, cinematographer, and editor all in one.
That is, the final video is your idea, and you execute every detail of it. However, in the past, each of those roles was filled by a different person, sometimes by a small group of people.
Even in my own career, it was common for a different person to shoot the footage and then pass it on to an editor for post-production.
If you’ve ever edited a video in this manner, you know how frustrating it can be to sort through the footage you’ve been given and not find everything you need to complete the story.
The director of photography did not provide you with an opening shot. The director of photography did not provide you with enough angles to create a seamless scene. The director of photography did not provide you with a transition shot to allow you to move naturally from one location to another. The list goes on and on.
This phrase is meant to emphasize that in order to be a great filmmaker, you must think like an editor.
Make a list of all the shots you believe an editor might require and how they might be used. This will get your mind working on the set so you don’t miss any shots you’ll need in post-production.
Here are a few examples:
- Film a few more beats than you think you’ll need. It’s never a bad idea to have an extra second or two of footage on hand. Wait a second or two after you’ve nailed a shot before stopping recording. This gives your editor more room to edit in a fade or transition from one shot to the next.
- Always capture establishing shots. These are the shots that transport the audience from one location or scene to the next. Without them, the film will feel jarring and disjointed. Take additional photos at each location that provide context for where you are. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – just a wide shot of the exterior structure or a sign outside a building indicating where the scene is taking place.
- Get the coverage you need and take as many shots as you think you’ll need. When in doubt, take another shot. It is always preferable to have more than you require. Give your editor a choice of which shot is best, rather than just one.
- Cover all of the bases. You should give your editor several options, especially if your film contains dialogue. To transition from one shot to the next, your editor must use a different angle; otherwise, jump cuts will result.
Create Monthly Goals
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – Not only should you shoot what you enjoy, but you should also avoid boredom or becoming stuck in a creative rut.
Practice, practice, practice is a great way to constantly improve your skillset. However, you do not want to burn out or feel as if your hobby has turned into a job.
But, how do you keep things interesting and entertaining?
I recommend enlisting the help of a few friends to participate in a monthly creative challenge. Your friends don’t even have to be filmmakers; they can be photographers, graphic artists, writers, or anything else creative.
Take out a calendar and brainstorm 12 topics for your challenges. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but you should really make whatever sounds the most appealing to you.
- New Beginnings
- Blue as a Color
- A Moving World
- Genuine Happiness
- I’m thankful for something old and something new.
- Totally Natural Symmetry and Patterns
Set a goal for yourself at the start of each month to complete one project centered on the month’s theme. You can choose to be as abstract or literal as you want. The goal is to have fun while exercising your creative muscles.
This can be done entirely on your own, but I find it more enjoyable to share the journey with friends.
Make Use of Different Camera Angles
When I look at the work of filmmakers I admire, I notice that their camera angles are constantly pushing creative boundaries. This is one of the simplest ways to make your videos stand out.
Put some thought into it. Spend ten seconds moving your body around to see which angle looks best.
Here are a few quick suggestions to get you started.
Shoot from overhead
To shoot directly above your subject, raise your arms or stand on a stool or chair. This is a great idea for an establishing shot because it provides your viewer with a lot of context for what’s going on in the scene.
Shoot from a low angle
Another simple but effective way to add variety to your films is to get down on the ground and shoot from a low angle. Lay down on your stomach, place your camera on the ground, and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at how much this changes the feel of your shot.
It is excellent for making your subject or scene appear and feel epic. Because the viewer’s eyes have nowhere else to look but up and ahead, it can also give the impression that you are on a journey.
Utilize Leading Lines
Take note of the other elements in your frame. Stairs, walls, columns, and bookshelves are all commonplace objects that can be used to frame your shot.
Determine where the lines and edges of these objects fall within your frame, and then direct your shot so that these ‘lines’ point toward your desired subject. These lines ‘direct’ the viewer’s attention to the intended point of interest.
Shoot Through Other Objects
It could be through a tree’s leaves, a stair railing, or something else. It adds bokeh and out-of-focus elements to your photo, giving it more perspective and depth.
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Enhance Natural Lighting
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – This is arguably the most important factor in improving the quality of your videos, aside from learning how to operate your camera.
Many people are intimidated by video lighting, but there is no need to be. Just like anything else, it takes practice and observation.
The pleasure is that once you comprehend it, you will be unstoppable. I used to be concerned about this as well. I’d scout out my locations ahead of time to check the lighting and angles to make sure they’d work.
After a while of shooting, I’ve gained the confidence to know exactly how the light will look through my camera before I even turn it on. This isn’t a strange skill; you can easily develop the same one. It just takes a little attention to detail and a lot of practice.
Here are some filmmaking tips & pointers on how to make the most of natural lighting in your films.
- Timing is crucial. Shoot during golden hour. The exact hour varies depending on where you live and the season. In general, shoot during the hours immediately following sunrise and before sunset. During this time, the sun is at its most elongated and will provide you with the softest, most indirect lighting.
- Shoot near a window. Windows are large lightboxes with naturally diffused light. They are also an excellent source of natural light. So place your subject right next to the window and observe how the soft light reflects off them. If the sun is shining directly in the window, you may need to wait until the sun moves in a different direction and provides you with indirect sunlight later in the day.
- Backlighting. If you’ve never heard the term, it refers to shooting directly into the sun with your subject standing in front of it, blocking some of the light. It works best when the sun is low in the sky (golden hour). NOTE: If your subject’s shadows are long, it’s a good time for backlighting. It takes practice, but once you’ve mastered this technique, you’ll be able to achieve some really dynamic lighting in your videos, complete with lens flares and golden light.
Allow Others to Inspire You
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – A filmmaking tip I always suggest is if you can set aside 10 minutes a day to watch a video or two from a filmmaker you admire, your work will improve without you having to put in much more effort.
Just by seeing how others have done it, you’ll start to see new ideas and naturally formulate more creative ways to tell stories. You’ll come up with new ways to get shots and push the envelope.
You’ll be inspired to improve your own work simply by seeing what’s possible.
Take it a step further and start noting specific techniques that you see other artists using. Then, go ahead and research those specific techniques so that you can put them into practice as well.
Your own work will improve by leaps and bounds step by step.
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – The next filmmaking tip is you will naturally improve when your work is on display. It’s just human nature.
We want to impress others with our craft without even thinking about it. There’s no need for you to feel bad about it. Of course, it should not dominate your creative decisions, but you can use this impulse to your advantage if it becomes a motivator to constantly improve your skills.
Second, if you showcase your work with other creative people, you will most likely become part of a community that will support you and helps you improve your filmmaking skills through their feedback.
Wanting to share your work is an excellent way to hold yourself and others accountable.
It’s a great way to document your progress if you share it on social media. It’s incredible to look back a year later and see how far you’ve come.
Enroll in a Filmmaking Class or Course
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – This filmmaking tip is something I want to share because it has helped me to improve as a filmmaker, and that is always learning.
Just taking a few online photography and filmmaking courses was one of the best things I ever did for my own work. Not only will you feel committed (because you’ve likely invested some of your hard-earned money), but you’ll also have the steps outlined for you so there’s no guesswork. You’ll know exactly where to begin, how to proceed, and what the end result will be.
If you’ve ever got stressed by the amount of information you want to learn but don’t know where to begin, a course may be the perfect solution for you.
In my case, I saw that a few filmmakers I admired had some online courses, so I enrolled. I was interested in some of these artists’ materials because I had followed them and wanted to learn how to do what they were doing.
My work and style expanded by a factor of ten the year I decided to take those classes. Not only that, but as my confidence in my ability to produce work grew, so did my confidence in directing during shoots.
Learning from other professionals can be extremely beneficial, so look for filmmakers and artists you admire and invest in a course or two.
If you’re interested, click here for my top recommendation for online filmmaking classes.
Don't Stop Making Films
Filmmaking Tips for Beginners – You’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this list, which tells me you’re serious about becoming a better filmmaker.
Now that I’ve gone on and on about all the things you can do to keep learning and growing, I’m going to tell you something that goes against all of that advice.
Don’t be concerned about your knowledge. Don’t be concerned about doing anything incorrectly. Have fun and don’t stop creating.
I say it again. Don’t stop making films!
I moved to a new state, started a family, and started my own business a few years ago, after working full-time at a production studio where I made 5-10 short videos every few weeks. Life was hectic, and so was I.
I didn’t stop shooting videos entirely, but I did slow down. A great deal.
Despite the fact that my knowledge did not fade, I was out of practice. I ceased experimenting. I stopped creating like I used to, and it honestly hurt my work.
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Filmmaking Tips For Beginners – So, above all knowledge, all facts about cameras, techniques, and skills to learn, don’t forget to get out there and practice it yourself. Shoot, film, edit, and put it all together. Set realistic goals for yourself, even if you’re busy, and get out there and do it.
It’s now your turn.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to become a better filmmaker. What advice would you give to the rest of us? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
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About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.