For most people, vlogging is not something that comes naturally. Like any skill, it takes practice to improve. When someone is good at vlogging, they make it look easy.
When we watch the most popular YouTubers, the traits that make them successful are often invisible, because we are so consumed by their vlog. In this article, I’ll highlight 8 tips from the most accomplished vloggers on the Internet, so that you can vlog confidently and make the best YouTube videos.
1. Be Authentic
People opt to watch vlogs because they want to see something real.
Vlogging is about honesty, telling a story that is truthful and showing your personality. The most popular vloggers are likable because they don’t deceive the audience, they befriend them. Vloggers treat their audience with respect and that comes from being honest.
There will be an urge for you to mimic other vloggers, talking and acting the way they do, but savvy YouTube viewers will be able to see your faux personality pretty quickly.
Don’t focus on your image, but instead focus on your voice. What makes you different? That is how you will build a proper reputation.
2. Tell A Story
A vlog is not an assortment of footage haphazardly put together. A successful vlog must have a story: a conflict told with a beginning, middle, and end.
When you are casually telling a story to a friend, you are not thinking about the structure or the plot. You are focused on what happened and you want to communicate it as accurately as you can. While vlogging, you should approach it much the same way. Ad-libbing is fine. Stumbling is fine. Going back and repeating a part of the story is fine. By simply getting your story on camera, you now have all the pieces.
Once all the pieces of the story are captured — including your storytelling, b-roll, and other supportive footage — you must now cut out all the irrelevant or repetitive parts and edit it so it can be enjoyed as one cohesive tale.
Take a look at this example from Tiffany Alvord and notice how there are jump cuts both to skip information that can be assumed by the audience and add the tension to the story she’s telling.
The ending needs to be justified even if there is a twist. Everything before that had worked to build up the tension and when it concludes it needs to be logical. However, the ending cannot be something that the audience can guess. Remember those mystery movies where you know who the murderer is after the first few scenes? Yeah… those aren’t satisfying. A good story ends with a surprise, and with everything prior leading up to it.
The gold standard example of a surprising, yet inevitable end is Casey Neistat's bike lane video. Everything in the video is leading up to the end, but when you watch it the first time it’s unexpected, and that’s why it’s so good.
4. Be Inviting
A common trait of successful vloggers is that they are welcoming. They share their passion and encourage others to join in. Vlogging is about being a guide. It doesn’t matter if you are leading a tour of your home or showing your viewer an interesting new skill, it is important for you to approach the whole process with open arms.
Unlike being invited to a party, there is no obligation when it comes to YouTube. Your viewers can continue to live vicariously through you or they may be inspired by your experience and dare to try it themselves.
The opposite of inviting is rejecting, and when you are a vlogger, you don’t want to reject anyone from enjoying your videos.
5. Compose the Shot
Vlogging is a visual medium, and while the story is important, what is captured in the frame will play an impactful role in the video as well.
In a way, every vlogger needs to have a director’s eye for cinematography. I’m not saying that you need to be Wes Anderson to be an awesome vlogger, but knowing what is in the frame with you, the angle of the shot, the movement of the camera, and the quality of light will help the product look better.
The great thing about vlogging is that you will get a lot of practice framing shots, so I encourage you to learn the basics of video editing.
Check out this example from Rosanna Pansino, where she gives a tour of her bedroom.
The camera follows her fluidly throughout the video, but it is her eyes that guide both the camera moves and what she wants our attention to be directed to. Don’t hesitate to let the viewer know what you want them to see.
6. Be Prepared
While you can pick up a camera and start vlogging on the fly, being prepared enables you to produce the best video possible. Take a few minutes before you hit record simply to outline the key points you want to talk about and how the video will end, ensuring that after filming you haven’t forgotten a crucial part.
Additionally, knowing what to say makes you a better host for your vlog. Watch your favorite vlogger, I bet when they are speaking on camera, their speech is not littered with umms and ahhs…
Good preparation includes having all your gear ready for filming when you need it. There is nothing worse than being set to shoot and running out of battery or memory.
Take a look at Ashley Nichole in this vlog and notice that although she sounds spontaneous, it is also evident that she knows what she is going to talk about next.
7. Be Expressive
Remember those teachers that drone on and on, without adding any expression or passion to what they are lecturing? While they might have been perfectly suitable as teachers, they wouldn’t make good vloggers.
If you speak on camera in a monotone voice, you are not being expressive. Your facial and body language will match your lackluster performance. Even if you are talking about something you are excited about, if your demeanor doesn’t match that, then the video is going to be lifeless. Vlogging is a presentation, a performance. There needs to be energy.
Consider your audience: they are coming home from school or work, where there were classes and meetings, and the last thing they want to watch is a video of your speaking without energy.
Want to see a vlogger that is awesome at being expressive on camera? Check out Emma Chamberlain, if you haven’t already. Every word she says in her video is layered with emotion. We know exactly how she feels.
8. Stay Organized
The same way you should prepare before filming, it’s also important to be organized comes the editing phase. Editing is arguably the most time-consuming part of the vlogging process, so have a system for categorizing and finding your footages.
This is especially important when you have multiple video and audio files and if you are capturing footage over a number of days or in different locations.
Additionally, while filming your vlog, you are going to mess up. It’s also helpful to add a cue after you messed up, this can be a sound cue that causes the levels to spike (clapping or snapping your fingers work) or a video cue such as a dramatic gesture to the camera. When skipping through your footage to find the part where you messed up, later on, it’s easier to have a mark to help you locate it.
Vlogging is hard, so don’t make more work for yourself. Learn little tricks to make life easier for yourself at every step.
The more organized you are the more attention you can put into the creative aspect of vlogging, and less time finding a video file or syncing audio to video.
There you have it, 8 tips to help you vlog like the pros. Anyone can vlog. It’s not brain surgery, but only until you point a camera at yourself in public for the first time, do you realize how uncomfortable vlogging can be.
Even filming yourself in your room with the door closed — and nobody is in the house with you — can be a challenge for beginning vloggers. If you find watching your first few videos to be cringy, don’t be discouraged. There are fears of vlogging, but you can overcome them.
Do you have any vlogging tricks of your own? Leave a comment below.
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Richard Bennett is a writer and a lover of all things video.