Our YouTube travel series has clocked up more than 1.25 million views, but we started small and learned on the run. Follow these ten practical steps and you'll be making great travel videos in no time.
Have you ever watched a travel vlogger’s videos on YouTube and thought: ‘I wish could do that’?
Well, the good news is, you can. It’s never been easier for someone with no filmmaking experience to start documenting their travels on video. And who knows where it might lead. As your confidence and skills increase over time, anything is possible — even an income!
The first thing you’re going to need is a love of travel. That’s paramount. Next, begin to think of your travels as a series of landscapes. Much like an artist who captures the magic of a setting with paint, you’re going to do it with video. In your case, a camera is the brush and editing software is the canvas.
Also have a think about the style of videos you want to make. Are you simply wanting to share your adventures with friends and family? Do you want to make information-based videos to inspire other travellers (as we do on our YouTube channel)? Maybe you want to try and build a following as a travel influencer? If it’s the latter, finding a niche is a good way to differentiate yourself from the pack. Choose one aspect of travel that you particularly love (like camping or road tripping) and focus your efforts on that.
One final broad tip before you hit the record button; remember that whatever style of video you choose to make, it should always have a ‘story’; simply put: a beginning, a middle, and an end. Have a clear vision of where the video starts, how it progresses, and where it winds up.
Here’s a ten step beginner’s guide to making travel videos.
1. Get some basic tuition
Would-be DeMilles go to university or film school on a full-time basis to study film production. A vlogger-in-the-making can circumvent that process, but it’s still worth investing in some baseline industry tuition. There are lots of short courses out there in filming and editing (some are just one or two days in length), and you’ll walk away with the basics under your belt.
2. Select your camera
It’s time to select your ‘brush’. If you’re a complete newbie, we recommend starting with a humble iPhone; well, not so humble really. If you have one of the latest models, that’s a seriously powerful camera right there in your pocket — and one that’s perfect for making ‘point and shoot’ travel videos.
Go to ‘record video’ in the camera settings and select 1080p HD (high definition) at 30FPS (frames per second). This is the ideal setting for making good quality YouTube videos and maximising the storage space on your phone. Open the camera app, hold the phone horizontally, and voila! You’re ready to roll!
If you aspire to greater things as a videographer, the sky’s the limit in terms of camera hardware. The Sony Alpha a7III is used and recommended by many top vloggers, and offers high-quality results. However, if you have no experience using a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera, this is an overstep. Start with the phone, perhaps do a course, and then upgrade to a more complex camera.
3. Ditch the shakes
Nothing says ‘I’m an amateur filmmaker’ like shaky footage. If you hold your phone in your hand while filming, the footage will shake, rattle and roll. The thing that really turns an iPhone into a video camera is a gimbal — a pivoted support mechanism that allows you to move the camera smoothly by hand. This is an absolute must-have. We use a Zhiyun Smooth 4, which cost around $100. Trust us, it will be the best hundred smackers you ever spend. While they have inbuilt stabilisation, you can also buy external stabilisers for DSLRs.
4. Call the shots
Newbie videographers have a tendency to shoot lots of what’s known in the industry as ‘wide shots’: sweeping shots from right to left (or left to right) across a landscape, with the camera frame filled with as much of the setting as possible. Wides are really only useful for establishing the scene (letting the viewer know where you are). Other than that, steer clear of them; they get boring fast.
Read up on other types of shots and focus on taking 80% medium/mid-shots (where your subject is reasonably prominent in the frame) and close-ups (also sometimes referred to as ‘detail’) where the nitty gritty of your subject is revealed. These are the shots that will bring your travels to life on screen and push your story forward.
5. Back up your footage
There’s nothing (and we mean nothing) more soul destroying than filming all day, then losing all your footage by accident. And you’re especially vulnerable when using a phone as your camera. You could drop it, misplace it, or leave it in an Uber. Don’t be paranoid, but get into the habit of copying all the footage from your phone (or camera for that matter) onto an external hard drive at the end of each day of filming. Professionals always make two copies of their footage before deleting the original files from their camera’s memory card.
6. Have a strategy for sound
Vision is just one half of the filming equation; sound is the other. What sort of sound do you intend to use in your video? Epidemic Sound offers access to thousands of royalty free music tracks that are cleared for use on YouTube. If you plan to go a step further and use voice-overs, interviews, or pieces-to-camera (you talking to the camera), you’ll need a process for capturing the sound.
Recording sound through your iPhone’s inbuilt microphone does actually work OK, but it’s not foolproof (particularly in windy conditions). A lavalier lapel microphone with a windscreen is an effective and relatively cheap alternative, and you can record the sound on your iPhone or a separate digital recorder. Don’t forget to back up your sound files along with your video files.
7. Follow the light
One area where the iPhone does fall down is in low light conditions — particularly inside dimly lit buildings like galleries and museums. Your vision will almost certainly be grainy. You can fix that in post-production (after the editing stage), but it’s fiddly to do. In the long run, you may decide to invest in some basic portable lighting. If you’re filming an interview indoors, try and position your interviewee so that natural light from a window falls on their face.
8. Fly high and capture action
While it’s not the be-all-and-end-all, eye-in-the-sky drone footage is great for setting a scene (perhaps in place of a wide shot at ground level) or demonstrating the scale of a natural landscape. You can even get creative and fly in or out when filming a piece-to-camera. Learning to control a drone takes practice, so don’t expect to whip it out of the box and be whirring high in the sky in minutes. Put it on your list of things-to-buy-and-learn-how-to-use when time and money permit.
If you plan to shoot action footage (mountain biking or scuba diving for example), a GoPro is an essential piece of kit. Make sure it’s in a waterproof case before taking the plunge!
9. Choose the right editing software
The end of a shoot means the beginning of a new and exciting stage of the production process — editing. As mentioned earlier, editing software is akin to an artist’s canvas. It’s an integral part of video making, so pay special attention to choosing the right video editing software for you. There are several factors to consider, including price, functionality, ease of use, available tools and special effects, and the level of technical support offered. Most video editing programmes create a visual representation of your project that looks something like a series of building blocks. To put it very simply, you piece all the elements together, then output one single file at the end.
Industry standard, multifunctional video editing platforms like Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro sit at one end of the editing scale. We use Premier Pro, which costs around $30 a month for a minimum 12-month subscription. It was complex to master, but worth the effort for the suite of tools and effects on offer.
Alternatively, you might want to start with something less daunting and costly. Try a free online video editor like Movavi. It’s simple and minimalistic, but has enough features to edit a high-quality travel vlog. A free online video editor like this one is the ideal first step for a budding videographer.
10. Share your video
You’ve shot your video, recorded the sound, lovingly pieced everything together, and outputted the final file. Now it’s time to share your work of art with the world, and the easiest way to do that is by uploading it to YouTube. Set up your YouTube channel and hit the upload button!
YouTube offers several tools to help you attract views and channel subscribers (one thousand of which will enable you to monetise your channel). Optimise each video with a title, description, and keyword tags, which all signal to YouTube what the video is about and who may be interested in watching it. You’ll also have the option to add a custom thumbnail image, cards (live links that are displayed on screen during playback), and much more.
Do you have any tips to add to this beginner’s guide to making travel videos? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.