If you are looking for simple and effective tips to create awesome travel videos, this article will go right down your alley.
It’s perfectly normal to want to capture the highlight of the places you are visiting and to try to get the vibe and feel of your trip in one awesome travel video. You can all pumped up about putting together the final video edit, but when you get back home and you browse through the footage you got nothing good enough to make it for the final cut.
I know how frustrating that can be. I’ve been there myself.
I have also done my fair share of travel video editing for lots of friends and customers. So I am well aware of the mistakes that most people make when they shoot or edit their holiday footage.
These mistakes will totally ruin the quality and feel of your travel video. As much as I hate to say it, you can’t really work wonders in the video editing room if the original videos are lacking.
So read on and learn how you can shoot better footage when you’re traveling and how you can then put it all together in one awesome travel video which captures the highlights of your trip.
#1 Pick a style
First and foremost you want to decide about the style you are after.
This very first step is extremely important and it will determine later on the scenes which you will shot and how you will shot them. What angles to use, how to move the camera, and so on and so forth.
This is the part where you can get as creative as you want.
Maybe you are after a vlog type of travel video with many points of view (POV) shots and fast cuts. Or maybe you’re after the total opposite of that and you want to get a nice cinematic travel video with a lot of slow-mo shoots, and smoother transitions.
You can literally choose whatever you want. But once you figured out the style or theme of your travel video, stick with it! Be consistent and shoot every scene with that particular style in mind. Which lead us to the next tip….
#2 Plan the shots with the editing in mind
Ok, so taking things one step further once you figured out the style you are after, you also want to picture in your mind how the final video edit of your travel video would look.
This will help you decide which scenes are worth shoot and which are not worth it.
You should know what angles to use, how to move the camera, and how everything will then fit together.
If you are having trouble picturing in your mind how everything will look, one quick tip to get you in the mood is to listen to a track you like that would go well with your travel video. This should set the mood nicely.
It might as well be the exact soundtrack you will use for your video.
#3 Don’t shake it
In the very beginning of the article, I was telling you that I did a ton of travel video editing. I must have browsed through hundreds of hours of footage.
What to guess what the common issue was within all the footage I received?
People take handheld shots most of the time. And that’s perfectly normal. The majority of us don’t travel with a tripod. Heck, you will find yourself filming using your phone or GoPro most of the times.
The thing is that shaky footage will look really amateurish, and if it’s too extreme you can’t really do anything about it when you edit the video.
Yeah, your video editing software probably has a stabilization feature, but that will work for videos that are just a bit shaky. Not to mention that using the stabilization feature in post-production will negatively affect the video quality and it will take a lot of time as it’s hard on the CPU.
So what can you do?
The first thing you can do is to stay still. Don’t walk as you are filming. Or if you do, do it very slowly and try to control your movements.
Secondly, hold your camera using both hands. This will add extra stability.
Additionally, hold your hands (and camera) closer to your body. Tuck in your elbows and bring them closer to your torso.
Don’t reach out with your hands towards whatever it is that you are filming. Instead, get closer to your subject.
#4 Film horizontally
The second biggest mistakes I’ve seen is vertical shot videos.
You know how we’re used to holding the phone in portrait orientation? Well, that’s how most people will take photos or record videos too.
It might all look nice and dandy on your phone’s screen, but when you watch in on your computer or any other widescreen, you get this big chunky black bars on the side.
There’s not really any fix to that in post-production. Stretching the image is not an option because you will need to do a lot of stretching.
Then you have the option to add a blurred version of the narrow footage on the sides. But that doesn’t’ look too pretty either.
So the best thing you can do is to simply flip your phone around 90 degrees and start filming using horizontal orientation. This way you will get that nice wide, full-screen image.
Here’s what I mean.
#5 Don’t use the digital zoom
I believe it goes without saying, but I’m saying it anyway.
Your phone or camera will have the option to zoom in digitally. Don’t use it.
Digital zoom is very taxing on the quality of the image you will get. The more of it you use the worse the image gets.
Instead, try to simply get closer to whatever it is that you are filming, or as a last resort solution use the optical zoom. Be careful though, when you are zoomed in, any camera movement will be amplified a lot.
So your footage is very likely to get shaky. Unless you are using a tripod, I wouldn’t use the zoom at all. Just like I mentioned above, try to get closer to the subject if that’s possible.
#6 Tight, medium, and wide shots
Sometimes it’s a good idea to get different types of shots of each scene of your travel video. This will help you a lot when you do the actual editing of your video because you will be able to get a little bit of variety in your video.
So whenever you are shooting a scene, try to get a wide shot where your subject is in the picture but the shot is wide enough for the viewer to gets a good sense of the space and of what is really going on, a medium shoot where you have only your subject in the picture and close up (tight) shot where you want to highlight something or make it more important than the rest of the film.
It also helps to cut your film. Instead of just cutting from medium shot to medium shot to medium shot, maybe you can go from a wide to a nice tight shoot and then back to a medium.
Don’t overuse the thigh shots though. I know these close up shots look really good, especially if you are using a good camera.
But if you are using too many of them you will actually dilute the importance of this kind of shoots. Save them only for the moments when you want to add more importance to a specific scene.
#7 Golden Hour
Let’s talk just a little bit about lighting.
You know that good lighting is really important for the way your videos will look. No matter how performant or expensive your camera is you need perfect lighting for everything to look good.
Luckily travel videos are shot outdoors most of the times, so there will be plenty of natural light which is a good thing. But if you want to make your shots even better I have a small trick for you: Golden Hour.
This is a fancy term used in photography and videography to determine a certain time during the day when the sun is in a specific position, very close to the horizon, which makes the light, colors, and shadows look absolutely epic.
You know that time of the day, either very early in the morning or just before the sunset when the sky has these red-ish / orange colors? That’s basically what golden hour is all about.
So instead of filming all your shots during the day, when everything is so bright, try to get some footage during the “golden hour”. The results will be so much better.
There’s also a thing called ‘blue hour’ which happens when the sun is just below the horizon line, and the light is dimmer. You can go ahead and try to experiment with that as well.
Here’s a cool visual representation of the morning golden hour and blue hour, to give you a better idea of the concept.
For more information about the blue hour and golden hour, you can check out this article by Petapixels.
#8 ND filters
Speaking of light, sometimes there’s just too much of it.
Most consumer grade cameras have a small image sensor that has the tendency to overexpose. This basically means that they will make some shots look brighter than they actually are. Now, this is a good thing when there’s not enough natural light.
But when you film in bright conditions – such as outside at mid-day, there’s already plenty of natural light coming through the lenses of your camera, it’s not so good.
The image will be too bright, the colors will be blown out and the shoot will not look as good as you would want it.
So you can simply go in a place with more shade and film there, or you can slam a Neutral Density filter on top of your camera’s lenses.
As you can see from the image above, ND filters act like sunglasses for your camera and they will make a huge difference in terms of video and photo quality.
They are especially important when shooting videos because you can’t actually control the exposure and ISO as you are filming. You are basically stuck with the initial settings and most of the times you only get to pick the resolution and frame rate (fps).
In case you are using a drone or a GoPro, using an ND filter is even more important. Drone cameras, as well as GoPros, can work with high shutter speeds (frame rates) which can make the image look jittery.
By adding an ND filter you will get a smoother, cinematic looking shot.
ND filters come in packs which contain several filters of different intensities. Some are darker, some are not so dark.
Depending on how overexposed the shot is you will need to use a darker or less dark filter.
#9 Film in 1080p @ 60 fps
Many of today’s camera will give you the option to filming on a wide range of resolutions and frame rates.
You have the old 720p, 1080p which is pretty much the standard and then you also have 2.7k and 4k resolutions.
At first, you will probably be tempted to use the highest resolution, but that’s not always optimal for several reasons.
First 4k and 2.7k videos will eat up a lot of storage space really fast, as well as power. So you are very likely to run out of memory or battery fast.
Secondly, most people will watch your video in 1080p anyway, so there’s no added benefit from shooting in a superior resolution.
And lastly but not least, 4k videos are a real pain to edit.
So stick with the 1080p and a frame rate of 60 fps if you have that option. If you don’t 30 fps will work.
With 60 frames per second though, fast moving objects will be less blurry and you always have the option to create that slow-mo effect by slowing it down to 30 fps.
Of course for a more dramatic slow-mo, you will need to shoot at 120 fps or even 240 fps if your camera has that option.
#10 Low light settings
I’ve briefly touched on the lighting a bit, but I also wanted to talk a little bit about shooting in low light conditions such as indoors or at night.
Cameras will not perform very well in low light. That’s a fact. Regardless of you cheap or expensive they are. There are a couple of tricks you can do to improve the quality of your low light shots.
The first thing you want to do is to check if there’s any light source you can use. I know that sounds so stupid and dumb, but this will actually work better than anything else you can set within the camera.
So get closer to a street light or use an external light or maybe move closer to a window if you are shooting indoors.
Some cameras such as the GoPro for example, come with a built-in low light mode which you can use. If you’re a GoPro user you can check out this guide on how to shot with a GoPro in low light.
There are 3 different parameters you can tweak for better low light shots – aperture, frame rate and ISO.
The aperture or f-stop will determine how open or close the lenses are and therefore, how much light reaches the sensor. The bigger the aperture, the better.
Here’s an image to give you an idea of how aperture works.
The frame rate per second or shutter speeds will also determine how much light reaches the image sensor.
A fast frame rate will let in less light, while slower frame rate will let in more light. So in low light situations, it’s better to shoot at 24 or 30 fps instead of 60 fps or higher.
As a solution of last resort, you also have the option to boost the ISO. This will make the camera digitally brighten the shoot. But this will compromise the quality of the image. High ISO shots will look grainy and will have a lot of noise in them.
#11 Use low angles
The last and final tip I’m sharing it this post is to try out different perspectives.
Everybody is shooting from eye level. I guess this is just how we are used to holding the cameras because it’s more comfortable.
But if you would move your camera down a bit and shot from the waist level for example, or even lower, you would be amazed by the difference. Everything around will look so much more impressive and bigger. Just like you are discovering the world through the eyes of a child.
So that’s pretty much it guys and gals.
Remember to pick a style and stick with it. Be consistent with it in every shot you take.
Try to picture in your mind how the final video edit will look and shot accordingly.
If you are using a smartphone, definitely film by holding it horizontally and try not to shake it too much. Shaky footage looks amateurish.
Don’t use digital zoom. Instead get closer or further away from your subject and take wide, medium and narrow shots of the same scene. These will look awesome when you put it all together in the video editing room.
Always chase the perfect light. It can be the golden hour the blue hour or mid-day. Slam on an ND filter when needed and make the best out of the low light situations.
Film in 1080p at 60 fps instead of 4k and try out different perspectives such as low angles.
Hope this helps, and if you’d like to share your travel videos with me or add more tips and ideas to the table, I can wait to receive your comments.
Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.