$0-$61 YouTube Camera Setup & Tips For Beginners 2021

We'll be going over the camera, audio, lighting, and editing software you'll need to start making YouTube videos. I'll also be giving some tips and tricks along the way as well. Even if you're just starting out, you probably have more of a studio than you think already.

Camera

Starting off with the most obvious we're going to need a camera.

Were going to focus on using our phone's camera since almost everyone has a phone that can shoot decent video these days.

When it comes to filming our videos, you're probably going to want to put your phone down to have it stable and not moving around. If you're on a zero-dollar budget, look around and find something to put your phone on. I've used books to keep my phone upright and it's worked out just fine. That being said, it's pretty janky and takes time to set up. There are a number of cheap tripods out there that come with phone holders, and I would recommend investing in one of these for about $20 to $25 to keep your phone steady and secure.

If you're an absolute beginner, we're going to use our phone's default camera app. This should give us decent results and we don't have to worry about any camera settings. That being said, you should do some test shots with your phone first to see how your camera acts, if it's refocusing and changing the exposure during the shoot you'll want to look into an app that allows you to manually control your camera. If you know how to setup a camera, I'd also recommend using an app to control your camera.

My favorite app for this is Filmic pro. Filmic Pro is paid app for apple or android phones which cost $15 but is a great way to unlock manual control of your camera. Auto settings can sometimes be distracting to the point where people don't want to watch our videos. Filmic Pro app will allow you to choose and lock in the exact settings for your phone camera.

Use the High-Quality Camera

When filming with your phone, turn your phone around to use the rear-facing camera since it's higher quality, this will also keep you from looking at the screen of your phone and you can focus on looking at the lens. Looking at the lens will help your viewer feel like you're talking to them directly, and it looks distracting if you always look slightly away from the lens. Think about having a conversation with someone in real life, if you're constantly looking slightly away from them it feels strange.

Camera Settings Tips & Tricks

A quick and oversimplified crash course on camera settings, make sure your phone is recording in the highest resolution possible, like 1080p or 4k. Keep your ISO is as low as possible, around 100.

Try to have the shutter speed double your frame rate to have a nice blend of motion blur but not be overly sharpened and digital. For example, if you're filming in 24p, try to keep your shutter speed at 1/50th. If you're filming in a bright environment, you likely won't be able to do this. It's not the end of the world. But if you're interested in an advanced way to achieve this, check out my video about ND filters.

Pay attention to your framing. Since you won't be looking at your camera screen, make sure you're keeping yourself in the center of the frame. Or even better, in one-third of the frame.

The last camera tip, is to shoot in the proper orientation. There is nothing worse than someone filming an Instagram story in a landscape, or a long YouTube video in Portrait. But you already knew that I'm sure.

Audio

The next major part we'll go over is sound. On our zero-dollar budget, when it comes to audio, were going to have to rely on our phone's microphones. This isn't the end of the world, as phones have decent microphones but you need to be aware of how your phone's microphones work. You don't want to be far away from your phone. The closer you are to your microphone with no obstructions, the better you'll sound. This is true for all microphones, but especially when we're using our phones since the microphone is on the side, we cant speak directly into the mic like you typically would. Speaking directly toward your phone is going to be important for getting clear audio.

Controlling your environment is going to be very important too. If you have a loud computer, an air conditioner, fan, or anything noisy you'll want to turn them off to get the cleanest possible audio. Your phone isn't very directional, so it will pick up a lot of ambient noise. By making sure our room is as quiet as possible will ensure the camera will pick up your voice as clear as possible and not any additional background noise.

This requires you to be pretty close to your phone, if you're going to be farther away or moving around, a lav mic that you can pin onto your shirt will be a big help here. I purchased this microphone for $22 on Amazon, which plugs directly into your phone's headphone port. I had to use a lightning to headphone adapter, and it works out great. The quality of the microphone is actually pretty good for the price. This is nice since the mic will embed the audio directly into your video so you don't have to do any extra work while editing.

Lighting

Next up, let's go over lighting. Again, on our zero-dollar budget, we're going to utilize the lighting that we already have. This can be easier said than done, as not all lighting is created equal.

Natural Lighting

The best light is natural daylight. Learning lighting is outside the scope of this video, but the cliff notes version is finding a large window with daylight coming through can be a great key light. If the lighting is too harsh, you can use a white bounce to reflect light back onto you to reduce the harsh contrast to a more manageable level.

Artificial Lighting

If you don't have access to natural sunlight, for example, if you live in Ohio as I do, you're going to have to use artificial lights. You'll have to be more deliberate with your lighting if you're using lamps or lightbulbs to light yourself. You can use a bright lamp or a desk light to light yourself with. This is going to take some trial and error to get right, but if you have a bright light, bouncing the light off of a wall or other light surface will typically give you nice soft light that will add some shape.

Whether you're using natural or artificial lighting, having a way to bounce or remove the light from your set will make you look better on camera.

Oversimplified Lighting Crash Course

After finding your light source, you may find that your light is too bright or too dim. For an oversimplified crash course on lighting, since we're on a tight budget, go to a drug store and buy a sheet of white poster board and a sheet of black poster board.

If your lighting is too harsh, adjust your white poster board to bounce some light back onto the subject to fill in the harsh shadows, but not enough to remove all shadows that the subject looks flat.

If our subject is looking flat, we can use our black poster board as a negative fill to remove some light and give some dimension to our subject.

Understanding how lighting allows us to use pretty much any camera and get good results. If your lighting is good, and you're in a quiet environment to record in, you can get away with using just about any camera and microphone.

In the next video, I'll go over some more options for controlling light so be sure to subscribe and watch out for that video.

Editing

When it comes time to edit our video, we’re going to utilize some free options. Since we’re filming on our phones, there are a few apps we can use to edit our video.

Two of the best free video editing apps I’ve used are luma fusion and premiere rush. You can download these apps on a phone or tablet, import your video, edit and export all right from the app. The apps are easy to use and have some flexibility to edit and color grade with. If you're making simple videos, this is a great quick way to start since you already have the phone that you shot the video on, but editing on a phone or tablet can be difficult if you have a more complex project.

If you’re interested in editing on a mac, the easiest program to use is the included iMovie software, but my favorite free option is hands down Davinci resolve. There is a learning curve when it comes to using DaVinci resolve, but this is an editor that can use as a beginner or as a pro. Not will not only save you money right now but learning it will help you if you want to dig deeper into advanced editing and color grading. Resolve has a free version for both mac and pc, and we can move into the paid version if we progress into advanced filmmaking in the future. But even then, you might be able to get away with the free version.

If you have access to the Adobe creative cloud, Premiere Pro is my personal favorite software for editing. It's fairly easy to learn and you can make it as complex or simple as you want. Editing is a whole topic on its own, but try to make your videos as simple as possible when you're first starting out. I recently made a video about YouTube tips and tricks where I went over this mistake - be sure to check out that video after this one

This is the step that I got caught up on when I first started out and it held me back from making videos consistently. Editing is time-consuming, so be prepared to spend some time in your editor of choice. Don't try to get too fancy with your editing at first, any of these programs will allow you to edit simple videos. Try a different editor with each video until you find the software you like.

Conclusion

When it comes to making YouTube videos, high-quality equipment doesn’t necessarily mean higher view counts. Finding a solid starting point and upgrading equipment as you find the areas that need improvement will help you save you a lot of money in the long run.

Spending time thinking about your topics and what videos your audience would like to see will help you gain more traction. Using the tools you have, and making videos consistently will show you which parts of your kit you need to upgrade if any at all.

About Keith Knittel

I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.

View my full About Me

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