Welcome, aspiring YouTuber! So you’ve figured out how to start a YouTube channel and now you’re ready to make your first YouTube video. Not sure how to make a YouTube video? We’re here to help. Let’s get started!
YouTube Strategy 101
First, you need to establish why you want to be on YouTube in the first place. Identifying your goal is the first step in figuring out how to make a good YouTube video. And, from there, you can decide what your first YouTube video should be, to help meet that goal.
Do you want to:
- Land new business opportunities?
- Connect with your creative community?
- Express yourself?
Great! Now that you know what your objective is as a YouTuber, it’s time to start generating ideas for your first YouTube video.
Your first YouTube video will be your introduction to your audience—so you want to get them hooked. That means tailoring your content to match your goals. For example, here are some of the most successful photography based YouTube channels. Can you identify what audiences they’re trying to target?
Let’s get started with the brainstorming process so you can make your first YouTube video.
Are you looking for business opportunities?
Think of your online video portfolio as a more engaging resume. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some successful past experiences you can share?
- What are some helpful insights you can give them about what you do?
- What skills do you have to demonstrate that you can solve their problems?
Here are some sample responses for specific creative industries (use them as inspiration for your own content, whatever industry you’re in or goal you have in mind):
- Tattoo clients sharing what their ink means to them
- Explanation of what makes a successful logo design
- A breakdown of common photo editing mistakes
- Comparisons between professional and amateur wedding videography
- Process time lapse of a wood carving
- Livestream painting sessions that incorporate viewer suggestions
- Demonstration of an illustration done in 10 seconds versus 10 minutes versus 10 hours
Think of ways to give your first YouTube video a unique twist or make it as specific to your expertise as possible. Here are some tips to make your first YouTube video stand out, even if the topic has been done before.
Are you looking to join a creative community?
Think of your first YouTube video as a way to build a reputation with fellow creators. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are some creative challenges you can give yourself and the community?
- What are trends you see in the industry and what are your thoughts about them?
- What experiences have you had in your creative career that you’ve learned from, or can poke fun at?
- What tips can you give to a beginner starting out? (If you are a beginner, what are some questions or concerns you have?)
Here are some sample responses:
- Watercolor challenge with fellow fine artists
- Critiquing your earliest portfolio work and comparing it to your latest project
- Tutorials on ways to pose a model
- Product reviews for drawing tablets, complete with sample drawings
- Chat with illustrator peers over coffee about their hardest lessons learned
- Tips on improving designer-client relationships
- Funny skits about the creative grind
If you find existing videos about a similar subject, you can make your video a response that adds new value and your own perspective on the topic.
Are you looking to express yourself?
Think of your first YouTube video as a creative outlet. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is your dream project or client, and what can you make that will bring you closer to them?
- What do you like to do for fun and how can you incorporate that into your craft?
- Who inspires you and what can you say about them?
- What kind of videos will reinforce your mission when you watch them again?
Here are some sample responses:
- Speculative character design for the next Pixar movie
- Going behind the scenes of a sci-fi-themed fashion shoot
- A walkthrough of your creative mantra and strategy for getting out of a rut
- Explanation of what furniture designers you look up to and why
- Vlog style workday vs. relaxation day
Once you have a big stack of ideas ready to go, it’s time to start creating!
Figure Out Your Setup and Style
Trying to figure out what the most popular YouTube videos to make are? Simply cruise around YouTube, checking out your favorite channels and which of their video types are doing well. Remember: you can go after more than one audience with your video content. For example, a process or tutorial video can be made with a speculative project that you are passionate about.
Here are a few examples of video types and commonly used shots:
- Vlog: These candid, conversational videos allow you to share your experiences and opinions. You can carry your camera around, or set it up on a tripod to have a shoulder-up view of you and speak directly to camera.
- Birds-eye-view: This is great for process videos. Mount your camera on a tripod and get a full view of the table you are working on.
- Screen videos: If your work is digital, you can record your screen and work from there.
- Skit: This is an engaging way to tell a story. You can set your camera on a tripod or at a height where it captures enough of your body while you act out your story. This type of shooting is called a medium or long shot, as the viewer can see more of your surroundings. (These shots can also be used to showcase places and larger process work.)
- Combination: It’s not uncommon for a YouTuber to switch back and forth between different types of shots in order to tell a full story. Find what works for you!
For some inspiration from the greats, check out our cinematography primer.
But before you actually start shooting your first YouTube video, the first thing you need to do is prepare a script. You’ll also need a storyboard if you are alternating between different kinds of shots.
Think about what your key points are and what your audience will benefit from hearing. A common mistake with new YouTubers is talking too much before getting to the point. Think about what every line of your script is adding to your content and whether it makes it easier or harder to digest. Making good YouTube videos is about keeping the audience interested. If it isn’t helpful or entertaining, cut it.
Invest in the Right Film Equipment
Professional video equipment can be expensive, but the good news is that there is no need to spend tons of money on gear when you’re just starting out!
A webcam and smartphone are two easy, cheap ways to get started with YouTube video production. There are also a variety of video cameras you can choose from, but if you are looking to get a 4K resolution camcorder, it may be more affordable to upgrade to a newer smartphone. Once you’re ready for more advanced cameras, there are lots of resources online about which ones are best for your specific needs.
To set up your camera or smartphone for your first YouTube video, you can simply place it on a stack of books or on a table—as long as it is stable. There are a variety of budget tripods that are available as well, which will be useful for different angles, like if you want to shoot a bird’s eye view of yourself working on an illustration.
How to Edit Your First Youtube Video
You will need editing software to put your first YouTube video out into the world. iMovie or Windows Movie Maker are some of the best starter options, as they are easy to learn and free. There is even a free in YouTube video editor app available in your YouTube channel. However, there are many more options out there and plenty of online tutorials for each, along with round-ups featuring YouTubers sharing what editing software they like using best. At this stage, it’s best not to get caught up in buying the best software. You just need to immerse yourself in the details of learning how to make and edit your YouTube videos.
Depending on what kind of videos you are making, you may not even need a camera to make great YouTube videos. If you are a digital artist showing process work, for example, you can simply record your screen as you are working and layer a recording of your voice over it.
If you are talking to the camera or interviewing someone, you may want to add text or show photos relevant to the conversation. Here are some of the best free stock image sites and free fonts available online to add style to your video.
When you are just starting out, less is more. You don’t want to distract your audience from the content with over-the-top motion-graphics or color schemes. Although it may be tempting to utilize the software and all its features, keep your goal in mind. That means no star wipes!
Perfect Your Lighting
You want to capture whatever you’re filming in the best light possible—good lighting is the key to making your YouTube videos better. The easiest way to do this is to film in a room with natural sunlight coming through the window. Many YouTubers also use an affordable ring light. Standard ones come in at under $100, but there are many other options you can explore.
Ace That Audio
Make sure the room you are filming in is as quiet as possible. With today’s technology, recording your first YouTube video with a smartphone or laptop’s built-in mic is definitely an option, especially if you are doing a voiceover on top of soundless footage. If you want the freedom to film and speak to the camera outdoors, whether it’s behind the scenes of street photography or vlog-style day in the life, there are lots of great mic options out there.
Grow Your YouTube Presence—and Monetize!
Now you have your YouTube strategy in place and your first YouTube video all planned out, how do you lay the groundwork to grow your channel?
Before you publish your YouTube video, optimize your video title and description with YouTube SEO so it can be found by people searching organically. After your video is published, you can dissect the YouTube analytics to figure out how much the content is resonating with your audience.
YouTube is also a very social platform. The best way to connect with the community is to find similar YouTube videos and interact with them. Finding ways to start conversations with other YouTubers is the first step to making your YouTube video popular. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Comment on other people’s videos; if you receive a comment, always respond.
- Create video responses to bigger YouTube channels
- Create a challenge and tag members of the YouTube community
- Reach out to other YouTubers to collaborate with: how can you add value to their content?
Beyond YouTube, you can also connect via other online mediums and try to get featured on blogs and websites. Sharing is another key to making your YouTube video popular.
If the content you are creating is helpful, interesting and insightful, you can also share it on some of the following sites:
- Quora is a question-based social platform with topics across art and design disciplines, including Adobe Creative Suite technical skills and how to deal with clients. You can share your experiences as a creative professional and life hacks that will make your audience’s life easier.
- Boredpanda is a viral publisher with an entire section on art. You can share interesting creative challenges here and stories that will appeal to a mainstream audience.
- Instagram is, of course, one of the most popular social platforms in the world—and a great fit for promoting your YouTube videos. Using the right hashtags will get your video seen within the right communities. You can post a sneak peek of your first YouTube video to build excitement, then link to the final product in your profile.
- Reddit has subreddits like r/iwanttolearn, which is full of professionals sharing insights about the industry. There are also engaging creative communities like r/photoshopbattles. You can find a subreddit to share almost anything.
- Wikihow and Instructables are filled with how-to articles on everything. You can make videos breaking down your process and share your creative expertise here. Anyone can write an article for these sites.
More inspiration to get you thinking about your next creative project:
20 Must-Subscribe YouTube Channels for Photographers
How To Start A Creative Project by ADAMJK
How to Start Your Own Podcast: A Creator’s Guide