This year, I’m embarking on a new creative project that both excites me and terrifies me: making videos. Since I started making videos, I made a pretty rapid ascent publishing 34 videos in 3 months.
My experiences attempting to learn videography are in many ways similar to how I started my photography business. So I’m documenting my current learning process on this blog. Whether you’re aiming to start out in videography (which I think you should!) or want to draw on these lessons for starting your photography business, I hope it helps you out on your journey.
How It Started
Making videos is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. But for one reason or another, I’ve put it off for decades.
So what prompted the change? A cell phone.
While on my wedding and honeymoon in Italy, I recorded much of my adventure with a brand new Samsung Galaxy S8. Much to my surprise, the 4K video quality was actually quite good. So I used a free cell phone app to make videos.
Want to see my first video from recent times? Here it is:
6 Tips for Learning a New Creative Skill
The video above is far from perfect, but making and publishing it was an important first step. Since making that video, I made 34 videos between September – December 2017. Comparing my first video to my most recent, I can already see some pretty big improvements. This is how I went about learning a new skill.
Tip #1: Train your Creative Eye.
“I just don’t have the eye for it.” Sound familiar? It’s one of the most common self-critiques I hear from people who wish they were photographers. The truth is that you definitely need an eye for photography, but it can be learned. You just need to train your eyes. Pretty much everything around you can be framed in a beautiful photograph. You just have to know what you’re looking for.
Once I realized my desire to create videos, I had to figure out what kind of videos I wanted to make. So I started watching a ton of video content on YouTube. Rarely did I watch videos in their entirety; I just watched long enough to pick up on the filmmaker’s style. When I found a video I liked, I added it to a playlist for future reference. As a budding photographer, I did a similar practice by scouring the photo sections of blogs and media publications, keeping an active Pinterest board of images that inspired me. I still refer to my food photography Pinterest boards today when I need ideas. Before you start creating, build a library of inspiration to draw from. Use that to inspire how you take your own photos.
Tip #2: Learn From Those Willing to Share Knowledge.
A common question I get from people I’ve just met is, “How did you learn photography?” My answer is always, “YouTube.” Want to learn the basics of photography, photo editing, or videography? You don’t need to go to school for it these days. All you have to do is type your question into Google and you’ll find a trove of options. If you prefer learning by reading, check out photography blogs. Or if you’re a more visual learner like I am, YouTube is your new best friend. Whenever I have a question about how to do something in Final Cut X, I refer to YouTube and generally find a quick answer and visual demo to go along with it.
On the photography front, I’ve learned the most from Creative Live and the following YouTubers:
For videography, I’ve learned 100% of my Final Cut X video editing skills so far via these YouTubers:
Tip #3: Get the Gear (or Not).
By far one of the most challenging parts of getting started in a craft is investing in all of the tools that you will need. Getting into photography wasn’t cheap, and videography is definitely no exception. The good news, however, is that camera gear keeps getting better and better at more affordable prices.
If the old adage for photography was, “you get what you pay for,” the new one for modern times is, “make do with what you have.” Modern smartphone cameras are incredible, and in some cases, their features beat those of popular DSLRs (here’s a comparison chart). My Samsung Galaxy S8, for example, can shoot HDR video in 4K with in-camera stabilization. The brand new Canon 6D Mark II doesn’t have any of that! Bottom line: use what you have and invest in better gear as you collect the funds and can justify making that bigger purchase.
What You Need to Get Started in Photography
- A camera
- Editing software
- My current professional photography kit
What You Need to Get Started in Videography
- A camera
- A stabilizer (some cameras have built-in stabilization)
- Editing software
- My current go-to videography kit (also see it in the video below)
Tip #4: Put Yourself on Assignment.
Once you’ve done the research and invested in some gear, your next goal is to start creating. If you’re trying to build your skills up, pick a subject of interest and start snapping away. An aspiring food photographer might put extra effort into shooting his or her meals. Meanwhile, someone interested in portraiture should take portraits of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. Just put yourself out there and start applying your skills. Half the battle is repetition, so you need to practice as much as possible.
Once you’ve built up your skills and feel ready for possible paid work, try this out. Imagine your ideal client and what kind of assignment they might have for you. Go out and photograph or film that assignment. Every single video on my YouTube channel was created with that thought in mind. Some videos do well, and others don’t. It’s a learning experience.
Tip #5: Publish Your Work.
So you’re at the stage where you’re actually creating art and executing your creative ideas. Great job! But you’ve got one more thing that you absolutely must do. Publish your work and ask for feedback. You’ll never improve your skills if you don’t put yourself out there. And no, it doesn’t count to simply have your friends and family see it. They’re all on your team and are inclined to give you positive reinforcement to make you feel good. What you need is objective feedback that isn’t sugarcoated.
When I first got started in photography, I published almost every single image I captured on Flickr. If you want to see a real progression, check out some of those first photos and compare to my most recent work. Yikes. I also had photos published on local blogs and websites where I definitely received some harsh criticism from anonymous trolls. But many times, they had a point that I learned from.
In terms of my recent video endeavors, I’ve published exclusively on YouTube. Most times, I have no idea who’s viewing my videos, but there are some publicly available metrics that tell me what’s working. Based on video views, likes (or dislikes), comments, and other statistics, I’m getting active feedback on what content is working and what isn’t. This info helps me figure out what kinds of videos to make going forward if I’m aiming for universal appeal.
What if you hate putting yourself out there?
Honestly, it’s something that you have to get over. If you want to be a successful visual creator, your work has to be viewed by people and assigned some value. Otherwise, what’s the point? But for the self-conscious people out there, I totally get it. Let me tell you about one video in particular that I’ve had to learn to love. As part of my YouTube video experiment, I decided to suck it up and put myself on camera. I was nervous as hell and my husband tells me he’s never seen me look so tense and terrified, but I did it for the sake of experimentation. Besides, it probably won’t even be popular. Boy, was I wrong. That video is currently the most viewed video on my YouTube channel. Greeeeeaaaaaattttt…(said with LOTS of sarcasm). I’m still very much embarrassed by that video, its dislikes, and snarky comments, etc. But I’ve learned to suck it up. It’s all about putting yourself out there.
Tip #6: Tell Everyone You Know About Your New Skills
My last tip is somewhat related to Tip #5, but it’s much more simple. The tip is to tell everyone you know about your new venture. This is important for several reasons. First, you need to make photography or videography part of your identity. At first, it will probably feel strange telling people that you’re a photographer. I hesitated for years and would always add a caveat like, “I’m a photographer, but still starting out.” I got so used to introducing myself this way that it eventually backfired on me hard. During a phone call with a prospective client from Verizon, I was already fumbling over my words when those exact words slipped out. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, and I probably wasn’t ready for it either. Telling everyone that you’re a photographer is something you need to say with confidence, so practice saying it until it feels comfortable and natural.
It’s also important to tell others about your skills since this is one of the easiest ways to pick up new clients. Your best photography clients are the ones that come from personal referrals. Even back when I was working full-time as a financial analyst and working part-time as a photographer, I’d tell my coworkers about my photography projects when it was convenient. When they asked, “What did you do over the weekend?” I’d tell them about my photo shoots. Eventually, some of those coworkers ended up referring me to photo jobs. The same is true now that I’m an established photographer trying to break into videography. When my photography clients casually ask what I’ve been up to lately, I tell them I’m making videos. The response has pretty much always been, “OMG! I have a video project for you. Let’s talk.” In fact, two of the 34 videos that I made in 3 months was for a startup client (albeit, voluntary without pay). It’s simple lead generation that is a very effective way of getting the word out about your skills and possibly gaining new clients.
Learning a new skill isn’t easy and it requires a LOT of free time. I honestly couldn’t learn videography during my peak photography season when I’ve had as many as 11 photo shoots in one day. But I waited until the end of the year when things tend to slow down to start diving into a new project. Since then, I’ve actually been pretty busy with photo shoots and traveling. I simply use any spare time I have on evenings, weekends, and vacations to dedicate myself to learning video. So far, I think it’s paid off in spades even though this is just the beginning.
As I mentioned before, I intend to make this blog on learning video an on-going series. I’ll share with you how my project is going, what problems I’m running into, and more importantly, how I monetize. Oh yeah, it’s important to note that I haven’t’ made a single cent on any of my 34 published videos yet, but I hope that changes soon!
Do you have tips, ideas, or questions when it comes to learning a new skill? Fire away in the comments below!
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