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The rule of thirds divide a picture evenly into thirds vertically and horizontally, then places the subject along the lines or where the lines intersect. By placing the subject off-center, it allows for maximum background visibility with minimal interruption, resulting in dynamic images and cinematic videos.

With the entertainment industry slow to get back on track, social media has become an even greater go-to for amusement. YouTubers and other social media figures are seeing a surge in viewership and followers as they are able to continue publishing new content while movie and television productions continue to be delayed.

Content creation is nothing new in the social media era. It is a fun and accessible way to engage audiences, from small groups consisting of friends and family to thousands spanning across the globe. Whether documenting life’s happenings for your inner circle or building a brand and becoming the next big influencer, the following tips will help you entertain yourself and others by creating better-quality content.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Many popular social media accounts have a specialty, or niche, whether it’s travel, food, style, fitness, animals, etc. Some may combine multiple elements, but very few attempt to do it all. That’s because the internet is an extremely saturated market, which makes it very difficult to stand out. It’s impossible to appeal to everyone, so focus on the things that you excel at and engage an audience with a similar interest. Also take into consideration which platform(s) to post your content, as some can be a better fit than others.

Even if you’re just posting to your personal account for fun, it always helps when the content goes straight to the good stuff. Did your kid say something adorable but rambled for 20 seconds beforehand? Shorten the clip so it gets to the “why you posted it” sooner. Remember: Attention span on social media is extremely short, so cut out the filler to ensure people see what you want them to see. Otherwise, they may check out early.

When talking or narrating, consider a script. Ad-libbing is a skill only a select few do well, so planning out what you want to say ahead of time will give you a more professional result. Don’t be afraid to record multiple takes if the situation allows for it.

LOOK FOR THE LIGHT

Light is crucial when it comes to photos and videos, and the quality of light often determines the quality of the end result. Look for “soft” light whenever possible. This is light that produces minimal shadows. Window light is a great source of soft light, as well as shaded areas on sunny days. Cloudy or overcast skies are nature’s gifts to photographers and videographers.

If shooting in harsh lighting conditions is unavoidable, try to place your subjects in a position that minimizes discomfort. Don’t have them face directly into the sun. External light sources, like LED lights or flashes, can help dampen harsh shadows and give your subjects a more flattering look in hard lighting situations. For filming videos in bright environments, a neutral density filter does wonders and gives you control over your shutter speed.

STAY COMPOSED

Whether taking a photo or shooting a video, placing the subject in the center doesn’t always create the best results. Sometimes it can be downright boring. To mix things up and get more eye-catching results, implement the “rule of thirds” into your composition. The rule of thirds is when you divide the picture evenly into thirds vertically and horizontally, then place the subject along the lines or where the lines intersect. May cameras and smartphones have a “grid” feature that can be turned on and off to make the rule of thirds easier to follow.

This is ideal for when you want to incorporate the background into your photo or video. By placing the subject off-center, or to one-third of the scene, it allows maximum background visibility with minimal interruption, resulting in dynamic images and cinematic videos.

KEEP IT SLOW AND STEADY

Have you ever watched a video that looks like it was taken in the middle of an earthquake? You’re not alone. Shaky videos are extremely common. But it doesn’t have to be.

Many modern phones and camera lenses have built-in image stabilization features that help smooth out the vibrations from your movements and should be used when filming handheld footage. Gimbals are another way to get smooth footage that are quite affordable and will make your videos stand out. Think of it as a Steadicam for your camera or phone that can reduce camera shake while you walk or run. It’s worth noting that if your camera or phone has built-in stabilization, turn it off when using a gimbal. Otherwise, you’ll end up with jellylike footage as the built-in stabilization works to counter the gimbal’s stabilization.

A third option is to smooth out footage in postproduction. Video-editing software often have stabilizing effects that can be applied to footage to make them appear less shaky, though results can vary. Filming at higher frame rates and slowing it down can also hide shakiness. For example, filming something in 60 frames per second and slowing it down to 24 fps can result in smoother footage, but it doesn’t do much good if you don’t want that slow-motion look.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Believe it or not, one of the most important elements in video is sound. In fact, viewers are more likely to watch a video with low-quality image resolution and high-quality sound than a video with high-quality image resolution and low-quality sound. A camera’s built-in microphone will get the job in a pinch, but if you’re filming in a noisy environment, you may find that it lacking.

External microphones and recorders are a great way to record high-quality audio to complement your videos. The most common mics for video are shotgun mics and lavalier mics. Shotgun mics are directional microphones that pick up sound in the area it’s pointed toward. These are effective when filming groups of people or for recording ambient sounds. Shotgun mics also have good range in case you can’t get close to your subject. Lavalier mics are small and clip on to your subject. They’re great for interviews and voice-overs, but the range can be limited if using a wired setup that’s connected to the camera. Multiple subjects will also require multiple lavalier mics to record properly. Handheld microphones are an option as well, though they are less versatile.

BEFORE YOU POST

Filming videos and taking photographs is only half the battle. To achieve the greatest results, they need to be edited. Very rarely do you see raw videos or photos posted online and when they are, they’re often quickly forgotten. Photos are seldom vibrant and explosive out of camera. The best photographers have extensive editing workflows to get their end results. Videos are no different. Editing transitions, adding music and sound, and applying color correction is an art form in and of itself. There are many options available for editing videos and photos — some free, some paid. Look around and see which ones appeal to you, then use them to kick your content up a notch.

THE KEY TO PRODUCING GREAT CONTENT

Have fun! Content creation is a labor of love, so make sure to enjoy the process. It’s an engaging way to tell stories and share details of our lives and our surroundings. Let that passion show in your work. Your audience, no matter how big or small, will appreciate it. 

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