HOW TO MAKE A TRAVEL VIDEO
10 TIPS YOU NEED TO KNOW
For the past 4 years now, I have been making travel videos and by some crazy chance, it has become my full-time job! Whether you’re just starting out or you have been making videos for years, these tips can help anyone looking to take their content up a notch.
1. UNDERSTAND YOUR EQUIPMENT
Tip number one is to know how the camera you're working with will impact the image that you’re trying to get.
For example, take GoPro. GoPro’s are fantastic travel cameras - I started my YouTube channel with just a GoPro! Because they’re waterproof, you'll have that upper hand of being able to achieve or tell a unique story that other cameras won't be able to do. However, what you need to know is, a GoPro or any other wide-angle lens won’t easily be able to show what is going on in the distance; even though something may only feel 20 ft away, it's going to show up as a spec in the video.
On the other hand, if you’ve invested in a camera that you’re able to change the lenses with, you need to understand how those different lenses will allow you to achieve different shots.
Wide Angle Lens = wide-angle shots, kind of like the GoPro but not quite as wide.
Telescope Lens = achieve extreme close-ups.
When using a telescope lens, I can shoot subjects from further away and they will now appear closer to their background. For example, if someone is standing near some mountains, those mountains will now appear humongous. Compare that to if I shoot with a GoPro, or a wide-angle lens, what it’s going to do is the exact opposite and make the mountains in the distance seem small and the subject seems big and upfront. If you’re shooting with a cellphone that has two lenses, that same logic applies.
Wide Angle Lens = Background becomes distant and tiny
Telescope (Long Lens) = Background becomes close and large
Another implication for the shot is stability. If I were to pan with my GoPro, I would have a much more stable shot than if I were to pan with my camera with the telescope lens attached.
Wide Lens = More Stable / Less Shake
Telescope (Long Lens) = Less Stable / More Shake
Therefore, understanding how your different lenses and how your equipment will affect the shot is crucial to be able to shoot successfully in any given situation.
Check out my favorite camera products here.
2. SLOW-MOTION VS. FAST MOTION
Up next is understanding the difference between slow motion, fast motion and when to use them.
Slow-motion is a great effect, but it’s not to be overused. When people get a new camera or cellphone that has slow-motion effects, they can sometimes go overboard.
Slow-motion should only be used to emphasize a story. If it doesn't add to the story, don't use slow motion. The same can be said to doubling up or quadrupling up the speed. For example, sometimes it can become obvious where people have sped up their drone shot, resulting in shaking and interference caused by the wind or the movement of waves appearing unnatural. Ultimately, it takes away from the moment, so if you are going to speed something up with fast motion, make sure it is part of the intended effect.
Personally, when I use fast motion I typically like to cut up my clips so it is more of a gradual up and a gradual down. For instance, I would make 5 cuts:
This causes a bit of a pyramid effect where the pace change is gradual. Rather than a jarring speed-up effect, it feels natural with more of a flow to it. If you’re shooting with a camera that doesn't offer built-in fast or slow-motion, don't take that as a disadvantage; sometimes the best stories are told by just shooting 30fps, in other words, normal speed.
Understand your equipment, fast and slow motion and how to make the most of it in your videos.
3. CHALLENGE THE ANGLES
Change up the angles when you're shooting with your cameras. It doesn't matter if you have a GoPro or a 70-200mm lens on a Canon 1Dx ii. Whatever you're shooting with, make sure you're telling a unique story rather than just point and shoot.
An example I saw on a YouTube video showed that when most people post a photo of their dog, it's typically captured by someone who is just standing in front of that dog. This is often because people are lazy; they don't want to get down to the dog's level. To get the better photo you could kneel, lay down or climb up a tree; essentially, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get the best shot (almost whatever it takes - don’t hurt yourself).
By going that extra mile to get that unique storyline, is ultimately what separates a good travel video from a masterpiece travel video. The masterpiece will always have those unique shots that will get the audience asking themselves “how did they shoot that?”
When I fly my drone, I like to risk it to get the biscuit once in a while. Sometimes I will fly between an archway, sometimes under a tree. This is because I love to give my audience that scare factor of “OMG he really changed up the angle in a way that I never would have done!”. Get used to your equipment and once you feel like you have mastered it then you can start pushing the boundaries.
One more thing regarding changing the angle; it doesn’t simply have to be altitude based. It’s not just about getting on the ground, or up high, it can be about how close your subject is. A telescope lens causes a beautiful background blur, purely based on how close you are to the subject you’re shooting. You can always achieve many different results of the shot by changing the angle.
Close to subject = background blur
Far from subject = less background blur
(Only works with “low aperture” lenses, can’t be done naturally on a GoPro / most Cellphones)
This took me a good year or two to really perfect. It’s something that can come with time, as long as you are aware and willing to learn, it can make a huge difference in your travel videos.
4. MUSIC IS EVERYTHING
Tip number four in how to make a travel video is probably one of the biggest: music, music, music - it makes ALL the difference. You will have the control to evoke emotions in the audience based on the song you choose. Therefore, if you’re trying to tell the story of a beautiful tropical beach, don't use a hardcore EDM song because this will cause clashing - unless that’s your intended effect. If you're trying to tell a really fast-paced energy story, have a look for high beats per minute, electronic music that gets the blood flowing. There is no wrong genre of music to use, but it HAS to compliment the scene and the story that you're trying to tell.
With that being said, there’s one place I get all my music from and when I say all, I mean it's my go-to every single day: Epidemic Sound. I have actually partnered with them to create the Lost LeBlanc album which consists of 16 tropical travel adventure songs perfect for any of your travels - get it here with their one-month free trial. The awesome thing is not just the fact they have great music, but that I can also use this music on any social platform without the worry of legal consequences. Knowing that the content I have created and invested so much time in, is not at risk of being struck down due to copyright, provides priceless peace of mind.
5. STABILIZE YOUR FOOTAGE
The importance of stabilizing your footage is key to a great travel video and often overlooked, especially by beginners. There are two ways you can stabilize content. Firstly, in software - however, this depends on the software you’re using. It can sometimes help, but it can also sometimes do bad things to your footage, so use that with caution. Secondly, create the most stable video inside of the camera so that you don't have to rely on software to do the stabilization for you.
If you want to improve your equipment, invest in a gimbal. An automatic electronic stabilizer, that can help you to achieve buttery smooth footage and potentially become your new best friend. I personally use a big heavy-duty one for my camera but you can now even purchase affordable gimbals for your cellphone!
However, if you aren’t looking to invest in a gimbal just yet, there are some pretty easy strategies you can do without having the extra equipment. One of the easiest ways to stabilize is by putting the camera strap against the back of your neck and extend your camera as far as possible, causing tension with your camera strap. By doing that, you're creating more stability on the camera. When you pivot, your camera is not going to be freely moving in your hand, it's going to stay nice and stable by having more points of contact against your body.
Another tip to create a stabilized moving shot is by using a flat surface. For example, a skateboard or a rolly chair. The camera strap method will also still help with a moving shot, such as walking; but at the end of the day, nothing will replace an electronic gimbal, or steady cam - a counterweight system.
One last bonus tip (because I am all about value here at Lost LeBlanc), if you own a drone and you're walking around with it, you have actually already got yourself a steady cam!
Get more information about the Mavic 2 Pro drone I use.
6. THE STORY
The storyline is crucial. You always want to have in mind ‘what is the story I am trying to tell?’ I like to have things in chronological order showing the travel that's been going on over the past day, week or month. See it as an assignment. If you simply insert random clips together over music, you will get a C grade, or B at best. But to get that top A grade you need to tell the story.
Say you're traveling in the Philippines and you want to create a video that follows your travel day through the cinematic eye. You could start by hitting the alarm clock to wake up, then getting dressed with a point of view shot (but you know, try to keep it civilized!). Following on, you show a clip of the bus journey, then getting into a kayak in El Nido. All of a sudden your cinematic sequence sees your paddle in the water, a wide-angle clip of you leaving the shore, and then an even wider shot on the drone. These are the things you can accomplish when you tell a story. All this will help with the expansion of your equipment, however, you CAN do it with any camera; you can always change up the shot and tell different stories with different perspectives.
It all comes down to continuity, a flowing sequence, highlighting what is happening and providing a narrative for the adventure. This is vital if you want to take your video from average to the next level!
Take a look at my Philippines travel guide
7. MOVE LIKE A MASTER
Think of movement as one continuous motion. When you’re shooting a panning shot, it should look smooth; either in uniform motion (rotating the camera on its vertical or horizontal axis at the same speed) or exponential acceleration (rotating the camera on its vertical or horizontal axis speeding up the movement). What you don’t want is random, sporadic or shaky movements. Similarly, with drones, people tend to use a clip of their drone where it’s readjusting. Almost without fail, the only drone shots I’ll use in my travel videos will be ones that are continuous. If I’m moving forward with my drone and tilting the camera up, when it stops tilting, that’s the end of the shot. Even though my drone may still be moving forward, it’s a stop in the continuous motion. The worst is when somebody uses a drone clip and they speed it up and then all of a sudden it just turns left. Instead, when you turn the drone, do it gradually so that the flow is uninterrupted; it’ll be much more pleasing on the eye.
7.5. An extra tip - Hand Motion Transitions
When making travel videos there are some hand motions that can be really fun for transitions. By ending a shot with a really quick flick style motion, the human eye can't keep up with what is going on, because you're moving so quickly at the end. This is an opportunity to crop the scene at the flick and transition to another shot that's panning in the same direction.
Similarly, when panning upwards slowly, whoosh the camera up quickly. The viewer will see your slow shot towards the sky, then all of a sudden they lose track of the shot from the fast movement. Incorporate a drone shot and the viewer will feel like they have been transported into the sky.
Another example is a water-based shot. Cut the footage the moment the camera goes underwater when the breaking of the waves gets in the shot and it’s not clear what is in sight. Follow on with a beautiful swimming shot and all of a sudden you’ll capture a seamless magical cinematic sequence!
8. DANCE WITH THE MUSIC
Making the clip match the music builds on the importance of getting the right shot. Choosing a song with the right mood, tempo, and beats per minute is vital to help create the story. Once you’re on Epidemic Sound and picked out an amazing song from the Lost LeBlanc album (shameless plug), it's time to put it put everything together. Build the video around the song, because the song cannot be altered, at least not easily. Whereas, you’ll always have the ability to move the clips about to suit the music.
A well-defined beat in the song, often a percussion or a drop, typically provides a great opportunity to naturally break up the footage. Sometimes you can have 2, 3 or even 4 beats within every cut but try to keep it uniform. For me, the speed of the song indicates how many clips I should be using. If the songs are very mellow for instance, I'll probably let each clip draw on anywhere between 3 to 7 seconds each. Whereas if it’s a fast-paced song, then I go through a lot more clips and individual cuts. It can be argued that there is no right or wrong way to create your story, but if you don't cut your clip on the beat you're doing it the wrong way.
Find the right song, train the ear, make the cuts to the beat and you will bring your video to the next level.
9. TELL A STORY WITH COLOUR
Colour is particularly important. Each year, GoPro creates a beautiful highlight reel to showcase their new camera. The reel displays incredible vibrant footage, giving the illusion that your footage will look the same if you buy the new GoPro. However, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed. Similarly, your iPhone photos didn’t look like they did on the Apple website. This is all because so much work goes into colour grading.
Colour grading is the process of adjusting or enhancing the colour in footage to improve its appearance through various attributes, such as contrast, saturation, curves, and shadows.
Colour grading is an art and is one of the most important ways to tell your story. It’s possible to take a grey sky and transform it into a fiery red sunset when you know what you’re doing. To create a ‘WOW’ video, learn how to colour grade. This won't be an easy task, often taking professionals years to master, but it will hugely benefit your footage.
For me, colour grading is like playing with playdough as a kid. You have lots of exciting colours and it’s up to you to mold them into a story you want to tell. Despite the work involved, I think colour grading is exciting.
10. USE EFFECTS WISELY
The final tip - don't overdo effects (e.g. crossfades or the wacky drizzle effect). Ultimately, this is completely down to you; if you’re just trying to make a fun home video, go ahead and use any effect you like. But if you're trying to make a professional-looking YouTube video that you want to be proud of and share with others, then using effects can often make your work feel a little beginner. Some professionals use these effects and achieve very tasteful outcomes, however, many people just throw them in without careful consideration. Personally, I choose not to use any built-in effects or plugins. Instead, I create all my own effects manually, using the hand motions described in tip 7 or crop in on my video using post-production.
Be cautious when using effects - they may not give you the intended outcome you're looking for.
That’s the 10 tips done for how to make a travel video!
Check out my cinematic Japan video for an example of how I use my camera, my lenses and these tips in my own content: Japan in 3 minutes (4K).
If you’re a budding video creator and looking for a more in-depth insight into editing, check out my full Editing Course here. And if you want to learn more about my business and how I am able to travel the world, then take a look at my Patreon community. I post behind the scenes videos like ‘how to beat the algorithm on YouTube’ and ‘how to make money as a freelancer’. I basically provide behind the scenes content to how I am running Lost LeBlanc: https://www.patreon.com/lostleblanc
And remember guys, let's get lost again in the next one!