The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Vlogging

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Your story matters.

Whether you’re just now interested in vlogging or you’re already doing it, it’s important to remember that your story matters! I am a firm believer in the idea that life is meant to be documented and shared with others. Why you might ask? Well, life is about learning, growing, and obtaining happiness in your every day life, and to me this means documenting what you do on a regular basis so that you can evaluate and relive moments, grow from each experience, and remember memories that helped shape you into the person you are today.

This blog post is for those who want to capture their own stories with video and need to know how to get started. I will share everything that I know about vlogging—what it is, what gear you need in order to capture the best stories, what things you can film on a daily basis, how to edit your vlogs so that each one has a theme, and ultimately, how you can share these stories with others so that you all can relive these moments over and over again!

What is vlogging?

I define vlogging as the means of capturing personal moments in video format. Often times vlogging is about carrying a camera around with you while you continue to live your normal every day life. It is the telling of your story from a first person point of view—meaning, you are leading the video yourself, creating the theme for the video, and editing the final vlog for yourself and others to view.

The term “vlog” actually is the truncation of the two words “video” and “log.” So, a simple definition of vlogging can be understood as the notion of logging something (originally with the idea of being like a diary) under the format of video. Today vlogging is a widely used term for online videos that are created for sites like YouTube and personal websites. However, throughout this blog post, when vlogging is mentioned I am referring to it only as a word for your personal video used for storing memories. Whether you choose to share these videos on YouTube or any online platform is up to you.

Vlogging is ultimately about your stories. Therefore, while you read this blog please keep your story in mind when considering anything I am discussing. I will talk about equipment, software, and other purchases that you can make to help you tell your story, but remember that as long as your story is being captured (no matter the gear you have or the money you’re spent on editing software) you’re still storing your memories to keep for years to come.

The best vlogging camera for beginners.

Vlogging expert (and personal inspiration), Casey Neistat, once said that the best camera is the one you currently have available. I love sharing this simple rule with others when teaching about vlogging! I often reiterate to new vloggers this thought: You don't need a fancy camera, the best gear, or anything other than what you have right now in order to get started with vlogging!

I’ve listed four cameras down below that I have and use often when vlogging my daily stories. There are loads of options available for you when selecting a camera to purchase; however, the ones listed below are my personal favorites. I’ve listed some pros and cons of each, as well as some information about which situations I would use each different camera. However, please please please don’t feel like I am in any way saying that these cameras are the only ones available to purchase for your vlogging journey—each vlog is unique, so evaluate your own needs, budget, and make an informed decision.

1. Your phone

In today’s technical world almost everyone has a smart phone. I personally have an iPhone X, and the quality of these phone cameras are outstanding in comparison to past phones. Apple, Sumsung, Google, Sony… they’re almost all focused on stepping up their camera game and creating crystal clear images that are comparable to some cameras that you can pick up at Best Buy! It is truly impressive what you can do with your phone.

I always recommend that people who are just getting started with vlogging use their phones to film. It’s a great way to learn how to vlog without spending money on any equipment you don’t already have. Vlogging with your phone gives you the freedom to focus on capturing the story, learning the ropes, and simply whipping out something you have with you all the time and are already comfortable with.

The only con of using your phone to film in my opinion would come when you’re ready to step up your quality. While phone cameras are outstanding when considering that this is your phone and not an actual camera, there is a time and place in which you may consider focusing on better quality in video and audio.

That being said, even with other “fancy cameras” I still find myself filming on my phone from time to time. It’s a great alternative when I am in an area where I don’t feel comfortable with a camera (often times people are okay with you filming on your phone, but weirded out when you film with a camera). I use my phone to film at basketball games, in restaurants, or when I’m out for a run.

2. Canon G7x

This camera is the vlogging camera of YouTube. It’s everywhere!! I have the Canon G7x Mark ii, and it is my main vlogging camera in almost all situations. It is popular due to it’s small size making it easily portable, the flip up screen which lets you see yourself while you film, and it’s good quality in video and audio compared to your phone and other point-and-shoot cameras.

If you’re ready to make your next move in camera gear after having filmed for awhile on your phone or old P&S camera then I would recommend the Canon G7x. It’s the most popular in Canon’s line up of P&S cameras due mostly to how it’s been sensationalized by other YouTube vloggers. It has face recognition auto focus, shoots in 1080p HD, offers time lapse options, has features like exposure control, awesome wifi options for sharing between devices, and so much more.

Some negatives often brought up about this camera are issues with the auto focus and no 4k video. I myself have experienced some issues with the autofocus, but not enough to give it a necessarily bad review. It struggles finding faces from time to time, but with me using this camera almost every day I only experience real issues maybe once a week (which is hardly notable). When it comes to 4k video, I’d say don’t stress! In my opinion, 4k is still really above and beyond the average persons consumption anyways since most people don’t even have devices that can view the full 4k experience. So really, I just told you that there were no cons as long as you’re remembering that this is a P&S camera.

The best tagline I every heard about this camera was: “the grab n’ go camera that fits DSLR like qualities in a compact package.” I use this camera almost exclusively when it comes to our out and about moments that need filmed. It’s the perfect compact camera with the best quality.

3. Canon 80D

And now we’re bringing out some big guns. The Canon 80D with the 18-135 mm kit lens is my recommendation when you’re ready to step into the waters of DSLR cameras. It is a reasonable price, easy to use, and offers the option of interchangeable lenses that can really help you up your game when you’re ready. Canon camera are almost always going to be my recommendation because of their ease of use. I have personally used Nikon before purchasing this Canon, and I found that Nikon was clunkier to manage when it came to finagling with the settings and customizing your photo/video options. If you’re a beginner with DSLR cameras, I would recommend Canon be your brand to start with.

The Canon 80D offers the best available options at an affordable DSLR price—it’s a step up from your previous P&S cameras without rushing into a cinema type camera body. My favorite part about DSLR cameras is the option for interchangeable lenses that can help change focus and tell your story more dynamically when used appropriately.

Some negatives about the Canon 80D (and mostly just about DSLR cameras in general) is the learning curve that you’ll have to work around. There’s an enormous amount of learning that needs done when moving away from shooting auto to shooting more manually. While this negative is only a personal struggle that you can work to get over, it is important to remember that there are stages in your video creation process that help make the story better but don’t always have to come at once.

When it comes to every day vlogging I don’t often pull the Canon 80D out. It’s used mostly for times when we sit down and talk to a camera, or big events like Easter or Christmas when we want to create some awesome montages with cool quality changes. The Canon 80D is probably the camera out of my entire lineup here that I would say you can live without if you want to.

4. GoPro Hero5

Finally, the GoPro—the fun, adventurous, environment specific camera that makes vlogging literally every moment so possible. The GoPro is a perfect camera to add to your vlogging gear if you plan to have fun on the water, play a bit in the dirt, or do some active activities that need a tough little camera.

I am not going to assume that people know what a GoPro is (but I’m sure most people do), so I’ll explain it here anyways. GoPro is a company that states to design the worlds most versatile action cameras. They’re often waterproof, dirt-proof, and drop-proof to an extent way better than any other camera on the market. They’re designed with the active sports driven person in mind, and I’ll simply say that this camera is definitely our adventure camera. It’s used almost exclusively in the summer when we’re on the water a lot, but has been used to get some fun shots on the dog harness or while running the mini marathon.

While GoPro is a great camera to have for the lifestyle vlogger who gets out and about often, it is important to remember that it’s not always the best quality camera that you could be using. I know that the GoPro company is working hard to step up their game with quality, and in a couple of years this portion of my blog post could be obsolete, but who’s to say that this whole camera section won’t be obsolete in the future anyways. So, please do your research before taking my word on camera quality before making any of your own purchases.

I would not recommend a GoPro be anyones main vlogging camera, but more of a specialty camera used in active situations when a GoPro is appropriate. We often use our GoPro to create montages when we’re having fun in environments that we’re too cautious to bring any of our more fragile cameras along.

other gear to step up your game

So, since we’re already talking gear, I thought I’d mention a few other items that you’ll want to consider when embarking on your vlogging journey. Ultimately the story is all that matters, but if you have the desire (or budget) to pick up a couple of extra items to help make the story telling process even easier, then I would highly recommend it.

Some items that I have that I use often are the Manfroto mini tripod, a basic monopod, the Rode VideoMicPro, and some other fun bits and bobbles that make my DSLR experience better. I use the mini tripod literally every single day. It’s how I hold my G7x at all times and makes the angle of the camera so much more attractive while you’re holding it, and gives you the on-the-go option of setting your camera down literally anywhere. My monopod and Rode microphone only come out on certain occasions typically when I’m using my Canon 80D. The monopod just makes holding the chunky DSLR a little it easier and more stable. And the Rode microphone gives me better audio when we’re doing some sit down talking videos or creating high end videos for things like weddings or big events.

As far as the rest of my little bits and bobs that I have, I’ve wrote a blog post all about what’s in my camera bag on a regular basis. My camera bag is the bag that I take when I’m filming a wedding, the bag I grab when I want to have all my gear for shooting a more cinematic vlog, or the bag I keep at home simply to store all of my camera gear in so it’s always in one spot. I love this bag, like a lot; it’s the Kelly Moore Libby 2.0 vegan leather tote in Saddle. My mom got it for me during Christmas when it was on a reallllyy good sale, and I told her that she just couldn’t pass it up. This thing is currently my ride or die, so I thought I’d show you what I shove in it on a regular basis. To read more click here.

What to film?

Now that we’ve talked gear, you’re probably wondering what the heck to film. There are tons of resources on Pinterest, YouTube, and all over the world wide web with lists of different items that you can make a video about; but for me, we’re focusing on vlogging as a means to tell your story and document your life. Vlogging is an opportunity to capture the simple every day details of life with video. I want your vlog to be something that you treasure as a representation of your life in that current moment. Ultimately, your collection of vlogs will tell the story of your time on this Earth. From the mundane to the profound, it’s those simple little every day moments that you will treasure most in 10 years.

A couple of things to keep in mind when determining what to vlog:

  • The goal of your vlog is not to compare yourself with others or show off any aspect of your life as something better than anyone else’s. The final goal of your vlog should always be to tell the story of your life in this current moment, to keep memories for years to come, and to embrace and celebrate the life you are living right now.

  • There are no rules when it comes to documenting your life with video. While you can find tons of guidelines to help you get started or to give you some direction when you don’t know what to do next, your final vlog is yours and should be created for yourself no matter what. I love that vlogging can be something we share, but in the end you should be telling this story for the future you.

  • Always focus on having fun. It’s easy to get stressed about what to vlog and making the best vlog, but if creating and filming your vlog is no longer fun then you’re not doing it right.

The next question is how do I vlog when I have nothing to vlog? I get this question all the time when I tell others that they should vlog too. Everyone always says "I don't have enough going on in my life." My response to that is: “you’re wrong, that’s so not true!!” I created this video where my husband and I show you how you can vlog, and what you can vlog when you think you've got nothing to share.

Some main points we make in the video are about how your average every day tasks almost always exist for a larger goal. Documenting these mundane moments will allow you to remember your growth and achievements that you obtain in the future because of them. When you’ve moved on to the next stage in your life (whatever that may be), it will be interesting to look back at your mundane average days and see how much you’ve grown and changed.

I recommend starting every vlog with some sort of opening or good morning style clip—say hi to those who are watching (even if it’s just for the future you), tell them what you’re going to be doing/filming today, and then walk them through each step. Next, you’ll want to film some set up shots like showing a location, showing you walking or driving to your next place, or showing movement as you go on to the next things in your day. As you complete your every day tasks think about items you can film. I like filming my hands as I type since I do a lot of work on the computer—you can film yourself filing paperwork if you work in an office, cleaning out your fridge or doing laundry if you’re a stay at home mom, or whatever you do at your job whether that be fixing a car, giving a sermon, or riding a ferris wheel. Finally, you can wrap up your vlog by ending your work day, showing your night routine, or simply saying good bye.

It’s important to keep in mind that the more you film the better it is to piece together your final story when editing. Some moments you will film will not work out, but getting in the habit of filming on a regular basis will help create the best final video in the end. That being said, your vlogs are not supposed to consume your life and take over your every second. You shouldn’t feel like you’re not living your life but rather just recording it; you should feel like your life is continuing as normal, but you’re just setting up a camera from time to time. It’s okay to film too much and scrap certain bits in the end. Just getting in the habit of filming can be one of the hardest parts, so I recommend carrying your camera around with you everywhere and filming too much in the beginning so that you can gain experience quickly to learn what you clips you do and don’t need in order to tell your story.

Have a theme

In the end, your vlog is all about telling your story. And each story of each vlog should have a theme. The best stories have a set-up, conflict, and resolution—but, that’s not always the case with vlogging. Vlogs aren’t often structured the same way that typical stories would be structured since their function is more like a documentary than anything. Documentaries always will have a theme, aka the focus of the documentary, and your vlog should too. This theme can be as simple as “A Day in the Life” or “What it’s like to Work in an Office.” These themes will help keep your audience engaged and later help with your thumbnail and title of the video.

Sometimes thinking of a theme while you’re filming is hard, but after the fact when editing and structuring your video you’ll need a direction for your vlog that corresponds with your title and thumbnail. Vlogging as a means of memory keeping easily allows you to structure your vlog around the basic happenings of your day, so pick out one main aspect of your day that you filmed and focus your vlog around this. You can see that my vlog channel uses this method if you scroll through some of our videos. I have vlogs about planting our wedding tree, prom dress shopping for my little sister, and when we got piglets! These were all just average days (or a collection of seemingly average days) that I was able to structure together to create a singular story about something special going on in our life.

Having a theme to each vlog allows you to categorize the documentary of your life while also engaging with whichever viewers you choose to share these videos with. Themes organize your vlog into a cohesive story that allow you to pluck out above average moments and make your video shine.

How to edit a vlog.

By now you’ve thought about the story you want to tell, the equipment you might be using to film, and the theme to structure the vlog, so now it’s time to learn all about editing your final video. You can certainly upload, share, and keep forever one single clip with no editing what so ever, but I recommend editing your vlogs (even if in a simple manner) so that they are more fun to watch and easy to remember cohesive moments in the future. Editing a vlog is the difference between a structured story of your life and a basic home video.

There’s no one way to edit—editing is a stylistic choice. In this blog post I will give you some tips and recommendations for editing as well as information on how I personally edit, but do not take this all as static fact. Editing your story is a creative process in which you can structure your video to match the theme and style of your life in this current moment.

Before you even begin to edit your vlog, there are some things you should keep in mind. First, most people recommend you focus on audio over video if forced to choose, but I turn that around and say focus on telling your story with whatever equipment you have available to you. Next, remember to not over do it—don’t go overboard with special features such as too many transitions, special effects, or fancy elements. Your vlogs are about memory keeping these particular moments, not how poppin’ your editing skills are, and too many special features can actually deter from the memory and story you are trying to tell. Also along the same lines, keep your video length to an easily consumable period of time. This period of time is subjective based on the story you are telling, the audience you are sharing it with, and other things like current trends, resources, etc. Lastly, I recommend that you know how you want your video to look and sound before you even begin the editing process.

Everything you need to know about editing software

The best way to start editing is to just dive right into it. You can watch videos on YouTube, read tons of how-to tutorials, and scour the web for all the reviews, but until you play around with editing by yourself you will not know what works for you. With this in mind, try out a few of the free video editing software available to you, but don’t feel pressured to choose one over another simply because different people say they like it and use it. I recommend you play with a few and find one that you feel comfortable using. If your editing software seems natural and intuitive to you, then you’re going to have a much easier time learning all of its ins and outs and how to create great stories with it.

  1. Free software

    Start by checking out the computer you already own or have available to you. Your computer might have a program such as Windows Live Movie Maker or Apple’s iMovie. These types of video editing programs are incredibly user friendly and perfect for beginners. Free software also typically has loads of information regarding tips/tricks and how-to tutorials on specific functions you are trying to perform.

  2. Paid software

    I would not even consider a paid software until you’re comfortable with editing in general. I used iMovie for free on my computers for over 5 years until I decided that the features available to me no longer satisfied the type of video I wanted to create.

In the end, the software itself doesn’t matter as much as how comfortable you are with the software. The faster you can get used to and acquainted with your editing software, the faster you’ll be able to edit future vlogs. Speed isn’t necessarily the goal, but it does help you feel like vlogging is less of a chore and more of a documenting journey. Even if you don’t intend on putting out more than a vlog a week, this will help streamline the process and give you more time for creative work and channel marketing. Memory keeping should be seemly and feel fun and easy.

Remember: If you’re feeling lost as to how to edit your vlogs, I recommend taking a look at some similar vlogs and how they’re edited. Finding inspiration in other vloggers is exactly how we learn, grow, and become masters of the art of video memory keeping ourselves. Also, whenever you’re not sure about how to achieve a particular effect, search for a how-to video on YouTube or Google for that particular video editing trick to learn even more about how to edit your vlog.

Sharing your story with others!

The last and final step of your vlogging journey will be to share your story with others. This doesn’t have to be something you broadcast on the internet though. You can simply share it with family and friends by playing the file on your computer or TV when they’re around. I never want someone to rush into posting something online that they are not comfortable with. It’s important to create boundaries with yourself (and others) regarding what’s appropriate and okay to share on the internet and what is not.

My husband and I share almost everything. Obviously our 10 minute videos are not life encompassing documentaries that show every aspect, but we don’t have many issues with sharing much of anything on the internet. That being said though, we do talk about each and every video before we hit publish. Typically we watch the vlog together before making it live for the world to see so that we can both be aware of what is included and what aspects are being shared with others. Our boundaries are not very restrictive, but it’s important that we both know when the line is crossed in regards to sharing things online.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post, I am a firm believer that life is meant to be documented and shared with others. For me, this includes putting my videos on the internet for others to see. Life is about learning, growing, and obtaining happiness in your every day life, and to me this means documenting what you do on a regular basis so that you can evaluate and relive moments, grow from each experience, and remember memories that helped shape you into the person you are today.

How to upload to YouTube

My site of choice to publish our vlogs is YouTube, so I will walk you through the steps to do so. YouTube is a popular platform for vloggers, but keep in mind the other options available like Facebook, Vimeo, and more.

  1. The first thing you will want to do is to log in to YouTube. To do this, you’ll need to set up a Google account if you do not already have one. Your Google account will be the same one that you can use for YouTube, Gmail, and any other Google platforms.

  2. At the top of the page, click Upload icon which will be located on the top right and look like a camcorder with a plus sign in it. After hitting that button once, select “Upload video.”

  3. Next, you can select the file you want to upload. There are many supported file formats when uploading to YouTube, but do your research before hand regarding which format will give you the best quality and fastest upload times. I typically upload our vlogs in the .MP4 format.

  4. As the video is uploading, you can edit both the basic information and the advanced settings of the video. This includes things like the Title, Description, Thumbnail, and more.

  5. Once the video is done uploading and processing, click “Publish” to complete the video. Depending on the privacy settings you chose when uploading the video you may need to later edit the video to make it public.

Once you’ve broadcasted your video on the internet for others to see it is important to share your video link with others. I love sharing our vlogs on Facebook so that our families can see what we are up to currently. I also share our vlogs on Twitter which is a more public platform for other people in our niche or industry. Sharing your story with others is so important and the worst mistake we can make in life is thinking that other people don’t care what we have to say. If you have a vlog to share please let me know!! I would love to watch it, support you, and be a part of your life’s story as you learn and grow.


Take-away items:

- Your story matters!!

- You don’t need anything other than what you have right now in order to get started with vlogging.

- The final goal of your vlog should always be to tell the story of your life in this current moment.

- Editing a vlog is the difference between a structured story of your life and a basic home video.

- The worst mistake we can make in life is thinking that other people don’t care what we have to say.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that your story matters. Video is one of the best current formats for keeping memories and telling your story. A vlog can do what no other platform can—capture movement, audio, and visuals that literally take you back to the time in which the story was originally being told through that moment.

Memory keeping is critical in the evolution of who you are and what makes you you. The more we grow, the more we begin to realize that our own memory is not reliable. As you encounter millions of meaningful stories in your lifetime you start noticing that not everything stays behind for you to remember, but every moment is important and deserves a time to shine. Our stories matters, so focus on capturing all moments big and small, significant and seemingly not, because these are the moments that make up our life’s story.