Elevating Video Production: Tips for a Polished and Authentic Look

In today’s digital landscape, videos have become a powerful medium for communication, self-expression, and promotion. User-generated content is still king in social media because of one word: authenticity. However, to stand out, your videos need a bit of polish. Just hitting record on your phone isn’t enough anymore. The good news is that achieving a professional look doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Let’s explore some simple techniques you can use to elevate the quality of your videos, regardless of your equipment or budget.

Manual Camera Settings

To create professional-looking videos, it’s essential to move beyond auto mode and take control of your camera’s manual settings. Adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, and focus allows you to add depth, control exposure, and create cinematic shots that grab viewers’ attention.

The technical aspects of adjusting these settings are outside the scope of what I’m covering here. Every camera is different, so Google or your manual is going to be your friend here. But whether you’re using a phone, a point-and-click camera, or a DSLR, you’ll have a manual mode.

First and foremost, use manual focus and manual white balance. Nothing looks more amateur than the focus going in and out or the white balance bouncing around. Next, achieve good exposure with the aperture, shutter, and ISO. The wider the aperture, the brighter the image, but the blurrier the background will be. This is great for interviews, but if you’re shooting action, it’s not so good. So, for action, narrow the aperture. The slower the shutter, the brighter the image, but there is a play going on here. If the shutter is too slow, you’ll get lots of motion blur, and the image will look choppy. What you want to do is set your aperture first and then adjust the shutter until you have a well-exposed image. If it’s still too dark, you can increase the ISO, but the higher the ISO, the grainier the footage will look. If your image is still too dark, it’s time to bring in the lights…

Proper Lighting

Lighting is a critical factor in making your videos look professional. Natural light is always best, but when it’s not available, invest in affordable lighting equipment or explore do-it-yourself options. Well-lit subjects create visually appealing videos that draw viewers in.

Today, there are ring lights, LED panels, and all kinds of other inexpensive options. Just make sure all the lights’ colors (or temperatures) match. Typically, lights come in what is called “warm white” (3200K) or “daylight” (5600K). As long as all your lights match, the details here aren’t really that important.

Foreground, Background, and Color

Don’t make the mistake of wearing a grey suit in front of a beige wall. Embrace color and be creative. Add props to the background, put a plant on a shelf between you and the camera. Add some splashes of color where you see a blank space.

But, with that said, avoid busy patterns. Don’t wear stripes or plaid.

Framing and Composition

How you frame and position your subjects within the frame can greatly impact the visual appeal and overall quality of your videos. This can be its own series; literally, books have been written on this topic. But here are a few good rules of thumb you can use to develop your eye.

  1. Rule of Thirds: The rule of thirds is a fundamental principle in photography and videography. Imagine dividing your frame into a grid of nine equal sections by drawing two horizontal and two vertical lines. Positioning your subjects along these lines or at their intersections can create a visually pleasing composition that draws the viewer’s eye.
  2. Leading Lines: Utilize leading lines to guide the viewer’s gaze and create depth in your shots. Leading lines can be anything from roads or pathways to architectural elements or natural features. By incorporating lines that lead towards your subject, you can add visual interest and a sense of perspective to your videos.
  3. Symmetry and Balance: Symmetry and balance can create a sense of harmony and order in your frames. Look for opportunities to frame your subjects symmetrically, whether it’s through architecture, natural elements, or other visual elements.
  4. Headroom and Spacing: Pay attention to the placement of your subjects within the frame. Leave adequate headroom above the subject’s head, but not too much that it feels unbalanced (Think back to the Rule of Thirds). Additionally, consider the spacing between your subjects and other elements in the frame. Give them enough room to breathe and avoid crowding the frame.
  5. Depth and Layering: Creating a sense of depth in your shots can add dimension and visual interest. Incorporate foreground, middle ground, and background elements to give your videos a layered look. This can be achieved through the positioning of objects, people, or scenery within the frame.

Affordable Gear Can Get Impressive Results

You don’t need to break the bank to create high-quality videos. Smartphones and inexpensive DSLRs can produce impressive results when used effectively. Focus on maximizing the potential of the equipment you have by understanding its capabilities and limitations.

Investing in expensive equipment alone won’t guarantee professional results. It’s crucial to learn how to use your gear properly. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your equipment, practice consistently, and refine your technique. Your knowledge and skill are what make the difference.

The Role of Post-Production

While post-production can enhance the quality of your videos, it’s not a necessity for achieving a professional look. Focus on capturing high-quality footage in-camera, ensuring proper exposure and framing. This approach minimizes the need for extensive editing and maintains an authentic and natural feel.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need expensive software to create professional-looking videos. While editing can enhance your final product, prioritize capturing well-composed shots, employing appropriate lighting, and ensuring clear audio. Numerous free or affordable editing software options are available to refine your videos if desired.

Engaging and Retaining Viewers

A professional video not only looks good but also captivates and engages its audience. To achieve this, focus on storytelling, delivering value, adopting a conversational tone, demonstrating in-depth knowledge of the subject, and maintaining an upbeat demeanor. By keeping viewers hooked throughout, you’ll leave a lasting impression.


Creating professional-looking videos doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive. By embracing manual camera settings, prioritizing proper lighting, and investing time in mastering camera techniques, you can significantly elevate the quality of your videos.

When you’ve gone as far as you can on your own and are ready to take your video to the next level, book a Video Project Discovery with me. During this free discussion, I’ll work with you to determine how to achieve your goals with video production. Just pick a time that works for you, and we’ll get started. Talk soon.

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