The Seven Biggest Video Mistakes

  • By Guest Author
  • August 3, 2015
  • Category Video

By now, most bloggers are realizing that videos are no longer “the next big thing.” They are the thing. With the immense popularity of YouTube and our ever-shrinking attention spans, we know that most folks would much rather just click play on your video (if it’s no more than two minutes) than read through an entire blog post of 500+ words.  And because of the few barriers to entry, producing your own video is easier and cheaper than ever. So, you already have a camera and maybe you’ve started making videos, but are they good videos? Do they have some basic production value? Are they watchable? Fun? Do they hold our attention?

Here are seven of the biggest mistakes newbies make with their videos and how to correct these missteps.

Not Knowing Your Focus


The most important part of any video is the story.  What specific story are you telling? Do you have a focus? What is it? Don’t feel like you have to tell us everything in one video. Each video you produce should have one clear-cut message. If you can’t decide, then break it down and make several different videos, each with its own focus. Don’t do a long, rambling video on “Paris.” Produce it on your favorite local boulangerie in Paris.  Sure you can do a one-minute montage reel/music video of your time in Paris. But if you are telling several stories, break them up.

Being Tech Obsessed

Don’t get tangled up in the technology race. Nowadays, nearly every camera is a “good” camera. It’s almost guaranteed that whatever you have in your purse or pocket already shoots HD video. Yes, Internet signals and bandwidth have improved, but unless you are shooting for broadcast TV, you don’t need to stress out about having the latest, greatest gear or drop thousands of dollars. No matter how much your camera and sound gear cost, you can still have a crappy video if you don’t know how to use them or know the best practices when it comes to producing a video of any kind.  Sure, if you are buying new, do some research, see what fits your needs and style (size, weight, what you will honestly use, etc.) and don’t worry about constantly changing or upgrading or you’ll go nuts…and broke.

Not Worrying About Sound

Perhaps more important than good-looking video, is good-sounding video. Without audio, a video is a lifeless bit of moving pictures. Sound brings us in; it makes us feel as if we are there.  And nothing says, amateurish video, like bad sound. If you are doing interviews, or just speaking into the camera yourself, please use an external, lavalier (clip-on) microphone and not the internal mic on the camera.  When you just use the camera’s mic, you are left with all the ambient sound of the room (or loud restaurant/bar), whereas with a clip-on mic, you get cleaner sound directly from your subject.  Also, don’t overlook the importance of natural sound when you are shooting (and editing with) your other footage (b-roll). It’s the life of the party.

Not Using a Tripod


Want your video to remind us of dad’s home movies? Then don’t use a tripod. Intentional movement is one thing, but overly shaky video screams unprofessional and distracts the viewer from what you are trying to convey.  Invest in a video tripod (one that can hold the weight of your video camera) or even a monopod.  If you don’t have one yet, put your video camera on something sturdy and horizontal like a table, or a backpack on the ground (obviously not good for interviews), or, if you must, hold it as still as you can and lock your arms against your body to help stabilize.

Using Too Much Camera Movement

So even if you have a tripod, you might still be ‘camera move’ happy.  For goodness sake, please use pans, tilts, and zooms sparingly.  Our eyes don’t see real life this way, so you should mostly avoid it. You should use action within your shots (moving subjects) and the flow of editing to create movement, not the camera itself.

Not Shooting for ‘the Edit’

To make life easier on yourself, only press that red record button when your shot is locked down, focused, and composed.  Often times, amateur videographers start rolling and then check their focus and start re-jiggering their shot.  Even though, 99% are now shooting digitally, and therefore not ‘wasting film’ like the olden days, it is still a waste of your time and memory space.  Even more importantly, when it comes time to edit, all of your shots are solid and will be useable.  You won’t spend hours sifting through shaky, out-of-focus detritus and can get right down to the business of being creative.

Going Long

Lisa Lubin -- PTBA Video

Thanks to the Internet age and so many different sites, links, pings and dings vying for our attention, you have to keep it short. You really only have a few seconds off the top to grab us and hook us…so make it good. And then keep it compelling so we continue to watch. If it’s a gripping story, it could go 2-3 minutes. Otherwise, keep it closer to 1 minute.  Personally I think that the optimum length for a video for Internet consumption is 1-2 minutes. Any more and it had better be very good indeed. Keep the shot length short and snappy too, around 2-3 seconds long works well. This way you can keep a good pace in the video and keep the viewer’s attention.

There are tons of tips and tricks that go into producing good videos. But when you start with a solid foundation and avoid these top mistakes, you will be on your way to creating bang-up videos that match the rest of the content you put out there.

Lisa Lubin is a seasoned media professional with extensive broadcasting, print, and online experience, from live news director to supervising television producer to freelance writer, photographer, publicist, and speaker. She is a three-time Emmy® Award winning (plus 10+ nominations) producer with more than a decade of major market experience in the production of news and programming, both live and taped.  After more than fifteen years in broadcast television, she took a career break, which turned into nearly three years traveling and working around the world.  She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog,, with photographs, videos, and articles from the road/train/rickshaw/camel.  Her writing and photography has been published by American Way Magazine, West Jet Magazine, Sheridan Road Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, Orbitz, Smithsonian, the Malibu Times, Encyclopedia Britannica, and the Boston Globe. Lisa owns LLmedia, a media & video consulting business. She has spoken about video and journalism at several conferences including the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), the World Travel Market in London (WTM), the New York Travel Fest, the Women in Travel Summit, Green Festival Chicago, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and “Visit Russia” in Yaroslavl.

One Response to The Seven Biggest Video Mistakes

  1. August 17, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Thanks, Lisa, for this is incredibly helpful information.

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